Other Random Musings  |  In Which I Stop to Smell the Roses
Week 1: 4 June - 10 June
Moved into Ray Street A dorm on Sunday. I'll be rooming with Holly, a fellow undergrad researcher, for the summer. Our room is so big! I've never seen a dorm room so massive. It's just a pity that I couldn't bring enough stuff along with me to fill it up. The air conditioning keeps the building ridiculously cold. But since Holly and I are of one mind on the point of optimal ambient temperature we shut off our vent completely and have been quite comfortable ever since.
On Monday Holly and I met the lovely people which we will be working with for the summer. They seem to be a jolly bunch. Monday also saw our first foray out to the grocery store. I sorely miss the prices in the Mid West. Almost $4 for a pack of tortillas?!
On Tuesday I discovered that Emily Gibson loves Pride & Prejudice (as every reasonable person should). We shall now be fast friends, even unto eternity. = )
Later in the week Holly and I found a Wal-Mart and a Target. What more could we want?
Saturday saw us both being excessively lazy. All I did was eat, surf the web, write in my journal, and strum on my guitar. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon, eh? I have learned how to play Reasons Why, a song by Nickel Creek (one of the few "country-ish" bands that I like).
Week 2: 11 June - 17 June
Tuesday marked our first event with the other undergrad summer researchers of Ray Street A. Holly and I were hoping to meet other people since the dorms are pretty quiet. Unfortunately, the format was not very conducive to introductions or socializing. There was food on a couple tables and that was it. Everyone there was at least there with one other person (their room-mate) so people tended to stay to themselves. Sue Serra, who works in our lab, and Holly and I hung together and munched on hot dog, chips, etc.
So far the hub of social life in Ray Street A has turned out to be the kitchen. Holly and I both frequent it several times a week and we have started running into a few of the same people over and over. Greetings are always exchanged and sometimes I chat for a while and stick my nose in to what other people are cooking. Mmm, Mmm, Good.
The highlight of the week was an event with the other folks in the lab. We all car-pooled up to the Italian Festival in Wilmington. Dave was right when he said there wasn't a whole lot of authentic "Italian-ness" but there was a whole lot of festivity. We ate gelato (not as good as the real thing, but pretty good) and cotton candy, tried to win gold fishes and other paraphernalia, and rode on a few carnival rides. The swings are my favorite.
On Friday I took the train up to Philadelphia, which is where one of my brothers lives. Had a great time. The train was very reasonably priced.
Week 3: 18 June - 24 June
Our fun began in earnest on Tuesday this week. Sreedevi Sampath passed her dissertation defense and afterward we all took her out to eat at a local restaurant. Sreedevi was very excited and we were all happy for her. It was a jolly lunch-hour. That very evening we went out again because Emily told us that we simply had to try La Tolteca, but we couldn't do that for a lab lunch because there were other people that didn't like it. So Emily, Ben, Sue, Holly, and I met up at La Tolteca that evening and had some good Mexican food.
On Thursday Holly and I showed up to work in the morning to find that the power was down. About half an hour later the power came back up on campus, but most of our lab was still dead. We called the problem in and waited to see if anyone would come. But after forty-five minutes we gave up and took an impromptu holiday. This was a good decision as it turned out that our lab didn't come back on line until 3pm.
Holly and I split up for the day. She had to run some errands, and I stayed at the dorm to cook up some grub and mess around on my guitar. Later, when she still hadn't come home, and walked back to the lab to see how things were going. The electricity was still down. Since I was already in town I decided to walk down Main Street and poke my nose into a couple of shops. I found four really good deals at Rainbow Music & Books. Then I wandered down to Grass Roots, a kind-of-hippy clothing and decor shop. I almost spent an awful amount on a dress there. It was so very pretty, but I had absolutely no reason to buy it. After that narrow escape I walked down to the Goodwill and found a cheap sweater that I could keep in the lab for the days when the air conditioning is turned up too high. I finished the day off with a slice of pizza from Peace A Pizza, a quirky little pizza parlor that's good for a cheap snack.
But wait! - the fun isn't over yet. Holly and I ended out the week by going to the beach on Saturday. Sue was going to come with us, but she ended up having to go home on Friday. So Holly and I braved the gloomy skies alone and defied the dour predictions of rain. (In the end, it did rain a little, but only a very little). The beach was wonderful. I am now in love with the ocean.
Week 4: 25 June - 1 July
I'm a little late on writing this entry so I am having to think very hard about what exactly I did last week for fun. I am very sure that I did indeed have fun, I just have to remember how exactly it was that I accomplished it. =)
The first thing that comes to mind is half-price nacho night at Klondike Kate's on Main Street. Zak (Zach?), one of the other undergraduates in the lab, told us about it and so he and Holly and Sue and I all met up there after work on Tuesday. The plates of nachos (we got two) were massive and quite wonderful. And at half-price, what a deal! We also got some ice cream afterward at Gelatos. It was probably too much, but I can rarely resist the call of mint chocolate chip.
I purchased a portable DVD player in the second week I was here. I've already had some personal use out of it, but on one night (I can't remember which one) this past week I was able to offer it in use of a greater cause. A handful of us in the dorm wanted to watch a movie together. So I hooked my player up to the TV in the lounge and we watched Amelie. It worked like a dream. Great purchase.
The ending finale of the week was another trip to the beach. This time it was with a group from the dorm, headed up by the summer resident program assistants, Emma and Ashley. Two van loads went down to the beach, including the five British students who had arrived on exchange from Imperial College in England. It was quite a lot of fun - wonderful weather, wonderful ocean, and wonderful people. I look forward to more outings of that kind.
Week 5: 2 July - 8 July
This week was incredibly full, and it went by so fast I can hardly believe it is over already. It began with a 4th of July weekend excursion. On Sunday afternoon I left to go camping with my brother Andrew and two other friends: Andrea and Susanna. We went to Assateague National Seashore and camped in a place where only a sand dune separated us from the ocean. (I loved going to sleep to the sound of crashing waves!) Andrea headed up the food and she did a marvelous job - I've never eaten so well on a camping trip. We went to the beach, saw wild horses, went crabbing for the fun of it and actually caught a crab, and found a great little restaurant in historic Berlin, Maryland (which also happens to be where they did some of the filming of Runaway Bride). All in all it was a delightful diversion.
I hardly had enough time to catch my breath when I got home on Tuesday before a group from Ray Street A went out to Klondike Kate's for half-price nacho night. After gorging ourselves on such warm and cheesy goodness we heading down 896 to the field house to watch a fireworks display. Four of the British exchange students were with us. We joked about putting on a re-enactment with real, live Brits as the red-coats, and Adam (or was it Matt?) kindly avowed that if we ever wanted to come back into the empire they would definitely consider letting us in. = )
Wednesday night found us out on the dance floor. Alicia rounded up a group of people to go salsa dancing at a nearby pub. Every Wednesday there is a small lesson on the second floor and then they play salsa music all night. It was a fabulous time. Even the guys were getting into it. I believe that there are plans to go again next week.
Thursday evening was quiet, but Friday found Holly and I off again to have dinner at Lori's house with some of the other grad and undergrad students. The food was fabulous, the conversation was flowing. It was a very good night, and afterward we got to take a plate of peanut butter brownies home with us.
On Friday we headed off to Washington, D.C. with a group from the dorm. I mostly just saw the National Gallery of Art, but that was enough for me. I adore that museum.
Week 6: 9 July - 15 July
I got my first taste of Doctor Who this week. It was pretty darn awesome - I'm quite hooked. My other movie-going experience was Pirate's of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. Talk about a bald-faced declaration of "there will be a third one!" Why do the middle portions of trilogies always have to be so unresolved? And what on earth is up with Elizabeth? It's been a long time since I watched a characterization undergo such a mysterious convolution. I just don't know... *shakes head*
We had another glorious half-price nacho night at Klondike Kate's. Unfortunately for me, I couldn't wait until we left and I decided to have a little pre-dinner snack. I thought I would still be good-to-go for Kate's, but I ended up eating a shamefully small portion of my nachos. Thankfully, Emma helped me out and no nacho was left untasted! = )
There was some Texas Hold'em action in the lounge dorm after nachos. I actually stayed in for a pretty long time. It doesn't happen often, but then again, I don't play poker often. As it got later and later people started playing recklessly so that someone would win and we could all go to bed. That's how I lost. Oh well.
Wednesday night a lot of people from the dorm went salsa dancing again. I would say our group was around fifteen. It was just as much fun as the time before. We now know four moves instead of just two - how cool is that? I'm actually starting to feel like I almost know what I'm doing.
Over the weekend I visited New York City with my brother, Andrew, and Vernon, and Melody. It was a blast. We went to the Natural History Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Frick Gallery. On the first evening, we had a little picnic in Central Park and got to listen to a free concert. On the second evening we went to see Avenue Q and afterward went to a delightful French restaurant on 45th street. I don't think I've ever eaten at a place so fancy but, Hoosier though I am, I did not embarrass myself!
Sleeping in the next morning was delightful.
Week 7: 16 July - 22 July
Monday: impromptu salsa dancing in the lounge; great fun.
Tuesday: Nacho showdown! Emma and Ashley were determined to see if they could each eat an entire plate of nachos. They did it, but I don't think they'll want to eat nachos for quite some time.
Wednesday: Salsa dancing at Timothy's. There was a lack of gentleman, but we still had fun. It turns out that I'm not half-bad at leading. = )
Thursday: Summer Researchers Picnic at Prof. Munson's house. It was very warm outside, but still a good time. Afterward a few of us went to poker night at Timothy's. Mark was the only one who played, but the rest of us stayed, chatted around a table, and gave him moral support.
Friday: Nothing unusual happened. We just chilled at the dorm for the evening and played a lot of Foosball. So far I am undefeated. I take a certain pleasure in that fact. = )
Saturday: We went to D.C. again and had a lovely time. Shortly after we arrived all of us ate lunch at the Native Foods cafeteria in the National American Indian Museum. The food was a little pricey, but so good that you didn't care. After that Mark, Kate, and I went to the Freer Gallery, the American History Museum, and the Vietnam memorial.
Week 8: 23 July - 29 July
On Sunday the five Brits, but mostly Kate Sloyan, organized a regular old British Tea Party for a bunch of people in the dorm. It was loads of fun. Besides having pots and pots of tea, there was trifle, scones, cucumber sandwiches, honey cakes, and other assorted goodies. Someone printed out a picture of the queen and hung it up over the proceedings, and Adam Rae lent his English and Welsh flags to festoon the occasion. We were all quite full afterward, feeling lazy and content. I need to filch Kate's scone recipe now. They were soooo good!
Of course we went salsa dancing again on Wednesday. Good time as always. We also found ourselves back at Timothy's on Thursday for the poker night. Three Ray Street A residents were in the top six, but it took a long time for them to get there. A group of us sat at a nearby table, talking and eating and watching the rain come down in buckets. On the second floor of Timothy's there is a game which can only be described as foosball hockey. It's quite odd to play it when you are used to playing regular foosball, because all of the handles are in the wrong place and hockey sticks keep getting entangled, but it was still lots of fun. My team lost, two games to one.
On Friday I skipped town to visit my brother and go with him to the graduation party of a mutual friend. She had just graduated from nursing school and was throwing a semi-formal dinner/dance party in a country club. The food was delicious (The chocolate truffles really did me over) and there was a good dance floor. Most of the younger people there were swing dancers, so I couldn't really keep up with them, but I was able to pull off a salsa on one of the songs.
After staying up way too late Friday night, I had to wake up early Saturday morning to catch a train to New York to meet up with people from Ray Street. My timing was perfect: I came into the PATH station at 33rd Street and ran right into the group of people I was trying to meet up with. A handful of us hung mostly together for the two days we were there. We went to Little Italy and Chinatown, Liberty and Ellis Island, the Empire State Building, the U.N. headquarters, and Central Park. On Sunday morning Kate and I, with another girl, went to mass at a positively huge cathedral a few minutes away from time square. It's quite an impressive event, but not what Kate or I are used to. It was an interesting experience though.
In the midst of all these wonderful diversions, I think my favorite memory will always be playing in the fountain at Battery Park. Emma, Matt, Mike, Adam, Kate, and I were waiting in the park for Mark to catch up with us, and it was quite hot, and there was this fountain that was obviously designed for people to wander through. There were a lot of little kids their frolicking in the water, and we frolicked right along with them. Emma, Kate, and I all had long jeans on, so we took quite a long time to dry out afterward, but it was worth it. = )
Week 9: 30 July - 5 August
This week saw the birthdays of two Ray Street A'ers. Cecilia turned 21 and Emma turned 22. On both evenings had cake for them in the lounge and took them out to eat. It was a lot of fun, as everything always is with lovely Ray Street people.
I believe it was after taking Emma to dinner that I group of us finally made it to the diner (we've been talking about it all summer). We were thoroughly charmed. It is just what a good old diner ought to be, complete with a cantankerous juke box. Kate Sloyan had pancakes for the very first time. She liked them immensely... as well all knew she would.
The truly distinguishing moment of the week came on Thursday at my advisor's house. She invited all of the lab people over for a "Mixed Up Dinner". At this sort of dinner, there are four courses and each course is made up of three items. However, these items are both utensils and edibles, and come to you in random order. So you might, for example, get pie, peas, and a napkin for one course, and then get lasagna, ice cream, and a toothpick for another. The result? Total chaos. Several people had to eat lasagna without any utensils at all. Poor Holly actually go her fork, spoon, and knife all in the same course, which meant she couldn't have them again for any of the other courses! She did pretty well with it though. It was jolly good fun.
Week 10: 6 August - 11 August
This week was spent trying to have as much fun together as possible in Ray Street before we all got kicked out of the dorm on Friday. We started off the week by having a Foosball Championship Tournament on Monday evening. We had a singles and a pair tournament, and quite a good showing of people. Kate ran away with the singles title, while Adam and I took the pairs title. We had even supplied ourselves with silly prizes, of which the silliest was Kate's trophy. It was a ceramic rooster with a ping-pong ball glued to its back (which was supposed to be a "foosball").
On Tuesday we had another birthday for Mark Manz. He was also turning 21. We had a fabulous cake for him in the lounge (Decorated with a volcano and dinosaurs! See it picture below) and then took him to Klondike Kate's for dinner. I believe we made it to the diner again that night as well. Good times. Good juke box.
On Wednesday night we decided to dress up for our last salsa night. A few of us girls had nice dresses with us, and all but Kate had nice shoes to go with them. So, what did we do? We took Kate to Payless, that's what we did! Unfortunately (or not so unfortunate?), since our group was mostly comprised of girls, Payless made a killing. Kate, Emma, Ashley and I all bought more than one pair of shoes. And Kate, Emma, and I actually all bought the same pair of shoes. We have now founded our own club: The International Shoes Buddies. See the picture below: Mark holds up the shoe so Kate can snap a picture of it.
Anyway, after making sure everyone's wardrobe was complete, we all ritzed up and went salsa dancing. It was so much fun, as it always is, and even more so than usual because we were doing all the spins in flouncy skirts!
Thursday night we just made our way down Main Street together, from La Tolteca to Klondike Kate's to Iron Hill to the Diner. I had a combination platter at La Toltec, nothing at Kate's, shared an absolutely fabulous dessert at Iron Hill with Matt, and then shared a basket of fries with Emma at the diner. Oh yeah, between Iron Hill and the diner we helped Mark walk his duck.... don't ask. Suffice it to say that it was a hilarious and surreal ending to a hilarious and surreal summer.
As I write this journal entry having already moved back home I'm already getting nostalgic about the summer. It was a magical couple of months. I never expected to fall in with a group of people whose company I would enjoy so very much. I will especially miss Emma, Kate, and Adam. They are dear souls, and I hope I will see them again someday. But for now, I will have to close this chapter of my life. Will anyone out there in hyperspace even ever read it? Perhaps not. But for myself I'm glad I typed these things out. I wouldn't want to forget a moment.