Thursday, June 5, 2008

Chi-town!

Post by: Beth

This past weekend, we had planned to take a trip to Chicago to see one of my best friends, Jenny, and also some of Raja's friends from business school. We left Friday evening immediately after work and had plans to arrive there about 11pm Friday night. Some of you may have heard that there were several tornadoes Friday evening in Springfield, IL... If you did, you heard about what Raja and I encountered on our drive to Chicago. We literally got stuck between 2 tornadoes. On the highway. Between humongous fields. With the only exit 8 miles away.

Oh yeah, and the exit 8 miles away?? That's where the tornado in front of us was.

Seriously.. never been so scared. Actually saw a funnel cloud. Called my parents to tell them I might be about to die in a tornado. Think very large hail, crazy flashes of lightning, black clouds, fields, REALLY LOUD tornado warning sirens, torrential downpours, black skies, and Raja saying "It's okay sweetheart.. just put your shoes on and try to stay real calm.. as calm as you can" (I usually ride in the car w/out my shoes on if they're heels) and me thinking "OMG.. i'm going to have to run to a ditch and lie down.. this is why he wants to put my shoes on."

Luckily, we made it out of it.. After the radio station said the tornado was gone from Divernon, IL (the small town at the exit 8 miles away) we drove to that exit (not an easy drive for Raja.. I'm crying hysterically, the wind is blowing us all over the highway, we can barely see the road at all, and I keep screaming everytime lightning flashes close to us) , got off and took shelter in a gas station with a bunch of other people who were doing the same thing. Raja called his brother and got him to check the radar to see when it would pass, and he told us when it was safe to finally leave the gas station, about 45 minutes later.

FINALLY we made it to Chicago... we're both still a bit rattled, but we arrived and my friend Jenny was waiting for us at the nice hour of midnight. We pretty much went straight to bed and got up in the late morning to start out trek to downtown Chicago in search of Chicago-style pizza.

And we found it. Jenny knew of this restaurant that served the most unique pizzas I've ever seen. They were basically pies made out of dough that had the filling inside. The waitress set the pie down upside down, placed a small glass bowl on the bottom, and cut around the bowl in order to create a hole in the middle so you could eat the filling out of the center. They also served this REALLY yummy flatbread with spices all over it. Here you can see one of the pizzas, and the big piece of flatbread.






After eating, we took some time to walk around downtown Chicago and see the sights. I took lots of pictures because it was GORGEOUS outside that day.





Next up, Raja wanted to get a haircut an old-fashioned style barber shop downtown. He had one in New York and misses it dearly now, so we took advantage of the city so he could get his hair cut. While he did that, Jenny and I visited the nail salon. :)


The rest of the afternoon was spent at the pool... One of Raja's friends in Chicago, Chris, lives right downtown and was nice enough to invite us to come lay out on such a pretty day. I took some great photos of the city while we were driving to his apartment building.







That night, we'd planned to go out downtown, so we went back to Chris's apartment to meet before we left to go out. His balcony has an amazing view of the city, so Jenny and I took her camera up there to take some night photos. In the second picture, that tall building you see is actually one of Trump's buildings that's being constructed.





We had a great time out that night... Chicago is a really fun town, and it was great for Raja to see his friends, and I got to talk with Jenny for a whole uninterrupted night. (That never happens since we live so far apart!) By the time we popped into the last bar, Jenny's feel hurt really badly, I'd tried to convince her to let me trade heels with her (I wear a size and a half smaller than her), and we'd laughed ALOT. The night ended with Raja hailing a cab designed for wheelchairs, then somehow deciding that this was great because he had so much leg room. In his words, "handicapped people have all the luck." I'm pretty sure he's rethought the irrational statement he made at 4am, but still... pretty funny at the time.
The next morning, we slept in a bit then Jenny, Raja & I went to Red Robin for lunch before Raja & I started the drive home. All in all, we had a GREAT weekend in Chicago and it was so much fun to see our friends. I hope you enjoyed our little tour-by-pictures of our trip. :)
Next up for this weekend: Going home for Raja's 10 year reunion! We'll let you know how it goes!

Memorial Day Fun

Post by: Beth

So Memorial Day weekend, Raja's parents and brother got to come visit for the long holiday. We had a great time going around the city w/them, despite the fact that the weather was AWFUL. I learned a few things that weekend:



1) Raja's father REAAALLLY likes "MUS-eems"

2) Raja's brother a) will stop at nothing to visit ice cream shoppes
and b) could have a compulsive gambling problem if he wasn't so smart

3) Raja's mom is mighty scared of thunderstorm and flash flood warnings

4) Why Raja was consistently late for every single date we ever had the entire time he lived at
home with his family in Birmingham.


As for the first lesson, Raja's dad has this apparently insatiable love for museum. A lot of the museums in STL are free (read: aka, crappy), and it was quite difficult to drag Raja's dad out of the "Missouri History Museum." (Yes... it's as bad as it sounds.) The Science Center fared a bit better for us.. Think McWane Center and you pretty much have the idea, except the Science Center is older (read: aka, falling apart in some areas). Again, I'm pretty sure it was love at first sight for Mr. G. It basically meant that Rishi and Raja would be up front debating some (unknown and un-understandable to anyone besides themselves) fact they read in the Science Center, Raja's mom and I would be 12 feet behind discussing where she got her hair cut and how she decided to chop 6+ inches off, and Mr. Gupta would be lost somewhere behind us exploring yet another 'fascinating' exhibit the 45 year old museum had to offer. Quite funny.. I kept asking "Hey.. Where's Mr Gupta now??" and Mrs Gupta would respond with "I have no idea this time."


On Saturday night, we decided to take Raja's family to Ted Drewe's, which is a famous custard shoppe in STL. No matter what time of day/night, or what time of year, you will ALWAYS find a line outside this landmark. They have everything you can imagine. Want a brownie w/fudge, caramel, marshmallow cream, AND peanut butter? "Why, yes.. We have that.. It's actually #346 on our menu board." "Oh goody.. Can I please get that, but half the marshmallow cream and twice the fudge?" "Oh of course.. That's actually our special this week.. You can get that in a larger size for 40% less! And where is your accent from, by the way??" You get the picture. So Raja's brother, Rishi, has a serious sweet tooth. The guy chose a brownie for our breakfast at Panera that morning. Raja thought it would be such a great treat for his brother, so after dinner at a yummy Italian restaurant, Zia's on The Hill, we set off on our mission to give his family Ted Drewe's custard. We're happily riding along in the car, and all of a sudden, a terrible thunderstorm sets in. Big huge bolts of lightning start slashing the sky, Raja can't see the road (he says he can but I know he can't), and Mrs. Gupta is starting to look pretty nervous. The rain is coming down super hard, and the windshield wipers are no match for this. It's pretty bad outside... St. Louis has had a time lately with flash flooding and alot of people end up in pretty dangerous situations because 6 inches of water comes out of nowhere during this time of year. The sky is black and we start debating if we should continue on to Ted Drewe's, pull over, or head back to downtown. Raja's vote is to pull over and wait it out.. Mr Gupta seems pretty on-the-fence... Mrs Gupta thinks we should head back towards downtown, and I'm about to side w/her... Rishi, however, thinks we should continue on our way to Ted Drewe's. Yes.. in the lightning storm, flash flooding, and inability to see any part of the road, Rishi still wants ice cream. Finally, Mrs Gupta convinces Rishi that at the very least, we should pull over. So we pull over in a gas station and wait for the storm to pass us.... It's still a bit scary to see the lightning because it streaks across the sky and seriously almost touches the ground, but we do just fine, and eventually we're able to make it back downtown. Yes, Ted Drewe's must wait, but we're all feeling less nervous as we are in a safe area now and the storm has passed.


The next morning, we did brunch at a local restaurant called Roosters. Mr. Gupta ordered chocolate milk which was hilarious only because his rationale was "What?? I saw they had milk on the menu. Then I saw they had chocolate milk and I thought 'Hey.. why have regular milk when I can have chocolate milk?' " Then we were off to the mall because it was, again, raining, and we wanted to wait for it to pass over. Raja's family wanted to see the zoo, and we thought that was a great idea b/c we've heard wonderful things about the zoo here. I had plans to go to a friend's BBQ for the Mem Day Weekend, so I went one way and they went the other towards the zoo. Raja said it was really neat and they saw tigers, elephants, wolves, lepers, penguins, and even an ANTEATER! My BBQ was lots of fun also and I got to hang out with work friends and meet some new people. After that, we met back up for dinner at an Indian restaurant in the area.


After dinner, we went to the casino.. Raja and his brother played roulette and craps, and I promise you that it seemed to be the game plan to not quit playing until they had no money left. Literally, no money left. They'd be up... and it just didn't seem quite as satisfactory to them to walk away with more money than it did to keep playing until they had nothing. I'll never understand, but it was exciting to see them win when they did. :) We finally left the casino that night, and the next morning we went to the Arch area which was really neat. Again, Mr. Gupta disappeared into a casino and we couldn't find him, but hey.. this is just how it goes at this point. ;)


So after the Arch, it was time for the Guptas to start their trip home. We had a great weekend with them, eating out, shopping, sightseeing, and even all the "MUS-eems." We were glad they got to visit.


Later Monday, after they left, Raja and I went over to Sharry's house and had a cookout with her and her family. We have a few pictures from that, luckily. I will say that I didn't have time to dry my hair between the Guptas' departure and the start of the cookout, so excuse the curly hair. ;) We had such a fun time playing with them and their 2 energetic little boy (Holden & Cullen.. I'm not sure who had the most fun with Nerf gun: me of them!) and we also got to play their Wii gaming system! Raja and Vern played some violent shooting game that they seemed to enjoy quite a bit, so you can see photos of that. The video clip is of me playing the Wii on a game that you actually have to simulate hoola-hooping in. The funny part is I'm not sure Sharry actually meant to start recording.. You can hear her say "Oh it's recording!" but I was too far into the game to stop at that point. ;) All in all, the video and pictures are lots fun and we had a great time with them and their kiddos. We hope you all had a great Mem Day Weekend also!





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