THE NORTH FACE INVASION

Here’s all I know about North Face: it is the outerwear of choice for every Starbucks-cup-carrying douchebag that walks the streets of Northern Virginia.  So I had to Google. I learned two things: 1. It is The North Face, not North Face, and 2. No one on the website is carrying a cup of Starbucks. I am certain The North Face jackets and coats are fine garments made for people who actually go outside, but have been ruined for the real outdoor adventurers by aforementioned dbags. Nonetheless, one of the best things about living in a small town is not seeing The North Face jackets attached to assholes drinking coffee everywhere I go. Until…

I noticed some of the college kids wearing The North Face jackets this winter. I was able to let that go. For starters, as I have previously written, there were many days when there were fewer degrees on the thermometer than fingers on my hand. And most of the kids have to walk to class. Uphill. Because it is called “West Virginia flat” for a reason. Plus many of the students are New Jersey imports.  But that’s a different story for a different day.

Then I went to the Hagerstown outlets and—EGAD!—there is a The North Face store. OK, I cannot call it The North Face anymore. It sounds dumb. So the outlets have a North Face store, which means it will not be long before all the young folks are driving four hours and wasting $50 in gas to save $10 on a slightly IR coat with a North Face logo on it. And this week, the straw of the camel, I have learned we are getting a Starbucks. This will not end well for me.

So now I ponder what other aspects of my small town might be in danger:

  1. The truck left unoccupied with the engine running outside the bank, not because the bank was being robbed, but because it was one of those cold days and the owner wanted to keep the cab warm.
  2. Men other than Brett Favre wearing Wranglers.
  3. My UnderArmour bag that I left sitting in the Food Court being turned into Lost and Found instead of stolen.  I still can’t believe that actually happened.  (Note:  this was at an outlet mall that does not have a North Face store.)
  4. “Bad traffic” meaning an extra twenty minutes on the road, not four hours.
  5. People holding the door open for me when I follow them into a store.  After almost three years, this still freaks me out a little.  I always wonder if the person is holding open the door so he can grab my money.  Or my boob.
  6. The man who returned the purse he found in a cart in the parking lot to the TJ Maxx.
  7. Pickup trucks on the side of the road selling corn and tomatoes.
  8. Hearing ladies say they went into the press to put on their slacks so they could go to town because pop is on sale and they bought a whole buggy of it.
  9. The honor system.
  10. Strangers talking to me in parking lots, not to ask me for money, just to comment on how hot it is or whether or not it will rain today.  (Young gal looking for a random act of kindness in the Walmart parking lot excluded.)
  11. Having people not give a rat’s ass about what kind of car I drive.  And if my car breaks down or I drive it into a ditch, someone in a truck will stop and help me.  Guaranteed.
  12. Talking to the neighbors about the latest bear/deer/coyote/turkey sighting.  Yesterday evening was turkey day across the road from our house (see below).

So I am vowing to enjoy more aspects of small town living before I start seeing Segways. I should probably start by checking out the clearance rack at Walmart. If there’s a North Face jacket on it, I’m going to pitch a fit…

Why did the turkey cross the road?

CUBA? REALLY?

It began with a text from Lucy asking me if I were interested in going to Cuba on vacation. After realizing she was serious, I advised she could put me down for a never as far as Cuba travel is concerned. Ditto for my total bad ass husband (PTST). Lucy wanted to go because she thought it would be just like Havana Nights. (I haven’t seen the movie so have no idea what she is talking about.)  Her husband Craig wanted to see the 1950s cars.  During the clarification call, insert my husband in the background yelling, ‘’Why is a card carrying Republican going to a Communist country?” Insert me adding, “You are making Ronald Reagan cry.”

I advised Lucy to do some online research and then let me know if she still wanted to go to Cuba, and thought the topic of Cuba was history. Until I rolled into Pizza Al’s on Sunday and our favorite pizza guy and fellow travel lover advised he is looking into going to Cuba for his next vacation. Why? Because it’s a short flight and it’s super cheap. Thought: So is Newark, but I’m not going there for vacation either. Response: Please take my friend Lucy with you.

Philly Joe (we don’t hate on him for being an Eagles fan so he won’t ridicule us for supporting the ever-losing Redskins—soon to be name changed but forever to be losers, or at least until the day Dan Snyder dies) said it is a common travel destination for Canadians and Europeans and the beaches are beautiful. People love it! According to Philly Joe, the only reason Americans haven’t vacationed there is because we were unallowed, but now the ban is lifted so we should all rush to Cuba before the rest of the USA discovers it and crowds it up and we can’t get a beach chair.

Because I believe in signs (supernatural events, not the movie, although the movie was awesome), I decided the travel gods were telling me something by have two people in one week recommend Cuba for a vacation spot. I told Philly Joe that I was going to Google it to learn what I’m missing out on.  So I immediately went home and took a nap.  This is what I do every Sunday after Pizza Al’s, signs or no.

Then I put on my tin foil hat, opened up Internet Explorer and went to Yahoo because 1. I am a thousand years old and 2. I know it pisses off my husband that I refuse to use Chrome and Google.   That didn’t turn up anything helpful. (Maybe I should consider Google, but don’t tell Mike.) So I went to my go-to site for travel info, TripAdvisor.

Here are some highlights:

  1. Credit cards from US banks are not accepted.
  2. Cuban money is not internationally traded, so you cannot buy it in advance. Read: there is no way to save yourself from the shake down that will occur when you try to turn your hard-earned American dollars into Cuban cash.
  3. Also not accepted: US medical insurance. Not required but strongly recommended: vaccinations for Typhoid, Hepatitis A, and Diphtheria, plus Tetanus and Polio.
  4. The lack of insurance thing may not be a problem since it appears there is little to no medicine in Cuba. There are hospitals, but I’m not sure what they do if they have no medicine; inside my head it involves amputation with a rusty knife and no anesthesia. It is recommended you take any and all medications you may require, from prescription to over the counter, specifically Immodium.
  5. Toilet paper is no guarantee; nor is electricity or water.
  6. Apparently, what is guaranteed is that you will be any or all of the following: scammed, shook down, robbed, mugged, solicited, approached, haggled, conned, cheated, swindled.
  7. The food is bad. (How can the land that invented the Cuban sandwich have bad food?)
  8. Don’t start your period. ‘Nuff said.
  9. There are bugs, but no bug spray. It is recommended you take OFF and Raid.
  10. There was a whole list of what to do if you plan to take a baby, but the thought of someone taking a baby here made me so sad I couldn’t read it.
  11. There are no set rates for hotels. So like one couple did, you may pay $140 for a week and arrive to find the people in the room next to you paid $140 for two weeks. (See #6)
  12. “Clean” is a relative term.
  13. And when all of the above have been enjoyed during your trip, there is an exit fee that must be paid at the airport in cash before you are permitted to leave.

So…

If the above list sounds to you like the makings of a grand adventure, I will recommend you go to Cuba on vacation. As one guy put it… “The water was trucked in and some days the truck didn’t come so we didn’t have water, but I didn’t let that wreck my day.” I am not that guy. I like to brush my teeth. I like to shower. I like to wipe myself off with a clean towel after my shower. I like to wipe my ass with toilet paper. If I want an adventure, I will go to Walmart on a Saturday.

Lucy also read some reviews on the webs and tubes and called me back to advise she had changed her mind about going to Cuba. She stated she did not care to get robbed or mugged on vacation, since we all know we can stay at home and do that right here in America.

Of course Philly Joe is much younger than Lucy and I, so perhaps he will be the one who finds living without water or palatable food for a week to be just the sort of vacation he is looking for. If so, I will ridicule him mercilessly before he goes and then pray the entire time for his safe return. Because I can’t bear the thought of losing one of Pizza Al’s finest…

OLD HIPPIES

The Grateful Dead is back on tour. Not sure how that is happening, since inside my head the Dead died when Jerry went, but to each his own. I still enjoy listening to some Dead tunes on occasion, since inside my head–again–I am still the cool hippie chick with the tie-dye shirt and long stringy hair that went to the Dead shows back in the day. Then I realize I am fifty-something, not twenty-something, while I ice my bad knee and start to wonder if I’m still a hippie or not.

Sometimes it’s easy to spot an old hippie. Long, unkempt, frizzy gray hair in a ponytail and a tie-dye shirt are dead (pun intended) giveaways. Of course, these days that person could just as easily be on his way to a DMB or Jimmy Buffet concert. Or the Black Crowes, if they aren’t broken up this week. Or Phish. Is Phish even still out there?

Way back when, it was easy to spot the hippies by the bumper stickers–dancing bears, lightning skulls, rainbow colors. You know, while you were driving along listening to Don Henley singing about seeing a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac and swearing you would never be that person. Except you were listening to Don Henley so you were already halfway to being that person without realizing it.

Don Henley CD ownership aside (so sue me for loving End of the Innocence), I’ve always considered myself a hippie. Not a live-in-a-commune-and-make-my-own-soap hippie, but a hippie nonetheless. Until last week when my neighbor–fortyish, average Joe, college professor–pulled into his driveway blasting some Casey Jones and I thought, ‘’why the hell is Captain Normalcy listening to my hippie music?”

So today I ponder. Is it possible for one to be an old hippie if:

  1. You live in a neighborhood with an HOA?
  2. Your car has air conditioning?
  3. Your hemp shoes are made by Converse?
  4. You have dental insurance and a 401(k)?
  5. Your umbrella is not a hat? (Yep, bought one at the RFK show in ’95)
  6. Your dog went to puppy school?
  7. Your last road trip was to visit your in-laws?
  8. You don’t think Diet Coke will kill you?
  9. Your tie dye clothing is ancient history?
  10. You don’t know if Phish is still touring or even still a band?

This list could probably go on forever, but you get the idea. It looks a lot more like I’m a sellout than an old hippie. And yet…

I still believe one person can make a difference. I still believe we should be kind to each other (despite the contents of this blog). I still believe electricity is magic. I still believe in sharing. I still believe puppies make the world go round.

So I put on my brand-name sneakers and take my puppy-schooled (but still won’t heel) dog for a walk through our planned community while I listen to a little Touch of Gray, then come home and have an ice cold Diet Coke. And believe that I am an old hippie because life is short, and we should get to be whatever we want.

 

For Alm; you are missed.

PT RALPHIE

Long story short, I’ve got a busted back and a bum knee.

In physical therapy twice a week, I am under the care of PT Erik.  At home, PT Raphie takes over.

Checking for correct form.

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Need a snack?  How about a tasty bite of Big Bone?

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No?  Then maybe you would like me to put Blue Stick on your back instead.

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Doing okay so far?

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Making sure there are no monsters under the chair that might get Big Bone.

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Let me help you with those leg lifts.

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Can you feel the muscle releasing?

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How’s it going?

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I’m exhausted from all this work; I’m just going to rest a minute with my butt on the towel right where you put your face…

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And so ends the session with PT Ralphie; he’s a giver and a helper…

Side note:  Yes, that is indeed shag carpet.  And no, I did not chose it.  It was already in the house when we bought it and will be removed just as soon as I convince my total bad ass husband (PTST) that we are capable of installing wood flooring ourselves.