Category Archives for "Vacations"

A sleepy, southern town where the pace is so slow, I could conceivably age out of menopause while waiting for a red light

I may have mentioned once or seventeen times that I was born, raised and still live in western New York and that everyone in my immediate family up and scampered for greener, warmer, prettier, gamblier, Golden-Gate-Bridgier pastures long ago. My parents moved down to Southern Pines, North Carolina, my brother to Las Vegas and my sister to San Francisco.

Leaving me to rhyme out loud WHAT THE HELL? DO I SMELL? all by myself in western New York in the dead of several winters to anyone who would listen which was no one because everyone either abandoned me for greener, warmer, prettier, gamblier, Golden-Gate-Bridgier pastures or stayed put and froze to death.

For awhile, I took it personally.

Then I realized that my family moving to those places meant that I was going to have some pretty awesome places to visit because leaving your high-strung, uptight kin who already suffers from abandonment issues thanks to a five day stint in the neo-natal unit at birth because her twin brother hogged all the umbilical cords in utero which left her malnourished and tense and questioning her place in this cruel world, means that you are morally and ethically obligated to let her visit you anytime she wants.

You’re probably legally obligated to as well but I’m too lazy to look it up.

Then I thanked my parents and my brother and sister for not moving to Buffalo or Camden, New Jersey or anywhere in Pennsylvania.

This is the little train station that sits smack dab in the middle of Southern Pines.

Can you even stand it?

There’s something so Fried-Green-Tomato-ish about it, don’t you think?

Except there’s no Whistle Stop Cafe and no Idgie or Ruth or Big George stirring a pot of steaming hot barbecue, presumably with bloody remnants of a murdered wife beater’s corpse floating around in it.

The train pulls in almost every night around between 11:00 p.m., and midnight with its whistle echoing past the shops, through the town and all the way into the spare bedroom windows of my parents’ house.

It’s a comforting sound, almost like the town is welcoming me home, wishing me a good night and whispering to me not to let the bed bugs bite and then softly laughing because it knows all too well that no bed bugs will be biting since I inspected every inch of our hotel room the previous night before I’d let Nate and the kids unwrap themselves or the luggage from the shrink wrap.

I love that train whistle.

Except when I’m exhausted from a full day of driving to and from Myrtle Beach, narrowly escaping Jaws, losing at Scrabble three times in a row to my mother who can’t keep her grubby little hands off the triples and then repeatedly explaining to my husband that no, we cannot have sex anywhere in the entire state of North Carolina because my parents might hear us and no, you only wish the whistle was that loud and yes, actually, it would be the end of the world since they still think we ordered the kids from the Pottery Barn catalogue. Then, and only then, does the train whistle irritate me to the point of yelling FOR GOD’S SAKE, I DON’T GIVE TWO SHITS THAT YOU ARE ARRIVING, WHOEVER YOU ARE.

Unless you are Anderson Cooper, in which case, I very much give two shits that you are arriving. Three, even.

Every good southern town needs its own ice cream shop.

And it absolutely has to be on a corner and have “parlor” somewhere in its name or it simply doesn’t count.

Somewhere out there is a town zoning board with my name on it. Spelled correctly, in big neon lights, with the words “smart, talented and gorgeous” prefacing it.

Not that I’ve given it much thought.

This is Green Goods, an eco-friendly store right on Main Street.

It’s where my mother, an avid fan of recycling herself, bought me this fork bracelet a few years ago.

Is this not the coolest thing?

It almost made me forget about earlier that day when she smacked me upside the head for tossing an aluminum lid into the trash can instead of the recycle bin.


She’s freakishly strong for her age.

I thought this would look amazing in Zoe’s dorm room at college next year! Except, what is up with all the Yoo-Hoo? Couldn’t they have thirsted for something a little more color-coordinated?


Twenty plus years ago, when my ex-husband Dave and I were looking for our first home, we went to an open house that was advertised as having a second family room in the finished basement. The realtor showing the house would not shut up the entire time we were there and as we walked downstairs into the basement, he yammered on loudly and enthusiastically about the brand new wall-to-wall carpeting and bar, both installed by the bachelor who owned the house.

Poor guy. He was probably hoping that we’d never even notice that the walls were covered, from floor to ceiling, with thousands and thousands of empty beer cans.

The sheer amount of blood, sweat and cirrhosis that went into those walls was impressive, to say the least. That is, if I could have said anything at all, which I couldn’t, since I was pretty much rendered speechless.

One of the few times in my life that that has ever happened.

Another time was when my mucus plug dropped out of nether regions and splashed  into the toilet.

Just to give you some perspective.

Look at what else they sell!


Believe it or not, this stuff was actually kind of cute and hey, talk about re-purposing!

I do believe I might have found Oliver’s calling in life. Who knew pooping behind the couch could one day be considered a humanitarian effort?

I wound up not buying any of the PooPooPaper because then I’d have had to bring it back to mother’s house and she’d be all Well, isn’t that just the niftiest idea? And I’d be all Yep! And before you know it, someone would be all OH MY GOD, IS THAT A COLANDER IN THE DAMN TOILET? And then frantically rifling through a desk in search of a valid Power of Attorney to get her mother committed.

These are my new Keens. Child size 4.

They have nothing to do with my love of Southern Pines. I just like ’em. Even though my kids hate them and think they make my feet look like somebody beat them to death with an ugly stick.

And no, I have no idea where the entire right side of my shorts are. They were there when I put them on in the morning.

Corfu, the best Greek food in Southern Pines, bar none.

Well, except my mom’s own kitchen.

Unfortunately, not everyone is lucky enough to eat dolmades and pastitscio and avgolemono and kourabiethes in my mom’s kitchen but really, Corfu is the next best thing.

And bonus! Corfu doesn’t stuff their toilets with strainers or slap their customers when they accidentally throw recyclables into the trash or sneak cigarettes in their bathrooms under the guise that it helps them with their bowel movements.

Trust me, their food is much better than their spelling.

Speaking of food, can’t you just smell the fried green tomatoes?



That’s some bad hat, Harry (quick, name that movie)

While we were down in North Carolina visiting my parents, we decided to take a day trip to Myrtle Beach. It was a two and a half hour drive from my parents’ house and even though I detest driving longer than thirty minutes at a time, I took charge of the wheel and let everyone else sleep during the ride.

Just call me a thoughtful and courteous human being! With a husband who had a headache and a teenager whose learner’s permit was only valid in New York and a ten year old who can’t drive anything but me to drink.

Or you can just call me a martyr and get it over with already!

Your choice.

We got there about half-past WHO’S THE IDIOT WHO FORGOT THE SNACKS? I’M STARVING so we bought lunch before we did anything else because while Helena couldn’t wait to dive into the ocean, I couldn’t wait to dive into a low calorie turkey burger without a bun so I could pretend it was a quadruple cheeseburger dripping with grease, fat and angioplasty.

Then we hit the beach.

And by hit the beach, I mean one of us gingerly touched her bottom to the ocean and shrieked IT’S C-C-C-C-COLD before throwing caution to the wind and flinging herself into the frigid water while two others collapsed onto beach towels in a desperate attempt to soak up as much skin cancer as possible and the last one waded into the water up to her ankles to take this shot, only to regret it moments later when a small wave pushed half the ocean’s contents up her legs, past her underwear and straight into her hoo ha, giving her what amounted to a massive salt water douche that could potentially kill sperm from ten years ago.

This is your lot in life when you are built like an Oompa Loompa.

I bet my fallopian tubes are still peppered with tiny sea shells and look like those little macaroni necklaces kids make for Mother’s Day in preschool.

Nothing says I Love You Mommy like some blinged out reproductive organs hanging around your neck!


I think it was just about is-it-raining-sweat-or-am-I-having-a-hot-flash o’clock when we bought some ice cream and walked on the pier and looked down into the water and saw this …

Somebody squealed Hey, look! Cool! A Shark!

The squeal may have come from one or both of my kids. I’m not sure. I was busy having a small myocardial infarction.


Don’t ask me who because I have no idea.

Don’t ask my kids either.

I can’t tell you what happened next because I was too busy grabbing Nate and the girls and pinning them to the deck with my body while screaming WE’RE GONNA NEED A BIGGER BOAT and frantically looking about for a scuba tank that I could shove into the shark’s mouth and shoot with a rifle to blow the monster to bloody smithereens.

Why don’t piers come equipped with scuba tanks and rifles and Valium for just these situations?

And by the way, wouldn’t this whole premise make an awesome movie?

I should write a script. I’d make millions!

And then maybe I’ll invent the VCR and make zillions! Bajillions, even!

Thanks to the tourists standing to our left who were busy tossing their homemade chum concoction of leftover hamburger and crab cake and stupidity into the water with as much splashing as possible, our friend was soon joined by three of his friends.

I’d have gotten a photo of all of them thrashing and frolicking about but I may or may not have been passed out at the time. At the very least, I was traumatized by the thought of how close we came to becoming chum ourselves had one of us not had the presence of mind to exit the water, jump into menopause and demand an ice cream on the pier to ward off a long, slow, painful death by hot flash.

You know, as opposed to a short, quick painful death by Jaws and Company.

Who knew schizophrenic hormones could be so fortuitous?

Who knew I knew how to use big words like fortuitous?

A visual, to give you a rough idea as to how close we came to our own immortality.

In case you couldn’t tell, I’m the one with the mad Photoshop skilz!

And freakishly short legs atop a sopping wet, invisible wedgie.




I need a vacation from preparing for vacation

We’re taking a little trip down south to see my parents this month which means I’m trying to get all the laundry done which is a euphemism for 67 PAIRS OF UNDERWEAR? SERIOUSLY? DO WE OWN KIDS THAT I DON’T KNOW ABOUT?

I also have to make sure that the following is done before we leave:

  • Show our house/dog sitter how to operate our home alarm system.
  • Introduce our house/dog sitter to our local police department so that when he inevitably forgets to disengage the alarm by pressing the correct button out of the 324 available ones on the main console and then opens the garage door to take Ollie out to potty and all the windows in the neighborhood spontaneously explode from the deafening roar of the alarm and the police arrive with sirens blaring and lights flashing, they’ll recognize him and not shoot him and then we can avoid that whole awkward, excessive force/mistaken-identity/negligent homicide trial ordeal and I won’t have to worry about a grudge-filled future where I call 911 because I’m being attacked and instead of a black & white, they send a patrol car filled with Jehovah’s Witnesses to save me.
  • Create a power point presentation whereby our house/dog sitter can familiarize himself with all 43 of our remotes and the various electronics they control, as well as their corresponding How To Use Me Without Blowing Anything Up manuals.
  • Introduce our house/dog sitter to our local fire department, just in case.
  • Update all of our season tickets on all of our TVs so that when we get back, we have approximately 3,622 hours of TV with which to waste time and avoid responsibility. And when I say “we” I mean … well, no need to bore you with the details.
  • Stop by Aunt VeVe’s house to get the jigsaw puzzles that she picked up for Mom and Dad so that we can bring them down there with us so that every day my mother can ask Wasn’t that nice of Aunt VeVe to pick these jigsaw puzzles up for us? and every day Aunt VeVe can call down there and ask Did Andy bring you those jigsaw puzzles I picked up for you? and every day Dad can yell DO I EVEN LIKE JIGSAW PUZZLES? whenever he enters the kitchen.
  • Get Helena a new bathing suit, one that is not made by Hoochie Mamas ‘R Us.
  • Explain the meaning of hoochie-mama to Helena.
  • Clean our house from top to bottom, install hardwoods and apply a fresh coat of paint to all the walls so that in case we die on vacation, I won’t have to look down from Heaven and holler SHUT THE HELL UP, ALREADY. YOU TRY KEEPING IT LOOKING GOOD WITH TWO KIDS AND A DOG WHO THINKS POOPING BEHIND THE COUCH IS AN OLYMPIC SPORT. THE DOG, NOT THE KIDS to the new owners.

What do you do to prepare for vacation?



It was a tsunami of khaki pants and loud plaid

Have I shared with you how very much I detest flying? And I don’t mean that in the I apologize for the inconvenience, folks, but there are 52 planes ahead of us so it’ll be another week or so before we take off so sit back and relax as much as you can in that puny amount of space you paid $225 for and think back fondly to the time that we’d have gotten you all liquored up for free while you waited, maybe even giving you a complimentary blanket and pillow, well before the airline industry took a faceplant into the shitter and started charging you $25 per checked bag and $2 for a bag of stale peanuts kind of way, although that one does suck the big wazoo.


When I flew down to North  Carolina recently, I had a connection in Washington’s Dulles Airport. The first leg of the trip was fine as I had an aisle seat which is a good start to any trip that requires me to defy gravity while sharing leg room, recycled deadly toxins and potentially lackluster emergency flotation devices with total strangers. And as luck would have it, there was no total stranger occupying the seat next to me and I’m just going to go ahead and assume that God overslept, thereby missing a perfect opportunity to screw with my pathological germophobic tendencies and aversion to small talk and yes, I know, I’m usually all about talking, big or small, with perfect strangers because when you’re married to a man who thinks “Negatory. Next?” constitutes an in-depth conversation, you become Pavlov’s dog whenever anyone within a two mile radius opens his or her mouth to speak. Nevertheless, I just can’t manage pleasantries with anyone when I’m hurtling through the air at a million miles an hour while strapped inside a ginormous vibrator with wings built by the lowest bidder.

With an empty seat next to me, I didn’t have to be brave and I was free to quietly freak out with no witnesses during both takeoff and landing because hurtling through the air at a million miles an hour while strapped inside a ginormous vibrator with wings freaks me the hell out and I don’t care how many times Nate tries to comfort me beforehand by whipping out his ven diagrams and power point presentations to demonstrate the science of flight because the words “speed,”  “lift” and “thrust” together mean only one thing to me and it’s pretty damn enjoyable and has nothing to do with vibrators unless I’m really desperate and Nate’s out of town so STOP RUINING SEX FOR ME, NATE.

That freedom to freak out almost made up for the twenty-two escalators and people movers and trams I had to fling my body and carry-on onto in order to get through Dulles to Gate A to make my connection in twenty minutes. What the hell, Dulles? Why don’t you just go stand over there next to your buddies Chicago O’Hare and Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson and London Heathrow and then you all can whip out your penises and get it over with already?

The second leg of my trip down to North Carolina didn’t go as smoothly as the first because I spent the majority of it shoved up against a window. Why? Because the passenger sitting in the aisle seat next to me was morbidly obese. That, in and of itself, was not the problem so all of you foaming at the mouth and just itching to staple that Marie Claire article to my tongue and burn me in effigy, CALM DOWN. I couldn’t care less if someone is obese in real life or on TV because it wasn’t that long ago when I was a bit chubby and causing scales all over western New York to run screaming for the hills my own self.

Had this man just sat down with no incident, we’d have gotten along just fine and by just fine, I mean that no matter his weight, I’d have still spontaneously grabbed his hand and squeezed off his blood supply during takeoff and landing and turbulence, all while screaming incessantly at him to tell Nate and the kids that I love them and that Nate can’t re-marry for at least 35 years after my death and then he would have reported me to the flight attendant and I’d have probably been detained by Homeland Security and thereafter arrested for physical assault and we’d have spent a good amount of time together filling out stupid paperwork under ghastly fluorescent lighting and getting to know each other over shitty coffee or, in my case, shitty hot chocolate.

But he didn’t just sit down. Instead, when he took his seat, I believe he inadvertently pushed up the armrest between us and I’m saying inadvertently because I like to give people who did not burst forth from my abdomen after sixty hours of labor, leaving me with 800 stretch marks and an ugly scar, the benefit of the doubt. Because the alternative of him having done it on purpose is beyond rude and I’d like to think that no one is capable of that kind of rudeness unless they’re running for office and think filling your kid’s’ halloween bag with VOTE FOR ME stickers is a great marketing tactic.

This raising of the armrest allowed his girth to, shall we say, surge forth? I felt kind of like New Orleans when the levies failed except Anderson Cooper wasn’t reporting live from my lap, damn it all to hell.

In a matter of seconds, his weight became my problem.

I wiggled around in my seat, which still cost me the same amount of money as it had twenty seconds prior even though it was now much smaller, and tried to somehow pull the armrest back down between us but it was completely blocked by the man’s shoulder. I tried to politely ask him to scooch over a bit so that I could use the armrest but do you know what “Excuse me, do you mind scooching over a bit so that I can use the arm rest?” sounds like when you’re sitting directly over engines, under a steady flow of those recycled deadly toxins and somewhere near a wailing baby? Me neither. But I’m guessing it’s something like ZZZZZZHHHHHHHHHGGGGGGGG WAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH ZZZZZZHHHHHHHHHGGGGGGGG to the tenth power.

The forty minute flight was sold out and this man didn’t smell or sweat profusely or sneeze on me and because he actually glanced in my direction and smiled politely once or twice, I’m wondering if he was even aware of what was happening. So I gritted my teeth and sucked it up and I did this by scooching farther to the left myself and taking really shallow breaths while peering out the window with only my left eyeball which was not as hard as it sounds since it just happened to be smooshed against it at the time. Because really, what was the alternative? If I had complained and asked to move, where was I going to move to? Checked baggage? The cockpit? The lavatory? Because we all know how I feel about public toilets and crossing state lines in a vertical coffin with a cheap lock and questionable plumbing was almost as bad as the predicament I found myself in and at least in my expensive half seat, there was supposedly an oxygen mask directly above me in the event of an emergency like, say, being asphyxiated by a large mammal. And even if I had pitched a wicked hissy and demanded use of the armrest, who was going to volunteer to amputate the guy’s left hemisphere to make it happen?

Just curious … how would you have handled the situation?



Sunday regurgitation: plains, trains and automobiles

I just finished jogging two miles and, after two weeks of jogging two miles a night for 4-5 nights per week, my lungs still need an air compressor and my thighs still morph into two fleshy piles of quivering, blubbering mess.

When will it get easier?

It’s not like I’m running. I’m jogging. Maybe at a pace of a twelve minute mile, if I’m lucky. I’m physically incapable of speed since my legs are short and squat and often mistaken for Lit’l Smokies cocktail weiners.

When will I feel like not hurling up my entire gastrointestinal tract after reaching my driveway?

I leave you with a post I wrote last year right around this time, about all the different modes of transportation we used when we visited New York City. Jogging was not one of them although I did a pretty good imitation while trying to keep up with Nate. That would be my husband, whose legs start at his ankles and stretch all the way up to his neck and who, at every crosswalk, forgot that he was married to an oompa loompa.

Happy Sunday, everyone!



How to navigate New York City – Creative Junkie style


We made it to New York City last week with no problem. If you read about my predicament with my expired license, you might be relieved to learn that I was not subjected to a strip search.

Or you might be disappointed, depending on where you fall on the weirdo spectrum.

I won’t tell you where I fall on that spectrum. A lady doesn’t tell all of her secrets!

And neither do I.

Did you know that in New York City, the blocks between avenues are three times as long as the blocks between streets?

Or that the blocks between streets are three times as long as the blocks between avenues?

I never did get that straight.

Does it really matter? All you really need to know is the following:


  • From 8:00 to 9:30 a.m.: one block = 1/10 or 1/4 of a mile, depending on whether it’s a street or avenue
  • From 9:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.: one block = twenty-two miles, give or take three feet.
  • From 2:00 p.m., until eternity: one block = WHO CARES. DON’T EVEN TALK TO ME. I HATE EVERYONE.


While in the Big Apple, we took various modes of transportation and I thought it would be nifty to give you my opinion on some of them, because I care about my readers. That, and I want to try my hand at pontificating.

Pontificate can also mean to speak in a pompous manner, for all of you who are sitting there, wondering why I’d want to impersonate the Pope.

Not that I want everyone bowing down and kissing my hand. Just my family. And warranty companies of all kinds. As well as all insurance companies. And banks.

And Anderson Cooper.


Walking is a truly wonderful way to see New York City and that’s why we opted to walk approximately 3,967 miles. My advice to you is take along three extra pairs of feet and legs, as well as additional tendons and muscles. And an extra vertebrae or two wouldn’t hurt either. Oh, and a pack mule.


We took a horse-drawn carriage through Central Park. I believe it was $34 for twenty minutes. A little expensive, but we really enjoyed it although next time, we’ll choose a carriage with a roof as it was slightly drizzling and we got a bit damp.

Did you know that when I was seventeen, I was in France with my best friend Traci and we went horseback riding and I was required to wear a helmet, having never ridden a horse? And it was ugly? The helmet, I mean? And that the helmet became my new best friend when the horse, without warning, broke into a wild, uncontrolled gallop and threw me into the bushes? And that Traci swears up and down that the beast was trotting and I slid off sideways onto my head? And that she’s a liar?


Now you do.


We took a taxi from JFK to our hotel. It was a flat fee of $45 plus a $5 toll plus tip so all together, it cost us about $60.

The overpowering smell of urine inside the taxi didn’t cost anything extra.

Either did the wrong turn into the United Nations and having a pack of bomb sniffing dogs surround us.

Who says you can’t get anything for free nowadays?


Even though you occasionally feel like you’re walking down into Buffalo Bill’s pit a la Silence of the Lambs, the subways are not bad at all. They’re pretty clean and everyone is friendly and by friendly, I mean that everyone keeps to themselves and ignores you unless you board while yelling ARE YOU SAVED? COME TO JESUS in which case everyone gives you a slightly wider birth and then ignores you. This boarding tactic comes in handy if you have personal space issues and forgot your plastic bubble at home.

Not that I would I know.

Once you get the hang of the subway system, it’s a fast and convenient way of getting around the city. If you don’t know how to navigate the system, just do the Subway Shuffle, which we did no less than 187 times as we were getting acclimated:

  1. Allow your husband to be in charge of the subway map, as if you actually had a choice in the matter
  2. Go down the subway stairs into the abyss
  3. Jump on an uptown subway called ARE YOU SURE THIS IS THE RIGHT ONE?
  4. Look suspiciously at your husband as he studies the map, looks perplexed and then turns the map upside down
  5. Jump off
  6. Climb back up to street level
  7. Race across the street
  8. Climb back down into Hell
  9. Jump on a downtown subway called DO YOU KNOW WHERE WE’RE GOING?
  10. Jump off at FOR GOD’S SAKE! WHAT ARE WE DOING IN VERMONT? which, as the name clearly implies, will be nowhere near your destination.

After a few rounds of the Subway Shuffle, either your husband will know exactly how to navigate the subway system or you will know exactly how to navigate his spleen. Either way, it makes for a pretty unique experience.

Oh, and you just might just see a celebrity or two while running amuk underground. We saw Lisa Bloom, a CNN contributor.  As we were running down the steps, Nate said Hey look, there’s Lisa Bloom! over his shoulder and I said WOW! Cool! as I tackled the nearest bystander and begged for directions. It was kind of surreal.


Sometimes we didn’t feel like climbing into the earth’s core and feeling like nuclear holocaust survivors so we rode the buses. Nate and I opted for the One Day Fun Pass Metro Card which was $7.50 each and allowed us unlimited rides on the subways and buses. Helena didn’t need one as she rode the subways for free and sometimes the buses as well, depending on whether or not the driver was wearing a shirt that read YEAH, SOMEBODY PEED IN MY CHEERIOS. SO WHAT? SHUT UP AND PAY $2.

I liked the buses because they were above ground and had big windows through which I could see the city. However, sometimes they took forever to arrive and by the time they did, we could have gotten lost at least twice on our own, three times if Nate was feeling particularly macho.


This was perhaps one of the best deals we encountered. It costs nothing to ride the Staten Island Ferry. Did you know that? I didn’t either. A very cool experience, passing right by the Statue of Liberty.

Remember Tess from Working Girl? Going to work via the Staten Island Ferry and daydreaming? The one with a head for business and a bod for sin?

I had a total Tess Harper moment in my head while on the ferry. Good thing I didn’t have it out loud because I have a head for sin and a bod for business and it just would have been all sorts of wrong.

And for those of you who never saw Working Girl, how does it feel to have never thoroughly experienced the eighties?


We decided to use a car service for our ride back to the airport. We did this for two reasons: (1) we didn’t want to risk another ride in a taxi that smelled like 67 cats lived under the front seat; and (2) we didn’t want to risk another ride in a taxi that smelled like 67 buffalo with weak bladders lived under the back seat.

The car was a black Lincoln and it was clean and comfortable and the leg room alone almost made up for the Mexican Muzak blaring out of the speakers in surround sound.

I think of all the methods of transportation we took, the car service was my favorite. It felt nice to be chauffeured around for awhile.

Now I know how my kids feel every single day.

Except that I didn’t get the opportunity to periodically shout CAN YOU BUY ME A HORSE? WHY NOT? YOU’RE SO MEAN! YOU SUCK THE FUN OUT OF EVERYTHING to the back of the driver’s head.



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