Retropost: Book Launch and Big Wins (Dec2017)

Liberating The Astronauts came out in March. Because of launch technical issues (i.e. every place I contacted about setting up a launch fell through), it officially launched at Sip This in December. Since it was a Poets In Nassau event, and I don’t like featuring for the group I founded, I set it up as a community writing event complete with trivia, prizes, writing prompts, an open mic, and then my own featured reading. It was a fun night.

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Some sort of poetry dance

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Dd. Spungin, host

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Obligatory writer photo

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Oprah Imitation

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Peter V. Dugan, Nassau County Poet Laureate

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Friend

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I literally can’t stop teaching.

Eddie’s sister and our nieces visited for a whirlwind tour of NYC. They’d never been to the city before, so it was fun seeing their faces as we walked through crowds and crowds. The worst crowd was the fifteen minute one-block walk across from Saks. Otherwise, it was pretty and quite warm. Not only did we see the Rock Center tree, but we saw the tree at Bryant Park and one in St. Patrick’s. We saw the Macy’s store windows and the Saks windows and light show. Next time, maybe we’ll see the Rockettes.
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Then I won something. As usual, it was from an odd place. This time, a Capn Crunch box. When they said I’d won a cornhole game, I figured it was a cute little table game. Fast forward to a 60 pound box outside the front door. It is now stored under our bed because we have no place else to put it.
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The rest of December was all holiday cheer. I bought these mini cookies from Southpaw Sweets that got devoured on Christmas Eve.
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Additionally, these two mugs I got as presents sum up everything about who I am.
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Retropost: Drunk Seastreaking and Passive Aggressive Neighbors (Oct2017)

October is a time for pumpkins, so we went pumpkin picking. Also, full moon eeriness. Also, chewy.

Forever and a day, I’ve wanted to take a Fall Foliage tour. Eddie bought tickets on Sea Streak as my birthday gift! We headed to Tinton Falls, NJ the night before so that we could make it on the boat at 7 AM. Only we wound up at the wrong launch, and the lady at the desk told us to take a flier from the wall for directions. The directions were to the place we were already at. I shit you not. After a chat with a nice woman on the phone who clearly gets this phone call all the time, we found the other launch site. In the rain!

We stood on a long line and finally wound our way onto the boat and found a window seat. They served bagels that you could cut and toast on your own. They also served alcohol. People started drinking at breakfast. We got water and watched the spirits unfold.

When we got to NYC to pick up passengers, we realized that getting on in NJ meant we got a window seat while getting on in NYC meant you didn’t, so that was happy times for us. Also in NYC, we picked up our tour guide. If you want to call him that.

The “tour” consisted of his telling tales of when he was growing up, pointing out boats by saying, “there are boats on the water,” and giving us the round-about prices of real estate in certain areas of the city that have either gone up (“we used to run for our lives and now you pay 800000 a month”) or gone down (“now there’s a real criminal element there”).

Really, though, the guide on the Fall Foliage Tour referred to said foliage as either folage or foilage. Yes, he could not pronounce the name of the thing we were touring.

Once we got past the city and Yonkers, the tour died down with only an occasional “Alrighty” or “Ohhhkay” with nothing following it. He said a few times we could ask him anything, and when he was asked about what mountains we were seeing, his answer was, “That’s a good question.”

By the time we pulled into Cold Spring, the sun came out though the fall colors didn’t because the warm weather put a halt on Autumn Leaves. The guide gushed about a place he liked to eat whenever he got there. That’s where he’d be going. We wouldn’t be going there, alrighty?

Cold Spring is a neat little town of maybe three blocks on one street up a big hill. To get to the real town part, you have to go under the train tracks. Fact: You can take the train to Cold Spring. You know, instead of driving to Jersey and finding a boat.

We ate lunch at a place called Silver Spoon and then checked out all the little tchotchke and antique shops. Everything was very small town cutesy kitsch. Then it was time to go stand on the line to get back on the boat.

The waters got a bit rough but everyone was drinking a lot, and I think the tour guide got drunk at lunch because he was just off the rails with telling jokes about the electric chair and Sing Sing and saying Alrighty every five seconds and pointing out the same things he’d pointed out previously. Every time we hit a wave, the drunken boaters would all yell something like HAHAHHAAA! or YIPPEEEE! or YEAY!!! Again, people were drinking at breakfast so with a liquid lunch and accessible bar, it was one long booze cruise disguised as a Fall Folage Tour.

The rough waters didn’t bother me but the being stuck on a boat did. I turned to Eddie and said, I need to get off this boat. He laughed. I said, The next time I  have the idea to get on a boat for any reason, punch me in the face. He made a mental note.

By the time we got back to NYC, however, the waters had stilled and the sun was setting. The tour guide left at NYC and got tips on the way out. Eddie tipped him. Eddie is a good man and better person than I.

Back in Jersey, we hopped in the car and drove home on one of the longest drives home from Jersey. Still it was worth the sights we did see, like the Statue of Liberty, the Freedom Tower, West Point, and yes, even some foilage that was kind of autumn inspired.

Approaching Cold Spring:

Cold Spring,  NY:

Mama, I’m Coming Home (but then driving to Jersey to drive back to NY):

In case you are interested in the live tweets from that day, here ya go:

Having missed out on the foliage, we decided to trim back some trees hanging over our yard. I wrote three letters to the houses that might be affected on the other side of the fence. Our houses don’t line up, so I wasn’t sure whom I should contact exactly. I got a phone call from a very nice woman whose trees actually don’t hang over our property after all. I got no other response.

The tree people came and cut stuff down.

Three days later, I saw this note on the fence:

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These people have my phone number. They could have called. Instead, they posted this by climbing through the weedy foresty rarely used gate and crawling across the dead plants and out of control vines to post this on their back fence. AFTER the trees had been cut. If they’re so worried about our cutting their precious plants, maybe they should TAKE NOTICE of what plants they have considering the work was already done.

FYI: we know how they posted the sign because we have cameras on our property. There was an over-middle-aged lady that did it in her bright white sneakers and matching wind breaker. Seriously.

Moral: Fences make good neighbors but common courtesy does not.

Retropost: Brooklyn, Gulliver, and Bull Riding (Sept2017)

I slacked on blogging for the past few months even though I had some fine adventures. So here’s the first of a few retrospectives on the events that unfolded.

I read for the Brownstone Poets series in Brooklyn where I wore heels and walked on cobblestones and did not break anything. With the boys in tow, it made for a sweet afternoon of poetry and diner food and everyone knows I love both.

September also brought about my birthday. Big plans! Plans that did not happen because I went for a massage from which I got a dent in my head that lasted a few hours, got diner food (see? I like it), and then was sick for the next four days, not from the food but like a nose head watery eye cough kind of thing. Only four days–that’s not that bad–but it killed my birthday weekend.

The most fun in September was one day packed with seeing Gulliver’s Gate and then witnessing bull riding in person.

Gulliver’s Gate is all things wee. Since I am wee, I fit right in. The layout is massive and some of it is interactive. They give you a key and you can make some of the little statues move–like Don Qixote chasing a windmill– or you can step into a waterfall. You can also touch things that you aren’t supposed to touch without getting thrown out, but only if you’re slick. There are also some Easter eggs like at Stonehenge, there’s the Dr. Who booth (I know that’s not what it’s called but that’s what it looks like).

On Channel 15 as a kid, I watched bull riding. I don’t know how this happened. So when PBR came to town, we went. It was very patriotic, and we got free stuff, and there was fire.

In the miscellaneous category, I rode a whale.

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Sugar Iron Anniversary

Eddie gave me a box of those snap things that you throw on the ground that pop and party poppers, the plastic things you pull to make noise, for our anniversary. In turn, I gave him a candy-filled plastic tube with a monkey on top that plays the cymbals if you press down on a banana. Sugar and iron aren’t the best gift ideas for six years.

A great idea, however, is to take advantage of a Hilton Grand Vacations offer to stay in Manhattan for the weekend half price if we agree to sit through their tour about buying a vacation for life. No biggie. I can sit there and say no a lot. Done and done.

As soon as we got into the city, I saw Tesla, who also appeared on tv later that evening. He’s everywhere.

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We arrived and stood on the Hilton Honors check in line which is supposed to be a perk but always winds up taking longer than the regular line. Plus, on a Friday afternoon, there were three people behind the counter in total. On a Friday. When people arrive for vacation. And then I realized I wasn’t going to get a cookie because it wasn’t a Double Tree. Dammit. Still, the wait wasn’t too bad and the guy kindly directed us to the counter across the lobby to ask about where to go to see the tour.

Across the lobby, the Hilton Grand guy told me that it’s a presentation. Every email I have and every person I spoke to called it a tour, and now it’s a presentation. Fine. Then he said that the email should have told me where it is. I received five emails, none of which told me. I told him I was asking because the email didn’t say. He said, it’s on the 45th floor, no worries. Okay, no worries then. Clearly, it’s easy to find the top floor for the not-tour presentation.

Because we did the package thing, we were given a room instead of my choosing a room. The room was nice, of course, but there was no fridge and no coffee maker. This seems like a very nitpicky thing, but I’m a snack person and a tea person and I like to keep cold water and fruit in the fridge and make tea in the coffee maker and then sometimes make coffee too.

We headed out to eat at a place called Burger Heaven. It was an oddly shaped diner. The food was fine. We found some sugar and some iron. Then we headed out to see the world.

Public art is free! We found a large concrete living room complete with pigeon pets. We found LOVE. We found HOPE. We found 6 1/2 Ave, which is not public art but is kitschy, which is for me.

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Best Photobomb

Then we went to Madison Square Park to see an art installation that included dancing. We didn’t realize it included dancing until we saw slow-moving people in the middle of the park. It was slow motion movement but also dance and it was kind of fascinating. (The performers are in the solid colored shirts beyond the red arch.)

We saw basically everything I’d planned to see in the first few hours of our weekend. Because I’m a maniac. Eddie started pointing out all the free art we could see from simply walking down the street.

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We’re not sure if this man was copying the statue on purpose.

Because we’d walked pretty far downtown from the hotel, and because I found that the Morgan Library had exhibits we could see for free that would be of some interest, we decided to hang around outside of the library until we were let in. In the lobby, they corralled us until it was exactly the second free entry opened up. We walked to the special exhibit hall first, taking a look at portraits of Henry James and notebooks of Thoreau. Eddie preferred Thoreau. I did, too. You see one portrait of James, you pretty much have seen them all.

Then on the way back, we met friends.

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I know it’s summer. However, I couldn’t warm up once we were back in our room, so this happened.

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Eddie asked me more than several times if I was sick, if I was okay, and what was wrong with me. This is love.

The next day, as soon as Eddie opened his eyes, I dragged him to the window. I’d somehow missed seeing our grand view when I’d first looked out the window.

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We could see the LOVE statue! Fridge and coffee maker be damned. This was the best room ever!

Soon after, we went to breakfast at Astro Diner down the street. They have a whole menu devoted to Greek Yogurt. I got eggs instead, but the yogurt creations were quite tempting. Then it was onto experience Summer Streets, when the city closes down Park Ave so that riders, runners, skaters, scooterers, and walkers can do those things in the street without being hit by a car, and vendors can vend things. But first, we found Lever House, which is a building I’ve wanted to see for a really long time. It’s an office building, but the first floor always has an art exhibit. This exhibit wasn’t one I’d particularly wanted to see, but I was happy I’d finally found the building itself. The guard was like, You can sit on those if you want. We were like, thanks, but then moved further away. They seemed germy.

Now, onto Summer Streets! Being that we had walked a lot the day before, I was moving much more slowly, which isn’t the best situation to be in when you want to cross Park Ave amid hundreds of cyclists. We stuck with one side first, opting to go to the tents where they were giving away free stuff. My first free thing was an I Love NY sticker. We waited on line to spin a wheel and win something from a booth about the Greenbelt, but there were two kids there hogging the thing so we gave up. (Kids. Seriously. As if they’re the only ones allowed to have the fun). We made our way to the I Love NY booth where we got more stickers and a bag and a map and even more stickers. I was in free stuff heaven. I also got a bike map and glow in the dark don’t run me over tag for my brother for riding.

We crossed the street and found a Botanical Gardens booth where they gave me a rosemary plant seedling. (It lasted a week in my care. This is a triumph, a sad sad triumph). Then we found drummers. They danced and drummed non-stop. Just when we thought it would be over, it kept going. We were mesmerized. A woman was grabbing people to dance. I wanted to dance but was not walking right at that point so dancing seemed to be not the thing to do. Instead, we found some steps to sit on next to a fountain. Fact: children love fountains. Fact: parents are dumb because they let their children run towards the fountain by themselves and let them stay there by themselves as if the water in the fountain cannot cause drowning and children can’t be injured by falling into the concrete basin because it’s a damn pretty fountain and children are so darn cute. Moved by this rush of fountain-love, we took photos of ourselves as well.

Then it was time for the not-tour-presentation somewhere in the large hotel. We asked again at the Hilton Grand counter. The person behind the counter had to pause what she was doing with the people in front of us because it seemed very confusing to give us directions for how to get to the 45th floor, which by the way was not a simple task. When we found the mini elevator to take us there (after several housekeepers directed us without our having to ask) the people who had been at the counter piled into the elevator with us. The elevator was maybe the size of a dumb waiter, so we were crammed and uncomfortable. Thankfully, it was only one floor and then we could see the entire city through the huge windows. There was free food, too. I got cheese and grapes and tea. Eddie got a Coke.

After maybe ten minutes and us thinking we could skip out, one of the sales guys came over to us and so it began. We’d seen other sales people being really aggressive, and I told Eddie that if anyone started talking in my face like one guy was doing to another couple, I was going to walk away without saying anything. Thankfully, this guy was a self-proclaimed non-aggressive type. He was a pretty good salesperson but kept saying that if the product wasn’t for us, he’d tell us. Turns out, the product was for us.

What’s the product? It’s hard to describe. You’re buying a deed to property, but not an actual place, though it is in a building. You’re buying points for a lifetime. You’re also buying a maintenance fee for a lifetime. You’re buying a vacation forever. It’s like buying a house without seeing it first and on a whim.

Because we travel once a year, this was for us. Because we are already Hilton Honors members, this was for us. Because we have no children and don’t see any reason to stop taking one trip a year in the future, this was for us.

The cost never came up until we were deep in the not-tour-presentation on the secret 45th floor after seeing slideshows and talking about Long Island and the stock market and mortgages and some more Long Island (the sales guy was from Long Island and we chatted more about not the product than the actual product and it was like hanging out with some guy we’d met once before and happened to run into again–it was bizarre). We also talked about sports, yoga, his back problems, my hip problems, Eddie’s job, and a lot of very not relevant things all the way up to the time of the price sheet. The guy who I guess was in charge came over and gave us a number and then more numbers and then deals and more deals. We would be buying like so many points they could last a lifetime plus the life time points we were getting for buying anyway. It got so convoluted and I got so deep into it and it was like teetering on the edge of buying into the not-tour-presentation until they both walked away and I was like, Hold. The F. Up.

They kept saying how our vacations were practically paid for by buying into the program. You know what we were buying? Abstract property. So that would be a place to stay, but what about getting there and back? What about eating? What about fun things to do? I’m sure there were some perks, but this was not a full vacation they were selling. Plus, there’s a monthly fee for the rest of your life. I get that we would be saving some money in the long run on hotels, but that’s the perk? A 5 star hotel that I would be sleeping in during my vacation when I’m mostly out? Okay, okay, if we stayed at a resort, we’d be in, not out, but still. This was crazytown. Plus, when you have to keep asking each other, What exactly are we buying, it’s totally not a good deal.

Three hours later.

Yes, three hours later, we were able to leave with the guy in charge being very disappointed in us. Seriously, he dead in the eye told me, You’re making the wrong decision. I dead in the eye told him, Back off, bucko, and nudged him in the shoulder.

Well, that’s what I did in my mind. Out loud, I ignored the comment and said, Thank you soooo much for your time!

Wiped out, we decided to take the $100 restaurant voucher we’d gotten for sitting through the not-tour-presentation to sit down to a nice meal at the NYY Steakhouse. Score! (oh, jeez, that pun was not on purpose). We got enough food to equal up to the voucher, including a brownie dessert that came with long spoons that we didn’t understand until the dessert came out not on a plate but in a long glass. They also gave me a giant spoon for my coffee, the server actually saying as he put it down, Apologies for this incredibly large spoon but apparently all the smaller ones are being cleaned. Ha! He was a great server.

We walked over to the AMC to see Spider-Man afterwards. As we were buying our tickets, it was sold out. Literally, the seats disappeared as we were choosing seats on the screen. We grabbed a cab to take back to the hotel to avoid any impending storm.

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New York bagels for breakfast was the plan. The Sunday morning streets were pretty empty so walking to the deli was delightful, especially since I could move without dragging my leg. Improvement! We got back to the room with our toasty bagels, and the door wouldn’t open. The lock wouldn’t light up. I figured since it was check out day, maybe the keys weren’t working. I used the phone near the elevator to call down to the front desk, and they sent up security.

The guard asked for my ID first–thank you for being good at your job, sir–and then tried to open the door. He said he had to call for the master metal key because the batteries were dead, and the locksmith wouldn’t get there until 10 AM. While we waited, we heard about his time in the military. He was a pretty cool guy. He called to check up on the guy with the key who was somewhere in the hotel doing another job until he understood that the key was needed immediately since we were in the hallway. He appeared in a minute to let us in, and they left promising us vouchers for breakfast.

We ate our bagels we’d already bought and packed up to go. I found the vouchers for breakfast under our door. They were worth $30 each. I wasn’t about to let this opportunity go to waste, so when we got down to the lobby, I asked the person at the buffet if I could simply get coffee and a Coke, explaining to her why I had the vouchers. She offered to re-date them for the next day, and I said we were checking out. She then took me over to one of the servers and told him to get me a decaf and a Coke to go. And he did. A $30 decaf and a $30 soda. Boom.

It was time to go home, ice my old lady joints, and to nap away the Hilton Grand experience. Sugar and iron and pretty city things, that’s what anniversaries are made of.

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St. Augustine: The Place Not The Person IV

The last day of vacation is not for traveling. It’s for seeing more things before we leave! Neither one of us golfs more than mini, but since we were in the vicinity, we went to the World Golf Village to see the World Golf Hall of Fame. Fact: many different civilizations played golf but called it kolf. That’s the main thing I learned about golf. That and Bob Hope was important.

The place was pretty empty so we had the full attention of all the docents. One asked if we wanted to take pictures with a large golf club. I asked how big it was. He said, Pretty big.

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We read all about Bob Hope, whose history in golf takes up pretty much the first floor. There we found the makeshift golf club the astronauts used when they landed on the moon!

Upstairs, we got to pretend we were at St. Andrews and then pretend to play golf in olden times. My ball got closer than Eddie’s ball. Then Eddie stood in a recreation of the hardest hole in golf. Then we hit more balls and didn’t get them into any holes.

Also, we both won a tournament, scored a trophy, medalled at the Olympics, and met Tiger Woods.

This was turning out to be a pretty fantastic day! We took a ride up the tower to see the sights and then spent some time in the actual hall of fame where the plaques are. That’s where we also saw fashion through the ages and a tribute to women’s golf. We found a mechanical swinger thing and Eisenhower’s golf cart. Eddie also took a try at the golf simulator. I did not. Then came the hit-the-ball-over-the-water activity. Eddie hit his into the water. I wiffed it three times and then hit my ball a foot off the tee and it wasn’t even a real hit; it was a trickle. The guy told me to to it again, and I was like, We’ll be here all day, so Eddie hit it, and this time, it went further into the water.

Our golf careers over, we headed to the Riverwalk in Jacksonville. We took a pit stop at the gas station/fresh fruit mart. Then onto the Riverwalk, which we couldn’t find. The address of it conflicts with the sign downtown that has the arrow pointed the other direction. Basically, it should have two addresses, one for each side of the river. The side we found was the park side that had no place to eat anything. I ate the lime coconut things I’d bought at the gas station/fresh fruit mart. Eddie opted to feel faint and hungry until we found food.

We found food at a Wendy’s off the highway on the way to the airport. All the signage boasted their new mango strawberry salad, so I ordered one. The cashier was like, We don’t got no mangoes. Then she asked the manager about the mangoes, and the manager was like, We got mangoes, you mean the drink? And the cashier was like, No the mango salad. And the manager was like, No we don’t got no mangoes. So the cashier turned to me to report, We don’t got no mangoes, so you still want it? I was like, Does it have the strawberries? She was like, Yes, and I was like, Sure. The strawberry salad was good. Eddie had his usual cheeseburger, and then we headed to the airport. It has some stunning windows.

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These are the windows we stared at for the next few hours as our flight home was delayed because of weather. However, we got through what was supposed to be a very rainy few days without much rain affecting us, so since we were done with seeing all the things one could possibly see, fine then. We got home, obviously, with much more knowledge about history than before and hopefully a new-sprung youth.

St. Augustine: The Place Not The Person III

Fact: Drinking from the Fountain of Youth makes you stay young. Here, “Fact,” means myth. You can believe in myths, especially ones that keep you young. After making friends at the Old Jail, Eddie and I made our way to the Fountain of Youth, where we made some bird friends. One peacock was not very friendly; it was attacking its own reflection on the side of a mini-van. The other peacocks seemed unperturbed, simply living the sweet life. Hooray for more birds. We met either de Aviles or Ponce de Leon at the entrance. They are both important people and neither of them has the first name Ponce. See? I learned something.

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My reaction when peacocks attack

The first stop after entering is the Fountain of Youth. You see, there are a lot of other things to do at the park, which we discovered after going inside. It’s not only water that makes you young, but it’s also lots of old stuff because that’s what St. Augustine is, a history lesson.

Then we met Tina Jones.

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I’m assuming you can figure out the backstory on this one.

We then ventured through the original Old Mission (before the guy dressed as a monk got there, so we were pleased we didn’t need to interact), the watchtower, the cannon (we watched them shoot some arrows and then fire the cannon, so it’s safe to say we’ve had our fair share of cannon fire), some Temucua village huts, and the demonstration of fire arms that started out with an accidental flash in the pan (the guy was apologetic, but I was happy it happened because we learned why and that’s what this trip was about–learning and history). You can see how happy we are learning in the loft of the mission.

In our defense, we’d climbed the lighthouse the day before. My calves were on fire with every step, especially down stairs. Also, we clearly love learning.

We also walked out onto the explorers’ landing. The views from the end are really pretty. Fact: a chalupa is a boat. We have no idea what the thingies coming up from the mud are. I guessed some sort of clam or mussel, but they didn’t smell, so I could be very wrong. We also saw an egret / heron / ibis. Despite our time in the bird swamp, I still can’t tell the difference. I do know a cross when I see one, however.

We sat through a presentation that boasted a gigantic globe. The globe was gigantic. Very cool. The presentation was really terrible. The voice over guy boomed without making sense and following the lights on the globe proved to be confusing at best. It lasted only 13 minutes. Like every presentation there lasts about 13 minutes. We didn’t sit through another one. We had more places to go to learn about old things.

Before leaving, we found this but decided against feeding anything other than ourselves.

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We left through the exit because that’s how I roll. Also because that’s a sign for cars and we were on foot.

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We walked across the street to the Fountain of Juice. It’s a real thing. We had to go because it’s the smartest name for a place in the world. Eddie got a lemonade that was so tart he could drink only a third of it. I got a fruit smoothie with berries but mostly it tasted like apple, which was still delicious.

Onward to old things! We found the Oldest House that is, I think, more than one old house. It’s like houses and one is the oldest and one is the second oldest. It had a cool door. We didn’t go inside. Fact: Five Flags have flown over Florida: the old Spanish flag with the red X, France, the new Spanish flag, colonial US, and modern US. I know that from memory.

We then took a glance at the water and visited a goat.

Time for mini-golf. We pulled up to Fiesta Falls to find waterfalls and a ship. Then while playing, we realized we got to go on the ship and through the falls! One of the best mini-golf places we’ve been to! It was incredibly dreadfully hot, so he got ice cream and I got a lemon-lime slushy when we finished. He beat me, but not by much AND I got a hole in one.

Then we went to the beach. Like for under five minutes. We’re probably the only people who go to Florida and don’t bring bathing suits. I mean, the beach is nice but who has time to lay out in the sun with all this learning going on? The sand felt like silk.

And then we went to see Wonder Woman.

St. Augustine: The Place Not The Person II

Sunshine in Florida with the threat of rain but not at the beaches means a day to see as much of St. Augustine as possible, which was the same plan as the first day when we saw a lot of stuff but now there was even more stuff. I like stuff.

We began the day across the street from our hotel at Mission Nombre de Dios and The Shrine of Our Lady of La Leche. Eddie showed off his mad Spanish skillz by asking more than once, Why is there a shrine about milk–because leche is milk, so why? I didn’t have the answer to that. All I knew was there was a very large cross that I wanted to see up close. I couldn’t get too close, but close wasn’t necessary to take in its gravity.  We also received some mixed messages through the signage, but we quickly got distracted by the lizards. There are a lot of them, and they are adorable.

We drove over the Bridge of Lions to Anastasia Island, known for its pretty beaches. We didn’t go to the beach. We went to the Alligator Farm, which should be called the Alligator and Bird Farm Where Birds Fly Near Your Head. Too long for a sign, I suppose. The farm is bigger than it seems; every time we thought we’d seen it all, we didn’t. Parts of it smelled real bad.

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Uncontrollable face when smelling bad animal smell

Parts of it had flying birds. The big question Eddie had here: Why don’t the birds fly away? I guessed because they got food here. Along some of the pathways, there were dispensers that looked like those machines that give you gum or plastic crap when you put a quarter in. Instead, they had food pellets. You could feed the birds or the alligators. I don’t know what the pellets were, but when we went to leave, we found a change machine, changed out a dollar, went back into the swamp, and fed the alligators. Eddie caused a frenzy among three of them who crowded around and snapped at the pellets. My main concern was not dropping a phone or camera into the water. My other main concern was not getting shit on by a bird.

Some random snippets: there was incense burning in one part of the park but not the really smelly part. Crocodiles usually have a lower fang tooth that sticks up, and that’s how you know it’s not an alligator.  Komodo dragons see you, bruh, and they aren’t impressed.

Having seen more than enough alligators and crocodiles and birds and reptiles, we went to the lighthouse. Since we were walking everywhere, climbing a lot of stairs seemed like the perfect complement. The lighthouse has a lot of history, yet this is what first caught Eddie’s eye.

After we got through the exciting parking lot, we headed towards the path to get to the lighthouse. We saw boats. We headed into the woodsy trail where we saw more lizards and Eddie got eaten by bugs and I did not. When we came to the end of the path, we found the lighthouse. It was hard to miss.

The bottom floor of the lighthouse has a lot more history, especially about the keeper who had to carry a 40 pound metal jug thingie up and down stairs. Then we climbed the spiral staircase, aware that there were wasps at the top to greet us when we arrived. We make good decisions.

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Fact: the wasps go up there to mate. After getting to the top, we had to get to the bottom. Down and around we went, and then out and up over to the keeper’s quarters, where there were more artifacts and things.  Eddie found a friend.

Once we got back to the front part of the grounds, I wasn’t feeling great. Somehow, I hadn’t been eating snacks or drinking anything. As fit as a person is, when she doesn’t snack and drink, she feels the effects of lighthouse climbing. I sat on a bench and ate almonds, and then we headed to town in the cool air conditioning of the car, which was the remedy for my ails. We drove forever looking for parking, and then gave up, drove to the hotel, and walked back down into town.  Apparently, I’m really into borders because as with the excitement of the gates on Day 1, I was equally excited to see the Bridge of Lions up close along with the Welcome To St. Augustine wall. The walk to the Bridge of Lions was a sunny sweaty mess, but the breeze from the water along the very high wall thingie we were walking on brought a bit of relief. Also bringing relief? Knowing where we were headed for lunch.

Another bit of a walk but we found it. The main reason I had come to St. Augustine: Cousteau’s Waffle and Milkshake Bar.St Aug Day 2 (189)It was like home. It was like heaven. It’s everything anyone needs to live a good life. Also, it’s a nice place to sit when you’ve spent the morning walking and climbing and sweating. He got a plain waffle with whipped cream. I got a waffle with Nutella and strawberries. Mmmmmmmmmm.

Then we got milkshakes. He got vanilla. I got key lime pie. Yes yes yes yes yes.

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Let’s all take a breath and a sigh in recognition of this very important moment in life.

Fueled up, we walked some more. Surprise! We found some cute little shops. We found this.

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Then on one last walk back to the hotel, we stopped by the Old Senator Tree. When I’m home, I’m trying to get rid of trees near my property. When I’m on vacation, I’m looking for them. Anyway, this tree is over 600 years old and very large. It’s in the parking lot of the Howard Johnson. Of course.

 

St. Augustine: The Place Not The Person, I

Everything in St. Augustine is either The Oldest something or The First something. A walkable town, doable in a long weekend, it proved to be the perfect destination.

And so, at 5:50 AM at JFK, with wall-to-wall people in long lines at security, we excitedly hauled our luggage and took off our shoes to head south for warm weather. Every time we fly, I say to Eddie as soon as we get through security, We should have brought bagels, because we go off through the terminal to find bagels and though we’re in New York, no one has bagels. However, we found bagels at a stand that flaunted a menu of very intricate bagel offerings from breakfast through dinner. They seemed to be the only bagel place because the line was long. Still, we had to wait to go on the plane anyway, so waiting here wasn’t a big deal. What was a big deal was asking for two toasted sesame bagels with butter. We caused chaos. When the lady in charge of the panini press got to ours, she put cream cheese on them. The line backed up when we said we wanted butter. Some guy on line yelled out, I’ll take those! Then the lady went to put plain bagels on the grill while simultaneously making a different bagel sandwich stick to the panini press. I called out, We ordered sesame please! She looked flabberagasted. The guy who’d called out that he’d take the cream cheese error grabbed  his daughter and left, saying they didn’t know what they were doing. No one ate the cream cheese bagels, but we finally got what we ordered. By the time we walked to our gate, which is always the farthest gate, we had soggy bagels.

On the bright side, this fiasco kept us occupied so we weren’t waiting around, bored, for our flight. Also, I found a wave sculpture in the airport after we went through security, right outside the bagel place. Off to a good start!

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These ladies liked watching me pose for this.

The flight was uneventful. Yeay! Landing in JAX, we saw clouds but also sunshine. We found our luggage quickly, rented our car quickly, careened around the parking lot looking for our car slowly, and then finally found it. It was a Yaris. Awww! Shout out to Yolanda, wherever she may roam.

Sun shone down on St. Augustine as we drove in. We checked in real quick and then found an elephant in our room.

Towel elephant on bed

Ready to explore and find lunch, we put on shorts! and walked downtown. We saw the large cross right across the street from our hotel. We passed by the bookstore I’d wanted to visit. We saw where the Visitor’s Center was as well as the Castillo de San Marco. We saw everything on my Fun List Of Things I Want To Do In St. Augustine. We also saw trolleys and trains zig zagging across the small streets. Who needs a trolley or a train when you can walk and see everything? Not us! Okay, Eddie may have liked to not walked as much, but that simply wasn’t an option because I was on a mission.

We wound up at a place called Burger Buckets. They serve food in shallow buckets. The food is mostly burgers. They also have a food challenge. You can order a super duper sized burger thingie for like 29.99 but you don’t have to pay if you finish it faster than the last person who did it. I got a veggie burger instead.

Then, I threw away the daily itinerary and decided I wanted to see everything right away. First up, the Castillo de San Marco. They shoot off a cannon! The walls are made of coquina, which contains a bunch of stuff including seashells. The main rule was don’t touch, lean, or sit on the walls. Easy enough. We headed to the top level to watch the men in costume make and take orders in Spanish and then covered our ears when several people yelled, Cover your ears! Then they shot the cannon. I don’t think there was a cannonball in it; otherwise, the ships in the water would’ve been in trouble.

The sky grew grayer. We scooted around the top level to see everything, and then the drizzle turned to actual rain, so we went downstairs. We ran through rain to see each of the inside rooms around the first level, which included climbing through a tiny tunnel to find the most inner room that had nothing but a light in it. When we went through, a guy from the other side called out, What’s in there? I was like, A lightbulb. He was like, Okay thanks, and didn’t climb through. We saw carvings on the walls and learned about the five flags of Florida. Also, Fact: Ponce de Leon’s first name is Juan. Fact: Before seeing the Castillo, I thought his first name was Ponce. I’m a teacher!

The rain let up, so we left the Castillo where I immediately found the City Gate. I don’t know why I was excited about finding them, but I was, and it was old and it was great!

Next up was the Visitors’ Center. They had lots of old things there along with a history exhibit but a lot of the stuff in that exhibit we’d already learned at the Castillo. Like how Juan is Ponce de Leon’s first name. Then Eddie got into a fight! Hehehe.

I picked up some coupons at the center, so we got into the Oldest Schoolhouse for a dollar less than regular admission. Score! The schoolhouse is tiny and has a giant chain that runs around and through it so that the wind doesn’t take it away during a storm. There are pretty gardens outside, and inside are scary animatronics,. The one wearing the dunce cap asks if he can graduate at the end of the presentation. There’s also a rudimentary time-out space that is more of a closet that they locked bad kids in. Also, the teacher’s rules include reading good books after teaching all day and bringing in coal every day. Male teachers can go a-courting. Female teachers will be dismissed if they marry. You know, regular old teacher stuff. Things aren’t much different.

Then I went on a mission to find the Love Tree. It was on a street somewhere. I know, that’s very helpful! We walked up and down streets, backtracking and going in circles. Finally, at the address we’d passed several times without seeing what I was looking for, Eddie was like, Oh, it’s that giant tree. Yes, yes it was a huge tree. We went inside to find out if we could get a copper heart to add onto it, but no one was really inside the store area, which was really a house. It was really weird. So we settled on simply climbing in among everyone else’s hearts.

Then we became pirates! Lookit how thrilled my husband is!

It was starting to get rainy, so I found another inside-thing to do. Wolf’s Museum of Oddities. It was odd and creepy and the scariest thing was thinking that things were going to jump out at me, so I kept making Eddie go first into the rooms.

The rain really started coming down, but this was the first Friday of the month, and the galleries all open up for an Art Walk that I really wanted to do. I had my umbrella and a map, so we went through the streets to find some galleries. We found several along one strip, so we started there. Eddie and I liked the art in the first one, and then it was okay in the others. Only one gallery was serving wine. I saw another one that had a musician. Then it was getting a little sad because the rain was really pounding down, ruining the night for the galleries. Eddie put on the poncho we had and I hugged my umbrella over me, though it had created a hole in itself with one of the metal pieces that broke off in it.

We walked back to the hotel through rivers of rain water. I was pretty sure I was picking up at least seven kinds of malaria. It wasn’t cold, though, so there was that. Plus, we’d been in the sun and wearing shorts and it had been hot. This was the face I couldn’t stop making as we trudged back.

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BUT we got to the room and both cheered because there was a cobra in our room!

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It’s the little things.

Tea steeping in a mug

Name That Trivia

Back in 2015, music and movie trivia ended up going pretty okay. We didn’t win, of course, but we also didn’t come in last.  No, coming in last was reserved for October Trivia, which was easily researchable, but I am of a lazy people and didn’t even look up the reason we make Jack-o-lanterns.

Tea steeping in a mug

Tea in a Back To The Future Mug — it’s pretty amazing.

This time around, music trivia from the 1970s to today unfolded in May at Sip This with my brother as my main team member (vinyl genius) and Eddie as a team member who would probably show up if he could get there in time. My expertise? I mean, come on. We know by know: I put the team together. Things were looking up!

This trivia was a little different. The host Stephanie reminded us that we were there for FUN, and we’d start with a written portion. Then we’d do out loud answers. Then we’d do more writing. Oooh, interesting. The total number of points we could earn was 146. Even more interesting!

The first written portion was finish a lyric for one point and then name the artist for one point. The first one was about something Fahrenheit and I was like, We are totally losing. My brother didn’t know it either. BUT the second one, we totally  knew. And then the next and the next. For some of them, we simply filled in answers using the formula, If it says baby, it must be country, so Toby Keith! OR if it says gown, it must be rap, so Lil’ Wayne! (That particular answer was Lorde). There was one answer we wrote next to which I drew an arrow and indicated: This is incorrect. Here on Team 4, we’re realists.

Still, we knew a bunch, and most of them we answered by pointing at the paper, whisper-exclaiming, I know that song!, and then humming through a bunch of wrong tunes until finding the right one. There’s nothing like singing the lyrics to a U-2 song to the melody of a Katy Perry jam.

Fact: my brother, the walking record store, did NOT know that Ricky Martin had been in Menudo. I did. Suddenly, I had more of a hand in this thing that simply putting the team together. Yes, there was a Ricky Martin question.

Also, I impressed myself by remembering the lyrics to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.” Thank goodness for lyrics like “mom’s spaghetti.”

After a few very generous minutes more than we were supposed to have, they collected our papers. We  moved onto the out loud part, which consisted of Host Stephanie reading to us song lyrics, and us having to write down the song and artist.

Now its’ time for Stop What You’re Doing & Try This At Home. Find a friend, and have that friend read you a random song lyric with no inflection. Then figure out the song. You can ask your friend to repeat it.

Guaranteed, you will do one of the following:

  • Squint your eyes, scrunch up your face, and think really hard.
  • Cover your hands over your face and repeat, I know this.
  • Squeeze your head.
  • Hit the table or chair or couch or whatever furniture is near until your fingers go numb.
  • Sing the lyrics to as many different tunes as possible.

The best part is when you rack your brain so hard only to find out the answer is some song you’ve never even heard of. No, you don’t know every song. Plus, repeating rarely helps.

That’s how I got through each decade when I had to think of an answer. For the most part, though, my brother was grabbing the dry erase board and marker and scratching out the answers. The 70s went really well, and I knew some answers, but only after he’d begun writing them down. Except for “Brass In Pocket” by The Pretenders. That one was all me.

Fact: That song that a lot of people refer to as Teenage Wasteland is actually called “Baba O’Riley.” My brother wrote it down, and I was like, You put that on my mix tape when I first went to college. He was like, wasn’t it good for studying?

Eddie showed up. Team 4 was now complete! He sat and was like, You guys look like you’re doing pretty good. I was like, Don’t jinx it, man!

Then the 80s came, and we were like, this is where it all falls apart. It didn’t fall apart. We knew stuff. Then the 90s came, and we were like, this is where it all falls apart. It didn’t fall apart. We knew stuff. The stuff we didn’t know we answered with guesses like The Smashing Pumpkins 1979. There was also a Madonna song that I thought was that Heart song about walking into a car and planting a tree. Apparently, I’m the only person who remembers that song. Another song that not many people remember? “Pretty Fly For A White Guy,” which I got from the lyric about getting a tattoo of the wrong number.

I couldn’t remember it was The Offspring who sang it, so my brother guessed Chumbawumba, which is the greatest wrong guess in the world in any situation. The next time you don’t know something, answer Chumbawumba.

Eddie knew The Red Hot Chili Peppers because he has “Under The Bridge” on his iPod, which is one of the songs I always ask him to skip. Ha! Every time we heard something that stumped us, I turned to Eddie and pushed him, saying, You know this one!

When the 2000s rolled around, things went a bit downhill for everyone with Host Stephanie reading us lyrics with a sing-song tone to give us hints and then asking, has anyone written down even a guess? Again, very generous. Twice, we wrote simply Adele because as Eddie and my brother indicated, she sings songs in the 2000s. Later on, one of the answers actually was Adele, “Rolling In The Deep,” so, truth. This portion got cut a bit short because it was getting somewhat painful, probably more-so for Host Stephanie who had to look at a sea of blank faces and hopeful wrong answers.

We switched to the final written portion: Name That Tune! Remember that show? I can name that tune in however many notes! This was a little different. Instead of bidding, we got to listen to 10 seconds.

Host Stephanie played the first bit. After two seconds, my brother grabbed the pen and paper. “Starman” by David Bowie. He was like, if the rest of them are like that, we’re going to do fine. One of the songs was “Don’t Speak” by No Doubt, which is my least favorite song in the world. At this point, Eddie decided to sing each song in what he thinks is a whisper, which really is a normal talking voice that everyone could hear. I kept shushing him, and he kept not-whisper-singing. The three of us struggled mostly with one towards the end that I wound up writing Rihanna (Not Umbrella), Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, and then Rihanna again at Eddie’s guarantee that it was her. We couldn’t come up with the song title (“Disturbia,” and I didn’t get a point for writing Not Umbrella). Also, I knew “Riptide” but couldn’t come up with the artist, Vance Joy.

Then it was time to calculate the points. It was  now out of around 120 points since the last out loud portion was cut a little short. There were six teams. We didn’t come in last.

The final two teams had a difference of about 20 points, the second place earning somewhere in the 60 point range and the first place earning 82.

Team 4 got 82 points. Hey, we were Team 4.

WE WON TRIVIA!!!!!

I didn’t over-react or anything. I simply jammed my hands in the air and raised them up and down a few times. After having clapped the whole time for every right answer we got, I think everyone kind of knew I would be thrilled about this. Host Stephanie pointed out that the day had finally come for me, and yes, yes it had. Whoo-hooooo!

She gave us a prize bag, indicating it was difficult to figure out exactly what the prize should be. Like, for Harry Potter Trivia, you can get a bunch of Harry Potter mugs and figurines. For music, she was like, I can’t get a Metallica t-shirt, right? Right! Instead, we got this: a gift certificate to Ticketmaster and a gift certificate to Sip This.

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This prize is perfect for music trivia. I told my brother that the Ticketmaster portion was his. I took the Sip This gift certificate for me and Eddie. Fair is fair. I put the team together, and Eddie and I both contributed, but my brother carried the team. Teamwork!

After taking our picture with all of our prizes and my newly designed winner dry erase board, Host Stephanie was like, You can still keep coming, though. It’s as if she was reading my mind. I was thinking, this is my final trivia because a gal’s gotta go out on top!

However, the goal has never actually been to win. The goal has always been to not come in last. After that happened, the goal was to not come in last again. We’ve surpassed that goal. But now, ooooh! New goal: maintain a winning streak! It’s settled. We’re going back.

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(Can we please do the exact same music trivia again?)

Best Friend Sinbad

Remember when my sabbatical ended on the most glorious note? When I found my best friend? When Sinbad tweeted at me? Twice!

My best friend Sinbad came back around to the New York area for a friendship visit with me and 348 other people. On the rainiest night of Spring, Eddie and I drove up to Nyack as the sunset for a 9:30 PM show after thinking all day we’d be going to the 7:30 show and then printing out the tickets and realizing, hey, the show starts past my bedtime. Good thing we looked at the tickets before leaving, though.

Side note: when I was an undergrad in Oneonta, we would drive through Nyack to get there. There are apparently a South Nyack and a North Nyack, and the signs say (or used to say to my recollection) So Nyack and No Nyack, so we’d entertain ourselves by saying, Soooooo Nyack?  Nooooo Nyack! This was entertaining back then. Okay, who am I kidding? Still entertaining now. Also entertaining? Mooing at cows.

The Palisades Mall is like a small village, but we easily found the parking lot we needed to be in, which was pretty full. That meant walking in the rain, but it wasn’t too bad. A plus–the line for the club was inside, unlike the line we stood on for Wheel of Fortune or when we went to see Santa at the Montauk Lighthouse.

Waiting on line with Eddie is a bit of a challenge, especially when I’m wearing rainboots and not heels. We like each other, we really do, but since he’s almost a foot taller than I am, having a conversation in a noisy place poses a bit of a problem. I’ll say something to him;  he’ll stare off into space. I’ll nudge him and say, I said something to you. He’ll say, What? I’ll say, Nevermind I don’t remember. Then we stare in different directions again.

One thing I was trying to point out to him was a woman standing on line on the other side of the rope (the line was like a line from a theme park). Her shirt said: Nah. And then right under that it said: –Rosa Parks, 1955. I thought this was Hil. Air. Eee. Us. However, trying to point it out loud enough for Eddie to hear but not for the woman to know I was talking about her proved to be impossible. But it’s a funny shirt, right? Right.

We were let into the club at around 9:30 PM. So the show didn’t start then. We were seated at a table towards the front around people who were quiet and looking at their phones for the most part. We ordered food (do not get the pretzel at Levity Live if you’ve ever had an authentic NYC street pretzel–it’s just not okay) and drinks (an unsweetened iced tea because I’m wild). Then the host came out.

The host was not the club host. He was Sinbad’s host. I think his name was Devin, so let’s call him that. He made us laugh about being in Nyack but not ready for the city, and he was mispronouncing Nyack until someone in the crowd corrected him. At one point, he forgot part of his act and looked it up on his phone, which was actually pretty funny, and it worked out only because what he said afterwards was funny. Unfortunately, not exactly memorable, but I know we laughed. [SIDE NOTE: I just mis-typed laughed so badly that spell check thought I wanted to say lathered. Now that’s comedy.]

Here’s the difference between comics and long-standing career comics: Sinbad came out and the very first thing he said had the entire club howling. It was something as simple as feeling old and wanting to sit down. It was pure funny. Eddie and I were laughing loudly out loud. The cell phone couple across from us were offering up huge belly laughs. The entire room woke up with non-stop giggles and hoots and table-slapping.

Devin stayed on stage the whole show. He was like a backup singer for a musical act, chiming in every now and then, and answering questions when asked directly by Sinbad. For the most part, though, it was all Sinbad, doing his thing and interacting with the audience. So quick. So witty. So obviously thankful for being able to do that for a living.

Sinbad