Thursday, October 26, 2006

halloween, schmalloween

Halloween is probably my least favorite holiday.

It used to be ok; when you were really young, you wore the plastic mask with the sharp edges and the eyes cut out, with the snappy elastic loop on the back, coupled with a plastic barbershop smock printed with your favorite TV or movie character of the day.

Later you could dress up as something lame, like a hobo or a hippie or a housewife with mom's curlers in your hair. There were no curfews back then, and you didn't want to go out until after dusk anyway. It wasn't cool.

You could go to everyone's house--nobody was off-limits, not even the single, middle-age scary guy in the apartment building nearby. Back then, you got full-size candy bars, and you collected them in an old pillowcase. Your favorite house was where they gave out apple cider and doughnuts.

You tossed the apples. Some things don't change.

Today, of course, it's a different story. Kids are on the street shortly after school lets out, paranoid parents trailing behind, and police sweep the streets at 8 pm like it's Baghdad, shooing them home. (In our neighborhood, smart parents walk around with a wagon of ready-made cocktails, and one guy sets up a bar in the front yard for the grown-ups.)

But it's the violent nature of Halloween these days that has turned me off the holiday. Halloween is supposed to be eerie...spooky...scary. Not violent and bloody and disgusting. What's scary is the unknown, not the obvious. Is it really necessary to wear a costume in which rubber pick-axe has been shoved through the eye? Does your exposed rubber brain really have to be eaten up by maggots?

I guess after years of hearing about my distaste for Halloween, my boys have picked up on the vibe, and generally don't want to wear violent/scary costumes. But this year, I think they may have gone too far in the wrong direction.

J, the youngest, wants to be a mime. You know, an embarrassing French mime, with the whiteface, red striped shirt and a BERET, for godsakes. He might as well just wear a neon sign that says MOCK ME,THEN STEAL MY CANDY.

E wants to be a can of Chef Boyardee spaghetti. I can't even convince him to have fun with it, perhaps calling it "Chef Boo-yardee Spaghetti and Eyeballs." Nope. I'm currently painting his big body-sized can. He even wants the nutrition information on the back. Gee, why not get a friend to be a side salad?

Sometimes, you just teach your kids TOO well.

Monday, October 23, 2006

3-Day, day 3

The cab drops us off at Belmont Plateau, the beginning of the 3rd day. Apparently, sleeping in and our extra-long cab ride has made us late, so we start off trailing the pack. Which wouldn't be so bad except for L's insistence on passing everyone. Which has probably in some way resulted in 3 of 4 of us wearing knee braces on this day. We properly bitched at her.

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But it's a beautiful sunny day, a great day to finish the walk.

Again, we go through the hilly terrain west of Philly, stopping for free Starbucks. There are signs on the route that exclaim "Save Second Base!" Which, frankly, I didn't understand at first, I admit it.

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We're getting a little achy and irritable now, but agree to step up the pace through the rest stops so we can get closer to the front of the pack. I estimate we finished every day in the top 300, maybe fewer, of about 2200 walkers. It's not a race, but we didn't want to be last either.

When we have about 5 miles to go, the mood lightens considerably. Just a little more than an hour to go. It's getting exciting. We're going to finish and we won't need the sweep van! Plus we wanted to finish in time for the Eagles game and suck down a few cocktails.

I tried very hard NOT to be affected by the significance of this event. We all tried to remain humble, as if this were just a walk in the park. But one guy got to me, though. One guy, he was standing by himself. He held up a sign that said thanks, you're walking for my wife. With pictures of the wife and kid. Now, I don't know if his wife was also walking, or if she's a survivor, if she's sick, or if she's dead.

I looked at him, I smiled, I kept moving. I wanted to stop and ask him but felt the need to push on, just to barely keep from bawling.

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At Villanova there's a zillion people waiting for our arrival. The picture doesn't really show the huge scope of the walk's end. The 3-Day volunteers, families and friends are cheering and hooting and hollering as we walk through the line. Spectators and strangers hold their hands out to high-five. For the minute, perhaps, that it took to get through the line...this must be what it feels like to be a rock star.

And yet, the first instinct is to just keep it humble. Awww, it was nuthin'. And it is, really, compared to what cancer survivors and their families go through.

We get our shirts. There are those of us who want to perhaps kinda hang around and soak up some sun, relax a little, relish the experience of the last 3 days. Then there are those of us who just want to be done, get going, hop a train back to the city, and indulge in some football and friendship and some well-deserved cocktails. We debate, and we decide to go.

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We end the day with a huge bar tab, room service burgers and salads, and the jacuzzi. The next day L wears a complimentary paper bathing suit because she decides the old one she brought wasn't embarrassing enough, so she tossed it the night before. The thing holds water like a swimmie diaper, making her poof up in the jacuzzi. M treats us later to massages and shea butter wraps. Heavenly!

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Our nearly 5-day adventure finally comes to an end. We go to breakfast and get one final cab ride to the train to NJ.

All told, we raised more than $15,000, and it cost us (well, some more than others) many hundreds of dollars in gear and cocktails and hotel stays and cab rides.

But we already know this is probably a one-shot thing for us, and the next time someone gets some cockamamie idea to do something crazy like walk 60 miles for breast cancer research or bike 100 miles for some other disease or participate in some other good deed...we'll..we'll think about it.

Thanks, girls. That wasn't so bad, was it?

Friday, October 20, 2006

3-Day: a cab ride

On the 3rd day, we awoke early from our comfy surroundings to the sound of L moaning and sighing and making little grunting noises and rustling the sheets. We weren't sure what to make of this.

She told us she'd been stretching.

Ah, yes. Stretching. I think we've all used THAT euphemism before.

Anyway, we got dressed, armed ourselves with coffee, and went outside to hail a cab. We get one, we pile in. The guy can't figure out how to work the meter. We wondered if perhaps he'd stolen the cab.

Now, I understand people--immigrants--have to make a living here. I don't get out much, but I understand that many make their living as cabbies. It seems rather elementary that to survive as a cabbie one ought to know where it is one is being asked to drive.

"Uh, shore. Ya, I know that. Ya."

So our cabbie heads off, slowly for a city cabbie. A little unsure at first, but then he picks up steam as we head toward Kelly Drive...but then slows down. His undercarriage keeps scraping the road, like he's got a body in the trunk.

We have an idea where we're supposed to go, but cannot give him exact directions. We were kind of counting on the cabbie to know where he's going. He knows not.

We see 2 joggers on the left corner of the road, as I recall, a 4-lane road. "Maybe they know," we say brightly yet urgently to the cabbie. The cabbie pulls over across the road and lodges his cab diagonally on the corner of the intersection, effectively cutting off traffic in 2 different lanes.

"Ah, where to find ah...ahhhh, where..." asks the cabbie.

We quickly roll down the back windows. "BELMONT PLATEAU! PLEASE tell us how to get there!" The joggers sense our urgency and fear that the cab will be crushed in two directions. They give us directions, which we keep repeating to the cabbie, just to make sure he's got it.

Imagine you're a little immigrant guy driving a car, and your wife is impatiently telling you how to drive. Now imagine 4 wives impatiently telling you how to drive. It's a wonder he didn't just fly the cab off a bridge into the Schulkyll just to shut us up.

But he didn't and since he took us several miles and dollars out of our way, he agreed to take a lesser fare. Which was still more than we should've given him, but we were running late. And, hey, a guy has to make a living.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

3-Day, day 2 (with even more pictures!)

Geeez, I better hurry the hell up and write this down because I'm forgetting it already.

So. We get a late start on the morning. Next thing we know, we're headed to South Street. All along the route there are these black arrows attached to poles and signs, so we know where we're going.

Now, we didn't have any team flair. Oh, we had all sorts of ideas: iron-on shirt transfers, matching hats, I would design a logo...but none came to fruition. My fault, really, for not putting more effort into it. So we didn't look much like a team, except we're all blonde (insert your own joke here.)

So we're on South Street, and we pass an accessory store. Scarves, earrings, hats, etc...and there it is: the perfect pink and white polka dotted scarf. Worn individually, it would look ridiculous, but 4 of them, worn as team flair...well, it probably still looked ridiculous, especially the way H knotted it up on L's head in a big bow. But at least we were now identifiable as a team.

We walk along South Street, down 2 Street, more candy, along Elfreth's Alley, where we meet this little puddle jumper. He's playing in what's left of the nor'easter. Did I mention the nor'easter?

We go on some more into Center City, and here we are, with the pink fountain at LOVE park:

My, we're just SPANKIN' aren't we? Note L's BIG BOW on left:

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And no visit to Philly would be complete without posing with Rocky at the Art Museum. I would've expected one of us to make some kind of obscene gesture or grab Rocky's balls or something, but we were surprisingly well-behaved.

So on we go, along Kelly Drive...and we hear people talking about spending the night at the high school again, and we so DON'T want to do that so we get a cab to take us to a hotel.

We were rather lucky to get a cabbie where we did. And what a multi-tasker! He could talk non-stop on his cell with no headset, in a foreign language that none of us even remotely recognized, but we figured it was something close to...Swahili?...zipping and speeding faster and faster! through downtown. We were very impressed! Finally we get to the hotel, take nice showers, and zip off to the Continental, where we have fancy global-tapas food and my new favorite cocktail: a Hawaii 5-0 (vanilla vodka, triple sec, pineapple, lime juice. It was VERY good.)

After paying the huge bill, we walk off in our fashionable flip flops and t-shirts (none of us had brought real shoes) and settle into the comfy king-size beds. M and I stayed up to watch Little Miss Sunshine, which was funny, while H and L snored and farted in their sleep. I wisely chose not to get any pictures of that.

Monday, October 16, 2006

3-Day, day one (now with pictures!)

Ok, where was I?

So we get to the hotel in Willow Grove PA and spend a reasonable Thursday night there. It was dark when the four of us woke up; wet, rainy, windy and nasty. And that was just the weather.

A nor'easter had blown in.

The lobby was filled with women dressed up in their Cancer Sucks shirts and buttons and their running shoes and their team flair. The Buddies for Breasts team sported the fashionable boob hats; inevitably, some were a little droopy by day's end.

L had the presence of mind weeks before to order up a cab from the hotel, so instead of paying $14 p/p for a bus ride, it cost us something like $10 for all of us. Not only that, but when the cab got there, we just pushed through the throng and hopped in. No waiting in line for the shuttle. Of course, L would think to do this. She once brought a stapler in her purse for a job interview "just in case the interviewer didn't have one." She's the queen of situation preparedness. If nuclear disaster strikes, I'm headed to her house.

The mall parking lot was busy in the darkness. We checked in, checked our bags into big rigs labeled alphabetically, moved to the coffee tent and waited.

And waited. And waited some more. We couldn't even really tell when daybreak came because the weather was so fucking foul.

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Sorry. I had to say it once.

But the stage was set and we were eventually herded into a corral to await the inspirational stretching exercises. Followed by the inspirational speech by someone from the Komen Foundation, who told inspirational tales followed by exclamations of "Go, Beautiful Woman! Go Beautiful Man!" Which drew pretty rude guffaws and snorts from the crowd, most notably our own little group, which seriously needed a few rounds of espresso to appreciate the significance of the moment. And finally, the really creepy, otherworldly inspirational speech from God (actually a disembodied deep male voice) who admonished us that this was "no walk to the corner to get a newspaper." Like we do that in the suburbs. Stupid God.

And with that, they let us out of the corral, we got our ponchos and schedule of potty locations and lunch and snacks and away we went, in a nor'easter.

We had been led to believe that the walk was basically 20 miles each day. On this particular day, the day of the nor'easter, in which we walked around the hills and valleys west of Philly, many, many was actually closer to 25.

The route itself was actually pretty nice; we strolled through Chestnut Hill, Manayunk, and some other well-to-do neighborhoods with huge houses. People stood on the streets cheering us on, offering candy and baked goods, free Starbucks coffee and shots of Bailey's.

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We finally finished the route and prepared for camping at Belmont Plateau. It was wet. It was muddy. Oh, yes, that's right. It was a FRIGGING NOR'EASTER and still raining. But there was no camping: they moved more than 2000 people to a high school to camp out in the hallways, shoulder to shoulder with the lights on.

We heard a woman got a cockroach stuck in her hair there.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

that sinking feeling

You know how after Christmas you get that deflated feeling, you have nothing to look forward to anymore? (And if you're like me, you hate New Year's?) Well, that's about how it is now that the 3-Day is done.

I'll go on about it in more detail (and pictures!) after I knock some articles out. Suffice it to say, I doubt I will ever again walk through large mobs (100s! 1000s of people!) offering encouragement, candy, free coffee and shots of Bailey's, cheering wildly that I've finally finished something.

60 miles. We did it.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

gimlets and desert rodents

So the gals went out last night for a planning session for this weekend's Breast Cancer 3-day.

L had a few cosmos; M had a Sam Adams followed by martinis, H had vodka and tonic. All more or less sophisticated, grown-up drink choices.

I'm stumped. I don't know anything about sophisticated drinking. I enjoy drinking out of coconuts, with the paper umbrella and plastic monkey. (My all-time favorite has to be the Colorado Bulldog: kahlua, vodka, milk, and pepsi, shaken up and served in a huge glass. A straw is a nice touch, especially for getting the froth left at the bottom of the glass, which, if the drink is made properly, appears quickly.)

When servers ask me what I want, it's like that scene from 5 Easy Pieces with Jack Nicholson. "Well, can I have something with raspberry, with ice but without gin, but with fruit but no lime, but so it doesn't taste too alcoholy?" And hold the toast.

I ended up settling for something like a raspberry martini, expecting it to be pink. She brings this clearly-hued drink in a glass, but not a martini glass. With ice.

"Oh," says M. "Is that what you wanted, a gimlet?" M is the go-to gal for cocktail identification and consumption.

"Uh....I dunno. Is that what I have?"

Now, I've heard of gimlets before. Sounds like some little fuzzy, scurrying desert rodent. But I don't know what's in them, other than vodka.

So here's this cocktail site, explaining what a gimlet is. (And lots of other equally fascinating drinks, like "A Pimp Named Slickback" and "A Little Dick'll Do" and "A Short Trip to Hell" and that was just the first page of the "A" recipes. I imagine drinking A Little Dick'll Do might send you on a Short Trip to Hell, and then after that, perhaps a little dick would do.

It also explains all about the different glasses necessary for properly enjoying cocktails. It's completely ludicrous to drink a martini out of a collins glass, for example, or a highball out of a MacDonald's commemorative Disneyworld glass.

I have exactly 3 cocktail-type glasses in my house: 3 wine glasses that were a Macy's giveaway about 10 years ago. Oh, and a souvenir pilsner glass from PastaMore; I think that was from our trip to Universal Studios. Oh, wait: here's a souvenir shot glass from SA-NJ-OSE. Thanks Kim!

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I suppose on the road to middle age, it might behoove me to actually purchase some real, grown-up cocktail glasses. Just in case they run out of coconuts.

Monday, October 02, 2006

lame post ahead

What the hell happened to the week?! Geez, it was just here a minute ago.

The interview went ok; 2 youngish guys interviewed me, and were immune to any MILF magic spells I tried on them. One guy asked me to submit some "zany" writing samples because my portfolio was too "corporate." Ha! Ha!! They want to crazy-up their image and website. I obliged with some stupid stuff that I'm fairly sure will kill the deal.

Saturday I stayed up to watch the new SNL, which mostly sucked. I fell asleep through the second half.

What troubled me was I didn't know who next week's host and musical guest will be: Jaime Pressley and Corrine...something...Rae. Who are these girls? Is Jaime a girl? This show has been on since I was what, 15? And this was the first time I didn't know. So NOW I guess I'm officially over the hill. Well, maybe not completely over. Maybe just still painfully clinging to the pinnacle.