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This is a ride at King’s Dominion called the Avalanche. See that girl in the blue car with her arms out? That’s my oldest hamming it up for the cameral.

It’s a super fun ride that I make it a point to go on everytime we go to the park. Because it’s super fun, the line is usually pretty long. This past Saturday, my youngest daughter and I were waiting in the long line to ride the Avalanche.

It seemed as if the line had not moved at all in at least 15 minutes. I noticed that the loading bays inside the control center were empty – many times they will stop you from entering the control center if too many people are in the loading bays, but they never wait untial they are all empty.

It was odd.

We finally got inside and stood in line for the last car on the train, only because that line was the shortest. When it was finally our turn to ride, they let a few disabled kids and their caretakers/parents in through the exit. A small boy with braces on his legs was helped into the car we were supposed to occupy next.

I won’t lie, my daughter and I did the “oh great” eyeroll. We had to wait for the next train.

I sit in the back, and my daughter sits between my legs – like in a bobsled. We buckle up and readied ourselves for a good ride. Out of the control center we roll into the hot sun and begin our climb up the hill. This is gonna be great.

Then, we stop. And immediately after that I hear a series of loud beeps from the control center. Like an alarm.

AN ALARM.

Then, I hear my husband laughing.

Let me interject a wee bit of information here. I don’t like heights. I like rollercoasters, but I usually hate the ride up the hill. During the ride up I either stare at my feet or just keep my eyes closed. I don’t mind the heights once the coaster is rolling, because by the time my brain can realize I’m up very high, I am suddenly down very low.

inverted-5This is the reason why I don’t ride on the Volcano, because you are up sickeningly high the entire ride.

So I don’t like heights, and I’m stuck in a car, at an angle, on a hill. And my husband is laughing, and taking video with his phone. I can’t even turn to look at him, because I am afraid of realizing how high I am.

My daughter is laughing too. This is an adventure for her, as well. She makes a point of mentioning that if the disabled kids hadn’t taken our spots, we wouldn’t be stuck.

Not long thereafter, a King’s Dominion employee comes walking up the gang plank next to us. It is at this precise moment that my panic level starts to become an issue for me because it means the ride is really broken. Suddenly I realized how very sunny and hot it was on this hill, and I could feel the weight of my daughter as she leaned back against me.

We were told that maintence is on the way, and we will either continue on with our ride, or we will have to climb out of our cars and walk down the gang plank. In my book, neither option sounded appealing. The thought of continuing on with this ride seemed both insane AND unsafe.

After around 10 minutes I was finally comfortable looking over the side of the ride and talking to my husband – luckily we weren’t that far up the hill, and I could deal with this height. We were told the maintenance crew were on site and working on the ride. A minute or so later we heard the gears attempt to start, and then heard the loud beeps of the alarm again.

We were then told we were going to have to get out of our cars and walk down the gang plank, and that was fine with me. It was hot, I was thirsty, and I’d had my daughter uncomfortably wedged in my crotch for the past 20 minutes.

At least I didn’t have to pee. There is that to be thankful for.

Because we were in the last car, we were helped out first. Let me tell you, it was NOT easy. My girl got out first, but she had me to help push her up and out. Then it was my turn.

Uff da.

Remember, we are at an incline, and not really sitting up. You ride in this thing like you would in a recliner – now imagine that recliner at a 45 degree angle, and try to climb out. Oh, and remember you’re 30 feet in the air.

I apologized to the people there to assist us out – I am not as nimble as I used to be, and climbing out of that car was not pretty or graceful. Thank goodness I always wear shorts under my dress.

0725151803eThe climb down the gang plank was harder than I thought – I had to stare just in front of my feet because if I looked up I could see how high up I was, and that was not condusive to keeping my panic at bay. It was time for some good old fashioned tunnel vision. And step by step I made it down.

0725151809Once I was off the coaster and watching the rest of my fellow riders make their descent, I was actually thankful that those disabled kids took our car. As hard as it was for me to climb out and walk down that plank, it would have been a logistcal nightmare to get a small child with braces on his legs down to safety.

It was like my daughter and I took one for the cosmic team, and that was cool with me.

Besides, we got some perks for our troubles. My daughter was ushered onto the ride of her choice – front row, no wait. And we were given passes for immediate ride entry for the next two times we visit the park. That will come in handy when the line for the Dominator is two hours long.

But most important, it was an exciting experience that my daughter and I were able to share together. And one that I could subsequently share with you – which is so typical of me.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “The Kindness of Strangers.”

I am reposting a blog from 2012 where I wrote about a trip from Vienna, Austria to Bratislava, Czechoslovakia.

Where I got lost.

And needed lots of help.

I got it too, from a gaggle of selfless Slovaks.

Where's Slovie?

Where’s Slovie?

Abandoned in Bratislava

As you may have read in an earlier post, I spent a semester in Vienna back in 1984. Before my father would agree to send me, he made me promise to spend some time with my relatives in Gajary, Czechoslovakia after the semester was over. The story of my trip there is a long one, but I feel the need to document it for my two daughters – perhaps it can teach them a few things later in life.

I was both excited and nervous about this excursion. I had a blast the last time I was there, but that was with my dad, who could translate everything for us. Plus my sisters were along, and we had loads of fun cracking wise at some of the oddballs we saw.

This time I was going alone – for 3 long weeks. I was hoping my German would help me some; Bratislava, the city I was initially travelling to, was a popular shopping destination for many Viennese looking for bargains. My Slovak was limited. I knew the basic salutations and “good”, but other than that my mastery of the language consisted of the words “school,” “stupid ass,” and “shit.” I had a Slovak/English dictionary and a marginal ability with charades. That was as good as it was going to get.

Planning the trip was a job in itself. I sent several letters to my cousin Stello, who I was to stay with, regarding my travel dates and mode of transportation. In addition to that, I had to acquire a Visa to get into the country. A Visa is a document which in essence gives you permission to be there. Czechoslovakia was still a communist country at that time so having this paperwork was mandatory.

The Quest for the Visa
To get the Visa I had to go to the Czechoslovakian Embassy, which was rather far from my humble home on Habsburgergaße. Trying to save money, I took the subway to Mariahilfer Straße, which the embassy was located off of. As it turns out, this was a dud of an idea. Mariahilfer Straße is about 2 miles long, and I think I had to walk 85% of those two miles. Oh well, I looked at it as an adventure. Unfortunately, I had to repeat this adventure several times. The Czech embassy is very persnickety when it comes to their paperwork, and they found several unsatisfactory elements to my documentation which had to be corrected before I was to be granted with my Visa.

One bonus to my trip up and down Mariahilfer Straße was the discovery of the baggage tote. During my pilgrimages up and down this two mile stretch of stores, I noticed many women toting their parcels on these handy metal frames with wheels. Thinking of all the baggage I had to lug from Vienna to Czechoslovakia, the purchase of one of these devices seemed like an idea bordering on genius.

The Road to Gajary is a Bumpy One
With my semester coming to a close, I sent one last letter to cousin Stello reminding him of my arrival time, date and train number. I spent my last days at Pension Pertschy gathering up my belongings, and cramming them into the suitcases and duffel bags I had arrived with. This proved to be difficult as I had bought a thing or two while in Vienna. They were fairly bulging with my belongings. On my last night I cleverly strapped them all to my handy baggage toter and went to bed dreaming of an effortless commute to the old country.

Dr. Scholls – I loved these things.

The day dawned clear and bright. It was a gorgeous day. I dressed in a purple sundress with small white polka dots that my mother had made for me, and slipped on my Dr. Scholls. I noticed that the leather strap on one shoe was tearing, but all my other shoes were packed tightly away, so I shrugged it off. The leather was thick and it would hold for the short amount of walking I had to do.

As I headed down the Graben to the subway, the cobblestones made pulling my bags difficult. The model I had bought was one of the least expensive, and was most likely not meant to hold 112 pounds worth of clothing, shoes, and mementoes. It wobbled drunkenly from side to side as I struggled to pull it up the street. After travelling the 2 blocks, my hand was throbbing and my palm was turning red. At least I was at the subway and I could ride comfortably to the train station.

Fahrschein Fuck Up
The subway system in Vienna ran on an honor system. You were supposed to buy a ticket, or a “fahrschein,” but unlike New York, there are no token operated turnstyles to go through. You simply pocketed your ticket and boarded the train. You could in theory ride for free. But you never knew when the fahrschein police were going to board the train and ask to see your ticket. In the 4 months I had lived in Vienna, I had only seen these officers a handful of times, and I always had my ticket. That’s not to say I didn’t ride for free. I did plenty of times, but it was late at night when they were less likely to hop aboard. I didn’t ride the train a whole lot during rush hour times, when they were most likely to search for fare evaders.

This might be the exact subway entrance referenced in this woeful tale

This particular morning as I approached the escalator to the subway, I realized with a sinking heart that the farschein I had bought the night before was in the pocket of the pants I had been wearing, and was now therefore was now packed securely away. The thought of unhooking all of my bags, and digging through numerous suitcases until I found those pants and that ticket on a busy corner in Vienna did not appeal to me in the least. I decided to risk it and ride the subway without it.

Roughly 94 seconds into my ride a fahrschein policeman entered the train and all the blood in my body swiftly pooled into my feet. As he approached me, I struggled with shaking hands to undo the ropes and cords that held my bags in place in an effort to locate that ticket buried inside the pocket of a pair of jeans. I heard a voice boom “fahrschein, bitte!” and looked up to see the officer looming over me. I began to explain in German pointing hurriedly at my bags that I had indeed purchased one, but had packed it by mistake and I would need just a moment to find it.

In reality, the only German I got out was something like “Ja haben Herr, ich eine fahrschein aber gekauft but I packed it like a jerk and I really never try to ride for free, I swear, and if you just give me a minute I’m sure I can find it, and I’m leaving the city today, see? I have all these bags, and I just need to get to the train station but everything is packed and I really never ride without a ticket, I swear this is my first time, and my shoe is breaking, look? see? and I’m sure I can find it just hang on a minute.”

During this panicked soliloquy I also began to cry. I must have made quiet a spectacle on the crowded subway car, because after a minute or so the officer waved an annoyed hand at me, muttered something grumpy in German, and left our car. I would’ve collapsed on the seat if there was one available. Instead I clutched onto the handrail thankful that I only had a stop or two more to go.

Treacherous Train Station Trek
When I arrived at the stop for the train station, I got off the subway and proceeded to make several wrong turns in the subway station. I realized with horror as I ascended the escalator that the train station was across 7 or 8 tracks of railroad – tracks that I would have to lug my 112 pound toter over. I did not trust my navigation skills to head back down to the subway station and attempt to find the correct escalator. I was already spooked from my fahrschein encounter, and it was getting too close to my departure time to fool around. So I began the process of hoisting my bags up and over several sets of railroad track.

The tracks of my tears

I knew what I was doing was most likely against some sort of train station policy, and dangerous to boot. But I was hungry, sweaty and emotionally drained; plus I was beginning to worry that I was going to miss my train and be stuck with nowhere to stay in Vienna. The closest distance between two points is straight across, tracks or no tracks, so I went for it. My shoe was tearing even more and was getting dangerously close to coming apart all together, and my hand was showing the early signs of a bruise from the baggage toter handle. At this point I was not in the mood to find a more appropriate path.

Walking in Someone Else’s  Shoes…Well, Riding Actually
Once inside the train station, I found my train, and boarded with a sigh. I had meant to stop and get something to eat, but I ran out of time. My stomach grumbled as the train rolled out of Vienna. A woman came and joined me in my car. We smiled at each other and I continued to listen to my walkman. After a while, she opened a box and pulled out a pair of shoes. She motioned for me to try them on. I thought this to be odd, but didn’t want to offend her, so I tried them on. They were hideous strappy things, but I smiled and said “good” in slovak. She asked me in German if I would wear them for a little while, until we crossed the border. I realized that she had most likely bought them in Vienna and did not want to have to pay the duty tax on them once we crossed the border into Czechoslovakia. I tucked my broken sandals into my bag and agreed to wear them.

Dealing with the border guards was one scary affair. They searched through everything. No amount of smiling or politeness could sway them. I do remember sticking my head out the window and smiling to some of the young slovak soldiers at the border. They smiled and waved back, but the ones required to check your belongings did not partake in any funny business.

My paperwork was in order, and they figured the shoes were mine and after what seemed like an hour, the guards left our compartment. Once we were on our way again, I slipped off the shoes and handed them back to the woman. She thanked me and offered me a sandwich, which I eagerly accepted. I don’t remember what was on it…some sort of meat and butter on a roll, but I scarfed that thing down, and it was good.

Final Destination, or so I Thought
When we arrived in Bratislava, I was filled with excited anticipation to see my cousins, who I had not seen in 4 years. I said goodbye to my travelling companion, and made my way to the train platform with my cumbersome baggage tote in tow. I scanned the crowd for a sign of Stello, but did not see any faces that I recognized. As the crowed departed, I was left pretty much alone on the platform. A small kernel of panic began to bloom in my stomach.

I decided to head to the main terminal. Maybe they had forgotten the train number and were waiting in the main lobby of the station.

Once I reached the main lobby, I realized with dismay that nobody was here to greet me. I sank down on a bench and wondered what I was going to do. I decided to just wait. Maybe they had car trouble. Maybe there was traffic. After an hour or so I decided to try and call them. Dad had given me some emergency numbers to call in case something happened in Bratislava, but I had no money for the phone. I only had Austrian currency on me. I found a train station employee who spoke German and asked for help. He took me to a director of sorts who after hearing my problem, let me use his phone. I got no answer at any number I tried.

Clang, clang, clang went the trolley

At this point the director came up with an amazing plan. I should try to get to my relatives. This involved taking a train to Malacky, and then a bus to Gajary. Why I agreed to this plan I can’t remember. With all I had been through so far that day coupled with my lack of a substantial meal, I wasn’t thinking clearly. But first, he concluded, I would need to go into Bratislava and exchange currency. I don’t recall how I got the fare for the trolley – perhaps he paid for it, but I was presented with a ticket for the trolley and a pat on the back. The director allowed me to keep my cumbersome baggage in his office, so there was that to be thankful for. I turned and headed out of the office to embark on my perilous journey into Bratislava.

Someone to Watch Over Me Slovak Style

I got off at the predetermined stop and hunted around for a bank. I found several, but all were closed. It was noon and everyone was off for lunch. This startled me because that is when 95% of you average working folk can find the time to go to the bank. I sat on a bench or wandered around in a hungry daze until the banks reopened. Once they did, I could not find anyone who A) could speak German or English, or B) would exchange any money for me. It seems there are specific rules involved with how much you need to exchange which involves your visa and some documentation from the police, which I did not have. Dejected and tired, I left to go back to the train station.

The infamous purple dress

I had reached my breaking point. I stood at the trolley stop, which was on an island in the middle of an busy road. Here I was, tanned and pony tailed, dressed in a purple sundress with white polka dots, in nearly broken sandals as cars whizzed by oblivious to my desperate situation. I felt so utterly lost and alone, that I just started to cry. A man approached me and spoke to me in slovak. I mumbled “I don’t understand,” another key phrase I had learned, and asked if he spoke German. He said, “A little.”

I was elated. Finally, someone who could help. I brokenly described my situation to him. He promptly lead me to a bank, and after much persuading with the stubborn teller, got a small amount of money exchanged for me. It would be enough to buy my tickets to Malacky and then to Gajary. He then got me on a trolley, took me back to the train station, and spoke to the director. He purchased my ticket to Malacky for me. He then sat me down on a bench with an ice cream cone. I was so thankful. He had taken control. He saw I was in trouble, and had taken the time out of his day to help me. I was so very thankful.

It was at this point I remembered my emergency phone numbers. I asked if he could try to call them to see if anyone answered. He was able to reach some friend or distant relative on the list, and it was determined they would come and get me until my cousins could be located. This was such a huge relief to me…the thought of travelling by myself to Gajary seemed as impossible as walking a tightrope across the Grand Canyon.

Nice to Meet You – Please Save Me
Before long a kind looking older gentleman came to pick me up. I had never met nor heard of him before, but I was sure glad he was here for me now. As I began to leave with this friend/relative that I did not know, I thanked my rescuer profusely and said good-bye.

A meal similar to the one that I greedily I stuffed down my hole

I was taken to an apartment where I was introduced to this man’s wife, seated at a table, and stuffed with food. Boy did I eat. Salami, bread, boiled eggs, cheese, pickles, more salami and then cake and tea. Once my feast was over, the wife took me to a bedroom, handed me a flouncey, old-fashioned nightgown and ordered into bed. It was only afternoon, but I did as she said. As I laid my head on the pillow, clutching little bear foot, who traveled all over Europe with me, I cried for the 3rd time that day. But this time it was with utter relief. I was safe. Someone was taking care of me. I was asleep within minutes.

Stello Arrives

When I awoke, it was to Stello’s voice in the other room. I got up and hurriedly dressed. When I came into the living room, Stello hugged me and began to apologize for all the trouble. He said they had gone to the bus station. In earlier letters to him I had talked about taking a bus from Vienna, but after further research settled on the train. He must’ve had the bus idea stuck in his head, though because he kept saying “I one hundred percent sure you say BUS.” Once I didn’t show at the bus station, they had gone to the train station, but by then I was wandering aimlessly around downtown Bratislava looking for a bank.

The whole ride back to Gajary, Stello proclaimed, “I one hundred percent sure you say BUS.” Once we reached his house he procured the last letter I sent him and frowned when it said “train.” I felt bad for him. I was certainly scared during my ordeal, but I can only imagine the panic Stello felt knowing I was out there alone and he couldn’t find me.

I had a great time during my stay there. About a week later, Stello handed me a postcard. It was addressed to me, c/o Stello in Gajary. That’s it. No street name, no zip code, and it got to me. That’s a small town for you. It was from my Bratislava rescuer. He just wanted to make sure I was ok and enjoying my visit. He included his address so I could write him back.

I still remember his name. It was Zoltan Egry. It must be a popular name because there are tons of them when you Google it. I wrote to him a few times, and I remember hearing from him last back in the 90’s or so. I may still be alive now. He was perhaps 35 or so when he helped me back in 1984, but that’s a guess. He could’ve been 50 for all I know. When you’re 19 everyone over 25 looks ancient.

In any case, I learned a few things that day. Life can go horribly wrong. But in most cases, you can handle it. You need to rely on your smarts, and sometimes on the help of others. You may have to do things that seem impossible to you, but they can be done and done by you. I learned I could take care of myself that day.

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As a child, were you ever left behind somewhere? Unfortunately, my oldest daughter was.

When she was in the 1st grade, I would drive from my office every afternoon and meet her across the street from her school. I’d park where all the other neighborhood moms parked, wait for the bell, stand on the corner until I spotted her, where I would then usher her into the car, and we’d go back to my office where she would sit quietly and color.

That was our routine.

Except for one very terrifying day.

On this day, about 2 miles from the road to her school, I got stuck in traffic. I groaned, as one usually does when your travels come to a grinding halt. So I sat, and waited. But this traffic? It wasn’t moving.

I nervously began to glance at the clock. The bell was going to ring in 20 minutes. Surely I’d be out of this by then, right? Every minute that ticked by added to my panic. 15 minutes left and I was nowhere close. I’d only moved about 50 yards.

You have to understand something. This was 2001. I had no cell phone. There was no calling the school or texting a friend. There was no where to stop and call, because the road I was on was nothing but woods on either side. There was no shoulder I could ride on. And even worse, there was no other way to get to the school. I was stuck.

10 minutes left until the bell. I sat there wondering why my Mercury Sable wagon couldn’t just rise up in the air and fly over all these cars that were keeping me from picking up my child. Why hadn’t anyone invented that yet?

By the time the bell was ringing and my small, 6 year old daughter was being dismissed from school, I was about 20 yards from the turn off to her school, where I then had to drive a few miles through a residential neighborhood. I cannot describe to you my level of impatience and hysteria as I inched along towards the intersection.

I finally got to the intersection, made my turn and hit the accelerator to try and get to my daughter before all the children thinned out and she realized she was alone.

And then the old lady turned out of her driveway. And proceeded to travel at the very safe speed of 20 mph.

I just about blew a gasket. I sat behind the wheel, unable to safely pass her and just screamed. The traffic was bad enough, but this new obstacle in my path was life giving me a big, huge wedgie.

By the time I got to the school, my little blonde baby was standing on the corner, completely alone, with the exception of a very kind crossing guard who waited with her. All the kids were gone, all the moms were gone. And this kind woman stayed behind in the hot sun to see that my girl was safe.

I cried when I reached her. I was so worried about what might be going through her mind – confused and in doubt as to why our routine had suddenly changed. Wondering, “Where is Mommy?”

I profusely thanked the crossing guard, explaining about the traffic jam as I picked up my girl and held her close. I was exhausted, but grateful that although life put me through the wringer that afternoon, some other force of nature sent my daughter a protector.

I had a cell phone by the end of the month. I also had a talk with my daughter, explaining to not worry if this ever happens again. Mommy is always coming.

Always.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Always Something There to Remind Me.”

1965-pontiac-catalina-dash

I guess I am one step ahead of the Daily Post, because I wrote about this exact thing a few weeks ago. So here it is again…

The Forgotten AM Radio Song

The other day my husband began singing a tune…I’d heard it before, and asked him “I know that song…wait, what song is that?” He answered, “You and Me, by Alice Cooper.” Holy cow. I must have heard that song hundreds of times, yet I had totally forgotten that it even exsisted.

So I YouTubed it, and listened. I was immediately transported back to 1977.

I could imagine sitting in my mom’s mint green Pontiac Catalina, tuned into WNBC and WABC – both on the AM dial; which was all we had in our cars back in those days. When my dad bought a car, he didn’t upgrade anything – you got what the car came with, which usually meant only AM.

When you had to listen to AM, you heard the same top 40 songs over and over again…kind of like half the shitty FM stations that are around now-a-days that play Maroon 5 and Wiz Khalifa every 15 minutes, and Taylor Swift every 10.

But hearing this song again? I could picture days at the pool, hearing the tinny quality of someone’s transistor radio playing this old Alice Cooper song – and possibly the crackle from some far away lightning strike. I love that crackle.

I could imagine myself in the backseat of my dad’s station wagon, driving over the Triboro bridge on the way to one of our Friday night excursions, watching all the twinkling city lights, window down, breathing in the distinctive smell of New York City.

Or a warm night on Martha’s Vineyard, eating a soft serve cone from the Quarterdeck, and keeping my eyes peeled for a glimpse of my summer crush.

How could I have totally forgotten this song? While I didn’t love it or anything when it came out, I had heard it over and over again driving around with my mom, or listening to the radio while I cleaned my room. Or maybe while I did homework.

Listening to it again was almost like opening up a time capsule. Something that was buried in me decades ago was suddenly unearthed by my husband absent-mindedly humming a tune. I know I’m not describing this right, but when I played that song again on YouTube it was like 2015 just melted away.

I was somewhere else for a very short while. It was pretty cool.

eight_ball1

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Grand Slam.”

When I was in my twenties I played a lot of pool. I was never very good, but I wasn’t horrible either. I had my good nights and my bad nights, depending on my mood and how much beer or wine I had consumed.

One night in the late 80s I was with Fred, a co-worker of mine, at a bar in Wayne, NJ. The name of the joint totally escapes me, but it was large, and had a few pool tables. I wanted to play, so I put my quarters down on the table, next to two other stacks, and waited my turn.

When my turn came I went to grab my quarters when this dude scooped them up and proceeded to dump them into the table. I said, “Excuse me, but those are mine – I’ve been waiting. What are you doing?”

He argued with me that the quarters were his, and that he’d been waiting too. I argued back, but not being big on confrontation, I put two new quarters down, claiming the next game. Fred was pissed though. He knew I was right and if the guy missed a shot, would say to me – kind of loud enough for him to hear, but not directly to him – “Gee, I guess that’s what you get when you steal quarters from a lady.”

These jabs were not lost on our Billiards Bully, but he was good, and our comments did not phase him. He wound up winning the game, thus gaining control of the table. And I had to play him next.

I paid for the game and racked up the balls. The details of the game are a thing totally forgotten…except for the last shot. We had been taunting each other throughout the game; mocking missed shots, and bragging when you left your opponent with shit to shoot a. But I was having a good night, and before I knew it I was down to sinking the eight ball.

The shot I had to make in order to win was a tough one…at least for me.

Pool shot with linesMy turd opponent was sniggering with a shit-eating grin on his face. He knew he had left me with a tough shot, and was already celebrating with congratulatory high-fives to his douchey friends.

I theory I knew what I had to do to make the shot…I just wasn’t sure I could do it. I bent over and lined the shot up, ignoring the turd, who was dancing and waving behind the 8 ball. I hit the cue ball, and within seconds the 8 ball landed squarely in the corner pocket.

I had nailed the shot. I was an Amazon Warrior at that point. I was larger than life and the Queen of the world.

Okay, I’m sure some of you out there are like, “That shot’s easy.”

But there was all that pressure. I choke under pressure, fold like a house of cards. It’s why I was a crappy athelete. My brain and my body rarely coordinate to create greatness. But for all this guy knew, I was a pool shark who had suckered him in.

I chalked my cue, and said something snarky like, “Can I please get a real challenger?”

Now I had the shit-eating grin on my face as I watched the turd pick his jaw off the floor and turn beet red. He was pissed. He had been a bully and a big mouth and had been shut down, quite soundly, by a girl.

I played a few more games until I lost, and then Fred and I had a few beers and reveled in our victory. I could see the turd and his crew glaring at us from a distance, but they left us alone…until we decided to leave.

Fred and I were in the parking lot zipping our coats and saying our good-byes when the turd and his toadies came out and started to give us a hard time. After some back and forth trash talk, along with me asking them to just leave us alone, the pushing started.

Fred was severely outnumbered – it was at least 5 to 1. But he wanted to fight. However, I insisted the fight be one on one – the turd against Fred, and they agreed. I was so scared – I didn’t want my friend to get hurt, and when it really boiled down to it, he was kind of defending my honor. This was all happening because I sunk that 8-ball and left the turd looking like a tool.

After some circling, Fred threw his first punch and hit the turd square in the face. He also managed to dodge every punch the turd threw at him, but landed quite a few additional blows. In short, the turd was getting his ass kicked.

I believe they had all underestimated my pal Fred. He was tall and thin, with a haystack head of hair (Kevin Bacon ala Footloose style) with a very angular, acne dotted face. But his hands were as big as backhoe shovels. And he was not afraid to stand up for himself.

At this point his friends decided to join in and gang up on Fred, and that’s when things got crazy. I began screaming “STOP!” and jumped on some dudes back. I might have bit him on the shoulder. It was a melee of grunts and shoves and blows that seemed to last forever, but within seconds people were out in the parking lot breaking it all up.

Fred had a scratch on his face and some bloody knuckles. I also remember his coat was split straight up the back. He walked me to my car, down feathers wafting behind him, where I hugged him and asked him if he was okay. He was visibly shaken up but prideful as well, knowing that he had not only stood up to these assholes, but had shown them who the better man was.

The next day at work I told the story of Fred sticking up for me numerous times. He was my hero for a few days, and I let him know it. I let everyone know it how I sank the 8 ball, and how he saved the day.

I suck at...

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Practice Makes Perfect?.”

There are certain things I wish I could do, but somehow never mastered.

The Back Handspring
Oh, how I tried! I took gymnastics lessons on and off during my childhood, but I could never get the knack of this gymnastic feat. I remember the instructor telling me that you needed to almost crouch, and begin to fall backwards, which was when you pushed off and flipped over.

I never flipped, but I fell over a lot. Or landed on my head.

There was just something about the mechanics of this move that my brain could not put together. It’s sort of like learning a tricky dance move – like the running man. Except somehow I learned how to do that.

Snapping My Fingers
I just can’t do it. The sound I make is more like a wind fart, rather than a hearty snap.

Figure Skating
Now I have to clarify something. I can skate. I took figure skating lessons while at college at the University of Delaware – same facility Johnny Weir trained at in his youth. I even took it up again before I became pregnant with my second child.

Yeah, I can skate.

But I want to be able to really figure skate with reckless abandon. I have dreams at night sometimes of taking to the ice and just being able to glide and spin and twirl.  I can do the Beillman spin and the Michelle Kwan spiral and my footwork is as good as Scott Hamilton’s. Sometimes in my dreams there isn’t even ice – I can do these moves on grass or pavement.

Oh, and this goes double for roller skating. I always wanted to be the girl in the Dire Straits video Skateaway.

Sewing/Knitting/Crocheting
My mom was very handy. She made clothes for us, was a master at needlework of all kinds, and could whip out an afghan in a few weeks time.

All of my needlework skills stink.

I used to make my first daughter’s Halloween costumes until I realized the time and money it took to make my own was more than double of what it cost to buy a pre-made one. And to add insult to injury – the storebought ones were way better.

I have knitted a few scarves – all of which display a variety of dropped stitches and clumsy conversions from one colored yarn to another. They keep me warm though, which I guess is the point in the end.

I finally mastered the granny square last winter and attempted to make an afghan. While I got crocheting the squares down, knotting them off and then attaching them together was another matter. There is a very small afghan on the back of my couch comprised of very nice little squares replete with loose end strings. It’s not very attractive.

Cooking
This is one case where practice is making – well, I wouldn’t say perfect – but palatable.

There are things I have mastered – I rock breakfast. I can turn an egg without breaking the yolk 9.5 times out of 10. I can whip up pancakes, french toast, egg sandwiches and home fries with ease.  I recently learned how to poach an egg the real way – without using one of those quartered pans over a double boiler.

There are things I can cook flawlessly without looking at a recipe – creamed spinach, mac & cheese and chicken noodle soup to name a few. Yet I can still fuck up the most rudimentary of dishes. Like mashed potatoes.

For me, cooking is pretty much a crap shoot. I mean, there are times my heart is just not into cooking the meal and it invariably shows. But when I’m really excited about creating a meal; work super hard at it and it still fails? That pisses me off.

But when it’s good…really good? There’s not a better feeling. Until you see the pile of dishes. Then you wonder if it was worth it.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sorry I haven’t written in so long. And word to the wise – I probably won’t write much in the next week or so either.

See, we are heading up to Martha’s Vineyard. It’s the vacation place of my youth. I almost wrote “my family” vacation place, but it’s really not anymore.

That fact is readily obvious if you listen to my youngest. Her vacation place is her Pop Pop’s house in Florida; Disney, go-karts, Daytona, water parks.

But the Vineyard is a horse of a different color…and I’m not sure her rose colored glasses are on. She is seeing it as a total snore. It will be curious to see how this plays out…will she appreciate the beauty and the splendor of a New England Island or will she hate it because she has to *gasp!*

Unplug.

Yes – the house that my cousin is letting us stay in has no wifi. I actually don’t know if it has internet at all, but all my daughter had to hear is that she has no mine craft, Skype, or Five Nights of Freddie for 10 days.

Yes the world is coming to an end.

While I will miss my daily dose of Candy Crush (level 969, mind you) it will be good to unplug from Facebook for a week. I mean, I’ll post, and I’ll check statuses, when we are at a restaurant with wifi, but I won’t troll – there’s no time for that. I’ll be too busy walking the streets of Edgartown and Oak Bluffs – riding the Flying Horses…vying for the brass ring.

Unplugged. That could be pretty fucking cool for a week.

See you sometime after July 9th.

Old House

My daughter has a summer job that requires a lot of my time – she works with my husband at the outdoor event arena that he works at as well. Problem is their shifts don’t mesh, and I am stuck driving her home from most of the events she works. Like at 9:45 pm. I’m not a late night person…yes, 9:45 is late night for me.

Don’t judge – I get up at 5:00 am. Plus the venue is a 25-30 drive from my house. The other night between the travel and getting her food, it was a 90 minute excursion.

I had jobs as a kid – but I lived in a town where you could walk to everything. My first job was working as a cashier in our local supermarket. But the manager was a sour-pussed old man who glared at you from his little office perch and yelled at you each chance he got.

So I quit that job and began working as a cleaning gal in one of our town’s 200+ year old homes. One of the main reasons I took the job was for the pay…$5 an hour. Back in 1981 that was, to quote Jeff Spicoli, “righteous bucks.”

The couple who lived in the home were a nice elderly man and wife. However, they turned out to be a tad, well…eccentric. But I liked that, especially after supermarket sour puss. But it didn’t take long for me to realize these two were not your average couple.

My first day on the job they broke me in by having me clean the kitchen. This would usually mean doing some dishes, cleaning the counters, maybe sweeping the floor, right?

I walked in to see fish heads boiling on the stove. There was a thick, grey foam gathering around the sides of the pot as one fish eye stared at the beamed ceiling. They used the meat that fell off the heads to feed their cats. I really did not relish the idea of cleaning that pot.

But that was not the first of many odd jobs I would be given at that house. I would spend an entire Saturday morning oiling the old wood floors. Funny thing is, I used vegetable oil that came out of a big yellow jug – or maybe it was corn oil. I’d pour about a cup’s worth out, and spread it over the floor with a sponge mop. You know those floors would suck that stuff up almost instantaneously?

There was a small wing of the house that was the original 200 year old portion – a very small cottage that had been subsequently added on to. It was the most charming part of the home; you could imagine some little colonial family living there, and cooking over the fireplace. Yet his pleasant, historic little room was used by the cats as their litter box. It was my job twice a week to find and dispose of all their little turds. Whee!

Did I mention these two were a bit slovenly or are you starting to figure that out for yourself…

I remember one time I had to clean their bathroom & bedroom. The bath had a bidet – I remember thinking, “who the hell needs a bidet in New Jersey?” But the worst was what I found under their bed while picking up their dirty laundry. I found a stack of very old porn magazines. I’m not talking Hustler or Playboy. I’m talking about some shit from the 50s or 60s.

I was horrified. You have to remember, I was only 16 or 17 at the time, and these folks were old enough to be my grandparents. Finding this porn bummed me out – it was like walking in on your parents havng sex…I had a hard time looking either of them in the face for at least a month.

I remember another instance where I was sitting with the wife at her dining room table. I was telling her how a girlfriend of mine at school had died of Hodgkin’s Disease, and how upsetting it was to me. It was at this point that she opened her mouth and let out a very loud, very wet burp. She didn’t cover her mouth, she didn’t embarrassedly pardon herself afterwards, she just kept looking at me and listening.

It was so odd.

All these things aside, they were still a cool old couple. They helped sponsor me when I was in the New Jersey Miss National Teen Age Pageant (now there’s a blog post), and the wife actually helped me write my essay on who I admire the most. She suggested I choose Alan Alda, who I did not admire in the least, but he was from our home town and was big on feminist issues…it was a good hook.

And it was a good job – the work could be hard sometimes – washing the multitude of 12 paned windows with 100+ year old glass in them was no picnic, but you could daydream while you did it. I worked there until I graduated high school and had earned quite a tidy little sum of cash.

I think back on that job, and that kooky little couple from time to time…especially when I see a bidet, boiling fish….

or vintage porn.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Eat, Drink, and Be Merry….”

for tomorrow we die. The world is ending tomorrow! Tell us about your last dinner — the food, your dining companions, the setting, the conversation.

THE FOOD

If I can only have one food for my last dinner it would be White Castles. If I can have two foods, I’d set my table with White Castles and Hot Dog’s from Hiram’s. If I can have three foods, I’d add an extra large cheese pizza from Villa Nova.

So why all the junk food?

Simply because these are foods that never let me down. They are good no matter when I get them – each and every time. Have you ever gone to a restaurant, ordered and paid good money for your favorite dish, only to have it just be so-so? This is my last meal! I can’t risk it!

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White Castles: I was weaned on these puppies. Back when I was a wee lass, murder burgers were like 15¢ each – my dad could feed the whole family for a few bucks. Eating these things is primal – almost instictive for me. It’s a part of my DNA.

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Hiram’s Hot Dogs: Another favorite spot from my childhood – dogs that are deep fried – so they rip a little. The only way to eat them for me is with mustard and maybe a little kraut. Add an order of fries and a cold Schlitz on tap. God damn this post is making me hungry.

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Villa Nova Pizza: About 5 or so years ago, a New York Style Pizza joint opened up in a small strip mall near our house. My husband and I, both from northern Jersey, had quite a few times fallen victim to the Virginia version of New York Style Pizza…slightly better than Domino’s but not even close to anything we got up in the Tri-State area.

Then we tried Villa Nova and thought it as good as our old pizza place back in Jersey, Donna’s Pizza. That is saying a lot. Last year we went back up to Jersey and had a slice of Donna’s pizza. You know what?

Villa Nova’s is better. The pizza is super thin, and when you take a bite, the cheese, sauce and spices comingle in my mouth and make a spot in the back of my throat almost tingle.

Yeah, it’s that good.

THE FOLKS

Duh, I’d eat with my family. If it was the last day on earth and teleportation was magically possible, I’d have my WHOLE family there…..brother, sisters, neices and nephews, and Pop and Gabi.

Although if Gabi is there I guess I’d have to add her pork and dumplings to the dinner table.

THE CHATTER

My family? We’d reminisce until the end came. We all grew up in the same hometown – husbands and wives alike, so we all share most of the same memories and experiences. It’s really a great thing.

And my brother and sisters and I would have to sing “The Last Long Mile” on more time with Pop.

THE SETTING

Hands down, we’d have to be at my dad’s house in Florida. Of course we can’t get any of the aforementioned foods in Florida, but if we can all teleport, then I’m sure someone could grab the food.

We’d play volleyball in the pool, look at old slides and then watch one final sunset at Flagler Beach.

Yeah, it would be an okay way to go.

isolated thumbs up and thumbs down

isolated thumbs up and thumbs down

I’m a total sucker for a good disaster movie, mainly because I had the privilege to see the movies that gave birth to this film genre. So it was a “no duh” that when we saw the trailer for “San Andreas,” my daughter and I looked at each other and said, “We are SO there.”

As we were walking into the theater I told my daughter that my only hope for this movie is that they don’t inundate us with highly implausible situations that the heroes manage to escape (virtually unscathed mind you) against all probable odds.

Sigh. Once again Hollywood proves to be a huge disappointment.

“San Andreas” was filled with so many hard to believe action/rescue/survival scenes that midway through the movie just made me laugh out loud (much to my 13 year old’s total mortification). I mean, rescue copters couldn’t save one single person from the twin towers on 911 – but the Rock? He pulled his wife off the top of a building, just as it crumbled to a heap of rubble, and then managed to fly under a building, as it was falling to the ground, and get them to safety.

Yeah, safety for about 12 minutes, when it was then time for our stars to be thrust into yet another un-survivable situation where they of course manage to survive…still relatively unscathed. It sucked because that’s what Hollywood thinks we need to be on the edge of our seat.

Well, Hollywood needs to have a movie night. They need to sit in one of those plush, fancy screening rooms and watch the following classics to learn what a good disaster movie is all about. poseidon-adventure 1. The Poseidon Adventure (1972) A luxury liner is hit by an earthquake induced tidal wave and capsizes on New Year’s Day. A solid premise and an all star cast.

I saw this movie with my Mom and sisters at Radio City Music Hall during Christmas break. There are plenty of back stories to introduce us to the characters, but once that boat overturns, you are in for a pound as you watch the 10 main players try to see the morning after (some slight humor that will be lost if you’ve never seen the movie).

The scene where the boat gets hit, while riveting in the 70s, is quite laughable now. This was prior to the days where Hollywood had a rolling room – like when Lionel Ritchie was dancing on the ceiling. So, you can see people sliding to their deaths as the boat is turning upside down, but dishes remain on the tables, and chairs are not sliding right along with them.

That being said, the rest of the movie was believable. The survivors had to scale a large metal Christmas tree, climb through pipes, and up ladders. They had to walk through a hot kitchen with a few small fires, and swim under water for 40 feet or so. And some of the stars died along the way just doing this sort of average shit.

The Rock? He managed to drive his speed boat UP a tsunami wave, while avoiding a cargo ship that is about to crash on top of him. Too bad he wasn’t at the helm of the SS Poseidon. There never would have been a movie – he would have been able to maneuver the boat over the wave, saving EVERYONE on board.

The biggest “come on” moment for me in Poseidon Adventure is at the end where Gene Hackman jumps onto the steam valve wheel to stop the flow of hot steam that, to quote Robin, “is blocking our escape.” And it’s not that this action is implausible, it’s just that Hollywood fucked it up. It doesn’t look like he’s really hanging there and turning the wheel. It looks like he’s standing on a box out of frame trying to look like he’s hanging and turning the wheel. But even that is better than anything that came out of San Andreas. Plus the speech he gives while hanging and turning the wheel is pure gold. Earthquake-Theatrical-Poster-Courtesy-of 2. Earthquake (1974) Pretty much the same premise as San Andreas – an earthquake of unimaginable magnitude hits California.

That, my friends, is where the similarities end.

Because the real star of this 1974 movie, which introduced us to Sensurround, was the earthquake itself. Well, Charlton Heston & George Kennedy helped too. My point is the movie didn’t need to filled with harrowing rescue scenes or heroes surviving in impossible situations.

I think the biggest “rescue” scenes were having to help a mom and her little son out of a drainage culvert, and when they had to lower some survivors from an office chair tied to a firehose down a few stories. Oh, and the guy drinking a beer and eating a chicken leg who fell from his deck and subsequently tumbled past Genevieve Bujold during the quake?

That was both exciting and hysterical. I mean life is fragile…one minute you’re eating some cold chicken and enjoying the view, and the next?

Okay, so the earthquake scenes in this 1974 movie were laughable compared to what we saw in San Andreas, but that sort of proves my point. They didn’t need the Rock to save the world…just show us the earthquake with realistic, gut churning reality, and show people trying to survive the aftermath.

Case in point – Victoria Principal’s character in the 74 movie – she survives the earthquake only to face attempted rape by her creepy neighbor. That’s more realistic than the Rock having to crash land a helicopter in a shopping mall. That’s REAL. The Rock? He bitch slapped some dude stealing TVs and stole his truck.towering_inferno_ver3_xlg 3. The Towering Inferno (1974)

A shoddily built luxury high rise catches fire while the star-studded cast is in trapped at party on the top floor. I LOVE this movie – good guys, bad guys, assholes, heroes – it’s got it all! And the kicker? OJ is one of the good guys! Who’d-a-thunk?

There are quite a few edge-of-your-seat moments in this film, but they don’t revolve around one character (gee, like the Rock!). Each star has his or her own harrowing moment. There’s one scene where Paul Newman has to help a woman and two children (one of which is Bobby Brady) shimmy down a broken stairwell via a twisted bannister over a sheer drop to certain death. Note that they did not have to tandem parachute…like the Rock.

The Towering Inferno Director: John Guillermin US Premiere: 10 December 1974 Copyright 1974 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation and Warner Bros. Inc.

Another great scene is when the outside elevator breaks and has to be manually lowered to the ground – with a less than satisfactory result. The last ditch effort to get stranded guests out of the building is to rig a breeches buoy from the burning building to one across the street. Screaming guests are tied into this contraption and pulleyed across death defying heights to the neighboring building.

That works until greedy, impatient men decide to overload the device…well, you’ll just have to watch the movie.

Should I bring up “Airport?”

Nah, this is getting too long. But it’s another great example of how they did disaster better back in the 70s.

My point – These movies relied on a star-studded cast, each with their own story to tell. So the action never got stuck with one person. In “San Andreas” it’s all the Rock. The Rock’s wife, the Rock’s daughter, the kids who befriend the Rock’s daughter.

And Paul Giamatti – whose role was way more riveting than the Rock’s.

You may read this and say, “Those movies suck!” Yes, they have shitty effects. Yes, some of the acting is campy. Yes, they relied on gimmicks like Sensurround.

But in all honesty? They are still way better than “San Andreas.”

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