I returned from Connecticut on Monday. I’m not sure I even mentioned I was going. It was a last-minute decision, and how it came about was funny in a way.
After the dramedy that was my trip to Monterey, I hit a bit of a blogging roadblock. When I write a post, I try to publish it before I start second-guessing it.
(ASIDE #1: This sometimes means I need to push that pretty blue “Publish” button before I’ve sufficiently proofread, and it drives me nuts that I can’t fix it for those of you who subscribe and read by email. Which is not to say that you shouldn’t subscribe. Please, please do that. It’s so good for my ego, and you end up getting email that has nothing to do with refinancing your penis enlargement by taking cheap drugs from Canada purchased with money you helped rescue from a Nigerian bank account. So, win-win. But, you know, forgive my sucky proofreading even though I write snarky blog posts about other people’s sucky proofreading.)
After I wrote my next post, I couldn’t publish it. I just … hated it. It felt like I was trying too hard. I liked the idea, but the words were killing it – and not in a good way. So, I sat on it for a day. Two days. Three days. Still no likey. I lose at writing. I haven’t deleted it yet, so it can’t be all the suckage. But, every time I see it sitting there, I wince a little. It’s like looking at a picture of me and realizing that yes, I did wear that dress. In public. On purpose.
When I get all self-doubty and distracted, I clean and organize stuff. I don’t mean like mop floors or scrub toilets kind of cleaning, because who the hell ever wants to do that?? I mean I like to empty out a closet, throw a crap-load of stuff away (or, mostly, donate it) and re-organize the remainder. It helps me think. It always has.
(ASIDE #2: When I was a little girl, and I got into trouble (which, note to *my* children, wasn’t often), I would re-arrange all my stuffed animals by color or size or animal type. Sometimes, I’d rearrange the books on my bookshelves in alphabetical order. This helped me stop fretting about whatever got me into trouble (or work through the anxiousness that went with waiting for whatever punishment was coming). When I was in high school and struggling with math, I’d take all the clothes out of my dresser, re-fold them, and return them to the drawers using some new system of organization. By the time I got done with this project, you’d have thought I cleaned out my head, not my dresser, because I’d somehow finally understand how the hell I was supposed to work those math problems. During my work-from-home period of lawyering, I found that I could not possibly concentrate on writing a brief if the kitchen or living room was in disarray. Once the dishes were done, the toys picked up and the laundry folded, then I could sit down and write an outline for my arguments, and out they’d come like water from a spigot. It’s telling when you find yourself sitting on the floor of your mother’s kitchen (located in a house in which you no longer live) with the contents of her lower cupboards scattered around you and your mother says, “I’m sorry about whatever is bothering you, but I really like it when you get like this at my house.”
(ASIDE #3: I think I love trashing or donating stuff the way some people love to hoard. It’s a little bit of a problem. Every time I go into the garage with my “cleaning” face, my husband goes into a bit of a panic. He’s overall an exceptionally patient man who understands me in ways that – honestly – freak me the fuck out sometimes. But, he definitely had an I-will-straight-vagina-punch-you look on his face when I started eyeballing his giant Tupperware container full of old CDs. The container is still in the garage. I like my vagina enough not to ever, ever touch it. The container, that is. Not my vagina. Because that just wouldn’t make sense. And, there kids, is an excellent lesson in the dangers of vague pronoun references.)
When the blog-block frustration came, I decided I would counter it by turning to my clean-and-organize routine. My first project was to update and record the passwords for the bazillionty Internet accounts I have in the book I purchased for this about – oh – six months ago. As I entered my “S” accounts, I got to Southwest Airlines.
(ASIDE #4: I flew Southwest so much for work-related stuff that I became an A-List member. This is really saying something for a girl who HATES HATES HATES flying. I don’t care about all the logic and statistics; there is something inherently wrong about a tin tub hurtling through the air at 550 miles per hour 38,000 feet off the ground, especially when said tub is stuffed with too many people who have consumed crappy airport food and bear overstuffed luggage. Unless Capt. Sully is flying that shit, because then we’re cool. (And it’s not what you think. Yeah, he landed the plane in the Hudson, and that’s all the awesome, but I also read his book about how he learned to fly, and I’m pretty sure that he could land an Airbus A380 on the head of a pin in the worst turbulence ever. He also lives near my house, which is … notable?))
Xanax prescription courage earned me more than enough A-list points for a few round-trip tickets to LaGuardia, which happens to be one of the airports closest to my birthplace and where some of my favorite people in the whole-wide world still live (or rest).
I sat, alternating my gaze between my Southwest points balance and the dining room table, which was covered in materials for the visual schedule boards I was building for Helene. I thought about how her IEP meeting was coming (gonna talk about that in another post) and how, with each passing day, my anxiety about that meeting was growing. I thought about what I’d be asking my husband to do, taking charge of the whole house on his own for five days, if I went. I debated whether I could get Helene (a) out of the car at the airport, (b) through the airport (and, particularly, security), (c) on the plane, and (d) off the plane (alive, anyway). I thought about how utterly perfect a salve on my wounded psyche the trip would be. I thought about how pissed Nate was going to be at me for going without him. I thought about Dunkin’ Donuts. And pizza. And breakfast sandwiches at Penny’s that come on a fluffy, soft Kaiser roll and filled with warm scrambled eggs, slightly melty cheese, crispy bacon and … wait for it … potatoes. Sheer breakfast culinary genius. (Especially at 2:30 a.m. after about 6 gin and tonics. At least, that’s what I’ve been told.)
I sent a message off to my cousin, who replied that I should come, because she was having a Kentucky Derby Party. My first thought was, Shit. How am I going to pack a hat? Then I forgot all about that because she said, “Oh. And by the way. I’m pregnant.” Heeeeeee-eeeey. I hadn’t even met her first baby in person. I mean, we’ve met. On Facebook. (Oh, how many wedding toasts will start with those words about 20 years from now …)
It was just the sign I needed, and before I knew it, my flight was booked. As much as I wanted to take Helene and Nate, I couldn’t. Nate had school, and I just couldn’t predict how Helene would handle it. I had visions of having our TSA encounter become a headline-producing, YouTube viral sensation. That is not how I imagine my 15 minutes going down. Or, at least this is the story I told my husband in my weird, I’m-totally-the-boss-of-you-but-I’m-actually-begging-you-to-give-me-permission voice to justify my Houdini-like exit from our home. For FIVE WHOLE DAYS.
Alone. Solo. Singular. Just me, myself and I.
Of course, I had to take the plane that left Oakland at dark o’clock. But, I figured, Who will be at the airport at 5:00 a.m. on a Wednesday? ALL the people, that’s who.
Fine. I outsmarted all y’all, because I have a fancy, schmancy A-List card from Southwest that’s kind of like a Get Out of Jail Free card from Monopoly. I get to go the front. ;. I like it because it lets me get to the Flying Tube of Doom faster, so I don’t stand there contemplating how much I HATE flying.
After I got on the Supersonic Beer Can with Wings, I read a book. An actual book. The book after The Hunger Games – Catching Fire.
WAIT. STOP!!! Do NOT hit that “Unfollow” button until I have a chance to defend myself.
I fully acknowledge that I may have squandered a precious reading opportunity. I had every intention of reading The Earthquake Machine by Mary Pauline Lowry. (Thank you, Insatiable Booksluts.) But, my trip was planned at the last minute, and my choices before I left dwindled down to going to my sister’s to raid her closet for something to wear or going to the bookstore. It was not an easy choice until I realized that choosing the bookstore would mean I’d either (a) have to read the book fast enough to tear it apart and fashion a dress of its pages (are you listening Project Runway?) or (b) I would attend my cousin’s Kentucky Derby party naked. Some of you may think: Choose (b)! Totally choose (b)! But, that’s only because you haven’t seen me naked. Unless you are truly willing to sacrifice your gift of vision for the chance to see me try to fashion a dress out of the pages of a book, believe me that going to my sister’s for clothing was far and away the superior choice. Plus, she has really good taste in clothes and more than any one person could possibly need.
So, I had to buy a book in the airport if I wanted to read on the plane and keep my promise to read actual, tangible books.
(ASIDE #4,562: Airport bookstores are an excellent lesson in economics. A quick glance at the shelves will reveal books that are popular. These are not necessarily books that are good. It is also a somewhat depressing statement about education, politics, religion and any manner of other topics that I want to write about today like I’d like to be poked in the eye with a very hot, sharp stick.)
I didn’t read the Hunger Games, but I saw the movie with Nate. The end of the movie was very unsatisfying for me, because it clearly left stuff hanging like an old man’s testicles. (Not that I’ve ever seen an old man’s testicles. I’ve just heard about them. I buy my husband a lot of lotion.) Not knowing how the whole deal ends really bothered me. A lot. So, I read it to satisfy curiosity; surely that’s forgivable, no? I was, in fact, SOOOOOOO curious that instead of forking over $21.00 for the two movie tickets I’d probably have to buy to find out the ending (and after waiting a really, really long time to boot), I forked over $37.00 for two books and some relatively instant gratification. See? Economics. (And now you know I was not a straight-A student in high school.)
(ASIDE #7,028: Listen. It was that or 50 Shades of Gray. I was too embarrassed to be reading 50 Shades of Gray – at all – let alone while sardined between two people who were certain to be overweight, balding, middle-aged, slightly sweaty business men, who order those little bottles of booze on the 6:00 a.m. flight because they’ve haven’t gone to bed yet so it doesn’t really count as early-morning drinking, and who are over-the-shoulder readers. Because that’s what karma does when you read a smut book on the plane in tangible form instead of on your Kindle. Plus, I cannot read funny books on airplanes anymore. I think it might be a rule for me on Southwest, because the last time I did that, I laughed so much and for so long that the man sitting next to me asked me to change seats and the flight attendant offered me a paper bag to breath in. (Thanks a lot Tina Fey and your bossy pants.))
I started Mockingjay on leg 2 of the trip. This flight was shorter, so I didn’t finish it until I got on the flight back home. All I’m going to say – in case one of you has not read this crap-tastic wonder of rainforest waste – is that I want about 4 hours of my life and $34.00 back. That was the best ending you could come up with Ms. Collins? Really? Stabby. Stabby. Stabby. I think even Katniss Everdeen is pissed at you, lady.
Wait. What was I saying? Oh, yes. Getting to the East Coast … Anyway …
Many of my memories are tied to smells. I wrote about my grandparents’ house. But, lots of other memories can be triggered for me by a scent. The boy I dated in high school and college wore Drakkar cologne. (It was the 80s, okay. Stop it.) Every once in a while, I’ll walk through some department store and catch a whiff, and it brings back something — usually Senior Ball and the wreck our limo got in, which we caught on film about 20 years too soon for it to be attached to this blog. The minute we get out of the car in Lake Tahoe, and I breathe in the mixture of pine needles, smoky wood and cold stone, I remember the first truly spiritual experience I had at 12 years old, standing alone in the snowy woods, marveling at the feeling of harmony that seemed to make my whole body hum. Well, stepping off an airplane and onto a jetway, where my nose is assaulted by New York humid air laced with jet fuel, makes me feel about 10 years old and floods my mind and heart with memories of summer vacations. Because, for many years, that was exactly what the gateway to summer vacation smelled like for me.
It’s a funny thing, geography. What it can do to your mindset. It took forever for my suitcase to come off the plane. I didn’t care. I was happy to just stand there and watch people – to hear conversations laced with that familiar accent that I work so hard here at home in California to lose, but which I can fall back into faster than you can say Thirty-Third Street as though the letter R does not exist. When I walked out to find the shuttle bus to Grand Central Station and saw it driving away, I thought, eh. The weather was muggy but not too hot. It was still light out. Cabs were driving negligently and blaring their horns at one another, as good cab drivers should. Tourists were walking around with the wide-eyed, what-hell-is-this look that I find mildly amusing only because I don’t have the cajones myself to fly as far away as from whence they came.
By the time I got to the train station near my cousin’s house, I was absolutely peaceful. I was home.
My trip wasn’t all sunshine and roses, okay? Well, the Kentucky Derby Party had a lot of roses. That’s – like – mandatory. And, there was some sunshine, but also some thunderstorms, too. With lightening. Oh, how I miss those.
The point is, most of the trip was fun, but a few minutes, not so much. I went to see Grandma Rose in the nursing home. That was sadface. I’ll talk about that later. Not today. I also went to the cemetery to see Grandpa. We had a nice chat. Right when I said I missed him, a pretty little butterfly landed on Grandpa’s headstone and just sat there a few seconds, moving its wings like it was waving, then flew off.
One of the very best parts of the trip was seeing my cousins’ kids. So. Damn. Cute.
On the left is G. (No. Your other left.) She summed herself up perfectly when she said to me, at 6:30 a.m., before I even had my eyes open let alone had coffee, “Are you awake? I have a lot of questions.” Yes, you do, little G. Yes you do. And I will answer every single one. Because you are the AWESOMEST.
ASIDE # … fuck it. This whole post is an aside. Deal with it.
We had some excitement the night I stayed at G’s house. My cousins used to have a wooden deck off the back of their house. A raccoon, who was around so long they named it “Jerry,” lived under that deck. But, the deck had to be torn out when my uncle started building an addition onto the cousins’ house. (See, even raccoons are not safe from the volatility of the housing market!) G is not a big fan of Jerry, because Jerry makes a lot of mean-like barky, growly noises. So, I think she was pretty happy when Jerry was unceremoniously evicted out from under the deck.
It seems, however, that Jerry did not go far.
After dinner, we heard an awful lot of sirens and saw an awful lot of flashing lights going on outside. Turns out, the neighbors had an electrical fire in their house. So, my cousin’s husband went to help. G didn’t like this, because she was pretty afraid that her dad would get burned by the fire (which was already out by that time – and FYI – no one got hurt, so please don’t worry that this is going somewhere horrible). To help her feel better, another neighbor took G with him to get a generator out of the shed in the side yard to loan to the neighbors. Guess what they found instead? Yep. Jerry. And Jerry’s babies. (Imagine everyone’s relief that “Jerry” is a unisex name.)
Jerry was apparently pretty pissy about the visit. She didn’t leave a forwarding address, okay? And the whole mean, growly, barky thing did not sit well with G. She told me, without reservation and in absolute and complete seriousness, “I am not brave.” (Bad news for you, Jerry, because G runs her house like a BOSS. Pack yo’ shit, lady, ’cause you are moving.)
So, now G comes back to the house worried not only that her dad will be burned by the fire, but Jerry will eat him when he walks home! So, I showed G all the pictures I could find about cute raccoons on the interwebs, and I read to her all about what raccoons eat. I don’t think she was entirely convinced that “Daddy” is not on the list of things raccoons eat. (Seriously, G, Daddy’s not there – raw or cooked. Pinky swear.)
All too soon, it was time to go home. My flight home was at dark o’clock, too. I need to give a huge shout-out to my youngest cousin who picked me up and drove me to the airport at 3:45 a.m. A! M! And … AND! … she brought donuts.
Going home always evokes mixed feelings for me. Of course it is a good feeling to come home and hug my kids, kiss my husband, sleep in my own bed, drive my own car. But, I never like leaving Connecticut. The walk through the airport to the gate where the Gravity Defying Sardine Can awaits is Sucky McSuckerson. I’m unwillingly plodding closer to the plane and further away from people who feel like “home” to me, no matter how long I’ve been away. Plus, I lose all hope of rationalizing away my flying phobia. When I’m going to my destination, I can get all brave, puff up my chest, do my breathing exercises, and think positive, happy, Valium-induced thoughts about how I am more likely to be killed by tripping over my own two feet than in a plane crash. (My husband is vigorously nodding his head up and down right now and probably pointing to the latest purple welt developing on my knee/thigh/arm/ass.)
But, when I’m coming back from my destination, my only thought is that I have the luck of the Irish: if I didn’t have bad luck, I’d have no luck at all. However, I do I appreciate the odds being ever in my favor: Southwest Airlines has a zero-fatality record for its passengers.
So, here I am. Back at my desk. Plotting the ways I can trick my husband into agreeing to move to Connecticut. Or, at least to get on the plane and visit Connecticut.
This blog post is now almost 3,700 words. My blogging friend sj, who knows a lot about books and (more importantly) about Dodisharkicorns, tells me that 4,000 words is the line between blog post and the chapter of my first book. So, I will stop here. (I did not do all this work to write a blog post and then have it not be a blog post.)
I leave you with a little easy listening for your next airplane ride. Until then, stay thirsty my friends.