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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.

Blog

There is a reason why I called this blog “Typical Tracy.” Mainly it’s because when I look back on my life, there are things that have happened to me that just don’t seem to happen to anyone else. Mishaps that don’t seem to touch the lives of others – because they are typically saved for me.

Case in point…

When I was in high school I loved taking part in any sort of theater. I was in chorus, I was in the talent show every year, and I tried out for every school play. But by senior year I gave up on the latter – I grew tired of getting “chorus” while the same dipshits got the leads. Yeah, our drama lady totally played favorites.

And one year there was the Jane Doe Talent Show. (I’m calling it the Jane Doe Talent Show because I don’t want to actually write the girl’s real name here). She was in the grade behind me, and her father was a fairly well-to-do business owner in town. Her father also thought she was super talented.

Living so close to New York City, our hometown had it’s share of child actors. One boy was in the Broadway version of Shenandoah back in the 70’s, and another girl was in quite a few commercials, including a Dr. Pepper commercial with David Naughton – remember “I’m a Pepper! You’re a Pepper!” Yeah, she was in one of those.

Jane Doe’s dad tried very, very hard to get his girl recognized in a similar fashion. There were always posters in his shop window advertising some out of the way show that she would be performing in – her name usually in 12 point type at the bottom – the words “ALSO WITH” above it. I think that’s when he got the idea for the talent show.

Let daughter star in her very own show – and maybe he could get some talent big wigs to come – and thus discover her. So posters went up around school advertising for try-outs.

Enter Tracy.

I tried out and subsequently was given a very small part in the opening number. Practices were in her basement every weekend. Turns out the only person in the show that was not one of Jane’s personal friends was me. I should’ve quit right then and there – I was a total outsider. But, no…I’m a trouper!

My part was to be one of 4 dancers to the song “Magic To Do” from Pippin. During the weeks that went by I learned my moves and attended rehearsals. I wasn’t cast in any other part of the show – just that one opening number. The rest of the acts showcased Jane’s talents – lots of solos and duets – with her friends.

The night of the show I had my family there – mom, dad and Aunt Carol – who had brought along a group of kids from her neighborhood that I was friends with. We get the cue to go onstage, and I take my place in line with the other girls. The curtain goes up, the music begins, and we start to dance.

All is fine until about halfway through. While I come out of a turn, I notice the other 3 girls are doing moves entirely different from what we rehearsed for weeks and weeks (and weeks). My brain, suddenly in the midst of a tsunami of panic, made the split second decision – Fuck it – I was going to keep on keeping on.

To attempt to mimic their unfamiliar moves would have made me look even more pitiful than I probably did out there on that stage. For there I was – the one girl in the back shakin’ her groove thang to the beat of a different drum.

We eventually synched back up, and finished the dance to mild applause. As we walked off the stage I turned to Jane and her posse and said the 80’s high school equivalent of “what the fuck” to them. Her response? “Oh, we changed that part last night during our sleepover. I’m sorry – we forgot to tell you.”

I mean, really? Who does this happen to? Did you ever?

If my folks hadn’t been in the audience and paid good money to see this cabaret of crap I’d have walked all the way home in my Capezios right then and there. I sat backstage and sulked for the remainder of the show while Jane sat in the spotlight and belted out showtunes.

The funny part is when I saw my family, the friends Aunt Carol had brought said, “we loved you the best – you did a great job on your solo!”

I hadn’t thought of it that way. Perhaps some of the audience was fooled into thinking I doing more than just shuffling off to Barffalo – maybe they thought I had a solo. It eased my wounded pride just a little.

Oh, and nothing big came from the show for poor Jane. No discovery – no recognition – just a whole lot of daddy’s money spent.

But it did give me this story. This story, that when I told to my youngest daughter made her laugh and laugh and laugh. Like for days. She’d be sitting there and would suddenly bust out laughing and say, “you did the wrong dance moves!!”

Typical.

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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.

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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.

Young woman smoking cigarette

Five years ago today I was pulling my hair out, gnashing my teeth, and eating everything in sight.

Because five years ago today I quit smoking.

I’ve blogged about this just about every year, and I might continue to do so until my time of death is called. Because the fact that I was able to quit smoking is nothing small of a miracle.

I smoked a lot, and I liked it. My husband and kids would complain about it constantly. But heading outside for 90 seconds of solitude while I got my nicotine rush was my little escape. I smoked 2 packs a day – I switched from Parliament to generic brands when the prices started to go up. But when my state announced that there was going to be a significant price hike in cigarettes, I knew I had to quit.

We are not a wealthy family, and the money I was spending on cigarettes already made me feel guilty. But the thought of spending more? That was enough to make me try quitting again.

I’d tried tons of times before. I’d made it 9 months back in 2009 or so, but while visiting the Waltons Museum on a photo shoot, the guy that ran a small tourist offered me a smoke while I was asking him questions. I don’t know why I took it, but I did. We smoked while looking at a bench with the words “Goodnight Jim Bob” on it. On my drive back home I stopped and bought a pack. Fucking Jim Bob…

For some reason, when I tried to quit in 2009 it stuck. I remember getting a prescription for Chantix but when I found out it was more than $100 a month, I was ashamed. Here I had become addicted to a substance that was going to cost my family more money than we could afford just for me to quit it. Ugh. It was there and then I decided to give the patch, at a $30 per month cost, another try.

And here I am 5 years later to the day.

I see people smoking now and I feel so utterly sorry for them. I know how hard it is to quit. I know so very well. Somehow I was able to muster up the strength to resist those slender white mothers. I hope they can find the strength one day too.

And now? I don’t have to worry about buying them anymore. At 10 pm I’m not driving to the store to buy a pack because I only have 2 cigarettes left. I don’t have to stock up if a storm is coming. I don’t have to make my family pull over on long trips so I can hot box 2 smokes in the span of 4 minutes.

And I really don’t miss them either. But… I will walk through a cloud of smoke if I’m behind some dude smoking a Marlboro. And I inhale deeply and say “aaaaaah.”

table n onion

I realized this past weekend that certain folks out there don’t understand how things work in this world.

For instance, if you are looking for a parking spot at the grocery store, and you see someone backing out of their space, you stop your car and put on your blinker. This signifies to the entire world that you have claimed that spot once it has opened up. Anyone who takes that spot from you is a d-bag.

Plain and simple.

Something of a similar nature happened to us at King’s Dominion on Saturday. I almost always pack a lunch when we go there – a burger with fries is over $15 in the park, and it’s not even very good. I also park right next to the small pavilion where they have 6 picnic tables, so it’s easy for us to get the stuff from the car to the table.

Yeah, I got this lunch thing down.

So, after a morning of coasters and carousels, we were all ready to head to the car and chow down on our sandwiches. The last time we were there we could not get a table, and we had to eat out of the back of our car – but it was only three of us then. This time we had friends along, and we really needed a table.

I walked around the pavilion and surveyed what stages of luncheon-ness the groups occupying the tables were at. Having spotted folks who had eaten their sandwiches and were now just picking at chips, I asked if they were going to be leaving soon. They said yes, that they were just about to clean up their stuff. I said great, and put my water and my bag down on the table. I told the kids to stand by and stand watch.

I walked to the car to get our cooler and noticed a teenage girl looking daggers at me. Oh well, teens are known for being bitchy. When I turned to head back to the table, there was a man sitting there.

Hmmm.

He was cutting an onion on a paper plate using a Johnny-on-the-go pocket knife. I approached him and said, “excuse me, but I had my stuff here.”

He glanced at me and said, “Yes, well we’ve been waiting over there a long time for a table to open up, and this one is ours. But thank you!”

Seriously? What is this, a line at the bank where you wait for the next available cashier? That’s not how it works, bub – not in the world of parking spots and picnic tables.

See, I had secured that table – secured it by engaging in coversation with the previous occupants – sealing the deal if you will. All this dork did was sit and wait. That doesn’t cut it in my book.

And I didn’t like the way he had spoken to me. He had told me his side and dismissed me – like, nothing further needs to be said, so piss off. The only thing that kept me from sitting down and refusing to move was the fact that the table right next to us opened up. Otherwise, I would have dug my heels in.

But I was still pissed and so were my kids. I mean, who muscles in and steals a table from two 12-year old girls? I mumbled “douchebag” and walked away to set up our lunch.

He sat there cutting his onion, and taking out bags of cold cuts from his cooler. His dumpy wife and snarky kids came over and sat down. Oh, and the bitchy teen? One of his. No wonder she gave me the cold stare – I’d “stolen” their table.

So while we ate, we picked them apart. We laughed at how idiotic it was to sit and cut an onion at a picnic table – why not cut it at home and put it in a ziploc or some tupperware? Or better yet, skip the onion. Who wants volcano breath while you’re waiting in line to ride the volcano?

My youngest daughter was really mad. I told her it really didn’t matter because we’d gotten a table anyway with no further waiting, but she was still sore that she’d been bullied out of her spot by a middle aged man in too-high shorts and knee socks. She’s just like her dad…

Had hubby been there, there would have been no turning the other cheek. No all’s well that ends well. There would have been shouting and name calling, and stares, and shaking of heads.

So during lunch I schooled the kids on the proper etiquette for commandeering a table, whether at the mall or in the King’s Dominion parking lot lunch pavilion – and I told them loud enough for him to hear.  I also told them not to let grown men push you around when you are in the right.

Oh, and the most important advice? Cut your freakin’ onions at home.

earlybirdI’m a morning person. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. I find that I do my best work in the morning, exercise better in morning, and have a better attitude in the morning. Mornings are magical.

Take this morning for instance. The alarm went off at 5 am, and I’ll tell you I did not want to get out of bed. I had just rolled over and became comfy when the clock began its incessant beeping. Ugh…the thought of resetting the alarm so I could get another half hour of z’s was tempting.

But I got up and made my tea, trolled facebook, used my 5 lives in Candy Crush (stupid level 437) and then began my morning freelance work. As I sat there typing away, I heard a bird making the most incredible song. He was singing “Figaro” – those three notes sung in Figaro’s Aria – over and over. Figaro! Figaro! It was so sweet, and nobody up to enjoy it but me.

There’s a smell and a feel to the morning that you don’t get at any other time of day. The air smells clean and cool. There’s a dampness you can almost feel and see as the morning light begins to kiss the earth. It’s the time of day when you see bunnies in search of sweet clover, and some times a turtle or two if it’s been particularly rainy. It’s so beautiful and the best part is the whole day is still ahead of you – filled with possibilities.

I’m one of those people who are up with the sun. Even on weekends, if I wake up and see that it’s light out, I’m out of bed in an instant – I don’t want to waste the morning! It may be because my dad was a morning person. If we were sleeping in late as kids he’d come up and roust us out of bed as if we were committing a horrible crime. I guess I learned that lesson early on.

When we would be vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard each summer, my dad would pick one morning for us to go fishing. When I was a little squirt everyone would go, and I rarely got a fishing pole. But as the years went by, I was the only one who was still interested in this early morning ritual – everyone else opted to stay in bed and sleep. Not me! What a waste!

Beach Road BridgeWe’d wake at 5:30. Dad would pour me a glass of cranberry juice, we’d eat some toast, and off we went! We’d head to the Edgartown docks or the bridge along beach road, and drop our lines in the water. The air would be cool – you needed a jacket – and the water was so still. All you heard was the sounds of the seagulls, the water lapping against the pylons, and the occasional splash of a fish. I always caught sea robins.

When I was in my twenties, I used to go to my friend Paul’s home near Hunter Mountain – what they call “going up the country” in my old stomping grounds. When we’d head up there for the weekend, we’d party late into the night on Fridays, but on Saturday mornings I was always the first one up. I’d dress, and head out to take a walk down the road – not so much for exercise – but just to start my day peacefully. I’d gaze at the scenery, peoples homes, the farm animals that might be out in the pasture.

It’s like I was all alone in the world because for the most part, the world hadn’t woken up yet.

That’s why I love mornings. The world gets so busy during the day with cars and people and sirens and radios and screaming kids in shopping carts. Yet when I’m out in the morning, I might only see a handful of people. You pass them on your walk and you think to yourself, “Yep. They get it.”

 

 

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