My coffee tastes weird this morning.
Not because there’s anything wrong with the brew or the filter or the water. It’s just that, it didn’t come from Tara’s coffeemaker. Little things like that are hard to get used to when you’ve just returned from an amazing trip with the person you love. Don’t even get me started on sleeping alone on the wrong side of the bed last night…
But we’ll see each other again in 15 days. That ain’t bad. And she’s moving out of her house this weekend, the first crucial step toward coming out here. Her plan is to move to Vancouver in March, depending on her job search. She’ll be moving in with me. Just further proof that 2012 is going to rock. We certainly welcomed it in on a high note.
The whole trip was incredible.
Hey Good Lookin’, What’cha Got Cookin’?
Tuesday evening – 8 whole days ago already – I finally got to cook a meal for Tara. I suppose you could technically say I did on Thanksgiving, but that was more a full-blown feast for a bunch of people. This was an intimate candlelit dinner complete with wine (we polished off two bottles together) and music. I made chicken cacciatore, and she praised my culinary abilities. It was a pretty romantic night, that’s for sure.
Good food was definitely a theme for the trip. Tara spoiled me with some pretty tasty meals; Wednesday, she made a chicken and broccoli “braid” incorporating a lattice-like pattern of crescent dough. The whole thing was to die for. Then there were the redneck egg rolls and sesame noodles, the pot roast, the meatballs for the potluck…man alive. I’m so glad I’m dating somebody who knows how to cook. That hasn’t always been the case, and as much as I like to get busy with pots and pans, I don’t want to do that every night, ya know?
Tara ended up taking Thursday and Friday off from work. Fantastic, right? Well, yeah…except for the fact that she worked me like a bitch that first day. We spent a good twelve hours – minus breaks – painting her bedroom in preparation for the renters who will be moving into her house in a few days. It wouldn’t have been so bad, but she wanted taupe walls and a white trim; great color scheme, but a lot of work blending the two. The truth is, even though we were both wiped out by the end of the day, I still enjoyed myself. We had my iPod hooked up to her stereo and listened to good music, and despite our typical two-hour phone conversations every night, still managed to come up with some great conversation topics. Besides, I’d rather spend a day cooped up in a room together painting than 840 miles apart. We drove into Ely for lunch at the All Aboard Inn, a bed-and-breakfast place by the railroad depot that is owned by her friend Tricia. Had delicious stuffed burgers and got to chat with the proprietor for a bit. We finally finished for the day around 10 PM, and relaxed on the couch with some mindless television to keep us occupied. And then we crashed.
Mr. & Mrs. Social
Friday was better. After relaxing with coffee and old game shows in the morning – Gene Rayburn, R.I.P.! – we finished up the painting, then headed into town. Tara’s cousin’s wife, Andria, was coming down for a visit with her daughter Addison, and we met up at a Mexican restaurant for lunch. After a wonderful margarita and a uniquely delicious cabbage salsa we returned to Tara’s house, where we sat around her kitchen table talking, drinking and playing cards. Jessie and Arturo (sister and sister’s boyfriend) joined us, followed by Tyler (her coworker) and his girlfriend, Emily. Tara made those redneck egg rolls and sesame noodles I mentioned earlier. They were daaamn good, and we all scarfed them down. The drinking continued, and we played Apples To Apples for awhile before graduating to King’s Cup, a – surprise! – drinking game. We wound down by watching Drop Dead Fred on Tara’s VCR. No, I didn’t misspell “DVD player” in case you were wondering. Dria and Addison stayed the night, and Arturo crashed on the couch until 4 AM. The entire evening was a blast. I’m used to spending quiet evenings alone half the time; playing Mr. and Mrs. Social for a change was lots of fun. I’d say our first dinner party as a couple was a big success.
Saturday morning we had coffee and doughnuts and sat around the living room talking with Dria until she had to leave for the drive back to Elko around noon. That evening we entertained again, having Tara’s friends Jessica and Bill over for dinner. The pot roast, mashed potatoes, steamed carrots and homemade rolls were delicious.
They left around 8 PM, and then it was time to go out and PARTY!
10, 9, 8, 7…
I already wrote about how dull and depressing my last New Year’s Eve was. Saturday night was the complete opposite! Our first stop was Racks Bar & Grill, where we met up with Tara’s dad, aunt and uncle, and a couple of others. We had a drink and chatted for awhile, then drove to the Bristlecone Convention Center for the 105th annual Fireman’s Ball. I was a little leery at first when we sat down and the DJ started playing Boot Scootin’ Boogie. I asked Tara when we might hear a Nirvana song, and she laughed. But with plenty of drinks to keep us fueled – I started with gin and tonics and switched to cranberry juice and malibu rum halfway through – plus good conversation, visiting with Tara’s friend Mary, and hanging out with her family, we had a really good time. The music didn’t improve all that much, unless you’re really into Def Leppard and Sir Mix-a-Lot and Big & Rich, but they did throw in some Lady Gaga to keep things current. Tara even got me out on the dance floor for a bit. It’s amazing what you’ll do when you’re too drunk to care. Much sooner than expected, it was one minute until midnight. The DJ counted down the last seconds, balloons dropped from the ceiling, and I had an amazing stroke-of-midnight kiss to welcome in 2012. Ahh…now, that is the proper way to usher in a new year! Especially one so full of promise.
This year is going to rock.
We stayed for another hour, and then walked across the street to the Hotel Nevada, where Mary joined us for a very early breakfast. Chicken fried steak and eggs are the perfect way to stave off a hangover, it turns out. We dropped Mary off and then headed home, falling into bed around 3:30 AM.
Best New Year’s Eve ever.
Sunday morning we were both feeling the effects of the previous night, though I wasn’t too terribly bothered. My stomach felt a little queasy, but at least I didn’t suffer from a headache. Every New Year’s Day Tara’s family gets together for a potluck, and this year the festivities were held at her Uncle Ward’s ranch about an hour south of Ely. We arrived around 2:30, and I was blown away by the size of this place. It’s 330 acres, and I’ve gotta tell you, that’s a lot of land. Ward has cows, chickens, and peacocks, and several ponds filled with trout and sturgeon. Set against the backdrop of the Nevada mountains, the place is stunning. The house itself is a real man cave, complete with the racks of many animals Ward has hunted over the years. Moose, coyote, elk, bobcat, all mounted to the wall. Dria insisted their eyes were following her around the room. I sort of got the same impression myself.
Tara brought meatballs cooked with beer, brown sugar and onion soup mix, as well as deviled eggs. That was just the tip of the iceberg; there were all sorts of appetizers, in addition to ham, turkey, and a 20-lb. yellowfin tuna that had been buried and cooked for hours. The food was amazing, and I enjoyed meeting so many of her family members.
We were back home by 8 PM, and enjoyed a mellow evening at her place. My last night in her house, as a matter of fact. Ever. Which is sort of bittersweet but at the same time, exciting.
Out Of This World
Monday morning we awoke early. I was excited for our trip south. We were headed for Vegas, baby! I was there once before, but it hardly counts; I was 17 and confined to Circus Circus. Not very exciting, and none of the hip new casinos or resorts were around then. We grabbed breakfast to go and hit the road a little after 8:00. Soon we found ourselves on the Extraterrestrial Highway, a swath of Nevada State Route 375 that passes by Area 51 and has been the site of many UFO reports over the years. We stopped in Rachel for cocktails at the Little Ale’Inn, a bar and grill that caters to the UFO crowd with whimsically cheesy decor and, of course, a gift shop. The place looked familiar to me as soon as we walked in, and I quickly realized they had filmed a scene from the movie Paul there. After chatting with the female bartender-slash-owner, who was quite the character, and buying a few souvenirs we were back on the road, eventually hitting Vegas about 2:30. We stopped for lunch at Raising Cane’s, the chicken finger joint I loved so much in Nebraska, before checking into our suite at the Mandalay Bay Resort. Tara had found an excellent deal online, and we ended up paying about $25 each after taking advantage of a coupon she had. Viva Las Vegas!
The hotel was gorgeous, and our room very nice. Especially the jetted jacuzzi tub. I was eager to walk The Strip, so we headed out, visiting New York, New York first, before ending up at the Bellagio, where I made a $50 donation to the City Of Las Vegas. Damn slots! Tara, at least, came out slightly ahead. Oh well, it was fun to actually gamble in Las Vegas. Darkness had fallen when we left, and we stopped to enjoy the Bellagio Fountains before making the trip back to the room. I was overwhelmed by the glitz and glamour of Vegas, and the massive throngs of people walking the streets, even on a Monday night. Despite that, I loved it! We drove out to Henderson to meet up with Tara’s sister Maggie and her friends Betsy and Josh for a late dinner and cocktails before finally returning to our suite. What a busy and fun day, the only downer being that it was our 9th and final night together.
Tuesday we slept in until 7:15, but we had places to go and things to do before that dreaded trip to the airport. After grabbing coffee and scones at Starbucks we bought tickets for the Mandalay Bay Shark Reef, and the Titanic and Bodies exhibits at the Luxor. We toured the aquarium and then, on the way back to the room as we were stepping onto the elevator, a black man with a sideways baseball cap and a large clock around his neck got on. Tara was practically jumping up and down with excitement when she realized it was none other than Flavor Flav, the 80s rap star and member of Public Enemy. I don’t think anybody else on the elevator even knew who he was! We checked out of the room and hit the Luxor for the other two exhibits. Loved them both; Titanic was filled with artifacts from the doomed ship, and Bodies contained the preserved remains of actual cadavers, and was very informative. We stopped at Smashburger for lunch, and then…sigh…made our way to the airport.
Those goodbyes just plain suck.
We Belong Together
I came to a realization during this trip: Tara and I belong together.
That may not seem like an eye-opening statement, but when it comes to relationships there’s a difference between merely being together and belonging. I truly feel like we were meant to be, and our nine days together cemented that. Spending nine days in each other’s company was the perfect litmus test for what it will be like living together, and not only did we not get sick of each other, but we had an amazing time and didn’t want the visit to end. I felt comfortable around her friends and family, and accepted by everybody. We have a wonderful relationship that has blossomed and grown quickly, and I have no doubt it’s the inevitable culmination of our long and enduring friendship. I am eternally grateful that we took a chance on this, because I simply cannot imagine life without her. This feels right in a way that nothing else has, and on the flip side, being apart again like we are now just feels wrong.
So, bring it on, 2012! I’ve never been so excited for a particular year.