Because I left work two hours early, I was able to get past Jacksonville before rush hour and this saved me a great deal of time, probably at least 20 minutes. Then I had brought dinner so only needed to stop for gas once, and to pee. I got to a hotel in South Carolina around 9:30pm. I could have continued driving for another two hours and gotten into Raleigh that same night, but the hotels are more expensive around Raleigh and I didn't see any reason to kill myself over the remaining drive.
You know what was interesting?
Staying in a hotel and looking around and thinking, "Hotel rooms like this are about to become my new home for the next nine months".
I definitely felt a strong shift in perspective with that in mind. Like, my mini skillet is all fine and good...but where exactly do I plug it in and cook? Most outlets are either by the bed, by the tv, in the bathroom, and wherever the lamp is in the room. Some hotels have desks, some do not. I'm guessing my best chance is going to be the bathroom...easy cleanup, the sink, and those outlets usually have a surge protector too.
Nine months living in hotel rooms is WILD. But lots of people across lots of industries do it, so it can't be that bad.
The next morning after a nice hotel breakfast (oatmeal, egg whites, a peach, coffee) I completed my trek, ending at Sweeney Brass Repair.
The owner, Scott, went to the same school as me (NC School of the Arts) and then continued his education in NYC for Bass Trombone performance. I don't know his background in instrument repair, but he has a good reputation and I think I'm leaving my "baby" in good hands. All it really needs is a cleaning and slide alignment, and even that shouldn't be so bad, I keep my horns pretty well cleaned. But it's nice to make sure everything is in order before launching into the tour.
It also might be a massive waste of time, because if I have to check my trombone and the luggage folks toss it around, any slide alignment work will certainly be undone before I even get to Buffalo :( Let's cross our fingers that that doesn't happen.
Anyway, Scott seems like a cool dude. He showed me around the shop a bit...I felt a little shy, so didn't pry too much, but did appreciate seeing the awesome vintage lathes and shaping and metalworking equipment and chemicals and, well, everything. It's always fascinating to me to see different repair shops and the types of equipment they use, each shop is different.
Scott assured me that he'd have my horn done by the 27th, and we parted ways.
At my aunt's, I hugged everyone (yay hugs!) and we spent a great deal of time just talking and catching up all day. After pizza for lunch my uncle had to go back to work, so my aunt and I went to the community pool, blessedly devoid of children thanks to back-to-school. We continued our conversation as we swam back and forth.
My aunt recently quit teaching. That job was difficult and barely tolerable before the pandemic, and now with the pandemic it's become a total nightmare. Although I've seen how passionate my aunt was about teaching, I am glad she got herself out of there. It was such an overwhelming mountain of stress on her shoulders, and way too much of her own personal time and money spent doing work at home, even on her weekends, in a desperate attempt to stay ahead of this massive avalanche of demands put on her by the students, the school administration, the government, and the parents.
Guys, our education system is a WRECK. Don't blame the teachers. The system is broken.
If we want the generations that come AFTER millennials to be better, smarter human beings, here's a spoiler for you: b*tching about whatever behaviors you don't like without addressing the root cause of that behavior is not going to change anything, for anyone. Believe it or not, millennials were not responsible for teaching themselves. It was the adults in their lives who were supposed to raise them, discipline them, and educate them. Crazy, right?? Well anyway, just a heads up, if we all continue trending the blame game DOWN the ladder at our children instead of UP the ladder where it belongs, we're in for a very dark future indeed. Nobody has to be an expert to see that coming.
My aunt had a wonderful passion for teaching, and it has been crushed by entitled parents, the devaluation of education, and the politicization of a global health crisis. And that infuriates me. For 20 years she has been a great teacher who changed many lives. And now that's over.
Rant over. I don't like to be negative or start arguments or offend; this is just a point of frustration and I'm expressing that frustration.
We briefly discussed what my aunt might be interested in doing next, and she's not sure yet, but has some good ideas based on interests and other passions. I really, really hope something wonderful presents itself to her. She deserves work that will be fulfilling, and where she will be valued and happy.
For dinner we made manicotti, it was really good and I'll probably make it once for Jameson before I leave :)
My aunt and I went grocery shopping for a few small items...did you know that WEGMAN'S is in North Carolina? This was a huge surprise to me! After groceries we played a card game, I forget the name but the goal was to have the lowest score. And then, sweet sleep.
Thursday morning I woke up at 8:30 and had some brekky, then practiced steno because my aunt had errands and my uncle had work.
Eventually my aunt came back and I wrapped up steno because my brain was shutting down, and we had some nice chill computer time.
We went to a nearby mall to look for a birthday present for my aunt's friend, and some clothing items for me, but we didn't really have much luck. Malls are kind of sad places any more. The way retail works has definitely changed, and physical stores don't stock a lot of items that used to be more common. Even the way clothing is displayed has changed, there are many more clearance racks than there used to be. A sign of the times, not sure if it's a good or bad thing.
Still, it was nice to basically window shop, and eat lunch together in the food court, and try on some pretty dresses.
Gosh, I love spending time with my aunt! She's the best :)
After that we came home and had dinner, then my uncle had a softball game so we went to watch!
It was nice to sit outside as evening fell and watch the game, chatting about this and that, feeling the nice cool breeze.
Fall is coming, and although it's still hot in North Carolina you could sense the weather changing, in the air, in the plants.
When the game was over we drove to the airport to get my sister Raven.
It was late, so we didn't get much time together just yet. She brought sourdough rye bread!! Yay!
I'm excited to spend time with her!
Friday. I ate way too much of that sourdough rye. Tasty!
We went to the state farmer's market. I wanted to buy everything.
Look at this HUGE pitcher plant!
I wanted it so badly but won't be able to care for it. So cool!
I ended up getting some eggs which I'll have to protect somehow on the drive down...thinking I'll get a cooler and some ice and just throw them in there. Raven and I got honey sticks, a nostalgia treat that our mom used to get us. We chatted and walked and had a really nice time.
We also picked up my trombone. It was beautiful! I wouldn't have cared if he didn't polish it, but he did, and it was definitely noticeable. The slide also feels great (we will see how it feels once the lubricant wears off the first time but it's most certainly improved). Scott was awesome and did an awesome job. I'm grateful to start the tour off with an instrument in the best possible condition.
After that we had lunch and went to the community pool for a nice long soak and chat.
I'm sad that this is the only day I get with Raven, but it's good to hear how she's doing, what her work is like, the challenges she's faced with moving to a new apartment in NYC, and other life updates. I hope she and my aunt have a great visit after I leave.
We were going to have Chinese food for dinner, but my aunt's friend invited us to her birthday party, so we accepted.
It was at a nice Italian place in Raleigh. Raven and I both got squid ink pasta with chopped grouper and shrimp in a red sauce, and it was very good. My aunt got salmon and veggies. I wanted to take a pic but not in front of my aunt's friends whom we'd just met. They seemed like really cool people, two of them were teachers and lots of hilarous stories were traded back and forth about their classrooms and kids. We had a really great time, and for me it was a very nice end to a wonderful visit.
I'm so glad I got to spend time with my aunt, uncle, and sister before this tour starts.
Being able to hug them, and share thoughts and feelings with them, and hear how their lives are going in person, is really time that I cherish. Especially post-pandemic. My aunt especially is so important to me, she may never know. <3
Tomorrow I hit the road early, like 6am.
The drive can be completed in as little as 8.5 or as many as 10 hours depending on traffic, so I hope to be home by 4pm.
Then I'll have to get ready for work and try to catch up on at least some of the steno I've missed over the last few days.
And then, one month until the tour begins.