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Catching Up

August 3, 2012

You know that feeling you get when you find a really fantastic parking spot? It’s a mix of triumph, invincibility, and paranoia that maybe you’re not really allowed to park there. Once you triple-check the signs to make sure it’s OK, you know it’s a good omen that maybe things are going to go your way today.

The first place we went today was the North Carolina State Capitol in Raleigh, and we got a parking spot directly across street from the building entrance. If the governor has a better parking spot, I’d like to see it.

The building itself is not the biggest capitol we’ve been to, but it’s the only one we’ve been allowed to wander by ourselves. On our self-guided tour we went inside the chambers for the state Senate and House of Representatives, and we peeked into the state library and, oddly, the state geologist’s office. We also saw a very strange statue of George Washington dressed like a Renaissance painter.

Then we watched a brief video that revealed that none of those rooms have been in use since at least the 1960s, and the statue is a copy of the original which was destroyed decades ago in a fire. Well, at least we got that great parking spot.

We didn’t even have to move the car to go to the next stop: the Raleigh Life Science Museum, which was recommended to us by people I’ve literally known my entire life.

When I was five years old, my family moved from one part of Queens to another. On moving day, my mother sent me to hang out with her childhood friend Jean so that my parents could tend to the move. Now, keeping me entertained for a whole day is a lot to ask of anyone. It’s a particularly onerous favor to ask of someone who lives in upstate New York, as Jean and her husband, John, did at the time. Jean and John are probably the kindest people I know. About 15 years ago, Jean and her husband John moved from New York to North Carolina—specifically, a town  about half an hour south of the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill triangle. If someone told me they did it just so that they’d be able to show Hamster and me around Raleigh today and then house us tonight, I might even believe it.

We caught up on various family events as we walked through the museum helping Sam spot amphibians and learning the difference between voles and moles. It would’ve been nice to spend more time with them, but like I said, keeping me entertained for a whole day is a lot to ask of anyone. So we said our goodbyes and headed off to Durham for a tour of Duke University.

Why Duke? Well, Sam’s best friend, Harry, is a huge Duke basketball fan. Sam (like most Americans) is only mildly interested in college basketball until the NCAA Tournament begins, but thanks to Harry he was curious to see Duke. Besides, we had tickets to the Durham Bulls game at 7pm and we needed something to do until then. We also took a tour of the Notre Dame campus on last year’s trip, so Sam has now taken two more college campus tours than I ever did before I started college. As we stood outside the admissions building, he turned to me and said, “Come on, Dad, let’s go get me into college!”

The architecture is extraordinary and the campus is beautiful, but all that walking on what turned out to be a very hot day (according to the car’s thermometer, it was 95 degrees when we arrived on campus) exhausted us and left us little patience for what turned out to be a very admissions-focused tour. Lots of information about academic programs and campus life, and not a whole lot about the Blue Devils. Well, at least Sam now knows where the freshman dorms are and that he won’t have to declare a major until halfway through sophomore year.

Thankfully it was much cooler out by the time we got to the ballgame. At the game we met up with another old friend, this time someone I haven’t seen since we were coworkers in 2006. The game was great all around: the ballpark is beautiful, our seats were in the fifth row and right next to the Bulls’ dugout, the Bulls won 1-0, we got to see Major League superstar Evan Longoria in action while he finishes rehabbing an injury, Sam caught not one but two game-used balls tossed to him by Bulls players, and he was shown on the stadium’s big screen holding up his souvenirs (or if you prefer, he had a lot of balls to show off on the big screen).

To top it off, the whole day was practically free. There was no admission charge at the capitol or the museum and the Bulls tickets were only $8 each. And I’m writing this from Jean and John’s house. Not a hotel, not a motel, but an actual home. That parking spot turned out to be a good omen after all.

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