Meeting Your Freeway Neighbors

I ran into this truck the other day as I was driving.  Ok, not literally, but you know what I mean.  Check out the back doors…smoke, handprints…really unsettling.  I mean, what the hell!? Was there an exorcism going on back there?  I can see it now, the priest, clinging onto a side wall for dear life as the truck careened through traffic – with his Bible upside down, spilling Holy Water all over the back as the demonically challenged victim, restrained in an office chair, kept rolling just out of reach.

 

The truth is, every day we are surrounded by people on the road that we don’t know, will never meet, and never think about again.  What is going on in those cars?  Who are these people?

Let me enlighten you about your fellow drivers.

Bertha Katz:  Bertha is a sweet lady who embellishes her bumper with stickers that she doesn’t fully understand.  She has a PETA sticker next to the one reading, “Beef.  It’s what’s for dinner.”  She is blissfully unaware that the reason she gets rear-ended so many times is that people are trying to read that tiny, peeling one in the left corner that reads “Honk if you…” something.  Damn it, Bertha, we want to know if we should honk!

Hank Hughes:  Hank is driving that gigantic, 1970’s Air Stream in the right lane.  And the left lane.  And a little over into the far left lane as well.  His tags are from a state on the opposite side of the continent.  Just what the hell does he want to come here for anyway?? The RV looks ragged and well used.  He has actually hidden a fortune in slot machine tokens in the yellow polka dotted cushions of the bench seat in the back.  Hank is wearing sunglasses and propping his overly tanned left arm out his open window while singing along to Willie Nelson, his untanned right arm balancing a cup of cold coffee on his lap.

Henry McFadden:  Beware the Henry McFaddens of the highway.  You can spot them a mile away, wearing sporty caps on their grey heads.  He is in the fast lane, doing 25mph with his hazard lights on, cursing all “you young whippersnappers” that tailgate him, horns blaring in frustration before finally passing him in a final barrage of honking.  He thinks that 55 mph is a suggestion, and a gosh-darned dangerous one at that.

Ellen Fitzgerald:  She is the soccer mom in the over-sized, overly priced SUV in front of you.  Until now, you didn’t know that Lamborghini made an SUV. Considering your state has absolutely no mountainous areas whatsoever, and therefore no reason to kick it into 4-wheel drive to overcome treacherous terrain, the purpose of an SUV of this size is unclear.  Not that this SUV would ever see a mountain … or know what mud is. The otherwise pristine vehicle has a back window full of those stick figures…two adult men, three adult women, eight children, seven dogs, five cats, and what appears to be an iguana.  You will never know anything more about her, but you will obsess over who those stick figures represent the rest of the day.

Michael Mitchell:  Ah, Mr. Vanity Plate himself.  You can admire a clever plate when you understand it. “I M Gr8” or “2 GUD 4 U” are some of the classics that make you smile.  But Michael’s tag, proudly proclaiming “Y RST U” is an enigma.  You ponder it for miles, saying it out loud, trying it backwards and forwards, all thoughts of Ellen’s stick figure family gone from your head as the new obsession strikes.  You think you almost have it, the solution is so close!  Little do you know; Michael’s tag means nothing, and he only got it to mess around with his fellow drivers.  Well played, Michael. Well played indeed.

Mandy Smith:  As you drive up next to Mandy, you see her frantically shoving a candy bar into her mouth with the wrapper still on, chasing it with a Red Bull, death metal guitars screaming from inside her car.  You may initially judge Mandy’s unkempt pony tail and stained sweatshirt, but then you see the back seat lined with three car seats and the sullen teenager in the front passenger seat.  As you pass her, you realize that she isn’t listening to death metal at all; those screams are from her three toddlers in the back.  Her eyes are haunted as she shoots you a pleading glance; you give her the universally accepted grim lipped smile of the overwhelmed (and overworked) mother, and head nod as your eyes meet in understanding.

Bill Jones:  Bill’s bumper sticker proudly proclaims that he “brakes for turtles.”  Yay, Bill.  Unfortunately, he also brakes for nonexistent bumps, red cars on the opposite side of the road, commercials on the radio, trees, and just to see if his brakes still work or if he needs to use the gift certificate to the local brake repair shop his friends gave him for his birthday.

Lila Hirsch:  Lila is frantically arguing with her invisible friend.  Both of her hands are off the wheel, at inopportune times, gesticulating wildly to make her point as her car swerves into your lane.  You tell yourself she is probably on Blue Tooth…but can we really be sure?

Johnny Miller:  Johnny picks a car at random, then begins to target it for his own freeway fun.  He tailgates it, passes it, cuts it off, slows down, speeds up, lets it pass again, and so on in a game of cat and mouse with rules that only he knows and which he keeps changing as he goes along.  At some point, he apparently wins his game and will drive up casually next to you, looking over at you in distaste, shaking his head, before speeding off.  You will never understand Johnny’s game, but you feel sort of honored you were chosen to play, and thankful you survived.

Next time you are on the road, look out for these drivers.  Now you know a little more about them, so they are no longer random strangers in a car.  If I missed any, let me know; I’d love to hear who you “met” on the road today!

No Thanks

The biggest nope that ever noped in all of nopeland.  Think I will add this to my reverse bucket list. The thrown-together planks remind me of the small wood bridge over the creek to get to my grandparents’ house in the holler. But at least that was only a 7 foot drop or so into some cool water…not an endless fall into an abyss.

 

When I Win the Lotto

Let’s be clear.

I will win the mega-millions Lotto.  This was told to me by a fortune-teller at my local carnival this past summer.   She also told me I would get a break, and she was right; my bank account is as broke as they come.  How did she know!?  It boggles the mind. Truly.

The first thing I will do as a mega-multi-millionaire is to run for president.  Hold on, someone just told me that’s already been done.  Damn.

My next plan as a future Lotto winner is to buy The Perfect House.  You know the one; with the swimming pool in the kitchen, the bowling alley in the foyer, and the self-cleaning bathroom?  I love New York, and I also love California.  I would happily move to either place, or maybe both, if I didn’t have to worry about making a living.   That would be the extent of my real estate investments, though, because I’d be traveling all of the time.  If it weren’t for my animals…well, and a general lack of funds…I’d never be home as it is.  Since this is my future, according to Madame Mystery at the Country Fair, I’m interviewing animal caretakers and looking into buying each pet a mobile home.   Just kidding; Rufus the Invincible has a license but he doesn’t drive.  Wouldn’t it be great to have enough money to take them with me as I trek the world, though?

I’m not a big lover of stuff.  Sure, stuff is great, but instead of buying even more stuff, I’d indulge my laziness. I’d have servants – paid very well mind you. In return for a generous yearly salary, room and board, medical insurance, the whole nine yards, they would have to be on call 24/7. And having lived with myself for quite some time now, I know that I have bad days where I’m …um…grumpy, shall we say? On days when I’m less than my nice self, I’d offer up an extra $200 or so in cash in advance – first thing in the morning (forewarned is forearmed they say) and explain to all and sundry, today I’m a bitch. Sorry. But here’s $200.

feed me! oh, was that harsh? here's some cash!

I’m sorry for what I said while I was hungry.  Here’s some cash.

One of these well-compensated individuals would be my “runner.”  If I want coffee or some of that great carry out seafood from across town, I’d just call the runner. I’d also have a chef, but one that does more than make those frilly little dishes that look like cat food with a piece of sidewalk weed on them.   My chef will be as versed in good old home cooking as he is in fine French cuisine.  “A big old slab of homemade meatloaf drowning in gravy, Monsieur Snooty, if you please, and  a loaf of your finest bread, with chocolate mousse for dessert.  And a diet Coke.”   At midnight if I’m hungry for a snack or a full-blown meal, I’d just buzz the chef’s quarters.   Heck, let’s take it all the way and send the runner to the kitchen for my snack. Oh yeah. I know how to live.

Now, we’ve discussed my mobile pet idea, but of course I won’t be travelling ALL the time…I would eventually make pit-stops at home. So for those times when we are home, I’d hire someone to clean up all the cat hair and hairballs.  This would be an awesome job for someone, seriously.  I’d pay them well to dump litter boxes and clean up outdoor…errrr, leavings.  These dainty hands will never again flick a hairball under the couch, or pour more litter on top of the old in a vain attempt to get out of changing the box.  Don’t judge me, you’ve done it too.  This person also gets to take my dogs out whenever the need arises.  I may just train the dogs to buzz for their caretakers themselves and eliminate the middleman altogether. The middleman being me. Just so you know. Cause I’m lazy.

me...being my lazy self

me…being my lazy self

No more stuck in traffic for THIS Lotto winner.  I mean, I might be stuck in traffic but I wouldn’t have the “stuck in traffic driver stress.” You see, I’d never drive myself again…anywhere. I could just lean dramatically back in my seat and sigh loudly, like I did when I was a teenager.  Good times.

With all the time and money in the world at my disposal, you’d best believe I would be one sexy, albeit idle, chick.  I’d have salon and spa days, and relax on the French Riviera, drink at a café in Tuscany, and hide myself away in a thatch-roofed cottage on the coast of Ireland. You know. Just the essential travel spots.  I have already bought a cover shoot for Glamour, in case you’re wondering.  Madame Mystery insisted that I would be adored by millions and loved by all.  Or was it that I owed millions and would be sued by all?  It’s a little hazy, and I was still reeling from the Tilt-A-Whirl.

I would need a hobby to occupy my time.  Of course, right? Everyone need a hobby.  I’m dangerous with pointy objects, so knitting is out.  I’m not very athletic, so sports would be out, too.  Thank goodness for that; that last one involved excessive movement.  Who the hell wants to do that!? I decided to Google a bit of fancy hobbies, and my research turned up the following.

  • Collecting fine antiques: This isn’t your grandmother’s china cabinet here.  We’re talking hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on a rare coin, stamp, rug, or piece of jewelry.  On top of this, I would need to build a special storage facility and insure the whole thing.   Sounds like a lot of work for things I can’t really use, doesn’t it?
  • Investing in an art collection: Up until now, I have considered the TV Guide as a valuable artistic statement.  Turns out, there are paintings and sculptures that I don’t like or understand for several million dollars apiece.  I can own some of this baffling work for myself, if so inclined.  I’d pay other people to look at it and make appropriate “oohs” and “aahs.” But then I’d need to get insurance, a security guard, an alarm system. Who has time for all of that?
  • Race Car Driving: I kid you not, I could enter the exciting world of race car driving.  Probably, the equally exciting world of hospital emergency rooms as well.  If I visited the hospital enough times, I would just build a wing in my name…provided I remember my name after the accidents.   This fine sport costs hundreds if not thousands of dollars per hour when on the track. That doesn’t take into consideration the medical bills. Blech.
  • Boating: Nothing says indulgent like purchasing a boat as big as my house and burning through enough fuel in a half hour to power an entire third world country for a year.
  • Gambling in high stakes games: When the opening bid is a million dollars, I think I’ll leave my inner Kenny Rogers on the table and just fold ‘em.

Maybe fancy hobbies aren’t for me? I just couldn’t get into anything like that. Oh wait, I do know one hobby I could get into. I could collect animals – all my favorites: pigs, horses, sheep, chickens, cows, dogs, cats, the works. Emptying out a livestock auction or a shelter, now that I would enjoy. The money I would spend on fuel for a race car each week could pay a keeper to take care of them – and what it would cost to buy a boat or that antique umbrella holder dipped in gold could surely buy the necessary property on which to build a sanctuary to keep them healthy and happy.  Now THAT, that I could get into.

When I win the Lotto, I can see myself still being me, only a hell of a lot less stressed…and maybe a few pounds heavier.  I’d like to think I’m not one of those individuals that money would change.  I’d also sure like to find that out for myself one day.

In the meantime, if you see Madame Mystery, tell her I’m still waiting.

just sitting here...waiting...any day now...

just sitting here…waiting…any day now…

Here a List, There a List, Everywhere a List List

So my daughter and I have been big on making lists lately. In general, we both thrive on lists, so poring over what should be included in one or another of them in our spare time is par for the course. These remarkable pieces of survey data are usually started over dinner, scribbled on a napkin, as we hunker down with our heads together discussing extremely important, earth-shattering topics such as who would win the epic battle of villains: Loki or Scarlet Witch.  Oh, and if you’re interested, it’s Loki hands down.

We have a list of our favorite fictional characters (you’ll see that one pop up on this blog at a later date), our favorite movies, and the countries we want to move to (in order of preference)…which is becoming more and more relevant given the state of our 2016 Presidential election thus far, but I digress. So, yeah. You get the idea. We like lists.

Recently we were discussing places to go and things to do over pancakes and hashbrowns, so of course, we had to put pen to paper napkin, and come up with our handy-dandy “to do” list to cement things just so. And now, lucky you, I’m sharing…

  1. Get scared senseless by a ghost:
    1. Spend the night in Lizzie Borden’s room (Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast, Fall River, MA)
  2. Visit the home and gravesite of one of our favorite authors
    1. Edgar Allan Poe Museum and Memorial Grave (Baltimore, MD)
  3. Absorb some culture and enrich our lives (not to mention eat tons of soft pretzels from the street vendors!):
    1. Smithsonian/National Museum of Natural History (DC)
    2. National Gallery of Art (DC)
    3. US Botanic Garden (DC)
    4. Smithsonian Gardens Butterfly Habitat (DC)
    5. United States National Arboretum (DC)
    6. National Zoo (DC)
  4. Pretend we’re high society but also get some laughs (cause seriously, we are who we are):
    1. Attend a play or musical in Baltimore – subject matter is up for grabs but we’re determined to wear our going to town Sunday clothes, so yeah, something nice.
    2. Snag tickets for stand-up comedy
  5. We’ll tell people we’re going to NYC for the culture of the city but we’re really going for the black and white cookies and Pokemon battles:
    1. American Museum of Natural History
    2. Bronx Zoo
    3. Central Park Zoo
    4. Times Square
    5. Metropolitan Museum of Art
    6. The Cloisters
    7. Brooklyn Botanical Garden
    8. New York Botanical Garden
    9. Fraunces Tavern Museum
    10. Hamilton Grange National Memorial
    11. Pokemon Center (Gotta catch ‘em all!)
  6. Because my daughter apparently wants us to end up in one of those “found footage” movies that are all the rage…as this is exactly how those stories unfold – and it never ends well:
    1. Take an overnight self-guided tour at the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum (Weston, WV)
      (When you don’t hear from me again, keep an eye out for the movie trailer – don’t leave for popcorn or anything as I’ll likely be the first one gruesomely dissected by the killer doctor-ghost running around the asylum – oh, not because I wear matching silk and lace underwear as so often seen in the horror movies, but rather, because I can’t run very fast, or at all really, and will most probably be used by the others as a momentary distraction…but hey, at least we’ll be in the movies. Everybody wants to be in the movies, right!?)

Independence Day

So. I drove into the city last week. Two & half hours away.  Got on major highways and everything. Went to a different city last month, same situation. Yep. Me.

No, I didn’t do it blindfolded. No, I didn’t do it only using my feet. No, I didn’t do it without hitting a single red light. I did it. That’s it. That’s the accomplishment.

Not terribly impressed, are you? I don’t blame you. I don’t see Hollywood optioning that story for their next summer tent-pole.

You may not know this about me but I get a little bit, okay, seriously anxious when I’m on a major highway. I wasn’t always that way. It grew on me over time, through a series of repetitive blows to my self-esteem.

So, when I had a significant other, I let him take care of the driving…believe me, he was only too willing to nurture my anxiety right along with me. But now that co-dependent crutch is gone (I’m currently just addicted to Siri, MapQuest, and my GPS!).

Now I’m driving to cities hours away and shoveling out blizzards and I’m getting my oil changed and flat tires fixed and repairing refrigerators myself…well, I could always figure out how to repair things so that last one doesn’t count.  But now I can do it without first having to let someone else try while I stand there watching and biting my tongue and not saying “that’s really not a good idea,” or “I have an idea how to fix it, if you’d just let me,” because I was afraid of hurting an ego that was quite capable of bringing down the house when it was injured.

I allowed myself to be afraid of so many stupid things, like driving into the city for instance. Over the past 18 months or so, I’m going new places, doing new things, and able to count on myself.  My daughter and I are going to take a bus trip to NYC this summer. Can’t wait. We’re visiting Gettysburg and Antietam on our own when it gets warm…which, guess what? Requires driving. Which is cool, because I’ve got GPS and a funny sidekick riding shotgun.

A trip to the National Zoo and the Smithsonian (National) Museum of Natural History are also on our list. BUT we’ll be taking an Uber for that outing. Hey! It’s Washington D.C. folks. No-one in their right mind wants to drive in D.C., it’s not just ME.

And who knows, if we win the lottery, Massachusetts is also on our go-to list.  The Lizzie Borden House is there and we’re anxious to see it. We’ve been told it’s haunted and that’s just too awesome of a possibility for us to pass up. I’ve already got it mapped out and I’m not afraid. Of the house OR the trip it will take to get there.

So. I’m not saying I have every one of my fears hog-tied as I dance over them in victory — anxiety will always rear its ugly head.  But…definitely making progress.  At least now I only have MY little voice to listen to and sometimes my daughter’s. AND neither starts by saying “Oh no! You can’t do this.” Instead it yells, “You got this!” And you know what…it’s right.

Out of Time and Place – Revisited

Okay, so I’m a little late for Saint Patrick’s Day as the day is almost over. And I have no valid reason for being behind because I’m re-posting an entry I wrote from February 2014.  So I didn’t even need to write something from scratch. My only excuse is I’ve been under the weather and not really on my game.  Still, I hope you enjoy it and Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

** originally posted 2/7/14:  Out of Time and Place **

Have you ever had a feeling of déjà vu and known it was something you can’t possibly have experienced in your own lifetime? I get this feeling often, a heartfelt pining for a time period I’ve never lived through and a place that I’ve never even visited.  Many of these feelings are tied directly to Ireland in the early 20th century and onward. I’ve never been to Ireland and although I’m not about to disclose my age, suffice it to say that while I may not be a spring chicken anymore I certainly wasn’t alive that long ago.  So where does this pull come from? I know that I have Irish ancestry so maybe it’s some sort of engrained memory in my genes; some attachment that’s been passed down from generation to generation, gently calling me back to the homeland.  Maybe the memories of a past life are bubbling subtly to the surface of my consciousness.

Since I can’t time travel or teleport, the best I can do to ease this unnerving feeling of living out-of-place and out-of-time is to read as much as possible about this beautiful and bewitching Ireland. History books, news articles, and authors specializing in the place and era. I read and read and read some more, stoking this connection and hoping to quell this unexplained feeling of homesickness….a strange yet compelling homesickness for a place I’ve never even been. The reading does help, but it doesn’t answer the burning question lying underneath the feelings. Are the ghosts of my past whispering to me or am I just a nutcase?

Galway