Just yesterday I returned home from an incredible trip to Annapolis, Maryland and Washington, DC with my friend Guthrie Gillings. Shandi was away to visit my sister in Texas, so this was a guys trip.
Mine was almost like two completely separate vacations, though our time in Annapolis occurred at the beginning and end of the vacation, with metro rides to DC filling the time in between. Nevertheless, I find it easiest to tell the tale of our visit to these wonderful cities in two different entries. Let me start with our departure from Salt Lake and our time in Annapolis with our great friends Kti Jensen and Katherine Nevius. I met Kti Jensen almost four years ago, I was referred to her by another friend as I was looking for a show boxer. After a year or so of emailing and waiting for the perfect dog, Shandi and I met Kti and Katherine in Kentucky in 2006 for the American Boxer Club National show and picked up our dog Loafer.
Anyway, Guthrie and I began planning this trip last spring. It’s been a long time coming, and as friends often do, we talk big but don’t always follow through, especially on our more grandiose of plans. Guthrie and his wife Laura co-own a dog with Kti Jensen and have known her for over a year despite having never met her in person, just email and phone conversations. I’d been telling Guthrie all about these two great people, and all of the amazing dogs they own since Guthrie first came to visit me and meet my dog Loafer more than two years ago.
Somehow, as summer neared neither of us wimped out on our plans to make the trip, so August arrived, and we went. We arrived in Baltimore airport late in the evening on Friday, and knew we wouldn’t have time to get our rental car, find our hotel, and then meet Kti and Katherine before it was past a decent hour. So we called and made plans to meet them at their home the following morning, and then head off to the show grounds for the Talbot Kennel Club dog show.
We arrived at the show the next morning, with tired eyes and anticipation; Guthrie was able to meet Katherine for the first time and Cheryl Cates who is quite possibly the best professional Boxer handler in the country, and a very nice lady to boot. Guthrie also looked forward to meeting “Quake” a full brother to his UK Boxer “Sucre”. A number of other families arrived who own dogs from Kti and\or Katherine. We enjoyed sharing dog stories with all of these folks, as people with our shared affinity for Boxers often do.
[Guthrie & Katherine]
[Me & Soot]
After the show, we all realized we were quite hungry so Katherine offered to cook French toast, while Guthrie and I picked up some bacon from the WaWa. We traveled back to Lynnfield Dr. where Guthrie was able to meet Kti for the first time. We also saw many of the dogs who didn’t make the trip to the show, some familiar old friends, some I hadn’t met before. After we chomped down some French toast and chatted with everyone, Guthrie and I decided to head for downtown Annapolis for some sightseeing, knowing we had an invite to dinner with our friends that same evening.
Downtown Annapolis is a beautiful old city, right on the water, much of it complete with brick roads. The shops lining the streets were fun to visit, we stopped for some ice cream at Kilwin’s and walked all the way down the dock where many of the wealthy boat owners park their yachts for the weekend; possibly to clean them, get a tan, or perhaps just the opportunity to show off. Annapolis in August is hot and humid to say the least, so after a couple hours of walking we were ready to head back to the hotel, just a 5 minute trip, to get some rest, go for a swim, and then head back to Kti and Katherine’s for dinner.
Kti and Katherine’s home is beautiful to say the least, a timeless style, good size home in the woods, red brick, black shutters, and a red door. If I could design my own home, there isn’t anything I would do differently than they have done. Not only is it beautiful, but it’s also sitting on at least an acre, completely fenced in with the perfect setup for owners of several dogs. Two long, very neat kennels, run parallel starting inside the basement and continuing outside of the home, with a small doggy door drilled through the foundation on each side respectively. The perfect setup, really.
Ok, so back to the dinner. Let me start by telling you a little bit about Kti, aside from being a great friend, she is also a professional chef, having worked for Johnny Cash for over a decade, cooking all of his meals and traveling with him on tour. Kti speaks of him casually and with admiration, simply calling him John. Kti isn’t a good cook; she’s an incredible chef, with years and years of professional experience. When she speaks of cooking, it’s always with great enthusiasm, and pleasure. You know quickly it’s something she enjoys. I’d been telling Guthrie about her cooking for a long time, I couldn’t have set his expectations any higher and let’s just say, those expectations were exceeded.
For an appetizer we had cherry tomatoes with a ranch dip, which included lime and several other ingredients I can’t remember. Next was a Caesar salad, not the kind you order from even the nicer restaurants in Utah, her salad put those to shame. Kti called it a “traditional” Caesar, homemade croutons, each salad tossed individually by hand with dressing prepared from scratch which included ground anchovies, olive oil, and garlic. I’m the kind of guy who goes to Subway and gets a 6 inch ham and cheese on white bread with mayo and absolutely nothing else. I’m a picky eater, not some connoisseur of fine food. Kti once called me a “meat and potatoes kind of guy” which is pretty darn accurate. The point being, this food was great, really, really great and not for people who enjoy oddities, for normal people.
For the main course we had pizza, lots and lots of pizza. A few months ago I went to Little Italy in New York and had pizza made by an Italian guy with a brick oven, Kti’s pizza was better. She made a meat pizza with pepperoni and sausage with real mozzarella, a white sauce pizza with eggplant, mushroom and several other vegetables. I ate more than a whole pizza on my own. After dinner we hung out and talked, played with the dogs and enjoyed some great conversation, which was largely dominated by our favorite subject, Boxers. We attempted a photo session in the front yard with one of the dogs, who wasn’t too thrilled at the prospect of being handled. We all laughed at the peculiarity of five adults standing in the yard cheering on a dog for stacking up correctly, all of us acknowledging, this was not in fact normal behavior for people. But this love of Boxers is what brought all of us together and what continues to foster our friendship in the truest form, sharing a love of something we all hold dear.
Conversation of course continued to reading through old Boxer Quarterly magazines (BQ is a publication from the UK) and discussing different heads and different dogs, the good, the bad and the ugly. We also talked of all time favorite Boxers, the evening had completely set in at this point and the humidity subsided. Talking with Kti and Katherine, Cheryl and Bobbie, legends really in the world of Boxers made for quite the night. The next morning we had a more reasonable ring time at the show. Some dogs we expected would win, did not, other dogs happily surprised us and did very, very well. Katherine extended an invite to her mom’s estate for lunch, estate being my description, not Katherine’s. She simply described it as a “farm house on the water” which it was, but that doesn’t quite do justice to this historic home on 30 acres outside Annapolis. So we loaded up the RV and took a 20 minute drive to what I believe was Easton, Maryland. When we pulled in I knew we were in for a memorable afternoon.
Katherine described the home as a “telescope house” with newer sections being added on over the years and the house getting bigger and taller as sections were added on. The oldest section was built in the 1700’s. When we walked in the smell of the wood floors was apparent, like that of a historic home preserved for tours, being instantly in awe was tough to overcome, and acting casual was difficult. To be frank, Guthrie and I had to pick our chins up off the floor, that’s how impressive this place was, a colonial in the truest sense I can imagine. From one window you could see the bay and a dock fading off into the water, out the other, a soy bean field, that stretched out to trees at least a mile away, all of this was on the property.
Katherine gave us a tour of this nine bedroom house, lastly showing us a room where we could change out of our dog show clothes. We later joined Katherine and her mother Sheila, Bobbie and her son Tristan and some family friends in the sun room, Guthrie and I feeling quite out of place at this point. I wasn’t totally sure I didn’t have ketchup on my shirt or crap in my teeth, I was totally comfortable but completely outclassed at the same time.
We talked with Katherine’s mother for a while, Katherine being very much the life of the conversation. Her mother told us a story of when she was a young girl and appeared in several movies during the 1940’s, one of which won an Academy Award. To be honest, I didn’t know people actually lived lives like theirs. Katherine’s mom is now 80 years old, if I’m not mistaken, and has hired help in the house. A very sweet lady brought out filet, fresh crab salad and bread. We ate in the sun room and resumed talking about dogs at the earliest opportunity. After lunch we all went for a walk down to the water. I believe the water was a bay or cove off of the Chesapeake Bay, although I could be totally wrong on that. We walked several hundred yards down to a dock, presumably a private dock.
[Guthrie, Katherine, Bobbie & Me]
[Me & Guthrie]
As we headed back towards the house, we decided to go for a swim, so we jumped in for a quick dip. As we said our goodbyes to Sheila on our way out the kitchen door, I am fairly confident I spotted a signed picture of President Obama thanking Shelia for her support. I couldn’t help but laugh to myself, and think, how in the world did I get here?
Guthrie and I spent the rest of the evening and most of the next day in Washington DC, which I will write about in a separate entry. Monday night was our last of the trip, and we spent it with just Kti and Katherine at their house, as their other house guests (Cheryl and Bobbie) had already left. Kti again came up with dinner for everyone, and we chatted the rest of the evening. It was a treat to just relax, watch the dogs do their thing, and talk about whatever came up. I enjoyed introducing Guthrie to Kti and Katherine and spending that time with my friends.
Many people who know me, but don’t know Kti or Katherine might not understand how or why I am such good friends with them or why I speak so fondly of them. While our ages are several years removed, and our experiences in life all quite different and unique, what brought us together was the dogs, but what keeps me coming back are the friendships and the stories we share, and hey, the food isn’t bad either. Every time I visit it gets harder and harder to leave.
[Me and Alley, my dog Loafer's half sister]