So, let’s see if I

So, let’s see if I can retrace the past two weeks in one post without constructing a sequel to War and Peace. Before I begin, let me throw down a big, fat disclaimer. Some of you are going to want to get your feelings hurt while reading this story. You’re going to think, “I can’t believe they were so close and didn’t call me/us.” That may sound presumptuous, but I speak from experience. I trust you’ll all try to understand that when you live 1,500 miles from most everyone you love,

it’s utterly impossible to even see your favorite ten people when you come home to visit. Sometimes we try to sweep wide and see as many people as possible. On this particular trip we had some specific engagements and plans, and we just had to limit ourselves to those things. So, that’s that. We still love you. We even like you (most of you, anyway). We just can’t do it all every time. So, on to our story…

On Wednesday two weeks ago, we drove down and spent the night with my cousin, Matt, and his wife, Suzanne, in DC. The next morning Matt took us to the airport and we flew to Dallas. From there, we split up for a few days. Amy spent the weekend with her friend Christy and their son Gage, who is exactly three months older than Aiden. I hooked up with some guys I’ve been friends with since seventh grade – Andy, Scott, and Dusty. We missed our ten year reunion in June, so we planned our own mini-reunion in Dallas. We mostly hung out and acted like we were seventeen again. Well, not exactly, but we did stay up talking until 5am the first night and sleep until around noon twice.

Scott, Andy, and I were together Thursday and Friday, and we watched the Rangers get shelled by the Royals at The Ballpark. Coach Fran threw out the first pitch, which was basically the sporting high point of the night. Nonetheless, it was a sweaty, bug-swatting good time under the lights. On Saturday we hooked up with Dusty and his wife, Jennifer. We met Amy and Aiden at Uncle Julio’s in Fort Worth for dinner, which is one of my favorite places to eat and the home of the best beef fajitas I’ve ever tasted.

After that, the five of us (minus A&A) spent a couple of hours in Gameworks, the mega-arcade in Grapevine. The AC was broken or something, and it was a typical Texas July night. So, we shot basketballs and raced cars and sweated a lot. The better part of the second hour there was spent playing two-on-two air hockey, which was a trip. Imagine four guys pushing thirty acting like high school kids at an air hockey table. Lots of sweat, shouting, and sailing pucks. At one point in this particular game, the table spits out three pucks at a time. It was nuts. There were pucks flying all over the place – hitting innocent bystanders, landing on the other hockey table, and more than once taking out one of us. I had a swollen knuckle for three days because of one of those shots. I can only imagine what sort of scene it was for the people around us. When we were younger, we’d play football when we got together. I think we were sweatier and more beat up after the air hockey extravaganza than we’d ever been after a football game.

Anyway, we had a good time together. We hadn’t all been together at once in five or six years, so it was fun to reconnect in person.

On Sunday, our little family reconvened and we stuffed ourselves in the back seat of Will and Beth’s pickup. They were kind enough to taxi us to Texarkana for the week, where we were all together at Mom and Dad’s for the first time in a year.

It was great to be home and be with the folks, my brothers, and our new sister-in-law (and Aiden’s newest Aunt).

We spent one night out at the deer lease cooking out and riding four wheelers. I negotiated with Amy for a few minutes and convinced her to let me drive Aiden around in a small, slow circle on the four wheeler.

A little while after that, before we knew it, Pops and Aiden disappeared on the four wheeler (without Aiden’s Mom’s permission). They pretty much toured the whole lease, and I watched Amy’s “discomfort” grow by the second. Pops got himself in a little bit of hot water with Amy for the first time.

We also swam a lot while we were there, and then we filled the rest of the time by eating. And eating. And eating. My pants are a little tighter than usual this week. On Friday morning, Dad, Will, Britt, and I went fishing out at some private ponds near Sulphur Springs. Will caught the most and I caught the biggest. (Dad and Britt caught fish too.) We had a great time.


(No smiling in the boat. Fishing is serious business.)

On Saturday Will and Beth hauled us back to DFW, and we flew back to DC. We spent the next day and a half there with Matt, Zan, Uncle David (Matt’s Dad / my Dad’s big brother) & Aunt Linda, and Uncle Tom (Dad’s little brother) & Aunt Kim. On Sunday, we all attended Grace United Methodist Church where Matt is the youth pastor. Aiden’s head was dry when we picked him up from the nursery, so I’m pretty sure they didn’t sprinkle him or anything while we were there. That afternoon, my cousin Grant’s (Tom & Kim’s son and recent Virginia Tech grad) girlfriend, Jill, came over and had lunch with us. It was the first time we’d met her, and she seems pretty great. I’m not sure why she’s running around with Grant, but he better lock that one down while he still can. She’s gradually meeting more of the Norvells, so he can only keep up the ruse for so long.

On Sunday, after eleven days, three states (and the District), four different sleeping places (only one of which was actually a bed), and a billion miles, we drove home.

Monday we tried to rest a little.

Tuesday Amy and I went and sat on the eighth row at the James Taylor show.

It was magnificent. The quality of the show was, well, basically flawless. His band and singers are as good as I’ve ever heard. It was James’ show, but I’d pay for tickets again just to hear and see Arnold McCuller.

What a stud. Apart from Arnold’s uncontrollable emissions of coolness, one of the cool things about the show was the notable lack of posing and coolness on stage. Most of the guys in the band are about James’ age, and some of them are probably wearing the same haircut and clothes they were in 1975. Our favorite look was sported by the bass player, Jimmy Johnson, who was wearing a t-shirt tucked into dress slacks, which were pulled up to his sternum. His belt buckle was turned all the way to his for the entire show (I know it was because he was holding a bass all night, but it just went with the outfit), and he had one of those ponytails that’s tied behind his head and trails down to his butt. He looked more like a trucker or a roadie than the bass player for one of the coolest rock stars of all time. It was great. David Lasley was as peculiar and entertaining as ever.

They played lots of old stuff, some new stuff, and covered Wilson Pickett’s In the Midnight Hour during the encore (the first one). I got to hear most of the stuff I wanted to hear, including Copperline, Carolina in my Mind, a fantastic rendition of Up on the Roof and, well, most all of the big standards. There were a few he didn’t play that I would have enjoyed, most notably a couple from New Moon ShineThe Frozen Man and Down in the Hole. I think this is pretty much the set list for the show:

First Of May
Something In the Way She Moves
Copperline
October Road
Shower the People
Raised Up Family
Mean Old Man
Bittersweet
(I’ve Got To) Stop Thinkin’ ‘Bout That
You’ve Got a Friend
Shed a Little Light
Jump Up Behind Me
My Traveling Star
Whenever You’re Ready
Mescalito
Steamroller
Carolina In My Mind
Up On the Roof
Fire And Rain
How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)
Mexico
Your Smiling Face
In the Midnight Hour
Sweet Baby James

It was a great experience, and we now have U2 and Lyle at the top of our “need to see live” list.

Wednesday night Amy’s Mom, Holly, arrived for a week long visit. All of this activity is making the summer fly, which is mostly okay with me. I’m already ready for the fall, and it’s really never gotten hot here.

I’ll be posting more pictures from our journey over on the family site soon.

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