we are BACK. I'm sure you were all just on pins and needles waiting.

anyways, so before I get into the weekend, I want to share that on thursday, I came home as usual. I walked in the front door and through the front room to the baby gate that separates the treacherous stairs from the middle room (family room? living room? I foroget which is which so one is front and one is middle) and saw sean was walking out of the kitchen holding bella's hands as she walked too. and then....he let go. and she continued walking! through the middle room to the gate, arms up, wanting a hug. she can officially walk!! (and then, since sean obviously already knew, I had to tell someone - and so I called nicole. and then in the brief period that it took me to pick up the phone and dial and wait for nicole to answer, I realized that I was not actually as happy as I thought I was. in fact, I had to cut the conversation short so I could go bawl my eyes out. my baby, my last child, can walk. I still don't know how I feel about it.)

and here we go on the magical murder mystery tour. so jim thorpe is a coal mining town. there is a railroad there and a huge lump of anthracite coal in the "town square" as a reminder that this was a thriving coal town at the turn of the century. asa packer was a railroading king, and basically built the town. his mansion still overlooks it and is the mansion that nicole talked about when she and mark and noah went up during the fall foliage festival. the mansion that we stayed in and where the murder mystery took place is the mansion right next to asa packer's - the one he built for his son, harry packer. (funnily, the driving directions concluded with "make a slight right, and we're the second mansion on the left.")

it was way more interactive and involved than I had imagined. which is good, because the weekend wasn't cheap. in a nutshell, the mystery itself was very fact-based. we learned a ton of history about the packers, the town, the way the railroading and coal towns operated, and about many of the other prominent families in town. it was very thorough, with 24 guests participating. the mystery consisted of a 2+ hour briefing on our characters, background, and the actual murder scene. following that scene, we each got character-specific instructions for the next round of "play" which was the following morning after breakfast. that was another 2 hours. after that round, we got new instructions and info, and we broke for the day and reconvened at 6pm, before dinner. after that round, we got our final instructions and reconvened after dinner, where we replayed the murder scene and found out who was guilty. the story revolved around asa packer's final will revision, where he stated that if his eldest daughter mary did not marry by her 40th birthday, his fortune would go to L. and then he died, not elaborating on what L meant. mary hastily found a groom to marry her just before her 40th birthday so that the L revision wouldn't go into effect, but someone murdered her groom.

the only non-factual part of the story was the killing of the groom. everything else was true, though unflattering to the packers. and it was utterly intriguing. people those days were really quite fucked up. it makes me feel a little better about our own dysfunction.

in the end, the killer was none other than me. I wound up solving the murder (about 30 seconds before everyone else realized it). it was really a ton of fun.

the house itself was magnificent. you could look at and touch everything. apart from making several more bathrooms, the rooms were as true to the period as possible. the furnishings downstairs were all period, and the wall coverings (lots of wallpaper) and lighting fixtures were either original or reproduced from originals. the ornate floors were original as were all the door and window moldings, which were stunning. the stained glass windows were original and the owners knew alot about the house itself and its history. they had owned the building for more than 20 years and had saved it from being demolished. though the asa packer mansion had a trust and could not be torn down, the trust didn't extend to the harry packer mansion or the carriage house (which is where we stayed). the mansions across the street belonging to other prominent families had not been spared; in fact, one house was used in the 50s as "fire practice" since the volunteer firefighters saw very little action and loved to set shit on fire to see if they could get the fire to stop. the kemmerer mansion was torched with furnishings, stained glass, and all for this reason.

so the mystery was great, the house was divine, the amount of history I learned was priceless. let's talk about some of the less-wonderful aspects of the weekend.

bob. bob is the owner (along with his wife) and also does the mystery. the first thing we heard bob say when we arrived on friday had multiple uses of the word "shit" in it. I can't remember what he said but I remember thinking it was odd that he cursed so much. this issue only magnified itself as the weekend wore on. I think he managed to insult every minority througout our stay. he almost missed dissing the blacks, but at the very end, he did mention that he had some "black folks" up the weekend before, 4 couples (or 8? I don't remember) and it was strange to him because usually the blacks come up with white chicks but these were all black. and he had to make sure he didn't assign their characters as servants or hired help because they'd bitch and moan.

the funniest instance was when he was explaining to the group that the lowest class citizens of the era were irish. they were the cheap labor, they drank alot, they couldn't read or write, they stunk. he went on and on and on about it. it definitely was in keeping with the time period, but I don't think bob counted on the fact that ONE OF THE PEOPLE IN THE GROUP WAS ACTUALLY FROM IRELAND. oh, how we laughed. wryly.

I do have to say that as the weekend wore on (and as f bombs were dropped, along with any manner of cursing - and you know I can curse with the best of them, but this guy didn't know any of us and he was a goddamn innkeeper) he sort of became like a crazy uncle who says shit and you just look at each other and shake your heads. I'm certain that his ability to make us all feel that way is the only reason why he hasn't had the shit beat out of him yet.

the other glaring complaint was the food. dinner on saturday night is included, and you are told to dress as if going to a fancy restaurant. shirt and tie, that kind of thing. we all dressed accordingly. so you'd expect a really good dinner. the meat dish was chateau briand, which is basically a big ole roast. it was too pink for me (which means it had any pink on it at all) so I skipped it. the rest of the meal consisted of pesto ravioli, scalloped potatoes with sour cream and chives, mixed vegetables, and baby carrots in a butter sauce. now, many of our fellow diners raved about the meal, but I doubt any of them are as familiar with convenience foods as I am. I am the queen of boxed foods. it may make me a bad mother and an unhealthy person, but I do love the stuff. one look at the potatoes and I knew betty crocker was in the hizzouse. sean had one bite and knew. we have these things like once a week. the mixed vegetables? totally the stir fry mix from green giant. you know, the one that comes with baby corn and water chestnuts that you're supposed to cook with soy sauce? and the giant also supplied the carrots in butter sauce. I could then surmise that the ravioli (very dry ravioli) was probably frozen.

breakfast was no different. the bread was very obviously from the store made to look like fresh baked, the potatoes were pre chopped and frozen, and even the bagels were still icy in the center. for god's sake, they couldn't even get fresh bagels.

so the food was decidedly NOT b&b standard, the owner was a kook, but all in all we had a great time.

before we left on sunday, we took a hike up to the cemetary to say sorry to all the packers whose dirty laundry we had aired in one of their own houses. it made the whole experience much more personal to see the gravestones of the people who we were just depicting. we then kept the morose mood rolling by going and seeing harry pottery (yes, I know it's harry potter) before picking up bella.

a busy weekend to be sure - not much relaxing - but loads of fun nonetheless.

11 validations:

lonna said...

I'm glad that you guys had fun. How cool that you turned out to be the murderer.

It sounds like Bob could be a member of my family or Ethan's uncle Bob. That's funny about the swearing. I have a filthy mouth, but I expect more in a professional/service setting. Even I didn't swear as a kid working at Baskin Robbins. You just know better.

I love old graveyards. That must have been a nice way to enhance the trip.

Regarding the food, that's just wrong. I don't even use most convenience foods because I don't like the fakeness of them. I won't even use boxed mashed potatoes. Ethan loves them, but they just seem so fake to me. I am just a fresh food snob. Even worse you paid for the meal, and it should have been high quality or cheaper.

the beige one said...

Betty Crocker was in the hizzouse

I've a suspicion that this was the first time such a line was uttered. Probably the last, also.

Meantime, where did you find this weekend package? Sounds like something I'd do in the future.

Jen said...

Congrats on Bella walking, even though it made you sad it was a great accomplishment for her. Of course your job will get much more difficult now that you have to chase her around, but I'm sure you are up for it, right?

Katy said...

K I totally want to go there! Glad you had a good time, and I must say when you said you were going on a murder mystery weekend I thought, yeah, she's totally gonna end up being the killah! As for the food. Cooking a good meal once a week is not that hard people!

KATIEmagic said...

It was Patrice in the great room with the ?murder weapon? Gasp! Sounds like a lot of fun. Hoorah for baby Bella, I'm sorry it made you sad.

Stine said...

Congrats on the walking. That's so cool.

The mystery tour sounded cool also - other than the food. I've never been on one, that must have been weird finding out that you were the murderer.

Missuz J said...

Hooray and boo-hoo on Bella walking.

The mystery sounds fab--double fab because you were the murderer.

Am I the only one who first read asa packer as ass packer?

Love convenience foods--especially the frozen ravioli--which Soph calls "circle pasta" and which we eat at least once a week. Also love the tyson chicken fajitas. it includes the veg, chicken, AND tortillas. So quick. The first time I made them, I totally passed them off as homemade.

Oh--the inn keeper? sounds like a true winner.

NME said...

I don't have a damned thing to add except that I'm very happy you had a good weekend and super thrilled Bella is walking so her and Noah can go on strolls together. When you think she's totally up to speed we have to go to the Please Touch Museum.

Jen O. said...

I LOVE THAT YOU WERE THE MURDERER! That's so great. Did they discover who the murderer was in, like, real life?

the beige one said...

Am I the only one who first read asa packer as ass packer?

Uhm, no, not the only one.

patrice said...

neither of you were the only ones, since sean asked with complete sincerity if we were supposed to turn left into the lot for the ass packer mansion or not.