I roused myself from bed far earlier than I'm accustomed to on Saturday morning, around 0800 EST5EDT or so, for what is traditionally the most memorable event prior to one's wedding.. the bachelor's party. While most of the groomsmen weren't able to attend on Saturday due to their lack of proximity (most of them live at least one state, and usually more than that away from the DC area), the festivities were well attended by close friends from nearby. Shortly before 0900 local time most everyone had assembled on the doorstep: Jason and Jarin arrived first, followed by Grant and Hasufin a few minutes later. Joining us some hours after that would be Chris and Kash due to the logistics of meeting up somewhere and sundry problems of travel in the DC metroplex. Starting off the day, and also giving Chris an opportunity to get within spitting distance of the city we took a quick jaunt down the street to the local Starbucks to pick up coffee and get a breakfast sandwich or two.
Say what you will about Starbucks (gods know, I bitch enough about them), but they have some really tasty breakfast food if you get there early enough.
For the day's outing Hausfin had rented a silver minivan which carried a "bring it back in a shoebox" insurance policy. When you get a bunch of fairly adventurous and inventive geeks together, generally speaking it's wise to take such precautions. As I plugged my GPS unit into the power jack (which were, at one time, referred to as 'cigarette lighters') Hasufin phoned up Chris to figure out where he was and after making arrangements to meet up with him at our first destination we set course for downtown DC and the kiosk of Segs In the City, an outfit operating in a number of cities on the eastern seaboard which rents Segway Personal Transporters for the purpose of going on riding tours. Their rates are emminently reasonable - $50us for one hour, $90us for two, $150us all day, guided tours available and recommended. Reservations at least 24 hours in advance are required.
It didn't take us very long to get kitted out with bicycle helmets and Segways; it actually took longer to acclimate to the highly unusual control interface and learn how to maneuver on them. Ironically, it took Hasufin and I longer than everyone else given that we had more experience riding them from The Last HOPE earlier this year. After running a couple of laps each around the cul-de-sac in which the Segs In the City kiosk was located, we headed for the sidewalk to start a two hour tour of downtown DC, zooming along the sidewalks on highly unconventional personal vehicles. Unfortunately, Jarin sat out this part of the trip, in part because Chris hadn't caught up to us yet and he wanted to wait for him to arrive. As luck would have it, of course, Chris arrived not two minutes after the rest of the party departed. Much of the morning was spent buzzing past the monuments, down the streets, around and around the fountains, and even in front of the White House where we taught Kenny, our tour guide, to play Count the Snipers On the Roof (there were two that particular Saturday). At one point I got a good 3x zoom picture of one of them who seemed particularly keen on training his binoculars on the crowd of tourists gathered by the fence snapping photographs and probably hoping to catch a glimpse of George W. Bush. I briefly pondered letting my camera zoom in closer but was afraid that they'd consider me a threat for spending so long looking through a camera at one part of the building. During our travels, not a few sightseers we came across asked us where we'd rented the Segways from. Of course, we told them. Many of the kids who saw us were impressed, which surprised me greatly. Also surprising to me is how well the Segway can handle unusual conditions, such as cracked pavement, slight bumps due to not taking a sidewalk ramp perfectly, and even ducking through the grass to avoid the photo shoot of a group of tourists. I spent much of my time trailing the pack, not so much because I was unsure of myself but because I was thoroughly enjoying looking around at the city as I buzzed through it.
I almost fell twice on my Segway, both times while trying to turn while rolling backwards through an open courtyard. This is something which is supposed to be next to impossible. Doing the next to impossible just happens to be my speciality, so I can pretty authoritatively say that the turning radius of the second generation Segways is excellent but if you're going in reverse at the same time the stationary wheel which the unit will be pivoting on will quite likely seize up and give a screeching sound just before your body start trying to fall off of the deck. Just like roller skates, my shell seems designed to really only go in one direction, which so happens to be 'forwards'. After nearly two hours had gone by we turned back and headed for the kiosk to meet up with Jarin and Chris. We're now licensed to rent Segways and take them on the town without a tour guide, though I'd wager that it's more fun to go with a guide who knows the area decently well.
After returning our Segways at the kiosk we hopped the Metro in the direction of Dupont Circle to have lunch at an Ethiopian restaurant called Meskerem (website under construction; 2434 Eighteenth Street NW; Washington, DC; 20009; phone 202-462-4100). If you've never had Ethiopian before I highly recommend it because it's an experience very different from what you're used to - you eat with your hands using torn-off sections of a spongy flatbread as your edible utensil. The portions there weren't very large, you could easily order one dish for every person present but I find that ordering (n-2) dishes, where n is the number of people partaking of the meal is an ideal number. Much to my regret I don't remember the names of any of the dishes we'd ordered because I go out for Ethiopian so very rarely; hopefully one of the people who went with us remembers so that I can go back and fill it in. The food wasn't very spicy at all, nor was it all that filling. It's ideal for lunch but not so much so for a dinner.
After lunch, a quick stop-off at a small import store so that Hasufin could pick up a hammered copper single-shot ibrik for making Turkish coffee, and a short jaunt on the Metro back to downtown DC, we decided to hole up at an English pub called the Elephant and Castle in lieu of going to a Laser Tag arena due to the fact that I'd just gotten out of the hospital and didn't want to run myself into the ground (or worse, back into the body shop). Like any self-respecting geeks, we had to go about things in a decidedly unusual fashion: we sat on the patio enjoying the cool autumn air (yes, Mother Nature had to throw us a curveball by pushing up Her usual schedule by a good two weeks) drinking coffee and scaring the other patrons by discussing necromancy, among other things. After a couple of hours, when the coffee had gone cold and the bread pudding eaten, it was decided that it was time to find a pub, and so we hiked a couple of blocks to get to the Brickskeller, home of thousands of rare, unusual, and imported beers.
That's really the Brickskeller's forte' - when you get right down to it, it's a pub. A well-stocked one (modulo the six brews we tried to order right out of the gate, only to be told that they weren't in stock at the time) with reasonably good pub food, but a pub. I don't recommend trying to get dinner there; instead, eat someplace else and go to the 'skeller to kick back with dessert and a cold one. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your point of view) the pub was too loud for our discussions to really carry (though my being accused of seeding life on this planet by sneezing in the wrong place in the wrong era of geological history would have provoked some interesting reactions from eavesdroppers). Unfortunately, the ATM was out of order, otherwise the music playing would have taken a turn for the better that night. Grant left the party and headed home around 1900 EST5EDT but was replaced by Kash, who'd caught up with us shortly after.
Our original plan was to return to the apartment, change clothes, and go to Spellbound to spend the rest of the night clubbing, but I figured that it probably wasn't such a good idea given that I had just gotten out of the hospital. I had no desire to have a repeat of the incident back in February which necessitated my being carried out of the club, so we decided to go with Chris' backup plan... after paying the tab we orchestrated multiple return trips to the apartment by various means (car, Metro, and otherwise) for everyone that wouldn't be going home (Jarin decided to call it an early night and departed around this time), piled into Chris' car, and caught a ride to the garage to pick up the van. Unfortunately, we then ran into the problem of finding the van...
Somehow, somewhen along the way, we forgot which garage we'd left the rental in. It took Hasufin, Jason, and I two attempts to figure out which of the garages in downtown DC within walking distance of where Chris had dropped us off was the correct one. Not bad, definitely a record for us, but nonetheless nerve wracking at the time. Still, all's well that ends well; we took off for Hasufin's place to pick up a few supplies, switch off from the rental to his car, and visit the local Asian grocery to pick up a couple of things to close out the night, like fresh fruit.
You see, Chris had brought with him a package of tablets of extract from miracle fruit berries which are said to be all the rage in molecular gastronomy circles. There are a couple of compounds in these little berries that together do weird, weird things to your sense of taste; they've been described as "acid for your taste buds" because they can make the most sour, bitter foods taste sweet, and other foods have the potential to taste like something else entirely. Among the things we picked up were fresh lemons, limes, cucumbers, apples, and tomatoes, all foods with strong, distinctive flavors on their own. After getting back to the apartment we sat around dissolving the little tablets in our mouths while Hasufin cut everything into bite-sized pieces in the kitchen. First and foremost, miracle fruit does unkind things to my hot beverage of choice - coffee tastes like hot water. It loses its flavor entirely. You may as well drink from the bathtub. Lemons become actually palatable; you can eat them and they won't be sour at all, but more like a candied fruit. Limes also go sweet but become painfully acidic within a few minutes. I was only able to eat a few slices before the burning sensation became too much to bear. Apples and mangos taste much more sweet than normal though not sickeningly so. My other drink of choice, Goldschlager, loses its flavor and tastes like simple syrup to me but is reminiscent of an Atomic Fireball candy to everyone else who tried it, many of whom harbor a dislike for the liquor.
Arguably this had to be the geekiest bachelor's party on record - not once did we get rip-roarind drunk, blow anything up, steal anything, or visit a strip club. The closest we came to any of these things was Lyssa exhorting us to watch porn on the big-screen television after we returned to the apartment (she'd ducked in briefly to get something shortly after we'd arrived), only to completely ignore her suggestion and go back to tasting cucumbers under the influence of miracle fruit tablets while discussing psychological warfare methodologies and exactly why the MK-ULTRA project failed.
The next morning Jason arrived around 1100 EST5EDT to pick me up at home, after we we darted off to get Lyssa, who'd crashed at Laurelinde's place after her bachelorette party. We stayed for some of Nick's homemade coffee cake and a few cups of (thankfully flavorful) coffee and then headed off to the Maryland Rennfaire for the last day of the season. All things considered it's about a two hour drive to get there - around fifty miles one way, most of it on I-495. We pulled into the parking field around 1300 EST5EDT, which meant that we missed the entire morning but we'd also gotten a parking space close enough to the road that we could actually find Jason's van and get on the road before sunset unlike last year. After paying our way in we wandered around a bit, bought a couple of faire medallions from the coin minters (Lyssa purchased a tree of life on one side and a harp on the other; I finally got my long-awaited orobouros and hexagram medallion), and then went in search of a few last minute things for the wedding ceremony.
Almost immediately we found ceramic goblets for the wedding ceremony (though we didn't buy them until just before departing to see if we'd find anything better suited for our purposes). We also bought a matching pair of masks for the masquerade ball following the reception which I'll not describe until after the wedding is over. Somewhen arouund that time we ran into Onivel, Tracy, Elwing, Irregular Expression, and Katie en route to the stage around the same time that Kash and Chris caught up with us. We talked for a while about the wedding and what exactly was going to be happening but parted ways due to a timing conflict. Jason did a yeoman's job of finding the stuff we needed though we had a hell of a time of keeping track of where he was at any given moment. It was the very last day of faire, which meant that everyone who had gone at least once was there one last time, and everyone who hadn't yet gone showed up.
To beat the crowd we departed around 1700 local time and headed back toward home. Lyssa and I napped in our seats on the way back, much to the chagrin of our contact lenses. We dropped off the stuff we'd bought and then headed out to get a dinner of real food rather than the stuff we'd bought at the renfaire (kind of crappy gyros, Scotch eggs, and British chips) at On the Border just a few minutes down the road from us.
That pretty much wraps things up. I finished the wedding favors for the groom's party this evening, Lyssa's finished the favors for the bridal party, and now it's down to details. The wedding ceremony is sitting on Alphonse's desktop right now, and if I was smart I'd grab a copy to look at rather than sitting here typing this.
Thanks to everyone who made this weekend an awesome time - Hasufin, Jarandhel, Jason, Grant, Chris, and Kash. I had a great time, and thank you for everything.
See you at the wedding!