Thursday, November 29, 2007


It didn’t take us long to pack and hightail out of our room at the Red Knight Motel. We were scared that if we looked in the closet again with alert & sober eyes, the dead hooker really would be there.

It was even quicker for us to check out, and ixnay the free continental breakfast. Axle grease coffee, day old bread and dispensable fruit loops in curdled milk just aren’t our scene. Food snobs, remember? Realists, too. So, we ended up going the way of motorists and truckers traversing scenic America: Drive thru McDonalds for egg mcmuffins, coffee and hash browns. We may be food snobs, but totally agree that breakfast is the best contribution McDonalds has made to the planet. When will they wise up and make it an all day thing?

We were still into our coffee when Sandy poked me in the ribs and said,

He: Cheech?

Me: Yes, Ace?

He: I really liked Target.

Me: I know you did, and I’m so glad!

He: Cheech?

Me: Yes, Ace?

He: Is there another Target close to here?

Me: Didn’t satisfy the craving, huh?

He: Noooo….

Shirley found us a Target in Buffalo, New York, conveniently located across the street from the Walden Galleria Mall. More Target AND other fantastic stores we are not privy to at home. Happy, happy shoppers, us.

When the number of bags in our hands got to a level of ridiculous (we’re in a Mini, remember), we decided that it was definitely time to go. In less than two hours, through some pretty poopy weather and all kinds of hilly roads, we finally made it home.

It never really hits me that a trip is over until that hour or so before I get to my front porch. I can be on a plane, in a car, whatever, but until that last hour I’m still in full vacation mode. When the skies opened up to rain down on us, as we made the last merge onto the highway that would take us home I thought, This is it. It was great, fantastic, but it’s over.

It’s never a very happy thing, coming down from your vacation high. But it’s nice at the same time, having that experience and knowing how it has, in some small way, changed you for the better. And so for my thank-you prayer:

There once was a girl in a bucket
Who decided to go Nantucket
She so loved her time there
That it made her swear,
“I’m coming back here someday, Fuck it!”

Crass, so crass. A poet I ain’t, nor bucket resident, but then rhyming really isn’t my thing. I think Sandy said it best, after we’d unpacked everything into his house, after the mess had been sorted and divided into His and Hers piles, when he pulled me in for a soft hug and quietly told me, “Thank you for this.”

I knew exactly what he meant. Getting away, seeing what we did, taking our time, sleeping well, not thinking about the daily grind if only for a few days, made all the difference in the world.

Conversations of a Road Trip

Oh, I love Target. I don’t care if it’s considered cheap stuff, I don’t care if the designer-savvy look their noses down on it. I love it I love it I love it. I love that it’s red, I love the stupid bullseye, and I especially love that even though I only go a small handful of times per year I always get the best stuff: paisley bedding, gorgeous frames, funky tees and kiwi-scented wipes for my dog, which he hates but of course, I love.

Sandy has never been to Target, but has plenty heard me talking about it. This was his inaugural trip, and I knew I’d struck a vein all of ten minutes after we’d walked in, and the cart was full of clothes for him, clothes for his son, clothes for the rest of his family and of course, car stuff and some snacks.

He: Cheech! Look at this awesome winter coat! It’s sixty dollars! Sixty dollars! What the heck is that all about?

Me: Wow, that looks great on you!

He: Did I mention it’s sixty dollars? For a dressy coat? Sixty dollars?

Me: Yeah, I caught that bit already…

He: Cheech! Sixty dollars! This is just the best store ever!

Etc. We were there ‘til they kicked us out at 11pm, at which point we threw our (multitude of) bags into the backseat and hightailed out. Bit of advice: Power shopping with a Mini Cooper is not the wisest thing in the world to do, but still very doable when absolutely necessary.

We are on the road, it is close to midnight and we are tired, so the time is right to look for somewhere to sleep. Most unfortunately, the only place available within the next 40 miles is the Red Knight Motel, personified by a masked & shielded knight in full body armor on the dimly lit sign.

We knew that the Red Knight Motel wasn’t exactly luxury accommodation - places that come with $10 off coupons rarely are – but we just wanted a bed to crash in for five or six hours, and free parking for Joey, so we took the plunge.

When you walk into a motel room and the very first thing you see is a burn on the carpet the exact size and shape of an iron, it’s usually not a good sign. Neither are the cobwebs under the chairs, the brown stains baked into the bathroom linoleum, or that really strange plastic smell permeating just about everything. We were half expecting a dead hooker in the closet but thankfully, that was nonexistent.

When in such questionable surroundings, it is fortunate to be in possession of alcohol. We had alcohol. Sandy cracked open those mini wines he’d purchased at the liquor barn, and we sucked down the lot along with our dinner of those vine leaf rice rolls, asiago crackers, and chocolate covered pretzel sticks.

Me: Fuck, this is good wine.

He: I know!

Me: More, please. I don’t want to remember this room.

He: Bottoms up...

After drunkenly giggling our way through the mediocrity of our surroundings, then showers in the cracked tub (taking care not to use the stinky motel soap, I might add), we got ready for bed. This normally doesn’t consist of pulling a bedspread off with ice bucket tongs and then tossing it to the floor, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. Sandy looked at the bedspread, then at me and said, “Aren’t you going to be cold?”

Me: Yes. This blanket is paper thin.

He: Why don’t you cover yourself with the bedspread too?

Me: I don’t want to touch it.

He: Are we supposed to huddle together for body heat then?

Me: Okay!

He climbed into the double bed, then we wrapped our arms around each other and slept like babies. He’s just the best boyfriend ever.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Ciao, Nantucket

Sandy and I left Nantucket at noon on a Thursday. We took that morning nice and slow, last minute packing, breakfast at the Inn, and just before lunch, boarded the ferry that would take us back to the mainland.

Again, I don’t do well on boats. I don’t like mass bodies of water, I don’t like cramped cabin space, and I especially don’t like the squalls and swells of choppy waves. It makes me sweaty and clammy, nauseous and icky, the lot of it. I bought us some hot chocolate and tried to discover Sudoku instead. I discovered I have no patience for it.

The Fall colours going home were just as beautiful as they were on the way up, and we got to enjoy them even more by spreading our journey over two days. And why are we spreading our journey over two days, when it’s just as doable to make it in one? To shop.

Nantucket has been good to us, but in terms of retail therapy, it sucked. It was great for pretty things and kitschy stuff; that hand-painted ornament I got will look really nice on Sandy’s Christmas tree, and the pumpkin beer was a blast. But for everything else, nada. Our shopping buds crave more.

Thus, we mapped out a few interesting stops to make our trip (and retail) experience all the more fruitful. First Luke’s Liquor Barn. Ta da! Discounted spirits in a gigantic aluminum sided fake barn! Sound cheesy? Oh it was, but another thing Sandy and I have in common is a passion for finer distilled products. When months ago I told him that I’ve been collecting old & unique liquors and wines since my teen years, he didn’t laugh because he does the same thing.

Purchase at the Barn: A nicely expensive bottle of pear brandy, ooh-la-la. I had to tear myself away from the Macadamia Liqueur and Kona Coffee Liqueur since there would be a border to cross, and I already had a bottle of Nantucket rum in the trunk. Boo. Sandy got a kick out of the miniature wines, and got himself a four pack of Woodbridge Estates. I laughed. Wouldn’t you?

Next stop: Ihop! We finally made it to the pancake house of glory and ordered... Steak! Isn’t all-day breakfast a scream? As tempted as I was by the mile-high stack of buttermilk babies topped with strawberries, the fruit looked suspiciously like canned pie filling, and so I passed. Our meals came with sides of small pancake stacks anyway, which we happily doused with maple syrup only after removing half the butter sitting on top. Really, who needs an ice cream scoop’s worth of milk fat?

Now that I’ve finally been to an Ihop, I can finally make my concensus: Alright. I won’t be going through Ihop withdrawal symptoms anytime in the near future, but I did really really like the bottomless coffee. By the time we left, my hands were shaking, I had a massive permagrin stapled to my face, and talked about everything under the sun, at a mile a minute. Sandy laughed. Wouldn’t you?

After this we get lost because our GPS system, which we have christened Shirley, decided she wasn’t up to working just then. While Shirley took over an hour to find a freakin’ signal, Sandy and I had no choice but to better discover the state of Massachusetts. Very pretty, very well put together, very nice during this time of year. A journey very full of profanities, because we really wanted to get that signal and on the highway.

After an hour Shirley finally got off her ass, found the signal and thus the highway. We drove for a few more hours, stopping only for the obligatory nature call, until it was dark and we slid into our next destination in Schenectady, New York.

Say Schenectady ten times really fast, Ske-neck-ta-dee, and you might just give yourself a headache. We didn’t exactly share a burning desire to go to Schenectady, New York, I mean it’s not like it was on travel list of dreams or anything like that, but we’re definitely here for a reason. You see, Schenectady, New York is home to the underestimated haven of cool, the pilgrimage of bargain hunters and the promised land of discount shopping: Target.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


We docked at Nantucket Harbor around 10pm and our inn was a short drive away, so we parked Joey, hauled our bags up all three floors of the Inn we were staying at, and called it a night. So, our first real glimpse of the island was the next morning, from one of the outdoor wraparound verandas close to our room.

Here are some of the logistics of Nantucket: Settled in the 1600s, nicknamed the Grey Lady, huge in the whaling industry once upon a time, fodder for Melville’s Moby Dick; present day summer colony and subject of dirty limericks. Our Inn view, coincidentally one of the highest points on the island, is one of trees, sails and miles of ocean set against the October sky.

Nantucket amazes me; I find it near unbelievable that such places exist. It’s crazy quiet for one, since the only real noise comes from the two boats ferrying passengers back and forth, loud foghorns signaling either a docking or departure. There is really no traffic on the island, because there are not enough cars. There aren’t even all that many street signs, since the locals already know where they’re going.

The houses are built in the colonial style, shingled with beige cedar shakes that weather into gray over time. The doors are painted dark colours and adorned with knockers in the shapes of scallops, pineapples, or lightship baskets. The population of full time island residents is around the 10,000 mark; I’d say that at least 10,000 people walk by my window every day at home. There are probably 10,000 people walking outside my window right now.

Downtown Nantucket is a small neighbourhood surrounding Main Street, still paved with its original, ancient now very smoothed over stones. Walking on them is a lark, but driving on them is pure hell. Sit on top of a life buoy in a raging jacuzzi, that comes pretty close to the experience; Joey’s alignment will never forgive me. On either side of Main Street are the sweetest little shops and boutiques, harboring not-so-sweet prices: I saw a gorgeous little painting around the size of one square foot that I thought would be a wonderful little souvenir of our time there, but wasn’t about to part with $17,000 to pay for it. Sandy and I did a lot of coughing, then showed ourselves to the door.

Main Street leads right to the docks, which leads right to the ocean, which is beside the beaches and shores that cradle Nantucket. Shells wash up by the millions on these shores, and quaint lighthouses dot three parts of the island. The rest of it is trees, cranberry bogs, organic farms, sailboats in the harbours and the perpetual scent & tickle of salty ocean spray.

So what did Sandy and I do in this place, this very beautiful, very small, very quiet place abundant in natural charm and pretty much zero nightlife? What did we do in a place that, truthfully, is very renown for not having much to do at all?

Well, we started by doing something we don’t get to do that often: We relaxed. We went to bed early, we slept late, we took our evenings in the room to snack on tidbits and watch horror movies. We took long walks, perusing the shops for interesting (and affordable) items; we walked through the streets, up and down the hills and through the beaches, collecting seashells and picking up live scallops to watch them creep open, and then snap shut. We sat on the rocks at Brant Point to take in the boats, the sky, and the sea.

We took daytrips because we could, because we had Joey with us and because in small places, it always seems like you have all the time in the world. We drove to the other side of the island and saw the rose covered cottages of Siasconset. We went to Nantucket’s vineyard, distillery & brewery, all in one convenient location, to sample bourbon, rum & beer. We found the most obscure seafood market in the world and went back again and again for the unbelievable clam strips and oysters on the half shell. The day we went for lobster bisque it was so cold outside that we ate the soup in the car, and completely fogged up the windows.

We drove five miles for coffee for the hell of it, partly because it was good coffee, and partly because we had nothing better to do just then. We went to the bookstore around the corner and found our own treasures: Ringo Starr’s Postcards for Sandy, and Roald Dahl’s collected ghost stories for me. We had homemade chocolate chip cookies for teatime everyday at the lily leaf, wicker furniture, candle-bedecked veranda of our inn. We went to the pub down the street, an ancient whaling tavern, for dinners of clam chowder and cheese platters with strawberries and grapes.

We took lots of pictures, Sandy on his digital and me on Dad’s old Minolta, the one camera that year in and year out has never done me wrong. Perhaps the Resurgence of Photogirl is on the horizon at last? It was a promising (re)start.

Best of all, Sandy and I had time. We had nothing to do time, we had holding hands time, we had be mushy be funny be silly time. We talked about everything under the sun, because we do that. We didn’t rush, because we never get to do that. We lazed around and didn’t check our email, because neither one of us is so foolish to let something like that slide, at home.

There are many kinds of vacations in life. There are the vacations where you climb mountains, or go on daring adventures, or live in a tour bus for weeks on end, only experiencing what you’re allowed to experience when the bus comes to a complete stop. There are beach towel vacations, culinary vacations, spa vacations and weekend road trips just a few hours south.

But every now and then comes that special getaway that gives you the most important time of all: Each other time. It’s a funny thing, being swept up in the everyday, that even though you can see someone as often as you wish, you can’t really see them until you go somewhere else. There is no running around, no paperwork, no endless catastrophes to mend. The buzzing comes to a standstill. You can finally feel the wind in your hair.

For those few days, those good days, we had time for everything in the world, especially one another. I am forever grateful for them.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

University was the first time I ever got to live away from home. In the months prior to my departure, I was crazy excited and got all kinds of kitschy things to decorate my shared room with: Mickey Mouse sheets, a beer bucket, and posters. One of these posters had a diagram of a two-headed turtle on it, and underneath that, The Procastinator's Creed:

1. I believe that if anything is worth doing, it would have been done already.

2. I shall never move quickly, except to avoid more work or find excuses.

3. I will never rush into a job without a lifetime of consideration.

4. I shall meet all of my deadlines directly in proportion to the amount of bodily injury I could expect from missing them.

5. I firmly believe that tomorrow holds the possibility for new technologies, astounding discoveries, and a reprieve from my obligations.

6. I truly believe that all deadlines are unreasonable regardless of the amount of time given.

7. I shall never forget that the probability of a miracle, though infinitesimally small, is not exactly zero.

8. If at first I don't succeed, there is always next year.

9. I shall always decide not to decide, unless of course I decide to change my mind.

10. I shall always begin, start, initiate, take the first step, and/or write the first word, when I get around to it.

11. I obey the law of inverse excuses which demands that the greater the task to be done, the more insignificant the work that must be done prior to beginning the greater task.

12. I know that the work cycle is not plan/start/finish, but is wait/plan/plan.

13. I will never put off tomorrow, what I can forget about forever.

14. I will become a member of the ancient Order of Two-Headed Turtles (The Procrastinator's Society) if they ever get it organized.

In the student world of party-rather-than-study, this was a hilarious creed and I got many compliments on it. I still think it's funny, and look it up every now and again for a good laugh; my original poster has long since been given away.

In reality, it's scary how sometimes what seems like a joke can all too much mimic your life. In my case, that means my writing, health goals, work... everything.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Enter Road Trip

Sandy and I flip our vacation choices back and forth. San Francisco was my idea; Vegas was his. I get a week off every October, and if we’re lucky, Sandy gets to spend it with me. This October we got such luck, and my choice of destination was Nantucket.

Nantucket belongs to the state of Massachusetts, an eight or nine hour drive for us, and then just a ferry ride away from the port of Hyannis. If you look on a map, it’s right beside its better known big sister, Martha’s Vineyard.

I’m a big purveyor of the underdog. One of the huge benefits of traveling is that you get sick of tourist traps all too quickly, and choose the road less traveled. It was why I chose Sonoma over Napa; that bit of less glitter makes it more real.

Everyone and their mother has been to Martha’s Vineyard, has raved about Martha’s Vineyard, has come home with stars in their eyes from Martha’s Vineyard. I too have always wanted to see Martha’s Vineyard (and verify that it actually has a vineyard), but when the Cape Cod & Environs guidebooks kept describing Nantucket as the “Martha’s with less flash,” the itch began.

Besides, I’ve always wanted to go to Massachusetts. We’re talking the home of the Salem Witch Trials (not to be stereotypical, of course), New England clam chowder, and some of the most glorious Fall colours on the planet. Internet photos of beaches, lighthouses and whales tails poking out of the ocean surf did little to sway us in any other direction. We booked. We planned. And then, at 5am on a Saturday, we went.

The drive East was everything we thought it would be, with the mountainous reds and golds of Autumn at its peak. We didn’t stop too much really, only when it was necessary, and when we did stop for meals it wasn’t for the typical roadside grub but tasties from the picnic basket we’d packed ourselves. Sandy and I have sworn off fast food for the most part, a move prompted by some serious stomach upsets after our last weekend road trip. It was burgers & rings all the way through, followed by a night of rationing bathroom times. Very unglamorous, I can assure you.

Thus, we may have been in the parking lot of a McDonalds just like everyone else, but Big Mac combos made way for delicatessen salamis, fromagerie cheeses, seven grain breads, Turkish rice rolls wrapped in grape leaves, fuji apples, dark chocolate with almonds & cherries, and cups of hot butternut squash soup that I’d packed in a thermos that morning. Are we snobs or what?

The near-constant driving, already prepared food and our constant chatter made the hours pass like minutes, and nightfall saw us at the ferry dock in Hyannis, where my little Joey was packed into the belly of a gigantic ferry boat, beside dozens of 18-wheeler trucks and SUVs. It was dark by then and pretty cold, so we opted to spend most of the two-hour crossing in the car, napping.

Enter Ocean Neurosis, sister to my ever popular Airport Neurosis. Thanks to Oli putting me through Jaws when I was four, I have a deathly fear of boats in the middle of the ocean, at night. I don’t see land, I flip. I’m older now and more relatively able to talk myself through things, so I’ll put up with the occasional boat ride here and there to feed my love of travel, but if Sandy ever gets us tickets for a cruise, I just might have to kill him.

To make matters all that worse, I don’t have sea legs. I especially don’t have sea stomach, so being in the very hot cargo hold of a gynormous ferry feeling every little UP and DOWN and SIDE to SIDE while the suspension of my car rolled us BACK and FORTH was really, seriously gross. At least I’m smart enough to recognize my (many) flaws, and had Pepto Bismol chewables on hand. Viva pink drugs.

So, who guessed Nantucket (or was the closest), without prior knowledge of it? What shall your prize be?