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This past week my middle school girl was in quite a pickle. An incident occured at the end of the day on Monday which left her convinced that she was going to be the laughing stock of the 7th grade. She was in tears on the way home in the car, and was miserable all night long. I was miserable right along side her.

I can remember times growing up when I did not want to go to school because I knew I’d be ridiculed. Like when I had horribly chapped lips in the 4th grade, or when I accidentaly cut my bangs ridiculously short in 10th grade. Those were days where you just kept your head down and prayed for the minutes to tick by swiftly.

My girl has some problem with bullies, and it wasn’t making facing the next school day any easier. She was sure they were going to pick on her and felt helpless and defenseless. I have to admit, I cried for her a few times that night. I woke up at 1 am and could not get back to sleep imagining the day she had ahead of her.

And that’s when I decided to arm her in order to disarm the bullies.

Who remembers the episode of the Brady Bunch with Buddy Hinton? He was picking on Cindy’s lisp and Peter stood up for her. In the end they wound up fighting it out under the advice and training of Mr. Brady. These days Mr. Brady’s advice would put my little girl in suspension, or worse, expulsion.

I had always told my girl that when a bully says something to put her down, you have to zing them right back with some clever little quip. Problem is, like George Constanza and the jerk store, she can never come up with a good comeback when the time strikes. And I knew I had a mission.

I got up early the next morning and did some research online. Seems there are entire websites devoted to snappy comebacks to bully taunts. And the consensus on many of the advice columns on how to deal with bullies suggests that zinging them back works. I had a renewed hope and enthusiastically began jotting down some of the better ones.

My favorite was “how many times do I have to flush before you go away.”

Why didn’t I know that one in high school? There were quite a few girls I would have loved to use that one on. Another good one was “If I throw a stick will you leave?” or “how many times did your parents drop you?”

But these were all a bit too much for my girl to memorize in the hour we had to get ready for school. She begged to stay home, but I knew she had to go to school – to face the music – get right back on the horse. I also pointed out to her that she might hear absolutely nothing. Sometimes when folks know you’re really bummed about something they lay off. The rest of the morning was one big pep talk for her.

I told her not to cry – not to give anyone that said something nasty to her that satisfaction. I told her not to back down, to look the antagonist in the eye and calmy say something back. If she couldn’t remember any of the zingers, just saying something like “aren’t you just so clever” or “did it take you all night to come up with that one?” would put them off their game.

On the drive to school I could see she was close to tears the whole time, and I knew I had to get her out of that mind set. So I looked at her and said, “You know what you need to do today? You need to have an ‘F-You’ day. You need to walk into that school with your head up and think ‘F-You’ to every person who passes you by. Don’t let anyone mess with you. You’re too good to be messed with, but if they do? You strap on that ‘F-You’ attitude and tell them where to go and how to get there.

I was so proud of her when she got out of the car and headed into the school building – she was being brave, facing the unknown. But I felt like we prepared her the best we could. She also knew that if things got bad, really bad, she could call us mom or dad would pick her up…and schedule a meeting with the principal.

I spent a very tense day at my desk with my cell phone by my side. At noon I took it as a good sign that I hadn’t heard from her. By 1:30 I knew we were over the hump. And when she called me after she got off the bus she said that nobody had said much of anything to her. Some girls sniggered in homeroom, but didn’t say anything to her directly.

What a relief.

But just because she didn’t need to use any of our advice that day, I don’t want her to forget them. There are a few kids in her grade that take pleasure in saying nasty things to her, and I want her to know she doesn’t have to take it lying down. I may have felt the need to arm her in the face of an onslaught, but those tools will work just as well in a smaller skirmish somewhere down the road.

She needs to remember to zing back, and maybe every now and then, to have an “F-You” kind of day.

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I keep running into trouble at King’s Dominion.

We went back this past week because my daughter’s boyfriend was visiting. After our picnic lunch at one of the parking lot pavilions, we were walking back to the park entrance when I spotted a rather choice parking space. Always looking for a parking spot upgrade, I had the kids wait in the spot until I could get my car – a mere 3 aisles over – to the open space.

As I turned into the aisle, there was a red Kia angled into the spot. I rolled down my window and shouted to the kids, “tell him I’m here!”  They just shook their heads and shrugged. So I put the car in park, walked over to his window and said, “So sorry, I’m here – the kids were holding the spot for me.”

The man behind the wheel lowered his window and said, “You can’t hold a spot.”

wpid-wap-real-housewives-of-atlanta-season-6-phaedra-i-might-have-to-kill-himHis wife, who looked just like Phaedra from Real Housewives of Atlanta, leaned over and chimed in, “Yeah, you can’t save a parking spot!”

I started to debate with them, saying something along the lines of, “come on, they’re holding it, what’s the big deal?” when I noticed another spot open up one row over. I said, “look, there’s another spot right there!”

He looks at me through half-lowered eye lids and says, “I don’t want that spot. I want this spot.”

I was looking into the face of a gutless bully – a man who was willing to angle his running car into that parking spot with the sole purpose of intimidating my kids.

For a parking spot.

And you know what? I lost it.

I began yelling LOULDY. I can’t remember it word for word – I called him a bully, and an asshole and I dropped an f-bomb.

Or two.

His wife? She went nuts. She went Hardcore Pawn apeshit on me. She was saying “Oh, no, you did not just cuss me out. Oh no you didn’t.” and she began unbuckling her seatbelt.

Ruh roh. As previous blog posts have shown, Slovie is not a fighter. Then I heard a kid say “Mom, DON’T!” Double Ruh roh – I had no idea there was a kid in the back seat – a teen, but still he shouldn’t have to listen to me swear like a sailor in the middle of a parking lot.

Not one of my best moments.

I quickly apologized, saying I didn’t realize they had a child in the car, but I was still really mad and not willing to totally back down. I knew there was no hope of getting the spot – we were at a stalemate. The driver said he had a full tank of gas and would sit there all day if he had to. His wife and son got out and walked towards the park.

I got in my car and thought I may as well find another spot – I wasn’t going to make my kids stand in a hot parking lot just to prove a point, but to the kids’ credit, they wanted to continue to block his entry until I found a new spot. They were as pissed at these people as I was.

I quickly found a spot that was also very close and returned to pick up my kids. The red Kia was in the parking spot, and the kids were sitting on the wall by the park entrance. Two security guards were waiting for me, and told me the rule was “no holding spots.”

Thank you Barney Fife. Then the guard shadowed us the entire way into the park. I have a feeling the Kia asshole was scared I was going to key his car or slash his tires and asked the guard to keep an eye on us. And as I thought about the event over the course of the day, it dawned on me why I got so angry.

Had I been driving in a parking lot looking for a spot, thought I found one, and saw people standing in it – holding the spot – I would have driven on by. I might have said “rats” or “crap” but I never, ever would entertain the idea of pulling my car in and making them move.

Why? Because that’s mean. It’s a douchebag maneuver. It’s a move that says “I deserve to get what I want regardless of the feelings of others.”

Think of all the things we do in our lives that may not strictly “follow the rules” but are still tolerated. Things like having 15 items in the 12 items or less line. Or draping your coat over a few seats at the movie theater until your family, who is in the popcorn line, shows up.

Hell, that very afternoon at King’s Dominion while waiting in line for a ride, a woman and small child excused their way close to the front of the line to meet up with the rest of their family. The child probably had to use the bathroom, and dad “held their space” in line. Were they breaking the rules? YES! But who cares? It’s a mom and her child wanting to join their family. It’s not that big of a deal that I may have to wait 3 more minutes in line!

Yet I strongly suspect that the Kia driving assholes I encountered would have blown the whistle on them. And these folks? They would make you change lines in the supermarket if you exceeded the 12 item limit. I’ll go one further. They are the type that with a full cart of groceries, would see you in line behind them with nothing more than a can of tuna and make you wait with a “sucks to be you” smirk on their face.

Because they have an inflated sense of entitlement. The world is theirs and we are just cluttering it up.

They are the unkind humankind.

And I’m glad I’m not one of them. I may not have handled this situation in the best way, but at least I’m nice to people. I hold doors, and let cars cut in front if they’re trying to make a turn on a busy street. And I always let the can of tuna guy go in front of me at the supermarket. 

But not them. They are mean. And I hope someday someone calmly tells them that they suck.

I just wish it could’ve been me.

Christmas Tree Pins

This past weekend my girls and I were browsing around the various antique stores in Staunton, VA. I came across a collection of Christmas pins, much like the ones pictured above, and man did it take me back. My mother had a quite a collection of garish pins, mostly given to her by us kids as Christmas presents.

When I was young, I might only have $4.00 or so to spend on my parents for Christmas. I’d squirrel away the quarters and dollar bills pressed into my hands by grandparents or doting aunts, earmarking that stash for my annual trip to the Five & Dime to do my Christmas shopping.

Our Five & Dime, located on Broad Avenue in Palisades Park, was a treasure trove of crap. But it was absolutely perfect for the Bucek children to do their Christmas shopping. Gloves, hankercheifs, ceramic knick-knacks – all could be had relatively cheap, then taken home and wrapped in the discarded funny pages, and placed under the tree.

Dad was hard to buy for. Most years I would buy him a new ink pad, a box of paper clips or a pen. Dull, yet somehow humorous now that I look back. I can picture the father in “A Christmas Story” trying to appear pleased with his can of Simoniz.

KC-05301.1LBut with mom you could get creative. One year I (or one of my siblings) bought her a glass paperweight that looked similar to this one. It had an undulating ribbon of beauty inside that reminded me of a psychadelic flower-covered meadow. I spent hours turning that glass ball around in my hands and peering at all the amazing details inside.

And then there were the pins. Snowmen, wreaths, reindeer and Christmas trees, all chintzy and showy dripping with rhinstones and enamel. Mom would ooh and ah over them on Christmas morning, and would carefully place them in her jewelry box. Every winter when the holidays drew near, you knew you could count on one of those pins being secured to her blouse or her jacket.

How I would love to rummage through my mom’s jewelry box once again and gaze upon all those wonderful treasures we bought for her. And how I would love to stare into that glass globe – wondering what it would be like to run through the flowers.

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Last week my girls and I went to lunch at this new place in town called Zinburger. It’s a wine & burger joint, and as we were tired of turning to fast food for lunch, we thought we’d give it a try. It was a little pricey—$10 for a burger that comes with nothing more than a few pickle chips. Any sides were extra, so I could see this bill quickly adding up to be a real wallet buster.

And it was. 1 burger, a bowl of chili, an order of fries and a milkshake came to $40.00 after the tip. I am not accustomed to paying $40.00 for lunch when all I got was a bowl of chili – but, it was good. The food was all super good. My daughter’s burger was one of the best I’ve tasted in recent years, and my chili, although initially rather cold (and had to be sent back), was also very good. The milkshake? Little tiny sips of sin.

So while I worried over why I paid $40 for lunch for the rest of the afternoon, the soothing balm was that at least the food was really good, and somewhat worth the expense.

But I’m finding this to be the exception and not the rule.

Saturday while out shopping hubby decided he wanted to lunch at a local deli called Little John’s. While you can order a turkey on rye they are better known for their sandwich collaborations, my husband’s favorite being the Five Easy Pieces sandwich (ham & turkey breast with 1000 island, herb mayo, home made cole slaw, bacon and melted Muenster cheese on grilled pumpernickel).

I wasn’t too jazzed to go there. The last time I’d been they had really messed up my sandwich, and it literally left me with a bad taste in my mouth. Not only was the bread badly burned, but the sandwich, in a to-go container, became very soggy. A sandwich that is simultaneously wet and burned is disgusting. After one bite I made my husband drive me back so I could return it. But I figured anyone could have one bad day, and they deserved a second chance.

We ordered….2 sandwiches and two soup & half sandwich combos, along with 2 drinks. I got a Reuben thinking that would be pretty hard to mess up. The gal rang us up and the total? $36.78…really? For sandwiches? 

As I glanced at the menu board I realized that each sandwich cost between $7 & $8. For close to the same price Little John’s charges for their very average sized sandwich, we could have gotten giant subs at Jersey Mike’s and had leftovers. When I realize stuff like that I go crazy. But, the money was spent, so we sat down to eat.

I picked up my Reuben and tried to take a bite. The sandwich was soggy. Again. After one bite it began to fall apart. The corned beef was covered in now melted 1000 island dressing, making the sandwich slimy and extremely unappetizing. At this point I would need to eat it with a knife and fork – there was no way to handle this mess of a sandwich.

SammichI glared at hubby, sheepishly enjoying his sandwich, and said, “strike two!” He asked if I wanted them to make me a new one, and I told him to just return it – I’d rather have my $7.95 back. I was mad. I hadn’t wanted to come here, and my sandwich…my expensive sandwich…was disgusting. I went to the ladies room while hubby dealt with the manager.

I heard him talking to the guy. He told him about my previous visit and how this was strike two, but also told the guy how much he loved their food. A little good cop/bad cop. I went back to my seat and stared at the empty table in front of me. At least the iced tea was good.

But that was about it. The girls’ chicken noodle soup was horrible. It had very little broth, which we consider to be the heart of any good soup, and the noodles were thick and mushy. Nobody finished their lunch except hubby.

SoupBut I will say one good thing about Little John’s. The manager cared. Right as we were clearing up and getting ready to leave, he handed me a freshly and very carefully made Reuben. On the house.

And it was good. $7.95 good? No, but I appreciated the effort.

Will I go back? No way. Little John’s has proven to me that they don’t take the time to make a quality sandwich. They throw it together and hope you won’t notice. I expect crap like that from McDonalds…when you get a 79¢ lop-sided burger with mustard oozing out the side you think…well, it’s only a 79¢ burger. But to pay close to $8 for a sandwich that can’t withstand the first bite?

Eff that shit.

 

 

retro-tv

When I think back over some of the TV I watched since I first sat in front of our old black & white Zenith on the cold linoleum floor in our family room, I realized that there are a few that had staying power. Shows that I will sit and watch, no matter how many times I’ve seen them.

Because certain shows strike a chord in us. Others? Not so much.

I can think of dozens of shows I loved while growing up that hold little to no appeal to me now. It doesn’t mean they were bad shows (well some of them were), but they were only interesting at that particular time. If they came on as re-runs on TV Land or Hallmark channel, I just wasn’t that jazzed to sit and watch them.

Bet there are certain shows that I will watch forever. Maybe not every episode…let’s face it, every show has a few dud episodes…but if I stumble across them while channel surfing, my feet and the volume are going up.

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Little House on the Praire
I love this show – have since it first began airing on Wednesday nights back in 1974. My dad and I used to watch the Waltons, so when Little House pilot movie aired, we watched it. It was along the same vein as the Waltons…good old fashioned family drama. It didn’t take long for me to get hooked. Right from the first episode the rivalry between Nelly & Laura made me say “goodnight John Boy.”

For years I watched every episode. I comisserated with Laura when Mr. Applewood picked on her and made her the class example, or when she put the apples down her dress to make it look like she had boobs. I sighed when Jason wrote he loved her on the chalkboard, and when she got her first kiss from Almanzo. I cheered when she pushed Nelly down the hill in her wheelchair, and won the big race on the back of Bunny.

And it’s not just the main characters that drew me in. Mr. Edwards, Doc Baker. Mr. & Mrs. Oleson, and even Miss Beadle were part of my Little House family. Later I welcomed  the widow Schneider and the Sanderson children…I even liked the Garveys and later, Albert.

I cried when the entire town got sick with Anthrax, or when the entire town got lost in a snow storm, or when the entire town again got sick with Typhus. I cheered when the town softball team (the millers/merchants/heavenly hosts) beat Sleepy Eye, but then cried again when the blind school burnt down. You never knew what emotion you would be feeling during that hour of power on NBC.

The show lost me shortly after Almanzo and Laura got married, I have to admit. Those are my jump the shark years. Once Jason Bateman and Shannon Dougherty came on board I was pretty much boycotting the show. But I’ll watch almost every episode before that.

lucyethel_i_love_lucyI Love Lucy
This probably should have come first. I’ve been watching this show the longest, I think, and here are scenes that still make me laugh today, even though I’ve seen them hundreds of times. Lucille Ball has to be the greatest female television entertainer ever. No arguments.

Yes, there are the classics – stomping grapes, stuffing candy in her bra, getting tanked while rehearsing the Vitavetavegamin commercial. Those are all great, but there are a few that are my personal favorites.

  1. First Stop
    This is the episode where they stop at that crazy hotel on the way to California. I can watch the scene where the beds move back and forth across the room every time. And Ethel tucking Fred into bed? Freakin’ classic.
  2. The Operetta
    I can watch Lucy in a snaggle tooth ’till the end of time. Her performance as the Queen of the Gypsies is flawless. Also catch the episode where she plays the witch in Little Ricky’s play – another good snaggle toothed role.
  3. Lucy Gets a Paris Gown
    Both of the episodes where Lucy tries to get a designer gown are great – Don Loper in Hollywood and Jacques Marcel in Paris. She wore that feed bag with such grace and elegance…
  4. Ricky & Fred are TV Fans
    Lucy & Ethel are tired of being ignored while Ricky & Fred watch the fights. There is a great scene in the police station with veteran actor Frank Nelson that always kills me. That dude was in a bunch of different episodes and he’s good in every one.
  5. Anytime Lucy is In the Show
    Ricky was nuts! I’d pay to see Lucy in the show before I’d listen to one sour note from Ricky. Sally Sweet, Hiawatha, the pompous show horse? Lucy steals the show.

There are a ton more – that show was so good. But it did jump the shark. When they moved to the country I lost all interest.

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M*A*S*H
Every now and then some network will start re-running this show, and hubby and I will watch religiously.  We agree that the first few seasons were the best – the original cast our favorites by far. The episode with the incubator? That’s one of my favorites.  “Did you really yell give me an incubator or give me death?”

Or the one with Adam’s Ribs. “You sent all the way to Chicago and no coleslaw?”

Hubby thought it went down hill after Trapper and Henry left, and once Frank was gone? Fuggedaboudit.

I didn’t mind BJ or Colonel Potter at first. Giving Klinger more air-time was also a plus. I even liked Charles Emerson Winchester up to a point. But the last few seasons the jokes were forced – they came in rapid-fire succession and let’s face it…people just don’t talk like that. Plus everyone got so sanctimonious – BJ and Hawkeye were constantly on the soapbox, and if I had to hear the phrase “meatball surgery” one more time…

But gripes aside, this show gave us at least 7 good seasons and I can find quite a few must see episodes in every season, even the last few. My jump the shark moment was after Radar left, and Klinger stopped wearing dresses, and Margaret got nice.

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The Odd Couple
I miss this show. Somebody needs to put it back on. It was a family favorite, especially with my sisters. Tony Randall was the best. He delivered so many great lines – had such great expressions. And that’s not to take any credit away from Jack Klugman – as a pair they were flawless.

Favorite episodes are (of course) Password, Calypso Felix – when Felix crashes on Oscar & Nancy’s vacation, Security Arms – where the men move into a high security apartment building, Scrooge Gets an Oscar – where Felix asks Oscar to play Scrooge and the Flying Felix – where Oscar helps Felix get over his fear of flying.

“I much fear serious trouble in the fuseladge, Frederick.”

To me, this show never jumped the shark. It’s just the best. The freakin’ best.

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All in the Family
Groundbreaking. Controversial. And so incredibly funny.

There’s something about every charachter that you love – Edith’s long stories, Mike’s constant political rants, Gloria’s blind adoration of her overly political husband, and Archie. Ah, Archie. TV’s bigoted everyman in a white shirt and loafers.

But it’s not just these four – other characters they brought on – even for just one episode – were great.

  1. The Ripleys
    Edith answers the ad in the swap section – enter Rue McLanahan and Vincent Gardenia who play a couple of swingers who are interested in “switching partners, but not for dancing.”
  2. Frank & Irene Lorenzo
    Vincent Gardenia returned in later episodes as Frank Lorenzo – those are all watch worthy. Irene is great too – it’s nice to see Edith get a friend for a short while
  3. Mrs. Jefferson
    Mr. Jefferson was okay, but I like Mrs. Jefferson – she’s my favorite park of the Sammy Davis Jr. episode
  4. The Robbers
    Clevon Little and Demond Wilson play two robbers hiding out in the Bunkers house. There is so many funny things in this episode – it’s a must see.
  5. Beverly LaSalle
    Archie gives mouth to mouth to a transvestite. How great is that. Her character was wonderful – funny and warm. And I loved how they wrote in her death later on.
  6. And then there’s Maude
    While I didn’t like the spinoff Maude, I loved the episode where she was introduced. Cream of wheat with cheese…classic.

All in the Family jumped the shark when Mike & Gloria moved to California. The introduction of Daniell Brisebois (how do I remember these things?????) did little for me. I stopped watching. We won’t even mention Archie Bunker’s Place…

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The Honeymooners – Classic 39
Almost every episode in the classic 39 are priceless gems, jam packed with quotable lines. While I do love the majority of them, my favorite episodes by far are:

  1. A Woman’s Work Is Never Done
    Alice, tired of cleaning and getting zero appreciation for it, decides to go to work and get a maid. This episode is so freakin’ funny and filled with great quotable lines
    “I’m the only girl in town with an atomic kitchen – this place looks like Yucca Flats after the blast!”
    “Some guest, some employer…the simp and the blimp”
    “I dont clean up after any late night snacks, and from the looks of it this boy has plenty of late night snacks.”
    “If this is the servants quarters, I quit.”
  2. Young at Heart
    Ralph tries to prove to Alice that he can still act youthful. I love the scene when they dance “The Hucklebuck,” and the scene at the end where they are around the table reminiscing. Ralph begins to laugh for real during this scene and doubles over, gasping for breath. My favorite lines:
    “You’re a termite Ralph, stricly out of the wood”
    “I’ll kiss you later I’m eatin’ a patater”
    “How can someone so round be so square”
  3. Alice and the Blonde
    Alice & Trixie feel ignored by Ralph & Norton especially after they attentively fawn over Rita, Burt Wiedermeier’s blonde bombshell of a wife. The scene at Burt’s apartment and the following scene in the Kramden’s kitchen are fantastic tv fare. Great quotes include:
    “Leave it there the cat’ll get it”
    “A treasure? He keeps this up much longer he’s going to be a BURIED treasure.”
    “I call you “Killer” ’cause you slay me” – “And I’m calling Bellevue ’cause you’re nuts!”
    “Isn’t that a good idea, Tubby?”

You also can’t forget Ralph playing golf, wearing the man from space costume, Norton’s Captain video getup, and the Chefs of the Future. But I gotta tell you…I also enjoyed every single rant of Alice’s – they are great. Her colorful descriptions of their dreary apartment kill me everytime and I love seeing Ralph – who can be quite a bully/shithead sometimes – put soundly in his place.

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The Brady Bunch
Ok, ok, ok – stop groaning. I just can’t help it…I still love watching this show. My 12 year old breaks my chops everytime she catches me watching it, claiming it’s beyond lame. And this coming from a girl who watches Victorious…hmph. If that’s not the pot calling the kettle black.

Maybe I love it because it takes me back to cozy Friday nights in front of the television – eating rice pudding from the Pathmark and listening to my mom putting away groceries in the kitchen. Or maybe it’s because the plot lines are so positively goofy that I just never tire of them.

I mean really, what’s not to love?

  • Brushes with Greatness – Davy Jones, Desi Arnaz Junior, Joe Namath, Don Drysedale – you never knew who was going to waltz through the front (or back) door of the Brady Home.
  • A Well Travelled Family – The Brady’s got outta dodge pretty often…the Grand Canyon, Hawaii, Kings Island Amusement Park…not to mention episodes involving camping, skiing, boating. The Brady’s were always on the go!
  • Tons of Guest Stars – Vincent Price, Melissa Sue Gilbert (although she wasn’t a star yet), Imogene Coca, Marion Ross, Marcia Wallace, Jim Backus, Jackie Koogan & Don Ho to name a few.
  • Alice – I loved Alice. Plain & simple.

My favorite episodes are by far the iconic ones. Marsha & Doug Simpson rank up there among the best episodes ever. Oh my nose! over and over and over again? Come, on…it’s unbeatable. The new Jan Brady is another stellar, can’t miss episode, along with the one where Peter has his personality crisis aka the famous “porkchops & applesauce” line. And my final favorite? When the Brady kids sing in the talent competition to win money to pay for the silver platter. Along with not one, but TWO classic, albeit utterly cheesy songs, I get to hear Alice say the line “Third place? What a gyp? It’s the last time I ever watch that crooked channel.”

That line had my and sisters rolling on the ground when we were kids. And it’s still chuckle-worthy to me now.

TV of Today…
I wonder what shows we watch today will have staying power for me? Some shows we watch for a year or so constantly – Like Everybody Loves Raymond, Frazier or Will & Grace. I loved those shows, but when try to sit and watch them now, I find myself switching channels during the commercial and not going back.

I know The Sopranos hit a chord with me. I will watch episodes of that on demand often enough to where I feel confident it will stay on my permanent watch list. But I wonder if shows like Modern Family, or any of the dozens of reality shows I watch will still interest me in the future. Can I see myself in 2025 settling down on my couch for a marathon viewing of Toddlers & Tiaras?

Somehow I doubt it. Housewives of New Jersey? Now maybe.

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Today my girls and I are spending another day at King’s Dominion – one of the big amusement parks here in Virginia. While showering, I was thinking of what rides we might go on today- trying to think of rides we haven’t gone on a whole lot so far this year.

The first ride that came to mind is the White Water Canyon. You know the ride – it’s the giant raft that seats 6 and rushes down a rapids-filled river. I used to love this ride, but not anymore. At least not at King’s Dominion.

In the past, this ride used to be like a giant crap shoot…a watery roll of the dice. You chose your seat carefully because on this ride, some folks got wet and others didn’t. It all depended on who the fickle hand of fate felt like pointing her watery finger at. A current or a bump up against the side of the canyon could cause the raft to spin at the last minute, changing the course of someone’s day – who would wind up with crotch-rot and who would stay dry?

Many times I got off this ride with nothing more than a few droplets of water on my shorts, or just wet shoes. Other times I was soaked to the skin while my fellow riders, pointing at me and laughing,  might only have a wet sleeve. That’s what made it fun. You just never knew how you would fare by the ride’s end.

But now? You get wet. Period. King’s Dominion changed the course of the ride within the past few years and no matter where you sit, no matter how the raft bobs, spins or dips, the vessel is channeled to go under a giant waterspout, dousing every passenger. You come off that ride soaked right down to your Fruit of the Looms. Crotch-rot all around!

I don’t understand why they changed it. There was a beauty to the older ride…a randomness. The ride was different every time and that’s what I liked about it. You stood in line wondering if you were going to be walking down the exit ramp dry or dripping wet. My husband, who finds walking in wet shorts to be highly disagreeable, was never willing to risk it.

Well, darlin’…there’s no risk now. No matter what you do, no matter where you sit, the fine folks at KD have engineered it so the house wins every time.

And I think it sucks.

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I am listening to Clan of the Cave Bear on audio book. It’s a first for me – not the story, just having it told to me rather than me reading it. I’ve read the books over and over again. Once I finish the complete series, a year or so will go by and I again feel the need to touch base with Ayla.

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Me have shitty make-up

I can’t remember how old I was the first time I read the books. I just know I had read them before the horrible 1986 attempt at a movie. Part of the reason why it was so laughable was their depiction of early man. The cavemen on the old Geiko commercials are more convincing than this sorry lot of cave dwellers. It’s obvious that Hollywood was neither equiped nor capable of telling this story back in the 80’s.

But now? Now that’s a different story. Now Hollywood could knock this book out of the park. If they can make computer generated apes look like the real deal, how hard could it be to make a few cavemen?

But I wouldn’t want a remake of the movie. The book is written with complex, detailed descriptions of what life might have been like for primitive man. It’s just too much to fit into a 2 or 3 hour movie. What I want is a series. A series like Game of Thrones, where time is taken to really tell the story and develop characters.

But only a premium channel could take this on properly. Cause primitive man can get pretty steamy in them furs. Well, maybe not in the first book. But once Jondalar comes on the scene, watch out. Game of Thrones is like a Lifetime movie compared to some of the stuff that goes on in the Earth’s Children series of books.

Ah Jondalar. Decribed as 6 foot 6, blonde and… (ahem) hung. I’d like to be at that casting call…

My point is I love these books and I think they deserve a second chance. There are tons of Clan Fans out there – I’m sure I’m not alone in my desire to see these stories put to film. You just have to do it right.

So this is my plea to HBO, Showtime, Netflix – anyone who thinks they could do these books justice. For the love of Ursus & Mut…Bring the Earth’s Children to the people of Earth.

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On Sunday night I was scrolling through the channel guide for something to watch, and stumbled across an old summer favorite – Meatballs. Thrilled to have found this movie from my youth, I poured a glass of wine, crossed my legs, and sat back to watch.

About 15 minutes later hubby stuck his head in the room and said, “Meatballs? Why are you watching this? That movie sucked.”

Sucked? Meatballs?

Ok, I’ll admit it’s not the wittiest comedy ever put on the silver screen, and it is on my Pinterest list of  “movies I love but shouldn’t” (along with Overboard and The Great Outdoors). But there’s something about this movie that speaks to me.

I saw it when it came out in 1979 at the ripe old age of 14 – probably at the Park Lane Theater in Palisades park. I had always wanted to go to summer camp. My girlfriend Leslie went every year and I was so jealous of the stories she’d tell when she got back. I guess Meatballs was how I fantasized summer camp would be – making friends, falling in love, hijinx and mayhem all rolled into one.

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The characters make it all seem so effortless, of course. Candace, with her perfect teeth, and Crocket, with his curly hair, are the perfect couple. A.L., quintissential girl next door, and Wendy, the blonde bombshell, are mirrored by sporto Jackie & the nerdy girl (whose name quite escapes me). Hardware is ugly/cute with his huge nose, and Spaz & Fink round out the loveable nerd set on the guys side.

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But I didn’t like all the characters. Wheels drives me absolutely crazy with his lisp and his big nose. And Bill Murray’s love interest Roxanne? Couldn’t they get someone a little more appealing? And while I really liked Rudy – they needed to comb his hair a little more often.

Boo Jody!

Boo Jody!

And there was this one small character named Jody. She reminded me of all the girls in school who were not quite pretty, but were thin and had great hair, and therefore, were popular.

I don’t like her much either.

In real life, I doubt these folks would have all gotten along – but this is Hollywood, and at 14 I didn’t know any better. I liked to watch and think, “well that’s just the perfect summer” and that such a summer could be attained just as easily. That friends and boys and fun would all just come to me organically. Like magic.

Like I said – I was 14.

Yet when I watch it now, I’m reminded of those feelings, and I feel like a little girl with the whole summer ahead of her. And it makes me smile.

Are you ready for the summer?

Selfie Fail with Lady Liberty

Selfie Fail with Lady Liberty

Last weekend my family and I spent a whirlwind weekend in New Jersey and New York. We planned on doing a lot of activities during our 48-hour sojourn in the tri-state area. Usually we don’t get to do half of them due to time and family constraints. But this time? We did it all.

Almost. Here is what we accomplished (in chronological order) on the “Honey Do” list:

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1. White Castles
I was weaned on these things. The minute we crossed the Jersey border we found one and chowed down. However, once I pointed out to my daughter how the bottom bun sticks to the meat via a brown, steam induced goo, she put hers down and ate only fries.

Amateur.

My old house - looking a hell of a lot different.

My old house – looking a hell of a lot different.

2. Walk Around My Hometown
We visited both our childhood homes, and walked around downtown Leonia. I walked through the both Sylvan & Wood Parks, bought a losing lottery ticket, and went in and smelled the library.

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3. Stanley Cup Hockey in a New Jersey Bar
Hubby said if the Rangers made it to game 6 we’d meet some friends and watch the game in a loud, crowded Jersey Bar. Enter the 101 Pub in Bogota, NJ. Too bad the Rangers lost.

Donna

5. Donna Pizza
Before calling it a night we drove into Palisades Park for a slice of heaven – Donna Pizza. Hubby spoke to the original owner who claims to remember him and his family. However, I have to say – it wasn’t as good as I remember it being. We tried to get Hiram’s Hot Dogs after that, but they were closed. It was the only food “must” that we missed.

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6. 9/11 Memorial
This was a place we felt we had to visit, if only briefly. Parking was near to impossible, so we found a semi-illegal spot nearby and took turns walking through the site and reflecting on what happened there almost 13 years ago. I’d love to visit the museum on our next visit to NYC.

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7. Bonus Round
Although we had no intention of stopping in Washington Square Park, we were driving by so we stopped to show the girls this iconic location. When we mentioned it being in the beginning of “When Harry Met Sally” they were like, “huh?” They were more interested in stories of my late teens shenanigans with my friend John in this park and the surrounding Greenwich Village.

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8. Central Park & the Zoo
It truly was a Saturday in the Park for our family. We ate dirty water dogs, posed with the statue of Balto, and let the girls play in Heckscher Playground, where I am convinced my youngest got some sort of poison ivy. They also posed on every bridge we crossed convinced they were all in the movie “Enchanted.” I also showed them the Plaza which they know from “Home Alone 2.”

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Then it was off to the Central Park Zoo. I have to tell you, if hubby hadn’t gotten in for free due to his veteran status, I’d have been pissed at the money spent for admission. Other than the seals & penguins, which were super cute, the zoo was a snore. The snow leopard was a no-show, and the tropical rain forest exhibit was too hot (and too smelly) to really enjoy.

9. The Tracy/John Reunion
By far the best part of my trip was seeing my oldest friend John again. I hadn’t seen him since we moved from Jersey in 1997, and I vow to not let another 16 years go by without seeing him again. I have to say more than a few tears sprang to my eye when I hugged my old high school buddy.

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10. Walked the High Line
One of  my biggest regrets of the whole trip is forgetting my camera. This is most apparent during our visit to the High Line, where the only decent shot is this one, showing my chubby ass and wrinkled skirt. But to be honest, I was so busy catching up with my old buddy that I probably wouldn’t have shot many pictures anyway.

The High Line was much narrower than I thought it would be – and it was fairly crowded. I found most times we had to walk single file, which made story telling and catching up somewhat of a chore. But I loved it nonetheless.

11. Broke Away from the Family
After the High Line hubby took the kids and I went off with John and his friend Rory. We bar hopped, having drinks at The Maritime,  The Stonewall and the Monster. I almost fell not once, but twice, and this was before I had a drop to drink. We then went back to his apartment and got Chinese take-out. I had the best egg roll I’ve had since roughly 1996.

During this time, hubby and the girls checked off items on their own “to do” lists. They went to Madison Square Garden, Times Square and the Disney store, which much to my youngest daughter’s chagrin, had no Frozen dolls in stock.

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12. Ate Breakfast at a Diner
This should have been a highlight of our trip. We tried this place on the recommendation of a friend, but $50.oo later, we left with our plates still half full. The food seriously sucked.

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13. Ellis Island & the Statue of Liberty
We got to Liberty State Park by 10 am, but tickets to actually enter the Statue of Liberty were already sold out. I mean, it was Father’s Day after all. After a quick, but very scenic ferry ride to Ellis Island, we poked around the museum and found my father’s family’s name on the Wall of Honor.

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The Andrew Bucek Family. My dad and his parents came when he was only 4 years old. He’s 90 now.

 

Liberty

After Ellis Island we headed over to the Statue of Liberty to walk around the grounds and shoot a zillion photos. The amount of people getting off the ferry boats to see this world famous icon was staggering. People of every possible ethnicity debarking by the hundreds. It was really amazing.

And my kids thought so too. They kept saying that they’d seen Lady Liberty a million times, but to actually be there in person…it was something really special.

The day was great, but after two days of non-stop walking we were tired, and it was time to make the 6 hour drive home to Virginia. But first,

14. More White Castles
We had to stop one more time for White Castles. In Jersey City. Uff da, was that an adventure. This White Castle was of the old school variety, with no tables. Just a single blue counter along the window with stools. Took me back to those days at the Nungesser’s White Castle, with the counter ladies and their green eye shadow.

Our trip was a huge success and most of that success was due to the fact that we kept it simple. We purposely did not call most of our family and friends who still live in the area. Because it was a trip whose sole purpose was for the four of us to see the sights, reminisce about our childhoods, and share with our girls what our neighborhood was like.

And we did it all. Mission accomplished.

 

 

NJ

In less than 48 hours I will be back in my home turf – cruising around the streets of Leonia, gazing at the NYC skyline, and eating White Castles.

Hell, eating a lot of things if we’re going to be brutally honest. I just hope that all the walking I will be doing will counter balance the massive quantities of Hiram’s hot dogs, Donna’s Pizza and sack after sack of murder burgers that I’ll be ingesting.

To celebrate our 20th wedding anniversay hubby and I decided to take a quick trip up to our old stomping grounds to revisit where it all began. We are taking the kids with us, because quite frankly, I’d feel guilty going without them. We don’t get to travel much, and the thought of heading off for a fun weekend in New York City without our two girls seemed like a shitty thing to do. We are a family and we do everything together…why not this?

It’ll just be the four of us – no outsiders. The last time we were up north everybody monopolized our time and left us with few opportunities to do the things we wanted to do. So we vowed that this trip would be free of family and friends, with one exception for each of us. Hubby is seeing one of his six brothers, and I am going to visit my friend John – my very best and oldest friend who I have not seen since I moved from New Jersey in 1997.

Other than those two planned events, we are going to play it by ear. Yes, we want to visit the Central Park Zoo, and Ground Zero, and the Statue of Liberty – see my family name on the Wall of Honor at Ellis Island. But you know the old saying – time flies when you’re having fun. If we get to do half of those things I’ll be amazed – especially with a family of late sleepers. I’ll be setting the alarm at 6 am – you can be sure of that.

But aside from Times Square and the big city, I’m also looking forward to just poking around my old home town. Walking the streets, looking in the shop windows, and remembering the places that were there when I was a kid. I’ll walk through Wood Park and remember the countless softball games I played in the spring league. I’ll go into the public library just to smell the heavy scent of books and paper that always permeated those rooms. And if there’s time, I might just make the walk from Fort Lee Road all the way to Oakdene Avenue – my old route home from school.

I can’t wait.

Screw it. I’m setting the hotel alarm for 5 am. Sleeping is a waste of time anyway.

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