Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Diary: England and Aftermath, Part 1 of 2.

The week before last was my last week of work at Northwestern. It was bittersweet, but each day we too busy to really stop and reflect. There were a lot of loose ends I wanted to tie up before heading out. Each of the doctors came and spoke with me personally, and Vicki and I went out to lunch with Pam, Steve, Andrea, and Dr. Rosenberg. On the last day, Mary brought in cookies she had baked and many of the techs brought in sweets and cake. I stayed until almost seven, cleaning and clearing off my desk.

This all coincided with Holy Week. So this week had started after Palm Sunday at St. Ita's and the wife and I also went out for Holy Thursday at St. Gertrude's. On Friday, I got to church, flush from my last day of work, and a little bit hungry. But it was a beautiful service. (As it turns out, I would miss the actual Easter vigil and service.) I walked the half-hour home afterward, luxuriating in that April spring coldness. I decided, however, to skip out on Sam and Bill's disco set. I had really wanted to attend, but it was already late and I had to pack to go abroad.

I put on good music and Dead Man's Chest and was up packing and cleaning until 4 in the morning. At 8 I got up and after downing a breakfast of bananas and fried eggs, I was out the door (a little late), and (after doubling back to check the apartment, because I was inexplicably afraid I had left the gas burner on) cut across the cemetery and grabbed the Larry bus. And I made it to the plane alright.

The next day was weird; eastward flights usually were. I flew to Washington Dulles over Zanesville, hopped on a flight to London Heathrow. I sat next to a very kind Saudi man who was very talkative, despite the fact that together we knew about 20 words in common. He spent half of his vacation with his son in Manchester, and the other half in a Saudi village with his wife. "She has seven children," he told me. I was too fidgety to sleep, even though I'd deliberately avoided coffee and bought a whiskey to make me drowsy. The sun had risen over London Heathrow when we landed, and I found it to be one of the most unerringly complicated airports I've ever been in. Also, the authorities threatened to not stamp my passport because I didn't know the address of Catherine's parents where I was staying. Despite all of this, I made my connecting flight to Manchester and was met there by mom, dad, Cody, and Catherine's mom, Laura.

When we got to their home in Lymm, I finally fell asleep for a few hours, but got up in time for a delicious chicken dinner, and a walk/tour of the area. And this is when I rediscovered my camera!

Evidently this is a very old canal that helped to connect the early Manchester cotton works to the seaports at Liverpool. Lymm is a small town and this canal (filled with a ton of brightly colored shotgun boats) at one point crosses a road as the road crosses a stream. This is known as vertical variation.

Dad and Cody.

Caitlin and Catherine.

Who says stocks are falling all over the world?


Later that night, after some discussion of logistics, Catherine drove me with Caitlin and Cody to their flat just north of the city where I would be staying for the next two nights. We were hungry, and ordered a pizza, and talked about the things you talk about when you only see your siblings in person twice a year.

The next day I was too busy/distracted to take photos. After a slow start we got out to meet up for the rehearsal lunch. Sadly, my wife, grandma, and aunt were unable to attend, but my mom, dad, and sister were all there. On Catherine's side, there was her mom, dad, sister and her husband, and several other relatives. One of these, John, had a seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of recent rock, and he gave me a mix of Muse. Cody and Catherine also gave me a CD by Elbow, which I've listened to several times since I got back.

We stopped off at the house in Lymm for some early opening-of gifts, then headed out to the Unitarian Church for some rehearsing. Auspicious signs.

In the last decade, my family has tripled in size.

Soon they will be able to say that the sun never sets on us.

Practicing for the first dance.

I told Catherine that I like this photo a lot.

After the rehearsal Cody and I headed back to his place alone. I took him out for Indian food near his place, and we stayed up for awhile. He didn't seem nervous... yet!

The next day was a slow flurry of activity. Slow because I think everyone was a little groggy, but flurryish because, of course, you're always waiting for the other shoe to drop. In my case, I made three obnoxious mistakes. The first (and worst) was that I had never worn a shirt with "French cuffs" before. So while I just thought it was a nice British fashion to wear your shirt sleeves a full inch below the suit, in fact, I looked like a big doofus until my dad pointed this out to me after the service. If anyone was upset about this, they didn't say so. Second, I left my jacket (and passport) at Cody's place. Third, the next day, I left my rented suit in the hotel room.

Given the chaos I've seen at any number of weddings (including a little at my own) this one went pretty smoothly. The flowers my mom had put together were absolutely gorgeous, the bridesmaid dresses were sharp and graceful, and I've never seen so many wonderful hats. Catherine was enchanting in his white and flower-embroidered dress. The church which (in a fit of Unitarianism) had clear panes was absolutely open and flooded with light. Cody and Catherine are both musicians, so the music was as full and significant as the vows and sermon. Also, my brother got a little vaklempt during the vows, but that's okay. His voice carried the depth of affection for Catherine, and her owns vows were reassuring and filled with their own care.

There's that saying about dogs resembling their owners, and vice versa.

I think we could say something similar about weddings.

This one was eclectic despite its modesty.

After the ceremony, we went outside for photos, grabbed a few drinks in the social hall, and headed out to the reception. Cody and Catherine had selected a museum restaurant; it occupied the seventh floor of a glass-enclosed triangular-shaped building and offered a magnificent vista of the Manchester skyline as it came to life and light. We were just a block away from the giant Ferris wheel, and my dad got some great photos. In addition to wine and hors d’oeuvres, there was killer swing music, a chocolate cake and a "cheese cake" (as in a stack of cheese wheels), a lot of talk about accents and travel, and Ian and I made speeches. To brag a little, while our speeches were very different in style, I think they complimented each other very nicely.

After this we went back to the hotel we were staying that night. I was exhausted. I checked my email and went to bed, though I stayed up for an hour to watch a documentary about a man who deliberately strands himself out on mountaintops and tries not to die of hypothermia.

The next morning, things had slowed down just enough for me to remember my camera again, and take some pictures.

I love the guy in the background, who has that expression on his face that says, "damn, I'm photogenic!"

I was able to collect my jacket from Cody's, and with the help of Laura, I was able to return my suit. The whole family took me to the airport as a group which, while it might seem a small gesture, really meant a lot to me.

Flying west - into the sunset - is the opposite of flying east. It feels like the most natural thing in the world, and I end up feeling more, not less, rejuvenated. The plane, interestingly, flew literally right over Flint on its nonstop trip from London to Chicago. Figure that. Growing up I never thought of the jets passing overhead as crossing a third of the planet.

Here are some pictures of Canada's glaciers, Michigan's fields, and Chicago's sprawl. From the air. As for my impressions of England, I'll have to wait until I go back to visit. Everything was much to fast to notice much except for the left-hand traffic.

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Anonymous Connor said...

Note: One crazy thing about that last photo is that when you look at it full-size, you can actually see my apartment.

Granted, it's pretty much a pixel.

6:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wonderful, wonderful photos and commentary, Connor!! anonymom~~

9:08 PM  

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