Four Years in Maryland

It’s officially four years since I reluctantly excitedly nervously optimistically went kicking and screaming moved to Maryland. Four years!

Opac is now a high school Junior, and learning to drive. Veruca is in her second year of middle school. Todd has gotten a promotion and is simultaneously launching another business. I got a new job. We lost Pi, and we loved – and lost – our adopted kitten, Shadow, in one short month. The ex got remarried. I like her more than I like him. Is that wrong? We’re all getting along. We got a new car. Or two. And the coveted beater truck for all that hauling Todd plans to do. (He chastised me for calling this “nice truck” a beater, but I call it like I see it.)

Four years later… home renovations continue. We gutted the apartment and a friend subsequently moved in and broke the smoking ban. We painted. We repainted. We bought new rugs which the dog has managed to shit on already. We renovated the rec room, got a pool table. Still need to build a bar. We got the fireplace working. We acquired a hot tub friends were giving away.

We built a home gym, acquired a used treadmill – because Facebook marketplace rocks – for $75. We cleaned up our stationary bike, which spent several winters outside while we were away living in PA. We added a weight bench for Opac last Christmas.

We had parties and poker nights. We took short trips to several places I’d never been. We finally took a real vacation together. We both gained weight. We tuned up our bikes and started riding. We’re both losing weight.

We attended some galas and felt rich for a night. We attended a couple of weddings and embraced the love we felt. We attended more than a handful of funerals and remembered how fleeting life can be, and how blessed we are.

We celebrated 50 years of enduring love with my in-laws’ anniversary party in our backyard with seventy guests.

We made new friends, and watched others fade away.

We continue to slowly claw our way back from a mountain of debt that has plagued us since the beginning. All that money I sent my lawyer every month is still a mystery to me. I’d like to know where it came from and where it’s going now.

Six years ago, Todd wanted us to move here. Six years ago, I told him there was no fucking way. Well, I said it nicer than that, and left out the f-word. Six years ago I spent many overnights in this house, escaping – but not really – the debilitating pain of divorce and child custody, rediscovering faith, myself, and the supernatural power of first love. There is some existential healing power in this house I cannot explain, but everyone who needs it, feels it when they enter.

Four years ago I felt like a stranger in a strange land, and desperately wanted to not regret coming here. But my children made friends quickly, and Opac’s declaration that this place was so much better than where he’d come from made it all worth it. I didn’t see the limbo they lived in, in our former place, until we moved here and everything clicked together like the missing pieces of a puzzle.

I trusted Todd that this was going to be good, because I couldn’t trust myself. Today, I can’t imagine being anywhere else. This is home. More home than anywhere I’ve ever wanted to be.

 

 

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Skipping Out, While Silverfox Takes Chicago

I took my medication on an empty stomach earlier this week and slept for two hours. Some days it’s a gamble, between high anxiety and being comatose. Really, all I probably need to do is stop drinking coffee. The gamble for the rest of the week was to skip the pills and challenge anxiety to make a comeback. Definitely the better option, for productivity.

The best time to be out in public? First thing in the morning. This is not typically my MO, since I usually spend half a day on the internet before finally getting motivated to jump on the treadmill, do laundry, make the bed, take a shower, do anything. And by then it’s damn near witching hour, when V’s bus is coming and suddenly I realize I’ve done nothing all day. Cue frantic clean up and an ornery mood, because my peace is about to be broken by all the drama of the middle school female species.

I refuse to make excuses now because I actually have a job when I’m not at home. V forgot her gym sneakers the other day and I had to take a shower and get dressed earlier than I’d planned, just to walk into the front office, because I haven’t yet fully embraced the culture of pajamas and slippers. Which, for what’s it’s worth, is so NOT going to happen if it aint happened yet.

The ladies in the front office know me on sight, which I wondered aloud whether that was a good thing or a bad thing. At least I’m never there to bail her out of the slammer.

I utilized this premature entry into the outside world to drop off dry cleaning and pick up milk and detergent at the store. The grocery store is sublime at 8 a.m. No crowds, easy parking. Oh – and fresh donuts. However, the fucking post office doesn’t open until 9 and I got there at 8:45 and had to stand in the vestibule clutching two huge bags for 18 minutes, making small talk with two other women who also didn’t know it wasn’t open yet. Sublime only goes as far as enough coffee and small talk isn’t in my repertoire before 9 on my day off. And then the postal guy didn’t unlock the door until 9:03. Bastard. He knew we were out there and, giddy with power, took his time getting to the door.

This morning, I dropped the dog off at the groomer and stopped at Walmart. While Walmart and sublime do not belong in the same sentence together, I must admit it was quite pleasant. There was no cart rage, and holy shit! No lines. I found 3 of the four items I went in for, but not before I’d sauntered casually through the store like I was on the beach at sunrise.

It’s the end of September and the weather has rivaled that of August, and frankly – this is bullshit. Warm is nice; oppressive with a nuclear mosquito population is a new form of hell. Myself being mosquito bait, the only picnic is the one featuring me as the main course. WTF is up with this venom? I’m still scratching the bites I got over a week ago.

Seriously, the plants don’t even know what to do. Some are still green, and some have just given up. I think the trees have finally just unanimously said fuck it, because they’re dropping leaves like rain today. And – just in case the advent of Fall is ever a question – the stink bugs have suddenly made a very Hitchcockian appearance around the windows and doors of the house.

I hear the weather is cooling down in Chicago, which bodes well for us, I think. Although the weather this morning was cool, breezy, and pleasant. I informed Todd last night that I’m working on indoor projects until conditions improve outside – as if he even cares what I do and don’t do around the house when he’s away. As long as he has clean underwear and gas in the car, he’s a happy boy.

Speaking of Chicago, my dad is there on business and I have barely heard from him, yet he sends pictures that call into question what he’s really doing. He sent me a pic of himself on some stage seated between the Blues Brothers, captioned, “just auditioned.” The next day he sent me a pic of the Iron Throne in an AT&T store on the Magnificent Mile. He took a wrong turn one afternoon and ended up in a LGBTQ neighborhood where he was propositioned twice (hey – they don’t call him Silverfox for nothing). Two days later he’s got a Cubs World Championship ring on the tip of his finger – apparently he met some woman who works for the organization. She was probably trying to pick up Silverfox, but sorry folks – he’s a happily married – and straight – man.

Then, he was tailgating on the lake on Tuesday. If I was a millionaire, I’d fly out there and hang with him for a few days. Then my next blog post I’d call, The Silverfox Chronicles, and people would eat that shit up. Because my dad is funny.

Today is Nephtoo’s birthday and I still haven’t completed his first care package. I’m going with themed packages, and pissed myself off this morning when I realized I should have sent one already, themed, the birthday box. I’ve been doing pretty well at avoiding any Mom-fails, so I guess I was ripe for an Aunt-fail. (I so can hear SOL chastising me at this very moment.) (SOL=Sister Out Law.) (And, if you have to ask, you’re obviously not in the inner circle –which I realize sounds contradictory given the “out law” reference, but shut up already – and therefore are on a need-to-know basis.)

Anyhoo, if I say any more about the care package, it’s likely to ruin the surprise since he occasionally reads this garbage. So with that – I will close with this, from my latest Netflix discovery:

Their devotion showed me there were no versions of love, there was only… Love. That it had no equal and that it was worth searching for, even if that search took a lifetime. ~ Call the Midwife

**Disclaimer: SOL is not an outlaw. She is a law-abiding citizen with terrific offspring and killer bathroom design skills.

Random Thoughts For September

We went shopping at Lowe’s last weekend which was shocking because it was Todd’s idea. Todd had boycotted the store after a debacle there about a year ago. However, Lowe-gate couldn’t hold a candle to an entirely different debacle involving kitchen rugs from Big Lots. Todd’s busy brain took a short detour to kitchen rug replacement on a beautiful Sunday afternoon when we could otherwise have been frolicking in the sunflower fields, but…there we were.

All the Halloween inflatables are set up, so I entertained myself by walking through an inflatable house a few times while Todd looked at snowblowers. There were a couple of little kids looking at me, which made me giggle, and I briefly considered calling boooooo from inside, which took me back to that time at Crystal Cave when my then-stepmom went inside this giant teepee with me and made the Indian war cry before stepping back outside, where she totally deadpan-told these wide-eyed kids that there were real Indians inside.

I have to admit, I’d never considered putting inflatables in my front yard, but the inflatable giant ghost is kinda cool. That is, until I saw the dragon. Dragons are all the rage now, ya’ll. Big Lots had a dragon skeleton that had to be nearly life-sized but was still in the box for $139. If I’d have had the money to blow…. Instead, I’ve got the skeleton cat for $22 on my wish list. I’m hoping it will scare away the stray cats who keep shitting in my gardens.

At least they’re not shitting on my front steps like they did to my neighbor across the street. Although Todd told me that one of them shit on the front tire inside the well on the pickup truck. On the wheel well? How does that happen? That’s gotta require some skill.

Our neighbor hates these strays with a passion normally reserved for ex-wives, and has set up traps around the yards including ours to catch and, he insists, relocate them. He’s gotten so sophisticated he has cameras connected to them that send to his cell so he’ll know instantly what he’s got (in case it’s a family of raccoons – which does happen round here more than you think). It’s been a month and he hasn’t caught one damn cat. I told him they’re smarter than he is which, thankfully, he laughed off, since he is a cop and could potentially arrest me for disrespecting an officer.

Needless to say we didn’t find any rugs, but did find new curtains for the sliders. And I wandered off toward something shiny in the lighting department and suddenly we were buying new lamps for the living room. And then a really happy guy in an electric wheelchair stopped next to us to remind Todd what a beautiful wife he had while I blushed eight shades of red as he sat smiling at us both. Later, I admired the mums outside and some other fall planters. I may go back and buy them but, like anything green that requires water for survival, their fate in my hands is pretty much already predetermined.

OMG, I found a giant metal chicken! I nearly ran off the road looking at it to be sure I wasn’t hallucinating, but it was real and I need this chicken. The Bloggess acquired one several years ago, which was the subject of one of the most hilarious posts I’ve ever read, and I never thought I’d ever want one until I saw it in person. Now I’m on a mission to get it, but I’m making Todd go with me because it’s really big and I might not be able to get it into my car by myself. He said I could buy it. You are all my witnesses. Though he wants to know how much it’s going to cost. Silly man. What could be better than pulling into your driveway and being greeted by this source of enormous joy – the inspiration for knock knock, motherfucker?

I’m addicted to Amazon and Zullily. I think Amazon requires no explanation. Zullily is a dangerous website that sends you daily deals by email, and I’ve already acquired a pair of shoes, a bikini top, and some flip flops. Don’t tell Todd. He already knows about ThredUp and StitchFix.

V asks me every other day to order take-out. I have no idea where she got the impression that this was a thing, but I’m charged with reminding that it aint happening. If it’s not pizza, it’s McDonald’s, or it’s Chinese food – which, by the way, isn’t close. We can order seven – count them, seven – different pizzas just in our own small town, but can’t get a decent piece of sushi without driving a half hour. Sigh. Life in the country.

“We love to eat,” one of the first things I heard on my shadowing day six months ago, and my coworkers have not disappointed. One of them regularly brings in boxes of Tastykakes, someone else deposited exquisite M&M’s ice cream cookie treats in the freezer, and there’s always someone’s birthday to celebrate with loads of potluck items for the pickin. We have parents drop off treats too – like a box of Starbucks coffee and pumpkin cream cheese coffee cakes, and a dad dropped off a giant bag of hot pretzels when he picked up a prescription. The struggle between will power and total abandon is real.

A high school friend posted a link to a 5k happening in less than a month not far from me, and I have seriously considered training for it, just in case my knee holds out. I still have time to register. Like I said, my brain says yes yes, but my knee says, no no!

Meanwhile, back in the hot tub, where we work tediously to perfect the chemicals of a chlorine-free system. Well guess what? Tara wants chlorine. Tara needs chlorine. Certain things in life just require chlorine. I do not want to go about smelling like a musty cellar, and there’s something about this system that’s leaving that impression all over me. I want to smell like chlorine. Trust me, I’ll sleep better at night.

And while we’re on the subject of hot tubbing… don’t ever, EVER try to reenact Sylvester’s Looney Toons’ geyser ride. You’ve been warned, people.

Todd had the audacity to ask me why there was a towel in the spider sanctuary. The spider sanctuary is actually our oversized bathtub in the master bath, which rarely gets used and I guess he was hinting that it’s a bit dusty/cobwebby in there.

I haven’t mentioned to him recently the plague of Lifesavers wrappers I keep finding – in the car, in the driveway, on the floor, on the bedside table, on the bathroom counter… shall I go on? This, while he tells me how dirty my car is, AS IF I have no idea how dirty it is. Really.

To use a recently overheard weirdest expression ever uddered, some days I feel angrier than a mad cow on a bad Monday. That might be an Amish expression, I’m not sure. But, I’ve left Facebook again for self-preservation. It’s faster, and less time consuming, to just remove myself, rather than “hide” every person (on both sides of the political divide, FYI) whose posts are currently bothering me. Recent revelations have taken me to a place inside that is wholly better for me and everyone around me. Let’s hope it lasts.

Miscellaneous tidbits:

There are 206 bones in the adult human body. Opac will say he has 207, because of a broken collar bone, though I believe this to be inaccurate as the break has fused back together.

To stop bleeding on the lip from a razor cut: besides applying pressure, apply ice to constrict blood vessels and slow bleeding. Also, apply chapstick or vaseline. Other pieces of advice include mouthwash (which has gotta burn like hell), or applying deodorant, in which the aluminum chloride can also constrict blood vessels. Add eye drops to that list of blood vessel contricting agents.

The Holiday Living 10.5 ft x 6.6 ft haunted house is $250. Conversely, the 9ft x 11ft dragon is $179. No word yet on the price of the giant metal chicken. I’ll get back to you. The price of my joy = priceless.

The aforementioned Looney Toons episode can be seen here : Sylvester, Tweety and the Geyser.

Current book I’m reading – is still Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins. I took a break from it to read 10 Days in a Madhouse by Nelly Bly, a fast and fascinating read (though surprisingly a lot less thrilling than Asylum) about the real conditions of institutions in the early 20th century, brought to life by the journalist who posed as a patient to get the real skinny on the inside. It was considered a game-changer for mental institutions, yet we all know that the horrors continued for decades and across the country.

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.

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

giphy (18)

 

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?