Monday, March 04, 2013

Notes from the road.1

Firstly, a late thank you to Roderick R. for his seasonal salutations waaay back. Been in a tailspin since just after the holidays; that is not what I owe, not right now.

Back to the trip to Texas. We left Monday October 22 at 10:00 a.m., according to my scanty notes. Drivedrivedrive to the North Carolina border, about 105 miles south. The ladies have a tradition of stopping at state welcome centers. NC's had a life-size cutout photo of Ava Gardner, an early crush, at the pamphlet hall: she was born and is buried a few miles away. Greedy duck , I asked the well meaning volunteer, a nice fellow, if I could have it." Nah", quick on the uptake," but I have a list of BBQ places and their exits, wouldja like one?"  A handy resource on that section of road. The trip was like that.  No blue highways for us: it was big roads, US 95 and similar , varying only north/south or east/west. The ladies liked their "Cracker Barrel": a large chain "easy on, easy off", purporting to serve home-style cookin'. Swill. Our first food stop, Exit 90, for Holt Lake BBQ, where we had family style fried chicken and  BBQ ; Charlotte was keen on BBQ that stop. Other stops were made:  we pumped $100. in fuel (gas,surprisingly, not diesel) twice a day. Saw a strange site: a large iguana, sunning on the dash of a U-Haul van. The Tom Tom GPS, very vocal, and named "suzie", took some getting used to, especially in swoops off the main road which throw her into a recalculating tizzy. I never got used to the mechanical yapping. Drivedrivedrive to Florence, South Carolina. I'll let you do the geography. Charlotte and Ruth went to visit pals in Timmonsville, SC, so  Neil and I were dropped at the Quality Inn. You know the territory: hotels, convenience stores, gas stations, 6-8 lanes of traffic to scamper across; o look, an Outback restaurant.Where my brother and I had a decent meal, a couple beers, and talked. I cannot remember the last time we had had a meal like that together. Back to the room. We watched "Cowboys and Aliens" and went to sleep. The Quality Inn had an excellent breakfast buffet, "most important meal o' the day", as I tell colleagues.

We left Florence at 9:15; Ruth had fallen and hurt her leg during the night, so calls were made to docs in Texas and sense of urgency took hold. Ruth is a trooper; she kept right up at stops and is full of wonderful anecdotes of growing up in Texas. She has written a book: historical markers on Texas highways, a huge undertaking. Imagine how many miles of road Texas has, even in the shabby sections? We had lunch at the aforementioned cracker barrel chain , may the staff have to eat their swill someday. Two fuel stops, and we fetched up in Montgomery, Alabama. We stayed at the Drury hotel,located in an even drearier area than the previous hotel. My glasses broke, the earpiece screw just backed itself out and disappeared. I carry eyeglass kits but nothing seemed to fit. We had Combos and popcorn for dinner, followed by a "Bait Car" mini-marathon. Sliding further down the scale: combos and reality t.v. Is this what the road does?

Day 3, we arose at 7:30, with a phone call from Charlotte asking if we would be interested in visiting the Rosa Parks museum in downtown Montgomery. We demurred: I dreaded maneuvering that RV in narrow southern streets. Down to breakfast, where the spread was even better than the previous day's. We filled up. Charlotte and Ruth picked us up at 10:00. Half the day gone, as Dad used to say.
Drivedrivedrive, more carrion appearing on the road . As we approached Stockton, Alabama, I saw a sign for the "Stagecoach Southern Buffet". Best food of the trip. Buffet style, a funky old place with ample seating. Best fried chicken of the trip. Southern cooking is wonderful, if it doesn't kill you.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Gone to Texas.

My brother arrives tomorrow at the wheel of a 33 foot motorhome, belonging to my second cousin Charlotte and her pal, Ruth. Charlotte (and presumably Ruth) are retired full bird Army colonels. They earned Vietnam service ribbons. They have many friends and former colleagues.

Charlotte called a month ago, asking me to help drive her from Richmond to San Antonio. Not a good health year for her, she said. She is in her eighties. Charlotte and Ruth (who broke her hip last winter)spend the summers at the family homestead in Vermont. They winter in San Antonio. I have not been feeling  perky lately, so I called my brother to help. He did agree: I want everyone to remember that. Our mission is to get The Ladies there. Neil texted me today: "Call me Toby"; The Brass still have their bark, used as necessary on the help, i.e., Neil. There are two cats and a sloppily cleaned reeking cat box in the RV. On the bright side, Neil saw DC while they were attending a women's war memorial gathering, dedication; he offered few details. Neil, to walk off some energy, walked 6 miles around the District, and saw JFK's grave. Charlotte and Ruth included him in a tour of the Rose Garden at the White House; I asked if they toured the veg plot. "No".

The next stop after Richmond I have been told of is Montgomery, Alabama. Never been there. Neil mentioned eating mudbugs in Louisiana, get some decent boudin ; I'm up for that.We pass right under the BBQ capital of Texas, Lockhart, on the way to San Antone. Once there, TexMex cuisine. New cities, different skies. I have not seen Neil in 11 months. I am looking forward to this trip, cats, colonels, and all.

Photo: My brother, in my mother's arms.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Friday, August 31, 2012

English Garden Tour:transit and arrival. Day 1 in London.

Of all the big, truly bigsprawlingstinking, rightonthecusp of whoknowswhatnext cities of the world  we've been to,London is the most fun . Great people mover underground. Tiny jewel like stamp shops cheek to jowl with bold be-flagged tourist traps. A city on the edge: a vehicle incident, ripples pass through the system. Three jolts,and yer sitting, maybe in the dark.  It all works, mostly.  Great suits, bespoke or not.  Cheers.

July 3. Fuddruckers "restaurant" (booth, really) at Dulles has elk, ostrich (in season), and boar 'burgers. My elk was dry. Get "Premium Economy" seats on Virgin Atlantic. Six inches extra space is worth it. Decent swag. Much booze, little sleep. Entertaining this sheep w/ Isle of Man TT documentary. Hit Heathrow ground feet running.Turn on 'phone: it screeches WHEREAREYOU?ADJUSTTIME! and curls into a digital fetal ball. It is a.m.;can't check in 'til the p.m. Mill around mill until luggage catches up.London is packed, more than usual. London festival, Jubilee, Olympics coming up. We score tickets for  Buckingham Palace tour, including special jewelry.  Queen's paintings, GORGEOUS, could spend weeks gawping. Wee Rubens: works on a small scale, pleasant seasonal vignettes. Canalettos.  Jewel display was a mosh pit: Chinese have an entirely different sense of personal space than RR. Late lunch, dim sum at Grand Imperial. Spot of window shopping; we saw loads of Queen stuff, "Stay Calm" paraphenalia. I can see where we get the "Yay us" attitude. Must confess to buying a Clockwork Orange shirt, a walking copyright violation I'm sure. Dinner at the hotel: salmon; bangers and mash; lemon tart; Guiness draft. Drinks at the ReUnion bar: Bailey's for her, a French 75 for him. 

To bed.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Two dispatches from encounters between Mars and Venus.

After applying all over the South Shore of MA, RR walked into his town's library and enquired if he could put his application in. Right place at right time, a rarity in his life: someone was leaving, and he was in. RR, newly minted "Junior Library Assistant", is answering the phone.
"Good morning, Tufts Library, how may I help you?"
Two beats of silence.
"Oh, a man!"
"How may I direct your call?"
I knew this would pop up; just a matter of when . Small town libraries were traditionally staffed by local women; men were custodians, box movers or couriers. I got used to it. Colleagues groused about their husbands at break time, relating droll domestic anecdotes. SOP: keep 23 year old mouth shut, finish the smoke and get back upstairs.

Flash forward twenty + years. RR is now "Young Adult Services Coordinator'; ie, admin. He has a nice office on coordinator's row at the headquarters of a largish regional library system in another commonwealth.It is earning a rep as one of the best and most progressive libraries in the country. He is  happy to be there. His colleague next door, headquarters branch librarian, has the sweet spot, a corner office. RR's door is open. He is rabbiting away on policy,developing training, or most fun, buying books.
"Scott? What's distaff?"
"I beg your pardon, M---?"
"What is distaff?"
Rather than screeching back and forth like fishwives, RR gets up and walks the several paces to his colleague's office.
"You are, M---.  It is an old word sometimes used to refer to women. It could be hand held or mounted on a spinning wheel,if memory serves; traditionally used by women.Wherever did you come across that word?"
Survey forms had comment/question areas, and patrons (now customers) would  use them to suggest titles, etc.
"Someone on this comment sheet said 'The mysteries are taking a turn to the distaff side'."
"Ah. Forward that comment to A--.The commenter feels we are buying too many mysteries either by women or featuring women sleuths."