What Day Is It?

Now that everyone in this house works for Shoprite (Mick is finishing his last delivery driver training today) the days of the week and their traditional functions are moot. We have no weekends because none of us gets two days off in a row, nor are those off days guaranteed to be on Saturday and Sunday. Well, one of mine is. I do NOT work Sundays. Sebastian’s days off rotate because his department is so small it’s tough to keep to a regular schedule that serves everybody, so they doe-see-doe around to accommodate doctor’s appointments, class schedules, and Life in general. Mick is now a wild card also. Technically he was hired to work the 4-9 shift but the drivers cover things in a needs-be patchwork too.

Upshot?

The family dinner is a thing of the past.

family dinner

Oddly, I mind this more than I thought I would. Since moving into this house we’ve ALWAYS had dinner in the dining room. No distractions. No electronics. That ritual of food, talk, and togetherness was lovely. (BTW, we’re not fancy, my kitchen is just too small to have a table.) Even at the old house family dinner was expected. How many were eating was always up for grabs, but the table was set and the cooking done to include any and all. This atheist finds the communal breaking of bread and sharing of our days almost a holy thing. A touchstone and an anchor in an increasingly fractured and divided world, our family dinners provided continuity and cohesion. Shared jokes. Shared values and expectations. Heck, even how to set a table and eat with manners was a constant. Always administered gently, my dinner table has never been a rigid place with the day’s crimes reported and the lessons slapped on with a stiff trowel. I’ve taught my sons that manners weren’t a scorecard, they are a kindness. The ‘correct’ fork isn’t important, being an appreciative eater and an interesting helpful guest is.

And now thanks to the capriciousness of the retail schedule the family dinner here at Casa Sage is history.

thumbsdown

And doesn’t that suck?

 

Nostalgic, ~LA

 

Thanksgiving-Norman-Rockwell-Freedom-From-Want (1)

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Another Broken Chair and A Long Month

Yeah, my new (*coff* 6 years old *coff*) chair broke. A wheel arm snapped and dumped me to the floor a few days ago. No lie, I am hard on my chairs. Not just being fat but I shift position constantly and pack my chair with support pillows and sit in it awkwardly with a leg tucked beneath me or I tilt way back and nap. Honestly? If I were my office chair I’d lodge a protest that my rights to humane treatment were being violated.

So my main Christmas present this year is a new chair. I ordered one from Staples. An extra-sturdy model meant for us larger folk. It’s supposed to arrive sometime this week.

Here’s something unusual…I did a live Facebook promo for the store on Tuesday. I didn’t think much beforehand but afterward I was like, “GAH! I was LIVE on FACEBOOK! And it could go VIRAL! And then I’ll be a meme like…

er meh gerd

GAH!!!!”

But apparently my extemporaneous blurt about the fulsomeness of ShopRite’s holiday area was deemed unsatisfactory by some corporate gank. One further up the chain than the one who asked me to do the promo in the first place. She was a sweetie. And she seemed delighted with my 3 minutes of improv about all the amazing goodies which would make the customers’ winter holiday breezy, delicious, ridiculously inexpensive and good smelling. Really, could anyone ask for more from their grocer? No. But within hours my live-streamed glurt of enthusiasm had been taken down. A few people had seen it and sent me texts about how adorable I was as a ShopRite spokesperson but I never got to see it. Honestly I’m glad. One straightfoward look at my chins and jowls and I’d have to drive off a cliff.

Man, I have a newfound appreciation for those Buzzfeed kids. The ones who make the videos. I know that 99% of the time they can re-shoot and edit, but y’all, doing video is HARD. Especially live.

Why do it then? Feh. Why not? What did I do between the ages of 4 – 17? I sold stuff. With my pantomimed enthusiasm about truly ugly polyester sportswear and dubious snack products. What did I do between the ages of 19 and 35? I sold stuff. With my delight about the $3.99 pancake special at the diner, with proprietary joy at my bookstore telling my scant few customers that ‘All mysteries are 2 for 1 today’, and after taking on management of a store in Sugar Loaf I did a lot of animated pitching about Fenton Art Glass baskets and a select collection of handcrafted kaleidoscopes. I know, right? How bizarre. Then I sold cars. All kinds of cars and was damn good at it.

Selling, apparently, is what I do. And I refuse to be ashamed about it anymore. I was for a long time. How creepy and slimy is it to be really, really talented at sales? Yuck-o. Thinking on it though I’ve realized a few things- I’ve never told a lie in the pursuit of a sale. Plus, while I AM very persuasive I am NOT a bully. And aside from assisting some profoundly drunk people navigate the menu at the diner I’ve never sold anything to anyone who was unable to think clearly.

My success at sales comes from a sincere desire to help. I sold so many cars not because I was slick and fast talking but because I helped my clients find the RIGHT car. (Well, that and after letting the husband mansplain to me all about the cars I’d gone to training school for and had personally disassembled and reassembled as part of that training, and had been selling for years [yeesh] I got with the wife and talked with her about what SHE wanted from a vehicle and what their actual budget was. Fun Fact: 88% of car purchases in the US the final approval comes from a woman.) Helping, not scamming. Listening. Knowing my product and understanding how what I have to offer might be what my client needs.

Example: This past March I was on the phone with a customer going over her order (S.O.P. for my department) and she asks about the serving sizes for the corned beef she was buying. Then she tells me it’s the first time she was making a traditional St Patrick’s dinner. I assure her that it will be fine. Boiled Irish is easy if you have the right stuff. So she and I go over the dinner prep together. She tells me how many she’s feeding and I run the list of things she’s going to need. Some items she’d over-ordered and others she’d gotten too little and other things she’d missed altogether. I explained about cooking techniques and went over the whole menu a few times while she took notes and asked questions. By the time we were finished her total had gone up about $40. BUT now she felt like she knew what she was doing and was confident about hosting a grand feast on St Patrick’s Day. Did I upsell her by $40? Yes. Was she a happy customer who was going to make a terrific meal and feel good about herself? Yes. My intent had not been to bloat her order, my intent was a satisfied customer who’d keep shopping with us. Win-win, yes?

Wow. Hadn’t started out to write a treatise on the methods and ethics of sales, but here we are. It’s discouraging sometimes, that’s all. I dislike being associated with a profession that has such an unethical rep. Especially because I am not a liar or trickster. Meh, enough.

billy mays

What else has gone on with me in the past 37 days?

I’ve been reading. Of course.

Yes, I have a copy of ‘Sleeping Beauties’. No, I haven’t started it yet. I know, I know, LA has new King and hasn’t gone face first into it like an off the wagon diabetic into a banana cream pie?

What can I say? This. This I can say. For one thing I’m having an intense love affair with ‘The Night Circus’ by Erin Morgenstern. I’m almost finished but am dragging my feet and savoring because I’m a reveur and do not want it to be over. Such a gorgeous dream. Magic and science and showmanship and belief and heartbreak and hope and wishes on the brightest thing in the sky even if it’s really an airplane.

This book is so gorgeous it’s joined ‘The Good Earth’ and ‘Cannery Row’ on my list of stories that can always break my heart. I know I’ve quoted it before but I consider this to be the best paragraph ever written. At least in English. Actually, American because Steinbeck is our Shakespeare.

“Cannery Row in Monterey in California is a poem, a stink, a grating noise, a quality of light, a tone, a habit, a nostalgia, a dream. Cannery Row is the gathered and scattered, tin and iron and rust and splintered wood, chipped pavement and weedy lots and junk heaps, sardine canneries of corrugated iron, honky tonks, restaurants and whore houses, and little crowded groceries, and laboratories and flophouses. Its inhabitants are, as the man once said, “whores, pimps, gamblers and sons of bitches,” by which he meant Everybody. Had the man looked through another peephole he might have said, “Saints and angels and martyrs and holymen” and he would have meant the same thing.”

I will never, ever, ever write something even one tenth as wonderful.

The other reason I’ve been putting off ‘Sleeping Beauties’ is Owen. Actually Steve’s absurd favoritism for his youngest child. It’s irked me for YEARS. Okay, I get it. Joe and Naomi were born during the miserable years. During the struggle. The pre-‘Carrie’ years. And Owen was the ‘fun’ child. The one that came along when he had the time and money to enjoy him. But in all the notes and anecdotes and interviews and dedications that youngest kid is made out to be a sparkle unicorn who farts glitter and shits gold while his elder siblings are all but ignored and if mentioned they are always the cause of misery and stumbling blocks to success. Frankly, as the elder child and impetus for a hasty marriage and having lived through the exact same kind of favoritism toward my younger sister whose provenance was assured and arrival was welcome I cannot help but be bitter about my literary crush’s blatant out-sized adoration for his younger son. Stephen King’s gaa-gaa googly-eyed gushing over how he and his baby boy wrote a whole book together! Bah, it makes me pukey.

Yeah, I’ll read it. But I’ll be grading harshly and there will be no curve.

What else? Oh yeah, Thanksgiving. Nice. No, seriously. For once SIL and her hubs came by. On their way to one of his sister’s places but they stayed for a couple hours and we had nibbles and some goofy jokes and a genuinely nice visit. MIL was here, of course. And Sebastian was here too. It was the most relaxed holiday in quite some time. Expansive and intimate. Ended up with too much pie, but there are worse things than too much pie. All in all it was a good Thanksgiving.

My other media consumption is this:

maisel

Oy, you cannot believe how long I waited for this show. I first watched the pilot back in June. I’d revisit it every couple months. Always coming away starving to know what came next. Fierce. Feminist. Funny. Set about 15 years too early to reflect my exact life I still get this show. I get it. Raised in a world where a woman’s role was to be the mirror that reflected back the man’s greatness, a fun house mirror that made him 7 feet tall and brilliant even if he was 5’6″ and as exciting as an oatmeal bowel movement. What do you do when you’ve played by the rules and shrunk yourself down and dimmed your light and turned all your gifts toward HIS happiness? You do all of that and he leaves you anyway? For a ditz? Some pea-brained dope who’d never challenge his fragile ego?

Uh huh.

Midge Maisel is figuring it out. And taking us along with her.

It’s difficult not to gobble this season. Just binge my way through. But I waited too long and her story is too important and hilarious not to give it respect and the attention it deserves.

 

There you go. A highlight reel of the past 37 days. Is it everything? Nope. Is it enough? Yeah.

 

Much love, ~LA

 

Yet Another Meme of Familiar Topics

1. Favorite smell? Spices, mostly hippie-ish spices like cinnamon, frankincense, patchouli. Though I dearly love the smell of a good pot roast too. My house smells wonderful when I make pot roast.

2. Last time you cried? Today. I cry like other people breathe- constantly.

3. Favorite pizza? Plain. NY-style which means long skinny slices folded in half, eaten with a good sprinkle of garlic powder.

4. Favorite flower? I honestly don’t know if I have a favorite. I like all kinds. The idea of a showy, gorgeously scented display which facilitates reproduction? I’m there.

5. Did you go to college? Yes, but I do not have a degree. Unfortunately I like learning for its own sake and spent too much time screwing around trying on different disciplines. I simply like knowing stuff. Then I had children…’nuff said.

6. Untie your shoes when taking them off? No, not usually. I am fat and have VERY large breasts. Bending over is problematic, an unhappy thing when doing my job, but mostly my boobs get in the way of everything. Especially breathing. So, any activity which requires me to bend at the waist is going to suck. 

7. Roller coasters? I appreciate the idea over the actuality. In real life I end up squeezed, bashed, thumped, and bruised. Not fun.

8. Favorite ice cream? Honestly? Ice cream isn’t a biggie for me. I like, maybe, two cones a summer from the ice cream stand and a solace pint of Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia somewhere around Mother’s Day. Other than that? Meh.

9. Favorite past time? Daydreaming.

10. Shorts or jeans? Jeans, but my true love is a skirt. Flowy, elastic waist, ankle length. Material: cotton- denim, gauze, twill, but even challis if wool is my only option.

11. What are you listening to? In the car it’s Sirius radio. My pre-sets range from Delta blues in scratchy monotone to ‘Pop Rocks’- my most recent favorite station. I like happy, easy, fun music that isn’t pretentious or obscure. Life is HARD, y’all, music shouldn’t have to be.

12. Favorite Color? For what? Clothing? Black. Interior walls? Grey or yellow. Cars? Greige. Flowers? Carnation pink. Lipstick? Maybelline ‘Wine With Everything’. Candy? Red. Furniture, carpets, curtains? Navy blue. Overall favorite color? Garnet red.

13. Tattoos? Nope. Never have, never will. I’m not really a rebel for rebellion’s sake anymore, but I am rather enjoying my inkless bod and the ‘not on the tat bandwagon’ status implied therein.

14. Piercing? Currently? Ears. Three holes in each lobe. Formerly I had a septum piercing but it made my nose run the whole 3 months I had it. And it was about 25 years too early for public (employable) acceptance. A septum bullring in 1983 was too weird for words. Punk as all hell though and went with my lavender tufty something wicked.

15. Color of hair? I’m not coloring my hair at the moment. Feh. No time, money, or energy. Currently it’s too long, shapeless, and bowel movement brown with an unsatisfying small smattering of silver.

16. Color of eyes? Green. Dark green without any kind of showy beauty or freaky pigmentation. Unlike Sebastian’s which are a to-die-for sea green/pearly grey.

17. Favorite food to eat? WTF? This is a HARD question. Breakfast? At the diner- eggs over medium, sausage, white toast with jam, coffee. Lunch? Egg salad sandwiches and dill pickle spears. Dinner? Pasta, red sauce, mushrooms. Garlic bread. Green salad.

18. Favorite holiday? Thanksgiving. Actually it used to be my favorite. I loved the ritual and purity of it. For me it was THE No Bullshit holiday. I loved getting up in the creaking dawn to put the bird into the oven. And with my first cup of coffee making a chocolate cream pie and then cheerfully cursing at my overly full fridge and finding a place to put the pie to set. I loved pulling out the good dishes and the big stupid turkey platter which spent the other 363 days living on top of the china cabinet (it got used on Christmas too) and scrubbing up all the serving spoons and forks, and plotting out all the bowls and baskets, and gravy and sauce boats. Thanksgiving combined two favorite things- cooking for company and fussing with tableware. Then around midday a bunch of friends and family showed up and we parked ourselves at the table and ate and told stories and ate more and told more stories and eventually made coffee and had some pie. Now? Now there’s nobody to come. Sebastian goes to his aunt’s and I don’t have any friends. So. Favorite holiday? Arbor Day. At least planting trees still makes sense.

19. Beer or wine? Beer. Lager. Preferably on tap. Not picky as to brand or pedigree.

20. Night owl or morning person? For most of my life I was the hootiest of night owls. Now I’m a day dweller. Not a “My! Look at this glorious sunrise! So glad I knocked down all my chores first so I can relax and watch the sun come up without guilt!” Spare me.  But I can and do enjoy the fresh part of the morning and get to my job at 9:00 am without pain or needing an espresso enema.

21. Favorite day of the week? Thursday. It’s my scheduled day off. My other regular day off is Sunday, which is devoted to family. Thursday is mine own. Plus on Thursday nights the Travel Channel runs ‘Mysteries at the Museum’ so after a peaceful day sans brassiere and shoes I trundle off to bed early and get my fill of esoteric trivia and delightfully cheesy historical reenactments.

22. Do you have a Nickname? Growing up my family called me ‘Leelee’. A few of my co-workers call me ‘Lah’ as in the music note instead of pronouncing my chosen moniker as ‘El-Ayy’, but whatever. Honestly? The majority of people I interact with attract my attention with either ‘Mom’ or “Excuse me, do you work here?”

23. Pictures on your wall? Almost entirely personal. Paintings, photographs, drawings, limited edition lithos – all done by friends. The enclosed front porch is a Hil Gallery with additions by several local artists who’ve done chalks and water colors of places I know and love. In the living room there’s a series of temple rubbings from Thailand done by my ex-MIL, plus many prints of photographs taken and developed by me and the ex in our darkroom at the old house. My office is a shrine to my artist cadre with everything from multi-media collages to stained glass spiders to found objects stolen just for me by pals and boyfriends past. Not one thing, including the many, many mirrors, on the walls and display shelves in this house is without personal provenance and a story. As good art should be.

24. What makes you most proud? Aside from not having any tats? I dunno. Recently I watched ‘Last Word’ with Shirley MacLaine and in the movie there’s a scene where she meets up with her estranged daughter. The daughter is stiff and angry with a mouthful of accusations and recriminations as to the lousy job Shirley MacLaine did as a mother. She asks the daughter (who’s a pediatric neurosurgeon and married and mother of two) if she (the daughter) is happy? Yes. Very. So Shirley starts bellowing with laughter. Utterly DELIGHTED! She’d obviously been a GREAT MOM! Her supposedly poorly served daughter had grown up to be successful, happily married, and enjoying motherhood. What the hell else was she (Shirley) supposed to provide? Her daughter was doing wonderfully well! Is that not the definition of good parenting? That your kid has the tools and sense to make a good life for his/her self? I paused the movie and cried for 20 minutes. YES! What the hell else can be fairly asked of a mom? BOTH of my kids are fine. Sebastian had his first cavity but otherwise my children are all kinds of good. Alex has a post graduate degree. A happy marriage. Owns real estate. Has marketable skills. Seb is employed. Has a new car. Is working on a degree. Has gorgeous head shots and contacts in the film industry. He has an ‘in’ on doing voice work for a start-up video game company. He recently met the head of production for Martin Scorsese’s production company as well as submitting an intern application with Story Horse Productions. (Hello, owned and overseen by Mary Stuart Masterson.) Am I supposed to cop to being a monster? Some kind of abusive selfish drug-addled cow? Nope. Despite the horrors of my actually abusive, deprived, fucked up childhood I did MORE than okay by my sons. Alex and Sebastian are fine, happy, emotionally stable, intellectually curious, morally sound, feminist, gainfully employed men. Was I supposed to do otherwise? Shit, they even put the seat down.

So fuck off if you think I owe the world, you, or my children more. olde flipping burd

 

Tired of taking the heat for others’ misconceptions, ~LA

Depression: No Witty Title Required

The thing about Depression is that it exists wholly without cause. It is of itself and doesn’t care fuck all about timing or reasons.

Example: I am just back from the trip of a lifetime. Numero uno on my bucket list. Even if England was boring and ugly (it isn’t) I still would have had a terrific time visiting with my friends.

More friends: Today was old home week at the store and I saw several of my favorite young women. Some just in to do a shopping, but others were home over the holiday weekend and came in to firm up their re-hires for the winter break from school. Hugs. Many, many hugs.

Then there was the healing. Used pressure points on her hand and forehead to relieve Hope’s sinus woes. She’s pregnant and can’t take any meds right now. Before work I’d put together a special infusion mix to help Jan with her erratic menstrual cycle and told her how to brew it when she came in for her shift. Heidi’s headache. Pete accidentally mashed his hand unloading today’s truck and sought me out. Some weeks back I’d helped heal another injury of his and ever since he’s convinced I’m the only medic he needs. Fortunately nothing was broken so after a soothing massage with peppermint oil I sent him off with instructions to take an anti-inflammatory and to keep his hand safe from being re-smushed. A.J got advice about his hemorrhoids (which did NOT involve me putting hands on the affected area, thank goodness) but did include a stern lecture about getting more fiber and the overall benefits of dark leafy greens.

Plus there was the usual assistance to customers. Where to find things. How to cook things. Was this the correct coupon? Could I get something off the top shelf for them? Also my own clients that I shopped for and taking care all of their questions and add-ons.

So, yeah, I know I am both liked and useful. No less than 20 people a day come to me for advice, and most of the younger ones call me ‘Mom’. Including the one I actually gave birth to.

And yet…the Depression. One of its tricksy malign voices sneers and mocks. Another whispers hateful insulting things. And always poking with a sharp stick. Poking, poking, poking. Delighting when it makes me wince. Laughing aloud when I bleed. A sniggering under-voice that tells me how useless I am. How ugly. Oh, I am such a waste of space! How can I not understand how great the world would be without me in it?

depression voice

It says ‘anxiety’ but it’s what Depression is like too. And it blows.

If all it took to beat back this buggardly disease was awareness and some gratitude my life would look like this:

sparkle unicorn

 

Tired, frustrated, angry, and more than a little ashamed, ~LA

An American in Sompting

My trip abroad finally begins to make sense, in that there’s a narrative and something of a timeline, and that I truly believe I went to the other side of the ocean to visit A WHOLE OTHER COUNTRY! 

I’ll be busting out the caps lock and exclamatory fonts quite a bit because, holy shit!!!!, I am NOT going to die without having been anywhere! This, my friends, weighed on me like you couldn’t believe. Having been gypped and gypped myself out of pretty much every good thing I ever wanted or had those wishes go sideways like the guy who ended up with a 12″ pianist I’ve grieved…

12 inch pianist

But this time I honestly and truly Did A Thing!

Look!

me and anna 2

This is me and my amazingly kind and generous friend, Anna. Right there we are on the amusement pier at Brighton. Brighton Pier is at once warmly familiar and delightfully exotic for someone whose summer heart lives at the Jersey Shore. Sea smell, gulls, the flashing cacophony of a video arcade, rides, the give of weather-beaten wooden deck planks beneath your feet, but instead of pork roll sandwiches and gigantic pizza slices from 3 Brothers they had this…

jellied eels

Whelks? Cockles? Jellied eels? I don’t know if the former two are served alive-o, alive-o, nor did I care to find out.

This is me on my first visit to the beach. The water behind me is the English Channel! And on a different day I went in! Honestly? I felt like Gertrude Ederle. Look at me, LA who never gets to go, I’m in the English fucking Channel! And if I could swim 45 miles I’d be in France! That’s how it felt. The world had become magically accessible.

me at the english shore

The structure behind me is the West Pier. A gorgeous romantic ruin. I already had a fab photo of it hanging in my dining room at home. A gift from Anna when she visited me during her US tour in 2009. Now I got to meet the photographer and he seemed pleased to know his work had a home in New York. I wished like mad I could have afforded another of his works. A limited edition litho taken at the foot of the chalk shore on a foggy morning when the tide was coming in. The swirls and parabolas and geometric juxtapositions of mist, water, and solid made my eyes prickle and heart ache. So beautiful. I did what every cash poor tourist does, I bought some postcards.

If you look near my hideously swollen ankles you’ll see stones. Bigger than gravel British beaches are covered in stones. Anna said the tide goes out far enough to leave hard pack wet sand along the shoreline but my timing was always off so all I had was stones. Ankle twisting, shifty, gorgeously tumbled, but painful underfoot stone beaches. The loose sand of Seaside isn’t much easier to plod through but it is less painful. And the sitting is easier. A few butt wriggles and you’ve dug a perfectly form-fitted ass trench, whereas the stone beaches are happy to have you suffer regardless of body part. Feet, knees, butt, whatever.

On one of the beach forays with Shirley the World’s Most Adorable Puppy we went to a dog friendly cafe for fish and chips. (See previous entry about dogs allowed places.) Of course we do have fish and chips here in the States. Some better than others, but I can say that both meals of fish and chips I had in England were superior. One at the cafe and the other from Anna’s local chippy- the fry was light and crispy like great tempura and the fish was fresh and flaky. Chips are chips though. French fries, unless they’re tough little burnt up nuggets of potato ends, are good. I do not accede to the English on this one.

old church 1

Sadly I cannot remember the name, but the church behind me is 1,000 years old. It’s less than 10 minutes from Anna’s house. And according to her the whole area is lousy with places like this. Where I live Europeans have been barging in for almost 400 years. The Dutch were hard on the heels of the original Pilgrims who showed up at Plymouth, and they made the Hudson Valley their own. So ‘old’ is relative. Locally ‘old’ is assumed to be at least 200, but probably 300-370 years old. Anything built after the American Civil War is nice but not necessarily ‘old’. But compared to what I saw in England our ‘old’ is smirk-worthy. Like 20-somethings bitching about “Kids today…”. When I get to the Yorkshire entry there will be all kinds of ‘old’ which, despite my antipathy for the Roman era, tickled me to no end.

If you have somehow missed the size of me in the pics and blew past my fixation on food so far, I’m sorry. I should have titled this ‘A Fat Woman Eats in Britain’.

Once we found out that the swanky afternoon tea I’d wanted was 60 pounds a head just for some nibbles in a castle (!) Anna thoughtfully took me for a cream tea at the Steyning Tea Rooms. Steyning itself is unbelievably quaint. Touristy but also just a place where people live and work. Tudor cottages, cobbles, thatch, bloom-choked front gardens, crooked little buildings and mullioned windows…(insert humming content and visible bliss).

cream tea 1

The woman behind me is the co-owner and primary baker. A lovely friendly person who was delighted to have another Yank coming by for those amazing scones of hers. Expecting wee two-bite scones Anna and I ordered accordingly. Imagine our shock when presented with those HUGE fruity and savory scones and enough clotted cream, butter, jam, and onion marmalade to paint a house. We waddled out of there stuffed and still had leftovers enough for the next day’s breakfast.

Gracious! I’ve got not only my fab visit to the North to detail abut a day in London too. Plus I got to do a bunch more in Brighton including a political rally with Jeremy Corbyn! I seriously don’t want to give anything short shrift. So I’ll break off here.

I crammed entire lifetime’s adventure into 9 days. Probably the only one I’ll ever get and I really want you guys to know how much fun I had, how much I learned, and how grateful I was to finally, finally, finally GO!

me and anna 3

 

Happy, ~LA

Brighton and Beyond!

First a huge and sincere thank you goes to Anna. Not only did she house, drive, feed, and entertain me, she did it so graciously you’d never know how fragile she is right now. But she is and having put aside so many of the things which sustain and comfort her to be my guide and host required courage and love well beyond the usual demands of friendship. Thank you, dearest Anna. You made this trip a joy. I love you too.

Impressions

One of the things we all do when traveling is compare it to home. What’s the same, what’s different. What seems to be a better way of managing and what makes you roll your eyes and think/say, “I can’t believe you (do this specific thing so ass backwardly)!”

Over all I thought England stacked up against the US quite favorably. Almost all of the negs had to do with size and this can’t really be helped because, hello, small island with limited space. Though I do think when town planners weren’t having to deal with city centers that had been there for 900 years and pre-war housing clusters they might have made the roads wider. Nope. Aside from the motorways – the multi-lane highways where everyone drives 80+ mph in their wee little cars, all the roads in England are literally as narrow as my driveway. Two-way traffic is a constant exercise in manners. Drivers are forever having to pull off to the side to let the other guys through. Everyone takes turns and waves thank you, it was so British I got the giggles. And had the vapors imagining Americans on those tiny roads. The murder rate would skyrocket and the entire country would grind to a standstill with cars grille-to-grille and drivers out in the road nose-to-nose snarling, “No, you back up, buddy-roo!”

Other British things which amazed and delighted me- dogs. Specifically many, many people have dogs and the dogs are allowed to go everywhere. Dogs in pubs! Dogs in cafes! Dogs on buses and in shops! Well behaved dogs on leashes.

Kids on scooters! I love, love, love the scooters. Soon as kids can walk they are out of the stroller and onto a scooter. I took a lot of shit for putting Seb on a leash, which is quite stupid if you really think about it. My busy kid couldn’t bear to be strapped into a stroller, he wanted to move. And being fast and heedless and completely unresponsive to verbal commands hand holding and/or letting him toddle along on his own were out of the question. So. I kept my son leashed. He stayed safe and got to be free to walk and explore and use his bod. A scooter wouldn’t have worked for us, but it made me happy to see all the tiny British kids out on theirs. It’s a buggabear of mine when I see perfectly sound children crammed into strollers. Not babies, not even toddlers, but children. Sure, weep and carry on about childhood obesity and then keep your 6 year old prisoner in a stroller. Explain that one, please. Anyway, the scooters and all those little-uns whizzing along out in the fresh air, seeing the world, and gaining mastery over their bodies and their ability to navigate in public made me very happy.

Gardens! Holy moly. Flowers and veg everywhere! The majority of our dinners came straight out of Anna and Sam’s garden. Delish. It was a wonderfully peaceful way to begin my day with a cup of something hot and seat in their conservatory looking out at the garden. The birds squabbling at the feeders, the endless variety of flowers- always a new one to discover…ahhh. The near constant bouts of Lyme disease had driven me indoors to a degree I hadn’t really noticed before. I’d even stopped futzing with and seeding the bee meadow so really couldn’t say anything when I came home and discovered Mick had mowed it down.

I did so many things on my trip it’s still all a jumble. I’ll work on getting my pics in order and do a travelogue entry next time. Just know that England is gorgeous. Shirley the puppy is THE cutest in the entire world. And that I have amazing generous friends who knocked themselves out to give me the trip of a lifetime and I am humble and grateful.

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Much love from your newly transatlantic traveling friend, ~LA

Hurry Up and Wait

Okay, now shit’s getting real.

I don’t over-pack. In my everyday life I have a couple favorite outfits I wear over and over, why should traveling be any different? Plus I’ve found if I get somewhere and need something I hadn’t brought I can just simply buy it where I am. Except for some brief excursions over the borders of Mexico and Canada all my travels have been in the States and I can find Colgate toothpaste and Hanes underpants pretty much anywhere.

My big dilemma with choosing what to bring to England is weather. I know, layer, layer, layer. But even layers can be problematic, I would like to look halfway put together, not to impress Anna, she’s seen me in my horrible housecoat complete with morning breath and bedhead, but to feel like a grown-up and not a backpacking hostel kid shambling along stoned and broke wearing Birks, a Baja, and four tie-dyed t-shirts in various stages of decay. Odds are this is THE trip, you know? I want to pull it off with some style.

Though if you took a peek in my luggage you’d think otherwise. Nobody carrying this much candy corn can be considered as anything but a loon. What? It was the dopiest American candy I could think of. No point in bringing chocolate, theirs is far better and I don’t want to worry about melting. It’s difficult enough trying to guess what will pass through the TSA and what might get me hauled off for a ‘special’ pat-down. I’m traveling with medication, an arsenal of toiletries and cosmetics, and I wear a bra with more metal struts and support than the Brooklyn Bridge. I’ve got an unused passport with a pic therein that was taken 20lbs ago. Basically I should wear a sign saying, “I did everything wrong, please do a strip search  and make me miss my flight.”

I know, right? I’m going in a machine that will be crossing the ocean a mile up in the sky, to arrive at a country where extremists regularly blow things up and ram cars into crowds (though nowhere near how often Americans shoot each other with guns), to visit a friend I haven’t seen in over 8 years and other friends I’ve never met in person at all, and my ONLY fear is getting through security at the airport.

For real. Such is the blessing of having zero social anxiety.

To be serious and a bit of a downer for a moment, when the people who should love you most treat you like a humiliating burden, a problem, and criticize your every thought, word and action as some kind of embarrassing affront to THEM it burns out that place where what other people think matters. By age 3 I had absorbed and accepted that I was wrong, no matter what and about every thing. What do you do with a child who speaks in complete sentences at 10 months old? In two languages? Can read and write before completely potty trained? A difficult, prickly child who argued like Clarence Darrow and yet looked like a Hummel figurine?

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In my case your family picks at you until you honestly don’t care anymore. Then you go on to live a life free from being afraid of being judged and no longer give any brain space to the entire concept. Where strangers are delights, stories to be enjoyed and bearers of gifts of skills and knowledge I hadn’t had before. I’ve told Mick many times that I’ve yet to meet a single person who didn’t bring me something new and cool to know. People are endlessly fascinating. I love that.

So. Traveling doesn’t frighten me. Especially traveling alone. Going out into the world is fun! I genuinely, truly enjoy meeting new people. Chatting up strangers. Sharing a brief slice of time and life with fellow travelers. Shoot, even the guy who drives the airport shuttle or the barista at the train station has a story. And I absolutely want to hear it. Just get me through airport security and I am A #1 good to go.

Today was spent dorking out and making technical arrangements. Phone? Good. A nifty little plan of talk and text well sufficient to cover my needs. Found a charger that has a outlet plug and a USB plug. Not international converter but one can be had over there. Arranged for my bank card to work without security blocks. Affixed my bright pink luggage tag. Counted out my meds and vitamins and have them in officially labeled containers, hopefully no hassles there. I am only bringing my phone and a camera. Planning on a quasi media-free vacation. No laptop, tablet, or even a Kindle. Not against those things, they’re just not me. I like being where I am without a screen or lens between me and what I’m doing. I do have a paper journal and a couple of my favorite pens. Old school.

Mostly what this trip is about is being free. Free of my usual roles. Free of excess stuff. Free of living up to or adhering to expectation.

In 1990 I took a short business trip to Colorado. I had my bookstore and went on a buying trip for stock not readily found in our area and to make connections with other antiquarian booksellers in those dim dark pre-internet days. Who you knew was everything back then. I also had a friend in Boulder who could put me up, someone I’d worked with in Texas. We’d met just after Alex was born and she’d even watched him a few times when my shift ran long. Sue was glad enough of my company and to have a reason to hit every used book shop and antique store in the Denver/Boulder area. We had a good time. I bought and shipped home a literal ton of books. Made a few book dealer friends. Drank waaaaay too many margaritas one night. And amused childless Sue to no end with this one peculiar habit of mine. Whenever we got to a street corner or started across a parking lot I stuck out my hand. Low. Low enough to block a child from darting out into traffic. Low enough for a 5 year old to grab my hand and safely cross. 1,500 miles away from my kid and I was still on mom duty. 32 years into this gig I don’t know if I will ever NOT be on mom duty.

Tomorrow I am going up in the sky and crossing the whole ocean. To land in the first foreign country I’ve been to that isn’t physically connected to my home. For nine days I will be well beyond an outstretched hand from my child. Too far away to cook for and kiss my husband. For more than a week I will just be Me and I don’t know how it will go. But I am excited to find out. I just have to get through the TSA first.

 

Up, up, and away! ~LA