Monday, August 30, 2010

It's Been A Long Time Since I Rock And Rolled

It's been a busy little while in my world.

We left Miami on August 9, everything packed, itinerary in hand. We had wanted to take a leisurely four days, but my car was going to be dropped off on Thursday morning so we really had to get up at the ass crack to make it at a reasonable time.

We didn't even make it out of Miami-Dade county before we saw one crash and one almost crash on I-95. It wasn't even raining! Madness. We made it safely to Jacksonville more or less just in time to eat and go to bed. Hooray for staying at my mom's house to see her before we took off and not having to pay for a hotel for one night.

Tuesday we got a somewhat leisurely start (leisurely for us, I suppose...still on the road before 9) to our first hotel in Nashville, TN. Not much of interest between FL and TN but our hotel was really nice.

Wednesday took us from TN to Kansas City, KS. Another sleeper drive and a decent hotel. While we were in KS, I ate for the first time at Steak 'n Shake. Almost a crime to eat there for the first time considering the amount of time I spent in Sandpiper. Granted, it's just fast food, but it wasn't awful. No leisurely rise and shine for us on Thursday morning, though.

We had my car shipped to Colorado because I didn't think it could make the drive and it was actually cheaper than getting the U-Haul thing to haul the car behind the truck. Our shipper had a schedule, as truckers do, and as it was, he was delaying our delivery. (Thank goodness for my Cuban driver and my Cuban husband making friends.) In order to not throw the driver's schedule off, we promised to be in Denver by noon. That's right, KS to CO, arriving by noon. Even with the time zone changes, we had to leave KS at 3am. Ouch.

Know what's in KS? Yup, nothing. Well, except huge farms of wind turbines. Know what else? I don't care what anyone says, an entire field of those things is CREEPY! I can see one or two together and it doesn't bother me, but entire fields of them just made me want to jump out of the car and run around screaming with my hands over my ears. Either I'm insane or I'm very sensitive to whatever madness is secretly behind the wind machines. CONSPIRACY THEORY! This photo, taken with my phone, doesn't even really capture the creepy or how many turbines were out there, but here ya go.

And that's just a few of those evil monsters.

We arrived in Denver in record time only to find out that the truck driver had some trouble and wouldn't arrive until Friday. With time on our hands, we went to pick up the h use keys for our first viewing of the house. Good pick on our part.

It took just under forever for our furniture to arrive, but my ire towards the moving company is for another post.

The house is now almost all ready for visitors. Next post...the with furniture!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Afterhours at the 1230 - 8/29/07

A Sucker-Free Sunday - 8/28/07

Does not include me.

I am a sucker. I have a very bad tendency to want to try new products and infomercials are my worst enemy. After Lovey and I got done laughing at the infomercial for Hip Hop Abs, I surely went ahead and ordered it. At least it's not just sitting on the shelf though. I am doing it and it does work as long as you do it. Have I lost any weight? About a pound, but the inches that have come off are way better than the pounds anyways.

So, I have the most luggage ever in the depository under my eyes. It doesn't matter how much sleep I get or how much water I drink, I always look like I'm either high, almost asleep, or in dire need of sleep. Of course, makeup does wonders, but I'm too lazy for that and I haven't made it to the store to check out the right shade in the mineral makeup yet. Dermatologist is the next step, but in reality, I don't think I care enough to go. I'm not picking up any boys or starting up a modeling career since I'm too short.

Well, if there's a new product out, I'm gonna give it a try. Vanity sneaks out every now and again and I want to be the most beautiful girl in Miami that has her real lips/boobs/hips/ass/hair/fingernails. Wait, according to Lovey, I already am. Whatever. I figured if Oil of Olay came out with something that would put away the suitcases, I'd give it a shot.

And there it is. The eye derma-pod. They stuck some creme in a little pouch that you open by squeezing it and it magically comes out on the sponge at the end. Spread evenly on upper lids and underneath eyes and massage in for one minute per eye. Contains 24 derma-pods, best results if used thrice weekly for 8 weeks. Yup. 8 weeks.

But I'm game. I figure it might help. I have less than two weeks left and I'm slowly finding out that Olay just doesn't work for everyone. I'm not posting any before and/or after pictures, mainly because I didn't take any but I'm seriously not seeing any difference here people. No, I take that back, I'm not seeing any positive difference. Is the skin underneath my eyes different from the rest of my face now? Yes, it is, but it looks like, to me, that all this has accomplished is making the wonderful lines under my eyes even freaking deeper! Now there's just a place for makeup to hide!! Aaargh!

Olay has less than two weeks to change my mind on this, but I just don't see it happening. Maybe this only works for people who only THINK they have bags under their eyes, not people who actually have them.

5 word challenge - Ten Hut! - 8/14/07

The year is 1990. The location: Happy Valley, PA, otherwise known as the home of Penn State University. Our main character is sixteen years young, away from home for the first time, somewhat naive in the workings of the military, and generally a nervous wreck.

It's official. I am a member of the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corp (AFROTC). Today is the first day of many days of sheer torture. There is a war going on, and in my naivety, I worry that somehow, I might get sent overseas to fight for our country. Yes, that's right, I think that the 16 year-old college freshman who has no military training is going to be sent to war. I told you I was naive.

I've received my uniform and been given brief instructions on how to care for it. On some people, it looks good. Me, I just look like a stewardess. I think it's because I'm short and dressed in navy blue from head to toe. By the way, why isn't there a color called Air Force blue for the AF to wear? I don't think the navy even wears blue.

History has never been interesting to me, so when I found out that I had to take a class weekly about the history of the Air Force, I was less than thrilled. Nevertheless, I suffer through because it is only one day a week. That day of the week is long indeed for I have to wear my uniform all day. Yes, all day. To every class, to lunch, to dinner. And it's uncomfortable. And I haven't quite gotten used to whom I need to salute and whom I can just say hi to. Every exchange with a fellow ROTC-er is awkward to say the least, whether it be Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines.

I must admit that I love a challenge and I will certainly cut off my nose to spite my face. That is how I ended up pledging the drill team. Someone mentioned it and I believe, immediately thereafter said something to the effect of 'it wouldn't be for me'. Well, right there, the gauntlet was laid down. Little did I know what I was in for.

The first week didn't seem so bad. Sure there were extra things to attend and tidbits to learn, but it would be worth it, right? Sure. Unfortunately, things didn't stay so bright and cheery. You don't just join the drill team, you pledge it, as in a fraternity or sorority. And just like a frat or sorority, there's hazing and plenty of it. We were given bright yellow "manuals" that could be seen from a mile away full of sometimes useless information. And these little factoids were the enemy. Any current member of the drill team could stop a pledge at any time to quiz us on said material. If that weren't enough, we were not allowed to use contractions in speaking and we had to make sure that we would always see the DTM (drill team members) before they saw us so that we could "greet" them. If a DTM saw you first, they could and would dole out demerits to be marked down in your manual. You could work them off, but it was easier just not to get them. Oh, did I mention that when we were in any of the many cafeterias (where you could always find at least one DTM), we had to ask for permission to eat before sitting down to actually eat. This led to several of us losing a few pounds as we would just avoid the dining rooms.

Nothing curdles the blood like hearing "PLEDGE! TAKE ONE!" from across the quad. The DTM were sneaky bastards. I swear they popped out of dark corners like ninjas. Some of them were just jerks. There was one DTM, we'll call him GR who was just ridiculously cocky about lording his DT membership over us, the lowly pledges. Once, he was walking across the quad with a female friend and he happened to see a pledge before the pledge say him. Apparently, he thought it would be funny to have his lady friend just repeat his name over and over to alert the pledge of his presence. Okay, the pledge was me. I'm stubborn. I ignored them both. I paid for it in push ups.

Were you aware that there's no greater pleasure than a freshly polished ugly black shoe? You weren't? That's because shining shoes sucks. You'd best better believe that DTMs could see their vindictive faces in those shoes though. Those same vindictive faces that would get shoved into pledges unsuspecting faces. Better not flinch. Your entire body had better stay as rigid as an overly-starched shirt. Kind of like the ones we wore.

Outside of learning such gems as "The Ballad of Snoopy", we also picked up "High Flight" and every verse of "The Star-Spangled Banner". And eventually, since we were pledging the Drill Team, we got to throw some rifles around. The hand-batterer rifle of choice was the Remington M1903 Springfield rifle. They weren't so heavy and they were actually pretty fun to spin, even to throw. Catching, well, that's a different story.

There were 12 of us, we called ourselves the dirty dozen. Original, no? I'd be hard-pressed to name all twelve now. 9 guys and 3 girls. Typically, when it came drill time, the guys worked together as did the girls. This is where the problems came in. For being as small as I was - I don't think I'd hit 100 pounds yet - I was a tough cookie. The other two girls were bigger than me, but not always so tough. It really was only a problem when it was time to throw something called a single back. Let me backtrack. A 'single to yourself' is rather self-explanatory. You take your rifle and chuck it up into the air, making sure that it makes one rotation, and then you catch it. Done and done. A single back, on the other hand, is where one person stands approximately 8 feet in front of the victim catcher and then tosses the rifle backwards, blindly at that, making one rotation for the person behind to catch. The bottom line is that my fellow female pledges couldn't make that throw. And guess what? Don't even think about moving. You'd better catch it, no matter what, or you could count on some extra push-ups after practice. That's how I ended up with bruised and bloodied knuckles, not to mention a hand that refused to function properly since all of its fingers had been bent into ridiculous positions.

With so much drama in the ROTC, it's kinda hard being, well, a pledge. It was demanding, even grueling at times, but overall, I suppose it was worth it. I made some great friends (that I no longer keep in touch with), learned some nifty stuff (it's amazing what you can make your body do), and best of all, I got an idea for the Vox 5 word challenge!

Heaven. Oh, what is, heaven? I'll take Stupid Answers for $200. - 8/9/07

Every weeknight at 7:30, we sit down for dinner and we watch Jeopardy. Typically, my daughter gets mad because my boyfriend and I are fountains of useless knowledge and when she knows the answer, she can't get it out faster than we do. If you know Jeopardy, you know that sometimes they have kids, or college kids, and sometimes, celebs. We hate celebrity Jeopardy. Sure it's great that they're playing for charity, but more often than not, the questions are outrageously simple. I watch Jeopardy for the brain workout and that's the same reason I don't watch Wheel of Fortune.

Well, I don't remember what the category was, but the clue went a little something like this:

Andrew Jackson, when on his deathbed, said he would see his slaves in this place.

Right? Simple? Heaven. Nice guy that AJ. Not so nice two gals and one guy sitting in our living room because I shout out, "That great cotton field in the sky!" I think at that point, my daughter swallowed a mouthful of pasta without chewing. Being who we are, we can't let it go with just that. Lovey chips in with, "See all those puffy clouds up there? You'll still be picking!" At this point, Kiddie is nearly in tears and we all have a great giggle.

It was funny! Really! We'll be there all week.

CM Chronicles - II - 8/2/07

After packing up everything I could fit into two duffel bags and a bit of panicked frustration when two days before my flight, I had yet to receive my plane tickets, I was off to the airport. I am not, have never been, nor ever will be a fan of flying. I do believe it's because I have control issues. But, this new adventure was waiting on the other side of the flying tin can ride.

I had researched this Club Med place and the place I was going in particular. It looked so pretty on the website and there was so much to do. I could learn to sail, waterski, rollerblade, play tennis, or fly on the trapeze. The trapeze?!?! The thrill-seeker in me couldn't wait to try that one out.

Club Med, Sandpiper is located in Port Saint Lucie, Florida, otherwise known as 'God's waiting room'. The closest airport is West Palm Beach at a 45 minute drive, next is Fort Liquordale at about an hour and 15 minutes, and then Cuba Miami International at a smidge over 2 hours depending on traffic which means 3 hours. In their infinite wisdom, where do they fly me into? Of course, Miami. So now after I've sat on a plane for what seems like forever, I now have to sit in a car for 3 hours while the driver feels that he must talk to me. (What a sign of things to come.) At least, though, upon my arrival at the airport, my driver was right there to help with my bags and I had to do no looking around in a state of confusion.

My flight landed around 6pm, so that put me in CMS (henceforth known as "the village") at a bit after 9. By the time I got my bags to my room and changed clothes, because there's nothing I hate more than having other people's dirt all over me, unless it involves sex, but that's another story, dinner was long over. I ventured out of my room and over to the bar because that seemed to be where all of the action was.

In the new crew of bartenders, I was the last to arrive. The others were already in the bar partying on down. The chef du bar (bar manager), Stephan, came and introduced himself. We chatted briefly, he asked if I had had dinner and on my no response, offered me the only thing there was: bar pizza. Yep, it was gross, but when you're hungry, you're hungry. Some of my fellow noobs came over and introduced themselves. They appeared to be hammered. Now, by no means am I an angel, and at home, I would've proceeded to join them in getting hammered, but I'm a little older, maybe a little wiser than my cohorts and so I decide to head back to my room. Besides, our training starts bright and early tomorrow.

Next time: This is training?

A quote - 8/2/07

"You can do me from behind, but not in the behind." - A wise woman.

CM Chronicles - I - 8/1/07

If you read my blog, you know that I'm long-winded. These chronicles are just a rehashing of parts of my four years at Club Med. They may contain swearing, sex, or otherwise possibly offensive things so consider yourself warned. They also may be chronically boring to you, dear reader, and for that, I apologize but the reality is that it's my blog and I'll write about my boring life if I want to.

Back in the early spring of 2000, I had recently moved back to PA after living in NY for a couple of years. I was fortunate enough to still have a place to live in PA - the house I grew up in. At that time, my brother was still living in the house where he had, apparently, been living the high life, throwing parties and such. I was a wet blanket on the festivities. Not that I didn't enjoy my fair share of partying, but he was accustomed to having the house to himself without me there to bug him or his friends.

I picked up a bartending job and life was good, or life was good for me. I don't think to this day he'd admit it, but in the way little brothers do, he wanted me out of the house. As it was, I didn't spend tons of time in the house. I did what I could to catch up with friends and make some new ones. I only worked a couple days a week since my bills were few. (man, that was the life.) The rest of my time I spent just doing random stuff like ripping wallpaper off the wall and repainting the walls a ridiculous color. I was constantly looking for a new job because, well, that's just my nature. To this day I can't help but to browse the want ads just to see what's out there.

One particular afternoon, I'd have to say that this was in April or so, my brother saw an ad and he showed it to me. He said, "Hey, you'd probably be good at this". I don't recall the exact wording of the ad, but the gist of it was 'be a bartender, travel, see exotic locations'. I figured that I had nothing to lose, so I gathered up my resume and a photo and sent everything on its merry way. In the waiting for a response period, I did some research into this Club Med place and found that it seemed pretty cool. I got excited about it. But then days passed, weeks passed, and my Club Med dreams slipped way into the back of my mind. I had other more pressing matters such as going to see my favorite band play and heading out to the bingo hall. Yes, you read that properly. Bingo. BINGO! I swear to you that the old ladies hated seeing me in there and hated when I won. Never did I have fear though, since not a one of them could catch me in a foot race.

Around September, I believe, I received a phone call. It was a Friday and the answering machine said the message was left at about 5 pm. I didn't hear the message until probably Saturday as I was working (and partying) on Friday night. A thick French accent directed me to give him a call if I was still interested in working for Club Med. (Looking back on this, I feel special. A lot of people told stories of jumping through major hoops before hearing from CM.) The old excitement monster stirred in the pits of my tummy, but it was Saturday and there was tons to be done.

Monday afternoon rolled around before I remembered that I needed to make that phone call. I found a quiet corner of the house and gave them a call. What I got was basically a phone interview. Typically, you'd be warned about something of this nature so you could at least be prepared, but no, not this time. I worked my way through the interview and at the end, I was told that the next step would be a face-to-face interview. For that, I could either go to North Carolina or to New York. Oh, by the way, they aren't paying. I told him that either of those was a minimum of an 8 hour drive for me. He responded with "Oh, you don't want the job?" I took that to mean I went to the interview or it was all over before it began. I told him I'd go to New York. He gave my the contact's info and that was that.

Luckily, my very good friend was living in the Philly area at the time so I drove over to Philly and stayed with her for the weekend. My interview was on a Saturday and took place in a Starbucks. I kid you not. It was all very laid back with very few questions about my actual bartending knowledge. A better way to describe what took place was this recruiter explaining the CM lifestyle to me like I already had the job. I guess it lasted about an hour and I was once again on my merry way.

I returned to the western side of the state late on Sunday. I thought to myself that a follow-up call on Wednesday was good enough timing. I didn't have to wait that long. Monday afternoon the phone call came. They offered me the position and asked when I could leave. I was still employed, albeit in a bar and under the table, but I still wanted to give my boss some sort of notice. I told him two weeks. He answered with, "Ok, we'll send you a ticket for Sunday". Umm, Sunday?!?! I guess in France 6 days equals 2 weeks.

I immediately gave my boss all the notice I could. He wasn't upset. He was actually happy and quite excited for me. Some of my friends were a little bummed that I was leaving, but some of the people that I had met over the time that I was home and their actions (you Grimey bastard) pushed me in the direction of getting the hell out of dodge. In retrospect, I can thank them. While they sit festering in the small town they never left, I traveled North America, the Carribbean and Africa. I tied up my loose ends and started researching where I would be going. Sandpiper, Florida.

Next time in the Chronicles, the trip to Florida and my first week in my new environment.

5 word challenge - Backstage - 7/31/07

Nervous? Me? Nope. Maybe the first time, but not now. Besides, I'm 3 drinks into a long drinking evening. Those of us who aren't in the first scene chat idly about whose costume is getting too small and who's sleeping with whom this week. Back here, in the dressing room, it's no-holds-barred. Nothing is taboo and besides, no one back here has even one ounce of couth.

We're all whipped. Putting in a full day in the sun and having practically no rest will do that to you. It doesn't matter though, we're fueled on goldfish crackers and liquor. A duel between cast members has broken out with the props but no one bothers to even attempt to stop it. Everyone has been in this show long enough to know when it's time to get out on stage. Speaking of which, it's my time.

We try to be quiet as we step up into our "jail" cell. Almost every time someone trips and almost busts her ass since there's no light back here. Tonight we all make it safely into the cell and we strike a sexy pose as we wait for our music to cue up. In case you're interested, we're performing "Cell Block Tango". It isn't exact but the costumes are similar as are many of the dance steps.

Occasionally, someone in the booth gets a little crazy with the Cheese Whiz. No wait, gets crazy with the smoke machine. Tonight is one of those nights. Not just clouds of smoke, but literal pillows of smoke burp out of that antiquated monster. We're trying not to cough up a storm; we are on stage after all, but good gravy! What the hell can the audience see through this cloud?!?! Only bonus points are that I'm not first out of the cell so it will have cleared by the time it's my turn.

Pop, six, squish, uh uh, Cisero, Lipschitz! I'm squish. He ran into my knife. He ran into my knife ten times. So what if I'm screwing the milkman! My partner in this dance is also my good friend. 9 times out of 10 that we do this show, we end up laughing so hard that we're shaking. I've got to keep my composure! Maybe I shouldn't have had that last drink. The fabric unrolls (this makes more sense if you watch the video), I wrap a leg around, and call me drunk, or call the floor slippery, but I just damn near busted my ass in front of 300 guests. Luckily, I recovered quickly, but what starts immediately after my recovery? Fits of giggles. Not just me and my partner, but everyone else who was on stage. Now, do I think the audience noticed it? Nope. They don't know what they're looking for. They love it. They tell me after shows that I should consider a career on stage because I always look so happy and like I'm having so much fun. That's ALCOHOL people! Unfortunately, my stage career never took off and now I'm a paper-pusher with a considerably healthier liver.

QotD: Best Road Trip Ever - 7/27/07

What was your favorite road-trip of all time?
Submitted by bodhibound.

This was not my favorite road-trip of all time, but it's a decent story and since I've been having a heck of a time with thoughts of my own, I'll take hotrod's advice and answer some of these inane questions of the day.

Back in the day,circa 1985, when I was but a youngin', we had an aunt who lived in Ohio I do believe. Aunt Anne (not to be confused with Auntie Anne's) was her name and as far as I could tell as a 12 year-old, she was loaded! If, by chance, you are unfamiliar with relatives in a black person's perspective, every friend of your parents becomes an aunt or uncle no matter if they share blood or not.

Aunt Anne's favorite relative was my mom. (I think they were actually related in some way, but I digress.) Since mom was the favorite, AA decided that our whole family would be invited on vacation. We were going on a cruise! Until the very last minute, my father debated on whether or not he would go. He ended up missing it because he had to work. Kinda sucked for him but I think he was glad to have the house to himself for all that time.

As one of the children, I wasn't privvy to all of the travel arrangements. All I knew is that we were going on a cruise. Mom packed us all up and we were ready to go. We sat around the house anxiously awaiting our departure. Little did we know that we would not be flying from our closest airport of Pittsburgh International, but we would proceed, all the way to Florida, Miami if I'm not mistaken, in AA's winnebago. So, there we were, all packed and ready to go and somewhat disappointed that we wouldn't be flying. Unbeknowst to us, inside the winnebago were two kids about our age that were supposedly related to us. One girl and one boy. Shame on me for not being able to remember their names. Also inside were Butch, of some relation to AA and our driver, and Deeanne, also a relation and not a nice person.

Off we drove into the sunset on our merry way. At this point, I don't remember the exact route that we took. I do know that it took forever, or it at least seemed like it. I'm sure that we had been in that hotbox for at least two days when we stopped for an overnight at a KOA. It was too hot to sit inside the winnebago and besides that there was nothing to do in there, so that hot and humid evening, we sat outside. There was a picnic table just outside of our RV and that is where I sat with my mom. She sat on the tabletop and I sat on the bench as she re-braided my hair. After much fidgeting on my part and much hair pulling on hers, I was finally done all neat and pretty. We continued to sit in the same positions chatting.

On a muggy summer night, there are bound to be mosquitos, and this night was no different. One ghettofabulous remedy coming right up. No Off!? No problem. Substitute it with rubbing alcohol. Hey, it works! Mosquitos don't like it. It's also probably not that good for your skin. What it's the worst for is your eyes. Mom was a little clumsy with her splashing and managed to splash a good handful of rubbing alcohol directly into my eyes.

Have you ever had rubbing alcohol in your eye? Trust me, it's not fun. It burns, most likely on a mace level. You've never seen a 12 year old with 'ups' like I had that night. I'm certain that I jumped up at least to current day slam dunk levels after which I immediately began rolling around screaming like a scalded dog. My mom tried to quiet me down as it was late and I was really causing a ruckus but I was having none of that. After a while, the burning subsided and my vision returned. I'm pretty sure that I was a little on the bitter side regarding that incident, but that was before the time of me holding grudges.

We pressed on towards Florida the next day. I distinctly remember going through Georgia, not only because I know now that we HAD to go through Georgia, but because somewhere along the lines, that state was the breaking point.

Mom and Deeann really just didn't like each other. To this day I don't know why. What I do know is that everything came to a boil in the middle of our drive. Everything happened so quickly that I wouldn't be able to retell it properly if I tried. Best I can tell you is that fists were flying and Deeann was taking the brunt of them. I know Mom didn't start it, but she sure as hell finished it. By the time Butch got that monstrosity pulled over, Mom had thoroughly whipped that nasty bitch's ass. AA was having none of this and at the first available relative's place, Deeanne got left. HAHAHAHAHAHA! That'll teach you to mess with my mom.

The remainder of the road trip to Florida was uneventful. We got there, made our departure, made friends with our favorite waiter who brought us hot chocolate every night (and once spilled it in my brother's lap), visited Nassau and Freeport, and I entered the talent show with my monkey hand puppet named Georgette. We took second place. Even at that age, I was convinced that we didn't win first only because I wasn't old enough for the prize of a bottle of champagne.

I've had plenty of road trips, some more pleasant than others, but by far, this one was the most memorable.

Saturday night on South Beach - 7/23/07

Over the weekend, we celebrated two years of dating bliss by going to one of our most favorite restaurants ever, El Rancho Grande. You must realize the excellence of this place if it will bring us to South Beach on a Saturday night. We had a pina colada and a mango margarita, followed by the delicious yumminess of queso fundido. As neither of our hearts had stopped yet, we followed that up with El Plato Mixto for him and Tacos al Pastor for me. To complete our piggishness, we downed Bananas Foster for dessert. Damn, that was good.

And now, for the evening's entertainment, brought to you by the local homeless and the Miami Beach PD.

On our walk back to the car from the restaurant, we took in the sights and sounds of South Beach:

* A car (very new, very shiny Bentley) containing 4 young-ish African-American males from which the music could be heard from 2 blocks away. Please boys, be realistic and don't complain that the cops are racist when you get pulled over.
* The ever-present stench of stale urine. Mmmmm, mmmmm!
* The rantings of a homeless man attempting to get money from people stopped at the red light at Washington and Lincoln.

Within that last item, that's where the entertainment lies. Apparently, said homeless man wasn't looking past the car from which he was trying to panhandle. If he had been, maybe he would have acted differently. As it were, he was leaning into the window of a truck when from out of nowhere we all hear:

"Get away from that truck, Robert Parker. I told you I don't want to see you again tonight!"

For only three cars back, in her car, is a Miami Beach police officer. I suppose she had had a run in with Bobby a little earlier in the evening and had warned him once. By the way, she didn't yell that, she threw on her loudspeaker just in case Bobby had lost his hearing since the first time she saw him.

Bobby, grudginly, went on his way, as did we. Entertainment for the evening, over. If you are in Miami, make sure you check this place out. The food is spectacular, the service is way above par for Miami, and our check stayed under $60 for all that food.

PS. If you do come to Miami and you happen to park in the 16th and Washington garage, please don't urinate in there. There are bathrooms available all over. Thanks.

PSA: Don't do crack - 7/18/07

Just so you know, this is a sad story and if I manage to tell it right, it may be a tear-jerker.

I would imagine that most people, when growing up, have a favorite relative. Mine was Uncle Ernie. Ernie was my mother's brother. When I was growing up in Pennsylvania, Ernie lived with his family in Ohio, about a 2 and a half hour drive from us. Back when gas was cheap, that little bit of distance meant nothing and Uncle Ernie and the family would visit regularly. I guess we were just kindred spirits: both being born under Sagittarius (his birthday was the day after mine) and both with some Madison blood running through us, him more than me, of course.

Maybe part of it was that UE treated me like an adult. Always. Outside of his nickname for me (Sha Na Na), everything else was on an adult level. It wasn't a 'hey, your uncle from far away is here, come sit down and be nice' type of relationship. I was always first to the door when UE showed up. When I was far away from home at Penn State, scared and a little depressed, I didn't call home, I called UE. He was always my rock.

To be truthful, I never really knew what UE did for a living. I know that he and his family had a nice house in a nice neighborhood, but at the age I was then, you didn't ask because you really didn't care. What I do know is that at one point, UE was reaching out to the youth and doing some ministry work. We had a black and white picture of him hanging on the wall. He was standing in front of a brick wall full of graffitti with the most serene look on his face.

As close as we were, I never got the full story on how things fell apart. I did know that he was now living in PA and when I saw hime, something was missing. Unfortunately, UE had found crack. Times were tough for him but they only got tougher. My rock, my hero had been replaced by a crackhead. That doesn't mean that we didn't still love him and allowing him and his "girlfriend" to move into our home was a testament to the fact. Did I mention that UE was also a diabetic? Diabetes and crack do not mix. Between the drug and the disease, UE withered into a shell of the man that I adored. He became weak to the point of most days, he would just hang out in his comfy chair and watch TV. His bones became brittle. My mother accidentally broke a bone in his hand just by putting her hand down on his. It was scary. More than that, it was sad.

UE stayed with us for a while and yes, I think a few things went missing. We overlooked this as our love for him clouded our vision. He stayed with us most times and we protected him as best we could. He came in and out a lot. We thought our house was crack-free. We were wrong. One day my mother came to me with a light brown piece of glass. She told me it was a crack pipe. It was the first time I had ever seen one. It was the last.

At that time, I was working about an hour from home. On one particular morning, I had forgotten to tell my mother something, so when I got to work, I called home. UE picked up and I asked to speak to my mom. We chatted briefly and then hung up. I cannot put into words the feelings that arose when my mother called me back a few hours later, noticably upset, telling me that UE had died the night before. I said it couldn't be. I had just spoken with him this morning. She had to be wrong. But she wasn't. It turned out that it had been my brother that picked up the phone and I mistook for my uncle. The shock was unimaginable. Tears started pouring from my eyes before I could even try to stop them. I didn't know what to do with myself. I was so sad that my best friend had died. I was so angry because I knew it was the crack that killed him. I was still too confused to wrap my head around the fact that I didn't just talk to UE this morning. I had to leave work.

All people deal with their grief in different ways. Some of my family (read my brother and myself) drinks. And that's what I did. I called my lifelong friend and drinking buddy, who knew UE and was like family to him also and let her know what happened. We both left work and went to grieve, to try to make sense of things, to comfort each other.

I didn't get to say goodbye to UE, none of us did really, but I know that he wanted to say something to us. He wanted us to know he was thinking of us. He wanted us to know that he was okay. He did. It doesn't matter who believes what, but he did. The photo that we kept on the wall of him, that I looked at every day, changed. The area around UE's head in the photo now had an angelic glow. It was like someone was holding a bright light right behind his head. It was amazing and it was comforting. I knew UE was in a better place without pain and more importantly, without drugs.

Funerals happened (not only UE, but in the span of less than 2 years, him, both of my paternal grandparents and my father), time passed, wounds healed. I look back with warm smiles on times gone by and I rage on. I rage on because that's what they would have wanted. I rage on because I know that they're all looking down on me at this very moment and they're proud of what they see. I rage on because it's important for people to know what drugs can do to you. I rage on for my family who has passed and my family who still lives. I rage on.

Just help out - 7/3/07

This morning I had the pleasure of visiting some of the finer government offices here in Miami. The entire story is another post for another day. Like many downtown areas, parking is a bitch. Even though it meant I would have to backtrack almost all the way home after my appointment before heading out to work, I figured it would be worth it to take public transportation, ie the Metrorail, not to have to promise my next child, an arm and the title to my car to the parking attendant.

Despite this wonderfully wonderful climate, people here are still pissy 24/7. But of course they are, they still have to go to work unlike the tons of people I see scamper past our building on a daily basis (I work on South Beach). The ride into downtwn was uneventful, meaning, thankfully, no one tried to strike up a conversation. I handled my business in a manner befitting a single mom who is completely fed up with the system and wonders why said system makes it so difficult to track down a deadbeat dad. (Thank goodness for loving and supportive boyfriend.)

As I was standing on the platform waiting for train number 2 to get back to my car, I noticed an older gentleman in an electric wheelchair. It's possible that he was paralyzed from the neck down, but I didn't ask. I stepped onto the train while keeping an eye on him. He seemed to be waiting for the crowd to clear before attempting to board. When the time finally approached for him to get on the train, he started moving forward but he got stuck. You'd think that train stations would be a little better designed, but they aren't and so stuck he was. (His front tire had turned sideways and was stuck in the gap between the platform and the train.) At that moment, I held my phone in one hand, briefcase in the other. It only took a split second to realize that of this train full of people, more than 60 percent male, no one was going to help. God bless Miami.

After cupping my phone ear to shoulder and slinging my briefcase over the other shoulder, I got behind his chair and tried to get him on the train. Those chairs are heavy. Way heavier than I imagined. Or I'm weak. Way weaker than I used to be. Either way, I had damn near thrown out my back and blew out a knee (note to self, don't try it in heels next time) before any of the lazy bastards on the train got up to help me. It's amazing how people have no respect for others. I wonder how much longer he would have been stuck if I hadn't helped. It's scary here.

This post has no end.