Personal Space

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Two posts ago I mentioned that minor thing called Personal Space. We all need it. We are occasionally violated. We sometimes never get it. Sometimes we get too much.

In college this weird thing happened where people started hugging each other. Not that we didn’t do that before, but it seemed like a matter of greeting that became habit. I surmised in a writing assignment once that we, as a collective whole, needed that platonic expression of inclusion and even love because we were missing it from home.

A memory sticks out for me, of sitting on the bleachers at a football game surrounded by friends, leaning back into a guy friend seated behind me. It was easy and comfortable, and secure. I felt that sense of affection for him and his for me, though it would never blossom beyond friendship. Whether his intention was different from mine we’ll never know, but I valued his friendship more than the desire to have a boyfriend.

I think we all know the prevalence of the hookup and plenty of other shenanigans. I shied away from those situations because I always preferred a real relationship. I think I gave off the vibe too, because it was a rare occasion when a guy would cross the boundaries of my personal space without invitation.

Friendships are different. I was always open to hugs and today now more than ever, everybody hugs. It’s a standard that appears to be here to stay, so ya’ll best get on board. Unless you’re not a hugger, which is perfectly fine. I have a few friends who aren’t, and I get the need for boundaries. Intuition is also a powerful tool – if one pays attention to others’ cues. I don’t like hugs, or – we hardly know each other, or – my head only reaches your belly button and that’s just plain awkward.

In relationships, as I mentioned – too much affection was the kiss of death. Even my ex, who wrapped his arms around me at a bar the first time we went out – which, by the way, should have been a great big red flag – I felt like he was claiming me and it pissed me off.

What is between Todd and me is a perfect balance of love and affection, personal space, and PDA. We still hold hands in public, walking into the store or out to a restaurant. While our lives seem to have become busier and we have less down time together, perhaps there is a greater need right now to close the gap between us. Personal space is so abundant now as to require a little more violation. And no, I’m not talking about sex, you dirty-minded little trolls.

Meanwhile, Veruca is a master of violation. She has always been the child who couldn’t get enough of me, and at this age I find myself tensing up the more she invades my space. She will hug and squeeze me – I swear, bruising my face – she talks to me like I’m her child. I’ve been told this is a form of possession, or manipulation, or both. So, we continue to work on the boundaries, even as she is maturing and beginning to pull away.

And then her very own personal lesson came along this year. A new girl – we’ll call her Missy – latched on to her on the first day, called V her BFF, and won’t leave her alone. She is in every. Single. One. Of her classes. AND lunch. V has only gym class with her bestie since 3rd grade, so lunch is the prime time to catch up. Unfortunately, Missy is dominating V’s time and conversation and she is pissed. Missy also has this other endearing habit of poking V.

My solicited advice was to establish physical boundaries first. Tell Missy not to poke you. Tell her she’s welcome to sit with you and Bestie at lunch, but explain that this is also important time that you both look forward to catching up. V tells me that even Bestie is annoyed, which is kinda funny because I can’t picture sweet little demure Bestie getting pissed off. What little I know…

For what it’s worth, I think it’s gotten a bit better. I did try to encourage V to see behind Missy’s motivations – that she’s the new girl and needed to feel like she belonged, and that she saw V as a kind face. That perhaps V’s job was to help her get acclimated and meet other friends to smother hang out with too. It’s a testament to V’s [public] character that a stranger saw her as an ally.

All in all, karma for V became a teaching moment for me. And the revelation that perhaps the apple doesn’t fall that far from the tree.

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Where I’ve Been – September Half-point Edition

In keeping with the life-in-the-fast-lane theme mentioned in my last post, I’m now going to regale you with tales of a week in the life.

The next day was Opac’s second game – away again – and, while the teams were more evenly matched than the previous week’s and we got on the board, we lost. It didn’t help that the refs weren’t calling all the fouls and gave away a touchdown. Opac is on the kickoff team and has less playing time this year, so he spends most of the two+ hours in a maddening pace up and down the field. I’m conflicted between wanting to see him get out there and being grateful he’s not up against linemen who outweigh him by 70 pounds.

Saturday after work Todd and I attended the memorial service of a friend and colleague who lost her battle with cancer, in a packed auditorium at the college. There has been an awful lot of cancer in the community, including Todd’s boss who has been battling for several years. His condition at the service bothered me more than Laura’s passing. He was terribly weak. And, when he moved toward me to say goodbye, he fell at my feet. It was terrible and left me shell-shocked. He and Laura are people I’ve known – they both attended our wedding.

After, Todd and I went to an art show in the city. The venue, Y Art, is a beautifully minimalist white space with warm lighting care of the sculptured lighting of Donna Reinsel, who shared the exhibition with Todd’s colleague Robert Creamer. Bob’s work is breathtaking. The l-shaped space has a long gallery hall with a bar at the end, opening up into a larger rectangular gallery. It quickly got crowded. It’s unusual for me but I found myself suddenly overstimulated, so I stepped outside alone into the warm late-afternoon breeze. Usually I enjoy social conversation, but not on this day.

We had chosen a restaurant in Canton for dinner and we arrived to a festival in the park and hundreds of people, so we opted out and headed out of the city for a more quiet dinner with the in-laws. Got home with every intention of going straight to bed but was met with a massive pile of dog poo. Because a busy week isn’t a busy week without shit or a hacked up hairball.

Mom’s dog was staying with us and gets nervous sometimes apparently. Earlier in the week there was a horrifying mess of diarrhea on our bedroom carpet that I was so sure was Sabra because she was avoiding me like the plague, but it was Mo who had shit stuck to his white ass so who knows??

Sunday morning Todd left for my dad’s to help him with car repairs and to bring home a hot tub – yes, a hot tub – that friends were more than happy to give away. Lucky us!! I had to pick my mom up at the airport. We all got back at the same time, mom headed home, and I took on vacuuming up Mo fur with a vengeance while the men moved the monster into its new resting spot.

Monday I filled in at work and Tuesday I went for a looong overdue skin check. I was worried about a red spot on my nose that turned out to be a broken blood vessel, so it’s great to be old. One personal care appointment down without incident. And then….because they can’t all be problem free…Wednesday morning I woke up at 4:30 with substantial pain in my mouth so I called the dentist, and several hours later found myself drooling, in the middle of a root canal.

I was lucky to have it done the same day, since Thursday was a 12-hour shift and Friday was my usual 9 hour day. He put so much Novocain in my mouth that the pain was gloriously and instantaneously gone after the first shot, and for several hours after I was numb from my right eye all the way down to my chin. It’s an interesting sensation to feel your nose running and yet not be able to feel your nose.

Friday night lights again – this time at home –against a championship team who gave us our annual ass-whoopin. But we did score two touchdowns, so our boys are at least getting on the board. Opac spent most of the time pacing the field again until he was called in to play lineman a few times. It drives me mad, because it’s hard to locate him since he’s always on the move and I don’t want to miss him when he’s on the field. He doesn’t seem to understand that it’s hard to follow a number in a sea of orange jerseys.

Saturday was another busy day at work – between all the beginning of the school year illnesses and flu shots. I rushed home and off to V’s softball game, in what had to be the hottest day for a game this year. Several girls from the team never showed up and didn’t call, including our best pitchers, and so our girls were fighting hard for what ended up a loss. Likely sixth graders who were coming off of their North Bay trip and figured they didn’t have to be there since they’d missed practice all week.

But V did us proud – acting as catcher and then scored the first run of the game. She is definitely a born athlete. If she keeps at it, she’s going to be one formidable player.

Things are slowing down for a bit, thankfully, just so I can get some projects done around the house and get back on the treadmill and back to riding again. After hitting a wall a month ago, I quit drinking and changed my diet and I’ve lost 10 pounds. And I feel great. Running is still out, though, thanks to my knee and not my brain – which sees the upcoming 5ks and wants to get back in it.

 

It Starts Again

After a long summer that didn’t feel like it went all that fast, we’re back to real-life rush hour. The first day of summer always feels like I want to slit my wrists when Veruca is demanding an activity schedule worthy of an organized, intinerized trip. Yeah, I totally just made that word up.

The kids had their vacation with their dad and Todd and I had ours. We spent time together, we spent time apart. Summer slogged along. Then football started the second week of August, and suddenly time jumped on the A train and took off like a bullet.

This is the first year I wasn’t counting the days until the first day of school. Instead, I’ve been checking the tears at every door we pass through. Seriously, two weeks ago I totally used my burning eyes from a long day staring at insurance verifications to cover the tears that kept welling up as I watched Opac begin his 3rd year in football.

To say I’ve been emotional lately would be an understatement. I sat there in the bleachers, watching him across the field, and acutely felt the loss of the little child I held in my arms with his head snuggled into my shoulder.

He’s a Junior this year. He has two years of high school left, before he leaves the nest to go be a college kid and create his own life. Two Years. Two years is a blink in the world of parenting. And I’m not ready. I’m not ready to let him go. Of course, he still doesn’t have his driver’s license, so I suppose he can’t go too far. Yet.

I have several friends who drove their firstborns to college this year and that, itself, has nailed home the reality. Nephtoo began college this year. Which reminds me, he still hasn’t sent me his address so I can send him stuff. And why? Because he’s off living his own life and adulting, and has temporarily forgotten his family.

I hear dumb music and I start to cry. I think about his soft baby hair and his little hand resting on my chest, and the long lashes that curled over his big brown eyes – because I would sit on the couch and hold him while he slept. He never learned to sleep in a crib.

Every moment he walked out my door, he took a part of my heart with him. Every moment I think about the inevitable bearing down on us, my heart feels like it’s being squeezed in a vice. I know it’s hard to believe, but I’m terribly emotional about him.

This is the first year I’ve felt the weight of the second child growing up. V started 7th grade this year. I remember my middle school years, probably better than I should. I don’t remember clinging to my mom quite like she does, or smothering her with my love and attention. My mom keeps reminding me that V loves me so much, and that I should enjoy it. I’m not good at being smothered though, which is where I struggle with her. Smothering me was the kiss of death for many a boy, once upon a time.

This year, however, while I’ve been working on setting those personal space boundaries with her – which, ironically, is a topic that figures into my next post – I’ve also begun to embrace the moments she’s close to me that way because it’s inevitable that she may change her M.O. as she enters the teen years. And if my teen years with my mom are any predictor of the future, or at the very least Karma – it’s gonna get ugly.

In any case, I’m experiencing some occasional sadness. It’s not every minute, or every day, but it comes with the suddenness of a drive-by shooting. I’m feeling sadness over my kids growing up, over growing older, watching my parents age and what that means, what life will look like in 20 years.

And these are the times I’m most vulnerable, and then the door to the attic of my soul cracks open and I start to feel everything. Including the things I’ve tried to heal, and locked away. I think of the child I lost, and it opens a Pandora’s box of whys and why nots. And suddenly I’m feeling that loss again, not nearly as acutely as that day, but a dull ache in the pit of my stomach. And I have my reasons for that too, but there are some things I prefer to keep to myself, even as I choke on them.

So it starts again. School is three days underway and we’re back to a bumpy groove, as O has practice daily after school and games every Friday, and V has softball practice at night and games every Saturday. Even Todd has the schedule from hell this week. The four of us have not had dinner together in almost 2 weeks. I’m behind on personal appointments, and I’m picking up extra hours at work. All of those things on my summer to-do list have now been transferred to my Fall to-do list.

I had big plans for the first week of school, but like all plans, even the best laid plans don’t always get laid.

Todd and I Do It Again, Part 2

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I woke up the next morning after another relatively early night, and luxuriously shaved my legs with Todd’s razor. Before you make assumptions about me – he told me to, after he shaved his face, because he’s loving like that and not because I’m a selfish bitch.

There was a great deal of noise going on above us, and it didn’t take long to remember the restaurant and bar were directly above us. Like chairs sliding across hardwood floors, vacuuming early in the morning, and then several times at night I heard something drop and roll across the floor – like dropping a marble on a hard surface. WTH was it??

Anyway. Woke up feeling great after 17 miles of bike riding. A little soreness on the bottom, but a hell of a lot less than last year when I couldn’t sit down for 3 days. My left knee, the troublemaker, was aching a bit but okay. We walked the mile to Dumser’s for breakfast again.

It was so hot and the humidity was ridiculous at 9 a.m. We walked hand in hand a bit until our hands got too sweaty, pointing out condos we liked and contemplating what it would cost to buy one with the family to share. The occasional breezes off the ocean that broke between the buildings felt divine.

We spent a couple hours on the beach, people-watching and enjoying the breeze coming off the ocean. I was looking forward to cracking open Another Roadside Attraction, by Tom Robbins. **

We decided to catch an early dinner at Bull on the Beach. The bus driver drove like a bat out of hell and then hit the brakes hard just seconds before the stops. Seriously, I’m not exaggerating that the first stop hurt my neck. As more people boarded, watching their reactions to this ride was pure entertainment. Anyway, we sat at the bar again and shared a roast beef sandwich – delicious! Beef and beer. What could be better?

It was still fairly early, and breezy, and so we decided to play a round of Pirate mini-golf. I got a hole-in-one and I won. I don’t mean to gloat, but I’m doing it, because Todd wins just about everything.

We decided to go sit out on the rooftop bar at the hotel, rather than go out somewhere. We took the elevator to the 8th floor and a rather empty restaurant and bar, and waited nearly four minutes without so much as glance from the waitress adding up her checks right there. Finally, when asked about sitting on the rooftop deck, she said it was “kinda windy” and we’d get “faster service if [we] went to the bar.” Which turned out not to be true, since the bartender couldn’t be bothered to take an order from us. There were exactly eight people in the bar.

But the good news is that we discovered the source of the falling sounds – a wooden shuffleboard game using little metal balls, and it’s directly above our room – and we ended up walking out and discovering a better place to have drinks.

Ropewalk, a popular restaurant on the bay with long tables, comfortable seating around fire pits, cocktail tables along the water, and two empty seats at one of the bars for Todd and me. Great bartender and great drinks! Probably drank more than necessary.

Thursday

We got up to watch the sunrise on the beach, as we did last year. We skipped breakfast and just had coffee in the room, hopped the bikes and went to see Holly for lunch. I ordered a Greek salad and slice of pizza that was so good I could’ve eaten the whole pizza. My knee was acting up, alternately clicking and aching, but we continued to ride.

We had dinner at Higgins Crab House down on 28th. I had a crab cake that was loaded with shell. And when I say shell, I mean shell. As in. Every. Single. Bite. The waiter offered to get me a new one, but I wasn’t interested in eating crab cakes anymore. I ate the fries and the coleslaw it came with, while he disappeared to talk to the manager. He came back and told us he’d take the charge off the bill, and then picked up my plate while I was eating the fries and took it away.

Todd suggested we walk the boardwalk, but by this time I was in crippling pain from my left hip to my knee to my ankle. It was excruciating and difficult to walk, so we took the bus down to the inlet. I stopped in the restroom there before we got on the boardwalk and discovered the cause of my lower back pain and thank God there was one thing I always have with me.

I hobbled beside Todd like an invalid as we passed through a thickly crowded area on the boardwalk around Thrasher’s fries and Kohr’s ice cream, and all of sudden something hit the top of my head like an atomic bomb. It happened so fast I ducked my head from the impact and O.M.G. A fucking seagull shit right on the top of my head. Out of 300 people. Fuckers.

Todd cleaned up the top of my head and was careful not to crack a smile, and we pressed on even though I was so pissed all I wanted to do was go back to the hotel and take a shower. About four or five blocks later I started to lighten up. We stopped at the Brass Balls, snagged a table on the boardwalk, and ordered two frozen concoctions and a plate of nachos and all was well with the world again. Great waiter!

Last Day

Todd impatiently decided to start loading up the car while I was still getting myself together for check-out, and at some point I realized he’d been gone a while. He came back and told me he’d dropped the box containing the coffee maker, mugs, some glass purchases we’d made, and the magnum of wine we’d never opened. Everything survived the fall except the wine, which exploded on impact. The car smelled like a winery all the way home.

We went to breakfast at the Dough Roller on the boardwalk, since we’d bought some artwork the night before and had to pick it up. I ordered a western omelet that I could not request without tomatoes; the alternative was to “customize” one with all the same ingredients minus the tomatoes that would cost two dollars more than the western. Bullshit.

Todd became edgy shortly after this couple was seated behind us and said we’d have to move tables because the woman had “nervous leg syndrome” and she was shaking the bench their backs shared. I offered to switch sides with him, figuring I have a higher level of tolerance than he does, but damn girl! After the last 24 hours, all I could do was laugh.

The last stops made: a candy shop for peanut butter fudge and one caramel apple for Miss Veruca, the art shop where our paintings were waiting, and Fischer’s Popcorn. And homeward bound.

** For the uninitiated, Tom Robbins is one of a kind. I highly recommend starting with Jitterbug Perfume (my all-time favorite), or Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates.

Todd and I Do It Again

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The truth is, we do it every year. Sometimes several times a year.

We went on vacation, and returned to Ocean City, Maryland a couple of weeks ago. We rolled in late afternoon on a Monday, checked into our 7th floor room (remember this detail – it figures in later) at last year’s hotel which – by the way – is nothing special but the rooms are upgraded and clean and affordable. We got the last parking spot under cover and left the car there until the day we checked out.

We met my longtime friend Holly and her husband for dinner on the boardwalk. Afterward we walked the boardwalk a short distance to the Old Time Photo place, where Holly and I recreated the Flashback photo we had done in Wildwood several decades ago.

Holly and I giggled through the entire thing, from breath-stealing corsets to our middle-aged climb up to the top of the bar (we were saloon girls), to the stiff posture we had to hold while they snapped photos. It was a LOT easier when we were 15. The staff was terrific, referring to the original often to get it exactly right, and never missed a beat with helping us old broads up and down from the bar top.

We grabbed one of the last tables outside at Shenanigans for dinner. The evening weather was perfect. I had a margarita and then a Dogfish 60, which was all I needed. I’m not much for drinking these days. We were back in the room by 11, with me falling asleep on Todd’s shoulder as we watched Merlin on Netflix. So this is what middle-age looks like. Unencumbered by little children, we’re still asleep before midnight.

Tuesday

We decided to walk to breakfast at Dumser’s Dairyland, which was about a mile walk. The omelets are killer. I had my favorite, a spinach, mushroom, and feta omelet and Todd had a meat-filled omelet. Home fries were perfect and toast soaked in butter – a cardiac patient’s delight – and I’m not sorry. Dumser’s has been around since 1939 and still retains the charm of yesteryear.

We stopped at Sunsations – a chain-mecca of all things beachy – on the walk back to buy sunscreen and a hat for me, since all the errands and leisurely time spent before we drove down didn’t afford me a memory for necessities. I also forgot soap (which Todd had thankfully packed) and a razor, so I’m currently growing leg hair until I can get to a CVS.

Todd bought me a new gel seat for my bike and installed it before we came down, hoping it would ease the pain of sitting down after a long ride. Well, he was partially right. More on that later.

We took the bikes out and rode down to the boardwalk at 1st Street – our friend Jonathan told us to grab a slice and a beer at Tony’s Pizza for him. The humidity and the sun were tough on the ride, and we both wore the wrong shirts, and so arrived soaked to the skin in sweat. I don’t mind sweat when I’m working out, but it’s a whole ‘nother story when I’m sitting down on a vinyl seat in a restaurant.

The pizza slices were old (translation: not fresh) and neither of us wanted a beer at this point (sorry Jonathan). I had a birch beer instead – a childhood favorite – which was ice-cold and delicious, and we split a Caesar salad. I’ve never had a Caesar salad that was covered in bacon bits and onions, but it was good, so whatever. Our waitress, who was pretty much par for the course in this overcrowded beach town, disappeared for long periods of time and at the end we waited and waited for her to return just so we could ask for a check. It seems unfortunate somehow, but every experience we have either rules out a repeat visit, or gets added to the favorites list.

We walked the boards and stopped in a shop to buy a couple of dry shirts. Todd bought a tank and changed on the boardwalk, because he’s a guy and can do that. I chose not to change – a) because there was nowhere to change and I’m not getting arrested at 48 and b) I knew I’d just soak through that one too.

On the ride back we stopped at Bull on the Beach for a beer. It was early enough that there were several open seats at the rectangular bar. The a/c felt divine and I made my way to the restroom intending to change my shirt. I peeled it off and then realized, duh, my bra was soaked too. And then it dawned on me that the bra would just make wet circles on the dry t-shirt, which is way worse than just sitting in a wet t-shirt, and I couldn’t exactly take my bra off because no one wants to see that. Well, maybe the group of middle-aged men doing shots on the other side of the bar, but my husband isn’t so far gone from his tough guy days so – bad idea. So I had to put that wet shirt back on. I looked around for one of those air dryers, because I was seriously going to try to dry myself somewhat (hey – Madonna did it), but this place doesn’t have those.

Back at the bar I ordered an IPA – it seems you’re not getting too many craft choices anywhere and so I had a pint of Dogfish to Todd’s Guinness – and Todd ordered wings, which were really good. The bartenders were really friendly – which was a big plus because many of the patrons seemed like regulars and we weren’t treated any differently.

Dinner was planned later for Mackey’s, strategically around sunset, and I insisted we wait for an outside, on the water, table and we weren’t disappointed. We got a front row table to the sunset which, although cloudy and not as spectacular as sunsets past, was still beautiful and tranquil even with children playing in the water nearby.

They always play God Bless America at sunset, and this year it seemed more poignant than ever.

 

Cabo San Lucas – The End

Chapter 3

January 19, 1991  Sábado

My baja California trip is over. I’m sitting now in the Phoenix airport, sometime around 5 p.m. Only SEVEN hours until I board my next flight – to Philadelphia. Customs went okay – not quite as bad as Greece was. I thought I’d found the perfect spot to plant myself – game room, snack bar, lounge, Haagan Daas, gift shop – until the snack bar closed. At five o’clock. Mom would stow her bags and venture out into Phoenix. I thought about it for a split second, but I’m way too hungover.

I was awakened this morning at the ungodly hour of 7:30, from another bizarre dream, by the ever crowing rooster, a pesky mosquito that tried to fly up my nose, and a need for the bathroom. A couple of old Mexican women came by later, selling Bibles door to door. I don’t know if the Bibles are in English though.

Yesterday Mom and I went shopping and I bought a silver bracelet and a pair of earrings. We ate lunch afterward at the Giggling Marlin, which is probably my favorite place. Mom ordered a Mexican coffee, and when I took a sip something flew up the straw and into my mouth. A fucking fly!! She said I went white, and both she and the waitress had a big laugh at my expense for swallowing a “mosca!” It was NOT funny.

We walked around town a bit and stopped at the Rio Grill. We were having a good time, drinking cerveza (lots of cerveza), a live band started to play, and we ended up making new friends. Kelly, about my age, was a tall, model-like blonde who was super nice.  John was a 40-ish retired boatman from Southern Cal who really liked mom a lot. He introduced me to Eric, 24 and very very cute, who he himself had just met that day. Eric told me he was from Montreal, traveling around.

The four of us decided to go to Squid Roe to party some more. John was a trip! Eric and I danced forever, cervezas in hand. John said he’d introduce me to Tico Torres, who was there, though it never happened. Finally left there sometime around 3 and, suddenly hungry, mom and I bought these killer hamburgers from a food vendor right outside the bar. I tallied my drinks and it amounted to about a half-case of beer.

Which is why I’m sitting in the Phoenix airport now, horribly hung over and trembling from dehydration, sporting shorts, a minor tan, and my motorcycle jacket and wishing I didn’t have over 6 hours left until I can board some plane that will only take me as far as Philly. Then I have to figure out how to get to 30th Street Station before dawn to catch the train that will take me home to New York. I’ll finally be home, just 18 hours from now.

It was a great trip though. Anything but a tourist trap, it was charming in its simplicity and the lack of obnoxious crowds. Cabo is the antithesis of Cancun, the only other Mexico destination I have to compare it with. It’s like night and day. They’re building this enormous luxury hotel on Boulevard Marina (the main street running through town), currently just a shell, and it makes me wonder how these high rise hotels will change this sleepy little town.

Cabo San Lucas – Chapter 3

Chapter 2

January 14, 1991 Lunes

Sitting here at Squid Roe – excellent margaritas!! No buzz, but feeling like a headache is brewing. It’s from being in the sunshine too long. The Americans that come to Cabo are a strange crew. This sleepy little town seems like a magnet for peculiar people who are both friendly and also seem like they’re running away from real life. The pretty waitress here is primping herself openly at the mirror on the wall.

*****

Another sunny Mexico day slips into chilly darkness. It’s so peaceful here in Cabo, day and night, with the exception of the infamous barking perros. Don’t they ever get tired? The roosters don’t bother me. The mosquitos have become utter annoyance; they are everywhere in flight and twice the size as the breed at home. I’ve killed dozens already tonight while reading Savage Ecstasy, a book from the house’s library.

This book is so poorly written; however, the plot is fascinating and has stolen my attention for several hours. The love scenes are pathetic. I’m know I’ve dreamt up steamier scenes than these. I hate romance novels. Won’t be caught dead with one back in New York.

*****

January 15, 1991 Martes

At Las Palmas restaurant, on Playa Médano. 70s music here. I like the music at Squid Roe better. There’s no one interesting enough to watch. I have to be one of the whitest gringos in this place. Mom is a week ahead of me with her tan, having come a full week before I got here.

We just had lunch and I’m feeling very content sitting here with my trashy novel and my Corona. Such a cliché, I am.

This is definitely a bad place to come if you’re single. Night Fever is playing now and I keep half expecting some John Travolta lookalike to come out of nowhere and hit the floor. The locals really love their American music. Vogue is on regular rotation just about everywhere.

We are waiting for the car – it seems Gloria (the caretaker of the house) spoke to el mecánico, Hector, who said he’d retrieve the car from San José del Cabo and also offered to drop us here at the beach for a few hours. We thought he mumbled something about coming back in three hours with the Datsun. Who knows – in a place where everything is mañana?? I suggested we have been here longer, seeing as we had lunch after baking in the sun and, noting its position over Cabo now, I would venture that it must be almost four and way longer than three hours. We settled for another seat on the patio at the restaurant, ordered dos lemonellas and pondered our predicament. We decided to call it a day and headed home in a taxi – Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Mexico-style.

*****

Miércoles

The days are slipping by so quickly, and yet so slowly. Everything is in slow motion here and you find yourself getting sucked into it before you even realize it happened. Mom just asked me if I’m sure I don’t want to go to the beach today, and to tell the truth I don’t really care one way or the other. I just find myself answering, well… whatever, sighing heavily as if even the effort of a response is too much. I just dropped two postcards on the floor and I don’t even feel like picking them up.

Gloria came in this morning to tell us that Pago Pago is aquí. Pago Pago, the lean, mean, white piece-of-shit machine is back. One of the many guests of our villa named the car Pago Pago, which is auditorily hilarious but not so much in translation. I wonder if we’ll still need to carry several jugs of water with us whenever we take the car out?

*****

Jueves

Saddam Hussein’s deadline came and went, and of course he’s doing his own thing and the U.S. has begun minor fire. We watched the President’s address yesterday on the TV at Señor Sushi. Great drinks! Yummy Piña Coladas and 2-for-1 cervezas at Happy Hour.

We had dinner last night at El Coral – lobster for $12 but the food wasn’t very good and there were billions of moscas on the table, thus ruining my appetite. Everywhere are open air establishments, and flies just come with the territory.

We got an early start today – mailed our postcards, had lunch at the Giggling Marlin. Always good, but lethal margaritas. My non-alcoholic drink of choice here is lemonella. Gotta keep my wits about me during the daylight hours, I think.

Now we’re back on la playa by Las Palmas, a little windy today and a bit overcast. The sun is warm on the skin. I have my Walkman on – the only tape I brought with me is Madonna. This is where I long to be, la isla bonita…

Piña coladas, contrary to their sweetness, inspired a lovely violent dream last night. I was with José and his very large family and we left without him – he was running after us so we drove slowly and then lost him around a corner. When he came into view again, I saw two men beating him with pipes, so I’m screaming for us to go back for him. I got out of the car and he’s unconscious and I was afraid he was dead, but then he came to.

This really friendly dog decided to make me his number one amiga on the beach – he’d just come out of the ocean, ran over and rolled around on my towel, much to my surprise and horror. Mom laughed like a loon and suddenly I got hysterical and the commotion attracted a crowd of onlookers – mostly the Mexican salesmen who troll the beach selling shit that’s “almost free.”

Later…

We had dinner tonight at Señor Sushi – and consumed way too much. Strawberry daiquiris, cerveza, Caesar salad, Teriyaki chicken, Lobster, Mexican coffee, Kahlua flan, Kahlua and cream, brandy, …. TOO much. We were serenaded by a man with a guitar, who looked very much like José. (Yes, being in Mexico is like being in a constant state of deja vú.) He had no idea how funny it was, and there was just no way to explain my amusement. The waiter asked me to go dancing after 11:30 tonight. What is it with me and waiters?

 

 

 

Cabo San Lucas – Chapter 2

Chapter 1

Two days later.

I didn’t feel too hot on the flight to San Jose del Cabo and there was this very strange man sitting next to me, and then he was on the same bus to Cabo San Lucas. Gave me the creeps. It was dark when I arrived so I didn’t see much, and of course I was flooded with anxiety that mom wouldn’t be at the bus station when I arrived.

We go to bed really early here – like between 8 and 9:30 and get up about those same hours in the morning. Twelve hours of sleep! It’s actually much cooler than I expected. We sleep with our mass of blankets and in the same clothing we sleep in at home this time of year. However, during the day the sun is quite hot.

The house is nice – it’s not a luxury villa, but more like a home we’d actually live in if we lived here. It’s roomy, with high ceilings, but not too large for us. We each have our own bedroom. There are tiled floors throughout. The living room is cozy; waist-high shelves run the length of one wall and are filled with books. The kitchen, to the right of the living room, has everything you need to prepare your own meals. We share a large bathroom which, lucky me, is right next to my bedroom. There’s a patio off the kitchen with a charcoal grill, and chairs for sitting.

We walked into town yesterday and had lunch at the Giggling Marlin. I had this killer chicken burrito. We shared an order of french fries. Mom had soup and a margarita. I hear they’re exceptionally strong here. One is enough to put you eye level with the table.

We walked around after lunch and saw some incredible hotels, some under construction, found an open-air market with silver jewelry and tableware. Everything is pretty cheap here. Right now it’s about 3,000 pesos to the dollar, which sounds like a lot – especially when you’re buying orange juice for 8,500 pesos. We also went to the supermercado for food.

The village is cute. Small, but cute. Very quiet. Not crowded. Nothing like the “other” Mexico I’ve been to (Cancun). Everything is dirt here – practically no paved roads – so there is a thin brown dust that coats everything. Wipe off any plates or glassware on the restaurants’ tables. There are scruffy dogs that lie in the dirt everywhere, outside the restaurants, in the streets – and in the heat of the day. Makes you wonder, are they dead or alive?

As we made our way back to the house on one of the side streets, a huge truck full of day laborers rumbled by, blasting I’ve Got the Power. This struck me funnier than anything I’d seen so far. These trucks come and pick the men up every morning at a location just down the street from our house. Dozens of them waiting, pile into the back of an enormous truck. In the late afternoon, they return, dusty and sweaty and dirty. They, unlike their American counterparts, are polite and friendly, not catcalling balls of testosterone.

We met two guys on the way – one from British Columbia and the other from Sacramento – who’ve been living here for several months. They helped carry our groceries back and talked for a bit longer. I don’t know how they knew each other, but this place is sorta like that. People just come and hang and get lost.

The bugs here are abundant, and everywhere. We have teeny tiny ants here and there and various flying insects. And, since I’m mosquito bait, you can well imagine I’m starting to look like a malaria victim. And they itch like hell…

The man who owns this house left a guest log for everyone who stays here to write in. It is hands-down one of the funniest things I’ve ever read. There are hilarious anecdotes, stories, a lot of drunken reports, and advice about the house, the people, the town, and even the car. Yes, the house comes with a car, and there are various accounts of it in the book; however, it broke down on mom’s way to pick me up and we won’t get it back until tomorrow. Walking is nice, but unlike New York, it loses its appeal after a few days.

One entry was a list of dos and don’ts titled, Uptonian Advice for Good Times in Cabo (or, “safety hints”). To give credit where credit is due, his name was John Upton, and was entered in the log between May 12 and May 18, 1990:

X marks the spot

Fat cats from hell bite – beware

Beach cruisers and tequila equal pain

Avoid security force at Sol Mar Hotel, especially when naked

Stay off the roof – you’ll know soon enough. Have a beer.

Bacardi stings less than alcohol and cleans a cut just as good

Never turn your back on a wave, especially at 3 a.m.

Giggling Marlins also swallow (Have absolutely no idea what this means, and don’t think I want to)

Don’t take any money with you to Blandro because after a few shots and beers you may be tempted to spend it.

Run! if you hear a local mumble something like “seestir.”
Seems like sound advice, while raising a few more questions. A lot of entries mentioned the proliferation of wild dreams, blaming it on the environment, desert sun, and unadulterated tequila. I myself have had more than a fair share of trips down the rabbit hole in my sleep.

Last night I dreamed that I caused an argument with this girl and her mother and then the girl came back to kill me. And she almost did before I woke up. Fell back to sleep again and was running through Central Park with Sam, something about showing him the scenic route, and then suddenly I was at the mall with E who was looking for a sweater she wanted that was actually pretty ugly, and then I woke up again with a terrible pain in my stomach because I had to pee.

*****

About 9 p.m. now, although I don’t really have a clue of what time it really is. We started to cook dinner around 7:30 – fired up the little grill outside on the back patio and grilled Mom’s marinated chicken breasts and ate them with a small salad. It must be the weather – I don’t feel very hungry here.

 

Cabo San Lucas – Chapter 1

January 11, 1991

It’s not quite 8 a.m. yet. I’ve been up since five. I’m on the plane to Pittsburgh, ready for takeoff. I’m not quite as nervous as I thought I would be, although this is only the beginning of a long trip which won’t end until twelve hours from now. We’re expecting 3-6 inches of snow here in Philly, though looking out my window now I don’t see any flakes. The sky is gray and white.

*****

In the Pittsburgh airport now, waiting to board my next plane. Interesting group of people on this plane. This is flight 9 to Phoenix. Arizona. I’ve never been anywhere near Arizona.

I love the feeling of the plane when it takes off – racing down the runway, thrusting your body against the seat. The chair absorbs you, cradles you. The flight attendant is handing out blankets. Blankets. I’m sweating. It’s raining lightly here in Pittsburgh, with a little slush on the runway. My hands are trembling from that coffee I had back in Philly.

Hello Pilot! He’s talking to us now, in that slow droning voice that sounds like he’s been smoking weed in the lounge. They have television monitors for instructions – too funny! I’ve never seen anything like this. Some people are cracking up.

*****

Later…

The pilot just informed us we are directly over Kansas. You should see the ground below. It’s amazing – looks like a giant marble floor. Or a marble chess board. Sam would like that. He’s asked me a dozen times already if I play chess, and my answer never changes. He wanted me to go skiing over break. Does he even remember that I don’t ski?

This past week I was sick, and only got sicker, which prompted me to go to the doctor. Who looked in my ears, nose, and throat, and told me I had a minor sinus infection. The inside of my nose is “pretty irritated,” he said, LIKE I didn’t know that already. It’s fuckin raw is what it is! I had a nosebleed in New York, which I forgot about but then why the hell would I want to remember that?

I had lunch with E yesterday at Ridgley’s. Everybody turned and stared when we walked in. I guess they’ve never seen a motorcycle jacket before. I had forgotten my tissues before leaving the house, so I had to carry my roll of toilet paper in from my car. The waitress looks at it and then asks me did I carry that in with me? It’s a goddamned roll of toilet paper, freaking Scott tissue which is what – 25 cents a roll? I thought E was going to wet herself.

*****

I’m sitting now in the Phoenix airport, and I just figured out why my hand is shaking. My bag is so heavy that it’s hurting my hand, which is all red and swollen. My arm is killing me. I don’t really feel like exploring right now. The headset from the in-flight movie gave me a headache, that I know isn’t going away anytime soon. It’s about 1:30 and I have six more hours on this God-forsaken trip before I actually get where the hell I’m going. At least three more, before I can board my last plane.

Arizona looks beautiful – when we began our descent, the view was just exquisite. Rolling mountains and valleys. Really incredible shades of color – soft browns turning darker, little green peaks, I even spotted a snow-capped mountain in the distance.

I’m sitting near an escalator and two workmen just walked by. The one says to the other, “see this? You’re gonna like this. Sal just oiled that thing up.” A lot of men around here remind me of Jose. Which is funny. Just wait til I get to Mexico.

I was sweating like a whore in church, so I ran to the bathroom and changed my shirt. Wild fuckin bathrooms – the toilets flush themselves. It’s bizarre. I just stood up and was looking for a way to flush the toilet and all of a sudden it’s like the psycho thing read my mind. Scared the shit out of me. And get this, the faucets are all automatic too. Welcome to the future.

*****

Soldiers! Everywhere. I walked down this corridor to my gate and passed dozens of them, likely being deployed to Saudi Arabia. Young too – at least, they looked younger than me. A certain sadness fell over me, as I considered where they were going and the fact that some may not return. Uncomfortable and feeling helpless, I averted my eyes from most of them. I heard something about sending more troops. Christ. Are there any left? I think they started calling in the Reserves now. Saddam Hussein’s deadline is January 15.

I have no idea what time it is, only that it has to be somewhere near four. My gate has just been changed to B7, two gates away, so I had to pick up this incredible load and move. Up until now there were only two old couples waiting with me. Now there’s many more people. They’re all showing up now, and the board still says “Omaha,” so they’re all wondering if it’s the right gate.

 

Red Cups and BK and Bud Lite, Oh My! — A Cycling Tour Through Rural America

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Todd and I have taken up riding again, in a last ditch effort to get fit and lose weight before we just give up and lie on the couch drinking beer and watching Family Feud. So far we’ve had two rides – the first was a 13.6-mile cycle around our town, and the second almost 9-mile was a grueling hilly ride.

Twice my chain came off because it’s my bike and I shifted down too far. The next thing I know I’m spinning my wheels in place like a stationary bike, except this bike isn’t made for that and I was on a hill going nowhere and about to fall over.

Todd performed the first fix. He rides in front of me because apparently I’m too slow for him so the second time he was already at the top of the hill and I whispered fuck! before I decided to fix it myself. Check another item off the bucket list I haven’t made yet.

After spending so many years running and then struggling to run with injuries, cycling is a welcome change. Same satisfaction, less stress on the joints. Plus you can get places. We live in the country so there’s no shortage of beautiful scenery – green acres and rolling landscapes, farms and old houses, new houses and historic places.

A country ride is full of fresh air and the wind rushing past your ears, the call of birds, buzzing insects, the smell of cut grass, the occasional monstrous new home rising starkly against the back drop of quaint ranchers and old farmhouses, and… dogs. The roads are just wide enough for two cars and there’s always some asshole in a monster truck whipping by, close enough to feel the heat of the exhaust.

There’s no shortage of Bud Lite bottles. I could count a case from my house out and back. Empty BK and McDonald’s containers, which makes absolutely no sense to me since there are no stores around these roads.  One can only assume these were thrown out the window on the way home. Really? Can’t wait to get home and put it in the garbage can? At least I find a trash can for the contraband, losing the evidence before I get home so no one knows. (For the record, dumping the bags before I get home never works anyway. Veruca has the nose of a bloodhound and Todd insists the odor lives in the car’s interior fibers.)

An entire newspaper was spread over the front border of someone’s lawn. I saw a pair of work gloves (several yards from each other), a shoe (why is there always just one shoe?), a shirt (don’t even want to know), car parts (in rural America, this is par for the course).

Timing of the ride is everything, depending on which way the wind is blowing, the smell of manure or some other fertilizer slaps you in the face – the assault on the senses most unwelcome. No matter growing up in the country, and living around farms for the last several years – I’ve never, ever gotten used to the smell.

Otherwise, there are hundreds of photo-worthy sites… old schoolhouses and dilapidated old buildings, rusty old farming equipment, crumbling stone walls, even the dozens of foreclosures seen around the area – and yes, sadly, there are many – lend their own interest in the overgrown green around them, the dusty and darkened windows, the mystery of who lived there and what happened to them.

The rural bike ride is both athletic and leisurely – the burn in your legs as you push up the steepest hill, the thrill of a brakeless run down the opposite side. It is peaceful and introspective, even as you share it with someone. The lingering danger of riding on any roadway where strangers must be trusted to pay attention and not to be texting, or worse – intoxicated – is ever present, as well as the dogs defending life and property. It is triumphant – as you coast into your driveway knowing that you set out to accomplish a goal and you did it. Even better when you can do it with your better half – strengthening the bond and connection with shared experiences.

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Stone stairs to nowhere

Photo copyright TKA and The Tara Chronicles, 2017