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Gazing into the Abyss: Michael Rawdon's Journal



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Me, My Nephew, and Five Years with Debbi

If you've been wondering where I've been (and since I'm writing this entry back-dated a week, if you haven't been wondering then either you're not paying attention or else I've been slacking, uh, about as much as I really have been), the answer is vacation - and a much-needed one at that, as I haven't taken a week off (holidays don't count) since last September when my Mom visited.

This time around I returned the favor and flew out to visit my family. Debbi came with so she could visit her family. The goal for me was to relax and to see folks. Which isn't much of a goal, but there is was anyway - we don't need no steenking goals on vacation!

The flight out was uneventful, and we landed about on time shortly before 10 pm local time. Debbi's sister J picked us up and dripped me off at my Mom's house. Mom stayed up to greet me, which was nice. After a long day travelling I was happy to fall into bed, but I didn't do so until after midnight - I never quite adjusted my internal clock to Eastern Daylight Time the whole time I was there.

Dad came out to visit on Friday - on both Fridays, in fact, in part to watch the latest Doctor Who episodes. "The Long Game" was a fairly routine horror-mystery, reminiscent in some ways of Tom Baker stories such as "The Horror of Fang Rock", but really without much of the effective atmosphere or tension of those suspense-in-an-enclosed-space stories. Thumbs down. On the other hand, "Father's Day" was a quite good episode. Having read a novel by the author Paul Cornell, I was expecting it to be heavy on mood and meaning and light on sensical plot, which was about right; sometimes, it's all about expectations. (Of course, one expects certain things in Doctor Who to not make much sense, and is therefore delighted when the author goes the extra mile to put the pieces together. But it's not serious science fiction like certain other shows aspire to be.) Anyway, I thought the character bits, the suspense, and the resolution of "Father's Day" were all quite effective. Worth watching more than once; probably the second-best episode of the season.

It occurred to me while watching the second episode that the relationship between the Doctor and Rose is similar in feeling to that between the third Doctor and Jo Grant, with their bickering but the vague-and-repressed romantic undercurrents between them (all the more complex since the Doctor is suffering from post traumatic stress disorder).

Saturday Dad and I made our annual trip to Web Head Enterprises, which has ended up being the one comic book store in the area I make a special effort to get to whenever I go back, mainly for their terrific back issue selection. However their remodel sometime in the last couple of years, although diminishing their trade paperback selection, opened up basement space for a pretty good selection of used genre fiction, and both Dad and I picked up a few things there.

In the evening Debbi, her sister D, her brother-in-law S, and I met in Boston's North End for a double-date dinner out. I can highly recommend Cafe Vittoria for their excellent mochas, nice atmosphere, and readily-available seating even on a Saturday night. (Caution: Small sample size of only one evening!) We went to Mother Anna's for some yummy Italian food for dinner. I've been there before and they're a good place, too. Despite a little rain (which Debbi and I brought to the drought-afflicted northeast when we arrived) we had a great time. I think D & S were happy to get out for the evening.


I would like to know why none of the Dunkin' Donuts near my Mom's house stock my favorite donut, Apple-n-Spice. Dammit.


I had intended on Sunday to head down to visit Debbi and her family, but it turned out that her nieces and nephew were dealing with a stomach flu working through the family, so I decided to pass for a couple of days. Instead I went into town shopping on Sunday (happened to find a couple of CDs by a band I'd heard about, Fluttr Effect - I find the strangest things at Newbury Comics, just enough to keep me going back), and spent Monday being a slug around the house.

I did finally drive down on Tuesday. One of the girls was still a little down from her illness, but the other two were recovered. Debbi and I went to lunch, I showed everyone photos of the cats on my laptop (one of her nieces looooves cats), they all piled pillows on my while I was lying on the couch and sat on top of me, which I think they'd been waiting months to do, and we generally had a good time.

Debbi drove me back in time for me to catch a train downtown to meet my old friend Bruce for dinner. Also, on Thursday evening Debbi picked me up and we went down to sit for two of the kids for dinner. Then I spent the night there and we woke up early-but-not-too-bright (at 4:30 am!) to go to Foxwoods Casino. Debbi and her sister have gone a few times on our visits, and since I've taken up poker I tagged along this time. We arrived around 7 am, and boy was the casino dead. We all played some video slots and they played some video poker, and around 8 I went down to play poker. Their poker room is huge, and it was maybe 15% full at that time of morning. With a break for brunch (which was a so-so brunch buffet, though that might have been because my body was still confused by what time it was), I played 3 hours of poker.

I did not play well.

I've been taking a step back and trying to reevaluate my play. I think I'm mostly being too passive and need to be more aggressive. But I'm taking a little time off and will give it another try back in California.

The losing-at-poker experience aside, we had a good time overall. Debbi dropped me off mid-afternoon and I crashed to take a 2-hour nap afterwards.

Whoa. 4:30 am.


The big surprise - which I learned only a few days before we flew out - was that my sister Katy would be driving up on Wednesday with my nephew Ivan, whom I had not met before.

Ivan is a happy, energetic and curious 21-month-old. Katy says he's both tall and big for his age, which explains why she's happy with all the Apple gear I've been sending her for him! (The Apple company store has branded apparel, which I think few-if-any of the Apple Stores around the world carry.) He was groggy when they arrived, but woke up and got comfortable pretty quickly. He loves Elmo, loves to bang on pots and pans, loves to push the buttons on the television (so we had to cover them up after a while), and likes to carry his soccer ball around. (His Dad is a big soccer buff.)

Ivan's pretty chatty, working on stringing three-word sentences together, and curious about everything. "Zat?" is his favorite question, pointing at things around him.

Thursday Katy and I went for a walk with him in the morning and he was babbling on and Katy said "You're a funny guy!" I asked, "Is that what you say when you have no idea what he just said?" Katy said yes. Glad I'm not the only one who doesn't speak toddler-ese!

I learned that "uncle" and "Michael" are a little too close to one another for a toddler to wrap his tongue around, so I ended up being just "Uncle", which is fine by me! I would come downstairs in the morning (about 2 hours after everyone else had gotten up) and Ivan would see me and say, "Uncle!" Heh! I also taught him to say "D'oh!", which he thought was hilarious: He'd come up to me and say "D'oh!" and I go "D'oh!" and he'd laugh his head off. That ought to keep his parents amused for a few weeks. And we ran around in the yard several times, him throwing and kicking his soccer ball, and running to each of us. He also liked going up and walking around all the cars. (Note: "Honda" is easier to translate into toddler-speak than "Toyota".)


No, I don't think I'm going to have a sudden impulse to have kids - I think I enjoy kids more when I can give them back to their parents at key points. But I did have a lot of fun with my nephew on this trip. As one of my parents said, since we don't live near my sister whenever we see him it's like meeting a brand-new person, so I imagine he'll be pretty different next time I see him.

I think Katy's turned out to be a good Mom, though. Early indications are that Ivan's turning out to be a good kid.


The rest of the week was fairly quiet. I got out for a few walks, hung out at the Starbucks nearby, did a bunch of reading (see sidebar), and watching several Red Sox games (they were stinking it up for most of the week, dropping 7 of 10 to Toronto, Cleveland and Tampa while I was visiting).

My final night, Mom and Dad cooked lobster and clams. Now, I don't eat seafood (it's a taste thing; I wish I did, but I can't deal with the taste), and I cooked some food I bought from Whole Foods, and we drank two bottles of champagne. It was a nice evening, the five of us.

Katy and Ivan left Sunday morning, and I left shortly thereafter to meet Debbi at the airport. The flight was long and it took forever for our bags to arrive. But we made it home to find that the rain that had been pummeling the Bay Area for the last few months had departed, and that summer had arrived. We went to dinner at Don Giovanni to celebrate our five-year anniversary together. Hard to believe! Our cat-sitters put up banners, bought us balloons, and even baked us a cake! How nice of them!

We headed back and were happy to be home, together, and with the cats, who missed us while we were gone. Life is good.

Ivan and Uncle

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