Saturday, July 30, 2016

On the road again

We hit the road early this morning and on the way to Pennsylvania, we came across this diner. Like me, it looked normal at first glance. Then we looked at the fine print.

That's right. This wasn't your average roadside diner. No, this was one of those unicorn diners, apparently owned by a guy named Mike. I was tempted to pull over and see if the diner was for unicorn patrons or if crazy Mike was serving unicorn burgers 24 hours a day, but we had a schedule to keep.

Our schedule included a stopover to visit my Uncle Bob.

The boys had a blast playing in his 'secret basement'. Now, before you weird types get the wrong idea, it was just an entertainment room downstairs that had a flat screen TV, stereo equipment and a lot of other breakable shit that made me a tad bit nervous. Especially when I found out that they were playing a game that David had invented called 'Ninja Warrior'. Bob found a solution for my nerves, though, which I called his 'secret garage'.

The 'secret garage' was where Bob stored his tasty home-brewed Pale Ale that would make Doyle jealous. And thirsty.

Before Happy Hour became too happy, we went to go visit Nana and the boys were mega impressed to meet their great-grandmother.

The boys gave Nana a bar of German chocolate and then promptly helped her eat it while they talked about life in Germany. It was a memorable chocolate bar and they enjoyed every morsel.

After Nana-time, we took the Ninja Warriors back to Bob's for dinner and a few more underground battles before bedtime. 

As we were getting the boys ready for bed, Tommy screamed, as he normally does, that he had a wiggly tooth. Peter and David winced knowingly and quickly left the room.

What Tommy apparently didn't know or remember is that Angie gets kickbacks from the tooth fairy. She immediately head-locked him and began her patented pull-twist-yank method that has worked just fine with Peter and David. Unless you ask them. 

I thought I would help Tommy out. After taking the picture, of course.

'Butter Buns, they were just playing "Ninja Warriors". Are you sure that wiggly tooth is one of the ones that's supposed to come out?'

Sorry, Tommy. I tried.

Ladder Talk: 
1) What was the best part of your day?
Peter: That we went to Uncle Bob's, that we went to Nana's and that we invented a new game.
David: It was just great! That we came to Bob and he's so nice, and that I met Nana.
Tom: That we are sleeping by Bob's and he's so cool and that we went to visit Nana.

2) What was the worst part of your day?
Peter: That we had to leave New York.
David: It was hard to say goodbye to Nana because she is so nice.
Tom: Nothing. I liked the whole day!

3) What would you like to do tomorrow?
Peter: I want to visit Oma and Pop-Pop and hope for great weather and swim in the pool.
David: I want to see Pop-Pop and Oma - that's gonna be so cool.
Tom: I want to have fun with Oma and Pop-Pop.

Friday, July 29, 2016

In a New York minute

Day two of our USA trip started out all wrong. The boys had obviously missed the executive memo outlining the basic concepts of travel. To start out with, they didn't sleep in. Their blatant disregard for the sanctity of jet lag didn't bother me in the slightest until they burst into our room at half past early and started screaming frantically about how much they like American cereal. Super. How is their coffee?

After several pots of black gold, we rounded up Puff, Crunch and Pebbles and hit the streets. My gut's first stop was a bagel factory, where the boys found it rather cool to a) actually find a place that sells bagels and b) to buy a bagel that was strawberry flavored. Thankfully, the deep-fried bacon bagel covered in chocolate sprinkles was sold out.

After 'Breakfast for Bonzos', we moved deeper underground. 

Our kids go to Subways all the time, but I don't think this prepared their ears for the real McCoy. 

Shortly after getting on the subway, a guy walked in carrying a boom box. He placed it down on the ground and then began doing things to a pole that I've only imagined Angie doing.

By the time we made it downtown, the morning's sugary milk buzz was wearing off. Luckily, David's adrenaline compass guided us to the Hershey store, home of the World's largest Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Love is...

After an unhealthy shock to their system, we decided it was time for a healthy snack. We couldn't find that anywhere, so we decided to settle for some Yorker cuisine. 

They have 'hot dogs' in Germany, but there is a reason that I put that in quotes. It's not so much the 'meat' they use, but it's a complete FAIL when it comes to the bun. In Germany, hot dog buns crumble into dust when you bite into them. In the States, it's like eating a moist sponge, only it tastes even better. Still, when I got to Germany sixteen years ago, they thought hot dogs were poodles wearing thongs, so I guess there's still hope. If only we could find it...

No trip to New York is complete without getting mugged in Central Park. We didn't get mugged, but our trip to New York is not yet complete. Instead, we had a picnic and gawked at gaggles of crazed locals racing around the park trying to catch Pokémons.

After twenty minutes of explaining to David why he could not join the Yorkémon hunt, we moved to a cool water park to cool down the cool trio. I didn't need a water park. Obviously.

After a cool time at the park, we decided to spice things up a bit. We met Doyle at a local Mexican restaurant that served beers that I've never heard of. Luckily, Doyle's liver is a drinking encyclopedia when it comes to local Pale Ales. Somewhere between nachos and Margaritas, two thirds of the herd got a tad bit tuckered out.

We managed to make it back to the J&D ranch before the animals completed tranquilized themselves. After getting them into their stables for the night, Doyle took Angie and me to the roof for a metropolitan sunset. Talk about your 'New York minute'.

Ladder Talk: 
1) What was the best part of your day?
Peter: That we could go to Manhattan and that we visited so many shops.
David: That we were in Central Park.
Tom: That we was in the Central Park.

2) What was the worst part of your day?
Peter: That Tom was bugging me.
David: That I was in the end a bit fighting with Tom.
Tom: That I was at the end fighting with David.

3) What would you like to do tomorrow?
Peter: I want to visit Uncle Bob and have fun. 
David: I want to visit Uncle Bob and Nana.
Tom: I want to visit Uncle Bob and Nana.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Out of Heidelberg

To be honest, I was a little surprised that we managed to get to the airport this time without any last minute hiccups, like finding out six days before your flight that your children do not have valid passports. Or having your patient-challenged wife check the Homeland Security ESTA application the night before flying and noticing that a) you got her birthday wrong and b) you used her maiden name. This is the same wife, by the way, who managed to break two of her toes two days before our last trip to the States.  But I digress. My point was that it was nice to finally board an airplane without anyone doing anything silly. Well, almost.

After vocally encouraging silly posers to 'get on the plane and stop embarrassing your mother', I found my seat. As luck would have it, I had a seat on my own and Angie was stuck in the middle section one row back with the boys. By luck, I of course mean that I did the online check-in last night, which included seat assignments, and I thought that Angie would enjoy the bonding time with the boys. Nine and a half hours of bonding, to be exact.

Shortly before takeoff, I noticed a curtain separating my seat from the front section. Just above the curtain rod was a sign that said "STOW DURING TAKEOFF". Since we were taxiing out, I thought I would simply do what the stewardess had obviously forgotten to do. I started to slide the curtain to the stow position, but as soon as I touched it, the whole thing came crashing down.

The stewardess, who was buckling herself in, whipped around and gave me a look that told me that she is obviously married. I shrugged my shoulders and turned to Angie for support. She didn't have a whole lot of that, but she did whip out her camera and cackled loudly enough for the pilot to notice.

I tried reattaching the curtain, but the stewardess started angrily snapping and motioning for me to put the curtain down. Luckily I am used to women snapping orders at me, so I dropped the curtain to my feet and patiently waited for takeoff.

Shortly after takeoff, I noticed a wagon coming down the aisle serving champagne and an option of two snacks. As it got closer, I could see that one was a nice looking chicken-pesto dish and the other was some type of beef in a red wine sauce. My mouth was watering and I was about to turn around and ask Angie which dish she was going to have when the cart stopped at the row in front of me and then returned to the front of the plane.

Some people learn something new every day, but my brain has been 99% full for some time now, so I'm still surprised on those rare occasions when it does happen. Angie never is, but I tend not to dwell on what could possibly surprise her brain. Anyway, what I discovered is that the curtain that my muscular biceps had inadvertently ripped out of its tracks was actually there to separate the Business Class from the common folk.

When we landed, Angie and I, but mainly Angie, were running a tad bit short on patience. When we got on the AirTrain to get from the terminal to the rental car, Tommy asked what would normally be a normal question.

'Papa, what is an AirTrain?'

'It's a TRAIN that's in the AIR!'

Maybe it was my tone, but David giggled and Tommy suddenly stopped asking questions. 

When we got to the rental car hub, we told the boys to sit on the bench and behave. I guess we should have been more specific, because Tommy interpreted our instructions to mean that he could mount his new suite case and zip around the waiting area making race-car noises.

For better or worse, Angie and I are used to tuning out disobedient children, so we ignored Tommy Samsonite and went to pick up our rental car. I had booked this online with Advantage and was quite proud that, after spending multiple hours, I had found a deal that would cost $1,500 for three weeks, with unlimited mileage and insurance including Angie as an additional driver, in case I decided that cruising on the sidewalk would be fun.

'Hi, the name's Johnson - I'm here to pick up our rental car.'

'Do you want unlimited mileage?'

'Yes, I already booked that.'

'Mmh. I don't see that. Would you like insurance?'

'Yes, I already booked that.'

'Mmh. I don't see that. Would like your spouse to be able to drive?'

'Not really, but I already booked that.'

'Mmh. I don't see that. Your total is $3,000. How would you like to pay?'

After nearly ten minutes of arguing with the staff that their offer was nowhere near what I had booked, we walked away. Then we went down to Budget and asked for the same exact deal.

'No problem, Mr. Johnson, that will be $1,530 and your spouse is, of course, covered without charge.'

And with that, we were on our way to Jen and Doyle's, the coolest kid-less married types in New York. The boys were dead, but they managed to keep it together for pizza.

I was dead, too, but managed to keep it together for beer. 

After a delicious culinary welcome to New York, we made our way back to Jen and Doyle's. Peter had insisted on bringing his oversized pizza pillow with him, so he was all set. Luckily, David and Tom found an acceptable alternative. Her name is Olive.  

Ladder Talk: 
1) What was the best part of your day?
Peter: That we flew to New York to visit Doyle and Ms. Jen.
David: That we came to New York with Doyle and Ms. Jen.
Tom: That we went to visit Ms. Jen in New York.

2) What was the worst part of your day?
Peter: That we had to fly for more than 8 hours.
David: That Tom was annoying me in the car.
Tom: That we needed to drive and fly for so long. 

3) What would you like to do tomorrow?
Peter: I want to eat Captain Crunch and maybe go to Central Park.
David: I want to have a lot of fun with Doyle and Ms. Jen.
Tom: I want to have fun with Doyle and Ms. Jen and Olive.