I hope you all had a good 4th of July. I thought I'd take my day off and celebrate by...(gasp!) catching up on my life. I'll tell you all about that later on. The real celebration is that there's now only 505 emails sitting in my inbox. :) Anyhow, when we last left Ryan, he was en route to New York City. Let's just pretend that over a month has NOT elasped since then. I remember every little thing as if it happened only yesterday... [Ed.--Written...god knows when.] The Travel Gods hate me. I must have run over a backpacker in a past life, because even simple excursions can go wrong for me. Take, for example, the plane ride to New York. Anyone who uses the airlines will, sooner than later, get stuck in a holding pattern. Many will also get rerouted to cities they never asked to visit. But it takes a uniquely unlucky traveller to circle from one holding pattern to another on a rerouted plane with a broken door, seated in front of three over-opinionated morons. How did li'l old me get to be so blessed? Eventually I did manage to land at La Guardia airport in New York, over four hours late. After a taxi ride to Madison Square Garden, under which lies Penn Station, I discovered that I had just missed the last train of the night, so I snuggled up with some homeless people and waited patiently for the next available opportunity to get to Trenton. At 4:30a.m., my train departed, and I was thrilled to find my brother waiting for me in Trenton. The only good thing about New Jersey is getting the hell out of it. Estimated time to my parents' house from California: 10 hours. Actual time it took: 19. I had planned on meeting up with Emmett for lunch in Philadelphia that day, but since it was rapidly approaching noon, dinner was starting to sound like a better plan to my fatigued body. I had him email me driving directions, and a few moments later, I was passed out by the dryer, while the washing machine gurgled away on my clothes. Have I mentioned the Travel Gods hate me? Off I went in my mother's car towards Philadelphia. This was meant to be a 20 minute trip which quickly became a two 2 hour endeavor. Damn you, MapQuest. Finally, I found my way, but the plan for dinner was rapidly devolving into take-out; at this point I only had a few hours before I had to be back at La Guardia airport. So while it was premature even for computer geeks of our magnitude, I found myself asking where the Internet connection was as Emmett answered his door. My partner in crime for this trip was to be Susan Stabley, intrepid journalist of the Bible Belt and envy of all her friends, none of which had tickets to Phish's tour opener. Her plane would be landing, if her luck was better than mine, around 11p.m., which was rapidly approaching. Meanwhile I was surfing the net two states away for a battle plan. Emmett gave me the grand tour of the apartment as he lead me to the cable modem. There are several arcade games scattered around the apartment. The walls are filled with Back to the Future memorabilia. If it wasn't for the wife sitting on the couch, the place would qualify as a bachelor's dream pad. Emmett introduced me to his wife, Starr, and a random Andover.net employee who was hanging out, named Dave. After hitting maps.yahoo.com, I imagined I could extend the meal to at least a trip to the McDonald's drive thru. If I was back on the road in 15 minutes, I could make it to Trenton, catch a train, then a taxi, and be at La Guardia with time to kill. Not MUCH time, mind you, but time nonetheless. As I explained this, Dave suggested that we just drive directly to the airport. And before I could explain the mental anguish I'd be inflicting on my mother if I drove her car through Manhattan, Dave had already grabbed his keys, and Emmett had already grabbed the drinks. The Great American Road Trip was commencing, and I silently prayed to the Travel Gods for better luck going north than I had coming east. The Travel Gods, of course, would have none of that. Somewhere up on Interstate 95, we had a blowout. The funniest thing about having a flat tire is that moment where, despite the sound of flapping rubber and the uneven ride, everyone in the car confers that MAYBE everything is fine and the best plan is to just keep driving. Sooner or later, common sense takes over. [Ed.--Usually, Dad.] As we pulled over, we retrieved the donut and jack by the light of my Palm Pilot. Eventually we got back on the road, but we were pretty late at this point. Getting lost in Manhattan didn't help much, either. Oh, did I mention the traffic jam? On the way, we hit one of those traffic jams you only see in movies designed to keep Out-of-Towners away. In good New Yorker fashion, someone stuck in the mess flipped it the proverbial middle finger, pulled out, and started driving up the wrong side of the road. He started a small revolution; soon, others followed, and we figured, what the hell. This blatant moving violation actually gained us a few yards, until these lanes also jammed, and we once again came to a halt, now blocking the whole road. As we sat idling in a sea of cars, Emmett calmly rolled down his window and addressed the driver in the lane to his right. "Busy night, officer?" The policeman assured us, in bored tones and from the correct side of the road, that he simply didn't have enough tickets to handle all these cars. Who says there's no safety in numbers? We finally arrived at La Guardia about 2 hours late. As we started looking for Susan, Dave asked what she looked like. Simplest answer: "Look for the girl who's really, really pissed." We found Susan more unconscious than pissed. On the way home, I tried to explain why we were so late. And truth be told, it sounded like a collection of lame excuses when I said it, but the stories all seemed much more feasible as the car's donut went flat. The funniest thing about a having a flat tire in the middle of Harlem is that moment where, despite the sound of flapping rubber and the uneven ride, everyone in the car could give a fuck less about the wheel. Without the need for any encouragement whatsoever, Dave drove on, ensuring beyond a doubt that this donut had seen its last tour of duty. The Travel Gods decided that it was just downright mean to trap four white kids in a decidely hostile environment, and blessed us with an all-night garage after a few blocks. Emmett was the first out of the car as we pulled in, and immediately accosted the Rastafarian mechanic. "You sell tires here?" "Uh huh." "You sell tires for that car over there?" "Uh huh." "You busy right now?" "Uh huh." "I got a hundred bucks that says you're not..." Five minutes later, we were back on the road. The rest of the trip was considerably less eventful. The highlights of the conversation involved a metaphor named "Bad Dick" and the obligatory existential conversation over coffee at a late-night diner. Susan's plane landed at 11:30p.m.. We made back to my parent's house as the sun was rising. Overall, it was a pretty memorable night. I turned over the pictures of myself in elementary school and showed Susan into her room. Then I prepared to sleep myself. Considering my luck in the past 24 hours, preparations involved checking the bed for poisonous spiders, placing a fire extinguisher nearby, and doing some stretches, in case I pulled a muscle in my sleep. But I didn't count on the ninjas hiding in the closet... --ryan.