Fiera!

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Fiera!

If you’ve been following my blog you know that I went on the Baltic Sea Cruise in large part to see my niece and her boyfriend perform on the ship. The ports were secondary in my trip planning. Honestly, it was one of the best vacations I’ve ever taken. Such an ambitious itinerary and a gorgeous ship. I quickly adapted to someone else doing all the cooking and cleaning for 11 days

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We finished our second day in St Petersburgh with a Princess Production Show named Fiera! This show was developed in-house with input from seasoned professionals including American Idol Director and Choreographer, Danny Teeson. It was a musical with a carnival atmosphere. The plot was simple, a father, the Ring Master, struggled with letting his daughter go. The daughter fell in love and the cast of characters danced and sang their way through the process.

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The songs were familiar – “Born This Way”, “Man in the Mirror”, “Sweet Child of Mine”,  each sequenced to help the story unfold. The dancing was phenomenal with colorful costumes and vibrant sets. It was quite the spectacle, much more technical than I would have envisioned for a cruise ship. In fact all of the production shows blew me away.

 

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From Russia With Love…Part 2

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From Russia With Love…Part 2

The second day of our St Petersburgh Alla Tour was another jam packed itinerary which included – the Metro, a cruise on the Neva River, Yusupov Palace (Rasputin Exhibit), Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood,  St. Isaac’s Cathedral and the grand finale – Peterhof Fountains & Gardens.

The Metro in Russia is home to some gorgeous underground spaces, sadly we did not see those (kidding, maybe). We took a ride on the subway to the Admiralteyskaya (good luck spelling that) stop, which is 86 meters below ground. Greek Mythology and nods to Peter the Great were displayed in the metro mosaics that we came across. I think these guys are trying to catch the subway – img_8970.jpg

The Neva River was chilly so my daughter and I stayed in the cabin while the rest of the tourists froze their оценить off. The picture below was taken from the river cruise, it features the Saints Peter and Paul Fortress & Cathedral –

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Next up was the Yusupov Palace which hosted a Rasputin Exhibit. Fun fact: Rasputin was a close family friend and adviser of sorts to Nicholas II and his family. He was particularly close with the Empress of Russia, Alexandra Feodorovna, who credited Rasputin with keeping her son (heir apparent to the Russian Empire) alive. Alexei suffered from Hemophilia and it is thought that Rasputin was able to assist in some way.

The Romanov family’s close relationship with the wandering monk led to public outrage and ultimately the murder of Rasputin on December 30, 1916, which occurred in the Yusupov Palace. Speaking of Rasputin, I found myself in a rather twisted rabbit hole while Googling about the guy. Here’s a link if you’re feeling brave – Rasputin’s Junk on Display…

After the palace it was time for the church tours. Technically both churches are categorized as museums now which is an important distinction in determining who pays to keep the lights on. The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is a gorgeous display of what you would expect in a Russian church – multiple onion shaped domes covered in gold and gorgeous mosaic tiles that create the icons which adorn the walls.

The church was erected to honor Alexander II who died after being fatally injured by a carriage bomb, plotted by the Peoples Will (an extremist group) on March 1, 1881. The location where the fatal injury was dealt is marked within the church (below).

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Like most of the historical sites in St Petersburgh, the Church suffered damage during the Siege of Leningrad which lasted from September 1941 until January of 1944. For two and a half years the residents of Leningrad (now St Petersburgh) were trapped in the city. Suffering through air-raids, artillery barrage, starvation, and no access to outside supplies resulted in up to a million deaths (through the siege and evacuations).

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St Isaac’s Cathedral built between 1818 and 1858, was also damaged during the siege. It is filled with beautiful mosaics and a gorgeous stained glass Jesus.

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The final stop of our two day St Petersburgh Tour was Peterhof Fountains & Gardens. We didn’t have time to stop for lunch so Demetris, our driver, got bagged lunches for the 13 of us. They were delicious, our guide and driver really took care of us (Thank you Alla Tours).

Construction of Peterhof began in 1710 at the direction of Peter the Great. It’s been dubbed the “Russian Versailles” and it is included on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

According to Wikipedia – “The Peterhof Palace is a series of palaces and gardens located in Petergof, Saint Petersburg, Russia, commissioned by Peter the Great as a direct response to the Palace of Versailles by Louis XIV of France.”

I can’t speak of the actual palace at Peterhof but the fountains and gardens were spectacular (feature photo). You could spend a month walking the grounds here and you wouldn’t get bored.

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After 90 minutes of draw dropping beauty we made our way back to port. It was an exhausting day of touring but I needed to stay up to watch my niece and her boyfriend perform in the Princess production of Fiera!

Stay Tuned…

 

From Russia With Love…Part 1

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From Russia With Love…Part 1

One of the ports on our 11 day Baltic Sea Cruise was Saint Petersburg, Russia. To be honest, it was never on my travel bucket list, I didn’t know much about it. We booked the trip last minute so I could see my niece and her boyfriend preform on the ship. They both got jobs as entertainers and this cruise was one of the itineraries during their 9 month contract. I started digging in a bit and somehow convinced my husband to send our daughter and me.

To prepare for this port I watched The Last Czars series on Netflix. It was really well done and fairly accurate according to people who know more about Russian History than me (nearly everyone). Saint Petersburg featured prominently in the series as it was the capitol of the Russian Empire from 1712 – 1918. Nicholas II was the last Czar of the Russian Empire, he ruled from November of 1894 until he abdicated the throne on March 15, 1917. Spoiler – he was a shitty Czar. Whether that was due to malice, ignorance or ineptitude is up to debate, perhaps a toxic mix of all three. If you plan to visit or just need something to binge watch, I recommend the series (Netflix feel free to send me something for the plug).

With my newfound interest, I decided to book a tour during our two day stop in Saint Petersburg. After stalking cruise experts online and reading dozens of reviews, I went with the Grand Group Tour with Alla Tours. The group sizes were much smaller than the ship excursions and the prices were better with similar itineraries.

The morning we arrived in Russia I was a bit nervous. I grew up during the Cold War, Russia was enemy #1 for a big chunk of my youth and let’s face it, they get bad press on the regular – land grabs, election rigging, poisonings, scary stuff. So I open the curtain to my cabin balcony and THIS greets me –

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Russia is that a missel or are you just happy to see me?

That was a bit intimidating…according to our guide, Roman, it is an 87 story sky scrapper (not a scraper, a scrapper) which is owned by a petroleum company. Oh and Roman said it looked like a corn husk. Roman also said the Crimea land grab was fake news so draw your own conclusions.

Our first stop was the Palace Square which features the Alexander Column, the Winter Palace and the General Staff Building. It was gorgeous and we got a clear morning which is rare as SP only averages 60 sunny days a year.

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Winter Palace completed in 1762 was the first building constructed in the square and became the primary residence of Russian Czars. While visiting the Palace Square we ducked into a souvenir shop which, immediately offered Russian wine and vodka to all the customers, it was 8am (slurs speech, it’s 5pm somewhere Ruskii). My daughter tried on those big furry Russian hats, eyed the Faberge eggs and ultimately fell in love with this Russian nesting doll –

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I didn’t buy it at the time because $45 seemed outrageous. Then when we got home I found it on Amazon so, someone will get this at Christmas….shhhh.

The Hermitage (1764) was our next stop, the place is infested with gold and precious works of art. We had the good fortune to see works by da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rembrandt and countless other artists at a mind numbing pace.

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Danae, Rembrandt (1636 w/later revisions). This painting was seriously damaged in 1985 when some jackass threw acid on it. Extensive restoration and repair were done with some of the damage left intact so as not to entirely redo the painting.

After a couple of hours, my daughter was going numb from the barrage of information so she started to amuse herself by photo-shopping Michael Jackson’s head on famous works of art. I thought it was genius.
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After the Hermitage we went to a restaurant for lunch which consisted of Borscht and Chicken Kiev. I enjoyed it, DD is not a fan of beet soup but she tried it and the chicken was better received. We were given pastries with a cream inside as dessert, yum. Next stop was the Peter & Paul Fortress and Cathedral.

The Cathedral featured the remains of the Romanov Family, including Nicholas II the last Czar. Their bodies were not interned until 1998 with the exception of Prince Alexei (born as heir to the Czar) and Princess Maria. The remains suspected to be of Alexei and Maria were not discovered until 2007. These bone fragments have since been tested and identified as the missing Romanovs though the Orthodox Church has not yet interned them with the rest of their family. The entire family was murdered in July of 1918 after being held captive by the Red Army in the city of Yekaterinburg (pssst…watch the series, you will not be bored).

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We finished the day with a trip to Catherine’s Palace in Pushkin. It was exhausting, crowded and monotonous – gold, mirrors, chandeliers, hall, followed by more gold, priceless antiques, rare works of art and yes, more gold. Keep in mind this Palace, along with the other cites we visited had extensive renovations after being devastated in World War II. I kept thinking of the people that went hungry while all this gold was being brushed on for the renovation.  Here’s the backyard –

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…and more gold for the road, stay tuned for the rest of St Petersburgh!

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Bravo! (Indeed)

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Bravo! (Indeed)

Bravo was performed on the second night of our 11 day Baltic Sea Cruise. My niece’s voice recovered significantly from the prior day. She sang I Dreamed A Dream from Les Miserables, I was overwhelmed. Special K (her BF) was featured with his partner in a gorgeous dance during the show. It was amazing to be there to watch them. I went to both shows, I did that for each production.

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The next day was Stockholm, Sweden. This was officially travel day 3 for my daughter and I and we both hit the jet-lag/time change wall HARD. We got maybe 2 1/2 hours of sleep Saturday night and Sunday we walked 11 miles. Stockholm was a lively place with gorgeous architecture and tasty treats.

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Järnpojke, the “Iron Boy”: Stockholm’s smallest statue. Located in the Old Town section in the courtyard of a Finnish Church. The statue is said to bring good luck if you rub his head.

This began our first day of the Peanut/Special K Cafe Tour, they took us to their favorite cafes in each port except the two where we hired guides. We arrived by 10am and spent the next 6 hours exploring, eating, shopping and eating again. My one dessert a day rule was a distant memory by lunch. I would love to go back in a less zombie-esq state.

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The next port was Helsinki, Finland…and can I take a hot second to just say WOW places I never dreamed I would visit, thank you dear husband for sending me. Of course there was a favorite cafe and a surprisingly cosmopolitan city. We visited the church built into rock and the Sibelius Monument by Eila Hiltunen, dedicated to the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (1865–1957). I also had the best whitefish (w/OMFG amazing garlic sauce) of my life under the orange tents in the open air market.

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The next port was St. Petersburgh, Russia…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BS Tour

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BS Tour

I’m going with the BS (Baltic Sea) Tour for the post title. Sure it’s low hanging fruit, I’m still in the funk of time change. For those that are just joining us, I took an 11-day Baltic Sea cruise with my daughter. We went for the ports and more importantly to see my niece, Peanut, and her boyfriend, Special K, perform on the ship.

Travel was rough, we encountered a significant plane delay and lines that make that Popeye’s chicken sandwich debacle seem like child’s play. Nonetheless we soldiered through and made it to the ship on time. My niece greeted us in our cabin and suddenly the hassles of international travel melted away in an instant. My daughter and I got situated, cleaned the first layer of travel filth off ourselves and sauntered over to the dinning room.

We selected anytime dinning because committing to a specific time each evening seemed too confining. The first night we agreed to share a table with randoms to avoid a longer wait. I find this part of cruising fun because I could talk to a baked potato, for hours. My DD however, would prefer to eat in a closet. The meal was fine and I managed to stick to my “one dessert a day rule” (Creme Brulee) for day one.

That evening there was a show with Peanut, Special K and the entire cast so naturally we went. The show was good, better than what I expected on a cruise ship (my expectations were cheesy glitz). Peanut had a bit of a cold and I could tell she wasn’t 100% not sure if the other audience members were aware, I’ve watched her perform since the womb. She waved and sang to me from the ultrasound when I took her mom to the OB appointment late in pregnancy (that’s a slight exaggeration, very slight). Nonetheless, I was thrilled to watch her perform in front of a thousand shipmates.

I went to the 8pm and 10pm show and sat in the first row for the early show. The second show I was in the way back and I noticed she sounded different. One singer in the show really stood out, Willis White, that man had Broadway oozing out of him. I later found out he’s been on Broadway a bunch of times, that’s the Holy Grail for my niece. She told me the next day she had them use a track for her voice in the second show to preserve her voice for upcoming shows. Unfortunately, she had to lip sync to someone else’s track because they hadn’t yet recorded her voice for this particular show.

Day two was a sea day which means you can sleep late and play Bingo. Actually there were a ton of activities to choose from, we chose – sleep, eat and chat. Got to spend time with Peanut & Special K while getting familiar with the ship. Peanut was sipping tea that smelled like licorice and woodsy sacrifices. Some crafted concoction to soothe her vocal cords to get her back to 100% for this evening’s show, Bravo.

It was a mellow day of recovery for all until things picked up in the evening. Peanut and Special K could not join us for dinner due to sound checks and other show prep, so my DD and I wandered back to the dinning room. This time we waited for a table for two. The table was situated next to a couple who were very chatty (more like a table for 4). We didn’t mind though they were very nice.

The husband was a Special Ed teacher and while we were there he got a call from a former student who called to let him know about a job he got. This student struggled a lot in high school and this teacher had a profound impact on his life. With guidance, grit and determination this former student managed to become a lawyer and called to announce his deep into 6-figures salary. I was honored to be sitting near someone so influential in the life of someone who once struggled.

Oh and did I mention the dessert? Dear Gawd, they had something called a Chocolate Journey which should come with a warning label – Instant addiction: You will be haunted by this dessert for all of your remaining days, consume with caution. You’ll still eat it, you’ll just have a better understanding of the craving that will shadow you for the rest of the cruise and the debilitating moment of disappointment when each night you check the menu and it’s not there. It kind of resembles a viking helmet or at least part of one. It’s a combination of crisp-creamy-hazlenut-chocolate magnificence.

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…..and now we shall have a moment of silence for those that have never experienced a Chocolate Journey and for those that have and are not able to experience it again.

More to come…

 

 

 

Rough Start…

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Rough Start…

I recently returned from a cruise along the Baltic Sea. This is not a trip I ever intended to take, it wasn’t even on my trip radar. When my niece told me in February that she took a job as a vocalist on a ship, the itinerary suddenly became irresistible. Bonus, her longtime boyfriend also got a gig on the ship as a dancer. Oh to be twenty-something with remarkable talents…

My husband could not take two weeks off from work so he planned a shorter trip with our son closer to home in Nova Scotia. So it was just my daughter and me on the cruise. The itinerary was intense – 6 ports in 11 days plus Copenhagen where we got on/off the ship.

Copenhagen, Denmark

Stockholm (Nynashamn), Sweden

Helsinki, Finland

St. Petersburg, Russia (2 days)

Tallinn, Estonia

Berlin (Warnemunde) Germany

Oslo, Norway

The main reason I was on the ship, to the see the production shows that included my niece, Peanut, and her boyfriend…we’ll call him Special K. There were four production shows during the cruise – Sweet Motown, Bravo, Fiera! and Born to Dance.

Peanut and I planned to meet for lunch in Nyhavn. I mapped out the Metro station, printed out walking directions (no international cellular so I knew I would be off the grid upon landing) and planned our arrival to the ship together. Well that didn’t happen :(. Instead my carefully planned lunch date in Copenhagen was replaced with 2 1/2 hours on the tarmac at JFK waiting to take off. This is one of the most first world problems you could ever have so I moved on.

When my daughter and I landed in Copenhagen we were greeted with a YUGE line to get through passport control. I had visions of missing the ship entirely. Yes, cruise addicts I know I should have flown over the day before but the trip was expensive and I felt guilty that the hubs and son weren’t with us so I didn’t want to extend it. Rookie mistake.

Now I don’t often cut in line but when I do, it’s at the Copenhagen airport to avoid missing the ship. My apologies to the 732 people that were ahead of me. In my defense, I didn’t realize I was cutting the line until I got to the front of it and then I was like – I can’t go back there (at least a 1/2 mile to get to the end of the line). While I was standing near the front, getting my bearings and trying to determine the best course of action, the Line Gods smiled upon me and they opened up a new lane. So did I actually cut or did I just have the good fortune to be standing near where a new lane opened? (Makes the sign of the cross, whispers “I’m sorry” towards the heavens)

All of my line cutting assholery was of no use toward getting our luggage that took a solid hour. At this point it’s 2:30pm need to be at port by 5pm, I’m not panicking, plenty of time. We get outside to another line, taxis this time, 20 deep but moving quick, easy peasy. We get into our taxi, a sweet ride – Tesla, Model S possibly 2018, didn’t ask. Steel gray exterior, interior was black leather with red trim, Gaw-Gee-Us! Should be at the ship within an hour, no problemo. Until…

When we get to the center of Copenhagen I notice a lot of people, drinking champagne and whooping it up. Turns out it’s Pride weekend and the place is packed. So packed in fact, that we encountered an unusual amount of closed avenues. As we crawled our way through the crowded streets, fare ticking up, up and away, I tried to enjoy the only glimpse of Copenhagen I would get outside of the airport. There were a lot of good looking men, I mean really good looking. I don’t normally notice men, I’m in married auto-pilot so when I notice a guy, it’s rare. I saw three outrageously handsome dudes in the span of 20 minutes, never happens. Then I remember, Pride, well that makes sense.

This cab ride is supposed to take 40 minutes, it took 90. The cost was double what I had anticipated but we made it to the ship on time! I didn’t take a picture of the outrageously handsome men because I respected their privacy (momentarily stunned and couldn’t get to the phone in time). I did however, take the obligatory bicycle photo from a slow moving vehicle (featured photo).

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Another crappy photo – this one taken from the bus on the way to the airport to go home. The masses really do commute by bicycle.

Cruisin’ Like Cattle

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Cruisin’ Like Cattle

Hello friends seems like ages since we’ve chatted. The blame is solidly on me I just got back from a cruise. My teen daughter and I went on an 11-day Baltic Sea cruise (insert gasps, I know it was amazing) to see incredible ports. The real thing that appealed to me about the trip was seeing my niece and her boyfriend (the one I hope she marries) perform on the ship. My niece is a vocalist and her BF is a dancer…so yes, they are in their twenties traveling the world on a luxury ship, no rent, fed well and getting paid. I won’t get into the dicier bits like the sadistic entertainer that terrorized the other cast members the first three months, the six figure student debt or the fact that they will be homeless when they disembark (move in with me kids).

There are two types of people that cruise, the cruise addicts and the rest of us. I’m not sure how the cruise addicts afford their habit. I met one gentleman who had been on a cruise for over 100 days this year. He was in the front row of every performance so we talked a bit. His brother joined him on this cruise and they were theater enthusiasts. During Born to Dance, he applauded loudly and shouted WOW! after each number.

Most of the cruise addicts (CA) are brand loyal. That makes sense you get perks for being a repeat customer. We were on a Princess cruise and there are different levels of loyalty programs. You get cabin upgrades, better dinning and laundry services as you make your way up the ranks. I don’t anticipate ever falling into this category of cruiser because my husband isn’t onboard (ba dum tss) with the idea. We prefer a more in-depth local experience when traveling.

It was one of those mega ships, with passengers and crew, it has the capacity for 4,906 souls. Yup, that’s a lot of people waiting for bacon at the breakfast buffet. Surprisingly enough it didn’t seem that crowded most days. It wasn’t warm enough for the pool for a  majority of the trip so there were no lounge hogs. Disembarking was the clearest indicator of how many people were there and that was handled efficiently….it all went off the rails at the airport.

My group, Green 7, as we were affectionately known boarded the bus without incident, like cattle unknowingly headed to slaughter. I did notice one woman, known as Texas, act a bit aggressive in the bus line, I tried to ignore her. When the bus arrived at the airport we had to fetch our luggage from a tent and walk across the street to the terminal (note to self, take a taxi next time and avoid this ridiculousness). There were hundreds of us going through this same process. Still organized chaos at this point.

When we got in to the terminal I did the kiosk check in, that was fine. Then I went to find out where to drop off our luggage and things took a turn. After checking the board and asking two different airport reps, I was told a luggage lane wouldn’t be open until 3 hours before the flight. We got there 3 1/2 hours prior to flight so I needed to keep checking the board. Once that opened everyone made a mad dash to the luggage counter and suddenly the bacon line was a distant fond memory.

I think 90% of the people were from the cruise ship. Some were still wearing their cruise medallions on a lanyard or carrying bags with the Princess logo. I recognized purple shirt (she talked about jewelry and $80 lipstick the entire bus ride), Texas was there and a large group of people from San Diego and Hawaii. The flight was to JFK in New York and it was a mixed bag of final destination and connecting flights.

One very aggressive group was from NYC when I told one lady from that group that I was from Jersey she gave a nod like she knew I could drive crazy and get loud. They totally took advantage of the mild mannered large group from the west. At one point two lines merged into the one entrance and people had to take turns. Texas had a few words with me as we approached the entrance from different directions. She acted like we were at a deli counter and her number was ahead of mine, bisch please. She was twenty years older than me so I let her go.  I kept reminding myself that I didn’t know which one of these assholes I would get seated next to on the plane so that kept me in check.

Finally we ditch the luggage and then it’s off to security. At this point we’ve been at the airport for two hours and it’s hot as hell. Copenhagen isn’t real keen on air conditioning. We get to security and my bag gets pulled for my daughter’s aerosol deodorant. After that we start looking for a book at the airport shops. She found out that she needs to read two books before school starts on September 3. We were hoping to find, The Book Thief, at the airport and no we don’t Kindle. Sadly they sell about a dozen books in English and that wasn’t one. Next stop, bad Denmark version of an airport hot dog, then, passport control.

I finally had a chance to use a restroom so one more stop. Things were fine until this –

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I can tell you this much, the toilet paper does NOT dispense from the bottom. That part is locked tighter than Fort Knox. I broke two nails and invented three new curse words trying to pry the bottom open. Nay, nay my friends the paper is supposed to poke out of the center except it didn’t. 

We finally get to our gate and who do I see – Texas, purple shirt, NYC gang and the nice group from the west. My goal was to be the very last person to board, I scoffed at the line and played online Solitaire from a distance. I was very fortunate and got seated next to a sweet couple from Hawaii. We were previously in the luggage line together and we remained civilized despite the chaos around us.

When we got to JFK we realized that the travel nightmare wasn’t quite over…it took 90 minutes to clear Customs. These lines resembled something you would see at an amusement park, turn left, then right and repeat that pattern 78 times. Instead of a fun roller coaster at the end, you get a kiosk which requires your passport and takes the world’s worst photo after 15 travel hours (4 of those hours spent in lines).

I’ll write about the fun stuff in future posts, stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

Venus on the Half Shell

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Venus on the Half Shell

I had a wonderful outing with Rob and Laura today. When I arrived Rob presented me with some spoon bread that he made special just for me. When a 95 year old man puts himself through the effort to cook for you, it’s very humbling. Honestly anytime anyone cooks for me I’m thrilled, this was just extra sweet. Spoon bread tastes like cornbread and I marvel at how someone who eats this stuff on the regular hasn’t succumbed to heart disease. It’s filled with the artery clogging goodness of butter, milk with more butter for good measure, eggs and cornmeal. It’s tasty and lethal to mere mortals like myself. I took a few bites, proclaimed it delicious and took it home to savor later. Seriously this dish should come with a defibrillator.

As we were driving to the grocery store we had our usual carefree chatter. I was discussing travel because I’m leaving for a cruise this weekend. We got on the topic of paintings and I mentioned my all time favorite was Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli. Rob mentioned that his mother used to refer to that painting as Venus on the Half Shell and in that moment I felt such regret for having never met the woman. Now whenever the question of which person, living or deceased, would you like most to converse with, my answer will be Rob’s mother. Raise your hand if you agree….that’s a lot of hands in my imagination.

When we got to the grocery store, Laura asked Rob if he wanted his walker. He hesitated a moment and then agreed. I got the shopping cart and gave it to Laura as Rob went on his merry way. Here’s the interesting bit…Rob agreed to that for Laura’s sake. Laura has been struggling more with mobility and refuses to upgrade to a walker from her cane. The grocery cart is basically a socially acceptable walker in Laura’s mind. Rob figured this out in seconds and I pretended not to notice.

As I was getting them tucked back into their home after our outing, Rob took a moment to look me in the eye and tell me how much he appreciates me and that I am like a third daughter to him. I assured him the affection was mutual. Then two minutes later I threatened to brawl with Laura if she didn’t surrender the grocery bag that was half her body weight. She gave me a steely gaze as I took the bag from her.

Me: Let me get that Laura, it’s really heavy.

Laura: Grabs bag with determined look.

Me: Seriously, I will fight you on this.

Laura: Steely gaze.

Me: (Struggles to take bag, maintains eye contact and smile the entire time) Thank you.

 

The Customer Service Merry Go Round

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The Customer Service Merry Go Round

If you were a teen or young adult in North America in the 80s or 90s you may remember a clothing store called Merry Go Round. We used to call it the touchy-feely store because the staff would literally paw at you when you crossed the threshold. Kind of like the scene from Pretty Woman when the Mary’s fall over themselves to dress Julia Robert’s character.

Shopping Scene

To be clear, Merry Go Round wasn’t high end, it was middle of the road filled with trendy clothes. You didn’t go there to get a classic pencil skirt or linen anything, you went for Cavaricci style pants, polka dot dresses, acid washed anything and the occasional shiny strapless dress in electric blue. Once I got drafted by a fellow shopper to try on stuff that he wanted to buy for his girlfriend. You only say yes to that BS when you’re young. For twenty minutes I tried on clothes and sauntered out into the store for a personal fashion show. The sales staff should have split their commission with me that day.

Anyway, I had an experience today that reminded me of the touchy-feely store. I got my oil changed at one of those quick oil change places. I’d mention the name but then the Russian bots might figure out my real identity and I can’t have that.I’ll actually be in Russia this time next week (oops I may have said too much).

Anyhow, you pull into the bay and stay in your car as the service is performed. They were kind of slow so before I could blink I had three dudes surrounding my car. I might have been flattered with all of the attention if they weren’t pulling out filters from every crevice of the car, suggesting I replace a $4. part with their $46. identical part. At one point a guy was removing the glove box to check the cabin filter, it felt weird. I just wanted that 15 minutes to read a book. Um, thanks fellas, that’s a hard pass. Here’s my $25. coupon, skip the extras and let’s move along.

I did have a customer service experience that went better than expected. This morning I got an email from Hollister requesting feedback on an order that hasn’t arrived yet. This was particularly annoying because I just got notice that delivery will be delayed and the clothes won’t get here in time for our trip. I replied explaining my frustration, fulling expecting that email to die a lonely death in cyberspace. Much to my surprise, Tara from Customer Service offered to next day ship the order and said she would waive return shipping costs for the delinquent order. I passed though her willingness to assist shifted my experience from negative to positive. Amazing how simple it can be to make that switch.

 

We On FIRE!

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We On FIRE!

They stood around watching the house burn. It was quite a spectacle, the crowd grew larger with each moment. Massive flames visible, engulfing the structure, smoke could be seen for miles. Onlookers speculated about the cause…

Man: Maybe she left the stove on?

Woman: Possible, that happened to a friend of a friend once….actually, they think the cat started that one, jumped on the stove and hit the nob just right. Insane!

Man: Could have been smoking in bed or in a recliner, fell asleep…wake up with your hair on fire, literally!

The fire continues to burn and spreads to the next house…

Mayor (grabs a megaphone): Y’all need to step back a bit, this fire is getting out of hand!

Woman: Indeed it is, I heard it started with a space heater.

Man: What? That’s nuts it was 60 degrees last night who uses a space heater when it’s 60 degrees!

Woman: My momma that’s who….she has circulation problems, always cold.

The fire has spread to several buildings now with no end in sight…

Kid: Instead of talking about how the fire may have started, why don’t we try to put it out?

And this my friends is how it seems to me when people discuss mass shootings in America. They want to blame mental illness, video games, the avocado shortage, Mercury in Retrograde, shitty parenting, a lack of Jesus, racism, politicians and big pharma. The common denominator in mass shootings is GUNS, 100% of the time. Let’s start there because we on fire.