Sunday, April 29, 2012

58. The Hunt

The Seller: 

Why are we selling?  Don’t tell her about the divorce, that makes it look like the price is negotiable.  Just say he accepted a job transfer.  That’s a good reason, yeah, say that.   

The Buyer: 
Price seems high—for the location, I mean.  It’s definitely more than I’d like to pay.  I can afford to offer full-price, what with my inheritance, but they don’t need to know that. 

The Realtor: 
My clients are firm on price.  It’s a good value, well-maintained, nice neighborhood, good schools.  Have you seen the comps?  The price is where it should be.  When are you writing the offer? 

trifecta writing challenge:  same story, 3 points of view  

Saturday, April 28, 2012

57. See It My Way

The teacher’s perspective: 

He interrupts constantly.  He is so needy, so clingy, it drives me totally insane.  I love teaching, but kids like Peter push me to the brink.  He obviously gets no attention at home.

The mom’s perspective: 
I’m so glad we adopted Peter.  We try hard to engage him.  I suspect he’s a victim of fetal alcohol syndrome.  I haven’t told the school:  I don’t want him to be labeled. 

Peter’s perspective:
I love my teacher.  She always helps me.  I wish I could understand things as fast as the other kids.  My mom says everyone is different.  I just want to be the same.    

trifecta writing challenge:  same story, 3 points of view

Thursday, April 26, 2012

56. Travel: Zurich

Have you ever been somewhere that you’d heard about, and in the cobwebby corners of your brain you had secretly worried it wouldn’t live up to the hype?  You had maybe read about the place in a travel magazine, and thought it sounded too good to be true.  And then you arrive at the airport and once you clear customs you walk through the luggage area toward ground transportation to get a taxi to your hotel and that’s when you see it:  a random postcard display in the gift shop.  And you think, Well, they’re just postcards.  Postcards are airbrushed and photoshopped.  Postcards lie.

You arrive to your hotel and that’s when it hits you:  Zurich is a postcard, only better. 
Postcards do not capture the magic that is Switzerland, a postcard is like someone pointing to a ray of the sun in the sky and saying, “The galaxy is like this.” 
A postcard is like someone giving you a few rocks to hold in your hand and declaring, “Now you know what the Grand Canyon is like.” 
Your mother splurges and takes your family to Zurich one Christmas.  The movie reel of your time there is permanently embedded in your brain.

You ski. 

You sample local food.   

You sightsee.

You even send a few postcards home. 
You find a postcard years later, when you are organizing some stuff in your office.  There it is—Switzerland.  This tiny shred of paper transports you instantly back. 


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

55. Travel: Yosemite

My sister, Oakley, and her husband live in Yosemite. 

They have been begging us to come visit them there.  They wants to take us camping. 

I am not fond of camping.  Here's why:   

After a night of freezing my extremities, I do not want to see bear fangs at 6 AM. 

Here is what I would rather wake up to on vacation:  
I want to visit Yosemite and take advantage of all it has to offer, but more in a let-me-take-photos-of-everything-and-then-go-back-to-my-hotel kind of way. 
I have done some research and found out there is a lovely (and historic) hotel in Yosemite called The Ahwahnee Hotel: 
Here is the lobby:  
Here is the dining room:
Yeah, I think I'll stick with the hotel.  Sorry, Oakley. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

54. Travel: Xhausted

Why do I keep noticing keyboard imprints on my right cheek when I wake up? 

Traveling is exhausting.  I did it for 10 years. 

Here's what the experts say: 

Drink lots of water: 

Eat healthy food:

Try to stay awake in your new time zone:

But none of that works. 

Sometimes, what works best is to stay home for once. 


Monday, April 23, 2012

53. Travel: Washington, D.C.

My younger sister, Oakley, went to school at Georgetown, which gave me an excuse to fly out to visit her. 

At the time, I was working for Continental Airlines and based in Denver. 

Oakley took me on the whirlwind tour. 
We saw the White House …

Went to the Smithsonian ... 
Took a ride on the carousel ...
Went to world-class museums on the Mall ...
Ate out …
Saw the cherry blossoms …

Walked around the cobblestoned streets of Old Town, Alexandria …
I was afraid I would never get a chance to see D.C. again, so I tried to soak up as much of the Capital city as I could.  This is like trying to soak up the ocean with a sponge. 

I needn’t have worried.  Five years later on graduation day from the United Airlines training center, they told me, “Congratulations!  You’re going to be based in D.C.!” 


Sunday, April 22, 2012

52. Travel: Vancouver

When Continental Airlines hired me to be a flight attendant at the ripe old age of 24, I never had any intention of doing the job for more than one year. 

For this reason, I made sure to take full advantage of my flight passes.  I mapped out where I wanted to go, picking a dozen places that I would slowly check off my list. 

Vancouver was one of those places. 

I invited my dad, and we had a wonderful time.  My dad had done some research about things to do in Vancouver, and he really wanted to go up in a sea plane. 

So we did.

We got some great views above the harbor. 
Later, we ate lunch at the Granville Island Public Market.  
I ate cake.  No need to stray from my normal eating regime just because I was on vacation. 

We rented bikes and went for a bike ride through a beautiful park.

The weather cooperated and we had some nice sunshine.  
Overall, it was a great visit!  I can't wait to go back!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

51. Travel: Utah

I have been to Utah exactly once.  I went skiing there with my ex-boyfriend, Kent.  Dating Kent was like dating a walking advertisement for the winter Olympics.   

Kent's family had taken Kent skiing many times as a child and plus he was just naturally athletic. 

Kent had lived in Salt Lake City for one year when I went to visit him, and in that time, he had spent approximately 364 of those days skiing.  For 15 hours a day.  Yep, he was pretty good. 

I, on the other hand, had only been skiing a few times in my life, so I was at nowhere near the level Kent was.  But this trip was not about me improving, this trip was about me looking cute in a ski suit. 

Now, Kent was a great guy.  He never had any intention of ditching me and skiing the quadruple black diamond slopes.  He was happy to ski the cubic zirconia slopes with me. 

I suggested cross-country skiing, because I knew one thing about it:  it was flat.  That was good enough for me.  If I was going to fall, I certainly did not want to add velocity to the cruel gravity equation.

I also had noticed in my extensive 5 minutes on the slopes that the cross country people seem to cheat:  they ski in grooves already made by someone else.  It is sort of like visiting Disneyland and going on a ride that is on a nice secure track. 

I was loving the idea of swishing down the flat path in an expert ski-like fashion and impressing polar bears with my inimitable ski skills.  Whoever said skiing was hard?  It's not!  It's easy! 

I imagined that Kent and I would look like this while cross country skiing ...  

... and then he would be so blown away by my latent ski abilities that he would drop down on one knee and propose.  I would say "No" as I had no intention of marrying Kent, but it's always nice to be asked.  And in my fantasy, no one ever has hard feelings or gets sad. 

This is not how the cross country ski trip went down.  There were no proposals, no rings, and no impressing of native wildlife. 

Instead, there was gravity, and lots of it. 

I fell approximately 200 more times.  Then I stopped counting. 

But I was a good sport.  I didn't cry. 

Finally, after the 237th fall (I guess I did keep counting), I did start to cry. 

I got down one on knee and asked Kent something, something that had been on my mind all day: 

"Kent, will you buy me a hot chocolate at the ski lodge?" 

Kent said yes.


Friday, April 20, 2012

50. Travel: Tahiti

How To Convince Complete Strangers That You’ve Been To Tahiti

When I was young(er), my best friend Charity and her exceedingly generous family invited me to go to Tahiti with them.  Uh, yes, please.  After the phone call came in, I started packing my bags.  Since I am a Virgo, I packed and repacked  and unpacked and repacked approximately 87 times. 

But this essay is not about my OCD tendencies, this is about making people believe you went somewhere fabulous.      

I spent the entire 10 hour flight with my face Velcroed to the window, looking for signs of land, and mentally preparing to tell the pilot when we were there. 
Once in Tahiti, I knew exactly what I wanted to do:  nothing.  My brand of nothing consisted of lying on the beach, or, alternatively, wading in the crystal blue water. 

Our hotel, as most hotels are in Tahiti, was comprised of little mini-bungalows built on stilts above the water.
I should point out here that although we flew into Papeete (pronounced Pop-ah-eeee-tay), we actually took a miniature airplane to another island ...
... the island of Bora Bora, which is where we stayed.  Bora Bora is like the Beverly Hills of Tahiti.  Papeete is like the Compton or South Central L.A. of Tahiti.  This is important for my story.    
We basically stayed at the hotel lounging on the beach for most of the week. 
The hotel food was magnificent, so there was not much reason to leave.  However, we did trek out to the one local restaurant, Bloody Mary’s, for dinner one evening. 
It is a restaurant unlike any I had ever seen before.  First of all, there is no floor.  You are outside, and the floor is sand.  You are barefoot, why wouldn’t you be?  Second, there are random cats wandering around.  Did I mention the floor is sand?  Yes?  Just checking.  Third, the owners come out to greet you, and it is obvious that they are drunk and have been since 1982.  It was an experience dining there, to say the least. 

The big item that everyone wants to buy in Tahiti is black pearl jewelry.  Black pearls are rare, and apparently Tahiti is about the only place to find them.  That and the hotel gift shop.  Black pearls in the United States cost approximately $10,000 each.  Black pearls in Tahiti cost only $8999.  You can see that this is quite a savings. 
When I was working at the high-end kitchen store for four years and pretending that I did not actually have a college degree in English Literature, I liked to “place-drop.”  This is name-dropping’s evil cousin twice removed.  I developed this nasty habit of place-dropping long before I became a flight attendant.  Here’s how it works: 

Customer:  We just got back from Florida.  It was nice. 
Me: (stifling a yawn) That’s great, Florida.  Wow.  I went to St. Martin once.  You know, in the Caribbean?  THAT was fantastic. 

Co-worker:  I would like to go to Honolulu someday. 
Me:  I've been there.  Twenty-five times.  You should skip Honolulu and go straight to Maui instead.  Or better yet, Kauai.  That’s where the filmed Jurassic Park.  Not when I was there, but that is where they filmed it. 

See?  I have this pathological need to impress people and tell them all the places I’ve been, or how the places I have been are better than the places they have been, or if we have been to the same place, I have to quiz them to be sure they’re not lying. 
Which brings me back to Tahiti.  It's expensive to go there, and there is no way I could ever afford to go there (see previous:  worked at high-end kitchen store) unless Charity’s benevolent family had not paid my way.  If you would like to go there, but don’t have $30,000 laying around (airfare) or another $50,000 (hotel), then let me give you some helpful hints to convince other people who have been there that you have been there too (even though you haven’t). 

When you overhear someone say, “We just got back from Tahiti,” run over and introduce yourself.  You can do this if you are at a party, at work, or even your local Starbucks.  The point is, it does not matter if you know the person.  It’s actually better if you don’t. 
Say to them, “Tahiti?  Wow, fun.  Which island?” 

When they respond, “We were in Papeete,” crinkle up your nose and say, “Ugh, why?” 

If they happen to answer Moorea or better yet, Bora Bora, tell them you also went to Bora Bora.  If they happen to add that they were on a cruise there, crinkle up your nose again and say, “We prefer to get to know one place intimately than have to shuttle around and just get a touristy overview.  But I’m glad it worked out for you.” 
If they say that they stayed on the island of Bora Bora, this is your chance to shine.  Immediately say, “Did you go to Bloody Mary’s?”  They will, of course say yes, as this is the only restaurant on the island (besides the hotel restaurants).  Next, laugh and say, “Can you believe those owners?” or “Geesh, sand on the floor, and so many stray cats everywhere!”  Then you and your brand new best friend can share a knowing laugh. 

Finally, pull out your (fake) black pearl necklace, purchased from Target.  Make sure the side where the “pearl” finish is peeling off is facing away.  Show your new friend your lovely souvenir, and then recall wistfully, “There is nothing in the world like black pearls from Tahiti.” 

They will nod. 
And then you ask them if they have ever been to Russia. 


Thursday, April 19, 2012

49. Travel: Sydney

You won’t be surprised that I picked Sydney for “S.” 

From Los Angeles (where I was based as a flight attendant), it is a looooooooooooooong flight.  Think the longest amount of time you could stand to be trapped in a metal tube at 35,000 feet hurling through the sky at 500 miles per hour with 465 complete strangers.      

The flight takes approximately 67 hours.  Give or take a few minutes. 

I have been to Sydney several times, and every time I love it just a little bit more.   
Of course, it is imperative to visit the iconic Sydney Opera House. 
Once, my sister and I were there at Christmas time and went to hear a performance.  The Opera House has several distinct concert halls, and they are expertly designed so that every seat is acoustically pleasing. 

I went for a long run through the Royal Botanic Gardens the next day.

Sydney is like that really annoying girl you went to high school with who never takes a bad picture.  Sydney's middle name is "Photogenic."   
We went shopping in the stunning Queen Victoria Building. 
We stopped for a healthy snack. 

We went on a ferry boat around the harbor.  

We went to the Taronga Zoo.

I love Sydney!  I can't wait to go back! 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

48. Travel: Russia

Back when it was still Russia, we went to Russia.  My step-mom Nichole is from there. 

We of course went to Moscow.  With all the golden domes everywhere, Moscow is like a Disneyland version of itself. 

The architecture is spectacular. 
Here’s this really beautiful place we went to called the …

... Moscow subway station.  I prayed there. 

And here's the local department store.  Gum's.

I wish the JCPenney's near my house looked like that. 

We went to the Russian ballet. 

We did the touristy things.  Here are some Russian spies that were chasing us down.

Just kidding.  They were British spies. 

Can't wait to go back to Russia! 


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

47. Travel: Question Mark

Tim and I had only dated a short time when we decided to fly to London for a long weekend.  I had my flight passes, and since we lived on the East Coast, it seemed a quick hop across the pond.  Then Princess Diana had to go and die right before we were to travel out. 

We didn’t find out that all the flights were full until we got to the airport.  Flight passes mean stand-by, and stand-by means stand there and wave “bye-bye” to the paying passengers. 
Our suitcases were packed.  We were ready to go somewhere, but where? 

We looked at the board of flights. 

No, we hadn’t packed swimsuits and shorts.  Chicago? 
Been there.  Boston?  Done that.  L.A.? 
That was home.  Where should we go? 
We picked Seattle. 

We got the last two seats on the last flight out. 

I had lived in Seattle for one year when I was just out of college.  I was anxious to show Tim my former home. 
We gobbled up the city like we might never eat again.     

We played tourist, going up in the iconic Space Needle.
We went to Pike’s Place Market. 
We took the ferry to Bainbridge Island. 

We walked along Alki Beach. 

We ate seafood. 
We went antiquing at the Seattle Antiques Market. 

We ate ice cream. 
We fell in love. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

46. Travel: Paris

I was supposed to go to Indianapolis.  In briefing, we were short one flight attendant for FAA minimums, so I went to the crew desk to ask for a replacement person.  “I can’t deal with that now!” yelled the scheduler.  “I’m trying to get the Paris flight out—we’re short one on that!” 

Paris?  Did she say Paris? 
“Uh, I have my passport,” I offered helpfully, as if every flight attendant in the airport did not have her passport, a mandatory item. 

“Do you have your French visa?” 
I flashed back to that entire day off I had “wasted in line” at the French embassy, griping that I would never get to use that visa. 

“Go to gate 68B.  Run!”    

The flight was a blur.  I was going to Paris, with a 24-hour layover! 

Since it was a red-eye flight, the crew and I were exhausted upon arrival.  I went to my hotel room to take a 4-hour power nap so I could have the stamina to see Paris.

When I woke up, I immediately went to the front desk to get a map so I could walk around.  I had spent a week in Paris in college, so I had already done all the touristy things:  the Eiffel Tower, the Champs-Élysées , the Louvre, the Picasso Museum, the Musee d’Orsay, the Pompidou Center.  This trip was just about wandering.

I gawked at the stunning architecture all around me. 

I sipped café au lait and nibbled on a chocolate éclair while relaxing at a sidewalk café. 

I people-watched in the park.  I shopped in little shops. 

I practiced my French.  I pretended I lived there.  Later, I went for a run near the Eiffel Tower.  For one day, I was Parisian.     


It was the best trip to Indianapolis I never had. 


Sunday, April 15, 2012

45. Travel: (New) Orleans

I was a flight attendant for 10 years.  I've been to New Orleans more than a few times.  It is one of my favorite places in the whole world.  If I could be two people and the other one could live somewhere else, she would surely find herself with a New Orleans address.

When people think of New Orleans, they automatically picture the craziness and crowds of Mardi Gras. 

Yes, that is New Orleans, just like a leaf is a part of the tree.  But the rest of the tree is pretty spectacular, too. 

I gravitate to Jackson Square.  The St. Louis Cathedral is a living postcard.   

You need to go inside, though, to really appreciate it. 

I love the French Quarter.  It's like something from a really lush dream. 

Browse some of the antique stores on Decatur Street or Royal Street. 

Take a streetcar through the Garden District. 

Gawk at the stunning architecture. 

Make sure you take time to eat some pralines.  It's well worth the future dental bill.    

And you have to go to Café Du Monde (Du Monde means "of the world") for their famous beignets and coffee.  Yum!  I like to relax here and people-watch.   

Did you know New Orleans has an aquarium?  It's amazing.   

I love New Orleans! 


Saturday, April 14, 2012

44. Travel: Neverland

we interrupt this regularly scheduled blog to bring you a trifecta writing challenge

Friday, April 13, 2012

43. Travel: Mind Trip

quick side trip from our regularly scheduled blog to do what I do best:  the opposite of what you expect.  this is a trifecta writing challenge:  to write an apology in just 33 words (wish me luck!) 


Thursday, April 12, 2012

42. Travel: London

Running, running, running, along the Thames … who cares if it’s raining, you’re in London. 

Big Ben, National Gallery, Harrods … inhale it all, you’re in London.
Plays, musicals, world class theater … you are a better person now, you’re in London. 
Lost, turned around, can’t find your Tube stop … relax, someone will help you, you’re in London. 
Need a break, need something special … it’s all there for you, you’re in London. 

A beautiful black cab takes you where you want to go … you’re already here:  you’re in London. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

40. Travel: Jenny Lake, Wyoming

I have a confession to make:  I’ve never been to Jenny Lake.  My boyfriend and I were supposed to go there (this is a million years ago before we got married).  I called some amazing resort I had seen in a travel magazine and booked us a room, but then could not get flights. 

Could not get flights.  How can a person not get flights?  Who knows—but there were no flights available.  I called about a dozen different airlines, and the answer was always the same, We’re booked, So sorry, Please try another day. 

With no way to get there, I was forced to cancel the hotel reservation.  “I apologize, but I have to cancel.  We couldn’t get flights.” 
The girl on the phone did not take it well.  “You … you don’t want to come to Jenny Lake?  Was it something I said?  How can I get you to change your mind?”  Somehow she represented all that was Jenny Lake and she took the rejection personally.    

I wanted to tell her I was not breaking up with the hotel, the airline had broken up with me.  I was a victim of circumstance. 
“No, no, miss, please do not misunderstand,” I begged, “I do want to come to Jenny Lake, it’s just the airline has no flights.” 

“You’re making excuses,” she huffed, “and that one is not even believable.  How naïve do you think I am?” 
“I promise it’s true!  Why would I make it up?  I want to come to Jenny Lake, I really do!” 

She turned all business, her voice now sounding robotic:  Fine.  Reservation number, please?” 
I gave her the number and she finally cancelled my request. 

I still wonder what I missed out on. 


Monday, April 9, 2012

39. Travel: Italy

How can your write about Italy in 500 words?  You can't. 

But they say a picture is worth a thousand words, so how many words is 5 pictures?   5000.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

38. Travel: Hawaii

My husband and I arrived just as the sun was setting.  We were equal parts giddy and exhausted.  “Oh, and I see from the notes here that you’re here on your honeymoon?” queried the front desk clerk, mustering reserves of faux enthusiasm after his millionth time of delivering that identical line to other newlyweds.  “Congratulations.  We have upgraded you to an ocean front suite.  Enjoy your stay.”

I wasn’t sure if he was congratulating us on our marriage or on our room upgrade.    
When I saw the room, I knew it was the latter.  The bathroom was bigger than my first apartment, and held a deep soaking tub and separate marble shower.  The towels were thick and fluffy.  The suite itself had dark hardwood floors, a yellow hibiscus print bedspread, and bamboo furniture.  The entire front wall was made of glass and offered a 180 degree, uninterrupted view of the glorious sea.  “I’m moving in,” I said to Tim, “like, permanently.” 

I’d been smart enough to book a package for the week, a package that included kayaking, horseback riding, snorkeling, and last but not least, hiking in a rock garden high above the ocean.  Every day brought a new adventure, along with perfectly prepared seafood and endless fruity cocktails with names like “Hawaiian Volcano” and “Thirsty Parrot” or “Maui Swirl.”  We lounged at the pool, slept too late, and basically had a wonderful vacation. 
Two children and 12 years later, we recently celebrated another anniversary.  I look back at our vacation photos in Hawaii, and realize it was a wonderful start to a wonderful marriage. 


Saturday, April 7, 2012

37. Travel: Great Wall of China

We arrived at the Great Wall late in the afternoon.  We were not the only ones.  I was surrounded by German, Japanese, Australian, and Russian tourists—their voices rising in an uncomfortable cacophony distracting from the beauty of the setting.  A short Chinese man pushed past me, holding his cheap camera out too far in front of his face.  He walked back, jostling me without apologizing.  I could tell he had not bathed any time recently, and I was overcome with the irrational desire to hand him a fresh bar of soap.  If I’d had one in my purse, I might have. 

My father and step-mom were whispering to each other and laughing.  I desperately wanted to be included in the conversation.    
“What?  What’s so funny?”   

Nicole turned to face me.  “I just told your dad that the bugs are so big here, it’s like they’re on steroids.  He said they were the ‘Great Insects of the Great Wall.’  Isn’t that hilarious?” 
I couldn’t for the life of me remember why I had interrupted them. 


this post represents a double challenge:  staying with my daily travel theme for the a to z challenge, as well as doing the weekend challenge with trifecta (using the three bold words included in order)

Friday, April 6, 2012

36. Travel: Florida

For several years when I was growing up, we vacationed in Florida for Thanksgiving and Easter.  My mom and step-dad had grandiose plans of buying a beach cottage in Panama City, but the reality was:  we always rented. 

(Ultimately they divorced, and no one bought a beach cottage in Panama City or anywhere else.)
We would pack up the station wagon and make the two hour drive from rural Alabama, while my baby brother slept in the way back and my younger sister alternately played with her dolls or pestered me.  I willed the car to go faster because once we arrived I had one goal and one goal only:  to get tan. 

It might be 55 degrees and windy, but I was on the sand in my bikini and slathered in suntan lotion within minutes of the car pulling into the driveway. 
I was cursed with very, very pale skin, the kind of skin that refuses to tan.  Think of an Albino polar bear dancing on the moon in a wedding dress.  Okay, a little whiter than that. 

I had always been teased in school about my fair coloring, earning such original nicknames as “Ghostie.”  No one wants to be called Ghostie. 
Any opportunity to go to the beach was my shot at being tan and accepted.  I didn’t really care about bragging to my junior high friends that we vacationed someplace exotic like the gulf coast of Florida; I cared about them noticing my tan when we got back. 

I had read in a magazine that baby oil works better than sun tan lotion for tanning purposes, so one time I decided to give it a shot.  I greased up and dozed under the cloudy sky listening to my Walkman radio while the rest of my family played inside and ate lunch.
When I went back in a few minutes later, I rushed to the bathroom mirror to see if I was tan yet.  It took my eyes a moment to adjust.  My face did look tanner, in a red-Indian-tan sort of way. 

I waltzed into the kitchen to get something to drink.  My mother gasped.  “MOV!  You are so sunburnt!  Are you okay?” 
“I’m not burnt, I’m tan,” I said proudly, as if my white skin could easily be swapped with another color on the spectrum.  “See?  Tan.” 

My step-dad walked over, a look of true concern contorting his features.  “How long were you outside?” 

“I don’t know … maybe, like, half an hour?” 

“What time did you go out?” he asked suspiciously. 
I paused.  “I think around 10 or so?” 

“MOV, it’s 3 o’clock!  You are burnt to a crisp!” 
I put my hand on my shoulder.  I could feel the heat radiating from my skin. 

“We need to get you some sort of cream to put on that,” said my mom, her voice brimming over with worry.  “I’m going to drive you to the pharmacy right now.” 
We went to the pharmacy and I could sense people staring at me.  I wanted to believe it was because I was so tan, but I could no longer deny that it was because I was red.  My skin actually ached. 

The pharmacist took one look at me and asked who our doctor was. 
“We don’t live here, we’re just on vacation,” replied my mother. 

“Ma’am, she’ll need something stronger than over-the-counter lotion for that burn.  I have a special cream, but it’s prescription only.” 
After some back and forth negotiations culminating in me crying because my skin hurt so much, the pharmacist went ahead and sold us the cream under a different name. 

I went home, took an ice-cold bath, then slathered the thick, soothing cream all over my skin. 
The next morning, my skin started to bubble up.  Two days later, it blistered and began to fall off in huge, ugly chunks.  Only the areas my swimsuit covered were spared from the molting ordeal.  I stayed inside next to the fan for the duration of our vacation, seeking relief from the heat of my own body.  I cringed when I saw my reflection in the mirror:  I looked like the victim of a nuclear explosion.    

At least when I went back to school, no one called me Ghostie anymore.  My new name was Peely. 


Thursday, April 5, 2012

35. Travel: Egypt

Your best friend Charity is going to Egypt for Christmas.  She tells you about her previous Christmas in Hawaii and the one before that in Australia.  You are envious.  Since she is an only child and since you are her best friend, she convinces her parents to take you too.  Since they want Charity to be happy, they say yes.    

You are going to Egypt.  You will see the pyramids and go on a cruise on the Nile River and buy small hand-carved wooden boxes and get food poisoning.  You are 14. 
You arrive and they stamp your virgin passport.  You are tired from the flight but eager to soak in all that Egypt has to offer.  Charity’s family takes you out to dinner and you order spaghetti.    

The next morning, you go to the pyramids.  You did not pack the right clothes.  You thought the dessert was made of sand and sand meant beaches and beaches meant hot.  You brought one light jacket and only one sweater that you will end up wearing every day for a week.    
The pyramids are more amazing than you could have imagined.  You get to go in one, but then you have a panic attack and have to wait outside with the tour guide.  When Charity and her parents come out, you offer to take a picture of them in front of the Sphinx.  They all smile and you are not in the picture.   

Charity’s dad thinks everyone should go on a camel ride.  One of the camels tries to bite you, and you add Fear of Camels to your ever-growing phobia list.  You pretend you are happy to wait while they go on their camel ride without you.     
In the evening, you get to watch a sound and light show at the base of the pyramids.  It is so real it seems fake.  The lights blink neon green, and a static-y taped voice with a British accent narrates the show.  You take more pictures, but they do not turn out. 

Christmas day arrives.  Charity’s mom had thought to bring presents with her.  Your parents did not tuck any surprise gifts into your suitcase, as they had paid for your airline ticket.      
Charity takes the thick ribbon off a glossy red box.  There is a cashmere sweater inside.  She puts it on.  You watch her unwrap a stack of hardback books.  She unwraps a smooth leather journal.  You sit patiently while she opens a box filled with gourmet chocolates.  She offers you one.  Finally, she opens a tiny box marked Cartier and takes out a gold watch.  She jumps up and hugs her parents.  Charity’s mom gives you a box wrapped in pink paper.  You carefully unwrap it.  It’s soap.   

You smile and thank her for the soap.  You know that the hotel stay and the cruise are the gift.  But you suddenly don’t want to be here with them and with Charity.  You want to be home, far away from Charity.  You are 14. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

34. Travel: Disneyland

My parents divorced when I was four.  This was confusing enough.  But then, my mother remarried quickly and we moved across country to Pennsylvania.  I had never seen snow before. 

My father stayed behind in California with silly things like a mortgage and a job.  It was decided by courts and lawyers and official-type people that I would visit my father during summers and holidays.  The youngest age a child could travel as an unaccompanied minor on the airlines was five years old.  Shortly after my fifth birthday, my mom introduced me to the Delta gate agents and I boarded a plane to California. 
After take-off, I stared out the window at the clouds and prayed we wouldn’t crash and if we did I thought about how maybe I could help the flight attendants save everyone and then I would be a hero and have my name in the paper, and possibly picture too.  It was a long flight, so I played this scenario in my head in several different versions.  Fire, no fire, ocean landing, plane breaks in half, plane intact.  All versions involved the emergency slide. 

When the plane finally landed, my father was at the gate waiting for me.  He was holding red and blue balloons.  He looked patriotic.  He stood there waving at me, like I might not see him or recognize him.      
For the uninitiated, Garden Grove where my father lived is about a five minute drive from Disneyland.  They did not sell lifetime passes, but I’m sure if they had, my father would have bought them for us.  Traveling west added three hours to our day, so even though I felt like I had been flying forever, I arrived by noon.  My father gave me a big hug being careful not to let go of the balloons, and then he asked me what I wanted to do first, offering such options as swimming or eating lunch at McDonald’s.   

“Daddy, can we go to Disneyland?” 
Of course this is where we went.  I loved the Pirates of the Caribbean so as soon as we arrived, we sprinted through New Orleans Square to get there.  I never wanted to sit in the front two rows, knowing that we’d get soaked.  There was a part of the ride where we got so close to treasure chest of gold and jewelry that I thought I could reach out and touch it.  What would I do with all that money?  Buy more tickets to California. 

We ate lunch at the Blue Bayou and I always ordered the same thing:  the Monte Cristo sandwich.  It was a ham and cheese sandwich, fried, and served with strawberry jam.  Yum!  We’d sit there watching the fireflies blink but I never noticed the strings they were suspended from.   
Another ride I wanted to go on was called Adventure Through Inner Space.  While you were waiting in line, you could see other people boarding the ride and being shrunk down to microscopic proportions.  For the price of an “E” ticket, the Disney people would shrink you smaller than an actual snowflake, and then later somehow magically restore you to normal size.  Traumatically, the ride broke while we were on it.  We were already shrunken to a molecule, so things looked pretty grim for me and my father.  First the divorce, now this.  I started to cry. 

This was not the precise moment my father chose to tell me there was no tooth fairy nor Santa nor Easter bunny.  It was, however, the moment he chose to tell me if I would just look over there to the right side of the room I would see that there was a full life-sized door and three uniformed technicians who appeared to be working on some electronic equipment. 
“MOV, if we were really molecules, there would be no door.  Don’t worry, the ride will be fixed soon.  It’s just pretend.  We’re not really shrunken.” 

I wanted to believe him, but how did he know?  Maybe he was just fooling himself. 
After what seemed like ten hours but was most likely five or six minutes, the ride started up again.  When we got off, I noticed the line was now snaking around the building.  I wanted to yell at the innocent people waiting, “Don’t do it!  You might not be as lucky as us if the ride breaks!  You might remain small!” but instead my father and I got an ice-cream. 

The ice-cream helped, but I still felt small.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

33. Travel: Chicago

I’ll never forget the first time I went to Chicago.  I was 26, and had been flying for (the now defunct) MarkAir for about six months. 

It was such a small airline, that we literally had three trips we flew:  a round-trip red-eye to Alaska, a three-leg epic journey from Seattle-Denver-Chicago-Newark (with a 10-hour layover, just enough time to sleep and do the flights in reverse), and the coveted San Diego trip, which was Seattle-San Francisco-Los Angeles-San Francisco-San Diego with a 24-hour layover in San Diego (you can see why we flight attendants would want that trip:  it was the only one with any time to see the destination city).  Chicago was not a city where we ever laid over.    

Until one day in the middle of our Seattle/ Newark cross-country extravaganza, our plane broke down in Chicago.  Since it was not one of our bases (our bases were Anchorage and Seattle), we could not easily get it repaired (our airline was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy and was notorious for not paying bills—therefore, the contract workers in Chicago refused to fix our plane).  After three hours of sitting around waiting to see what would happen, the pilots made the decision that the crew desk needed to book us a hotel.  Finally, we were leaving the airport.    
Next thing you know, we were in scenic downtown Chicago!  If you’ve never been to Chicago, it reminded me of a smaller, kinder New York City.  And the lake! 

The lake was more like an ocean!  The shuttle van drove along the water’s edge while I gawked at its expansive glory.  And the wind!  The second we got out of the van, the wind whipped up and tried to blow us over.  It was only early May.  Our hotel was in a vintage brick building, and reminded me of something out of a movie set.

“What should we do first?” I asked the crew.  Since the airline was so small, I knew both pilots and the other two flight attendants (all four happened to be men) because we had flown together several times, and one of the pilots suggested Maggiano’s restaurant.  (As an aside, I’m sure you are familiar with Maggiano’s by now.  But the year was 1995, and the only Maggiano’s back then was the one in Chicago, the one where my crew and I would ultimately go eat dinner.)
We ate an incredible family-style meal, with a huge salad, mushroom ravioli, linguini, chicken, and for dessert, tiramisu.  I was in heaven. 

Next, we went to a comedy show.  I don’t remember who was headlining, but I do remember laughing until I cried.    

When we got back to the hotel, there was a message waiting for us.  We would pick up the rest of our trip tomorrow afternoon at the same time our original flight had been scheduled.  This meant we had all morning in Chicago, too! 

The next morning, I got up early and went for a walk along the lake.  I had not brought my running shoes because the trip was originally supposed to lay-over in Newark for only 10 hours.  This trip was when I really learned to pack for anything and “expect the unexpected.”
I ate breakfast at a small café, and then went to the Art Institute as soon as they opened. 

I did not spend as much time there as I wanted because I also wanted to do a bit of shopping.  In the back of my mind, I was very worried this might be my only trip to Chicago ever.  I wanted to see and do as much as possible in case I didn’t get the chance to come back (the irony being that after MarkAir went out of business, I was hired by United, whose training facilities and Worldwide Hub are, you guessed it, in Chicago).  I was constantly checking my watch, nervous that I would be gone too long and miss the shuttle van if I lost track of time. 

I arrived back to the hotel, packed my suitcase (including some new books and a sweater I had bought), and changed into my uniform.  I met the pilots and other flight attendants in the lobby 10 minutes before the shuttle bus arrived. 
It was the best trip to Chicago I never planned.