Always Welcome in Any Gathering

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So the bowling fundraiser thing was last weekend and Todd went to represent the college, bringing along Jonathan (for fun), Eddie (who he bowls with regularly), and Bill (who he used to bowl with). There was an endless of buffet of food – ALL of it was fried food which, if you bowl regularly, you know you shouldn’t eat because all that salt makes your fingers swell. But I ate it, because – onion rings and mozzarella sticks and beer. Paid dearly for it later. It really sucks not being 22 anymore. Sometimes.

So we’re waiting to get started and Bill arrives. He and Todd have known each other for decades, used to bowl together. Bill is 85. He was thrilled to pieces to see me… exclaiming, “it’s the sausage lover,” and Jonathan looked at me and I looked at him like, what the fuck did he just say? I spent the rest of the afternoon wondering what the hell he meant by that. He said something later about my sausage dip (from a party a couple years back) and then changed the subject to my hot stepmom.

Bill is an interesting guy. He sat down with me between turns to chat about life, Todd, that party we had where he thought he was going to score a dinner date with my stepmom until she told him she was married, how my mom was doing, and “Uncle Harry.” He was pretty vocal about Todd’s health, yelling about him getting a colonoscopy because apparently that’s what we old folks do now – talk about health screenings and extreme invasions of personal space.

He told me to kick him in the arse about getting healthy – which, if you know Todd, is about as successful as bathing a cat. And then he went on about his days in the Navy and how he knew Harry Truman and called him Uncle Harry. I really wanted to hear more about this, but – the lanes were calling. Meanwhile, Jonathan texted me a meme of a man licking his bowling ball. I love him. He gets me.

There were raffle tickets for door prizes and by the end Jonathan had cleared off our table and threw the tickets away, not realizing they were still calling numbers. And he did it – he went over to the trash can and went digging for the tickets and I took a picture because some things just must be documented for my amusement.

Eddie, meanwhile, hung back like he always does, a quiet observer and serious bowler, every so often showing me memes on his phone. If he gets me, he never lets on. He tolerates my relentless innuendos with quiet bursts of laughter, so I never really know if he’s shocked or not but I refuse to give up. Which brings me to a story.

About a year ago, Todd and Eddie and Tish were laughing about Eddie’s stats: he kept rolling sixes and nines and so the three of them made some innuendos about it and they were all cracking up. Eddie walked up to where I was sitting and told me about it. I looked at him puzzled and innocently said, I don’t get it. He said, “sixes and nines, …..you know, SIXTY NINE.” I said, sixty-nine? okaaayyy… why is that funny? I don’t get it. He stared at me and emphasized sixty-nine again, and then again, and waited for me to get it. I just stared blankly back at him like I had no idea what he was talking about. He went back to the group and told Todd, “she doesn’t know what 69 means.” Todd said, “she does… she just doesn’t want to do it.” Tish nearly fell over and they all looked back at me and I just sat there grinning like the cat that got the canary. Eddie knew he’d been fooled. This is what I do for fun at bowling.

Meanwhile, I had the EMG which is relatively unchanged in 5 years… which is good although somewhat disappointing in that I have the numbness in my hands which is frustrating and uncomfortable but apparently not even in the “moderate” range where surgical release is an option.

Yesterday I had my second test round of nerve block injections, this time bilaterally. My doctor is this cool, self-described “crazy Japanese guy with a needle,” who plays Hawaiian music in the operative room and praised me for my sense of humor over this whole thing. But that was before he told me that if I smell bacon during the neurotomy next week, not to worry – that’s just my flesh burning. I can tell you today that “some” pain is gone but my back is hurting and right now I’m feeling a bit concerned. I felt great when I left the surgi-center, but hours later after icing periodically, my lower back was hurting like a bitch. I was hopeful that it was just temporary and that today I’d wake up differently, and I did, but now that I’m sitting in a chair my back pain is heating up again and my right leg is achy. I have a script for more Flector patches that most likely insurance does not cover and are ridonculously (borrowing a favorite expression from my friend Jason) expensive. Shouldn’t I NOT be feeling this?

Maybe I shouldn’t have been driving around for 3 hours last night? I don’t know. I finally got to pick up my car from the dealership. They’ve had it for 18 days. I don’t want to talk about all the problems it has had. It’s been ongoing for the two years we’ve had it, and I think it should’ve been replaced but here we are. Nevertheless, today we’re getting 3-5 inches of snow and other icy crap over the next several hours, and I thought it prudent to get it right away. Veruca rode along and we picked up sushi and Chinese food from my favorite place, which meant that it was a nearly 3 hour round-trip excursion. BUT – my car is home. I’m not driving a dad-car* anymore and I’m soooo happy! I beeped the horn when I pulled in the driveway.

We feasted on sesame chicken, moo shu vegetables, sweet and sour chicken, wonton soup, spicy tuna roll, Philadelphia roll, and shrimp tempura roll. This is the second time I’ve watched Opac – the finickiest of finicky eaters – gobble up sushi like candy. I know I’ve said it before… who IS this kid? Meanwhile, V – my adventurous foodie – only tasted the shrimp tempura roll. She doesn’t like sushi, really, though she does like my homemade veggie nori rolls (and so does O, for that matter). She shares my love of clams, but I do not share her love of mussels. Weird kids.

More updates tomorrow.

 

Miscellaneous:

The “dad-car” was a Ford Taurus, which I didn’t even know they made anymore. We were supposed to get a rental, and I texted Todd to get a Mustang. Instead, apparently beggars can’t be choosers or they just wanted to get the ornery customer with “the car that’s seen the inside of garage more times than all of our Fords combined” out of their service department as fast as possible, so we got the demo. It was a base model and spoiled me had to suffer without remote start, heated seats, and no Sirius XM for over two weeks. If you like big boat cars and FM radio with a smooth ride and room for 20 grandkids, this is right up your alley.

The only good part was I rediscovered regular radio, including some county station where I heard Blake Shelton’s Boys Round Here and, heaven help me, I rushed home to play it for my son, who loved it and has added it to his rotating playlist with Pickup Man and some other song about Honky Tonks.

I could tell Todd until I’m blue in the face about the healthy changes “we” need to make and, depending on his mood, the answer is either, yeah, I know or, but I don’t eat that bad. Case in point, Sunday morning I came out of the bedroom for coffee and found him elbow deep in the potato chip bag. He was just having one chip.

More advice from the pediatrics trenches: when you take your child to urgent care or the ER, they will always tell you to follow up with your pediatrician. This does NOT mean you have to have an appointment to follow up. However, DO call. The nurse can ask and answer questions and concerns and reassure you, and let you know when it might be necessary to return.

 

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30 Years, Thanksgiving, and the Mouse

The restaurant celebrated 30 years last week. Thirty years of food, drink, and scores of employees both memorable and forgettable. A friend came up with the idea to throw a surprise reunion for mom with employees past and present. I was supposed to be there, but ongoing illness and unpreventable circumstances kept me away, so I missed my mom’s nasty spill outside and bleeding leg, and my favorite “aunt” who worked many of the early and some of the most memorable years.

The official 30th anniversary was the following night. Since I’m not drinking, Todd enjoyed wine and I enjoyed good conversation with an old, dear friend. We laughed about the “old days” when he sat at my bar and we bitched about everything and everyone. We remembered Richard and his laughter. I showed off my new boots and he’s lost a bit of his game I think because he tagged them Kenneth Cole when they were actually Steve Madden. But he remembers my tastes I guess – so I’ll give him a pass.

I mostly kept to myself, and I’m hoping it wasn’t too obvious. I’m not feeling myself so much these days. I just want to fade into the atmosphere. It’s not you, it’s me.

Anyway, the parking lot was full and so I parked behind the kitchen. If this was Disney, that parking area would be designated the “raccoon” section. (Next to the dumpster, for those unfamiliar.) It’s a steep and ominous climb up the staircase to the deck outside the kitchen, which is dimly lit, and I worried briefly about the walk down later in my high-heeled boots and Todd’s insobriety. Since no one in the kitchen expects the back door to swing open in the middle of business and people to walk in, we managed to startle at least one person.

We had some food and celebratory cake and I danced with Jeffrey – who never misses an opportunity to dance – which was perfect because he’s so good, and twirling around like that, even if I was as awkward as a horse in heels, made my heart light and I found myself laughing. Todd and I don’t dance enough. We probably shouldn’t anyway, lest we hurt ourselves or possibly innocent bystanders. Maybe we’ll work on that, yes?

Thanksgiving day we hosted a total of 15, with two turkeys and all the usual accompaniments. Aunt M’s dog Snoopy, whose real name is Hershey but I keep calling him Snoopy, joined us on his first outing away from home which was a huge success. Moses, all 140 lbs of him, followed Hershey around sniffing his ass and generally making him uncomfortable, which I can fully understand because I wouldn’t like that either.

Neph also joined us, after multiple phone calls about directions and issues with his new car – which, I reminded him, IS under warranty and therefore he should be calling the dealer about it – and I think he’s been living alone too long and returned to caveman, since he brought Tupperware containers and asked if it was okay to go through the line and pack up to-go food before everyone else went through the line.

Nephtoo also joined us, and brought a friend who wanted to experience a real American Thanksgiving with, I quote, “real American drama.” What a truly tantalizing request… but, alas, it was a relatively peaceful gathering this year. Nephtoo regaled Grandma with tales of hard work and studies and three jobs and no time for anything else, to which I cried “bullshit!” from across the table and TinVeet erupted in a burst of laughter.

In all, it was lovely. The food turned out great, everyone was happy, and especially me – since I had (almost) all “my kids” under the same roof for a couple of hours. I had a little bit of wine which did not affect me adversely. My friend helped with cleanup even though I didn’t ask, and I finished the rest after dinner with the help of modern appliances. And THEN took Veruca shopping.

Oh yes I did. I promised her Black Friday shopping and so we got started around 9:30 that night. Neph went along. I thought that was great, since he’d offer some degree of protection, but I became more and more worried that he’d piss somebody off as he walked around the store with one earbud in, one dangling, talking like he’d just dropped from the ghetto. Now, Neph is whiter than mayonnaise, and personally – I could be wrong – I don’t care if all your best friends are black – Ebonics just doesn’t look good on a white boy. It’s embarrassing. Nevertheless, I kept my mouth shut and kept shopping.

In summary, I spent $275 on a shitload of stuff including a new wallet for Neph, who told me it (and a few other things) be a good Hannakuh gift, ya know, if I be thinkin of som’in to get him. A JEWISH WHITE boy speaking Ebonics in a multi-racial Thanksgiving night shopping crowd. Time to check out.

And speaking of checking out, it’s been eight days and counting since a mouse checked into hotel Todd and Tara. Little fucker has been scratching behind the wall in the kitchen all day and night, and Thanksgiving day I frantically emptied the closest cabinet to see if it had chewed its way in. Todd determined it was traveling along the electrical line, which is also NOT comforting. Mom suggested if it was that loud it has to be a rat and a big one, and I told her she wasn’t helping.

If you’ve never had a mouse in your house, let me tell you – it’s maddening. Kind of like the Telltale Heart. You hear it, you know it’s real, and you can’t do anything to make it stop. I can totally see going completely mad and taking a hammer to the wall, because I personally pounded on the wall about eight times which made him stop long enough to see what was going on and then he’d start up again. OMG!

He has finally moved to the space under the stove, as evidenced by Oliver’s sentinel post for the better of the last two days, and I’ve considered removing the drawer under the oven and just let Oliver have at it. And, at this point, I would like to publically apologize for calling my cat fat and lazy last week for lying on his back in the sunshine while the mouse chewed its way through the wall. He was just biding his time, and now the time is imminent.  Stay tuned.

 

 

Miscellaneous:

1. Ebonics: “Yo G, you frontin me?” 
English: “Excuse me, my peer, are you attempting to influence me to engage in a         violent action?

(Honestly, I think the English statement is far more likely to get you jumped.)

2. Few things are worse than a fart trapped in a stairwell.

3. Not only does the dog think she gets treats every time she goes outside, but apparently she thinks she gets treats every time I do.

 

Todd and Me in OCMD

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Copyright Taraka & Tara Chronicles 2018

 

Labor Day weekend went too fast and the kids went back to school on Tuesday. I feel like we’ve just boarded Roaring Rapids, without all the water because of course I have plants on the deck that are in various stages of dead. Not to discount all the rain my friends north have been dealing with and all the flooding that shut down amusement parks across the state of Pennsylvania.

It’s been a heavy rain season this summer, though unfortunately even that couldn’t save my plants. I really think only divine intervention can spare my plants from myself. Case in point: beautiful basil plant given by my mother. Weeks later: leaves are turning yellow and falling off. I have watered it regularly, but maybe it’s disheartened by the condition of the others around it?

Meanwhile, against my best judgement, Todd is hosting his faculty at our home next week and I’m about three home projects from a complete breakdown. I don’t know why I care, but I do – about the need for fresh paint, the black cobwebs in the cathedral ceilings that cannot be reached without a 20-foot ladder, the basement bathroom that needs a complete reno, not to mention the green algae on the deck that desperately needs to be power washed. I’ve spent the bulk of my summer unable to attend to this stuff, thanks to previously mentioned surgery.

Anyway, I’ll save that drama for another post. Todd and I took off for Ocean City, Maryland for the weekend – the only real vacation we got together this year due to his new job. We stayed at the lovely Dunes Manor Hotel – a Victorian-style hotel that’s been there since 1987. It’s always been my favorite but Todd hadn’t stayed there before. We only had two days – so we spent it relaxing outside, walking the boardwalk, eating at some of our favorite haunts, and drinking frozen cocktails.

We walked 8 miles on Saturday. By the time we got halfway back on the boardwalk, I could barely walk. And I was wearing flip flops – so I had a blister on my right foot, and both legs were an aching mess of jelly. I am so out of shape. Yeah – cleared, my ass. Return to normal activities slowly, they said. Listen to your body, they said. Well, my body was saying, kill me now, and my brain was saying, alcohol aint gonna save us.

Sunday we walked another seven miles – some of which was back from breakfast at Dumser’s, roughly 90 blocks away. We didn’t walk the whole way, but far enough to color my neck and chest a lovely shade of red and I got a blister on my other foot (different sandals). We took the bus the rest of the way back and rested a bit in the room. I was just about to get in the shower when the fire alarm went off – and the entire hotel was evacuated. We stayed on the seventh floor, so the walk down probably added another quarter mile. We no sooner got to the parking lot and they were letting us back in… and it was tea time! Bonus.

Todd and I grabbed some tea and scones and sat down by the grand piano, where a guest had sat down and was playing some beautiful music that made me feel suddenly like we were on the Titanic. But in a good way. His wife called him a dork and told him she was going back to the room and we all laughed.

A few minutes later he was upstaged by a teenage boy who was there to perform during tea time – playing the most beautiful renditions of Ed Sheeran’s music and onto some classic Disney tunes. I sat there thinking about time, the inevitable changes that lie ahead, and some recent news we’re still processing, and my eyes welled up.

We went to one of our favorites, Bull on the Beach at 94th street, where we bypassed the line like celebrities and headed straight to the bar and luckily found the last two empty seats. Some hot wings, a pit beef sandwich, onion rings, and two beers later and we found ourselves chatting with a couple that bought us a round when they sat down next to us. They were a bit older than us, but retired, and living in Florida. They own a house in Ocean City they rent out and come up to stay occasionally.

They were a lovely couple, and he was making friendly jokes that bordered on a little too friendly and, given the proximity to which we were sitting next to each other, my paranoid little mind began to wonder if we’d just been targeted by a pair of swingers and then I couldn’t unthink it. And Todd, clearly oblivious to the inner workings of my mind, kept up the conversation like any normal person would. And then – just as suddenly as they arrived – they finished up their food and cocktails and bid us goodnight and wished us well and… they left. And I realized how lovely they truly were – and how I need to stop thinking dirty little things about people’s intentions. (If I said this has happened to me in the past – would that exonerate me?)

We never went in the ocean. Not only did it not interest us, but there was some terrible article circulating about sea lice and the rashes it caused dozens of people. In most cases minor, but one guy had to go to hospital. They’re calling the condition Sea Bather’s Eruption but I don’t care what it is – if they’re saying that little crab larvae are just floating along with the waves and can end up INSIDE your swimsuit, well… NO THANK YOU. I made it this far in life without crabs, and I’m not about to change that…. I don’t care what kind of crabs they are.

All in all, it was a short but sweet weekend trip that we needed together. It’s all we got this summer, thanks to circumstances that were both out of our control and choices we made. I missed seeing my long-time bestie, and we didn’t take our bikes this year. There will be other weekends, other trips. Instead, we left the SUV at home and drove the “baby” GT, and hit the road like rock stars.

 

Sunrise on our last day.

Live life like you’re dying. You never know what tomorrow will bring. Every day is a gift. Copyright Taraka & Tara Chronicles 2018

Exit Zero: Last Days in Cape May

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Copyright Taraka & Tara Chronicles 2018

Tuesday Morning. Veruca picked Uncle Bill’s Pancake House for breakfast and then she was pissed when she realized we were walking there because it’s so far. We were seated immediately at a booth by the window facing the street and beach.

V had the waffle and woofed that thing down before I’d eaten half of my Denver omelet. By the way, did ya’ll know that a Denver omelet is just a Western omelet with cheese? How I lived this long and had never even heard of a Denver omelet was quite a revelation at 9:00 in the morning. And, also noteworthy, is the fact that a Western omelet in Cape May does not have tomatoes. (At the Dough Roller in OCMD they do contain tomatoes and you can’t order it without.*)

We landed the same spots by the pool as yesterday, and it wasn’t long before my bad influence of a mom was offering up cocktails before noon. Since I am my mother’s daughter, I ordered a piña colada. V had a virgin colada. Mom went with the Bloody Mary.

I spent more time on my current read – The Woman in Cabin 10 – a great fast read, by the way. More kids in the Jacuzzi and one boy climbed out the pool crying because “she pushed me in!” And I was reminded that no matter how sad I may become about my kids being teenagers, at least I can lie by the pool without dealing with this shit anymore.

At one point V hands me her colada so she can apply more sunscreen, and it slips through my fingers just as I was placing it on the table next to me. It crashes down, knocking my piña colada down too, piña coladas flying everywhere, spilling onto the ground under the table, all over mom’s necklace on the table, and into her bag… it was a piña colada explosion, and not in a good way. So mom sits up and helps with the cleanup effort, which quickly becomes another emergency after she accidentally bumps her own cocktail over and now there are THREE spilled cocktails by the pool and we’re laughing like seagulls and I swear we’re not drunk.

Anyway, the afternoon ended with lunch at the Barefoot Bar, part of the hotel and overlooking the pool. V had – surprise! – chicken fingers and fries, I had a Caesar salad, and mom had fried calamari….which she thought we’d eat too and I don’t know who she thought “we” were but I don’t eat fried rubber. I have my limits. V took her cue from me because I’m an excellent example (see Piña Colada) and wouldn’t even try it.

Tuesday evening we had decided we’d go see a movie – in a nearby town called Rio Grande, which sounds really glamorous but I didn’t see anything more glamorous than a Wawa and a couple of Wendy’s buildings impersonating sushi joints. We left two hours before the movie time to buy tickets in this ramshackle looking movie theatre in an old shopping center that looked scheduled for demolition – mom came out in shock that 3 tickets were $18.

We literally drove through the first traffic light and happened upon Rio Station – which appeared to be a locals place. It felt like a Mexican restaurant but was definitely a seafood joint with other offerings. Veruca left her go-bag* in the car, so I had to go out and get it. While I was walking back inside, my senses were accosted by the LOUDEST Latino music EVER… one, because you couldn’t tell which direction it was coming from and two, as the car got closer and closer, the decibels made your eyes water. The food was quite good. Mom shared a filet with V, and I had crab cakes over a bed of mesculin tossed in a lemon vinaigrette – which was delicious.

After, mom suggested we “drive around” a bit before the movie; I ignored her and drove straight to the movie because it was 15 minutes to show time. There was a line about 20 people long just to enter the movie we were seeing, Crazy Rich Asians. And it turned out to be “Tightwad Tuesday,” which explains the cheap tickets but 3 boxes of candy and ONE water still cost me $28. The movie was great! And contrary to outward appearances, the theatre had modern reclining seats. But I sat next to some woman who not only threw her handbag into the seat next to me like she was slam-dunking a basketball, but laughed loudly at every single thing that was funny and I remembered why I hate going to the movies.

We drove all the way back to the hotel and parked the car a block away (because there’s limited parking) and realized that V left her go-bag in the movie theatre twenty minutes away. I read her the riot act in the parking lot, and drove all the way back, in the rain, to retrieve it.

The only good thing to come out of it was that when we got back, there was an open parking spot right in front of the hotel. Which a seagull decided to shit on, on the day we left. And before you tell me it could’ve been worse, like mom did, I direct you to last summer’s air strike in OCMD. You’re not helping.

*******

Last day… Wednesday. Breakfast at the hotel again. Different cook – decided to gamble on the omelet and it was cooked to perfection. We revisited the pool, had more piña coladas that did not spill this time, ate leftovers for lunch, and went back to the room for a nap. V slept briefly; mom was out cold about an hour in; I was wide awake. I don’t DO naps. I started Kitchen Confidential by the late Anthony Bourdain and sat out on the balcony (my favorite thing), listening to the ac unit kick on and off and the dog two floors below us that barked at every dog that walked by.

V and I took a walk on the beach around 5:30, listened to the sounds of the Beach Bumz’ free concert drifting over the breeze and crashing waves, and I snapped some gorgeous photos of her in that beautiful late afternoon light. I started this tradition with her a few years back of taking that walk at sunrise, but this year we both agreed we didn’t “need” to see the sun rise.

We collected some shells and talked about stuff that’s really important when you’re 13, and I counted every minute as a blessing. To say that I am acutely aware of the preciousness of time with my kids right now, is an understatement. At some point, as we stood by the water looking back at the hotel, I saw mom on the balcony so we waved our arms like we were at a Jimmy Buffett concert and she waved back.

The three of us decided to walk to the end of Beach Avenue* for the sunset, which was (insert Veruca) a really long walk. The two of them stopped in the restroom along the way, while I sat on the bench and sent Todd a selfie. A minute later mom popped her head out the door and waved a black handbag at me she said someone had left in there. What should she do?

This is MY MOM asking ME what she should do with a found handbag. I don’t know! Leave it there – the person may retrace her steps to find it again. Like, how are you asking me this? You’re my mom. Moms are supposed to already know the answer.

So we began walking again and she told me it was filled with tampons, and all I could think of was that someone must be having a really bad day about now, until it dawned on me that she’d looked inside and why did she do that? Looking for ID, natch.

And then we finally get to the end of the street where people are already gathered to watch the sunset when a strange man approached V and me…and when I turned toward him I must’ve looked like I was going to kill him because he put his hands up sheepishly and then I felt like a real asshole when he told me he was from Cape May’s Kiwanis Club and wanted to know if V wanted to participate in lowering and folding the flag at sunset.

These are the moments when you know you’ve raised your kids right. If I had asked her to do this, she’d have hissed at me and given me the Italian look of death. But she smiled angelically at this man and said, sure! I won’t bore you with the details, only to mention that she was one of four chosen – the others were a sweet girl with Down’s who knew this routine better than the Kiwanis guys, and 6-year-old twin boys who were clearly in over their head (and so was the man who picked them).

This whole thing delayed dinner by an hour and a half, but V got a certificate and a flag pin and I texted my dad to share the event (he used to be in Kiwanis). He was proud to know kids are still learning about the value of our flag, and then sent me a video/sound clip of the smoky herb-y drum circle he was hearing from his hotel room somewhere in upstate New York. Sometimes he has all the fun.

V chose the restaurant – YB – a very small, darkened but chic little restaurant on Beach Avenue between Perry and Jackson Streets. She saw the Mac & Cheese Poppers and was sold. And, I will say, they were the best I’ve ever had, hands down. Made fresh with jalapeños, fried and then baked with stewed tomatoes. I had a chicken dish that was delicious, though it was so dark in there it was hard to know exactly what I was eating (though at 9:00 it hardly mattered). Mom had a stuffed pepper (also delicious) and the Greek salad – a real Greek salad, not some American knock-off with lettuce.**

*******

*The famous Dough Roller in Ocean City, Maryland serves western omelets with tomatoes. You cannot order the western omelet without tomatoes, because it’s premixed. Therefore, you must order each of the ingredients of said omelet a la carte, which costs more than the western omelet (with one less ingredient).

*The Go-Bag is a must for Type 1s to carry: inside you will find a glucose meter, extra test strips, glucose tabs, pump supplies and extra batteries for pump and meter, glucagon, and snacks/candy.

*The best known destination for sunsets in Cape May is Sunset Beach, and the view is every bit spectacular. However, you have to drive there, and try to park, and every other time I’ve gone it felt like a race against time.

** Y.B. – short for Younger Brother – is helmed by the younger brother of John, who owns George’s Place up the street. However, despite the subordinate implication, Pete has had quite a decorated career for a “young” chef:  he worked at Buddakan, Le Bec Fin, and Prive, and was executive chef of Brasserie Perrier. He’s also appeared on the Food Network’s Chopped and Diners Drive-Ins and Dives. (We knew none of this when we dined there.)

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The missing Do Not Disturb sign?   Copyright Taraka & Tara Chronicles 2018

 

 

 

The Way to Cape May

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Copyright Taraka & The Tara Chronicles 2018

Last week was the annual “Nannie trip” to the beach that, now that Opac has apparently aged out of vacations with granny, has become the annual Girls’ Beach Trip. Sunday afternoon my mom, Veruca, and I set sail for Cape May by way of everyone’s favorite highway – I95. Mom likes to use Siri and her iPhone for directions while I am using my car’s GPS – and then we argue about which one is correct. This usually ends with Siri informing me to “watch your language.”

On a completely not unrelated side note, Siri follows me on Twitter. Well, not Siri, but Susan Bennett aka Siriously Susan. I was siriously excited about this. I mentioned it to mom and she said Siri isn’t a real person, and I’m all like – YES SHE IS. This trend of disagreeing with each other isn’t new, but has definitely picked up in my middle age. Which takes me back to a discrepancy between Siri and my GPS, where my GPS told me to stay in the right lanes, and Siri said stay left. There was a small commotion in the passenger seat, and then suddenly my GPS told me to get off at the next exit, which turned out to be a turnaround-and-back-on the same highway. Mom was only a little bit triumphant.

Anyway, as I’m already 200 words in and haven’t even gotten to our destination yet, let’s jump ahead. We arrived in Cape May shortly after 5 p.m. This year we stayed at the Marquis de Lafayette, “America’s oldest seaside resort…. Since 1885.” The World Famous Congress Hall was built in 1816, and its website calls it “America’s oldest/first seaside resort.” I’m not very good at math, and I don’t want to sound judgy, but somebody is clearly wrong here.

So our room. Outside hallway. Seaside, white wicker décor, soft gray walls, white bedspreads, balcony facing the beach. And then there’s the bathroom. Small pedestal sink with a white framed mirror above, both are Alice-in-Wonderland askew – the sink is tilted downward on the left, the mirror tilted right – and for me, a self-inflicted perfectionist who couldn’t NOT see that every time I sat on the toilet, it made me nuts.

Somewhat less worrisome but not without its own concerns, was the double bed I shared with V – which was lopsided. I had this recurrent fear of V rolling off in the middle of the night. This didn’t happen. However, she is clearly accustomed to sleeping in much roomier conditions (translation: alone), and so there was a lot of bed hogging and one really scary arm fling that narrowly missed my face. I didn’t sleep well. Aside from the usual blood sugar checks during the night, there were the ongoing issues of cramped quarters and the snaggletooth snorer.

First night tradition is dinner at Godmother’s, a lovely little Italian restaurant. It’s BYOB so we picked up a bottle of wine beforehand. This year’s selection: Fleur de Mer Côtes du Provence Rosé. I think I picked this up on our last trip two years ago… it’s excellent. Veruca chose linguini with white clam sauce, mom had the red version, and I went with a seafood risotto with scallops, all-lump crab, Applewood smoked bacon, fresh corn, and heirloom red and yellow tomatoes. KILL-ER. Even V loved it (she’s not a fan of crab).

We stopped by the front desk back at the hotel for a Do Not Disturb sign, which was missing from our room. We promptly hung it on the door. The next morning it was gone.

We ate breakfast at the hotel… a buffet and made-to-order omelets and waffles. I had a spinach and feta omelet that was a bit runny, but I tipped the cook anyway. V had pancakes and an enormous plate of bacon because – all you can eat. I have always imagined that bittersweet moment when one realizes their parents are aging and on this morning I witnessed my mother, in that true senior rite of passage, pocketing creamers like a boss. (Okay so she was really taking them back to the room for our Keurig coffee.)

We spent the rest of the morning/early afternoon by the pool, near the Jacuzzi which, it turned out, was a mecca for the under-10 set, and the water is suspiciously green. No parents, just the children, and three days later I was convinced they just drop the kids in the Jacuzzi and forget about them for a while. But I had to watch these little devils jumping off the side wall into the pool below with little regard for their lives or those below. Okay, I didn’t have to watch, but my peripheral vision is still pretty sharp. One boy, about 4, announced LOUDLY to his sibling – “the bubbles make your wiener feel weird.” Highlight of my day.

The Marquis is quite literally a block away from the Washington Street Mall – a quaint outdoor shopping and dining area in the heart of Victorian Cape May, paved with brick and studded with trees. We shopped here after lunch at the Rusty Nail next the Beach Shack – steamers in a white wine and garlic broth (my favorite thing!), crab cake sandwich-no-bun, and a grilled chicken quesadilla the size of New Jersey. We had ice cream at Kohr Bros later and then none of us was hungry for dinner.

I bought V a cute romper that was actually a large (I have no idea why), and some jewelry for me. I’m on the hunt to replace a thumb ring I lost at the bowling alley on The Last Night of the season (really). Never found one, but I did buy two pairs of earrings and a bracelet. I never do stuff like this for myself. It’s fairly liberating. If you haven’t, try it.

So we went back to the room and decided to settle in for the night. We covered a lot of ground on the first day, literally, and – after only 4 hours of sleep – I was drifting slowly toward the wall. I sat out on the balcony – which turned out to be a very noisy place – to call Todd and catch up.

A few minutes go by, and V came out with a magazine held like a tray, with Ritz crackers topped with slices of cheese. Another minute later, mom came out with a glass of wine. Todd and I kept talking. V came back with a cup of microwave popcorn. Then mom appeared with the bottle of wine to top me off. It was just like being rich. Well, if that’s what rich people do.

Kind of an anticlimactic end to the day, but it was much needed downtime before we took on the next two days.

The Scene of the Crime: Wilkes Barre, PA

This year’s PA State Bowling Tournament was held in another sparkling Pennsylvania metropolis: Wilkes Barre.

Wilkes Barre is in the coal mining region of PA, and part of the fourth largest statistical metropolitan area: Scranton-Wilkes Barre-Hazelton. It’s out there in that area that used to give me intense, unexplained anxiety when driving near or through it… most likely because of its far-away-from-everything, not close enough to the city for me, feeling. (City girl, reporting for duty.)

I would like to point out at this time that I have seen more of Pennsylvania in the four years I’ve lived in Maryland than I did when I lived there. I’ve seen Scranton once for a tournament, and once was enough. I’ve been to Erie, where sightseeing was washed out by rain all weekend. I’ve been to Pittsburgh, which I wrote a post about, and where the only Falling Water we saw was the rain both days.

Anyway, I’m in charge of hotels so I booked us at the Holiday Inn Express again (The Pittsburgh one was very nice). We had a nice room at the end of the hall. Room appointments were modern and clean; the toilet paper roll was mounted under the sink such that you couldn’t see it, and I decided not to tell Todd where it was and wait to see if he’d figure it out.

We didn’t arrive until after 11 p.m. Todd googled places to eat and chose Bar Louie – Google Maps took us to a rundown-looking warehouse that was dark and clearly NOT a bar. We ended up going to the Mohegan Sun Casino around the corner: a really nice, albeit smoky, casino with a number of eating establishments inside. We each got a slice of pizza – which was really really good.

As I feared, Todd wanted to check out the casino. He only wanted to check it out. And that’s when we found Bar Louie – which is located inside the casino.

Saturday morning 6:30 a.m. came too early, but the bed was remarkably comfortable and I noted that my neck and back didn’t hurt when I woke up. We grabbed the complimentary breakfast downstairs with our bowling friends, and were soon off to the tournament. It was a gorgeous day on Saturday, and I had googled Wilkes Barre earlier in the week for “things to do in” and “places to eat.”

So. After the tournament we drove around a bit and discovered a Catholic church which seems to have risen out of the ashes of a working class neighborhood and closed down factories. Took some photos. The front doors were open and service was going, but I was too timid to walk up the steps. In Catholic churches I’m always afraid I’ll be discovered as a runaway Catholic.

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St. Nicholas Roman Catholic Church, founded 1855

We did some shopping afterward… someone in a Facebook group had posted a pic of a metal chicken she found in Ross, so I was on a mission. Didn’t find one, but I did buy a galvanized tub and a smaller galvanized utensils holder that I plan to use for an herb garden on my deck.

After a quick lunch, we drove to Seven Tubs Recreational Park (my #1 Google find). Our bowling mates opted out so it was serendipitously ours alone. Well, ours … with about two dozen other people with way more appropriate footwear for the occasion. But I didn’t care. It was beautiful. Wheelbarrow Run is a stream that runs down through the landscape, having cut its way through bedrock and creating several potholes or “tubs” through which the water cascades down like a waterfall.

We took a ton of pictures, walked the trails a while, found some troll doors, and I collected miniature pine cones the size of a dime. We clocked close to 12,000 steps on our fitness trackers.

All photos copyright TKA and The Tara Chronicles, 2018

We returned to the hotel to clean up and made plans to go to a bar/restaurant on my list with our group. I had three in mind, but the winner (and truly was the winner) was Elmer Sudds… a small, corner neighborhood bar with a few tables along the wall and an L-shaped bar with plenty of seating for our crowd. The bartender, Dave, gave us a warm, enthusiastic welcome as we warned him there were going to be more than just the four of us who had just arrived.

The walls were lined with tap handles; however, what was on tap was limited to a handful, which was fine for us. The hot wings were killer. Todd and I bought t-shirts (Elmer Sudds – The Thirst Awakens) and finagled an Elmer Sudds pint glass for our collection for $15. It was worth it. We played darts, which I haven’t done in over 30 years and actually hit a bullseye which didn’t count because that’s not what I was supposed to do. I don’t understand scoring at all.

Photos copyright TKA & The Tara Chronicles, 2018

Our group split in two and the Holiday Inn crew went to the casino. I sat down next to Todd with the five dollar bill I’d found in my pocket, dropped it in the machine and two minutes later I had $11. I kissed my gambler and told him I was taking my winnings to the Bar Louie, which at this point was bursting at the seams.

Found two empty seats at the bar next to the service station and ordered a beer. I posted in our group text that “Tara is at Bar Louie” and my exact location. Stan was the only one who answered, saying that he “saw her on her way in” and that he would head over in a bit. I told him it was me, and that sometimes I refer to myself in the 3rd person, you know, just to keep things interesting.

I watched the 5 bartenders struggling to keep up with about 40 people around the bar, which seemed ridiculous to me, and flagged one for the guy behind me who couldn’t get anyone’s attention because I’m nice like that. There’s only so much drinking one can watch and so much trying-not-to-judge-service one who has grown up in the business (yet continues to avoid being a part of) can witness…. so I posted something on Facebook about being a middle-aged woman in a bar full of millennials. I was thisclose to starting up a conversation with the guy next to me when Todd suddenly, happily appeared. We left shortly after.

Sunday morning. Woke again with no pain initially, but feeling the effects of what was my last night of drinking for a long while. Chris was texting Todd about when we were coming down to breakfast and I was feeling like I was the holdup when we finally got there, and he had the audacity to tease me about it and then a half hour later WE were waiting for HIM so we could leave for the bowling alley.

The pain I’m currently in thanks to two levels of cervical discs pressing on my spinal cord started to kick in and I sat in the bowling alley by myself waiting for Brenda and Chris to show up and tried to ignore it.

Then Todd asked me if I could get him a cup of ice water. Simple enough request – he always gets a large cup of ice water at the bowling alleys. And here follows my meltdown over a cup of water at 9 a.m. on church day.

***OFFENSIVE LANGUAGE WARNING***

I walked up to the counter and asked for it, and was told that they can’t give me ice water. And I’m like, you’re kidding, right? And then this other woman walks up and says that “that’s why we have water fountains” and offers me a DIXIE CUP that my husband can fill up himself. Oh. My. GOD. He was SO not going to be happy about this, and I was SO not feeling up to Bullshit at 9 a.m. with radiating cervical spine pain and a wee bit of a hangover.

I told her this won’t work and I asked if there were water bottles/vending machines, but she didn’t bother to tell me where but I found them on my own, put my last two dollars in the machine and…. the fucking bottle got stuck in the machine. And now I’m literally swearing at myself in front of the vending machine and afraid to walk away from it and have someone else score my bottle, not to mention what I might say if I had to go back to that counter. Eventually it came out and I stalked back to Todd in a selfish tantrum and handed him the bottle, and told him it was the best he was going to get.

His raised eyebrow opened the door and … apparently they don’t give out fucking water here but it’s okay to sell people SODA in those fucking cups. WTF? They can’t give me fucking ice water! But – oh! There’s a fucking water fountain where you can get water if you want it. IN a DIXIE CUP!

At this point I looked around me and noticed three older ladies sitting right there staring at me, and suddenly I felt like a complete asshole. So I said, I’m so sorry for the language. I’m so sorry.

And Todd snapped back that he’s trying to concentrate on his game and this isn’t helping. I said, you’re right, and took my tantrum outside and sat in the car in a self-imposed timeout for over an hour. Texted my bestie about it and commiserated about women who piss us off, until I realized I had to pee something fierce. And then her telling me to damn, just go back in there, and me being obstinate about it.

Long story short, I went back in. I peed. Todd was tentatively happy to see me, in an are-you-safe-to-talk-to sort of way and then he told me how the cup of water story ended after I left. He went to the manager, who turned out to be the bitch who told me to use a water fountain, and told her this wasn’t leagues – this is a STATE TOURNAMENT – and they don’t have time to walk away to use a water fountain. She relented and there it was – that lovely large white Styrofoam cup filled with ice water and the blood of a tired wife who doesn’t need any early morning bullshit in a loud bowling alley – sitting on the table next to Todd.

Our original five decided to grab lunch before the drive home, and this time I had no suggestions and so we went with the others’ suggestion of Longhorn Steakhouse because they all wanted steak. NOT my first choice, but, I’d already bitched enough for the day and it was only 1:00 so I decided to just go with it. Todd and I ordered some apps and made do, but the food wasn’t going down right for me and the pain I was in amped up to a 7 or 8. We were soon homeward bound, a difficult ride, but we made it.

 

Betcha didn’t know:

There is an ongoing debate on the pronunciation of Wilkes Barre. Born and raised in PA, and having attending college for two years in central PA, we always referred to it as Wilkes “berry,” or “barry.” Others call it Wilkes “bar,” or Wilkes “bear.” I asked a local, who assured me they’re all acceptable.

A number of “famous” people hail from Wilkes Barre: Several NFL players … and most notably Michael Schoeffling, the actor who played Jake Ryan in Sixteen Candles, and David Evans, the Hollywood director known for The Sandlot.

It is said that Babe Ruth hit the longest home run in history at Artillery Park in Wilkes Barre – at an estimated 650 feet – on October 12, 1926.

Planters Peanut Company was founded here in 1906 by Italian immigrants Amedeo Obici and Mario Peruzzi, where it maintained headquarters until 1961.

In 1972, 365 subscribers of the Service Electric Cable company were the first to receive HBO, making Wilkes Barre the birthplace of modern cable.

Hurricane Agnes, which pummeled eastern PA in 1972, caused the mighty Susquehanna river to rise to over 41 feet, flooding downtown Wilkes Barre with 9 feet of water. Nearly 400, 000 homes and structures were destroyed.

*source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilkes-Barre,_Pennsylvania

 

 

2017 – The Year in Review

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April was by far the busiest and most eventful month of the year. I started working at CHOP, Veruca started her softball career, Opac had oral surgery, my maternal grandfather passed away, a week later my uncle unexpectedly followed, a high school friend lost his battle with cancer, and Todd and I attended the college’s posh annual gala.

Work

I got a new job, and Todd stepped into the Pathways Coordinator position, in addition to teaching and serving on multiple committees. I had a one-day orientation in Philadelphia spent a week training on the EPIC platform in early May, and learned my way around the city I’ve never loved. It’s been a great experience so far – I love the people I work with and the opportunity to be a part of this organization. I’ve given up my weekends at the restaurant, and I think they’re doing fine without me.

The Kids

Veruca quit cheer for good and took on softball. Her first season – her team won the division with an impressive, nearly undefeated record, and she has another trophy on her shelf. Girlfriend can knock a ball out of the park and it turns out she’s a great catcher.

Opac moved up to varsity football this year and spent most of the season pacing the sidelines, with only quick bursts of time on the field. I don’t know how but the team was the second worst team in the league and the head coach resigned. A new coach is coming in to kick some ass and we’re all excited to see what he’s going to do to turn this team upside down.

Furry Kids

Oliver and Sabra are healthy and happy. One is overweight, and one is underweight. Guess which is which?

Moses, my mom’s dog, has spent several days with us over the past year while mom was away on vacations and hospitalizations. He nominated me as interim mom, and I’ve never had a furbaby happier to see me come home from work than him. Makes me wonder what the other two are for.

We adopted a black kitten we named Shadow back in March, who cost me $1200 and 6 emotional hours at the emergency vet. After only 3 weeks with him, I got to be the one who had to decide to let him go. It was horrible and turned me off from ever wanting to adopt another pet.

Adventures and Travel

We attended two weddings, one in May and one in November. Both were wonderful events and we were so blessed to be a part of their special days. We also attended the Lymphoma and Leukemia Man & Woman of the Year gala in Baltimore, for which I rented my first Rent the Runway gown. A floor-length black and gold Marchesa Notte that made me feel like royalty, and I highly recommend RTR. It’s the perfect way to wear a gorgeous dress that costs more than your last paycheck; it’s affordable; and you’ll always have something different to wear. (You’re welcome, RTR, for the free publicity to my 3 followers.)

Todd and I went to San Francisco for a conference that was cut short thanks to the Nor’easter back home. It was a nice respite, even though I missed out on Alcatraz. We also returned to Ocean City, Maryland over the summer.

This year’s State Bowling Tournament was held locally, so we didn’t have any traveling to do.

Cars

We got 3 new vehicles this year and no, we’re still not rich. We replaced my out-of-warranty Explorer with a brand new Edge – if you don’t already know, we do so much driving to and from PA that a car with 4-wheel drive under warranty is an absolute necessity. Todd acquired a beater truck: a 1990 F-150 for less than the cost of my RTR gown. I’m not sure I’m allowed to officially mention car #3; so let’s just all agree to keep it on the down low and I’ll tell you the coveted 2017 GT California Special was acquired around the same time as the Edge for a deal that couldn’t be turned down.

The new Edge just might be a lemon – it spent 3 weeks on hiatus at the Ford dealership while I learned exactly why I don’t want an Expedition. Ever. And not just because V fell out of it. Twice.

Extended family news

Neph has been on the move and working a lot, but he calls his auntie occasionally, which I really appreciate. Nephtoo graduated high school and started college 3 hours away, and posts beautiful photos of the water there. I have yet to send a care package. I’m not a very good auntie.

Gloria, my illustrious maternal grandmother to whom I credit my tough-as-shit attitude, turned 92 and not only interrupted the pastor several times during my uncle’s memorial because “WHAT’s he saying?” and claimed not to remember his ex-wife,  is still kicking it like a rockstar. I delivered her a bottle of J&B for NYE, after she called my mom to cry about her forgetting to bring it to her. Almost as much fun as the Teddy Bear delivery of 2012.

Health

My mom had laparoscopic surgery over the summer that turned into major abdominal surgery, and we were both blessed to have a dear friend present during the procedure to hold my hand. Todd also had surgery later the same month, and was equally as hilarious coming out of anesthesia as my mother. They’re both lucky I am too thoughtful to consider video-recording.

I’m proud to report I passed my very first drug test and received my first flu shot. I also had two doses of tetanus (I’m still pissed about this), and received an MMR booster because my titer said I needed one.

I ordered Veruca a new pump through Animas – our pump provider – only to learn the day after it arrived that Animas was closing down operations. SO, we will be transitioning God-knows-when to a new pump from Medtronic (who partnered with Animas) – whenever Animas decides they’re done producing supplies too.

Opac had his wisdom teeth out and I got a root canal and crown.

I stopped drinking for just over 3 months and lost 11 pounds. I guess it’s a good thing when your friend tells you that “there’s less of you” when he sees you at the holiday party.

Celebrations

V had her first birthday party sleepover last spring and everybody seemed to have a great time. Well, except for the one girl who’s apparently allergic to cats.

Opac turned 17, exactly eight months after he obtained his learner’s permit. He still has a long way to go before he gets his license.

We ended our 2016 with parties for both Todd’s birthday and my father-in-law’s…one impromptu night at the restaurant Christmas Eve and a planned work night on New Year’s Eve.

I can’t wait to see what 2018 will bring.

Where I’ve Been – October/November Edition

Today is a quiet Sunday. I’m alone in the house. The kids are away and Todd went off early to finish a deck, because working 60 hours a week teaching and serving on several committees isn’t enough to keep him busy. I woke at 6:40 this morning, because that’s what it means to be OLD. I know this because my 91-year-old grandmother goes to bed around 6 every night and wakes up at like 4 a.m.

Now my soul is leaping out of bed like a deer, dragging my body out like an F250 dragging roadkill behind it. I can’t stay awake at night anymore, and I’d like to say that it’s okay but recent sarcastic comments from my husband are spoiling my delusions.

Anyway. I got up at 6:40 this morning because my bladder. Another happy development to the process of aging gracefully. But as I am forever the optimist and always counting my blessings, I won’t complain since it could be worse – like the inability to control the timing of the large intestine, which I vigorously pray isn’t hereditary.

So I woke up early on the ONLY day I actually get to sleep in with the worst kind of headache – the kind that hurts far worse when lying down. A half-pot of coffee, two loads of laundry, and another useless attempt to remove adhesive from my kitchen floor later, and I’m trying to convince myself that it’s Sunday and I can skip the housework and treadmill and go back to sleep. It’s hard to maintain the underachiever of the household title. I don’t know why my motivation to get stuff done is higher on weekends, but this is bullshit.

Underachieving aside, since my last Where I’ve Been post Opac’s football season came to an end with a breathtaking 1-9 record. I ran Veruca to softball practice two nights a week and attended all but two games. I have no idea what their record was. V is a born athlete and improved her game and gained unexpected status as a great catcher. She takes the game seriously, got frustrated with the girls who didn’t, and now wants to do travel team next Spring. On that note, her Little League team won the first place title last Spring and she now has a plaque in her name.

Todd and I attended the 16th birthday party of our neighbor’s son – a motorhead of sorts who also loves Mustangs as much as we do. He has a “car show” with a plethora of old cars including his own vintage Mustang and Todd and I drove our collection up there for the occasion. And then there was The Cruise. Everyone jumped in a car and we cruised around our area, ending at an ice cream shop before returning to the party. Three of the girls jumped in the convertible with me and the girl riding shotgun tuned the radio to all sorts of 80s (!!!) music and the three of them were loudly singing along. Fully enjoyed my middle-aged self, even if it was somewhat tempered by my anxiety over the alarming level of the gas tank.

I had multiple fun trips to the dentist last month, which I mentioned before. I had my mammogram, which was also fun because how many body parts can you actually watch flatten down to an inch without passing out?

I’ve been happily working extra days and realized how much I want to not be home on weekdays anymore. A year ago it was a daunting thought – how to go back to work full-time and manage our lives. I’m so glad I got the opportunity to get the part-time job and then put in so many extra days. We made it work. And I’m ready for more.

In true V fashion, Veruca decided she wanted to go to her bff’s neighborhood on Halloween night. Another big Letting Go moment for me. So I dropped her off with her meter and a handful of hard candies, although who was I kidding? I knew she’d be snacking from her newly acquired loot. Her cell phone was fully dead, so she had no phone with which to reach me or I her – another moment of OMG-I’m-going-to-hurt-you. But – I let her go anyway and entrusted her to the higher power.

Meanwhile, back at home, I turned on the porch light and waited. And forgot Sabra, who barked like a ferocious beast safely from two rooms away when the first doorbell rang. I handed out candy to the little girls who were intuitively not afraid of my doggie, and then parked Sabra’s pansy-ass in the bedroom with the door closed. Waiting for trick-or-treaters in my neighborhood is like waiting for water to boil, so I decided after the 3 masked boys (who were no strangers, btw) left that I would just leave the basket on the porch and go sit on the couch. Soon after I heard a ruckus and they were back and, as I watched from the window, rummaged through the candy and took more – but left behind candy from other houses. I had to laugh. At least they left something behind. And admitted to it, on the bus the next morning, to V because they’re all friends.

Opac turned 17 at the end of October. He and I planned to go to New York for the day, but the weather wasn’t very accommodating so we bagged it and went to Five Guys Burgers and Fries. Since football season ended he’s been eager to get behind the wheel, he says because he wants senior option next year but I think it also has to do with someone something else.

So Wednesday I sat in the passenger seat while he drove us into town. It was okay. I was okay. Until he approached the left turn back into our development at the breakneck speed of 35 without braking. Apparently Todd heard about it, because I was instructed not to grab onto the door handle “like that” “when your son is driving” because I’ll make him nervous. Fine. Next time I’ll just freak out after he mows down the neighbor’s tree.

Happily, Neph made an appearance on the Sunday after O’s birthday, to bring presents in a bag that he’d accidentally spilled Chinese food in (only Neph, I swear), and then overtook the kitchen like the good old days, fixing himself a pannini from the leftover cold cuts and lox. Got leftovers? Have Neph.

Other things:

Painted the guest room and subsequently developed a sore arm, and soon noticed a large swelling on my elbow. Had an x-ray and guess what? Nothings’ wrong – just minor osteoarthritis. Fuck middle age.

I went back to the chiropractor for an adjustment, thinking my neck is feeling great but something is causing these daily headaches, and now he’s focused on relieving the pain in my elbow.

We had a our annual JDRF fundraiser at the restaurant and I gave my one annual public speech, which this year (I think) went far better than last year’s alcohol-laced debacle, which I thoroughly owned and apologized for this year.

Todd, who loves me more than I sometimes deserve, went over to the place to check out the giant metal chicken I was so excited about, ‘cause he fully intended to bring that bitch home and surprise me when I got home from work. $225. Guess what? She’s not living here.

We had a long overdue date night at Iron Hill Brewery, which was lovely and was also my first drink in nearly 3 months. I was serious about giving up drinking, and I seriously lost 11 pounds to date. Yesterday morning I was down 13 pounds, but that could be blamed on the previous day’s unintentional diet of only fruits and vegetables, which I’m sure was subsequently undone last night at my cousin’s wedding where I decided one glass of the house wine (which turned into more – the tally still under dispute with Todd) wouldn’t hurt, and no doubt caused the monster headache this morning.

But who doesn’t love a wedding? I had a great time. I used Rent the Runway again, another Marchesa Notte, which was lovely but difficult to dance in during “Shout!” The sleeves don’t allow much give in the upward direction so now I have the cocktail dress equivalent of rug burn on my shoulders. I danced the night away with family and friends, including one new friend who proclaimed himself the choreographer of our little circle and soon we were leading the congo line and generally making a fantastic spectacle of ourselves while the millennials sat at their tables looking on like spectators at the zoo. Though I only expected to dance the slow dances with Todd, we had a fantastic time dancing to other songs like a pair of handicapped ballroom dancers.

Thanksgiving is a mere four days away and I forgot to get the turkey out of the freezer until this morning. If you’ve ever bought a frozen turkey, you know that thing is still gonna be frozen on Thursday morning if it hasn’t been in the fridge for at least a week. If there was ever a power outage in July, we could keep the insulin cold for two weeks in a cooler with one frozen turkey.

More to come.

Todd and I Do It Again, Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday

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

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

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

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

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

Last Day

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

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

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

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

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

Todd and I Do It Again

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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