Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Carter-Hemphill Family Reunion 2008

What's up family!

I just returned from Laurel, Maryland where I had accompanied my mom, dad & sister to a family reunion for the Carter-Hemphill family. My great grandmother was a Carter and I had never met this branch of my family tree before, neither had my mom and we were all excited at the prospect of meeting new family members.

The trip started off for me on a sort of weird note - lol...you KNOW me fam....there's ALWAYS a story somewhere....

Anyway, we were taking Amtrak to Maryland and I was scheduled to meet my mom, dad & sister on 59th Street where the plan was to catch the A train to Penn Station. I needed to make a quick stop at Rite Aid for some last minute toiletries and as luck would have it - the cashier at the store saw my suitcase and decided to strike up a conversation with me, a conversation that went a little like this as he rang up my purchase.....

"So...you taking a trip?"

"Yup, family reunion.." I replied.

"Really? Where bout?"

"Maryland" I replied.

"I was just down in Laurel last week visiting some relatives it was interesting....I bullet came through our hotel window and got lodged in the ceiling while we were sleeping"

At this point I stopped talking and just looked at him and said "Okay Bruh....you're scaring me now because that's EXACTLY where I am headed..."

At this point he had the rapt attention of all the rest of the customers in Rite Aid as well. I had already made my purchase but I moved off to the side so that I could continue talking to him, we made small talk for a few moments more and just as I was about to leave to catch my train the last thing he said to me was...

"Well, I hope you aren't staying at the Ramada Hotel in Laurel...have a wonderful trip!"

At this point my heart completely stopped for a moment because that was precisely where we (and the rest of my family) were staying because it was the base for our family reunion. I swear to God I almost headed back home after hearing that sh*t!!! lol....

But I'm no punk! I rushed down the steps of the subway station to meet up with my family but decided to keep the information that the clerk at Rite Aid gave me to myself until we got there and I could further assess the situation and I quickly made a mental note to request our rooms to be NO WHERE near where Bruh man and his wife had stayed...lol.

We boarded our train without too much fanfare (my dad is in the advanced stages of Alzheimer's and can be a handful at times) and wound up taking seats in the "Quiet" car of the train...which was fine with me because I hate having to travel with rude people on cell phones and their disruptive children. This particular quiet car was also have some technical difficulties with the air conditioning that was being worked on so the air kept going on and off....lol...which ALSO worked out perfectly for us because neither myself or my mom and dad like freezing cold air conditioning - it was just perfect!!!

We had a couple of hours of ride time so we chatted quietly for a while, I read a few magazines, shared some cookies with my dad and inevitably began to drift off to sleep to dream dreams of shootouts at our hotel...lol.

We arrived at the Baltimore BWI Airport stop and get this...we had to take a shuttle bus TO the airport and then call the hotel so they could SEND another shuttle bus to pick us up. Why the hotel refused to pick us up from the train station is beyond me. It was only when we got settled on the shuttle bus and my mom began chatting up some folks who inquired about me; did we find out that we had family on the train with us for most of the ride! We all got acquainted with our new cousins quickly as I made the call to the hotel for the shuttle bus pick up.

After about a 20 minute wait the van finally pulled up and quickly whisked us off to the Ramada Inn. After a brief wait, we were given our room keys (they put us in the tower building which was on the OTHER side of the building from where homeboy stayed). We dropped off our bags in our rooms and realized that we were ravenous and decided to walk over to Popeye's which was nearby.

Now normally I LOVE myself some Popeye's Fried Chicken but I gotta tell you this was the first time that I actually had chicken that wasn't good. I knew something was up when we saw that most of the staff was Indian...lol. We ordered like 12 pieces with Cole Slaw, Mashed Potatoes & Biscuits and even some apple pies for dessert. We were all starving after the long train ride so we at that horrible ass chicken but it was really disappointing. My dad may have been the only person who DIDN'T have a problem with it. Lol, we walked back to the hotel complaining the entire way.....We also ran into a crazy, white lady, who looked like she was coming from OUR hotel who was angry as hell about something and kept, yelling & cursing and darting in and out of the heavy traffic - while a friend of hers followed and tried to keep her from getting hit by a car.......

As we returned to our hotel rooms, we had a little down time before the family meet & greet and my mom & dad decided to take a nap. After sharing a cocktail with my sister in our room, I changed into my bathing suit and headed to the pool to catch the last couple hours of sun only to find to my horror and dismay that the pool was closed due to a malfunctioning pump and management had decided NOT to alert the hotel occupants to that fact. (The lifeguard on duty warned us NOT to enter the dirty pool water).

Now you all KNOW I was hot!!! I absolutely LIVE for pools and Jacuzzis when I am travelling and the fact that I had called and inquired about the pool BEFORE leaving NYC really just ticked me off. Upon closer inspection I noticed that the grounds of the hotel were not properly maintained (chicken bones and cigarette butts everywhere!) and hookers flaunted their wares all day and night (I kid you not!) and the supposed "hotel manager on duty" NEVER made an appearance during our ENTIRE stay. The hotel was a TOTAL nightmare!!! But back to the family reunion....which was actually quite nice.....

After the pool fiasco my sister and I decided to check out one of the ballrooms where the "meet & greet" was still going on and we needed to pick up our name tags for the family picnic the next day. As I hung out snapping photos of my little cousins and allowing the little ones to use my height to retrieve left over streamers from the ceiling (one of my little cousins was really creative ya'll the next day that little one took the remains of the purple streamers that I gave her into a nifty lil set of earrings - I was THOROUGHLY impressed!) and getting to know my family, I heard some music seeping through the doors.

We decided to follow the sound and it lead us to the hotel bar/lounge where the staff informed us that we should come back in a few because it was karaoke night and not to be missed! Well that was all we needed to hear - my sis and I headed back to our rooms to change into our street clothing and alert my mom about the change in plans. Then we jumped in the shower to get ready to holler!

As we walked through the lobby of the hotel we were overcome with laughter because someone was ABSOLUTELY BUTCHERING "Let's Get It On", we knew we were in for a good time. When we got back to the bar the party was in full swing, the bar was almost full, the was a lively game of pool going on and the DJ was calling up the next person to sing. We took some seats on the side and I began taking drink orders. Some of my cousins were holding it down at the end of the bar near the front of the stage. I ordered some buffalo wings, a margarita and the rest of the drink orders. As I waited for my food order to come up a new person came and took the mic and this sister sang a song called "Harlem Blues" (Ya'll don't know nothing 'bout that..) from Mo' Betta Blues and she sang the hell out of it! I was thoroughly enjoying her cause that song isn't your run of the mill karaoke song. As I made my way back to the tables my sister was already goading me on - "You gonna sing ain'tcha?" " You know you WANNA sing"...of course my mother chimed in on this too and the next thing I know my sister was marching up to the DJ to put my name on the list.

I got up when my name was called and sang my "theme" song "RESPECT", my cousins and the rest of the bar joined in and it was a lot of fun! Then my cousins came up shortly after and had a ball doing the quartet version of "Irreplaceable"! Everyone was having a good time, even my dad! (He loves music). As the evening began to wind down my mom & dad started to get tired so my sister and I walked them back to their rooms and decided to go and buy some tequila shots (from the nearby liquor store) before heading back to the bar.

We sat outside of the hotel drinking that tequila and talking to random folks till we were done. It was then that I first noticed the heavy amount of traffic in the front of the hotel. It was most definitely a 'hot spot"....ya know? We went back into the bar for about another 20 minutes and decided to head back to the room, we were scheduled to be up early for the picnic the next day and we didn't want to hear my mother yelling....

We were up with the birds the next day and headed down to the hotel restaurant for the "continental breakfast" that came along with the room reservation....lol...the "CB" had a few pieces of fruit (apples & oranges) a muffin or two and maybe a bagel....it was heinous...no WONDER it was free. The full breakfast buffet was like $7-$8 bucks and since it had meat...we decided to go with that (it wasn't too much better).

We then went to the lobby to wait for a ride from one of our family members to the picnic area...well I stepped outside for a moment and I swear it was at LEAST 98 degrees that morning....we were one of the first ones (okay...okay...so we were FIRST) to arrive at the picnic area (which was a WIDE open space) and we quickly made our way to the covered area...lol..OUT of the sun!

The rest of the family arrived a little while after and we spent the day, eating, talking and meeting family member from all over (ya'll KNOW my camera was in overdrive that day right?)...as the sun began to set....folks started packing up to head back to the hotel to prepare for the dinner banquet in the evening.

After taking some brief naps and showering, we all headed down to the ballroom for the banquet...we were joined by my cousin Gwen and her beautiful daughter Jazzy...who drove up from Washington DC and a few of my mom's cousins who she hadn't seen in almost 30 years...needless to say...Mom was very happy.

The entire family was dressed up in evening wear, speeches were made and any elders who were over the age of 70 were asked to sit at a special honorary table up front. Every one danced, ate, drank and took pictures until it was time to go....I don't know about anyone else but I had an absolute ball getting to know my family!

We missed the church service (held early the next morning) and my cousin Doris managed to help us secure a ride with another family member back to the train station (because the hotel was so unorganized that we were unable to get a ride in the shuttle van back to the station). We stopped at an all you can eat buffet for breakfast and the headed to the station to catch our train (which was delayed for more than an hour in Virginia).

Tired but happy we all arrived back in NYC in one piece and my sister and I took my parents home before heading to our respective residences.

Doris Douglas - Cousin...You DID it! Congratulations on a job WELL DONE!!! I know you had some mishaps and a few disappointments along the way but I personally want to say thank you for ALL that you have done and are currently doing...meeting my family and learning about who I am and where I come from meant the world to me.

Thank you!

"You don't choose your family. They are God's gift to you, as you are to them."

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