Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Sort of a Staycation

Definition of staycation: a vacation spent at home or nearby, according to Merriam-Webster.

I love to travel, whether a day trip close to home or days spent further afield. I travel and take vacations frequently nowadays, more often than during my pre-retirement life, when time and money limitations restricted my adventurous streak.

The idea of a staycation never appealed because, when home, it is hard for me to avoid the pull of the environment – as in laundry, dirty dishes, dusty furniture, cleaning the bathroom…

Then I found myself home. Sick. A bad cold. 

 A forced staycation.

I felt too lethargic to do much except sleep (a night activity), nap (a daytime pastime), drink tea, watch TV.

I was lucky to get sick at an auspicious time. Two days after Thanksgiving (healthy enough to enjoy indulging in the feast), one day after Black Friday (I did not participate in the craziness) and the beginning of end-of-year holiday madness. Most important of all to a stay-at-home-couch-potato, the season ushers in weeks of Christmas movies and specials. So between naps I viewed oldies but goodies, including White Christmas and Miracle on 34th Street. Natalie Wood was an 8-year-old beauty in Miracle…and who knew Rosemary Clooney (who danced and sang along with Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Vera Ellen in White Christmas) and her extended family would become theater royalty (George Clooney the king, of course).

I was too sick to care about what I was NOT doing and what I SHOULD be doing. My bleary eyes did not notice crumbs accumulating on the kitchen counter and floor…did not care about my unmade bed…or stress as mail and papers piled up in the family room.

Sometimes ignorance, or in this case obliviousness, is bliss. I blissfully laid around for days doing nothing. And not feeling guilty. After all, my body was working hard getting well.

And succeeded.

I am almost 100%. Tomorrow back to a normal schedule. 

Staycation over.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

The Downside of Air Travel

Anyone who has experienced air travel anytime during the past few years knows it has its downsides – lots of downsides. Complications begin long before boarding the plane.  

The torment begins with the simple act of purchasing a ticket. The airline’s website guides the customer through screen after screen after screen before – finally! - confirming the purchase. 
Will you bring any  baggage? If more than a small bag – my backpack just meets the requirements – a bag, either checked or carry-on, costs additional dollars. How about paying a few extra bucks for a seat? Of course you will be assigned a seat without dishing out more dollars, but you never know where you might end up. Usually in the back of the bus. In a middle or window seat. Then there is the opportunity to spend more money to board the plane before the common folk, which I don’t understand. Why would I want to pay extra to spend more time than necessary in a cramped seat? And how about insurance? What if you cancel your flight due to illness, yours or a family member, or have a change of plans, or the loving couple getting married decides not to go through with the nuptials - anything can happen!

Ticket purchased, boarding pass printed or on your cell phone, and you’ve stuffed as much as possible in your free bag. Now you’re off to the airport. 

The airport scene. Pray no cancellations or delays. Lines to check in…check baggage…more lines weaving through security checkpoints. Pass through electronic monitors. Suddenly a bell rings Bing…bing…forgot about a bracelet or belt or wire bra – resulting in a pat down. TSA Pre-check minimizes the hassle and time it takes to get through the hurdles, but in a busy airport only helps slightly. 

A customer service agent announces the plane is ready for boarding. Folks crowd around the gate waiting to be called. The disabled…families with young children…zone 1…zone 2…zone 3 – sometimes us…zone 4 – usually us. We board and proceed down the plane aisle. We walk…and walk…and walk, eventually arriving at the back of the bus. Not necessarily the last row, but close to it. A window seat, a middle seat, rarely an aisle.

Sometimes turbulence mars a flight. Thoughts flash through my mind – what are people (probably family members) going to think when going through my house when I am suddenly gone? My bedroom is a mess…the last thing relatives want to do is wash my dirty clothes piled in the laundry basket…am I up-to-date with paying bills…what about those junk drawers full of – junk? When I get home I MUST clean and declutter the house.

I think about taking a pill to sleep through the trip, but so far have not done so. I tolerate the hassles and relish the best part – the end of the journey, disembarking – after waiting impatiently for everyone in front of you to get off the plane - and exiting the airport. 

Relief…until the next flight.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The Upside of Air Travel

I am not a fan of air travel, but the activity does have its upside. 

In preparation for the Thanksgiving holiday, hub and I boarded a Spirit Airbus and spent 2 1/2 (mostly) quiet hours scrunched in an upright, immovable seat doing whatever we wanted, within limitations. 

Unless upgrading - translated as spending a lot more money - to the first two rows of the plane, where two plush seats span the space occupied by three seats in the rest of the aircraft, a passenger cannot stretch in any direction, assuming the plane is full, which is usually the case. Should anyone be taller than me (including most adults and children over the age of 10), there is minimal leg and knee room. Common sense rules include: 

* Don’t cross your legs or sit in any position but upright and the passenger will survive the trip with minor aches and pains. 

* Be careful not to move around while seated or your knees will knock the seat in front of you.

Within the confines of my space I spent the time reading, paperback in my hands, elbows scrunched against my body for two reasons - one, to keep warm - the aircraft temperature on the cool side - and two, to ensure I did not hit anyone. 

If occupying the middle seat, there are two people to be careful not to hit - the passengers on either side of you. If on the aisle there is the unlucky person in the middle seat and anyone passing on the aisle. It might be a flight attendant, a passenger walking to or from the head, or random wanderers. Window seaters might hit the person next to them in the middle seat, or bang the plane, which hurts the passenger more than bumping any individual.

There is also the seat in front of you to be aware of. Stretch those legs and that seat gets whacked. Raise your arms anywhere but straight up and once again that seat gets hit- or your hands end up annoying the person sitting behind you.

The upside of air travel -  I started and finished a short book, otherwise known as a novella, during the flight, all 128 pages. I read the entire local paper, brought along for the occasion, and several pages of handouts from a class I am taking. No interruptions, except for hub occasionally nudging me to ask a question and the flight steward walking down the aisle inquiring, “Drinks? Food?” None of which is free. On the return trip down the aisle the steward requests trash, to be tossed into a classy white large kitchen garbage bag.

Fellow passengers included quite a few children, a nod to the beginning of a holiday week. I saw three dogs, and there might have been additional dogs and other animals I missed. One yippy canine spent the trip in a small mesh case on the floor of the plane. The other two dogs were larger. And quiet- much quieter than one particular (human) baby that loudly squawked towards the end of the flight, obviously annoyed at being confined on Mom’s lap for so long.

The plane arrived on schedule, and in a short time we were in a white Lexus sedan, courtesy of our Lyft driver, on our way to the grandkids. Air travel over - until the flight home.


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Change is in the Air

A dull banging creates background noise. I sit in my family room wrapped in a blanket, gazing at bare branches outside the window. It is fall, the weather crisper, colder, darker each day. 

A house in the process of
being raised.
The hammering is outside, behind my house. Developers purchased a house for sale and tore down the old brick home, in disrepair but I suspect with wonderful innards. But that is not how things work nowadays. It took only a couple of days for the house to disintegrate into a pile of rubble. A few days later concrete displaced earth and two homes began emerging. 

Change is in the air. Walking around our neighborhood a variety of homes meet the eye, most built around the middle of the 20thcentury – our home in 1949. The house catty-corner to ours was constructed earlier, in the 19-teens, a Sears catalog home. Most were, and many still are, summer dwellings.

The landscape is transforming. It began in earnest following

Superstorm Sandy, homes destroyed replaced by bigger ones. Houses have been raised, creating the illusion of largeness as they soar three stories high – ground level garage and storage, a two-story house above.

Change is not always cultivated or wanted. Sometimes we tenaciously fight change. 

I think one of the reasons the man in the White House emerged victorious is because he cued into people’s fear of change and impending doom. 

The end of the 20thcentury and beginning of the 21stushered in a period of doom, a common occurrence at such momentous historical times. The start of a new century is ripe for quacks, religious nuts and end-of-world believers.

Unfortunately the pessimism and sense of disaster hit our political life hard. The seeds were always there, occasionally appearing in a dark corner of the web or a social hall or church, but not tenaciously sowed – until the 1990s. Newt Gingrich and his band of merry men decided compromise was a bad thing, the opposition always wrong and not just misguided, but awful people. Talking heads like Rush Limbaugh nurtured the seeds, demonizing the opposition, throwing out lies. When exposed, he shrugged his shoulders, said, “Oh, sorry,” and went ahead to throw someone else under the bus. The damage was done, the lie out there. It would not die and he knew it. 

Change was occurring at a speed too fast for many to process. And change can be frightening. It makes people pull the blanket over their heads and instinctively react negatively. No change, thank you, all is fine the way it is.

It was in this atmosphere The Man descended from his gilded tower, observed the insecurity and fear in people’s eyes and assured them, “Follow me, I will rescue you. The Others are bad people, nasty people. I can save you.”

Many believed, and the man earnestly cultivated those seeds. George W. Bush said,

You can fool some of the people all the time, 
and those are the ones you want to concentrate on. 

Each day I awaken to renewed disappointment. I sigh. When will it end? How many laws and regulations sustaining the fabric of our society must be destroyed before people realize the man has, as the saying goes, thrown out the baby with the bath water? 

You can fool all the people some of the time, 
and some of the people all the time, 
but you cannot fool all the people all the time. 
-      Abraham Lincoln

Whether we like it or not, embrace it or disdain it, change happens. The political pendulum swings back and forth, we cannot stop it. It shifted to the far right, now temporarily poised, immobile, but will begin moving once again. 

Spring is not quite around the corner, but I look forward to warmer and brighter weather and viewing bright green leaves and white flowers from my window again. 

I have to believe political change in the form of sanity (as sane as any political system can be) will come about. Eventually.

Thursday, November 8, 2018


Hub and I sometimes run errands for Mom. At 93 she is feisty, mentally alert, drives and gets around on her own. But she no longer wants to trudge through grocery stores if she doesn’t have to or schlep through big box stores seeking needed items.

Mom wanted a wall lamp over her desk. She didn’t want to spend time and energy shopping. 

Hub and I set out on the mission on a cold, windy, rainy Saturday.

First stop Home Depot. A logical choice, or so we thought. Did I mention Mom lives in a rented apartment? Home Depot sold only wall lamps that needed to be hard-wired, which means drilled into the wall and connected to electrical wiring. No can do in a rental. We needed a lamp with a cord that could be plugged into an outlet. Simple, easy. 

The Home Depot salesperson suggested we try Ikea.

I have passed massive Ikea stores in my wanderings over the years, but never had the urge or need to walk in. Until this particular Saturday afternoon.

My phone GPS got us to the store, but the five-mile trip took almost an hour due to traffic and lights. Finally turning into the Ikea parking lot, locating a parking space proved frustrating. Available spaces seemed non-existent. Cars crawled up and down lanes looking for, hoping for an empty space, or lucky enough to find someone pulling out of a spot. We eventually parked in the row farthest from the store. 

We walked quickly – it was raining and windy – to the store’s entrance, or what we assumed was the entrance. We were wrong. Entering the building through large double doors an employee immediately approached and told us we had come in the exit doors. He escorted us outside. The entrance was around another side of the building. More walking. By the time we set foot in the store we were already exhausted, chilled and damp.

I cannot adequately describe the spectacle that confronted us. Concrete walls painted in pale colors, bright lighting, wide corridors, high ceilings, a sweeping staircase, an elevator, children’s playroom, and multitudes of people milling around. We walked upstairs and studied a directory, trying to locate lamps. I gave up, spotted an employee and asked where lamps could be found. He highlighted the department on a brochure, handed me the store map and directed us back downstairs to begin our journey. 

We followed the directions and several minutes later, after walking through a series of aisles loaded with kitchen stuff – appliances, gadgets, dishes, glassware…found ourselves surrounded by lights of all makes and models, sizes, colors and prices. We gazed at lights displayed on the floor, above us, on shelves and in bins, before locating wall lamps with cords. Success!

We did not dawdle, were not particular and quickly chose a lamp. Of course bulbs were not included. Scrutinizing the small print on the displayed lamp’s tag we noted the bulb required and roamed around again attempting to find the right bulbs. We grabbed the items and proceeded to checkout.

Not an easy, and definitely not a short, hike.

First we had to find the pathway to payments. Apparently you cannot retrace your steps in Ikea. You slog forward along with everyone else, like a herd of cattle. People in front of you, folks behind you, keep moving! Checkout was somewhere in front of us, the only route via a series of zigzagging aisles lined floor to ceiling with shelves stocked with everything imaginable for a home – furniture large and small, accessories like baskets and candles, a picture gallery, wall hangings, and, succumbing to the season, holiday stuff. Mainly Christmas items.

Finally we turned a corner and directly in front of us were more people. Lots of them. Lines of people with shopping carts and flatbed carts loaded with boxes. We got on the end of a check out line and waited impatiently, eager to pay, get back to the car and rest our aching feet.

The boy kid – high school or college student - working the register smiled, “Hi. Is this all you have?” he asked as he scanned our items.

“That’s it,” I said.

“Nothing else? You came here just for these items?” 

I said, “Yup, we’re done. This place is a zoo.”

“Saturdays are bad, but Sundays are worse. People come from all over to shop here. Next time come in the middle of the week, not crowded at all.”

“Thanks, but I doubt we will be back,” I responded, and left with our purchases.

Another brisk walk to the car – it was still raining – and we drove to the apartment, looking forward to steaming cups of coffee and a comfy chair. 

With any luck we will not visit an Ikea store again for a long time. Maybe never.

Monday, November 5, 2018