Good morning, everyone! This morning, I'm coming to you from Rochester Minnesota, which is thankfully the last stop on our Holiday week jaunt across the Midwest. It's been a long week, and I've already started to fantasize about being back home and returning to regular weekday, weekends, and mornings. But at least we're keeping things simple this visit. The day before we arrived, Renee & Tom had just finished hosting Christmas for the extended family, and it became clear that we were all on the same wavelength of keeping things relaxing and low key. Yesterday evening was hoodies, sweats, takeout Italian food. The name of the game was comfort.
We also spent a lot of time crashing on the couch and watching Gold Rush, which I have to say, after being on the fence about the show, it finally won me over. The crew was already short on staff, and it got so bad that they had to recruit the cook to drive a truck. Then they found that the retaining pond built to catch silt had broken overnight due to the rain, and the boys had to scramble to fix it. In the process, that rolled a rock truck, and a tire dislodged. Not having the tools to fix the tire, they had to make a small explosion with ether and a blowtorch to cause the rubber to expand and seat the tire. In short, I find the amount of drama you can fit into an hour of gold digging pretty impressive. Perhaps that's the real gold. Think about it.
I jumped in the car with Tom to go pick up dinner from Victoria's, which happens to be the same restaurant Marissa used to work at in high school. Do you tip for takeout? Tom and I debated the custom in the car on the way over. "You can't just tip everybody," I said. "You have to draw a line somewhere." Tom gave a stoic nod, signaling his agreement.
As we were driving, Tom told me a bit about Rochester. "Even though the twin cities are bigger, Rochester is the fastest growing city," he described as we coasted through city traffic. "There are lots of new restaurants coming up to," he continued. He gestured to a passing restaurant, "I like to take clients there, although it's pretty expensive," he chuckled.
After dinner, we transitioned to gifts. Rodney opened up lots of new additions to his train table - trucks, cranes, train cars. If he had the awareness, he might begin to wonder if this Santa thing was a conspiracy. After opening a train table on Christmas morning, he sure has been receiving a lot of gifts that are suspiciously complementary. "Dude," I warned, "that Santa guy knows stuff, he's been busy."
Marissa got Renee a painting, and Tom opened up his new foldable saw. With how many hunting and outdoor gadgets adorn Tom's very cool mancave, I was half expecting him to have already bought this hack saw, but to our relief, this was a new addition.
After cleaning up from presents, Marissa and I put Rodney to bed, then joined Renee and Tom up in the kitchen for drinks. Tom and Renee broke out the apple pie flavored moonshine, which hit the spot, and felt a lot more festive than beer. We chatted at the kitchen island about the tradeoffs of the holiday season. "Everybody hates it," I said. "You can see it in peoples' eyes at Target, they're returning things, running errands, and everyone just looks dead," I remarked. I motioned at Marissa. "She calls me a Christmas hater, but most people agree with me on this."
Marissa chimed in. "I agree, but I haven't lost my Christmas spirit. I still love it," she stated proudly. Renee nodded. Marissa and her mother share an intense love and pride in the amount of effort they put into Christmas. Just as Marissa will stay up into the wee hours of the night assembling toys, Renee will do the same with gifts and treats.
We all exchanged hugs, then Marissa and I retreated to the basement and stayed up for a few more hours chatting. Before heading downstairs, Renee peeked her head into the kitchen. "I saw in your blog you titled it 'burning plastic', what was that about?" she asked.
I smiled. "That's just the story about my modem burning out," I replied. "You know, clickbait." I shrugged my shoulders. It's true, sometimes I give stories a jazzier name to attract readers.
We finally turned in sometime around midnight. I fell asleep immediately, and sailed away to sleep. I didn't even have any weird, elaborate nightmares I usually have while traveling away from my home.
I'm feeling pretty good this morning. "Ever since I started taking my own pillow places, my sleep game has been on another level," I boasted coming up the stairs. And it's true - I take my little blue cylindrical neck pillow everywhere with me, and with the way I talk it up to people, you'd think I was making commission on these. Marissa was even singing its praises yesterday after she borrowed it for a car nap.
My neck pillow helps, but I'm sure what really did it was sleeping in. Rodney climbed out of his bed in the corner sometime around 9:30, and his clambering and tumbling around our bed eventually woke up Marissa too.
This morning, I'm wearing my brand new Bears Jersey, which I opened up last night. Tom and Renee kindly bought be an immersion blender as well as an Ackiem Hicks Bears jersey. I put it on last night, and after coming up the stairs with it on this morning, the family teasingly accused me of sleeping in it. Which I can neither conform, nor deny at this time.
So this morning, we're finishing up breakfast, and the plan is to head to Forager to retrieve Marissa's paintings, which have been hanging on display there through the holiday season. And we will probably stay there for lunch and a beer. But first, we're going to drink the rest of this coffee, watch a few more episodes of Gold Rush, and I'll casually pace by the bathroom mirror a few more times to get a proud look at my new Bears jersey. Man, it even smells good. Nothing beats fresh jersey smell.
So that's what I got today. Hope you have a wonderful day, and thanks for reading. Here's to time off for the holiday, and soon a new beginning in a new decade. Oh, and happy Friday!