driving to Cape Cod - Friday June 06 2003

setting: Dug Hill Road, Hurley, New York

This weekend Gretchen and I would be attending a wedding in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. I normally try to beg out of weddings, but in this case I felt something of a karmic obligation to weddings in general and to this wedding in particular, since the people getting married (Blond Tonya and her husband-to-be Bill) had just attended our wedding.
Gretchen always does what she can to make her travel plans into a wide-ranging catching up with friends, and so we'd be stopping along the way to visit people who had nothing to do with the wedding we'd be attending.
Our first order of business was to drop Sally off with Katie and Louis at their place in Saugerties. When we rolled up Louis was in the process of building the nudity screen around a brand new hot-tub he'd just installed. It's always fun to talk home improvement with someone who is in the process of doing it. The warm weather seems to have brought out the handyman in just about every homeowner living along the road to Louis and Katie's house - nearly all of them were showing swaths of unclothed particle board.
I had the idea that we should use small roads to cut across to I-90 in Massachusetts directly from Hudson and avoid going all the way up to Albany to catch it there. On the map it seemed it would save us several dozen miles of driving. But what I didn't factor into the equation was the delays in getting through small Massachusetts towns, particularly Great Barrington and Stockbridge. Neither of these towns had any sort of bypass - just an incredibly wide six lane highway snaking through the center of town through countless traffic lights. Mind you, I think it's great for towns not to have bypasses. But in this case we were in something of a hurry. Never plan your road trip to pass through Great Barrington, Massachusetts if you think you'll be in a hurry.
We made up a little time by driving extremely fast on the Massachusetts turnpike. It's not a large state and it seems to go by quickly at 90 miles per hour. Everything was fine until we turned to go south on 128 on Boston's inner loop. At this point we became mired in a slow species of traffic. It was the kind in which you can be sailing along at 60mph and then come to a screeching halt and sit there, unmoving, for as long as ten seconds.
We eventually abandoned the loop prematurely and drove on surface streets through the unknown neighborhoods of Quincy in search of our first port of call, the residence of Joslin, a friend Gretchen made during her poet's retreat in Vermont last summer. It became one of those situations in which we were obviously lost, following bad directions based mostly on landmarks, and Gretchen was freaking out. I was driving at the time, and my usual response to this sort of freak out is to talk in an overly-calm, soothing voice, or actually, my impression of a soft, soothing voice. In truth, of course, I wished she'd just quiet down not be so worked up - I'm too much of a spaced-out spaz to drive in unknown cities under the best of circumstances, let alone when someone is raising a ruckus. Of course, Gretchen can see right through my soft & soothing act. It pisses her off even more, to the point where all her formerly-unfocused rage comes to be directed entirely at me.
Somehow, though, Gretchen secured directions from an authentic Quincy barber and, as it turned out, we didn't have much further to go. Our last hurdle was the intercom system with its dozens of buttons, each labled with an unfamiliar last name. The one we'd have to push was labled with the last name of Joslin's housemate, but we didn't have a clue what that was. Gretchen had her cell phone but she'd forgotten to bring Joslin's number, so again she acted out of desperation, pressing all the buttons on the board.
Sure enough, some sucker buzzed us in. A couple people came out of their condos, and luckily one of these happend to be Joslin.
So then there we were in the dismal condo that Joslin shares with her black cat and her harpsichord-playing housemate, the condo's owner. He's a big guy who doesn't really talk unless stretched on a rack.
We four all had dinner at a self-consciously wacky Italian place nearby. Concerning Quincy, Joslin said it hasn't gentrified yet, explaining, "Every now and then you'll see a lost Yuppy wandering around saying, 'No, not yet.'"
The only thing Joslin's housemate said during the entire meal was, "I'm looking around to see how many same-sex tables there are." Gretchen hates it when gay people only want to talk about specifically gay things.

After dinner, Gretchen and I continued our drive all the way to Barnstable County in Cape Cod, finally pulling into the driveway of the place where we'd be staying the night. It was the residence of Andrea, one of Gretchen's friends from high school, and her husband Arnold. Andrea is pursuing a career that began back when she and Gretchen worked on the school newspaper - both she and Arnold work for a local Cape Cod newspaper. Judging by all the completed improvements evident in the tour they gave of their house, they're having a reasonably prosperous life. We spent the night in one of their two guest rooms. Like us, Andrea and Arnold have no kids, even after nine years of marriage. They do, however, have three dogs. I tried to convince the smallest, oldest, most mongrel of these to sleep with us but she was a little too shy.

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