AWP Portland, OR Bust (Retrospective)

Here’s a vocabulary lesson.

Conferencing: going to a conference.
As in: I’m conferencing because AWP is in Portland, and I’ve always wanted to go to Portland. By “always” I  mean since I found out about the donuts.

Sidenote: AWP stands for Association of Writing Professionals. Okay, I’m lying and I’m lazy. I’m missing a word. Association for Writers and Writing Professionals? It’s one of those or a combination of the two.

Paneling: being a person that sits at a table and talks during a session at the conference
As in: I’m paneling with other community college faculty to discuss why creative writing programs are growing while overall enrollment is shrinking. My panel went really well. I gave a presentation complete with Willy Wonka and Oprah memes (you can see that and more here: Why They Keep Coming ). Also at my panel, I re-met a guy who lived a parallel life with us both having connections to NCC, Oneonta, and Hofstra. It turns out we were once in the same room talking poetry more than a decade ago. Here we are a decade later, talking teaching poetry.

Tabling: sitting at a table, eating candy, chatting with conference goers, handing out fliers and buttons.
As in: I’m tabling for the caucus and I’m tabling for the Cambridge Writers’ Workshop. Tabling was fun. I got to meet the good folks at Gunpowder Press who shared their table with the caucus. I got to meet and reconnect and share bookish fodder with the writers connected to CWW. I got to get people to sign up for the caucus and for information on future CWW events. And the candy. Oh, the candy.

AWP Day 3 (6)

Caucusing: um. okay, so I asked around and looked it up and I’m pretty sure a caucus is a smaller group with in a bigger group.
As in: I’m caucusing with the Two Year Community College Caucus at AWP. The two year group is part of the bigger AWP group. I think. In any case, I went to the caucus meeting and met other caucusers.

Fountaining: taking oneself on a walking tour of Portland, OR to see all the municipal fountains listed on Portland’s Municipal Fountains website.
As in: I went fountaining the day I got to Portland. It was raining, so I did it in the rain because that’s what people do in Portland. They go about their day as if it is not raining. Otherwise, they wouldn’t do a whole lot because there’s a lot of rain. I found most of the fountains using a list and a paper map. Since I get lost in large parking lots, I was friggin over-the-rainclouds proud that I was able to navigate without getting lost. Wherever I couldn’t find a fountain, I took a picture of where I thought it should be. (You can hover over or click on any photo to see which fountain it is).

Fact: The next three days, it did not rain, and I did this all in the rain when I could have waited and not.

Lyfting: taking a Lyft; closely associated to Ubering: taking an Uber
As in: I’ve never taken ride shares before, but I didn’t rent a car, and public transportation sometimes confuses me, so when the Uber my roommate called for wasn’t right on the corner right next to us when the app said it was, I used Lyft for the first time. As a first time experience, it was not good. At minute intervals, drivers kept dropping out and then a new one would be a few minutes away. Watching them on the map proved to be confusing because they kept coming close to the street we were on and then not turning on the street to get us. Most of them were named Tim. We wound up with a nice driver who told us he came to Portland for the weed business and now he was driving but he used to be a rapper. So, you know, I made a friend because sci fi fem poetry is almost exactly the same thing. Bobbee Papp is my hero.

AWP Day 2 (1)

After that, Lyftying was so much better because they all arrived without dropping out. And then on the last day we were there, an Uber driver almost slammed us into a street car, and my roomie was like, Should I rate him? and I was like, He almost killed us, and she was like, Should I tip him? and I was like, He almost killed us. So no and no. None of the Lyft drivers almost killed anyone.

Doughnuting: eating doughnuts. or donuts. but really, doughnuts.
As in: I rejected Whole 30 to take up the art of doughnuting in the name of Voodoo Doughnut. And NOLA Doughnuts. And planned a few more, but my little body would  have given out to sugar shock, so I settled for some Skout bars and yummy local fare on Mississippi Ave to round out my eating experience. Oh, and some ice cream too. And the very best almond milk decaf latte I’ve had in my life from Dutch Bros. Coffee.

And I was happy.

Bookstoring: getting lost in books on shelves
As in: Bookstoring at Powell’s was super overwhelming. Bookstoring in Another Read Through was less overwhelming, and there was a wine and kombucha and tea tasting there! Books and tea!

Portlanding: taking in all that the city of Portland has to offer, or at least as much as possible when not conferencing, paneling, tabling, and caucusing
As in: Portlanding Is Magnificent!

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All About The Benjamin. Franklin.

Art. Fitness. Drizzling. Parks. Sweets. History. Philadelphia has all this stuff in a very walkable way.

Side note: Every time I write Philadelphia, I can’t spell it right the first time. What vowel would you like to put after the L? I like every vowel that isn’t A first. Why is this happening? Anyway.

S and I have been attempting a day trip since February. Finally, we found a day in July. Then we had to move the date again because I pulled my neck out by taking out my ponytail holder and couldn’t drive for a few days. True story. This is what a grieving body feels like.

In a rather straight-shot-quick-drive, we got to Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love, late morning. Very exciting! We parked in the space I reserved in a garage in the city’s hub. Very exciting! We walked out of the parking garage. Very exciting! We walked right into the middle of a protest that was toeing the line between super-activist and semi-hostile. Very terrifying!

Right down the street, however, were some lovely statues dedicated to some of our Founding Fathers! Very exciting!

Public art is one of my favorite things, so we found sculptures and statues (many of Benjamin Franklin) and seemingly permanent sidewalk art. I definitely wanted to see the Love sculpture to see what it was like compared to the one in NYC. We quickly found that there’s an additional love sculpture in translation! And we found a banner that I was convinced said love. And it did not.

Also, there are fountains. One in particular you can swim in even though the bottom of it has big black lettering that says No Swimming. Maybe only kids can swim in it. Maybe the lettering should say No Diving. On a super hot day, this is the place to be because there’s a really nice mist that comes off the jets, and it smells like chlorine, so I didn’t feel as if I were contracting malaria as I walked around.

Philadelphia has an art museum! We didn’t go into the art museum. I didn’t see a whole lot of people go inside. Instead, most people ran up the steps because that’s what Rocky did and everyone loves Rocky. The Rocky statue is not at the top as I thought it was. It’s on the sidewalk next to the museum, so if you want to meet Rocky and not climb the steps, you’re welcome. S ran up about four times in total and then a few more in just the top half. There are a lot of steps and a lot of landings and then a lot more steps. I ran up the second two sets once. Same Rocky vibe.

While we missed hearing the Wanamaker Organ, we saw it. It’s in Macy’s. Also in Macy’s is a gigantic eagle that’s so heavy that the floor under it is reinforced. That’s German artistry for ya.

We found our way to a bank of sweet shops and had at it. Franklin Fountain has a bunch of different ice creams and intriguing drinks that include phosphates. I don’t know what the heck that means, but I got a Hemingway’s Dream because, you know, Hemingway.

Shane’s Confectionery neighbors the fountain, so we went there and saw all the candy in the world. A few blocks away is Rocket Fizz that also sells candy in addition to toys and weird flavored soda–like Ranch Dressing flavored soda.

Two history-related activities for us were seeing the Liberty Bell (Me: Did you want to see the Liberty Bell? S: Uh, sure) and seeing the Betsy Ross House from the outside (Us: Hey, there’s Betsy Ross’s house.) The Liberty Bell wasn’t crowded, but no one really felt the need to wait their turn to take a photo. My photo captures that essence perfectly, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Philadelphia shuts down pretty early. We criss-crossed the city all day and towards dusk, we found one more love statue. Then we headed home after a day of dabbling in almost every category a full vacation week might include. Much needed and a long time coming. Great day. Great friend.

 

 

The Cabin Reading That Wasn’t In A Cabin

DC’s Joaquin Miller Cabin Poetry Series has shared poetry for over 40 years. It used to be held in the actual cabin. I thought I was going to read in a cabin. I was ready to be sweaty and buggy. However, these days, the good folks who run the series project photos of the cabin on a large screen in an auditorium in the Rock Creek Nature Center, an air conditioned space with no critters abounding.

I’d like to reiterate: I was willing to read in a cabin with possible non-human living creatures and possible humidity that would frizz my hair out and increase my usual sweats tenfold. Gold star sticker for me please.

Really, this take-it-on-the-road poetry-reading thing becomes me. Meaning I dig it and I wish for it to continue. Not only do I get to share my work with people I don’t know, I also get to hear what’s going on in the poetry realm of others. Plus, sightseeing. This is all I want in life. Poetry and travel. And cotton candy without cavities. And these peppermint crumbly things you can buy in a bucket from CVS. And snow without shoveling. And Train concerts every night. And line dancing. And yoga. And tea. That’s all. Is that too much to ask?

The poets at Miller Cabin were delightful! Talented. Insightful. Witty. Open to my antics, which is always a plus. (If you haven’t seen the dog and pony show, come see it some time. You’ll get at least a sticker). I hope to keep in touch with them and maybe read there again in the future.

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Crazy Poet Face, Cabin Edition

As for the sightseeing, one of the officemate-friends took a ride down with me and together we saw some sights. We popped by Politics and Prose to hear Kim Roberts present on DC literary history. We also headed to the National Portrait Gallery mostly to see the Obama portraits, but then found portraits galore. And then found lots of art that wasn’t portraits, and I was confused until I realized that half the building is the portrait gallery and the other half is the American Art Museum. They’re both Smithsonian and they’re both FREE! The art gallery had an exhibit about redacted landscapes, so if you’re paranoid about conspiracies already, that might not be for you. Or maybe it is, if you’re looking for affirmation. All I know is that LL popped up in the portrait gallery, and that made my heart soar.

Also free is walking around the Tidal Basin. Not free is the parking unless all the meters at the Tidal Basin are all jacked up. In which case, you can call the number on the meter about its jacked-up-ed-ness, and then leave a message about it and then have the machine that takes the message say Thank You and hang up on you. We didn’t pay the meter, and we didn’t get a ticket, thankfully.

All around the Tidal Basin are monuments, most of which I hadn’t seen in my most recent DC trips. The FDR monument sprawls magnificently. The Martin Luther King Jr. monument stands starkly tall. Then there’s the Washington Monument that you can see from everywhere and the Jefferson Memorial that’s very cool with a cross breeze once you make it up the steps in the beat-down sun heat.

Georgetown had lots of good food and the waterfront is always pretty. I’m on the lookout for information about what tv or film was shooting on at the end of June and beginning of July. Some streets were closed, and crowds gathered. We were told to keep moving and not to “saturate” the sidewalk. The sidewalks remained saturated with throngs of onlookers peeking between parked cars circa late 1970s and early 1980s. My guess is a Back To The Future reboot. I could be very very wrong.

Ford’s Theater has a few free slots for presentations that we happened upon. You don’t get to go into the museum with the free show. That was fine. We saw the presentation which was given by a man dressed in old timey garb, claiming to be the sheriff on duty the night Lincoln was shot. This presentation was vastly different from the one I saw the first time. That time it was given by a park ranger dressed in a park ranger uniform. So now I want to go back a third time to see what else I might get.

Off the beaten path, kind of, we stopped at the National Cathedral. This is the perk of driving around all of DC. You see stuff that’s not on The Mall. It was gorgeous. Fact: An earthquake made pieces of it fall down. Still, it’s standing tall, and it’s got a garden, and the garden has bunnies!

The plan: continue driving across the U S of A, poetry in hand, taking in the sights, drinking tea, doing yoga, listening to Train, getting sticky from cotton candy.

 

It’s A Twister, Texarkana! Part III

After a long night of nothing followed by a morning of nothing, it was time to climb out of the bathtub, open the curtains, and start packing for home. The morning was sunny but chilly. Not that it mattered. My morning was to be spent answering emails and then heading to Shreveport. When I’d landed, I picked up a map of close-by things to see, so I figured I’d see some things before checking in.

Shreveport was pretty deserted on an early weekend morning. I wonder if it’s ever not deserted because it seemed more like a ghost town than a sleepy town. What made it more alive was the public art, which was really what I was there to see. I also became mesmerized by the passing trains. Once again, it was as if I’ve never seen a train before, never been on a train, and don’t have a train so close to my house that I can hear it sometimes pass by.

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This is art on art.

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This is me getting my fingers in the way of the art.

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I usually blur out license plates, but that would defeat the purpose here.

The art didn’t take all that long to see, so I headed to the airport. You know how they tell you to get to the airport two hours early? Yeah, that’s helpful if you go to an airport that has more than like 5 gates. Shreveport’s airport has like a one-lane road in and out that is wide open. I practically had a personal TSA agent going through security because I was the only person going through security. There were three gates where I was waiting, but really, it was only one gate. Only one door to the airplane with three different waiting areas for the one door.

Across the waiting area sat a group of men clearly going somewhere for a round of golf that day and most likely heading home later that day by plane. I waited a pretty long time since I was there so early, but that meant more reading time. Then I landed in ATL and read some more while avoiding all the people in the waiting area who thought putting bare feet on seats was an okay thing to do.

 

Then I flew home on a rather large plane where I realized I’d prefer an aisle seat rather than a window seat next time. You know, like next time I go to Texarkana and there’s no tornado and I actually get to read and talk to people about poetry. Some day, Texarkana, some day.

It’s A Twister, Texarkana! Part II

Morning broke with gray skies. I’d heard rumblings of rain on the way, so I headed out early to eat and take in the rest of what I wanted to see. I tried to go to a local diner that was supposedly open but was completely closed. I figured I’d take a tour of the town and come back and they’d be open. Nope. But my tour was fun.

I found the Joplin mural. Very jazzy. I found another  mural. Very history-y. I found old timey buildings and a train. Very very.

Then, starving, I went to Cracker Barrel. The only drawback of going to Cracker Barrel is that I’ve had  a few dollars left on a Cracker Barrel gift card for years and I don’t have it with me. I’m clearly never going to be able to use it. Hangry (I’d been yelling at the roads and the GPS and the fact that the diner wasn’t open), I inhaled my food, which was from a healthy section of the menu, which I didn’t know about and didn’t see right away and then I felt very happy with myself for finding it and not eating a pile of biscuits that I’d later regret.

When I got back to the hotel, I went to the business center to print out a few extra poems that I’d forgotten to print. I also did a lot of my normal get points for free stuff routine. Then I came to my room and began planning my workshop and reading.

Then a little before 1, I got a call from the front desk. Someone from the college was here to give me my check. Oh, okay, I’d be right down.

He greeted me with, Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

Well, that’s never a good start.

You know how when we get snow on Long Island, the weather people roll up their sleeves and scare the crap out of everyone and everything gets canceled and then we get a passing shower? So, like, I’d been hearing weather forecasts of thunderstorms that would bring about hail. Then hailstorms that would bring about golf ball sized hail. Then the possibility of a tornado or two. There’s a lake effect wind warning. There’s a severe storm warning. The entire weather map bleeds red. BUT I was like, oh it’s just some rain.

Nope, the college closed at 1 PM. The guy was apologetic. He got a call from someone back at campus asking if he’d brought books they bought for me to sign. No, he didn’t. I was going to offer to drive up to the campus to sign them, but campus was closing in less than five minutes. He took my cell number and gave me his card. Then he said he wasn’t sure if the professor who’d originally contacted me would want to do something otherwise, like gather a group on his own, but that was probably unlikely. I said I was wondering if the weather reports were anything to worry about, especially because it was warm and the sun had come out every now and then, but he said that they were thinking about liability. I said I wouldn’t want anyone driving and in danger. He said it could hail for five minutes and they’d be like, Why did we cancel!?!?, but then again, it could be worse than that. It’s so unpredictable.

Let’s take a moment to recap: Months ago, Texas A&M at Texarkana found little poetic me through some two year college list of presenters and invited me to read on campus. We set up a reading for April 13, 2018. Fast forward to April 12, 2018, I took two planes and a rental car to get here. And now instead of a workshop and reading with students and the community, I’m in my hotel room, having just eaten a very large salad, sipping on a very large unsweetened ice tea, watching the weather channel for tips on how to avoid becoming Dorothy.

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Right now is about the time I’d be leaving for campus. It’s less than 15 minutes away. But I’m not going anywhere.

I did change into my poetry professor outfit so it wouldn’t go to waste. I might parade around the hotel in a bit, reading from my book to anyone who’ll listen. But first, I’m asking the front desk exactly what to do if sirens go off. I’m on the 2nd floor and I can hide in the bathtub, but since I’m not much of an expert, I’m going to get a second opinion.

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I asked the front desk. Apparently, this happens all the time in Nebraska said the guy from Nebraska. I was like, I’m from New York where it doesn’t. I learned that they would set off the fire alarm if they got word that something was on the way. Then, they would get into their back hallway while I would close my curtains and then climb into my bathtub with some reading material. They told me not to stand near the window and try to take pictures. I said the bathtub seemed like a better idea.

Then it drizzled a little. I heard some thunder. Then nothing actually happened. As the guy from Nebraska predicted, we didn’t even get hail. There were tornadoes, but they were happening in what seemed to be north and east from where I was. Now I’m not great with directions, but usually I can see on a map up down side or side. On the maps on the tv, though, I couldn’t really tell. They had black backgrounds, white lines, and then swoops of green and red. I think these are tornado maps. Or Texarkana maps. Or special maps made to confuse me.

The tv showed skits of the do’s and dont’s’ of taking shelter. Then at least one of the weather guys kept using the acronym PDS. This stands for Particularly Dangerous Situation. Which is apparently a technical term for tornado forecasting. There were reports of storms touching down as reported through storm chasers. So like that movie with Helen Hunt is real. People go outside and follow the storms.

I stayed inside even though there was no storm. I gave a Facebook Live reading.

I would totally embed the video here, but WordPress doesn’t allow embedding with iframe html code. I sound like I know what I’m talking about. I don’t. I also don’t know how this text is highlighted. So there. Anyway, you can click above or click here to see the video.

Then I got into my jammies, had some baked Lays for dinner, and then wrote and watched tv into the wee hours.

It’s A Twister, Texarkana! Part I

Many months ago, an email arrived in my inbox from TAMUT. That’s Texas A&M University in Texarkana. In Texas. I clarify that because there’s also a Texarkana, Arkansas. Right across the border. Across that border is a post office, the only building in the U.S. that sits in two states. Already, just getting this email, I was in heaven. Because, you know, this kitsch is my jam.

They have a program called PLACE and its theme was Science and Technology, and the email was from the English department. Everything here describes the essence of my being. They invited me down there to read. I was like, Yes please.

On an early morning in April, I got into a van and got dropped off at JFK.

A lot of airport adventuring occurred. By adventuring, I mean waiting on lines. Bag drop line. Security line where I took off my shoes and then the TSA guy told me I could take them back but they were already in the bin. Also, the guy on the other side of the bin line was telling me how the bins needed to be stacked even though I was the only one stacking them, so I told him that and he said, oh no it’s okay. I think he felt bad because I used my “I’m a little girl” voice that I hate using but I really was the only person stacking them and I didn’t need to be lectured. Then there was the long slow walk to the farthest gate. I ate a bagel and then it was time to board. Boarding line. Line in the plane down the aisle. Sitting in the seat waiting. Waiting for take off.

The flight was great because I read a lot of the very large book I borrowed from the library (The Sleepwalker’s Guide To Dancing by Mira Jacob–read it–it’s uh. may. ZING.). I failed to check the page count when I requested it to be sent from another library, so when I saw that it was almost 500 pages, I wanted to return it to read at a later date but felt bad about the energy used to get it sent to me. Carrying it around isn’t a fun time — it reminds me of that summer I read 1Q84 and took it on the train with me to hang out with S and then wound up carrying it around like — well, what’s that cliché about an albatross? You know that one? It was like that. This time it worked better because even though I had to carry it in my backpack and then after switching into my shoulder bag, a lot of the time I was able to sit with it.

I wound up carrying it around a lot when I got to ATL for my layover. ATL is a long airport. I could have taken its train between terminals, but I opted for walking since I’d be sitting to eat and then sitting on the flight and then sitting in a car. Between the book and a writing book and my folder of fun and my tablet, it was pretty heavy. Once I found the terminal, I circled it a few times, looking for a salad. Found one. Ate it. Walked back to my gate which again was the farthest gate, and sat and read. I like ATL’s airport because of its urgent messages about how not to spread germs. I like your style, ATL.

The flight was quick but I don’t know exactly how long because there was a time change where I gained an hour. I found my bag easily and then found the rental car place easily and they barely looked at my license before handing over the keys. I like Shreveport. Very easy.

The drive to Texarkana brought about all kinds of feelings. Terror at the 75 MPH speed limit. More terror at the idea of passing trucks at the 75 MPH speed limit. That awwww so cute! feeling upon seeing cows lolling about in the fields on the side of the road. As if I’ve never seen a cow. As if at home I can’t drive an hour and see a cow. Still, I exclaimed Aww Cows Awww! Excitement came about when I passed the Welcome To Arkansas sign followed by melancholy at not being able to take a photo of it. I realized later on that I’d probably see more of them since I’d be on the boarder of the state for the duration of my stay. Then I felt pure bliss as the waves of color blossomed on either side of the road for stretches at a time. Dark red flowers first. Then some white. More red. Then purple. Then yellow. If I knew flower names, I’d tell you what they were, but we’ll all have to settle for color.

Finally, I pulled into the hotel lot after driving in a very large and confusing circle–which I should have expected since the road it’s on is called Loop. Just as quickly as I checked in, I changed because it was 80+ degrees, and ventured out to do the one thing I wanted to do more than anything.

I headed to the State Line Post Office so I could stand in two states at once. Really, you can do that all along State Line Avenue, but if you don’t want to stand in the middle of traffic, standing at the post office is the way to go. They have signs and everything. One side Texas. One side Arkansas. Also, the post office is the only building in the U. S. to stand across a state border. So I was in heaven. The wind almost blew me away, but still, heaven.

Also heavenly: Mexican food. I pulled into Fuzzy’s Taco Shop and feasted to my heart’s content. My body did not have an adverse reaction, which is surprising since I usually eat along the lines of Whole 30. Soft chicken tacos, black beans, refried beans, and a huge chicken enchilada slathered in enchilada stuff is not exactly Whole 30 approved. What it is is delicious. Heaven keeps expanding, y’all.

 

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, 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.