Road Trip! (pt.deux)


For part one, click here!!


Sunday morning we were greeted with some disappointing news: it was raining at the beach in Maine where we were planning to visit Thiago’s uncle Fernando’s family.  We optimists donned our bathing suits anyway and took off for our day trip to the East coasts’  northernmost state. New Hampshire and Maine were two states that Gabe had never set foot in, and so it was imperative that we, like the U.S. Postal Service, delivered. Rain or shine.

We stopped off in East Boston to try to convince Joao to come with us, but he was MIA, so Thiago took advantage of the neighborhood and stopped off to get a delicacy not to be found in the South: scallion pancakes. Gabe and I had never heard of them, but 10 minutes and five dollars later, we were eating warm doughy scallion pancakes out of a brown paper bag, dipping them in a small plastic container of soy ginger sauce and trying not to ruin our clothes. The verdict: delicious.

We cruised through northern Massachusetts and were soon in New Hampshire. The air was so FRESH there, I remarked. I could breathe more deeply. Thiago explained that it was all the huge evergreen forests on either side of the highway. We drove to the charming coastal town of Portsmouth, NH.

Adorable cottages abounded on the winding country roads that led to the heart of town, and the Main Street that paralleled the dock was cute and full of old-world appeal as well.

We parked and meandered around the sidewalks, around the buildings, down some stairs until we were dockside.

There was a row of restaurants with canopied patios and bars on the dock, bustling with Sunday lunch-goers. We didn’t have time to sit and eat, but walked through and stopped instead at a little mom and pop ice cream store in a cold brick basement. We ducked inside, and got some of the creamiest, richest ice cream I’ve ever tasted. We continued our tour of Portsmouth on foot, walking past an old cemetery with people buried in the wall, sitting on the front steps of a church in the blazing sun, and then deciding it was time to head further North. So long, New Hampshire!

Not much longer. the Welcome to Maine  (don’t bring out of state firewood!) sign greeted us. We stopped at the Welcome Center, which was a sight in itself with huge, Jurassic Park -looking redwood trees. Thiago took a picture with his stomach twin, Smokey the Bear,and we got a map of coastal Maine.

Originally. we really wanted to include Acadia National Park in our trip to Maine, but it was a much further drive than we’d anticipated so we made Old Orchard Beach (recommended by my coworker, Rebecca, a native New Englander) our destination point instead. After an hour and a wrong turn (and a little trespassing) into a bleak, dismal seafront residential area straight out of a Stephen King novel (dubbed Vacation Hell by yours truly), we arrived at OOB.  Waiting for the boys to park and use the restroom, I sat on a bench on a peaceful stretch of green, green grass a few hundred feet away from a 1940’s style amusement park with a huge ferris wheel and roller coaster in stark relief in front of a backdrop of endless ocean.

People lay under trees, reading; some sprawled on blankets sunbathing amongst the grass, flowers, and ocean air.  10 minutes later, the three of us made our way past arcades and boardwalk style food vendors (hot dogs, funnel cake. pier fries, pizza, etc.) to the beach. It was quite beautiful, though far too cold to swim in. We waded instead, next to a long pier with brightly colored restaurants perched above our heads, stretching into the ocean.
There were lots of people enjoying the sunny Sunday afternoon (really, weather forecasters?), and it was a tranquil scene which conjured images of seaside years gone by. Thiago and I waded knee-deep in the pass-through under the pier before realizing we could have just walked around, but it was a neat experience.

There was a group of people in a circle peering into the water at some creature they’d found. We strolled on the beach abit, and then as the daylight began to fade, the air got chillier, so we got some famous Pier Fries and then headed back to the car. After a pit stop at Wendy’s for some salad (we were kind of vegetable-deprived on our trip), we turned the car around and headed south to meet Thiago’s grandma and aunt at his uncle Fernando’s house.

It was around 8:30 when we pulled up to Uncle Fernando’s. His sweet wife Christina greeted us and brought us in, where Celia and Zeza were in the wood-paneled living room with two huge dogs watching Brazil’s version of Dancing with the Stars, hosted by a bug-eyed, leather-shirted man named Faostao, who apparently used to be very fat. Gabe started moving to the music in the armchair, so Aunt Zeza pulled him from his seat. Gabe and Zeza danced for us as Celia sang a samba tune. It was very entertaining, and the dogs Luther and Bella watched in bemusement.

Gabe drove us back to Celia’s house, and when the ladies went in to bed, the three of us drove nearby to an old water reservoir that had a hiking trail. In the dark, we walked past hundreds of frogs saying “meep meep” in low voices. We walked gingerly up a gravelly road in pitch blackness. I hated it. I thought of all the crazy murderers that were probably hiding in the woods, and how idiotic we were to be walking around in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night. We eventually made it to our destination, the trees parting in the moonlight to reveal a rocky hilltop that had gifted us with a panoramic view of the city. Boston was beautiful by night, the buildings and highways illuminated with hundreds of twinkling lights. There was an old stone tower on the hilltop, where a pair of lovers sat gazing at the night sky. The creepy walk in the dark was worth it. This was how we spent our last night in Boston, perched atop giant rocks and staring at the city, each lost in our own thoughts.

After tearful goodbyes the next morning, we left Boston with heavy hearts, missing it already. We drove past the fabled Charles Town, a small city looming on a hillside with tall buildings and an air of danger about it. It was reminiscent of a nineteenth century Irish mill town. Apparently, the people there have really awesome Boston accents that are associated with the lower class. It  both intrigued and frightened me. Maybe next time. We passed the windmill that heralded the beginning of Everett, back through the city I wished I had more time to explore. Goodbye, Boston.

Back on the highway, we rehashed all of the laughter and memories we had made thus far on our journey. The people, the places, and the inside jokes were memories we wanted to hold on to in both mind and heart. We looked at historical events in Susie years ( Susie was 48 when JFK died, 54 during the Moon Landing, 30 during World War II (she probably saw many young men from that same neighborhood go off to war and never come home). We drove 4 hours south to Long Island, NY, stopping only once to use the bathroom in an Indian (dot, not feather) owned liquor store in Connecticut.

We had pretty smooth sailing, only hitting traffic once we passed the Bronx and went through the toll bridge, where the strong smell of cologne permeated the highway, either from the toll booth operator or a nearby open window. The traffic (an accident a few miles up) cleared and we pulled up outside the shiny silver and glass diner that belonged to my dad and step-mom, Sheryl.  It was June 24th, and my dad’s 59th birthday. When Thiago had told me he would be doing a day in NY, I had asked if we could possible stop by and see my dad. who was about thirty minutes outside the city. He immediately agreed and I was planning to surprise my dad with a visit, but thought better of it and decided to play it safe just in case he was doing something out of the ordinary for his birthday. I had called him a couple days earlier to make sure that he would be in town and would welcome a visit from us. He had already suspected that I would be coming to visit, from my photos of New England that I’ve been posting on Facebook. He jokes that if I had not come to surprise him, he would have surprised me on the New Jersey Turnpike.

We went inside and I ask the hostess to get John for me. At first she said he wasn’t there but when I told her I was his daughter, she told me to hold on; he was in the back office. I went to the restroom while the boys sat on the pink vinyl counter stools. The diner looked as I remembered it, shiny and spotless and very traditional diner. The waitstaff wore what I’ve always thought of as penguin outfits: white shirts, black vests, and pants. When I came back from the bathroom my dad was sitting with Thiago and Gabe . I went over and give him a big hug. I hadn’t seen him in four years. Way too long.

He looked the same. A jolly, slightly round Greek man whom I love dearly. Maybe a little older, but the same mischievous glint in his dark eyes and the pinstripe shirt with the top two top buttons undone, a gold chain hanging around his neck. It was so good to see him.

‘ There was to be a big dinner for my dad’s birthday that night at 8, so we sat in a corner booth and had some appetizers and got to talk. Gabe, in particular was mesmerized by my dad and Sheryl and how they saw the world. All of us loved talking to them and learning what their life was like owning and operating a diner together seven days a week and balancing a marriage in the process.

A little later., Dad took the boys and me fifteen minutes away to Long Beach, which was devastated last year by Hurricane Sandy. Apparently they used to be a long boardwalk, but now only a remnant remains. The island is rebuilding quickly, and looks almost normal again, but the people that live there won’t forget the damage the storm caused.
We trudged across a wide stretch of sand to the beautiful shoreline, the sunlight reflecting off of the water as shades of blue competed for which was the most gorgeous. There were “No Swimming” signs posted (most likely because of the big rocks jutting out of the water close to shore) but we weren’t wearing our bathing suits anyway. We breathed in the fresh ocean air and took in the beauty around us.


Thiago decided that the best use of the beach would be to pretend that he was on Baywatch, so once again the shirt came off and he was running across the sand.

Back at the diner that night, five tables were pushed together in a long line, and family and friends gathered to celebrate my dad’s birthday. The tables soon full as waiters brought plate after plate of Greek delicacies ( terokafteri, shrimp, bread, Greek salad, octopus, and more). Thiago and Gabe’s eyes were wide open in astonishment at such a feast.

We were full before before the main course of souvlaki and lamb chops hit the table, but we forced ourselves and enjoyed it all.

There was Carvel ice cream cake for dessert, and it was great to be there with my dad as he blew out the candles, surrounded by loved ones.


The boys were invited by my little brother Dimitri to go play poker with some of his friends and they almost went but decided against it as we were all pretty exhausted. We headed back to the house instead, where we were greeted by Anne, their live-in housekeeper from St. Vincent, and Sammy, a huge beautiful Labradoodle reminds me of the creature from the Neverending story.

We fell into bed, determined to get a good night sleep before we descended upon New York City the next day.

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