Monday, August 2, 2010

How I Spent My Summer Vacation In Syracuse

Picture courtesy of Syracuse New Times

How I Spent My Summer Vacation In Syracuse
By Orange Chuck

I have not blogged in a while but this seemed like a fun way to restart it. Some of you may know that I just returned from trip for five days to Syracuse for my cousin Tim’s wedding, though two of those days were mostly travel days as we drove the entire way. Sadly, I can only manage short vacations/trips to the ’ Cuse these days so I try to fit as much as I can into those trips. So here is a brief description of my trip along with some fun pictures that were taken along the way that I hope you all enjoy.
The drive there was about 12 1/2 hours long and we left China Grove, NC at about 4:30 am Wednesday morning. Along with me for the ride would be my mother, my nephew and my 21 year old daughter. In case you have never driven it, interstate 77 to 81 is a long drive but it is well worth it when you see the Carrier Dome off in the distance of 81 and know you will be turning off onto 481 (well that and what ‘Cuse fan does not love seeing THE Dome).

When we first got to my grandmother's house in Bridgeport, we enjoyed some welcome greetings as well as some pizza from Sami's Pizza. It's always great to see your family when you don't get to see them very often and the pizza was ok but not as good as usual. I also enjoyed seeing one of my best friends ever from my childhood Shelly, who was also my junior prom date (and who looks even more beautiful now than she did when she convinced me to go to my prom and I jumped at the chance 20 years ago). I also got to see my cousin's 4 month old baby for the first time in person, though I had to spend time trying to convince Shelly that kidnapping was illegal no matter how cute the baby is. We did not get in until close to 5pm so needless to say this was the extent of our first day in NY.

Thursday was our "free day" as there were no plans for any wedding events. So what major plans were in store for our off day? After resting for half the day, I prepared my daughter for a Tully's meetup with Shelly and her brother Tim for dinner. I know me eating at Tully's will shock very few who will read this but I had to mention it since we had a great time. Tim is retired from the Army now and I had a great time with both catching up with an old friend and educating my daughter and nephew on just how big of a geek I was back in the day (which also probably will not shock many who read this).

After some delicious Tully's Tenders at Tully's in Liverpool, we headed off to meet Shelly's friend Renee and we were headed to Papermill Island in Baldwinsville (otherwise known as the B'ville T Party according to the Syracuse New Times). The band featured was named Square Pegs and butchered such greats as Lady Gaga, Black Eyed Peas and Tiffany. The good news is, the Bud/Bud Light were only $4 a piece and cold but even better, I had a great time catching up more with Tim about his family, his trips to Afghanistan and how much he still enjoys picking on his sister and Renee. I do not go out and socialize often but I have to admit, I would do it more often if these two were around. Sadly, we had to split ways early since my nephew Josh is only 18 and the bar we tried to go back to only allowed 21 and up at that point in the night, we headed home for the night (we had a beer or two at the place earlier in the day with no issues but missed the cutoff later to sneak him back in).

The next day did start off with some Dunkin Donuts for breakfast. We had a wedding rehearsal and dinner planned for the evening so my daughter, my uncle, the groom and I had to make some stops early in the day to some local Syracuse hot spots (in my opinion anyway). Our first destination was actually the adult bookstore in Mattydale to help complete the "honeymoon kit" my grandmother makes for her grandchildren when they get married because really, what is a honeymoon kit without midget porn? For those who wondered, my daughter and the groom stayed in the car while my uncle showed me where to find the video as nobody knows adult book stores like Uncle "Harold".
So after picking up the video and receiving a text message from Shelly saying she was getting er nails done at the same place and time as the bridal party a mere mile away from us at Unicorn Nails, we proceeded to Hoffman's Hot Haus in Mattydale. I love Hoffmans German Franks almost as much as Tully's Tenders so this is a must. So much of a must in fact that when we left Hoffmans after a brief lunch, we headed off to the greatest grocery store known to man to purchase more Hoffmans, Otto treats, and salt potatoes for the trip home. By the way, if you are questioning the name of this grocery store, you have obviously never been to Syracuse and enjoyed the luxury of a Wegman's for yourself and I beg you to try it one day soon.

After leaving Wegmans, I enjoyed showing my daughter some of the spots I grew up in and around such as my houses and schools and of course Gateway Park. At which point, we then proceeded home to get ready for the rehearsal because according to the itinerary the bride printed off for the whole wedding party, we would need to be on our way soon to the community church on Erie Blvd. near Shoppingtown Mall. And yes, she had an hourly itinerary breakdown as to what everyone should be doing. However if you knew the groom and his father especially, you would print one off for them as well even if it included a reminder not to bring his ball cap to the church for the wedding and clean his ears.

This is the house I grew up in many moons ago.

The rehearsal went well and quick and we learned that if the weather was nice on Saturday, it would be held outside in the church patio area. Of course, if you thought hanging out at the church had saved your soul, you were about to be corrupted by the previously mentioned "honeymoon kit" which would be opened to display in front of family and friends at the rehearsal dinner at Borio’s in Cicero. Those of us who have received these kits look forward to this moment to see what new items my grandmother had planned for this particular kit. And for those still reading this who think my video contribution would be the most controversial item of the night, I would point to the fact that the last gift to be opened was in fact a swing for the bedroom with instructional pictures on the box (though the bride and groom decided it may be best not to pack the swing for their honeymoon in Jamaica).

We then went home to crash for the night and sleep before the big day because even though it was a 3pm wedding, we knew it would come quickly. And of course we were right as bright and early the next morning, Uncle Harold went to get some beer while friend of the family Joe brought his homemade concoction known as Lady Poison. I did not sample this drink as it seemed to be for the wedding party but judging by the reactions of those who chugged from the thermos, it was a mixture of delicious and "holy crap, what did you put in there". Those who know Joe or our weddings in general, know that it is simply a rite of passage that not only Joe bring the drink but bring the fun as well, though I have been told that his 4th of July parties will put hair on a freshly waxed chest and turn a Buddhist monk into Bluto from Animal House. So needless to say, the drinking was well underway before the tuxedos were being put on and before the limo showed up at 1:15 to pick up the males in the wedding party.

The wedding was beautiful even though it required me to read a poem in front of everyone. For those unaware of my current situation, this was not the easiest of tasks but I had help writing it and had done this before so that made it a bit easier. And after the courageous people decided to sign away the rest of their lives, it was off to the local Tim Horton's as my grandmother assured me that it was better than Dunkin Donuts and we had 2 hour window between the wedding a reception. So I did enjoy an Apple Fritter and bottled water, which were better than I had received during recent Dunkin Donuts visits in North Carolina and New York.

After Tim Horton’s and a short visit back to my grandmother's house, it was off to the Legion Hall in Cicero for the reception to see just how good drunk white people can dance to music from the 60's up until current songs on the radio (though I was disappointed to hear my daughter had never heard the Humpty Hump until this night). My dancing these days is limited due to bad knees but my enjoyment was plentiful watching my daughter dance with my cousins and nephew as well as Shelly and others. Luckily, attempts to get my daughter so drunk she would get sick were unsuccessful but I do think that with help from Shelly, we succeeded in getting my daughter addicted to Fuzzy Navels as apparently this bartender made some very good one (though we learned she does not care much for Mudslides or Sex On The Beach and I doubt Rum and Coke will ever be her drink of choice).

Note To Self: when attending a wedding with bar, they may not accept debit/credit cards for mixed drinks and you should bring cash with you (thank you Shelly for being smarter than your friend and I owe you dinner big time at Logan's).

The evening finally wound down as I said goodbye to Shelly and the bride and groom and the wedding party as well as other family members because we would be leaving too early the next morning to say goodbyes at that time. It is never easy to say goodbye to great people when you truly never know when you will see them again but sometimes life is not easy so that is why when you can, you should take the time to enjoy it as much as possible. And I did leave the wedding sober for those curious but mostly in the event that if my daughter was unable to drive home the next morning to North Carolina, I could fill in.

We left the next morning after a big breakfast cooked by my loving grandmother and aunt and headed out on our long journey back to reality and away from the place I still call home. As of this writing, my knees are still sore but the memories of the trip overpower any discomfort I may feel. I would like to thank my loving family for making this trip so special as every time I come to visit it is always great. I would also like to thank my friends Tim and Shelly who made a hermit feel good about getting out and around and not missing a beat when it comes to reliving some great times we had years ago and making new memories. I would like to thank my parents for helping to pay for the trip and making it possible as I never would have done it without them. I would like to thank my daughter for being herself and being the pride and joy of my life that made this trip even more fun, especially aiding in our picking on my poor nephew who learned you must be 19 to purchase cigarettes in Onondaga County.

And last but not least, thank you Syracuse, New York for being my home away from home that proves you can go home anytime you want and still enjoy every minute of it. Whether it’s the family and friends or the memories or the great local businesses like Tully's, Wegman's, Hoffman's, and that book store in Mattydale for having midget porn readily available for a newly wedded couple to enjoy, you are greatly admired and missed while I am away. I left many businesses out this trip but I am hoping to afford round 2 during the Christmas season and maybe sneak in some that I did not get to enjoy such as a game at the Carrier Dome, try Dinosaur BBQ for the first time, and hopefully relive some great times and burgers at Zebb's. Syracuse is my home and one day I hope to return when the circumstances are right but for right now, I am looking forward to my return visit as soon as possible (and counting down the days until a couple friends come to visit us in NC, which hopefully will be Labor Day weekend). Home Sweet ’Cuse.

Here is the wedding poem I wrote for those curious to read it:

Love Means-Tim and Michelle's Wedding
Sometimes we take love for granted or ignore even the signs we see
So I wrote down some definitions to explain what love really means
Love means going the extra mile just to make her smile
Love means waiting your turn for the bathroom can take a while
Love means you might miss an upcoming UFC event for a date night
Or going out early enough so they can be home in time for the fight
Love means a small gift of appreciation even when it's not a holiday
Love means saying "I'm Sorry" and knowing what else to do or say
Love means forgiveness is understanding we all make mistakes
Love means forgetting is harder when you do it again and your apology's fake
Love means when they are hurting, you comfort them and feel their pain
Love means knowing if you were hurting, they would do the same
Love means their "just woke up" look still looks good to you
Love means you sacrifice to make their dreams come true
Love means one look or smile can make the worst days better
Love means allowing him to enjoy his old ripped up SU sweater
Love means acccepting that her cold feet will wake you up at night
Love means that his snoring won't start the next day off in a fight
Love means you are their security blanket when life has them stressed
Love means saying "You look beautiful" no matter how she is dressed
Love means you did not notice that girl on the beach in the bikini
Or that muscle bound Brad Pitt twin stepping out of the Lamborgini
Love means every meal was delicious and even better than mom makes
Love means being grateful that she is the first view you see when you wake
Love means going out of your way to help when they are sick with the flu
Love means saying "I Love You" comes not just from your mouth but your heart too
Love means you are better off with this other person in your life
And you love them so much, you decide to become husband and wife