COMING HOME: A SNARKY TRAVELOGUE

In summary, traveling to Arizona on JetBlue was like travelling first class, almost. Coming home via American Airlines was like being luggage. But less comfortable.

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It was a very long ride home, though shorter than flying westward. Eastbound, we had a tail wind that got us to Logan an hour early.

It seemed much longer. Not only were we starved — which I expected and for which I was prepared having brought a variety of semi-nutritious snack food (do salted peanuts and Fig Newtons count as nutritious?) and a large bottle of water. Bought at the airport because food for which you pay ten times the normal price is safe, while food bought in a grocery at normal prices will explode on impact.

I think we could have been dead in our seats on our return flight on American and only other passengers would notice. The flight attendants were in the back of the plane, playing cards. Having, as far as I can tell, a fine old time.

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There was no entertainment. No television. The WiFi was not free. They wanted $12 (each) for 60 minutes (each) — and the Patriots-Kansas City game was on. Which was more than an hour. They had whacked us with a $25/per bag luggage fee … and wanted another $12 from each of us to use their WiFi? For an hour? It wasn’t even unlimited WiFi. You had to watch one of their programs. Mean-spirited bastards run that airline.

As I told the attendant, “Your airline sucks.” She agreed. They probably treat her like luggage too. Don’t fly American Airlines.

We managed to get the score in real time on our smart phone. It somehow connected to the WiFi despite the firewall American Airlines erected. Let’s hear it for Google. When the game ended, Garry and I had books on our Kindles, so we survived without WiFi …and those salted peanuts helped too.

When we got home, it was obvious no one had cleaned since we left. Talk about filthy. Wow. Two weeks of dog hair, sand, and odeur de canine. The Christmas tree is still up (“Don’t worry about it, I’ll take care of it and I’ll put the wrapping paper away, I promise”). Right. Sure. Uh huh.

I swept three times before unpacking anything and washed the floors twice this morning, but it’s going to take a lot more scrubbing before the place is habitable. I’m not a clean or neat freak, but I draw the line at genuine filth.

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The kid’s going to be 47 in May. You’d think he’d have a grip on “clean,” wouldn’t you? You’d be wrong.

We are home. No fresh food because we used it all before leaving. Today I threw away about five pounds of leftovers that had become lethal-looking science experiments during our absence. Garry made a very short trip to the grocery store. We needed half-and-half. That’s not groceries. That’s survival.

Tomorrow we’ll deal with The Rest of the Story. Today, it’s football and not being in transit. Sorry I missed your blogs today and yesterday. I’m surprised I’m awake and almost coherent.

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While we were away, someone won the $1.5 billion PowerBall. Even after taxes and fees, it’s still more money than I can imagine having. More money than Garry and I earned in our entire lives. Combined. Before taxes. More money than us and all our friends had or ever hope to have.

Someone won it. On a $1 lottery pick. Go figure.

NOTE: We have concluded that there is a secret interaction between hair gel and PowerZero so dangerous and explosive, it is banned from the air! That’s the only sense I can make of it. Who knows what hidden dangers lie in your luggage?

ME – FROM THE BLOOMING DESERT

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You know you are on vacation when you think of something you want to post, but when you get to the computer, you can’t remember what it was and that doesn’t really bother you. Much.

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I hear it’s snowing back home. That bothers me, a little. Because I don’t want to be greeted at the airport by snow. Or ice. Or cold. Or any form of New England winter.

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There are flowers blooming here. Flowers, blooming in January! It’s warm enough for shirtsleeves, at least in the middle of the day. It cools down a bit as evening approaches.

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They call this winter? Nah. This ain’t no winter, uh-uh. This is nice, balmy spring weather.

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We went out today and took a few pictures. Ate some Thai food. Bought more toothpaste. Garry thought I’d brought extra. I thought he had a spare, but as it turned out … well, for everything else, there’s Walgreen’s.

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I miss my dogs.

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I want to be transported home in my sleep and wake up in my bed, warm, snug, and well-rested.

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THE ANXIOUS TRAVELER

My husband and I take a lot of short trips on our boat throughout the summer. I love the trips, but I’m not a “good” traveler. Despite having traveled a lot in my life, going away for two nights still requires two suitcases and days of planning and organizing.

I envy spontaneous people who can decide on a whim to go away to some exotic place. Throw a few things into a suitcase and take off.

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Maybe they don’t have dogs, kids, or plants. Maybe they don’t have as many cosmetics, skin care products, hair equipment, vitamins, and medications, as I do. (Plus the bite plate that I regularly forget).

Maybe they their summer beach clothes are readily accessible in the dead of winter. Maybe they have husbands who can pack for themselves without leaving half their essentials behind.

Whatever the reasons, I am not that person.

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When I travel, my lists have lists. Footnotes, too. I feel like I’m planning the invasion of a small country. “You – feed the dogs and don’t forget their medicines”; “You – water the plants and collect the mail”; “You – handle the UPS delivery on Friday”. The list of all emergency contacts is on the refrigerator, highlighted in three colors!

Packing is a trauma. I try to take the smallest amount of clothes and jewelry, but that just adds to the stress. I always end up packing a large amount anyway. I do loads of laundry to make sure that everything I could possibly want to take is clean. Then I try to find the minimum number of tops that go with the minimum number of pants and skirts.

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I suck at math so this becomes a very stressful exercise as well. Jewelry selection is another major operation. I try to limit my color palette so I can also limit the amount of jewelry and accessories I take, but then I have to make sure that they will be able to mix and match with all the clothes. I also have to make sure that my wardrobe covers everything from poolside casual to dressy evening as well as unseasonal weather, which has caught me off guard many times. You can see that the complexity can be overwhelming.

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Coming home is also stressful. There’s always a lot of laundry in addition to unpacking and catching up on phone calls and errands. If I haven’t been away for at least a week, it feels like deja vu. Wasn’t I just packing all this shit? I usually manage to relax and have a good time when I’m away, especially when I’m on our boat. Only someone with serious issues would have trouble relaxing there. But when the next trip comes up, my first reaction is still, “Oh no! Not again”.

Then I take a deep breath and start making lists.

HERE AND NOW. AND THEN.

Here and now. And then. I’m pooped. Garry and I were just talking about how WBZ didn’t cover the First Night New Year’s stuff in Boston this year, but Boston didn’t do as much for First Night as it has in the past.

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I said that New Year’s is dropping out of the top five of Big Holidays. Why? I think it’s simply too much. Halloween has gotten bigger and Thanksgiving has always been huge. Then, up roars Christmas and by the time everyone is done with the last of the pies and leftovers, oh my god it’s New Year’s.

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Holiday exhaustion has overwhelmed the population. We’ve been partying, shopping, cooking, entertaining, wrapping, decorating and overeating since October and no has the energy or money for one more big bang holiday. Thus we all more or less sleep through New Years.

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And so, here I am. Still in my flannel granny gown and robe with no intention of getting any more dressed than this. Oh, I’ll get to the shower eventually. Probably.

It was a long, busy year and the last two months have been monumentally overloaded in every way. Now, we are about to pack up and go on holiday for real and all I can think about it how much i want to just sleep for a month.

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We are up, up, and away the day after tomorrow for two weeks. I’ve prepared posts for at least the first week and I’m hoping that photography and holiday updates will take care of the rest, but if I seem to disappear, you can assume any of the following:

  1. We went to the Grand Canyon and I fell in, camera and all.
  2. We went hiking and I was eaten by something huge and furry and hungry, thus completing the circle of life.
  3. I discovered the joy of not blogging for a whole week or two!

Take you pick of any or all of the above. I will be back, hopefully energized and with stories to tell.

DESTINATIONS?

What are my top five dream destinations? You mean … like … where do I want to travel? Farther than Uxbridge? Beyond Boston? Me?

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There was a time when traveling was fun. With all the lost luggage, canceled connecting flights, long delays at airports due to engine problems, missing 747s, passengers who fell into comas (really) while sitting on the tarmac for three hours, day-long delays due to weather. Yet, it was fun.

pixies-playingDespite everything, people were in a good mood. They were off on holiday or other trips. No one was clenched in terror of what some moron in security was going to do to us or our belongings. Remember when the worst thing you thought might happen at an airport was for them to lose your luggage? Those were the good old days.

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We’re flying to Phoenix early in January. We need wheelchairs and other assistance. No one at Expedia could confirm if this request will be met … or if someone will decide to charge us some ridiculous fee for help I believe is required under law. What do airlines know about law?

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As I write this, I’m on hold.

“No more than 19 minutes … ” said the recorded voice at JetBlue. No more than 19 minutes to confirm they are going to provide the service they promised when I booked the flight. And I have to do this again, with American Airlines for the trip home. That can wait.

Oh, and I have to call TSA to find out what I need to do to avoid metal detectors (which use magnets) because I have a pacemaker. Call me paranoid, but I would prefer my pacemaker keep pacing … and keep reminding my heart to beat.

Are we having fun yet?

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Where did I want to go before I stopped wanting to travel anywhere? India, Japan, China, Kenya, Greece, Italy, Paris. And maybe Hawaii or Tahiti. Aside from not having the price of all that airfare, the idea of that much traveling is daunting to say the least. Too much for me.

In the meantime, I would like to survive Phoenix.

JERUSALEM OF GOLD AND THE BIG APPLE

TWO CITIES, TWO WORLDS

Once again, WordPress is offering to rehome us to not one, but the two cities of our choice. This is easy for me. I’ll take Jerusalem, golden Jerusalem of my heart … and my home town, New York, New York (it IS a wonderful town).

Where I used to live.

Where I used to live.

I assume you’ll be offering a package which includes  attractive housing options as well as first-class plane fare on demand. I expect appropriate home furnishings and a fashionable, yet comfortable wardrobe along with a generous stipend.

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That would work for me and my husband. You are paying his way too, correct? All my good friends and close family are coming too. Not leaving them behind a second time. Once was more than enough to last this entire lifetime.

Naturally, suitable transportation will be provided at each location. You know … cars, taxis, limos as needed? And support personnel? Cleaning staff, cooks, personal assistants? Dog walkers?

 (AP Photo/Preston Stroup)

(AP Photo/Preston Stroup)

This is going to be our reward for a long life of hard work and challenges no one should have to face, so I’m expecting great things.

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Thanks for your kind offer. I’m won’t bother to pack my bags. Your people will be in touch with my people. They can make all the necessary arrangements. Have a good day and thank you again.

I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.

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As a passing thought, would you consider a third option? Perhaps a charming Caribbean Island state? St. Martin? Aruba? One of the Virgin Islands? Plus an occasional jaunt to Europe. I’m not greedy, but if you’re paying …

OUR LAST GREAT AMERICAN ROAD TRIP

I’ve read a lot of posts that wax nostalgic about the old days, of trips down country roads at a slower pace. Driving through little towns. Past farms, fields, woods, and streams. No super highways with their sterile rest stops and fast food outlets. Driving through the real America.

Leaving Jackman, Maine on Route 201

Leaving Jackman, Maine on Route 201

Those were the days, we say. The good old days which we remember from the back seat. Where we were pinching and pummeling our siblings while nagging our parents to stop for ice cream. Or asking the deathless question: “Are we there yet?”

Everyone who ever waxed poetic about the good old days of travel should take the drive from Jackman, Maine to Danville, Vermont.

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It’s 231 miles from Jackman to Danville unless you travel through Canada, which we did not want to do. Just going through the customs checkpoints would have added hours to the journey. Unless you go through Canada, there’s only one route. Take 201 from Jackman to Skowhegan. Hook a right on route 2. Drive. Keep driving. Behind pickup trucks and aging SUVs veering erratically while never exceeding 28 miles per hour … the exact point at which the car changes gears. The engine lugging relentlessly as it tries to find the spot.

There is food to eat and gasoline to be pumped as you pass through all those little towns. There’s always someplace selling pizza, baked goods, sandwiches, and cold drinks. Usually a toilet, too. You will get a chance to visit every little town in the mountains between Maine and Vermont. I found myself staring at the map, hoping a faster road would magically appear.

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Talk about ambivalence. In the middle of October the trees look as if they are lit from within. The mountains are covered in autumnal glory so magnificent it looks surreal. Reconcile that with an overwhelming urge to blow those pokey drivers off the road. Cognitive dissonance, here we come.

“Wow,” I say, “That’s incredibly beautiful” as we loop around a breathtaking curve in the road. I’m trying to control my peevish aggravation with the current slow driver riding his brakes in front of us.

72-Rt-201_054They must lie in wait for us. As we are about to pass, they pull out in front of us, then slow to a crawl. The beauty of the mountains, lakes, streams, trees, sky, clouds, villages, farms, towns morph into a seamless continuity as we crawl down the mountains behind drivers whose feet never leave the brakes.

It’s a religious experience, but not in a good way. Aggravation wars with admiration for nature and a mounting need to drive at a normal speed. Garry is exhausted, irritable, frustrated. I’m empathizing, even offering to drive.

It took most of a day to make the trip. We crawled through Maine. Crept through New Hampshire. Limped into Vermont.

Autumn road to home

Our most startling moment was looking up and seeing a sign — a huge, brightly painted sign — that said: “WELCOME TO MEXICO.” Mexico, Maine. There were no Mexican restaurants, or at least none we could find. Lots of Chinese, though. After we drove out of Mexico, we came upon another huge, bright sign. “WELCOME TO MEXICO,” it said.

“Didn’t we just leave Mexico?”

“Maybe,” says Garry, “this is the village and that was the town?”

“Or something.” I wondered where the rest of North America had gone. Never mind. It was time to face the inevitable. Garry and I had to fill the gas tank. Ourselves.

Me, Garry, the road and an atlas

Me, Garry, the road and an atlas

Back home — a town which had seemed rural and quaint, but now seemed sophisticated and metropolitan — gas stations provide service. Not the case in very rural New England. Together, Garry and I pondered the problem. We had to remove the gas cap, which was stuck. Garry looked at me. I would manage the gas cap.

I pressed. Twisted. It was the child-proof lid from Hell. Eventually, it came off. Whooping in triumph, I fed our bank card into the pump’s reader and selected the grade of gasoline. Garry, feeling his moment had come, removed the pump from its hook, stuck it in the hole and pressed. Gasoline started feeding into the tank. When it snapped loose, Garry looked at me.

“Does this mean it’s full?”

“Yes,” I exalted. “We did it. We put gas in our  car!”

We gave each other a high-five and continued our journey.  We have developed a deep appreciation for the interstate highway system. And lost every trace of nostalgia for the old days of travel.