Friday, November 30, 2007

Highway to Heaven (for the mentally ill)

This quote sums it all up:

"Praise be, she is one crazy cupcake in the Lord's pantry."

According to 700 Club nut and Prophet Cindy Jacobs, America's salvation is tied to its interstate highway system.

Hat-tip to Jesus' General for breaking the story.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Pop Update

Thanks to so many of you who've asked how my father is doing.

I'm pleased to report that he is surprising us all - his surgeon included.

Despite having developed immunities to pretty much every known antibiotic - and being such a high risk patient that he had to wait for one special surgeon out of a handful nationally that will touch this kind of patient - he came through with flying colors.

Ironically, the surgery itself - a full hip replacement - would have been fairly pedestrian for anyone else. But Dad's medical history was working against him - and there was no certainty going in that he'd come off the table alive.

Anyway - his expected six-day hospital stay ended up being only three - and he was then moved into a skilled nursing center for rehabilitation. And he is making a real effort to get out (you would too - it overly decorated in what I would call "1980s suburban Victoriana" - with mauve and dusty blue drapes and upholstery, blonde oak Victorian reproduction furniture and freaky dolls around every corner) and is projected to shorten his 4-6 week rehab stay to 2-3 weeks instead.

He's been a real trooper throughout and is anxious to get home, but has to rebuild his upper body strength, as well as learn how to walk with his new joint.

Mom, meanwhile, is getting a little well-deserved rest and time for herself.

It was a great feeling to board the plane last Saturday, knowing Dad was where he needed to be and on the path to recovery - in addition to knowing Mom was going to have some time to do something other than worry about Dad.

That's the update, folks - all good news from here. Thanks again for the inquiries and good wishes - my friends rock!

Monday, November 12, 2007

My newest addiction

Pink Martini. How have I not heard about them until now?

Note to self - get our more often.

Everyone hates Rebecca

Remember the unattractive and socially retarded girl from 6th grade that was too stupid to know she wasn't cool - so she spoke and acted like she was the coolest kid ever? And everybody hated her and thought she was a total retard?

She was on my plane coming home from Nebraska Saturday.

Her name was Rebecca. She's 12.

Everyone hated Rebecca. The crew hated her. They hated her before we even took off.

Rebecca made people shift seats because she "can't look out the window."

She then asked the steward if she could sit in the exit row so she could be near a window.

Rebecca abandoned her seat and took over an entire empty row in the "Economy Plus" seats that those of us stuffed into the rear of the plane were not allowed to sit in because we had not paid the $40 for an extra 5-inches of leg room.

Note to United Airlines - your Economy Plus program sucks ass and only serves to make your already angry passengers hate you just that much more. Nice job.

Anyway - Rebecca than began to play with all the items over her seat - the blowers, the lights, the attendant button.

Dear God...the attendant button. ONNNNNN...Off. ON-off.

She rang to find out what time it was.

She rang to have someone find her bag.

She rang because no one stopped her.

We all agreed. If we crashed in the Andes, Rebecca would be eaten first.

In fact, we decided to go ahead and kill her and eat her anyway. We had two hours to reach Albany - and no one would blame us.

And the hippie lady sleeping across three Economy Plus seats goes next..

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Dutiful Journey - An interlude: surgery day

Well, it's Wednesday - and we've gone from dead stop to whirlwind to recovery.

Sunday, we got out of the house and spent the day at the White Cloud Indian Casino in Iowa - where we neither won nor lost big at Bingo and slots.

I have never seen so many handicapped parking spots at one establishment in my life. The sheer number of wheezing, oxygen-tank-bearing, obese, hacking white people was overwhelming. And I was the youngest in the entire casino by at least the time it took the sands to bury the Sphinx.

There was something almost suffocating about being seated in the Casino's all-you-can-eat buffet, the walls adorned with great Ioway chieftains and Indian princesses, watching the denizens smoke with one hand while devouring fried chicken and creamed corn with the other.

The buffet - and I use the word generously - consisted of fried chicken, fried catfish, mashed potatoes, the aforementioned abuse of perfectly good corn, and green beans that had been boiled until they almost had been converted to a gas. But fortunately, the salad bar had a dizzying array of condiments to adorn the iceberg lettuce - three, in fact. Egg, shredded carrot and cheese.

I ate a lot of lettuce.

The effort of the day (four hours of hot, non-stop bingo action, baby), however, doomed Dad to a day of soreness and stiffness in his chair for Monday. The only excursion out was to take Mom to the dentist in nearby Auburn in the after noon. To my dismay, all the antique shops had gone out of business, leaving me with the option of purchasing livestock feed, farming implements or country cute adornments for my home.

In preparation for my father's ordeal, however, Mom whipped out a couple of prime Nebraska T Bone steaks, which I grilled to perfection. It made a particularly toothsome potential last meal.

For those of you who have never experienced Nebraska or Iowa corn-fed beef, Heaven will seem a sad runner up to the experience for those of us who have.

Tuesday - the day of Dad's surgery - began early. We were on the road at 6:30 am - my poor mother having sat up all night with my father after he experienced a 1 am panic attack - calling her downstairs and telling her that he was disoriented and that the room was spinning and we had better call off the surgery.

Uh-uh, Chuck. Mama wasn't having any of that.

So, we loaded up the truck and headed to Omaha.

Everything went extremely well - the surgeon was pleased with how Dad did - and the surgery was thankfully brief, just under two hours.

Mom and I saw Dad settled in his room, headed home, and promptly collapsed for nervous exhaustion.

Tomorrow would be the make-or-break when we see how Dad bounces back.

Fingers crossed - it all looks good.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Dutiful journey – Day One: Airlines Part Deux

For the final leg of my journey, I was hoping for a less amusing (he said, tongue in cheek) experience.

But alas, it was not to be.

For a start, we were flying one of those little commuter planes that have two seats on each side of the aisle and require anyone taller than a leprechaun to enter on hands on knees. Fortunately, I had an aisle seat and was able to spill my shoulders out into the narrow aisle way.

I spotted our first amusement opportunity early on. A diminutive Chinese lady was struggling aboard with one of those large, waxed cardboard carrying cases displaying vivid red graphics of lobsters happily cavorting on each side.

Oh joy.

As I rapidly took my seat to avoid the crush (and potential head injuries), I noticed that the lobster lady was trying to cram this oversized box into the glove box sized overhead compartment – something akin to trying to stuff a Buick into your pocket.

Two young ladies rose to her assistance and, as they touched the sides of the box, began to shriek and climb over the seats.

Apparently, the crustaceans contained within the box began to scuttle around – freaking them right out of their Oshkoshes.

Simultaneously, an elderly Japanese couple (this is the Omaha plane, right? Not the Okinawa flight?) were struggling to take their seats.

As I was rising to help the husband stuff his “just too big” carry-on suitcase into the overhead bin, the wife whacked her head (she can’t have been more than 5’ tall) on the overhead with a force that brought tears to my eyes.

I asked if she was okay as the husband began to laugh hysterically.

In response to my query, she simply rubbed her head, smiled and said “ooh – dumb!!”

By the time I refocused on the husband, he had somehow managed to get the suitcase stuck halfway in and half out of the bin.

I suggested we call the stewardess and have her check the baggage.

In response, he smiled and nodded his head – then sat down – leaving the stranded suitcase blocking the aisle head space.

I then suggested we might get the suitcase to fit under the seat in front of him and his wife.

Somehow translating my interest into a reason to stand, his wife then again stood and whacked her head.

The husband smiled and nodded at me and continued to sit.

As the stewardess finally noticed the protruding baggage, she approached and between us, we managed to extricate the luggage from it’s overhead trap.

She indicated that she was going to put the luggage under the seats of an empty row near the back of the plane.

In response, the couple rose – the wife whacking her head again – and attempted to follow her.

After much smiling and nodding, the couple finally realized that they had to return to their original seats.

As they were reseated, I attempted to shield the wife’s head with my hands as she once again ran the dangerous head-banging attempt.

The husband laughed uncontrollably.

I smiled and nodded my head.

Things were quiet for a while – our single air hostess (I am happy to note that our hostess did not fit the typical mold – sporting what I would call a Junoesque figure clad in slacks and a sweater – so much more sensible as flight attire) deftly delivered the safety instructions and swiftly and gracefully executed the pre-takeoff check (unlike angry, clumsy air hostess, she managed not to stumble or fall on a passenger once).

As drink service commenced, she made it as far as the midsection of the plane where she struck up a conversation with an older couple – who turned out to be a retired United pilot and United stewardess.

They began to chat about the routes they had flown, the various parts of the world that had left an impression on them – and comparing the personnel policies of various airlines.

They became so chummy, in fact, that she simply sat on the armrest of the seat in front and began to expound on the customer services tips and trick she had picked up from flying in the Middle East. She had learned that their airlines treated their customers with the utmost concern for their comfort and convenience and described ways in which she had modified her Americanized service training with techniques she had acquired in Dubai, Kuwait another far flung regions.

Meanwhile, half the plane was looking around at each other, wondering why were being denied our free cocktail of choice – wine, beer and mixed drinks at $5 – while the front of the plane was wondering why access to the lavatory had been effectively blocked by a drinks trolley and an ample hostess.

As we began our descent into Omaha, the conversation ceased, drinks were promptly chucked at the rear plane passengers, and three rather anxious fronts of the plan passengers were finally spared an embarrassing in-flight incident.

We landed without incident, but I was struck by how significantly less jolly my traveling companions were as we deplaned.

I had at last arrived, safe sound and only slightly crazed.

What I had not anticipated, however, was that when I booked my rental car ( see Ford Escape – what a butt-ugly car post below) through Travelocity, was that the receipt I printed only had the confirmation number – not the rental agency name.

Eight agencies lay ahead – the fun continues……………

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Day One - Dutiful Journey: You're the cheese in my coffee

My mother keeps spoiled milk to use instead of buttermilk for pancakes or waffles - in the same type of container as the good milk.

Does she tell me this before we have coffee as we're sitting down to play Yahtzee? No.

Maxwell House and cheese curds.

Not a nice experience.

Who does this?

Dutiful Journey: Day One - I'm driving a piece of crap

My rental car turned out to be a 2007 Ford Escape SUV. What an ugly piece of crap - I can't find anything.

Everything is square - nothing automated - and nothing is ergonomic.

Perfect. A great Midwestern car.

Dutiful journey – Day One: Stuck in the middle with you

I’m in Chicago’s O’Hare airport as I type this – and the only reason I’m not crying is because I’ve just had a Pizzeria Uno’s sausage mini-pizza.

Plus, I’m marveling as airport employees transport the fat, white ladies to their gates in motorized carts. (It’d be much more fun if they used the carts to herd the fat ladies to their gates – make ‘em run like cattle!!! Make them work those glitterized sweatshirts!)

And – when you’re sitting at the hub concourse for such exotic destinations as Sioux City, Des Moines and Tulsa – it’s hard not to give fashion advice. Like to the 20-somethings who believe that by outlining your entire eye in dark blue eye liner and plucking your eyebrows to extreme points you will end up finding your Prince Charming – as you look like something that just crawled out of the backseat of a Trans Am.

And WTF is up with “where are my eyebrows” Barbie? OMG – and she comes with where are my eyebrows Mom!


I HATE the Midwest

I just spent two desperate hours on a packed plane, in a middle seat, with the most bizarre assortment of people around me. And to add insult to injury, I just schlepped the equivalent of a 5k marathon to get to my next concourse.

People say I’m ensuring my entry into heaven by making these trips – well, I hope so - cause not even Hell would want me right now.

Let’s get started – I’m on my way from New York to Nebraska (just typing that makes me want to scream and run). My father is about to undergo yet another (preventable) major surgery .

But my personal anger with him aside, I – the dutiful son – am flying to Nebraska to assist my mother with getting Dad to the hospital and making the 160-mile roundtrips every day to see him.

I left Albany this morning, bright and early. Full of hope and promise.

That ended, however, when I found myself seated on a completely full plane, second row from the rear, in the middle. The ONLY saving grace is that there were many burly men (and some pretty hefty women) that did not end up next to me. I got scary bad poetry man and stinky tomato juice lady instead – but we’ll come back to them.

The flight started with a shock – I boarded the plane and immediately encountered someone I thought was Ann Coulter. I cursed myself for checking my firearm!

Then I realized it was our air hostess – soon to be known as angry, clumsy, bitter air hostess – we’ll come back to her too.

After we were all safely belted into our Barbie mini-seats, scary bad poet’s elbow firmly lodged in my side, our thighs smashed together by an aggressive wide stance that makes Larry Craig look like a piker – we were welcomed by our flight porter, Jerome.

Jerome can only be described as the love child of Rudy from the Fat Albert show and Jar Jar Binks. Not even Bill Cosby could have created a character like this.

Jerome began to speak in what I thought was either Esperanto or Ebonics:

“Hebalo, Ladies and Gennslemen – Weba wanna welcub you abore dab united fright –hamma dee-dee boo doo…” then he’d just start riffing with nonsense sounds, designed to confuse and frighten us into never watching Bill Cosby routines ever again.

It certainly made the routine safety instructions speech much more entertaining as Jerome stumbled and bee-dee-doo-dooed his way through the instructions. Well, at least I was amused.

As for angry clumsy air hostess – OMFG. How did they ever hire this woman? I would seriously have her checked for an inner ear imbalance. This woman bounced off every seat and every aisle passenger on the plane – and had the nerve to look angry at whatever/whomever she bounced off of. Nice.

So – back to my seatmates. I’ve included a handy diagram to illustrate: the Bermuda Triangle in which I was seated.

To my left, was – fortunately, a woman of the rather smallish persuasion – diminutive enough to actually seem to FIT into an economy seat…and cross her legs. Despite my name for her earlier, she did not enter the plane reeking of stinky tomato juice – she did, however, consume two cans of Bloody Mary mix (sans vodka – what’s the damn point?) and then proceeded to delicately belch the foul substance for the rest of the trip.

Scary hand jive man to my right was a bit more complex. He began the trip by making fists and scary jazz hand movements during takeoff, then he began to compose mystical verse to (yes, I peeked) what appeared to be his newlywed wife. He spoke of the magical adventure upon which they were embarking and used words like “destiny” and “soulmate” without shame. And somehow – unbelievably – he managed to use the word “squirrel” as well. I don’t want to know…

I averted my eyes and avoided contact with him, thinking the hand jiving indicated some kind of mental imbalance – until we approached our destination. Then I realized he had issues with takeoff and landing. In fact, as we approached the airport – he began not only to hand jive more frenetically, but actually assumed the crash position as we landed.

Dear Jebus.

I have rarely exited an aircraft more quickly and more aggressively. I basically climbed over people to exit this plane.

I look forward to the last leg of this journey. I HOPE the plane will be less crowded - but hey – it’s only an hour-plus flight – how bad can it be?


Oh – believe me – it can be bad. Tune in later to find out how bad.