Adventures in Autistic Parenthood

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Ahoy There!:

Our tour guide in front of the HMS Bounty

Continuing on our nautical theme, one week after our tour of LST 325 and after hearing about an actual War of 1812 ship on Lake Erie I bullied everyone into the car at an ungodly (for Saturday) hour and trekked northward. Actually everyone was kind of eager to go which disappointed me for some reason. The drive up to Erie PA was a lot shorter than we'd thought it would be, and nearly on schedule (normally just wishful thinking around us) we were at the Erie Maritime Museum... along with half of NW Pennsylvania and a sprinkling of NE Ohio. It seems that not only was the Niagara there (it's a training ship and not always home) but seven other ships were there to be toured and ogled at. The Tall Ships Erie festival was on and there was even a Captain Jack Sparrow look-alike (sort of). But the real movie stars were the ships. There was the actual ship used in the making of the Marlon Brando version of 'Mutiny on the Bounty', and the Flagship Niagara itself was used in 'Pirates of the Caribbean, Curse of the Black Pearl' as the HMS Interceptor. You know, the one Depp and Bloom stole after they faked stealing the other one..... or something like that. There were way WAY too many people there for us to actually consider touring one of the boats, but that didn't seem to matter to anyone. Just seeing that many 'Tall Ships' was experience enough. So we wandered the dock and Dude was loving it, I didn't hear GameStop mentioned all afternoon, instead I kept hearing pirate references and Spongebob Squarepants quotes. I love the kid, but there are only so many crabbypatty references that one man should be subject to, don't you think?  Oh, by the way, the Bounty is for sale (has been for years) and not only is it a working ship, but the cannon are real so it's also a handy platform to conquer any small island you might come across. (just something to keep in mind for that 401K money)

Flagship Niagara

After we'd walked around all of the ships we went inside to tour the museum and almost walked right into a rigging demonstration on a full sized yard and mast in the museum. The demonstrators were all in period (1812) costumes, and they made a lot of nautical noise for a while. None of which I really understood, and I've sailed. Dave seemed fascinated by the Fresnel lens demonstration. We finally decided that we weren't becoming line-slugs and there was no way they were going to let me make Dude walk the plank, so we packed up and wandered off to new adventures.

When you live in a new area there always seems to be a place
that everyone is shocked that you haven't been to yet. (in Orlando there were a bunch) I mean people here were genuinely surprised that I continued to be able to walk, talk and breath air, let alone show my face in public since I hadn't been to Presque Isle.  Presque Isle isn't actually an island, in French the word for peninsula is presque-isle , or literally, almost an island. (thus endeth the lesson). Now let me tell you something: Lake Erie is HUGE. For one reason or another I've been through every state in the lower 48 seen both oceans and the Gulf more times than I could count and I'm still stunned every time I stand on the shore of one of the Lakes. Erie is almost the smallest of the bunch but still 
Calm down Dad, there's a guard rail
awesomely large. Dave, of course is fascinated by open water, it moves by itself, and it's always changing. There's also the element that he gets to make his dad paranoid about him leaning over the water. I'm sure that's the funnest part. The dock on the bay passage was nicely guard-railed, but the walk out to the Point Lighthouse was frighteningly open. Besides which, there was a brisk wind blowing and David is a pretty skinny kid. But he managed not to get blown into the water or become a kid-kite and the view was spectacular. We continued around the road (there's only one road) to the other lighthouse on the 'Isle' and that's pretty much where the problems started. You see it's not only a working lighthouse, but a park residence. So the only way to actually see the house is to walk several hundred yards down and then along the beach to an opening between the dunes. Dave had been pretty cool up to this point, he's got problems with his legs so extended periods of walking aren't the easiest things in the world for him so a trip across the sand was definitely not among his favorite things in the world at that moment. Besides which, I never let him get close enough to the water to fear his dropping in. But the real problems came when I'd taken my pictures and it was time to walk back to the car. I think he was prepared to camp out on the beach, or move into the lighthouse at that point rather than walk back through the sand. I'm almost certain I heard "So this is what a chick feels like" somewhere in there. But by the time we'd gotten home all had been forgiven. Mostly through the application of bread sticks and the Endless Pasta Bowl at the Olive Garden on the way back.

You mean I've got to walk back?

Monday, September 6, 2010

The P-Day Invasion:

This is Dave's patented posed-picture goofy face.

Dude loves going into Pittsburgh. I should have said 'Dude LOVES going into Pittsburgh! Just about every time we're on the highway and there's a sign that says 'Pittsburgh-? miles' he leans forward in his seat and yells, 'Pittsburgh! 7 miles!' or 'Pittsburgh exit only' or just, 'Going to the Pittsburgh!'. I actually think it's because we normally go through tunnels when we go to or through Pitt, because we don't actually go into the city very often, and it's almost never to do something that Dave likes to do (There are no GameStops or Wendy's in Downtown Pitt), but the other week we went into Da'Burgh twice because we'd heard that the city was being invaded by, of all things, WWII. It was also, incidentally being invaded by the NFL in the persons of the Carolina Panthers, but it was pre-season and we didn't much care.

What we cared about was the LST 325, normally based in Evansville Indiana as a floating museum, but recently driven upriver to Pittsburgh for a week. This 327 ft long 50ft wide (I looked it up) ship sailed up the Ohio River. They had tracking on the ship during the transit, and we (Raine, Dude, and I) took off at dusk on Wed night when it looked like it was in the Stratton OH locks, thinking that there would be no way to hide a 300 foot long boat in a 900 foot wide river, but we were wrong. There are these things called trees, and it seems that quite a few of them grow along waterways (go figure) mostly right between the highway and the river. Dave was enthusiastically helping from the backseat. I don't think he actually looked for the boat, but he was right there the whole time to tell us that we hadn't found it. The next day (Thursday) we were pretty sure we couldn't miss the ship as it had tied up in Pittsburgh. By this time Dave was more than enthusiastic about going to see 'the boat'. Mostly, I think because we'd already turned off his game and put his shoes on, so it was obvious we weren't going to leave him at home.

Alayna is taking pictures for a Senior Project so all four of us jumped in the car and trooped to Pittsburgh with our DPS (Dude Positioning System) in full working order and volume. (still can't find the mute button) Since the Stillers (Steelers) were playing we had to park on the wrong side of the river and walk to the ship. We walked along the river, committed a minor misdemeanor by climbing around a fence, walking along the edge of a closed park, then around another fence to get to the walkway over the river. (the next walkway was 1/2 mile back the way we'd come) Unfortunately for my blood pressure, Dave was fascinated by the water. There's no railing on the river walk because people actually tie up their boats along both sides of the river. So I was forever catching Dave sneaking around behind me to walk over to the edge to look down at the water 2 feet below. Not wanting him to fall in (after all I didn't want to get my camera wet) I'd grab his arm and drag him to my other side. I think he thought this was a cool game. Or he just likes seeing me aggravated, he is my son after all.

So as we're headed back to the car, there Alayna and I are, clicking away, taking more pictures than a busload of Japanese tourists, and Raine is dropping further and further behind. Nothing unusual there, there's no real reason for her to keep up. Usually we bolt ahead, and while we're focusing and framing or whatever the hell photo-bugs do, Raine will catch up and pass us. The 'catching up' part happened with less and less frequency as we got closer to the car. At the same time I notice that Dave had developed some strange gravity disease. I'm pretty sure he did anyway, because the further we went along the more I felt like I was towing him. Through oatmeal. (perhaps there's some strange oatmeal universe he partially phases into, I don't know) Raine and Dave were acting like they were on a Trail of Tears/Bataan Death March combo pack and Layna and I just looked at each other and shrugged. We couldn't figure it out. I totalled it up in my head later and I figure we walked something like 6 miles in the two hours we were there. That could be either a Trail of Tears or a Death March. Not both. They're just... wussies I guess.

On a strange, but kinda cool Western Keystone note: Since Heinz Field sits right next to the Ohio/Alegheny river(s) I ran into a whole new type of tailgater. Or nautical nutjobs, as I like to call them. This friendly but fanatic group ties up, sometimes three or four houseboats deep, for about half a mile along the bank of the North Shore side of the river. They tie up their large (insert incredibly expensive) houseboats at the walk side, fire up their gennies, plug in their 42 inch plasma tv's (I counted 4) and watch the game.... on tv... 600 yards away from the stadium. Then, all boozed up they play bumper-boats all the way back to their home berth. The only guy I actually sort of understood was the one that was riding up and down the walkway on a little cooler/scooter. I so wanted to push him in the river and swipe that thing, but there were too many people around.... and Raine told me I couldn't have one unless she got to ride it back to the car... oh well, better luck next time.

Raine, Dave and I did go back Saturday when the boat was open. We walked all around the boat after waiting in a line that was twice as long as the (327 foot long) ship, past the really creepy statue of Mr. Rogers (he's from here, did you know that?). It was kind of a 'here the crap is, keep the line moving' kind of a tour, but it was actually pretty cool walking around just about the only working reminder of D-Day. There were 55 gallon drums instead of depth charges, and Raine did bug the guy in the crew galley trying to get him to serve us lunch (it was a long line), but all in all it was fun. The crew were knowledgeable and friendly, some of the local historical nuts brought their own vehicles (to assist in the invasion), one guy had just finished restoring a Vietnam-era PBR (Patrol Boat-River) the day before the LST passed and joined the trip. And once I fed everyone there were no (further) complaints.