Tag Archives: travel

Lame Adventure 423: Chew on This

Recently, I traveled to the land of my living ancestors: San Francisco. For much of the week before I left Manhattan, I diligently prepared for my getaway. I thoroughly cleaned my sanctum sanctorum, did laundry and made sure all of my bills were paid. I had even placed my Father’s Day card in my duffel bag weeks in advance, so there was no way I would forget to take it.

Hearts and flowers-free sentiment.

Hearts and flowers-free sentiment.

As sentimental as I get.

As sentimental as I get.

The pre-planning for my trip went spectacularly. I even remembered to get gum.

Gum is an issue with me. I am not a gum chewer. I don’t like the taste and I think that chewing it plays Russian roulette with my dental work. But, I always chew gum during take off and landing because the plane’s cabin pressure wreaks havoc with my ears. One of the consequences of not being an aggressive gum chewer is forgetting to pick up gum. As a passive gum chewer I often have to purchase it at the airport and pay more. This time, not only did I remember to pick up gum in advance, I considered where to get it.

Instead of going to my neighborhood everything store, Duane Reade, I decided I would try the guy at my corner newsstand. I was in the mood to bargain. His selection is vast. Instantly, I was overwhelmed. I knew I would prefer a minty flavor, but when I started reading the ingredients, it all looked like a nauseating concoction of chemicals. I have been eating predominantly organic all year to compliment my fitness routine. I didn’t want to put any of this crap in my mouth, but I had no choice due to my ear situation. So, I relented and decided to go with original flavor Trident.

Newstand Seller: A dollar fifty.

Me: Really? Are all of these a dollar fifty?

He pointed at a few packs of bubble gum.

Newstand Seller: These are a dollar.

Me: Well, that’s a drag. I don’t chew bubble gum. In fact, I don’t chew any gum. I’m just getting it because I’m flying on a plane.

I put the Trident back. He reached down and handed me a pack of Stride Sugarfree Sweet Peppermint flavor.

Stride.

Stride.

Newstand Seller: You can have this one for a dollar.

I bought the bargain pack of Stride that reeked of mint and headed over to the laundromat to fold my clothes. As I’m folding I start thinking about my pack of bargain gum. I realize that I’m so unfamiliar with Stride, in my head I’m referring to it as Strive. As I am securing my socks (none went missing this load; I felt victorious over the machine), I wondered:

Me: Did he sell me that pack of Strive for less because it’s made in China? Could a key ingredient be lead?

Suddenly, I feared deplaning with incubating stage three tongue cancer. Is it conceivable that I’ll say hello to my sister upon arrival and goodbye to my sex life upon return?

It appears that Mondelez Global LLC manufactures Stride in East Hanover, New Jersey. Even though every ingredient sounds straight out of a mad scientist’s laboratory, Stride has its own Wikipedia page, which eases my mind considerably.

Ugh.

Ugh.

That makes no sense since Ebola, phenylalanine, and possibly one of my ancestors, (the) Village Idiot, have their own entries, too.

About phenylalanine, that’s in my pack of Stride. But why? It’s an amino acid that’s found naturally in breast milk, but unnaturally in gum for complicated reasons that almost make my head explode. One thing I know for certain: I am not going to put Stride in my pie-hole.

Hey look, a pigeon was on the ferry to Angel Island!

Hey look, a pigeon was on the ferry to Angel Island!

Angel Island with (possibly) pigeon-free sailboats in foreground.

Angel Island with (possibly) pigeon-free sailboats in foreground.

So, I visit the organic department of my market, Fairway, where I unload $2.38 on two packs of made-in-Rhode Island Glee Gum. It’s aspartame free with no artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners or preservatives and “made with Chicle for rainforest conservation”. Excluding the “resinous glaze, beeswax and carnauba wax”, coupled with the sky-high probability that Glee Gum is a frontrunner in the Department of Tooth Decay, it seems like a safe alternative to the oral deathtrap that is Stride. After balking about paying a dollar fifty for a pack of Trident, I end up paying $3.38 total for three packs of gum to chew on the plane.

Glee gum with little guy who does not look glum like purchaser.

Glee Gum with happy dancing little guy who does not look glum like Glee Gum purchaser.

Appropriately, I have no idea what I did with that pack of Stride. Hopefully, it did not fall behind a chair and is now in the process of burning a mint-scented hole in my carpet.

Thurber the family dog, "Your gum problems are so first world."

Thurber the family dog, “Your gum problems are so first world.”

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Lame Adventure 371: Marriage Lame Adventures-style

When I launched Lame Adventures in January 2010, I saw my site as an outlet for sharing tales set in New York City from the perspective of a hapless minion of modest means. At first, it was fine with me if only my close circle of friends and my sister, Dovima, read my blog. I am by nature an anti-social networker. Eventually, bloggers began to discover me, and I realized that was okay, too. I now enjoy reading several fellow bloggers and I have gotten to know members of my cyberspace posse quite well. On more than one occasion I have even been fortunate enough to meet fellow bloggers when they’ve visited New York City.

The most rewarding experience I’ve had thus far with meeting a fellow blogger occurred last Thursday when I met one of my earliest followers, Kathy McCullogh over at Reinventing the Event Horizon. Instead of doing the usual, hanging out at a pub, Kathy emailed me and asked if I would serve as witness to the City Hall nuptials between she and Sara Coppler, her partner of seven years. On May 1, they would move to Cuenca, Ecuador. That was an offer I couldn’t refuse. My co-witness, Jackie over at Jackie Cangro, was on board to attend, too. I have since learned that Jackie is both an excellent sherpa and writer.

This year, Kathy and Sara’s lives have been in such a whirlwind I almost need a nap before I explain what’s been happening. They’ve sold their house in Kentucky and have been in the process of completely liquidating their life in the U.S. ever since. They chose to relocate to Ecuador for many reasons. Ecuador is on the East Coast’s time zone (except during daylight savings time), it’s a three and a half hour flight from Florida, the currency is the U.S. dollar, the price of oil is cheap ($1.48 a gallon), health care and housing are affordable, the overall cost of living is low, and the perpetual spring-like climate is a perfect compromise for both of them. Kathy hates heat and Sara hates cold. Gee, maybe Milton and I should stuff ourselves into their carry-on bags.

Before making this move, Kathy and Sara were advised that because marriage equality is on the rise in South America, it would behoove them to travel to a state in the U.S. where same sex marriage is legal. Getting married stateside before moving overseas would give their union more legitimacy in their adopted homeland. Hence, they chose New York to officially tie the knot.

As honored as I was to be included in this historic event in their lives, for a moment, a flash of terror shot through my entire being from the soles of my feet to the roots of my hair. No, this terror had nothing to do with my lifelong fear of commitment, but the thought of having to dress up twice in one week. They were marrying three days after Milton and I attended a black tie gala at Lincoln Center for Barbra Streisand! Kathy reassured me that it was going to be very casual.

For anyone considering getting married in New York’s City Hall, the ceremonies are actually held in the City Clerk’s office at 141 Worth Street in lower Manhattan. There is a 24-hour waiting period after a couple purchases a license, possibly to prevent couples from impulsively entering boneheaded unions, such as when Britney Spears got married in Las Vegas to, if I recall his name correctly, That Schmuck.

First thing first, fees.

First thing first, fees.

Kathy and Sara have been ready to make it legal for years, but like so many committed same sex couples, they were waiting for the laws to change.

Kathy and Sara in their final moments of waiting to wed.

Kathy (left) and Sara in their final moments of patiently waiting to wed.

On wedding day proper, April 25, the four of us agreed to meet at 9 a.m., but we all arrived at 8:45. Even though I am not an early riser nor am I a morning person at all, no way was I going to be The Jerk That Arrives Late for this special occasion.

New York City’s Marriage Bureau is a place where the vibe is warm and welcoming. All a couple has to do is show up and wait their turn. The bureau has flowers, a gift shop, even a backdrop with a photograph of the actual City Hall for brides and grooms to pose before. It’s run very efficiently. Check it out.

Flower selections.

Flower selections.

Cake toppers and ducks.

Cake toppers and ducks.

Reading material neither Kathy nor Sara needed during the 24-hour waiting period.

Reading material neither Kathy nor Sara needed during the 24-hour waiting period.

Camera-ready City Hall mural backdrop.

Camera-ready City Hall mural backdrop.

Kathy and Sara's ceremony number.

Kathy and Sara’s ceremony number.

Kathy and Sara filling out forms.

Kathy and Sara filling out forms.

Exchanging vows a.k.a. this is happening for real!

Exchanging vows a.k.a. this is happening for real!

Double ring ceremony.

Double ring ceremony.

Missed money shot due to delay in my camera's shutter speed.

Missed money shot due to delay in my camera’s shutter speed.

Just married! Finally!

Just married! Finally!

Backdrop looks complete now.

Backdrop looking complete now.

Kathy and Sara entered lawful wedded bliss by 9:59 a.m. When we stepped outside, we encountered a photographer named Braulio Cuenca. Apparently, he’s been a fixture outside the City Clerk’s office since 1994. If you’d like to read his story in the New York Times click this link. Coincidentally, Braulio is Ecuadorian and from — where else? Cuenca! He shot Kathy and Sara’s official wedding photo. We saw that as a good omen.

First step outside as spouse and spouse.

First step outside as a lawfully wedded couple.

Braulio showing Kathy official wedding photo.

Braulio showing Kathy official wedding photo.

Afterward, Jackie and I accompanied the brides on a few errands before heading over to Chinatown for a celebratory dim sum lunch at Ping’s on Mott Street. Our next stop was Ferrara’s in Little Italy for dessert Italian-style. Then, we parted ways. Jackie returned home to Brooklyn. I headed uptown. Kathy and Sara, caught a cab in the Big Apple detour in their journey.

Jubilant Kathy and Sara in taxi heading toward the next leg in their life together.

Jubilant Kathy and Sara in taxi heading toward the next leg in their life together.

Upon reflection, I realized that were it not for the blogosphere, I never would have met this very cool, very loving couple and made a new writer-friend in Brooklyn. This is an adventure that was far more lucky than it was lame. The Lame Adventures will return should this city slicker ever visit them in Ecuador.

Lame Adventure 357: City Slickers in Crunchy-ville

If you write a blog long enough, as I have these past three years, you befriend fellow bloggers in different parts of the country and/or world. Susie Lindau is one of my blogger buds. She resides in Colorado. She’s a very upbeat person, a devoted wife, mother, sportswoman and nature lover — basically my complete antithesis, but somehow we click. Go figure. This weekend she emailed me from her smartphone:

Susie: I am skiing right now!

I emailed her back in-between trips to and from my Chinese laundromat

Me: Barf.

I utterly loathe skiing. I skied once in Vermont fifteen years ago with my ex, Voom. That trip was a near total disaster. I say I skied but to be truthful, based on one lesson that lasted half the length of a sneeze, I almost required airlifting off the bunny slope. As humiliating as inching down a minor grade was for me, the lodging was the ultimate nightmare.

We stayed at a lesbian-owned and operated inn populated by ultra crunchy women. They looked at us, two city slickers in J. Crew attire that arrived in a red convertible Miata in the dead of winter, with sheer contempt. The hate was so palpable we felt like the enemy, i.e., honorary heterosexuals.

Voom, possibly under the influence of one too many martinis, booked this lodging. When I saw that the sign outside the place spelled “woman” w-o-m-y-n, I had a sinking feeling. The house was inundated with cats. There was a cat in every room for every guest. I am fiercely allergic. Needless to say, kicking our cat out — an angora the size of Rhode Island — invited more resentment.

You stay on your side of the glass and I'll stay on mine.

You stay on your side of the glass and I’ll stay on mine.

The first thing we wanted was booze, but they were anti-alcohol. We couldn’t even pull a Kitty Dukakis and cut turpentine with Coke. They didn’t have Coke, for they were also anti-caffeine. If they had any alcoholic cleaning products on the premises, they probably locked them in a vault. There was no herbal essence, either. We couldn’t drink or smoke, and since I could barely breathe in that cat-infested environment, we couldn’t get frisky with each other, either.

Horndog me had the genius idea that we should just open the window so we could hump each other wicked fast. It was frigid cold outside so the temperature in our room plummeted from 70 to 10 in about three minutes. Voom couldn’t climax.  She was certain that someone was outside our door listening. A lifelong romantic with the gift of speaking in poetic verse, I said:

Me: You’re crazy. Relax. It’s probably just a fuckin’ cat.

She insisted I go to the door and check out what was going on. As soon as I opened the door, a pygmy-sized lesbian that probably lived in a bookshelf devoted to the study of mulch scampered down the hall. I seem to recall on all fours. I doubt that the sight of me in the altogether was what drove her away.  That was the time when I was still under forty, flab-free and fit, but I’ve always been alabaster white. Possibly the glow from my pelt was blinding.

The next day at the communal breakfast we learned that they only served goat’s milk. They raised goats. I recall making eye contact with one outside a window.

Not this particular one.

Not this particular one.

The pancakes they served were also made with goat’s milk. I like goat cheese, but the pancakes tasted gamey. It was an acquired taste that Voom lacked.

They only had herbal tea. Since I am a tea drinker, I was okay with that. Voom is a huge coffee drinker, especially first thing in the morning. She was nearing her breaking point. They dug up some Nescafé, but I imagined that it had been sitting deep in a well going back to the Carter administration.

One of the other guests, apparently a longtime visitor to this labor camp, said something stunningly insensitive about the Holocaust. The hosts agreed. That was the last straw. Voom is Jewish and even though I am predominantly Italian I am a bit Jewish on my mother’s side. I expect with my ever-growing schnoz I’ll soon be a dead ringer for the love child of Golda Meier and Lillian Hellman, but I digress. I knew the remark was aimed at us and I simply would not let that anti-Semitic crack slide. I detonated. They refunded our deposit and asked us to leave. When my significant other heard that, she finally had her long-delayed orgasm. It was so thunderous I recall snow shaking off tree branches.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t take off as fast as we wanted. What prompted the delay was the goat’s milk products combined with that ghastly instant coffee brew that they served my inamorata. The breakfast rocketed through her system at warp-speed. As I was packing our bags, she was in Sappho’s sitting room purging such a whale of a deposit she clogged the plumbing. As we drove away, Voom revealed the plumbing problem that awaited them, declaring:

Voom: Victory is mine!

I pointed out that they helped pack our car. I interpreted that gesture as our hosts being contrite considering that we did bat on the same team. My partner had a more jaundiced view of the last minute hospitality: she thought that they could not get rid of us fast enough. Looking back I think her take was spot-on.

We headed to a bed and breakfast run by a warm British woman named Ruth that brought to mind Mary Poppins. We gushed our tale of woe. She made us hot cocoa and knit us both mittens.

Charcoal and black - perfect colors to highlight the bloodshot in my eyes!

Charcoal and black – perfect colors to highlight the bloodshot in my eyes!

She made us feel so welcome that we asked her to adopt us.