Saturday, October 31, 2009

it's a little scary.....

....for me to realize it's been almost two months since i last posted. sorry about that. i think my muse may have gotten lost in the woods during my last hike.

in all honesty, i was going to cheat and just put up a link to the post i wrote a while back about how my sibling and i, in our younger years in baltimore, used to scare the bejeesus out of my dad with our basement haunted house.

i could've sworn i wrote a post like that. i mean, i've told that story over and over again, to the point that i've actually had friends chime in to fill in the gaps when i skip the part about the glow in the dark ghosts or vincent price's rapping. however, after searching this blog for "voncent price", "thriller", and "haunted basement", i've concluded that it must've been a phantom post....sort of like when i think i've said something out loud, and it turns out i didn't actually get past the "thinking" stage. (damn this short attention span of mine!)

growing up in baltimore, the only "haunted" attraction we knew of was the "haunted school"- woodlawn elementary school, down the hill from our house.

most of the year, the school (which, rumor has it, was actually torn down some time after we moved, but i digress...) was opened up for roller skating on wednesday nights only. (i went weekly for a couple of years, and even after all these years, i'm pretty sure i could still get under the limbo stick, though some light stretching might be necessary first.)

however, during the weeks leading up to halloween, the school (which was closed around the time we moved to maryland- due to structural instability, or something like that) was transformed into a fairly low-budget (at least compared to the masterpieces in kansas city) haunted house.

up the hill, at our house, sibling and i pretty regularly turned our basement into a mini-haunted house, employing the use of glow in the dark ghosts (i'm sure sibling's gotten rid of them since, which is a bummer, because i coveted those things for years), glow in the dark jelly bracelets, glow in the dark shoelaces and, most importantly, a copy of michael jackson's "thriller" album on tape.

we'd make a trail with the bracelets and shoelaces, rewind the tape to the beginning of track 4 on side 1, turn out all the lights, and call daddy downstairs. while michael sang (the basement was small, so we rarely made it to vincent's rap), one of us would lead daddy around the basement while the other would jump out, throw the glow in the dark ghosts, and shout "boo".

daddy was appropriately fact, i'm pretty sure it was the most we were able to scare him until we hit high school and he tried to teach us to drive.

looking back, it's interesting to think that we figured flying plastic ghosts were scary, yet the morning we woke up (maybe a year or two before we moved to missouri) and saw that a bunch of our neighbors' cars had been torched overnight, it didn't really faze us. (on the other hand, i'm pretty the effect it had on our parents was probably akin to seeing a zombified michael jackson beating down the front door in the middle of the night.)

the halloween before we moved, i finally went to the haunted school. i can't remember for sure whether sibling went with me or not. in fact, i don't remember much of that night at all, aside from older kids in make up jumping out from dark corners, and i may or may not have spent a significant amount of time trying to get a younger boy i liked to kiss me. (i was so incredibly successful that my first kiss (not counting joey galford trying to kiss me on the bus in kindergarten) wasn't until i was 15. this sort of retardation when it comes to courtship continued into my 20s. i think i might finally have outgrown it. maybe.)

digressing again- sorry.

long story short, the haunted school wasn't really all that spectacular. perhaps if they'd hired someone to play "thriller" over and over again, while someone else threw little plastic ghosts at the hauntees (that's the right term for "those who are haunted", right?), even my dad would have been scared.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

is that a banjo i hear?

i'm moving a little slowly this morning, but it's for a good reason- SO and i went hiking yesterday on the winding stairs trail, near walhalla, sc.

(we thought a hike might be a good idea because, for his upcoming 40th birthday, SO and i are going to visit his family in phoenix, arizona. as usual, there is a strong possibility that sooner or later, we will find ourselves enjoying the local terrain on foot. since most of our daily exercise is limited to walking on flat land, clearly a little conditioning is in order.)

this 3.5 mile trail (which, according to this link, apparently features a bonus waterfall, secret falls, which we somehow managed to miss completely) was done as an out-and-back hike, totalling 7 miles.

the parking area for this hike was pretty easy to find, and not just because we overshot it and wound up at the entrance to the cherry hill recreational area. we actually parked in the same pullout we used a couple of years ago, when we hiked the big bend trail (which i didn't blog about, for some strange reason). however, a lesson was learned after our last hike in this area- ticks are abundant. so, before heading out on the trail, windows were rolled up, the sunroof of SO's spiffy new chariot was closed, and we doused ourselves in mosquito/tick repellant.

we started our hike from the northern trailhead, on sc 107, which, according to hiking south carolina by john clark & john dantzler, is the easier way to approach the hike. after a slight incline just past the trailhead, the trail descends over a thousand feet, mostly through a series of switchbacks- which, i suppose, inspired the name of the trail.

our first stop was fairly early on- a photo op along the west fork of townes creek.

(forgive the blurriness. this was the best of a fair bit, i assure you.)

the trail was pretty flat along this section, and we marveled at the variety of mushrooms along the trail. there were huge yellow ones, smaller red ones, oddly shaped large white ones.....the smurfs would have been proud. i would've snapped some photos, but was excited about the waterfall and wanted to get to it as quickly as possible, so pictures would have to wait until the hike back to the trailhead.

miuka falls can be heard after the first switchback along the trail. there's a little bit of a scramble to get a decent view of the waterfall, but i managed to stay on my feet without the assistance of too many trees. i believe SO even managed to stay upright, which will spare me the prospect of having to presoak his shorts in oxyclean and half a bottle of shout.

miuka falls is a 75-foot cascade reminded me of oconee station falls, which i visited about 10 years ago, before moving to south carolina. like oconee station falls, i had a serious desire to have my photo taken at the base of the waterfall.

(this was taken at oconee station waterfall- 1998 or so, i think)

however, my plan was foiled on two counts:

1. SO was highly squeamish about the idea of yours truly walking around on slick rocks.....i believe he may have said something about "plunging to (my) death" or something like that

2. my camera battery, which was just charged my next-to-last day on st. john, decided to give up the ghost while SO was squatting down in an attempt to achieve the sort of angle that would catch both myself and the waterfall in the photo.


so much for that new facebook profile picture, though i managed to get a couple of good shots before the battery gave up the ghost.

in retrospect, it's probably just as well that we somehow missed secret falls, as i wouldn't have been able to capture it on film (or is it "in pixels" these days?) anyway....just another reason to go back sometime.

beyond the waterfalls, the trail seemed to be far less traveled. at a couple of points, we wound up on alternate paths, skirting around the edges of fallen trees. thankfully, major scrambles weren't involved, and we were able to continue our hike at a fairly decent pace. (i figured we should be able to handle 7 miles in under three hours- a shorter period of time was preferable, given that we didn't hit the trail until 4pm.)

wildlife encounters were limited mostly to yours truly walking into spiderwebs (which would be one of the ways i figured out the section of the trail beneath the falls wasn't nearly as well traveled as the section above the falls), which generally wasn't a problem....except for the one that left me with what seemed to be a ginormous tarantula on my shoulder. (in retrospect, it was probably just a small, harmless arachnid, no bigger than a dime. i was too busy shrieking and flicking it off to really check it out, though.)

about an hour and fifteen minutes into the hike, just as i was wondering when we'd reach the southern trailhead, on tamassee road, SO commented that he heard music.

this was a good sign. music meant we were getting close to the road.

at the southern trailhead, the source of the music became clear. since i have no photos to share with you, i will have to share my artistic rendition of the scene we encountered:

1. yes, matisse would be proud. and by "matisse", i mean john matisse, the half-blind homeless man i saw talking to himself last week downtown.

2. there are multiple reasons for SO's exclusion from this drawing:

2a. as you can see, i only draw handless, anorexic nudists, which SO most certainly is not, by any account.

2b. upon realizing that banjos were, in fact, featured in the music we were hearing, SO turned around and headed back up the trail faster than i've ever seen him move before.

time to get from northern trailhead to southern trailhead (over 1000 ft. descent in 3.5 miles, with photo stops): 1 hour, 20 minutes

time to get from southern trailhead to northern trailhead (over 1000 ft. ascent in 3.5 miles, without photo stops): 1 hour, 15 minutes.

i believe the numbers speak for themselves, folks. clearly, this boy has watched deliverance.

the trip back was fairly uneventful. SO realized that having a towel in the car might be a good idea, as he didn't really like the idea of his sweaty t-shirt stinking up the driver's seat of his new chariot. since he didn't come to this realization back at home, where we have an abundance of towels, he made do by using my spare sweatshirt as a barrier between his sweaty back and his seat.

a couple of swigs of warm gatorade later, we were heading back toward greenville on sc 107, which ran into sc 28- the road that heads into walhalla, where we pick up 183, which heads into greenville, where it runs into 385, which runs into I-26, which gets us most of the rest of the way home. it's a fairly simple route, and not long after reaching 183, i instructed SO to stay on the road and closed my eyes.....opening them about 45 minutes later, expecting to see the sights of northern greenville.

(our planned route)

funny thing- one does not expect to see the sign for issaqueena falls in northern greenville. in fact, one expects that sign along sc 28.....not far from where sc 107 splits off toward cherry hill recreational area.

needless to say, i was a little surprised.

about two miles from where i closed my eyes, there's a stoplight along 183. one must turn left to stay on 183. otherwise, one winds up staying on whatever road merged with 183 a few miles back, and, as my trailblazing SO discovered, if one stays on this road and doesn't make any turns whatsoever, one winds up back on 28, bound for the georgia and north carolina borders.

(our actual route)

i pointed out a few (i thought so, anyway) memorable sights and asked if he'd seen them before, but it seems SO takes the whole "keep your eyes on the road" line of thinking to heart, as he responded that he hadn't noticed anything unusual.

to his credit, he turned around fairly quickly, and about twenty minutes later, when we made the turn onto 183 again, he realized his mistake.

i did not close my eyes again until we were safely on 385. during the intervening time, SO apologized multiple times. i pointed out that it was no huge deal to me- after all, i was planning on sleeping on the way home, and i did not have any sort of interest in the college football game of which he'd now be missing the first hour.

maybe for his 40th birthday, i'll teach him how to make sense of a map.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

brother, could you spare a dime?

on the way to work this morning, i found myself pondering what to write about today, given that it's been over three weeks and i know at least half of my readers (both of you) have probably given me up for dead.

finishing the half-written post about the saga of my car was a thought, but i forgot my pile of receipts, which i'm using to illustrate just how badly the folks over at the AAA car care center felt the need to screw me. (sure, i could approximate, but really- i think my story males more of an impression if i use the actual figures.)

however, inspiration came in a different form after i arrived at work- in the form of a coworker who came in and informed me that his "buddy" won the 220-something million powerball jackpot a couple of weeks ago.

(it is worth noting at this point that the only reason "buddy" won is that i didn't remember it was wednesday until 10:15 that night....well past the powerball ticket purchasing cutoff time.)

anyway, it turns out that "buddy" and coworker used to work together, and after pointing out that useful little factoid, coworker remarked that he sure hoped "buddy" wouldn't "forget" about him.

are you kidding me? i mean, i've heard that after winning a big prize, one can expect all sorts of "long lost" relatives to appear....

"hi. i'm steve, your second cousin's uncle twice removed through marriage. we met at the '83 reunion...i was the tall guy. anyway, i'm having problems making the payments on my brand new hummer, and i was wondering........"

call me heartless and cruel, but the answer would be "no".

in fact, if it were possible to claim the prize and remain anonymous, i'd be all over it like botox in beverly hills.

i'd still work.

i'd still drive my present car until it hits ten years or 200,000 miles.

i'd still unplug the tv and microwave when i'm not using them.

i'd still eat kraft dinner. (hold the dijon ketchup.)

however, i'd probably be writing this from st. john, where i'd be hiking around and making faces at green iguanas for the next two weeks.

that might be what it takes to hide from random acquaintances planning on showing up at my door with their hands to coworker down the hall who, an hour later, is still going on about "buddy", his newfound wealth, and how close they were when they worked together. (which, to be honest, though admittedly a little catty, makes me wonder if "buddy" and my coworker ever shared an actual conversation, or just a ride in the elevator one monday morning......)

Saturday, August 08, 2009

hot fun in the summertime....

...perhaps thankfully, i don't actually know the lyrics to that song, so there is very little change of it replacing o.a.r., which is currently playing on my mental jukebox.

i just finished recording the weather reports for my radio shift, and again today, our high temperature is supposed to be in the upper 90s. i'm currently shivering in our highly air conditioned building, but when i get off work at noon, out into the blast furnace i go.

there was a report earlier this week about how an alarming number of american children are suffering from vitamin d deficiencies.

in this era of computer games, wiis, xboxes, playstations, and the internet, is this really a surprise? when was the last time you saw kids outside, playing, in the middle of the day? i mean, i hate to sound like an old fogey, but when i was little, mama would kick sibling and i outside and tell us not to come back for a couple of hours.

before anyone calls child welfare and asks them to act retroactively, i should point out that in the middle of summer, when temps in baltimore topped 85 degrees, we weren't kicked out for as long, and would be allowed in for tang and some quality time in front of the air conditioner vent.

summertime also inspired daddy to dig out the pool from the garage. the first one i remember was pretty small (then again, so were we) and had inflatable sides. i think there might have been rainbows on it, but frankly, the stronger memory is of the "discussion" i had with mama (i think i was about four at the time)about how i had to wear a swimsuit in the pool, or else i wasn't going to be allowed to get into it at all.

as we got older, we got a bigger pool, including the inground one in kansas city that was ripped out a few years ago....and when i headed off to college, there was the infamous elmo sprinkler. the point is: we still found ways to spend time outside.

so, i suppose i'll attempt to frolic in the sunshine after work (though i cannot promise to give it full effort, because really, how bouncy can one feel when it's 95 degrees), in an effort to stave off ailments brought on by vitamin d deficiency, and then perhaps i'll head home for a nap in front of the a/c vent- just like back in the day....

Sunday, August 02, 2009

who are you, again?

it's always a little disappointing to learn that something you've believed about someone for a very long time just isn't true.

first, it was the easter bunny. (i still dispute that one, as i once had my picture taken with the one and only easter bunny, after finding the golden egg at the woodlawn easter egg hunt back in 1986.*)

then, my sibling was kind enough to point out that kermit had poles stuck to his arms.

(i'd offer up the "luke, i am your father" example, but that's a bit cliché, don't you think?)

i was the last to find out that richard simmons, little richard, and george michael were gay. (i'm starting to have a sneaking suspicion about tim curry, too, but i'm still not quite sure.)

and please, don't ask how old i was when i learned that wasn't david bowie's real hair in the labyrinth. the answer is in the double digits, and i can't guarantee that the first digit is a "1".

i could go on and on, but after a point, one's ignorance becomes a little..... embarrassing.

the subject came up during dinner one night this week. while one of my companions was frantically searching for her debit card and worrying about the possibility of spending the rest of her night washing dishes, i pointed out that we could hold a telethon instead. after all, surely jerry lee lewis wasn't doing anything this weekend.

you know- jerry lee lewis. the guy who married his thirteen year old cousin, made a bunch of annoying comedies during the black and white era of television, and now does those "jerry's kids" telethons for muscular dystrophy. (despite this, he's still called "the killer", except during the telethons.....because it would be a little awkward, i suppose.)

i can't stand that guy. i mean, i admire the work he does for mda, but really- bonking a thirteen year old, a relative, and especially a thirteen year old who happens to be your relative- is just plain gross. furthermore, eddie murphy was far better as the nutty professor.

my "mistaken identity" problem was quickly pointed out to me- in stereo. since i did not completely escape the "stubbornness" gene that seems to be dominant in both of my parents, of course i swore i would google it (man- i remember when i was little and we actually had to go to the library so that mama could prove the existance of thomas crapper to me....maybe the nation's obesity epidemic can be blamed on the convenience of googling, rather than having to actually go to the library and wander around the stacks to do research....) when i got home, just so i could prove them wrong.

uh, yeah. my bad.

i suppose santa claus will be next.....

*yes, i have photo evidence of this....and i'm sure this rather stunning photo of myself will be all over the tabloids when i'm rich and famous.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

virgin islands dispatch #3

i'm not sure how i managed it, but somehow i seem to have brought the rain back from st. john to south carolina. funny- i didn't think i had room for a napkin between my two carry-ons, let alone storm clouds.

forgive me for not posting earlier, but when it came down to $8 for either 45 minutes of internet time, or a ride on mr. frett's taxi from the maho bay camps to cruz bay....well, i like walking and all, but i'm pretty sure i would have missed my flight this afternoon if i'd hoofed it from point a to point b.

where did i leave off last? *scrolling through previous post in another window* ah yes, i was heading over to bvi on monday.....

i'd signed up for the virgin gorda/jost van dyke excursion on the stormy petrel, and was mildly disappointed at first to learn that i'd been bumped to an alternate craft, pirate's penny. however, i could not have asked for a better crew. the captain, eric, was wonderful, and since he was raised in the islands, i'm sure our tour of the baths at virgin gorda was far more detailed than what the majority of folks experience. (i just hope i can remember which room was which when i get around to printing my pictures and stuffing them into an album.)

after our tour of the baths, we grabbed sandwiches at a local deli, which were eaten on the fly on our way to sandy spit, which is this little islet off the coast of jost van dyke:

there's some really great snorkeling here, and though i sort of cheated to get over to it (a float was involved), i was able to get pictures of a parrotfish swimming around the small coral reef.

on the way back to st. john, we stopped over at white bay on jost van dyke for an hour. while most folks were interested in having painkillers over at the soggy dollar bar (so named, i'm sure, because to get to the bar, most folks swim from their boats), i spent some time adding to the local economy (i felt the mojito lip balms were a nice substitute for all the mojitos i was denying myself during my vacation, and the long sleeved t-shirt came in handy at the chilly airpost this afternoon), and took a small (barefoot) hike over to the next beach.

i switched gears again yesterday- the reef bay trail was the other big hike on my "to do" list, mostly because i am a sucker for petroglyphs.

plan a: take the nps' guided hike to reef bay, including the boat ride back to cruz bay.

this would have been perfect. unfortunately, during the off season, this guided hike only happens twice a week....and the only day during my stay just happened to be the day i was frolicking in bvi.

plan b: take the goat trail from camp to maho bay, then pick up the maria hope road to centerline road, cross the street to pick up the reef bay trail, and upon reaching reef bay, hike back.

i found the trailhead to the maria hope road without much of a problem. unfortunately, if it's blazed, it's with the same white that naturally occurs on about a third of the trees in the immediate area. having very little desire to be lost in the middle of the woods by myself (i have a healthy sense of adventure, but not that healthy), i backtracked down to north shore road and walked over to the cinnamon bay trail, figuring that after i reached centerline road, i'd simply hike a mile east and pick up the reef bay trail.

i started up the trail without incident, but by the time i reached the spur trail for america hill, i'd started feeling a little lightheaded and headachy....not a good thing when one is planning a serious hike alone. so, deciding (for once!) that discretion was the better part of valor, i took some pictures at america hill, then turned around (just as a thunderstorm rolled in- talk about timing!) and headed back to camp.

i spent a couple of hours resting in my tent-cottage- mostly scribbling postcards and watching the iguanas in the tree outside.

by midafternoon, i was getting antsy again, and headed out towards a couple of previously missed ruins- annaberg school and fredriksdal. the former is very well preserved and the trail is marked with a large nps sign on the side of the road. finding fredriksdal, however, is not so easy. in fact, i initially walked past both the trail to the estate house ruins and the bridge, which is almost directly across the street. on the second pass, though, i noticed that someone had tied one of those pink plastic ribbons around a small tree by the trailhead to the bridge, and the rest was gravy. (not literally, obviously. i mean, what on earth would one do with gravy in the middle of a forest?) the old stone bridge was the highlight of this round of only regret is that there wasn't anyone else around to take the obligatory photo of me under the bridge, so i settled for a quick snapshot of the view from just off the main trail.

the brush was pretty thick in this area, and since i was wearing my formerly khaki shorts (as opposed to my favorite green pants, which still hadn't finished drying yet), i'm afraid i wasn't really up for the bushwhacking that would've been necessary to see all fredriksdal had to offer. (basically, i went just past the estate house, then turned around...though i also saw some additional ruins peeking out of the foliage while walking along the road.)

i thought about heading back over to waterlemon bay and trying to find the ruins in that area (all i saw my first time through, on the way to the guardhouse at leinster point, was part of a building and a cattle trough), but changed my mind as i got closer to leinster road and opted for a quick stop at my favorite ruins (francis bay estate house) on the way back to camp, instead.

i left camp with somewhat mixed feelings this morning. i took the gnomes down to little maho beach one last time,

said goodbye to the iguanas (by this point, i could see 6 in the trees outside my tent-cottage),

and packed up my two carry ons, as well as the box i was shipping back home, and headed toward registration to check out and meet mr. frett's taxi one last time.

after spending a couple of hours supporting the local economy in cruz bay (nat'l park visitor's center, friends of the virgin islands park store, as well as a couple of other stores, the names of which i'm too lazy to chase down after a day of travel), i paid $10 for a ticket on the ferry back to charlotte amalie. during the ride, i met a lovely woman who was also heading to the airport to catch the flight to charlotte. i won't divulge her name, but apparently half of the island knows that she and her husband bought their east end house for a phenomenal price. (i'm sure even a "phenomenal price" is still far more than i'll ever be able to least until i finally sit down to write my best-selling autobiography, of course.)

between good conversation and a decent mango chicken panini at the airport, time there flew by rather quickly, as did the plane ride home, though part of that was due to the nap i managed to catch during the 3 1/2 hour flight.

it'll be odd waking up in the morning to the view of a solid wall, rather than maho bay and my iguana neighbors, as seen through the screened walls of my tent-cottage. on the other hand, i need a few days for these mosquito bites to heal and my skin to rebound from the effects of sunblock stick and salt water.

besides, with petrogyphs and ruins still unseen, i have no doubt i'll find my way back to st. john eventually......

Sunday, July 19, 2009

virgin islands dispatch #2

when i woke up this morning, my pants were still wet and my legs were incredibly stiff. the condition of the former was due to being put on over wet bikini bottoms 3 times yesterday, being caught in the rain in the middle of a trail once, and, about half an hour after finishing last night's post (which was 15 minutes after i'd hung them to dry on my clothesline and 5 minutes after i left my tent-cottage in my pajamas to donate some extra soap and shampoo to the maho bay camp "recycling center"), we had what could only be descibed as a "gullywasher". there i was, trapped in white pajamas, waiting for the thunder/lightning/downpour to abate, and my pants, which to this point were actually almost dry, were getting an extra rinse.

the latter condition was due to hiking what i figure to be a hair over 7 miles yesterday. i can't remember if i already listed where i went last night (tonight's internet time is being paid for with my good looks, charm, and right leg), but in the morning, i checked out francis bay (mostly because i was intrigued by the picture in my guidebook of the tile floor at the estate house ruins),

(this picture's mine- i tried to pick out the one out of the dozen or so that showed both the architecture and the tile)

the ruins at the annaberg sugar mill, and hiked over to waterlemon bay. i would've hiked the johnny hart (i hope that's right- the book is back at my tent-cottage) trail, but wound up turning around at the guardhouse ruins, since my camera battery was low and i tend to get a little....photohappy. my knees voiced some very definite opinions during the climb back up the maho bay camp driveway, but apparently this is not abnormal when one reaches old age.

lunch was a day-old steak sandwich at big maho bay (the camp where i'm staying is at little maho bay, which gave me a chance to try out the 1/4 mile "goat trail".)

i got bored after about 20 minutes on the beach, so i caught mr. frett's taxi over to cruz bay, where i finally got my national park passport stamped. while there, i asked if there were any local trails, and about half an hour later, i was in the middle of the lind point trail when it started raining. (thankfully, whenever i pack my camera, i also pack a baggie, just in case.) as i'm sure i've already mentioned, the rain continued (intermittently) for the rest of the day.

as for the stiff legs (you thought i was going to leave you hanging, didn;t you?), i did what any normal, rational person would do....i decided to hike some more.

with rain in the forecast again today, i inquired at the activities desk as to whether it would be better to hike over to trunk bay (where the national park service maintains an underwater snorkeling trail), or to head south, to the reef bay trail, which features a waterfall and some petroglyphs (the two fastest ways to sell me on a hike). the girl i asked didn't really have a set opinion, so i figured i'd just start walking and see where i wound up.

as it happened, i missed the trail that would have led me up the mountain to the reef bay trail, so i headed toward trunk bay. along the way, i stopped at cinnamon bay to check out the ruins of another sugar mill,

as well as the danish graveyard, and then continued westward along the highway. there were a couple of stunning views from the road, and i managed to take a few decent pictures, along with several off-center ones of myself. (as you might imagine, though i looked fine when i set out on today's hike, but the second mile, i looked like a sweaty, drowned rat.*)

i wound up passing trunk bay, after realizing it really wasn't that much farther to peace hill, where there's a semi-restored windmill and some really great views. (the christ of the caribbean used to be here, as well, but was taken out by a hurricane in the 90's. according to the website i just linked to, there's a plaque there, but somehow, i missed it. who knows? i may have been sitting on it while taking a spiffy photo (one spiffy one out of 7 attempts, mind you) with a wooden totem sort of thing that was nestled in the ruins.

on the way back, i attempted a snorkel at trunk bay (let's just say i made it to the sign that tells you where the trail is), where i also managed to eat most of my chicken salad wrap, before a rather aggressive bird swooped in from behind (while the wrap was in my hands, no less!) and helped itself to my tomato and lettuce.

i also stopped by cinnamon bay, and after a quick walk to buy a few postcards on the beach, i headed across the street to the cinnamon bay trail, which is fairly steep and a little over a mile long. (thankfully, i did it the right way: steep climb first, and then steep descent last.) there was a spur trail to some ruins that i meant to take, but it wasn't clearly marked, and i didn't want to wind up lost in the woods by myself.

all in all, it was a good day- 8.4 (or so) miles under my belt, and neither of my two new blisters popped. (yay!) tomorrow's adventure: getting up early to head to the baths at virgin gorda and jost van dyke. (it's my one splurge for the trip.)

oh- and i almost forgot to tell, you- i finally saw an iguana! she (i named her ludwanna) was hanging out in a tree outside my tent-cottage. i happened to look up while figuring out today's milage, and there she was. she wandered into deeper foliage about ten minutes later, but my little roommate, anatoly the anole, was hanging around my front door when i last left my tent-cottage. :)

*a slight exaggeration, but only a slight one, i assure you

Saturday, July 18, 2009

virgin islands dispatch

my butt is wet....and it's about the fifth time today.

(i know how deeply you care about these things, so i thought i'd share.)

forgive me for not getting around to finishing the final post detailing the saga of my car. it's about half written, but since i'm paying an arm, a leg, and part of my soul for internet time, let me give you the brief version: do not ever, ever, ever take your chariot to a AAA car care center.

anyway, i'm writing this while sitting on my wet butt in the internet kiosk at the maho bay camp on st. john, in the u.s. virgin islands. it's pitch black at 7:30 pm, which takes a little getting used to, but on the other hand, i have no idea what time sunrise actually is, but i was up, moving, and heading down to the beach to snorkel around 6:30 this morning. (the gasp you just heard was from my dad, who clearly remembers calling and blasting my out of bed at 10:00 am during the summer when i was in high school.)

admittedly, i am not a strong swimmer, and i have a fear of drowning (i am not too comfortable if i can't touch the ground), but i am pleased to report that i wound up swimming over a little reef at maho point....i believe the book said the water was 10' deep there, but can't really find the figure at the moment and don't really have time to search for it (i know i'm up to an arm and half a leg for the internet time, by this point.)

anyway, i also managed to squeeze in a couple of hikes (including one in the rain....good thing i had a baggie for my camera and phone), and a little more snorkeling.

ack- one minute left, i've been informed. time to go dry out my pants and nurse a ginormous blister that popped while hiking in the rain.....but hey- at least i have a popped blister and wet butt in the virgin islands, and not back home. :)

Friday, June 19, 2009

a tale of two three transmissions

it was the best of times, it was the worst of times....

i believe i last left off a week and a half ago, after my 3 hour commute home, which involved several phone calls, a blinking battery bar on my cell phone, and a tow truck with two guys in of whom declined my offer to answer his phone (as it rang for about the twelfth time) and tell his wife "we'll be done in about ten more minutes".

oh, and my car tried to pick up a smoking habit which, as it turns out, i incorrectly credited to my clutch.

a disclaimer before i continue:

terminology in this post may be a little off at times...especially the technical stuff. while i am admittedly a little bit of a tomboy, my knowledge of car maintenance is limited to knowing where the gas goes, how to check the oil, and firsthand knowledge of what might be wrong if the car won't start. (in my case, it involved a loose wire attached to the battery. however, i didn't figure that out until after employing both a screwdriver and a pair of pliers to scrape the contacts. oh- and i think i might've needed to smack something in that general area with the handle of the screwdriver, too.)

anyway, as i write this, my chariot is still in pieces at the repair shop. yes, still.

monday the 8th: car is jiggled off the tow truck and into the parking lot. (scroll down to the last post for details)

tuesday the 9th: my fears are confirmed. the clutch is toast. replacing it will cost about $1585. while the car is torn apart like a feather pillow left unattended with a new puppy, they'll check my transmission, too.

tuesday the 19th, phone call #2: that smoke and burning smell? that wasn't the clutch. it was the transmission. we're now looking at over $2500 to fix my 7 1/2 year old car. i believe an expletive came out of my mouth at roughly this point, though it was not the big one. (i am still quite proud of my restraint.) i tell them i need to gather my thoughts and call them back later.

tuesday evening: up until after midnight, looking at new cars. after drooling for way too long over a highly impractical car out of my price rance (mazda rx-8), settle on a toyota corolla with the sports package. oh- and since they don't make cars without power windows/door locks any more decide i'll put up with those options and console myself by getting the moonroof i've always wanted.

wednesday the 10th: after spending a couple of midday hours debating whether to buy a new car, or borrow my dad's miata, settle on fixing my chariot. after all, it's only got 146,000 miles on it, and at 7 1/2 years, it's too young to die. besides, i can't afford the payments on anything but a low-end kia or a beat up el camino...and if i'm going to have a car for ten years, it really should be something i can stand.

i'm told the repairs (clutch, transmission, and timing belt*), which now total about $3250, should be done by monday afternoon at the latest.

friday the 12th: learn i can borrow my "adoptive" parents' spare car next week, while they're out of town. debate whether or not to take them up on their offer, since i'd only need the car for a day.

sunday the 14th (technically, monday the 15th): after getting off work at midnight, pick up SO and retrieve borrowed wheels.

monday the 15th: no call telling me my car is done.

tueday the 16th: call to check on car. am told that replacement transmission #1 went in ok...until the mechanic tried to hook up the cv axle. apparently, there wasn't a place to put it. (since i have no clue what a cv axle is, the mental picture that forms is from the old oregon trail computer game- the part where your axle breaks and one screen later, you learn you have dysentary.) am told transmission #2 should be in wednesday and my car should be done on thursday.

thursday the 18th: call to check on car. am told the mechanic has put in the transmission and is about to "burn" the clutch. am a little perplexed. after all, that sounds a lot like what made my car's willingness to shift gears cease in the first place.

today: as i'm picking up the home phone to call and check on my car, i hear my cell phone beep its "hey- you just missed a call" beep. when i call back, the apologies are profuse. am told there's news, but it's not as good as one might hope.

"ok- what's going to go "sproing" next?"

am relieved to learn that there aren't any new surprises. however, car still is not inclined to move. it seems transmission #2 went in, the cv axle went on, the clutch was blown (which sounds better than the "burn" i'd remembered, but not by much), and...... the car won't go into gear. now, as i'd established with xavier in my last post, when one has a manual transmission, being unable to get into gear is kind of problematic.

transmission #3 should be in tomorrow, and hopefully, i will be out of the borrowed suv and back into my little green zx2 by 4pm. in the event that #3 is also a dud, transmission #4 is also en route from a different supplier. with any luck, i will not need it.

i was told today that "this thing happens every now and again". i pointed out that i seem to have the "again" part covered. (apparently, my car is now sitting in its bay, with the three transmissions (the original, plus the two attempted replacements) laying near it, like discarded bones after a barbecue.)

i think the poor guy figured i'd bite his head off for having my car for so long. were i more like my parents, he probably would have a new anal orifice. however, since i'm not having to walk or blow money i don't have on a rental car, i'm still able to laugh about it.....besides, as i told him, "this is simply providing more material for a new post on my blog."

*because, i have recently learned, timing belts are supposed to pack it in waaaaay before 146,000 miles.

Monday, June 08, 2009

what's that smell?

let me start by warning you that this will be the second driving related post in a row on my blog. i promise, however, that this isn't another "now i understand why the south carolina DMV doesn't make transplants take an exam- no matter where we're from, we probably drive better than the natives" post.

however, though i'm tired and had a 3 hour commute home, if i don't pound this out now, the finer details may be lost, and it won't be nearly so amusing.

5:15 pm: leave work. notice cell phone is down to one bar of battery life. guess i'll have to charge it when i get home.

5:25 pm: while coasting down a hill, downshift.

5:25:15pm: make that "try to downshift" i've gone from 5th to 4th to...why is 3rd not happening? wind up in 2nd, then settle back into 4th.

5:25:45 pm: pull up to fairly minor intersection. as usual, pop car into neutral while i wait for the light to turn.

5:27 pm: light's green, car in front of me is moving, and i can't get into first....or second. (yes, daddy, sometimes i start in second.) quickly learn that, while car now seems willing to try third, trying to start moving in third gear does not make the car happy. in fact, the little red "warning" icons on the dash light up rather quickly as the car expresses its indignation by stopping. in the middle of the intersection. with an 18-wheeler two cars back, probably muttering under his breath about female drivers.

5:27:20 pm: restart car and coast across intersection and into shoulder. am thankful i didn't wind up "fred flintstoning" it, especially since i'm in flip flops on a road that seems to be overdue for repaving.

5:28 pm: mama, whom i tried to call about 10 minutes ago, calls back.

"hi, mama. uhm, i think the smoke i'm seeing is from my clutch and i have only a bar left on my battery and i need to call AAA. can i call you back?"

5:30-5:35 pm: on the phone with "xavier" at AAA. after rattling off the basic information and assuring him i am in a safe place, i relate the above to him, capping it off with "can you send a tow truck?"

from his end, there's mostly the sound of typing. it really would have been better if he'd just taken down what i'd said, told me when to expect the truck, and we'd hung up (preferably before my phone died.). however, xavier wants more information:

"now, ma'am, is your car a manual or an automatic transmission?"

you're kidding, right? did i not mention the clutch? all of the gears i'd attempted? clearly things are not going to work out with xavier. i prefer men who actually listen to what i have to say once in a while.

"ma'am, what do you think the problem is?"

too easy. i skip the obvious answer (he needs to take a q-tip to his ears, and i don't mean adding a tribe called quest to his ipod, and mention i think it might have something to do with the clutch.

"ma'am, can you start the car?"

yes, but given that it was just smoking a couple of minutes ago and i'm pretty sure that burning smell isn't just me roasting in the 85 degree heat, i'm not exactly inclined to crank it up again, besides, without a clutch, i'm not going far.

5:37 pm: xavier, either satisfied with my answers, or officially giving up on me, tells me to expect a tow truck in approximately 70 minutes, then hangs up.

5:40 pm: call my dad. very briefly inquire about the life expectancy of a clutch (my last car, the sundance, was still on its original clutch until just past 200,000 miles. apparently, this is not normal.), as well as the price of a replacement (somewhere between what i have in the bank and what would necessitate sprouting bigger boobs and picking up an evening gig that may involve mastering the art of walking in 6" lucite stiletto heels).

5:42-7:20 pm: while waiting for a tow truck:

~read a full issue of "national geographic adventure" magazine. learn about steve fosset's last flight, natural bridges i didn't know existed in arizona and kentucky, and pick out several adventurous future vacation destinations.

~am offered help 4 or 5 times- including once by a guy on a bike (and by "bike", i do not mean "motorcycle" or even "moped". i'm guessing this chivalrous soul would have let me ride on his handlebars, though) who called me "boo".

~field several calls- all of which i keep to under 30 seconds, explaining that now my last little battery bar is blinking and making an unsettling "ping"ing noise.

~swat (unsuccessfully, judging from my itchy ankle) at a mosquito that has decided to keep me company until the tow truck arrives.

7:10 pm: on the other side of the road, a maroon ford explorer has come to rest in the grassy shoulder. i mutter that i have dibs on the first tow truck, and about the time i finish the sentence, the driver tries to restart the car. the sound is not unlike that of evenrude in "the rescuers". about a minute later, my competition for a tow is gone.

7:20 pm: tow truck arrives. not one, but two guys hop out. i suppose this is good. axe murderers usually work alone, right?

7:25 pm: car is on the truck, and we're back on the road. tow truck guys ask if i'm ok. i tell them i'm long as i don't raise my arms and knock them out, as two hours of sweat is not exactly a smell one would want to bottle up.

7:30 pm: head out on the highway...lookin for adventure..... oh, sorry. for some reason, when i hit an on-ramp, that chunk of "born to be wild" generally winds up in my head.

7:35- 7:45 pm: small talk with tow truck guys....mostly with the driver, while the passenger is counseling his daughter, via cell phone, on the importance of not leaving her nintendo DS and DS games where her sister can get to them. it seems i'm not the only one who learns things the hard way.

7:50 pm: subject of my age comes up. have to haul out driver's license. driver nearly runs off the road reading it.

7:52 pm: driver's cell rings for fifth time. he has been ignoring it all this time. i ask if it's a girl calling. inquire as to whether i should moan in the background while he answers. he nearly runs off the clemson road bridge. after regaining control, driver calls his dispatcher and asks her to call his house and let them know he's busy.

reply from dispatcher: "how busy are you?"

snickers from myself and passenger. solemnly promise that if he answers the phone, i will not make any noise. (this, of course, is as the phone is ringing for the eighth time.) unfortunately, snickering while promising to be quiet ruins the effect.

7:55 pm: driver almost blows a turn on the way to AAA. i tell him that if he winds up with extra mileage, it'd better not be deducted from my AAA account. this causes him to blow another turn.

7:57-8:10pm: car is unloaded. since apparently my car is stuck in gear (though my gearshift felt to me like it was in neutral), the unloading involves half a can of pam for cars, as well as a series of manouvers performed by the movable bed of the tow truck that cannot be reenacted without a disclaimer and at least an "R" rating.

8:10-8:15pm: call for rescue, dig out spare key to throw into AAA drop box, and head to front curb to wait for my ride.

8:30pm: arrive home....over three hours after leaving work. guess i won't be getting anything extra done tonight. comtemplate spending time practicing how to walk in heels (sadly, i do not own any of the lucite variety). elect to finally post something new to my blog instead.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

a quick thought.....

...because i've booked my birthday trip and am now working my butt off to pay for it.

i noticed not once, but twice, yesterday that some folks seem lost on the whole purpose of an on-ramp. perhaps i'm the one who's mistaken, but i was under the impression that one should use the on-ramp as an opportunity to accelerate for smoother merging into highway traffic. after the second time i found myself contemplating getting out of the car and offering to give the driver in front of me a push, i really began to wonder if i was the one with it backwards...

Sunday, May 10, 2009

what took me so long?

i knew it'd been awhile, but three months? egads. i'd love to tell you my hiatus was due to extensive world travel (ok, spain and morocco) or my whirlwind romance with val kilmer (who won't even return my calls), but it's actually something far less exciting: i've become horribly lazy.

ok- maybe not that lazy, but after taking work, sleep, and this new treadmill habit i've developed (so as not to scare small children in the event i wind up on a beach in a bikini), i've got about an hour and a half of free time daily....and since it takes me a while to pound out a post, i'm afriad the blog has fallen by the wayside. (at least the porno spam has settled down a little, though.)

anyway, i recently read in some women's fitness magazine (either shape or self- i have subscriptions to both) about the hazards of developing "treadmill butt". from what i recall from the blurb in the magazine, since one uses a slightly different motion on the treadmill than when pounding pavement (more of a "bounding" to avoid flying off the back of the treadmill, as opposed to striding to actually propel oneself forward), too much treadmill time can lead to a flat butt.

so, since i'm on the treadmill several times a week (though at an incline, which hopefully helps to combat the problem), i've been going hiking/walking after work on saturdays. since SO has been unavailable the last couple of weeks, i've spent a couple of hours after my saturday shift walking a 3-mile stretch of the three rivers greenway, which i can access on my way home from work. (to borrow from the church lady- which is only appropriate on a sunday, i suppose- how conveeeeeenient.)

here's a handy map for your reference:

i've been parking at the dams and lock at the northern end of the trail,

and walking south, toward (and a little bit beyond, actually) the remains of the state penitentiary and the waterworks (to the right and left in the photo below, respectively)

i'd love to go further on the trail, but it crosses an active power plant, which is closed on the weekends, as i was informed by a helpful park ranger at the beginning of my walk, right after he crossed my path as i was walking out of the wrong restroom. (to be fair, i'd only glanced at the sign, and while i wondered why the seat is up and there wasn't any toilet paper floating in the yellow water, i decided there must have been a line to the men's room (i know, i know- like that ever happens) and someone didn't want to wait.)

it took me about two hours to cover the six miles, though when you factor in the time spent snapping 76 photos (really? i figured i had 20, maybe 25 at the most), i guess that's not too bad.

some other favorites:

wildlife sightings

turtles along the greenway. according to a sign i found, there are at least three different kinds of turtles in the area, including softshell turtles. however, i didn't get close enough to any of them to determine exactly what type they were, aside from "brownish"

this bird was hanging out on the railing across the waterworks levee. i'm no ornithologist*, but i'm guessing it's a crane....

this snake was sunning itself across the sidewalk during my walk back to the dam. i'm not a fan of snakes, but i like to think i've grown- i no longer shriek and run in the other direction when i see one. i'm not sure what this one was, but it didn't have a rattle, white mouth, or red bands, so i figure it was pretty harmless. wish i'd thought to whip out the camera sooner, so i could've gotten the whole thing on pixels.

bridges over troubled(?) water

pair of hwy 126 bridges, heading out of downtown columbia. i liked the lines of this when i took it, but must've shifted slightly when i snapped the shot. guess i'll have to take the camera with me next time and try it again.....

broad river road bridge. the original was burned during sherman's march through columbia. i have no idea when this one was built...perhaps at some point, when i have free time or something, i'll look it up.

*i had to look it up, because all that came to mind was "herpetologist", which, contrary to popular belief, is not a scientist who incorporates valtrex into their studies, but one who studies reptiles.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

but seriously......

the braces are about to come off after 4 1/2 years (what can i say? i haven't exactly been in a hurry), and tomorrow's my first visit with a periodontist to figure out if i'm getting an implant next, or if i'll wind up the proud owner of a maryland bridge.

unfortunately, i am having a rather hard time with a mundane task- filling out the preliminary questionnaire.

normally, these things are so general and boring that i have no problem regurgitating the usual stock answers.

unfortunately, I was unable to stop myself from answering "spouse's name" with "i am way too young for that"....though i am pleased to report that i refrained from putting down my first response, which was "first, i've got to convince val kilmer to return my calls".

somehow, not only my name is listed after "person responsible for account", but also "(unless i have a rich uncle no one has told me about)"

(they brought it upon themselves, giving me a blank line that stretched all the way across the page. it's like pointing keith haring at a blank wall in a subway and then leaving him there with an unattended can of paint.)

thus far, i have not answered "have you ever been instructed in caring for your gums?" with "i skipped the day we covered that in class", though "only in heavy traffic" has mysteriously appeared next to "do you habitually clench your teeth during the day or night?" and i had to explain that i checked "yes" next to "do you have to go to the restroom more than six times each day?", because i don't really keep count, but if i'm on a green tea kick, i'm wearing tracks in the carpet by 2 am. (i think that's why they say it boosts metabolism- look at all that extra exercise!)

if this guy dosn't have a sense of humor, i may be meeting with my hunky orthodontist's second recommendation next week.......

Saturday, January 31, 2009

on the road again..blah blah something rhyming with "again"

greetings from baltimore!

(actually, i'm about half an hour or so away, but i figure it's close enough to call it.)

i've road-tripped up here this weekend to see my sibling and attend some of the edgar allan poe bicentennial festivities. john astin will be making an appearance (he's doing a tribute to poe", and i'm wondering if he'll kiss my arm if i say something to him in french.

i took a lot of notes during the trip up, thinking i could use them for a post, but

a. i'm too lazy to go outside and grab the notepad out of my car and

b. since i scribbled while driving, i'm not sure i could read my semi-legible chicken scratch anyway.

so, here's what i recall:

10:10 am: after two trips back inside my apartment, it appears that i've thrown everything i need into my car and i can finally leave. unfortunately, i've also determined during the two trips back inside that pepto-bismol will be riding shotgun today. on the bright side, this could provide invaluable information to other travelers regarding the number of rest areas along I-95.

10:35 am: after visiting two banks (the bosses' and my own), i am finally heading out on the highway. (unfortunately, "born to be wild" is not on my ipod, so i'm settling for "don't worry, be happy" instead.

10:40 am: i'm doing 80 in the passing lane, and this black mustang is practically in my backseat. i finish passing the 18-wheeler on my right, and mutter something under my breath about hoping the speed demon gets pulled.

10:55 am: pass my first cop. the speed demon got pulled.

11:10 am: pass my second through fourth cops. they've pulled over an suv, and it looks like they're dismantling it. can't decide whether they're looking for drugs, illegal aliens, or weapons of mass destruction.

11:15 am: merge onto I-95 from I-20. resolve to count the number of south of the border billboards between here and the border. unfortunately, this is my most quickly broken resolution ever, as five minutes later, i miss a few while counting cops 5-7, who are pulled over with two suvs. there does not appear to have been an accident, and neither of the suvs are being dismantled, and while i pondered this, i probably missed a couple more signs. drat.

11:50ish am: pass south of the border. were i not already running a little late, i'd stop and take pictures with the gnomes.

12:30-3:30 pm: drive to richmond. pass a couple more cops, including one who pulled a car over just past the turnoff for a rest area. (so much for the "sorry, officer, but i really have to pee" excuse....)

stop three times at rest areas and once for gas. observe that there's a sign on the back of the gas station restroom door that offers a free drink if the bathroom's dirty. the bathroom is actually fairly clean, though i'm mildly concerned about the lack of privacy, as there are no walls separating the two toilets from each other or the sink area. also, it seems that the throne i've selected doubles as a thrill ride. you know those little caps that cover the bolts at the base of the toilet? they're are the bolts. that should be good for a free drink or bag of sunchips or something......

3:30 pm: arrive in richmond. follow mapquest's directions to a spot near (because mapquest doesn't always deliver you to the front door) the maggie l. walker national historic site. i'm thrilled, because only one u-turn was involved.

3:30-4:30 pm: after the informative 11-minute video, tour the exhibits and mrs. walker's home. hers is a real "rags to riches" story- freeborn daughter of a former slave and an irishman (by the way, they couldn't marry, because interracial marriages were illegal in virginia at the time) graduates from high school at 16, marries at 19, becomes the first woman to found a chartered bank, as well as the oldest bank continuously run by african americans, becomes wealthy enough to not only own her own home, but to nearly triple its size and, when she became confined to a wheelchair, added an elevator to it. oh- and, as i found out, she converted her carriage-house into a garage, which held her packard automobile.

6:00ish pm: merge onto the beltway. (I-495 N)

6:30ish pm: enjoying the crawling traffic on the beltway, only because i'm catching a friend's radio show on 99.5.

6:50 pm: merge back onto I-95. still can't figure out why traffic was crawling. there was one tow truck the entire time. no hovering spaceships or busted armored cars.......go figure.

7:05 pm: arrive at sibling's house. congratulate self on finding it the first time and not having to call for rescue. (though, to be fair, i had mama on the phone, and i can't say she didn't guide me in.)

total number of cops seen: 10

total number of rest areas visited: three

total number of pepto chewables (i think i still prefer the liquid) chewed: 4

total driving time: 7:45 (take that, mapquest! so much for your 8:15!)

Sunday, January 25, 2009

a glitch in time

i seem to have missed the boat....or maybe another form of slow-moving transportation would be more appropriate- but i'm getting ahead of myself.

last year, for christmas, i was blessed with not one, not two, but three wall calendars. two wound up (strangely enough) on walls, and the third i regifted or sent to goodwill or something equally appropriate.*

this year, sadly, i received not three, not two, not even one calendar.

in my kitchen, i'm still looking at december 2008, which involved photos of new zealand's south island. the useless tidbits i normally write on my kitchen calendar (which hours i worked for which job, when it would be best to approach me with dark chocolate, pomegranates, and my name is earl on dvd), are being scribbled on little pieces of paper- generally the backs of last year's page-a-day calendar- and stacked on my desk for transfer to the wall calendar i've yet to get.

above my desk hangs december 2008 (for once i'm only a month off)- denali national park. i don't actually write anything on this calendar, and since i hang my copy of the call schedule on this one (so i don't relay the voicemail messages to the wrong physicians on their days off), i'm seriously considering flipping back to january, tacking on this month's schedule, and calling it good.

however, i can't really reuse my kitchen calendar. i've scribbled all over it.

you would think that calendars would be fairly easy to find at this time of year. stores should still have surpluses (surpli?), which should be marked down by at least 20%.

with this in mind, i ventured out to my nearest bookstore this week. i didn't see any calendars there, but managed to find a few other items of interest, since they were going out of business and everything was 40% off. i staggered up to the counter with my treasures (as i told one of the employees, i carry everything in my arms, because when i run out of room, i know it's time to check out.), and whe i mentioned that i'd entered the store in search of a calendar but didn't see any, i was informed that they had two kinds- fuzzy baby kittens and something or other from the new yorker.

i'm afraid that neither of the above is really my speed.

i thought i might find something during yesterday's impromptu road trip to charleston. SO and i drove past a barnes and noble, and i gently suggested that maybe we should stop in and check out their selection.

ah, so young- so full of hope.

sadly, even i am a little too old to be interested in high school musical 3 (though i must admit to harboring a small crush on corbin bleu), and i'm afraid the only thing the "sci fi and fantasy heroes" calendar said to me was, "wow- are you really that desperate?"

the only other option at barnes and noble was- and i could see it in a state like, say, kansas, where i once blew 25 cents on the most scenic postcard i could find- a field of wheat (i kid you not)- tractors.

oh, yes- twelve glorious months of tractors. i didn't check to see if there were any action shots, but i can assure you that there were neither hunky, farmers wearing halfway undone overalls or comely milkmaids marring the view of these fine pieces of machinery.

sorry, but if i'm going to spend a year staring at a john deere(tm)**, there had better be some decent scenery to go along with it.

there was a ginormous hallmark store in the same shopping center, but that did not prove any more fruitful. (i'd warned SO when he suggested it that, having once worked in a hallmark store, the calendars they were likely to have in stock were not likely to be my style, as i am not into fuzzy baby kittens, especially as "painted" by thomas kinkade.)

so, when i get home from work in roughly another 9 hours, i will add yet another scrap of paper to the pile on my desk. i'm hoping i can stumble into something when i'm up in baltimore next week (visiting my sibling and attending the second weekend of the poe bicentennial). otherwise, i may have to ask SO to pick up the tractors after all......

*if you're reading this and received a calendar from me last year, rest assured that it wasn't yours. your calendar was picked out for you specifically with your tastes in mind. i mean, would anyone have known that you like fuzzy baby kittens, as "painted" by thomas kinkade? i think not. it would take an awfully thoughtful friend to hit that nail on the head......

**though, it should be noted that this was not the official john deere(tm) calendar, they probably were john deere(tm) knockoffs, and not actual john deere(tm) tractors.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

at a loss for words

i'm working on something.

actually, i should be working on several somethings- decluttering my apartment, scribbling on avon brochures, cooking something for dinner, working on my billing stuff- but i figured before i started any of those projects, i'd work on scribbling something to submit to newsweek's my turn column.

i had a topic of interest, and i've managed to pound out about half of the 900-word maximum.....

....but i got stuck.

here's the most frustrating part: the article i'm attempting to write is about language.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

better make that screwdriver a double- my contacts are cruddy

i could lie to you and tell you i've sat down to write something new several times over the past couple of months....though, come to think of it, that's not really a lie, as i've sat down to pound out the annual holiday letter and numerous emails, and i've handwritten my fair share of thank you notes and checks to pay the bills.

so, let me simply say that this is the first time i've sat down to post something new to the blog. (fair enough?)

my trip up to maine for the holidays would have made great fodder for a post, but the notes i scribbled furiously (ok- maybe i wasn't furious at the time, but there were certianly moments when i felt a wee bit inconvenienced) fill enough of my journal that i doubt you would care to set aside half an hour to read the post. it's more a "chapter at bedtime" length, and at the rate i'm going with my bestselling autobiography, we'll all be heading for bed in the nursing homes of our choice before the words will be in print.

....but i digress, and it would be unfair of me to hook you with such a tempting title and not deliver, right?

yesterday started as my fridays usually do: i'm still trying to get caught up on my full-time work after returning from my vacation, so i woke up early and put in a couple of hours on my most urgent project. after a snack and a shower, i headed out the door a little later than intended. (to borrow from tom jones: it's not unusual.)

after loading three boxes' worth of avon orders into my car, as well as all of the stuff i'd need for my work across town, i plopped down in the driver's seat (the place to be when one intends to drive), plugged in the ipod (current obsessions: foxboro hot tubs, the soup dragons, and scissor sisters), and fired up the ignition.

except, for the car to actually go anywhere, something has to happen when you put the key in the ignition- and this does not include giving the car funny looks, muttering under one's breath, or throwing something. in fact, it's rumored that once the key is turned in the ignition, assuming feet are on the proper pedals (if required), the car customarily makes the next move.

my car did nothing. not a damn thing.

so, i did the logical thing. i took the key out and tried it again.

still nothing.

so, i did the next most logical thing; i called for help.

fortunately, my dad is retired, and in between international travel and fixing things around his houses, he has little else to do with his time than sit around, waiting for me to call for advice.

(ok- maybe not completely true, but i think he likes this whole "giving advice" thing- especially since, during my formative teen years, i was loath to take any advice he tried to pass along.)

sorry- digressed again. it happens- especially when i go so long between posts.

anyway, the first thing he said was:

"okay. haul out your screwdriver. flathead would be ideal, but if you only have a phillips head, that could work in a pinch."

now, i ask you: how many of you keep screwdrivers in your car?

exactly my point.

so, with daddy still on the phone, i locked the car and walked the fifty yards and two flights of stairs back to my apartment.

in retrospect, it would have been helpful if he'd mentioned at this time that i might need to also grab a wrench or pair of pliers or some other torque-producing tool*, but he saved that little tidbit until after i used the screwdriver to scrape the metal battery terminals and the car magically started.**

while i walked back the fifty yars and two flights of stairs again, this time for the pliers which, by the way, are currently riding shotgun in my car, i asked if it would be possible for me to run my other errands (avon deliveries, bank, work across town) before getting the car taken care of. i'll spare you the details, but let's just say that my dad advised that i keep the stopping to a minimum until after my "contacts are cleaned".

i pointed out that i wasn't wearing my contacts- i was flying blind. (i like to think my family, particularly my dad, appreciates my smartass sense of humor.)

i made a couple of stops ("slow-downs", really) on the way to triple a, where i found out that my car couldn't be seen for another 2 1/2 hours. i called the boss across town to advise him of this, and he told me not to waste my time and money- he'd take care of my car when i got there. since i had my now-trusty screwdriver (i'd had to scrape the contacts when my car wouldn't start after my second tool-retrieving trip to the apartment) and pliers (though i suffered from the inability to loosen the bolts enough to pull the clamps off of the contacts), i figured i'd throw caution to the wind.

three stops, two phone calls to male friends who might have experienced this predicament firsthand (i bet neither of them carry tools in their cars), and one more screwdriver-scraping later, i pulled into my boss's driveway.

three hours, two retightened clamps (turns out one had been really loose all along), and one sheet of sandpaper later, i pulled back out of the boss's driveway.

since everything was taken apart and scraped with the sandpaper, i'm not sure there's any real reason to carry the screwdriver around anymore though i suppose, if i get frustrated enough then next time my car won't start, i can hurl the screwdriver, and then use the pliers in the event it becomes stuck in whatever i happen to hurl it at.

*i have no clue if "torque-producing" is even accurate, but since i'm now driving around with tools in my car, i'm trying to sound like someone who knows technical stuff about these things, unlike someone who, prior to this, carried an emery board and a tire pressure guage thingy and nothing else remotely toolish (toollike?)in their chariot.

**after i put my key back into the ignition. i mean, it's not like i'm driving chitty chitty bang bang here.