Archives for posts with tag: humor

My response to the one word daily prompt, Giggle

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It’s happened to all of us. You’re in a situation where uncontrollable laughter is neither welcomed or acceptable…and you do it anyway.

But damn it, you can’t help yourself. During class, at a meeting, when your parents have told you to go to bed; when you get the giggles, and you know you can’t have them? It’s just about impossible to stop them.

A few years back my daughter and I were at a seminar at her high school on affording college. She got bored and drew a couple of doodles on her hand. The seminar began, and I looked down at her thumb only to see the most misshapenly drawn face she’d ever doodled.

I pointed at it and mouthed something like, “what the hell?” and we both lost it. She knew it was a shitty doodle, and now she knew I knew, and as simple as that, we were in full, red-faced, trying to hide it giggle mode. We sat hunched over, hands covering our faces, trying to do ANYTHING to stop laughing.

I had to get up and go to the bathroom. I just couldn’t sit there sputtering anymore.

It is one of the worst, and the best feelings ever. I mean, a good laugh feels great. But coupled with the shame of being disruptive, and, let’s face it—childish? That takes some of the joy out of it.

My husband tells a story of when he and his brothers could not stop laughing…at his mother’s funeral. They were standing in a cluster and they heard their grandmother burp- somewhat loudly and unapologetically. And that was it…they lost it. Imagine how they looked…sons in quiet hysterics at their mom’s funeral.

But what can you do? This brand of laughter is so infectious…think of all the times on SNL where the actors fought to keep their own laughter under control. More Cowbell, Debby Downer, Hot Tub Lovers…it makes you laugh more watching them trying to suppress their giggles.

Ah, the giggle…it really is all powerful.

 

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We all have them. Days where you are left wondering who you pissed off in the Universe, because that seems to be the only explanation of how many things could go wrong in the course of the day.

For me, that was yesterday.

DISCLAIMER – this post is 90% about the evils of my female plumbing. Turn back if you must…You’ve been warned.

It started at 3:00 am, when I woke up with the beginnings of really bad cramps. I should have gotten up and taken some Advil, but instead I tried to just go back to sleep. By 4:00 am, I was angry for not listening to my inner voice for by now my uterus was somewhere in the F-3 category, classified as severe damage, roofs and walls torn down, trains overturned, cars thrown around.

I got up and took four Advil. 45 minutes later I took a Meloxicam. By 6 am I took 2 more Advil. I was still in pain, but decided to try to go out for my morning walk. Whoever said exercise was good for cramps didn’t have a uterus like mine.

evil uterusI’m convinced there is an evil villain in my uterus – one that says “Sweep the Leg” when I am at my most vulnerable…like when I went camping in college and my period decided to come two weeks early. Try spending a weekend with toilet paper jammed in your crotch. Yes, my uterus was snickering and twirling her moustache that day.

My walk? I didn’t even make it two miles. I headed back home where a hot shower did its best to untie the knots in my back and quiet the ache in my abdomen.

It was also my daughter’s first day of school. Dropping her off was a sobering reminder that I have ten months of brooding, moody mornings in my future.

Work wasn’t much better. I had a meeting with a sales rep who tried to sell our firm an automated system which would pretty much wipe out my job entirely. No thanks, bub. It also feels like the Wicked Witch of the West has unleashed her flying monkeys in my uterus. Time to take more Advil.

I then spent my lunch hour taking my oldest daughter to her eye doctor appointment. Once there I was told that she has no eye coverage. This is after I called Coventry last week and was told that she is covered until the age of 20 – which she turning in a week. Which was why I jumped through scheduling hoops to get her the eye appointment before her birthday.

So I call Coventry and bitch the lady out. Here I’ve wasted my lunch hour, and the time of all those nice people at the eye doctors because some tool gave me the wrong information when I called to confirm their coverage the week before. Oh and this is all while my uterus is screaming “NO WIRE HANGERS…EVER!”

Can I take more Advil? I sheepishly apologize to the eye doctor staff for having wasted their time and call my husband who freaks out and decides that he’s going to call Coventry and cause some heads to roll.

Back at the office I field calls from clients and my husband who has a gal from Coventry on the phone who wants to know if I remember the day and time that I was told the wrong information from the one of the many incompetents at Coventry. I also chat via iMessage with my younger daughter whose complaining that she has no friends in any class at school and is miserable.

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By the time 6 pm rolls around I not only feel brain dead, but feel as if my uterus has dropped out of my body and is trailing 2 feet behind me. I groan as I realize that I have to stop at the store to buy more tampons…I’ve already been through at least six today, along with 3 pads. Ain’t it fun being me?

While trying to put my groceries in the car, my shirt gets caught on the rusty hanger I use for my car antenna. As I look at the sky and think, “really?” it’s all I can do to not rip that antenna out and fatally stab someone with it.

I finally get home, where all I want to do is change and eat dinner. After using the bathroom (and donning the hazmat suit for the subsequent clean up) I pour a drink and go to carry my sandwich into the bedroom. I’ve got “Bachelor in Paradise” all ready to go. I finally get to relax.

Suddenly, the paper plate holding my sandwich begins to buckle. I can’t easily explain how the next few seconds unfolded, but in an attempt to save my sandwich from tumbling to the ground, I jerked my hands, causing half of my drink to fly out of the cup, leaving a fan of wet droplets on the carpet, and a puddle in the plate under my sandwich.

I lost it. I’m bloody, I’m tired, and I’m hungry but right when I was looking forward to just relaxing, life had to bend me over and stick it to me once more.

I got a rag, dropped down to clean up the spilled drink and began to cry. At that point the one thing I was thankful for was the fact that nobody walked in and saw me…in my underwear, on my hands and knees, sobbing while I scrubbed at the carpet.

My sandwich was wet, but I ate it anyway.

Today is going much better. My uterus has calmed considerably…Voldemort has gone into hiding until next month. I thought a lot about my gynocologist yesterday…about how as she peered into my vag during my last visit and said, “you’re menopausal.”

Ha! That’s a good one.

My uterus? It can’t be stopped. Don’t you know that?

This is going to be an odd story to tell, because while I remember certain key elements about this particular weekend, I don’t remember a lot of the connective details. Stuff like eating dinner or who I roomed with, or actually studying the Bible – these points are really nothing but shadows.

When I was in my teens a few friends of mine asked me to come to a Friday night youth group at this church that was just a few blocks from my house. We were not a religious family at all – I believed in God, but had not attended church or even read the Bible.

I will fully admit that my desire to attend this youth group was more social than spiritual. However, there were worse places a teenage girl could be spending a Friday night. And who knows? Perhaps the Holy Book might really make an impression on me.

What made an impression on me instead was this kid Jeff from Tenafly. He was ADORABLE – curly hair and a crooked smile. Uff da. While he has absolutely nothing to do with this story, I feel compelled to mention him because it was my crush on him that pretty much kept me coming back to the youth group week after week.

It’s a cringe-worthy admission.

That winter the youth group was sponsoring a Bible study weekend up in Vermont. I begged my parents to go, and I still can’t believe I was given permission, but on a cold Friday night I was picked up, put in the very back of a station wagon, and carted up to some resort in Vermont.

MEMORY #1 – The Car Ride

When I say “the back of a station wagon” do you remember the ones that had the seat that faced backwards? Yeah, that’s where they stuck me. I was bundled up for the cold, but the car had the heat blasting, and it also had roughly 7 people sitting in it. I got very hot very fast. And I was riding backwards.

I think we were somewhere in Connecticut when I threw up.

I had complained of feeling sick, so they moved me into the back seat, but it was too little too late. While I did manage to get a majority of it out the window, we still needed to stop at a gas station to a) clean me up and b) de-funk the back seat of the wagon. Shortly thereafter they stopped for dinner, where I stayed in the car both too sick and too mortified to do anything more than sleep.

MEMORY #2 – Horseback Riding

The first morning of our retreat we went horseback riding. I was thrilled to be doing this, having never been on a horse other than your average pony ride. The handlers had asked if anyone had riding experience, and my girlfriend Pam raised her hand, and also offered that she could ride an English saddle.

“Hmmm” said my brain – Pam lived in a tiny apartment with her divorced mom and older brother – where the hell did she learn how to ride an English saddle?

This would prove to be troublesome for me down the line.

The handlers let us know that the horses had to be kept in a certain order – horse A (my horse) did not like horse F (Pam’s horse), so they should be kept apart. Fine. Off we went down the trail.

All was fine n’ dandy until I heard a ruckus kicking up behind me. Pam, with her crackerjack English riding skills, was having trouble controlling her horse. It was moving out of its place in line and making its way towards me. Me, as in the gal who is currently riding the horse that hates Pam’s horse. Do you see where this is going?

Once my horse caught sight of Pam’s horse, they both started to run…slowly at first, but before long we were pretty much at a full blown gallop. Now this is where the day really got fun.

My saddle broke.

All I know is that while we were wildly galloping across the field, my body started to slide to the left. The saddle was slipping, and my whole body listed – I only had one leg over the back of the horse and I was frantically attempting to hold on to anything. We were approaching a line of fence, and I thought I was a goner. If the horse tried to jump it, I was fairly certain my head would not clear. Eating barbed wire was not part of my plans when I woke up that morning.

Thankfully one of the handlers caught up to us and was able to stop the horse. Once my feet were out of those stirrups and set firmly on the frozen ground there was no getting back on. After shooting Pam a glaring look, I marched back to the stables on foot.

MEMORY #3 – The Song

My last memory of this weekend actually isn’t a bad one at all. It was Saturday night and we were having a Bible jamboree in the big hall. There were tons of other youth groups from all around the area, and it was a huge crowd. Again, I don’t quite remember how push came to shove, but somehow my friend Carol and I volunteered to sing as part of the evening’s festivities.

The musical director suggested we sing “You Light Up My Life,” a song that was hugely popular at the time. While it was a #1 song, I didn’t know all the words, and I have to say, it made me a little nervous – could I learn them all in the span of a half an hour? We practiced a few times, and then the show began. I was scared, but I had Carol to go out there with me – a partner in crime so to speak.

Ha.

Right before it was our turn she chickened out. I was left with the decision to cut and run with her, or go out there alone and quite literally face the music. I thought of the time the musical director had spent with us rehearsing, and thought it would be a douche move to bail on him.

So I walked out there alone. Me, in my Dorothy Hamill haircut, and sensible Sears clothing. I stood on the stage next to the piano and whispered to him “it’s just me…is that okay? Are you sure I can do this?”

He nodded and smiled and began to play. I got through the song – I remember being too afraid to look out into the audience, which was, in my mind, massive – like Carnegie Hall massive. Instead I just looked at the Musical Director and plodded my way through the song. I’m pretty sure I fucked up the lyrics at one point, but it didn’t matter.

When I finished, he smiled and winked at me, and said “Great job.” And then there was the applause. I remember it being loud, and I remember that it was the only time I could look out into the very large audience. Wow. I’d done it.

When I left the stage, there were lots of pats on the back and congratulatory comments from both friends and strangers. I’ll admit, it felt awesome – I was really glad I hadn’t bailed. And Carol? She was a little envious – and perhaps a bit regretful.

Those are the three big memories from that weekend. We might have gone skiing, but I don’t really remember. I also remember I made the trip home without throwing up, which was a personal victory for me.

Jerry

Back before Jerry Seinfeld was “Seinfeld” my sister and I totally dug his comedy. Having seen him do stand up on your various late night talk shows, we had become big fans. Our quest was to see him live, and living right outside New York City made it a tad bit easier. Or so you’d think.

This was the days way before the internet and online ticket ordering. Sis had heard Jerry was performing at a joint called “Mr. Chuckles” or “Mr. Giggles” somewhere out on Long Island or past Westchester somewhere in the middle of NY state. I can’t remember which, I just know it was a haul to get there. She had called and reserved us seats for his show and we made the almost 2 hour drive to see him live.

When we reached the broken down excuse for a comedy club and she showed the ticket guy the confirmation number, he told us to get lost. There were no tickets held under her name and we needed to step aside. I argued with him for a good 10 minutes, trying my hardest to hold up the line just to piss him off. I knew there was no way we were getting in, so I may as well make his night as miserable as he was making mine.

We went to a bar and drowned our sorrows instead.

A few months later, we got tickets to a show that Jerry was performing at “Bananas,” a comedy club they had inside the Holiday Inn in Fort Lee, NJ. This was great because it was the town right next to ours…no long drive this time! The night of the show I dolled myself up and was looking mighty fine. You know how there are some nights it just all comes together…hair, clothes, make up? This was one of those nights for me!

The “comedy club” was nothing but one of their ballrooms with a stage up front. We sat at long tables that ran perpendicular to the stage. I noticed that when Jerry came in, he simply entered from the hallway door – no backstage passageway – no security of any kind. That’s when I had the idea.

The show was great – he did all his routines that are now considered “classic”…Halloween, the missing sock from the dryer. What can I say…we laughed our asses off. My sister and her friends were such huge fans I had decided to try and get his autograph, which was my aforementioned idea.

While he was taking his bows and thanking the crowd I sneaked out into the hallway and waited. Sure enough, 30 seconds later he came sauntering out of the main doors and was walking down the hall in front of me. I called out to him and he turned around.

This is where it gets surreal upon thinking back on it. I mean, he was famous then, but not that famous. I think his infamous TV show was scheduled to come out a year or so later. Therefore he was still approachable. But when I think of how famous he is now, the fact that I was approaching him is mind blowing for me.

He stopped and I caught up to him and began to chat while we walked. “The show was great,” ” you’re so funny,” “we’re big fans,” blah blah blah. Suddenly we enter a room…his dressing room! He says, “come on in.” I have not stopped talking, yet he doesn’t seem annoyed by me in the least. I tell him the story of how we tried to see him at Mr. Giggles (or Mr. Chuckles – I can’t recall) and how we were refused entry and were treated rudely. His response (which must be read in true Seinfeld voice) was, “Well, I’ll never play there again!”

I told him how my sister and her friend were such big fans, and could I get an autograph. While he was signing the back of one of the club’s fliers, I had another idea. Should I ask him out on a date?

Ok, while you are guffawing & sniggering, let me explain something. Aside from appearing on the Tonight Show, he was really just your typical local stand up comic. He wasn’t a Hollywood dude – he was a funny guy from Long Island. Plus, he seemed very natural and engaging. To just say to him “hey, here’s my number. If you’re ever interested in hanging out, give me a call” seemed like a natural move.

But, as fate would have it, and is so typical for Tracy, the moment was lost. For at that point the crowd was clamoring for his autograph/meet & greet and the once chance I might have had to ask out the man who would one day be insanely successful and rich slipped away. In the snap of a finger our intimate little tête à tête inside his dressing room was over, and I was just one of the crowd again.

I waved to him as we were leaving, and he gave me a head nod and a smile. It was really cool at the time, but is now a “smack yourself in the forehead for being such a chicken shit” moment in my life. I should have grown a pair and handed him my number when I had the chance.

On the one hand I think “yeah, like he would’ve ever called me.” But you never know – I may have had a way better story to tell if I had done it.

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Everybody has their favorite “Seinfeld” episode. While there are tons of episodes that are good, (The Contest, Chocolate Babka, The Nipple Slip, Soup Nazi, Keith Hernandez) there is one in particular that stands out for me.

The Opposite Episode. It’s perfect. Each character has his or her own story line and they’re all good.

George: Down and out on his luck and totally in the dumps, he decides to do the opposite of every impulse he has. He winds up with a job with the NY Yankees

Jerry: When he loses one job and gets a call for another one, Kramer dubs him “Even Steven.”

Kramer: Goes on tour with his celebrity coffee table book

Elaine: Slowly becomes George.

Sounds simple, but it’s really very complex – it’s like a perfectly built 7 layer cake. Each scene, while important on it’s own, feeds off the last and builds to the next. Hell, I’m no TV critic. I don’t know what I’m talking about actually. All I know is this episode is freaking funny.

Some of my favorite points are:

  • Jujyfruit – For some reason I love how Elaine crams these horrid candies into her mouth throughout the episode. I personally didn’t think she was good enough for Jake – the most normal boyfriend she had on the whole show. I was kind of glad he broke up with her, especially since she ate popcorn first.
  • Even Steven – When Kramer pokes his finger at Jerry and says “You’re Even Steven,” I die. I also love how Elaine throws his $20 bill out the window, (you know, you could’ve just thrown a pencil out the window) and then Jerry finds a $20 in his coat pocket later on.
  • Kathy Lee Gifford – I’ve always hated this broad, and she sucked on this episode – and I like that she sucked. She keeps bringing up Kramer’s hair, like she couldn’t ad lib anything better. She looks directly into the camera at least once, which makes the scene seem amateurish. Then to make matters worse, when Kramer spits his coffee out, she shamelessly plugs her shitty Kathy Lee Casual clothing line.
  • The Forehead Butt – when Elaine is complaining about her woes, George makes a wisecrack about her moving in with his parents. She asks him if that was instinct or the opposite of what he was going to say (while pinching his cheeks together). When he answers “instinct” (with his cheeks pinched together) she says “stick with the opposite” and smashes her palm into his bald little forehead. I love this for some reason.
  • George in General – I think this is one of his best episodes. His enthusiasm in this new found religion makes for some great scenes. Admitting he’s short, bald, unemployed and lives with his parents, yelling at the bullies in the movies, telling off George Steinbrenner, and swinging his hat around while announcing that he’s been hired by the NY Yankees – it’s gold, Jerry, gold.

It ends in as much the same way it began. With one of Jerry’s friends up and at ’em, and the other down in the dumps. And Jerry? Still Even Steven.

Where’s Slovie?

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.

Yesterday we wasted a day of our vacation taking care of business. We hit a bunch of cheesy shops and the arcade on the boardwalk of Daytona beach.  I had been trying to find new sunglasses all week, and had finally found a pair at a good, cheap souvenir shop yesterday –  only $9.99. Chaching! Ring ’em up.

Today, being the last day we could really hit the ocean, I slapped in a pair of disposable contact lenses, adjusted my new shades, and headed to Flagler Beach. The waves were really good – perfect boogie boarding conditions. After slathering on a liberal amount of #50 suntan lotion and lecturing my girls about the dangers of waves this big (accompanied by eye rolls), we headed out into the water.

My oldest decreed the water to be too cold and promptly headed back to the chairs and umbrella. I ran up and got the spare boogie board and decided to hit the waves with my youngest. I thought, screw it…it’s our last beach day.

Munchkin got a good wave right away and rode it all the way into the shore. I tried one of the subsequent waves and also was rewarded with a tasty trip to the sand. This was awesome!

It brought me back to my summers on Martha’s Vineyard, where as a 10 year old, like my daughter is, I would body surf at South Beach until it was time to head home. I never left the water. I had my fair share of battles with the ocean too…I got bamboozled at least 3 times a day.

But today, having a boogie board made me a tad too confident. I headed out far enough into the surf where the waves were breaking – 3-4 feet above my head. I saw one approaching, got into position to ride the crest to the shore in true Spicoli fashion and then realized something.

I was going to get smashed by this wave. I was not going to shoot the curl or hang ten. I was going to get bamboozled but good. Just like those days on the Vineyard.

It hit me and immediately shoved me under. As I tumbled like a sock in the spin cycle under the salty ocean, my brain repeated to my panicked body, “keep cool…it’ll stop in a second and you can stand up.”

And it did stop. I got my footing and stood up. Boobs still in suit? Check. Boogie Board? Oh, there it is. Check. Brand new sunglasses?

Ruh Roh. MIA.

Fuck. Not even 24 hours in my possession, and they are gone already. I took a quick look around, but with the ocean this rough there is zero chance that those bargain basement shades are going to tumble past me in the surf.

I stagger up the beach to my family and ask if anyone had witnessed my colossal fight with the ocean. Nobody had. My niece said, “hey your knee is bleeding.”

I look down and sure enough there is a quarter sized scrape on my knee that is oozing blood. Great. As if I didn’t look bad enough in shorts.

As I’m describing the event to my family, I realize everything looks a tad funky. I close my left eye….vision clear. I close my left eye…ruh roh #2. Vision blurry. I gently massage my eye trying to push the obviously dislodged contact lens back into place, but I soon realize that I have also lost my lens to the sea.

Great. Sunglass-less, bleeding and blind. On the beach. Our last day at the beach.

So what’s a girl to do. I sucked it up and hung out at the ocean for a few more hours with kooky vision. Then we came home, I put on my glasses, and played a killer pool volleyball match, where I realized I can still spike and block, even in the deep end.

I’m tan/burnt and half ready to go home, but at one point during this vacation, I felt like a 10 year old kid again…. tumbling and turning 6 inches under the water.

Tomorrow is my Secret Santa gift exchange at work. I know nothing about the girl whose name I chose, and decided a fun bottle of wine and some little booze accessories would be a safe gift. Even if she doesn’t like wine, it’s always nice to have around in case of company or, even to re-gift.

I don’t know how to choose a good wine, but I know how to chose a good label. When buying wine for a gift, I choose solely on the name & design of the label. It has to be fun. It has to be funky. It has to have whimsy. That’s what makes giving it as a gift fun. If I hand someone a bottle of Le Chateu au de Snodgrass, they’ll be like “gee, thanks.” But when they open a bottle called Fat Bastard Merlot, it’s a conversation starter.

So I set out to find a chuckle-worthy bottle of wine. A few years back I had purchased a few bottles of Mad Housewife wine for a client of mine, but I didn’t see any at this store.  As I perused the aisles, a few of the store employees were standing there, and they asked me if I needed help finding anything in particular. I told them I needed to find a bottle of wine with a fun label – that was my only requirement. They passed a quizzical look between them and I knew I was in trouble.

The girl said, “Well, here’s a bottle that’s a pretty blue.” Um. No…. Next?

“Here’s a chocolate wine…” Eewww. I’ll pass.

“Here’s a label with a charming snow scene on it.” Well, it’s pretty, but not really fun. I’m thinking monkeys, or outhouses or evil clowns – something that makes your eyebrow raise when you see read the label. The girl continued to walk me around the store showing me bottles that were both average and lame. I was desperate to ditch her. Her last attempt was to show me a bottle of Elvis Blue Christmas wine.

While I was not the least bit interested in Elvis wine, I grabbed it and thanked her just to put an end to my misery. This gal did NOT get what I was looking for. I held it for show and continued to browse the rows of bottles and then I saw it.

Plungerhead Wine. Mission accomplished. How can you not giggle at that label? I coupled it with a cute little snowman wine stopper and some wine glass charms, and I was good to go.

It just goes to show you that the old addage rings true…If you want something done right, do it yourself. Unless it involves baking. Or gall bladder surgery. Or auto mechanics. Then it’s best that someone else do it.

6th Grade Typical Tracy with her Little Mice Men

When I was in the sixth grade, our chorus teacher decided to put on a school play. Her idea was to take the classic tale of Cinderella and add songs that she wrote herself, thus turning it into a semi-musical production. I cannot, for the life of me, recall auditioning for this play. It doesn’t surprise me that I did…I tried out for every play out there. I even took improvisational acting classes with a few friends of mine at our town’s rec center. So audition I must have, because for the first and last time in my life, I got the lead.

Yep, this gal, back at the tender age of 11, was Cinderella in the sixth grade play.

The chorus teacher, Mrs. Haspel, was a bit of a wack-job and was generally not liked very much by the students. She had just taken the place of Ms. Macari who for reasons I can’t remember, left our school. Perhaps she went off to get married. In any case, she was a tough act to follow. All the kids loved Ms. Macari…she was pretty and blond with large eyes and an overbite kind of like Beverly D’Angelo. She had a great soprano voice – I remember her cast as Marion the Librarian in our town’s production of “The Music Man” and she killed it.

Mrs, Haspel, on the other hand, had long, frizzy, graying hair and was a tad Bohemian in appearance. The kids had zero respect for her, and goofed off in class on a regular basis. I felt kind of bad for her too…she tried hard to make music class interesting. I remember her bringing in Stevie Wonder’s “Songs in the Key of Life” to play for us during class which was pretty cool seeing as the album had just come out and “Sir Duke” and “I Wish” were big hits. Hell, it was better than listening to classical.

The songs she wrote for the play were pretty bad. I can only remember one of them because it was my solo at the beginning of the show. It was called “Never a Moment” and told of Cinderella’s life of misery and woe. Singing it was pretty embarrassing. Another embarrassment was who she cast for the prince. It was this guy Paul who was in the 7th grade, and I barely knew him. That may sound like no big deal to the average reader, but this guy had to kiss my hand at the end of the play, and that was devastatingly icky to my little 6th grade brain.

My mom went to work sewing my costumes, and I threw myself into rehearsals. They were fun because my ugly stepsisters and evil stepmom were played by 3 dudes, Arthur Jones, David Wallach and Andrew Shalit, and I was friends with them. As opening night drew closer, I began to get more and more nervous. We had two shows on Friday afternoon for the school, followed by a night performance. I then had a Sunday night performance for any parents who could not come during school hours.

During school that Friday morning I remember my stomach began to hurt. I was a nervous wreck anticipating my stage debut later in the day which made my guts start to churn. I asked permission to go to the bathroom, and while walking down the hall I felt the need to pass gas. The hall was empty, so I figured I’d just let it rip on my way to the girl’s room.

Now this is where my story takes the first of several hideous turns.

As I gently tried to release the gas, something more, ummm,  solid came out.

Wide eyed and panicked, I clenched up with all my might and shuffled to the girls room. To my utter horror, I realized that I had actually shit myself. It was only a little, but enough to have left a spot the size of a quarter on the back of my pants. What the fuck was I going to do?  There was no way I could go through the rest of the day with a shit stain on my pants. I grabbed a pile of the brown, industrial style paper towels, wet them with water and went to work in one of the stalls trying to scrub out my panties and pants when mercifully, the bell rang for lunch.

I was saved! This was back in the day where you could leave school grounds during lunch. After a quick trip to my classroom, I grabbed my jacket, tied it around my waist like a skirt to hide my shameful spot and sprinted home. My house was a good half mile from the school, and I ran those 9 blocks like an Olympian. Once home, I cleaned up and changed, and darted back to school. The horror of crapping my pants actually took the edge off the fact that I had to get on stage, and my performances for the school went fine.

The following Saturday I went into New York City for a sleep over birthday party. My girlfriend Leslie Nuchow’s parents were divorced. Her mom lived in our hometown, but her dad lived on the 20th floor or so of a high rise in the city. During the party, a bunch of us thought it would be fun to have a few girls go down to the ground level and stand below her father’s balcony – we wanted to see if we could scream to each other from that distance.

As hard as we tried, it seems that 20 floors was just too much space for our voices to cover. I know we tried hard because I woke up Sunday morning with little to no voice. And I had my final performance that night. Upon my arrival home my mom lectured me for being a dumb cluck and had me gargle with salt water and not utter a sound until show time.

When showtime arrived I recall standing center stage, and as Mrs Haspel played the opening notes to my song I began to sing. “Never a moment to see the sky, never a moment to wonder why, never a moment to see the sunrise or take a walk….” (I told you the song was bad) In any case, each time I went to sing the word “moment,” which was the highest note in the verse, my voice would disappear. My mouth would move, but my stripped vocal cords refused to produce any sort of sound.

It was utterly humiliating, but what was I to do? I had to stand there and alternately sing and not sing to the masses crowded into the Anna C. Scott auditorium. You would think that would’ve been the end to my suffering, but the powers that be weren’t quite done messing with me yet.

Gene Shalit - Don't make me laugh, ha ha ha.

My cast mate Andrew, was the son of Gene Shalit…the film critic from NBC and the Today Show. He had arrived late to the play and was standing in the back of the auditorium. As I looked up during a scene where I was supposed to be weeping over the fact that I can’t go to the ball,  I spotted him silhouetted by the rear doors – the reflection of his glasses added to the comical outline of his rather large mass of hair, made me spontaneously burst out laughing. It was only one rather loud guffaw…I quickly recovered and commenced with my sobbing, but it was still pretty embarrassing.

My parents were proud of me none the less, and threw me a big party with a cake back at our house after the show. I’ve been in many plays since…some with mishaps, others that went off without a hitch. But there is something about that 6th grade play that always reminds me of John Hughes movie. So many things went laughably awry, but it all turned out ok in the end.

Never a moment to see the sky, never a moment to wonder why,
never a moment to see the sunrise or take a walk.
But maybe someday when I am free, I’ll have a moment that’s just for me
I’ll be so happy when I am grown. I’ll have a moment of my own.

I can’t believe I still remember that.

Pass the gas masks, please

I have been working at my current office since July of last year, and in all that time I have managed to avoid performing one basic bodily function. To put it delicately, I have only tinkled in the ladies room. I have never done that other function. The business that comes after #1.

Does this confession amaze you? How is it possible? I’ll tell you how. My office bathroom is gross. It’s a dank, stone-walled dungeon of a room. It has two stalls, and both toilets are barely attached to the floor – they shake and rattle and tilt. There are no waste baskets for that delicate woman’s time, so you are forced to flush everything down the toilet. And it smells like a basement after a hard rain.

And that stale smell is like Chanel No. 5 compared to the aroma that assaults my nostrils at other times. When one of my co-workers drops a load it is utterly offensive to walk into the bathroom. There is no ventilation, no Airwick spray, hell there isn’t even a Stick Up on the wall. Nothing. Only time can heal the wounds no one can see.

There is no way I ever want to be responsible for creating a funk of that magnitude in our bathroom. It is a secret fact that I take pride in. I fear that one day I’ll be forced into an emergency evacuation, and no amount of courtesy flushing will be able to mask my true intention for entering the lavatory. And I won’t be able to exit the bathroom without detection.

I don’t EVER want to be leaving the bathroom while someone else is entering if I have left that room  contaminated. Even at home I will use a far off bathroom or go when nobody else is awake or at home to avoid being fingered a pollutant. Worse still is when the bathroom stinks from some earlier assault, and a co-worker walks in while I’m exiting the stall. Then it looks as if I am the evil stinkifier.

I know there is one girl at my office that routinely takes a doot at work, and she leaves the bathroom uninhabitable for a long stretch of time. There have been occasions where we have been in the women’s room at the same time, and I while chatting through the stall, I have heard a plop.

WTF??? Who does that? I would need to be in prison before I could go #2 in front of someone.

We will see how long I can make this no dumping streak last. I think as long as I don’t get any stomach illnesses, I should be ok.