Monthly Archive for May, 2011

Day Four: Departure for Home

I woke up at 4:50, and was out of the shower by 5:15, and started packing furiously. Chris and Adam checked on our status at 5:30 to ensure that we weren’t oversleeping. I checked in on our animals before I packed away our netbook, but no one was in the frame. Unfortunately, due to my hiatus from traveling, my packing skills allowed me to finish packing at 6:12. Chris’s mother was up and made us little sandwiches for the road made from the deli cuts and cheese cubes from last night’s platter. We had to be really quiet because everyone else was asleep. We said our good-byes to whoever was up and loaded into the rented van.

Departing Nahant for Boston Logan

Ajith, Myriam, Adam, Gabby, Chris, Monica and I loaded into the van, and pulled away from the house at 6:18. This time, we did not take any wrong turns, and we remembered the correct exits. This was a big deal because the exit for the airport is in a tunnel, where we have no GPS satellite signal. We pulled up at the airport at 6:39. We said our good-byes to Myriam, Ajith, and Chris and walked to the check-in counter with Adam and Gabby.

I scheduled my itinerary to match Adam’s as much as possible so that we could car pool together. Furthermore, I had the option of leaving BOS exactly at the same time as Adam with a longer layover in DFW or leave later and a shorter layover in DFW where in both cases we would have to wait for exactly the same flight to TUL. Since there was no one with whom to visit in DFW, I opted to depart BOS later, at 9:25 instead of 8:00, which was also Adam’s departure time. On top of all of this good scheduling, the flights chosen were the cheapest in the entire list from which I had to choose.

This was my first time check-in at a kiosk without any employee’s assistance. At first, we were confused that we were not sitting together, but as it turned out, we were incorrectly looking at the table displayed on the screen. We checked our one bag, and then we wondered what next because there was no one to take our checked luggage from us. Our luggage just continued to stand next to us while watching other luggage travel on the conveyor belt. Meanwhile, one of the employees at the counter but further down about 10 meters away, pushed the emergency stop to stop conveyor belt because the luggage on the belt caused a small traffic jam resulting in no luggage going into their little tunnel. Someone came to clean that up and restarted the belt. Then, that employee started handing out the printed stickers for the checked luggage. Finally our luggage was taken away, and we walked away to wait for Adam and Gabby. Adam and Gabby had a few issues at the check-in counter because of how long Gabby’s name was, so it took them much longer to finish checking in than it did for Monica and me.

Adam and Gabby traveled smartly because they only had one carry-on item now, Gabby’s purse. Everything else fit into their larger and nicer than ours luggage piece. On the other hand, Monica and I each had a backpack. We also had a purse, a netbook, a camera, and other stuff. I got confused at the security checkpoint and had to use more bins than I should have, so they actually ran out of bins. This caused me to hold up the line until more bins were brought to me. Finally, we caught up with Adam and Gabby on the other side.

Visiting with Adam and Gabby at BOS

We walked to their gate, which conveniently had a Starbucks where Gabby ordered a coffee. No one else ordered anything. We did not actually sit at their gate, but we sat a gate or two away. We sat there talking about many different things, but talked mostly about differences between old generations and young generations of Polish culture, and generally how negative the old generation is.

Completely contrary to my action a few days ago, Adam and Gabby waited until the very last second to board their plane. The gate actually paged their names over the PA system before they start running toward their gate waving tickets. It was sad to see them go.

Monica and I had over an hour to kill, so we walked to the gift shop to acquire a little bit of Boston memorabilia—a refrigerator magnet and a coffee mug. Then, we walked over to our gate just to verify what was displayed on its screen showed that the flight was on time. We then walked over the to the food court, which is when I realized that this terminal is very small but very nice. We found a remote corner overlooking the planes. We ate the sandwiches that Chris’s mother prepared, as well as a few other snacks we gathered. Monica purchased an orange juice from McDonald’s. In the mean time, I tried to get on the free Wi-Fi network that was advertised around the airport. I had to click through a portal and agree to some things first before anything would start working. I checked on the animals, and none of them were in view. But I was happy to see that our apartment unit was still intact.

We then gathered our stuff and walked over to the gate to see the flight boarding. We were in board group 3, but the screen only displayed up to groups 1 and 2. We thought that we had to wait, so we got out of line and waited. Then we heard them call group 4. A little disappointed, we got back in line. I guess the monitor doesn’t get updated that close to departure.

Flight BOS to DFW

Flight left on time, 9:25. I caught up on my writing in my little memo pad notebook, which I used to write notes for these blog entries. The row was three seats across, and Monica and I had the window and middle seat. It seemed like half the plane used the bathroom, so a strategy was required on when to get up to get in line. We did not want to bother the lady on the outside of our row if we were to stand in line for so long that the fasten-seat-belt sign might have possibly turned on, requiring us to return to our seat. After careful execution, my strategy worked. We were in the DFW terminal by 12:41.
Google Map flight path BOS to DFW

Layover at DFW

We took the Skylink tram again from tour arrival gate C24 to our departure gate A39. I notified our friends via text message in Tulsa that our flight to Tulsa was on time. We shortly waited for our flight, sitting one gate away where I exchanged a few text messages with Adam who was in Miami airport (MIA) by then.

Flight DFW to TUL

The 13:30 flight to Tulsa was a little bit memorable because the 757 was old and had old CRT monitors hanging over every few row from the top of the cabin. The landing was terrible, about a 2 on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being the worst. At least we landed in one piece.
Google Map of flight path DFW to TUL
Because we were one probably one of the first passengers to check in on our BOS flight, our luggage was one of the last to appear at the baggage claim in Tulsa. We could see through the window our friend waiting for us by his car outside.

Finally, after reacquiring our luggage, we got them loaded into the car, and our friend took us home quite quickly. We must think alike because he chose exactly the same route home that I would have taken.

Arriving at Dwelling

We made it home to great our hungry animals who were a little more excited to eat than to see us, but we could tell that they were happy to see us. We found nice notes left by our animal caretaker. It was a very fun trip, but we were happy to be home. After all, I ran out of clean clothes.

Day Three, part 2: Celebrating the Graduate

Once we were back inside the house, the table was already set for the celebration. We ran down to our room to change clothes. There was a storm coming, so I took some pictures.
Rain storm approaching house from over ocean
Storm approaching

There were at least a dozen toast speeches congratulating Julia, some touching, some dramatic, and some funny, all of which lasted an hour. First, all of the relevant people said what they had to say, and then Leila started pointed out each individual requesting that they give a speech. Some of us had just met Julia for the very first time, and could not elaborate more than being happy to be there and happy for her. When it was my turn, I basically stated that she graduated from a very prestigious institution, one of which I am slightly envious (although my music school was just as good), that it was “interesting” working with her (no definition on word interesting:)), her audacity was admirable, and that the speakers at her graduation provided good advice. “Play like a beginner”, and “sail ‘till the river runs dry,” and I said that because of her tenacity. I have no doubt that she’ll go until the very end.

We then ate some food, and aggregated into one of the living rooms that had the entertainment center where we played photos, and most importantly, the video that Leila and Bisha prepared for Julia as a graduation gift. It was a great video depicting Julia’s road to Berklee. During the trip, Adam reminisced to Monica how much he used to dislike Julia because she was so audacious, stating things like that she was 14 when she was really 12. The video depicted all the stories which Adam described, so now there was video evidence to the feud. Over all, it was a great video. Then we took many group photos together. The night wore on quickly, and we ate some more food and took shots of Polish vodka in the kitchen where Julia and I analyzed last night’s commencement concert. We finally ended the night around midnight, at which time we had to go to sleep because we had to be up by 5:00 to leave by 6:00 for the airport. We were certainly exhausted by the time we got to bed, and it was the beginning of the end of one of the best trips of my life.

Day Three, part 1: Commencement and Boston

The morning of Julia’s graduation consisted of getting up, getting dressed, and going. Commencement started at 10:00. We pulled away from the house at 8:20. The ride to the commencement was interesting because two generations were in one van, and the foreign older generation was not used to A/C in the car, while the younger generation would not dare to ride with it. (Most socialized American men know that humid air, regardless of temperature, will make hair go flat. Women whose hair falls flat are unhappy. Unhappy women make men unhappy.)

Driving to the commencement we took one exit that we should not have. Ironically, it was the same exit where Julia changed lanes across three lanes to take this exit yesterday. GPS in a city like Boston sometimes does not work well because Boston has so many intersections very close to one another that the instructions by faster than the computer in the GPS can draw the next turn on the screen. Ajith and I opted for the optimistic conclusion that this slightly longer route had less traffic.

As we pulled up the Agganis Arena where the commencement was held, we dropped off Julia’s parents just in time. We then pulled around the arena to find some parking. We followed the first parking sign just to scope out the price. We parked both vans and walked back to the front outside of the arena where most of the parents were still standing who were absolutely amazed that we managed to get there so quickly. These thoughts were in contrast to last night’s parking that was one and half miles away for double the price.

Julia’s Graduation

We found a section with enough seats to accommodate our large party and that was straight across the stage on the other side of the court. Most of the students were seated by the time we sat down. The student speaker was quite generically bland and stated the typical “I recall this funny event freshman year. And, ‘Yay! We made it.’”

Apparently Berklee hands out honorary doctorate degrees with every graduation, which makes for some interesting acceptance speeches. Kenny Garrett who was receiving an honorary degree was also the keynote speaker. Garrett had a long speech and was similar to many others graduation speeches I’ve heard before short of all the legendary jazz name dropping he did. He started out with the cliché, “I’ve lied awake for a week thinking what I will tell you right now.” I don’ care; just say what you have to say. He did finish with a very interesting story of when he was with Miles Davis in the hospital when Davis was dying, and Davis told him, “play like a beginner.” This meant to always play with the curiosity of a child who is always exploring with great enthusiasm.

Next was the most memorable speech that I’ve probably ever heard in my life. When Mavis Staples accepted her honorary degree, she spoke with the kind of sincerity that gives me a new perspective on humanity every time I see or hear it such sincerity. Firstly, the MC introduced her with words, “Although Mavis did not study music, music has studied Mavis.” At 71 years of age, she said to the crowd, “I finally made it to college.” She spoke shortly and simply, but she uttered more wisdom in those five sentences than all of the other speakers combined. To have grown up black in Mississippi when she did and to continue to possess such positivity is strength much greater than I’ll probably ever possess. She spoke of how she never dreamed of standing where she did that day when her father first taught her to sing while she sat on her living room floor in Mississippi. She ended her speech by quoting the student speaker who ended her speech with a Garth Brooks song The River, “keep sailing ‘till the river runs dry.”

When Julia crossed the stage, she raised both hands in the air when her name was called. She did not return to her seat, and instead came to meet us and took pictures with us. Later, she returned to the floor to throw her cap into the air with her classmates, which apparently was quite an attraction for her visiting parents. I guess graduates don’t throw up caps at graduation.

Exploring Boston

We left the graduation about 11:40. The younger generation, minus Julia, went to explore Boston while everyone else went home to get ready for the dinner celebration at the house. We decided to drive to Quincy Market. One of the things I noticed was just how immaculate the asphalt pavement looked throughout downtown. Not only did the district with Berklee College have incredibly nice pavement, but so did downtown, as well as, everywhere else we traveled in the city of Boston. This is a stark contrast with Tulsa.

Quincy Market

We parked at 60 State ParkingParking icon for Google Maps, and then stopped by a Starbuckscoffee house icon for Google Maps on the way to the historic market where Gabby purchased the girls some cake balls that were on a stick looking like lollipops. Some ordered coffee. We then walked over to the market, but along the way, there was a horse drawn carriage pulled over on the side of the street. The horse had a stuffed purple teddy bear mounted on it.

We turned the corner, and there was Quincy Market. We were hungry so we walked into Faneuil Hall Marketplace and were presented with a tremendous selection of food vendors.
Quincy Market looking north
Quincy Market

Inside of Quincy Market
Inside of Quincy Market, Faneuil Hall Marketplace

Everyone got some food. Most got seafood because Boston is famous for its seafood. Monica got lobster bisque served in a piece of bread whose inside was cut out to make it look like a bowl. Disappointed that there wasn’t any fresh lobster available, I just got a Teriyaki Salmon from one of the only Asian vendors there. Ironically, I stood in line longer than anyone else, so it must have been popular among the locals. Others got fried fish and chips.

We gathered and sat on the steps in front of Faneuil Hall to eat our food. The place was very crowded and there were no available tables. I was the last to arrive with my food, and as I was about half way finished eating, it began to rain. We quickly finished our food, and walked into an Urban Outfitter around the corner but still in the market square. Monica found a bargain for rubber rain boots. After the shoppers in our group checked out, we then left for Boston Beer Company. On the way out of downtown, we saw this guy:
man in 17th century suit and tricorne hat
17th century man in downtown Boston

The Boston Beer Company: home of Sam Adams beer

The Boston Beer Company makes some of my favorite beer, Samuel Adams. I’ve never been to a brewery, so this was exciting for me. We arrived to the brewery at 14:57 following my GPS. I thought that perhaps we were arriving through a back-road because we were going through an old neighborhood with very narrow streets. All of a sudden, there were the gates to the brewery. I felt like we were parking by the loading the docks. We walked from the van to where the “tour” signs directed us. They checked our IDs and stamped our hands with ink that did not wash off until long after we made it back home to Tulsa.

Tours were set up into groups. Each group received a label for a bottle, and everyone with the same label went through a tour together. The waiting area had plenty of awards and memorabilia displayed. When our tour began, I had a difficult time hearing the tour guide who suggested that we donate to charity for this free tour. One-hundred percent of proceeds go to charity. I thought I was supposed to return my label, so I put the bottle label into the collection box despite one of the tour guides yelling at me to not do it. Oh well, nothing happened.

The tour began with education of the main ingredients: barley, hops, water, and yeast. They passed around cups of barley, some plain, some roasted, some malted; and they passed around hops. Most of the barley is imported from Germany, and it is very expensive to ship it so that it stays fresh. They explained that the water also plays a key role, so they filter it very well starting with Boston tap water. I finally know what “hoppy” smells like.

hops in handHops

It was amazing to see how humble the operation appears considering how much beer they ship, which is 1% of all beer in America. Nevertheless, the entire operation was impressive. Finally, at the end of the tour we walked into the tasting room where we tasted three different beers: Boston Lager, Summer Ale, and Red Brick, the Red Brick being only available within Boston metro. The Summer Ale is one of my favorites, but it was too cold outside that day to really get the full effect. The whole tour and tasting took an hour. We stopped by the gift shop and purchased a Sam Adams koozie, bottle opener, and pint glass. All of us got to keep the 7 ounce tasting glasses.

Sam Adams beer in tasting glass
Tasting glass filled with Sam Adams

We drove out of the brewery at 16:34. The tour provides visitors with exit instructions on how to get back to the city, and these instructions matched up exactly with my GPS instructions. Going home this time we did not miss the proper exit in the tunnel. I cycled through the turns ahead on the GPS unit, so we were ready to lose the satellite signal when in the tunnel.

On the way back to the house from Boston Beer Company, the parents asked us to stop by a few stores to pick up champagne, wine, and vegetable and fruit platters. The detour took us through a more detailed exploration of Revere, through which we’ve driven each time we drove between Boston and Nahant. We stopped by a Super Stop & Shop at 17:06 and purchased water, vegetable and fruit platters. We inquired employees about the nearest liquor store, but the best instructions we received was that there was one near Revere city hall, which was easy to find in the Point of Interests database in the GPS unit. This caused us to backtrack a little bit, but we didn’t even notice. We passed the city hall and could not see any liquor store, so we kept driving. We stopped by a place called L & D Discount Liquor at 17:35, and were on our way home by 17:43.

Gabby used her smart phone to also identify a way home, and it took us on a route different than my GPS, but we followed the GPS anyway. We were home by 18:02 where we found Bisha hiding in a bush attempting to ambush us on the driveway for fun. We took pictures of each other, and then Bisha jumped onto the back bumper and rode on the outside of the van to the house. We drove as slowly as possible because the outside of the van was wet and we did not want him to fall off and hurt himself.

View 2011 Boston Exploring in a larger map
Check back for Google Earth tour of the day

Day Two, part 2: Julia and the Commencement Concert

Julia’s arrival to the Nahant house and riding to Graduation Concert in Boston

Julia arrived at the house at 16:35. Obviously, there were very warm welcomes and congratulations. The itinerary was now set: Attend the graduation concert at 19:30. We ate food before because we were planning to stay out after the concert.

As traveling in large groups can be, and as planning styles go with a laid back family like this one, a series of unexpected events unfolded. We drove a caravan of three vehicles from the house to Boston: Julia’s car, a rented Van, and Chris’s family van from Canada. Julia rode with her parents in her car, and she led the way. The younger generation rode in the rent van and followed Julia. The rest of the parents rode in the Canadian van.

Right out of the proverbial gate, Julia rushed down the driveway and down the road to where we lost visual contact in a matter of minutes. There was no sign of her slowing down, so we guessed there was no consideration of what was happening in her rearview mirror. I took a photo of her car and license plate just to be funny. We tried to keep up with her in the rented van. Between the choice of keeping the parents in our rear view mirror and keeping up with Julia, we opted to keep up with Julia. Technology is awesome because Gabby looked up the address of the music school, I typed it into my GPS, and we now had a back-up for directions in case we lost Julia completely. Julia not only drove exceptionally fast, but she also weaved through traffic like if she was trying to lose us on purpose. Adam texted her to slow down and stay in one lane. She responded, “I can’t help it.” I later got on the phone to ask her verbally if she could please stay in one lane unless to prepare for an exit, but as it turned out, part of the problem was that Julia herself was not certain about the directions. To add to the confusion, there was an identical car to Julia’s that pulled up next to her, and we got confused which car was the correct one to follow. The Majority of our passengers believed it was one car, and the rest thought it was the other car. I looked through camera’s saved photos, found the photo of her car, zoomed in on the license plate, and correctly identified the proper car to follow, which was good because by that time the consensus was that the wrong car was the correct one. It turned out to be a very crazy ride to the end, but we made it in one piece and hoped that things would be calmer for the remainder of the evening.

There was a baseball game going on the same night, so there was a lot of traffic in downtown Boston. Finding acceptable parking was tough. large sign for sport event parking for $40
not acceptable parking

Following Julia, we drove past the Berklee College of Music. We parked in a hotel’s parkade next to the school. As we disembarked the van, we thought the craziness was all behind us. The parents parked near us. We walked to the school while trying to debrief each other on what just happened on the road. Julia was not with us because she forgot tickets to the concert at home. We walked up to something called the Berklee Performance Centerperforming arts icon for Google Maps.

View 2011 Boston Commencement Concert in a larger map

We must have been early because it was dark inside. Then we got a call from Julia that the concert had been “moved” to a major arena a mile and half away, which we were all sure could be booked for any event only one day prior to the event, sarcastically speaking. We decided to trek on foot to see more of the city and because public transit would have been almost equally as fast. I entered the new addressed into my GPS and lead the way.

Berklee College of Music building on Boylston St and Mass Ave

We walked towards Commonwealth Avenue and walked up that street (path marked blue). The architecture amazed me, and the cleanliness of the roads and how good the pavement was also amazed me. It seemed that all of these dwellings on this street were dormitories for the music school. A little further up the street, all of these very institutional looking buildings were actually schools at Boston University. I have never seen a campus that looked like a collection of office buildings. Many of us planned to wear comfortable shoes, but one of the mothers did not, so she got a bad blister about half a mile away from our destination, which is also where we met up with Julia and her parents. We were devastated to learn that Julia’s mother lost of camera in the taxi because its case came undone from its strap. At this moment, the younger generation decided it was definitely time for a bathroom breaktoilets icon for Google Maps, so we walked into one of the nearest institutions, which belonged to Boston University. The old style bathrooms impressed Adam and reminded me of communist build bathrooms in Poland, except with new toilets and cleaner. We continued walking to the arena red dot icon for Google Maps to arrive about 30 minutes after the show started, so approximately 20:00. The camera never resurfaced for the rest of the trip.

View 2011 Boston Commencement Concert in a larger map

The Graduation Concert

The Commencement Concert for the Berklee College of Music was a large production something just short of a headlining national tour. My music school at the University of Miami did not even have a special commencement concert, not to mention a massive production like this merely for recognition of graduating students. The show started with Latin Jazz with Chucho Valdés on the piano whose playing absolutely blew my hair back. During one song, he played an interpretation of a Chopin Polonaise. Another solo was a cadenza that was extremely virtuosic in technique and equally amazing from a music theory aspect, which included some crazy chromatics, Prokofiev- and Rachmaninoff-like runs, which displayed not only an underlying understanding of the compositional elements found in the song, but also that Valdes had the instrument at his command. After the show I learned that the bass player, a student, continued playing through this cadenza and Valdes had to signal him to stop playing. The kid got scolded by faculty because he did not pay attention to what the soloist was doing, and so was unable to accompany him tastefully.

commencement concert stage lit up viewed from our seats
The Commencement Concert

digitally zoomed into stage viewing Chucho Valdes from our seats
Chucho Valdés at the piano

We had a difficult time determining just how many musicians were professionals and how many were students, but as it turns out, the majority of the performers were students. It is always impressive to see anyone play Latin Jazz with such grace and control, especially students. It makes me imagine just how much hard work those kids already put into their instruments to obtain that level of mastery. I consider Latin Jazz to be very difficult to play—perhaps that is part of the appeal to these performers.

Another very memorable performance was by Julia Easterlin who performed a capella with a loop machine (whose specific model I have yet to determine).

Kenny Garrett and Michael McDonald were other guest performers. We left the concert before McDonald took the stage because the show became more and more poppy, which was bland. Jazz is difficult to listen as it is, so once pop music came on, we got bored.

After the Show: Mavs game

Our new primary objective was to find a bar that was playing the Mavericks vs. Lakers game, which gave me an appreciation of how much Ajith loves Basketball. To emphasize Ajith’s love, this was not even a season game; it was an off season play off to determine which team will seed into the play offs. I guess Ajith is a Mavericks fan :). Most places were playing a different game in which locals had more stake for the teams involved, but the Mavs game was playing on TVs in a Qdoba, next door to the arena, where we got burritos and nachos at 21:57 and watched the game. (I will now pay attention to Mav scores.)

I felt lousy because the sun beat me down on the rocks today during which time I did not wear a hat nor did I wear sun lotion. I tried to relax to let the headache fold away. By the end of the second quarter of the game, the parents joined us. Adam and Chris ran the mile and half to get the vans. We loaded up the vans with everyone around the corner from Qdoba’s and depended on my GPS to take us home. Julia and her parents went to eat with her boyfriend and his parents who came to visit from Brazil. The two sets of parents have never met before this evening, so we did not see them until much later.

We almost made it home in time to catch the end of the game, but the path home took us underground where we lost satellite signal and took a wrong turn.
view from passenger seat driving through Boston tunnel
Driving through Big Dig tunnel

The GPS recalculated a new route, which really would not have been bad at all, but the on ramp which it suggested was closed for construction, so we had to drive through downtown again. Gabby read off the score in real-time on her smart phone. By 23:12, 16 miles from the house, the batteries in the GPS died, but fortunately, the road was familiar enough at that point that we made it home without issues. The game was over right as we pulled into the drive way.

View 2011 Boston drive home from concert in a larger map

Most of the people stayed up late and had great conversations, as were reported to me the following morning, but Monica and I went to sleep soon after we arrived back at the house. Of course, I checked on our animals before we went to sleep. Unfortunately, they were out of the frame, but the e-mails with captures of the day’s motion showed that they were alright.

Day Two, part 1: Exploring Nahant

We slept in a little bit because we had a long night last night staying up waiting for the power to come back on. I had to pull the curtains shut because our window faced East, and sunrise beamed straight in. It was almost a pity to block the sun because the weather was gorgeous and the view, of what I briefly caught, was incredible, but we didn’t want to be too tired all day. When I finally felt rested by about 9:00, I snapped photos of the view overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.

View through bedroom window
View through bedroom window
View through our bedroom window. Blotches in the sky are blotches on the window pane.
View through bedroom window
View standing outdoors just outside of bedroom
View from the door to the outside
View standing outdoors just outside of bedroom
View from the door to the outside

Once I got up and started getting around, I showered like if I were about to head out on the town, which turned out to be a bit of a mistake because the morning turned into an athletic rock climbing expedition that generated tons of beautiful pictures but burned through my clothes because I sweated too much in them, and I packed very light for this trip. Each trip, I try to outdo myself and pack lighter than ever before. I also checked in on my security camera and was happy to see our cat in the frame prowling around pretending to cause trouble.

We ate some very good breakfast. I got re-introduced to people I met last night. Then, I started exploring the house, which looked great during the nice weather because of all the windows.
Dining room with set table in the morning
Dining room showing windows above it
Dining room from low angle with trangular windows
Window above dining room
View of ocean through patio doors

Visit with Julia’s Father

Breakfast really lasted all morning long because I kept snacking on all the food that was set out until I had some protein, a hardboiled egg, to satisfy my morning hunger. During one of my breaks from eating morning breakfast, I had some tea that Julia’s mother brought from Poland. The tea was exquisite, and I took it outside on the balcony where I sat with the parents’ generation to socialize. Julia’s father questioned me about next steps that Julia should take to succeed in her career. I could tell that he cares quite a bit about her success and that he is very analytical about it and would like straight forward answers. Unfortunately, I am neither well versed in the music industry beyond my theoretical knowledge of it, nor did I know exactly what Julia would consider to be a successful career for herself. After explaining how a music attorney could be helpful, the conversation ended with her father walking away once he stated that he hoped there could be collaboration between Julia and me. At that moment, what crossed my mind was my one experience working with Julia, which went down in history as a joint venture that I did not want to repeat. As usual, when collaborations get proposed to me, the thought of how time-consuming any collaboration would be beyond the point of a distant consultation, therefore taking away from my personal musical endeavors, also crossed my mind. Regardless, by the end of the trip, Julia and I warmed up to the idea of a closer collaboration than merely a consult, but that was concluded while hanging out and drinking vodka, not while working.
View from rear balcony looking south
View while eating breakfast on balcony

Rocky Shore

By this time, Monica joined us for breakfast, all done up, again, like if we were to go out to town. Soon after, the morning took a very interesting turn as Bisha was the first to climb down the steep rocky shoreline, got close to the water, stripped to her underwear and pretended to prepare to dive into the water. The women started yelling at him because surely he would have severely hurt himself on the very sharp rocks. Bisha disappeared from view for a while and reemerged several minutes completely wet. Soon after, Chris and Adam walked down to the rocks to meet Bisha.

Eventually, the guys came back up to the house, and everyone else decided to walk down to the water with the assistance of the guys’ newly acquired experience of how to scale these rocks. We spent probably over an hour on this cliff, taking dozens of pictures from various angles and at multiple locations. We took a few group pictures and many couple pictures. The tide started coming in, so the waves started splashing harder. We tried to time the snapshots to capture the hard splashes.

The view from the rocks gave us a new appreciation for the architecture of the house. We also gained appreciation that there is no structural support underneath the balcony.
View of rear of house looking north from rocky shore
Nothing supports the balcony

Once we worked our way back up to the house, everyone else got dressed from the workout clothes or sleepwear. So, we hung around relaxing until everyone got showered and ready. We started making plans to go out to visit downtown Boston, but we ultimately hung around waiting for Julia to arrive; she had one more exam that day and who had been trying to reach us all morning. No one carried their phones with them to the rocks.

Day One: Traveling to Nahant

Our trip to Boston from May 5 to May 8, 2011, was to meet up with family friends and celebrate their cousin/niece’s graduation from the Berklee School of Music. Monica and I have never been to Boston, so that added to the attraction of the trip. The family get-together was splendid beyond my expectations. Organizers of the trip reserved an ocean-front rental house in the little island town of Nahant where we were lucky enough to have our own bathroom and bedroom with a view of the ocean.
Google Maps full flight path TUL to BOS via DFW
Map of full flight path from Tulsa to Boston

Preparing for Departure

Typically, I like to prepare comprehensive and robust checklists for anything that requires more than seven codependent tasks. Not that “seven” is a hard rule, but the human mind can track seven items simultaneously—plus or minus two. In contrast to our New York trip, I thought that I would relax a bit and forgo a detailed travel checklist. After all, it has practically become a joke that I organize so much. We reviewed our latest checklist a day or two before departure, and also checked the weather, which ultimately neither helped us determine what clothes to truly pack, nor the actual weather that we encountered. stated that each night and day would be low of 40°F and high of 60s °F with some chances or rain. Our first day was 75°F.

The night prior to departure, friends of mine offered to drive us to and from the airport, which I accepted. We were surprised that they offered because his wife had knee surgery the same weekend. I knew she was having the surgery, but I forgot it was that same weekend and would have refused the offer. I guess they feel more grateful than they should be about my generosity to their computer issues.

One thing I really wanted for this trip was to have a web-accessible security camera to check in on our dwelling during our absence. I ordered the camera a week prior to the trip, but configuring everything regarding the camera (i.e. recording to my Linux server, e-mail notifications of motion) took significant time but was well worth it because we could see our pets and know they were alright.

Departing the Dwelling

I agreed for my friends to pick us up between 15:45 and 16:00 at our apartment, but they were at our place at 15:40. We were still packing to the last minute and got in their car and left at 16:00.

At the Airport in Tulsa

We arrived at TUL by around 16:20 and checked in with no rush. We got our boarding passes with the seats I requested over a month ago when I purchased the tickets. This time, we shared one piece of luggage that we intended to check, and it cost $25 one-way. Monica did not get a chance to eat before we left our place, so we started to search for food. A nice lady working at Great American Bagel just outside of security told us that there are many more restaurants behind the security checkpoint, so we decided to go through security to search on that side. Simultaneously, I sent a text message to a friend who works part time for TSA, asking him whether he was currently working. As it turned out, my friend was working, and he was working exactly the same conveyor belt through which we happened to go. We talked briefly to possibly hang out after the trip. He enjoyed Monica’s pink netbook (because laptops have to be put in their own bin on the conveyor).

With plenty of time to kill, we walked past all of the eateries, and Monica opted for the Great American Bagel after all, on the secured side of the check point. So, the food and price would have been the same on either side of the checkpoint. GAB was in the other concourse than from where our flight was leaving, so we had to walk past the security checkpoint again where I saw a coworker, a contractor, who was traveling home. I forgot that since it was Thursday afternoon, all of the contractors were leaving to go home for the weekend. I was slightly concerned that I’d run into other contractors, but it was too late in the date for any of the other contractors to still be in Tulsa.

We sat down at a table at our concourse for Monica to eat her food. I ran briefly away to check the status of our gate. We used the bathrooms before we headed to our gate, and we were already the last ones to board the plane.

Flight TUL to DFW

Google Maps flight path TUL to DFW
We departed on time and traveled with no major incidents, but Monica forgot to turn off her cell phone and the captain came on over the PA during the departure off the runway and said, “someone forgot to turn off their cell phone, so please turn it off immediately. Maybe there were other phones still on as well, but hers would have been one of them then. We opted to keep our backpacks under the seats in front of us. My backpack was so thick that it barely fit under the seat. I also under estimated just how much that reduced my leg room, but I managed to find a comfortable position on all flights. We touched down at DFW just before 18:43.

Dinner at DFW

We arrived in DFW at gate C26, and our flight to Boston Logan (BOS) was from gate A25, so we took the tram. It was my first time ever to travel on DFW’s new tram, the Skylink. It was quite nice, and there are separate routes for each direction, so one no longer has to go all the way around the entire the two American Airline terminals to go back one stop.

In front of our gate, A25 was a small food court. We decided to order some McDonald’s because we had no idea when we would eat again. I purchased a Filet-O-Fish, and Monica had a kid’s meal double cheeseburger. We sat down on the outer edge of the food court where we faced the main corridor of the terminal and faced our gate. I barely finished my sandwich, and the next thing we realized that our gate was empty because everyone had already boarded.

I dumped the rest of my food in the trash and carried my drink. Monica packed up the rest of her food to carry onto the plane. Monica had to make one more bathroom stop, but the bathrooms were kind of far away. I haven’t flown much recently, and things have changed a lot since 9/11, one of those things being the flat LCD screens displaying the status of boarding the flight, including standby passengers. The gate agent called final boarding call. Seeing that there were still standby passengers on the list, I got worried that our seats might be given away. I finished my drink and threw the cup in the trash. The lady called final boarding call a second time. Out of a nervous reflex, I started sipping Monica’s kid’s size drink, which full holds only four or five of my gulps. I accidentally almost finished off her entire drink, which essentially rendered her food inedible because she requires a beverage to eat her food. As it turns out, it is perfectly fine to speak with the gate agent to notify that we are here and that we will be ready to board shortly. To make it worse, what seemed like no line was actually a long line inside the jet bridge of people waiting to take their seats on the plane. There was certainly no need for me to worry. That was one of my first of many personal mistakes on this trip.

Flight DFW to BOS

Google Maps flight path DFW to BOS
We did not know until this flight that non-alcoholic drinks are still free. Food was available for purchase, but we did not need to purchase any. There weren’t any menus in the seat pockets in front of us, so we had to ask for a menu. Basically, food for purchase on the plane cost for one person what two meals just cost us at McDonald’s, so we were glad we could skip that. Monica had water; I had tomato juice, which was Mott’s brand. We stayed awake the whole flight talking even though we were a little bit tired.

Arrival to BOS and drive to Nahant

Our flight arrived about 15 minutes early. When we disembarked our plane, I sent a text message to our friends who were now in Boston that we have landed. We got our checked luggage from the baggage claim. Myriam and Ajith found us shortly after that. We hugged and then walked to where Chris was waiting with the van, which was his parent’s van that they drove 9 hours to Boston from Canada for this celebration. Just to believe their trek, I took note of the Canadian license plate, which reminded me that I am not in the presence of a subject to Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second. On the ride to the house, we learned that Monica and I will get our own bedroom, which has its own bathroom. Monica was very excited about the news, and I was equally excited to learn that our bedroom had a view of the ocean. I felt like I would experience the life of a millionaire this weekend.
Google Maps marking BOS and Nahant house
We arrived at the house about 20 minutes later, about 1:00 in the morning, where we were astonished to first learn that the house backs up to the Atlantic ocean. It was practically pitch black outside, so we could not see the ocean, but we could sure hear it.

Settling in at the Nahant House

The house on Nahant Island was huge. There was food still set out from dinner, and we were invited to eat. We started greeting the other guests who arrived before us and haven’t already gone to sleep. Everyone else arrived before us except for Adam and Gabby. I planned our flights to carpool with Adam and Gabby, but their flight was delayed quite a bit and Chris was nice enough to make a trip from the house to the airport just for us. We took our luggage to our bedroom. I changed into a warmer shirt because it was sort of cold in the house, and then hung out with everybody.

When it was time to pick up Adam and Gabby from the airport, only Ajith and Chris went, during which time we experienced a power outage about 1:30 in the morning. At the time, we could not assess whether the power was out only for us or for our neighbors as well. We wanted to notify the power company of the outage, but we had no number to call, so we tried to call the landlord who naturally did not answer the phone at that time of night.

I suggested calling 9-1-1 with the prefix that it was a non-emergency call. I should have done the talking because Bisha, one of the main organizers of the trip, made a joke out of the situation and actually argued with the dispatcher. We then decided he should call 4-1-1, which resulted in similar comical results but did not seem quite comical to me in total darkness.

Of all the times I traveled with a flashlight, I did not pack one this time, so we resorted to using our cell phones for light source but most batteries of these cell phones were dying. I had our fully charged netbook which was super bright. Bisha then resorted to calling all the phone numbers he had for the landlord where he finally got an answer. Also by this time, Ajith and Chris arrived with Gabby and Adam who confirmed that the entire island was dark.

Eventually, our eyes got used to the darkness, and the ocean was visible under the clear moonlit sky. It was quite amazing how powerful nature is. It always amazes me how our predecessors lived without electricity up until only about one-hundred years ago. I kept saying that it’s ironic that we’re waiting for the power to come on to turn on the lights just so that we can turn them off and go to sleep. Some of us started getting ready for bed, and then later a crewman came around 3:00 to check our breakers to make sure that the house would turn on immediately after electricity became available again. Bisha asked the crewman whether we were safe on Nahant Island and whether any murders could take place during the darkness. The crewman answered in his heavy Asian accent that the island is very safe.

We went to bed without power and woke up to power. By that time, it was quite hot in the room, so I opened the window, and to my amazement, I finally saw for the first time our view of the ocean and the air smelled wonderful coming straight off the water. I pulled the blinds completely shut for the window directly in front of our bed. The sound of the waves helped me sleep well into the mid-morning.

Table of Contents of Boston 2011 Trip

The next six blog entries depict our travels in Boston, Massachusetts to celebrate a friend’s graduation from Berklee College of Music from May 5 to May 8, 2011.

  1. Day One: Traveling to Nahant – getting there is half the adventure
  2. Day Two, part 1: Exploring Nahant – scaling the rocky Atlantic shoreline
  3. Day Two, part 2: Julia and the Commencement Concert – Greeting the graduate for the first time and attending a graduation concert
  4. Day Three, part 1: Commencement and Boston – the graduation and sightseeing afterwards
  5. Day Three, part 2: Celebrating the Graduate
  6. Day Four: Departure for Home – making the most of it until the very end