Marcus Fiehls: There is a place where restless souls wander. A place that is not affected by our world or our dimensions. A place where confused souls are trapped; tortured. This place is all around you.
—Rip Cage (2007)
…and that place is the mall.
Parent and Family Weekend at the State University of New York (New Paltz Campus) is a different sort of animal from my previous visits. All the other times, the point was to tell me I was pretty and convince me that Daughter's mother and I should be sending thousands of dollars to them. This time around, well, they've already got the money AND the kid: we're just here to see that she's still alive and reasonably healthy. There were a few on-campus events scheduled, but it was really a formalized reason to visit our child and maybe see some of the local area.
As it happened, I came up alone: Wife and Wee One have a cheerleading competition to attend, and Ex-Wife is still recuperating from complications related to a medical procedure she had awhile back. So after work on Friday, I packed a bag and headed north. I got a later start than I wanted, but the traffic wasn't too awful. The biggest setback was missing an exit and mistakenly thinking I could just make it up at the next exit. I wound up on a road parallel to the one I sought, which took me through Princeton, including the school. Hey! Two campus visits in one trip!
So I lost about an hour doing that, because of traffic lights and such. Not a disaster.
I got to the campus around 9:30 AM on Saturday, and the atmosphere was very different from my previous visits. There were no students posted at all the entrances to direct us; there weren't balloons tied to every stationary object. In fact, the campus was kind of a ghost town. I thought I'd come on the wrong weekend. I parked the car and walked to Daughter's dormitory. I called Daughter and got her to come down and let me in. She still had a little bit of act to get together, and then we were off.
Check-in was at the Student Union building, which is currently undergoing renovation and will soon look like the picture here (which I nicked from World Architecture News). There was an array of events going on, several of which would have taken place anyway, but there were also a few extras. Refreshments were also served, courtesy of a local orchard, which provided apples and cider and apple cider doughnuts, which were all very good. The President of the school did a little spiel, and so did a guy from the school's Development office ("please send us another small pile of money"), and that was about it for that event. The President was sponsoring a "coffee with the President" event a little later on, but since they'd already convinced us to send our kid to SUNY, I figured–based largely on all the information that's been pounded into Baltimore City principals–that it could wind up being an hour of talking about H1N1 precautions, and I'd had about enough of that.
There were several different things on campus that we could check out, and if you're genuinely that interested in the list, go look at the previous post. We had tickets for the Comedy show, and made tentative plans for the walking tour of the town, but the big mission of the day was to get some warm clothes for Daughter. The leaves are just starting to turn all kinds of colors, but it's pretty chilly up there already.
Ooh–here's something I learned by going to Parents' Weekend: the leaves don't turn yellow, or red, or whatever; they're already that color. It's just that, during the summer, they have so much chlorophyll that the green masks over the leaves' true color. When the fall comes, the chlorophyll production slows to a halt and the color comes through. It's explained in a little more detail here. Science!
Anyway. So our mission was to head into nearby Poughkeepsie and do some clothes shopping. So we get into the car and hit the road toward Poughkeepsie. We drive some ways.
Then we drive some more.
Then, some more.
And when we get to Newburgh, we realize that we may have missed a turn somewhere. Somewhere, say, about 16 miles ago. So we double back and find the road that leads over the Mid-Hudson Bridge, then shoot straight through town. Dammit, we missed another turn. Daughter calls her mother and asks where the turnoff is. Mom says it's on Route 9, head south. Crap. That turnoff was the first exit after the bridge. Once again, we get back on track.
With the mall more or less within reach, I realize that I haven't eaten since my apple cider doughnut, and that was nearly three hours earlier. I spot a strip mall-ish kind of place, where we have a choice of a Red Robin, a Five Guys and a couple of others. For whatever reason, I opt for the Red Robin. No sooner do we enter the front door, however, than we hear an earsplitting buzz and strobe lights start going off.
No, we weren't the one millionth customer. I look at the hostess, who is covering her ears, and I ask her, "Is that the fire alarm?" She doesn't know, but everyone in the restaurant is about to mow us down as they make their way towards us.
"Let's go, sweetie," I say to Daughter, "this place is much too on fire for us." We walk down to the Five Guys.
After lunch we head to the Galleria Mall, which has a Target as one of its anchor stores. We shopped in stores both large and small throughout the mall, and I guess we spent about $150, maybe a little more, but we got some pretty good deals. Daughter didn't think so, but maybe that's because it was coming out of her bank account. (What? I put money into it that morning.) By the time we'd gotten back, what with getting lost and all, we'd missed the walking tour and had just enough time to get some dinner before the comedy show.
Dinner was at a small Greek restaurant, located next to another Greek restaurant. You can't even find that in Highlandtown, but you find it in New Paltz. We ate at Yanni's, which had several positive reviews in various places on the Internets. And if it's on the Internets then it must be true, right? In this case it was. Food was good, service was friendly, and we didn't even mind when they asked us to switch to a smaller table so they could accommodate a larger party.
The comedy show was a pile of fun, and it was preceded by three of the school's a capella singing groups. The first two, Male Call and Sexy Pitches, were single-sex groups. I'll leave it to you to figure out which was which. The third was a mixed-sex group called Absolute A capella. All three groups did a fine, fine job. The Second City touring company was a lot of fun too, with a mix of old material and new stuff as well.
When we got out, it was absolutely pouring outside. This after an entire day of bright-but-gray skies. It was less than a hundred yards to the car and we were thoroughly soaked by the time we got in. I dropped Daughter off at her dorm, and as I got back to the hotel room, the tire pressure indicator light popped on. Oddly, I opted NOT to check that out right away; it would wait till the morning. (It was just a low tire. I gave it some air and it cheered right up.)
Sunday morning and Daughter had a theater thing to attend to for the day, so we had time for breakfast only. As I dropped her off, this was the view from the parking lot we'd been in the night before: