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~Saturday~ I left my house at 6:30, parked in long-term parking lot #3 (The Purple Lot), and walked in the drizzle across the parking lot to beat the bus around, which had passed the station closest to my car and was working its way around the perimeter of the parking lot.

In my phone, I created a file with the number and color of the lot in it, along with the numbers on the two poles closest to my car—A4 & A5.

The TSA guy at the very beginning of the security line, the one that looks at your boarding pass, and then shines some little secret spy light on your driver's license to make sure it's real, gave me a "knowing glance" after reading my sweatshirt (hover over image for clues):

Two 'gay' clues: Provincetown (gay mecca) and the rainbow colors used for the bicycles

I sighed leaving his station and he said, "That sounded like an 'I-need-caffeine-now' sigh."

"Exactly," I replied.

As hard as this is to believe, ever since there has been a requirement to put your liquids, lotions, and gels (Oh my!) in 3-ounces-or-less containers, and to put them in a plastic bag to take out of your suitcase when going through the x-ray machines, I have never done it, and I have never been called on it.

I usually have a 5.1-ounce bottle of spray (hair) gel, my stick of deodorant, my can of shaving cream, and my toothpaste with me, and I always have it in this fanny pack that I use as what my dad would call a "ditty bag":

A fanny pack that I use as a 'ditty bag'

This morning, for the first time ever, there was a TSA guy grilling people at the beginning of the area where you have to take all your stuff out and put it in tubs. He'd seen that I'd put my laptop in one tub and my shoes in another and that was it.

Staring into my eyes he said, "You don't have any liquids, lotions, or gels in your suitcase?"

A lot of stuff went through my mind very quickly, including but not limited to: "What is the penalty exactly for lying?" "Is it busy enough and is he far enough away that if I get busted on the other end, he won't notice and come over and yell, "You lied to me!"

After that quick risk analysis, I said, "No."

He did not break his stare and asked, "No toothpaste?"

"Nope," I said.

"No deodorant?" Now his tone was starting to sound like a personal attack on my hygiene habits.

"No," I said again, and when he cocked his head a little as if in disbelief, surprising even myself I added, "I'm staying with relatives, and they have all that stuff," speaking the truth for the first time to him—I was staying with relatives—and intimating that any good host would provide those things.

I was quite relieved when I went through without incident—once again without the contents of my ditty bag being called into question.

It was 7:10, and my flight departed at 8:05, so it was a little disconcerting that the flight information board kept indicating, "D10 Gate Closed," which was my gate, of course.

Since I had some time, and I hadn't had time to fix a breakfast sandwich to take with me, I stopped at Five Guys and ordered an Egg & Cheese Sandwich, which I thought was a little on the high side, but which turned out to be the best damn egg and cheese sandwich I've ever had.

I guess math skills have gone the way of cursive writing, as the cashier was totally stumped after I handed her a twenty-dollar bill for my $6.75 total, but she'd accidentally keyed in that I'd given her $10. The cash register was indicating that she owed me $3.25, and she had to get her calculator out (on her phone, of course) to figure out that she needed to give me 10 more dollars, since I'd given her 10 more dollars than she'd keyed in. Bless her brain.

When I got to the gate, not only was it open, but as I approached it, an agent walked up to me to put a ticket on my carry-on bag. Turns out it was one of those small planes that most of the carry-on bags need to be checked and retrieved "plane side" at the destination.

When I got to my seat, 6D, there was a husband and wife in 6C & 6D.

"Are you in 6D?" I asked the man, since he was the one in my seat.

"No, we're in 5C&D," he replied and he joked about it being his wife's fault as they moved up a row. Yeah, whatever. Just move your misogynistic self out of my seat.



During my short layover in DC, an announcement came over the public address system noting that an "Honor Flight" was arriving at Gate 36, and that people who might be interested in welcoming the World War II vets—who were being flown to DC by that program to visit the World War II Memorial there—were invited to gather around the gate to do so:

Gate deocorated with an american flag and red, white, and blue balloons

There was also a band sitting off to the left, which started playing as the veterans were making their way up the jet way.

This was the first man to come out:

Man and his wife making his way through the crowd

Man up closer, waving, and getting a little overcome from the reception

The man was a little overcome as he waved, and there were quite a few misty eyes in the crowd. There's nothing sexier than a straight man with tears in his eyes, of which there were several around me. But I digress, disrespectfully...



Rene's wife, Pam, picked me up at the Providence airport, and I had to be hidden until everyone was to meet at my cousin Rene's business, Ralco Electric & Generator, where his surprise 50th birthday party was going to be revealed.

Pam and I had a most delightful lunch at a place called 99, where I had a BBQ Chicken Wrap, and she had a Club Sandwich, half of which I ate.

While there, Rene texted her asking her if she'd mind picking up some vitamins for him if she was in the vicinity of a GNC store. I Googled for the nearest one, and we put that on our to-do list after the stop at the liquor store for some champagne.

The closest GNC ended up being in "The New Harbor Mall," where I told her to ask him if he wanted the "silver" designated ones now that he was 50 years old. We had a good laugh over that when he essentially answered, "Hell no. I'm not really 50 until Monday."



At a little after 2:00, Pam dropped me off at my cousin Bobby's house, but not without first riding by her house to show it to me, which I thought was a tad bit risky since Rene was actually at home. And as it turned out, their son Ryan had seen us drive by, in both directions, but thankfully Rene did not.

Bobby was finishing up in the shower when I arrived, and his girlfriend, another Pam, was about to take Bobby's dog Phoebe on a walk, so I walked along with them. It turned out to be a nice way to get introduced to Phoebe as she doesn't warm up to people very easily, in general, but perhaps associating me with a walk, which she loves, helped.

I loved my time visiting with Bobby and Pam, and after showing me around his most beautiful home, Bobby steamed up some little-neck quahogs, which we ate the hell out of. I also tried some Limoncello moonshine that his brother, my other cousin, Roger had made. It was so smooth, and most delicious.

Rene's wife, Pam, had told me earlier in the day how much Bobby liked fishing, and I enjoyed listening to him articulate what it is that he likes about it, as he answered my question, "Is it the solitude, the sport, or the results (eating the fish) that you like so much about it?"

The sport and the results were an easy yes for him, but he had to think about the solitude part, because as it turns out, he does a lot of off-shore fishing, which he does with a crew of about six guys, so those expeditions are not for the solitude, although he mentioned how beautiful it was when you're the one (or one of two) awake, on "watch," under the stars that there's some aspect of solitude in that. (Aside: That's a long sentence, but I think with the proper punctuation, it works.)

He told me a fascinating story about "the big one that got away," and I loved how passionate and extremely knowledgeable he was about what I think of as the "maritime knowledge domain."

Bobby travels a lot, and I told him my story about never having been called on not taking out my liquids, lotions, and gels, and he couldn't believe it. He said that I was pressing my luck, and he gave me a quart-sized bag to take with me to use on my flight home. I think I just might better.



The birthday surprise for my cousin involved around 40 of his friends enjoying a dinner cruise on the The Majestic, a "luxury yacht for charter," out of Bowen's Wharf in Newport, RI.

As I mentioned earlier, the guests were asked to meet at Rene's business, and I arrived there with Bobby and his girlfriend Pam at a little after 5:30, where I saw my other cousin Jeanne, and her husband Dave, their son Andrew, and met Andrew's girlfriend, Chelsea. Always fun hanging out with all of the Lachapelles. Was when we were kids, too.

In the meantime, Rene's wife Pam was driving him there, blindfolded, to keep the destination a secret. (Just to be clear: he was blindfolded; she was driving.)

He thought he was meeting their two kids, Tara and Ryan, at a restaurant they wanted to keep a surprise. However, as it turned out, even though Pam tried to take a different route, with various turns, Rene was able to tell exactly where she was going, and when she went to turn into Ralco, he said, "Why are you turning into Ralco?"

"I have to pee," she lied.

When he got out of the car and the blindfold was removed, all of us yelled, "Surprise!" and raised our champagne glasses in a happy birthday toast to him. Such fun!

Rene arriving at Ralco, with his wife Pam

Pam had hired a big yellow school bus to take all of us down to Newport, which I appreciated for several reasons: 1) It allowed people to drink a little while we waited for Rene to arrive, as well as to take a glass on the bus, and 2) It avoided the issue of trying to find parking for that many people once we got to the wharf, and 3) It gave those of us who didn't know each other a chance to become acquainted on the way. I thought it was a very thoughtful (and fun!) gesture all the way around.

Rene still didn't know where we were going for dinner, but we didn't blindfold him on the bus. :-) Pam kept saying, "You don't know which restaurant it is yet?" trying to keep him thinking it was indeed a restaurant, as we made our way to Newport.



There was another round of surprises for Rene once we got to Newport, as our other cousin, Lisa, was there, as well as a group of Rene's golf buddies who share ownership in a place all of them have in Myrtle Beach, which I enjoyed visiting in June.

It was pretty at the wharf, with these scenes as we made our way onto The Majestic:

Pier area with small boats housed along side it

The sun setting in the background

The Majestic

We had such a fun time aboard, with an open bar, a buffet dinner, and dancing on the outside deck. I started off sitting with my cousins Lisa and Roger, and a friend of Rene's named Dale, but soon afterward I started table-hopping to meet some of Rene's and Pam's other friends, which I think is what a lot of people did.

I had some fun conversation with Sheila, the wife of Roger's business partner, Chris. She was a nurse, and an absolute hoot, not to mention beautiful. She cracked me up with one of her stories in particular, about her stepfather who is widowed from her mother, in his early 90s, and lives in her basement, because he can't really live alone. She told me that they call him their "cellah dwellah," and shortly after that she used the appositive, "the pahw bastid" when talking about him. That slayed me.

I also very much enjoyed meeting Don and Patti, two of Rene and Pam's closest friends, and their kids, Trevor and Danielle. Patti was so nice, and mentioned a couple of times how nice it was to finally meet me.

Here are some shots of the fun:

Pam and Rene dancing to the DJ out on the deck

Rene with a cigar in one hand and some fine scotch in the other

The awesome Lachapelle family—Ryan, Pam, Tara, and Rene

And here's a picture I took outside as the boat was passing under a bridge, which is followed by a picture of the cake, which wasn't as much of a fire hazard as it could have been, and which I thought was absolutely delicious! (That's a lot of which clauses, but they're all properly preceded by a comma.)

Bridge lights in the distance after passing under it

The cake, which had a picture of Rene on it of when he was one year old, I think it was




The party wound down at about 10:30 as we pulled back into Bowen's Wharf. Most of us caught the bus back to Ralco, which was a fun time, albeit a little more subdued than the trip out. Can you say tired and imbibed?

Back at Ralco, me, Tara, Ryan, Pam, and Rene, went with one of Rene's employees and his wife, Ed and Lesa, to a Chinese restaurant for a late-night snack (read: for alcohol absorption).

I couldn't remember the name of the place, although I know it had Pearl in it, and I just did a quick Google search of "Pearl's Chinese Fall River" to try and find it, which landed me on this news story: Husband shoots wife, kills himself at Oriental Pearl.

I'm not sure if that was the place, but if it was, a year and nine months later everything seemed to be in order, and no one shot—or got shot at—while we were there. I had a bowl of most delicious Hot & Sour soup, Ryan and Tara split an order of Pot Stickers, and Rene, Pam, Ed, and Lesa had a huge Pu Pu Platter.

Ryan, Tara, and I left a little before the others, as we were exhausted. I know I was.

Back at the house, Ryan was gracious enough to give up his bedroom to me for the night. After getting the wireless code, and quickly checking in online, I was out in two seconds in that extremely comfortable bed.

Such a great day with great people.

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