20020811 @ 4:31 pm
Denise and I are on the road again, headed down the Pennsylvania Turnpike for Bedford County. Our plan is to drive a few hours and then spend the rest of the day in Bedford County, which was recommended to us by Denise's friends Anthony and Gina. They live in Pittsburgh, and Anthony is a native, so they know the area really well. It sounds like a great idea to us. And hey, if we don't like it, we'll just move on to something else. No biggie.
We got to David and Dana Bearce's house last night around 8:15 or so. It was great seeing them and their family. We had a tasty dinner of burritos, with fresh fruit for dessert. We then spent time talking, catching up, remembering past exploints, and laughing a lot.
During the early part of the evening, the kids were very active. Caroline, all of 2 1/2, is outgoing and personable. It's pretty darling the way she says "woof" for "roof". She and I managed to get into several games of "Yes I did"—"No you didn't", which is always fun (I say "always" recognizing that if I was the parent, I would probably tire of such games pretty quickly).
At one point, Caroline and I were talking while David and Dana were chatting. Dana was upstairs putting baby Eveline to bed, I believe. Caroline was asking me if I was the same age as Daddy. "Yes," I replied, and then, pointing at Denise, "Do you know how old she is?" "No," said Caroline. "128," I informed the little girl. There was a long pause as she digested this information. Finally she asked, "Is she going to be dead soon?" "Yes she is," I confirmed, "Why don't you tell her that?" That suggestion was all that Caroline needed. At that exact moment, David and Denise paused in their conversation and looked over at us. Caroline looked right at Denise and triumphantly exclaimed, "You're going to die!" The look of shock and surprise on Denise's face was indescribable.
We finally got to bed close to 2 am, way later than I wanted to, but we were having such a great time talking that we didn't notice the passing of time. The bed was soft and the fan kept the room cool. I fell asleep immediately.
Denise and I awoke around 8:30 am to the ring of her cell phone. Thankfully, it was not spam again, but instead Denise's friend Gina, calling to arrange a meeting place and time.
When we went downstairs, we got to hang out with Gus the dog. In a few days we'd be seeing his namesake, Gus the brother. Both bear a remarkable resemblance. :)
We had a great Bearce breakfast: cantelope (I taught Caroline that synonym "mushmelon", which not a lot of people know), blueberry scones, and coffee. NPR played in the background, and the Sunday paper littered the family room floor. Very similar to Bearce breakfasts I've had in the past with David's parents, particularly one I remember back in 1989 in North Carolina, when David Hart and I went to visit David right after high school.
Caroline was great. She's obviously smart as heck, and David and Dana are doing a great job raising her. By the way, David's hair is messy here because it was Sunday morning and he hadn't showered yet. Don't hold it against him! I've been there too. Many times. And haven't we all?
Baby Eveline kept us entertained during breakfast with her atrocious dining skills. :) Normally, the way babies eat grosses me out, but she was so cute I had to laugh.
Here's another of Dana and Eveline. My goodness, that is one cute baby!
After breakfast, we had to hurry and get ready to leave so we could meet Gina and Anthony. We took pictures, said our goodbyes, and left. Once we were in the car, I found out from Denise that we are going to stay with David and his family again on the way back from Cape Cod. Cool!
Here's a family photo of the Bearces on Sunday morning. I love this because David looks terribly distracted, which is completely understandable, since there is a wife, a 3-year-old, an infant, and a dog all squirming around him. They're an awful cute family, wouldn't you say?
Denise met Gina while they were attending Pitt Law School. I'd only met Gina and her husband once, at their wedding in Pittsburgh in 1999, and I really didn't get any time then to get to know them. It was a lovely wedding, though, one of my favorites. The bride and groom both read letters explaining why they loved the other one and why they wanted to marry them (yes, I'm using plural pronouns for singular nouns … deal with it). Denise and I liked this idea so much that we used it at our wedding. I also recall that the wedding was outside at a stately old inn, with a beautiful garden overflowing with flowers and grass, and a large gazebo for dinner and dancing. The only negative was that I had to sit in the sun during the ceremony, and it was a *hot* day. Sweat was the order of the event.
Gina and Anthony took us to brunch at a German restaurant—Max's—known for its buffet. Quite good: French toast, eggs, fruit, green beans with mushroom sauce, breads, pastries, and lots of sausage and bacon for the carnivores. We sat and talked and had an exceedingly pleasant time. They really are two of the nicest, most genuine people you could ever meet. Gina is an attorney working for a non-profit focusing on immigrants, so she spends her days helping people navigate the maze of US immigration law. Gina and Denise are remarkably similar in that way: both are doing work that needs to be done, work that benefits people directly, for little pay. And both love what they do.
After brunch, we followed Gina and Anthony back to their charming little house. Built on a steep hill, as is apparently every other house in Pittsburgh, their house affords them a panoramic view of hte city spread out below them. It's a nice neighborhood of small, compact houses, tiny yards, and lush green growth everywhere.
One thing I noticed: Gina and Anthony didn't have air conditioning, and neither did the Bearces. Actually, let me correct that: both households have window units, but they don't use them very often. Apparently it's not too common in Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, I was sweating. I think maybe central air in St. Louis has spoinled me. Of couse, in St. Louis you *must* have air conditioning, or your life will be miserable. Heck, no matter where you are in Missouri, you *need* a/c. You can't live without it.
Another thing I've noticed. I've been looking for an Internet connection so that I can send some email I've composed and post these blog entries. At David's, I asked if I could enter his dialup info into my computer. No problem, he says. It doesn't work. Something to do with how I'm dialing into the University of Pittsburgh, which is what he uses. No DSL, no cable modem for the Bearces.
So then we get to Gina and Anthony's house. I ask to use their connection. No problem, they say. But they aren't sure what their dialup password is. It's entered into the system, so they don't have to remember it. I try several combinations, but nothing. Also no DSL or cable modem.
This reminds me of just how rarified the technical world is in which I live and work. I've had high speed Internet access for 4 years—ISDN and then DSL—and most of my friends and family have it too. Jans, Ben Donnell, Ben Jones, Larry, Jerremy, Ken Gurney, Steve Lindsley, Matt Tanase … they all have DSL or cable. Jerry has a modem, but that's because he can't get broadband due to where he lives. In addition to broadband, more and more people I know are setting up a wireless network. I've got one, as does Jans, Ben D., Larry, and Matt. Even Jerry has one.
When you're working in such environments, it becomes easy to forget that the utter, total, vast majority of people do not have broadband access—they're still quite happy with a dialup modem, thank you very much, and see no reason why they should pay more than double what they're already paying for Internet access. Some argue that content needs to get more compelling to get more people to use broadband; in other words, that the Internet needs to be more like TV. Blech. That's why we have TV. There's already compelling enough content on the Internet, and any Internet user knows it. (A few people do decide to get broadband because they want to download mp3's or movies, but I don't think that appeals to the vast majority of users, and certainly not to the holdouts I've mentioned above)
It's the cost, stupid. It just costs too damn much. I need it … it's my business. Same with Jans, Ben D., Jerremy, Ken, and Matt. Others have it because they can afford it or because they use the Internet a lot. But ask most people if they want DSL or cable, and they'll say "Sure!"; ask them if they're willing to pay $50 for the privilege, and they'll say "Nope." Unfortunately, I don't see prices coming down anytime soon. Ergo, mass adoption of broadband in the home will not occur anytime soon.
20020811 @ 10:40 pm
A long day.
We left Gina and Anthony's and went right back to the Bearce's. I had forgotten our CDs there. Without the CDs, we would have to listen to the mass-marketed, over-programmed, boring as hell garbage called commercial radio. Now that Clear Channel has bought up a vast number of radio stations across the US, we're seeing the benefits of Congress' change a few years ago that allowed companies to own many stations in an area. A company like Clear Channel buys up a bunch of stations in a city, fires most of the staff and all the DJs, and then automates the playlist so that a targeted demographic—say men ages 18-35—in Dubuque hears the same crap as someone in Houston as someone in Albany. Heck, even the contests aren't even local anymore. When you call in to compete in a contest, you're actually competing with people all over the United States, not just in your little neck of the woods you call home. It's a disgrace.
Which is why we listen to public radio. But you can't always get public radio as you traverse the nation, and in those moments we turn with relief to our CDs. Without the CDs, we go crazy. Therefore, it was back to David and Dana's for the CDs!
After we left, again, we got on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and drove to Bedford, PA. I was hoping we'd be in Bedford *Falls*, so I could run down the street yelling out, "Merry Christmas, you old broken down Building and Loan!", but it was not to be. It's just plain Bedford. Another fantasy dashed.
By the time we got to Bedford, I was feeling sickly again. I'm still recovering from this cold. In the morning and periodically throughout the day, my sinuses get really stuffed. My throat always has the nasty sick taste in it. I get weak. And, best of all, I constantly feel just a little bit nauseous. Not totally nauseous, which would be a relief because then I could throw up, but just a little bitty bit nauseous, like I'm going to maybe throw up in 10 minutes or so if things keep building. But they never do, so I never do. In spite of my bodily ills, I'm having a great time.
We decided to spend the night at the Sleepy Hollow Shawnee Campground in our tent. Before we settled down for the night, we first went to the Mock Church and Cemetery, which is just down the road a few miles from the campground. It was founded in 1808, and it was pretty amazing. The graves ranged from the early 1800s to modern day.
Someone from the local VFW takes special care to make sure that any veterans of *any* American war are recognized in the cemetary with little American flags and medals on the flagpole denoting what war the veteran fought in. We found one grave of a man who had fought in the Revolutionary War as a general, and there were many who had fought in the Civil War.
We noticed that many of the old graves were really thin, and many were made of darker stone. However, many were not. Or perhaps they were so old that the elements had worn the stone white in some cases. Unfortunately, it was very difficult to read many of the old graves. The lettering had simply worn down too far. With enough effort, we could have decoded the words, but there were so many graves. It's a pretty powerful symbol, I think: survivors put lettering on a tombstone to memorialize the person buried there, to keep them alive in memory, but given enough time, most people fade out of memory after a generation or two. The faded lettering on the stones reflects that.
Here's an idea for a neat project: someone should capture all the lettering on the tombstones of their local graveyard, and then make it available in a book. Or online. Interestingly, we did see one case where a really old gravestone had faded on the front—it was, after all, carved over 100 years ago—but someone had recently had the faded lettering re-engraved on the reverse side of the tombstone so that it would last another 100 years. This mystery person also had placed fresh flowers by the grave. A family member, I presume. That is a wonderful gesture. I should put something like that in my will: a bequest to be held in trust to recarve my tombstone's letters after a certain period of time.
One final thing we noticed about the cemetery: the great number of childrens' graves. It was easy to tell if the person buried there was a child, at least if the grave was over 100 years old. All those stones were half-height and tended to be bronze colored.
All the graves, not just the childrens', tended to display the following:
Died April 10, 1898
Aged 65 years 5 months 10 days
Inspiration quotation or thought
It was just sad to see over and over again ages of 5 years, or 3 years, or a few months, or, in one case, one day.
After that we ate at the Jean Bonnet Tavern. "Circa 1762", as the sign outside said. I loved the "circa". It was quite good. Denise had crab and shrimp for $6.50 (!) and I had the salmon. We ate outside, and it was quite pleasant.
After dining, we came back to the campgrounds, set up the tent, and now we're going to sleep. Tomorrow, to Gettysburg and on to New York City to see my brother Gus.
Over and out.
20020811 @ 11:17 pm
Dang it, I can't go to bed yet. I read the previous entry to Denise, and she reminded me that I should mention the following:
I'm typing all this sitting outside our tent in the dark.
It's really nice out.
There are lots and lots of shooting stars overhead (there's a Perseid meteor shower tonight).
It's really nice out.
It's really nice out.
I've done my duty. Now we're going to bed. G'night!
Over and out.