About Me

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Delray Beach, FL, Westport, MA, United States
Undergraduate degree, Colby College; MA in English, Columbia Teacher's College; former high school English teacher in three states; former owner of interior design co. with MA from R.I. School of Design. Barking Cat Books published my first book in 2009 titled, MINOR LEAGUE MOM: A MOTHER'S JOURNEY THROUGH THE RED SOX FARM TEAMS. My 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. In 2018 Barking Cat Books published my SURVIVING YOUR DREAM VACATION: 75 RULES TO KEEP YOUR COMPANION TALKING TO YOU ON THE ROAD. See website By CLICKING HERE.

Monday, February 17, 2020

A Developer's Dream: Briny Breezes, Florida

"Briny Breezes" is a tiny seaside village close to where we live in Florida. It sits on 43 coveted acres along Route A1A in Palm Beach County, with 600 feet of Atlantic oceanfront and 1,100 feet of Intracoastal Waterway. The village consists of 488 uniformly white mobile homes and carports, some with boat slips, as well as fourteen championship shuffleboard courts, an auditorium, hair salon, post office, recreation center, and swimming pool. The average age of residents is 73.7 years. Film producers have used the setting in such films as, "Folks" (1992), "In Her Shoes" (2005), and "Comedian" (2016).

The place was created "by a strawberry farmer named Ward Miller in the 1930's, who rented individual tracts to trailer-towing travelers for three bucks a week. In 1958 Miller offered his renters an opportunity to own their narrow tracts for $2,000 ($2,500 near the waterfront)." (Quote from Fred Grimm, "Briny Breezes Offered Fantasy About Selling Out to Trump Town," Sun Sentinel, January 5, 2020, pg. 29A).

The village became a town in 1958, as well as a corporation. Property owners became the shareholders. It was difficult for developers to work a deal for the acreage, with so many shareholders expressing opinions and casting votes...

Till 2007, that is. In January of that year the residents voted to sell the town to developers for $510,000,000. Figure it out - each resident would pocket over $1,000,000.
"High season" in Briny Breezes

In April, 2007, Ocean Land Investments of Boca Raton, Florida, optioned for the entire town at that price tag. It proposed the creation of a 349-room luxury hotel and marina, as well as twenty-story condos, all of which would take ten years to construct.

With single-lane (in both directions) drawbridges to the barrier island, this plan would create gridlock. In addition, the infrastructure for A1A's traffic, its sewage, and its water resources would be strained to the breaking point. Police, fire, and ambulance response, not to mention evacuation during storms, would be incomprehensible. Coral reefs offshore would be choked with sewage and beaches would be overdeveloped, while nesting grounds for sea turtles would be destroyed.
Briny's recreation center on Atlantic Ocean

Path to the beach
In May, '07, the newly-formed  Florida Coalition for Preservation held meetings with surrounding neighborhoods, local, state, and national groups, as well as mayors. As a result, the Florida Department of Community Affairs received a record number of community responses and reports from various governmental agencies. The developer's plan was rejected by state and regional authorities and in July of that year, the deal was cancelled by the developer over a dispute regarding a proposed extension by the Briny Board of Directors of the due diligence period. The developer never put up his $5 million guarantee, according to Fred Grimm ("Briny Breezers Offered Fantasy About Selling Out to Trump Town," Sun Sentinel, January 5, 2020, pg. 29A),

Fast forward to December, 2019, when according to the Briny Bugle newsletter, resident and real estate broker James Arena summoned the town population to the auditorium to hear about a possible BILLION-dollar deal to buy out the trailer lots, clearing the way for an oceanfront PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY FOR DONALD TRUMP. Of course, there'd also be a hotel.
Briny Breezes pool

Hobby center
Arena assured the residents the proposal had been run past rapper Vanilla Ice, a semi-famous Palm Beach County resident and phantom friend of Donald Trump, Jr. The day after the proposed windfall was touted, Vanilla Ice himself tweeted, "I don't know Donald Trump, Jr. Don't understand why they said that? But if they want me to build a library in Palm Beach on the ocean, I'm in."
Shuffleboard at Briny Breezes

Resident and broker Arena proposed the name of the town be changed to "Trump Town" for the presidential library that would house - not books - but the President's collection of 12,000 tweets! According to Timothy O'Brien, author of Trump Nation: The Art of Being the Donald, "He doesn't read at all. I'm not overstating things here." This presidential trait, or lack thereof, was also noted by Michael Wolfe, after his months-long access to the White House, in Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. "He didn't read. He didn't really even skim."

Wheeler-dealers blow smoke. Politicians blow smoke. But those of us living on the barrier island like our air clean and pure.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Unaccompanied Minors

Our son and daughter-in-law took our two granddaughters to Logan Airport in Boston for their flight to Ft. Lauderdale on Christmas night. Emma was fourteen and Hannah thirteen, just under the age that Spirit Airline designated as "adult." Their parents filled out the necessary paperwork and presented ID's for the girls to get on the plane unaccompanied.

"My parents will pick them up in Ft. Lauderdale," Julie told us, "since you'll still be away. After you get back, they can switch over to your place till they leave. Would you mind taking them to Ft. Lauderdale for their flight home? You'll have to fill out paperwork and present your ID's, but the whole process only took us about twenty minutes. We didn't have to accompany them through the security line to the gate."

"Of course we wouldn't mind!" In fact, we were thrilled that the girls' parents allowed us to spend time with them swimming, shopping, watching movies,  EATING (my midriff demonstrated the result of our good eating!), and laughing. At the end of their vacation, we thanked the girls for putting their room back in order, for being helpful, engaging, and fun. We stored the memories and took off down Route 95 South for the Ft. Lauderdale airport.

We had gone past three exits when cars ahead of us began to apply their brakes. We could see beyond a curve in the highway that traffic was at a standstill. An ambulance and firetruck zoomed past, while Hannah began to squirm in the back seat. "Are we going to miss our plane?" she asked, while her older sister busied herself on her cell phone.

"No, don't worry," I said. "We left three hours early, so we have plenty of time." For forty-five minutes I kept up a constant chatter to divert Hannah's attention from the tie-up, but like her sister, she soon buried herself in cell phone amusements. A drive that normally took twenty minutes took almost an hour, and we still had another fifty to go.

We arrived at the terminal for Spirit ninety minutes before flight time, and wound our way through the parking garage. No empty spaces presented themselves, so we parked across from the next terminal. "Don't forget your jackets and carry-on bags," Charley said, opening the trunk. Everything that hadn't fit in their carry-on's was in a box to be shipped home.

The ticket agent at the Spirit desk was a very agreeable and reassuring young man named Theo. All four of us relaxed as Charley and I filled out the necessary forms, listing the girls' names and home address, as well as our own. We presented our driver's licenses, while Theo laminated identification forms, which he placed around the girls' necks. "Please keep this showing forward at all times," he said. Then he handed Charley and me "receipts," one for each girl, which I stashed in my purse. The whole process took about twenty minutes. "Please proceed outside to the sidewalk and turn left. The first door will lead you directly to the security line for Spirit, so you won't have to wind through this building. They'll be going to gate two after they pass through security. A gate agent will accompany them to their seats." Charley thanked him with a $10 tip and we headed for security.

Inside the door, a Homeland Security agent greeted us at the end of the snaking line. "We have unaccompanied minors," I said, pointing to Emma and Hannah.

"Please go through this line," the agent instructed, pointing to a shorter line to the right. We hugged and gave final kisses, and the girls trotted into line with carry-on's fishtailing behind. Hannah kept turning to wave to us each time the line wound around a stanchion. We lost sight after they'd gone through the body scanner.  Charley and I headed for a restroom before driving home.

Outside, it was 80 degrees and we took our time ambling along the sidewalk leading to the terminal where we'd parked. We were talking about the way the two sisters had gotten along during the week when we heard the familiar bell tones of my cell phone. We stopped so I could dig it out of my purse. "Wuz (my nickname), we can't get on the plane without you here!" I heard.

"Emma, I don't understand! Where are you?"

"We're at the gate. You need to be here for us to get on and they started boarding."

"We don't have boarding passes to get through security. Is there an agent we can talk to?"

"Hello? I'm the Spirit agent at gate two. You must be present for unaccompanied minors to board the plane. Did you get slips from the ticket agent?"

"Yes, I have them in my purse."

"That will allow you through security."

"OK, tell the girls we're on our way, please," I said, punching the "Off" button. "Run, honey! We've got to get to the gate so they can get on the plane."

I charged back to the door we'd used to enter security for Spirit, with Charley just behind me.  Good thing we run on the tennis court, I thought, catching my breath before I accosted the same Homeland Security woman at the end of the line. "Remember us? We have two unaccompanied minors trying to get on their flight and we have to be with them!"

"Where are the slips with their names?" I dug into my purse once again and pulled out the slips along with my driver's license. My cell phone was still in my other hand. "You can enter the express security line to the right," she instructed us. Charley shadowed me to the rolling metal balls on the conveyor belt, where I threw my purse into a bin with my cell phone and shoes. Behind me, Charley was unlacing his sneakers, removing his belt and pocket change, and waving his driver's license. My cell phone rang again.

"Wuz, where are you? Mom is freaking out at home!" Emma said, with the first hint of concern.

"Don't worry, Emma. We're just about to go through the body scanner in security. Tell the gate agent we're almost there now." I managed to keep my voice in control, belying the anger I felt about being in this predicament.

After three people ahead of us went through body imaging, we grabbed our belongings. Charley slammed his sneakers on without tying them and we ran toward gate two. "We're here! We're here," I yelled, spotting the girls. The middle-aged female agent, whose name tag read "Ella," was in the process of boarding the rest of the plane.

"Glad you made it!" she said. "It's a federal regulation that we can't board minors without  supervising adults at the gate. We would be subject to fines and penalties. In any case, they'll be last to board and I'll walk them to their seats. They'll be in the last row of the plane so we can keep an eye on them. That's another federal regulation."

Emma gave us a disgusted look and rolled her eyes. "We had to sit there coming down," she said. "The seats didn't go back and the toilet was gross."

"Why didn't their parents have to go to the gate when they boarded in Boston?" I asked.

"Well, if they didn't, that was a big mistake!  Also, you must stay for at least fifteen minutes after the plane pulls away, in case it returns to the terminal."

"That's certainly understandable," Charley said. By this time Emma had called her mom to tell her we were there, and Hannah had stopped twisting her hair into knots. We waited another five minutes for late-comers to rush down the access ramp before we said our second round of good-bye's. The girls marched on either side of Ella toward the waiting plane and waved for the last time, as we blew kisses. "I'm going to get a cold drink at the concession over at gate four," Charley said.

"Please get me one, too. We can sit here for a while and calm down! It's a good thing we had to park so far away, or we would have been back on the highway when she called."

I dialed our son's number and explained the girls were on board. "Well, I'm going to call the airline first thing in the morning to register a complaint about their lackadaisical attitude in Boston. Thanks for being there for them!" he said.

The girls arrived on time and without further drama. After twenty-four hours, the only thing their father got was recordings.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

A Dog-Sitting Adventure

Photos courtesy of www.freephotosBeagles
Linda didn't know much about Beagles, but she wanted to please her step-daughter to keep the peace. "How long will you be away?" she asked Susan.

"Just five days, and we'll be in Key West. So in case of an emergency, we won't be far."

"Is Sargent trained?" Linda asked. "You said he's only a puppy."

"Well, mostly. He's pretty good at night till early morning. We've done some impulse control training with him and relationship-building exercises. I'd keep him on a leash, though, since we didn't finish the focus training without a leash. We never got to where he'd come back on command."

"You know I love dogs, so we'll give it a try. When do you leave?"

"Next Sunday. You won't be able to resist him! We'll call you Sunday morning before we drop him off. Thanks so much!"

"It shouldn't be too bad," Roger said, trying to convince himself. "Beagles are pretty small and they have a happy-go-lucky temperament, don't they? Their tails are always wagging."

"I guess we'll soon find out!" Susan replied. Over the course of the week, Linda removed small carpets and doggie-height accessories and stored them in a closet. She bought a $44.97 machine-washable, faux fur "Calming Dog Bed," sure she'd convince Rog to get a puppy if Sargent was a compatible house guest. She also purchased a collapsible gate, several chewable toys, a special training pad, a chow bowl, doggie treats, and the food Susan had suggested.

The following Sunday morning Susan appeared at the door with Sargent in her arms. Linda and Roger invited them in and closed the door behind them. Susan gave Sargent a kiss on his ear and a last hug while Sargent licked her neck. Then she deposited him and a bag of Sargent's "necessaries" on the floor.

Like a lightning bolt, Sargent was gone. Linda and Roger caught glimpses of his tail as he turned corners, racing from room to room down the hall. "Thanks again," Susan said. "We'll see you on Friday. Call if you have any issues." And then she, too, was gone.

"Sargent! Sargent! Come get a treat," Linda yelled on her way down the hall, as Sargent streaked past toward the kitchen in the opposite direction. "Rog, grab the gate and keep him in there! His bed's in there."

But Roger wasn't fast enough. Sargent skidded on the glossy kitchen floor and escaped past Roger into the living room where Linda stood watching. There, right in front of her, he lifted his leg and squirted against the base of the coffee table.

"Bad dog!" Linda yelled, cradling the dripping Sargent and carrying him to the training pad in the kitchen. "Rog, for God's sake, put up that gate! I'll get the leash and take him outside."

On the leash, Sargent took off after a squirrel and yanked Linda's neck so hard she couldn't turn it back to the right.  Under his belly he began to dig in the soft earth where Linda had planted daffodil bulbs. "No, Sargent!" she yelled, yanking him as hard as he'd yanked her. Not only didn't she want her bulbs disturbed, but God forbid if Sargent chewed them and got sick, or worse, poisoned himself!

She got him back into the kitchen and closed the gate Rog had installed. "I need some Aleve and a glass of wine," Linda announced.

"But it's only 11:00," Rog said.

"It could be 7:00 a.m. for all I care! I'm already exhausted and they just left." While Linda gulped down a couple of pain relievers and poured both of them a glass of wine, Sargent nipped at her ankles. 

"After I get the mess in the living room cleaned up, let's sit down to talk. I don't know what we've gotten ourselves into! Could you get the heating pad for my neck? Sargent yanked me so hard I can't turn it."

On her hands and knees Linda used a cleaning product for urine. She retrieved her glass and plopped down on the sofa next to Rog, who had already plugged in the heating pad. "What's that noise?" she said.

"What noise?" Rog couldn't hear a thing and refused to get hearing aids.

"That scratching noise." Linda dumped the cleaning product and heating pad onto the sofa and headed for the kitchen, wine in one hand.

"Oh no!!! Rog, come here!" When Roger arrived, Linda was inspecting new scratches on the hardwood floor. "I knew I heard scratching. Look at this! We've got to get this puppy off the hardwood. It will have to be refinished! I'm going to put him in the laundry room with his bed and training pad. He can't do any damage to the tiles in there. Please bring some of his toys in."

Linda laid newspapers from the laundry room to the back door and took Sargent for another walk before securing him in the laundry room. Then she and Rog collapsed onto their bed for a nap. Barking awakened them. "Let him bark!" Rog said. "It's like a toddler having a tantrum." Linda got up.

"We're going to get calls from the neighbors." She went down the hall and cracked the laundry room door open.

"I don't believe it! Rog, come look at this!"

"What now?" Not only had Sargent chewed his training pad, he had ripped the clothing into shreds that had been waiting for a wash.

"He must be teething," Roger said.

"No kidding!" Linda said with venom in her voice. "I can't take much more of this. Please get on the phone to Susan and tell her what's happened."

"They're probably in Key West by now," Roger said.

"I don't care. Ask her what she wants us to do."

Roger knew better than to argue. He dialed his daughter. "Honey, it's dad. We have a problem. We can't control Sargent. He's already peed in the house, scratched the floor in the kitchen, torn the laundry to shreds, and yanked Linda's neck so bad on the leash she needs a heating pad. What should we do?"

When Roger got off the phone several minutes later, he showed Linda a piece of paper. On it he'd written a website for training Beagles. "What's this?" Linda said.

"Susan said this website will help us reprogram Sargent's mind so he wants to please us. Then he won't be bored and destructive.  I guess they can't be trained like normal puppies. She already took out a subscription to this website."

"Lovely! We're supposed to spend OUR time finding out how to train HER puppy while she's enjoying herself. She could have told us all this before she dropped him off! I don't want any supper. Get your own!" With that, Linda stormed to the bedroom and slammed the door. A minute later she stuck her head out and yelled, "And don't forget to feed the mutt!"

Roger got on the internet. He learned Beagles' brains weren't wired the same as other dogs' brains. He read step-by-step instructions about when to give Sargent attention and when to ignore him; what tone of voice to use that didn't involve shouting; how to show Sargent who was boss by the way he held him; and how to reward Sargent's good behavior.

Roger fixed himself a sandwich and watched a little television. Linda still hadn't come out of the bedroom. Roger tried to apply some of the things he'd learned when he took Sargent for a walk after they both had supper. Somehow Sargent managed to pull 220-pound Roger to the neighbor's trash can, turn it over, and help himself to some of the contents.

Blood started to drip from Sargent's lip. "What the hell?" Roger said, bending down to examine.

"Got to take Sargent to that 24-hour vet," Roger yelled to Linda inside the house. "He must have cut himself on a tin can in the garbage. I need you to hold him in the car."

Linda's muscular arms that had earned blue ribbons for gardening cradled Sargent in the car. Covered in a knit throw blanket, the Beagle quieted. "Now we know what works!" Roger said. "We'll just keep driving around for five days."

Before bed, they gave Sargent another of the pills prescribed by the vet. Sargent never whimpered all night. They repeated the dose in the morning and got Sargent ready for his car ride. Their pill supply lasted five days. They had asked for a refill in case they needed it.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Florida Re-entry

Like the birds, Charley and I "migrate" twice a year. When the weather turns cold and raw in Massachusetts, we head to Florida. We do the reverse in May when the heat and humidity become suffocating in Florida.

After driving 1500 miles south this October, we unpacked the car,
raised the electric storm shutters, put sheets on our bed, and tumbled to sleep within minutes. Around 1 a.m. I got up to use the bathroom, rousing myself from dreams of lying on the beach, and shuffled with one open eye toward the nightlight. My other eye flew open when I heard a loud hissing noise. "Please, God, not a snake!" was my first thought. I turned on a light and not seeing anything coiled near my feet, headed toward the kitchen.

I didn't get to the kitchen. Squish, squish, squish. My feet hit water across the stone floor. From under the bar a fountain was spurting liquid sunshine down the hall. "Charley! Get up!" I yelled, folding to my knees. A split water hose made a direct hit and doused my face and hair in a second.

"Are you sick?" Charley said, stumbling out of the bedroom.

"Look!" I said, holding my thumb over the split in the hose. "Turn off the faucet under there! I'll get a bucket and towels." I handed him the hose so he could move his thumb into position.

  "The thing is rusted," he yelled, twisting his other arm into the back of the cabinet. "Get some WD40!" A new purple bruise spread across his forearm, as he wedged his football body inside the 2'x4' cabinet, while
water gushed past his thumb.

I ran to grab the WD40, towels, and a bucket, and headed back to my dripping husband who was sitting in water and looked like he'd peed in his pj's. Slowly, slowly, the metal knob began turning. Slowly, slowly, the water began to drip and then stopped. We heard  furniture scraping in the condo below us. "I hope this didn't seep into their apartment!" I said. That was when our phone rang.


"Mrs. Carey, this is the security guard. Mrs. Rickover in the apartment below you reported water coming through her light fixtures in the ceiling."

"Yes, we've had a hose split in the bar area, but we've turned off the water."

"I'll be right there."

The damage was minimal for both of us, thankfully, but our neighbors called ServPro, to be sure. A plumber came for us the next day and the dripping from the Rickovers' light fixtures stopped without mildew. Their ceiling was intact and the light fixtures functioned. We both ran fans that week, called our insurance companies, and sent carpets out for cleaning. Good thing I'd had to make a pit stop (though I didn't make it back there for quite a while)!

But that was only the beginning...

During the course of the next week we discovered an ice block in the refrigerator ice maker; the internet nonfunctional; the cable out of commission for two televisions; the printer full of a blob of black ink (needed a new printer); sugar ants in the kitchen; and to top it off...I developed an eye infection!

The following week a cavity turned into a root canal.

At least we had sunshine and temperatures in the eighties!

Monday, October 14, 2019

The Flask Fiasco

Another true story...

     Josh couldn't believe his good luck. "Hey, Eric," he said on the phone, "you won't believe it! I just won tickets to the Pats' game next week at Gillette Stadium!"
     "No way?!!? You lucky s.o.b! How did you do that?"
     "I entered an auction at a fundraiser and had the winning bid! I got two other tickets and a limo both ways. Want to go?"
     "You kiddin' me? Course I want to go! It's a night game, right? How much did that set you back?"
     "A  lot less than buying a ticket from a scalper, and it was for a good cause. We could split it three ways. I'm psyched! You think Joe would want to go?"
     "Anybody in his right mind would want to go! Give him a call."
     "O.K. I'll let you know the details. I've got to talk to the limo company and pick up the tickets in the city tomorrow."
     On the day of the Patriots' game, the limo proceeded from Boston to Sudbury, Massachusetts, where the three men lived, a distance of approximately twenty-one miles. The driver picked them up at Josh's house in the late afternoon and proceeded to Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts, another 33.5 miles directly south.
     The three men wore navy Superbowl Championship sweat shirts. Red, white, and blue poster paint smeared their cheeks. "Here's my card, in case you need to contact me," the driver said, handing each a business card when he stopped at the drop-off entrance. "This is where I'll meet you after the game." The three bounded out and headed for the security lines.
     "Make sure you have my cell phone number," Josh told the others. "I've got yours. Here are your tickets, in case we get separated."
     Eric and Joe checked their cell phones and headed to the line on the right. Josh headed to the left. "Let's get a beer," Eric said, after the two had made their way through security.
     "What about Josh?"
     "I don't see him. We'll meet him at the seats."
     Twenty minutes later, Eric and Joe had settled in at the forty yard line. Josh hadn't appeared. "Call his cell," Eric said.
     Josh's cell rang and rang without an answer. "I'll go back down to the security line," Eric said. "If he shows up here, call me."
     It took fifteen minutes to buck the throngs of spectators coming into the stadium and maneuver down three ramps toward the security gate they had entered. No sign of Josh. Eric dialed Josh's cell again without an answer and turned around to join the thousands heading to their seats.
     "No sign of him," he said to Joe. "And he isn't answering his cell. What the hell could have happened to him?"
     "Beats me," Joe said. "He'll show up eventually. We got the coin toss, and Belichick likes to receive the second half. Here goes kick-off!"
     At the end of the first quarter, Josh still hadn't shown up. Eric called again without an answer. "Where did he go? There's no answer."
     At the end of the half, Josh still hadn't shown up. Eric called again without an answer.
     At the end of the third quarter, still no Josh and no answer on his cell.
     The game ended at 11:30 P.M. Josh still hadn't appeared. "What the hell should we do?" Eric said.
     "There's nothing we can do but go to the limo. Maybe he got a better seat for the game and he'll be there." Joe took a last swig from his cup and tossed it in a receptacle. "Brady's unbelievable, isn't he?"
     Josh wasn't at the limo. "Where's the other guy?" the driver said.
     "Beats me," Eric answered, red paint dripping down his chin. "He went through a different security line and didn't show up for the game."
     "They probably held him for somethin'. There an arrest warrant out for him?"
     "No way."
     "Well, the traffic getting out of this place is always backed up. It will take at least forty-five minutes, in case he shows up."
     Eric kept calling Josh's cell.  Around 1:00 A.M. the limo turned into Josh's driveway, where the others had left their cars. Eric's cell startled the two men from their semi-stupor in the back seat.
     "Eric! Help me!"
     "Josh? Is that you? Where in hell are you? You didn't show up for the game!"
     "I know I didn't show up. I'm in the brig underneath Gillette Stadium. Can you come get me?"
     "I'll ask the driver to take us back. Hold on."
     After agreeing on a price, the limo driver turned around with Eric and Joe still in the back. Gillette Stadium was a ghost town when they arrived. The floodlights had been turned off and there were no tailgaters in the parking lot. A guard stood near the entrance. Josh stood next to him in handcuffs.
     "Get in," the guard said, unlocking the cuffs and handing Josh off to his friends.
     "What happened? Where have you been?"
     "I had a flask in my pocket and they pulled me out of security and held me in the brig. Thanks for coming back! I heard my cell ring and ring, but they took it away so I couldn't answer. I owe you big time."
     "We're not the only ones you owe! You also owe this guy exactly two hundred big ones," Eric said, pointing to the driver. "And by the way, the Pats won."



Thursday, September 26, 2019

Beam Him Up!

This is a true story...    

     Stan climbed out of his Fast Relief van in front of the nail salon and pulled up the bluejeans that rested below his hips. He scratched himself behind the driver's door, in case the owner was peeking out the window, and slammed it shut.  He turned his baseball cap backward over his blond ponytail, which was held together with an elastic and disappeared into his shirt collar. At the back of the van he retrieved his tool box and threw his wad of gum over the chain link fence.
     Stan jabbed the pass code buttons he'd been told to use on the salon door without success. "Anybody here?" he shouted.
     "Who is it?" Cheryl yelled back.
     "You need a plumber?" A few seconds later the front door of Cheryl's salon opened. "You got a problem here?" Stan asked.
     "I'll need your ID first, Cy - that's your name, right? It's on your shirt," Cheryl said, holding her cell phone in one hand.
     "Actually, my name's Stan. Stan-the-Man, that's me. Forgot my shirt this morning so I borrowed Cy's. I got this here card from the company, though," Stan said, handing Cheryl the company's business card.
     "Well, Stan," Cheryl began, scanning the card, "The pipe between my two sinks is blocked. I have appointments coming in an hour."
     "Not a problem! Stan-the-Man's here! Where's the pipe at?"
     Cheryl led Stan-the-Man to the back room. "I'm going to unplug the washer and dryer while I'm fixin', so don't go trying to do your dirty laundry." Stan-the-Man chuckled at his own joke. "Besides, we can't be too careful with those top-loaders. Front-loaders way better."
     "Why's that?" Cheryl said.
     "Everyone knows top-loaders is where they keep the cameras."
     "Cameras? To take photos of the towels?"
     "No. It's the Army. They can see us. They take photos when we ain't lookin'. I prob'ly shouldn't be telling you this. It's Top Secret. But no electricity, no photos."
     Cheryl's mouth hung open. "You work for the government?" she managed to get out without snickering.
     "No, I'm just tryin' to stop 'em from watchin'. They use digital space where they can. Like in them LED bulbs overhead. Better change those. Can't be watched through the old incandescents."
     Stan-the-Man mumbled something that only the plumbing snake could hear, as it wound its way down into the pipe. "Now turn on the faucets to see if we got it," he instructed.
     Cheryl leaned over the exposed crack of Stan-the-Man, whose butt was no more appealing than his protruding nose. She turned both faucets on full blast. "Are we safe now?" she asked, not realizing she was playing Stan's game.
     "Well, you want to be truly safe, you put tinfoil on the windows," Stan-the-Man responded, rising up with furrowed brows. "That way the infra-red rays can't penetrate."
     "I'll be sure to do that. The water is draining perfectly! I think we're good to go."
     "I'm good to go, as you said, but you'd better not be going anyplace before you replace those bulbs. You got customers to think of. You got a supply of tinfoil here?"
     "Oh, I'll be sure to take care of that after my clients leave," Cheryl said, hovering over her checkbook. What do I owe FR Plumbing?"
     "Just looking out for your welfare! That'll be fifty."
     Cheryl raced to the front door after handing Stan-the-Man her check. She stood with the door open until he had replaced the tools in his box. "Be sure to remember what I told you," Stan said, handing her a receipt on his way out.
     "I sure will," she said, feeling fast relief for the second time that day. She closed and locked the door with one hand while her other hand dialed FR Plumbing.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Ischia, Italy, 2019

     In June, 2019, we again visited the island of Ischia in the Bay of Naples. We noticed subtle changes.
Town of Forio, Ischia
Il Castello, Town of Porto, Ischia

Overlooking Forio
     Our hotel, previously owned independently by a family from Naples,
Mezzatorre Hotel pool and tower rooms
had been sold to the Il Pellicano group, owner of three other large hotels in Italy.
     Giovanni, our beloved manager, had retired. The rest of the faces at our hotel remained the same, though Silvestro, the breakfast chef, was no longer cooking our eggs in the dining room but remained hidden in the kitchen. Giorgio, the pool and harbor director, now shared duties with a young man thirty years his junior, who spent time catching up with his friends on his Iphone. We struggled to remember all of the staff names, since their metal name plates had disappeared. "We don't have to wear name tags any longer," Fausto the waiter told us. "I guess any of us can be replaced."
     "Can we reserve our favorite table for dinner?" I asked him.
     "I'm sorry, Mrs. Carey, but we can no longer reserve any tables."
Breakfast chef Silvestro
     The first of two interior dining rooms had been converted into a circus tent with red and cream striping, while the second boasted a mural of dark green foliage reminiscent of an English hunt scene. Gone were the sorbets served at 4 p.m. to those lounging by the pool. Gone were souvenir raffia totes emblazoned with "Mezzatorre Hotel." The ubiquitous white linen draperies, three-foot scented candles, and aqua blown glass, reflecting the sea below, had been replaced with white ceramic guard dogs and circus elephants holding bowls of lemons on their backs. In our room the ambiance of Napoli had been replaced with generic wicker.
     But some things had not changed. Upon arrival, a golf cart picked us up half-way down the mile-long serpentine driveway. Although the new cart could now accommodate four with luggage and boasted a fringed awning, the neighbor's cement wall still veered at ninety-degrees into the hotel's driveway after eight years, making it impossible for anything larger than a Volkswagen "Bug" to approach. Obviously the dispute over territory between the new hotel owner and his neighbor had not been resolved.
Driveway to our hotel blocked for large vehicles by neighbor's stone wall
Two hungry seagulls

Stone steps from our room to the sea

     Bright green four-inch lizards still scampered away from our feet on stone steps leading from our room to the sea, while seagulls, emboldened by al fresco temptations, swooped above our tented platform.
     During our morning walk I browsed through tee shirts on display on the sidewalk while Charley disappeared inside and emerged with a grin and small paper bag. Since we would celebrate our fifty-fourth anniversary on the island, I figured he'd forgotten to purchase a card and had found one in the shop. I knew from past trips the sentiment would be in Italian, surrounded by champagne glasses and flowers. I was right.
Sunday recreation for the islanders
     When we sat at our favorite cafe for a drink, a local resident stood nearby to sip his espresso. He wore a peach printed shirt with rolled-up sleeves, rust-colored slacks, and matching woven leather loafers without socks. The next day he appeared in a navy and white nautical shirt with rolled-up sleeves, navy slacks, and navy canvas boat shoes. There was always a fashion show in Italy! Of course, there were also exceptions.
Who dressed this guy?
Cards on the beach
     Before walking back to our hotel, I paused inside the cream and white decor of a boutique. The clock on the street read 12:45 p.m. Fifteen minutes later I had selected a few options to take to the dressing room, but the shopkeeper blocked my path. "Cuiso!" (Closed!) she said, pointing to her watch. She shooed us forward as though she were sweeping the floor. Charley and I marched like school children into the street (sans merchandise) so she could enjoy her mid-day pasta.
     What else had not changed? The fragrance of wisteria and white passion flowers as we marched up and down never-ending stone stairs to the sea; the "Buon Giorno Signore and Signora Carey!" and bear hug from every staff member upon our return; the lavender and peach glow of sunset across our al fresco dinner perch; the fishing boats sputtering home at sunset and the screaming seagulls returning to their rookeries above; and the perfection of spaghetti a la vongoli (with clams) accompanied by a glass of local Bianco L'Ella.
Waterfront, Town of Lacco Ameno

Fruit and vegetable stand, Town of Forio
La  Mortella Botanical Garden