from Sandy Needham

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Maryland Dispatch

December 1, 2007

My trip to Penn Station in Manhattan with my rolling suitcase and ever-heavier carry-on bag became a harbinger of hardships to come. The ride was easy enough, my problem was with the number of times I was required to go up stairs, only to very soon go down again, as if it were all just a sick joke. I eventually faced three stories of up, but noticed that an escalator next to this staircase only required one flight down to access it, so down again it was. When at last I opened the door to the proper track for "Princeton Junction," the track was up one last flight of stairs. I had bruises on my thigh, hip and shin from various hoisting strategies.

My sister Donna is an exceptional human being who is indefatigable, fun-loving, generous of spirit, and forgiving. We are very different because of that law of the universe regarding siblings, but it is impossible not to feel good when one is around her! She met me at Princeton Junction, not to drive me to her home in Lawrenceville, NJ, but to drive me to her daughter's (and granddaughter's) house in Maryland. My wonderful brother-in-law, Larry, had to catch up on work, so Donna and I were off to see my niece Amy, her husband Sean, and the first grandchild in this family, Allison - 17 months.

Donna's calm and accomplished daughter, Amy, works for the Department of Energy in Washington, D.C.- three days in the office and two days from home, and Sean is a Washington lawyer. They live in a commuter's community in Gaithersburg, Maryland that has lovely house after lovely house, white picket fences, playgrounds, and a local shopping area that includes Whole Foods and a movie theater. Their daughter, Allison, the apple of my sister's eye, is at that age where she just loves to roam the spacious house, play her tunes and sing along, parrot everyone's talk and spend her days figuring out what is what. Donna is the grandma who composes songs about Allison and revives old Needham favs to Allison's delight and to the complete apoplexy of her son-in-law. It is a testament to their mutual devotion that she persists in singing and he persists in begging her to stop!

I hit the jet-lag wall that morning - a drained feeling that never fully left me the remainder of the trip - so drove the three hours with Donna and spent the weekend under a lethargic veil. Amy and Sean were the perfect hosts in their beautifully decorated house, and Allison persisted in entertaining us all with her developmental miracles, but I was a sort of lump! I still had a ways to go on this five-week marathon, and did, luckily, regain some wherewithal, but must admit to acquiescing all requirements of charm and entertainment that weekend to my grand-niece! As you can see, the redhead Allison is beyond words.

Donna and I drove back to Lawrenceville in time for Larry to jump into the driver's seat and drive us to my next destination 2 hours away (make that 2-1/2 with Sunday evening traffic): Nyack, New York. I always enjoy time with my brother-in-law, also a generous and fun fellow-traveler. Nyack is where I lived for 6 years before moving to Brazil, and is a town that holds a big piece of my heart.

Newton had begun writing his own observations from Asia:

Japan: Taking a crowded subway with lots of small children all dressed up alike. A woman protects them (at least 10 kids) with her arms around them from the people going in & out of the subway car. Maybe she’s afraid the kids will be pushed out of the train.

China: On an airplane I ask for beer – I get a warm Bud!

China: On an airplane - dinner is bread and warm beer; had to ask for a glass with ice!

Korea: Breakfast at the hotel is eggs with a hair & a hot dog; coffee finally comes halfway through breakfast; bad coffee too.

Korea: John (the Korean distributor) trying to be polite? Wants me to go to lunch first, I decline and tell him to go. A friend of his comes by later asking for John since they are supposed to have lunch together! I have a big lunch and finish at 2:00. At 5:00 John announces that he is taking me to dinner right then!! Had to force food down to be polite. I feel like I'm in the twilight zone with John.

More New York days to come.


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