Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Home Again

Home again, and vacation is over. I felt like cleaning up the house was an endless project -- how much stuff accumulates only after one week. I had to put down a $250 security deposit, and I would give myself an A- for how I left the house. I stopped short of sweeping and vacuuming. All the linens were piled on top of the washing machine. The refrigerator was empty. All the garbage was outside in the can. The counters were all wiped.

The drive home was fairly easy. I was incredibly lucky with traffic. Even coming over the George Washington Bridge was smooth -- and how beautiful is the view from that bridge?

Anyway, I wasn't on vacation during a hurricane, although that might have been interesting so tomorrow it's back to the grind of paying bills and work.

I saw a station wagon loaded to the gills with a family, looking like they were coming back from a long stay at a beach house, and there's something iconic about it. Can't believe it's September tomorrow!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Mary's photos

Mary took the bottom one from the viewing tower (see below), and I have to say this place has such a calming power to it. It is very still, very quiet, so peaceful and really a timeless spot. Thje water is the Potomac and that's on two sides of the house, and on the third side is a tidal creek.

Sunday night

We had a nice day today, a long relaxed brunch of bagels, cereal, fruit, juice, coffee and lots of talk. Fran and Mary left around 3 and have made it home safe and sound. I had a lazy afternoon of reading, napping, and watching tv. Mary sent some photos, including this one which is the viewing tower right in the backyard of this house.

Vacation Feast

Fran, Mary and I had two great meals today. Fran arrived at lunch, and when Mary went to pick her up, they stopped at a farmer's market. For lunch, we had Amish potato salad (not quite sure what made it Amish, but it was good!) and BLT's made with the best tomatoes from the farmer's market. I commented that usually tomatoes are the weak link in the BLT but these were blood red, juicy, full of tomato taste... along with a glob of mayo, bacon and lettuce on toasted potato bread... it was delicious.

We relaxed, went outside, read, napped, did our own thing in the afternoon and then for dinner, we had grilled shrimp, Rice A Roni, tossed salad with Italian dressing and crumpled blue cheese and corn on the cob from the market. It really was delicious. All of it.

Then for dessert, we had bought an Angel Food cake, and Fran inserted a layer of fruit and then frosted it with Cool Whip and decorated it with peaches and rasberries. That, with a good cup of after dinner coffee... well, we were three happy girls.

More talk, more gabbing and now it's bedtime.

Tomorrow it's bagels and cereal and Fran and Mary are going to leave in early afternoon. We've had just a lovely, peaceful time.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Blasted Technology

I had a good laugh at myself last night. Had stopped to put gas in my car, and I must have touched something coming in to the car because I could not get the hazard lights off. Was trying every button, every switch. At one point I had on the front and rear windshield wipers and the back one kept spritzing and washing the back window. It just made me laugh. Finally located the button and got the hazard lights off, only to realize the interior lights -- two little lights on the ceiling of the car by the rearview mirror wouldn't go off. Tried everything.

Finally I asked a man at the gas station to help me, and he couldn't find it initially either. He put on his glasses and then found the switch. Then I realized the "wiper fluid low" warning went on and I don't know how to turn that one off either.

Mary arrived and we had a pleasant afternoon, playing a game, talking, relaxing and then had Kentucky Fried Chicken (original recipe, of course) for dinner and it was great -- we then wanted to watch a Netflix movie she had brought but the two of us together couldn't figure out how to get the DVD to play. This place has a fancy satellite TV with three remotes, all these instruction books, and I said we need an 8-year old to help us. Finally we gave up.

Tomorrow, Mary's leaving to go pick up Fran who is taking a Metro (subway) to the end of the line and Fran and Mary will then return and stay through Sunday.

Saw deer, turtles, Canada geese, tons of butterflies, tons of birds, ducks, etc. It's really a beautiful, peaceful place.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Vacation Report -- first full day

Greetings from Slugville, where I am enjoying a total unwind -- well, it's not total yet, but I can feel it happening.

Nothing of particular interest to report on the drive down. My Google map instructions were perfect to follow until the last three miles, and then it was wild. I spent an hour going back and forth looking for a road that didn't exist. I finally called the people I'm renting the house from -- I really was about five minutes away. And they guided me in.

I later showed the woman the Google maps instructions and she said that they just don't make sense. That was really the first bad experience I've had, but it was frustrating.

So this place is a dump on the outside, but totally renovated on the inside with new kitchen, new bathroom. There is water on three sides -- the Potomac River on two and a tidal pool on the other. There was a full moon last night and it was beautiful. I always forget how many stars there are as we don't see them in Manhattan. I was also looking at this airplane and could see when it put on its landing lights... that's something you don't see either with all the urban ambient light.

There are birds and butterflies all around. I haven't seen a bald eagle yet, but I'm looking. It's all very peaceful. Was pouring when I left yesterday but got sunnier as I drove south. Today was a sunny, lovely day.

So tomorrow Mary comes.

My "duh" moment driving down here was I was looking at the panel and saw that the "average" was 35 mph. I thought that was impossible and it took me a long time to realize that is the gas mileage. I'm not used to these new-fangled cars. This is a Ford Edge, sort of like a hatchback, mini SUV.

The only thing I forgot (so far) is the cord that connects my camera to my computer so I'll take pictures but can't post them. My little memory card slot on this computer is broken but I will send some when I get home.

Vacation really is a wonderful thing.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Societal Changes

My friend Barbara and I had our monthly meal together -- in July and August, we do dinner -- one Greek coffee shop diner/dinner and one nice dinner. Tonight was our nice dinner and it was a lovely evening.

We were talking about how major changes can take place over time, and talked specifically about smoking, about recycling -- I remember someone years ago scoffing, "What? Is everyone going to have three garbage cans?" And I always think of that when I see three garbage cans for recycling.

Neither of us enjoys cell phones and I pointed out to her the look on the face of a person when their dining partner is on the cell phone gabbing away. It's boredom with a pinch of impatience. I can't imagine why you'd want to chat when you're in a lovely restaurant trying to enjoy a dinner.

When I came home, I was sitting out on my steps for a while, and this woman whom I have come to know who lives on the block came by and pointed out to me that she was no longer on crutches and really was walking very well. I forgot how she had injured herself -- she is my age and a senior, senior flight attendant for American Airlines. She told me that now her only health challenge is solar keratosis which is a forerunner to skin cancer, but she was doing well with it.

She said to me it's all the time in the sun when she was young, and said that when she'd fly to Tucson, she and her fellow flight attendants would put on baby oil and fry themselves in the sun. It makes me cringe to think of that now, but that's what people did. I never did the baby oil since I always got dark so easily, and I remember when I first read that a tan is actually your skin defending itself from an injury and I was like HUH??

So that's something else that's changed -- tans are no longer cool. I remember what a status symbol it was to be tan in January in NY. It said you were well off enough to escape. Today you'd look foolish.

I wonder if the young girls frying themselves in tanning machines will think of themselves as foolish as they are nursing their own solar keratosis a few decades from now.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Non-Smoker vs Ex-Smoker

My friend Barbara asked me a few years back whether I consider myself a non-smoker or an ex-smoker, and I proudly said that I think, all these years later, that I consider myself a non-smoker.

She proceded to shoot down that self-appraisal and convinced me I'm an ex-smoker. And she was right. I am still very conscious of smoking. My last cigaret was (I think) May 20, 1987 -- I remember that because I was supposed to put a little sign in my ashtray at work to remind me.

The closest I ever came to smoking again was when a woman friend was spending the weekend with me. She was smoking -- this was a long time ago when people still smoked in a non- (or ex-) smoker's house. We were in deep serious conversation and it was about 2:30 in the morning and I could no longer listen to her as my eyes were focused on her cigaret.

When she left the next day, I remember pouring water on the ashtray so I wouldn't be tempted to smoke the butts. I know: disgusting.

Now when I see prices for cigarets in New York City, I almost can't believe my eyes -- close to 10 bucks a pack. I can't imagine it.

Anyway, tonight, returning from dinner with Stephanie, I sat out on my steps for a while and a man came out in the next building over and he was sitting on his steps in very deep thought smoking a cigaret and the smoke blew over to me and he was inhaling really deeply and it was the most I've wanted a cigaret in years. I couldn't take my eyes off him because I know that feeling where it's you and your cigaret and you're smoking unconsciously.

Of course, I am delighted I don't smoke, would never even consider smoking, or even taking one puff, but I was surprised how much I wanted a cigaret tonight, considering how long it's been since I've had one... didn't think the feeling could be that strong.

Why I get crabby

I was catching up with some inside errands -- one was to cancel a credit card that I lost. Yes, this was dumb. I got a new credit card and then I guess I shredded it, recycled it, or something. Kept thinking it would turn up, but I called today to cancel and it hadn't been used. It had never been authenticated, or whatever that word is.

So my first annoyance was the phone tree. Then the second was I honestly could not understand the woman -- she had a very heavy accent and then spoke fast. Finally I said to her, "I can't understand you" and it sounds so nasty in a way, but I live in NYC where just about everyone we deal with has an accent and if I can't understand her, there's no way someone from Ohio could ever know what she was saying.

She slowed down, we canceled the card and even though she knew I had never used the card, the card had zero balance, no transactions -- she proceded to read this lengthy legal document as if I were transferring a balance or how if any websites have this credit card number, it's my responsibility to change it... I interrupted her and said "The card has never been used" and she said she had to read that to me anyway and off she went slurring and blurring and blabbing away.

Ok, so that got done... and the next task was to donate money for a friend whose doing a disease walk. I sort of don't like being hit up, but I feel as if I can put some of my charitable dollars toward these things and what difference does it make.

However donating should be as simple as possible, and this wasn't. You had to hunt for the donate button, hunt to figure out how to make sure my friend got credit, and then there was this tiny type disclaimer that I was supposed to sign off on AS IF I WERE IN THE WALK. You know, that the walk has inherent risks,the long list of people and institutions I won't hold responsible if I keel over mid-walk etc. I skimmed it and then thought I don't have to "sign" this since I'm not in the walk, but it wouldn't take my donation unless I signed off on it. It's just annoying. I didn't even read it... really, it went off paragraph after paragraph.

I also don't like that the local group then hits me up all year long for more donations... as if someone living in NYC is going to donate to a local chapter hundreds of miles away. Ok, I can hear the crabbiness rising in my voice. I know they all do good work, and I know there are worthy causes...which brings me to another reason I'm crabby...

My Vanity Fair subscription.

I made the mistake, and I mean that seriously, of saying yes to a phone solicitor thinking it would be easy to re-subscribe that way. It was during a time VF was having a deal with a disease society. I don't even want to name the disease because I'm not making fun or disparaging the disease but it's not one I particularly care about... so every damn year I get this phone call to thank me for my wonderful support of this disease society. Over the years, I have asked that they stop talking about this disease to me, how I don't care about it, and just want my magazine.

This year, I just hung up on them. I couldn't face another fake sincere thank you for my heartfelt (not) support of this disease. Of course, they keep calling back -- hang ups mean nothing to them... and I ended up screaming at the woman to take me off the list. I'll get my magazine some other way.

This, folks, is why I'm a crab.

Friday, August 13, 2010

How. long should things last?

I am thinking I need to update my expectations about how long appliances last. Today I am talking specifically about my Water Pik which worked one day, perfectly, and then the following day was totally broken. The 'on/off' switch would not work, was loose, and clearly not engaging and so I couldn't turn it on. I hadn't dropped it or anything like that.

Just now, I was looking over different replacements at amazon.com, somewhat annoyed, over another way to spend money when someone happily said that the purchase they were reviewing was their fifth Water Pik, and how they normally last 3 to 4 years. Really?

I have to say that's probably how long I've had mine -- it could be five years or even six, but my expectation, short of dropping the thing, is that its life will be longer.

I didn't have wishful thinking that it would somehow heal itself, and I dumped it in the trash and have now ordered a replacement.

I have been thinking about my computer. It will be two years old, come Thanksgiving, and I think you enter than danger zone after two years. I use my computer 7 days a week. It's definitely "rid hard."

Thursday, August 12, 2010

It's a compliment, no, really

Walking on my block today, this older Hispanic woman said out of the blue to me, "You are a teacher, right?" And I said, "I was a teacher a long time ago." She said, "Yes, many years ago. Do you know how I know this?" And I just sensed she was psychic and I tapped my fingers to the side of my head and said, "You know many things" -- Hey, I thought I could out-mystic her mystic!

She liked that and said I was very sweet. And then she said, "God Bless you, Mami."

Mami (as I've seen it spelled) is pronounced like Mommy, and I used to think it WAS Mommy. But it's a Puerto Rican word of endearment for a woman. I used to bristle when someone would call me Mami because I thought they were commenting on my age or something -- like Old Granny. Then someone told me the real meaning of the word.

Here's what Urban Dictionary says:

Mainly used by Dominicans, Puerto Ricans,Cubans & Other. These are the countries that originally used this as more of a slang term.Can be used with kids,Partner{female}.Similar 2 Hun,Boo,Girl,Baby .{males Refer to females:Mami}{females refer to males : Papi}

Now I smile when someone calls me Mami.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Rodent Trauma

Hang around me for more than an hour and you learn how much I hate mice. It's a visceral reaction -- they traumatize me. Luckily, I can go long periods in my apartment without seeing one, or the evidence of one. This past stretch was about four years.

While I was away, I had a handyman doing some work in my apartment and he reported that he saw and captured a mouse. He left out glue traps -- which was the first thing I noticed when I returned and opened the front door to my apartment.

Well, those traps remained empty until today. When I walked into my living room, I saw that the one trap was moved (from against the wall to the middle of the hallway) and I realized there was a dead (or so I thought) mouse in it. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it. I hate even looking at it. Just the sight of a mouse sends me reeling.

In the past, my system was to take about two yards of paper towels, drop them on the glue trap, mat them down with a broom so that the paper sticks to the glue and then sweep it into a bag or box and out the door.

I was expecting a grocery delivery, including, yes, paper towels. I was down to literally one sheet. Literally. I placed it over the glue trap and was really trying to be brave but the paper wouldn't stick and I saw that the mouse was still alive which sent me fleeing.

I gathered up my courage again, went back, and even with a dustpan I couldn't get traction to scoop it up.

I knew my handyman was returning. I knew the grocery delivery guy would be coming soon, but I wanted it OUT. I called Mary to talk to her voice mail and left this weepy, pitiful message and as I was rambling, it occurred to me I could call the super.

The phone number for the super is out by the mailboxes so I went out there and then thought maybe he's working in one of the other buildings on my block so I stuck my head out the door and realized that there were people walking by who might very well be interested in making $20 for 5 seconds of work.

I was watching for someone like in a doorman's uniform, but then I saw this crackhead who goes through the garbage cans who I've seen before. Does he want to make money? Uh, yeah! Is he available? Uh, yeah! Do I want him in my home? Uh, no.

I went back and forth while he rooted through the garbage cans, and then decided to go for it. "Do you want to make some money fast?" I called out.

Normally, a person would say "What do I have to do?" but he didn't bother with that, just said yes and came running. I told him I had a mouse in a trap, and he said, "And you're afraid of it..." and I said yes.

Ok, he said all he needed was a piece of cardboard and a bag and I said I have all of that... and I was shaking really and I have to say he was the kindest, most compassionate person. He was so soothing. He kept saying, "I'm gonna take care of you, baby. Don't be afraid, baby. I'm gonna make it all right for you, baby. Don't worry, baby..." Over and over. Hell, I wished I'd taped it to play back for myself in times of trouble.

So I had three $20 bill and three $1 bills. In my mind, the job was worth more than $3, so I gave him $20 -- that was well worth it to me. He probably could have gotten more out of me, but he knew a good thing when he saw it.

He picked up the glue trap in his bare hands and put it in the bag. I handed him the $20 and off he went, bag in hand. I was so pleased with myself.

Until, of course, I couldn't stop washing my hands. My groceries came, and I washed my hands before I touched them. I put them away and washed my hands. I was going to make a sandwich for lunch and washed my hands. I wanted to wash them again (and did) before I ate my sandwich. Of course, my hands didn't come close to the mouse.

I was thinking later that this was a good lesson for me. Brian (that's his name) is a dirty, twitchy crackhead going through the garbage. Yet, he is also this compassionate, kind person. He really was a calm, soothing presence in time of trauma.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Goodbye Patricia Neal

I see that Patricia Neal has passed on, and I did have a "brush with greatness" with her a number of years back. I was sitting at the breakfast counter one Saturday morning in my local Greek coffee shop and sat next to her, although at the time I didn't know it was her.

When she spoke to the counterman, I recognized her voice. She said how she had an appointment in the neighborhood and was early and was killing time. She was drinking a cup of coffee. I had bought a newspaper and when I left, I said, "Miss Neal, would you like this newspaper?" and she said, "Oh yes, my dear. Thank you."

Later on, I saw her again at the hairdresser. She had that luminous nature famous people have -- don't know what that is -- but it's a glow that makes them stand out from the crowd.

I remember once, having seen a Broadway play, I was walking toward 8th Avenue and (OK, this was a loooooong time ago) and a bunch of people were standing outside a stage door waiting for a star to come out. I realized that the street was empty and so it wouldn't be too long to wait. Then I realized the people were waiting for Katherine Hepburn and I thought this is probably my only chance to see her up close in person.

Sure enough, a few minutes later, she came out of the stage door, and it was like there was a halo around her, or a spotlight on her -- just this glow and even though I only saw her for 10 seconds or so, I'm glad I waited.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Home Again Safely

I enjoyed my little road trip out and enjoyed it back until about the last four hours. The traffic from New Jersey onward, and especially coming across the George Washington Bridge was horrible. But I made it.

Good time to be away. I had a handyman here doing some work, and he caught a mouse. I have not seen a mouse or any evidence of one in about four years, but I think with everything so ripped up because of the Second Avenue Subway, the mice must be on the move. He did a terrific job, and I never "had mice" -- I'd always just have one or two passing through. Am glad I didn't see it.

Also, there was a notice that the water would be shut off -- because of the subway construction, and I missed that too.

This handyman is so wonderful -- did beautiful work and did all these little extras too. He closed some more holes which helps in the mouse department, but I read they only need a hole the size of a dime. I really have given him free rein to do what he wants. He is very tidy and really takes ownership of the projects.

So it's good to be home, good to be back on my block. My crazy lady was even out to welcome me back. I don't think she knew I'd been gone, but now I'm here and all is well.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Almost Home

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Actually I could have made it today, but why? When I checked out of my Microtel this morning, the clerk told me they get a lot of New Yorkers. I said that was because we are accustomed to living in small spaces and feel comfortable here. She said the reason is that it's about a one-day drive to New York. Yeah, if you want to drive 12 hours straight which I don't.

Picture #1: what are the hell are these things? I kept seeing them. Anybody know?

I've been thinking that I can somewhat understand how people who don't care about the environment think there is unlimited space. For so much of this trip, there is green on either side of the highway for miles, mostly without a building in sight other than a farmhouse and barn. I am also struck by how many thousands and thousands of acres of corn we have in this country. It seems endless. Beyond corn, beyond feed for animals, beyond popcorn, it must be all that corn syrup that is in all processed foods.

And beyond wrong apostrophes, what I hate more is YOUR when it should be YOU'RE. There's a sign in this room that says YOU'RE A TERRIFIC GUEST and I keep glancing at it as if it would change to YOUR A TERRIFIC GUEST and I'd have to immediately check out.

Back home tomorrow.