Management wanted to do something nice to say thank you for the work we've done this year (and get us psyched up about the big workload we have coming at us for 2001). We had been told that we would be having lunch as a department (Friday being picked as the only day between late September and late November that all seven of us would be available (i.e., not traveling and not teaching a class). We all gathered as requested at the rear entrance at 11:30 and a few minutes later a long white stretch limo pulled up.
We were whisked away, sipping champagne (okay, there were a couple beer drinkers) while the mirror-windowed limo took us over the bridges to the mainland and up to Cranston, to Papa Razzi, an Italian restaurant in the Garden City Shopping Center. We had a long, leisurely lunch, munching on garlic bread sticks as we studied the menu -- I had a delicious salad, sort of a chef's salad with golden raisins added and then chicken and broccoli in a white wine sauce over farfella (the salad really was delicious; I do a better job with the chicken and pasta at home, but still it wasn't bad, just a bit bland) with a nice pint of Guiness and followed by a nice Italian cake (okay, so maybe between the Guiness and the champagne I forgot the name of the dessert... but I just had one beer, as did another colleague while another beer drinker consumed two beers... but the four wine drinkers went through a total of three bottles) and a cup of cappuccino.
After lunch it was back into the limo for ride back to Newport while sipping more champagne (or beer). We drove around through Newport while Julie, one of my co-workers, rolled her window down about six inches and stuck her hand out the opening, waving in a royal manner to the peasants and commoners we passed. (Okay, so maybe you had to be there to find it funny but she had us all laughing.)
We returned to the office a bit past 3:30... to find that a friend from the U.K. was in town. Pete had been in Newport in January and February of '99 while I was training him to be an instructor for one of my courses. At the same time he was supposed to be learning another course (which had had him in Australia for a couple weeks late in '98)... and he returned to Newport later in the spring to work on that course. I was in London at the end of June last year to observe his teaching of my course. Then he was back in Newport for a week or two about a year ago. We've kept in touch by email (and snailmail) and telephone. He had said that he might be in Rhode Island in September to take a course but those arrangement fell through and the only thing I'd heard from him in about a month was an email forwarding a joke. Well, while we were out on our lunch tour, Pete had visited our offices, bringing gifts like an early visit by Father Christmas. (I got a book, Alan got a build-your-own boat in a bottle kit, Julie got a fuzzy pink rabbit creature that giggles if you squeeze its paw....). Bad timing... if only he had shown up an hour earlier (or phoned) he could have come to lunch with us. He'd left a note saying that he was staying at the Marriott on America's Cup Blvd... he wasn't in when I called so I left a voice message inviting him to dinner at our house on Saturday or Sunday night.
He phoned Friday night to say that he had an old friend along and that he expected some other people to be coming to Newport and he insisted that Nancy and I (and our children if possible) just had to come to Newport for dinner on Saturday.
So, Saturday night, Nancy and I set out for Newport. (Jennifer and friends were headed off to the Emerald Square Mall in Massachusetts and Sean was supposed to work but he has come down with a cold and thought it would be better to stay home than to cough and sneeze on the food he would have been preparing at the restaurant where he works.) We met Pete in the lobby of the Marriott (although only about five stories tall instead of the 35 or more stories of the Marriott Marquis in the Times Square Area, it's still an impressive lobby)... and his old friend joined us along with an Indian couple and their twenty-something son (although they've been living in the Cape Cod area for the past dozen years or so, she has retained tradition Indian clothing and was wearing a lovely sari which I won't even attempt to describe).
We settled in some comfortable seats in the Oyster Bar for a round of drinks and conversation. (I chose Newport Storm, a nice local amber lager.) Then we set out for the Brick Alley Pub, a lively restaurant a few blocks away (picture sort of a T.G.I.Friday's type place)... Pete had made reservations for nine p.m. but we reached it a few minutes early and waited upstairs in the games area until we were called. The dinners came with salad bar and most of us ordered a dinner (except Nancy who ordered a vegetarian pizza -- which she liked -- and a caesar salad) so we made a couple trips each to the salad bar. I ordered teriyaki chicken (with wild rice) and a black and tan (Bass Ale and Guiness)... which was so tasty that I had a second one. I was too full to want dessert, but I did have a cappuccino. (And Nancy brought home some pizza which she had for lunch today.)
Pete was guiding everyone to an Irish pub near the Brick Alley Pub but Nancy and I had to beg off, not just due to the lateness of the hour (it was quarter past eleven and we faced a half an hour drive home) but because of that half an hour drive... three beers spread over more than three hours would not cause any driving problems, but having an Irish coffee or two most certainly might have!
I'm hoping that Pete will have time to stop by the office Monday morning before leaving to being his American adventure... he's resigning from the U.K. part of the company I work for in order to accept a position with an American software company in Orange County, California. I've got a couple little souvenir gifts for him.
Well, that just about describes my weekend. Nancy and I scraped and painted the garage doors yesterday. Today I'm supposed to mount some hooks in the garage to hand our extension ladder on... but haven't gotten around to it yet... guess I'd better go do it soon as I finish this. Got in a three mile run yesterday and a four mile run today (which is good) but yesterday's run was my first run since last Saturday morning in Oslo. I've just been too busy... partly it's because I can't seem to fit in a morning run... and partly because I've been getting home from work too late (and too tired and too short of daylight) to run then. Definitely need to get the basement set up as an in-home fitness center the way we would like to... but maybe I could also try getting up a five a.m., that would give me time to get in two or three miles and still be able to get Nancy off to work and Sean to school and me to work. (Jennifer has no morning classes.)
Why is there a weather forecast for Cleveland on my sidebar? Because on Tuesday I have to fly to Cleveland (from Providence, so I switched to Providence from my town, although given Rhode Island's small size there isn't much difference). Right now (Sunday night) the Cleveland forecast is for rain, sleet, and snow! Brrrr! Where is summer?