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Day 6: Visit with Cousins

Walmart, North Attleborough⁽¹⁾ MA.  October 2nd, 12:23 PM.  Stop in to get a new CR2 battery for Wifey’s APX camera.  The camera was a gift from Kodak in honour of Kid #2’s birth.  APX cameras are no longer made; the Advantix® film for them either has been or will soon cease production.  Walmart insists on selling these batteries as a two-pack, so it costs $10 to keep the camera going for just a little while longer.  Also buy a new pocket comb for $1 because my old one is missing half its teeth.  The receipt is hard to read because significant quantities of the ink have fallen off—damn those thermal printers!
 
⁽¹⁾ Wifey (who lived in this town during her teen years) prefers the less-pretentious spelling ”North Attleboro”.
⁽²⁾ The City of Attleboro does not use the ‘ugh’ suffix in their official name, perhaps just to be different from the adjacent Town of North Attleborough.

BIL #3’s house, Attleboro⁽²⁾ MA.  Besides BIL #3 and his wife SIL #2, also present are his children (Cousins #1, #2, and #3) as well as BIL #2 and his wife SIL #3.  (The younger brother married first, so his wife gets the lower SIL number.)  The big family news is that SIL #3 is going to be a grandma because Cousin #4 (who married last year) is now pregnant.  The presents from Toys Я Us (which we bought on day 3 with BIL #1’s money) are well-received by the cousins.  My children get gifts of cash from BIL #2, who is still working at Chrysler.  Kids #1 and #2 both say they will deposit the money into their savings accounts to prepare for when their laptop computers next need replacement (which just happened recently, so their accounts are depleted right now).
      Unlike previous visits, which involved take-out food, today’s lunch consists of spaghetti and meatballs, garlic bread, and salad.  SIL #2 proudly discusses how much money she saved while buying the ingredients.  Later, when we try to give to BIL #3’s family the McDonald’s game-tokens we picked up on day 2, they inexplicably don’t want them.  Eventually BIL #3 admits that they don’t eat at McDonald’s anymore because it costs too much.  It was then that I realized that ”economic Depression” is not just my trading stance on the stock market, but is also a real-world horror that my extended family is living through.  The sensible pundits are predicting another five years of this—but it could be twenty more years if the ultrarich insist on starting a Class War, which will get them all killed and leave the country without any business leaders until a new generation can grow up.  (Similar to Cambodia after Pol Pot?)
      Wifey takes some family photos with her camera.  Hopefully we’ll get them developed while the technology is still in practice. [October 25th: haven’t done that yet.]
      We pick up a package of clothing that Wifey had ordered from a website that refuses to ship to Canada, so she had them mail it to BIL #3’s house.  (There were also two other items shipped to BIL #3’s house that we picked up, but I have no receipts for those.)

Hawthorn Suites, Franklin MA.  For dinner we eat Chinese take-out, delivered to our hotel room.  Somehow the receipt didn’t get saved, but my credit-card statement shows a $24.56 charge for ”Bamboo House”.  Not the world’s best Chinese; we probably won’t be ordering from them again.

Day 7: Drive to New York

Hawthorn Suites: A bill for $720.45 was slipped under our door.  Yet another reason why we don’t drive to Massachusetts very often.

Stock market: The market is continuing to head downward.  Buy *more* TZA!

Wilbraham MA: All my life, every time I passed through Wilbraham on the Mass Pike, I made sure to take a look at the topiary that greets visitors: Welcome to Wilbraham, home of FRIENDLY’S ice cream!  The topiary is still there this time, even though Friendly’s filed for bankruptcy on October 2nd.  I don’t expect to see it again.

Gulf Express, Blandford MA.  Fill up the tank at a highway rest stop before entering New York, whose gas tax is higher.  12:47 PM, $3.57⁹/gallon, 10¾ gallons.

New Lams Chinese Kitchen, Amsterdam NY.  Found by Googling for “restaurants” while at the Pattersonville rest area on the New York Thruway.  Food less than wonderful; we won’t be back.
      The local Coke saleswoman came in and wanted to complain about cans of Pepsi being stored in the Coke-branded refrigerator.  She insisted on speaking English, but the Mom+Pop owners of the restaurant would have much preferred to discuss the matter in Chinese and their English-speaking son wasn’t in the restaurant at the time.
      Cash only; no receipt.  Had to borrow US cash from Kid #1’s gift from BIL #2 to pay for it.  [October 25th: still haven’t paid her back with loonies.]

Homewood Suites, Liverpool NY: Includes free dinner!
      Homewood is now owned by Hilton.  Our stay is complimentary because we have so many Hilton Rewards points, which were about to expire so we used them to stay here.  Actually, we didn’t have *quite* enough points so we had to pay $12 to buy more ”free” points to top up the account for a ”free” room.
      There was a middle-of-the-night false fire alarm, which the hotel blamed on ”the wind”, even though it was a windless night.  Apparently the hotel staff have been taught standard lies to tell to guests, regardless of weather.

Meanwhile, in Canada: The Township of Wilmot took $180 from my chequing account for property tax.  Union Gas took $88 for methane supply.  Rogers took $150 for cable+Internet; one of these days I’ve gotta call them and cut back on the extraneous cable channels we don’t even watch!

Day 8: Shopping & Return Home

Land’s End Inlet, Rochester NY.  This is an outlet store for clothing.  Total $184.56, net after $150.54 ”savings off original price”.  1:28 PM.

Applebee’s, Henrietta NY.  Within sight of Land’s End, but the receipt says it’s in a different town.  $61.93 at 2:46 PM.  The food seems about the same as always.  Some people think Applebee’s will be going bankrupt soon.

Wegman’s Supermarket, Rochester NY.  Within sight of Applebee’s and Land’s End.  The receipt is about 30 inches long!  We buy lots of stuff that is more expensive and/or not available in Canada.  The receipt shows that we presented 15 coupons (which Wifey had printed out from the Internet) for a total of $13.45 discount (plus $3.70 for ”double coupons” less than $1).  We also get $14.07 off for using our Wegman’s loyalty card.  Final total $485.52, which I think is the most we have ever spent at this store (it used to be more like $300).  The haul includes one box of Sunshine Cheez-Its.  Exit at 4:21 PM.
      At 3:48 PM, I use the Wegman’s food court wi-fi to check the stock market.  The market had been heading downward, but in the last half-hour of trading it decided to zoom up and erase all losses for the past two days.  Just as I log in to check on it, my emergency trailing stop activates and sells all my TZA shares.  Rats!  The shares bought on day 7 got sold for just about what I paid for them, while the shares bought on day 3 were sold for a 13% gain.  Not bad, but I’m still waiting for the Big Drop when I’ll make a 60% gain on TZA.  Some people say that ridiculous behaviour like a 5% average rise in all 6,000 stocks over a 40 minute period is indicative of market manipulation, but everyone knows the market is rigged so either play along or go home.  Automated trailing stops are mandatory!

Wegman’s, 4:36 PM.  After loading our purchases into the car and deciding how much room remains, I return to the store to buy more Cheez-Its.  16 more boxes for $35.00.

New York Thruway rest area, Clarence NY.  Bought a muffin at Tim Horton’s; don’t remember why.  $1.27 at 5:46 PM.  Bought gas: Sunoco, $3.76⁹/gallon, 14⅞ gallons, 5:51 PM.

Canadian border, Queenston ON.  We declare $1600 in purchases being imported.  Because there are four of us and we were gone for a week, this amount is small enough to avoid having to pay sales tax upon re-entry.  To verify our story, the border guard asks to see a receipt from a week ago.  Wifey thumbs through the receipts envelope and selects the one for Penzey’s on day 4, which is less than a week ago but the guard accepts it anyway and waives us through.

Our house, Wilmot ON.  Good night!

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Day 4: Science Museum

September 30th was one of two days of the trip set aside for museums, on the grounds that BIL #1 would have wanted us to have some fun with his money.

Discovery Museums, Acton MA.  Acton is an hour’s drive from our hotel, because this museum had been chosen back when we had been planning to stay further North and West of the same-old hotel we ended up going back to.  It began life as a 10-room Victorian mansion that one math teacher somehow found the money to buy and convert into a toddler’s museum 30 years ago.  It was so successful that they bought the adjacent parcel and built a science museum for older kids.  From the roadway, it’s just an old house with a big mailbox that happens to say ”Discovery Museums” on it; we missed it the first time and had to turn around.  Arrival time = 1:15 PM.  Admission = $42 for a family of four.
      The museum is overstaffed for the light Friday-afternoon crowd.  It is a little creepy: I try playing with a flashlight/magnifying glass/fossils exhibit, but the flashlight didn’t work; within seconds, a staffer shows up to replace the batteries.  I don’t really care about the fossils that much—no need to fix it just for me!
      There are magnets and pendula and watery playthings of various kinds.  Not bad for a science museum!  Then we proceed to the Victorian toddler’s museum to see whether there is anything not too babyish.  One room is filled with tracks and has balls to race down them!

Penzey’s Spices, Arlington MA.  4:32 PM, $114.80 for a selection of specialty spices that are hard to find in Kitchener; also includes a few gifts for (A Certain Furry) that I owe some gifts to.  I’ve previously mentioned the crayon drawing table that my children had used on previous trips—it’s gone now.

Rainforest Café, Burlington MA.  It’s Friday night at the Burlington Mall and the parking lot is packed!  The Salem Five Bank is having a grand opening for their new branch in this mall and is handing out free reusable shopping bags enblazoned with their logo.  I accept their gift, but it seems weird to me to be opening a bank when there’s a Depression in progress.  But sometimes it’s the most contrary business plans that turn out successfully.
      The café is showing its age.  Some of the animatronic animals have visible cracks in their latex, which reminds me of some of the decaying exhibits at Disneyworld.  The food is okay.  $102.64, 6:06 PM.

Bath & Body Works, Burlington Mall.  The receipt says we bought ”AB_1ZHNDGL_CP” for $1.50 (plus 6¼% sales tax).  The receipt notes that there is another 6¼% tax called ”MANL TAX” but the item is exempt from whatever that tax is (Google doesn’t help).  6:33 PM.

Bank of America, Burlington Mall, 6:39 PM.  I need some more cash to pay the tolls for the trip home.  The mall ATM is provided by Bank of America, about whom I have heard nothing but bad news these last few months.  Sometimes they act like they own the country (”We have a right to make a profit” says its CEO—no sir, you have the right to *try* to make a profit); other times they act like they’re already insolvent: shutting down their website and having customers arrested to prevent anyone from closing their accounts; transferring trillions in bad bets from their investment bank to their retail bank to force the government to insure those.
      But I just want to withdraw some cash from my Canadian chequing account; what could POSSIBLY go wrong?  I insert my card and press some buttons.  Out comes a $20 bill and a receipt that implies no withdrawal fee.  Later, my bank statement from TD Canada Trust says $21.50 was withdrawn, but it doesn’t say whether this was due to the exchange rate or payment of a hidden ATM fee.  (There is a US law against hidden fees, but Bank of America is above the law.)  Also, TD charged me a $3 foreign-ATM fee so my USD 20.00 withdrawal actually ended up costing CAD 24.50 which is an 18% markup.  In the past, TD has charged the $3 fee only once per trip, but I made only one withdrawal of cash during this trip.

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Day 2b: Rosh Hashanah

Hawthorne Suites: It is evening on September 28th.  We eat foods that Wifey prepared in advance (with some last-minute cooking using our room’s mini-kitchen).  The foods were transported frozen from Canada.  In some cases, such as the matzoh farfel, this food had actually been made in the USA and imported into Canada—then we bought it and exported it back!  Tasty and traditional.

(I think this is what TVTropes calls a PseudoCrisis, where episode 2a seems to end with a cliff-hanger but then episode 2b resolves it with a single paragraph.)

Day 3: Visit with Aunt

Last year I wrote a friends-only post in which I refered to my aunt as “A₁”.  It is a silly name for her, but then I am a silly dog.

Rosh Hashanah is one of the ”high holidays” on which no work is done and no business is conducted—just stay in the synogogue all day.  The observant Jew will not even pick up a pencil on this day.  Well, fuck that!

Stock market: The market is going down.  Buy TZA.

Toys Я Us, Bellingham MA.  Buy toys for the cousins, whom we will see on day 6.  Cousin #1 gets a kid’s chemistry set.  Cousin #2 gets a pogo stick.  Cousin #3 gets a Hello Kitty themed karaoke/radio plus some AAA batteries.  Total $78.58 at 12:56 PM.

Market Basket, Bellingham MA.  Buy a bottle of Juicy Juice® Berry, which used to be the juice that Kid #2 and I drank all the time when living in the States.  (Now we mainly drink President’s Choice 5-Berry, which is also raspberry-flavoured.)  This is to ensure that there is something suitable to drink at A₁’s house.  $2.99, 1:19 PM.

A₁’s house, Brookline MA.  More foods prepared in advance by Wifey and transported frozen from Canada.  It turns out that A₁ has plenty of beverages and so the juice wasn’t necessary.  Dinner conversation is pleasant, mainly because touchy subjects are avoided.  Examples: A₁’s morning at the synogogue, Kid #2’s lack of preparation for a Bar Mitzvah, a certain lawyer.
      At one point, it was necessary to run the garbage disposer.  A₁ went to the sink, stood out of her wheelchair on her one good leg, then used her one good arm to grab the stopper, insert it into the garbage disposer, and twist to turn it on, with no spare limbs for balance.  This is the first time I have seen her out of her wheelchair in at least ten years.
      Eventually we get to the subject of money.  It seems A₁ is expecting that I will not accept her ”no” answer to my request for a handout.  I tell her that I have other sources of money (though they are dwindling), but I have no other relatives with whom I am still on speaking terms, so that matters more.

Stop & Shop, Brookline MA,  8:45 PM.  Stop in at a local market to buy Jewish foods (on a high holiday!).  Disappointing: their Jewish selection is much reduced from prior years.  I guess the demographics of the neighbourhood are changing.  Buy some Hebrew National bologna for $7.20 because it’s not available in Canada and Kid #1 remembers it fondly.

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Day 1: Drive to New York

Drug store: September 27th, 11:12 AM.  Pick up prescription meds before the trip.  This was supposed to have been done last week, but a mix-up with the ℞ scrip required multiple faxes between pharmacist and physician to resolve.  Price was $438 for a 90-day supply.  The American price would have been an obscenity.
      I like this pharmacist because he remembers me from one visit to the next, although the downside is that he harangues me for not taking the pills as often as the doctor ordered.  I’m not entirely sure what his financial situation is, but I think he ran the store independently for 20 years before joining the PharmaSave Corporation.  Wikipedia says PharmaSave is owned by its franchisees.  Socialism!

Post office: Last pick-up of mail before the trip.  Two items of note:
  • PetroCanada/Certigard writes to announce that they are shutting down operations.  You see, now that Suncor has bought PetroCanada, they’ve decided to focus the PetroCanada® brand on gasoline sales, so the Certigard™ line of automotive repair shops no longer fits the corporate vision.  This letter is supposed to serve as an introduction to the owner of my newly-independent repair shop, whose name is Ghaleb Choujaa.  I’ve met Gabe; he seems to be doing a good job on hiring competant mechanics, but I’m not clear on whether he is still picking up a wrench himself.  I don’t know where he’s from, but Google suggests that the name ”Ghaleb” is associated with Lebanon.

  • Citizenship & Immigration Canada has returned our application for citizenship because some checkboxes were not ticked.  On the parents’ forms we ticked No for the question, ”Have you ever been a citizen of Canada?”, but on the kids’ forms we did not answer the question, ”Have your parents ever been citizens of Canada?”  The returned forms have the unanswered questions helpfully highlighted in yellow, along with a warning that if we do not fix this problem within 30 days, our application will be cancelled and the fee returned.  So, back to the post office to mail the forms with the newly-ticked boxes.  Didn’t get a receipt.

Stock market: Sold TNA because its uptrend seems to be over.  7% gain in two days!

US border customs, Lewiston NY.  Easiest border-crossing *ever*!  No snarling dogs, no mobs of blueshirt thugs.  I tell the officer that we’ll be staying for a week; he looks at our US passports and says, ”you can stay as long as you like!”  I guess the Terrorist Threat Level must be rather low right now.

New York Thruway: Paid tolls, no receipts.  Stopped at a rest area; no receipt.  Used their free wi-fi to check the stock market, but made no trades.

Herkimer, NY: Arrive at the Herkimer Motel.  We drop our stuff and go across the street to the Waterfront Grille, which is an Italian restaurant.  We’ve been here before.  Still just as good, I think.  $78.74 for a family dinner.  Exited at 7:17 PM.

Day 2a: Drive to Massachusetts

Herkimer Motel: $124.90 for one night in a one-bedroom suite with wi-fi, mini-kitchen, etc.  Separate queen-sized beds for each kid!

New York Thruway: More receiptless tolls.  At 12:20 PM we stop at the rest area in Guilderland, near Schenectady NY.  $68 for 18⅛ gallons of gasoline (that’s $3.73⁹/gallon).  It’s the ”Mobil” brand, which is now identical to ”Exxon” and ”Esso” and is basically the resurrected Standard Oil Corp. that Teddy Roosevelt was famous for busting up.  But, as we saw again with AT&T, merely splitting a megacorp into parts doesn’t kill it.  The undead pieces spend the rest of eternity ”encouraging and suggesting” (and bribing) the authorities to allow it to “improve efficiency and synergy” by reconstructing its demonic self.  Since people die and corporations don’t, eventually it wins.  Slavery is freedom!  I wonder whether the only way to truly get rid of a megacorp is to reslant the playing field so its business model no longer works.

Mass Pike: I’m old enough to remember when this road was called ”Pilgrim’s Turnpike”; now only the buckled-hat logo survives.  More receiptless tolls.

Blandford MA: 1:34 PM. Stop at a turnpike rest area for lunch.  Wifey and the kidlets go to McDonald’s, while I go to the ”Gulf Express” mini-mart for a pair of egg salad sandwiches.  Lunch total: $30.11.

Hawthorn Suites, Franklin MA.  Our home-away-from-home for the next five nights.  Hawthorn was owned by Hyatt during 1985-2008, but now its owner is Wyndham.  Maintenance is now spotty in places.  There’s always *something* wrong with the pool (this time they’re ”waiting for parts”).  But it’s well-located and much cheaper than most decent accommodations in Eastern Massachusetts.

Shaw’s/Osco, Franklin MA.  I think this used to be a “Star Market” (which bought the Osco pharmacy chain a long time ago).  Shaw’s has been on a tear, buying up all the other supermarket chains.  At 5:38 PM we pay $55.26 for 13 items, only some of which will be used immediately for Rosh Hashanah.

(Tune in next time for part 2b of our saga, where we celebrate the Jewish New Year 5772—in a hotel room!)
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So, I drove the family to Massachusetts and back.  And I said I would write a post about it.  But all I have is this pile of three dozen receipts.  How am I supposed to weave them into a story?  I guess I’ll start with a dedication:

This road trip was funded by a grant from the estate of BIL #1, who died last year of alcoholism after being thrown out of the Army for refusing yet another tour of duty in Iraq.  I consider him to be a war casualty.

Day 0: Preparation

Buy gas: It is 1:45 PM on September the 26th.  The big trip begins tomorrow.  I am at the recently-opened gas station down the street from my house, filling up my tank.  I buy 67⅔ litres of gasoline for $81 (that's about $4.80/gallon for Americans).  I am thinking that perhaps I shouldn’t buy so much gas, since it’s cheaper across the border in New York, but I don’t want to deal with the stations near the border — last time I had trouble with a gas pump that wouldn’t accept my American credit card because my address doesn’t have a zipcode.
      This gas station has a large sign that says “Mac’s” with an owl logo.  The pumps have logos for Shell Oil.  The receipt says it’s from Shell Canada.  Nowhere to be seen is the name ”Alimentation Couche-Tard”, which I think is the shadowy megacorp that actually owns this store.  They are apparently not very nice and perhaps the #OccupyMontreal people should keep them in mind.  Still, they were willing to spend lots of money to build this station in my little town, so I guess they have some redeeming social value, unlike the banks who refuse to open any branches here.
      The receipt also includes a store number, a gas pump serial number, a transaction number, a credit card approval number, a sales tax ID number, zzzzzzzz...  You know what?  I don’t give a shit about this crap!  Let’s jump forward to the middle of the story, because that’s just the kind of left-handed doggie that I am.

Day 5: Aquarium

October 1st is one of two days of our trip that were set aside for visiting museums, on the grounds that BIL #1 would have wanted us to have some fun with his money.

Drive to Boston: We are on our way to the New England Aquarium.  I paid some tolls on the Mass. Turnpike to get here, but didn’t get any receipts so fuck it.  I haven’t been to this aquarium in many years.  As we get closer to it, I vaguely remember that it has some sort of parking problem.  I pass by one garage that seems quite far away from the destination, but advertises $18 for aquarium parking.  I keep going in hopes that maybe something more convenient will show up.

Parking: We arrive at Central Wharf, which is a mob scene with wall-to-wall tourists.  Eventually, at 1 PM, we complete the maze of one-way streets to arrive at the parking garage that is adjacent to the aquarium.  The charge is $35.  Ah, now I remember!  The aquarium and the garage next door are enemies; it is the $18 garage that is friends with the aquarium (get your parking stub stamped for a discount).  The aquarium hates the $35 garage because it causes people to feel cheated before they even get in the door, which reduces the take from their gift shop, etc.  This has been allowed to go on for many years, so I presume the City of Boston is raking some off the top from the garage.  Mustn’t miss an opportunity to scalp the out-of-towners!  The whole thing stinks of corruption, which overpowers the slightly-fishy odour of the wharf.  As we exit from the garage, we are accosted by barkers trying to sell us overpriced tours on harbour boats.  For a moment I feel like I’m back in Mexico.  But we must soldier on because that’s what BIL #1 would have wanted.

Waiting in line: It is Saturday at a museum.  The line to get in is very long.  I generally avoid lines, figuring that anything *that* popular is probably overhyped.  But “visiting the aquarium” is our scheduled activity for the day, so we enter the line.  I feel like a sitting duck with a neon sign over my head saying, ”Attention all pickpockets!  The tourists are ⇒HERE⇐ and they can’t leave this line.”  But our time spent in line is uneventful.

* * * * *

I later learned that #OccupyBoston was holding a demonstration at South Station, about a mile away, but there was no evidence of any disturbance at Central Wharf.  I wish the occupiers well, but the situation is similar to the end of apartheid in South Africa: it is very, very difficult for the oppressors to climb off their pedestals, having told each other all their lives that they *must* remain on the pedestals because otherwise surely the unwashed masses will tear them limb from limb!  Well, no, actually the masses just want this horrid financial game to be over.  It is only after food becomes unaffordable that the violence will start.  There is still time for the top 0.01% of the ultrarich to do the right thing, but very little evidence so far that they can find it in their hearts to do so.

There is some confusion among the occupiers about who their enemies are.  While “the 1%” is a catchy phrase, most of the top 1% hates the ultrarich as much as the bottom 99% do.  Once all the wealth has been sucked out of the 99%, the vacuum will then be turned upon the 1% and probably many of them know that.  The real enemies are people whose names you have never heard of, who have fudged the public records so their loot appears to be spread out among a horde of fake nominees, because they believe that if their lives ever became public knowledge then of course they would be put to death immediately.  You might as well call them ”the Voldemorts”.

Of course, it is presumptuous of me to be speaking on behalf of the 1%.  I am not now, nor have I ever been, nor have I ever wanted to be, a member of that class.  At the peak of my career as a software engineer, my income was barely into the top 20% for Americans; it is much lower now.  I have always refused offers of promotion into management.  I have never kissed anyone’s ass (no, it’s not just a figure of speech) and I don’t intend to start now.  I have gotten into stock trading, not because it’s a popular pastime among my rich friends, but because my health is poor and it is one of the few jobs that truly doesn’t need anything more than a brain, a computer, some seed capital, and a whole lotta nerve.

The stock market is broken.  It has become a casino where the world’s wealth is gambled away.  It should be restored to its proper function.  But in the meantime, if you’re not playing, you’re losing.  The world’s corporations are taking the money from your pocket and putting it on the stock market.  If you want it back, that’s where you have to go.  To win, all one has to do is be smarter than the average bankster, which seems like it shouldn’t be that hard.  But the banksters have had many years to hone their game, while I am a newbie.

Many people have written their versions of ”What #OccupyWallStreet’s demands should be”.  Here is one from Shah Gilani, who is a member of the 1% and has been neck-deep in Wall Street for 30 years.  The language is a little stilted, and some of his demands are perhaps too lenient, but he seems to be roughly on the same page as the protesters outside his offices.  That’s a refrain I’ve heard from many sources: most of the people who work on Wall Street agree with the protesters, not with their own overlords.  They hate how corrupt their jobs have become.

* * * * *

Aquarium entrance: At 1:40 PM we finally got to the front of the line.  In the meantime, the rear of the line had become maybe 20% longer.  I pity the fool who joins it now!  Admission is only $91.80 for a family of four.  As soon as we get in, we immediately find ourselves at a penguin feeding show.  I really dislike the crowd-control language that the emcee is using, so I wait on the nearby benches until the show is over.

Lunch: At 2:20 PM we head to the cafeteria.  I get a salad.  Later I get the runs; hey Toto, maybe we really are back in Mexico?  The kids get chicken fingers and French fries, which are heavily coated with some bright orange powder of indeterminate origin and purpose (I suppose it *might* be food).  Only $31.51! McDonald’s would have been healthier and tastier.

Aquarium exhibits:  I liked the deep-sea tank, because it was a fake diorama.  They can’t actually replicate deep-sea conditions in an aquarium tank and it is very hard (or impossible) to capture deep-sea creatures alive and put them in tanks.  You can’t even taxidermy them because their bodies explode when you bring them to the surface.

Aquarium gift shop: The receipt says we bought a T-shirt for $25, but I don’t remember that because I waited outside.

LongHorn Steakhouse: In Franklin MA, just down the street a ways from our hotel.  We had stayed at this hotel in the past and thought this restaurant was worth revisiting.  Just over $100 for a family dinner with tax and tip.  I think the food was not as good as I remembered.  Perhaps the restaurant has had a change in management?  Wikipedia says the LongHorn chain was bought by the Olive Garden/Red Lobster people back in 2007.  Ah well; something’s gotta give in a “down” economy.  Receipt is dated 7:21 PM.

Stop & Shop supermarket: In same shopping plaza with LongHorn.  Just popping in for a few items while we’re here.  $22.35, 7:43 PM.

Buy more gas: Actually, this was 11 AM.  I am mentioning it out of order BECAUSE I CAN!  And because I wanted to start with the driving-to-Boston scene. Only $3.39⁹/gallon! Filled the tank with 17½ gallons.  Sunoco station in Franklin MA.

Jo-Ann’s Fabrics, Walpole MA.  Wifey bought $45.62 worth of sewing supplies.  We could probably obtain them in Canada, but Jo-Ann’s has a nice selection and we remember them fondly from our old life in New Jersey.  The receipt says we completed this purchase at 12:03PM, while the receipt from the $35 garage (27 miles away in Boston) says we entered there at precisely noon.  I think the garage is lying its head off.
      The Walpole Mall is just sad.  Around half the stores are out of business.

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