Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Boozy Douche Cruise

A few years ago I went on my first cruise and sailed with Carnival. It was five nights of some of the most fun I've ever had. I got lots of sun on the deck, ate delicious Mexican food, including real fish tacos, drank margaritas on the beach, and unplugged from the rest of the world. I even saw a flying fish outside the window of the cabin. I loved it and couldn't wait to do it again.

So when an opportunity to cruise with my friends in The Little Black Dress Club came up, of course I signed up for it. Cruising with the girls, new destinations, and another vacation with the bestie. It had all of the ingredients for a really good, really fun girl time. Plus, I'd sailed on Carnival before so I knew what to expect.

Only I didn't. Carnival is the "fun ship," which many people have equated to being the party ship. Because that wasn't my experience the first time, that wasn't my expectation this time.

I'm not sure when it started, exactly. I think it might have been during the muster safety review. First of all, nobody would shut up long enough to get it over with so I stood there glaring at people every time the cruise director got on the intercom and asked everyone to be completely silent. But that wasn't the worst. The worst was when one of our girls texted us to say that a guy in their area was "aroused" and rubbing said arousal on people around him. It was later reported that he was drunk and didn't know what he had done. We hadn't even left port yet and already someone was nicknamed Boner Boy.

I did, admittedly, get white girl wasted that first night. I'm going to blame it on the guys we met next door who probably thought they'd get a little lucky if we got a little (or a shit ton) liquored up. Little did they know my tolerance level is a hundred times higher than the bimbos they are probably used to, and that I also prefer hanging out with older men and the one extremely flamboyant gay that I found. They were so unhappy with his presence they were smashed up against the wall on the other side of the room from him. Haters.

Still, the only embarrassing thing I did was to follow my new gay friend to the nightclub in my tank top and boxer shorts with no shoes. I was barely dressed, but the crew members had a problem with my lack of shoe attire and told me I couldn't be on the dance floor. I guess being half naked and without-a-doubt wasted wasn't a problem for them. I had a brief moment of cognizance where I realized how idiotic I probably looked and also that I needed to not leave my best friend in our room with strange, unattractive men.

The next night we became aware of the frat boy bachelor party on board. The groom stumbled past us on the way to his dinner table. We saw him in various states of undress as the night progressed. Shirt untucked. Shirt halfway unbuttoned. Shirt all the way unbuttoned. Finally, he careened past us, alone, with no shirt on close to one in the morning. Honestly, I'm surprised he was upright at all.

On subsequent nights we watched half of this group of boys cougar hunting. Over 40 and married? This was their targeted prey. Huntress becomes the hunted.

The women on the cruise weren't any better. There were all kinds of body parts falling out of articles of clothing. I don't know if there is less gravity at sea or what I have to thank for not seeing anything actually exposed to truly obscene limits.

And the gossip. When have you ever heard of gossip between vacationing strangers? Well, it appears that one of the guys from the frat boy bachelor party hooked up with the bride in one of the bachelorette parties. Maybe that's where I went wrong. I might not be divorced now if I had celebrated my impending nuptials by sleeping with a random douchebag days before the ceremony.

Now, ladies. Listen up and never let me catch you behaving so ferociously to your fellow womankind. We overheard (or, rather were meant to hear) the most hateful remarks directed our way. "I hope you bring your beer goggles" was the first gauntlet thrown. Another favorite? "And I thought we were old!" I saw more women trying to pee on "their" trees in one hour than I've seen my dog do in his lifetime. Not to mention the up-and-down looks, glares, and sneers. Girls, girls. This behavior is unattractive, unappealing, and completely unnecessary. Do you really want to act out against your sisters like this for a guy who won't remember your name the next day because he's too focused on his next conquest? Respect yourselves and each other.

If any of this isn't enough to deter you from booking with Carnival, I can tell you all about how bad the food was. Or how our cabin steward couldn't remember to leave more than one glass for two people. Or how he was too lazy to hang up our towels. Or that there was a ghetto girl fight in the dining room. No punches were thrown, but a dish was broken.

There were times I felt so uncomfortable that I didn't mind it raining half the trip. It gave us an excuse to take naps under our cozy covers and watch movies in peace. Take a vacation from the assholery outside our door.

Oh, yes. Fun ship indeed.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Cities List

Somehow I have done more traveling to new places this year than usual. Or ever. These places are all so vastly different from one another I thought I'd make up a little list, ranking them from first to last. First being my favorite, to last being a place I never want to go again. Agree or disagree, but this list is how I feel about my experiences.

1. Savannah
    Of course this is number one. It's charming, it's historic, it's beautiful, and it's romantic. It's easily walkable and there are plenty of things to do or you can just sit on a bench in a park square and watch life go by under a canopy of Spanish moss. I love it and can't wait to go back.

2. Cincinnati
    This one was a surprise, although I didn't really have any expectations. It's a fairly easy drive from Nashville and also easy to get around. I was there with a huge group of women and it was really easy to find each other at the local restaurants, plus the view from the observation deck of our hotel was incredible. Another plus - the downtown area we were in seemed pretty clean and really safe. Also - Tiffany.
    Bonus points for homeless people with a great sense of humor.

3. Pittsburgh
    Pittsburgh was another nice surprise. It wasn't the dirty, sooty, industrial wasteland I had envisioned. On the pros side, there are gorgeous, ornate, historical old homes on every single block. I found one of the best book stores I've ever been to and walked out with an entire armful of new literature. In the neighborhood of my hotel I visited a pretty cool dive bar where I boozed it up to my heart's content for less than $30. And that included the city's best mac n' cheese. The Carnegie Museum needs no explanation. Visiting spots where Flashdance was filmed only needs explanation if you don't know me.

    On the con side of the page, I alternated about every other block between feeling safe and freaking out at every stop sign because I was back in the ghetto. There is no bad side of town, just a bad side of the street. On every street. The streets are narrow and winding and I could never figure what direction I was going in, and the roads are very narrow. Pittsburgh drivers aren't the worst, but they're not the best.

4. Key West
    Key West is suffocatingly hot and miserably humid. Real key lime pie is disgusting. It's deceptively larger than the descriptions I read so it's not really walkable for an afternoon. But I did walk through Ernest Hemingway's house and I pet cats. Lots of cats with lots of toes. Possibly extra limbs. Still, I would never recommend going there hungover.

5. Cozumel
    Oh, Mexico. It's always just as impoverished as you imagine, so there's no disappointment there. I wouldn't want to spend a whole vacation there; an afternoon to evening is plenty and kept me from getting too depressed because people really do have to live like that. These are very nice people and they deserve better from their government. Apart from their hospitality, their food is among the best I've ever had. Even something as repulsive-sounding as frozen avocado pie was mostly pleasant. (Why, oh WHY can't Nashville figure out how to do real Mexican food???)

6. Miami
    I know, I know. Miami Vice. CSI Miami. A hundred movies and Dexter can't be wrong, can they? Oh, but they can. They can be so, so wrong. It's hot as balls there with a humidity index of like a thousand. It's huge and confusing. Really, really spread out. People actually live in giant, high-rise condos. I think most people that live there don't have a backyard and even the ones who do regularly find alligators in them.

    South Beach is supposed to be the end-all, be-all of luxury living. Eh. The buildings are kind of plain and the shopping isn't anything you can't find in the suburbs of any other city. Except for Dash, maybe, and that place just makes me want to declare that butt implants be illegal for everyone in the world. The thing is, you expect it to be all glitz and glamour, but there's no character. And, with the majority of people not knowing English, it's like being in another country without the benefit of another stamp on your passport.

    And guess what? Not even Dexter lives there anymore.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The One We're All Ignoring

Yesterday D and I participated in one of our favorite mother/daughter activities. We went to the ballet and we had a wonderful time. This isn't, however, a review of that or a comment on our relationship. This is about something I wish didn't exist in the world or, at the very least, in this country.

D takes eons in the shower. I am forever telling her to hurry up. Nineteen years of "hurry up." I had plans to go to Pancake Pantry and indulge in some Chocolate Sin before the ballet. We ran out of time so we stopped at Panera instead because it was on the way and fast enough. I despise being late, missing out on a chocolate craving, and having to drive like a maniac so I wasn't in the best mood.

While we were sitting there, by the window, scarfing down our soup and salads, D pointed to a woman sitting on the curb outside. "She's homeless and she has a little girl." Indeed, there sat a woman with a little girl who looked to be about four. I couldn't see her sign from where I sat, but I was disconcerted enough. If you have a stereotype of what a homeless woman and her daughter look like, they didn't fit it. They were neatly dressed, hair combed, talking to each other.

A very sweet man bought them some food from Panera; he took them sandwiches and water. I couldn't hear them, but they looked grateful. The woman took a sandwich out of one of the bags and unwrapped it to hand to her small child. I didn't see her eat so I don't know if she was saving her meal for herself for later or for her daughter.

D and I decided that we would give them something as well. I've been carrying an unused Subway gift card in my car for a time like this. We gathered together the few dollars we had, mine scrounged from the bottom of my purse.

I was able to read her sign when we pulled up in front of them. "PLEASE HELP. I lost my job and I am pregnant." The rest of it said something about needing money for gas, which I'm assuming she needs to both find another job and to get to that job. My heart broke for her.

The little girl got up to come get the money and gift card we offered. She was adorably sweet and absolutely precious. She should have been spending the afternoon playing in the beautiful fall weather rather than accepting money and food from strangers. She thanked us politely and the mother thanked us repeatedly and genuinely.

Entering the freeway, I told Devon that because she was late, we were given that opportunity. She looked at me like I had just insulted her, not realizing that I really meant it. Had she been on time, we would have eaten food that we didn't need, making gluttons of ourselves. Instead, we were given an opportunity to help someone and I was truly grateful for both the opportunity and the gift of gratitude itself.

But secondly, and maybe more importantly, I was so disappointed that I live in a community and in a country where this is allowed to happen. Where a family lives on the verge of poverty on a daily basis and the loss of one paycheck can send them to the street. Where mothers have to swallow their pride to feed their children and their unborn babies. Where their sacrifices are far more than lost sleep or a few stretch marks.

We are heavily into election season and, while I haven't yet paid attention to what is happening on the democrat side, I have been made acutely aware of the opinions of the GOP. I know they are focusing on the rights of gun owners, and immigration reform, spending large amounts of time blaming our current president, and gleefully trying to strip away the rights of women, largely in the form of defunding Planned Parenthood.

If this mother I saw can't afford to buy gas for her car, then I doubt she has money for prenatal care. She is choosing life, she's choosing to give life. Planned Parenthood is probably the best resource for her, but those in power want to take this away from her. Why? When abortions account for only 3% of the services they provide, what about the other 97%? What about this woman sitting on a curb holding a sign so she can hold her family together?

And nowhere in either of the debates did I hear anyone talk about women like her. Or men like her. I know there are plenty of single dads out there working just as hard to make ends meet, but hers is the face I will see when I think of the unfairness in this country. Hers and that of her little girl with the brown curls, dressed in pink.

We give lip service to these issues occasionally. Myself included. I handed a stranger a restaurant gift card and a few dollars. I'm telling you about it. In two days I leave for a vacation where I will have unlimited access to food I can gorge myself on and I will let go of all cares, including this one. I have that luxury.

We all have luxuries. We all have it better than someone else. I don't want to pay lip service. I want to do more. I want us all to do more. The only thing I have hope for right now is that enough people helped that woman yesterday, and maybe in the next week or so, that she can get back on her feet and this will be a great inconvenience to her rather than a new way of life. I really, really hope so. But unless we change as a society, there will be someone different sitting at that corner tomorrow. I might not see her. I  might be on time for my decadent chocolate breakfast. I might be so busy rushing to the next errand or to meet friends or to my job that I don't see her.

So my other hope is that you also miss brunch or you have to stop for gas and your eyes are open. I hope that you see people who need help and that you offer that help. I hope you pay attention at the polls. I hope you choose to elect those who care, even if they are far and few between. I hope you participate in your communities. I hope that you don't pass judgment or turn a blind eye.

I know that I won't continue to be haunted by the faces of this mother and her little girl for long, but I hope I am.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

How I Fell in Love With Savannah

The Texan and I took advantage of a long weekend to road trip down to Savannah, Georgia. Ever since reading Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil for book club, I'd been dying to go. To the point where I was irrationally jealous of anyone who casually mentioned that they had once been. I mentioned to The Texan that it might be a fun weekend and the next day a hotel reservation confirmation showed up in my inbox.

The drive is nothing to talk about so I won't bore you with that. Just know that there is always traffic in Hotlanta.

We stayed at the Mansion on Forsyth Park  and were immediately greeted by the most adorable valet guy, Matt. One of us was mean and called him Fat Matt. That was not me. I would have baked Matt his favorite cookies and read him a bedtime story.

Since our rooms weren't ready, we went to the bar for a drink. The whole lobby and bar areas were beautifully decorated with chandeliers, artwork, and my favorite fresh lilies. I had a delightful champagne cocktail with an edible hibiscus. One of us was less adventurous and ordered a Jack and Coke. Or two. We had a free drink voucher each but our Southern California bartender didn't charge us for the third drink.

When we made it up to our room, it was all I could do not to jump up and down on the bed. It was so soft and everything was so lovely. The only thing I wouldn't want in my own home was the glass door in front of the toilet. It was like wavy, marbled glass but I still wouldn't come close to calling it private. If you have a shy bladder, this is not the bathroom for you.

Since I was still fighting a cold, we took the free hotel shuttle down to the riverfront for dinner. One of us chose wisely and ordered the delicious, fresh-from-the-sea-hours-ago crab legs and one of us chose badly and ordered the bacon crab mac n' cheese which was really light on the cheese and completely skipped out on the crab. At least the bread with hot cheese dip was good.

We wandered around to a bar or two after dinner. The really cool thing about Savannah is their to-go policy. You can have your drink poured into a plastic cup to go if you're ready to move on. I took my plastic cup back on the shuttle so we could finish the evening in the upstairs bar at the hotel. I think it's in the part that was the original mansion. I finally, finally (!) after a year of being in the south, got a good Manhattan. Or three good Manhattans. We won't talk about how much they cost; they were worth every delicious drop.

The next day we headed out to Hilton Head, SC. It's supposed to be all fancy and beautiful and beachy. It certainly wasn't when we were there. After finding a public beach, we resolved to ignore the rain that was starting to come down and take a look at The Atlantic Ocean. Up until now, I have only seen the Atlantic from Ireland so my impression of it is cold and uninviting. Still, from Ireland it is beautiful. Not so much over here. Hordes of people were making their way back to their cars; we were clearly going against the flow of traffic. As soon as we hit the sand I knew why. Windy, windy, windy. Do you know what sand feels like when gale-force winds are blowing it at your bare legs? It's like being hit with tiny little bee-bees. It fucking hurts. So while one of us wanted to enjoy a stroll along the shoreline, the other one of us thought he was insane and refused. I'm calling it. The Atlantic can't hold a candle to the Pacific. They're not even in the same league. Like no contest. None at all. Even the sun prefers to go to bed with the Pacific.

After that fiasco, we wandered The Head (is that what people call it? That's what I'm going to call it.), looking for a nice place to hide from the wind and enjoy an adult beverage. Oh, but guess what? Every place we tried didn't open until 5:00. What, they don't day-drink on The Head?

Back to Savannah then.

Oh, while we're talking about driving from one to the other, the roads between Glorious Savannah and The Head are a little creepy. It's like going through marsh and woods and trailer parks and questionable side streets. One of the streets was actually called Burnt Church. I don't even want to know how it got that name. That was probably the biggest sign that we were in the deep south and I'm glad the car didn't break down. I'm also glad I'm white. And that's a completely fair thing to say in an area like that.

After arriving back in a normal part of the world, we decided to just go adventuring and walking around. We wandered into a gorgeous church. Meandered through parks. Sauntered through the cemetery. Which I wish was open past 8:00 p.m., but I guess people can't be responsible enough to adult after that time. We zig-zagged through neighborhoods admiring the spectacularly built homes. Most have plaques stating when they were built. Many have other notes of historical significance. There are memorials to soldiers, city founders, governors, and more. Everywhere you look in Savannah there is a piece of history. There is even a 300-year-old tree that has been preserved.

Oh, and the trees. The amount and beauty of trees in Savannah makes Nashville look like a desert. There are ginormous oaks and magnolias, all dripping with Spanish moss. Because it rained most of the time we were there, it felt like we were in this otherworld where branches and leaf canopies protected us from the clouds.

After stopping into a couple of stores and finding a near-perfect copy of Aesop's Fables from 1897, we dined on more crab legs and then continued to wander through the streets. We found City Market, which is next to yet another park, only this one was a bit more open and swarmed by families playing in the water fountain. We got a peach sangria to-go and then found another restaurant on a quiet street with live music where we ducked in for a bit to have another drink.

Wandering the streets at night is different from the daytime. I didn't mention it previously, but Savannah is one of the most haunted cities in the country. Maybe the most haunted. It's been around for nearly 300 years and has been in the center of the American Revolution, the Civil War, and the Civil Rights Movement, not to mention the crimes committed against the Native Americans. There are bound to be restless spirits. Yes, we encountered a couple on the way back to the hotel. I would have liked to have known the stories but this was a spontaneous trip and we didn't do the ghost tour to find out any specifics.

The morning before we left, we again explored more of the neighborhood around the mansion walking in the rain. I insisted on finding the Mercer House, in which the events described in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil occurred. It was as beautiful as I thought it would be. I'd be hard-pressed to choose any house above any of the others though. They're all stunning.

I think every description I had previously heard about Savannah is true. It is charming, romantic, historic, inviting, and imaginative. It's one of those places that I wouldn't even recommend a specific restaurant or activity because I think everyone should just find their own connection with this bewitching little city.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Random Motivating Drunk Calls

I've had a cold this week. The wife said all weekend that she was fighting something and then I woke up with it Monday morning. Yay, my favorite. I'm going out of town this weekend so I've been trying to kick this cold's ass before it packs its bags to go with me. So last night, I dutifully took my Nyquil, snuggled up with the puppies, and prepared for sleep.

Then my phone rang. It was a number from Texas. A number I did not recognize. I swiped left. I assumed it was some random number that dialed mine by mistake and again closed my eyes. A text followed. A text informing me that this was San Diego, from Bend, calling me from Texas.

Backstory #1. Friends do not remember the names of guys that I date. It is much easier to name them based off of a distinguishing characteristic. For example, there was FBI Guy, Airplane Guy, South Africa, and, most recently, The Texan.

Backstory #2. San Diego was a guy I'd met in Bend. We met for drinks a couple of times, he disappeared, then messaged me from San Diego. Hence the name. He invited me to San Diego (the city, not himself) for the weekend a few years ago. It was fun. We laughed over drinks, ate some delicious sushi, went to a Padres game, and then I never heard from  him again. I wasn't sure how much of it wasn't us actually hitting it off versus how much was because I threw up all over the inside of his Porsche. Hey, shit happens. And usually to me.

Now that you're caught up, you can imagine how surprised I was to hear from Mr. San Diego. Except I guess now he's Mr. Austin but I don't change names so he's stuck with San Diego. Anyhoo, I called back out of curiosity. Morbid curiosity? Maybe.

Mostly I had to know why he was calling from a Texas number. Because he lives there now. Something about business, I didn't ask. I think he mostly wanted to compare southern stories but Texas is like its own country. And Austin is like a U.S. state surrounded by that other country. He also wanted to brag about dropping his boat in the lake whenever he wants. And yes, he's seen the bats under the bridge like a stupid tourist but he doesn't need to leave his house to see bats or 11 deer or a bobcat.

The rest of the call was some sort of rambling drunkenness but a lot of it centered around this blog. The one I largely neglect these days. He has somehow deluded himself into thinking I'm a Great Writer. That I should write a book. (About what? Dog slobber? The great shit stains to fashion known as Crocs? My life, which is funny only in moments, not in entirety?) He encouraged me to blog again. Because I'm so fucking great, writing may be my real talent, and some more drunk rambling.

Now, all of this does have a point with some actual, real meaning. Random calls from random dudes who ignore me for years and then just pop up out of the blue are pretty funny and can make good stories. But what San Diego wanted me to know is that he thinks I can Do Something, I am good at this thing I sometimes do. Someone once told him to do something he was good at and he ended up succeeding and making money doing That Thing.

I am not trying to validate that the words I say here are actually entertaining or that my blog should go viral or that I am particularly brilliant at anything. I am simply saying that we, as a society, say some very ugly things to each other. Cyber bullies. Racists. Misogynists. Donald Trump. Celebrities are feuding over their egos and certain colors of people are inciting violence against another color of people. Hell, I can't go to the ladies' room or walk down a grocery aisle without getting sneered at.

We are mean. God, we are so mean.

What I want to suggest is that you take a moment to say something nice to someone. You never know what little snippet of conversation someone will remember for the rest of their lives. What will motivate them to try harder or reach higher. All because someone recognized them and told them so. Tell a severely depressed person that you admire her courage because the fight is a hard one and she does it with grace. She just might live a day or a year or a lifetime longer because you noticed and acknowledged her. Tell the single dad that you appreciate the way he communicates with his daughter. He may always remember that and hold onto it instead of throwing up his hands when she enters her teenage years, the time she'll need him most.

Reach out in whatever way you can. Send a text. Say it with a hug. Randomly call someone in a drunken stupor.

Just, for the love of Nyquil, let them sleep if they need to sleep!
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