I lucked out by leaving work at 1 p.m. on Thursday and got a few errands done by nightfall. Headed downtown and lingered at the Pump Haus for over a half hour until Sharina arrived. We claimed a table upstairs and were joined by Samantha, Kathy & Doug. I inhaled my usual order – the Viking, with everything on it – and we exchanged gifts with the Steelers/Panthers game on an enormous nearby flat-screen TV.
After settling our bill I escorted them to the Stuffed Olive, which was packed by 8 p.m. It had just begun to snow by this point. My co-workers took an open booth on the SoHo side while I took a seat at the table near the front door with McCrea, Micah, Andrea and Robert. Every time another co-worker came in I got up and directed them over to SoHo. I felt bad they couldn’t find an opening in the back — they had been looking forward to those couches all week.
Blake, Hannah and Brandon arrived soon after I did. Ben, Cory and Cara came by later, after knocking back a few drinks at the Panther Lounge. Alice stopped by just to say hi, on her way back from Montage. We combined a few tables together to accommodate the size of our group. We ordered a few rounds of martinis and Hannah and I split a plate of bruschettas. The cold winter air chilled us every time someone came in or out the door. Blake and I caught up on movie reviews and Cory and Micah chummed it up like old days.
By 11 we were ready to take off. Andrea offered her place for continued drinking and mayhem. I offered a ride to everyone without a car, which were more people than I anticipated. Micah, Blake and Hannah piled into my car as Brandon and I brushed the snow off the windows, and then off we went. A couple new inches of snow covered the roads but they were still drivable. Ben picked up a couple six-packs of bottled beer and pulled into Andrea’s place right after we did. We almost missed the turn into her driveway due to the limited visibility – I’m glad Micah remembered which clump of trees they lived behind.
We retreated to the basement and continued drinking and broke out Genus I of Trivial Pursuit. Teams were drawn and the game progressed fairly well for an hour. Cory and Cara left after a while, with Ben close behind. Hannah was left to defend her four pie pieces against four for Brandon and I, and five for Micah, Andrea, Robert and Blake. Noting the lopsidedness of the teams, we eventually quit the game.
After a half hour Ben called me to advise on the increasingly treacherous driving conditions, news I shared with the group. Micah wanted to leave immediately rather than staying for the night but agreed to stick around for a quick game of Million Dollar Money Drop, a game show Andrea had recorded off the TV earlier in the day. That quick game turned into over an hour of chitchat on topics ranging from politics, gun rights, survival tactics, Sarah Palin and mutual friends.
We finally left around 2:30 a.m., with a few additional inches of snow on the ground. Driving back into town was tricky – visibility was reduced to almost nothing and I was following the faint tracks left in the road, most likely from Ben from an hour or two before. We finally reached Cedar Falls. I dropped everyone off and then went home and crawled into bed at the too-late hour of 3:30 a.m.
Friday morning I was up with the alarm at 10 a.m. Showered, shaved, and outside shoveling show away from my car, which I had parked in the street. Park Drive and the main roads had been plowed earlier in the morning but the snow was still falling. I cautiously made my way along University to Beck’s in Waterloo, where I had lunch plans with Katya, Steph, Mia and both Scotts at 11.
We took a table in the back of the nearly-empty restaurant and ordered a plate of onion rings and big greasy burgers with plenty of crispy fries. They have a house micro-brew but I felt it was too early for that. I supplied a box of chocolates from Indulgence for dessert.
We stayed for a couple hours and caught up on each other’s lives. Mia is three months pregnant and things are going well for her & Scott (he was fairly quiet). Steph & Scott told us about the various problems they’ve had with the house they bought in Dayton OH, but otherwise life seems to be going well for them as well. Katya, back from China, handed out gifts for all, including a pretty handmade wooden ornament for myself.
We parted ways with Mia & Scott and returned to Cedar Falls. I drove Katya back to her house. Arizona Drive hadn’t been plowed yet. Steph & Scott followed behind and inside we sat in the front room and continued chatting for a couple more hours, mostly about teaching. Moria popped in from time to time to join our conversation. We left after 3 p.m., the snow still lightly falling and Arizona still under about 9 inches of snow.
I returned home and stayed put for the remainder of the day, heating up a small pizza for dinner and watching “A Christmas Tale” in the evening – a French version of “The Royal Tenenbaums”, about a dysfunctional family brought together out of concern for their mother’s failing health during the holidays. It’s funny and touching, not morbid at all.
Saturday morning I was up even earlier, at 9 a.m. Waking up to an alarm twice over a three-day weekend is not my idea of a holiday. Regardless, I freshened up and headed over to Dad’s place for brunch at 10. Gale’s daughters and their families were already over there, the kids playing with toys and running around the house.
I sat down in the living room and watched part of some college football game that took place in Hawai’i the previous evening. Matt called Dad’s cell phone and he and I took turns talking with him. It was a very brief conversation as I was surrounded with other family and brunch was about to be served – waffles, quiche (ham and vegetarian dishes), fruit, bacon (port and turkey), bagels, OJ and chocolate milk.
After eating we moved to the front room and Gale’s side of the family exchanged and opened gifts. I helped one of Kevin’s sons assemble his laser air-zooka (a plastic cone-shaped toy with a plastic sheet and elastic band at one end, that produces a short burst of air when the band is pulled and released). Cody or Caden, I can’t remember which one it was. I can only remember Carter is the oldest of the three. Got to meet Corrine, Sara & Kevin’s one month-old daughter.
After the gifts were opened and the wrapping paper finally cleaned up, the kids and most of the adults took off to go sledding. Dad, Sara and I stayed behind to watch “A Christmas Story” in the living room. Sara looked after Corrine and took a nap with her. We caught the movie at the halfway point, but TBS was showing it repeatedly in a 24-hour loop, so once it ended we were able to watch the first hour and a bit of overlap. Kevin came back to get Sara and Corrine and I stuck around for a while more to split a three-meat pizza and a couple bottles of Coors with Dad. I left sometime after 4 p.m.
I watched the first hour of “Greenberg” back at the apartment before changing and heading over to Steph V’s house at 6:30 p.m. She had invited several friends from high school over for drinks and snacks. Back in the sun room were Steph & Matt, Maureen and Joslyn, Eric & Bethany, and Jill and her mother Jan, all being entertained by JJ’s charming personality. After he was put to bed we talked throughout the night on a wide range of topics, including slumber party games, careers, favorite web sites, bad make-out stories, and friends stuck in dysfunctional relationships.
Mike and his ladyfriend Vena came over later in the evening. Maureen provided one bottle of wine after another and Steph cracked open the liquor cabinet after we finally drank every wine bottle dry. As always, Steph was an excellent host. We reminisced about the Steph & Jill parties of Christmases past, and how mellow we’ve become in our old ages. Some of us are now thirty! The yawning began around midnight and we got up and parted ways. I returned home and was in bed by 2 a.m.
Sunday morning I didn’t set the alarm but woke up bright and early at 8:30 a.m. I just can’t seem to sleep much more than six hours a night anymore. I watched the rest of “Greenberg” and scarfed down a bowl of cereal. Then out the door and over to Mom’s place at 11.
Grandma and Uncle Mike came over for a late lunch: ham, corn, jello, croissants and cheesy baked potatoes. A good ole Midwestern meal. I spent some time going through and deleting bookmarks on the MacBook with the Jets/Bears game on the TV in the upstairs spare bedroom before returning home.
The rest of the day was spent in relative solitude. A half hour at the gym, laundry, a quick meal at Hy-Vee and the 5 p.m. show of “Black Swan” (a wonderfully dark psychological drama), then groceries and home to watch “The Last Airbender” (some neat special effects overshadowed by a ridiculous plot – even for a fantasy film – and lousy dialogue). Played “Greenberg” again while sorting more bookmarks and forced myself to bed by midnight.