November 23, 2003
5th Annual Pats List Trip
"Hoe-Down in H-Town"
Psyched to head down to Houston for the Annual List Road Trip, Big Al and I were ready for action.. at least we thought we were ready. Overlooking a minor detail such as pulling out the button on the alarm after setting it to go off at 3:00 AM, I woke up on my own at "work time" of 5:00AM. We headed out to the airport optimistic about catching the next flight and seeing our buds after lunch. Each time we called Delta however, we were teased by available seats on the 12:15 and 3:15 flights only to be told that they had filled by the time we were allowed to book three hours prior to take off.... So, we played the waiting game and held out for our last great hope of a 5:35 departure. I made up my mind not to dwell on "what ifs" and "I should haves" and opted to complete a dozen crossword puzzles instead. (Those that know me well will be very proud of me on that front as they know that once my wheels get spinning... I can drive myself crazy...) In fact, I was calm and upbeat for the entire day until I picked up the phone to check... my heart started beating furiously and didn't stop until I got confirmation that we were good to go.
With tickets in hand, we immediately checked in and headed to TGIFridays where we were finally able to relax... Sam's Winter never tasted so fine! Noticing our Pats gear, a couple of cool fans, Jimmy and Timmy scoped us out and joined us for some Pats talk, cocktails, and lots of laughs. Time flew and we were finally on board and on our way! Although we thought we would miss the big bash at Craig's house due to our late arrival, we were fortunate to have our good buddy and road warrior Steve come through and pick us up at the airport at 10:45PM. So, after checking into our hotel, we headed over to the party along with fellow teacher, Kim, whom Steve met at training camp this summer and invited to join the list.
Craig was the perfect host and left no detail undone. From the Tex-Mex spread to the open bar, keg of Sam Adams, and 3 Game to Glory playing in the background, we travel weary fans had found the perfect haven in the Lone Star State to regroup with friends old and new. Major PROPS for organizing the tickets, tailgate and other details as well.... (And of course, the offer of crash space in his pad this coming February will surely be accepted when we make our return trek to the Big Dance!)
After catching just a few hours sleep, Al and I began Saturday morning with our usual visit to the fitness center, and true to form, Willie McGinest Sr. greeted us bright and early. It was great to see him and Joyce again and our group spent quite a bit of time with them over the course of the weekend. Awaiting the arrival of Alan and Ernie from the west coast, we opted out of hitting Ted Johnson's parents' restaurant The Rib Tickler, with Zip, Jose and Ed, and spent the afternoon watching college football in the lounge with Willie's folks, Steve, Bama, Deborah and Cecil along with a host of other folks who straggled in. Bloody Mary's started us off nicely, and as I alternated with my favorite club soda with lime, Deborah and I decided "what to drink next" and eventually moved on to Cosmopolitans. Later, "Uncle Monty" and "Uncle Jacob" took turns riding up and down the glass elevator with Madelyn allowing Kendra and Darren time to enjoy a cocktail or two as well.
Pats fans returned from various day trip destinations and awaited the arrival of the team bus. I finally got to hook up with Matt Chatham's parents in person after playing phone tag in Gillette earlier in the season. The team arrived and true to form, Tedy B. was wearing his game face. Al shook hands with Lonie and said hello to Bobby Hamilton as he arrived but soon moved out of the way as a crowd was forming. Most folks were cool and just wanted to wish the boys well, but of course, two Ebay Sharks were in the house loaded with duffle bags full of stuff. Veterans knew the gig and generally refused to sign but many of the rookies obliged. (Why they weren't tossed outside is beyond me...) We spent the evening hanging around crowded lobby and sunken lounge and I accomplished three of my goals for the evening; introducing Zip to Lonie and Bobby and meeting Jeff in person.
The lobby/lounge area set up was perfect and quite a few guys hung around with family. TJ was there and talked to his two biggest fans, Erdoboy and Lisa. She was out of her mind when Al hooked her up with a picture and jersey signing... (Ah, I remember the excitement of my very first TB encounter... seems so long ago!) We met his brother and kids, Adam was walking around with his baby son, Bobby came down for a while, Ty spent quite a bit of time there (much to Kim's delight!), Big Sey was in the house and of course Willie hung out with his fam. Joyce got a big laugh out of her son's inquiry "What do you know about Hpnotiq, girl?" There were others that came and went and sure enough, list buds knew who to ask for instant identifications. (I said hello and welcome back to Dedric Ward, gave Rodney a good laugh when I mis-spoke, saw SSC regulars Antowain Smith and Patrick Pass, and of course talked to Lonie and Bobby.) As usual, Tedy B. and most of the team were nowhere to be seen. Jacob was happy to be introduced to the PFW guys and fellow media folk. Cecil even took a picture with his twin, RAC. Not surprisingly, Ernie made his big impression and declared, "I'm not fooling around here, I want to start straight at the top! I'm going over to talk to the man who signs the paychecks!" Sure enough he hooked up with Mr. Kraft who was quite cordial and willing to talk. I also spent a bit of time with him and told him about the impact that Tedy and Lonie's visits had on my kids. He was genuinely glad to hear it and proceeded to ask me questions then told me about an upcoming Rhode Island day.
Once the boys went to bed, we shared a Bruschi Brew then headed out to The Flying Saucer for a nightcap. Downtown Houston is one Dead place! The weather was beautiful though ... and it felt great to walk in short sleeves at 11:00 at night. The four classmates, Al, Ernie, Al and I, called it an early night and left the real party animals... (Zip, Monty, Jose... etc.) who apparently continued partying long after we were asleep.
Sunday morning brought an early run, lots of coffee, and a rendezvous in the lobby decked out in our Pats gear. We hung out while the boys straggled to their busses and we waited for our departure. We said hello and good luck to TBC as he was leaving and marveled at just how HUGE Mt. Washington really is! The McGinest crew joined us on our bus and are now honorary list buds.... After a short ride, and numerous Ernie phone calls, we arrived at Reliant, and unfortunately split to attend separate tailgate tents because of ticket locales.... On the way in, Ernie and Al declared the tailgate a "success already" when they saddled up to some local beauties! The food was good, although not at all like our usual New England pre-game fare. Having promised Doug from Murphy's Patriots a visit, we set off in search of his tailgate. Naturally, the sky opened up in full force while we were traipsing across the lots... Determined to not leave until we reached our goal, we finally found him and enjoyed his hospitality while we took shelter under his tent. After partaking in his traditional pre-game Irish toast, we optimistically headed for the stadium ready to rumble.
Reliant proved to be a beautiful venue and with the retractable roof closed, the crowd was LOUD even though it wasn't full. We had seats in the upper deck but our 50 yard line vantage point was fine. Actually, there were many Pats fans in our section, and "It's another Patriots..... FIRST DOWN!" could be heard in unison all afternoon. The numbers on the board should have led to a blowout but turnovers and missed opportunities provided us with a nail biter of a game. I took full responsibility and apologized profusely to Kirk for Adam's missed field goals as I should never have mentioned that he'd never missed one indoors....ever! Overtime felt like Miami all over again.... gosh my heart couldn't take it (and I was genuinely worried about my Southern Gent Bama and his ticker...) Big Al had camera ready, I noticed the time on the clock, 12:tedyb, just as Adam was about to seal the game... and... OMG.... BLOCKED! (sweet Jesus...I can't take this...) later, Big Willie came up huge then Big Al finally got the pic he needed, right through the uprights! Pats win 23-20, the Jammi Jinx is broken, Murphy's Curse is no more, and my boys are 9-2! It was a great feeling "woohooing" to each other all the way down the ramps.... right Cecil?!
Post game brought at least a 30 degree drop in temperature and a wild wind. We headed back to the bus, drank champagne and many indulged in victory cigars. Later that night we shared a nice dinner, hours of conversation and reminiscing and yet more second hand cigar smoke in the hotel lounge area. Steve Buckley popped over for a bit, was amazed at Zip's story and the fact that we all knew each other from the internet. A mysterious Michael Jackson bought the entire lounge a drink.... and we called it a night. Al crashed and I naturally went online for awhile...
On Monday, we headed to the airport with Bama, John, and Mike, goofed on old traditions like hot dogs, beans, and brown bread on Saturday nights, and fish and chips on corrugated cardboard plates, and were anxious to get home to our kids. Unfortunately, our 9:45AM flight was late getting in because it needed to be de-iced in Cincinnati so we missed our connection to Providence. Rather than getting home at 3:30 in the afternoon, we hung around the airport until 7:00PM and I didn't get to kiss my children until 10:30 that night! Despite logging mucho hours in airports on both legs of our trip, the Hoe-down was a huge success!! Here's looking forward to a repeat in nine weeks....
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