Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Talk about being blocked

Okay, this is downright stupid.  I have discovered I cannot write with my husband in the same room.  Who am I kidding?  I can't write with him any where in the house, or on the property.  I can't write if I know he may come back home before I have finished.  So what is all this about?  I wish I knew.

I don't care if he reads my blog, but after I've written it, proofed it and posted it.  He does not bother me when I'm writing.  He does not look over my shoulder or make suggestions or comments of any type.  He totally ignores me, just as he does when I'm playing games or doing laundry or whatever else I might do at any given moment.  So why does his presence bother me?  Part of it is because I talk to myself while I write and it causes him to look up and say "huh?"  Then I have to say "nothing".  Then he has to say, "you always say nothing, but it's always something".  Then I have to convince him it really is nothing.  But if I tell him I'm writing the blog, then he will want to look over my shoulder, and that is NOT acceptable.  It's just a whole lot easier to avoid the entire problem by not attempting to write at all while he is on the same side of town.

He's going back to work on Monday, January 3rd, so we can get back to whatever normal is for us.  I miss writing every day and I need to get back to it.  Hope you all have a safe and happy New Year.  2011, who'da thunk it?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas from snowy Baltimore, Maryland.  It just started snowing about 20 minutes ago.  It is also snowing in North Carolina, so for the first time since 1969 the Triad area is having a white Christmas.  Looks like I can't get away from this mess no matter where I go.

I wish you all a very Happy Christmas.  The only gift I've ever wanted for oh so many years is "Peace on Earth, Goodwill Toward Men".  I hope I see it come true in my lifetime, but I'm not holding my breath.  In the meantime, stay warm and treasure your families.  Love to all.

Monday, December 20, 2010


This is not a long post because a) I don't have time right now, and b) I'm on a rant and they usually don't take near as many words.

My first problem is I LIVE IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.  THE OFFICIAL LANGUAGE IS AMERICAN ENGLISH.  I DO NOT WANT TO PRESS 1 TO CONTINUE IN ENGLISH!  Seriously!  What is with these people?  I don't have to press 1 to continue in French if I go to France.  I don't have to press 1 to continue in Italian if I go to Italy.  Stop it!  Stop it now!  This political correctness bull crap has gone way too far.

My second problem is it is "strongly suggested" by Bud's employer's insurance plan that we order our prescription medications through their selected mail order pharmacy.  We don't have to follow this suggestion, but we will pay through the nose for life saving medications if we should choose to acquire them through some other means.  So we mail in our prescriptions.  They have an online site.  Bud and I cannot share the online site because of HIPAA.  God forbid, I might actually find out something personal about the man I've been married to for more than the last quarter century.  He doesn't even know how to get to the online site; I created my account and his account.  So put that in your pipe and smoke it HIPAA.  Oops, no smoking -- bad for your health.  Anyway, I have six prescriptions that I take every day of my life.  I mailed my six prescriptions off and asked that they immediately fill three of them.  I still had a reasonable supply of the other three and couldn't see any reason to pay for something I didn't need yet.  The time has now come to fill the other three.  I went to MY online site.  The three I haven't filled yet are not listed.  I called the company.  At least they did not ask me to press 1 to continue in English, but I did have to speak to an automated operator for quite some time until I finally convinced "her" I needed a human.  So, the company has a policy.  Prescriptions are not listed online until you have ordered them at least once.  WHY then do they have an online site?  Why not just make everyone call on the telephone all the time?  Am I being ignorant about this?  Does it seem to make sense to anyone?  It certainly does not make sense to me.  Why put me through the nonsense of setting up a username and password, if I can't use the stupid online account to order drugs when I need them?

And finally, I am trying to pay off the loan on our van.  When the bill came this month, I made a payment for the entire amount as shown on the bill.  Well, of course, that wasn't enough money because they charge interest daily and more interest accumulated between the time they put the bill in the mail and the time my money got to them.  They also have an online site, but it was totally useless as far as I could tell.  So I called.  Yes, these are the simpletons who wanted me to press 1 to continue in English.  I almost wish I had continued to struggle with the online site, but now I was seeing red and would never have been able to make sense of it.  However, I didn't have to speak to the automated attendant for very long before I was allowed access to a human.  The human was reasonably helpful and was able to tell me it would cost me an additional $25 and some odd cents to pay off the loan.  BUT, and to me it's a big but, they don't accept credit or debit cards.  So I had to give her the routing number and account number for our checking account.  Did I miss something here?  Isn't a debit card like writing a check, only it's instant?  Doesn't the money you put on your debit card come directly out of your checking account -- even faster than if you had written a check?  The organization holding the loan on our van is a banking institution.  Surely they would be able to determine in the twinkling of an eye whether or not I had enough funds in my checking account to use my debit card for the transaction.  What is wrong with people?

Why do we have computers if people refuse to use them for the very purposes they were invented?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

I am my own worst enemy

So, when do I choose to write the story of one of the most horrific events in my life?  During a snowstorm; what an idiot!  Not only did I already have a headache because of the low pressure system, I exponentially increased the pain by crying savagely.  However, I could never have written about that period of my life if I were happy and having a great day.  In any event, the combination of intense emotions, dragging out old memories better kept locked in an abyss and horrible weather has totally wiped me out.  It is still cloudy and messy for the third day in a row, and more snow is expected today.  I'm sure the sun will shine again sometime, but I'm beginning to think it won't be until next April.

It is also the holiday season (and peak depression season), and we are preparing to head to Maryland to visit with Bud's brother and his family.  Don't worry.  We have an excellent friend who will be caring for our home and our dogs while we are away.  Though I will have my laptop with me, it is unlikely I'll have a lot of time for writing.  No sooner than we get back from Maryland we will be off to the mountains to spend the New Year with the Webbs and the Hendersons at Ann's condo at Sugar Mountain.  I may get a post or two in between now and the end of the year, depending of course upon this ridiculous weather, but it is unlikely I will be prolific.  Have a great holiday season.  Merry Christmas to all and have a safe and happy New Year.

And, since this is my blog and I am a Christian, and Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ, here is a Christmas card sent to me by a friend that I would like to share with you:

Thursday, December 16, 2010


CAUTION:  Today's post is not humorous.  I will not name names, though I remember all of them.  Enuf said.

An acquaintance of mine recently posted a blog about shocking her mother-in-law.  I thought it was hilarious and you can see it here:  Well, she unknowingly set off a huge powder keg of controversy, which you will see in the comments if you read her blog.  This started me thinking about pushing buttons and hot spots.  We all have something that will set us off.  Some of us have really short fuses and almost anything will cause an explosion.  I have not seen so many people overreact to something that was meant to be comical in a very long time.  It's worse than the proabortion/antiabortion debates.

There are a few subjects that can get my dander up --- child abuse, animal abuse, elderly abuse, nursing home conditions, animal rights (but I think PETA goes about it in all the wrong ways), reintroduction of wolves.  There are probably others, but those come immediately to mind.  There is, however, one subject about which I cannot be unemotional and if broached in the wrong way will invariable cause spontaneous combustion and nuclear fallout.  That subject is rape.  I approach the subject of rape from the viewpoint of a survivor.

When I was 13 and our family was relatively new to the little (at that time the population was less than 5,000 people) town of Hackettstown, New Jersey,  I made an incredibly stupid error in judgment.  I was out past my curfew and knew I was already in serious trouble.  Two guys I did not know offered me a ride home.  I knew all the stories about getting into cars with strangers, but these two said they were friends of my brother Joe, and a car ride was a lot faster than walking.  Well, Joe was my hero, and if they were his friends, how could they be bad?  And, there was a male friend with me who also needed a ride home, so he went along with us.  It doesn't take a lot of imagination to figure out what happened.  They dropped my friend off first.  It was much later when they dropped me off.  I lost not only my virginity that night, but what little faith I still had in humanity and whatever was left of my innocence.  It wouldn't be long before I would loose faith in the American judicial system too.

The young men (one was 18, the other 21) threatened if I told anyone they would come back and hurt me.  Well, I figured they couldn't hurt me too much more than they already had, even death would end the pain.  But when I went in the house, my Mom was so furious about what time it was and how late I was that I just accepted her tirade and went off to my room, where I was told to remain all day the next day except to go to the bathroom.  I lay awake in bed all night and I worried.  I thought about not telling, but then I thought about what would happen if I kept quiet and it turned out I was pregnant.  I thought people would believe me if I spoke up now, but no one would believe me if I waited.  So, early the next morning I went to Joe's room and woke him up and told him what happened.  Surprise, surprise.  Those guys were not his friends.  He had heard of one of them (I knew one guy's nickname because the other idiot was dumb enough to call him by it), but couldn't even guess who the other guy might be.  Joe told me to go call my Mom (she was at work) and tell her what happened.  That was the hardest telephone call I've ever made in my entire life.  While I was on the phone with Mom, Joe came downstairs with a knife in his hand and headed for the front door.  I had to hang up on my mother and go latch on to Joe for dear life to keep him from doing something even more stupid than I had already done.  For the record, Harry was grown and living on his own and we didn't even tell him about what happened for at least ten years for fear of what his reaction might have been.  Glenn was in the Army at the time and I don't know when or how he found out.  I've never discussed it with him, but I know he kept a particularly good watch on his daughter when she was growing up in that same small town.

My Mom came home and I told her the whole sorry tale from beginning to end.  Then she called my stepfather (who was also at work) and he came home and I had to go through the whole mess again.  Then they called the police and I had to recite the entire saga all over again.  Since I told the police the same thing I told everyone else, it didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out who at least one of the guys was; there was only one guy in town with that nickname.  After the police report was filed, and my clothing taken as evidence, I was transported to the doctor for an examination and confirmation.  I have to say, the doctor was one of the few decent people in this whole story.  He sewed me back together (I was 13 and still looked more like a prepubescent boy than a girl), and told the police it was obviously rape.  There were bruises where I had been held down and from where I had attempted to fight.  Reports were made, pictures were taken, and then I was released to go home.

About midnight that night the police came and said they had two guys in custody and would I please come to the police station to identify them.  Now this was the early 1960's, before the  Miranda Rights which came about in 1966.  In a little town where everyone knew everyone else, it wasn't considered necessary to have a "line up".  We just walked into the small police station (which had originally been someone's home) and there were my attackers.  I looked at them and they looked at me.  The policeman said "Are these the two guys?"  I said, "Yes".  And that was that.  They were put in jail and I went home again.  As it turned out, my brother Joe had a few real friends who were residents at the  jail at that particular time too.  Their crimes were far less serious, but small town jails only have a limited number of cells.  I prevented Joe from killing anyone, but I had nothing to say when he suggested to his incarcerated friends that life could be made a whole lot less pleasant for two recent inmates.  Eventually, bail was set and paid and they were free again until the trial date.

The world was a different place in the early 1960's.  Many people still believed if a girl/woman was raped, she must have done something to provoke it.  I had to laugh at that.  I was as far from sexy, provocative or alluring as it was possible to be and still be female.  But, I was also new in town and these boys had lived there all of their lives.  They had played football on the high school team.  Their families were long time members of the community.  Not necessarily stellar members of the community, but at least they weren't recent transplants.  Somehow, that translated to me having caused this problem.  To make matters worse, the last name of one of the guys started with K, and his sister was in the same grade in school as I was.  We got to share homeroom for the rest of our years in the school system.  The mothers of some kids I thought were my friends would no longer allow their children to associate with me.  I guess rape rubs off or something.  I had a few girlfriends stick by me, but not without some grief from their parents.  I suddenly had a lot of a certain type of guy who wanted me to be their girlfriend.  I'm sure they thought that as I no longer had anything to lose it would make me easy.

Seven months later the case went to trial.  My family was not wealthy and we were naive  enough to believe that right is might.  We didn't hire an attorney because we couldn't afford one and the District Attorney felt he had an airtight case.  The trial was held in an open courtroom where anyone could just stroll in and listen.  Anyone except me, of course.  I was not allowed to hear any testimony by anyone -- defendants, doctors, police officers, etc. -- until AFTER I gave my testimony.  Of course, my parents were allowed in the courtroom throughout the entire trial and my mother said they had the minister of the Lutheran church and the head football coach at the high school testify as character witnesses for the "boys".  As an aside, three years later I had the head football coach as my history teacher.  I knew it was gonna be a tough year and I would have dropped the class but it was a requirement for graduation and he was the only one teaching it.  From the start, it was adversarial.  I made certain I did every piece of homework, paid attention in class though he would never call on me even if I raised my hand, and passed every quiz and test.  I saved every one of my graded papers.  Even when I was out for six weeks because of an extended illness, I made certain I got my assignments and made up my tests in his class.  I can assure you I was far less diligent about my other classes.  Regardless, when report cards came out, I failed his class.  I didn't say a word, just kept on doing what I was doing.  The next report period came and I failed again.  There were five report periods in our school year and if you failed a major subject three out of those five periods, you failed for the year.  As this was a required class, if I failed for the year, I would not graduate with my class.  Still I remained silent and continued doing all the required work for his class. And, I failed the third time.  At that point, I gathered all my papers and marched into the Principal's office.  He and I had gotten to know each other fairly well over the years, as I was not exactly the most restrained student in the school.  Still, we had a grudging respect for each other and he knew I was intelligent.  I was getting mostly A's and B's without cracking a book in all my other subjects, as I had for the entire time I attended high school.   So there I was in the Principal's office with all my hardcopy evidence and wondering why I had failed PAD (Problems of our American Democracy) for the third time.  He called the teacher in and asked the same question of him.  His response was some hemming and hawing and something about attendance, and non-participation in class, and attitude.  The Principal told him he didn't like his attitude either and that I would pass PAD for the next two report periods AND for the year.  So, I got two D's and a final grade of D-, but I am the only (to my knowledge) person in the school to ever fail a major required subject three times and still graduate.

But, back to the trial.  Then it was  my turn.  I cannot even begin to tell you the horror stories of a 14 year old girl being grilled on the witness stand by a defense attorney.  With a full gallery of spectators, he asked me questions like "Did they use a prophylactic?"  Excuse me?  I had absolutely no clue what a prophylactic was and once he explained, I had no clue whether they had used one or not as I was pretty busy trying to avoid being raped.  The next question was even better.  "Where did he put his penis?"  Okay, I'm sorry, but I was not quite the brazen hussy I am now and I was absolutely stumped as to how to answer this question without using slang.  I guess vagina was actually part of my vocabulary, but it just didn't pop readily to mind.  I finally settled on "between my legs" and hoped he'd move on.  Thank God, he did.  I was so embarrassed, humiliated and mortified by the time they let me leave the stand, I could have just crawled off into a corner and died.  But, that's not allowed.  The case went to the jury for deliberation.  All states except Louisiana and Oregon require unanimous verdicts in felony cases.  After hours and hours of waiting, the decision came back that the jury was hung.  The voting was 11 to 1.  One older woman on the jury had taken offense at something the District Attorney had said in his closing argument and had voted the defendants not guilty.  She would not change her mind.

So, we were back at square one.  The District Attorney was preparing for a retrial, but I know he wanted this damn case over.  He had other cases to try, other things to do, and retrying this case was just going to be a gigantic pain.  However, rather than go back to court one of the guys confessed and in his confession implicated the other.  The second guy was insisting he had no part in the whole thing, but the DA accepted a plea bargain allowing him to plead guilty to Contributing to the Delinquency of a Minor.  Now I was really pissed.  He was allowed to plead guilty to a charge that in effect said I was the delinquent.  In case you were wondering, the cost of a person's spirit is $700.  The guy who pleaded guilty to rape was fined $700.  We could have paid to get a lawyer and started the whole thing all over again, but to be perfectly honest I was tired of it all.  It was obvious to me justice depends on a lot of things, but not one of those things is whether or not you are actually guilty.

There were no Rape Crisis Centers in the early 1960's.  No hospitals had Rape Kits to recover evidence from victims.  There were no Rape Counselors.  I had to learn to live with it however I could.  It screwed my head up for a long time afterward.  To varying degrees it had an effect on my family and friends.  Every relationship I had with any young man for many years following the rape was tainted, often to a large degree.  I guess it's no wonder I was attracted to psychopaths.  I developed some erroneous concepts about physical relationships.  I was blindly stumbling around trying to find my way through a minefield of volatile emotions, and sometimes things blew up.  But, time heals all wounds.  Often it leaves some ugly scars, but the gaping lesion ceases to bleed.  I still can't watch a movie with a rape scene in it.  But, I made it through.  There's that old saw about what doesn't kill me makes me stronger, and I believe in this case it's true.  I wouldn't be who I am now if I hadn't stared Satan in the face, and I'm proud of who I am now. 

So, why does the subject of rape set me off like fireworks in July?  Well, for all the obvious reasons, of course.  But more importantly, because of the women who claim to have been raped, but weren't.  I watched the movie Derailed yesterday.  There is a scene in it where it seems the character played by Jennifer Aniston is raped.  As soon as I realized what was about to happen I turned off the sound and looked away, but I still started to shake all over and broke out in a cold sweat.  After I was sure that scene was over, I continued watching the movie and it turned out she wasn't raped at all.  It was just part of the scam she and her partner were pulling on the character played by Clive Owen (if you've never seen the movie, I just ruined it for you, so skip it).  Having lived through how hard it is to make anyone believe you really were raped, I get ballistic when I hear about someone claiming rape when it didn't happen.  Don't those ignoramuses know they are making it so much harder for actual rape victims to get any respect?  Yes, the world has changed, and attitudes about rape and rapist have changed, and laws against rape and rapist are tougher and usually enforced.  But don't these women understand how much damage they are doing to the credibility of the actually innocent?

Okay, I'm finished with my sermon now.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Some days ya just never know

Ann Webb, Rita Henderson and Carla Knight

Since I've talked about Ann and Rita so much, I thought maybe y'all might like to know what they looked like.  That's past tense because this picture was taken about seven or eight years ago.  It is one of the few times in my life I had short hair.  For those of you who can't determine what we were doing in this picture, we were sorta playing croquet in Rita's backyard when they lived on the Chancellorsville Battlefield in Virginia.  I say sorta because we had consumed a fairly large number of those drinks on which Rita has such a precarious grip, though Ann has a glass of wine in this picture.  I gulped my drink and hid my empty glass behind a tree before jumping into the picture.  I know it kinda looks like we were playing horseshoes, but I can assure you it started out as croquet.  It may have become some hybrid version of the two before it was over.  If I remember correctly, it was Harold's 50th birthday, and yes, we were all polluted, which was not unusual when we visited Harold and Rita.  Which means this actually could have been any other time or many other times when we were visiting.  Ann is showing off the persona she perfected being the daughter of a prominent doctor,  a member of the country club, and having had a "coming out" (debutante, not sexual preference for all you smartasses).  She thought it was just as much a bunch of snobbery as we did, much to her parents' dismay.  Rita is in the middle hoping one of us will catch her if she starts to fall.  And, as usual, I am standing around looking goofy and wondering what the Hell is going on?

I ran across the picture this morning when I was frantically searching all of the junk drawers (I know you're supposed to have only one; so sue me) looking for a permanent marker.  As a special treat for my babies when we brought Georgia home, I decided to buy new food bowls for everyone.  We haven't bought new food bowls in 15 years or more.  We write the dog's name on the side of the bowl.  All the old bowls had many doggie names on them since we've had them for so long.  I know the dogs can't read; it's for me.  Abby and Logan get the same food.  Georgia gets a mix of what she was eating at her foster home and what we feed our dogs until she adjusts to the change in diet and it doesn't upset her poor little tummy.  Bailey gets a special diet maintenance food because she tends to gain a lot of weight if we don't watch her.  Isn't it awful how I make my poor dog stay on a diet, but I'm too damned undisciplined to make myself lose any weight.  Of course, it's a little laborious now since I have difficulty remaining vertical for longer than ten seconds at a time.  Makes exercise more than a bit of a challenge.  I thought I'd try some upper body stuff just to keep my cardio up, but now I have a frozen shoulder and can't lift my stupid right arm above shoulder level (yes, I'm right handed).  It's obviously a plot to keep me fat.  What I don't understand is how I can stay fat when I'm nauseous most of the time and can't eat.  On the rare days when I can eat and keep it down for longer than five minutes, I try to eat enough to make up for the other days but that's too much like binging and purging.  Still, I'm the only fat involuntary bulimic in the world.  Oh, and I eventually found a marker (not in any junk drawer) so the dog bowls are appropriately labelled.  I did teach the dogs which location in the kitchen is the appropriate one for their specific bowl.  Maybe I can teach them to read.

My new baby, Georgia, has discovered that when I use my laptop I put the mouse on the arm of the recliner and move it around.  It's an optical mouse and doesn't need a mousepad.  So, now Georgia comes up and puts her head on my hand which is on the mouse.  I can't move the mouse because her head is so heavy and she thinks I'm scratching under her chin while I'm trying to extract the mouse from it's trap.  I usually get some really unusual stuff on the monitor -- words I didn't type, things highlighted and moved, new pages opened, old pages closed.  It's becoming a bit of a contest.  I know I shouldn't let her get away with stuff like that, but she is just so cute it is impossible to reprimand her, and it's harmless.  So far she hasn't made me do anything that couldn't be undone.  If we start accidentally going to porn sites, I'll have to make some changes to our little game.

As you must have figured out by now, I don't have a topic today.  Not important!  I can go on endlessly about nothing.  I'm currently reading some short stories by Jeffrey Deaver.  He usually writes novels and Ann, Rita and I have circulated a number of his books amongst our little reading circle.  He has also written two books of short stories, in the same genre as O.Henry, Alfred Hitchcock and Rod Serling.  His novels always have some final little unexpected entwinement at the end, but his short stories are more than a little twisted.  He has actually named the collections Twisted Collected Short Stories Vol 1 and Vol 2.  One of the stories I read yesterday kept swirling around in my brain long after I had completed it and actually read several more.  It was a great plot, though I don't think Deaver originated the idea.  He certainly did put an intriguing and individual spin on it.  That started me thinking, maybe I should try writing short stories.  I could actually use the same plot device as his story, but, of course, change the people, location, circumstances and a few other dynamics.  Then I realized how ridiculous it all was.  I can't write a short story.  I've never written a short anything in my entire life.  By the time I got finished with it, we'd have a 600 page novel.  So maybe that's what I should do.  Write a novel, using his short story plot as a basis, but expounding on it in the way only I can.  I gotta get a better spellchecker though.  The one that comes with this blogger does not recognize entwinement or spellchecker or debutante or mousepad or even smartasses.  I wonder who created this dictionary?

Well the little Weather Channel Desktop Icon in the system tray on my computer just started chirping.  That means some kind of weather alert.  Hang on.  Let's go see what's up.
...Winter Weather Advisory in effect from 4 AM to 4 PM EST Thursday ...
The National Weather Service in Raleigh has issued a Winter Weather Advisory which is in effect from 4 AM to 4 PM EST Thursday.
* Locations affected:  Locations across the Triad (that's us) and Burlington south to Asheboro ... Lexington ... Albemarle and Troy.
* Precipitation types:  Precipitation will begin as a period of snow before daybreak changing to freezing rain later in the morning.
* Accumulation:  Up to one inch of snow is possible along and north of Highway 64 (that's us) with a trace of snow expected south of Highway 64.  A thin glaze of freezing rain is expected in all locations.
*Timing:  Snow could begin as early as 5 AM Thursday ... Changing over to freezing rain by mid morning.  Freezing rain is then expected to change over to mainly rain (I can't help it -- the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain) after 1 PM.
* Impacts: Due to cold ground temperatures ... snow will accumulate quickly on many surfaces including some roads Thursday morning.  Light freezing rain will accumulate on elevated surfaces.  Although overall accumulations of snow and ice will be light ... the timing of the precipitation combined with cold morning temperatures should make for a period of hazardous driving conditions from around daybreak Thursday into early afternoon.
* Temperatures: Temperatures will be in the middle 20s around daybreak .. gradually warming to above freezing in the afternoon.  Overnight lows Thursday night will fall to around freezing which could result in some refreezing of wet road surfaces by Friday morning.

Dammit!  It's still not even officially winter.  Looks like it's coming from the west over the mountains, which means it won't amount to much more than a colossal headache and serious drugs for me and a pain in the butt for most everyone else.  It'll screw up school for the kids and rush hour for the workers.  There are a lot of wannabe Kamikazes in our area of the world.  They've never heard of slowing down due to weather conditions.  Nor do they understand the concept that a bridge freezes before the road surface.  Once they start to slide, that's when it's time to slam on the brakes and start twirling the steering wheel.  The last snow (which was less than an inch) gave us scenes from a demolition derby on the interstate.  I worry for Bud, not because he can't drive in the snow, but because he can.  He's a target for all those dolts out there who should have had the good sense to stay home.

And that's my world today.  Welcome to it. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Is it global warming yet?

It is the middle of December.  Technically, I live in the South.  At least it's south of the Mason-Dixon line.  North Carolina seceded from the Union and took the viewpoint of the men in gray during that recent unpleasantness some refer to as the Civil War, but we all know was really the War Between the States.  Of course, now it is best known as The Northern Invasion, and plans are constantly afoot to correct the erroneous assumption that the damn-Yankees prevailed.  You must understand, of course, a winner cannot be declared until the fat lady sings, and these poor rebel fools won't let any fat ladies anywhere near a microphone.  Anyway, North Carolina is firmly entrenched in the south no matter how you choose to view it.  So why is it so cold?

But, before I go off on a rant about freezing my patootie off, a bit of not commonly known history regarding The Northern Invasion.  My husband, Bud, is from Maryland.  Many people mistakenly believe Maryland is a damn-Yankee state, but they are so very wrong.  First Maryland is home to the Baltimore Orioles and almost every one in the state is 100% totally against the New York damn-Yankees (it's a law in the south -- damn-Yankees is all one word and NEVER are you allowed to say Yankee without preceding it with damn).  Second, Maryland is also physically located on the south side of the Mason-Dixon Line.  And finally, in May of 1861 the Maryland legislature was about to convene to vote for secession from the Union.  Lincoln, being smarter than the average politican, was well aware of the consequences of allowing Washington, DC to become totally surrounded by the enemy.    The District of Columbia was carved out of portions of Virginia and Maryland.  Virginia had already seceded, and even a person totally ignorant of military strategy could understand that if you start a conflict completely surrounded by hostile forces, you are most likely not gonna last long.  Lincoln was nobody's fool.  He sent federal troops into Maryland to occupy Baltimore and declared martial law.  From an article about the aftermath of the Baltimore Riot of 1861:
"The mayor, city council, and police commissioner, who were pro-South, were arrested and imprisoned at Fort McHenry. After the occupation of the city, Union troops were garrisoned throughout the state. Several members of the Maryland legislature (which was days from approving secession) were also unlawfully arrested, and the state was placed under Federal martial law."
So that's how Maryland ended up wearing blue instead of gray.  Though there were still thousands of southern sympathizers in the state, the Federal troops were better equipped and had better weapons.  Any signs of rebellion were immediately quashed.  Unfortunately, Maryland does have some winters that could qualify it for honorary membership in the north.

Which brings me to today's post.  I am cold.  Once I started having hot flashes from "the change", I didn't think I would ever be cold again.  Until recently that was a fact.  For quite some number of years now (until it abruptly stopped in December of 2009) winter in North Carolina has been mild and reasonably snow free.  We got some cold temperatures, and they lasted sometimes as long as a week at a time.  But inevitably it would warm back up into the 40's or 50's and we'd all be happy again.  We might have a light snowfall, but there was never much accumulation and it would melt the next day, or surely the day after.  When we moved here in the early 1980's, the winters were a bit more harsh and snowy, but we had moved here from Baltimore so it was still a big improvement.  Over the years, the winters seemed to get warmer and less snowy, and there was some indication there might really be something to this Global Warming.  Then it snowed in late December, 2009.  It does not snow in North Carolina in December.  Well, obviously it does, but it isn't supposed to snow.  It hardly even snows in the mountains in December.  Most recent years, the ski slopes have been manufacturing snow.  That all ended last December, and continued throughout the winter into January and February and March.  In all it snowed six times, usually more that 4"-5" with each snowfall.   In my opinion (because I don't feel like doing the research), that is totally unprecedented.

In the Piedmont area of North Carolina (where we live), if the snow comes from the west, it will probably not amount to much -- maybe an inch or two at the most.  That's because once the weather system hits the Appalachian Mountains, it mostly snows itself out up there.  However, if the system comes up from the Gulf of Mexico, and a cold front comes from anywhere, and the two collide in North Carolina, the result is almost always a very heavy, dense, wet snow that is often 7" or more.  In North Carolina, snow is not taken lightly.  Most school systems go on alert the moment the "S" word is uttered in any weather forecast.  If the possibility of snow is 100%, the schools will often close in anticipation of the snow, even if there has not been as much as a single flake falling out of the sky yet.  The school bus drivers are just normal North Carolina people.  They don't have any special training for driving in snow.  And no one wants to even consider what might happen if there is a bus accident because of snowy conditions.  It is so very much easier if we just eliminate the possibility from the beginning.  When I lived in New Jersey, we went to school on even the worst snow days, but the bus drivers were experienced drivers who often drove in snowy conditions.  I used to laugh at the school closings in North Carolina until it dawned on my that if I had a child, I wouldn't want him or her on one of those school buses on snow covered roads.  Oh, did I forget to mention that snow plows are a joke in North Carolina.  I'm sure there are a few somewhere, but it's usually several days after the snowfall before you actually see one.

Another delight to watch after the first mention of the "S" word, is the grocery store spectacle.  Tim and Ann and Bud and I have decided there is something about snow that makes people crave french toast.  Every time there is a prediction of snow, vast numbers of shoppers dash to the local store to stock up on (hoard) milk and eggs and bread, often depleting the entire stock.  As those are the only ingredients needed for basic french toast, that must be what everyone is planning.  I've never quite understood why any household would need six gallons of milk (maybe the Duggar family with 19 kids, but they'd need the milk whether it was snowing or not).  Seriously!  What do they plan to do with all that milk?  The roads are going to be clear in a day or two.  It seems to me six gallons of milk will go bad long before it would be consumed.

So what does all of this have to do with me freezing?  Nothing.  As usual, I got off on another track and had some trouble getting back to my original thought.  The temperature outside right now is 31º F and the wind chill is 19º F.   It snowed 10 days ago, and the stupid stuff stayed on the ground long enough to get filthy (not just dirty, but downright disgustingly untidy).  It warmed up to the mid-30's over the weekend, just long enough to melt the rest of that unsightly mess, and now it's back below freezing again.  The forecast high this week is for Friday, when it is expected to be a balmy 43º F, but raining (I hope, rather than snow, though either will result in sending me to bed for the duration).  Snow is expected on Thursday and Saturday so I'm not really holding out a lot of hope for Friday.  Have I mentioned that I hate cold.  I'm old.  I don't like extremes in temperatures.  I don't want to be hot, I don't want to be cold.  I don't want to wear layers.  I'm fat.  When I layer, I look grotesque.  I have a really heavy jacket with a liner (which can be worn by itself as a lighter jacket) and a hood and snaps that close off the wrists so air can't get up and freeze your arm.  It weighs about 30 pounds, but it keeps the top 2/3 of me warm. I also have scarves and toboggan type hats if I need more warmth.   I have heavy sweatpants and knee high socks and boots to keep my lower half warm.  When I go outside, I look like one of those little kids who is so bundled up they would never be able to stand again should they accidentally fall over.  I want to wear flip flops, shorts and a t-shirt.  Sure I can wear those things, but my teeth would chatter and I'd take on a bluish tint which is not my best look.  We keep the thermostat set on 73º F.  I'm not uncomfortable in the house.  Until I have to let the dogs in or out, or I have to go to the mailbox, or I have to greet the UPS man or the FedEx man or whoever is delivering packages on that day (today it was both of them).  It's cold out there and apparently it's gonna stay cold out there.

I wanna move further south and closer to the beach.  Somewhere on Aruba might be nice.  I don't know; I've never been there.  But, I'd be willing to make the sacrifice and go site unseen.  If it has already snowed in this southern state (and it has), I'm fairly sure I'm not gonna be happy with the way the rest of this winter is gonna pan out.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The best laid plans

Yesterday I was ordered  to take a nap so I would be able to stay up late with the adults for Legs & Wings & Stones.  Usually ordering me to do anything will get you exactly the opposite response, but in this case he had a good point.  The evening didn't work out so well anyway, but it wasn't because I was the party pooper this time.  However, I did get carded (seriously) by some goofy little server at Hooters.  My gray hairs are older than she is, but she said it was policy.  We've only been going to Hooters regularly for the last oh, I don't know, ten years.  Never been carded before, and since we have never seen the same waitress twice in all that time (turnover must be astronomical at that place), I don't think I'll get carded again.  Still it was a bit of a pick-me-up, or maybe it was that HUGE mug of beer that brightened my night.

Today is cloudy and it's going to rain.  I've already started on the mammoth headache that will only get worse as the day progresses.  Tomorrow's going to be just like today, so it's gonna be a looooooong weekend.  However, like MacArthur, "I shall return".  Hope your weekend is better than mine.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Thank you, gracias, grazie, merci, danke, Faleminderit, Hvala, Sagol, вы, σας ευχαριστούμε, 谢谢, ありがとう

I'm not going to post today, but I wanted to take just a brief moment to express my appreciation to those of you who read my blog regularly.  You are either very good friends, family, or gluttons for punishment (in some cases all of the above).  Whatever your reason for stopping by often, you have my most heartfelt gratitude.  You encourage me to continue, and I will.  It is, however, much harder to writer EVERY day than I had originally imagined.  This will be my 60th post since September 23rd (79 days).  That's slightly more than 75% of the time, so I'm feeling pretty good about that.  Again, my most humble (and believe me I am not humble often) indebtedness to you all for your faith in me and my voyages into the uncharted recesses of my mind.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Hablo un poquito español

Bud's brother Michael and his wife Andee love to travel as much as we do. They also seem to have a particular affinity for tropical breezes, sandy beaches, sun, water, palm trees and those funky rum drinks with umbrellas in them, just as we do. So it was only natural we would eventually go on vacation with them.  The first year we decided to vacation together, we went to the Mayan Riviera on the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico. We flew into Cancún and rode a bus for more than an hour down the coast beyond Playa del Carmen to our all inclusive resort.  Actually, if we kept going for about an hour more we would have gone into Belize.  The resort was beautiful and new, but it's a good thing it was all inclusive because it was stuck in the middle of nowhere. There was absolutely nothing within walking distance. As a matter of fact, it would have been quite a hike to just get off the resort property and out to the road. There were tours we could take, and we signed up for several, but fortunately most everything we could want or need was included in the package at the hotel.  

There were several swimming pools at the facility; a regular pool, a kiddie pool and a topless pool.  There wasn't enough rum in the entire country of Mexico (or Tequila either) to get me to go to the topless pool.  However, I did drink enough rum to make me crazy enough to buy a bikini (I haven't had a bikini body in well over 20 years) so I could have a henna butterfly tattoo drawn into the small of my back.  I would have been embarrassed except there were so many other old bags who were equally as fat or fatter running around in skimpy outfits, so I fit right in.  The beach was beautiful and the aqua water calm and warm.  Topless bathing was also allowed on the beaches.  I did, however, find it a little unusual to see the beach patrolled by military personnel in fatigues with full pack and carrying automatic rifles.  Bud and I had our first full-body massage while in Mexico, but it certainly hasn't been our last.  What an indescribable pleasure, and we had been missing out on it for most of our lives.  There were also a number of "theme" restaurants, as there are at most resorts.  It's fun to seem to go to a different part of the world each night, and see how the Mexicans think the Japanese make food (or Italians, or American West, or whatever).  In most cases, the chefs did an admirable job, and we all considered the food at the resort to be tasty.

Bud, Me. Andee, Mike
One of the days we took a tour that included a stop at a quarry where we went swimming.  The water was cold, but not frigid.  The fun was to jump off the edge of the quarry, which was probably about 15' above the surface of the water.  Of course, not everyone dared to take the plunge, so there was a place for the less brave (or more sane) to enter by walking.  I've never been much for walking into cold water, so as you can imagine we were among the jumpers.  We also went to another location where we could swim a short distance underwater and enter a cave.  Once in the cave, when you surfaced there was plenty of air, but it was dark as the depths of Hell, and this water was frigid.  Fortunately, there was a photographer set up on one side of the cave to take pictures of anyone interested in a memento, so it wasn't necessary to stay in the blackest, darkest, creepiest part if you didn't want to.  Since, I'm afraid of the dark, you can guess where I went.  We also went to a wonderful cove area on the ocean where we snorkeled for a few hours and saw hundreds of brilliantly colored fish and plant life.  I got a really strange sunburn on my back, neck and the backs of my legs, because that's the only part of my body that was facing the sun.  Since I'm a redhead and have really white skin, I burn very easily.  I never tan -- I just burn, peel and freckle -- so I use a lot of heavy duty high SPF sun block.  However, I didn't have any with me because I hadn't expected to spend a few hours doing the deadman's float.  Ah, the price you pay for entertainment and exposure to the spectacular.  It was worth it.

Another day, we took a short excursion to a jewelry manufacturer.   Mexico also has gemstones (particularly emeralds, which are my favorites) at prices well below what you pay in the U.S.  Upon arriving on the bus at the jewelry exhibit, it was impossible not to notice the extremely well armed guards on each side of every entrance and exit.  I can assure you, only an imbecile would try to get out of there with stolen merchandise.   I appreciate the jewelry manufacturer and the government of Mexico are serious about security, and I have to admit I felt safe, but I much prefer not seeing people armed with automatic rifles and machine guns walking around among the general populace.  The jewelery displays were awesome and the sales people were eager to negotiate, even though I felt the prices were already reasonable.  I'm not much for dickering about price, but Bud seemed to be enjoying himself.  He bought me an incredible pair of emerald earrings and matching bracelet for less than the earrings alone would have cost at home.

Nohoch Mul
For me, our most exciting side trip was to the Mayan Ruins at Coba.  This site is a relatively recent discovery and much of it has yet to be excavated.  What is there though is incredible.  The main pyramid, Nohoch Mul meaning 'large hill', is 138 feet tall (42 meters) and is the highest in the Yucatan peninsula.  I actually walked all the way to the top and back down.  Those steps are not wide enough for a Woman's Size 8 foot, so I had to go up and back down with my feet sideways on the steps.  Obviously, this was before my knees went completely to Hell.  As part of the tour before we went to the ruins, we toured a modern day typical Mayan village.  The inhabitants are descendants of the original Mayans (as are many Mexicans) and still live in villages mostly without electricity or running water.  We also took a hike through the forest.  We were looking up into the trees for the spider monkeys who were making unbelievable noises.  The guide had warned us to watch out for fire ant mounds.  A short distance ahead of us, a group of girls had stopped and were searching the treetops.  Unfortunately, they had stopped directly on top of an ant mound.  Once the ants started crawling up their legs, they began screaming and stamping their feet, but they did not run.  I don't know about you, but I don't think stamping on top of a fire ant mound is much of a bright idea.  They were soon covered with ants and then they moved -- quickly.  Fortunately, the women were de-anted with relatively little long term damage to anyone.  It was hot and damp and the air was so heavy it was difficult to breathe.  The trees and the jungle canopy kept the air from moving and the feeling was very close and confined.  Bud actually started to exhibit signs of heat prostration and we had to rush him back to the air conditioned bus and get water into him right away.  Thank God he didn't collapse in the jungle because none of us would have been able to carry him.  He suffered no long term effects, and was fine once he was cooled and rehydrated.

Another outing took us for a day of shopping in Playa del Carmen.  What a riot.  The shopkeepers are irrepressible and come out of their shops and chase you down the street in an attempt to lure you into their stores.  Bud lost track of me for a few minutes, so he loudly called out my name.  Well that was all it took.  After that, every vendor in Playa del Carmen knew me by name and called "Carla, Carla, lovely Carla, let me show you my wares!"  I could have gleefully shot Bud for his little indiscretion, but there was nothing to do but laugh along with them all as I said "No, no, and again no."  Finally, we decided to find a bar and just sit and have a few drinks looking out over the water.  We had a great view of Cozumel, but we didn't go over to the island.  I'm sorry we missed that.  Maybe we'll visit Cozumel if we ever get back to Mexico.

Since I started grade school in Miami, Florida, I started learning Spanish right along with English in the first grade.  When we moved to New Jersey and I went to high school, one of the college prep requirements (for a few years I harbored the thought I might go to college) was two years of a foreign language.  Not being a dumbass, I took two years of Spanish (easy A).  I was able to read Spanish better than I could understand it when spoken, and I could understand it better than I could speak it, but I had more than a beginner's understanding of the Spanish language when I got out of school.  Unfortunately, when we went to Mexico, I had been out of high school for more than 35 years.  A lot of stuff slips through the cracks when you don't use it regularly.  Still, after we'd been in Mexico a week, I was picking it all up again.  And, then it was time to come home.  Mexico is another one of those places on my list of locales to go back to again.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Land of the fruits and nuts

About 15 years ago we decided to go west with some very close friends, Paul Benson and Heather Davis.  Paul and Heather are married but she kept her maiden name, though she uses Benson also.  Paul blamed me for her quirk of individualism since I had kept my maiden name.  Either he didn't know his wife very well, or he just had to find someone to blame, because Heather didn't need any ideas from me.  She gets plenty of independent thoughts on her own.  We were really good friends for many years, but they eventually started a family and our lives went on divergent paths.  Bud still plays pinochle with Paul, Paul's brother Howard (the friend who saved our Bahamas trip), and another friend once a week.  But, we don't get together as a foursome nearly as much as I would like.

I don't know if you have gotten a complete picture of Bud from the remarks I've made about him in other posts, but Bud is a planner.  He keeps our social calendar and makes certain we don't have any conflicts (oh, Heavens what a disaster that would be!).  He factors in his projects with the McLeansville Wildlife Club.  He does not leave room for improvisation or acts of spontaneity.  He's sorta like a walkin' talkin' Daytimer.   And believe me, we are booked months in advance.  I love him for and in spite of this fastidiousness, but I am extremely thankful he doesn't expect me to keep up with any of this bull hockey.   So Bud and Paul set about planning our trip to California.

We were to be gone from Friday night to the following Saturday.  We would fly into San Franciso, pick up our rental van and spend Friday night and all day Saturday in the San Francisco area.  On Sunday morning we would drive casually up the northern coast and then turn east and make our way to Napa Valley, where we would spend Sunday night, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday morning.  One of the main purposes of the trip was to see the wineries, vineyards and vintners.  All of us are serious Cabernet Sauvignon drinkers and we were anxious to visit and sample a number of select wineries.   Around mid-day on Wednesday, we planned to drive southeast to Yosemite National Park and stay there Wednesday night and Thursday.  On Thursday night we would drive to Paso Robles to spend the night and Friday morning drive leisurely up the coast, stopping at places of interest along the way.   By Friday night, we would be in Sunnyvale to sleep and back to the San Francisco airport on Saturday morning for the flight home.  Bud and Paul had the entire trip mapped out and hotel reservations confirmed at each of the appropriate locations well before we ever set foot on the first airplane.

All aboard.
We left Greensboro on Friday night as planned and arrived in San Francisco later than originally scheduled.  It was also three hours later according to our body clocks, so we opted to just grab something to eat quickly and go to our hotel room.  To be perfectly honest, I don't even remember if we ate.  It was like 10:00 PM in San Franciso, and that is past my bedtime no matter where my body thinks I am.  Our hotel room was a suite, with two bedrooms on either side of a living room, small kitchen and small dining area.  Once we checked in, I went straight to bed.  Though I am an early to bed type of person, I am also early to rise.  Somehow I seem to  have missed out on the healthy, wealthy and wise stuff.  The next morning I got up, threw open the drapes in the little dining cove and just stood there staring in awe.  There was no fog.  I had read and heard so much about San Franciso fog, but there was not a cloud in the sky nor any fog to be found.  And out our window, framed by the window sill, was Alcatraz.  It was amazing.  After we all had coffee or tea and got dressed, we went out to be tourists.  We rode the trolley, we went to Chinatown, we went to Fisherman's Wharf, we took a tour that took us up to Twin Peaks and down Lombard Street.  I know we ate while we were at Fisherman's Wharf, but for the first time in my life I was not obsessed by food.  Heather is a Vegan and I do remember how great her vegetable and fruit plates looked, and I know I ate crab.  I never go anywhere near water without eating crab.  For dinner we caught a boat to Sausalito and ate at a restaurant overlooking the Bay.  The moonlit ride back across the Bay was sublime, even if you do go past an old spooky prison.  I loved everything about San Francisco except the cost to live there and the fact that the ocean is not particularly warm for swimming.

Nothing but fog all around.
This is one BIG tree!
Sunday morning started out as clear and fogless as Saturday had been.  We drove across the Golden Gate Bridge and headed north.  I wanted to stop in Muir Wood, but there were just too many people there, so we kept going.  I was disappointed because I thought that might be my only chance to see giant redwoods.  What a dimwit!  Right around the Muir Wood area we ran into a heavy bank of fog.  So now I knew what all the talk was about -- we couldn't see squat.  But we slowly kept on motoring along.  At one point we pulled off into what was supposed to be a scenic overlook.  We were above cloud level and stood on a precipice looking down into a thick, soupy, impenetrable gloom.  We could hear the waves breaking on the rocks below and the sea birds squawking, but we could not see a thing.  It was more than a little bit eerie.  We drove on and eventually came out of the clouds.  We found a wonderful park with fantastic giant redwoods so we got out and started hiking.  We drove further up the coast and encountered inlets filled with fantastic rock formations and seals and sea lions just laying out enjoying the sun.  We stopped to eat at a quaint little seaside inn with a terrific view of the ocean.  Then we headed out to Napa to prepare for a few days of wine, wine and maybe a little more wine.

In Napa, we didn't really have a plan.  I'm not sure how that happened, but it has to be the first and last time in Bud's life.  We knew which wineries we wanted to see, but weren't sure about whether we would need reservations, and what the hours were at each.  We started out at 9:00 AM at Phelps Vineyards.  They offered us a tasting on the outdoor patio overlooking the growing grapes.  Having been to wine tastings in North Carolina, we expected a small taste.  We were provided with a full goblet of brilliant ruby Cabernet.  A great way to start a day and a sign of the way things were going to be.  I originally had hoped to visit some of the famous Calistoga mud baths, but we just never managed to fit it in.  Over the course of the two days we visited Mondavi, Camus, Sterling, Rutherford Hills, and Inglenook.  We dropped in at Heitz Cellar (my personal favorite) and were treated to an exclusive tour for just the four of us by Kathleen, daughter of the founder Joseph Heitz.  It was a thorough tour from picking in the vineyard, through squeezing, through vatting and fermenting all the way to the bottling line.  She picked up a bottle that was in line to be corked (vintage 1992) and we each drank a glass.  Bud also made arrangements to buy a case of that same wine.   After cellaring it became an outstanding purchase.  We saved the sparkling wine (only sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France can rightfully be called champagne) tours for Wednesday morning.  Though we ate lunch while at either Domaine Chandon or Mumms, by then the guys had given up all pretense of remaining sober and ceded possession of the van keys to the women.

Heather drove to our next overnight stop just outside Yosemite.  The men slept most of the way there, so they were raring to go and we took a bottle of sparkling wine to the hot tub after dinner.  We got up the next morning and drove into Yosemite National Park.  We did all the touristy things and saw all the expected sites.  I don't mean for that to sound so blasé, because it was all exceptionally staggering.  El Capitan, Half Dome, Bridal Veil Falls, are unlike anything you will see anywhere else.  There are giant redwoods in Yosemite also, so I was pleasantly surprised.  Unfortunately, it was September and the best time to see all the unbelievable waterfalls is in the spring.  There were still waterfalls, but the amount of water was not nearly as spectacular as during the spring snow melts.  Paul and Heather hiked one of the moderately long trails while Bud and I went exploring for animal life.  After a long day full of adventure and more than a little exertion, we piled in the van and headed for Paso Robles for the night.

The next morning we started back up the coast.  We stopped in San Simeon and toured the Hearst Castle.  Unbelievable!  It's just truly amazing what unlimited amounts of disposable income can do.  San Simeon is also a great spot for whale watching, but again we were there in the wrong season.  We visited Big Sur, Carmel, Monterey and Pebble Beach.  We found astoundingly resplendent vistas everywhere we went.  Near Pebble Beach there is a fairly large rock sticking out of the water, I believe called Bird Island.  The rock appears to be oozing and moving and constantly changing shape.  Fortunately, they have installed one of those telescopic viewers for the curious, and so we discovered though there aren't a tremendous number of birds out there, there are hundreds upon hundreds of sea lions and seals.  During the last part of our voyage up the coast, we passed through Gilroy, California, the Garlic Capital of the World.  It was dark by this point in our trip, but we knew we were approaching Gilroy several miles before we actually got to the city.  I love garlic, but the aroma was overwhelming.  We went on to Sunnyvale and settled in for the night.

Saturday morning we were off to the airport.  Paul and Heather had flown in and were returning on a different airline than we were traveling.  They boarded their plane and headed home.  We approached our gate as our plane was boarding so we immediately got in line.  Unfortunately, the line didn't move.  After standing in line for an hour and a half, they finally asked everyone to go to the counter to make arrangements for a different flight.  So we stood in line at the counter.  The second plane on which we were scheduled to depart also developed a malfunction.  By this time it was too late in the day to fly directly to Greensboro, as the Greensboro airport does not schedule landings after 1:00 AM.  The airline, however, refused to allow us to stay in San Francisco, where the cost of hotel rooms for the entire passenger list would have been astronomical.  They insisted we board a plane headed for Houston and layover there.  We traveled to Houston and were given $10 vouchers for food and a voucher for a hotel room.  I guess they expected us to eat at one of the airport vendor locations, and not one of the better ones either.  Fortunately for us, at that time my sister Cindy lived in Houston.  I called her and she met us at the airport.  There was a lot of confusion about baggage, which the airline at first told us had gone on to Greensboro.  When Bud suggested loudly, vehemently and profanely that it could not have gone on since there were no more flights to Greensboro, the airline reluctantly tracked down all the luggage and made it available for the displaced passengers.  I may have mentioned that Bud does not fly well.  It is incidents just such as this luggage fiasco that set him off and make everyone in the vicinity cringe.  I thought my sister was going to slink down on the floor and crawl out of the airport.  As it was her birthday, and to atone for any embarrassment caused at the airport, we took her out for a birthday dinner (which I can assure you was a bit more expensive than $10).  Then she took us to her home, where we slept comfortably (and free) for the night.  We flew back to Greensboro without incident on Sunday.  I kept the vouchers and sent them back to the airline along with one of my famous sarcastic letters of complaint.  I don't cuss, swear, or threaten. I merely point out the facts in such a way it would be impossible for the reader to avoid feeling incompetent.  The result of my grievance was two vouchers for a free flight to anywhere in the continental U.S.

California is a diverse and interesting state.  It could almost be two states as the southern and northern sections are so completely different; in demographics, in culture, in climate and in terrain.  I'd love to go back again, but this time in the spring.  I want to see the waterfalls in Yosemite at their peak, watch a whale migration and relax in a therapeutic mud bath.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I blew out my flip flop

One year when we were on our way to Freeport, Bud's wallet was stolen while we were in the Fort Lauderdale airport.  We had planned to spend Friday night in Fort Lauderdale and take an early plane out to Freeport on Saturday morning.  At the time you didn't need a passport to get into the Bahamas.  Actually, you still don't need a passport to get into the Bahamas, but you need one to get back into the U.S.  However, when this happened, a valid driver's license was all that was required.  Unfortunately, Bud's license was in the stolen wallet, along with all his credit cards and about $800 in cash.  What to do?  What to do?  Well, first, of course, we called and cancelled all his credit cards.  I still had our traveler's checks, a few hundred dollars and a credit card or two so we weren't completely destitute.  We were good as far as money went, though really unhappy to be $800 lighter.  Bud had been saving up for a year and had planned to take that money to the blackjack tables.  We reported the theft to airport security and the Fort Lauderdale police, but obviously this kinda thing goes on there all the time because none of them seemed too interested or the least bit optimistic about us getting the wallet back.  They did eventually find the wallet in a trash can (several days later) but, of course, the cash and the credit cards were gone.

Unfortunately, the worst part was we didn't know if they were going to let Bud on the plane to Freeport since he had no license.  In the taxi on the way to the airport the following morning, we were discussing our dilemma with the cab driver, and he said "Well, if you can't get into the Bahamas, the Keys are always a good vacation spot."  At the ticket counter, the woman was very helpful and told us as long as he had any kind of ID with a picture on it, she would accept it as proof Bud was who he said he was (obviously this was before 9-11).  Bud didn't have anything else with a picture, though I had a copy of his birth certificate and our marriage license (since we have different last names you'd be amazed at the number of people who refuse to believe we are legally married).  The ticket agent was really trying to be helpful and started thinking of all types of cards with photos.  Our Bank of America debit cards now have our photos on them, but didn't back then.  One of the things she mentioned was a Sam's Club card.  Bingo!  Bud had one of those, but it was back at our house in our safe, where fortunately he had left everything he didn't think he would need in the Bahamas.  We called our friend Howard Benson (he and Bud have worked together since 1983) and asked him to go to our house (he has a key and knows the passcode for the alarm system since he sometimes feeds our dogs when we are out of town), open the safe (I told him the combination), get Bud's Sam's card, take it back to work with him, make a photostatic copy of it and fax it to the ticket agent in Fort Lauderdale.  He did all of those things in record time (what a truly terrific friend he is), the ticket agent accepted the faxed copy as proof of Bud's identity, and we were on the next plane to Freeport -- not as early as we had planned, but still in plenty of time to enjoy the rest of the day and the rest of our vacation.  However, the cabbie had put a bee in my bonnet.  The next year, we banked our timeshare in Freeport and took a trip to the Keys.

We traded for a timeshare in Marathon which is situated close to the middle of the Keys.  We flew into Fort Lauderdale again.  We weren't really fans of the Fort Lauderdale airport any more, but still considered it preferable to Miami.  We rented a car in Fort Lauderdale and drove to Florida City for the night.  The next day we got up early and took off into the Everglades for a day of contemplating the flora and fauna.  We saw alligators, turtles, osprey, herons, and all sorts of tropical swamp plant life.  We did not see a Florida Panther, which disappointed me, but there are few of them left and they are not people friendly.  As the day passed into evening, we drove on down to Marathon and checked into our timeshare exchange.  It was a very nice separate unit in a cute little village type arrangement and we were pleased with the accommodations.

From Marathon, we had easy access to all the other parts of the Keys.  We went to Big Pine Key which is the home to some 300 Key deer, who roam freely about the island.  These deer are much smaller than any other deer species and live only in the Florida Keys and Everglades.  We went sightseeing in Key Largo, Tavernier, and Islamorada.  We visited an aquarium/water show type place with alligators and huge sea turtles.  However, the  most amazing thing to me was the incredible number of stray cats.  There were hundreds of cats.  I guess they were attracted by all the fish that is fed to the exhibit animals, but I don't believe I've ever seen that many cats wandering around loose before or since.  I hate to think of them getting too close to the alligator/crocodile exhibits.  And, of course, we ate fantastic seafood and key lime pie every where we went.  Finally, we went to Key West.

No sooner than we got out of the car in Key West and I honestly and truly blew out my flip flop.  I didn't step on a pop top or cut my heal and we didn't cruise on back home, but I sure was irritated.  The first thing we did was head to Duval Street to buy a new pair of flip flops.  Well, they sure musta seen me coming (and every other tourist).  The cheapest pair of flip flops I could find was $50.  Of course, I bought them.  I had to have flip flops -- there's just no way I'm wearing regular shoes or sneakers.  I might consider sandals, but every red-blooded American owns flip flops.  I mean seriously!  However, I will say those flip flops lasted me at least six to seven years and I wear flip flops year round.  So, I suppose if you amortize the cost over the life of the product, they weren't so terribly expensive.

After I was once again properly shod, we went bar hopping.  We visit Sloppy Joes, Margaritaville, The Hog's Breath Saloon and one bar (can't recall the name) that I swear had a picture of my father on the wall.  The day we were at Margaritaville, if you ordered a cheeseburger in paradise it was free.  There was no mention of this anywhere in the establishment or on the menu.  The only way to find out about the special was to order it.  After your table had completely ordered, the server informed you that your cheeseburger in paradise was free compliments of Jimmy Buffett.  We hadn't ordered one, but the people at the table next to ours did.  I don't know if this is standard procedure or was just a special that day.  I've never been back, but if ever I am, I'm gonna try it.  We walked past Ernest Hemingway's home, but didn't go inside.  There was a wonderful French restaurant that had been recommended by some friends, but it was very expensive.  We discovered a timeshare hotel that was offering coupons for $50 off on the cost of your meal at this French restaurant, just for listening to their spiel about buying a timeshare.  We figured, what the heck, we'd waste an hour listening to the sales baloney, get our coupon and be all set.  It was actually a really terrific timeshare apartment, and I would have loved to have been an owner there, but we already had a timeshare in Freeport, and unlike my sister Cathy, I don't collect timeshares like I collect books.  If I remember correctly, Cathy has a timeshare in Freeport, Panama City, Steamboat Springs, and somewhere in the Georgia mountains.  There may be more, I'm not sure.  I don't know how she finds time to go to all those places.  She's a doctor and she's got something like three of four regular jobs.  She works for Georgia Southern University and works in the ER for at least one local hospital.  I don't think she has her own private practice any longer, but it wouldn't surprise me if she did.  How she finds time to do anything, including sleep, is beyond me, but she still loves her timeshares and I love her.

When the salesman reached the end of his sales pitch and was trying to reel us in, I suggested that maybe a timeshare in Key West was not such a great idea considering the Keys were sticking out at the bottom of Florida into the Gulf of Mexico.  He assured us there had not been a hurricane hit the Keys in almost 80 years.  I didn't believe him, and in fact that was a bit of an exaggeration, but surprisingly Key West really does not get a lot of hurricane traffic considering its location.  Anyway, we told him we'd think about it and he could call us in a week and we'd let him know.  We actually gave him our real telephone number too.  Then he gave us our coupon for $50 off the meal at the French restaurant, and off we went.  The restaurant was terrific and the coupon was a big help.  Even using the coupon our tab was over $100, but we did drink some extraordinary wine.

We left the Keys on Saturday morning September 19, 1998.  As we were headed north across the Seven Mile Bridge, there were hundreds of motorcycles going south for Bike Week in Key West.  Unfortunately, all those bikers had to turn around and head back north just two days later when evacuation began because Hurricane Georges was headed straight for Key West.  Oh, well!  So much for hurricanes not hitting the Keys in 80 years.  On September 25th Georges hit Key West with a vengeance.  Needless to say, we never received that follow up call from the timeshare salesman.  Unfortunately, Key West was hit again on October 15, 1999, by Hurricane Irene.  I wonder if the sales guy jinxed them by saying they "never" get hit by hurricanes.  I hope he either changed his sales tactics or found another type of work.

We've never gone back to the Keys, but it is one place I could revisit time and time again.  I think we'll try to fit it into our vacation plans soon.  I'm in need of new flip flops.