Archives for category: diary

Letting Go

The neighborhood we live in is not really conducive to a free-wheelin’ get out and play lifestyle for my kids. Our road is a busy one, so playing in the street is out of the question, and even taking your bike out causes me to sprout a few hundred grey hairs.

Oh yeah, you need to know that I am one nervous Nellie of a mom. And dad? He’s neurotic Nathan. We make a great team.

But, I got tired of seeing my youngest daughter just sit around the house on sunny afternoons. We are not lucky enough to have friends who live around the corner – just a younger boy who lives next door. However we do have a community park about six blocks away. Six blocks away…it might as well be six miles away. I thought back to my own childhood where at my daughter’s age I spent endless hours on my bike traveling everywhere, my parents absolutely clueless as to  my whereabouts. Ugh. Something had to change.

So, I suggested she take  her scooter and ride over to the park one day - maybe kids from school were there and she could have a little fun. At first she was like, “I don’t know,” and dad was like, “are you crazy?” But after a little cajoling, she agreed to go with the boy next door. I made her take her watch and promise to be home by (x) o’clock. As she glided off down the road, I took a deep breath and said to myself, “it’ll be okay.”

And it was. She had fun – there were tons of kids there from school and now trips to the park are a commonplace thing. She abides to her “home by” time and she’s getting fresh air and exercise. Win-win. And I’ve loosened the strings just a tad…win-win-win.

I wanted to do one better for my girl – I still felt bad that she has no friends that live nearby, so I suggested she have a movie night with the girls. She had wanted a sleepover, but the thought of 5 giggling girls in my small house for hours on end left me with little to no enthusiasm, so I suggested a long afternoon/early evening party.

She invited 5 girls, and 4 were able to come. There was the usual shy awkwardness when they first arrived…”this is my room, these are my cats, what should we do…”

But before long, they were playing music, eating snacks and dishing dirt on the kids at school. And while I thought my daughter would be awkward, she was actually the life of the party. She had these girls laughing and they were all having a really good time. And I let them do their thing. I let them order their own pizza. I let them make their own cupcakes. I retreated to the back bedroom and caught up on episodes of “Game of Thrones,” checking up on them from time to time.

And for the most part they were good - I had to step in once, though. They were all in my daughter’s room with the door closed and I heard one girl say, “let’s all take off our shirts!” Nope, not in my house ladies. My daughter, of course, was mortified that I made them all come out into the living room.

But not her friends. They loved me. I think it was because I didn’t hang over them and try to micromanage the night, And for the most part I liked the girls too. But one girl…one girl could be trouble. She was loud and cursed and talked a little too much about boys. I wasn’t sure if I was happy about Sasha being friends with her, and then I thought back to Patty.

Patty was a friend of mine in middle school. She was a tomboy to say the least – she wore only t-shirts and jeans, used foul language and smoked. Needless to say, my mother did not like her. She lived with her mom, who was divorced, in a small apartment in town. She was the only kid I knew who lived in an apartment, and one of only a few who had divorced parents.

I don’t know why we were friends - we were polar opposites. Yeah, I did some bad things with Patty, but it was petty shit – walking up to Fort Lee when I was supposed to stay in town. But once we took a bus into the city…the Bronx…to meet some dudes she and her friend Cathy knew. I spent the afternoon fending off a guy named Chucho in Fort Tryon Park while Patty and Cathy made out with their dudes du jour. I think my mom would’ve flipped her wig if she knew that.

But I didn’t let Patty influence me. I remember us hanging out at the rec center and her taking a small brown bottle out of her pocket. She opened it up, put it to her nose and inhaled. I had no clue what it was – I think she said it was speed. She coaxed me to try it, but I said “no way,” and asked her why she was bothering with that shit. Between that and the Bronx incident, we didn’t remain close friends throughout high school.

In the end, my mom had little to worry about because she raised me right. And I remembered this as I spied the girl with the foul mouth who had suggested going shirtless. I hope I raised my girl to do the same. But I worry – I think she could be a follower…

After the party I sat her down, told her about Patty and how I thought her one friend could be what moms would call “a bad influence.” She readily agreed with me – at least she knows to watch out for her. And me? Now I’ve got a Patty to deal with.

Just like my mom.

Rocky Horror

When I was a teenager, I spent quite a few Friday nights ringing in the weekend with a midnight viewing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. My friend John introduced me to it. I think the first time I saw it was at  the Oritani Theater in Hackensack, NJ, and for the next several years I’d go see it at least 6 or 7 times a year.

The movie would bounce from one venue to another – I guess theater owners got tired of cleaning up the toilet paper, playing cards, wet newspapers & rice and would say sayonara to Rocky and the gang. But we’d find the theater it moved to.

I don’t know what it was that struck a cord in me when I first saw it. I loved the music, that’s for sure. I think I went through two copies of the soundtrack album I played it so often. Perhaps I liked it was because it was somewhat naughty – a dude in a corset, thigh highs and f*ck-me heels? You don’t see that in your average movie. I sat doe-eyed in my seat while the audience yelled at the screen and pelted me with toast and other flying props.

But that’s why I loved it so much. It was so much more than just watching a movie – you were a part of what made the night fun - the more the audience participated, the better the show. Each time you went, you learned a few more lines and brought a few more props. And you did the Time Warp.

What fun it was to get out of your seat, run up the aisle to the front of the theater, and do the Time Warp in a line with a bunch of total strangers! And after that, Frankenfurter would appear, stomping his heel as the elevator descended. Yeah, at this point the training wheels were off and you were in for one hell of a ride.

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I don’t like men with too many muscles.

Every one has a character in that movie they relate to. Me? I was a Janet girl. Innocent and sweet, and thrust into a world of perversion against her will. But underneath that virginal, small town girl shell is a saucy little vixen. She spends half the movie walking around in a bra and half slip, which made it really difficult to dress up as her for Halloween.

I went as Magenta instead.

Certain theaters went beyond showing the movie – it was more of an all night event. When I was in college I used to see Rocky Horror at the State Theater on Main Street in Newark, Delaware. They began by showing a Bugs Bunny cartoon, then you watched Meatloaf’s “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” video, followed by the Tim Curry videos for “I Do The Rock,” and “Paradise Garage.” By that time it was a quarter to 1 and the main event hadn’t even started.

Rocky Horror at the State Theater also included live performers who would act out the movie on the stage directly in front of the screen. This was an element that most of theaters we frequented in New Jersey lacked. These folks took their performances very seriously, and they were good. Once the lips faded from the screen and the credits began to roll you would stumble home at 2:30 am in a Rocky Horror daze.

After college the Rocky Horror craze began to diminish - less and less theaters played it and I usually had other things to do on a Friday or Saturday night. Then one summer while I was on vacation on Martha’s Vineyard we saw that they were playing it at some town building in Tisbury, and we all decided to go. I had a cousin who had never seen it, and was interested to see what all the hubbub was.

And this was where I had a Rocky Horror awakening. It was the first time I went to a showing just to see the movie. From the start I realized nobody in the small audience was going to be shooting water pistols or yelling “Nice Tits!” And nobody was going to get up and do the Time Warp. We just sat and watched the movie.

It was a shock to my system. I heard lines I’d never been able to hear before because the audience wasn’t  yelling “Asshole,” for 3 minutes straight. But I missed the chaos. And I felt bad for those who had come to see  it. They really didn’t get to experience the true Rocky Horror Picture Show – they just watched a movie about a strange guy in women’s underwear.

Once the movie came out on DVD I bought it, and yes, I showed it to my girls (mother of the year!). My youngest really loves it, and I look forward to one day taking her to a theater at midnight and letting her experience the thrill of yelling at the screen, throwing rice, shielding our heads with a newspaper, and getting up to do the time warp.

After all, it’s just a jump to the left.

mother-scolding-daughter-63Do you remember all the stupid things you did as a kid? Things that started off innocent enough, but wound up getting you into trouble?

Once I thought it would be fun to run away, so I tied up a few things in a hankie, tied it to a stick (in true hobo fashion) and walked to the top of my street. I sat on the bus stop for a while, got bored, and went back home. It was a bone-headed move. I don’t think my parents ever knew.

My parents had some good friends that we visited frequently, and they had a girl Arlene who was just my age. Arlene and I would play records and hatch up all sorts of stupid schemes. Once we decided it would be fun to stow away in a department store until it closed and then have fun “playing house” for the night in the bedroom and living room displays. I told my mom about it one day, and wanting to douse what could be a dangerous spark, she told me that after hours they let killer dogs loose in the store. Not wanting to get eaten, we passed on that idea.

A trick Arlene and I always tried playing on our parents was hiding in the car of the visiting family right before they were getting ready to leave. Our thought was, we would stow away in back seat until the car had driven too far to turn back and then “surprise!” Instant sleepover! Problem was, our parents were well aware of this trick and always caught us.

Almost always.

Arlene and I actually fooled them once. They must have forgotten our little joke that night – cause they never checked and Arlene and I were stifling our giggles of excitement as we drove down the block. After 15 minutes or so, I jumped up to surprise them, and found that our little caper was not well received at all. Her parents were pissed, and the ride to her house was a lecture-filled one. Once we got to their house my parents were called and we were sent straight to bed. I had a breakfast of eggs and undercooked bacon the next morning, dreading the ride back home with my father. Lecture #2 was no fun without Arlene along to share in the shame.

Other times you got in trouble as part of a crowd. When I was super young I can remember me, my sisters, and a bunch of neighborhood kids were fooling around in our front yard. Someone found a small square of wood or a shingle and hurled it at a car that was driving up our street. The wood landed in the guy’s wheel well and got whipped around making a horrible sound.

The guy stopped his car, got out and began chasing us up our front steps. The neighborhood kids scattered; one sister hid in the crawl space under the porch, and the other hid in a closet or something. I can remember not being able to get on my feet and crawling on hands and knees onto my porch in a rather frenzied fashion and cowering in the corner. I don’t know why I was so scared. I hadn’t done anything – but I knew my sisters were in serious shit.

After knocking on our door and yelling to my mother about her disrespectful children, the man drove off. And mom? She went on the hunt, eventually finding both of my sisters, boxing their ears while she dragged them out of their hiding places. Since I was merely a bystander, I didn’t get into any trouble. That time.

Yeah, I wasn’t always quite so innocent. When I was a teenager I spent some time hanging around a bunch of kids from the next town over who were considered in “a bad crowd” by my mom. We were looking for a place to hang out one summer night, and I was guided through a parking lot, and down some alleys and wound up on a deck behind a house. I assumed it was one of the kids’ houses – everyone seemed to know exactly where they were, and I just trusted them.

Before long a flashlight was shining in our faces, and we were getting put into the back of a patrol car. I was bewildered because since when was sitting on someone’s backyard deck a crime? Well it was when the deck was on the back of a church. Yes, we had been trespassing and I hadn’t even known it because of the odd way we had come in. I was put in the back of a patrol car with 2 dudes and brought to the police station.

I was put in a chair and my parents were called. But I remained calm because I knew I’d done nothing wrong intentionally. Had I known it was the back of a church – part of the rectory, I think – I would have left in a second. I explained this to the police. I was very polite, and very cooperative, and for this the police berated me. I can still remember one of them saying to me, “And you missy! You think you’re going to get out of this by being nice? You’re going to juvie along with the rest of them!”

My father came to get me, and I won’t say that he wasn’t furious with me. But, when I told him the whole story, followed by how the officers had treated me, he went back to the station the next day and gave those cops a piece of his mind. I know they were just trying to scare me, but still. Cops can be such dicks.

He was less forgiving the time I missed the last bus back to Jersey after seeing Cheap Trick in New York, though. My friends and I had to take a subway to the Port Authority in the Bronx, and walk across the George Washington Bridge, through Fort Lee, and into my hometown of Leonia – all at 2 am. Problem was, my parents had no clue I was heading into New York for a concert. I was due home at 11 and my midnight they were frantic.

I never made it home. My dad had been cruising the streets for hours looking for me and picked me up about a half a mile from our house.  I can only imagine the relief he felt when he saw me hurrying down Broad Avenue unharmed. For that little stunt I got grounded for a month and missed being in the school play.

I was basically good though. I never got caught stealing, never got sent to detention, and aside from my one run in with the cops, have no criminal record. Hell, my last speeding ticket was in the mid 90′s (knock wood).

Wish my husband could say the same. I may have to write about a few of his escapades.

Icky BossDid you ever have a job you just didn’t like? The kind that was basically just to keep gas in your car and Cheerios in the cabinet? I have a few of them in my time…more than a few actually. There were a few years where I simply could not get hired in my field, but still needed to earn some sort of a living. And in this few years I had a slew of some seriously bad jobs.

It was right after I’d moved back from Arkansas. I needed to find a way to pay rent, and make my car payments, so I took what I could get. I started waitressing at a joint called Sammy Sloans in Englewood, NJ. It’s not there anymore, and I’m not surprised. Run by the drunken, skirt chasing son of the owner it didn’t stand a chance. He was an über prick…made us buy shirts and pants at Bloomingdale’s for our uniform. When we complained about the cost, he screamed at us to buy what he told us to buy or get the fuck out.

Yay, Sammy Sloans!

I recall our opening night – packed to the rafters and super busy. I had a table of 4 senior citizens. While I took their orders I noticed they had no silverware and promised to bring them some. The bin that usually held the napkin-rolled cutlery was empty, and I made a mental note to check on the status of fresh ones. Well, like I said, the restaurant was super packed, and I forgot. I brought this table their food, but they had no silverware with which to eat it.

I was standing by the computer entering in another order when I heard a rhythmic banging on a table in the back of the restaurant. Soon a chant joined the banging…”WE NEED SILVERWARE! WE NEED SILVERWARE! “WE NEED SILVERWARE!”

The entire restaurant had turned around by this point as was staring at my table of seniors. I’d totally forgotten their forks and knives, and their food was getting cold. With a beet red face I skulked over to the table and with a thousand apologies gave them their silverware. As the old man lectured & berated me, his wife was begging him to “leave the poor girl alone…it’s her first day!”

My kinda gal. I gave them a few free desserts. I got a very small tip.

I left that job to work in New York City at a very small advertising & design firm. I actually got the job by meeting the girl who was leaving during a ski weekend at Hunter Mountain. We chatted it up and she set up an appointment for me to have an interview with her boss.

The “interview” was after work at a bar in Soho. The boss, a Fred Flinstone looking dude named Mark, made it clear that he found me very attractive, and that it was too bad I was going to work for him – he would have enjoyed dating me. I spent the drive home trying to shake off the slimy feeling I had – maybe accepting this gig wasn’t the greatest idea. But, I finally had a job in my field and I was going to try to make it work.

The commute itself was a long one – a bus from Jersey to the Port Authority, followed by a very long walk to my subway platform, and then a train to Soho. Working in that part of Manhattan was great though…the galleries, the shops, the cobblestone streets. Lunchtime was always an adventure for me – I’d grab a quick lunch and then roam the streets. I saw Neil Patrick Harris one day and said to myself, “I just walked past Doogie Howser.”

But even the allure of Soho couldn’t keep me in this job. My boss was a pig who made countless inappropriate comments. One day, as I sat in a skirt at my drafting table, he walked past, ran a finger up my leg and said, “Don’t you think it’s time for a shave?”

He also wanted me to take care of his personal affairs, like banking and dry cleaning on my lunch hour – not on company time. When I complained and refused, he cut my health coverage. So I quit.

He fairly begged me to stay…offered me a raise, full health bennies and even a parking spot so I could drive into the city. I told him to fuck off, and went to work as a cashier at Bottle King, a liquor store near my house. That asshole is still in business too. And he still looks like Fred Flintstone.

Ah Bottle King. Although  it wasn’t a glamorous job, it does not belong as part of this blog. While it was a job I took just to pay the bills, my boss was fair and liked me, and the work was fairly easy and somewhat amusing. I see a future post there.

Then there was my job at the window factory. Talk about boring. I worked as a receptionist, and took orders from contractors all over northern NJ for windows. Doesn’t it sound interesting? I also had to file, and type letters for the boss who was balding and walked around the office like he had a stick up his ass.

The office manager was a jarringly unattractive woman who micro-managed every move you made, and would sit behind her desk playing with her mustache hair. One time I asked for the afternoon off to attend my uncle Billy’s funeral. She made me bring her an obit to prove my uncle had actually died and I wasn’t just playing hooky. She was also quite large. The office was usually freezing to accommodate her…I had to wear a sweater in August.

I only got 30 minutes for lunch at this joint, and I’d usually sit in the conference room with my sandwich and a book. There was one engineer named Garish that would approach me asking why I was reading a book when I could be reading the window manuals and learning the product. Um, because it’s my lunch hour? I’ll read your stale manuals in between phone calls.

The last of my bad jobs was directly after leaving the window factory. I went to work for an outfit in Jersey City that produced those shitty magazines that have like a thousand cars for sale or apartments for rent – you know the kind that are printed on paper that is almost grey it’s such crappy quality? But again, at least it was a job in graphics, so I took it.

My boss demanded that while designing, I use only key commands – I had to learn all the shortcuts. He would not tolerate me wasting time using my mouse to access drop down menus. What the fuck…how strange.

Then my job quickly turned from one as a designer to one as his personal assistant. With no notice, I spent a day driving him all over northern New Jersey to drop off his car, pick up his glasses, and run a thousand other crappy errands. Oh, I hated this shabby little job in the shabby little office in shabby little Jersey City.

So I gave my two weeks notice. My boss was so incensed that was quitting, he told me to get the hell out right there and then. He didn’t want to have to look at me for two weeks.

The door did not hit me in the ass on the way out.

Shortly after that I got a job working as a graphic designer, and I’ve worked in design ever since. I came close to taking a few of those shitty jobs while I was unemployed last year, but thankfully I’ve managed to avoid them.

Life really is too short to not enjoy what you do. My husband loves to say “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” While I don’t find that entirely true, it does make the day fly by a bit faster.

ComcastAs of today I officially hate Comcast. Like really super duper seethingly passionate hatred.

Let’s be honest. I’ve always hated the cable company. It all started with Cable Vision when I lived in New Jersey. They were notorious for failing to show for scheduled appointments, and then telling you that they dame, but you weren’t at home. This is after you’d spent the last 5 hours waiting in your home that was sans cable.

Before Comcast came to my humble little home, I was dealing with a cable company that was so utterly inept, so entirely clueless, that a call to solve your issue literally took hours. So when Comcast took over, and my internet always worked, and my cable only went out when a monsoon was blowing through, I was thrilled.

But over the past year or so, the service has really begun to suffer. I’ll sit down to watch something on Demand, a service they love to advertise in order to get you to “choose Comcast,” and I’ll get an error message.

Grrr.

Now I have to call Comcast, where the automated bitch will tell me she’s sending a bullet to our TVs which should solve the problem. When that doesn’t fix it, you have to call again, and the customer service rep, who 95% of the time can barely speak English, tells you to unplug your box for 30 seconds and then plug it back in.

After the tv takes 20 minutes to reboot, the problem is usually fixed. But, I’ve now wasted 30 minutes of my time when all I wanted to do was plop down on the couch and watch last night’s episode of “The Bachelor.” (aside…wasn’t Juan Pablo a tool?)

If it were just that problem once in a blue moon I wouldn’t be complaining. Everything goes on the fritz every now and then. The problem I have with Comcast is that the problem happens over and over and over again on every cable box I own. Not just one, not just two, but ALL THREE.

Once one box is fixed, another goes klabooey 10 days later. Once that one is fixed, a week later the third decides it doesn’t feel like working. And around 9 days after that, the first cable box will once again lovingly display it’s error message.

I’ve got Comcast on speed dial. Bonnie & Clyde were hit with less bullets than have been sent to my house courtesy of my shitty cable company.

But Monday afternoon I got fed up. Monday & Tuesdays are my early days – I get out at 2 pm – and I was looking forward to a walk, and then sitting down to watch the two episodes of “Walking Dead” that I had missed. I finished my walk, shucked my shoes and socks, and  with my feet up on the table hit the On Demand button.

I was rewarded with yet another error message. I muttered a not so silent expletive, got up and unplugged the box dialing 1-800-COMCAST with my free hand. I had 20 minutes to kill – may as well chew someone’s head off while I waited for my TV to reboot. I didn’t even want a technician…I just wanted to yell at someone.

Once the TV came back on, not only did On Demand not work, but my DVR was gone as well. Mother f-er – my patience was certainly being tested today! Another call to Comcast landed me an English speaking American based service rep – things were looking up. She was super nice – scheduled an appointment for a technician to come the next day, listened to all my griping, and commiserated with my misery. I felt somewhat placated, but was still angry.

The next day, home early again, I skipped my walk because I didn’t want to miss the cable guy who was coming between 3 and 5. 3 o’clock turned to 4. 4 o’clock turned to 4:45. I picked up the phone and called Comcast. Because we had a scheduled appointment, I got a recorded voice saying, “Your appointment is scheduled for 3 pm to 5 pm. Your technician should arrive between 5:05 and 5:35.”

That in itself was a riot. I’m so glad you are admitting to me that my technician is sorta late. As long as he’s still coming.

And at 5:30 we got the call. A Comcast rep called to tell us that our technician called in sick and nobody would be coming today.

Can you say ballistic?

I went off on this gal. If the dude called in sick, why couldn’t they call us to let us know RATHER THAN HAVE ME SIT AROUND MY HOUSE FOR 3 HOURS ON A BEAUTIFUL 75 DEGREE AFTERNOON?

When she tried to reschedule for the next day, I told (screamed to) her that I have to work to make the money to pay for their shitty service. After a few minutes hubby grabbed the phone from me. I was irate and getting nowhere towards getting our cable fixed.

Hubby could be home for the technician if they came between 8 and noon. Fine. He had already nabbed us a $20 discount for the no-show technician. I guess I could live without the DVR and the On Demand for one night.

The next day the dude shows up begins to trouble shoot our lines. I had to leave for work, and left him in hubby’s hands. I came home to a “new” box in my living room, which was not actually new. A scratched, ugly, disgusting refurbished box sat where my well taken care of old one used to be. Seems Comcast doesn’t make new boxes anymore for crappy poor folk like us who can’t afford their snazzy and expensive triple play super high def cable package. Only those rich folks get them nice new shiny boxes.

Oh, and we lost every single thing we’ve ever taped.

I hate Comcast. Can I say that again, please? I seriously need to look into alternatives to traditional cable. However, after a bit of research, that is going to mean a technological leap of faith that I don’t think my family could handle.

Yet.

But I’m going to make it my goal to change their minds. I am so tired of these dickheads taking my very hard earned money and giving me sub-standard service in return. The day will come. The day will come when I can give Comcast a huge middle finger farewell salute, and tell them they don’t have Typical Tracy to push around anymore.

Postscript
I’ve just had to make two more phone calls to Comcast tonight. Our new box came, and our OnDemand still doesn’t work. Cris, my first tech who was very hard to understand, gave me the “I put in new codes don’t use your on demand for 30 minutes” speech. An hour later, it still doesn’t work.

Second call to Sean placed and he is resetting the box to factory settings – now I am 45 minutes without my tv at all. Comcast if you’re reading this, feel deep shame as you type me some bullshit tweet or message about wanting to help. You don’t know the meaning of the word.

Postscript to my Postscript
It is March 20th. My Comcast nightmare began on March 10th. I have been on the phone with them every day – sometimes more than once – for 10 days. They have missed 2 appointments, and wasted roughly 8 hours of my time, not to mention at least 3 hours of viewing time I’ve lost while I was stuck rebooting boxes.

I think it’s finally done though. I think I may not have to call them again. I don’t know if I can keep my sanity if I get another error message.

thinking-about-moneyWhen the lottery gets big, like tonight’s Mega Millions is, I will usually (always) buy a few tickets. There’s something about having a potential winning ticket in my possession that I truly love – because that’s when I dare to dream. What would I do if I won?

How would it feel to log onto the Virginia lottery website the following morning – braless, sitting in my sweatpants, hair mashed into a semi-David Cassidy ‘do – and finding that my numbers match? What would that feel like? Would it be like tunnel vision, where the world gets narrow and super silent or would my stomach hit the floor while simultaneously screaming at the top of my lungs? Would I head straight to Richmond that day to cash in my ticket or would I sit on it for a week or two?

I know one thing I’d do that very first day – go shopping. I’d spend the day learning what it feels like to buy with reckless abandon. What must it feel like to not have to scrutinize every price tag and what that purchase might mean to your budget for the month.

When I have a ticket in my possession I can dare to dream. Even though the chances of Richard Gere knocking on my front door are more favorable than my winning the lottery, I still love to dream about winning. I love to play the dream game with my daughters, but they don’t usually share my enthusiasm.  The reality of the odds makes fantasizing too difficult for them. Damn realists….

I think about where we would travel to, and the home we could afford. I think about having a car that has mileage in the 4 figure range. I think about helping my family – paying off mortgages or car loans. I think about my girls going to any college they want. And I think about not having to work. Ah, I think that’s the best part of all.

I like this daydream. It makes me feel good. It relaxes me. Yes, I’m most likely going to lose – but when I picture myself behind the wheel of an orange Karmann Ghia convertible, I feel so happy. When I imagine my family spending a week in Amsterdam looking at Vermeer paintings, it makes me smile. And when I think of being able to invite my whole family to my summer home on Martha’s Vineyard, I simply want to cry.

Come on lady luck…I dare to dream…

HitchingMy oldest attends college an hour away – from door to door is actually a tad less than an hour. We’ll say 54 minutes. That being said, hubby still thinks it’s a colossal waste of gas and time to pick her up and bring her home for the weekend when her old mom is missing her. And it made me think back to my college days.

I lived in northern New Jersey, and attended University of Delaware. It was a 2+ hour trek down the Jersey Turnpike & I95. Yeah, neither mom or dad were picking me up for the weekend. If I wanted to go home, I had to find a ride. Enter the U of D Ride Board.

The Ride Board was hung in the student center – a large, wooden placard with a map of the US painted on it, divided into colored zones. There was a little box that corresponded to each zone that contained cards with folks who were traveling to that destination, or in need of a ride to that destination. When I had a hankering to get out of bobbed-hair-preppy-sweater Dodge and head north, this is where I went to find a way home.

So think about this – young, pretty college girl is looking for a total stranger to drive her 2.5 hours up the Jersey Turnpike. That alone is a scary thought. But half the time they’d drop me off somewhere odd…like a rest stop or a mall…and my parents would have to meet me there.

And remember, this is before cell phones, so if mom was late or we ran into traffic, there was no way to communicate. You just sat and waited…and worried.

When I was able to find a ride, I’d usually have to lug  my bags to their dorm. Yeah, there was no “hey, I’ll pick you up at 5!” It was more like, “Be outside X Hall at 5 or we leave without you.” Sometimes the car was filled with folks who all knew each other, and I just sat in the back forced to listen to their conversation and shitty music while I watched southern NJ fly by and handed over cash for gas at each rest stop.

Or worse, sometimes it was just you and the driver…talk about uncomfortable. You can only ask “what’s your major?” once, and the answer wasn’t going to fill 2 hours.

Then there was the trip back to worry about. I’d usually spend the whole weekend at home with a little nagging voice saying, “what if they don’t show up…what if they don’t show up?” Then mom or dad had no choice but to make the 5 hour round trip drive.

But somehow I managed to survive the U of D Ride Board – I probably used it a dozen times over my 4 years at college, and I was never propositioned, abducted or left hanging on the trip back.

There are tons of things we think back on and say, “It’s a wonder I reached adulthood.” Bikes with no helmets, long trips with the unused seatbelt dangling by the door next to you, unsupervised trips into New York City on the bus.

It makes you feel sorta lucky sometimes.

I’m wondering if this will be a thing of the future…

Subtitles

Subtitles for cursive handwriting. You know, good old fashioned script?

I remember learning script in elementary school. It was a required element. I think I was getting graded in penmanship up through middle school. After that they didn’t care, and besides, that was usually the time you tried to come up with a handwriting “style” like using hearts to dot i’s or making your script extra loopy and fat.

I always hated writing in script. My brain always added an extra loop or bump onto a letter – like making an “r” look more like an “m” and  my “m’s” usually wound up looking more like the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains with all it’s added bumps. Nah, I stuck to print, which was neat and legible.

But my kids barely learned the art of cursive writing. My oldest may have spent a year or so in school trying the master the art. My youngest? I think she was shown the cursive alphabet and then was put in front of a keyboard. Yep, keyboarding is the millennium’s answer to script – gotta move with the times.

I understand the need for our kids to learn proper typing skills, especially these days. My one semester spent in typing class at good old Leonia High School served me well – that and a lot of jobs that required typing. After all those years of “practice” I am super fast and fairly accurate.

But I wonder if one day, there will be a generation of people who will watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” and not be able to read Clarence’s note to George…because after all, it’s not just the writing of the words in script…isn’t reading them part of the equation?

I know my youngest, who had the least exposure to cursive writing, has trouble reading script. As the decades march on, and we embrace a more text/typing existence, will script be forgotten? I mean, I don’t have a clue  how to use an abacus, but back in the day, that was the way to calculate. Now folks look at one and think, “ooh, busy beads!”

Do your kids know how to write script? Were they properly taught at school? Or is it just the country bumpkin education system in my area? I’ll bet if cursive was on the Standards of Learning year-end exams they’d know how…

Bad-Roads

Let me start this post by saying I like snow. I enjoy the prospect of a storm blowing in, and me all safe and snug at home, with enough bread, milk and wine. I even like to shovel, and am usually out clearing our driveway before the flakes have stopped wafting to the ground.

Wednesday I had to endure one of the most harrowing experiences of my life. Bad timing coupled with bad weather had me at the mercy of mother nature and perhaps even fate – it was 3+ hours of sheer torture.

I knew a bad storm was coming in, but it wasn’t supposed to start until the evening – 5 or 6 pm. I get out of work at 6, but there was no way I was staying that late with the forecast they were predicting. Usually you can waive a dismissive hand at our weather folk, but this was different. Even the weather channel was on board with the predictions, so I worked through lunch and left at 5.

By then the snow had just started in town. Hubby had called and said snow at home had started a half an hour earlier. I wasn’t worried…it’s only a 25 minute commute and I was confident that I could get home with no trouble. After all, the snow had just started!

There was some traffic getting out of town, which was to be expected, and before long I was on the long and winding way home. When I was around 3 miles from pulling into my driveway traffic came to a dead halt. I was right at the base of a long and fairly steep hill that I have to travel up in order to make it home. I turned on the radio and discovered that there was an accident about a mile up the road and both lanes were closed.

Now I had to make a decision…stay here and wait or turn around and find another way home. At this point reader, you need to understand something – there are only 2 or 3 ways to get to my development, buried deep in the sticks of central Virginia. Making the decision to turn around meant traveling 5-8 miles just to get to the closest cross road that I could turn onto.

But, I figured that if I waited where I was, the snow (which was getting heavier and sticking) might make getting my car up that steep hill impossible. Besides, I had no water and I knew I’d have to pee within the next hour or so. That being said, I turned my car around and made the slow drive back, all the while figuring which way I should take.

The first route I took was a huge waste of time. I didn’t get more than 1/4 mile down the road before I was told the road up ahead was closed and we all had to turn around. When I got back to the crossroads I skidded on the snow and almost crashed into another car. My heart was pounding,  my knees were shaking, and I just wanted to go home.

The next road I took taxed me to my very core. On a sunny day this road is a pain in the ass…windy as hell…the girls always get carsick on it unless I travel at 20 mph or so. But, this road is the quickest way to get to where I needed to go, so I took it.

I was only driving at around 6 mph down steep hills and twisty turns. At one point I had to drive up a fairly steep S-curve. Letting the car just roll, and barely giving it any gas, I fish-tailed my way up that hill very slowly the whole while chanting “help me God, help me God, help me God.” When I made it to the top without landing in a ditch or hitting another car, I breathed an audible sigh of relief. It was mostly down hill from here.

As I was heading down the next hill at a record speed of 4 mph, a car in the opposite direction came zipping up the road, went to make the turn and ran straight into a rather deep ditch. Although I’m sure the driver turned their wheels, the car just didn’t respond on the slick roads and just rolled right off the road. The car was now at a 30 degree angle, half of it on the road, half of it in the ditch. I thought to myself,  that person is totally fucked – and that could be me very easily if I’m not super careful.

As if just driving wasn’t tense enough, my windshield wipers decided to start icing up at this point. I had the defroster blasted so hot and hard that I was sweating bullets all bundled up in my coat, but it was no match for the weather outside. Rather than wiping the snow off my windshield, my wipers were just smearing the snow and ice – I had about a 2 inch field of semi-clear vision.

Finally I made it to the next crossroad, which thankfully had a gas station. I got out to go inside and my legs were actually wobbly. The past hour and half of driving in the snow in beyond shitty conditions had exhausted me. I went to the bathroom, bought a couple of waters, called hubby and got back in the car to make my 3rd attempt at getting home.

I began to get hopeful…If I took it slow, driving wasn’t really that bad along roads that were fairly straight. I made the turn that takes me to my development and about a mile down the road, more tail lights. Hells bells, not again. One call to hubby confirmed it. There was an accident at least 7 miles up the road – all these people were just sitting there – along 7 miles of road just waiting for it to be cleared. So, once again, I turned around.

My only option at this point was to get on the highway and head East. This would take me past my house, but bring me to a pretty major intersection where there was a hotel, a Walmart and a few fast food joints. The highway was pretty good if you went slow. I don’t think I broke the 25 mph mark, but folks in 4 wheel drive vehicles were zipping past me. I also saw at least 4 cars off the shoulder with their 4 ways blinking. Again, I thought to myself, slow and steady and super careful. I was determined not to be a VDOT statistic.

25 minutes later I made it to Zion Crossroads and  headed straight for the Best Western. In the lobby I called hubby and asked if I should just get a room. It’s stupid because I was only 15 minutes from home now (in good traveling weather) but it would probably take me at least another hour of driving to get  home and I just didn’t think I had the strength. I had left my office two and a half hours before, and had been driving in blinding snow ever since. I was done.

As luck would have it, she had one room left and I took it. But before I went up, I got back in my car and drove across the road to the Walmart where I picked up some food, a toothbrush and a night gown. By the time I got back and in my room (thanks to a ridiculously slow cashier) it was 8:30. I called my family who were relieved that I was safe for the night, but bummed that I was not home.

They weren’t the only ones. But before I went to bed that night, I took a moment to thank God for getting me somewhere safe and warm for the night. I could have easily been in my car in a ditch, spending the night rationing my water and peeing in a snow drift. I decided I was one lucky gal.

The next morning I awoke with a sense of dread. One look out the window made me realize my morning drive home wasn’t going to be fun. About a foot of snow had fallen, but on the bright side the roads I was taking home were primary roads, and had most likely been plowed. After breakfast I dug out the foot high snow drift from around my car, cleared off the ice with the side of a ball point pen, and began my drive home.

The road from the hotel to the main road was horrible, and filled me with a sense of dread. But once I reached the main road I saw blacktop and my spirits lifted. This might not be so bad.

And it wasn’t. It was slow going, that’s for sure, but the roads were drivable if you were careful. The one part of my drive I was dreading the most was getting into the gate of my development. The one closest to my house is up a pretty steep hill. There were abandoned cars piled up at the base of the gate – they obviously couldn’t get up the hill and opted to leave their cars and walk home.

I made it up the hill fine, but got stuck at the top in a huge pile of slushy snow that the plow failed to remove. Ugh. Here I was a  mile from home and I finally got stuck. But not for long. Two very nice fellas came to my rescue and helped push my car out of the slush. Hooray! I was almost home!

When I reached my house hubby was there and had shoveled out a nice spot for me at the base of the driveway. I was never so happy to pull into that narrow driveway – I’d finally made it home.

After many hugs, and a hot cup of tea I took a much needed shower, put on some sweatpants and just flopped on the couch. It had been a long night and a long morning. Even though it was only 9:30 in the morning, I felt like it should be noon.

Do you know I fell asleep before 8:00 that night? I guess my body needed the rest.

I’ve come to a conclusion…I’m never taking a chance when it comes to the weather again. If my boss doesn’t like me leaving early…fire me. I don’t ever want to go through that again. Ever. Especially since I have the capacity to work fully from home. The only task I can’t do remotely is answer the phone…but really, who’s going to be calling during a blizzard?

Nope… from now on if they’re calling for bad weather I’ll just tap my snow boots together three times and say, “There’s no place like home.”

TV of today is so totally different than it was when I grew up. Even though I adore all the On Demand and DVR capabilities of today, there was something really special about TV programming back in my youth.

What made me think about this was the recent death of Shirley Temple. I loved Shirley Temple movies when I was a kid, and why? Because channel 11 (WPIX) in New York City used to play a Shirley Temple movie every Saturday morning and my sisters and I usually watched them.

My personal favorite is Heidi, with the evil Fraulein Rottenmeier, the nasty, opportunistic Aunt DeeDee, and the dry, snobby (in a loveable sort of way) butler Andrews, played by Arthur Treacher. I always felt so sorry for little Heidi who only wanted to go home to her grandfather, and was constantly sold a bill of goods and made to stay where she wasn’t happy.

I know you want to go home, but I'm a selfish bitch and want you to stay and be my plaything.

I know you want to go home, but I’m a selfish bitch and want you to stay and be my plaything.

You know, even though Klara was nice in this movie, I never quite trusted her. The girl that played her also played a real bitch in The Little Princess, and I was always certain that Klara was feeding Frau Rottenmeier info to screw over poor Heidi on the sly.

I also loved Captain January, which I haven’t seen in too long a time, and which reminds me again of why Netflix sucks. They never have anything.  Bright Eyes was a really good one too, mostly because I love seeing shitty people get their come-uppance, and boy does this movie satisfy on that level. Not only does the wealthy, wheel chair bound Uncle Ned cut his relatives out of his money after they were mean to poor Shirley, but you see their beyond bratty snot nosed little daughter get a well deserved slap across the face at the end.  They don’t show that shit on television anymore!

motws3Thinking about Shirley Temple movies made me think of all of my other childhood favorites that aren’t really played on television anymore. Every Christmas you’d get to see Laurel and Hardy in March of the Wooden Soldiers at least once; sometimes in black and white, sometimes in color. That movie is as campy as campy can be with it’s lame operettic songs and characters straight from Mother Goose. What’s great about it, besides Laurel and Hardy, is Barnaby, the mean, underhanded, snivelling, villainous land baron who tries to blackmail Little Bo Peep into marrying him. This guy was even a douche in a Little Rascals episode. Laughs and guffaws aside, when those wooden soldiers come to rescue the town from the evil, plastic faced Boogeymen, I still get a chill.

MovieCovers-191618-191609-HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN ET LA DANSEUSE ETOILEAnother great movie that is rarely seen is Hans Christian Andersen starring Danny Kaye. This movie is packed with song after song that I still remember to this day. Ugly Duckling, Thumbelina, Inchworm, not to mention The King’s New Clothes and Wonderful Copenhagen. This gem would be played every year around Easter (I think it was Easter, anyway) and you couldn’t pull me away from the television when it was on. There is one dream sequence where he imagines watching the ballet of The Little Mermaid, and for a small child that was sort of a snore.

That being said, after all these years I can still whistle his theme song, and it makes me feel happy almost immediately. It’s just that kind of song.

430_main_image_2When it came to afternoon programming during the week, our local ABC station had my vote Monday – Friday. After Match Game, The $25,000 Pyramid and Tattletales, I’d almost always tune to the 4:30 movie. They played all the great Hollywood classics, and some real stinkers too.

But what I loved the best is when they’d have theme weeks – one week it would be all Godzilla movies, another week devoted to the Planet of the Apes series. I used to love Bette Davis week, when they’d play Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, and Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte. Some weeks would suck though…John Wayne week? I’ll pass. Elvis week could be kind of a drag too, but my sister loved him, so I’d be forced to sit through melodic clam bakes and serenades whilst drag racing.

Nowadays programming like this just isn’t done. It doesn’t have to be done….most folks will just buy a movie if they love it, or rent a bunch and create their own theme night. I do love what television has to offer these days. I really do. It’s almost as if you can watch anything you want at any time with just a few pushes of a button.

But I gotta admit, I wouldn’t mind going back for a week of television viewing, circa 1979. Just seven little channels to choose from, but I usually managed to find something on.

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