Tuesday, August 30, 2011

In Which I Prove That I Have Questionably Excellent Taste

I went to a used music & movies store today & came home with the following goodies, cataloged here in order of least to most humiliating to be seen purchasing in public:
  • Best find in ever? I'm inclined to think so. I actually sprinted across the store & jumped up & down while revealing this gem to Nathan (whose boat docked in Boston, so he got to come home for the night!). DOUBLE WHAMMY.
     
  • Hey, look, it's everyone's favorite fabricated-on-national-TV boy band! Extra points to them for use of the made-up word "morpharpotic." Have I ever told you about the time I saw these lads live & in concert, for free? With LFO? Your jealousy will kick in any minute now.
  • Oh, this is a pre-owned copy of Amy Grant's "Heart In Motion" that I'm purchasing for $1.97? Ugh, thanks for the warning. You know, I'd really prefer to own a brand new, in-the-cellophane copy, but... well, I think they stopped making those in 1993. [Sidenote: "One day I'm a mother / One day I'm a lover / What am I supposed to do? / HATS!"]
  • I originally had "Hercules" in my hand, which was actually the least embarrassing of all my finds. But when I saw this boxed set for a mere $15, I made the switch. This is, by far, the most embarrassing of all of today's little victories, but I loved me some WB back in the day - even the wholesome, Christian, birth-control-hating, family fun kind. No way was I gonna pass up the opportunity to relive my sixth grade favorites.
At the time, I was all, "Sweet! All this great stuff for just $30!" and now, reflecting back on all of it, I'm a little bit more like, "Oh! I could've fed starving kids in Africa/donated the Red Cross/built my savings account/done anything at all of worth with this $30!"

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Tut, Tut, Looks Like Rain...

Perhaps you heard that there was a storm along the East Coast this weekend...

As you may recall, Nathan left for a month-long deployment early Saturday morning. I dropped him off on base & settled in to weather the storm alone.

I'd like to recap for you my first experience with a hurricane. Er, a tropical storm. Er, lots of rain. This weekend, I:

  • Assaulted my neighbors with questions about flooding, power outages, etc., finally determining that I'd probably not evacuate

  • Duct-taped X's over my windows because I heard somewhere that it can help prevent flying shards of glass if the windows break


  • Sent a barrage of embarrassingly panicky tweets

  • Decided that if my water/power went out & I needed to use the facilities, I could use the giant, empty cat litter tub I was about to throw in the recycling bin, & neutralize it with some clean litter. HURRICANE MACGYVER, I know.

  • Put together a cat-on-the-road kit in case I needed to grab my furry little man & make a run for it. Traveling with a cat sounded like so much fun...


  • Filled the bathtub with cold water because, um, you're supposed to

  • Remembered that I have 21 small bottles of liquor in the apartment, which I wanted to send to my cousin for her 21st birthday until I realized that's illegal. Storm rations!


  • Charged every piece of technology I own, assuming three laptops & an iPad could keep my iPhone charged for a damn long time

  • Sent a barrage of embarrassingly panicky tweets

  • Transferred valuables & photo albums into large plastic tubs placed atop my kitchen table


  • Packed an "in case" bag with far too many pairs of socks & no pairs of pants

  • Moved both cars to a less tree-filled section of the parking lot

  • Sent a barrage of embarrassingly panicky tweets

  • Assembled all of my dry & canned foods into an easy-to-grab duffel, including but not limited to: fruit snacks, trail mix, NutriGrain bars,Veggie Sticks, dried fruit, chocolate-covered pomegranate seeds, KIND bars & canned peaches


  • Showered three times, in case we lost power & each time was the last time for God-knows-how-long

  • Slept for a whopping 10 hours & woke up at 9:30am to an average rainstorm, so I canceled my hotel reservation

  • Watched a handful of terrible movies, including "Life As We Know It," "Revenge of the Bridesmaids," "Gothika" & "Sorority Wars"

  • Rocked pajamas & no makeup all weekend long


In the end, all my precautions were for naught. The storm passed Portsmouth almost entirely, providing us nothing more than strong rain & weak winds. Know what's funny? The power went out at the Raddison where I had reservations, as well as with the inland friends I almost stayed with!


But you'll never hear me complain about a weekend that looks like this:


How did you fare during the storm? Everybody OK out there?

    Wednesday, August 24, 2011

    Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?

    When I was a little kid, my parents & I were vacationing on Hilton Head Island when Hurricane Hugo swept in. I was only 5 years old, but I remember a few things distinctly: I remember evacuating the island, leaving early in the most torrential downpour I've ever seen, in pure darkness. I remember an alligator in the road. I remember how damn scary the whole thing was. And I remember how badly the hurricane decimated the island - destruction that even now, 10+ years later, hasn't fully recovered.

    So maybe you've heard: Irene is coming, with New England on her radar of potential wreckage. And I have no idea what to do to prepare for a hurricane. I'm from Ohio, guys. Hurricanes are, like, the ultimate villain of all natural disasters.

    Nathan's ship was set to deploy next Tuesday, but because of the storm, they're heading out on Saturday instead. Apparently it's safer to be at sea in a hurricane. Yeah, I don't get it, either.

    This means that I'll be ridin' the storm out solo - whatever that means. Nathan made a few suggestions, all of which would entail my getting the hell out of town. He recommended I stay in Boston with a friend until we realized Boston is further south & will likely be hit harder. He was thisclose to buying me plane tickets back to the safe haven that is the Midwest, where I could wait out the storm with my mom, but I doubted I could find anyone to watch our cat mid-hurricane. He actually made me reservations at a Raddison in Manchester, which is 50 miles inland instead of, you know, two, & I could take the cat with me, but I can't decide if it's ridiculous to spend two nights in a hotel for a storm that might not happen.

    So... am I being a baby? Should I just stay home? We bought renters' insurance today (um, you shouldn't wait as long as we did), & if I decide to stay, I'll go shopping tomorrow, to buy things like bottled water, candles & foods that don't require electricity for preparation or storage. I have a few real, live, non-electronic books on hand in case the power goes out - & I'm a real good sleeper, if all else fails. I was also thinking of putting plastic over the windows, or something - how does that even work?! And of course, I'll be stocking up on booze to keep me company in the big, scary storm.

    I'm so far north that it seems entirely likely that whatever hits Portsmouth will be nothing more than a really windy thunderstorm. But what if it's more? The news stories are really freaking me out, & the Jewish mother that lives not-so-deep inside me is out in full force, worrying up a, well, storm. I'd rather be ready in advance - or not in town to experience it.

    What should I do? Floridian friends, teach me your ways!


    Photo credit

    I May Be a Jerk, But at Least I Brought Cake

    On this day four years ago, I began this blog on a whim with a post about graffiti in a Starbucks bathroom. I was a new D.C. transplant looking for an outlet for stories - an outlet that wasn't Myspace. Yeah, seriously. My, how far we've come...

    The purpose of my blog hasn't changed much. I still use it as an outlet to tell stories, to speak my piece, &, OK, to post photos of ridiculous people & things I observe around town. But the purpose has evolved, too. I occasionally post about more serious topics; I've let you guys get to know me. Not only do I no longer live in D.C., which was the initial impetus for writing, I now live somewhere I never, ever expected to be - with just as much to say.

    And the friends. I've made all kinds of friends via blogging. Friends I've met in real life, friends I exchange texts & snail mail cards with, friends who have invited me to their weddings. Blogging has given me so much more than I could've anticipated. And of course, I don't mind the comments, either, & the fact that 700 people subscribe to this little site. It's nice to feel like your voice is being heard & enjoyed.

    But of course, with great power comes great responsibility, or something, & so the more well-read my blog becomes, the more issues there are to deal with.

    The point of this blog? Is still writing. The point has always been writing. This is why lately, I find myself struggling with this idea of "community" that so many bloggers are so adamant about - about supporting, about building, about protecting. Many bloggers work hard to create a sense of community. Such is the case with folks who use blogging to promote their businesses, and those who write for the purpose of creating a community of like-minded folks (fitness bloggers, fashion bloggers, craft bloggers, etc.). I don't begrudge these people their community-centric approach to blogging at all - but there's a huge difference between their motives & the motives of a blogger like me, who identifies primarily as a writer. Frankly, I wish more bloggers could recognize & respect that not all bloggers care about or want a community in the sense they do - and that they'd stop holding us to the same standards.

    I'm just... not sold on the idea of blogging as a "community," not for me. I would never post something on my blog intentionally meant to hurt someone I consider a friend, Internet-made or otherwise. But is saying something potentially offensive a violation of "community" if it's not a community you ever meant to be a part of? Bloggers I don't know, don't read & have no association with have, in the past, accused me of doing things to harm them: They've accused me of trying to hurt their businesses; they've told me I should reconsider the way I world things; they've even told me I'm a negative attitudinal influence (chortle). While I do my best to display basic human compassion & kindness toward others, the fact remains that most bloggers are not my friends, per se. I don't know these people. I started blogging to write, not to form a community. My blog should be my blog, not a communal space where I have to tread so lightly around other bloggers' feelings that I can hardly press "Publish Post" without worrying who I'll somehow offend.

    Comedian Ricky Gervais, of all people, said something recently that resonated with me both as a writer & as an overwhelmingly sarcastic individual: “You have the right to be offended, and I have the right to offend you," he told New Humanist magazine. "But no one has the right to never be offended." The bottom line, I suppose, is that we should all bear in mind that behind every computer is a real, live person, with real, live feelings - but that, as in real life, we don't all have to be friends just by virtue of having the same hobby.

    I do my best not to hurt anyone's feelings or be mean or spiteful or steal content. God, I try not to do any of those things. But so often, bloggers seem to get wrapped up in their ideas community & how various faux pas are detrimental or hurtful to "the blogging community," & I just don't buy that. I'm here to write, period, & if you like it, I'm thrilled. But if you don't? Well, I hate to be cliche, but the solution is easy: Don't read it. It doesn't have to be a part of your community.

    Everyone is so obsessed with etiquette & community & networking. Me? I just want to write.

    Here's to four more years.



    Photos: 1, 2

    Saturday, August 20, 2011

    You're So Vain, You Probably Think This License Plate is About You

    I know my last two posts have been about driving, but bear with me, OK? Let's call it a series of sorts. We'll act like it was intentional. In fact, this post has been in the works for awhile, & now it's time for me to share it with you:

     

    Apparently vanity plates are very inexpensive in New Hampshire, as evidenced by the fact that nearly everyone has one. I actually take bizarre joy in walking through parking lots now that I live here because there are so many ridiculous vanity plates to be found. My apartment complex's parking lot is jam-packed with them; the parking lot of the bus station is the best place to go plate-spotting because it's, like, the largest lot in the world. Or at least in New Hampshire.

    Needless to say, I've been gathering photos for this post for awhile now. I actually had even more to choose from (60ish in total!), but I decided to cut 'em down for the sake of highlighting the really good stuff. Ladies & gentleman, I present you with 36 of the most stellar vanity plates in the Portsmouth area.

     
    When I was 16, I drove a Dodge Colt (read: CLUNKER) & was desperate for a vanity plate that read "K8SCOLT." God bless my mother for refusing to shell out the cash for that atrocity.

    Friday, August 19, 2011

    There's Nothing Right About a Boston Left

    I blogged yesterday about my New England driving woes, among them "sneaky left turns" - local drivers' habit of turning left in front of oncoming traffic as soon as the light turns from red to green. I thought I'd just encountered more than my fair share of rudeness on New Hampshire roads, but the post led to an incredible revelation: THE BOSTON LEFT IS AN ACTUAL THING.

    Also known as a Pittsburgh Left, the Boston left is "a colloquial term for the driving practice of the first left-turning vehicle taking precedence over vehicles going straight through an intersection ... It is an illegal and controversial practice." (Yeah, I got that definition from Wikipedia. So sue me, this isn't a graded term paper.)

    Conversation about the Boston Left on Twitter proved that it is controversial indeed. I'm told this is "common courtesy" in many places - not just New England or Pittsburgh. (As a Clevelander at heart, I like to pretend Pittsburgh doesn't exist, & that, if it does, it's backward as hell anyway, so for the purposes of this post, I shall ignore Pittsburgh.) (Except for the photo.) (Sorry, yinz.)  A fellow Ohioan even told me that it's so common in her part of the great Buckeye State that she'd never realized people don't do it!

    Needless to say, I'm shocked. I am, quite clearly, up in arms about the concept of the Boston Left, & I have a lot of questions. Among them: How did this come about? Am I actually a jerk for following the rules of the road & honking at the people who sneak in left turns just as I'm about to propel myself legally forward? Do New Englanders recognize that this driving method is unique to them, or do they employ this practice when driving elsewhere, too? Is it taught in drivers' ed? If a left-turner causes an accident while observing the "common courtesy" of the Boston Left, who's at fault?

    In closing, doesn't anyone else think this is nuts?

    Thursday, August 18, 2011

    Shut Up & Drive

    Things I don't like about driving in New Hampshire:
    1. Stupidly combined lanes
      At Ohio traffic lights, it's common for the straight lane & the right-turn lane to be one & the same. This makes sense, as neither requires waiting - when the light turns green,  you just go. In New Hampshire, however, the straight lane is usually combined with the left-turn lane, which means you can't go straight until the guy ahead of you (& the guy ahead of him & ahead of him) has turned left, which means waiting for oncoming traffic to subside... just so you can go straight. Am I taking crazy pills, or is this absolutely nonsensical?

    2. Traffic circles
      Or roundabouts. Or rotaries. Or whatever you want to call them.I don't necessarily have a problem with them, as they're a fairly logical means of connecting multiple roads, but as I have The Worst Sense of Direction Ever, I spend a lot of time driving in circles. Literally.  

    3. Sneaky left turns
      You know what people in New Hampshire looooove to do? Turn when it is not their turn to turn. (Say that five times fast.) But seriously. When stopped at a red light, it's common knowledge that the person heading straight has the right of way; the person waiting to turn left must, you know, wait. But not here. Here, the first person waiting to turn left typically hits the gas like a bat out of hell & turns left before the person going straight (i.e. me) has a chance to step on it. This is an accident waiting to happen. Also, it is rude. 

    4. Drawbridges
      There are two in town, & they open every 30 minutes, which means that you're approximately 100% likely to get stuck waiting on one. And did I mention that one of them isn't even drivable anymore because it was condemned? Yeah, they'll be rebuilding it in 2014. Convenient.
    Things I do like about driving in New Hampshire include this license plate, & perhaps this license plate alone:


    He lives! Kreacher will be so pleased.

    Wednesday, August 17, 2011

    Say My Name, Say My Name

    It's a common shopping experience: You pay for your [insert item here] & the employee handling the sale gets personal. "Thanks, [your name here]! Have a great day."

    Most people like being called by their first name. I, however, am not one of those people.

    My first name is Sara; I do not go by it, & I never have. For reasons against my preferences but in keeping with legalities, it's listed on every piece of identification I've got, from my Ohio driver license to my AAA card, though I can usually convince the Powers That Be to include my middle name, too. Everything I ever do or register for is by my full name - first, middle & last. This includes doctor's appointments, conferences, plane tickets, & everything in between - and though I'm quick to tell everyone who might need to know that I go by my middle name, I often end up being called by my first name instead.

    Like yesterday. Maybe you saw yesterday's tweets about my new New Hampshire driver's license, on which the DMV employees refused to put my middle name, saying there's only room for a middle initial in their system. "It'll be OK," the employee assured me - and I actually almost cried. Maybe you thought I was overreacting or being melodramatic. After all, Sara is my given name. It says so on my birth certificate. But your birth certificate has your middle name on it, too, & I challenge you to imagine how you'd feel if the DMV would only put your first initial & that on your driver license. You wouldn't feel like you, right? All I want is for my identification cards to, you know, identify me. And save me the trouble of explaining, over & over, that although it doesn't say so in print, my name is Kathryn & I go by Kate and please, just don't call me Sara.

    This causes problems. Sometimes they're minimally problematic, like nametags that read "Hi! My name is Sara," when I that's definitely not what I want people calling me. Sometimes they're slightly more aggravating, like when the local thrift store wouldn't let me use my own debit card because the middle name listed didn't match up with the first name listed on my driver's license (since corrected). And sometimes they're downright frustrating as hell, like every time I have to call my health insurance company to remind them that yes, I am indeed one of their customers, & my account includes both names, not just my first one, & could they please cover the $6,000 procedure I just had done after all?

    Mostly, the problems are emotional. I know, I know, woe is me. But seriously: When I'm called by my first name, no matter how friendly the tone or meaning, I feel one step removed from the person speaking to me. And isn't that the point of calling someone by her name? To make her feel a personal connection? Being called by my first name makes me feel disconnected; it makes bureaucracies feel more bureaucratic, not more personal. Being called Sara reinforces that the person speaking to me does not know me, & even though I know it's an honest, well-intentioned error, I can't help but find myself irritated Every. Single Time.

    People have lots to say on the subject of my going by my middle name. "Sara is a nice name!" they tell me. Yes, it is, but it's not the name I go by. "That's what you get for going by your middle name," they sometimes tell me. Yes, I suppose it is, or maybe it's what I get for going by the name my parents have called me for my entire life. So sue me.

    There's no getting around it, I know. I've thought of changing my name, but it's expensive, & my mom & grandma would be pretty wounded if I abandoned my Great Grandma Sara's moniker. I try to be consistent in including my first & middle name on every document - but sometimes, like at the DMV yesterday, the bureaucrats in charge just won't let me.And I try to let it slide, but it is so frustrating to deal with the same stupid problems over & over & over.

    I just want to go by my name. Is that so much to ask?

    Saturday, August 13, 2011

    "Responsibility to Act"

    When I worked for the Religious Action Center, my friend & coworker Micaela taught a workshop to high schoolers about the conflict in Darfur. The program began with an icebreaker to get the students moving around & interacting with one another - but it had a deeper purpose, too. Micaela would read aloud potential scenarios & the kids were asked to step to one side of the room if they believed they had a "responsibility to act" upon the situation; they stepped to the other side of the room if they didn't. Scenarios ranged from things like seeing a mother verbally abuse her child in the grocery store to hearing someone yell "Help!" in an alleyway to disagreeing with lawmakers' decisions. The idea, of course, was to get students thinking about what their obligations are to their fellow human beings.

    Since then, "What's my responsibility to act?" has become a sort of jokey mantra among friends. You know: "Hey, that woman shouldn't be seen in public with such a heinous haircut. What's my responsibility to act? Should I tell her?" That's a dumb example, but you get the idea.

    The other day, though, I had a real-life "responsibility to act" moment, & I've been thinking about it ever since.

    Some friends & I were sitting on a patch of grass in Harvard Square when a four little girls came running over to us. They ranged in ages from 4 to 10, I'd say, & the littler ones were full of chatter: "I like your feather earrings!" "Why do you have a tattoo?" "What's your names?" We talked to them for a little while, even letting them play with our iPhones: "You don't have any fun games!" one of them declared in disappointment. They were cute & entertaining & all the fun things kids that age are when they don't belong to you.

    After a few minutes of talking to these kids, a man came over to collect them. "Are you their dad?" my friend asked, to be sure."No," he replied, deadpan. "I'm a molester."

    OK, are you having the same reaction here as we did? Because... What. The. Heck. If that was a joke, it wasn't a funny one - & if it wasn't a joke, why the hell did we let those charming, beautiful little girls walk away with him? When one of the girls ran back to whisper something to my friend, I asked her who the man was, & she told me he was their uncle. "Do you want to go with him?" I asked, but I didn't know how to convey what I really wanted to ask: "Is he hurting you?"

    The girls left with their uncle & met up with some other adults across the park, where they seemed happy & free from danger. But for a minute - a few minutes, actually - I was on the verge of marching up to that family, telling them what had just happened, & demanding that they A) be sure that uncle is not, in fact, a molester, & B) school him in the art of appropriate joke-making to be sure he never says that again.

    I can't stop thinking of those little girls. Was that uncle a "funny uncle," after all, or just a sad man with an unforgivably unacceptable sense of humor? I'm never going to know, & I can't stop thinking about my responsibility to act. Should I have said something? What would you have done?

    Wednesday, August 10, 2011

    Recent Bests

    Best late-night diner menu disclaimer:

    Best store merchandise advertisement:

    Best beer brewed by my former boss, with the best name to boot:

    Best little old lady riding the elevator while wearing an extravagant hat:

    Best /worst underwear spotting in a Starbucks bathroom sink:

    Saturday, August 6, 2011

    Do Not Like

    Lots of good bloggers have written posts about things they dislike or are "saying goodbye" to. And while I could probably write a new one of these lists every other week, I felt like today would be a good time to assemble one, just because I'm feeling particularly angsty. Please note that while I will not judge you too harshly for liking these things, this is my blog & I will dislike what I want to (sung to the tune of "It's My Party," but with a few too many syllables).
    • Eggplant
      I know this is, like, the Healthiest Thing Ever & a great substitute for meat, especially for people like me who are allergic to mushrooms, but I'm just not buying it. The taste of eggplant makes me want to make the face Buddy the Elf makes when he ingests Passion Fruit Spray at the mall.


    • BlogHer
      As far as I can tell, the network is full of verbose mommybloggers & really restrictive ad network policies, & the website makes me feel like I'm having a seizure because I can't figure out where to look or what to pay attention to. Aside from sweet swag (I like sweet swag), remind me again why this is a conference I should want to attend? 

    • High heels

      I just... can't. I wore two different pairs of heels to the Chicago wedding weekend I attended last month, & I almost broke both ankles. I look better in flats, I walk better in flats, I don't fear for my life while wearing flats. I should probably stick to flats.

    • Mixed drinks & fancy cocktails
      And people who care that I prefer cheap beer. Why do you care what I'm drinking? I don't care what you're drinking.


    • Pinterest
      I blog, tweet, Facebook &, you know, have a job. Why would I willingly sign up for another time-suck? Now excuse me while I return to blogging, tweeting & Facebooking for the next hour or seven.

    • "Gypsy crowns," or whatever their official name is*
      Necklaces are for your neck, not your noggin. 


    • Having blog sponsors
      Unless your blog is, like, an empire of some sort, or a business in itself, the idea of sponsors strikes me as a bit vain. I'd love to monetize my blog somehow, too, but asking other struggling bloggers to put $30 in my PayPal account doesn't exactly strike me as the best way.

    • "Modern Family"
      Not funny. No, seriously. Not funny. "Seinfeld"? Funny. "How I Met Your Mother"? Funny. "30 Rock"? Funny. "Modern Family"? Not funny.

    • Ketchup
      This falls under the category of never, no thank you, do not want in my whole entire life. You would not believe how judgy people get about my dislike of America's favorite condiment. Hey, y'know what? I don't like mustard, either! Or salad dressing! So there!

    For the record, I still don't like anything on this list. Except sushi. But still not the kind with fish. I have standards.

    *The original version of this post caused a big controversy. Be careful what you link to, even if you don't think you're being mean AT ALL. Lesson learned.

      Thursday, August 4, 2011

      In Which I Dispense Advice As Though I'm Experienced Enough to Do So

      The request came via tweet:

      I hadn't realized my travel experience might be advice-worthy, but when the plea came in, I found I had a great deal to say. At the end of the conversation, I was instructed to write a book about travel. I think I'll settle for a blog post instead.  


      Baggage
      • If I can help it, I never check a bag. 
      • You can fit a lot into a carry-on bag, especially if you buy a well-made one that fits TSA carry-on requirements but just barely. My go-to wheeled suitcase is the biggest it can possibly be without requiring check-in.

      • Put your purse in a larger bag.
        I'm a purse gal. A big purse gal. But loading everything not fit for my suitcase into my big purse while traveling can get confusing, & even the largest of purses becomes overloaded. I invested in a sturdy, long-handled Longchamp bag for travel, & I put my purse inside it to form my second carry-on. Purse stuff stays in the purse, things like magazines & my plastic-bagged toiletries go into the Longchamp.

      • Carry only the basics in your smaller carry-on.
        This can include but is not limited to: your wallet, your cell phone, whatever you really need from your purse, a magazine or book, your iPad/computer (see later bullet point), your Ziploc-bagged toiletries, your boarding pass.

      Clothing
      • Roll your clothes.
        If you want. I don't, because then stuff gets wrinkly, & I really hate ironing, but apparently rolling saves buku space. If you don't roll your clothes, fold them very neatly! Act like you work at the GAP.

      • Pick an outfit color scheme.
        Do not bring both brown and black shoes, if you can help it. I coordinate my packed outfits to ensure that everything I've brought with me will match the same one pair of shoes - plus an additional pair, like sneakers or heels, if needed. This way, I'm wearing my only pair of shoes on the plane, & there's only one pair of shoes, at most, taking up space in my bag.

      • Wear the bulky stuff.
        If I want to bring something warm, which usually equates with “something that takes up space in my bag,” I wear it on the plane to free up packing space. This can be annoying when it's 80 degrees outside & I'm toting around a hoodie, but planes are usually chilly, so it works.

      • Bring flip-flops.
        Hotel carpet sketches me out. And sometimes you need to run down the hallway to get a soda - do you want to have to strap on your sandals just to pop out for a minute? Flip-flops are like slippers for travelers - multi-purpose, easy-to-pack, emergency footwear.

      Security
      • Minimize metal.
        I know you want to look seksi while flying, but you’ll make it easier on yourself & everyone standing in line behind you at security if you factor TSA guidelines into your fashion choices before leaving for the airport. Don’t wear the jeans that require a belt, & go easy on jewelry, or put it in your purse to be worn once you’re safely at your gate.

      • Put your shoes through security first.
        This way, if TSA selects your suitcase as needing additional inspection, you're at least wearing your shoes while you stand around waiting.

      • Ready yourself while you wait.
        The less you have to do when it’s your turn to load up the security bins, the better. Unbuckle/untie your shoes. Take off your blazer or hoodie. Put your cell & any metal jewelry in your bag to make it easier to gather once you’re through the checkpoint. Store your boarding pass in a safe place.

      • Your computer needs its own bin.
        Don’t put it in with your shoes. Do take it out of its case.

      • When traveling, iPad > computer.
        I recognize that not everyone is an indulgent as I sometimes am, & therefore this will only apply to a few of you, who've likely already figured this one out. When traveling, I only take my laptop if I reeeeeally need it. TSA doesn't require you to remove an iPad from your bag during security checks, making the whole thing go much more smoothly. Also: LESS HEAVY.

      • If you must bring a computer, be wise.
        Pack it in your smaller, more accessible carry-on initially, so that you can access it for security removal. When you've made your way through security, pop that heavy sucker into a rolling bag so you don't have to shlep it anymore. You can do the same with Ziploc-bagged toiletries.

      Miscellaneous
      • Go easy on the liquids.
        Do you really need to bring nail polish? Are you that insistent upon bringing your own shampoo instead of using the hotel’s? My plastic baggie typically contains a lip gloss, concealer, a small tube of moisturizer that doubles as sunscreen, toothpaste, contact solution, a travel-size bottle of hairspray &… that’s it. For longer trips, I stop at a drugstore in my destination to pick up travel-sized items I can leave behind before I return home.

      • Pack your jewelry in your clutch.
        If I need to bring a fancy purse for an event, I always double its use by storing my necklaces in it on the road. Smart, I know.

      • Don't bring a hairdryer.
        Your hotel has one.

      • Buy the Kindle app.
        Books are heavy, y'all. And while I fully advocate the printed word in, you know, print, I rely upon my iPhone's Kindle app for all things novel while on the road. My shoulders thank me.

      • Pack an extra phone charger.
        Put one in each carry-on bag, just in case you leave one on the bus or at the hotel. Not that I've ever done that & had to purchase a new one from a dirty KMart.

      • Don't buy snowglobes souvenirs.
        They're TSA-prohibited, no matter how small. SNOWGLOBES = TERRORISM.

      Photo credit: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

        Wednesday, August 3, 2011

        Maine Knows Lobsters

        Every time we've driven by Warren's Lobster House, Nathan tells me the same thing: "A girl on my old boat says people drive from hours away to go to that place." So when lobster-loving Becca came to visit for a weekend, I knew where we were headed.

        I find it difficult to believe Warren's hasn't yet appeared on the Food Network or some show devoted to the consumption of mass quantities of delicious food. Adam Richman & Guy Fieri, you're missing out on a good one - Warren's knows kitsch, but it also knows tasty seafood. And salad bars, apparently.

        Upon their entrance into Warren's, I heard a few folks make statements like, "What's the big deal?" & I confess to feeling somewhat the same. Warren's initially seems like one of those godawful places your grandparents take you to - roomy leather booths, seating for a million, crying babies, weird wallpaper, wooden paneling, GIANT SALAD BAR. But then you open the menu, & it's clear Warren's is no joke.


        Becca & I had a window seat, & the deck outside us was littered with lobster parts. So that also confirmed that, you know, Warren's means business. Or murder.


        Undaunted by the carcasses of recently deceased crustaceans within her view, Becca went whole-hog on her dinner - or, should I say, whole lobster. A 1.5-pound lobster, that is:

        Not sure how to eat this sucker? Warren's will teach you! This handy how-to placemat explains & illustrates exactly how to best defile the body lain before you:

        But Becca's an expert. An enthusiastic expert. No placemat for her! Girl definitely knows her lobstercide:

        And she's got the carnage to provide it:

        As for me? I went a safer route:
         
        Coconut shrimp, for those less inclined to play with their food. And less interested in handling their previously living dinners' innards & eyeballs.

        Monday, August 1, 2011

        Now THAT's Using Your Head

        My best friend Becca was in town visiting this weekend, so I took her sightseeing around the metropolis that is downtown Portsmouth. This is where I should note that Becca is a born-&-bred Manhattanite who fled D.C. after a year to return to her beloved Big Apple. She got her driver's license last month at age 26 after learning to drive on the mean streets of the big city, & the first time she ever rode in a car with me (2007), she begged me to take her through a fast food drive-thru because they don't exist in her hometown city.

        As I pointed out the lobster roll cart & a boutique with going-out-of-business sales, Becca seemed overwhelmed. "I'm on sensory overload!" she exclaimed as we passed the Starbucks on the corner of Portsmouth's one "major" downtown intersection. I laughed - a New Yorker, on sensory overload in little old New England?

        And then we turned to the right. And saw this.


        Who says the crazies only live in the big cities?
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