How I Spent the First Day of School

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I’m deleting an email from Pep Boys. How the f*ck did I get on their email list? I don’t even go there. I don’t “do” cars. I drive them, but I leave the repairs to my motorhead husband. When he starts talking about anything beyond horsepower (which also means nothing to me, but don’t tell him), like intake manifold and camshaft bearing, I can seriously feel my eyes glaze over and the corners of my mouth slacken. I can tell you that we have a V-6, but only because I tried really hard to remember what he kept calling our 2012 Mustang. Which, by the way, I DO know isn’t the fastest engine we can buy.

I’m in the foulest mood I’ve been in, in years. First day of school is over, and it was all going so well. The middle school couldn’t accommodate a pre-first day 504 meeting last Friday (which, by the way, was – at the time –the only day they were available before the first day of school), but no matter – a phone call with the guidance counselor set everything straight and this morning I drove Veruca’s box of diabetes supplies to the nurse. The front office still looked a bit “frantic” just 20 minutes after the first bell, and I wished them all well as I said farewell, gloating only a little bit that I was going home to an empty house where all was peaceful. (Hey, they were all smiling like the cat that swallowed the canary on the last day of school. Paybacks are a bitch, ya’ll.)

Meanwhile, back on the cul de sac… After Veruca got on the bus, I returned home to an unlocked house and went straight to the bathroom. Where I realized I’ve been listening to too much Forensic Files on Sirius XM. For some reason I thought, shouldn’t I take my phone with me? What if someone got in the house while I was at the bus stop? And then I heard a loud noise and suddenly, the fear was real. I yanked up my pants and prepared to bolt out of the house when I saw Sabra just outside my door. (She literally drops to the floor like something straight out of a cartoon – throws all 4 legs in the air simultaneously and lands on her belly with a thundering bang. I kid you not.)

I went back to my grant research when a few minutes later, the doorbell rang. Who the f*ck is this now? (Because swearing is my go-to emotional outlet presently. Don’t worry, this will pass.) There was a beat up pickup truck in my driveway, and some middle-aged guy who was more middle-aged than me, was standing on my front porch. Again, John Walsh’s voice in my head, I debated on whether or not to open the door. In the end, I did, and this dude wanted to know if Ted’s truck was for sale, because he “just happened” to be driving though – a cul de sac, ya’ll – and noticed the truck just sitting there. I pondered the possibility that he was a) full of shit, because who just drives through a cul de sac, b) he was a serial killer, or c) really was just driving through because he has no job/life/wife and routinely turns onto deadend streets because Who the F*ck does that, really?

Meanwhile Sabra, who used to bark every time the front door opened, has stopped barking. For once I was wishing she’d do that vicious bellowing – that sounds dangerous until she rounds the corner and you see that she’s just a silly, fluffy poodle. She is seriously depressed, or seriously lost, without Pi. She rarely comes out of our bedroom unless she’s called, or some special food is offered (cause, ya know, dogfood is so “old school”), and I’m trying not to worry about it. Too much. I realized today that the “Grass is Always Greener” cliché is real. Her lack of interest in psycho-dude is rattling, for sure. Girlfriend is my last line of defense when a psycho killer-rapist come knocking.

So, the end of the day came quick and Veruca exited her bus like a champ. And climbed into my waiting vehicle like a bitch from hell. She demanded to know why she couldn’t walk home from the bus, and why I had to pick her up, etc., etc. I stopped talking to her, since my counselor told me that times like these, don’t join the party. (Side note: very effective long term – but really difficult to do when it’s happening.)

I was tempted to post something on FB about whiplash, but never got the chance before Todd came home too. Veruca had a serious low (aka, below-50 blood sugar) about an hour after coming home, so I now feel like a complete failure.

Meanwhile, back in Opac-land, football practice ended early today due to the heat, and he came straight home and crashed. He slept through “dinner,” which is currently some shadow of the real thing as V leaves for practice at 5:30 just as O is getting picked up, and it’s anybody’s guess if I-95 will allow Todd to get home before 7. We are eating in shifts.

Opac didn’t want to take out the trash, but moreover – he said if this schedule continues, he “won’t have time” to take out the trash and recycling like he used to. Yeah. He seriously said that to me with a straight face. I suggested that such a strident schedule might indicate that football was no longer necessary, if it interfered with homework and so on… and then I flipped out.

I am so NOT supposed to be winging it. But winging it, I don’t know how the next few weeks are gonna go, and all I can think about is how I don’t want to kill anybody. And it’s only the first day.

P.S. As if all this isn’t enough, the WordPress gods have supremely pissed me off. I checked my page here one day remotely, and was appalled to see an ad for Donald Trump at the bottom of one of my posts. SO, as if I don’t also have enough to do – let this be my first public political statement:


Meanwhile, Back in My Uterus

I’ve been trying to write something worthwhile for days. I’ve been caught up in circles… confusion is nothing new.

Since Pi died, we’ve… I’ve… been wandering aimlessly around trying to find motivation to do anything. I managed to clean most of the main house earlier this week…. Vacuuming and washing floors, dusting off surfaces, putting shit away… you know, the kinds of things people notice when they come over.

Sleep has overtaken me and I feel like a zombie when I wake every morning. I’m so used to getting up to check on Veruca every night, but she’s been spending a great deal of time with her dad and so I’ve had the chance to make up that lost sleep. Except that I was waking up anyway, because Pi was so restless. Now, I’m sleeping like I haven’t slept in years. Really.

I had a business meeting last Friday that lasted 5 hours. Thursday was shot, for me. I was useless. Took the kids for McDonald’s, because I didn’t want to cook. I didn’t want to do anything. My eyes and face were so swollen from crying, I was afraid I’d wake up Friday morning looking like the elephant man. And, my internal voice was saying, maybe you shouldn’t go. Maybe you should stay home. But I didn’t listen. This was an important meeting. It wouldn’t look good if I begged out, on the excuse of a dead dog. I imagined myself an important executive, like Ann St. Vincent, and thought, she would handle it like a boss. No excuses.

Good thing, too. I sat in the only appropriate seat left in this top floor conference room with a panoramic view of the greater Baltimore area, next to The Boss (and, by the way, no one else had chosen to sit there). When the meeting commenced, The Boss acknowledged the unspoken question of the new face in the room, and introduced me and then asked me to tell everyone about myself. I bumbled through some lame, red-faced explanation and internally kicked my sorry-ass self for not having foreseen this would happen. It all turned out okay though, and even better, because a Very Important Person stopped by.

Having both kids in football/cheer practice 5 days a week since the second week of August has been both a blessing and a curse. My days have been consumed by driving one to practice at 6 a.m. and another at 6 p.m. The schedule keeps my mind from melting completely in its depression (because I realized a few days ago that that’s what it was), but at the same time I can hardly plan anything because we have to stay somewhat close to home. Dinnertime has me feeling apathetic and uninspired. And, I’ve been unmedicated now for over 4 weeks.

Meanwhile, one of my parents became ill and was in the hospital for 8 days. Over an hour away. I was consumed with worry and the feeling that I was supposed to be there. And then parent #2 (also over an hour away) fell down the stairs at home and went to the ER, and miraculously broke nothing. It was, at the very least, an opportunity to remind this parent that one does not simply use furniture polish on wood floors and wear socks afterward. Haven’t we all learned this lesson the hard way?

On Sunday I hatched a plan to get Todd out of the house – usually not difficult to do, but he hadn’t left the house since we got home from the vet on Thursday. We both needed to get out and away. We went to Bed, Bath & Beyond with a gift card left from our wedding and beat our way through the throng of college-bound shoppers (NOT recommended) to buy an Atari game console. Something went wrong at the register and it didn’t print a receipt, so we had to wait for a manager to go “upstairs” to print one. Afterward, he took me next door to this home store he thought I would like that had the coolest shit, and yes, he really does love me because we were annihilated by noxious scented candles from every corner.

We went for a bite to eat then, where Todd ordered a burger with all the stuff on the side, minus the tomato (stated as “allergy”), and when it came out there was no tomato (victory!) but everything else was on it. Like mayonnaise. Which he doesn’t like. Sent it back and they made a new one as originally ordered, and when the bill came… not only were we charged for both burgers, but we couldn’t get a receipt. Again.

So by now you’re wondering what any of this has to do with my uterus. I’m sorry for the click-bait. My uterus is bleeding, but that’s really noneya. Apparently it’s been misbehavin’. And when I tell you that this is just another layer in the 9-layer-dip of life, you’d better believe it.

Here’s to brighter days…


The day after I first published this post, Pi took her last car ride. It is with a terribly aching heart that I announce her passing. 

The first time I came to this house, Todd brought me here. He had wanted me to see the work he had done, his beautiful handmade kitchen cabinets, and the huge addition full of light. In the interest of privacy, let it suffice to say that he too was transitioning out of a long-term living arrangement. There were a great many animals still residing here, in a kennel downstairs. When we passed through the front door I could hear the barking of nearly a dozen dogs, and I knew Todd’s dog was among them. He had spoken frequently and lovingly of her, yet I was not to meet her that day. At the time, I assumed that he purposely had kept her away from me. I wondered whether she would like me, or be jealous of me in some way… because he was hers.

This girl – formally named Blackberry Pi – was a blue-ribbon show dog. She also had a few litters, of which Sabra was one. In Todd’s words: he went to the breeder where he found her – or rather, she found him – and it was love at first sight. She was the most “human” that a dog could be. She gave him that look I came to know and love, the one that said, “get me the fuck out of here.” 

Todd told me about her show days, how she would find his face in the crowd and lose all sense of propriety – leaping about during her presentation like, “hey daddy! Look at me! Look at me!” And so Todd was banned from the show floor. 

Like our first date in 1985, I don’t remember the details of my first meeting with Pi. But I can say that she nuzzled her nose between my legs (her common way of greeting everyone she liked) and welcomed me with open paws, without question. She shared the bed with me, on the nights I slept over, often leaning her warm body against my legs. She loved me from the start, Todd says, because HE loved me. And as the last three years passed, he increasingly told me that she had dumped him for me. She wouldn’t have done that, I know. 

While I couldn’t articulate or accept it at the time, the earlier post was my preparing for what I already knew. On the last day, having stopped eating the day before and yet vomiting periodically, I knew. She gave me that look, the one that surely was the same as that she gave Todd at 6 weeks old. I knew. I didn’t want to know. Todd came home early, and we drove to the vet in silence. I sat in the backseat, Pi’s head on my lap as I stroked her frail old body. What I felt from her, with her head heavy on my lap, was profound peace. I can’t describe it, but it was as if she knew, too.

It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I’ve never had to DO this before. And I never wanted to, nor do I want to – ever again. How hard it is to let go! To shut out the mind clouded with doubt and second thoughts, to acknowledge that this is the best thing for her… because it certainly isn’t the best thing for US. I stood there stroking her fur, her ears, and leaned in close to whisper in her ear. I tried not to tense up as I pressed my head to hers, praying with every fiber of myself that she would know how much I loved her. Funny how closure is never really closure. It’s like a lie we tell ourselves, to get through the pain.

I haven’t cried the tears that release the suffocating emptiness or the broken heart inside, in what seems like forever. But I remember the feeling, and I want desperately for it to just go away. And my heart feels the heaviness inside Todd, as he grieves this in a way I can only begin to understand. Which is why I have been reluctant to write about this at all. I don’t want this post to sound like it’s all about my loss, because this is his loss too.

Everyone who has loved an animal believes that he/she is one of a kind. There is no dog like Pi. The desperate need right now to have her back – her personality, her smile, her eyes, her energy, her wisdom, her love – is palpable. That sick feeling in my gut that comes from heartbreak, knows that there will never be another, and that adds to the pain. Coming home is the hardest, when I pull in the driveway and know that there is one less dog waiting at the door for me.

And the one left behind? She is hurting too. My focus has turned to her, as I knew it would, as she lies in the bed that holds the scent of her lifelong companion, her melancholy head resting quietly on her paws. Grief is a complex thing. I’ve already begun the compartmentalizing. And, as I turn to Sabra, I know that she needs me now – more than ever.

Apiele Blackberry Pi – “Pi” –  December 17, 2000-August 18, 2016

Two Poodles & a Housecat

Oftentimes, I come up with titles for posts before a post even exists. I jot them down, somewhere, and hope not to lose them. I had something along the lines of Fur Magnolias, The Long Goodbye, and My Life Is Shit, Part 3. This post wants to be funny, but in many ways is equally sad.

Let’s start with the cat. Oliver, like any hot-blooded feline, loves to sleep on things. He likes backpacks and fallen cushions, dining room chairs and – the one that really pisses me off – the top of the dining room table. Now I’m not stupid – I know that cats love high places and definitely those with a view. The dining room table is no exception. Not only does it have a fantastic view of our driveway, birds, stray cats, and passersby, it also has a pad over which is a damask tablecloth. What’s not to love?

Ordinarily, it might not be so bad were it not for the moment we go to sit down for dinner and tufts of fur roll across the table. I’ve tried, unsuccessfully (as any cat owner worth their kitty treats knows), to break him of this. But I know I’m failing miserably when I return home from errands and he’s lying there, dreamily squinting at me like he’s just awakened from the most marvelous dream, and making no move to get up.

I have armed myself. I recently purchased a weapon and Oliver, until this week, was uninitiated in the aquatic assault I aimed at him. And, as expected, after one lesson I have only to pick up said weapon in the next room and he’s GONE. Meanwhile, the canine population continues to assault me.

Sabra, at 9 years old still the “baby” of the house, remains a nudge – only she’s getting worse. Where she was once the shy, almost shrinking, poodle of the house, she has become emboldened by her security and the peace we have here. When Pi is called to one of us, Sabra will push her way through and insert herself between us. She is unapologetic about stealing Pi’s snack right out from under her, or finishing off Pi’s food before her own. She follows me so closely when we’re outside, she steps on the back of my flip flop and makes me trip. She will routinely poke me with her nose, or mouth my hand if I’m holding it down at my side. I know what she’s doing. I also know what she’s doing to Pi and that it’s “pack” stuff, and I know she’s not maliciously inclined.

Pi isn’t getting old, she IS old. She is four months shy of her 16th birthday, and the recent months have seen an increase in weakness and falling down, and general senility. She falls down a few times daily, but can pick herself up, usually. She has an increasing habit of falling down on or near the food bowl, a scattering of nuggets following the familiar ping of the stainless bowl. She routinely walks through the water bowl, which I have strategically centered against the end of the island and with five feet around it to avoid just that, and one time she fell into it – ass first. (Don’t even ask me how – I’m still trying to figure that one out.)

It’s all very funny except when it’s not. Like the time she managed to get herself stuck under Ava’s bed when we weren’t home one day. We were gone about 4 hours, and I have no idea how long she was stuck that way but she couldn’t walk – at all – afterward. She’s done this a handful of times in our bedroom as well. Which is one of the growing reasons why we can’t leave her at home alone for very long anymore. I went to pick Opac up from practice and stopped at the grocery store one afternoon, and came home to her lying on the dining room floor in a pile of poop. I was gone an hour. This is the stuff of heartbreak.

The accidents are becoming more frequent, urinating in the house (usually after falling down) and this morning – after I had let her out and she came back in – I found her asleep in the hall just two feet away from a giant turd, and there were two more in front of her bed in our room. It’s My Life Is Shit, revisited. Only this time, I’m no longer laughing, or angry. I’m sad.

Before the animal rights people get their panties all twisted – she is NOT suffering. She is NOT sick, or crippled, or incapable of going outside. She is just …. Old. She eats well – she enjoys plenty of home-cooked meals and broth-soaked food, and more than her share of cat food (which I’m certain Oliver purposely meows for, so that she can have it). She runs across the deck with me like a puppy, with these happy bursts of energy where she remembers who she is. And, while I often find her staring off into space in a room somewhere, there is still light in her eyes when they meet mine.

I am the human who is with her every day. I am the one who is here to pick her up when she can’t get up, the one who feeds her, and bathes her. I am the one who lets her out when she wakes me up at 2, 3, 4 in the morning and I am the one who walks back and forth to different doors while she decides which one she’s coming in. I am the one who defends her, as Sabra steals “head dog” position and circles her tightly until she falls down.

I know her. And I will know when she’s no longer thriving. The hardest part is the knowing that we are on that inevitable path already, and that one day either she will choose, or we will have to.


Clockwise from top left: Pi, Sabra, & Oliver. Ever watchful of the foodkeeper. The Tara Chronicles, 2016.

Weddings, Past & Present

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Copyright TaraKA & the Tara Chronicles, 2016

The current heat wave we are experiencing here in the mid-Atlantic states is almost unbearable. Todd hasn’t ridden in days. I haven’t run in nearly twice as long. I just can’t do it.

We catered a wedding last weekend that was eventful to say the least. The staff was running around getting the house ready, and we were all sweating like characters in Dante’s Inferno. Bee and I joked about our sexy boob sweat, and then Dee chimed in about swamp ass and I nearly wet myself. This, folks, is the behind-the-scenes stuff that keeps up morale.

The A/C was running inside, but this couple had chosen to be married in our courtyard, so we had a number of jobs to be done outside. As I usually run the bar, my job kept me mostly inside. But then I was called to set up the outdoor beverage station under an umbrella’ed table, and by the time I returned inside I looked like I’d taken a shower. In my clothes.

While everyone complained about the heat, I was inspired to recount a wedding I was in on the hottest day of the year in 1988. Well technically, after doing a little research, it was July 17th that was the hottest day that year, at 102 degrees. But that date, through the third week of August, marked a “higher than average” span of temperatures. I’ll say.

The date was August 13th and, while the historical record says it was 91 degrees, the heat index was easily near 100. A longtime dear friend was marrying her high school sweetheart, and I was honored to be a part of the wedding. At least, until the pool began to swell in my bra.

Wendy was married in the same Catholic church that my parents were married in – so you can see how small our large world really was, in some ways. She wore a beautiful full-length white satin gown, adorned with pearls and beading, and fitted sleeves with the puffy shoulders common in the 1980s. Like all brides, she chose beauty over comfort, and paid no mind to the season. The bridesmaids wore floor-length royal blue taffeta gowns with baby blue cap sleeves (pictured).

After the ceremony, the guests adjourned to the Elks lodge a few blocks away and the bridal party went to have formal pictures taken. I don’t remember what the bride and groom rode in, but I will never forget what the bridal party was treated to. We rode in rumble seats to a popular outdoor spot for wedding photos, about 2 miles away.

Heat, sweat, and rumble seats don’t mix… and I can’t speak for the other girls, but my hair did NOT like this combination. The photos probably took no more than 30 minutes, but it felt like hours as we stood there in full-length gowns, and the poor groomsmen in tuxedos!

When we finally arrived at the Elks, after another exciting and extremely slow ride in the rumble seats, we stepped gratefully into the air-conditioning and assessed our wilted selves. Beads of sweat sparkled on the men’s foreheads. As for the girls, large circles of sweat had darkened the royal blue fabric under our arms. I wondered at poor Wendy, who still looked beautiful, although she couldn’t have been comfortable in that dress. We were able to collect ourselves for a few minutes as we lined up for the grand entrance into the reception.

A short time later the bride and groom had their first dance, which they never finished as Wendy fainted in her husband’s arms. We took her to the restroom and attempted to cool her off with water, but she was sick. I remember coming out to check on my date, and stopped to chat with one of Wendy’s elder relatives who was concerned. She was relieved that she was recovering, and then speculated – with a twinkle in her eye – that maybe Wendy was expecting. Hardly. I think Wendy was lucky that she’d only suffered from heat exhaustion.

Thankfully there were no obvious casualties in the wedding we catered last week, but the guests were determined to stay indoors until the ceremony was announced. The bride was gorgeous. Her mother, in a floor-length pale blue lacy gown, was gorgeous. The bridesmaids were gorgeous. None of them looked like they had even kissed a temperature over 70 degrees. We the staff, on the other hand, looked a little worse for wear… but no one really cares what we look like, as long as we’re still pouring the drinks and serving the food.

As for eventful, the ceremony had just finished, we’d just passed the champagne toast, and the entire guest list was running indoors. A torrential downpour moved in so fast, it’s a miracle they all made it inside. Some members of the staff? Not quite. Their white tuxedo shirts clung to the skin like a wetsuit. And it rained, and then it stopped. Some of the guests went back outside. And then it started pouring again. And then it stopped. And then the DJ set up indoors, and the guests danced outside.

I guess it’s a really good thing it didn’t rain on Wendy’s wedding.

Sunrise, Sunset



Copyright TaraKA & the Tara Chronicles, 2016

Part 3 of 3. Part 1 and Part 2, if you wish.

After that 24-mile ride, we took showers and ventured out again, this time by bus. We resumed our pint glass mission, and ended up stopping at Ocean City Brewery (which we swore we wouldn’t do since there’s one about a half hour from home). There’s a large outdoor deck out front, with – it would seem on this particular evening – no service. We walked inside, and were met immediately with a store full of merchandise, including all sorts of glasses and growlers, etc. We had to walk through to the bar in the back, where there were a handful of people seated on a really long bar.

The inside had a rustic appeal much like every other establishment on the planet currently engaged in the latest “warehouse” décor craze. The place was dead. It took some painful questioning to finally understand that yes, we could buy pint glasses, and no, we had to go back up to the front to pick them out and bring them back to be filled. Once all this was established, and we were safely seated at the bar again, we enjoyed light conversation with the bartender who reminded me so much of my brother I actually asked him where he was from. I also asked him if the season has been “off” this year… seeing as so many places seemed half empty and there were Vacancy signs everywhere (also very unusual for Ocean City, Maryland). He agreed.

We left and wandered up some blocks… or did we take the bus? I can’t remember now. We landed at Dead Freddy’s – that truly lived up to its name – as again, there was literally NO ONE there except a couple of guys in their 50s. Seriously. I was beginning to feel like we were in an episode of the Twilight Zone. We pulled up to the bar inside, and ordered some drinks. The bartender was the nicest one we’d met thus far. About our age, good-natured and welcoming – considering if I were him I’d have been instantly unhappy to see people walking into my bar after 11 on a slow night. Their pint glasses won the award for best quality, hands down. They were heavy like crystal, and etched with the Dead Freddy’s logo.

Day 3

The alarm went off again at 5:30 a.m. and this time I got up to look outside at the most stunning sky developing over the ocean. We made our way to the beach, where only a handful of people were scattered, and took dozens of photos as the sun peaked from behind clouds just on the horizon, until it finally rose above them and it was like the angels were singing. I stood next to the lifeguard stand and contemplated climbing up, but some lady – who obviously did not know the beach sunrise etiquette – walked over and stood just on the other side, not 3 feet away from me. Annoyed, I walked back toward the water and waited for Todd to finish snapping his own photos.

We went back to bed for a couple of hours – to sleep, you perverts. Didn’t you read yesterday’s Can’t Sit Down post? We chose breakfast at the Dough Roller this time, so we got what we paid for and then some. I love the Dough Roller, both for its breakfast and for its vintage lunch boxes on display around the ceiling. Who remembers the old metal lunch boxes we carried to school? And the smell of the lukewarm chocolate milk in the matching thermos? Funny how sensory memories never fade.

We had spent time on the beach the day before; for a couple of hours I read a book by the ocean and let the waves drown out the crowd. This is a first – in 18 years. It was almost too much for me, and I haven’t read since.

The rest of day 3 was spent riding a steadily more crowded bus down to the inlet where the boardwalk begins, eyeballing people through my sunglasses. The girl with the “Tips are Appreciated” stamped on her right hand, who fell asleep for something like 30 blocks, yet miraculously woke up in time to get off at her stop. The young man with the dirty clothes who smelled like he’d just crawled out of someone’s ass, who sat down right next to Todd. (In retrospect this is enormously funny.) The young woman of color who stole an empty seat at the moment it vacated, right out from under an older gentleman wearing a veterans cap. The woman next to her wearing seriously outdated clothing and nylon pantyhose under her shorts.

We walked the boards, stopping to play the old arcade shoot-out game, and grabbed some Thrashers fries with malt vinegar. We walked to the Brass Balls Saloon, where we scored the last outdoor table and another pint glass, but not the nachos. Not that we didn’t try to score nachos. We did. But the waiter kept bringing them with tomatoes on them, even after my first order clarified that we have a tomato allergy. Someone in the kitchen needs to re-evaluate their life’s purpose.

We finished the night with a mad dash to Mackey’s (there’s that place again) – which is wildly popular for its sunset views over the bay. No seating by the water like last time, so we grabbed a high-top table on the upper deck, ordered some drinks, and watched. The restaurant’s music feed shifted into America the Beautiful with impeccable timing, and ended on “from sea to shining sea” at the EXACT moment the sun slipped below the bay. Some of the customers were singing along. I felt so unmedicatedly overwhelmed by this beautiful moment I welled up dangerously close to overflowing, and simultaneously pissed off that they had to play that damn song instead of just letting the drunks enjoy a sunset in peace.


Copyright TaraKA & the Tara Chronicles, 2016


Vacation With My Man. And Why I Can’t Sit Down.

Part 2 of 3. First post is here.

Recapping our first day

After my bathroom rescue, we decided that our first activity would be a bike ride. I noticed droves of vacationers coming in off the beach and the sky to the west looked a bit, um, shall we say…gray? I mentioned it to Todd, who said, and I quote, Oh, that’s off-shore, it’s moving out and away from us.

So we hopped on our bikes and rode about 15 blocks when the first droplets hit my arms. No matter, it was a welcome rain after a hot and humid afternoon. Then it picked up. I noticed little hail balls bouncing off Todd’s backpack. Yes, HAIL. Then it began to rain harder. Todd shouted back to me about pulling off to shelter at the Acme – which, by the way, was nearly 60 blocks from our hotel. I was stuck behind the bus (if you’re not familiar, OCMD has a fleet of busses that run all day and night – fare is $3 – makes getting around fairly easy and reduces drunk-driving) which shares the bike lane, getting soaked to the skin in what would be a tropical rain storm were it not for the toxic bus fumes I was breathing in.

We waited under the roof of the Acme market, along with half a dozen shoppers who had clearly walked to the store for their groceries and were now as stuck as we were. Thunder rolled across the sky. I noticed a few flashes of lightning, and tried not to wonder if it was dangerous to be holding an aluminum bike in a thunderstorm, surrounded by a sea of metal shopping carts, some occupied and a great many others abandoned after shoppers loaded groceries into cars curbside. Really. Just left their empty carts right there. I had a few good laughs watching car after car pull up to, and then hit, the curb.

Forty-five minutes later, the rain began to let up and we decided to venture back to the hotel. I got halfway to the street, and my back tire was flat. Todd carried my bike a few blocks to the nearest gas station and attempted to inflate the tube, which exploded. Short backstory – I’ve owned this bike since 1996 and no one – NO ONE – has touched it until last weekend when we took it to a bike shop to replace the rim after “somebody” rolled over it in the garage. I rode this bike precisely 2.35 miles before my tire blew out. The same one that had to be re-inflated on a new rim. Coincidence?

So we waded walked the bikes all the way back to the hotel in more light rain, hair slicked back, clothing soaked. I’m a consummate puddle jumper, so I took the opportunity to further saturate myself, and my Vans, a few times before cars drove through the mini ponds in the bus/bike lane and sprayed us (I have your license plate #, you jerk).

We ended up having dinner later at Mackey’s, situated on the bay, at a table near the water – not next to it but close enough to see the bay gently lapping at the sandy beach we were seated on. The atmosphere was lovely and almost peaceful. It was only 8:30, but many of the tables were empty. In fact, much of Ocean City seemed oddly quiet – not like the rowdy OCMD I came to love in my 20s – for most of our stay.

Finally, Day 2

We planned to catch the sunrise but I woke up to a 5:30 a.m. alarm and shut that sucker off before it woke Todd, and promptly went back to sleep. We went for breakfast upstairs in the hotel – a top-floor, panoramic-view restaurant with a “roof-top bar” – a buffet, it turned out, and not even a shadow of Grand Hotel Cape May’s buffet at the same cost (upcoming post on that trip). Watery scrambled eggs, bacon, home fries with peppers (what IS it with peppers in buffet-home fries?), Barbie-sized pancakes, fruit salad, assorted cereals, and bagels halved, and then halved again.

No trip to OCMD is complete without a shopping excursion to Sunsations, a chain store covering all things beachy and not where one takes a kid if you don’t want to go broke on knick-knacks from China and hermit crabs painted like SpongeBob. However, they do sell nice beach chairs – and that was our mission.

After, we drove to a bike shop and not only got my tube replaced, but [BONUS!!!] decided to replace both of my 20-year-old tires (I didn’t ride much over the years – don’t judge). I was terribly afraid my tires were old to begin with and, after remembering the dude who replaced the rim back home said “they should be fine” and “see what the salt air does to them,” I realized he was no longer to be trusted and decided I couldn’t risk my laughter turning to homicide.

Now the fun stuff: We took a 4-something-mile ride to the restaurant where my lifelong friend works her summers and as I peered through the window her gaze fell on me and her eyes popped out. It was worth the 6 pounds of sweat I’d lost on the way there. We ate lunch and rode back, making a pit stop at the hotel, and then rode back out on a new mission to collect pint glasses (and a nice buzz) for our bar at home. We rode nearly the whole peninsula, making our final stop on the leg back at Higgins Crab House – a Maryland classic.

We sat at the rooftop bar and drank beers (sadly, no pint glasses), ordered some crab balls and fries, and listened to this aging Ken-doll making casual convo and, apparently, plans to meet up at Mackey’s later with two girls in their early 20s. You’re wondering about this Mackey’s place about now, aren’t you?

Anyway, I didn’t know he was that old until he mentioned Steve Austin in conversation with Todd, and he wasn’t talking about the pro-wrestler. Three beers in, and I had to clarify with Todd that the reference I just heard was really what I heard. Meanwhile, the seat to my left became occupied by a woman who had clearly lived her hey-days before smoking was declared dangerous.

Let’s first set the stage. Picture a perfect square and build a bar on it. Place 3 chairs on each of three sides. If you’ve done your math correctly, that’s 9 seats at the bar. We were seated in the middle, so there were people sitting across to our left, and also to our right. I was blessed to sit between Todd and this woman, and could only hear her voice as I was turned to face Todd. The things coming out of her mouth! What wasn’t lost in slurred speech was peppered with foul language. And she was there alone and chewing the ear off the poor guy on the corner to her left, who was obviously trapped between an urgent need to GTFO and the honorable thing to listen respectfully. And then… I cracked. From my shoulders to my eyeballs, I started sniggling so violently in my vain attempt to contain my hysteria that the only escape was through my tear ducts. And then I glanced up at the two girls across from me, and they were both staring at me and laughing equally as hard.

The woman was declaring (among other indiscernible things) that she was “in the military before they called it the military.” Todd looked at me and said, where’s “—” when you need him? A comical reference to a friend who would have given this lady the whole night, and another light, if she wanted it. It was time to leave, before I embarrassed myself further. The girl across from me said, you can’t leave now! And, admittedly, I considered the prospect of collecting more blog fodder before remembering we still had a long bike ride back to the hotel.

In total, that second day I documented over 24 miles of bike riding, and my nether regions weren’t just flying the white flag by the time we returned to the hotel, they were screaming for an ambulance.




On the Road Again – Destination: OCMD



Copyright TaraKA & the Tara Chronicles, 2016

Co-pilot’s Log: Destination – Ocean City, Maryland

10 a.m. Finally on the road. There were fleeting worries that little bro wasn’t going to show up to dog/house sit, but in the end Todd wasn’t waiting on him – he was waiting on his co-pilot, who is terrible at leaving home for even a weekend. Co-pilots are supposed to be organized, thorough, and apparently on time.

Todd is discussing the vultures who are always looking for a handout. He has finally asserted – NO. He’s always the one they come to for money, a place to stay, etc. I suggested that at one time he may have set a precedent for this. He is generous of soul and spirit, my pilot, and easily gives of himself to others. But he has his limits, and the bank – and the inn – are now closed.

He tells me  that Bill (not a vulture) is anticipating a new job driving a waste management truck – full time with benefits and good salary. He will have to get up at 1 a.m. Ugh. Not for me. I asked if he has to take a drug test. Apparently not. Another bonus, I suppose. Old hippies die hard, after all.

10:57 a.m. Just passed the Kitty Knight House Inn. We passed this last year and I wanted to check it out, and like everything else in my life – I subsequently forgot about it.

Todd had a dream that God came to him and said, cut down all the trees in the horse pasture and build an ark. Todd said, can it wait until I get back from vacation? And God said, sure! And Todd said to God, can I have some sunshine too? God replied, sure! What a God.

11:23 a.m. Clayton, Delaware. After passing “Clayton Delaney Road” and ending up on “Clayton Greenspring Road” I wondered – so WHO the hell is Clayton? A Google later and … he was John Middleton Clayton, a prominent lawyer and politician in 19th century Delaware. (More history tidbits: Yale graduate. Raised his two boys himself after his wife passed away, two weeks after the birth of the second. Opposed the annexation of Texas and the Mexican-American war. Served as U.S. Secretary of State under the Whig administration of President Zachary Taylor. Laid the groundwork for the eventual building of the Panama Canal with the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty.)

A wrong turn in town took us past a beautiful old chapel I spotted through a gorgeous stone entry gate. St. Joseph’s Industrial School features the old chapel pictured above, built in 1896.

1:00 p.m. Stopped for food and fuel in Dover, home of the famous Dover Downs Raceway. TGI Friday’s seemed innocuous enough, and better than fast food. Weird, soft energy in there when we arrived. We were greeted by two employees upon entering, one who asked us, “two for lunch?” I looked at Todd and then all around behind us and said, “uh, yes.” I know better than to be this obnoxious, especially when everybody has heard what servers can do to your food if you piss them off.* But I just couldn’t help myself. I’m on vacation. *Disclaimer: I do NOT know this as fact. Statement based solely on rumor.*

Todd and I have said more times than I can count, that these chain restaurants always seem to be manned by aliens pretending to be human. They just seem off. Similar to that feeling you get when the sound is twenty seconds behind the show you’re watching.

Anyway, I highly recommend the Jack Daniels Chicken Sandwich – my fave. Also – the “For a limited time” endless appetizers.  Order what you want and they’ll keep bringing you more until you tell them to stop. Also, you’re not limited to just one choice – start with the boneless buffalo wings, and change it up to the BBQ chicken quesadillas. (The leftovers saved me the next morning when I woke up.)

3:45 p.m. In our room. Stopped in Rehoboth at the liquor store with “over 5,000 wines” to buy some hotel room supplies because – well – one cannot stay in a hotel without liquor. We were able to check in early. The pool is closed – there was “an incident” last night, and it has been drained and will be thoroughly cleaned and refilled. I’m intrigued.

Being a 47-year-old mother of two, I ran straight for the bathroom upon entering and noted the new, fluffy white towels. When I made to open the door, it wouldn’t open! Somehow I was locked in there, and I had no idea how. I started turning and pulling on the knob, calling for Todd, and trying not to sound hysterical. He suggested I locked it, which I did NOT. But alas, the joker who previously occupied the room must’ve thought it would be a fun prank. Haha. Very funny, asshole.

Let the adventures begin.