When the Kids Are Away

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V and O are off enjoying the sunny shores of the Outer Banks this week and, while I will admit to feeling somewhat melancholy at their initial departure, I also knew it would be a week of much needed quiet and an opportunity to get shit done. Or, more accurately, time to up my Happy Dance and stop adulting for 8 days. The only one who didn’t get the memo was the cat.

Things I thought I might want to get done:

Finish the laundry room and move the litterbox, paint the guest bedroom and the workout room, refurbish some old dining room chairs, patch a hole and paint the kitchen wall, clean the cobwebby corners of the cathedral ceilings, repaint the foyer/vestibule, make a headboard for our bed, finish my walk-in closet, change the paint in the kids’ bathroom, call a pool company for an estimate on a pool, …

What I “might” actually have done –

Played pool,

Lost several hours on the computer doing I-don’t-even-remember-anymore,

[Still learning to] play a song on the keyboard,

Mopped up a pile of cat vomit strategically deposited at the bottom of the stairs,

Drank several bottles of Dogfish 60-Minute,

Did the absolute minimum to clean the house,

Brushed up on my Spanish for about 30 minutes (which really means, re-learning it),

Binge-watched the new season of Orange is the New Black,

Drank wine,

Cleaned out the fridge and prepped some food for easy grab-snacks,

Gave myself a pedicure,

Slept through every night since Friday (well, except for my body’s programmed 3 a.m. wakeup),

Put a filet on the grill and forgot about it. For an hour.

Drank more wine,

Stayed in bed an extra hour this morning to show Oliver who’s boss because he woke me up out of a sound sleep by standing on my arm. All 17 pounds of him. Because, hungry.

Boring?

I’m not sorry.

There’s a lot more trouble to be had, but I’m currently an hour into a bottle of Domaine Bellevue Touraine Rose and patching a hole in the kitchen wall is probably NOT a good idea. Sabra is watching me closely to see if I will follow through on my threat of giving her a bath, but alas – she is off the hook until the kids come back.

Todd made me help wash the car this morning and I pulled an Opac and swiped at it with a sponge a few times and then complained about the pain in my arm and suddenly remembered a phone call I had to make.

Reality returns shortly and so does the whining. I’ve got less than 3 days to squeeze in some more slackin and I’m going all out. I refuse to be a productive adult, at least outside of my job, until Sunday.

Pass me that bottle of wine.

Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough

People have asked me why I’m not writing much… this is [one reason] why. Life is busier than I expected it would be these last three months. And now that school has let out – and Veruca’s softball season has ended – summer workouts for football have begun.

The title of this post is kinda random, since I was listening to the radio when I picked Opac up from summer workouts and this was on. I love this song, I love to belt it out and had it turned up until he got into the car. I watched him walking out from the building, looking like somebody had dragged him across the field on his head. He got into the car and reached over to turn down the volume saying “I gotta turn this shit down, it’s not my victory song” as he did so.

And so it goes. The kids are full of it these days – wit and wisdom. Two days ago he went to practice early so he could watch and “help” with the freshmen workouts, because “freshman make a lot of mistakes (they can’t help it).”

Meanwhile back in Veruca-land, where the world has to be just so or hellfire will burn your house down, a conversation about Opac being a junior now and my melancholy at this revelation that he’ll be graduating in two years prompted V to comfort me with a whispered, “don’t worry, he’s not going to be able to support himself, so he’ll come back home.” Who ARE these children??

Unfortunately, the frequency with which they make me laugh since school let out 36 hours ago is not surpassing the frequency with which the urge to kill is rising. V is testing every limit I have established for my nerves and sanity. She’s pissed that she can’t leave for vacation with her dad until Friday; she’s pissed that Opac is threatening not to go on said vacation; she’s pissed that I won’t buy tater tots; she’s pissed I won’t get her another manicure before her vacation; she’s pissed that Opac won’t play Call of Duty with her; she’s pissed that she can’t go to work with me. Seriously.

Today was the first day of summer vacation. I took V for a repeat blood test she needed (and, for the first time ever, she went back without me), picked up my new glasses again (long story, that one), spent $17 on lunch at Wawa, and then drove O to Dick’s Sporting Goods for some crazy-ass device you wear on your face to basically add more stress to your heart and lungs so you can build endurance. I talked him out of it, by the way. Seriously.

And then we stopped at Macy’s because I still have credit and a small shred of dignity and thought I’d see if there were any decent swimsuits to be had. As usual, I was wrong. The selection was abysmal, because hello! June. And everything this year has this new trend called “cutouts,” which are not really for real women but for meth addicts and size 0 bulimic models. We literally circled the store and the department in less than 10 minutes and were back in the car.

Wait. Back up. Opac was in the car, with V screaming at him that he promised she would get the front seat and she’s freaking out because “my stuff” is in the front seat. And guess what – he threw her “stuff” over his shoulder into the backseat, which only incensed her more. He threw her stuff! Good lord, what is the world coming to?

This, on the first day of summer vacation.

And of course the pets are following suit. Sabra has finally been spayed, and she’s doing great, except for the running and jumping she’s not supposed to be doing. She’s managed to slip under the fence into the neighbor’s yard, and yesterday she chased the  squirrel who buried his nuts in my potted plants last fall, from one tree to another.

Oliver has been more vocal than ever, running into the kitchen during my 3 a.m. blood sugar checks for Veruca, meowing at me like he hasn’t eaten in 39 days. This morning, at least, he waited until I woke up for the day… I sat up and saw he had stuffed his Biggie Smalls body into an empty Eminem shoebox I’d left near the foot of the bed. I need a picture of this.

So meanwhile, we’re all on pins and needles while Opac decides whether he’s going on vaca with his dad. I feel compelled to protect his feelings and his privacy, so I can’t explain his reasoning behind it all. But I am surprisingly surprised that some things (or people) just never change. Seriously.

 

Where I’ve Been – May 2017 Edition

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Once we cremated everybody and celebrated their individual lives, we returned to ours. Which is not to say that ours was anything close to normal. It was easily the busiest month I have known in a loooong time.

Four straight days of training in Philly, leaving the house at 7 to arrive by 9 at the Wanamaker Building and not departing before 4:30. I was a nervous wreck in the days and hours leading up to that first day. I’m not that familiar with Philly and was worried getting there and parking.

I found myself wondering how and when I – the girl who left rural PA to attend NYU and once drove to Annapolis in a torrential downpour in the early 90s with nothing but scribbled directions on a piece of paper – became such a slave to anxiety. My GPS got me to Market Street remarkably unscathed, though completely frazzled. I was fortunate to find parking directly across the street and I was early.

Having spent the previous weeks at my office, I felt confident when I sat down in this windowless, arctic computer room with five other women. When we broke for lunch, everyone scattered except for “Jane” and me – so we decided to lunch together downstairs in the café.

She lamented to me about this crash course we were taking, how confusing it was, and how her first and only day in the office was so busy she could only sit back and watch, befuddled. She was worried about passing the final assessment, and how anyone who failed had to repeat it until they did. We discussed other things, like our kids and where we came from.

In the days that followed I became comfortable with the commute. I was invigorated by the city, at once knowing where I was and how to get there, the city sounds calling me back to an earlier time in my life. I found a parking garage around the corner when the lot closed across the street, and managed not to get lost finding my way back to my building. I lunched with Jane again and also with “Tracy,” the three of us easy friends by virtue of age I suppose. We walked to the Reading Terminal Market, which was crowded at lunchtime but I loved the bustle and stimulation. It was easy for me to slip back into my urban state of mind, and I loved it.

The last day was spent on “quick” morning review that dragged on for three hours, and when the trainer asked if we were ready for the assessment all I could think was, but it’s 12:30 and we haven’t had lunch! I took the assessment with a burning knot forming in my neck and shoulder, and no food in my stomach. I finished sometime after 4. Seven hours without a break, or food. I was stressed. I was sure I’d made a catastrophic error twice, but somehow managed to save my ass and pull it off anyway. I still can’t tell you how or what I did.

Jane finished before me. It didn’t go well. Before the trainer was finished grading her, she stood up and announced that she did her best under the impossible circumstances of a “crash course,” that we all needed more time to learn this stuff, and she’s “done”.

Me? I passed the assessment. With a 100%. I don’t know how Tracy did. I left for home before she was finished.

Meanwhile, back in Maryland, life carried on without me. The house grew dirtier and dishes piled in the sink, laundry overflowed, meals were made on the fly as we raced off to Veruca’s softball games, we were constantly in need of groceries, and the animals moped around the house looking downtrodden. I was getting home close to seven every night, exhausted and literally wilting into the couch by the day’s end. The weeks that followed Philly saw me at the office four days a week, now doing practical training with real people in real time, and answering phones which scared me only just a little.

There were doctor’s appointments and vet appointments to get to, Todd’s art show opened on a Friday night and the next day I worked until noon and raced home to prepare for Veruca’s birthday sleepover party. The restaurant continues to be short-staffed and so I chased all those little girls out on Sunday morning so I could work Mother’s Day too. And then we had a much-anticipated wedding the following weekend where I danced the night away with Todd and our friends, and I didn’t pass out on the drive home as he’d snidely predicted. (To be fair, I almost always do.)

Last week was my final “training” week. It took me forever to adjust to working four days a week and managing our lives like normal people who have jobs do, and now I’m down to two days a week which is what I was hired for. This week has been anticlimactic, at best.

At least there’s more time for writing.

Sometimes Life is A Country Song

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My life doesn’t always read like a country song, but when it does…

***If you’re pressed for time, I’ve made it easy for you – just read the bolded phrases.

That snow storm that cut my San Francisco trip short was heavy and became solid ice hours afterward. Several days later as the sun melted it off the roof of the house – a sheet of it fell on, and caved in, the hood of my new car.

The new kitten we adopted turned out to have a polyp on his larynx – a catastrophic mass which would involve resectioning his digestive and respiratory tracts and likely a tracheotomy for a while – and I was forced to make the worst decision a person can ever make, while he was in the OR. I scream-cried for an hour after the surgeon and I ended our call. The bill – all totaled – $1800.

I started a new job – the highlight of my Spring – a part-time position with the world-renowned Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. It’s going to be 2 days a week, but I have been training 3 days a week in the office, and I have to spend a week in Philadelphia in Epic training. That’s Epic training, not training that is epic.

My anxiety has topped the charts over working all these extra hours in the midst of all this other personal stuff, having to cover Veruca’s schedule with school and softball when I can’t readily be there, and now having to drive to Philly every morning at the break of dawn and not getting home until 7. I don’t do Philly. Send me to New York any day. Although technically my “home” city (my parents took me there A LOT, growing up), I get lost in Philly with its labyrinth of streets named after trees that confuses me.

My 92-year-old grandfather passed away a couple of weeks ago. Todd and I drove up last weekend for the memorial service, but had to cut our time short due to another commitment in Baltimore in the evening (see below).

Opac had oral surgery and won the award for Worst Patient Ever. I took him to a longtime client of ours, because I trusted him absolutely with my precious offspring. Opac presented himself to this like a tough footballer with a bring-it-on attitude, that is, until about an hour into our ride home when the pain kicked in and he was hollering and swearing and crying. I had to stop for the Percocet and prayed they’d hurry up on it, while Opac sat in the car with his stupid fucking ice pack that isn’t helping at all texting me in a panic because I hadn’t come out after 5 minutes. No one likes to see their kid in pain and be helpless to fix it, and he brought me to tears.

The Percocet took an eternity to kick in – I swear to God I am not exaggerating – well over an hour before O stopped moaning. And believe me, he’s loud. The level of stress ranks right up there next to the 5 days I spent at CHOP when Veruca was diagnosed with diabetes. He wanted to die, FML, wanted to hang himself, and at one point told me I’d see him at his funeral in two days. (This news, while disturbingly and inappropriately funny, did not go over well given the current state of family affairs.) I literally dove into a bottle of wine the minute Todd walked in the door after work.

Roughly ten days after granddad passed, my uncle passed suddenly and unexpectedly. It was a shock to everyone, and my cousins have been struggling with the news and planning a service. There’s more related drama, but out of respect for them I will not mention it. Meanwhile, my grandmother had to be told and, as expected, it was not for the faint-hearted. We were seriously concerned there would be a third funeral.

After grandad’s memorial, Todd and I raced home for a wardrobe change and then we were off to his college’s annual Gala – first time for me. It was a great time! I met some new people, caught up with others. We bid on some auction items and won a piece of artwork now hanging in our living room and, though I really wanted the Michael Kors bag, I bowed out of the bidding war for that once it topped $200. The bad part of the evening was that I was drinking vodka+cranberry’s, against my better judgement after I realized it was Absolut they were pouring, and I got very drunk and very sick afterward. I’m fairly certain it was a reaction to all the stress I’ve been under, because I’ve had more to drink than this before and didn’t come close to feeling this way.

I spent the entire next day on the couch feeling like I wanted to die. The kids came home later that night from their dad’s. Opac hit a wall the day before with his pain level and there was no more Percocet, and my ex had to call the doctor – who explained to him that he was not getting more Percocet and he needed to take an OTC cocktail of ibuprofen and Tylenol that would help, along with some other topical instructions. Ex texted me his disappointment (read= doctor was so rude and cold, what a d***) and at this point I was now wondering how much damage control I was going to have to do at the followup appointment. Meanwhile, Opac called me in the middle of the College President’s speech at the gala to complain about his pain and not knowing what to do. Really, I tried to be compassionate but for the love of God – could I not have ONE night without stress and worry?

And so it goes. The hangover I had morphed into some sort of viral thing and my gut was in knots for days, and I’m still not feeling totally normal.

Meanwhile, my uncle’s wife developed an aortic rupture and we were told she had a 20% chance of survival. So she is currently in hospital under heavy sedation, and missed her husband’s funeral.

That is all.

 

 

The Shadow

It has been 10 days since my last confession. A lot has happened in those 10 days.

But let’s back up for a minute. I very briefly hinted at a new addition to our family in a post about a month ago. It’s a bit of an involved story.

Veruca and I had seen a little black cat up for adoption at our local pet store. Its name was Raven. She was adorable. The information card on her cage explained that her one eye “gets goopy” sometimes, but it “doesn’t affect her health.” I wondered about it as we left the store and V was begging me to put in an application. I had reservations about it, especially about the eye. Long story short – eventually we did.

The day I picked her up, the staff there wasn’t expecting me. They had to call someone to verify, and then they rifled through a file for her paperwork. When I saw it I told them it wasn’t the right one, although it fit her description, because this paper was for a male cat. He IS a male, they said. I was sure he was a she, because everyone including the guy who handles the adoptions referred to her that way. A few minutes and a short physical examination later, we confirmed that he was, in fact, a he.

So he came home. The kids were ecstatic. Oliver, not so much. At barely seven pounds, he moved through the house like a ninja. One minute he was there, and the next – gone. So we named him Shadow. He was not fond of being held – like a toddler who has just learned to walk. Opac was the first to draw him in. He laid on the floor until Shadow came up to him and allowed himself to be loved on.

His eye would occasionally get “watery” and he’d blink a lot. The adoption guy told me that it was “congenital” and that as long as it didn’t become pus-y or mucus-y, that he was fine. I made an appointment with our vet to follow up after he seemed to develop something resembling a cold.

She put him on antibiotics for an upper respiratory infection, ointment for his eye for conjunctivitis, and drops for his ears because he had ear mites. And he was not a good patient. He defined fighting “tooth and nail.” We double-teamed him on the antibiotic – one of us wrapping him tightly in a towel and the other squirting the dropper down his throat, all in less than 20 seconds.

But Shadow kept getting worse. He breathed loudly, like he was congested, and he snored when he slept. He sounded terrible when he ate, like he couldn’t breathe through his nose. Worried, I called the vet. We took him the next day and she took a closer look. His blood studies from the first visit were normal. His x-ray showed clear lungs. She suspected a polyp in his nasal passage, but she was reluctant to let it go and sent us to the emergency hospital a half hour away.

Animal ERs are just as busy and the wait just as long as human ERs. Veruca and I arrived about 8 p.m. and we didn’t leave until 1 a.m. Shadow was examined and x-rayed in more detail under a sedative, and placed in an oxygen tank to allow him to breathe better. The vet on duty told me the estimated costs associated with removing the suspected polyp – around $2600 – and I damn near fainted. Money I don’t have and can’t afford. The alternative was euthanasia, and I started to cry. V didn’t know what that was and after I explained it to her, she started to cry. I opted, come hell or high water, I was not putting this cat down. I would find a way to pay for it. They started the procedure and she couldn’t find the “stem” of the polyp, she said, and he would need to have surgery the next day with an internist.

We requested to see him before we left. He was lying on his side in the oxygen cage, still sedated, his one little paw taped up with an IV attached, and a soft blanket over him. He looked every bit the baby who stole our hearts just weeks ago. I reached out and stroked his soft head and back, trying to hold back the tears that had already washed my mascara away hours before. V pet him too, and together we walked out to the car, feeling relieved that he’d be fixed in the morning and would be able to come home later. It was the last time we saw him.

 

 

Not Always How It Looks

I’ve had a plethora of thoughts about my next post, one of which was planned last week on a topic that has long bothered me about the business I’ve grown up in. I didn’t get it written before the weekend, and damn if it didn’t happen again and it not only pissed me off that it happened again, but that if I wrote about it NOW, someone would assume it was because of THEM. So, I’m putting that post off for a few days while I process some other stuff. Yes, I’m cryptic sometimes. Deal with it.

I went to bed last night exhausted, but my brain wouldn’t shut off and I was turning over some thoughts about Life. Profound thoughts, some with sadness, some with gratitude, and some with just more questions. I fell asleep then and, as always happens, those great thoughts got sucked into the black hole of my dreams and it may take me a few days to conjure them up again. Am I being cryptic again? Okay – I’ll be direct – just this once.

Exhausted – because one of my BFFs came for two days and we didn’t get much sleep. Profound thoughts – because a friend from high school just lost his battle with cancer two days ago.

But before all of that, I was putzing around this closed group I joined under the probably somewhat misguided notion that we were all there because we were fans of a certain blog. Which is mostly true, but many of the posts mentioned troubled lives, inability to get out of bed and/or leave the house, insecurities, and so on. One girl posted how her life was so messed up while everyone else on Facebook is living the dream and have families and kids and great jobs… you know the story.

We all know the story. Who hasn’t been on Facebook and seen how great some people’s lives are? And maybe felt like, wow – I wish my life was like that/better.

Well, here’s a newsflash: NOBODY’s life is perfect. And I told her so. I also told her that social media is a place where one can be whoever they want the world to see. People do it every day.

A friend gushes on and on about how smart her kids are, how they made distinguished honors again, and what great athletes they are. Another calls her husband the best husband ever because he did something nice for her – maybe he brought flowers home, or made dinner and took care of the kids one night. Another travels all the time to wonderful places.

About seven years ago I reconnected with a friend who – in a nutshell – was living her dream. Great job, great husband, beautiful house, beautiful kids, lots of great friends. I felt a pang of jealousy, mingled with joy for her at having those things that she so deserved after years of struggle. It was another card stacked against the deck I was living in back then. I couldn’t ignore the feeling of, why can’t I have all of that too?

Appearances are deceiving. Some people gush to cover up their own shortcomings, insecurities, or fears that they don’t measure up to “the dream.” Some of those people will experience divorce, illness, job loss, money and stability, loss of a parent or loved one, or – heaven forbid – the loss of a child. The mother who gushes over her children? She has lived the last 18 years without her mother. The friend who has money and is always traveling? Lives a lonely single life and is struggling to find love.

I write a lot about my own life. People who know me personally, know who I really am. I write tough sometimes. Sometimes funny. Sometimes I write about my weaknesses. I try to be honest. I live in a nice home, drive a nice car, have beautiful kids, wonderful friends and neighbors, and the love of my life. Gushing?

No. I count my blessings. Because 7 years ago my life looked very VERY different… and I was the one wishing it could look more like hers, or his. And I am not so naïve to believe that anything can change in an instant. And that – my friends – is a truth I will share today. Inside myself lives a terrible fear of losing those who are most precious to me. I don’t focus on it, and I push it down, but it is the demon who occasionally whispers my darkest fears.

I have this God-awful anxiety that I cannot explain, that came to roost in the cobwebs of my sanity and steals my inner peace with wordless whispers. Not every minute of every day. But it’s there. My life is far from perfect. It may look like it is, to outsiders. I struggle with bills, I don’t work enough or earn enough of my own money. I have debt. A lot of it. It’s not Todd’s burden, but mine.

I don’t get enough quality time with my kids. I don’t get enough quality time with Todd. I wish I could travel more. I wish I had money saved for college. I wish I hadn’t given away 13 years of my life to abuse and unhappiness. I wish I didn’t still hear his critical voice in my head. I wish I didn’t have to work weekends. I wish my knees didn’t hurt, and that I could run again. I wish I was more this, and less of that. I wish, I wish, I wish.

And all any of that does, to repurpose a meme – is steal today’s joy. Which is my long-winded way of saying:

  1. The grass is NOT always greener on the other side and
  2. Don’t believe everything you hear/read.
  3. Don’t kick yourself for what you haven’t done. Do what you wish you could.
  4. Nobody’s life is “perfect.” The only world that’s perfect is heaven.
  5. Count the blessings you DO have. (In religion-speak, that means you praise God for what He has done for you. You reap what you sow.)

 

I’ll just leave this here…

I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.

~ Walden, Henry David Thoreau

Destination San Fran – The Anti-Climax

There was exactly one flight out before the storm – the next morning, Monday, at 6:30 a.m. – with enough seats for us. The rest of the flights – particularly Wednesday – were already booked.

So, our trip cut short – the shortest trip I’ve ever taken to California – we missed our tour of Alcatraz (already purchased tickets and paid for) and never rode the trolley, never got close to the Golden Gate Bridge. I really, really wanted to walk the GG, since the steel for the bridge came from my hometown in PA. Those 3 activities topped my list for our trip, and I missed all three of them to fly home again at the crack of dawn to beat an effin snowstorm that should’ve happened two months ago. PSA #1 : Never, ever, plan the best stuff for last.

The cab we ordered to pick us up at the hotel arrived quite timely – and we later learned he hijacked us from the cab that was ordered. Todd and I decided to grab some breakfast at the terminal – this place was the bomb with made-to-order omelets – though I was in no position to eat anything but a bagel and a coffee. PSA #2 : Never, ever, eat Mexican the night before a 6-hour flight.

Todd ordered a hot chocolate with NO whipped cream. When he picked it up at the end of the line, it had whipped cream on it. See what I’m talking about? And what’s worse – he ordered a cinnamon roll and the girl bagged him a cinnamon muffin, which everyone knows are two entirely different things. So, while it happened to him again, I have to add that I ordered a blueberry muffin for later, and I didn’t open it up until we were airborne somewhere over Colorado and it was definitely not a blueberry muffin. I still don’t know what it was, but I ate it anyway.

We couldn’t get a direct flight so we had to fly into LA and catch another plane, and when we arrived we learned there was another flight leaving for Baltimore RIGHT NOW with 3 seats left if we wanted it. We took it. And of course it was a pain in the ass finding seats, and absolutely no overhead storage left so we had to check our carry-ons. I sat between a sweet elderly lady from Connecticut, and the young guy on my right kindly helped me pick up my pile of shit I spilled on the floor, and kept himself busy with games on his iPad. All appearances were it was going to be a nice easy flight.

And then Todd came up and invited me to switch with the woman seated next to him who’d offered. So I found myself sandwiched between my husband and this guy on the window seat who wasn’t much bigger than me but you’d think he was an NFL linebacker by the way he commandeered both armrests and sat with his knees further apart than a hooker in Alphabet City. He encroached on my personal space for nearly 5 hours and I haven’t wanted to punch somebody that bad since – two days ago.

We arrived in Baltimore in the afternoon, and had to wait for our carry-ons to come to the baggage carousel, which is like waiting for the dog to poo on a winter walk. And then we were directed to the wrong carousel, watching the same poor bags circling (which is positively maddening), until Todd looked over his shoulder and just happened to spot my carry-on on the carousel behind us. PSA #3 : Always use carry-on, and if you can’t – buy a really colorful bag that stands out.

The drive home wasn’t horrendous, but since Ex was sick with the flu, I had to drive all the way to his house to pick up Veruca, praying to beat the snow. Which, for those unfamiliar, is roughly two hours from BWI. So, after 13 and a half hours of traveling, I finally had V in the car and we drove home in the first flurries of winter storm Stella.

 

Destination: San Francisco, Day 2… Hey!

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Photo copyright TKA and The Tara Chronicles

I was wide awake at 5:30 a.m., and Todd and Jonathan left early for the conference at 6:30. It was still dark out. I stayed in bed, thinking I’d go back to sleep, but instead started reading the hotel’s guidebooks.

Not expecting the boys back before lunch, I took to Google maps to see exactly where we were and what was around us, contemplating what I would do with myself to fill the morning. Sure, plenty of shopping. My God, could I shop! But, alas, appearances are deceiving and I don’t have money to spend like that.

My plan was to go to the coffee shop down the street for pastry or a bagel, some fruit and yogurt, and then walk over to Old Navy and buy a cheap pair of sunglasses (I left mine at home). Suddenly, I heard somebody yell, Hey!

Hey! I heard it again. Hey! It was loud, and it was coming from the street outside my window, which – by the way – is good for nothing except keeping the birds out. Hey!

Curiosity got the best of me and I slid out of bed and opened the curtain to see what was going on. Hey! Across the street was a man loitering about 10 feet from the corner, yelling Hey! at every car passing and at people on the street.

Hey! Then all of sudden his pants are down and, oh….he’s going to urinate. Perfect. Hey! He turns back toward the street and he’s still yelling hey! at cars going by. With his pants down. He’s holding his penis, which is fairly impressive if I can see it from the fourth floor, and he’s shaking it around and yelling hey!

I’m fairly open-minded, but it was just too damn early in the morning for this. Not to mention the fact that I really wanted some coffee and there was no way in hell I was going out there while the Schlonger was out there. I don’t know when he was gone because there’s only so much penis a person can take before breakfast and I’d gone back to my reading. Eventually I showered and dressed just moments before Todd texted he was on his way back.

The three of us ventured out for food and walked several blocks in search of some “diner” they had seen from the cab and were trying to recall exactly where it was. We stopped at Old Navy for sunglasses and noticed a line forming outside the store that wrapped around the building. Somebody from the Golden State Warriors was scheduled to appear and sign autographs. I always wonder at people who stand in lines three-hundred people strong just for an autograph.

The weather – absolutely beautiful – and architecture juxtaposed with scores of homeless we passed. The smell of weed, legal in here, floated on the air with nauseating frequency. We checked out a handful of places on our way, but any worthwhile ones had ridiculous lines (it was Sunday, after all). We finally found Mel’s Drive-In – which is I guess what they had in mind – and were seated right away.

Todd has this luck with places when we eat out where something always happens to him. And only to him. I pointed it out, casually explaining to Jonathan that he’s a magnet for this shit. Todd protested, but I swear to God it happened several times on this trip and he couldn’t deny it. Case in point: #1 – the lettuce/tomato/pickle incident at John’s Grill the day before.

#2. His iced tea glass at Mel’s appeared to have something on it. And then his omelet wasn’t fully cooked. Everyone else’s food was perfect.

We passed a store called Good Vibrations with a poster illustrating the evolution of vibrators for each decade since the 1970s. The catchphrase: Creating a Buzz Since 1977. This cracked me up. Jonathan said he’d give me $20 to buy one and try to get it through airport security. I told you he was a man of few, but calculated words.

We walked back past Old Navy, the line now stretching two city blocks. We considered taking the trolley, but the line was as long as the day before. I suggested we save it for tomorrow, since we could take it to Fisherman’s Wharf to catch our Alcatraz tour.

We decided to take a cable car to Fisherman’s Wharf anyway, and were surprised at the stark difference between environments – Union Square vs. Fisherman’s Wharf. No less people, but it felt much less humanly-chaotic. Opac called me while I was on the cable car, to update me on Veruca’s condition and to suggest that maybe he should skip school tomorrow since there’ll be a snow day on Tuesday anyway. I failed to see the logic in this and told him to forget it.

We walked around the waterfront and took pictures. My friend Dave, who lives out here, warned me to avoid touristy things, but it really wasn’t all that bad. I found a place called Hard Water, with a wall of whiskeys, bourbons, and single malts. Looked like a good place to stop to me, with only 4 people seated around a u-shaped bar; however, we pressed on.

Eventually we hopped a cable car back to Union Square, where Todd realized his cell phone had officially crapped out and lucky us – there was a T-Mobile store right there. So J and I sat down while Todd handled his phone situation, and Opac called me again. I was completely parched and dehydrated, so I stepped outside to see if there was anywhere nearby that might sell water. No dice. I called V to see how she was feeling – she only had a fever which left her very sleepy, but certainly NOT flu. Her dad did have the flu, and he actually joked that I know how he is when he’s sick (giant wuss on his deathbed) and I remarked he was lucky to have his wife, to which he simply said, ah, she just ignores me.

Anyway, we had plans for dinner with another colleague and his wife at 5 so we returned to the hotel to clean up. The boys took the elevator and made fun of me for taking the stairs. But I told you, I’m not dying on an elevator in San Francisco. Besides, I passed other people who chose to take the stairs, thus confirming my concerns.

We met them at their hotel and walked to Tropisueno, a Mexican restaurant with divine food and even better margaritas. The place was already bustling but the ambience lent intimacy and felt comfortable, not rushed. The conversation melted away from shop talk into personal stories and speculation about the impending snow storm on Tuesday.

Afterward, Jonathan and Rob grabbed some Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, and we continued walking. We passed the Disney Store and went in. There’s a lot of Beauty and the Beast stuff, which I love, though thank God I didn’t have money with me because I had just enough of a buzz to have bought stuff. There was a short lightsaber battle by the front door, and the cast member there showed me a secret Jedi handshake, which I’ve completely forgotten now. And that’s when our night abruptly ended, when J got the email that our Tuesday morning flight had been cancelled.

*Many of us are familiar with the slang, schlong, but have you heard of a schlort? Urban Dictionary defines schlong as a penis of fairly good length, so then it’s not difficult to guess what a schlort is.

Destination San Francisco: Dazed and Confused

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Photo copyright  TKA and The Tara Chronicles, 2017

Part 1, continued

So we get off the plane and head toward the exit where Visitor Information gives us a thousand instructions on taking BART into the city. Todd is the only one paying attention. She lost me after the third step of the directions. We opt for a cab, which they said would cost about $65. After six hours on a plane and no sleep, it was a no-brainer.

We crossed the Oakland-San Francisco Bay Bridge, where I caught my first IRL sighting of the Golden Gate Bridge. Outside my window, people walking everywhere, pushing strollers, wearing St. Patrick’s Day attire, and I saw a woman digging through a trash can. I watched the cab’s meter ticking. We racked up $60 faster than a slot machine swallowing money, and by this time Todd was getting antsy. Because today was the St. Patrick’s Day parade and every other street was closed to traffic. He made the call to exit the cab at $85 and walk the rest of the way to the hotel.

The Hotel Bijou, billed as a boutique hotel, is themed after the cinema, and located on the corner of Mason and Eddy Streets. There was a homeless man sitting cross-legged against the hotel wall, the sole of one shoe all but gone, smoking what appeared to be a very fat spliff. I ambivalently followed Todd into the hotel lobby which, at half the size of our kitchen, disproportionately resembled the online pictures.

The 65-room hotel was built in 1911. The lobby walls were eggplant colored and two canary-yellow chairs faced the double doors. The counter resembled a retro movie theater counter, part of which had a glass display case with the standard movie snacks. There was an apprehension behind me that was palpable, before Jonathan seemed to hear my thoughts and said aloud, this should be fine. Todd, ever chatty, told the clerk he liked the theme of the hotel. She informed him that they were renovating and soon the cinema theme would be gone, which explained the discrepancy of the pictures and the large black curtain ominously covering one wall of the lobby. She explained that beyond the curtain was a space large enough to cater to 150 people, and that the renovations were intended to open up that space as a restaurant/event space.

One of the maids appeared with a steam machine, with which she began to clean the art deco carpet not more than 8 feet away while we were still checking in. I glanced at Todd, waiting for a reaction. I looked over my shoulder at her for a millisecond, and watched the clerk for a reaction. None from anyone.

After we were all checked in, she instructed us to make sure we pushed the elevator button hard. I’ve never been afraid of elevators, having attended NYU where nearly every class I had involved riding an elevator. I pushed the 4th floor button hard and….. nothing. I pushed it again. And again. This elevator made me nervous. Jonathan stood silently still. He’s a man of few, but calculated words. Todd reached over and pressed it and suddenly the doors closed and we rumbled upward. All I could think was, I didn’t fly OPEN SEATING for SIX hours on a plane with a screaming child to San Francisco just to die in an elevator.

Each room door has a plaque emblazoned with a movie title. Ours was After the Thin Man, a movie I’ve never even heard of, and J got 48 hours. The bare-bones room contained art deco-ish furniture well past its prime, a forest-green carpet, and yellow walls. I threw myself back on the bed and stared at the ceiling, while Todd pulled out his laptop and connected to the wifi. I snapped a couple of selfies never to be posted on social media. No matter what I do, I can never find a good angle that doesn’t look like Quasimodo.

After freshening up, we ventured out in search of food…by this time it was about 3 p.m. which to our sensibilities was really 6 p.m. and, after eating only breakfast, was a long overdue dinner-time. The man outside the hotel was gone, but there were several others in the vicinity talking to themselves or shouting at each other. Where were we?

We stumbled on John’s Grill, a lovely, albeit small little establishment “since 1908” with dark wood-paneled walls covered with black and white photos of famous people. It was the setting for the Maltese Falcon, and apparently a landmark self-described as having excellent service.

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Photo copyright  TKA and The Tara Chronicles, 2017

Jonathan had the salmon, which was the best he’s ever had. I opted for comfort food with the Ravioli Primavera in a creamy tomato sauce. Todd ordered a New York Steak sandwich, served open-faced with seasoned fries. One side held the steak, the other side lettuce, tomato, and pickle. Todd apologized and asked the waiter for another half without tomato (he’s allergic). Sure! Said the waiter, and never came back. I don’t know what you consider “excellent service,” but a waiter with no more than four tables who can’t remember who ordered what (including drinks) and forgets to check back at the table, like ever, wouldn’t last a day in my restaurant.

When he finally did return, he pulled a classic pass-the-buck by asking, they never brought that out to you? And then redeemed himself by bringing us flan with fresh berries on the house, which is not only my most favorite dessert ever, but was killer. The boys were kind enough to be stuffed and only ate a few bites, leaving the rest to me. Opac called while we were there, informing me that Veruca and her dad had come home from softball practice with the flu.

As we were finishing up, I overheard a homeless man enter the restaurant begging for just a cup of coffee, and the hostess quietly shooed him outside. Summary review: The food was every bit as good as the exiting patrons promised when we arrived. Definitely check it out.

We walked around afterward in balmy temperatures reaching a breezy 70 degrees, encountering a homeless man in a wheelchair having a lengthy conversation with the air, and eventually made our way to Market Street. We passed the cable car turnaround, with a line of maybe 80 people. Major stores, street performers, and such a cultural diversity it was almost as if we weren’t in Kansas anymore.

An organized but small rally of black Americans was standing near The Gap corner, yelling about the black man and the white man and I-don’t-know-what-else, but it immediately threw me back to my first excursion out as an NYU student when I encountered a similar message delivered slightly less emphatically by men dressed in white robes. Something about it made me feel more uncomfortable this time.

A group of college kids ran by us wearing banana headdresses. There was a 3-piece scrappy-looking band playing really good music, and folks were stopping to listen, video, and dance. The earlier police presence during the parade had all but vanished.

The boys were on a quest for coffee that wasn’t Starbucks, and we ended up at a corner coffee shop about a block from our hotel. We sat in front of the huge glass window. I drank water while they talked shop, listening with half an ear and watching people outside, trying to process the day and not to make eye contact with anyone. Which is hard to do when you’re sitting in a huge window like an animal in the zoo.

The conversation turned to the impending winter storm hitting the east coast that threatened to derail our plans to return Tuesday. I’d faded into the background as one would in a dream sequence, hearing and seeing everything but feeling very much apart from it. And, just as suddenly, my heart was pounding and I was feeling a crushing anxiety. Todd, so attuned to me, turned and asked if I was alright. No, I said.

I knew it was just fatigue, and said so. I’d had just 3 hours of sleep and none on the plane, and everything compounded my sensitivities until I felt like my chest would explode. We walked back to the hotel, crossing the street behind a group of young men being chased by a woman screaming give me back my money! over and over. I turned quickly toward the hotel and missed one of them punching her until she fell over in the street.

Once inside the room I felt the hot tears pushing through the ducts like a birthing baby. Everything just fell to pieces. I pulled myself together and changed into pjs, laid on the bed while Todd skyped with J and Matt back home on the presentation. I posted on FB lamenting on the overwhelming homeless situation here, and promptly passed out – at roughly 6:30 p.m. Pacific.

Destination: San Francisco, Part 1

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Three hours into a six-hour flight on Southwest Airlines. Had no idea about “open seating.” WTF is up with open seating? Whose idea was this? We were literally among the last five to board, so Todd and I were separated, but luckily were across the aisle from each other in the middle seats. AKA, the seats nobody wants. But I got to sit with someone he knows from the college, so it made it a little better.

I just got up from a bathroom break. Jonathan is in the last row by the window and he’s holding the bag of soft pretzels, so I grabbed it on my way back to my seat. They were yummy. A bit salty, but buttery good. Todd is drawing on his iPad. “Fritos in the sky.” I love his whimsical stuff right now. It’s fun. And weird. Like me.

There’s a very small child two rows ahead of us who’s been serenading us with variations of screams and exclamations. I was almost asleep during a lull and then Blam! I opened my eyes and made eye contact with the woman in front of me, who was standing in the aisle. We gave each other that look of OH MY GOD. Three more hours of this.

There are several people on board from the college who are also attending the conference, so it kinda feels like a class trip. Except this is more subdued, and there’s alcohol. It’s going to be fun. We were already socializing in the airport waiting to board. We’re invited to the president’s dinner on Monday night, which should be great fun given who’s along for the ride.

Confession: this is my first plane ride in 19 years. First trip back to California in 22. How did so much time get away from me?? So, in reality, flying hasn’t changed all that much, but some things are definitely different.

Last night we went to the bowling alley. I wasn’t going to drink because we had to get up at 4:30 this morning, but then Connie showed up and asked for a recommendation, and like a good friend I told her to have a Long Island Iced Tea. We hung out at the bar watching these 5 old guys flirting with the girls on the opposite side of the bar; it cracked me up so I took a pic. One of them offered us shots too, but that was a road I wasn’t going down last night. I had 3 Coronas, and that was enough. I was up until 1 packing and organizing. I think I managed 3 hours and maybe 50 minutes of sleep.

1:06 p.m. (EST) Tried reading my Nat Geo article about Vikings. Sleepy. Think I dozed off for a few, but baby starting screeching again. Ugh. I’m getting stabby.

2:30 p.m. We had a reprieve for about a half hour, but she’s back. Practicing for a very bad opera, or a heavy metal band. Doesn’t matter to my ears at this point. They are bleeding. My nerves are completely shot. The captain has informed us that we’re about 40 minutes out yet. Sweet Jesus! I can’t wait to get off this rocket.

Oh hooray! It’s going to get bumpy and we’re starting to clean up. If there was any way to clear it with the FDA and the AAP, I would seriously lobby for mandatory Valium dosing of children under 5 on flights longer than 2 hours. Apparently these parents haven’t heard of Benadryl. Seriously. All mommy did was “ssshhh” every time she screamed and by the fourth hour I was ready to throw my cell phone at them both.

I’ve recently been heavily reminiscing about Opac’s baby days. But I’ve never been more glad than I am today that my kids are way older than this now. Holy shit. Nobody wants to be the most hated people on the plane.

Time to put the tray tables back in the upright position…