(Follow my next two blogs about overnight train travel.)
- Delray Beach, FL, Westport, MA, United States
- Undergraduate degree, Colby College; MA in teaching, Columbia Teacher's College; former high school English teacher in three states; former owner of interior design co. with advanced degree from R.I. School of Design. Published first book in 2009 titled, MINOR LEAGUE MOM: A MOTHER'S JOURNEY THROUGH THE RED SOX FARM TEAMS. Her humorous manuscript titled ELDERLY PARENTS WITH ALL THEIR MARBLES: A SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR THE KIDS was published in June, 2014. In 2015 A SURVIVAL GUIDE won a gold medal in the self-help category at the Florida Authors & Publishers Association conference. See website By CLICKING HERE.
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
(Follow my next two blogs about overnight train travel.)
Monday, December 12, 2011
Saturday, December 3, 2011
Monday, November 21, 2011
So I started buying gifts for family members and friends during our travels. That really mounted up, with siblings (Charley was the oldest of seven), parents, sons, aunts, uncles, etc.
Now I try to take at least one quality photo on each trip that I can blow up to 11" x 14." We have two walls full of them, but at least they're conversation starters and memory prods.
On the South African trip, the only things I bought were small Christmas presents for the immediate family. Our tour operator hadn't scheduled shopping time. We found items in hotel gift shops and managed forty-five minutes in a craft market in Johannesburg. I discovered a 250-pound wooden hippo there, which would forever remind me of the "Danger: Hippo Crossing" signs along the Zambezi River in Zambia. Charley insisted I curb my enthusiasm!
I observed we had different kinds of shoppers among the fourteen of us. Grandmothers like me were always on the hunt for kids' outfits, headbands, books, toys, and girls' accessories.
The die-hard shoppers rushed from shop to shop in the airports and at the craft market. They compared prices for items on their lists (like African fabrics) and returned them, when possible, if they found a better price. They knew the managers in each hotel gift shop on a first-name basis.
The professor who accompanied us from Brown University had lived in Johannesburg and planned to grab a taxi to her favorite shop as soon as our plane hit the ground. Unfortunately, a traffic jam (perennial, in South Africa) prevented her excursion that day, but eventually she sneaked away and did some damage.
Then there were those who needed a second (or third) opinion before coming to a decision. A choice between two heavy stone necklaces necessitated a lengthy discussion. "Do you think she would wear something this heavy?"
"Yes, but the stones are more neutral in this one, and she could wear it with more."
"True, but the colorful necklace is less expensive."
"Do what you wish!"
In the shop at Thornybush Game Lodge (next to Kruger Park, South Africa), I pointed to a woven blue and brown handicraft hanging on the wall. "I love that basket!" I told the sales lady. "Would you mind getting it down so I could look at it?"
She was snickering as she handed it to me. "That's not a basket! It's a Zulu woman's headpiece!"
I looked at the loose weave and realized anything small in this "basket" would fall right through. So I put it where it belonged - on my head. Just then Charley walked into the shop. "Why do you have a basket on your head?"
Saturday, November 12, 2011
Thursday, November 3, 2011
Leaving C.T. and the wine country, we flew to Johannesburg, then into Livingstone, Zambia. There we were, plopped in a corner where three countries intersected: Zambia, Namibia, and Botswana. Pushing our luggage carts in the searing heat, we scanned the airport for someone who looked as though he/she could speak English. Turned out everyone did - they were taught English in school!
The next day she warned us, "Don't expect a customs and immigration office like you're used to!" We were about to take a "ferry" from Zambia across the Zambezi River to Botswana for a safari into Chobe Park.
We had an inkling of what to expect, having passed through the town of Livingstone, Zambia, on the way to our hotel at Victoria Falls. In town, red clay surrounded chicken-wire fences, which surrounded the schools, boarded factory, tin-roofed shops, and "Fawlty Towers." "That's the best hotel in town," Mary pointed out, "and the only one!" The one-story structure looked like it was constructed of fiberboard, and did, indeed, lean.
Our road was paved all the way to the ferry crossing, unlike the one we'd taken to board the Sunset Cruise the previous evening. About a mile from the ferry, we began to see eighteen-wheelers parked along the side of the road. They were fully loaded with copper and other goods leaving Zambia. Beside many of the trucks were tables and chairs, set up under small tents. "Is it a strike, like in Italy?" someone asked.
"No," Mary answered. "There's a hoe-down up the road, so they all stopped," she quipped. "Just kidding! Really, the ferry that carries these trucks across the River can only load one at a time. So some of the truckers wait days, even a week, to get across. They have full living arrangements in the cabs of their trucks."
"Aren't there roads or bridges?" someone asked.
"The fee is too expensive. And it would take even longer to drive all the way around than to sit in this lineup."
Like dutiful sheep, we got off the van, following our leader. Hundreds of native Zambians stood in a queue inside another chicken-wire fence. The queue led to a one-room wooden building, the customs office. On the other side of the building the dirt road became muddy, as it neared the River.
"Just follow me!" Mary instructed. "We have to get our passports stamped, then we'll get on the ferry."
We wound our way past the waiting Zambians, then cut in front of them. "This is going to be trouble," I thought to myself. Still, they kept smiling. "Where you from?" they yelled in English.
"U.S." we replied.
"Obama! Obama!" they began chanting.
We kept moving. One at a time, at a single window inside one room, we got our passports stamped and filed out. By this time, all of us white people were sweating profusely in the heat and humidity.
"Just keep moving toward the ferry," Mary advised. "You'll have a lot of hawkers trying to sell you wooden carvings and things, but as long as you keep walking, they'll walk with you. No-one will stop you or touch you."
I spotted our "ferry" - a pontoon boat that may or may not fit all fourteen of us. Were they kidding? Mud squished around my sneakers. As we moved down the bank, the hawkers descended. Still chanting, "Obama!" they held out wooden crosses, giraffe carvings, bracelets, or necklaces.
"What your name?" they asked each of us. Suddenly, they spied Mary, their savior who brought tour groups to them each week. From, "Obama!" the chant changed to, "Mary!" "Mary!"
All of us successfully boarded to cross the River. None of us had spent a dime. As we were pulling away, I noticed the black tee shirt on the hawker nearest us. It read, "Get Every Dollar." He raised his arms in triumph. "See you later - afternoon!" he yelled across the water, as we pulled away.
The other side provided more fanfare in Botswana. We were met by uniformed guards and our passports brought to an office and stamped. Guides whisked us away in two vans. Botswana was more developed with substantial shops, paved roads, and luxurious developments along the River. At a beautiful safari hotel we embarked upriver for the morning. Hippos and their babies swam alongside, followed by herds of Cape buffalo, impala, and more pachyderms than we'd thought possible. The giraffes simply ignored us, as we approached in open jeeps in the afternoon. Still, we had to return to Zambia.
"Thabo," he responded. "Your name, missus?"
OK, OK, one more trinket wouldn't kill me.
Saturday, October 29, 2011
Monday, October 10, 2011
Monday, September 26, 2011
Monday, September 19, 2011
The last thing a tired husband wants to do is to sit through the demonstration of an appliance at the end of a long week of work! Especially if he played baseball in college, is a devoted Red Sox fan, and there is a game on tv...
Like GAME SIX OF THE WORLD SERIES!!! Little did I know I had arranged the salesman's visit the same time that the Red Sox played the Cincinnati Reds.
As the salesman threw dirt all over the family room floor, Charley dodged and bounced around him, trying to follow the plays. He couldn't hear a thing. After the salesman left, I lit into my weary husband.
"How could you be so rude to that man?" I demanded.
"You were lucky he got in the door!" was the response.
Thank goodness Carlton Fisk hit his game-winning home run in the twelfth inning at 12:33 a.m., not while the salesman was there. I can't imagine if Charley had missed seeing Fisk's arms willing the ball fair, or the ricochet off the pole. I have no idea whether we bought the machine!
Another compromise situation is still in progress. Our Kenmore refrigerator in Massachusetts is 27 years old. It is still functioning perfectly, which I regret every day. However, I have learned to pick my battles!
We have had Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Eve, July 4th, and Labor Day parties at the house, not to mention graduation and birthday parties. We added another small set of three refrigerated drawers to accommodate the larder and the preparations.
The refrigerator is under a service agreement, since parts are no longer available. That means that if Sears can't replace the part, I get a new refrigerator.
It just isn't going to happen. The thing keeps going and going....
The repairman who checks it out every year keeps telling me the same thing. I am sick of hearing it. "They don't make them like this any more! Don't ever get rid of this machine!"
Sounds like Charley's philosophy: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." To put it another way, "A new kitchen? Not in my lifetime!"
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Monday, September 12, 2011
Don, my brother-in-law, got a call from his sister's husband before the couple was leaving on a cruise. "Would you mind taking care of our cat?" Don heard.
"No, I guess not. What do I have to do?"
"Just feed it and give it some medicine."
"Well, judging from the size of your cat, I guess it eats a lot, but what kind of medicine?"
"Just some pills."
A week later, Don received another call from his brother-in-law. This time, the couple was aboard ship, as it pulled up anchor.
"I forgot to tell you, Don, the cat might need an enema."
"Say what?" Don screeched in his West Virginian drawl. "Are you sh___ing me?"
"Just insert the enema up his kazoo, if things get blocked up. Otherwise, he might have something burst."
"The h___ I will! I'll let the vet do it! I don't have a rubber suit."
"You can't take him to the vet! He charged us $900."
"Good thing that cat didn't have a problem while they were away," Don told us. "My sister would have found a dead cat on her hands!"
Our son had a financial client whose wife was a vet. The vet and her husband received a call on Christmas Eve Day from the frantic owner of a horse.
"Please come right over, Dr! Our horse is so old, its breath is labored, and we know the end will be soon. Can you ease his passing?"
"I'll be there shortly," the vet responded.
She and her husband arrived at the owner's house and and inquired as to the whereabouts of the horse.
"Well, it's so freezing cold out that we didn't want him to pass out there. So we put him down in the basement!"
"How did you get him down there?"
"We made a ramp."
Following the owner down the ramp, the vet and her husband found the horse in a tiny compartment in the basement. The horse was, indeed, about to expire.
"We have to get him out of here," the vet said. "I need to inject him and there's no place for him to lie down."
"What shall we do?" asked the owner. "We can't turn him around."
"Get a rope and we'll pull him backwards up the ramp."
The owner stood at his head, encouraging him, while the vet and her husband pulled from the rear. The horse was not only wobbly, but extremely reluctant to be pulled backwards up the ramp.
After several hours, darkness fell, marking Christmas Eve. The temperature plummeted. The horse finally made it to the top of the ramp outside, where the vet could inject him. She and her husband waited with the owner till the horse expired, then rushed home to pick up their family for church services. "May Christmas bring a day without ropes," they prayed.
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
So I turned on the dishwasher, poured more coffee into my mug, and cleaned out the coffeepot. I walked toward the front room to get my glasses in the desk.
Passing through the front hall, I noticed the flowers in the vase were wilting and the stagnant water was beginning to smell. So I took the vase into the kitchen, threw the flowers into the trash, emptied the water, rinsed and dried the vase.
When I was putting it back in the front hall, I remembered I had come out there on my way to someplace else. But I didn't have any idea where. So I headed back into the kitchen and just as I remembered I was supposed to be getting my glasses, the phone rang.
After my conversation with one of our daughters-in-law, I decided I'd better get dressed. When I passed through the front hall on my way to the stairs, I remembered that I had been going to get my glasses. I retrieved them from a drawer in the desk in the front room, but couldn't remember what I needed them for. So I put them on top of my head and went upstairs.
In our bedroom, I made the bed and put the clean laundry away. I put the items that needed ironing into a pile. Then I went to my closet.
It was a very hot day, and I was going to meet someone for lunch. I selected a sundress to wear, but then I saw that it had a spot. So I went downstairs to get the spot remover.
I retrieved the spot remover but needed my glasses before I could do anything with the dress. I looked in my desk in the front room, but they weren't there. I looked around the kitchen counters and the family room sofa, as well as among the magazines. No luck!
I went back upstairs, got another dress out of the closet (I was going to be hot in this one!), put on some jewelry, and decided I'd better wait with the makeup till I found my glasses.
I started down the stairs, but half-way down, I remembered I hadn't brought the clothes that needed ironing. I went back up, but noticed the toilet was still running in our bathroom.
So I took off the tank cover and jiggled the lever a few times, lifted the float manually, and washed my hands thoroughly. I got down to the kitchen and remembered I had forgotten to bring down the clothes that needed ironing. Oh well, it was too hot to iron, anyway!
I noticed the stack of bills still sitting on the kitchen table. Since I couldn't find my glasses, I decided to cut some flowers from the garden to replace the ones I threw away.
There was a problem with cutting the flowers: the deer were eating our arbor vitae trees in the early mornings, and they carry ticks that cause Lyme disease. The arbor vitaes were right next to the hydrangeas and the roses I wanted to cut. So I had to cover myself with bug spray. That meant a shower when I came in, and I usually showered at night.
As it turned out, I was sweltering in that dress under the hot sun, anyway! After I'd cut and arranged the flowers, I went right for the shower. I took off my dress, then my necklace and earrings, and hopped under the cool spray of water.
I started to wash my hair when I discovered the glasses on top of my head! Now what was it I needed them for?
Sunday, July 17, 2011
I would not consider myself a novice at the game. Our property in Massachusetts abuts a golf course. We have owned it for twenty-seven years. I have taken clinics and private lessons. I have attempted to play in ladies' leagues.
Still, I stink! My handicap remains at forty. Some days, it's downright embarassing! And frustrating.
If I analyze, I conclude that I really don't enjoy the game. Therefore, I don't lug buckets of balls out to practice. I don't play enough, either.
I LOVE playing tennis. I am on the tennis court three-four times/week. I have played competitively on a team in Florida for many years. If I make a mistake on the court, the next ball is coming right back at me. I don't have to dwell on a screw-up, while I walk yards and yards to hit the next shot.
When I am not on the tennis court, I am writing. It is a new career, after my first book was published, and I have to take it seriously. Yet I still expect to go out on the golf course and play decently.
Golf I have to squeeze in. It doesn't always happen.
Golf takes time. You have to devote half a day, at least, to the game. You can go play a couple of sets of tennis (and get some ACTIVE exercise) and be home in two hours, max.
You have to play golf regularly, or at least practice regularly, if you expect to improve, like anything else. By regularly, I mean at least three times/week. There is no muscle memory, because there are so many variables.
The grip has to be just right. The stance has to be just right. The shoulders have to turn so the backswing is just right. And God forbid if the hips don't pivot with the shoulders! The head has to stay down. Do I need this?
If I choose the wrong club, I hit too far or not enough. If the wind is blowing STRONGLY, as it was last Thursday, I have to keep the ball low. I don't know how to do that, unless I choose a club that will make the ball go too far. I also don't know how to give the ball backspin when it lands on the green.
The three women I played with last Thursday were all steady, consistent golfers. They are good friends and were very positive and supportive, but they were always waiting for me.
I set the ball on the tees and took gorgeous practice swings! On one occasion I topped the ball and it landed five yards in front of me. Two other times, I whiffed. Four times I picked the ball up and stuck it in my pocket.
I went right home after we played, disgusted. Didn't even eat lunch. I tried not be negative or aggravated. After all, I was privileged to be out on the course. I tried to focus on the good shots. They were few and far between.
Yesterday I learned that.......we had WON the ladies' day last Thursday. How???? It must have been my handicap that pulled us through. Maybe I'll sign up for next week.
Monday, June 27, 2011
......................................................................................not being able to find a toilet when I need one!!!
Charley and I recently returned from our all-time favorite destination of Ischia - an island facing Capri outside Naples, Italy. We attended the last night of festivities honoring St. Vito in the nearby town of Forio. Our friend who owns an apartment there made a 9:30 p.m. reservation for a waterfront table to see the fireworks. In Italy, diners show up an hour before they think about ordering dinner. The wine was flowing. We thought the fireworks would start at 10:00.
"Soon," Daniella kept saying. "Maybe tomorrow. Maybe July! Here - have some more vino!"
It WAS tomorrow when they started - 12:30 a.m., exactly. By then I'd switched to coffee and Charley had switched to Diet Coke.
The show was spectacular - the most impressive we'd ever seen, including July 4th in Boston. Marco Polo had, after all, brought fireworks back to Italy from China.
In fact, there were TWO fireworks shows over the marina. Forio's ended, and the town of Lacco Ameno tried to outdo its neighbor. By then, I was nursing a glass of water.
The shows ended at 1:30 a.m. I hit the toilet one last time. Along with 12,000 Forio residents and thousands more from across the island, we trudged half a mile to get out of the harbor.
Up ahead I spotted an available taxi. We ran! Then we sat for thirty minutes. Like bees (except they were carrying sleeping infants and toddlers), the throngs swarmed in front and in back of us, making last-minute purchases at open stalls. Vespas whizzed by. We progressed one car length at a time. The thought crept into my mind that our progress might necessitate an impossible pit stop. The power of suggestion is a dangerous thing!
There was construction on the road to our hotel. The taxi couldn't get through the traffic. We got out two hundred meters from our entrance to walk.
Ischia is volcanically thermal, lushly colorful, and demandingly vertical. Climbing up the road, I mapped the location of the nearest bathroom at our hotel. Our room was ten meters up the hillside from the lobby. The public restrooms were ten meters down the hillside from the lobby.
"Honey, we'd better step on it," I warned Charley. He knew what that meant.
We arrived at the twelve-foot iron gates marking the entrance to our hotel. They were securely locked!! By this time, I was crossing my legs.
There were two callboxes. I hit all the white bars on the first one. While Charley was pushing buttons on the second one, I eyed the surrounding bushes.
Suddenly the gates opened! We ran for the lobby.
"Room 415, please!" Charley demanded, as the night clerk turned for our key. "Can we get a ride to our room?"
"Certo, signore!" The clerk pushed a button, while I folded myself into a sofa in the lobby.
"Please, St. Vito, we toasted you so many times tonight! Now do something for me," I begged. "Let me make it to our room!"
An attendant on a golf cart appeared. Over every bump I prayed to St. Vito. He didn't forget me!
Thursday, May 26, 2011
During previous visits, we made mistakes. We didn't understand the French mentality. We didn't follow the rules. We didn't wait patiently as French men and women ignored us. We didn't ask the right questions.
On our first trip, we flew in from the States at 7 a.m. and had to connect to Corsica. Charley put our luggage cart, piled high, directly in front of the "Corsica" sign at the ticket counter. We needed boarding passes and had four hours to kill. Groggy, we took turns getting coffee and reading. Around 10 a.m. the "Corsica" sign moved. Charley grabbed our cart but wasn't fast enough. A French woman came out of nowhere, ramming the front bumper of his cart and cutting him off. He rammed her back. "Despicable Americans!" we heard, as she stepped up to the "Corsica" counter ahead of us.
On another trip, we met an American friend and her travelling companions at an outdoor cafe. We got there first and eyeballed the tiny cafe tables. "I'll grab a few more chairs and move this other table over," Charley declared, rearranging the furniture. A waiter ran over. "Monsieur! Monsieur! Non, non!" We had violated two waiters' serving assignments. Ten of us sat at two separate tables and waited thirty minutes for acknowledgement that we existed.
We drove along the Riviera from Nice. About two and a half hours beyond St. Tropez, we cut inland looking for our "Hidden Inn," right out of a guidebook. It was hidden, all right! No road signs anywhere. We stopped a farmer, who led us down a dirt road on his tractor.
We checked in and learned the pool was in back, with reciprocal privileges at a hotel right on the beach. We unpacked, put on bathing suits, and headed for the pool. All we wanted was to chill out with a cool drink! There were plenty of chaise lounges at the pool, but no towels. "Excusez-moi, les towels?" I asked a sunbather.
"At the main desk in the lobby!" he answered in English.
I went back for towels but diverted up to the room for sunblock I'd forgotten. The upstairs hall was in total darkness. I fumbled with our key at the door, shoved it around near the hole, but couldn't get the knob to turn. Back to the front desk.
"Madame, you must insert your key in the slot at the end of the hall. That will turn on the lights. Then the locks will respond."
We decided to try the beach at the other hotel, instead. We made our way to the attendant there, who explained, "Je m'excuse, no chairs at beach. OK on hill. I move you when beach chairs open."
That was fine with us, since there was shade on the hill. We spread out our stuff and walked toward the Mediterranean.
"Monsieur! Monsieur! Non, non! Non beach!"
"What? We can't go in the water?"
"Non, monsieur! The prix on hill - non beach."
Back to the lobby for towels.
Before flying out of Nice, our last stop was the Chevre d'Or Hotel in Eze. Eze is on a cliff along the Grande Corniche, hanging high up over the Blue Mediterranean. We had to leave our car about two hundred yards below; a golf cart took us the rest of the way.
We had booked a reservation for dinner in their famous restaurant, filmed in "The Bucket List" with Jack Nicholson. It was one of the two most expensive dinners we've ever paid for. Problem: we couldn't see two feet out the windows. We were completely fogged in!
The next morning the fog burned off and Charley decided to use the exercise room. The receptionist had proudly told us it opened at 10 a.m. Right at 10, he climbed the fifty stone steps from our room, hanging over the cliff, up to the exercise room. Closed! He continued up fifty more stone steps to the lobby.
"Non possible, monsieur! It's after 10 o'clock. It must be open!"
There was no point arguing. Charley figured by the time he got back down fifty steps, he might find the door unlocked.
Not so! But where there's a will, there's a way. He spotted a louvred window on the bottom row that was cracked open. Yup! He climbed in.
The exercise attendant thought he was hallucinating when he unlocked the door and saw Charley pedalling calmly on one of the bikes. "Monsieur, what are you doing here?"
Charley pointed to his watch. "It's 10:30. The exercise room is open!"
Anyone else have travel stories??
Saturday, May 7, 2011
Chas: "Are you a real person?"
AT&T: "Last time I checked!"
Chas: "Well, I've been pushing buttons on your menu for ten minutes before I got anyone with vocal cords."
AT&T: "I'm sorry about that, sir. Would you kindly give me your phone number?"
AT&T: "Now I need your password, sir."
Chas: "........... "
AT&T: "Would you please give me the last four digits of your social security number?"
AT&T: "Now I need the answers to a couple of security questions~"
Chas: "I'm not Osama bin Laden!"
AT&T: " I guess we wouldn't be having this conversation if you were! Just a couple more, sir. What was the name of your childhood pet?"
AT&T: "What was the street that your wife grew up on?"
Chas: "River Road."
AT&T: "You have answered all the questions correctly."
Chas: "Do I get a prize?"
AT&T: "I suppose I could sing for you, since my name is Melody! Otherwise, how can I help you, sir?"
Chas: "Melody,I have a very simple request. We have your UVerse system for two phone lines and high-speed internet. We are leaving Florida to go north for four months and would like to put our service on seasonal hold."
AT&T: "I'm sorry, Mr. Carey, but I can't help you."
Chas: "Excuse me? We've been putting our account on hold each summer for fifteen years!"
AT&T: "Yes, Mr. Carey, but you didn't have UVerse before this year. I'm afraid UVerse customers will have to do that on-line."
Chas: "But only my wife deals with the computer. I don't touch it!"
AT&T: "Then have her go on-line to AT&T.com and I will walk her through the steps."
Chas: "I don't think she'll want to hear about steps right now. She's in the middle of a project. I'll have to break it to her at another time. Can't you just flick a switch or fill out a form, like the cable company?"
AT&T: "I'm afraid it's not that easy, Mr. Carey. Is there anything else I can help you with?"
Chas: "Are you having any luck getting our service suspended?"
Pam: "I've been on for over an hour and opened every possible link under 'UVerse.'
When I hit 'Move or Change Service,' it asks where we're moving to!"
Chas: "This \/!!***! Company is useless! What other links are there?"
Pam: "I've tried 'My Account' and 'Technical Support.' The word 'Suspend' or 'Hold' doesn't exist in their vocabulary. Call them back for specific instructions."
AT&T: "Hello, my name is Samantha."
Chas: "Am I speaking to a real person?"
AT&T: "Yes, I'm a real live wire!"
Chas: "I'm so excited for you! I have spent one evening on the phone with your Company and my wife~"
AT&T: "Excuse me for interrupting, sir, but would you please give me your phone number?"
AT&T: "May I please have your password?"
AT&T: "Now I need the account holder's name."
Chas: "Samantha, I AM the account holder, and my name is CAREY and the last digits of my social security number are .... and my childhood pet was named BLACKIE and my wife grew up on RIVER ROAD and I am UPSET! Please HELP ME!"
AT&T: "What can I do for you, Mr. Carey?"
Chas: "I want to put our UVerse service on seasonal hold for four months. I have called your Company once before and we have tried to do it online. Nothing has worked! Can you please give me the steps to follow on your website?"
AT&T: "I'm so sorry for the inconvenience, Mr. Carey. Let me find out how you can proceed."
AT&T Supervisor: "Mr. Carey?"
Chas: "I can't believe it, but I'm still here!"
AT&T Supervisor: "Mr. Carey, I'm the Supervisor, Scott Regan, and I'm here to help you."
Chas: "That remains to be seen! I just want to put my UVerse service on hold for four months while we leave Florida for the summer. It used to be so easy!"
AT&T Supervisor: "Well, I'll find out how to do that. Would you mind holding?"
Chas: "Do I have a choice?"
AT&T Supervisor: "Mr. Carey, are you still there?"
Chas: "Is that you, Scott?"
AT&T Supervisor: "It's me. Thank you for holding. Now, tell me, is it correct that you do NOT have your cable t.v. with UVerse?"
Chas: "That's right, Scott. We live in a condo, and the building is wired for Comcast. We have no choice in the matter."
AT&T Supervisor: "Well, you see, Mr. Carey, right there is the problem! You have to have the ENTIRE PACKAGE in order to put your account on hold for the summer. You have to have phone and high-speed internet and t.v."
Chas: "So what you're telling me is that after two phone calls and an evening on your website, it's impossible to put our account on seasonal hold? What's the minimum we'll be paying each month over the summer?"
AT&T Supervisor: "$69.95."
Chas: "Even though we won't be here? That's outrageous!"
AT&T Supervisor: "I'm afraid so! But that's still quite a savings each month. Then when you get back, you just call us to reinstate full service."
Chas: "As simple as that, huh?"
AT&T Supervisor: "Is there anything else we can do for you?"
Chas: "I'd rather not say."
Monday, April 25, 2011
Charley and I head south - as far south as we can go until U.S. 1 runs out, just ninety miles from Cuba! We trade chocolate Easter bunnies for females with bunny ears who stroll the sidewalks with cups filled with frothy pink liquid.
Key West is a paradise for writers - and artists, lovers, snorkelers, divers, boaters, fishermen, campers, birders, foreigners, lesbians, gays, transvestites - ANYONE! Just the drive down is worth the trip. It takes five hours from Delray Beach, over forty-some bridges. The sea changes color on both sides of us, from deep azure far out to vibrant turquoise in the channels to beige over the sand bars to thin pea-soup-green in the runoffs. Nonstop photo ops, but not at 45 mph between Key Largo and the end of the road.
We try to go every year for the Conch Republic Independence Festival. It is a week-long celebration (the end of April) of the (unsuccessful) attempt by Key West to secede from the Union. Here, the bizarre becomes commonplace and acceptance is the norm. A young Irishman walks the sidewalk with pink dye in his blond mohawk. The spikes on his head are outdone only by the spikes on two green iguanas grazing on sea grapes at the edge of our beach. A van in orange and white psychedelic swirls advertises a number for pickup to "Live(!) Naked Dancers." As opposed to what - dead naked dancers? The mainland seems a million miles away.
First, there is the drag race down Duval Street. Men in drag - sequined dresses, bright makeup, wigs, and revealing undergarments - RUN in stiletto heels while pushing a cart. Then they have to jump through tires. Some of the shaved legs are pretty shapely, and the butts aren't bad. The contestants clearly work out for this! There are no bulging guts, but WAIT!! Something seems to be bulging from one of the tube tops! Could it be?? A starter stands with legs wide apart in a thong and no top. Somehow, HE just doesn't fit in!
Another event is the bed race. Beds are decked out as floats and pushed by the above "beauties" while real-life natural beauties sit on the mattresses, feathered, flocked, or fried. Monkeys and a lemur squat on spectators' shoulders, peeling peanuts, while parrots and macaws sqawk at the contestants. The pigeons are busy! We see a dog with its limbs spread-eagle in a baby back pack.
The other event that is a blast, literally, is the Coast Guard's attempt to subdue the rebel "Conch Republic" pirates in their ship off Mallory Pier. The Pier is the site of sunset kisses, cruise or Navy ship dockings, and acts of wonder at night (we have seen the same contortionist, now age 57, remove himself from a chained straightjacket for ten years). It is also the spot to be for the water fight. The Coast Guard, with its superior hoses, subdues the rebels, but not before they have thoroughly doused the spectators. None of us care, since we all have a glow from the sun or whatever.
There has been a gradual transformation in our modus operandi since Charley and I started going there. I no longer wear flip-flops with cute crystal beads cutting between my toes. Charley does not walk in his Birkenstock sandals. Instead, we ramble up Duval Street and back (two and one-half miles,total) in sturdy walking sneakers and socks. I have an elastic bandage supporting one knee that is burning. Charley does not wear his golfing straw hat or even a baseball cap. Instead, he dons his wide-brimmed Galapagos hat, looking for native Key West species. He sports a three-day beard, Papa Hemingway-style, and blends right in.
We no longer stop by the Hog's Breath Saloon, Sloppy Joe's, or Margueritaville. The stink of beer venting onto the sidewalk makes me sick. Instead, we stop on a porch near the Southernmost Hotel for a glass of ice water, lemonade, or iced tea.
There is a problem during our walk. I must shop by memory. "I absolutely HATE to shop," Charley reminds me. "You could always go out later, while I'm at the beach." The first day he indulges me by stopping in a few places. Thereafter, I must do a memory snapshot of the exact item in a window, the shop it is in, and where the shop is located. I down my ice water in the wicker chair and run back to look at the beach bag, watercolor, or necklace closest to the porch on which Charley sits. I know I will have only the time it takes him to finish one bowl of tobacco.
We have "done" the tourist attractions: snorkeling the reefs, the Glass Bottom Boat, Conch Train, Truman Summer White House, Hemingway House, Audubon House, botannical gardens, butterfly conservatory, Shipwreck Museum, Sunset Cruise. Now we collapse on our hotel beach after the morning walk. We can order lunch from our chaises, without moving. Reminds me of a story.
We have taken two different couples with us to Key West. While we were eating at an outdoor lunch place with one couple, the husband (Ed) kept jumping up and running toward the car. "What in the heck is going on?" Charley asked, when he returned to our table.
"I'm deathly afraid of cats. One attacked me when I was a kid." Needless to say, there are cats all over Key West to keep the rat population down. He only ate a few bites.
We proceeded with Ed and Kiva to our hotel beach after lunch, having no idea that the section we chose was designated "Topless." Ed settled in, took one look at what was in front of him, and never moved a muscle for the rest of the afternoon. He didn't even bother to open his book. "This is where I want to have lunch the rest of the trip," he declared.
It has been a process of elimination choosing the right place to stay. In the mid-nineties, our first booking was in a cheap motel at the southern end of Duval Street. It was the only thing available in our price range, so we walked five miles a day finding places to eat. Next we tried an inn that had been recommended. That meant we had no beach and had to lug our stuff. The inn compensated by providing free cocktails at Happy Hour each day! We stayed there two years.
Next we did a time-share promotion at a Hyatt facility on the southern end of the island. Charley was NOT happy about spending half of one day roaming around the property which he did NOT intend to invest in! Finally we tried the Pier House Resort, next to Mallory Pier. Great location and food, but we had a wall three feet from the edge of our patio. No view, and we were next to the lobby!
Tried the Pier House again, but this time I specified a room in the new "Spa" building. It was luxurious, compared to what we'd had before! We unpacked, roamed, ate, drank, and climbed in our king bed. Only trouble was, we were the end unit against a side street. The crowds of drunks kept us awake till 1 a.m. At 5 a.m. a very loud rooster began crowing on the property directly behind our room. At 8:30 a.m. the gardeners began SAWING down a trellis attached to the side of the building (and our room). We packed up and headed for the office!
We got an immediate upgrade. Following the guy pushing our luggage, we continued past the restaurant onto a dock. We were hanging over the water at the beach. We went up one level and looked at a king bedroom with adjoining living room. Beyond that lay our own private plexiglass balcony with chaises that continued around the corner of the building. Can we order lunch?