The Long Way to Erie, Part 2

We left Niagara Falls – an oddly quiet and yet noisy town, and drove through the fog toward Buffalo. We took 190 to North Street through a quiet area of historical buildings and more churches in a 3 block radius than I’ve ever seen in my life. North Street took us to the corner of Main, and the infamous birthplace of the original Buffalo chicken wings: The Anchor Bar.

Anchor Bar, Buffalo, NY

The Anchor Bar, Buffalo, NY Taraka, 2019

That’s right – we went to Buffalo for one thing and one thing only. The Anchor Bar, on approach, looks like a small, old house. Until you drive around to the left, where the entrance is and ample parking. The walls in the bar area are plastered with license plates from all over the U.S. and Canada. I loved the atmosphere – betcha it’s a fun place on the weekends too. We were seated at a small table against the outside wall that felt a bit like we were sitting uphill (old flooring = uneven flooring?) The menu is newspaper-format, with lots of options for stuffing yourself. The waitress was about our age and warm and welcoming.

We ordered the original wings, which are “medium” and absolutely delicious. According to the website, they will ship wings anywhere in the U.S., which sounds like a fantastic idea. I also ordered a Caesar salad, you know, for balance, and it was huge! Definitely big enough to share. SO glad we put this on our itinerary – if you’re a fan of hot wings, you must make the pilgrimage. Or even if you just like checking off bucket list things, like me.

There’s a small gift shop inside and so Todd stopped there while I used the bathroom. He bought a f@#%ing t-shirt, so that ups his collection to 84. But he also bought a bottle of the Buffalo sauce and a pint glass for the bar we don’t have. Woot! And then we were off to Erie.

I booked the Holiday Inn Express because we’ve always had good experiences there. It was right off the highway and, it turned out, was a few miles out from downtown Erie. Todd didn’t exactly complain, but when someone mentions more than four times that it would’ve been nice if we were closer to the bowling alleys….well…I guess I should’ve looked at a map.

We had a room at the end of the hall on the third floor overlooking the highway, and I really tried to hide my hysteria when Todd noted the noise from the trucks going by. I really did. But the room was nice and comfy! And ice cold. I’m assuming they save energy until someone checks in. There’s also an indoor pool which is really quite nice, if you’re not surrounded by thirty kids under 12 who are splashing and screaming like howler monkeys. Too bad I forgot to pack our suits. This time there was a Keurig in the room, so we could use our own coffee in reusable k-cups.

We rested a bit and decided to head out to the Brewerie at Union Station for a bite. Erie’s Union Station opened in 1927 and saw many travelers over the decades that followed, from WWII soldiers to FDR and Harry Truman, to Babe Ruth. There’s some really interesting history there, like underground tunnels, if you visit their website. The restaurant opened in 2006 as part of a revitalization campaign in Downtown Erie.

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The Brewerie at Union Station Taraka, 2019

We sat in a back booth and ordered an Erie Brewery’s Railbender Ale for Todd and the Misery Bay IPA for me. We liked them both so much, we brought three cases home (can’t get it here). We shared pulled pork bbq nachos and fried pierogies – both equally delicious. One can also purchase beer to go – including their own craft beer in crawler or growler size. The Brewerie at Union Station’s own HopMonster IPA is excellent and, sadly, I didn’t get to bring any home and they don’t currently distribute. (Side note if you visit: they are not open Sundays.)

The next day, Saturday, we got up early, visited the complimentary breakfast bar downstairs (why are scrambled eggs on a buffet always watery?) and hit the road to Cleveland. When I told my mom that I was excited to add another state to my list of states I’ve been to, she said flatly, “Ohio looks just like Pennsylvania,” which is kind of a pessimistic thing to say to someone.

In keeping with the ongoing theme of haunting fog, the skyline of Cleveland was shrouded in an eerie haze. The museum was easy to get to, and parking was also remarkably easy, overlooking Lake Erie. We walked the short distance to the museum and were approached directly by a homeless man and “former Vietnam Vet” who wanted us to buy a paper to help him support his wife and kids. Okay, so I felt a combination of annoyance and compassion, since I remember the homeless selling papers on the subway in New York and it was generally accepted as a legitimate occupation. But, as Todd said, we didn’t drive 300 miles to be solicited outside a museum for money. He also called bullshit on the sob story.

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Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland, Ohio, Taraka, 2019

So the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I don’t even know where to start. The place was crowded, but nothing like the Majestic Theatre so I didn’t complain. Most of the exhibits were comprised of some iconic article of clothing, and other artifacts. I was completely enthralled by the clothes. It sparked something in me I cannot explain yet. There were art posters from the 60s. Tickets from Woodstock. (My mom and dad had tickets to Woodstock. But they decided at the last minute that this was no place for a two-month old, and so dad gave the tickets away.)

Some of the more memorable things: Jimi Hendrix’s brown suede jacket, Janet Jackson’s jacket from the “Control” video, a hand-painted guitar owned by Springsteen, a pair of Ziggy Stardust suits, one of Michael Jackson’s gloves (I’m not so naive to think that’s the only glove), ZZ Tops’ furry drums, Biggie’s Poppa jersey, and a disturbingly small shirt worn by Keith Richards. There was a disappointingly small case of items from Prince – featuring a set list from the only tour I saw and those lace gloves. And then all of a sudden I was fighting back tears. And of course there was little else, because it wasn’t what he was about.

The way out is through the gift shop, of course, and while there were some cool items there, we weren’t even the least bit tempted by the overpriced kitchsy merch … ie… a Woodstock t-shirt for $59. There was a good deal of vinyl for sale: one album I have owned for over 30 years they were selling for $49.99.

We returned to the hotel for some down time before the tournament, which started at 6 p.m. at a BYOB bowling alley. After, five of us went back to the Brewerie at Union Station for snacks and beer. Chris tried a Clarion River Pineapple Under the Sea, rumored to be very sour, but he said it tasted like pee. I don’t often pass up the opportunity to at least taste a new beer, but … no thanks. I didn’t ask how he knew what pee tasted like.

Sunday morning the previous three days of excitement finally caught up with me, about a half hour into the 8 a.m. tournament. I was finishing up The Night Bird (great thriller – should be a movie) and nodding off. I wandered out to the car, started the engine for a few, and then curled up under a blanket until the sound of car doors and voices woke me. The rain returned as we drove the long way home, making road conditions dicey along with monstrous traffic of no particular origin. 6-1/2 hours to home.

 

From top and left to right: Springsteen’s guitar, Keith Richards’ shirt (compare size to the album), The $59 shirt, Cleveland’s skyline

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On the Road Again: The Long Way to Erie

It’s PA State Bowling Tournament season again.  Todd and I took a long weekend, originally planning a side trip to Niagara Falls Canada, but the procrastinators in us didn’t get the passport situation handled so we opted for a 4-day tour through five states instead. Starting with our first stop – New York City. (This girl needed to “go home” for a day.)

We had tickets to see Phantom of the Opera, which I’ve never seen. I haven’t been in the city since I brought Veruca for her birthday six years ago. Todd asked me to drive, since he’s not familiar and/or not comfortable driving in the city. I made him promise me you won’t yell at me while I’m driving. Because truly, driving in Manhattan is not for the weak.

I tried to drive around Washington Square Park, which turned out to be partially blocked due to construction and now all I can think is they better move fast because graduation is coming up soon. In fact, there was construction everywhere in the village, making navigation tricky and frustrating and eventually Todd “gently” mentioned finding a parking garage. Forty five minutes later, as his voice creeped up to an edge where he threatened to get out of the car, I circled the theatre district trying to locate the garage.*

And then we sat there waiting to turn into the garage as 400 people continued to walk directly in front of my car halfway into the turn, without so much as a glance at us. AND THEN two girls stopped, right in front of my car, to take a picture. Todd was beside himself. Some things never change, but I curbed my natural instinct to roll down my window and start screaming.

We had a beautiful day in the city. The weather was perfect. Did some walking, got some pizza before the show. Stood in a monstrously long line at the Majestic, and then stood shoulder to shoulder with a hundred people inside waiting for the doors to our seats to open and I couldn’t help but wonder what the fire code was. A little girl ran in front of me and nearly knocked me down the flight of stairs I was standing on. Her mother grabbed her and… not so much as an apology. And then the two of them were behind us on our way to our seats, mom pushing against us with her bag until she could push past us to go to their seats. Which is when Todd finally snapped.

We had orchestra seats in row E, THIS CLOSE to the stage and it was fantastic. I was amazed by the way the stage and props move, and by how incredibly loud the music was. I’ve been to Broadway shows before but was still in awe of the production. We were also feet away from the closed-captioning/hearing impaired section and I was distracted by the closed-caption screen and the ASL interpreters who were literally acting out the scenes.

Afterward, we went to some non-descript pub for some light fare before hitting the road to Syracuse. I miss the city. I mean, I really miss it. Every time I go back, I tell myself I need to come back more often. For me. Todd, on the other hand, appreciates the city in small doses. It’s too densely populated with people. He’d go nuts here. He asked if I would move back. Most definitely. But I remember how easy it is to get burned out.

So we started on the long journey, but not before yelling at each other over changing “lanes” in the city to get to the Lincoln Tunnel. Todd was yelling at me to get over! And I’m yelling back, I can’t get over if there are cars already there! And don’t yell at me – I know what I’m doing! We had a great time.

I did the drive to Syracuse. It wasn’t planned, but once we were out of the city I just kept driving. It’s a long, lonely road, route 81. The route takes us back down into PA and then up into New York state. Did you know there’s a town in PA called Scotrun? If you glance at it quickly, it looks like scrotum.

Why did we go to Syracuse, you ask? We were there last year (see this post). It seemed a good stopping point from NYC to our eventual destination of Erie, PA. We thought we might make it to Kitty Hoynes – but we did not. We stayed at the Genesee Grand Hotel again, in a king suite which was lovely and cozy – which I only paid $7 and change for thanks to Hotels.com rewards. It’s under new management so no more complimentary coffee in the lobby. (We did attempt the coffeemaker in the room, but those are just terrible.) We ended up at a rest stop for Dunkin coffee a few miles out.

Next stop: Niagara Falls. Todd plugged it into the GPS but spelled it, Niagra – like VIAGRA. I found a single Oliver hair on my hoodie that morning – a hoodie that’s been washed several times since he’s been gone. It made my heart smile.

Niagara Falls was breathtaking. And crowded. It was chilly and overcast, and a little misty. The river is intense. You never think about the body that feeds the falls. I saw a black squirrel! I’ve never seen one before, and there were several, communing with the seagulls (or whatever they are – “rats with wings”). A black lab took off across the grass after a squirrel, and then doubled back to chase a grounded flock of geese. He was running with this big-ass smile only a dog can have, trailing his leash, as the geese took flight. Unbridled joy.

I took a dozen photos of the falls, marveling at the cloudy landscape that was Canada. Another bucket list item checked off.

We walked back to the car and I thanked Todd for bringing me here and for tolerating me lately. He gently stated that he noticed I’ve been edgy and grumpy lately. I told him to buckle up because the ride was just beginning. Welcome to Menopause! I said, I bet you never thought of this when we were 17. And he said, no, I just thought it’d be all sex, all the time.

We talked about bucket lists and doing things we’ve always wanted to do. I mentioned that meme: Life’s journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well-preserved body, but rather skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting Holy shit, what a ride! Which reminded Todd of that song from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Death by Misadventure…  face down in some dude’s pool. I prefer the former meme to this possibility.

Next stop: Buffalo.

 

*The Lincoln Tunnel is the way in if you’re going to the theatre district. I prefer the Holland Tunnel. It was always my point of entry, since I lived in the Village. And yes, it’s a thousand miles away from where we needed to park, but I wanted to go through the Village first.

**If you’ve ever driven in the city, you’ll notice that “lanes” are arbitrary.

***You wouldn’t have to pee so bad if you didn’t drink coffee all the way to New York. Just sayin’.

 

Photos copyright Taraka 2019

Cultural Things

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Chinatown Philly 2019

Last week I accompanied Veruca on a class trip to Chinatown (Philly). The Chinese teacher gave the students strict instructions to be respectful, walk no more than two astride, and absolutely “no frog on school bus.” I was given an itinerary with a list of students I was supervising (hey – I did NOT sign up for THAT) and we passed under the Friendship Gate – a beautifully painted arch that marks the entryway into Chinatown.

We split into 3 groups for shopping. The first store had knickknacks, books (particularly one on Chinese medicine, which I would like to explore again), dishes, some Bruce Lee Kung-Fu statues in various stages of combat, and beautiful CHOPSTICKS (which I bought). The second store was a Hello Kitty store – need I say more?

The last was a grocery – boxes of fruit lined up outside and large vinyl refrigerator flaps covering the entryway. I followed V and her friends inside where she snatched up a bag of these candies she’s always swiping from the nail salon. I wandered around, the funky “off” smell burning a hole in my sinuses, looking at the meat cases filled with normal everyday things and then some obscenely long pig legs with hooves still intact. I snapped some pictures of the fish display in the back, which was quite impressive, and no – I am not embarrassed. Someone said the fish area was disturbing but I still don’t know why, unless she was referring to the football-sized bloody fish head, its eyes facing the back wall. I wandered downstairs and bought chili sauce, sesame chili oil, and seaweed wraps.

Afterward, we walked around the block to a very small Asian bakery where we entered in waves. It was hotter than a South Street pizza shop in there, so I bought a butter cream bun and hightailed it back outside. V and friends bought Bubble Tea that resembled a pink smoothie with little black balls floating in the bottom that you’d suck up through the straw. They were oddly, simultaneously slimy and spongy and I was afraid to ask but I did. They’re tapioca balls.

Next stop – the Chinese restaurant that was booked for lunch. I googled this place the night before just to see what it looked like, what the menu was like, etc. and the first thing to come up was a series of Yelp reviews, which everyone knows is just a bitch-board because everyone’s a food critic. HOWEVER. One review pointed out the very real news that this restaurant was responsible for the largest food poisoning incident in recent Philadelphia history. Over 100 people in one day, in 2015. I googled the article and found more – as recent as last summer – meat stored at temps above 50 degrees and black mildew inside an ice machine, just two of TWENTY health code violations in a single visit. Who’s hungry now?

So we sit down. All I can think of is – what is the safest thing to eat that is least likely to lead to explosive diarrhea and vomiting? And – I’ll have water – NO ICE – thank you.

Anyway. The dishes were served family style – pork fried rice, lo mein, some sort of red meat on a stick (that V said was raw in the middle – I didn’t eat it), sweet and sour chicken, General Tso chicken with broccoli, orange wedges and fortune cookies. The two chicken dishes were good. Everything else? Nothing to blog about. Even my fortune – he who is shipwrecked the second time cannot lay blame on Neptune – what the heck am I supposed to take away from this? I’m safe to eat here this time, but don’t come back? Or perhaps a deeper message about watching for my ex’s other shoe?

I will say this – that peculiar smell from the grocery store followed me around the block and into the restaurant. It was also in the underground grocery we went to after lunch. In retrospect, although it isn’t a smell you want to encounter in a food establishment, it is a smell often encountered in city back streets that smell like wet garbage and rotting food.

The underground grocery is quite well-known but could easily be missed because it’s through a set of dirty glass doors and down a flight of gray concrete steps with fluorescent lighting reminiscent of old subway stairwells. There are live crabs and jellyfish, and FROGS in a Rubbermaid tote (presumably where last year’s student bought the live frog), and purple (black) packaged chickens that drew everyone’s attention. (They are Silkies, according to my birding friend Dave.) The kids bought a shit-ton of candy and I bought a 5lb bag of sushi rice.

In all, we had beautiful weather and no one got sick. I watched the folks who live and work in Chinatown, the tourists popping in and out of the stores, the men seated in the back of the bakery, looking like Asian Goodfellas and speaking in the hushed tones of their native language, and the boys in Veruca’s class all wearing those ridiculous Chinese straw hats (that screamed, tourist!) looking like they were headed to the rice fields. The boys – all of 13 or 14 years old and varying degrees of tall and short – the tallest boy seated at our table muttering about propaganda on the television and the shortest boy giggling like a chimpanzee.

*****

***Trigger Warning: The following is NOT kosher but (I think) hilariously funny, and may also be offensive to those without a sense of humor.

Friday night was Seder. Todd and I drove down to Baltimore to his parents’ house. Just a couple of their friends, Aunt Marilyn and cousin, Michael. We went through the motions like a drive-thru version of Passover, and got to the eating. Someone started talking about pigs feet and Michael said the hind legs aren’t kosher. But the front legs are, because they’re split-hooved.

I leaned over and said to Todd, I bet all the pigs in Israel only have back legs. Father-in-law’s shoulders started shaking, and then Michael said, they have to put them in those little carts so they can get around. Which in turn made me burst into red-faced laughter. But he wasn’t done. Because he said, but then they’d get stuck in the mud… so they have to put them in all-terrain vehicles, and I had an instant picture of those big all-terrain tires they put on monster trucks, which is where Michael was going and now there are tears running out of my eyes. Aunt Marilyn and I are falling into each other and the whole thing was monstrously inappropriate but we’re a fun family and if you’re offended you don’t have to join us for dinner next time. Oh – and YES – I KNOW that Orthodox Jews don’t eat pork.

 

New York Chronicles – September 8, 1989

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Photo credit belongs to Jason Fernau, via Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York website.

Last night was a riot. We went first to the Dugout, a neighborhood bar two blocks away from the dorm. Three steps down into the brightly lit bar, its façade lending the impression of an old English pub with wood shingles and a single gable window above the door, and standing room only among the wooden tables. Three frosty drafts went down like water and Alena and Daphne decided we were going to MKay’s.

MKay’s is midtown and more upscale and it was crowded with well-dressed people. We detoured downstairs to the lower level which was more clubby and darker with the flashing lights of DJs and dance music. We met these Italian guys from Milan, which was about the only thing any of them said that I could make out since I think they had about a dozen English words between the three of them. Two more beers went down and it was hilarious – the six of us struggling to have a conversation above the booming music and soon it was just lame.

Getting up for work this morning was rough, and I was still nauseous. I worked from 8 to 4, with an hour lunch break which was great because I really needed the fresh air. The area I work in is basically in the basement, with a separate entrance from the main Admissions office upstairs; we’re kind of like the worker trolls hidden in the basement. I swear I’m going to spend a lot of time underground in New York, and I’m not talking about the “edgy” side of the city.

My boss is nice enough but strange as a three-legged bird, and I haven’t yet figured out which eye to focus on when I talk to her. She’s tough but not unkind. Kind of like a retired military sergeant. Her husband, who works there too and I’m not sure exactly what he does, is a dead ringer for Howdy Doody, and equally as strange. He has an off-color sense of humor that I’m sure isn’t appropriate for the work place, and more than likely he’s got a closet full of bondage paraphernalia at home, or he’s a serial killer. Which, when I think about it, makes it very difficult for me to look him in the eye.

 

**Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York is a favorite of mine. There’s also a Facebook page and a published book. It makes me very nostalgic for the New York of my twenties.

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.

 

Valentine’s Day and 100 Days to Go

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I read an article about all the things you should and shouldn’t do when you’re over 40. Exercise every day, but not too much. Don’t eat the junk food that sustained you in your 20s. Your body doesn’t like it. Don’t drink too much. Apparently your body doesn’t like that either. Make sure you get enough rest, but not too much. Don’t stare at your cell phone before bed… it affects melatonin. Sex is important. Spend time with your friends. But not while having sex. Well, unless that’s how you roll, but that’s none of my business.

Let’s see how we’re doing so far in 2019: Um, 1) not so good 2) reasonable food choices 3) failed 4) mostly 5) failed 6) none of your business and 7) yes. I can’t speak for Todd.

The T ~n~ T house hosted two parties the last weekend in January. The first was Opac’s… a crowd of about 17 downstairs playing pool, poker, and darts, and standing around the firepit outside. I stayed upstairs in the living room, stone cold sober, and watching The Real Housewives of New Jersey because I’m a classy bitch. Todd left the house for his usual bowling night. I finally broke out the wine around 11:30 as most of them were dispersing.

The following night was our quarterly poker party that in its infancy began as a group of about 6 guys, with beer and brats, pulled pork, and buffalo chicken dip. It has grown to a mixed crowd of about 22 including spouses and children, only a handful in the poker game and the rest playing pool and darts. Because I grew up “in the business,” I put out a spread I slaved and worried over all day and felt was adequate, and then was surprised that anyone was impressed.

Side note: Cards Against Humanity – Funniest. Game. Ever. Make sure you are properly sauced and have emptied your bladder. This is not for the faint of heart and definitely NOT for children. Shout out to Jonathan for knowing exactly how to entertain me.

Got my first round of injections in my L4-5 and L5-S1 which, I later learned, was a “test run.” WTF?? I woke up 5 days after with pain topping a seven, and Todd said, oh yeah, it’s been five days, right? That’s good – that means it worked. And I said, what do you MEAN, “it worked?” I repeat, W.T.F.

I’m going back next week to repeat it bilaterally, and then the week after to burn the nerves. Injections in the spine must be horrible, you say? Not so much. No one is more surprised than I am, that I have willingly submitted myself for injections ANYWHERE. No one likes needles, but when I was young I took it to a new level.

I’ve stopped wearing heeled shoes/boots. I’ve been wearing flat shoes or sneakers in an effort to curb some of the more intense pain. This new development for me is temporary, I assure you. My love affair with a chunky heel will not be curbed by back pain, numb toes, or my husband’s height.

Social life continues. Todd overbooked us last weekend and I spent the better part of Friday at work trying not to resent him focus on the lack of rest I was staring down over the next two days.

Friday night is always bowling night. It depends on my work schedule and my level of fatigue, whether I go with him. Last week I did. Friday morning he had “reminded” me of the tournament Saturday night that he’d never told me about. Saturday afternoon was a long-planned meetup with friends in Federal Hill to watch the Bayern soccer game. Which was great. We ate Schnitzel fingers and drank Stiegl Grapefruit Radler (light, refreshing, 2% alcohol).

We came home and rested a whole twenty minutes before we had to leave to meet friends for dinner an hour and a half away, before the tournament. Which, by the way, is roughly an hour and 45 minutes from home. The tournament is held in a firehouse bowling alley that has to be the only place north of Alabama that still allows smoking in the bar. But the drinks are cheap and the bartenders friendly. I was everybody’s drink bitch, since I was only spectating. We got home sometime around 12:30 a.m.

Sunday was a Dean-and-Mrs day; the college had an afternoon of music and fine arts presented by the faculty in Todd’s division. The music was great, but I was thoroughly distracted by the musicians’ shoes. Have you ever looked at musicians’ shoes? This led me down the rabbit hole of my thoughts until I was snapped out of my reverie by a lingering, and particularly foul, fart. What is WRONG with people?

Another weekend is approaching and there is a fundraiser that involves bowling and so here we go again. Somehow bowling has become my life and I don’t even bowl. Years ago I tried to make it fun, hanging out with the other bowlers and drinking, and cheering when they’d strike, which apparently is not something you do so I’ve learned to curb my enthusiasm and just stick to drinking.

****

Meanwhile, today – 100 days before my 50th birthday – is Valentine’s Day. Veruca was buzzing last night with the glow only a 13-year-old can have… hoping her crush would finally ask her out today. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I’d bet my life he isn’t going to be thinking, it’s Valentine’s Day, I think I finally have the balls to ask her out.

Back in school I remember Valentine’s Day carnations… white, pink, or red… available to buy and send to whoever you wanted… and the hoping against hope that you’d get one. And I’m not talking about Todd. Valentine’s 1986 – I filled his VW bug with balloons that blew all over the school parking lot when he opened the door. I gave him cards. He gave me cards, a heart-shaped box of chocolates, a tiny bottle of his cologne, and a pink gold heart necklace. I tried to give him something else but – relax Dad – he didn’t take it.

I’m refocusing my energies on goals in the coming year. Not the least of which is writing that damn novel. There – I said it. Accountability is a thing, right?

 

Miscellaneous:

There is no vaccine for the stomach virus. (Oh yes, they did.)

If you’ve ever wondered if your hippie parents still smoke grass, the answer is yes. Also, if you walk into their house at the right moment, expect to be accosted with pleas to “just smell” this peanut butter cracker.

Leopards don’t change their spots. Shame on you for believing those days might finally be over. (Those unfamiliar: I’ll elaborate in another post, once I recover from the whiplash.)

 

 

 

The New Adventures of Dean and Mrs

Early in the semester we were invited to a private viewing of a documentary produced and directed by one of Todd’s faculty members about pirate radio in Britain in the 1960s. Briefly, these were unlicensed radio “stations” broadcasting from ships anchored in international waters; however “legal” the broadcast from outside the territorial limits, it was considered illegal to listen to these “unauthorized” broadcasts. There is so much more to the history that I won’t go into, mostly because I have a terrible memory and don’t want to do Wayne a disservice for his beautifully done documentary.

The event was hosted by a couple well known to the college at The Vineyard in Havre de Grace, a lovely little two-room wine bar with a delightful array of tapas, flatbreads, and charcuterie. Todd and I were among a group of maybe 15, including the president and vice president of the college and a handful of other (I perceived) important people.

We met our hosts outside as we arrived; she is a French ex-pat who had just received her US citizenship mere days before and he a retired man of politics who in casual conversation shared a memory of his time in Reagan’s White House. My jaw almost dropped before I remembered to pretend I met people like this all the time. She was a beautiful, petite woman with an open face and a smile that lit up a room, and we discovered we had the restaurant blood in common as she used to own a restaurant in France for about ten years. It was a bit more difficult to find things in common with a man who served in Reagan’s White House, but I was enthralled by his stories. He was unpretentious and kind.

Next up: Todd decided he wanted to have a “casual” faculty meeting. At our home. I repeat, AT. OUR. HOME. I tried to talk him out of it. I tried to encourage him to have it in a neutral location. I suggested it was “too soon” to have his faculty to his home, as many of them were still getting to know him. What better reason to do it then? was his response.

My subtle suggestions went over his head. He will himself admit to being oblivious and I – the wife – can attest to that on a much more intimate level. But we’re not talking about that right now. In any case, one day I noticed that he had posted the date and time on our refrigerator, and it was clearly a done deal. He wanted me to take off from work that day. I took a half day and spent the two days before cleaning the house like Cinderella before the ball, scrutinizing every corner of the house.

It’s funny, the things you’re willing to overlook in your daily life when no one is coming over. And then a party is planned and suddenly the gray cobwebs in the cathedral ceiling that have been here since we moved in are looming large, and you see every chip in the paint, ruminate over the downstairs bathroom that has needed a renovation since time began, and rethink every décor decision you’ve ever made. I was stressed.

BUT. They came, they introduced themselves (I’d only met Wayne and an English professor I’d introduced myself to at Wayne’s event), brought wine, and graciously thanked me for opening up MY “beautiful” home to them. It wasn’t a particularly large turnout, but the folks that came were quite comfortable sitting around my kitchen island and outside on the deck, which was swarming with honey bees like we’ve never seen before. For the first time in a long time I fell back into my old shy habits, standing back and taking in their conversations from an outsider view. I was in my own home so I wasn’t uncomfortable, but I just found myself slipping into caterer mode, watching and working silently around them.

Todd’s assistant introduced herself and I said, “I’m so sorry,” and she laughed out loud, asking me if I wanted to kill him for having this event here and I laughed with her. She brought me a bottle of rose, since Todd had told her I’d become recently very fond of them. I sat outside with the group batting away bees, listening to them and realizing with surprise that some of them didn’t even know if the others had children. All told, Todd’s intent was a success.

About a week after my accident, we were invited to the President’s Circle Dinner at a nearby county club. This dinner was for all the donors to the college, and Todd was invited to be one of the speakers – presumably because he is the inaugural dean of a newly re-formed division and, as I teased him, I think the president wanted to show him off.

We arrived in a downpour and were greeted at the entry with name tags to put on and advised that seating was open. Translation: sit anywhere you want. Former shy girl doesn’t do well with this arrangement, and I was eager to find a table before everyone else sat down. We met a lovely couple at the table we chose, had lively conversation, and exchanged business cards by dinner’s end.

This was, believe it or not, the first time I’ve seen Todd speak to a large crowd. At the risk of sounding all gushy, he amazes me. He’s so good at public speaking. I was so proud, and he was not just a little bit humble when he returned to the table and asked me if it sounded okay. This is the same boy I fell in love with – the one with the earring and the leather motorcycle jacket – the quiet artist with the simmering temper, the longhaired motorhead who fixed his own cars and drove fast, and loved me intensely. And that night he stood before a crowd of 100 donors in his suit and tie and spoke like a college dean. I’m sure no one in high school would have ever predicted this outcome.

As for me, these new experiences bring my life to light, as the people we meet on these occasions are politely interested in what I do. I’ve spent more than half my life in the restaurant business desperately trying to escape. I tell them I grew up in the business and, while I don’t tell them I know I’m good at it, I say I don’t want to do it anymore. It’s time-consuming and steals precious time away from loved ones.

I’ve recognized and without shame can say that I don’t have any aspirations of some grand career – I never have, really – and it took me until the last year or so to acknowledge it without feeling like it’s wrong. I was a stay-at-home mom for a very long time. I enjoyed that. I wouldn’t have changed it for anything, and the restaurant gave me the freedom to continue that after the divorce. But today I work a day job, which I love. I get to interact with people, love the people I work with, and leave the job where it belongs – in the office.

I also tell them I’m practicing a bit of old-fashioned wifery – I am here to support my husband’s new direction and look forward to the down time we get to spend together. I even have the fancy apron.

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.