I drove to Charlotte, stopping at Replacements, Ltd. on the way, where I returned two place settings of the eight I bought Vivian for Christmas.
I got all the way to Charlotte, and in fact, to my hotel without hearing from Irene, who I'd called from Replacements saying I needed directions to Anne's house. Anne had promised to e-mail me directions, but when I left Raleigh, they still hadn't arrived in my inbox.
I drove past my hotel, driving to a coffee shop with free wireless Internet service that Joe and I had frequented the last time we were in Charlotte — hoping it was still in business, as it was just a start-up at the time.
On the way, Irene (iwc41) finally returned my call, and I got directions to Anne's house from where I was.
After that, I stopped for gas, since my low fuel light was on, and then to check into my hotel, where I found out, surprisingly, that they actually had free wireless. After all that, I could have just checked my e-mail from there.
It surprised me that they had free wireless, because it was a Days Inn, for $44.10, instead of the place I usually stay, which used to be the Morgan Hotel & Suites with rooms for $69, but has just recently been taken over by Sheraton, who has raised the rate to $90. Fuckers.
After a quick check-in — I didn't even go up to my room — I entered into the quagmire that was the traffic almost all the way to Anne's house. Tedious.
The theme for Irene's birthday was "Hawaii 5-0" (her 50th birthday) and Anne's place was wonderfully decorated to that end. Irene, herself, greeted me with a lei in her hair, and one around her neck.
We had a great evening, starting off with cocktails (half-n-half — half Diet Coke, half Southern Comfort). Good stuff.
Irene started the upload of my 10-CD set of Soul Ballads to her laptop to download to her new iPod, which she got for Christmas.
Anne really outdid herself with dinner. It continued the Hawaiian theme, and I loved everything I had. I didn't have the salmon, which I'm sure was good; I just don't like salmon.
After cake and ice cream, Irene opened my card and iTunes gift certificate — a song-a-year for each year she's been on the planet. Maria also opened the audio book I got her — David Sedaris' Me Talk Pretty One Day — for coming through her recent surgery with flying colors.
After dinner, we — Maria (Irene's mother), Becky (Buck's daughter), Buck (Irene's brother), Anne (Irene's sister), Bill (Anne's husband), Andrew (Irene's son), Irene (the birthday girl), and myself (yours truly) — listened to two of the three scenes of the "Rerun" episode of This American Life.
Before I left, Irene and I had a birthday dance in the kitchen area, and then I said my thanks and goodbyes.
I got back to Charlotte, and decided to ride by the Eagle to see if there were any cars in the lot. There were, and as I reached for my wallet, I discovered that I'd left it at Anne's.
I called Irene, who graciously agreed to walk it out to me if I drive back right then — I didn't want to risk another traffic nightmare going out there in the morning.
I returned back to the Eagle at about 12:40, and the number of cars looked like it really hadn't changed, so I dropped in. It cost me two bucks to get in, less than I expected, and there were probably about 10 people in the bar.
I had two drinks, and talked most of the time with a guy named Charles, who was very chatty, and animated. He worked for Brooks Brothers in Charlotte, and after asking me what I did for New Year's, he launched in to everything about Atlanta, as he used to work for Brooks Brothers both there and in Washington, DC.
I left there at about 1:30, and was pleased that my room key worked, as it was the first time using it, and the office was totally locked up.