Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Utah 2012: Week 4, Pt. 2

The goings-on of our final few days in Utah, Summer 2012:

Per usual, Saturday and Sunday (August 4th and 5th, in this case) were dedicated to visiting my family. We spent the afternoons at my parents’ home, chatting it up. On Saturday, we bookended our visit with some fun eating. On our way to my parents’ place, we stopped at a nearby restaurant called Melty Way. Melty Way offers specialized grilled cheese sandwiches. We hadn’t heard anything good or bad about the restaurant, but we’d noticed it as we drove by and thought it might be fun. I ordered a club, which had turkey, bacon, tomatoes, and Havarti cheese. It was decent, but nothing special. It tasted like something you could easily make at home, not something that would get me coming back again and again (even if I could). Melanie’s sandwich, on the other hand, was quite tasty. It’s probably an easy enough sandwich to make on your own, too, but it seemed much more worth the money. It featured both provolone and pepper jack cheeses, artichokes, tomatoes, and some kind of pesto sauce. The kids got plain old grilled cheese sandwiches, except for Edison, who spruced things up with the addition of ham. But perhaps the best menu item was the “sweet grilled cheese” sandwich that we had for dessert. It comes with cream cheese and strawberry jam on cinnamon swirl bread, sprinkled with powdered sugar. It was pretty darn yummy. Later, after leaving my parents’ place, we drove downtown in the hopes that Creegan would take a much-needed nap. He did. Melanie and I seized the opportunity to stop at Alberto’s, one of several fast-but-authentic Mexican food chains in Utah. Melanie ordered her much beloved chicken nachos (sans beans), and I went for the rolled tacos with shredded beef. We shared a bit, and everything tasted as delicious as it always has. In fact, it may have been better than ever, since the guacamole on the rolled tacos didn’t look like a gigantic elephant poop, which is what I’m used to with Alberto’s. Anyway, we ate in the parking lot, since Creegan was asleep. He soon woke up and joined his brothers in eating some quesadillas, and then we drove home and put the kids officially to bed. Melanie and I then stayed up late watching The Killing with Melanie’s mom. We had started watching the show shortly after our arrival in Utah, and we got through almost the entire series (two seasons) before we came back to Tallahassee. It’s a very good show, and it was fun to hang out with Melanie’s mom on a regular basis. It became an almost-nightly routine.

The dynamic changed a bit on Sunday, when Melanie’s brother Brent (who lives in Seattle) came into town with his wife and two children. They were going to stay in Utah for about a week. Melanie and I purposely planned our trip so that it would overlap with theirs and we’d get a chance to see them, but their presence admittedly made things a bit more hectic around Melanie’s parents’ house. To celebrate Brent’s arrival, Kaya (with Kaleb’s help, I’m sure) made Sunday dinner for everyone. (Dinner consisted of cheese enchiladas, prepared with homemade tortillas. Dessert was extremely good homemade ice cream. I had Butterfinger / peanut butter cup, but raspberry was also an option.) Mark and Trina came over, and the kitchen and dining room were crazily crowded. When the kids were put to bed a short while later, it helped offset the madness. At that point, Brent, his wife Shanda, Kaleb, Melanie, and I played a party game that Brent had purchased called Quelf. It’s similar to Cranium, but zanier. For example: I drew a card that forced me to sit on my hands, whenever it wasn’t my turn, for the remainder of the game; Melanie drew a card that prohibited her from referring to herself in the first-person; Shanda was forbidden from bending her arms or legs when it wasn’t her turn and so spent the majority of the game standing up; etc. It was quite fun, and we planned on playing it again sometime before leaving town, but it didn’t happen. Oh well.

Monday the 6th was largely a play day. Melanie and I paid a final visit to Grinders 13, sharing a pot roast sandwich that was unbelievably good. I think I might like it even more than the cheese steak, which is almost blasphemous to admit. But it’s that good. After running a post-lunch errand and spending some downtime at Melanie’s parents’, we then met up with Kaleb, Kaya, and Brent’s family at Café Rio. Kaleb and Kaya had sprung the idea on us the night before, and we weren’t about to pass it up (even if we had already been there a couple of times). To shake things up a bit, I had a beef salad rather than my standard barbecued pork burrito. Melanie stuck with the pork salad, and the kids took advantage of the free kid’s quesadillas. After dinner, Melanie and I took the kids to a Bees game. Brent’s family met up with us at the ballpark, as did Mark and Trina. We bought discount tickets that were only $5 and included a hot dog. (We weren’t very hungry, so we saved the hot dog until very late in the game and ate it even then only as a matter of tradition.) Even though we could have had reserved seats, we chose to sit in the general admission area (i.e. on the grass). This allowed the kids to run around a bit as we watched the game. The problem is, we didn’t watch the game because we were so busy watching the kids. I go to a baseball game almost every year, and I usually don’t see very much of the game because I’m socializing or whatever. But this year, it was the kids alone that made it so difficult to watch. I feel like I hardly socialized at all, and yet I watched no more than five or six pitches total. Literally. I was slightly bummed by that. I always hope to watch more of the game than I do, but this time seemed especially pathetic. But at least the kids had a lot of fun. They got to ride on the “train,” and they spent a good chunk of time playing in the play area that sits just behind (but is attached to) the stadium. Edison expressed interest in going to another game as soon as we had left the ballpark.

On Tuesday, Melanie and I were treated to a tour of the as-of-yet unopened Scheel’s store currently under construction in Draper, Utah. The store opens in late September, but Kaya works for them and gave us a tour of the partially-completed facility. The kids were surprisingly excited about this, with Edison loving the fact that we were getting an exclusive peek at something that the general public cannot yet see. They were especially thrilled by the Ferris wheel that is in the center of the store. If you hadn’t heard of Scheel’s, neither had I until this summer. To be honest, I find the concept of the store a bit bizarre. It sounds like a combination outdoors / clothing store. That may not sound odd, but I don’t think the clothes are exclusively outdoors-type clothing. I think they’ll have clothing and perfume and stuff that something like Macy’s might have, but then their upstairs is hunting equipment, kayaks, and the like. I don’t know. It sounds kind of weird to me. But it was cool to go on the tour. Photography was strictly prohibited, so don’t expect any pictures from our trip to Scheel’s.

After leaving Scheel’s, Kaleb went with us on a final visit to Beyond Glaze Gourmet Doughnuts. I tried yet another new (for me) flavor, blueberry torte. I also tasted Creegan’s German chocolate donut and Peter’s orange creamsicle donut. The latter wasn’t my style, and although I’m not overly fond of rich chocolate flavors, Creegan’s was pretty good thanks to the delicious toasted coconut. Happily, I thought my blueberry torte donut was the best-tasting of the three I tried that day. After coconut cream and nutmeg dash, blueberry torte may be the best donut I’ve had from Beyond Glaze. That or apple crisp. Anyway, after our snack, we returned to Melanie’s parents’ house. Melanie and the boys hung out with the large assortment of available family, and I took to my own parents’ house for a final goodbye. I spent about three hours with my mom and my sisters Khrystine and Karen. We talked religion, sex, and to some extent, the connection between them—because we’re cool like that. Karen expressed many thoughts on Utah culture that were almost verbatim what I had going on in my head. It was very validating, and a bit strange to have my thoughts mirrored so exactly. My dad came home just a few minutes before I left. I felt sadder about leaving than I probably ever have, which I assume is because I’m getting more and more eager to live in Utah again and to be near these people. My heart broke a little.

Melanie’s family was doing a barbecue on Tuesday night. I basically missed it, but the food hadn’t been put away and I was able to salvage a cold hot dog and cold cheeseburger for my dinner. I ate alone, which fit my somber mood. Things took a turn for the better when several of us—Melanie, our boys, Brent’s family, Tom, Kaleb, Kaya, and myself—went to “the wetlands.” I was surprised to learn that these particular wetlands existed, tucked away and surrounded by suburban homes just a stone’s throw away from Melanie’s parents’, arguably in the same neighborhood. We fed ducks and walked around for a bit. It was on the later side and we almost didn’t go, thinking we should put the kids to bed. But I’m glad we went. Why miss out on the last little activity? It was good to get out. We all enjoyed ourselves.

After putting the kids to bed on Tuesday night, Melanie and I hung out with her family. Nothing in particular happened. We just hung out. And that was that. The next morning, it was time to finalize (and, in my case, to begin) packing and head to the airport. Melanie and I actually had time to run to Target in the morning to return some incredibly cheap toys we’d bought on clearance but realized we had no way of getting back to Tallahassee without paying enough in shipping costs to offset the discounted prices of the toys themselves. A bit of a bummer, but the only sensible decision. We also stopped at Maverik and got a final Diet Mountain Dew before returning to Florida. We learned on this trip that Maverik Diet Mountain Dew tastes much better (and is cheaper) than 7-Eleven Diet Mountain Dew. We were solid Maverik customers during our visit, and although they can’t beat the $.69 price tag of a Circle K fountain drink here in Tally, their superior taste is missed.

Things were a bit rushed at the airport on Wednesday. Melanie’s parents, Tom, and Kaleb accompanied us, which was wonderfully helpful with all of our luggage. They stuck with us until we went through the security check. Eddie cried more than Melanie did. He loved being in Utah, and he has cried extensively about it ever since we got back to Florida. Even now, almost a week since coming home, he spends some time everyday in tears. The first couple of days back, he wept almost non-stop. Very sad. Anyway, once we passed through the security check at the airport, we hurried to get some lunch at the central airport food court. Both Café Rio and Greek Souvlaki, two of Utah’s gastronomical superstars, had stations from which to purchase food. Because the Café Rio line was hardly moving, Melanie decided to go with me to Greek Souvlaki. The kids opted for McDonald’s. We didn’t actually eat the food until we were on the airplane, awaiting takeoff. We simply didn’t have time to eat it before then. We bought the food, hurried to the gate, made a quick restroom stop, and it was time to board the plane. I felt conspicuous eating food in that manner, but we were starving and I happily inhaled my food. It’s good we got a chance to eat before liftoff, because it was one of the most violently turbulent flights I’ve been on. At least for the first little while. Fortunately, the kids handled it quite well. Eddie and Peter were laughing at it, commenting on the tickling sensation in their tummies, and comparing it all to a roller coaster. I’m glad it served to entertain them rather than to freak them out.

And that’s basically that. We caught our connecting flight in Atlanta without any problems, despite the fact that it was basically boarding by the time we went from one gate to the other. Really, it helped to have minimal time between the flights. The kids seemed much less antsy on our return home than on our way out. Not dragging things out was a perk, but having the longer flight first was also extremely helpful.

By this point, things are back to normal. From the get-go, Creegan seemed especially happy to be home. The moment we walked in our door, he gleefully got out all of his old toys and spent a good chunk of time playing with them. Peter also seemed pretty happy. Edison and Melanie had the hardest time coming home, but they’ve adjusted fairly well at this point. I’m sad to be back to normal. I want Utah to be my normal. Which is not to say that I want what’s normal in Utah to be my normal. But I already wrote about that. For now, I’ve said plenty. And that’s enough. The end.

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