Archives for category: travel

ikuBEGN2Sfe3Oxes0wYv_eggrolls.jpg1Time for another New York City story. I got a million of ’em!

On our rainy Saturday, after tooling around Central Park, we decided to head down to Chinatown for lunch. Brian and Sasha were hankering for some egg rolls – the last time we had been in NY my friend John had ordered us some Chinese for dinner and I had one of the best egg rolls EVER. I think they were banking on a similar experience.

We had no clue where to eat or where to go once we got there, but we found a place that looked promising. It had ducks hanging in the window, so we decided to give it a shot.

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We looked at the menu. No egg rolls. Brian asked the waiter if they had egg rolls, and he said they didn’t. Brian tossed the idea around the table of leaving and finding another place, but it was cold and rainy out, and I’d already started drinking the tea the waiter had brought.

Rather than leave, we decided to order a few small things and then go in search of egg rolls elsewhere. We ordered some fried rice and spare ribs, and once we began eating, I wish we had ordered more food. It was fabulous.

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There was a family of 8 that came in and sat at the table next to us. They ordered about 7 dishes of food, and I sat watching them longingly as they dished them out to one another. We left, still in search of egg rolls.

It had gotten colder and was raining, so we going to find a place fast. A restaurant around the corner had a picture of an egg roll in the window and that’s all I needed to get out of the cold.

They didn’t have egg rolls. They had spring rolls, which would’ve been fine, except they only had vegetable spring rolls, and hubby don’t do veggie spring rolls. But we were already inside, so we ordered some dumplings and chicken skewers.

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Again, the food was killer.

While we were waiting for the food, my daughter looked up the history of the egg roll. We surmised that it was unlikely we were going to find egg rolls in Chinatown. The food here is too authentic – and egg rolls, while yummy, are not authentic Chinese.

I was fine with that. The food we sampled at lunch was something I’ll always remember. It was warm and comforting on a day that was wet and raw.

Then we walked around the corner and got some pastries at an Italian bakery. That was the cherry on the cannoli.

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DakotaDuring our recent visit to New York, a must-see for our youngest was the Dakota and Strawberry Fields. With bad weather moving in on the Saturday we were there, we decided to make it our first stop.

While dad found a parking spot, mom and daughter hung outside the Dakota for about 15 minutes, soaking up the notion that John Lennon himself had walked these very streets. We watched the doorman point out the spot where Lennon was shot to an inquisitive tourist. Staring down at that spot almost made my daughter cry.

We then headed across the street to see the “Imagine” mosaic. There were a ton of people milling about, each taking turns kneeling, laying or posing in front of the memorial, while a “performer” badly played Beatles songs on his guitar.

When it was our turn, I have to admit, I got emotional watching our little Beatles fan pose by the tiles. We had finally gotten her here. This was her moment. Hubby took this photo of her there sporting her British flag Converse sneakers.

IMG_0693After Strawberry Fields we walked around Central Park for a while, ate a few dirty water dogs, and then headed back to the Dakota, and the car. Hubby took a few more photos of daughter in front of the landmark building, and we walked down W. 72nd Street to our car.

We all got in, and hubby turned on the engine. When the radio kicked in, “Strawberry Fields” was on…not the studio version, but the rare early take. Mouths open, we all looked at each other, dumbfounded at the chance of this happening. Of all the stations that the radio could’ve been tuned to when hubby parked the car, this was the very song that was playing after our excursion to Strawberry Fields.

We pulled up W. 72nd Street, stopped in front of the Dakota, rolled down our windows and blasted the song. I turned to my daughter and said, “It’s as if John is sending you a message–like he knows your here, and knows how you feel.”

It was a goosebumps raising moment, and one that the family will always remember.

Strawberry Fields…Forever.

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For my youngest, this is her last week of school before the school breaks for summer. This morning, she turned to me and said, “Momma, it’s my LAST week of school. I just realized I have the whole summer ahead of me.”

And you know what, she’s right. What a delicious time of year that was when you were a kid…those last few days of school before the start of summer vacation. Where you did next to nothing in class other than watch movies and talk with friends. Recess would be 2 hours long.

The summer seemed almost endless. Long days spent at the pool, riding my bike up to the corner store to buy candy or ice cream, afternoons filled with bottles of diet Pepsi and bags of Doritos while watching Match Game.

And then, vacation would come. Like real vacation – packing up the family and heading to Martha’s Vineyard for 2-3 weeks of gloriously good times. We never went to the Jersey Shore growing up. My dad hated it. I don’t think I had ever been to the Jersey shore until I was in college. Who needed it when you could romp in the surf of South Beach.

Every aspect of our trips to the Vineyard were magical. We would always have an early ferry, so we would leave our house in the middle of the night. I remember as a child going to bed that night in giddy anticipation of being woken up at 1 or 2 am, piling into the back of our station wagon fixed up with pillows and blankets, and heading north towards Cape Cod.

Dad would usually stop at the Howard Johnsons at the Mystic Seaport exit, where we would get muffins and hot chocolate. And those next few hours in the car were blissful…the cool night air and the anticipation of the ferry ride that began the official start to vacation.

We are heading up there again this year to spread my father’s ashes. It’s really where he belongs. While this trip will be the highlight of our summer, I’m hoping there are many other trips that my daughters will cherish over the course of those short summer months.

Things like visits to Kings Dominion, hiking and swimming at Blue Hole, and a trip to DC to take part in the Truth March. Yeah, I think the summer of 2017 might turn out okay.

Oh wait…I still have to buy a bathing suit. Groan.

1The weekend when “he who shall not be named” took the oath, my girls and I were in Richmond to see yet another performance of Disney on Ice. When Dad drives the Zamboni, and the tickets are free, you just go, despite the fact that you’ve seen it a hundred times. Plus, we get a free weekend at a hotel in Richmond!

The morning before the show, we decided to take a walk. The Capitol building was right down the street, so we headed over to poke around.

20170121_092142The Poe statue? It’s just okay. Not very dramatic.

2Steps looking up towards the George Washington Statue

3.jpgSteps leading up to the Capitol. The couple at the top were flying a drone. It was cool

4.jpgDaughter #2 mugging for the camera. I was a tad panicky because she was up so high.

5.jpgMy girls In front of the Governor’s Mansion. There was lots of sporting equipment in the yard. FYI.

6.jpgThe Washington Statue…what is that little door for?

Our stroll was really nice…Just me and my girls soaking the the architecture, the statuary, and history that is downtown Richmond.

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Today a co-worker of mine sat with me to go over a few last minute items before she “left town” for the holidays. As we were wrapping things up, I casually asked where she was going. Her answer?

“I’ll be gone for six weeks.” She then rattled off a triad of envy-inducing destinations that left me wondering, how the hell is that possible for a working woman? I mean, the last time I had six weeks off I was unemployed…and there was no money for travelin’ at that time my friends.

But man, that must be nice.

I envy anyone who gets to travel – for business or for pleasure – it’s just so cool to be able to go somewhere new; to explore a new city or a part of the country you’ve never been to; and then come back home to all that is familiar.

Even something as simple as a road trip has always excited me. I drove by myself down to Florida once to visit my sister. Another time I drove to Mississippi to visit a boyfriend who was in the Air Force. Both trips were absolutely thrilling for me.

My dad would check out my car, and set me up with a AAA triptik map. As I drove down the road I’d look forward to flipping each new page of my map, and I could stop and do anything I wanted at any time. Cool water tower? I’d stop and take a photo. I remember stopping in Atlanta just to see the infamous Peachtree Street.

With the exception of my week long summer vacation each year, I almost never get to travel. The last time I was on a plane was when my dad was in a car crash back in 1999, and I had to fly out to Colorado. Other than that my family and I stick to car travel, mainly because it’s economical.

There are times I think of exploring my state of Virginia, but then I remember that my car has over 250,000 miles on it, and settle for something local…and familiar.

Sigh.

I hope one day I am able to get out there and explore again. Even driving down a road I’ve never travelled on before holds a bit of excitement for me. Where will it lead to? What will I find a long the way?

I can’t wait to find out.

 

Wedding

Blogger’s Note: photos shown are ones my brother took while visiting Czechoslovakia the ’70s, but they reflect the same customs of the wedding I attended.

Back in the early summer of 1984 I spent 3 weeks visiting my relatives in what was then Czechoslovakia. The trip was a scary one for me because I was there alone…I had no father to translate, no sisters to commiserate and joke with…it was just me and a very large language barrier.

During that three weeks I had the priveledge of attending a wedding with my cousin Jozef. Having been to a bunch of weddings in the states, I thought I knew what to expect.

How do you say “Puhleeez!” in Slovak? I would discover over the course of the unfolding hours, that a Slovak wedding is almost nothing like an American wedding.

First off, the day of the wedding was unseasonably cold for late June. It was overcast, damp, and chilly, and I had nothing fancy that would fit the bill for a wedding that was also warm. Figuring our time spent outside would be limited, I ignored the elements and wore a light knee-length dress, with short sleeves and my best pair of pumps.

I was expecting to start our wedding adventure at the church, but instead we walked to the groom’s house where we waited around with the gathering crowd until he was ready. Then, with 2/3 of the village and an oompah-pah band in tow, we marched to the bride’s house.

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By now I’m not really cold, because we are doing so much walking…but my feet are beginning to hurt just a little having walked a mile or more in pumps. Oh well, I can sit at the reception. On we go!

Side note…If you’ve ever seen the Godfather, this was very reminiscent of Michael’s wedding scene in Italy.

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Once at the bride’s house we then marched to what I figured would be the church. Wrong again! We had to keep on truckin’!

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At this point we march to the town hall which is where they did the civil ceremony, which I think had something to do with the fact that it was still a communist country when I was there. By this time I had been on my feet for at least 90 minutes and I was wondering if I was ever going to be able to sit down.

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Once the civil ceremony was completed, it was off to the the church ceremony. I was blissfully thankful to be sitting in a pew, but I have to tell you, that church was cold and damp. I was sitting, but I was freezing! I was looking forward to the reception, some hot soup and a shot of booze!

The reception took place in the village’s community center where rows and rows of tables and chairs were set up. I was poured wine and served a dish of hot soup, both of which I devoured within minutes (*burp*). The band started to play, and after another shot, Jozef and I danced to a polka.

When I returned to my seat, I was served a plate of pork roast, cabbage and potatoes. Yeeyum! Having downed that plate of food after the bowl of soup, I was feeling fine. My belly was full and my feet were starting to recover. More wine, a few more polkas….this wedding was awesome!

Then came the plate of Keilbasa. What the hell? How much am I expected to eat? I figured I’d pick at it…I needed to keep a full stomach to help me from getting too tipsy.

Word had spread throughout the wedding guests that I was the “visting American girl” and before long every Tomas, Dalek and Havel was asking me to dance. The next 2 hours was a constant whir of polkas, booze and endless plates of food. The food just never stopped coming…chicken, beefsteak, fish, more soup, pastries. This put the American wedding of “will you be having the chicken or fish?” to absolute shame.

I was monumentally thankful for every break the band took, because it meant I could relax for a few minutes. As the night was nearing what I thought HAD to be the end, I took my shoes off and rubbed my now swollen feet. I groaned as I saw the band head back to their places, ready to start a new set.

I don’t know if you’ve ever danced the Polka, dear reader. It’s a load of fun, but it’s taxing for a beginner with a full stomach. There’s lots of spinning, lots of footwork, and lots of twirling. In short, it’s exhausting, especially when you can’t even communicate with the dude you’re dancing with.

So when the father of the bride came up to Jozef and asked if I would dance with him, I jammed my puffy feet back into my now too-small pumps and danced two polkas with him. After that I smiled, put my hands up and said, “Thank you so much, but I need to sit down. My feet really hurt!”

What happened next occured so fast that I wasn’t sure it was really happening. A red-faced father of the bride was toe to toe screaming at my cousin Jozef and gesturing at me wildly. When Jozef came back I tried to ask him what was wrong, through the use of my Slovak/English dictionary, but he waved it off, took a last swig of beer and ushered me to the door.

We slowly walked home – me on very tender, very cold, bare feet. I could not get my size 9 shoes on at all because my feet were now size 101/2.

I didn’t know this until the next day, but apparently the father of the bride was highly insulted that I only danced 2 polkas with him as opposed to the entire set of 5 or 6. I guess it’s a huge honor to be asked for a dance by someone so important to the celebration.

On the one hand I was mortified…unbeknownst to me I’d acted poorly and made my relatives look bad. But on the other hand I was annoyed. Couldn’t this man see that I am obviously not aware of all their customs? Was he also blithely unaware that I had been dancing the entire night and was close to crippled when he asked me to dance?

My feet didn’t get back to normal for a few days after that. And I didn’t want to polka any time soon either. But I have to tell you, I could polka much better than I did before that wedding.

Me and cousin Stello, sophomore year, holding Little Bear Foot. Uff da, those posters alone are worth a blog post.

When I was a teenager, I snuck into New York City to go see Cheap Trick. We missed the last bus back to New Jersey and I was very, very late getting home. My father was so pissed at me that not only did he ground me, but he forbade me from participating in the school talent show.

But his punishment was all for naught. I wound up getting very sick and would’ve missed the show anyway. I think he felt really bad, because I woke up the next morning to find the most adorable bear I’d ever seen in bed a long with me – a bear mom said daddy had bought just for me.

The name on his tag read “Little Bear Foot” and I thought it was such a delightful name that I never changed it. I don’t know why, as a teenager, I would form such a strong attachment to a stuffed animal, but Little Bear Foot and I never parted ways.

He came to college with me, where in the fall of my sophomore year his nose fell off – fell off and disappeared. I searched my room for it, but that black plastic bear nose never turned up. So, not liking that Little Bear Foot could not smell, I sewed a button on in its place.

In the spring of that same sophomore year, Little Bear Foot travelled to Vienna with me. He sat on my bed at Pension Pertschy that whole semester, with the exception of when I spent spring break in Basel, Switzerland…then he was jammed into my backpack, his head sticking out through the zipper.

Yeah, that got me lots of looks and giggles at the train station.

At one point during my Vienna semester my roommates, pack of bitches that they were, kidnapped him for a few days. I mean, who does that? Ugh, I shudder to think of what vile things those girls did to him when I wasn’t around.

He then went to Czechoslovakia with me, back to Basel, and then to Luxembourg, where I flew back home to JFK.

And now he sits in my daughter’s bedroom. I’ve told them that is he belongs to me…he’s my bear, but they can let him hang with their stuffed animals. He’s matted and old – hell, so am I – but that bear and I went through a lot together. I hope he never gets thrown out or given away. I hope that one day some grandchild will hold and love just as I did – and maybe take him on a couple more adventures.

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In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Take a Chance on Me.” – What’s the biggest chance you ever took? Did it work out? Do tell!

This one is sort of a “no duh” for me.

My freshman year at the University of Delaware was less than stellar. As I entered into my sophomore year I realized I wasn’t very happy there. I had few friends and felt as if I really didn’t fit into this semi-Southern, über Preppy atmosphere. Remember, I’m a loud-mouth from New Jersey.

I was seriously looking into transfering when I saw a flyer in the student center for the study abroad program. You could travel to Costa Rica, London, or Vienna. That sounded wonderful to me, so I attended the interest meeting. After gathering all the financial/travel information, I called my parents and ran the idea past them.

Dad was willing to let me go, but only if I went to Vienna because it was a hop, skip & jump to his homeland of Czechoslovakia. If I got accepted into the program it was decided that I would spend 3 weeks after the semester at my cousin Stello’s house in what is now Slovakia. I was so excited at the prospect of travelling to Europe and attending school! Seeing art and culture outside of the Eastern US was a dream come true!

But I was also scared. And I got more and more scared as the spring semester drew near. There were times when I seriously doubted whether or not I should go. I was going to be totally alone for months…no trips home, no familiar faces, and let’s not forget the language barrier. I was required to take at least one German course before leaving.

There was also a problem with credits. It turns out that the courses I would be studying while in Vienna would largely not apply to my degree. So it would almost be like a waste of the entire semester, except for the fact that I would be having a life-changing cultural experience.

Lots of the other students attending the program were equally miffed about the credits not being applicable and complaints were lodged. The University was going to decide if an acception could be made, and that’s when I made the deal with myself.

If the University allowed the credits to be used, I would go. If not, I’d back out.

Eight weeks later, with a month of German under my belt, I flew out of JFK airport on my way to Vienna. It was the scariest thing I’d ever done, but to this day, the most rewarding.

Not only because of all the sights I saw, and the people I met, but because I really learned that I could stand on my own. I could manage my own money, I could make my own travel plans, and I could get along in a city where I didn’t really know the language all that well.

I came back to school a junior, and a much different person. I had travelled. I was worldly. And the folks around me? They had spent their spring in Newark, Delaware. I’d been in Vienna, and Rome and Basel.

Oh, yeah, and Czechoslovakia. I really learned how to stand on my own there.

And here’s my parting advice…if your school offers this opportunity, TAKE IT.

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Facebook-Head

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Green-Eyed Monster.”

So, you know how on Facebook you can unfollow a person, but remain friends?

Yeah, I use that feature a lot. First, I use it to avoid people who constantly post nothing but inane meme’s about “Bein’ American” or “Obama is the devil! Share if you Agree!”

Oh, and it’s also really good for those people who post 12 old photos of themselves everyday, even though it’s not #TBT. It’s like, ugh – how many photos of you do I have to see back when you had a smoking body, even though you still have a smoking body?

But the folks I’ve been unfollowing lately? They are the well-travelled Facebook Friends.

These are folks who usually don’t post on Facebook unless they are in France, or Italy, or some other great vacation destination. When they are not clogging up my wall with scenes of Venice and Bordeaux, they are showing off their thoroughbreads, or their pedigree dogs, or their 4th car.

And it drives me nuts.

Am I a jealous douchebag for unfollowing them? Maybe yes, maybe no. All I know is as I sit at my desk, having spent my one week’s vacation already, and knowing I have like 46 more weeks of sitting at my desk before I get to go somewhere that will ultimately not be terribly exciting, I feel no remorse for unfollowing them.

So there.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “From You to You.”

Right now it’s 1979 and you’re in highschool – most likely 10th grade. I know it sucks right now. I know you get bullied by those horrible, souless girls from Edgewater. But you have your best buds John, and Joe, and a family who loves you, so hang in there. And while we’re back in ’79, here’s a few things to think about…

I know you think you have a fat ass, but you don’t. The 50 year old version of you would LOVE to have the ass you have now. So when Brendan D. makes that joke in history class about you needing to wear a “Caution – Wide Load” sign, smile at him sweetly and ask him how it feels to be the product of so many years of inbreeding.

Don’t ever cut your own bangs. You are going to make a horrible, horrible mistake and cut them ridiculously short.

When you stay home from dress rehearsal to watch the episode of “Little House on the Praire” where Almanzo kisses Laura for the first time, you are making the right move. After all, those school plays directed by Mrs. Marshall are always going to star the same kids she favors, and you will always, only be cast in the chorus.

You’re going to quit the volleyball team. I know it’s no fun because the girls who are supposed to be your team mates barely give you the time of day, let alone a pat on the back. I know that they get to go to fancy sleep-away volleyball camp and learn all sorts of intricate plays. But when Mary M., who knows full well that you were NOT one of her fellow campers, complains that you don’t know anything and are dragging the team down, maybe you should do something besides stomp off to the locker room and quit.

Instead, maybe you should ask her if she earned her bitch merit badge at camp on the very first day.

If you haven’t already, forget about Leif Garrett. He sucks. Tear down the 996 photos you have haning in your room and repaint. But don’t let Judy and John have access to the paint. They are going to paint a huge cock on the wall that you can still see, even though you feverishly painted over it, when the light is just right.

Keep seeing Rocky Horror. Throw rice, shoot water pistols, hurl rolls of Scott toilet paper. But don’t idolize Janet as much, and don’t bore your chorus class with your Janet “quote of the day” on the blackboard. You were a dork for doing that.

Right now you are staunchly opposed to smoking, but believe me, you are going to start, and you will smoke for a very long time. Don’t grub cigarettes from people at college parties – don’t even start. It is going to be very hard to quit, but if you don’t heed my warning, FYI – you do manage to kick the habit in your 40s.

When you are in NYC with John and Dave W., and a man hands you a flyer for a sex club, don’t read it and ask if oral sex is when you just talk about it.

You are going to Czechoslovakia this summer. When you are walking around a spa town, I think Piešťany, a man is going to walk up to you and grab your boob. Cock block that asshole. Aside from that, remember everything about this trip – keep a diary so you know what you did everyday. Later on, you will have slides of this adventure to look back on, but it won’t seem like enough.

You are going to contract an ovarian cyst. This will require surgery, and after that surgery a popular boy will hit you in the stomach during a game of ultimate frisbee in gym class. You will hate him, and rightly so, for a very long time. But here’s a news flash. He winds up being your brother-in-law.

When your sister throws a party, and lets you join in, a very cute boy, on a dare, is going to pick you up and tell you how cute you are. Try to keep a straight face…because you have a nose full of snot that is going to spray out all over your mouth and chin when you laugh.

That creepy neighbor Wayne, who watches you and your sisters while you sunbathe, is going to forceably kiss you against your will in a few years. So when he asks you inside his home under the guise of helping him and his wife move, politely refuse.

You will be in the New Jersey Miss Teenager Pageant. Learn the words for “Good Morning” in Slovak, because during your interview, you are going to get the one judge who speaks Slovak, and muttering out “Dobre noc” (good night) doesn’t fool anyone. Oh, and while you are in the front row on stage singing the obligatory lame pageant song directly in front of the judges? While you remember the dance moves, the words to the song are going to fly slap out of your head. You will smile lamely and continue dancing.

That being said, when they call out the name “Tracy” during the top 10? It ain’t you.


There you go, mini-me – a handfull of useful advice to get you through some of the tough times during your 14th year and beyond. I hope this makes life a bit easier for you than it was for me.