Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween

Once again, my favorite holiday is here.

I have always loved Halloween, especially making my own costumes.

I only had one store bought costume; and that was shortly after we came to this country. It was this cheesy white skeleton silk screened on a flimsy black jumpsuit sort of costume. It had a glow-in-the-dark mask that made my face sweat while I was wearing it. My mother got from Woolworth's.

It's been awhile since I last wore a costume, even one of my own prize-winning creations.

For the past 2 years, my only Halloween accoutrement, other than plastic skeleton earrings, was Ariana's old Dr. Seuss hat.

I wore it this year, just like I did last year, to the Mattapoisett Halloween Parade, where I, along with the rest of the CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) team, helped pass out glow sticks and manage traffic control.

Yup, the Village is where the action is in Mattapoisett on Halloween. And unlike a lot of places, Halloween brings out the best in people in the Village. In fact it's like stepping back in time to a quintessential New England small town celebration.

Everyone is friendly and happy. Kids and parents are grateful for small gestures, such as being given glow sticks.

Even though all the Halloween action takes place in the Village, each year I still put out a plastic cauldron full of candy on the front porch.

Living where we do, I never had to worry about having the whole booty of treats disappear before the night was done. In fact, the plastic cauldron would still be full of candy by the time I shut off the porch and post lights and brought it in.

However tonight ~ for the first time in the 23 years that I lived here ~ more than half of the candy was gone!

Did I really have that many trick or treaters this year?

Or did someone get very greedy?

Either way, I brought the candy in by 9 o'clock just to make sure there was some left for us.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Now What? ~ Post Vacation Blues

Now that I have been back from Arizona for a month and finished documenting my adventures, what do I do next?

It's not been an easy thing adjusting back to the status quo on the East Coast. And the energy that I had in Arizona and hoped to bring back home must have accidentally been put on another flight and lost by Northwestern Airlines. Or maybe it decided to stay in Arizona.

I haven't resumed my grand studio renovation. The room is still littered with the empty cartons from my new computer.

The energy and motivation to work on my proposed home business is still playing hide-and-seek. So far, it's been doing a great job in hiding.

Of course, part of my time and energy were occupied by the many things that needed to get done.

For starters, I had tons of laundry ~ both my own from the trip and the 2 giant garbage bags of dirty clothes that Ariana collected when she and her friends cleaned the "chill room" upstairs.

There was this ever-growing glacier of dirty dishes that was inching its way across the kitchen floor.

And these dirty dishes gave way to an annoying colony of fruit flies that wasn't there before I left on my trip. That in itself took a while to rectify ~ especially since I could not use insecticides in an area where there were too many surfaces that came in contact with food.

Also, it would have been difficult to relocate the parrot, whose residence was the kitchen, because the goat paths in the rest of the house were too narrow for his ginormous cage.

So, I had to use a more passive method of fruit fly control by drowning them sweetly in a small plastic tub of wine.

And let us not forget those rats. They were smelling nice and fresh just before I left. And now, each of the 3 rat tanks were ripe and smelly.

Speaking of ripe and smelly ~ so were the litter boxes and the parrot papers.

Gee! It certainly sounds like I am doing a lot of whining. Perhaps I am.

But then again, going away on a trip and coming back to sing the Post Vacation Blues is a whole new experience for me.

Unlike most people, I have never taken regular vacations or trips. The last time I've been away for longer than a 3-day weekend was 26 years ago, when I was a senior in college. I never knew the immense benefits of R & R as a working adult.

I finally learned and experienced why going away on vacations and trips is such a bigh deal.

And what else I learned is that I do not want to wait another 26 years for my next rejuvenating escape from the status quo.

If I'm going to sing the Post Vacation Blues, then I am going to need lots of practice to get it right!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Day 7 - The Inevitable

With each day of my stay, the distance between that day and the inevitable was growing smaller and smaller.

Finally the gap closed on Tuesday, September 11th.

I was planning on getting up at 5:00 so that I could leave at 5:30. But I lingered a bit in bed and did not leave until 6:00 that morning.

Carolyn was up to wish me a safe journey and to offer some bacon and other goodies for me to take with me. But I had to decline because my stomach could not even think of food that early in the morning. Besides, I had my left-over nachos in case I got hungry.

Joggers and bicyclists were already out at this hour. I suppose that's the only time of the day that's cool enough for outdoor exercise.

So here I was, leaving the Spur Cross B & B, and heading towards Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Unlike the route I took to get to Cave Creek, I took the more direct route down Cave Creek Road right into Phoenix.

Reflecting back on the week, I thought of the things I wanted to do and experience but couldn't for one reason or another.

I never did get to go on a sunrise hot-air balloon ride. In fact those buggers never even returned my call.

I never got to eat rattlesnake. And the only rattlesnakes I saw were in the gift shops, permanently enshrined in blocks of Lucite.

And the javelinas thought it best to have me avoid seeing their snouty faces.

However, I am not one to complain. After all, I fulfilled a 20-year dream to visit Arizona and the Sonoran Desert. And I even got to see an owl in the wild. That in itself made my trip worthwhile.

I saw saguaro cacti, that I could not get enough of, and mountains all around me, including the mountain I nearly drove off.

I revelled in the sunny skies and temperatures in the low 100s, climbed tall hills, and explored the desert landscape.

I met new people and marvelled how friendly and polite everyone was. Even the drivers were courteous.

The church that I visited treated me like a celebrity.

I learned so many new things that I experienced brain-overload.

I shopped 'til I dropped and had the coolest stuff to bring home.

I had the best guacamole ever.

I took lots of pictures while learning how to use my awesome new camera.

For the first time in my life I felt normal, not a freak or oddball.

And for the first time in more years than I can count, I felt a peace and calm that I did not know was possible to experience.

And now I was leaving all that to head back home.

It was 6:30 by now. The traffic into Phoenix was getting heavy, even at this time. I couldn't believe the 12-lane highway ~ 6 lanes going in just one direction. Could you imagine such a beast here in Massachusetts?

Eventually I saw signs for the car rental drop off. Following them got me to where I needed to go.

And after initially going into the wrong lane that took me to the wrong car rental place, I finally managed to bid farewell to the Ford Focus that I was finally getting used to ~ except for that annoying rear spoiler that always blocked my visibility.

I returned the car keys and waited for the car rental employee to check the condition of the car before writing up the final bill. There were no extra fees to pay.

The shuttle took me to Terminal 3, where I would be catching the 9 o'clock Northwestern flight back to Detroit.

Not being an experienced traveller, I foolishly had my bags checked outside, not knowing that I could have had them checked inside and thus avoided the $2.00 handling fee and the $1.00 tip. (I'll know better next time.)

When Roma and I were returning home from Florida after our uncle's funeral, the Tampa airport had us check our luggage at an outside window. So I thought this was also the case at Phoenix.

Apparently it wasn't.

So, after I checked my bag, I received a slip for the do-it-yourself boarding pass kiosk.

How in the hell was I going to work this thing? I had never encountered such a thing. Fortunately an airline employee helped me with that confounding machine.

I got my pass and headed for the security check point.

I put my shoes and stuff in the bins that were to go through the x-ray machine, remembering that my laptop had to go into a separate bin. So how come nothing was moving?

That's when the TSA agent told me that I had to put the bins on the conveyor myself. Gee, the TSAs in Providence had me spoiled by doing it themselves.

This time I made it through without a beep, remembering to take off my watch and jewelry.

The fellow behind me had to open his carry-on for the TSAs to inspect. But I was free and clear to go. Yippie!

Before going to the gate of my departing flight, I hit a couple of gift shops on the way.

In one shop I bought myself a tee shirt (depicting a javelina having fallen off a bar stool) that said, "BEWARE: javelina dropping" and a big bottle of prickly pear syrup (so that some day I could make myself a dynamite, southwestern style margarita ~ minus the very pricey Patron Silver).

For Ariana I got that same javelina tee shirt (but in a different color and much smaller size) and a light green tank top that had the word "Phoenix" and a subtle floral design going up one side of the front.

In another shop I bought 4 magazines on digital photography so that I could have something to occupy my time for the several hours needed to bring me back home.

And I also stopped at a Starbucks and got myself a grande vanilla latte. There were a couple of people in line behind me who spoke Italian.

Approaching the departure gate, I sat down and called Roma. I could hear running water at her end of the phone, and I thought that Roma was at her sink. But no, that running water was from a downpour outside ~ the first rain Rhode Island got in over a month.

It was hard to imagine rain and the 62-degree weather back where Roma was when I was looking out the window at a sunny morning that was bound to be another 102-degree day.

Wow! I has returning to a 40-degree difference in weather.

Because it was 9-11 and the anniversary of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, an announcement came over the PA for all to observe a moment of silence.

Sometime after that, another announcement came to inform all passengers that the TSA was going to be conducting random security checks at all the boarding gates.

I suppose that wasn't all too surprising considering the day and the fact that the Phoenix airport is really tough on security.

After a 45-minute delay, boarding commenced ~ first class (and handicapped) passengers first, followed by the rest of us. I made a crack to anyone who would listen, "Yup, first class first, followed by no class." It actually got a chuckle from some of the nearby folks.

And while the line was moving, the TSAs were randomly selecting people from the line. Not only was luggage opened and the metal-detector wand passed over the selected passengers, there also pat-down checks.

Honestly! Were they expecting passengers to buy weapons and bomb-making supplies at any of the airport gift shops? And were there Origami experts who could fashion the ripped pages of magazines into deadly weapons?

There was a male TSA for the men, a female one for the women, and one or two rummaging through the carry-on luggage. And all of them wore those trade-mark blue latex gloves.

This was one lottery that I did not want to win. And fortunately, the gods were in my favor.

I boarded and took my seat by the window. Can you believe that I was to have window seats on both east-bound flights? Yay!

So here I was, all settled in my window seat and armed with 4 magazines to keep me occupied during the 4-hour flight to Detroit.

However, I wound up not needing those magazines to make the time fly by. Instead, I had 2 interesting seat mates.

One was a retired teacher who was returning home from having gone to her aunt's funeral in Phoenix. And the other was a former hippy who was as colorful as the bright red peppers splattered on the black Hawaiian shirt that she was wearing.

Not only was this lady an ex-hippy, she was also a rabbit breeder living on a remote 5-acre ranch outside of Phoenix. In addition, she was a 7th Day Adventist who served as a missionary in India, where she also had her breast-reduction surgery (from which she was still healing).

Oh! The fascinating stories she had to share!

With travelling companions such as these 2 interesting and chatty ladies, the 4 hour flight flew by in no time. And before you knew it, we were touching down in Detroit.

As with last time, there was about a one-mile hike between the arrival and departure gates at Detroit Metropolitan Airport's McNamara Terminal. However, this time I was smart and easily found the escalator leading to the monorail tram. 2 stops later, I was where I needed to be.

Because I had at least one hour to kill before my connecting flight, I figured that I better get something into my stomach, especially since I was planning on indulging in a glass of red wine on my flight back to Providence. Can't have a glass of wine without first taking care of the "absorption factor."

Somehow, the stale left-over nachos in my bag lost their appeal. (Was I really surprised?) Into the trash they went.

Instead, the chipotle steak sub at Charlie's Grilled Subs seemed more of what my stomach and taste buds were craving.

There was a bit of a wait before my food was ready. However, being entertained by people watching made the wait easier.

I don't know if it was the particular airport or the time of day that made the Detroit airport more active and colorful than the one in Phoenix.

For one thing, I was amused by watching an airport employee, who was also waiting for his food, flirt with another airport employee.

A suggestive glance and smooth line was not his style. This fellow, instead, flirted with his whole body as he danced to the hip hop beat playing on his cell phone, or whatever. Not only that, he was a pretty good dancer. So good that I felt like giving him a round of applause!

I never knew that I would get both dinner and a show at the Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

A little while later, after finishing my tasty sub, it was time to board. Unlike at Phoenix, there were no random TSA security checks at the boarding gate. Just as well. I didn't feel like playing the lottery twice that day.

Once again I got the window seat. Sitting next to me was a fellow from Foxboro, Massachusetts who wound up falling asleep before the plane took off.

I kept looking over to see if he was going to drop the paperback that he was holding open in his hands. But even in his sleep he held on tightly to the book.

This time, with the lack of interesting and chatty seating companions, I got to indulge in my digital photography magazines. I also got to indulge in one mini-bottle of Chilean red wine.

It was a quick and uneventful flight back to Providence.

As with the week before, the Jetway was still broken. We had to de-plane via the portable stairs that were rolled up to and docked at the airplane door.

It was a good 40 degrees cooler. And the ground was wet with the heavy rain fall earlier that day. There was still an occasional drizzle in the air. After spending a week in hot, sunny, and dry Arizona, this was not what I wanted to come home to.

Had it not been for my family, critters, and responsibilities back home, I would have cashed in my return ticket and remained in Arizona.

I found my driver, standing with the rest of the other waiting drivers, holding a sign bearing my name. (Gee! Just like they do in the movies!) This time the driver was Ronnie, the owner of Royal Coachman Transportation.

It took awhile to claim my luggage. Apparently the broken Jetway had also affected the operation of the luggage conveyor and carousel.

During the ride back home, I discovered that Ronnie's wife was very close friends with Krystyna, a former co-worker from many years ago. Small World Syndrome struck again!

Finally I got home. Ariana greeted me at the door and helped me with my luggage.

When I opened my suitcase I saw that the TSAs went through my luggage. They left their "Notice of Baggage Inspection" card in my suitcase.

I was please to see that they were neater in their rummaging (and far less rude) than the TSAs in Tampa, when Roma and I were returning from our uncle's funeral. However, my fancy-schmancy metal designer water bottle had a small dent that wasn't there when I originally packed it.

At least my bottles of Cave Creek Chili Hard Lemonade were still there.

I gave Ariana the tee shirts that I bought her and the prickly pear candy that I had in my suitcase. I don't know which excited her more, the tee shirts or the candy.

Seeing that it was already late, I changed into my jammies, grabbed my photo magazines, and went upstairs to bed.

The sun had long ago set on the sunrise side of the nation.