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18.8.01

So, Brunchmeet.

The night before, Christine posted that she just remembered she was "honor-bound" to attend a softball game at 6 and would therefore not be able to make Brunchmeet. Which means it was down to me, Barbara (Sandrylene), possibly Spatch, and the Birdsalls -- Beth (genuine artificial), Ben (Opus), and Alex (Amsterdarn).

I started off Thursday with only 5 hours of sleep. Sandry outdid me by getting no sleep, but I was still more tired than I wanted to be. So I yawned all the way to the turnpike, where we were supposed to meet Sandry and her dad. They were running behind schedule, as they called us at one point to say they had gotten caught up in construction. So my dad and I stood around his truck (a bright purple pickup) and watched a guy in an orange shirt hosing off the on-ramp. My dad complained a lot about how they could get it much cleaner much faster if they just ran a street sweeper through. At least he wasn't critiquing their curbs.

Eventually hose man finished his cleaning and walked over to us. He told us there had been a truck accident near the Alpo plant, which is just north of the first exit south of Mahoning Valley (where we were waiting). Northbound traffic was cut off for an indefinite period of time. As my dad and I contemplated backup plans (we couldn't call Sandry to find out if she had gotten through before the accident because she did't have a cell phone), traffic coming north slowed to a trickle. Then it stopped.

Just as the last cars got to the exit, we saw the white Saturn we were waiting for pull up from the otehr direction (coming toward the turnpike instead of off it). It turns out Sandry's dad has a hatred for toll roads, and so he took back roads instead of the turnpike. A very lucky break. So I hopped in, and we headed out (on the turnpike for a while, as there is no other reasonable way to go north from Palmerton).

Most of the ride up was uneventful. We passed Dick's Sporting Goods, which was having a "back to school and archery sale." We ate at Wendy's, where much to Sandry's chagrin I ate some ranch dressing straight out of the package, leading to a retelling of the "glass of ranch dressing" story.

Wendy's was our undoing, because both Sandry and I forgot to use the restroom. We proceeded north through Ithaca, then promptly got lost. We wandered around for quite some time, looking for a road that had a sign identifying it, and feeling our bladders becoming fuller and fuller. At one point we wound up driving down to some quarry by Lake Cayuga. Through all of this we learned the disturbing fact that there is a distinct lack of gas stations in Upstate New York. And, despite the "middle of nowhere" feel, there isn't a patch of woods sufficiently large enough to allow for watering the trees.

So I made a great first impression when, after taking full advantage of Beth's reminder that if we hit Union Springs we'd gone too far, we finally arrived at the Birdsall's cottage: "Hi Beth. Where's your bathroom?"

Once relieved, I returned to the porch for the obligatory standing and staring awkwardly. During this time I was permitted to verify in a tactile fashion that Ben did indeed have poofy hair (as I had predicted before pictures were posted). The awkwardness was broken when Pickles, one of their two dogs, came over to lick Sandry's hands and my face. Pickles continued to do this at intervals throughout the Brunchmeet. I bet she's going through Stenny-sweat withdrawal.

I've been saying that the Birdsalls were the coolest family ever, but once we sat down to dinner I realised how true that is. I immediately felt like they were my family, except that Ben and Alex didn't scream "Jeez Louise, jerkness!" during their horeseplay. I got really confused when they didn't make us say grace before we started eating. I had to remind myself that they weren't my family. But I'd trade in Zeke to get Alex any day. I think half the snipe sheet is Alex quotes, and half my pictures are of Alex doing weird things. After not saying grace, we ate quiche and vegetarian chili with soldier beans.

Ben went to bed at 11, claiming that he had been sleep deprived for nine weeks. He's going to have to do better than that if he wants to be a good college student. But Sandry, Beth, Alex and I stayed up until 5:30. We played Trivial Pursuit and Boggle and just chatted.

I had been expecting Brunchmeet to be really intense, especially since Sandry and Beth are probably my two favorite Brunchers (certainly the two I would expect to get along with best in real life). But it turned out to be, for lack of a better word, really comfortable. I felt like they were old friends I could just relax around. This even includes mom and dad Birdsall, who I had never talked to even online.

Saturday we sat on the dock for a while where, at Sandry's suggestion, I made myself a head wreath out of seaweed. Then we headed over to the playground. Alex demonstrated his power of selective coordination, which allowed him to do various backflips, but not walk 10 feet in a straight line. I added various bits of greenery to my seaweed wreath, and made it more secure with a braided length of grass that Beth made. Mom Birdsall later told me I looked "positively pagan." While we were at the playground we spontaneously began singing "We Want A Rock" and "Theme From Flood" while we made a Brunch logo in the dirt with rocks, leaves, and hay.

Then we went swimming. Aside from the zebra mussels that cut my feet up good, it was fun. We splashed each other, and played cannibal zombies, and Ben left halfway through to go sleep some more. We were doing fine until dad Birdsall came to tell us we had to get out so we could get to Ithaca in time to catch Sandry's bus home. We came in, dried off, and crammed down some eggplant casserole. Then it was off to Ithaca (falling asleep in the van on the way there).

Sandry caught her bus, and the rest of us returned to the cottage. I would have left Friday as well, as per the original plan, but if I went back to Hamilton I would have had nowhere to stay. Thus I was blessed with an additional night with the Birdsalls. My extra time began with what dad Birdsall called a "stream of consciousness concert" in the van on the way home. We sang additional segments of Flood, as well as some songs I didn't know, including one about Russian mathematicians plagiarizing.

We played some pinball (on an old wood and nails pinball thinger). Then I learned how to play Asshole (I was the President twice! woo!) and got in a few rounds of Egyptain Rat Screw with round cards, before we called it a night so we could get up early the next day.

So today (technically yesterday, but whatever) began with the Ithaca Farmers' Market. It was neat just wandering around to all the booths, looking at the photography and sitting in the display model swinging porch chair. I realise it probably sounds really lame, and I'm sure if I had been alone I would have gotten bored quick and went straight for the organic blueberries, and then off to home. But I wasn't.

Then we had the bus ride home (by way of Binghamton grumble grumble), when I started reading Dante's Inferno. Got my key, got my stuff from storage, set up my room, went to Oliveri's, and posted this.

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