Friday, October 21, 2016

Court of Honor

Last night I attended a Court of Honor for our Boy Scout Troop. I continue to serve as the Chaplain, although I've scaled back most of my other involvement.

I gave the invocation and talked about the faith journey that each of us are on. I looked at the parents. Two who lost their son, one year older than Geoff, to a heroin overdose. One who is feeling particularly wounded by other people "of faith."

I let them know I'm not just the chaplain for the boys, but for them. God or not - if they need to talk, they can turn to me. I got some really nice smiles and nods.

A boy who just got his Eagle asked me if I'd give his invocation at his ceremony in November and I told him that if he had a sweet bippy he should bet it. Grown ups laughed.

At the end of the ceremony, a first year Scout hugged his dad. And I started crying.

I didn't really realize how very much I missed this community, these people. I just couldn't even stop myself from getting misty, and left the ceremony snack time in a hurry.

For all the value I think my son got out of Scouting, I think I under estimated the value I received. And it stung. Deeply, truly.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

"You're Fired." But not by Donald Trump

It was kind of strange last Thursday afternoon.

I work from home most Thursdays, so I was pounding the keys on the laptop and taking calls and solving problems hard all day.

By the end of the day-ish I needed a break. I peeked into the Facebook and Twitter accounts, and my daughter had posted "Guess who got Fiiiiiired."

Finding you your daughter got fired via Twitter is ... kind of strange. I commented on her tweet and asked her to call me. She promptly did. From the bar at North Station. With her box of things from her desk up in front of her. And she unfolded the tale for me.

A little back story about the company she was working for. Seems they fire people a lot. The running joke with us was that I'd ask her "so, are you fired yet?"

I worked as a contractor there for a while before my current job. When I got sick in 2014 they didn't allow me to keep my contract and work form home - they just let me go.

Then they begged me to come back when I was happily at the next job. So my old boss hired Jessica as a contractor because she needed someone  in as soon as possible.

When Jess needed back surgery in February, they did the same thing to her they did to me - don't let her have a week or so off. Just let her go.

So my old boss became her old boss.

But, that old boss became renewed boss, as she eventually managed to get a full time job created and got Jess back in the job. Not a contractor position, but a full time benefitted job with vacation time.

True Adulting. Baby done made it.

In the period of time since she was hired as a full time employee to now, everyone that I used to work with except 2 people had been fired. For lots of different reasons. She had made some friends, who also got fired. And then we started joking around about her getting fired. She actually had worked her way into a spot where she was incredibly valuable. She took a week off in the Spring and they lost their minds having to do her job. She was learning back-end SEO and Analytics stuff.

A couple weeks ago, she put a sentence on a live page on the production, public-facing website that included the word "shit." Something like "test this shit" or "configure this shit" and then forgot to remove it.

Key phrase there is "a couple weeks ago." Someone finally figured it out, and on Wednesday she got word that it had been discovered. Thursday she went into work knowing that she was in trouble, and most likely fired. She removed the content from the site, and started cleaning out her desk.

They waited until the end of the day to fire her. And she figured it was coming. And she packed up and left. Her boss is on vacation, and won't be back for 10 days.

The thing that she says she's most bummed out about is that she couldn't take her plants, and other people pillaged them, and she'll never get them back. She put a lot of time and effort into rescuing them, repotting them, and taking care of them.

She is happy she got fired. She wouldn't have quit the job. She hated it for the most part but I think she liked certain parts of it, and she learned a lot.

So now the weirdness is over. We got through the holiday weekend and now she's polishing up the resume and applying for jobs.

Cross your fingers for her. Baby's first job may be over, but hopefully Baby's second job will be more awesome.


Saturday, July 30, 2016

Oh, Hello Officer

Geoff has been driving for under a year. We are coming up on the one year anniversary of his license achievement. He does really well. Most 19 year old males drive fast, and stay out late, and do crazy things. Geoff goes to work, the gym, the market, and home. He took the dog swimming one day.  

That's about it.

He drives like a grandma, according to some people I know. I had a friend call me one day to let me know that she and about 10,000 other cars were behind Geoff driving through our town and that made her smile. 

It makes me kind of proud really, considering two of Jessica's peer level teens died in car accidents. One took a turn too fast and rolled her jeep. One crashed into a bridge abutment on her way home from trying on prom dresses. 

Today, Geoff came home from the gym and informed me that he had a problem on the way home because horses were crossing the street. He didn't know what to do. He obviously knew to stop and let them cross, and he felt they were sufficiently across the street so he decided to proceed. He pulled over to the right into the shoulder, and one of the horses decided to back up. The rider got incredibly upset that Geoff was driving behind the horse and spooking the horse. She started yelling "stop" but she didn't make it clear that she wanted the horse or him to stop. 

So he took off, came home, and was happy to be back here.

He told me this story, and I basically explained to him that unlike pedestrians, or bicycles, or motorcycles which all seem to be "in control" and moving in an anticipated and logical direction, horses are dumb. 

No offense to horse owners or riders. But face it, anything that big that you never know how it is going to act, come on, man. They're dumb. Should you really be riding them on a major road, even if this is in a small town?  They are easily scared, they do things like back up and walk forward and back up. You never know what a horse is going to do. And riders are incredibly proud of their prowess and skill, but I swear, I never see a motorcycle flip out and take off to the right or left or back up in traffic... unless the biker is having a stroke. 

But, I digress.

We talked about horse safety, and I told him that if he sees horses in the road, crossing the street, wait until everyone is safely across. If some jerk behind him beeps the horn or guns it to pass him - so be it. 

That guy's the jerk in the situation... you be the person in the right. 

If he sees horses on the road traveling the same direction as he is traveling, he should give them a wide berth and if at all able with safety in mind, cross the center lines and go around the horse gently. Don't gun it, don't rev the engine, just carefully pass. He understood completely and went upstairs.

Ten minutes later Officer Friendly was on our porch, knocking at the door. 

The police had gotten a call about a dangerous driver, and they got Geoff's plate number, so dispatch sent out the officer to the house. The officer asked for Geoff's side of the story, and wrote him a warning. I asked if there was a webpage where we could brush up on the rules of driver and horse safety so he told us the law, Massachusetts 90, 14. Readable here if you like to read giant run-on sentences in legalese. We all should brush up a little bit on rules of the road, mayhaps. 

In the meantime, I am kind of waiting for one of these horse people to post something on the town Facebook page, which I'm the admin for.  I will explain that my son had a visit from the police, we had a talk, and if they want to start something, I'll go along with. Perhaps. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Quebec City, Montreal, Chambly and Vermont - the 25th anniversary trip

Note: It took me the better part of a week to build this post. The fonts are all doing something funky, so I'm going to eventually fix them. But for right now - don't sweat the wackiness of the fonts! Just enjoy the read, I guess... 

On a beautiful late spring morning, Doug and I got married. Twenty five years ago. It has been a lot of fun, with some ups and downs, but overall it's been a good time, I'd say. Doug is pretty awesome. And I'm lucky to have stumbled across him by accident. Well, we got set up by Clayton one day in 1987. So it wasn't exactly a stumble across.

That's a whole story in and of itself.

Our honeymoon back in 1991 was spent tootling around Nova Scotia. We stayed in cheap hotels and a couple of Bed and Breakfasts, where our bedroom was very close to other people. On the last night of the trip, we stayed at a seedy little motel in Bar Harbor where the people in the next room were having some sort of "I haven't seen you in YEARS!" reunion. Doug went and SCREAMED at them at one point because I was so tired and couldn't sleep that I was crying.

We did it on the cheap and at times we got what we paid for. Our plans were to camp out for some of the trip, but it was so cold out at night that it really wasn't an option.

Overall, it was a great honeymoon. There are very few things I'd change, like the night we ordered Domino's Pizza in Sydney, NS (and it was vile beyond all imagination, but the only thing in town). We met some amazing people, specifically a store owner named Mike MacKinnon in (I think) Framboise who drove us around to a place he called Mary Joseph Lake, where we could camp if we wanted to because the people who owned the land lived in Germany and were never there. And he took us to a barn/farmhouse/museum where we met a very old gentleman name Dan Alex MacLeod, a local historian. Twenty five years later ... he must be long dead at this point. And we got to hang out with Mike's dog Tattoo by the wood stove in his general store. The dog, by the way, named for the Scottish drums not for the skin and ink. We took some great hikes, and my favorite picture of the two of us was taken on that trip.

For our 25th anniversary, I very much wanted to retrace our steps on the original honeymoon. Doug said to me, "I want to go somewhere that we've never been, and do it up." So he planned the trip.

So we went to Quebec City. I wanted to go to Montreal as well, so we added a day in Montreal. And I have a friend who owns a Bed & Breakfast in Vermont, so I wanted to stop there on the way home.

Overall, it was a fantastic trip. And I wish we had two extra days to tack onto the trip so Montreal would have had more exposure, but we can go back. Anytime.  It is only about 4 hours away. Heck, it is closer than my sister's house.

And we did "do it up" as it were. We spent a lot of money on food, and nice hotels instead of $45 a night flea bag hotels. If you'd like to see all of the pictures, they are here.

Here's the long walk through, if you are interested:

Wednesday morning, on our actual anniversary of June 1st, we got up and were on the road by 8am. Quebec City by 2pm, with a little traffic along the way. No other cars at the border crossing north of Jackman, ME. It was a beautiful ride. We'd been up that way a few other times in life, most recently with Geoff's Boy Scout Troop in 2007 when he went whitewater rafting, and we passed Swedish Fish Island (a great story if you want to take a side trip and read about it here).


(By the way, I am not using any punctuation in French below because... I am too lazy to find the html codes for things).

Checked into our hotel, and unpacked, we headed out to explore. We stayed at a little place called the Chateau Bellevue, which Doug picked because he wanted to stay near the Chateau Frontenac, which is the most famous landmark in the city, but was way out of our "do it up" price range. It was a gorgeous day, so we went down, grabbed a "jambon et fromage" croissant, and walked the boardwalk, took pictures, walked into Old Quebec below the Frontenac. 



The entire vibe in Quartier Petit Champlain is shopping, tourists, tourists, and shopping. And bars. The old town is built into the hill under the Frontenac, so it is all levels and terraces. And it is beautiful. 


We walked all around, visited and spent a great deal of time in the Notre Dame de Quebec Basilica, and then ended up walking about and around to a lovely little place called Pub des Borgia. It sits up on a little ledge, with a nice overview of the action. We relaxed and enjoyed a cheese plate and beer. Normally something this "touristy" would make me cringe, but there wasn't an Old Navy or Gap, or any chain stores like there are in places like South Street Seaport or Fanieul Hall. It looked touristy ... but inviting. Appealing to the visiting crowds without being cheesy. 


I was excited to learn there was an "incline" like they have in Pittsburgh, called the funicular. The hill was no fun to walk down (for my knees, I'm sure people think it is fun) and walking up would be dreadful. 


We went back to the hotel, cleaned up our sweaty selves, and went out to dinner. Our hotel had a deal with a local restaurant for a night out. Aux Anciens Canadiens is housed in the Maison Jacquet, one of the oldest homes in upper-town. We had a lovely meal and drinks, and did the "do it up" thing very well here. 


I was worried about spending too much on the food and Doug yelled out "Don't sully this day with your price taggery!" a la Montgomery Burns. It was funny, but I still couldn't bring myself to spend $48 on bison and wapiti. So I got Salmon sous vide. And it was very, very good. 


The meal was outstanding. The waitress was adorable. Truly a wonderful place to enjoy our official 25th anniversary dinner.



All through Quebec City that day we'd seen busloads of school children running around on their school trips, from all over the US and Canada. So at the table behind us, there were three school boys, probably in 8th or 9th grade. The fanciest restaurant in town, and they have to come in and order in French. 

They debated what to order, and all the meals were four course meals. I was starting to get worried for them, and was ready to say something to the waitress. They were talking about how much things would cost, and tax, and tip, and they were concerned with the totals. Then, the waitress came with their ... dessert. 


Whew.


My inner mommy relaxed. They split the bill, did the math, and I was proud of them for doing everything they needed to do in French. 


For the rest of the trip, we repeatedly referred to "L'Infant Terrible!" which is probably not how you spell it but whatever. Just yell it with me. Spelled right or wrong, hoards of (overall) horrible rowdy, ill behaved children infested the city. 


Thursday - So Much Quebec...

We got up in the morning on the early side of things (for us, at least) and headed to the battlements that surround Old Quebec. 

We walked along the walls, over the gates, admired the view, and didn't go up to the battle ground and the Citadel. I kind of regret that now thinking about it. 


Doug wanted to head down to the Marche du Vieux-Port, and do some shopping. We filled a backpack with wine, mushroom things for tea, and more wine, and some cheese. 


It's always good when one finds some cheese


Back up to town to lunch at l'Oncle Antoine, another of the oldest places in Quebec City. It began to rain while we were sitting out, and a hoard of elderly people ("pensioners!") rushed the joint. 


45 seats inside and a bus of 55!  We referred to the old people on tours as l'Pensioner Terrible! for the rest of the trip. 


We decided to bail, and walked around the corner to a lovely place with tons of patio seating under a giant awning instead of individual umbrellas. The place was empty, called Q de Sac, (the tour bus people could have all fit in and out easily with room to spare if they just walked around the corner) and we had the patio to ourselves. 


We asked the man behind the bar if we could sit outside and he said that would be fine. We didn't realize at the time he was the owner, Andrew Murphy (adorable as his profile picture on the website). 


We ordered a pitcher of sangria and a cheese plate, and watched people scramble around to get out of the rain. Andrew told us all about the cheeses and the farms in Charlevoix where he sources most of his food. It was so much fun to talk to him, and he was so nice. 


And not fussy at all to have us occupy a table for so long. Heck. We were the only customers there!





Once the weather let up a little, we headed for the Funicular, back up to the hotel, for a monster nap. 


Doug wanted to hear some live music, so the front desk at the hotel recommended the St. Alexandre Pub on St. Jean, near where we had been in the morning. Music didn't start until about 9:30pm, so we entertained ourselves by walking around. 


First, we went by the Anglican Cathedral, where the Jaguar Club of New England had all of their cars parked. A rainy night with shiny pretty cars. The church was closed, but the cars were all there, with people milling about, admiring them. 


Doug wanted to see the Morrin Center Library nearby, and miraculously, it was open. We didn't get to see the jail, but the beautiful library was a lovely space to spend some time and relax. 


Heading down to the St. Alex, we were lucky to get a table. The place was packed, lots and lots of tourists, mostly English and American. We had a nice waiter, ordered their meat sandwich (I thought about the Fish and Chips but the meat sandwich was supposed to be outstanding, and it was. Like the best pastrami you've ever had in your life...) 


Doug was ready to fall back asleep and we were both laughing at how lame we were that at 9:30 at night, we just can't hang like we used to. 


The "blues" musician came out, and played "Folsom River Blues" by Johnny Cash. Excellent guitar work; funny French accent. Not bad, but a little strange. Then, he launched into "Come Together by the Beatles and I don't ever need to hear that again in my life... Doug was disappointed that it wasn't "Blues Blues" as it were. The audience seemed into it, and we realized, we weren't. So we left our table so others could come in and enjoy. 


Friday

Back to the Anglican Cathedral, in the sunlight. Beautiful space, just absolutely stunning. And we met some people there from the Jaguar Club. They were all assembled with a tour guide, ready to take the town. 

We walked around by the Ursuline Chapel, and back up into town to grab a coffee by the Frontenac and look at the river, seaway... again. 


Time to pack up and move along. Thank you Quebec City for such a gorgeous and lovely visit.


Near Quebec City, there are waterfalls. Impressive, big waterfalls. I had my doubts when Doug told me that he wanted to go visit one. 


Chute-Montmorency is one such waterfall. Higher than Niagara Falls, it sports a gondola tour, a zip-line (no one was riding it at the time) and a cool bridge. 

We enjoyed a short hike, staircases, a bridge, tons of bus tourists speaking Chinese and more of the aforementioned L'Infants. I didn't really enjoy them.


Then, off to Trois Rivieres. For some reason, my husband has been enjoying Atlas Obscura a lot lately, and there is an old jail there (just like at the Morrin Library) that he wanted to tour. We got there just about 15 minutes after the last tour departed, disappointingly. The girl at the desk said the tour was all in French anyway (she said, in not so great English so Doug barely understood what she was talking about). She shrugged and handed him a brochure. 


We left and walked around the exterior. 



Upon arrival in Montreal at about 4pm, we checked into our hotel and crashed for a nap. We woke up around 7:00 very hungry for dinner. At the front desk, the bellhop who had checked us in, Mark, shared that old port was behind the hotel, and Chinatown was across the way. Doug was keen on Chinatown, so Mark recommended Pho Bang NYC on St. Laurent.  We got there just before closing and ordered a great dinner. Tons of food, incredibly priced. 

We walked up St. Laurent to the Quartier des spectacles, where not a lot was going on.  Walking through St. Catherine Street, they were setting up for the upcoming Grand Prix and the Jazz Fest, and there were tons of people milling around. It was an interesting people watching opportunity: families with kids and puppies and ice-cream; drag queens in full dress handing out flyers for shows; biker gangs hanging out in front of clubs; homeless people sleeping on the stages; and weird dudes walking up to us muttering in French, then English, asking if we wanted to buy drugs. 


Back to the hotel safely, nice and quiet, thinking Montreal is a world of difference from Quebec City. 


Saturday - Montreal Old Port

We slept in a little later than I'd wanted to but it was just so good to sleep. We had a 2pm checkout time which was so nice. We left all our stuff in the hotel room and headed to the Old Port area, stopping by Notre Dame Basilica of Montreal

Holy cannoli. I mean. Wow. What a cathedral. What a space. How beautiful. We spent a ton of time here, enjoying the art work, the side chapels, the stained glass. And there was a small space behind the altar with another smaller chapel, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, which was all wood, stunning, beautiful, amazing. History of the building is here and if you like this kind of stuff - go read. It is a little space, seemingly built for music. 


Where in the large cathedral space, one single voice may be lost. In here? One voice owns the space. It was amazing. I was marveling at all the wood carving and a woman walked in and I heard her gasp, and start crying. Which was amazing to me, after just being in the giant cathedral, full of stained glass and soaring stone... to come into this smaller space and be overwhelmed by it. 


I took her phone from her, and took a picture of her so she didn't have to try and get a selfie with Jesus. 


It was a moving experience. I lit a candle for a very Catholic friend at an altar to Mary and the Rosary, prayed for her because her birthday was coming up and she just was not feeling it, and we left to walk around.


The old section of Montreal is much smaller than that of Quebec City. We didn't eat anywhere (although, looking at some of the restaurants there, I kind of wish we had gone there for dinner the night before). My friend Mark had recommended that we go to the Marche Jean-Talon, but it was 3 miles north of where we were, and we needed to check out and mosey to Vermont. 


We will probably head back to Montreal in the Fall, and enjoy it a little more than just a morning and afternoon. There is so much to see. So much. 


Saturday afternoon - Off to Chambly! 

We've been fans of the artwork for the Unibroue beer company for a long time. And their beer, too. 

This was a must-see for Doug, and he was very looking forward to this. Located about a half hour east-south-east of Montreal, it was on our way to Vermont. We bypassed eating lunch in Montreal, because Doug wanted to do the beer and food thing at the brewery. We were borderline hangry by the time we made it to Chambly. 


Doug had the address for the brewery in his phone, and when we got there, we discovered that they did not have an hospitality suite, or restaurant, so he was grossly misinformed. A quick Google and Yelp search turned up Fourquet Fourchette around the corner. They touted themselves as the unofficial official Unibroue restaurant. 


 It was about 4:00pm, and the restaurant was empty, but a few patio seats were occupied. The waitress set us up out back, and we noticed that a wedding would be taking place. 


The guests began to fill in, and they had a whole portion of the patio set off with a tent and beer all set up for everyone to pre-game before the bride and groom arrived. 


They were an older couple, probably in their early 60s, I'm guessing. They had two small girls with them, and another woman who I figured out was probably the daughter of the bride. And the two small girls were her grandchildren. 


We ordered beers and sat back to watch the wedding. We couldn't hear anything, and it was funny to hear their guests, about 50 in all, giggling and laughing. They exchanged vows and kissed, and everyone cheered. For those of us on the patio, the cycling family of 5, the party of 10 friends who had gathered together for drinks and sunshine, Doug and me... we all raised out glasses and clapped along. 


The entire wedding was over in about 10 minutes. 


We had grilled cheese, apple and sautéed onion sandwiches, and a charcuterie plate that was gigantic and amazing. I don't know half of the meats we ate. The waitress couldn't remember how to say what things were in English. So eventually Doug said "that's okay - we'll still eat it." and we did. 



We crushed. Absolutely crushed. And basked in the deliciousness, sunshine, light humidity, summery feeling by the lake near the fort. Bliss.  


We paid our bill, got some fancy Ephemere beer glasses and some bottles of beer (we didn't go overboard because heck, we can buy it in New Hampshire, five minutes from our house). 

And then off to Vermont! Right? 


But no! The manager asked my husband if he liked beer history as well as beer. Doug said "of course!" He then directed us to Bedondaine & Bedons Ronds nearby. 


Not only is this a beer museum, with decades worth of beer bottles and cans, bar wear, trays and towels from all around the world - they are also brewers. 


And we decided on another round, with chocolates. It would have been rude not to, after all.  We sat and leafed through books on craft brewing in Quebec.  And we enjoyed our visit there very much. 


We could have spent the entire day there, and if we were staying in Chambly, we probably would have. 


Now. Off to Vermont. 


Border crossing was very easy at the customs station in East Franklin VT. The border guard asked a lot of questions about where we'd been and where we were going. Especially why we picked that border crossing instead of coming down through Burlington. We told him it was closer than going to Burlington, as we were just in Chambly and were headed to Montgomery.

"Anything to declare?" he asked.

"Canada is awesome!" I replied.

He seemed unamused. And I was afraid I'd quipped my way into a search. 


Turns out, was familiar with The Inn, and he said he and his wife had eaten there in the past. He said they should go back. I agreed.  I'm glad I kind of really know a lot about Scott and Nick and the history of the place. Because I sounded like an expert. 




Arrival at the Inn was met with hugs and kisses, and we settled in for drinks and an appetizer. I had really wanted to have dinner there, but we were so full from Fourquet that we couldn't really fit anything in. Drinks while Scott tended the bar chatting with us and some friendly time getting to know the local regulars, it was a wonderful place to spend an evening.  


I had my hygge/gemütlichkeit feelings and was full of the happy. 


Scott went down and got his dog, a white german shepherd named Portland. She is darling, and I loved meeting her. We then slept fitfully, deeply and wonderfully. 


Breakfast was between 8 and 9 am, so we went down to eat. Scott made delicious jalapeño corn muffins, and we had eggs and sausage and toast. We hung out with Nick and Scott and talked about the Inn and the town, dogs and business. They told us we didn't need to rush to check out, so we took our time. I took a bath in the clawfoot tub while Doug researched what we could do before heading home. 


Sunday - Almost Home

We departed the Inn with hugs and kisses, and headed towards Burlington, even though it was in the wrong direction. 

Doug had found the Shelburne Museum online and thought it looked interesting. We arrived in the drizzling rain, and realized it was a mostly outdoor museum, with small buildings set apart from each other, and each building was rescued from somewhere else, brought there, and contained specific collections and exhibits. We got a good walking tour, went all the way to the far end of the property, and soaked just about every thing there was to see. 


One of the exhibits was a half-circle shaped building called the Circus Building that you could walk through end-to-end. On one wall was a collection of miniatures of a circus parade, all hand carved in perfect detail. Along the other side was a collection of carousel animals from the Gustav Dentzel carousel company, all meticulously restored. They were all so beautiful and I feel like I took a million pictures of just them. 









There was a riverboat that used to trek from NY to VT and back, sitting in the middle of the grounds. Meeting houses, apothecary and doctor/dentist office, barns and outbuildings, stately manors... it was all very lovely. A great place to visit. I'd love to go back and spend more time. 


We had a quick bite to eat at Al's French Frys, and headed home. 


It was raining in sheets, torrents, and visibility was next to zero at times. We pulled over and waited it out for a little while but it wasn't letting up. Eventually, we got home. In one piece, very tired. Very happy. 


I felt like I needed a vacation from our vacation but it was back to work on Monday. Lots of great fun. We did it up right. And I greatly enjoyed it. 


Can't wait to go back and explore more. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

"I am... 24"

My daughter turned 24 this past weekend. She doesn't live with us anymore, has her own apartment with friends a few towns west of us. She commutes to her job in the city via the train, so she doesn't ride in with us the way she used to. She and I communicate through text and email, and once in a while we have lunch together.

I still pick up the tab even though she offers. So I'll let her leave the tip if she wants to contribute.

With this birthday being the very first birthday that she lives away, I knew that we were probably not going to be doing anything with/for her to commemorate the event. I had bought 2 tickets to see Guster and offered her one, but she was going on a corporate retreat all day on Friday so she knew Saturday she would not really want to go out.

I took her to lunch on Thursday and we spent two hours together (thankfully, both of our companies are flexible with lunches. When I think of how many lunches I've inhaled at my desk in 10 minutes, taking a 2 hour lunch once in a very very long while is no great crime).

It was kind of weird, not taking her out to dinner with the family. Not arguing with Geoff that he has to go, it is required and expected of him.

Geoff and I were running errands on Saturday and he asked where we would be going to dinner for Jess' birthday and I explained that she didn't want to go out - that she just wanted to stay home in her place with her friends.

"You get to be a grown-up human, and your parents don't always take you out to eat for your birthday as the years go by," I explained to him. "You start to develop your own thing. She lives with her friends, she said they'd probably get chinese food and beer and drinks and hang out at the apartment. She just wants to do that."

He looked astonished.

His facial expression screamed "What do you mean you don't take your kid out to dinner for their birthday when they're older? This is preposterous, woman!" 

"You seem a little upset by this," I said. "She lives in a different town. My parents don't take me out to birthday dinner every year. Maybe once in a while if we happen to get together close to my birthday, but I don't expect it. I grew up and moved out of the house and developed my own new traditions. With dad. And you guys."

"Yeah," he said, "but you moved five hours away from your parents and Jess is only 15 minutes away from us. There's no excuse not to take her out to dinner."

He was genuinely upset.

"Geoff," I said, "she and I talked about it and she's okay with it. I knew this day would come where she would move along with her life. I offered and she declined. Heck, you didn't want to go out for your birthday this year, so I'm not sure why you feel so strongly that we need to take her out."

He didn't say anything else, but I could kind of feel that he was struggling with some sort of disruption in the family "Force" of sorts. I didn't know if:

a) he was hoping for a free dinner out that night
b) honestly concerned that we were being dicks to Jessica by not taking her out
c) fearing the future for his own birthday meals

Part of me wants to really believe b is the option. That he honestly and deeply is concerned for her and now that she doesn't live with us anymore he sort of wants to see her, in his own weird Geoff way. Part of me thinks c is the truth too. That if we stop taking her out for dinner, he's next.

I told him that as long as he lives with us, or does not make his own plans for things on his own without us (the way Jess did) we'll be taking him out to dinner. No worries.

I'm wondering if this isn't a new moment of love between siblings, something I've wanted to see from the two of them forever. Well, for a long time.

And on another note, dude. My daughter is 24.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Recounting a weird dream, with Richard Shindell

I don't put any stock into dream interpretation on the whole. Running away from something doesn't indicate anything. Falling, chewing glass, floating... not indicators of anything. You are just dreaming. 

Weird dreams come all the time for me. I usually walk away from remembering them. Most mornings I wake up and there is a song stuck in my head that was part of the dream. Today I took a big nap and had a weird dream that I actually want to remember. Where better than the blog?

We were living in a small farmhouse style home with lower ceilings, so Geoff was almost hitting the exposed beams when he walked through. If you want to read anything into a dream, you can know that I miss my old house and if you know the address - it is on the market and you can go look at what the house-flipping asshole did to it.

Anyway, It was snowing out, and the windows were icy. I remember there were candles in all the windows, and a fire in the main room's fireplace.

We had someone over who was giving Geoff performance tips on playing guitar in front of a group of people, because he asked for us to find someone for him.  I'd hired a local music teacher to come in and teach him a few things. He didn't want us in the same room with him, but we could hear him playing and singing, and could not make out quite what songs they were. Doug and I stood in the main room of the small farmhouse by the fire questioning what was going on in the room on the other side of the door.

The music teacher came out with love and enthusiasm all over his face and said "He'll do great!" We walked into the room and he'd left out the back door. We asked her if she knew where he was going, and she told us that he went to some church to perform at a coffeehouse. This was a gig that he arranged himself without our knowledge. He told her that he didn't want for her or for us to come with, and told her to let us know we could stay home and watch on a webcam. So we did.

We sat watching on a my laptop  as he performed cover songs by Richard Shindell. Both of us were amazed to hear, and slightly cringey with his stage presence. He rifled through songs, and some of the vocals were just bad. But his guitar playing was pretty good.

We soon realized Richard Shindell was sitting in the front row in the audience, was studying him, and watching very thoughtfully. And Geoff didn't know what Richard Shindell even looked like, so he had no idea. And he kept playing as if he was alone in his room playing for himself. Not for an audience. Richard shifted in his seat a couple times and I saw him visibly wince. There were about 20 people there, and most seemed to enjoy his efforts.

Geoff played several songs, and I took a few screen captures and tweeted them. Dream-Richard looked at his phone at one point, and then started looking around the room realizing pictures of him were being tweeted and he couldn't see where a camera was. He tried to then look more ... serious and focused on the performance.

I don't remember exactly what songs were played, but I remember Doug and I being thrilled that he was performing, and that Richard wasn't laughing out loud at him.

Later, Doug and I are walking around in a very large auditorium, not the one where Geoff's performance was, and Geoff is not with us. Richard is going to be performing there and we are there to see him. It is easily an 800 seater auditorium where Geoff's was just a folding chair filled church hall. We see Richard and approach him to talk. There are dozens of people there, and I'm mad that Geoff isn't with us, but also kind of relieved because I wouldn't necessarily want him to know what Richard thought of his performance.

Doug and I both have beers in our hands (I need to know where this auditorium is so we can go someday).  I look him in the eye and ask him about the coffeehouse. "So, were you there? Did I see you? What did you think? And you can be honest. I'm his mom."

Richard seems incredibly much taller than he really is. In real life, we're close to the same height. I know he's shorter than Doug, but usually when I see Richard, he's on a stage so I guess that is how I picture him. A full 18 inches taller than I am.

He expresses immediate recognition as he recalls the tall blonde kid. He puts his hand to his chin and says "Yeah, that. The show was billed "A Night of Geoff Gxxxxx doing Richard Shindell" which I immediately thought was a bad title for a show. I'm in town, and had time, so I found it on Twitter and had to see who this was who was "doing me."  I thought he was very good musically, his guitar playing was great. He was a little strange in singing though. He seemed stiff and terrified. His voice is much deeper than mine and he tried really hard. Parts were painful, but other parts were very endearing. He's got some nice promise. I liked it. I'd like to meet him and give him some pointers. Has he been playing my music for long?"

Doug answered, "we haven't seen him play guitar in years. He must have been practicing privately, and one day asked if we knew anyone who could come over and give him pointers so we hired someone from the local school of music to come coach him."

"Really?" Richard asked. "Huh. Well, I'd like to meet him and talk about the performance. Is he here?" We shook our heads and said "no, he didn't come with us."

So Dream-Richard said goodbye and left. And that's that.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Open Mic Night Musician and .... Rocks

Before I went away, I asked Jess if there was anything she wanted me to bring her back from the "super desert."

"Rocks," she answered. Jess wanted rocks. Sure. I'll bring you rocks.

Everywhere I went, the cool road up to Mount Lemmon, the Hill with the Cross at the San Xavier Mission, side of the road overlook as we adventured on Road 42 to Portal, City of Rocks... everywhere. I picked her up some rocks.

Along the way, there were plenty of opportunities to buy shiny polished rocks - bags of them for $10, or so. But I figured those were not nearly as authentic or personal.

On the last night of the trip when we went out to dinner, there was an open mic taking place in the joint. There was a guy who played guitar and sang, I didn't recognize a single song he sang, nor could I understand the words because the sound system was just no good.

Then, there was this guy. Thin, lank, tall, wearing a fur hat of some sort. He played guitar and banjo. He played a piece of hard-sided luggage with a drum kick pedal facing backwards with his right foot. With his left foot, he had a boot with some tambourine disks on it. And he had a harmonica holder with a kazoo in it.

The songs he sang were kind of 1800s folk style from the west. But he threw in a Charles Manson cover song.

A girl sang with him on some of the songs. She really wasn't that great, but ... he kind of was.  They put on a decent show. At least I could understand words when he sang, unlike the other guy earlier.

It got to be the end of the show, he came out onto the floor and sang a song that required stomping and hand clapping. The audience was enthusiastic and adoring. He must be a local guy. And these are his people.

I felt like I didn't belong there, as much  as I kind of enjoyed the overall presentation, this was kind of alien to me. Even as someone who does enjoy folk music. At the end, as Doug was waiting outside for me, I went over to put a 5 dollar bill into his tip vase, he turned around and smiled at me.

"You were really great," I told him. "That was some of the best luggage drumming I've heard in many years." Not a lie.

He beamed at me and said thanks, and then turned around and picked up a white box off the stage.

"Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it. Have some rocks!"

And in the box, were a ton of those polished, perfect, multi-colored rocks that I'd passed on buying during the whole trip.

How funny is that.

"My daughter asked me to bring her rocks from the desert!" I told him, happily. "Can I take more than one?"

"Take as many as you need!" he smiled. I grabbed a big handful and pulled the bottom of my shirt up a bit to pouch and filled it with the rocks.

I came outside, and Doug just looked at me with the "what did you do this time?" kind of expression.

"I got Jess some rocks," I told him, and lifted one up and showed it to him.

"You got some rocks alright," he replied.

Yup.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Arizoning Out, part 6: Gila Cliffs and the Race to PHX

Friday
The last day of our vacation. I felt like we needed two more days. Damn. WE NEED TWO MORE DAYS!

We got up early and organized our stuff so it would be ready to check in at the airport. Everything organized. Everything ready.

Grabbing a quick drive-through meal, I truly regretted not having one more day. I would have liked to have found another great Breakfast Burrito in the region instead of the convenience and speed of the drive through.

We headed up to Pinos Altos, which was supposed to be a ghost town. Two of the four buildings are actually in use as a restaurant now, so not much of a real ghost town. The visitor's center was supposed to be open but was not.

I suppose this is a good thing, because we headed on with our day, up towards the Gila Cliff Dwellings.

Driving on another scenic drive, this time the Trail of the Mountain Spirits, we headed north out of Pinos Altos on Rte 15. The drive was fantastic, lots of twists and turns, and the bartender was spot on that in certain places, even if you know this road you stand the chance of making a mistake at too high a speed.

Doug made jokes about "Thelma and Louise" as he hooted driving around the switchbacks, as I prayed silent confessions of my sins and for forgiveness and acceptance into the sweet loving arms of Jesus should we catapult off into thin air.

So let me tell you, if you're looking for a beautiful place to end your life by car, this is the road for you. Forget I said that. NO. Don't do that.

The geology of the area is outstanding. There information at a rest overlook of the Copperas Creek volcano and how this entire area was formed. Oh, if you love Geology, go read about it.  Otherwise, I took pictures.

There had been a fire up there about 20 years ago, and it was amazing to see how the Ponderosa Pine protected itself with its bark, and kept the tree alive and it wasn't consumed. The squares all over the trunks were the burned and charred but the trees still were flourishing. Really cool stuff.

We got to the ranger station and got instructions on what to do, headed over to the trail head. It was a half mile hike to the actual cliff dwellings. I was feeling fat and out of shape, and still having an issue with the elevation.

Doug was patient with me. I am really good for hiking on long flat trails but put some elevation changes going up in front of me and it is a challenge.

We took our time, and got to the top. Worth the trip for sure. We spent a long time up there, soaking it all in and then talking to the volunteer interpreter up at the top, named Alice. She was a riot and we had so much fun talking with her.

And again, no one else was up there. We had the place to ourselves. Alice, the sky, the rocks, the dust, the trails... everything.





Heading back down we realized we had to really make tracks. Getting from where we were to Phoenix in time for our flight might be a challenge. Close to a 6 hour drive, and it was 3pm.

We managed to make really good time, and even stopped to see "The Thing," a "famous" roadside attraction in Benson. Well worth the $1 admission because we had a nice walk to get through the ridiculous maze all the way to see "The Thing" (I won't spoil the surprise for anyone who may ever want to go there) and we got a hot dog at the DQ to boot.

We drove through Tucson again, and waved longingly up at the Catalina Highlands knowing my aunt and uncle were up there.

Our flight was at 11:50, and we pulled into the car rental return at about 9:30. We had plenty of time. Plenty of time! After we got the quick shuttle over to the airport, we figured we'd get through the line and even have time for dinner before getting on the flight. Tequila!

Until we got to the TSA screening line. Which was a mile and a half long. I won't go into detail but let's just say it was as bullshit as any bullshit was ever bullshit.

Best part of it was the woman screaming at us to make sure we didn't have any liquid in our bags. Doug searched his and came up with four beers that he'd stowed in the bag before we went to City of Rocks, in case we wanted to enjoy a beer on the hike.

Not willing to just throw the beer out, he handed me one, and we chugged our beers in line to the amusement of some "bros" nearby.

The flight was uneventful. Four and a half hours later we were home and it was good to fall into my own bed and some sleep.

And that's the wrap-up. The adventure. The whole shebang. The thing that I wish we had more time for was Chaco Canyon up in the northwest part of the state. And that is where we would have been if we didn't spend the extra day in Tucson. But I wouldn't trade that for the world because we had so much fun with my aunt and uncle.

We have something to look forward to if we head back that way, a different route of adventure. Maybe fly into Albuquerque and head west instead.

Congratulations for getting through this whole thing.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Arizoning Out, part 5: Road 42

Thursday
Unwashed, and feeling gross from sweating all night, I decided that it wasn't worth being mad, or pissing and moaning about the night before. It was a new day, a beautiful morning and it found us looking at a list of a million things we wanted to do in New Mexico, and we hadn't even gotten across the border yet.

After leaving the Murder Hotel, getting some quick eats at a drive through, our ultimate goal was to make it to Silver City, NM to drive out to the Gila Cliff Dwellings. First, was to hit the the Chiricahua National Monument and take the Bonita Canyon scenic drive.




I had a lot of fun with my new camera, playing with settings, depth of fields, and light.

We traveled by Fort Bowie, but we didn't take the hike in. We looked at the landscape, had the whole area to ourselves, a bright, cool and beautiful morning, solitude for as far as the eye could see. A dust trail far in the distance from another car driving along Apache Pass Road.

Driving towards Chiricahua, we met a cow in the road. He was checking out girl cows on either side of the road in a fenced area. Cow didn't want to move. I took a lot of pictures of the cow.  More pictures than I should have.

My inner New Yorker was showing.


Moo.

We made it to the ranger station at Chiricahua, and found the scenic road closed. The website had said it would be open by the end of February, and (as of this writing still even) it was not. We studied a map and Doug talked to the ranger about driving through another area. The ranger was concerned about us going that way because the road could be muddy or washed out. Another man overheard and told Doug that he just drove here from the other side of that area and the road was fine. The ranger asked what kind of car we had, and Doug said it was a rental SUV.

"Well, as long as you don't have a camper or a trailer you should be okay," said the cautious ranger.

The other guy said he just did the road in a Toyota Corolla, and again echoed his earlier assertion that the road was fine.

"Well, I'm half as smart as you look so we'll take it!" Doug said.

Now, I never really talked much about our car rental aside from telling you we picked the car up at the airport.

Doug had reserved us a convertible Ford Mustang, because he thought it would be badass to barrel through the desert in a fine American automobile. At the counter, he asked about AAA discounts. The kid behind the counter offered to upgrade us to an all wheel drive Cadillac XT5 crossover. With 26 miles on it.

We took it. I'm glad we did because I don't know if a Ford Mustang could have done the things we needed the vehicle to do.

At this point we'd tested the vehicle on all kinds of dirt roads.

We hit the road. And boy did we hit it. Dirt, water, gravel, more dirt, dust! That car was a mess by the time we reached the top of the mountain. We actually met a guy running up the mountain toward us as we were headed down, and he reluctantly waved at us with a look of suspicion and disgust.

Sorry dude.

I imagined what it would be like to park here and have a campout, with dark skies and star gazing and the Milky Way. I imagined how cool it would be to bring the Boy Scout troop here and how it would blow their minds.

We managed to find the way down to an area called Cave Creek Canyon, and took a short hike to a scenic view. Again, we had the place to ourselves, and everything was just perfect. Again, we had the whole place to ourselves.


Heading towards the little town of Portal, where there was nothing really, we then found the road that would take us on to I-10 again, and onward to New Mexico.

That was a fun ride. Probably not like the Bonita Canyon Scenic byway, but heck. We had a great time.

Making it to Silver City, we were super hungry. It was 1pm. Time to eat. Center of town didn't have a lot food-wise going on, but it did have Little Toad Creek brewery/distillery. Perfect.


We settled down at the bar and ordered some beers and burgers. Mike the bartender was super friendly, and we told him about our adventures thus far.

Doug mentioned to him that we were headed to Gila Cliff Dwellings and he shook his head hard.

"Don't go at this hour. Not a good idea."

It was only 1:30, and only 36 miles from where we were,  so we were a little incredulous.

He said we should go in the morning, get an early start. If we left after lunch, we'd get out there and have to turn around and come back, and the road is "dangerous even for those who know it."

Figuring that the bartender at the local familiar would be the wisest judge of what was going on in the world, Doug said that we'd do that.

But what should we do for the rest of the day if we weren't going to go out there...

Mike and the other bartender said "City of Rocks."

"You have to go to City of Rocks, you will love it!" the other bartender cheered with great enthusiasm.

"It is my favorite place on Earth. It's like, you're driving forever and you come in there and rise over the crest and Oh Man! City of Rocks!" Sold. Okay then. City of Rocks, here we come.

Doug looked at Travelocity for a hotel. I told him to choose wisely after the experience the night before at Murder Hotel.

He chose the Murray Hotel, right around the corner. No swimming pool, but the website looked nice, and our car was actually parked in front so. Easy.

The hotel has been in the process of being renovated over the past few years. It was pretty much abandoned in the 1980s after years of great success in this small city out in the middle of nowhere.

The current owners have been moving through floor by floor, room by room and bringing back a nice art deco style to the joint. It used to have a ballroom and concert hall, maybe someday it will again.

In the meantime, we got a nice deal and the girl gave us a very nice room based on Doug's tale of needing to make it right after the last night's hotel... We had a large corner room, with a sofa, love seat, big TV, king sized bed, and a shower.

With shampoo.

We got our stuff stowed away and headed out to City of Rocks.

It was all the bartenders had promised. We hiked around, took pictures, and talked about coming back with a camper or camping equipment and staying a few days here. Within the giant rocks, there were gorgeous little cubbies where you could park a camper or your car, pitch your tent, grill your food, and climb up and around the formations.

It was a most excellent choice for a way to spend some time.

We were going to head back to town, but then decided to check out Faywood Springs. For a reasonable rate, we booked an hour in a private spring all to ourselves.

The water was very hot. And an hour is a long time. Getting in and out of course was recommended, but after about 40 minutes I was super done. The sun started to set. The starts started to come out. But we didn't have any further time to soak in the springs. I wanted to go back to City of Rocks, park up on the overlook and stargaze, but once again - we were hungry. Hungry overrides stargazing.

We went back to Silver City, around 8:30pm. Got cleaned up (I finally got that shower) and then decided we needed dinner. We discovered that all of the restaurants in town closed at 8pm.

Ridiculously uncool, right? Come on, Silver City! 9pm dinner! You're a college town! How do you do this?

Doug wanted a giant burrito, and we were devastated to learn that we couldn't get one anywhere. So we went back to Little Toad Creek, the only thing open.   The bartender that we met earlier that day came in to hang out (again, only thing open so where else is he gonna go?) and saw us sitting in the dining room, beamed a huge smile and came over to ask us if we got to City of Rocks. We thanked him profusely for the recommendation. I could tell he was totally happy about making other people happy.

Dinner was not quite as good as lunch. Cocktails were small, and a little bit disappointing. I should have stuck with the beer.  There was an open mic, and the sound quality was not so awesome. We enjoyed watching a guy play banjo, guitar, and a suitcase with a kick pedal from a drum set. Our experience with him is a whole entry unto itself so I'll save that for later.

We happily were sleeping by 11pm.

Next, our Final Amazing Chapter - Part 6!