Archive for the ‘Vacation’ Category
Due to a snafu, my site went missing for a few days. After much gnashing of teeth, and forwarding of emails stating that I had in fact paid for my domain to be renewed, we’re back.
Of course, I make no promises of posting anything actually interesting to read… I really should though. I do miss my blog. It’s just that…
Well, here’s a taste of what I do lately:
- Work hard
- Read a lot
- Play a ton of rhythm games
- Watch entirely too many episodes of the BBC’s Top Gear
- Spend time with my husband
Because, yes, in case you didn’t already know, Mike and I got married in July.
So hopefully, once we figure out how to make it work, I’ll at least be able to share some pictures from the wedding and honeymoon. And if you’re lucky, maybe I’ll actually write a narrative of the trip. Including fun things like sleeping in the Toronto airport baggage claim, crossing a ridiculously scary suspension bridge, experiencing what a temperate rain forest really is, playing with Iditarod puppies, seeing glacier calving, watching the high seas cause a cruise ship pool to empty itself (while trying desperately not to empty myself), finding that Canadians assume Mike speaks French, and other tidbits. I do want to write. So I’ll just have to find time, amongst my other tasks.
My little vacation last week is still lingering on my skin. I know some of you out there in the blogosphere probably, you know, tan or something. I can assure you that right now, I am as tan as I have ever been in my entire life.
I am normally as pale as a slice of Wonderbread. With the crusts cut off. I think it’s time for visual cues.
Here, we see my normal skin tone. This is the color that my skin is most of the time, and the color that my hidden parts are all of the time. You can blame my Polish father for supplying me with this skin tone (my Sicilian mother could have given me a nice olive complexion, but no… she had to give me the inate ability to associate food and love instead).
This here is what happens if I go out in the sun without sunscreen. The first one is after about a half hour, and the second one is after an hour or more.
You can see why I am occasionally referred to as a lobster.
Now, this summer, I have managed to spend quite a bit of time out in the sun. And I’ve also gotten a different kind of sunscreen. It’s supposed to be better, longer lasting, better for your skin, all that jazz. First of all – it doesn’t last as long as you might think. So, even though I was wearing 45, and later 55, I got burned. Mostly the first kind of burned, but I got some serious red going on my right shoulder and my eyebrows.
The shoulder I blame on the sun. The eyebrows… I only have myself to blame for not putting sunscreen there. By the way – when that burn pealed… let’s just say ew and ow and move on.
But after all the sun, and the apparently better sunscreen, I came out with color. And not the standard pink to red kind either. My skin, on my arms and face at least, is now a beautiful shade of slightly-darker-than-Wonderbread.
There you go, friends. Color!
I don’t think I’m going to do a huge multi-part blog-tastic description of my mini-vacation in Maine. I just don’t think you need to hear five days worth of posts that mostly go like this:
Woke up at the crack of whenever I felt like it. Tried not to wake up Kate. Failed. Watched the Regis and Kelly show. Bathing suit, sunscreen, towel, magazine, beach. Shower. “Lovely beverage.”
So instead, I’ll just give you some highlights. Starting with the most tragic.
The week of beach-ness always coincides with Mike’s birthday. This year, for his birthday, his parents decided to get him one of those skim board things. I don’t know how prevalent these things are, so I’ll give you a quick description. It’s like a miniature surf board, only thinner and with no fin or anything. Actually, it’s more like a slice of luan or similarly thick piece of fiberglass in a more-or-less egg shape. To use it, one goes to the very edge of the water and throws it along the top of the tail-end of a wave. It skims over the top, and you run and jump onto it to go for a ride.
Every year, we see kids of all ages flailing around on these things. Some get pretty good at it, and almost “look cool.” I think that coolness is what got Mike interested in the first place.
So, the night before his birthday, we were down in Old Orchard center, mostly to eat pizza and play arcade games. But before any of that could start, we had some shopping to do. Kate, who has become acclimated to weather like this (note “feels-like” temperatures over 100 – or at least they were when I looked) than this (note overnight low in the fifties – or at least it was when I looked) failed to bring a sweatshirt with her. I, who is more likely to forget any given thing than remember it, left my sweatshirt back at the cottage. So we stopped at one of the ghetto-looking buy-crap-here stores and picked up a two-for-one sweatshirt deal, a skim board painted with angry looking sea critters, and some wax. The board went back to the car, the sweatshirts went over our tanks, and the night went on providing stories for another entry.
The next day, as we were sitting on the beach doing a blessed nothing, the tide finally started to recede. Mike had determined that the best skim board times were when the tide was heading out rather than in. So he pulled the board out of the sand behind us (Kate had already waxed it), and begged me to come down to the water with him. Try one: The board stops dead in the sand. Try two: Mike runs too fast and oversteps. Try three: Success is written all over this one… except… nope.
Imagine an old-timey comedy act. You know, the kind with the poking out of eyes and the flying pies? Now imagine the time has come for the banana peal. Now imagine the banana peal is the skim board, and Mike is the “unsuspecting” victim. He was on the ground before you could blink.
“My arm is broken.”
I grabbed the board and brought him back to our seats, where his family was kind of giggling until they saw the looks on our faces. We made haste back to the cottage, took quick showers, and shortly Mike, his mom, and I were off to the emergency room. After a brief moment of complete confusion in the parking lot, we walked into the ER just in time to hear the triage nurse telling the person she was seeing that they were kind of swamped today and it might be a long while.
Triage. Registration. Wait.
In no way am I a patient person. In between various bouts of shifting in my seat, I called Kate, read a magazine, read another magazine out loud to try to amuse Mike (who couldn’t be less amused), and did what everyone in an ER does. I tried to see if I could mentally triage everyone in the room to see where we were in line. I soon grew so impatient that I went in to ask the triage nurse when Mike was going to be called in. She said she was just filling out paperwork for the X-ray, and he was next to head there. Sweet!
I spare you even more boring tales of waiting in the X-ray waiting room, the hallway of “urgent care,” and the room (once they finally found one). Along the way, though, we met up with a lady who had the exact same swelling in her left arm as Mike had in his right arm. They were on the same track, following each other around the building. So, when we overheard the doctors talking about “the other fractured wrist,” we knew Mike’s was broken.
They weren’t actually that convinced. Turns out they couldn’t find it on the X-ray. But I guess that’s normal for this kind of break. But ultimately, they suspected that he had a hairline fracture in one of the more important bones that makes it possible for you to move your hand and thumb every which way. They gave him a nifty leather and metal splint (it looks a lot like a gauntlet) and told him to call his regular doctor in a week to set up new X-rays. (I guess it’s easier to see once the swelling’s gone down… but I’m not a doctor and I hardly understand them.)
So, my friends, that’s the story about how my boyfriend broke his wrist on his birthday. Due to the lateness of the hour, we didn’t really get to have a birthday dinner, like we normally do. We picked up KFC on the way back to the cottage. We did make it to the Japanese place the following day, though.
I didn’t want to leave you with nothing at all to read here today, so I’ll tell you a little story.
Once upon a time, there was a little red cottage. The little red cottage couldn’t hold many people. In the summer time, she occasionally held a couple people and their things, but she wasn’t anyone’s favorite place. And in the winter time, she was lonely, and left to shiver in the snow.
Then, one year, a crazy old man came by. She had a sign in front of her, but she couldn’t read. The crazy old man must have been able to read, though, because he called a number on a phone. He came back with some other lady that the little red cottage vaguely remembered, and they were shaking hands. After the lady left, the crazy old man spun around slowly, thinking of ideas. “Yes, this will work nicely.”
Through the next year, the crazy old man spent hours with the little red cottage. He would hurt her, but then make her stronger. At first she wasn’t sure if she liked him very much, but as her front porch grew, and her sides pulled out, she began to realize that he was making her a better cottage. Maybe she could have more friends over to visit!
That next summer, the little red cottage was standing proud just four houses away from the sand dunes and the beach. Before that was her only positive attribute, but now… now she was beautiful herself. She had a porch where her new friends could sit and enjoy cocktails. She had a new big-screen TV. She had a giant kitchen – maybe people would even stay with her for dinner (most of the time, people avoided her except to sleep).
And so it was that many people started to visit with her. They paid the crazy old man (who likes to mow her yard wearing plastic baggies over his shoes) and spent the week going through her doors. They stayed in the new pretty little beds and watched Red Sox games on her big-screen TV at night. They trudged sand into her, but she didn’t mind, because they were friendly. And sometimes, they might spill a little bit of their pina coladas on the ground so that she could taste.
The crazy old man keeps coming back to make the little red cottage bigger and stronger. He gave her a back porch, completely enclosed with screens. Her visitors like that, because they can sit outside without actually being outside. And now, he is filling in her basement with things other than crap. There is even a fancy bed that moves up and down.
The little red cottage just knows that she has found a good friend in the crazy old man. And she likes her visitors too. They come back year after year to see how she’s grown, and to keep her company. She still gets a little lonely in the winter, but at least she has the big-screen TV to keep her company!
I have returned from the beach alive and in one piece. This is slightly more than can be said for my dear boyfriend. He is in one hairline-fractured piece. But I’ll have to leave you in suspense about that. I’ve got deadlines to make at work and sleep to catch at home (man, how I love my bed). You’ll just have to wait.
I have been super distracted this week. See, the reason I’ve been telling you about these adventures in the southern coast of Maine is that we’re heading there this weekend. Kate’s even coming up from Texas for the event. So awesome!
So, I’ll be away the beginning of next week, completely out of touch with the internet. So don’t expect any updates for the first part of the week. It’ll be just like this week was, except I’ll have an excuse!
Anyway, back to the history…
Two Years Ago
Finally! We had enough vacation days! (Okay, I had enough vacation days, and Mike had just gotten laid off, but you know, take the good with the bad.) We were totally going to spend the entire week on the beach. Bit of a downer, though, because Kate just graduated and she didn’t have many vacation days to spare, so she would only be there a couple days. I swear, some day, we’ll all be there for the whole week. Some day.
I had just gotten my new car, and I was pretty excited about it. So, in my haste, I offered to drive. This is good, and everything, because I like driving, but I got us lost. Who’s surprised?
This was an Olympic year, which is always awesome. I truly and dearly love the Olympics. Given the opportunity, I’d watch just about every event. And I was given the opportunity that year, because we were on vacation through the heart of it. We definitely went to the beach, but probably not as much as usual. There was swimming and tennis and diving and running and shooting and all kinds of really awesome sports to watch! Lunch at the house often lasted a couple hours, while we watched a match or event or qualifier. And when it rained, we didn’t mind as much, because the Olympics were on!
This was also the year that Mike and I totally made a run for getting as many tickets as possible from the arcade down in Old Orchard. We found machines that gave you seventy tickets if you landed the game in just the right way. We played skee ball and practiced until our arms practically (and perhaps literally… Mike does have a bit of a problem with dislocated shoulders) fell out of their sockets. It was awesome.
At the end of the week, we had amassed this huge pile of tickets that we had to carry around in all kinds of pockets. I think we both had cargo pants on when we went back to redeem for prizes. This was the auspicious beginning of our shot glass collection. Our piles of quarters bought us tickets and fun, and our piles of tickets bought us six… or maybe eightâ€¦ shot glasses. We got them in matching pairs, and enjoy their use still.
But when we had finished selecting our prizes, we still had a pretty good number of tickets left. When I was a kid, at places like Chuck E. Cheeses, the tickets were taken at their value and split and split again until every last one was used. But as an adult (sort of) I had no use for miniature yo-yos that don’t come back, nor glow-in-the-dark jelly bracelets. So, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a couple kids and a dad. The older kid was toting a long string of tickets that he had won on his own accord. You could see it in his eyes – he was proud. The younger one, however, was studying the five tickets in her hands, while her dad carried her up to the counter to see what she could get with them. It seemed obvious. I asked her if she would like some more tickets, and her eyes got pretty big. She seemed to be the kind of kid who knew she wasn’t supposed to talk to strangers, so I wasn’t insulted when she didn’t respond. I handed her maybe 40 or 50 tickets, still far less than her brother had amassed, but she grinned as her father thanked me.
We carried the shot glasses back in those cargo pockets.
Well, you might think that this was the year we finally all got to be there for the whole week. Nope. Mike had just gotten a new job (no, he wasn’t jobless for that whole year, he got a job just after we got back the year before, but it was soul sucking and he couldn’t wait to leave, so the opportunity to move made for an obvious choice), so once again, we were shy vacation days.
We still did have a lot of fun, though. We stayed a couple days more than the weekend, and definitely had our dinner out at the Japanese place. Unfortunately, though, Kate was also short a bit on vacation, or had to go to someone’s wedding, or… something. In any case, she didn’t get up to Maine until, apparently, just an hour after we’d left.
Our time there was relaxing but uneventful. We (meaning Mike, his parents, and I) took a walk all the way down the beach to Old Orchard to share Pier French Fries (which aren’t actually on the pier anymore – don’t buy the ones on the pier, go off-pier just a block, and that’s what you’re actually looking for). I totally almost went swimming (the water up there is so cold!), but wimped out only two feet deep. And of course, there was bocce to be played.
I can’t believe I forgot to mention the bocce ball sooner! Barely a day goes by at the beach in Maine where we don’t play a bit of bocce. I’ve had to adapt myself to these crazy people’s “beach rules” from my upbringing around the standard grass variety. My ability to backspin a ball and plop it straight down ten to twenty feet in front of me holds no value when the pallina is more like forty yards away. Mike’s family, all avid golfers, tend to call those “par fives” while when I’m in control of the pallina, I only throw “par threes.” But no matter. Once I gain control, I can run for quite a while before someone spocks me out from my lead. Of course, that always happens. And I’m no good at aiming over long distances of sloped damp sand. I think I’ve maybe won once.
But the best story of last year did not come from us. It came from Kate. Their uncle comes to join the beach extravaganza most years, as he’s a school teacher and has the summers off. He and Kate, along with Kate’s parents, had gone to a hypnotist show out in Old Orchard. Somehow, Wally and Kate managed to get themselves volunteered as victims. So, they joined the group.
Apparently, so says Wally, Kate had laughed (probably because the hypnotist told her that something funny was happening), and her laugh had snapped him out of it. So, he was ushered back to his seat, where he witnessed something that I really wish I hadn’t missed. The hypnotist got Kate to sing. In front of people. That were watching her. (But of course she didn’t know this; she was in a created world in her brain.)
Apparently, to this day, a certain Aretha Franklin tune plays in her head, more or less constantly.
Mike’s family has been going to the beach of Maine every year pretty much forever. Even back before they were married (or possibly even dating?), Mike’s parents went up the area between Wells and Scarborough. Actually, I think his mom is actually from Biddeford, at one point or another. Anyway, it’s what they do, and I’ve been lucky enough to be invited and involved for the last few years.
Five Years Ago
This was the first time I really spent any kind of time with Mike’s family. I remember having a distinctly difficult time remembering what they looked like. I actually think I said to Mike at one point, “I don’t remember what you’re mom looks like, except that she looks just like a mom should look.” I don’t think he was amused, but I was concerned because I didn’t know who to walk up to in the grocery store where we were stocking up for the week.
I don’t think Mike and I were there for the whole week that time. We were both working some pretty sweet internships, and probably didn’t take much (if any) time off. It’s too bad my memory is such crap.
I do remember being nervous during that first drive up north. We were in Mike’s old pile-of-bolts vehicle. It was a boat on wheels, complete with chivalry door (the passenger side door didn’t open from the inside) and a fan system that Mike personally installed (the switch looked remarkably similar to the one on my industrial grade blender). It was a warm sunny day, and that combined with my nerves to make me do the one thing that I always do when I’m stressed – sleep. I dozed off in the car as we worked our way up Route 1 from York through Ogunquit to Wells. I wasn’t alone in my non-driving behavior, however, as the guy in front of us was totally playing a banjo from the driver’s seat. To say the traffic was moving slowly would be an understatement.
But we made it. We drove out to the end of the Wells Beach peninsula and parked paying some trivial amount for the privilege. Then we switched to our sandals and walked out on the beach until we found Mike’s family. No doubt his dad was already swimming, before they even got the keys to the cottage. The man loves the ocean.
The rest of that first visit is kind a dim memory. We were staying in a very small cottage that had a name, like Betty or something, painted on the outside. The sleeping situation involved trundle beds and the floor. Mike’s sister Kate had a friend with her (probably Sarah, but I can’t be sure), and the three of us all got some serious sun burn action. This was when we discovered lidocaine-laced aloe. Also it was blue, and that pleased us.
Four Years Ago
Holy crap. Did we even go four years ago? Mike had just graduated, and was busy getting his first apartment lined up. I had just come back from two months living in London (I should probably write about that…). I remember the Fourth of July from that summer, but I don’t really remember the beach. But we must have gone, because there are definitely three different cottages in my memory, and the last three years were all the same one. So, I’ll have to assume we went, but only for the weekend, and you’ll have to assume it was fun.
I’ll also go ahead and assume that, since we were likely in Wells, we probably went climbing. Along the end of the beach there, is an inlet for boats to come to shore. And keeping that in place is a huge pile of rocks extending way out to sea (Edit: Tara tells me this is called a “jetty.” I totally knew that. I swear I did!). Actually, calling them rocks is probably somewhat rude. They are boulders. And they’re fun to climb and walk along. I really like it, even though I have some height fears. I don’t know what it is, but for some reason, I really do enjoy those adventures.
Of course, the adventure is less awesome when you come back to the sandy beach with a bleeding foot… (This memory just sprung back to me in full force.) I had cut my foot on one of the pointier boulders, and was trailing drips of blood along the path back. Mike was predictably freaking out, but I knew the cold of the water would sooth me. So, I walked back to our chairs keeping my foot somewhat submerged in the cold, cold North Atlantic Ocean.
Three Years Ago
This time, I was the one who had just graduated, and as such I had no spare vacation days. I think I did squeeze one out, so we could stay an extra day. Kate had no such restrictions, and was there for the whole week. I remember her being both disappointed when we left but also glad to take the bed room from us after sleeping on the fold out couch well within earshot of her uncle’s severe snoring.
This was the first year in the nifty cottage up in Scarborough. Man, this place is awesome. Big open living room, two bed rooms, fully useful kitchen, easily room to sleep six, if not as many as eight or more if sleeping bags are brought along. The place is less than a block from the beach, and right next door to a convenience store that also conveniently sells subs at lunch. Aside from the occasional people who, every year, think our front porch is seating for the sandwich shop, it’s pretty much perfect.
Scarborough is also pretty convenient, since (where we were anyway) it is only a mile or so from Old Orchard. Old Orchard is like a continuous church carnival, complete with sketchy rides and fried food. Pier French Fries are Mike’s mom’s most favorite, and we were now close enough to get them pretty much whenever she wanted.
The beach week also happens to coincide with Mike’s birthday just about every year. This means we are always looking for someplace nice to take him out for dinner. In Scarborough, we found his favorite – Japanese teppanyaki. This particular place takes great delight in making mixed drinks that kick you in the pants, great food cooked right in front of you, and a huge racket to celebrate someoneâ€™s’ birthday. They even take a Polaroid. I have one of them hanging up on the fridge.
I took the first exit that had a gas station listed on the friendly blue sign. It in fact had three listed. And all three were closed, because it was after 11 PM by this point. Commence serious freaking out. Commence Mike getting mad at me for not filling up before we left. Commence feeling guilty. Get back on the highway and start hoping and praying.
All for naught, the next exit had a sign explicitly stating there was a 24-hour Mobil. So we went to that, and realized that McDonald’s is “now open ’til midnight or later,” and so we got some dinner. At 11:15 PM. But who’s counting.
It turns out that the drive down I-95 to Foxwoods is ridiculously long. I didn’t think Rhode Island was that large. And for fun, I totally got us lost in the Foxwoods complex.
We were absolutely exhausted when we arrived at the hotel, where they had saved a room for us – but not the kind I’d reserved! I was so angry, but too tired to make a fuss like I would have liked, so I did what any thoroughly emotionally and physically exhausted person would do. I cried. Not heaving sobs or anything, just straight tears. It sucked, and I was angry, but I was too tired to fight for anything, not even a free meal ticket, let alone a free room. At least I hadn’t paid full price for the room to begin with – Wampum rewards or whatever they’re called.
We went to our room, set the alarm for 5:00, and collapsed into a heap on the small bed, thoroughly pooped.
Small alarms probably went off in your head at this point. Why the hell would we be waking up at five o’clock in the morning the day after not getting to a bed until after one o’clock in the morning? Well, for a poker tournament, obviously!
Foxwoods has these $80 + 20 NLHE tournaments on Fridays (and most other weekdays) that I was exceptionally excited about. Not excited enough to not sleep through the alarm… but excited enough to wake up naturally at 5:30. Shower. Wake up Mike. Wait for Mike to shower. Check out of hotel. Drive over to the casino. Get duplicate Wampum cards since we forgot ours. Sign up for the tournament.
Well, now it was 7:00 and the tournament isn’t until 8:00. I had been counting on being able to have the breakfast buffet, which I think I read somewhere was pretty good, but that doesn’t open until 8:00! So we went to the one place in the casino serving food and I got a muffin and a juice. Mike was still asleep and so not hungry.
Eventually 8:00 rolled around, and I was sitting in seat 6 on table 1. I was extremely excited, and once I got through my first bought pot (I knew he had nothing, I just hoped he didn’t know I had nothing), I was settled enough. I was a slight chip leader at my table for quite a while, until the first bust out happened. This was when the gentleman to my right had his pocket aces busted by the gentleman two to his right’s pocket kings. Obviously kings-guy was now the chip leader. But that really would turn out not to matter much to me.
The person who replaced aces-guy was a very tall man. That was about all I knew about him when I got stuck in a pot with him. I flopped an openender when 9TJ hit the board with AQ in my hand. I bet a significant amount, hoping to just buy the pot from the two people already in it, who had checked to me. One left the pot quickly. The other… reraised all in. I had him covered, but it would only leave me with 8 big blinds or so if I called. Of course, it would only cost me about that many – for a pot that was already well over what would make good pot odds. Really, I forget the math. And maybe I did the math wrong. And maybe I should have listened to my gut that was telling me “He has KQ – FOLD!” Or, maybe I should just forget the whole thing and move on.
Which is what I tried to do after he showed the KQ, and my saving K never showed up on the turn or river. The rest of the table was routing for me – we were all friends now, and he was the intruding newcomer. I knew it was all-in time, so when my next hand was AJ, I just did it. There had been a couple limpers before me, including KQ-guy, they all folded, except for him. He called saying he had to gamble. His gamble paid off when he hit a baby flush on the flop, and I was out.
I checked on Mike, who seemed to be doing pretty well, and went over to sign up for a little ring game action. I knew I would be blowing off money there, but I pretty much needed to get the tilt over with. So I just blew through a small stack of chips while constantly getting second best hands. Not my best poker day ever. But it was quite fun.
Since I was already on a -EV day, I figured why not go for some roulette while Mike keeps beating on the tournament. For some reason, my luck chose that moment to turn around, and I went up $17. Sweet! I also had quite a bit of fun doing it. There were some friendly people and the dealer (I guess that’s what you’d call him) was very entertaining. Mike joined me after he busted out of the tournament, but his luck didn’t hold out from our last trip where he won $40 or something ridiculous like that. (We are not high rollers. We really just go to Foxwoods because it’s fun, and expect to “pay” the casino a certain amount for the entertainment before we leave.)
I decided to try out some Caribbean Stud poker with my new winnings. My parents had talked quite a show about how awesome it is. This is also a -EV game, but it seems like it would be a slow leak, and possibly fun. After tipping the dealer, I was down $3, so basically even. But it actually was kind of fun.
We went to the buffet for lunch, and I took advantage of the peel-and-eat shrimp and topped it off with a staggering waffle sundae. We dumped some remaining quarters into the slot machines, and decided that we were thoroughly exhausted. We packed ourselves into the car, and drove on home. Mike slept in the car. I stopped to pick up the mail from the post office (it was a ridiculously huge pile, and of course it was mostly spam).
And then we were home.