Category Archives: Travel

5 Things I Remembered About My Husband

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1. He Has Shpilkes.
What? You don’t know Yiddish? Don’t worry; I’ll help you. The dictionary defines “shpilkes” as sitting on pins and needles. Well, that doesn’t really capture it, does it? When you say someone “has shpilkes,” it implies that person has a nervous energy, an impatience. Simply put: Hubby can’t sit still.

While I slept late on morning two of our vacation, Hubby got up and rented a truck. His goal? Transport two humongous palm trees to The Happy House. But that’s not all. He dug two huge holes, added soil, and rolled the huge trees into our backyard.

Then he mulched and watered.

Then he golfed 36-holes.

Thirty-six.

After that, he bought a mountain bike and went zipping through unfamiliar terrain. When he came home – in the dark — he showed me his ripped up his legs.

“The trails are awesome!” he gushed. “But I should probably get a helmet. And a headlamp.”

During vacation, Hubby burned 8,673,412 calories.

I burned 17.

2. He’s Losing His Hearing.
Apparently, I’ve started speaking at a decibel that only dogs can appreciate.

3. He Snores.
At home, I’ve got ear-plugs. But I forgot to bring them to The Happy House. Let’s just say, that’s been rectified. They’re there now.

Screen shot 2013-04-26 at 2.07.05 PM

Thank goodness for these!

4. He Relaxes. Eventually.
It takes my man a bit of time to switch from work mode to relaxation mode. On our last day, after he’d watered his new trees, unplugged all the electronics, turned down the hot water heater, and adjusted the air conditioner to AUTO, he gathered up all our garbage and drove it to some gas station where he filled up the gas tank of our rental car.

When he got back, Hubby brought his breakfast outdoors to the lanai. Putting his feet up on a wicker table, he shoveled spoonfuls of granola and yogurt into his mouth.

“Look at those palm trees,” he said, admiring his handiwork. “Now it looks tropical down here.”

{you know, as opposed to before, when we could only admire the stand of palm trees on the far side of the man-made pond.}

“Did you have a good time?” Hubby asked.

I nodded.

Because how could we not have a good time? The Happy House was made possible by my husband’s hard work. Hubby is a worker bee and, truth be told, he’s happiest when he’s busy. He works hard, so he sleeps hard. He thinks the beach is boring. Plus, he’s practically an albino, so even SPF 1000 doesn’t quite do the job. And nobody likes a sunburn.

But you know what?

5. He’s that guy.
After all these years, he still carries my suitcase to the car. He holds my boarding pass and watches my bag when I have to pee. He’ll buy the curtain rod, and then return it because his crazy wife decided it wasn’t right, and then he’ll go back and buy it again because his crazy wife screwed up and, yes, that first curtain rod was right after all.

When she was pining to leave Oz and return to Kansas, Dorothy Gale closed her eyes and said: “There’s no place like home.”

How many people are lucky enough to have two places that hold their heart?

And how many girls are lucky enough to know home is wherever we are, as long as I’ve got my ear plugs we’re together?

What little things drive you bonkers about your partner? What things do you love the most?

tweet me @rasjacobson

Happy anniversary, Hubby. Eighteen years. You knows I loves you. Do you think we can get stock in ear plugs? Is that a thing? If so, maybe we should look into that.

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When Vacation Lowlights Become Highlights

florida

The other night, I asked my son to tell me his favorite memory from our recent vacation in The Happy House. It was a good one. We swam in the pool and the ocean. We visited with neighbors and spent a day at Magic Kingdom. We planted palm trees and went bike riding. We even had a dinner party where guests came over to watch Syracuse University get crushed by the Wolverines in The Final Four.

“Sitting in my rocking chair and eating pie,” my son said.

Seriously. That was the highlight?

But then I remembered.

When my brother and I were young, we went on a family vacation to Florida with our parents. For weeks, they told us we were going to have the best vacation – ever.

After a long flight and what felt like an even longer drive, we made it to our hotel It was nighttime, and we were all exhausted, so my father left us in the car and went to check in at the front desk. After a while, he returned with a map, a compass, a walkie-talkie and a survival guide.

Not really, but it would have been nice if he’d had that stuff.

Because we walked in circles forever, trying to find The Nepa Hut.

Apparently, the clerk had given my father explicit instructions. We were supposed to walk down a path to where the crushed shells ended, take a left, then a right, being careful not to fall off the pier into the ocean. Eventually, we’d see a gecko sitting on a rock. Or something. I don’t really know.

What the guy at the front desk should have given us was a flashlight.

It was so freaking dark, we couldn’t find our damn room.

Dragging our bags behind us, we wandered back to the lighted lobby where my father confessed we were lost.

My mother must have caused a fuss because we ended up with a guide.

Once in the room, we started to unpack. Someone went to the bathroom.

I heard the flush.

And then I heard my father. “Oh no! he begged. “Omigosh! No!”

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Click for photo credit

You guessed it. The crapper was overflowing. Water poured over the lip of the toilet, spilling onto the floor until the tiles were soaked.

Though my mother threw towels onto the tile floor, the icky water would not stop, and the carpet outside the bathroom door was soon drenched.

While my father dialed housekeeping, my mother chastised him for using too much toilet paper.

My brother and I couldn’t stop laughing. The poopie geyser in the bathroom? That was the best.

He and I danced around the ever-widening wet-spot as our father warned us to keep away from the bathroom door.

It’s one of my favorite vacation memories.

Memories are weird. If I think about it, I suppose it isn’t so much that I love the fact that our toilet overflowed. It’s more that my parents had set this expectation that our vacation was going to be totally awesome, and even when things didn’t go to plan, we found a way to make the most of it. I love the memory of all of us being together, flailing around, figuring things out, being perfectly imperfect with each other.

I suppose if my son forever remembers kicking back in a rocking chair eating a slice of raspberry pie, well, as the kids say, that’s the shit.

What is one of your weird vacation memories? What about memories involving toilets?

tweet me @rasjacobson

challenge106I’m linking up with Yeah Write, a wonderful community of supportive and talented writers. If you’d like to click on the badge, you will be magically transported there. You might even consider submitting your own piece — under 600 words.

 

So You’re Trying to Get to Cleveland for New Years Eve and The Thruway Closes & You’ve Got to Pee

New Years Eve 2012

For years Hubby and I had a long-standing tradition of spending New Year’s Eve with friends in Cleveland.

Some people might be thinking: Cue the sad-sounding trombones.

The reality is our New Year’s celebrations in Cleveland have been wonderful.

Some years we dressed up all fancy-schmancy and traveled to decadent restaurants while other years we huddled beside the fireplace in our jammies and fell asleep before the ball in Times Square touched down.

One year as Hubby and I set out to make our annual trek, the weather looked hairy. But we were young and stupid, so we packed up our car and pressed on.

After we passed Buffalo and got on the Interstate, the snow started pelting the car so we couldn’t see.

We turned on the radio.

Yes, the radio.

It was either that or Hubby’s tape-deck and collection of mixed-tapes featuring Kenny G.

My husband gripped the steering wheel. The snow was blowing the car around and we wanted to know if the whole trip would feel like we were driving through a wind tunnel beneath the heavy feathers of a rapidly molting white bird.

And then we heard it.

The Thruway has been closed from Buffalo to Erie.

As if on cue, the cars slowed and stopped. We turned off the engine to conserve gas. There was nothing to do but wait.

And listen to mixed tapes.

Oh, I forgot to mention that I was two months pregnant at the time.

I don’t know about how it goes for other women, but during that first trimester, I had to pee.

A lot.

After sitting for three hours in my husband’s tiny black Honda Prelude, I panicked.

“I have to pee.”

The windshield wipers swished back and forth and, for a moment, we could see.

“Well, you’re going to have to hold it.”

I looked out my passenger side window, at the stillness of it all and contemplated how I was going to make it to a bathroom when I couldn’t even see an exit ramp.

But this need to pee was non-negotiable.

I tried to explain it to my husband so he would understand.

“You know how you don’t like to eat Lucky Charms for breakfast?” I said. “Well, I don’t like to pee on myself.”

In my experience, any time someone tries to ignore a biological urge, that urge becomes more urgent.

I popped open the car door. Snowflakes fluttered onto my lap.

“I see an RV ahead,” I unbuckled my seat belt. “I bet they have a bathroom. Either they’ll let me in, or I’m going to have to cop a squat.”

I walked down I-90 between the rows of stopped cars, glad for my hat with the earflaps. People saw me coming and rolled down their windows to ask me questions – as if I could tell them when the snow would stop, how much longer until we would start moving, about what was causing the delay.

I only knew I had to pee.

I slogged through the snow that came up to my knees and kept my eye on that RV with the Canadian license plates.

Knocking on the door with urgency, I was greeted by a man in a red ski-mask with cut outs for the eyes and nose.

I explained to the masked man that I was pregnant and that I had walked really far in the snow.

Because I had to pee.

The man in the ski-mask walked back up the steps and gestured for me to come in.

I looked back at my husband’s car, a white lump in the distance. Before I’d left, I told Hubby once I was in that he should give me ten minutes, that if I wasn’t out in ten minutes, he should come get me because someone was cutting me into small pieces.

So I followed a man in a ski-mask into an RV.

Surprise! The RV was filled with Canadian hockey players who were super-friendly, eh?

After I used their facilities, they offered me snacks and told me not to hesitate if I needed to come back.

On my way out, I wished them a Happy New Year, and they held up mugs and shouted something unintelligible in Canadian.

Several hours later, we got moving again, but traffic was diverted back to Buffalo where Hubby and I were forced to spend the night in a Microtel, which felt much too micro after having spent so much time crammed in such a tight space.

We didn’t make it to Cleveland for New Years that night. Instead, we had spaghetti and meatballs at one of our favorite restaurants.

I was pretty hormonal, and I remember crying as I pushed pasta and meat sauce into my mouth.

Our waitress appeared with a tiny bottle of champagne.

So long ago, not everyone was even born yet!

“This is for you,” she announced. “From your friends in Cleveland.”

And then I really sobbed.

Because I missed them.

And because I couldn’t drink champagne.

Except I probably could have.

But it was so lovely of them to remember us.

Stranded on New Year’s Eve.

Last year we made it.

And we ate raclette.

And everyone made it to midnight.

And it was positively perfect.

Last night, we got about 10 inches of snow.

It better melt really fast.

Or else.

Hope to see everyone soon!

What are you doing to ring in the New Year?

tweet me @rasjacobson

The Problem With Getting From Here To There

Thanks to TShearer226 at WANA Commons for the use of this image

I’ve always had a thing with bridges. As a kid, my father crossed into Canada over the Rainbow Bridge, and I held my breath and prayed.

Now each time I drive over a bridge, the kind where you can’t see the other side, I am certain the end is near. I make elaborate plans and cry.

Not too long ago, I went to Florida. I didn’t realize that in order to get to Sarasota from the Tampa airport was I was going to have to cross the Sunshine Skyway.

Doesn’t that sound lovely?

The Sunshine Skyway.

Doesn’t it sound like you will be traveling on a path to the sun? Wouldn’t you expect puffy white clouds and a unicorn escort? And rainbows? And G-d?

I anticipated the wind in my curls. And angels.

It didn’t go down like that.

The Sunshine Skyway is 4.1 miles of steel and concrete hell. And crossing that bitch transformed me into a one woman freak show.

From a distance, it looked pretty.

English: Sunshine Skyway. Tampa Bay, Florida. ...

English: Sunshine Skyway. Tampa Bay, Florida. Photo © 2004 Thomas Parker (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Like two white sailboats decided to drop anchor and hover in the sky. Forever.

As I approached the tollbooth and handed the attendant my $1.25, I looked for a place to pull over and mentally prepare myself for the crossing over.

Except there was no place to stop.

I just had to go.

I wanted to hold my breath, but I figured passing out at the wheel while suspended 431 feet in the air would lead to swerving, probably an accident, which would probably not be appreciated by other drivers.

If you tipped a football field on its side, I was still suspended 71 feet higher!

But GPS Jill cooed and promised me Paradise was only 47 minutes away.

I just had to get over that freaking bridge.

English: Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

English: Sunshine Skyway Bridge. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I stayed on my side of the dotted white line, profoundly aware that I was surrounded by nothing but sky.

I gripped the steering wheel of my rental car white-knuckled and started making emergency escape plans.

I felt around and found the button to open my window.

I unbuckled my seatbelt.

I figured if I drove over the side of the Skyway, I would not be stupid, caught inside a sinking car that would slowly fill with water. No, I have watched too much Lifetime Television for Women to make that mistake. I was not going to drown. Assuming I survived impact, I would simply glide out my open window.

I wiggled out of my sweater. I knew it would weigh me down, and I needed to be ready to swim. Obviously. Without my sweater, the air conditioning was too cold, but I dared not fuss with it.

I think it was a gorgeous day, but I can’t say for certain. The sun was bright in my eyes, and it was too late to find my sunglasses stashed in their case at the bottom of my bag.

Refusing to blink, I stared straight ahead and kept my eyes on the road. As tears poured down my cheeks, I wondered what was wrong with me.

I drove slower.

Like old lady slow.

From out of my peripheral vision, I realized that the structures I had thought looked like pretty white sailboats were not white at all. They were, in fact, a complex series of yellow-orange cables. Cables. The whole dang bridge is suspended by skinny cables.

I knew that bridge was going down.

A man in a black pick-up truck passed me and flipped me the bird. His arm was very tan.

The moment I could see The Other Side, Roger Daltry came on the radio and started to sing “I’m free.” I swear this happened. You cannot make this stuff up.

So there I was, singing along with him and laughing like a dork because I was fine.

But I need to have a serious chat with GPS Jill. Because while I proved I can make it over the bridge – clearly, I need to find an alternate route.

Anyone else out there afraid of bridges? If bridges don’t freak you out, what does?

Why We’ll Never Go Back to Aruba: Part 2

I already told you about how miserable check-in was when we arrived in Aruba HERE.

And while an air mattress did eventually arrive for Tech Support, there are plenty of other reasons I’ll never go back to The Happy Island.

Inconvenient Flights. We got up at 4:30 am and took three flights to get to Aruba. We all know the airlines don’t offer much in the way of edibles anymore, so we made sure to eat before our second flight.  The last leg of our journey involved traveling from Charlotte, North Carolina to Aruba; it would be four hours. We knew we wouldn’t have time to stop and get anything, so we mentally prepared ourselves to shell out $24 for sandwiches we wouldn’t normally consider consuming. But it was a complete shock when the cart finally made it to us back in row 25  — the non-reclining last row of the plane in front of the bathrooms — and we were told there was no more food. Nothing. We were ravenous, but managed to stave off our hunger with chewing gum and gummy worms.

I would have paid $30 for these nuts.

The Smokers. They should call Aruba The Smokers’ Island. When I am on vacation in a tropical paradise, I like to smell the fresh air. Quick word to the smokers out there: If you are smoking a cigarette within six feet of others, please know that we can smell your stinky second-hand smoke. And while you might enjoy the stench of your cancer stick, you should know others do not. If you light up when people are eating, you are officially a douche-bag. Sorry about your addiction, but we are hating on you. As far as I am concerned, there were way too many smokers in Aruba.

Smokers in paradise suck!

The Americans. Downstate New Yorkers had taken over the island and, I have to admit, initially, I looked for camera crews because Tina and Chrissy and Margo and Ellie were like something out of The Housewives of Long Island. {Is that even a thing?} These folks and their families were every bit as loud and demanding as they were pierced and tattooed. I tried to ignore them, but they spoke at a decibel that made this impossible. Here is a bit of unintentionally overheard conversation:

“Omigawd, Teeeeena. Yor down! Howa you feelin?”

“Omigawd. So sick. You have no idea. Last night, I thought I was gonna die.”

“Do you think it was the food or somethin’?”

“I dunno. But I was pukin’ until like three or somethin’.”

“Shuttup!”

“No, I’m serious.”

“Omigawd, that’s terrible. How are you now?”

Believe me when I say, I didn’t want to hear all about Tina’s dosing schedule.

How the Tylenol wasn’t touchin’ it. How she was “gonna take sumthin’ else around two OAR so.”

The moment she went back up to her room, Tina’s devoted friends shared their thoughts:

“Can you even freaking believe she came down he-AH? Omigawd. Keep that shit to yor-self.”

“I know, right?”

“I paid seven thousand dollahs for this trip. Fuck if I wanna virus! Jeezus. What is she thinkin’!”

You get the point. We got to hear that for six days.

Oh, and we also got to hear the Downstate New Yorkers at 2 AM as they stumbled back to their rooms, cackling and swearing.

Most. Unpleasant.

The Palapa Line. If you wanted to make sure to get some shade on the beach, you had to stand in a queue to reserve one of those circular thatched-roof structures. Palapa reservations started each day at 4 PM. I assume at any other time of the year, this would have been no big whoop because there were 147 palapas. But because there were sooooo many guests at the hotel during this particular week, folks started lining up at 3 PM. Which made me feel like I had to get in line at 3 PM. If my math is right (and it might not be), I spent five hours waiting in lines trying to ensure my family would have sun protection when I could have been doing water aerobics with Dushi.

Put 1,500 people in this picture and then you'll have a more accurate idea of what we were dealing with.

The Lack of Non-Touristy Destinations. For some, sitting in the sun doing nothing is the best vacation in the world. But Hubby and Tech Support have ants in their pants, so we had to move. And frankly, I was underwhelmed by Aruba’s downtown that was filled with one souvenir shop after another. Perhaps the greatest disappointment? Baby Beach. I had been told this beach would be deserted and romantic, but we encountered a crowded beach with dozens of travelers who were obviously thirsting for solitude as well. Meh.

Baby Beach would have been great if it had looked like this.

The Public Pooping. I still can’t believe I really saw this, except I did. If you walked waaaaay past the fancy hotels, you would have seen children using Nature’s potty. And I’m not talking #1. {I assume they were doing that in the ocean.} No, I’m telling you I saw littluns crapping in the sand. To be fair, I did see one mother pick up her kid’s turd in a plastic grocery bag, tie it up, and toss it into a larger trash bag. I’m not known for having delicate sensibilities, but I did not want to walk on that stretch of the beach after that. Hubby declared it was my fault. “You went past the last resort,” he said. “You went too far.”

The Surprise Charges at Check Out. I enjoyed arguing with the manager about the $87 worth of bar charges that the hotel said we had accrued. Thing is, we didn’t drink any alcohol or charge anything to our room. The hardest drink I consumed was a mango smoothie. After much investigation, we discovered the drink charges were leftover from the prior occupants of the room. (I’m guessin’ they may have been from Downstate New York.)

Wheeeeeeeee! Yeah. No. That wasn't us.

The Masters. Hubby had prepared me that The Masters was going to be on while we were on vacation. I knew this meant I would be on-duty with Tech while my husband relaxed in the room. For two full days. Secretly, I prayed Aruba would not have televisions, but they did. And of course, Hubby had to watch. Until the bitter end. So good for you, Bubba.

"Must. Watch. Bubba."

The Cranky Arubans. We visited Aruba over our son’s April Break which coincided with Easter and Passover this year. It seemed the whole world had come to Aruba. Like nineteeen-bazillion people had crammed themselves onto this relatively tiny island. People told us we wouldn’t have any problem grabbing dinner; that we would be able to just walk into restaurants and be seated. Um, not so much. Every restaurant was packed with hungry tourists. One night, we had to wait 45 minutes to be seated at a mediocre Italian place. Two hours and two meatballs later, we realized our original server had vanished. There had been a shift change (or something), and we had to beg the manager to please take our credit card so we could leave.

My Theory. Peak tourist season in Aruba is between December and April, so if the Arubans had to deal with abrasive, high-maintenance visitors for five months, well…who can blame them for being exhausted? I know the Housewives of Long Island wore me down, and I only had to listen to them for six days. {This is why we told everyone we were from Canada.} Still, when your nation’s economy depends on tourism, you’d better smile and figure out a way to be nice.

Grrrrrrr.

But it wasn’t all bad. I mean, we were together on a tropical island, right?

So here is some cool stuff I’d like to remember about Aruba:

The colorful lizards & iguanas

The fabulous, consistent weather

The soft sand

The $87 smoothies

The funky trees

The awesome starfish I stepped on

Finding a live starfish was pretty cool.

The 20-minute ride on the Big Mable. Worth every florin.

From here on out, I’m taking a tip from Annie over at Six-Ring Circus and keeping my vacation expectations low.

If you could go anywhere & money was not an issue, where would you go?

Spring Break In Aruba: Part 1

This is a beautiful Aruban beach. Español: Est...

This is a beautiful Aruban beach. Español: Esta es una de las hermosas playas de Aruba. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. I really don’t. And I know this is going to sound ungrateful.

We were fortunate to be able to travel to Aruba over April Break. We had high expectations: partly because my best friend has gone several times, and every time she comes home and says it was the most incredibly relaxing vacation. Ever. Our travel agent recently sent her family to Aruba in February, and they came back raving. My husband has a friend with a timeshare there. He loves it. We’ve heard people say: “Arubans are the nicest people in the world.” For goodness sakes, folks call Aruba “The Happy Island.”

This vacation was supposed to be awesome-sauce.

That said, it became clear Aruba was not going to be our dream vacation when we arrived at our hotel and stood in line forever while the girl behind the desk chewed her lip and made concerned faces.

“Someone cancelled your reservation,” said the girl at the front desk. “And we’re totally booked.”

Whaaaat?

“Okay,” I said, trying to stay calm. We’d only been up since 4:30 AM and taken three airplanes to arrive at the packed island. It was Easter vacation for many people, and clearly the hotel staff was slammed.

“I’m trying to find you another room.”

“I’d prefer a room away from the elevators,” I said. “We specifically requested that…”

“You’re going to have to be satisfied with what we have,” she sniped. “And we don’t have any roll-away cots left.” The clerk looked at my son.

I looked at my husband.

“You’ll have to sleep together in one bed, yah?” the unapologetic clerk said.

At nearly thirteen-years-old, Tech Support is nearly as tall as I am. He is all elbows and knees. Plus he’s squirmy.

Whaaaat?

“How did this happen?” I asked.

The girl shrugged.

I am sure we will look back at this and find it all incredibly funny, but maybe not. Because there is more.

Tell me about a vacation disaster. Please.

Tweet this Twit @rasjacobson

Closed For Vacation

It was time.

I swear, I am thinking of all of you.

Right now.

On this beach.

Anyone want to guess where this beach is?

If you’ve been to this place, you’ve seen this tree.

At least that’s what I’m told.

No, I don’t have access to my blog.

Yes, I’m totally unplugged.

But I am writing.

Yes, I am using my sunscreen.

And, yes, someone with a very big gun and an enormous pit bull is watching my house.

Duh.

What’s the best vacation you ever took? Where’d you go and what made it so great?

Getting Lucky in N’awlins

The grinding groan of the landing gear signaled our descent into the New Orleans Airport. It also woke my sleeping husband long enough for him interrogate me.

“Are you still planning to meet that Internet stranger while we’re here?”

“She’s not a stranger,” I said. “She’s The Lucky Mom.” I paused. “The person who won the bracelet giveaway on my blog?”

My husband stared at me without the tiniest spark of recognition. “When they find you dead in an attic, I will come and identify your parts.”

On the day Lisha and I agreed to meet, New Orleans experienced a cold front. It was like my husband and I had packed Arctic air in our suitcases. As I pulled one turtleneck sweater over another turtle neck sweater, I wished I’d brought mittens. I pulled on the coat my husband had teased me for packing and took the elevator down to the lobby to wait.

Lisha told me she’d be driving her husband’s green Prius, and I think I jumped into her car before she actually came to a full stop. Once inside, we squeeeeeeed and hugged like old friends.

{Or like people who have never actually spoken but only communicated via comments’ boxes on blogs and Facebook pages.}

“Hi Lisha!” I said, all confident.

And that is when I learned I had been pronouncing Lisha’s name wrong in my head for months.

It isn’t Lisha. {Like I just caught a FISH-a. Or I just broke a DISH-a.}

It’s Leeee-sha. {Like I have to PEE-sha.}

I made the necessary mental adjustment.

“I’ve gotta get a hat,” I told Leeeeeeeeesha. “It’s freezing outside!”

“Let’s go down to the Market,” Lisha said in her awesome raspy, super sexy Southern drawl.

I hadn’t been to the French Market in a decade, but some things never change. If a person wants two Saints tee shirts for $15, that’s still the place to go. You can find hand-painted scarves and voodoo dolls and magnets, feather boas and feather masks, and anything with a fleur-de-lis.

I just needed a hat.

As we walked and talked, I realized I was creating a blog post in my head.

So here are 5 Things To Make Sure of Before You Meet a Blogger In Real Life based solely on my day with Lisha.

1) Make Sure To Dress Alike. On the day we met, both Lisha and I wore orange coats. It’s not like Lisha called to say: “I’m going to wear orange. Do you have anything orange?” It just happened. If you took a poll, I’m guessing one in fifty people might have an orange coat, but he would probably be in jail. That said, it was cool and we look excellent in our photos since we are color coordinated.

2) Make sure one of you knows where you are going. When I lived in New Orleans, I always got lost. This is because I was born without any internal GPS system. Meanwhile, Lisha was born with a Garmin implant or something. We went all over the place and she never got lost.

Lisha brought me to the Lower 9th ward where things are still in pretty bad shape, but she didn’t complain when I got a little trespasser-ishy.

3) Make sure the blogger is Southern. I forced Lisha to go with me to look for a hat. And a voodoo doll. And a bunch of other stuff. Lisha was brimming with Southern hospitality, so she probably would have let me shop all day, but our hands were freezing. And because Lisha is from the South, she was beyond generous. She paid for our parking, our lunch, and all the gas we used driving around the city. I’m not sure I said thank you enough. {Thank you, Lee}.

4) Make sure the blogger is sassy. Some dude followed us to the River where we planned to sit and chat for a while. He tried to get us to fall for one of the oldest gags in the New Orleans book of tricks. He asked: “You wanna bet $5 I kin tell where you got yo shoes at?” Lisha looked the man right in the eye and politely said, “I’m from here.” She wasn’t rude or anything. She allowed the man his dignity. But she set her boundary. And seriously, that is the oldest trick in the book. See the * if you don’t know the answer.

5) Make sure the blogger will give 100% of herself to you. If our interaction was representative of the kind of person Lisha is in real life, I can tell you she is a patient, devoted friend. We bloggers tend to be plugged-in sorts. But for five hours, we ignored the cell phone bings and pings and push notifications to enjoy the other person’s company: To listen. To laugh. To look into each other’s eyes.

The more I listened to Lisha, I realized she’s got it backwards. Sure, her blog may be called The Lucky Mom, but really, the people who have her in their lives are the lucky ones. This is the woman who lights up when she talks about her husband and her three sons; the woman who served as a full-time caregiver to her mother for years until she passed away; the woman who is planning to have her eightysomething-year-old mother-in-law move in right after Mardi Gras. How many people open their arms that wide? And that often?

Lisha was apologetic about having to leave me on a corner four blocks from my hotel. I’m sure she felt she was being rude, but she had to leave me there because it is Mardi Gras season: a parade was a-comin’, and there was no way to cross the route. After having lived in New Orleans for many years, I promised her I knew the drill. We pressed our faces close to each other and hugged goodbye.

We took this picture ourselves. Can you tell?

As I made my way back to the hotel, stopping to catch flying beads, plastic cups and doubloons, I felt like I’d gotten lucky.

Not only had I not been chopped up into tiny pieces like my husband had predicted, but I think that — quite possibly — I had the best blind date. Ever.

I met a wonderful blogger {and person} — in real life in my favorite city in the world.

Oh, and I found that hat.

Click HERE to read Lisha’s account of our meeting.

Color-coordinated. With hat.

If you could pick a blogger to spend 5 hours with, who would you want to meet?

* “Yo shoes are on yo feet. That’ll be $5.”

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An Unexpected Bang

Well hello, July. That was a fine ass-kicking you gave me.

No, I am not talking about fireworks. That would be cliché.

And I am not talking about that other kind of bang either, you pervs. Seriously, get your minds out of the gutters!

To start July right, I got into a car accident.

Awesome, right?

First, everyone remain calm. It was a minor fender bender.

I was at a stoplight. Yup. Not moving at all.

Red means stop and I had done stopped.

When the light changed, I slowly moved my foot towards the accelerator.

And that’s when the grey car in front of me came flying backwards and slammed into the front bumper of my car.

Right.

Backwards.

I shifted into park and jumped out of my car — as did the driver of the other vehicle.

ElderDude was about 128 years old and kind of hunched over.

“What happened?” I said, maybe a little too loudly, but I was competing with traffic.

“I think I accidentally shifted into reverse,” he said, shuffling his feet a little.

Whaaaaat?

I didn’t understand how that could be possible.

To be honest — and completely ageist — I also couldn’t fathom why a man over the age of 100 would be driving a stick-shift. Was he out trolling to pick up the ladies?

So there we stood, like The North-Going Zax and the The South-Going Zax from Dr. Suess, those two furry creatures who bump into each other and refuse to budge from their tracks.

(Only we were much less angry and much less furry.)

Anyway, we just kind of stood there in the middle of the intersection.

Foot to foot. Face to face.

I asked ElderDude if he wanted to exchange information.

He inspected his rear bumper. It was a little scratched. His license plate was a little dented, but otherwise perfect.

I looked into his old man’s eyes. They were blue. Like ocean blue. Like really pretty ocean blue, like the kind of oceans you see in documentaries where the ocean is just gorgeous and you want to hop in and take a swim.

“I don’t think we need to exchange information,” ElderDude said. “As long as you’re okay with it.”

One day I will be 100 years old, I thought to myself. And I will do something stupid. And it would be nice — assuming no one is injured — if that person could just forgive me for it.

So like a fish dangling from a line, I let him go. It was catch and release, and I threw him back. I mean, he was just a little, kyphotic fish. Feeling good about my decision, I got into my own car and followed ElderDude down the road until I eventually turned left and he drove off in his sporty, little gray car.

When I picked up Monkey after a morning of swimming, he took one look at my Honda and asked, “What’s that thing hanging off the front?”

I went to inspect.

And dagnabit if my license plate wasn’t gone.

That old man in the gray car — the one with the blue eyes — the one I let go without taking his name or plate number or information about his insurance company had bashed the fancy, black plastic license plate holder that secured my plate to my car like… like… like it was a cheap, black plastic license plate holder.

What can I tell you? I can’t find a good metaphor.

It’s clear to me now what happened. ElderDude hypnotized me so I forgot basic accident protocol. Hubby says this is ridiculous, but I was definitely momentarily blinded by blue.

Monkey and I returned to the scene of the crime where a good Samaritan had stuck my license plate on the median next to some pink flowers that looked a little wilted.

I think they were pansies.

I also think it’s going to cost eleventy-bajillion dollars to get my license plate bolted back on my car.

Have you ever tried to do something nice but then have it come back to bite you? What’s the story behind the most expensive car repair you’ve ever had to make?


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My Weird New York State of Mind

Photo from Skyline Park in NYC

I am terrified of New York City. There I said it.

This has nothing to do with the recent bedbug scourge; I have been afraid of The City for at least 20 years. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I love watching movies about New York. I think the first film with scenes shot in New York was called The Thieiving Hand. I learned about it in a Film class in college where we also saw Citizen Kane and The Pawnbroker. None of these were particularly uplifting movies: to the contrary. But they made me feel that New York was the place where people could start revolutions, where broken people came to start new lives and reinvent themselves.

So pretty!

As a kid, I loved A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and 42nd Street and who doesn’t love Miracle on 34th Street? At some point, I saw Breakfast at Tiffany’s, which is when I think I started dreaming of going to New York one day and locating the store with those lovely blue boxes. I imagined myself a little like Dolly (in Hello Dolly!), always surrounded by friends, no matter what the circumstances. Later, I fell in love with “ethnic films” like Shaft and Super Fly, The Jazz Singer and everything ever produced by Spike Lee, especially Do the Right Thing. I was already in love with John Travolta, so put him in a movie about New York with the music of the Bee Gees (Saturday Night Fever), and I was in. I memorized the dance moves from The Wiz and All That Jazz and belted out Annie so people could hear me at the top of the Chrystler Building. I laughed at Tootsie and,more recently, I obsessed over the television series Sex in the City, living vicariously through the four friends who made their way in the Big Apple.

On film, New York always seems so romantic. Remember watching the child run from one parent to the other in Kramer vs. Kramer in the blindingly bright sunshine of Central Park. Seeing Harry meet Sally again and again and again… until they finally realize they really were meant to be together and kiss. Sigh. And I love Sleepless in Seattle when Meg Ryan (aka: Annie) flies to New York to meet Tom Hanks (aka: Sam) where they finally meet on the top of the Empire State Building and kiss. Sigh. And I love when finally, finally, the cyberspace relationship between Meg Ryan (aka: “Shopgirl”) and Tom Hanks (aka: NY152″) from You’ve Got Mail turns real and they meet each other at Riverside Park and kiss. Sigh.

In the movies, New York totally works for me.

In real life, not so much.

In July of 1990, I went to New York for a friend’s wedding reception. It was a sloppy event as it was raining and muggy. My hair was a wreck. Everyone wore shiny, slinky dresses, and I felt like I’d worn the absolute most wrong thing – ever. I knew no-one other than the bride, and I had already suffered through hours of ostentatious name dropping, so I decided to leave.

Disaster!

Here is where the trauma starts. I got lost. Really lost. I found a subway station and planned to take a train back to my hotel which was about 40 blocks away. At that time, I felt fairly confident (less than 50%) that I had picked the right train. I sat down and watched the streets roll by. For a little while, I was heading in the right direction, but suddenly, to my horror – instead of stopping at the street I’d expected, the train just kept zooming on. I asked a woman where the train was headed and she said Connecticut, and that it was an Express train.

“No stops,” she said.

Somehow I’d gotten onto the completely wrong train and was forced to make peace with the fact that we would not stop until we “landed” in Connecticut.  I felt like I was in that book From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. (You know, where the kids escape their home in Connecticut and go to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and discover the secret behind a mysterious sculpture?) Only I was going the wrong way.

Exhausted and scared, I cried. A man on the train took pity on me, got me turned around, and wrote out elaborate directions regarding where I needed to go and which stop I needed to be sure to get off at. He warned me to stay alert, watch for pick-pocketers, and avoid talking to strangers.

“Not everyone is as trustworthy as I am,” he told me as he pushed a $20 bill into my hand. “In case you get in trouble, use this for a cab.”

I don’t think I ever got past that whole train thing because in real life, everything about the New York City scares me. I am one of those people who was not born with any kind of built in GPS system, so no matter how many times people tell me that the Aveues run this way and the Streets run that way, I always smile and promptly forget. The information doesn’t stick; it simply evaporates like piss on the sidewalks.

Nevertheless, each summer I fly to the Big Apple to and force myself to try to conquer my weird phobia and to learn to negotiate the City by myself.

You know how psychotherapists make people with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder touch doorknobs to prove to them that nothing bad will happen to them? That’s kind of what I’ve got going on when it comes to New York. I have to go there and try to push through my fear. My theory is that if I deal with my NYC phobia the way people deal with other phobias, perhaps things will eventually be easier for me.

The advent of technology has allowed me to go to New York alone. If I didn’t have a Smartphone, I wouldn’t even try; the Yelp app has helped me find everything from restaurants to public washrooms.

My friends in New York are very accommodating. They are patient when it comes to my fear and always tell me to call them from where I am and that they’ll come and get me.

“It’s faster,” they assure me, “and no trouble at all.”

When they find me, they take me to their favorite places – which is awesome because I’ve seen some places that are really off the beaten path.

Shortly before Person A has to go, I call Person B who asks me where I am and tells me to stay put. Can you imagine? So much delicious learned helplessness.

Central Park is divine!

Maybe some day I’ll be brave like one of those cops from NYPD Blue, exploring the internal and external struggles of the fictional 15th precinct of Manhattan. Or perhaps some day I’ll become a purple-haired assassin (like the costumed vigilante Hit-Girl from Kick-Ass), fearing nothing. Until then, I’ll live New York City mostly vicariously  — through the movies.

But for real,  just know that all of you City dwellers are endlessly fascinating to me. To me, you really do know everything: where to find the best gazpacho and the best sushi; you live in tiny apartments, stacked one on top of the other, paying crazy rent — but you know the nightlife makes it all worthwhile; you know where to go for tea and which laundromat has the best dryers. You know which car service is the best to get to the airport. You have survived terrorist attacks. And you know how to take underground transportation, daily, without ending up in Connecticut.

What scares you and how do you attempt to conquer it?