Tuesday, February 27, 2007

When Worlds Collide

Visiting my mother is always a trip for one reason or another. Sometimes it's a trip because my mom is literally on one. This time, she was recovering from a surgery she had the previous week. The surgeon had guaranteed that she would be pain-free after two days. I stopped by nine days after the surgery and she was crouched in pain. Instead of stalking the surgeon to get some answers as to why she is not feeling better, she put together her own pain management plan by alternating between oxycontin and gin. Two years ago, I would have been crying and screaming at her for being so stupid. Now, I just take her car keys, dilute her gin with tap water and go on with the visit.

We spent the morning visiting and talking about family. We talked about some major family gossip that is so scandalous that it cannot be written on a public site. We talked about my sister and her two sons and how Mom worries about them now that Haus Sis is divorced and on her own. We talked about the girls and Herr, etc. In the middle of all of this discussion, she suddenly piped in with, "I would really like to meet your birthsister."

I feel it is only fair to back up a bit. Awhile back I wrote about the fact that my birth sister, "L" and I found each other a couple of years ago. At the time, I had decided not to tell my mom about it. Had I found L five years earlier when my Dad was still alive, they would have been the first people I called. My parents were so helpful in trying to find my birth family when I was younger. With Dad gone and my mother in such poor health, I didn't want her to think that I was in the process of setting up a replacement family to take over once she died. I did tell Haus Sis and swore her to secrecy since keeping her mouth shut is not one of her strong suits. And while L has met some of my friends, I have not made it public to my family that L exists and is in my life.

And yet, my mother found out. Around Christmas, Mom and I were on the phone and we got on the topic of secrets. I told her that I had a secret to tell her and that I felt really bad that I had been keeping it from her for so long. She said, "Jesus Christ. Are you going to finally tell me that you've reunited with your birthsister and that you two see each other when you come home?"

Haus Sis swears she didn't say a word, and I think I believe her. My mother, of course, has NEVER given up a source. Ever.

And so my mother wanted to meet L. It so happened that L and I had plans to meet for dinner that evening anyway, so I called her and asked her to stop by my Mom's apartment before we went out. She agreed, and met my mom a few hours later. Fortunately, Mom was only on her second martini, so she was fairly well-behaved and didn't share the story about how she and Dad had me tested for retardation when I was first adopted. She kept the stories of how horrible I was growing up to a minimum. After about 30 minutes of shooting the breeze, L and I left because I knew Mom was really tired. At dinner, L and I talked about how interesting the meeting was. L admitted that she was somewhat jealous that I can tell my family about her but she cannot. She also admitted that she had been initially scared to meet my mom, but that it had turned out well. It was at that moment that I felt really bad for not thinking about how weird it really was for L to meet my Mom.

The next day, Mom was babbling on and on about more family gossip while I was cleaning her bathroom. From the living room I heard, "By the way, your sister's hair is gorgeous."

I said, "What, did Haus Sis get her hair done? It is about damn time since she has had the same stupid style for more than 20 years."

Mom said, "No, Dumbass--your SISTER. L."

"Thanks for calling me a Dumbass, Mom. I guess I am not used to thinking about the fact that I have more than one sister."

Mom said, "L is absolutely beautiful. Are you two SURE that you two are sisters?"

"Thank you for alluding that I am a troll, Mom. Yes, we are sure we are sisters. It's not clear that we have the same father, so at the very least we are half sisters."

"I didn't mean to imply that you are ugly, Honey. It's just that L's features are so beautiful and different than yours. She just doesn't look like you is all. I can't wait to call your Aunt K and tell her that I have another daughter in the family."

"But Mom, that's just it--she's NOT your daughter."

"I know, but I really liked her. She would fit into our family quite well. And her features are simply stunning, don't you think? I mean, she REALLY is beautiful."

Can't you just smell the crazy?

Monday, February 19, 2007

Planes, Trains and Automobiles Two or Northwest Airlines Sucks Ass

When I found a ticket to fly home for $144.00 recently, I was pretty excited. My Mom had surgery the week I went to Vegas, and I wanted to get home the week after to help her out. I find myself really pinching pennies to go home because I know that I will spend that time cleaning a brown/red layer of cigarette smoke off of every surface in my mother's apartment and running her around town to doctors or to get booze. It's horrible for me to say that I would rather spend more money to go somewhere else most of the time. I love my mother dearly, but visiting her makes me incredibly sad for too many reasons to print. At any rate, I found a cheap ticket and got a good deal on a rental car. For less than $250, I would get to go home.

I showed up at the airport on Thursday afternoon after working a couple of hours at the office. I was to fly from Philadelphia to Detroit with a brief layover and then move on to Chicago Midway. All told the trip would be less than 6 hours, and that included an hour drive from Midway to LaPorte. I guess now would be a good time to admit that I despise flying. I am terrified to do it, despite the fact that I purposely took two jobs in the past that required a ton of travel. It was my hope that those jobs would force me to not be scared shitless afraid of flying. It didn't work. Just before the flight, I called my best friend and had the exact same conversation we have had in the past when I am going to fly:

"Hey June. Do you remember what you're supposed to do if I crash on this flight?"

"Yeah--where do you keep it again?"

"Bottom drawer."

"Oh yeah--just so you know. Mine is in my craft basket."


After that call was placed, I sat and stewed until boarding time.

I wasn't really upset when the plane didn't arrive on time. I felt it was delaying the inevitable and I was really enjoying my Vanity Fair. I didn't want to die before finishing it. When it finally showed up 30 minutes later, I was the only person who didn't appear outwardly annoyed. I sighed, put my sweating hands together and said a quick prayer to God, Allah, and Oprah and boarded.

The 757 was completely full and took forever to load. Once we were settled in, I got my magazine out and pretended to read. For a really long time. After about 20 minutes, the captain got on the intercom:

"Good evening, passengers. We, uh, have a broken instrument, an altimeter, that needs to be replaced. A plane like this has three of them and we can't take off if one is broken. We are finding out right now if we have the means to fix it. I'll give you an update just as soon as we know something."

Forty-five minutes later, the pilot got back on the intercom and said that the part would be arriving in 15 minutes and that we would get going.

Thirty minutes later, a flight attendant got on the intercom and said that those of us who were hoping to catch our connecting flights in Detroit would probably miss them and that we should probably get off the plane, where there would be gate agents to help us make alternate arrangements. About 1/3 to 1/2 of us got off the plane and rushed the counter. The two gate agents could not have been more irritated with the current situation and made sure that their faces showed it. Since I was pretty far back on the plane, I was automatically pretty far back in the line. We all tried to make the best of it by joking around and telling our sob stories about how we were trying to get where we were going.

When the line didn't move an inch in 30 minutes, someone got the idea to call the customer service line and make alternate arrangements that way. About ten of us did it all at once. After all of us had been on the line for 15 minutes, each and every one of us was mysteriously disconnected while we were on hold. When we all called again, the same thing happened. I was officially pissed. After an HOUR in line, the female gate agent told us that the plane was finally leaving and that we should get back on the plane. When several of us yelled, "What are we supposed to do if we've missed our connection?!" the gate agent replied, "Well, we don't have no flights leavin' Philadelphia anyways tonight. You're better off goin' to Detroit anyways."

So back on the plane I went. The guys who had been sitting in my row were nice enough to keep my seat open. Once we all got back on the plane, I opened up my magazine and pretended to read again. For a long time. The Captain got BACK ON THE INTERCOM and said he was delayed AGAIN and would leave the gate as soon as he could.

After another 20 minutes, we finally left the gate and took off. I was tired, irritated, hungry and really thirsty. When the flights attendants came by with the beverage cart, they made an announcement that they were out of the complimentary snacks, but for $3 we could buy a Barbie-sized bag of trail mix. Apparently they had quite the little fiesta while we were in line in the airport. The guy next to me kept wanting to buy me a beer, but I knew that if I drank one, I wouldn't stop.

We arrived in Detroit a little before 10PM and were told to go to another gate and the agents there would help us. At this point, I was ready to just rent a car from Detroit and drive home. It was about a 2 1/2 hour drive, and I was perfectly willing to do it. I stood in line for another hour, hoping that they would have car rental vouchers. When I finally got to the front of the line and told the gate agent what I wanted to do, she said she didn't have any car rental vouchers, but that there was one more seat left on the 9AM flight to Midway the next morning. I took it, but I had it in my head that I would be getting a rental car after leaving the counter. She gave me a hotel voucher, a dinner voucher, a breakfast voucher, and a coupon for a discounted ticket I could use the next time I flew with NWA. I told her she could keep that.

I ran to the first level of the airport to go to the Avis desk, except there wasn't one. Instead I had to pick up a phone.

"Hi. I have a reservation to pick up a car at Chicago Midway tonight, but I'm not going to make it. Could I get a car here instead?"

"Oh, I don't do that."

"Then why am I talking to you? Who do I call?"

"You need to call reservations."

So I called reservations. I spoke to a nice young man who understood my dilemna and told me it would be no problem to change my reservation and that it would just be a little bit more than the $102 rate I originally had.

"OK, how much is it?'

"Um, it's going to be $412."

"FIRST OF ALL, DO NOT tell a customer that the rate is going to SLIGHTLY change when it is, in fact tripling in cost. Forget it."

I called Herr, practically in tears. He told me to just go to the hotel and get a good night's sleep. When I got to the Day's Inn shuttle, there were about 30 people from my flight trying to get on. After it was full, there were still a lot of people who needed a ride. The driver said he would be back in about 45 minutes. I took a cab.

When I got the the Days Inn, I handed the hotel voucher to the lady behind the counter, at which point she said,

"I'm sorry, but we don't have any rooms left."

At that point, my head exploded. I am quite impressed that I was very calm when I told her that a hotel should NOT give vouchers to airlines to give out to stranded passengers if they don't have the rooms to give. I told her that I wasn't going back to the airport and that she was going to have to find a room for me. While I glared at her, the phone rang, and she was informed that a quickie had just left and that there was suddenly a room available. Actually, I don't know if it was a quickie or not. All I know is that one minute there wasn't a room and the next minute there was. Draw your own conclusions. The lady behind the counter told me that they would need about a half hour to clean the room and that I should use my meal voucher in the restaurant/bar.

I was quite grateful that this hotel had a restaurant. I don't think I have ever been to a Days Inn that had one. It was totally what you would expect from a restaurant that has a specials board featuring "Chicken Casadillas." To my surprise, the elderly man who had been in line with me in Detroit was sitting at the bar with 3 martinis lined up in a row. He saw me and shouted, "Come here, Honey--I'm buying you a beer!" So I sat next to him, had a beer and ate a grilled cheese sandwich. And it was lovely. Life is always better after eating a grilled cheese. After I finished, I went to my room. I didn't care that the carpet hadn't been vacuumed since the Regan administration. And for people who know how uptight I am about hotel rooms, that should surprise you. I called Herr back to tell him that I had a room and that he should call me the next morning super early so that I could get to the airport.

At 5:15 AM, my cell phone rang. It was Herr, telling me that NWA had just called and that my flight to Midway was cancelled due to unscheduled maintenance and that the soonest they could get me to Midway was Saturday afternoon. I told him that I had no choice but to drive from Detroit and I asked him to reserve a car for me online. It turned out that reserving the car online was more than $150 cheaper than what the Jackass had quoted on the phone the night before. I took a shower, ate some breakfast and headed to Avis.

Once I got to Avis, I had no problem getting my car. While I was sitting in the car looking for I-94 on the map of Detroit, I saw a car quickly coming toward me. You guessed it--an Avis employee hit my car with another rental car. After an accident report was filled out and the poor kid probably got fired the second I left I was on my way. Unfortunately, what should have been a 2 1/2 hour drive was more like a 3 1/2 hour drive because the windshield wipers weren't working properly and I had to keep pulling over to clean the windows. Fortunately, LaPorte is on Central Time, so I felt like I gained an hour when I crossed the Michigan border into Indiana. After all of that, I was finally home.

I guess it should come as no surpise to anyone reading this post that Herr called me at 7:15 AM Sunday morning to tell me that, you guess it, NWA had called to say that my flight was cancelled due to unscheduled maintenance and that they had booked me on a Delta flight that went to Atlanta and then I would catch a flight to Philadelphia. And it was leaving earlier than my original flight. While I was freaked out that I had to haul major ass on I-90 to get to the airport on time, I was relieved that I was on a completely different airline. There was no way that lightening could strike to that degree again. And it didn't. My flights home were uneventful. The best part was that I had my choice of a full size bag of Sun Chips, a granola bar, cookies, or crackers for a snack. And I didn't have to pay for them. Actually, the best part was the simple fact that I got home.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Hausfraus in Vegas

Herr and I returned from Las Vegas late Sunday afternoon well-rested and rich exhausted and reeking of stale cigar smoke. It was extremely difficult getting up this morning and back into the Monday-Friday grind today, but it was completely worth it. We had a blast.

We stayed at the Bellagio and had a great view of the strip, as you can see from the photo above. We also had a good view of the Bellagio fountains. The hotel was wonderful in almost every possible way. The only thing negative I can say about the place is that it is too.damn.big. It literally took 20 minutes to go from our room to the street in order to get anywhere.

Our friends Frank and Laura didn't get in until Friday afternoon, so Herr and I amused ourselves for the first 24 hours. In typical fashion (for us), we found the first outdoor bar we could find (next door at Caesar's Palace) and enjoyed some beers in the 65 degree weather. Then we decided to grab a late lunch at Mesa Grill, which was better than I expected. We had a goat cheese fundida that was so good that I wanted to lick the skillet. Not wanting to pass out at 5PM because of the time change, we took naps and got up in the early evening. That evening, we went to Paris to check out the Eiffel Tower and the casino. While I was cashing out the $2.50 I won in the nickel slots, a guy came up to Herr and asked him if we wanted free tickets to see The Producers that night. It turned out it was a media showing that night as opening night was going to be the next evening. The tickets included passes to an after party. The show started in 15 minutes, so we hurried in as I didn't want to keep David Hasselhoff waiting. That's right-- David Hasselhoff was starring in it. I wasn't passing this up!

I learned a couple of important lessons that evening. The first lesson was that a few men still actually have (and wear) their Knight Rider leather jackets, purchased in the height of the show's popularity in 1984. The second lesson was that one needs to wear their absolute best clothes at all times in Las Vegas, even if it's just to go get some coffee or chase the housekeeper down for some extra towels. One never knows when one may be given tickets to what may be the premier event for all of Las Vegas society. That way, one won't feel EXTREMELY out of place and uncomfortable in one's otherwise comfy capri pants and flip flops while mingling with the Las Vegas media and locals who are dressed to the fucking nines. Despite my discomfort for feeling like I was born into the Clampett family, the show was fantastic. Hoff was extremely funny, AAAAANNNNNDDD Mel Brooks was two rows in front of us. Upon leaving the show, we opted to go back to our hotel and bag the after party since we just weren't dressed to meet David. Call me a fool for missing out on an opportunity. I just couldn't do it.

Friday night, Frank, Laura, Herr and I went to Rosemary's for dinner, which is out in the Las Vegas suburbs. Go there. Wow. Wow. Wow. We went there based on the recommendation of some friends who ate there a few weeks ago. The food was spectacular and the service was truly amazing. You know you're going to experience good service when you sit down at a table and the server trades your friend's white napkin for a black one so that her black outfit won't get white lint on it. I'm just sayin'. Frank is a chef by trade, so when he's really happy with a meal, I know that it's even better than I thought. Try the scallops. And the chestnut soup.***UPDATE: Rosemary's Restaurant called me on Tuesday morning on my cell phone to ask me if we enjoyed dinner on Friday night. That is a first!!!

The rest of the weekend was spent walking up and down the strip A LOT, window shopping, drinking, eating, people watching, walking down Fremont Street and playing nickel slots. I am not a gambler, but I managed to win $102 on nickel slots at the Alladin on Saturday morning. My winnings allowed me to purchase these in a black patent leather due to my feet feeling a little sore from the shoes I wore Friday night. My new shoes came along with me to Olives on Saturday evening. We sat out on the deck and watched the fountains go off every few minutes, which was quite fun. The food was good, but our server was a disaster.

All in all, Vegas was a great getaway for a few days. We didn't spend our kids' college funds on the blackjack tables, although we did pay $6 per for bottled water. We got to enjoy some warm weather while it was 10 degrees in Bethlehem, we got to eat some great food, and we got to spend time with good friends we just don't get to see enough. That's pretty damn great if you ask me.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Two Years Old!!!

Genna turned two on Saturday. While some of the days have dragged, it has been a whirlwind two years. Since Genna was born, we have lived in three different houses in three states. Herr has gone to work for one company, got laid off from said company a mere 12 months later, and has gone back to his old company. I've gone from being a SAHM to a NSAHM (a Never Stay at Home Mom) to a Mom working part time outside of the home. Ella has grown by leaps and bounds. Genna has gone from the potted plant stage to a kid who never sits still, speaks her mind (quite loudly)and loves a good tickle.

We had a small party for Genna which was sort of nice. Unfortunately, my neighbor came to the party and made my friend so uncomfortable and upset that she left. It wasn't until Herr, his mother and I started to compare notes with regard to the neighbor that we discovered how truly awful she was. Herr and I felt horrible that we didn't step in and say something. That won't happen again. While I won't go into the sordid details in this post, let's just say that this woman completely babies her child and made backhanded accusatory comments about my friend's kids. The woman completely lacks the ability to self-edit. We've had some small issues with these neighbors, but this was the icing on the cake.

Fortunately, Genna and the other kids were much too young to sense the undercurrent of tension. As far as Genna was concerned, she got to eat a Cookie Monster birthday cake, open presents and run around like a loon. That's good stuff people.

Herr and I are heading to Vegas for a long weekend on Thursday. We are looking forward to hanging out with our friends Frank and Laura who live in Seattle. We are lucky enough to see Laura fairly frequently because she travels to New York for buying trips. Unfortuntately, Frank never goes on those trips. It will be fun to catch up, eat, drink and people watch. It will also be great to hear from Laura what will be in style over the next couple of seasons. I do, however, have some bad news: Pleated pants are coming back. I'm sorry to be the one to break it to you.

In the few hours that I am NOT spending the kid's college funds on the slot machines or buying shoes this weekend, I will finish the book I am reading for a new bookclub I have joined. Well, I'll try.