Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Rockville and a hard place

There's an old R.E.M. song called "Don't go back to Rockville." It's a catchy, country-style tune that describes Rockville, Maryland, with lyrics such as "Going where nobody says hello/They don't talk to anybody they don't know" and a chorus that states, "Don't go back to Rockville/And waste another year." Surprisingly, the song is not included in the city's tourism videos.

That tune was running through my head as Jennifer and I took Kyle to Rockville this past weekend for a wedding on Jennifer's side of the family. This was Kyle's first wedding; he's normally not invited to these things because he doesn't like sitting still for long periods of time and he's been known to strip in public. The bride and groom wanted Kyle there anyway, and told us that some of the other guests had the same habits (most of them babies). So, when we arrived in Rockville Friday night, Kyle fit right in.

To my surprise, Rockville was much different than the place I had imagined after humming that song. There was no feeling of gloominess, no factory to enslave our child, and the people there actually said "hello." Instead of dark, empty houses and hordes of people trying to bring me down, there was a plethora of cheerful shopping plazas, complete with the essential Starbucks, cell phone shops, and discount mattress stores. The biggest problem with Rockville these days might be the actual "going" part. There may be a curse on any travel to the city. It's not one that can ruin a weekend; we had a great time, in fact. It's just a curse that makes things awfully inconvenient.

It began with our arrival. We reached the hotel around dinnertime, and we were starving. The little guy was so hungry he started to eat parts of his stroller. Jennifer and I immediately searched for food, and Jennifer's grandmother recommended that we go to the hotel's restaurant. She said it was quiet and empty, and the perfect spot to take the little guy in case he acted up. So we took the elevator down to the restaurant and found out that there was a good reason why it was quiet and empty: it was closed. Apparently no tourists like to eat dinner on a Friday night.

We went back to the room to give Kyle his food, along with the milk that the hotel staff gave us from their closed kitchen. We had no other milk because we hadn't gone out to buy some yet, and neither the hotel's gift shop nor vending machines carried it, since people visiting Rockville tend to put their children in a kennel. We were extremely grateful that the hotel came through to quench our child's thirst. After that, it was time to find more milk for the weekend, and food for ourselves.

We first tried to go to a Target store, which the concierge said was in walking distance, right behind the hotel. It turns out the Target was in walking distance only if you were planning to walk for the rest of the night. We drove a good number of blocks to get there, only to give up on our plan to go inside the store when we couldn't find its entrance. By now my stomach was starting to eat itself. We went to a nearby supermarket, which sold milk, snacks, and prepared food - that needed to be heated. When I asked a worker if there was any way the store could heat it, she laughed at us and told us to use our hotel room's microwave. When we told her our hotel room didn't have a microwave, she laughed at us again, and then went on and on about how she always reserves rooms with microwaves in them, and how crazy we were for not getting one. She had a lot more to say, but we didn't stick around to hear it.

Since it was getting past Kyle's bedtime, we decided we'd cave in and order room service. After the long day, we figured nothing would go better with the room service meal than an ice cold beer. They don't sell beer in the Rockville supermarkets, so on the way back to the hotel we stopped at a nearby package store to pick some up. Of course, they didn't sell cold beer, but why would they? Nobody wants cold beer in Rockville.

The rest of the weekend was certainly better. Kyle did well at the wedding. He had fun going to the wedding and seeing his relatives, but most of all he enjoyed seeing himself. Turns out we have a narcissistic baby. Who knew? This was the first time he was in a room with a mirror at his height, and he spent a lot time gazing at the handsome face looking back at him. The inconvenience curse still haunted us, too, but not as severely. It mostly struck whenever the little guy tried to nap. The first time he tried to snooze, he was rudely interrupted by the wedding itself. The second sleep attempt was at the post-reception cookout, when Kyle was awoken by a massive rush into the house, as the weather suddenly changed from overcast... to hurricane.

Overall, we had a great time in Rockville, despite the warnings from R.E.M. and the inconvenience curse. On the way home we hit heavy traffic that delayed us several hours, and we even had trouble finding whole milk at one of the rest areas (Burger King sells only skim, believe it or not). But we don't blame the curse for that. No, it's just one of the things you come to expect when you're forced to drive through the abyss known as New Jersey.

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