Monday, May 30, 2005

Survival of the, well, survivors

Hellooooo, everyone back on the various home fronts!

I write with qualified joy from MA as I have just finished my boards. Well, round one at least.

The trip was comprised of an uneventful flight to O'Hare, a frenzied rush to our connection that left me wondering whether we should use Grandma's inhaler on the wheelchair lady, and another calm flight to Baltimore. After claiming our luggage which appeared almost immediately, we walked from baggage claim to the ground transportation area where we boarded the light rail. The train was clean, the ticket collector polite, and the trip fast, but I do take exception to the price gouging. One way fares were $1.60 for me and $0.55 for Grandma. (Can't beat that with a stick!)

Trepidation over successfully disembarking with luggage intact was alleviated as an incredibly strong man picked up both suitcases without fanfare or comment and placed them on the sidewalk before I made it to the steps. The rail dropped us directly at the convention center but I had not realized the hotel was located on exactly the opposite side. It was quite a humorous walk as we made our way through Orioles fans exiting Camden Yard, around panhandlers and across busy intersections-Grandma towing her quite heavy backpack and me trailing matching large rolling suitcases behind with my computer bag across my back. Several times I offered to collect a cab but Grandma was insistent that she could go the distance.

And that she did!

Still, it was a great relief to us both when we trundled into the back of the Hyatt and a charming concierge removed my bags and led us to check-in. Which brings up one of the better reasons for staying at an upper-scale hotel like the Hyatt or like the Hilton in LA. Without exception, the people working in such hotels are kind, patient, thoughtful and truly devoted to providing a wonderful experience. When the bags appeared in the room without fanfare, the bellman Luciano provided a detailed 'walking tour' narrative of the amenities, their locations and hours. Random personnel in the halls stopped to confirm that we were having an excellent stay and immediately provided solutions to little quibbly nuisances. Connie, who works the coffee stand on the atrium floor, found some spectacular strawberries that she made available gratis for customers' enjoyment. And Jeremy, the concierge, has so far guided us to exceedingly extraordinary eats, arranged scheduling of our housekeeping for Grandma's convenience and flagged our room for early paper delivery.

Friday night we caught a quick drink and late bite to eat at Pisces, the restaurant on the top floor with an unbelievable view of the harbor, Crab cake sandwiches, fries, Manhattans and conversation with strangers welcomed us to our adventure. Saturday we did as little as possible and I pushed through some last minute studying. We did take a break to go to the gym for some much needed exercise. On Jeremy's recommendations, we went for an early dinner at the Blue Agave where we feasted on Mexican food and award-winning margaritas. Then, after difficulty hailing a cab, we walked back to the hotel for more studying and an early night. Go Grandma go!

Sunday started early with the essay part of my boards from 8am to noon. This was undoubtedly the worse part of the test and one of the worst intellectual exercises in my life. It was excruciately difficult and discouraging. Shaken I returned to the room to grab my notes and Grandma. I studied over my lunch, trying not to dissolve in tears, trying to regain my sense of humor and perspective.

The afternoon portion of the test, a practical section with lots of images and interpretation, began at 1:30 and was much less unpleasant. Or, as Prince Wesley would say, 'I'm not saying I would build a summerhome here but it really is quite beautiful.' Met back up with Grandma and we detoured to the gym to work off some nervous energy. After cleaning up, we caught a taxi to The Helmand Restaurant. The lamb was so succulent and tender, it could have been cut with a dull spoon, light and fluffy challow (rice seasoned with cardamon), delicate lemon flavored spinach and Turkish coffee to bring a girl to her knees in tears of ecstasy.

Back to the hotel, more last minute studying then bed. Today was an extravaganza of multiple choice delights with the morning's emphasis on 'book larnin' and the afternoon's emphasis on 'practical management'. Both sessions were less hateful than the essays but more unpleasant than, say, an ob-gyn visit. Probably hovering around the level of anxiety associated with an antagonistic tax audit.

Now I sit outside a three mast ship (schooner perhaps?), taking advantage of local free wireless service and watching rain drizzle indifferently on passers-by. The smells of calm chowder, charred beef and crisp sea air mix as ducks waddle down the sidewalk and street performers hurriedly gather their instruments and dart under nearby overhangs. Tonight we dine on crabs at an old school Mom and Pop joint to celebrate completion of the work and the beginning of the fun!

Hoping you all are well and enjoying this day while holding honor in your hearts for fallen heroes-



Blogger Dave & Nancy Estes Park said...

Congrats Jacqui! Yeah Grandma! Glad the dreaded boards are over. Sounds like Baltimore is treating you well so far. The food sounds delicious and I could sure go for a good Marg and some good Mexican food. Hope the rest of the week is relaxing and informative. It must be good to see all your old CSU buddies. Tell Dr. Woods we say Hey! and hope he did well on his boards.
Miss you. Don't drink too many gin and tonics!
With lots of love
Dave and Nancy

4:39 PM  
Blogger charlotte said...

hey jacqui!
congratulations on finishing your boards!! we just finished finals at school too, so i am feeling a similar feeling of joy and relief that i know you are feeling too!! have fun!!

9:50 PM  
Blogger Jan said...

Dear Jacqui: Wow! What a wonderful description of your latest adventures, and hooray for Grandma! You made it all sound so delicious, even though you had the dreadful tests to endure. It sounds as though you are making lemonade out of lemons, and I believe the test results will be fine.

We missed you at the picnic, which was another tour de force for all of us after this crazy semester. Bill Christie and Jerry Strobel were the egg toss champs and poor Kelly really got egged...she took it like the trooper she is, even with her cute clothes splatted wtih virgin egg drop soup. We had our usual spot at Fannie Mae Dees "DRagon" park where a lovely breeze made the warm weather bearable.

Your remarkable mom once again was the "sunshine of our lives" and has already signed us up for performance dates. "The Beat Goes On!" I hope your blog will still be up and running as you head back to Colorado. It is a mixed blessing, but oh, so wonderful that you will be returning to your other life. Thank you for EVERYTHING you did to help Pam come home to you and to us. Jan (N) e-mail

12:27 AM  

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