Here’s the deal. Somehow, you get invited to Hollywood’s biggest night – The Oscars.
Oh, my god! Oh, my god! Oh, my god! So exciting!
You tell your friends then scramble for something even close to appropriate to wear. While it’s not really red carpet-worthy, it’s certainly nicer than that sack you deemed perfect for your own wedding. After seven attempts, you get your hair into just the right shape and spray the shit out of it. (F*ck the environment. This is the Oscars.)
Jewelry? You grab grand-mom’s chunky ring that always seemed too demanding to wear before. Perfect. Then you find baubles with just enough bling to seem like something without flagging that they’re nothing.
You slip into the shoes you’ve dubbed “The Bleeders” and You Are Ready.
The cameras flash. Not at you, but that’s okay. You see this celebrity and that. So cool. They truly have their own gravity. You think, This is why they’re stars. After the crush and clamber, you get to your seat and settle in. Get comfortable. This is the Oscars. It’s going to be a long night.
How could you possibly have known just how long?
As you look this way and that to see which potential statue winner is sitting mere rows away, it happens. A huge white screen drops down right in front of your face. Your view is gone. Your line of sight to the stage is now a total white-out.
That’s when you realize you are the lucky winner of the seat behind Tems.
If you didn’t watch the 95th Oscars (and most likely, you didn’t), then you may not know that singer/songwriter Tems (born Temilade Openiyi in Lagos, Nigeria) wore a dramatic, flowing white dress that sported a huge, head-surrounding cumulus cloud of white tulle. Stunning on the red carpet, perhaps. But in the audience? Crazy.
I did watch the Oscars. I usually do. The second I spotted the enormous white mass hovering in the audience, I about lost my mind. Who would do that? For the rest of the night, I devised speeches that would never be spoken. If I was sitting behind this person, what would I say? Because you have to believe I’d be saying something. And I wouldn’t wait.
How do I know this?
One time I was on a plane from New York to London. I was seated next to a young man who started nervously shaking his leg even before we taxied. This could not go on.
Channeling my mother’s attitude of, “I’m disappointed, but I love you anyway,” I gently put my hand on his leg and said, “I don’t know that you’re even aware you’re doing this, but you keep shaking your leg.” He turned to me with contrition in his voice and said, “Yeah. I’m sorry. My mother is always telling me to stop doing that. If I do it again, just let me know.” Problem solved. For six hours, we were inflight friends.
Now, do I believe that Tems would have been equally contrite in her response to a polite request to lower her strategic, couture obstruction?
Sadly, I do not. I fear there is no way this person wasn’t completely aware of what she was doing, as was her designer. In the world of celebrity where standing out and camera time is a win, this seemed an old fashion cry for attention. And it worked.
Even during the show, people began tweeting about the poor woman behind Tems, craning her neck to see anything. By the next morning, it was picked up all over the web. People were debating over her choice. Many cried rude while fans defended Tem, saying that people should be honored just to be seated that close to such a huge talent.
I wonder if Tems would have felt honored to sit behind Meryl Streep if she was wearing the enormous black hood from The French Lieutenant’s Woman. After all, Meryl is a huge talent.
Bottom line for Tems: Mission accomplished. You put yourself first. And someday, when someone else’s goal obliterates your own, you’ll likely feel undeservedly wronged.
For the poor woman seated behind her, as my father would say, Don’t let them shit on your head. Open your mouth.
For me personally, venting to you all has helped. I can now get on with my day and everything I had to put off until I could unload my annoyance at this display of bad behavior and get it out of my brain.
I can now move on knowing there’s one less person I need to welcome into my foxhole. I have limited space in there and that giant white hood just makes you a target.
Today, we are discussing what it’s like to be a Philly fan—specifically, a fan of the Philadelphia Eagles.
NOTE: If you can’t handle disappointment, DO NOT move to Philly.
As you may know, the Philadelphia Eagles lost Super Bowl 57. (I refuse to compute Roman numerals. It’s stupid.) They (the Eagles, not the Roman numerals) scored 35 points and still lost. They were lead by the extraordinarily talented Jalen Hurts, who himself threw for 304 yards, rushed for 70 yards, scored three rushing touchdowns—the most rushing touchdowns by any quarterback in Super Bowl history, just by the way—and Philadelphia still lost.
“So NOT fair!”, you might exclaim. And if you did so exclaim, it would be clear: you are NOT from Philly.
But let’s go back a week. No, wait. Let’s go back a season. No, let’s go back to my childhood growing up in the home of my father, Jer (the prototype for “Mur,” if you’ve read my books). Jer was a season-ticket-holding, walking encyclopedia of sports, and a lifelong Eagles fan. (Not an exaggeration. The Eagles franchise was born four years before Jer was.) Being a lifelong Eagles fan also means the man is a realist. But that doesn’t stop him from yelling at the TV every game. Eagles fans are yellers. And we don’t yell things like, “Nice try!”
I remember one rare occasion when I got to go to a game. Jer had season passes, but he usually shared them with clients. It was just smart business. I was not. I was merely a financial drain. But one Sunday, there I was in the stands, surrounded by an angry sea of green and white. We were losing of course, and the mood was belligerent, Philly style.
“You’re a pack of bums!” “What the hell is wrong with you?!” “Stop that son of a bitch!” “Stop him, you fuck!” “Punch him in the fucking throat!”
Even at the tender age of nine, I knew this behavior was more than a bit extreme. So when the man in front of me stood and yelled, “Stab him in the heart!” I chose to go for perverse agreement. I yelled, “Kill his family!”
Yep, that was one step too far even for my heart-stabbing friend. Clearly not understanding that by being an absurdist, I’d pointed out the ridiculousness of his own behavior. He just looked at me, aghast, shook his head (a few rocks fell out), and sat down.
Flash forward to 2006. That’s the year the movie Invincible came out. It stars Mark Wahlberg, who is not from Philly but Boston. And while my money is on Philly in a street fight, at least Boston would go down swinging. Anyway, Invincible is the true story of the Philadelphia Eagles’ walk-on player, Vince Papale. The first time I saw that movie, it gave me the inspirational, feel-good Eagles’ winning moment that I had never actually gotten from my team. So I began a new tradition. I watch the movie every year, right after the Eagles are out of the running. (Sometimes, that’s week two.)
Then, in 2018, it happened. After decades of losing, the Eagles were in it. Carson Wentz was looking like a Hall Of Fame quarterback…until he wasn’t. An injury took him out, along with all hope of winning. Hey, it’s Philly. That’s how we do. A faint glimmer of hope followed by a throat punch and the all-too-familiar big bucket of disappointment. But, no! Wait! Nick Foles steps in and somehow champions the Eagles to their first-ever Super-Bowl win. It was epic. Yes, there were tears. Even people who hate the Eagles were crying on my behalf.
Jump ahead five years. Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts has overcome a shoulder injury and is going to lead us back to the big game. And because we’d now tasted victory one time in 57 years, we were thinking, “This could happen.” Pht. Silly human nature.
Just days before the game, Mr. Parker and I were flying from Park City to New Orleans. At the gate, we were called to the counter. Seems there was one first-class upgrade available, and we had to decide which one of us got it. Mr. P immediately jumped in, claiming it’s his turn. “You got the last upgrade, remember?” I did not. But once he refreshed my memory (it was on a flight from “Fantastic Puerto Vallarta!”), I thought, Is this chivalry? Is this how a gentleman acts? I could tell by the look on the female gate agent’s face that the answer was, “Don’t suck me into your domestic soup, lady.”
Fine. I had an aisle seat in an exit row and a snapshot of Mr. Parker’s drink vouchers. I’d be fine. Across from me was a linebacker-sized man in an Eagles jersey. I tried a few times to catch his eye, to bond over the birds, but it didn’t happen. So I relaxed with a bourbon rocks and watched a rock-music documentary recommended by a friend. When it was over, I noticed that Mr. Linebacker was watching Invincible. Then I saw it on a few other screens around me. Did I dare watch it? I’d never watched Invincible when Philly was still in the running. Was I playing with fire? Ugh. Life choices. I decided that if I didn’t watch it to the end, we’d all be fine. I hit play.
As we came in for a landing, the cabin lights came up. Mr. Linebacker leaned over and said, “You’re watching Invincible. How do you like it?”
“I watch it every year. I’m from Philly.”
And just like that, instant camaraderie between him, me, and several of the other Invincible watchers around us. There was excitement and (something so rare for an Eagles fan) hope. No dread of the inevitable. It was as if winning once made everyone feel all things were possible, even in Philly. If it weren’t for that fasten-seatbelts sign, we could’ve all burst into high-fives and chest bumps. Damn you, in-flight safety.
Game day. I knew my sister, niece and her fiancé would be with my father. Good. At such an important time, the man shouldn’t have to yell at the TV all alone.
SIDEBAR: My father now watches what we call “Silent Sports.” The sportscasters make him crazy. So he watches sporting events with the sound off. It’s like being in a bizarre, televised sports prison.
Meanwhile, 1200 miles away at our place, we had four friends over and food for 20. Did that make me too optimistic? Well, if you watched the game, you know how it went. Jalen Hurts played a game most quarterbacks will only dream of—and the Eagles still got the big “L.” When it was over, I did what I always do: Shake hands with my old friend, Mr. Disappointment, and get on with my life. This is how we roll. We’re used to it. We’re good at it.
But there was that nagging question. Was it my fault? Did I watch Invincible too soon? Did I jinx my team? Crazy, right? But I never told Jer that I’d played with fire and lost. He’s used to being disappointed by the Eagles. I’m staying mum and taking my shame to the grave. Unless he reads this. Then I’m screwed. I hope I stay in the will.
What happened was...
Mr. Parker returned from the supermarket. Since he does the cooking in our home, he also likes to do the shopping. (Pretty great for me, right?!)
Looking for an excuse to leave my computer, I got up and helped him unload the groceries.
Then, not wanting to get right back to work, I decided I would take some time to give our new jar of peanut butter a good stir.
For peanut butter, we buy (and by “we,” I mean him) that kind of “natural” peanut butter (as opposed to all that other, unnatural peanut butter) that always comes with a layer of separated peanut oil on the top.
Mixing that oil in with a knife or spoon always seems to end with fingers and everything else slathered in peanut butter, and the oil is stirred in only halfway. That makes the top half of the peanut butter jar a delight, and the bottom half a fine substitute for spackle or grout.
But I was up for a good, productive session of procrastination. I grabbed a tablespoon and started gently folding the thinner oil into the thicker peanut butter. It quickly became a game. Could I create a perfectly blended product while not making any mess at all?
I was careful to get the spoon to the center of the jar, slowly turn it, then make my way to the bottom. As the oil rose to the top of the jar, I’d back off before letting it spill over the sides and onto the counter.
A longer spoon would have been ideal, but I was working with what I had and making decent progress. Plus, it was rather therapeutic until--
Mr. Parker leaned in and asked, “What are you doing?
It seemed plainly obvious to me. “Stirring the peanut butter.”
“Wait. Stop. There’s a better way.”
Couldn’t he see that I was doing a brilliant job? That the oil and the peanut butter were starting to play together nicely? That my hands were free of any and all nut butter residue?
The next thing I knew, he’d returned with a giant, cordless electric power drill.
Yes, I said “power drill.”
In place of a drill bit, he had inserted one of the metal beaters from a handheld electric mixer.
I backed away, watching my private therapy session devolve into a scene from This Old House meets Saw.
He inserted the metal beater into the jar of peanut butter. Judiciously pulsing the motor, then running it slowly, Mr. Parker powered the peanut butter smooth.
“See? Look how much better that is.”
I felt like I’d just been man-splained by demonstration. I wanted to be pissed, but then the sight of my guy happily power-drilling peanut butter was too wonderful and quirky to not enjoy.
I love people doing odd things as if they where completely natural. I thought, I could shove this piece of business into a book somewhere. Which of my new characters would get to Makita-Mix the Skippy?
Later, when I addressed the quirkiness of this act with him, he offered that lots of tools have uses they weren’t originally designed for. I thought about the twisted wire hanger I keep by the bed to retrieve items that fall behind the headboard.
But Mr. Parker’s case in point was so much darker. “Take hammers. A hammer is designed to pound nails. But people use them for all kinds of things. You can use a hammer to kill someone. Murder-by-hammer happens all the time.”
I went from thinking about how wonderfully quirky my guy can be to wondering if I was going to be the inspiration for the next season of White Lotus: Hammer Time On The Gulf Coast.
I now periodically check our hammers for bloody hair or animal matter.
So, what’s the strangest repurposing of a tool you’ve tried? (Please, share only those things that won’t result in arrest.)
- Honey Parker
The Straight Poop
When I was in my thirties, I had a pivotal life experience with regard to major appliances. I’d just bought a new dryer. The first time I shoved in my dirty gym clothes and ran it, I was overcome with joy: The machine was silent!
The joy was followed by dread. Realizing that I was now at an age where a quiet dryer was all it took to give me a wave of satisfaction made me worry my life was almost over. Or at least, the fun part of it was.
How wrong I was. I have since learned: a) There is still fun to be had; and b) There are many more disconcerting phases yet to come.
The appliance-joy phase left without warning—no mile markers, no starting bell. Instead, my life just slid right into the next phase: Bathroom obsession.
In this phase, virtually ever food decision I make has something to do with how the food in question might a) slow down the works or b) encourage good digestive behavior. The joy in this phase comes from doing what I had assumed all my life was just part of my birthright for walking the Earth.
But enough dancing around the toilet seat. Here’s the deal. In this phase, before eating anything, I’m forced to consider: Will this make me poop, or block me up for days?
And that latter part is the real issue. It seems now that any little misstep (including travel with or without food included) can completely shut things down for days.
Oh, yes. Days. I’ve gone four, five, six days without unleashing the kraken. During those times, the mind reels at the thought of what one is hauling around on hikes, in gym workouts, or at dinner parties. And yes, I do think about it. All my week’s meals, now packed inside me, refusing to leave. How is it possible that I’m presently stuffing Saturday night’s dinner in the hole, yet I’m still walking around with Friday dinner, Wednesday lunch, possibly even Tuesday’s breakfast still just hanging out? What are they doing in there, anyway? Working on world peace? Cold fusion? The designated hitter rule?
If this is all becoming too indelicate for your sensibilities, I get it. And maybe you’re lucky enough to not be so afflicted. But if you’re in your twenties or thirties and are thinking, This won’t happen to me. Pooping is choice. And I choose to poop every day. It will leave my body so effortlessly that wiping will merely be for show. Well, to you I say, give it time young Grasshopper. (And try to snatch this prune from my hand.)
But, if you’re reading this and nodding the nod of understanding that comes with, wisdom, age and too much cheese, then let me share what I’ve learned along the way.
The following is a list of Tissue Issue problems & solutions:
I know it’s the list is short-ish. But these are the things that come up most often in my world. Of everything there, the flax seed has been the regularity revelation.
Now you may be asking, “Where does alcohol fit in this equation?” That’s a question I try to avoid asking myself. Having to give up hooch would be a massive bummer (and that’s me down-playing it). But I will say this: If I’m feeling overfull after dinner, a bit of whiskey does help.
The following two practices also have a big effect on restroom success:
1) Working out at least four to five days a week. Anything helps, even walking. Stop moving, and you stop “moving.”
2) Avoiding opiates. Yes, I know. You’d hate to give up chasing the dragon. But seriously, if you’ve ever had surgery and chased it with a Percocet or a Vicodin, you already know. It’s a potent little recipe for never again seeing the inside of your water closet.
So, bottom line: eat your flax seed, work out, and don’t do drugs.
P.S. The Following is a list of phrases I thought about using in this post but didn’t, because I’m not twelve years old. Yet, the fact that I’m including them at all points a sincere problem in my mental development.
Lay pipe, pushing cotton, puppy nose, make spätzle, building a log cabin, hit the Hershey highway, cut a cigar, unload some timber, take the Browns to the Super Bowl, fish food, drop a duce, liquidate assets, take the kids to the pool, pinch a loaf, cop a squat, make room for lunch, finless brown trout, visit the announcer’s booth, baptize a Baby Ruth, log out
Okay. I think I got that out of my system ;)
Guess who’s coming to shower.
In my time, I’ve had several encounters in the shower which have left me shaken.
For the record, I never intended to shower with any of the creatures I’m about to document. (No, Mr. Parker is not on that list.)
Part of the jarring nature of these run-ins is that they were all surprise guests. The other jarring part is that things just seem more desperate when you’re wet and naked.
Shower Guest #1
My most recent encounter happened on a trip to Austin. Mr. Parker and I had gone for a business conference and were treated to a fine room at the facility where the event was being held. Swell.
On the second morning, while in the shower, I looked down and saw movement. My first thought was to have a movement. But on second look, I realized that in the tub was not a giant insect but a little lizard.
Now, I’m not afraid of lizards, but it kept moving towards me. I didn’t trust my ability to pick it up or slide it away with my foot without killing it. So I kept sending water its way until I could get the conditioner out of my hair and myself out of the shower.
Once our communal washing was done, I got out, toweled off, and looked back in the tub. Here’s where it gets sad. The lizard wasn’t moving. Was he dead? Was it the water? Was it me? Did I have lizard blood on my hands? And what did it mean? (We’ll come back to this.)
Shower Guest #2
The Austin encounter had me thinking back to when we were in Nicaragua and found a scorpion in the bathroom. Except in Nicaragua, I wanted to kill.
We’d been warned about poisonous scorpions. And someone we’d met there related what had to be one of the worst scorpion run-ins imaginable. She’d shaken out her dress before putting it on. That’s standard operating procedure to make sure no scorpion is hiding inside your clothing.
But either she didn’t shake hard enough, or the scorpion wanted it too bad. When she pulled the dress over her head, the creature clamped onto her nipple with a its claw and began stinging her repeatedly. And yes, this scorpion was the poisonous kind. Fortunately, a friend rushed over. Still, she had a harrowing twenty-four hours.
So when we found our own scorpion in the bathroom, and even though Mr. Parker didn’t want to kill our scorpion, after several failed attempts to shoo it out of the house with the tiny beast trying to sting him, he finally gave in to the wits of his reptile brain and smashed it with a shoe. Repeatedly. Mr. Parker: One. Scorpion: Dead.
Shower Guest #3
My last crazy shower encounter left me startled without inspiring blood lust. I was living in NYC. My roommate was a long-haired Persian cat named Yosef.
I was letting the hot shower water pound on me for as long as it would last. Hot water was a precious commodity in that apartment. Without warning, it could turn icy cold or scalding, and the session was over. I never knew how long I’d have.
This session was enjoyably long. Too long for Yosef’s liking. I was ignoring him. He was in the bathroom, and kept batting at the outside of the shower curtain to get my attention, which I thought was funny—until...
He decided to leap at the curtain. The next thing I knew, the cat was standing in the tub with me, looking up at me in panic. That of course filled me with panic. Was I about to get clawed or just covered in wet fur? Remember, wet and naked and now afraid.
The cat began scrambling like a cartoon character. His paws were moving so very fast but getting no traction. He was running in place. Yosef eventually got himself out and never again bothered me during shower time.
Shower Guest #1
Back to Austin. I called to Mr. Parker and told him there’d been a lizard in my shower. After a moment, Lord Look-It-Up (as we often call him) said, “Good news. Lizards are good luck and a sign of positive change.” He also read that I was destined to win over all I faced. So, we both looked back into the shower. And, the lizard was, in fact, dead. Had I killed my positive change? Drowned my winning destiny? I wanted to give it CPR.
I’m now left assessing each new moment of my life and wondering what effect my dead shower-mate is having on it.
To be clear, I have never done this before. I woke from a dream that was so utterly bizarre, I had to write it down immediately.
Here now is my attempt to capture the crazy. (Note: The pace of the dream was harried, so to get the full effect, it’s best that you read this as quickly as possible.)
I’m in some airport with my dad, Jer. Not the current, 86-year-old Jer. We’re talking the younger, on-the-go businessman version of my Jer. We’ve just landed from somewhere. Who knows where. I’m catching another flight. A tight connection. Flying international. Again, who knows where. My heart? Racing. Running late.
My dad has all the info. For some reason, he’s booked my flight. He’d sent me the itinerary and my ticket, but I didn’t get it. He smiles, unconcerned, and tries sending them again. No dice. (My father and I never worked together. Nor have I ever known him to stay so calm. Ever.)
We hurry with our carry-ons. He’s telling me he’ll pay for my flight. I say, “You don’t have to do that.” He replies, “Hon, I’m paying for the flight.” I think, Good. I hoped he would. (Seems that in my dreams, I’m a cheap person. Sad.)
All of a sudden, Jer is gone. I’m dashing to a bus that’s taking me to another airport. On the bus, I’m sitting next to Valerie Bertinelli. Yes, that Valerie Bertinelli. From One Day at a Time and Hot in Cleveland.
Valerie points out that our bus makes its first stop at a dentist office. We have to wait for whoever’s getting off there to have their dental appointment. “Maybe 20 minutes.” (I once had my teeth cleaned in about 20 minutes. Still, that timing seems optimistic.)
As promised, the bus stops at a depot by the dentist’s office. I hope no gets off for an appointment, but several people do. Crap. The woman at the reception window says it could easily be a half hour. We don’t have the extra ten minutes to burn. So, my new best friend, Valerie suggests we catch a cab. She and I exit the depot and--
Surprise! We’re in Atlantic City.
After quickly looking around the deserted streets, we get decision paralysis. For some reason, we go back to the depot. And I still don’t have my itinerary from Jer. No ticket. Nothing.
The woman at the depot asks why we’re back. Here’s where things get messy. I’m upset that we’re running out of time. Valerie feels I’m blaming her. She says that if I didn’t want her help, then just forget it. People are always getting upset when she tries to help them and she’s sick of it.
Now I shift into diplomat mode. I try to calm myself. As politely as possible, I explain to Valerie that I want and appreciate her help. But having her point out what I’m doing wrong (and I admit that I was wrong) is only further frustrating the situation. Perhaps if she waits until later to point out my obvious failings.
Somehow, I know that this is a thing for her. Something she’s prone to doing. How I know that is anyone’s guess. We each take a quick, cleansing breath. She sucks it up like a pro. Goes back to her seat on the bus and takes over where Jer left off. Valerie is now trying to book a seat for me on my flight to…wherever?
Suddenly, three swinging musicians wearing black suits start playing music in front of the depot, which is now a café. The song is, “A Lot Of Livin’ To Do” from Bye Bye Birdie. (As a kid, I was a huge fan of Bye Bye Birdie. I thought Ann Margret was the shizzle. I was right.)
In a rush, Valerie runs up. She’s booked tickets. We have to hurry. I guess now we’re traveling together. She grabs my hand. We’re running out of the depot for a cab. But I stop and run back to the musicians. I have to lean in and sing the chorus, “I got a lot of livin’ to do” with them. I just have to. It’s imperative.
Then I run back to my new BFF Valerie, who’s already in a cab. I race around to the other side, open the door, and—Wake up.
No idea what it all means. If you have any thoughts, please share.
Wow, that Pizza Tastes Like Home
Or maybe should say, A place I called home for a long time. The City That Never Sleeps. The Big Apple. Gotham. If you can make it there…
Yes, you guessed it: New York.
So where did I get this New York-ish pizza? If you know me, you probably guessed that too: it was made right in my own home. Really.
I had an honest-to-goodness New York slice made in my home. Actually, I had three slices. How I managed to abstain from eating a fourth is still a mystery.
My husband, A.K.A. Mr. Free the Pizza, decided he wanted to try something other than his go-to, modified-Neapolitan crust. He wanted to tackle the big boy.
Please, allow me to share my newest inspiration for night terrors.
Recently, I decided to try running again. Careful-ishly.
The new running regimen has been nothing crazy. Three miles, maybe four. And not with high frequency. More of an aging-knees-saving once or twice a week. It’s all part of my latest effort to (once again), get back in shape. I’m not sure how many “get back into shapes” there’ve been in my life. I’m not a statistician.
My outings had been a mix of road and treadmill running. Not at the same time. That would be silly.
On the treadmill, I started running intervals: running for a minute, then fast walking for a minute, running, walking, running, walking. You get it.
The goal was simple: increasing my pace, which wouldn’t be difficult. On one road run, I was actually passed by butterflies. With my high-mileage knees, I felt that a pace of 10 minutes per mile was respectable. Let’s see a butterfly do that.
And great news: It was working. When I was running the road, I wasn’t walking at all. And my speed was increasing.
Then, for various reasons, I began spending more time in the gym. That meant more treadmill runs. I slowly upped the time of my running intervals. Three minutes running to every one minute walking.
Finally, it’s time to run outside again. Positive I’d do better, I was curious to see how much faster I could run my normal, four-mile route.
iPod? Check! Earbuds? Check! Insect repellent from head to toe? Check! (More on that last check in a moment.)
After loosening up by walking the first quarter mile, I begin running. As usual, it took a couple of minutes to relax into my breathing and find my stride.
After the initial exertion, my body kept wanting to slow down to its regular, butterfly pace. But I told myself, No! Break through that feeling! My mind now maintained a new cadence developed with the assistance of a Planet Fitness treadmill. I was focusing on form. Showing the people behind me the soles of my shoes! (There’s never anybody behind me.)
The run was an out and back. On the way out, I crushed it. With the caveat, ‘for me.’ I’d altered my stride for uphill verses downhill. My breathing was deep and even. All is seeming right with the world.
Turning back required a bit more talking to myself, reminding myself to stay relaxed in my faster pace.
On the next to last uphill, I felt my energy leaving me. But hearing a car coming up from behind, I did the thing we all do: speed up to look like a real runner while a stranger passed. After all, I might run into this stranger someday. I’d rather them say, “Hey, wasn’t that you running the other day on Mill Drive?” So much better than, “Wasn’t that you on Mill Drive hugging the road kill?”
The car passes as I made it up the hill. Descending the in a cloud of automotive exhaust, I continued increasing my stride. I started to feel like a rock star.
But pride cometh before a fall.
One of my earbuds had slipped out. I hadn’t noticed, but someone or something had. A buzzing and a fluttering as a bug the size of a military drone flew into my now available ear canal. “What the shit! Ah! Damn it!”
I carefully yet frantically reached a finger into the earhole, trying to get it out. “Crap! Shit! Mother f*cker!” I felt it. “Ah!” But it’s still in there fighting for its right to stay in my head.
Panic. Panic. Panic. No. Wait. Smart. Be smart. Do not squish. Scoop.
On the fourth or fifth try—SUCCESS! I got it out. But I keep slapping my ear. Why? Why am I slapping my ear?! I don’t know!
Did it bite me? Sting me? What the f*ck?! Did I get it out before it set up house and laid eggs?
But the bastard (yes, I turned that egg-laying bitch into a male) wasn’t done with me. He started circling. So I ran faster, trying to get away from it and get the hell out of there. “I used bug repellent. Repel!”
I was now fleeing and flailing my way past the thick and humid woods of a nature preserve packed with trees, bushes and, of course, a swamp.
At that point, I was running in full freak mode, flailing my arms, trying to outrun this enraged mini Satan, swatting at it and cursing at it. It tried to bite me twice. Was the little F-er mad at me for not letting it take up residence in my brain.
That image made me check my ear again. It was really out of there, right?
Once I finally cleared the damp wooded area, the demon seemed to have given up. But now, between sprinting, swatting, yelling and panicking, I was exhausted. I had to stop running and walk the rest of the way home, bested by something the size of my fingernail.
But that’s a huge bug, right?
As I’m typing this, I’m still checking to see if my ear canal is going to swell up or, worse, start buzzing. Should I flush it out? Do I have any Benadryl?
I know I won’t sleep well tonight. You?
Once upon a time, I had too much to do and too little time.
Well, okay. More than once. I do this to myself all the time. But this one time, the universe said, “What would we throw Honey’s way if her name was Job?” and then dog-piled onto the mayhem.
I’ll do my best to be succinct. But I’ll likely fail. (See? I’m already wasting time.)
Mr. Parker and I were flying to Park City to move all of our stuff—or as we now call it, “unnecessary crap”—out of storage. An unpleasant but clear task. Until…
Day 1: Arrival in Salt Lake. And, I forgot to mention we were flying in on the heels of my mother’s memorial service, an event that was two years in the making. (More on that another time.)
A friend with whom we were staying in Park City offered to pick us up at the airport. So we were starting on an up note. Her husband, also a dear friend, immediately upon our arrival in his house offered us cocktail (he’s good at that) and wondered what kinds of fun we could all have while we were in town. Sadly, none. We were totally booked up.
To his credit, he kept trying to squeeze in some social time and pour us cocktails.
Day 2 – Unable to quiet all the mental gymnastics related to logistics that were doing jumping jacks in my brain, I woke early and walked four miles to the dentist appointment I had scheduled. Please know that teeth will be figuring prominently in this tale.
I’d been having heat sensitivity in a back tooth and wanted to get it checked. Sure enough, my very nice dentist said that beguiling two-word phrase: Root canal. Damn it!
Now I had to figure out how to shove that joyous task into an itinerary already so tight it was squeaking. But the dentist hooked me up with an endodontist appointment for a few days later. It was also 35 miles away in a Salt Lake suburb. How would I get there? Our only vehicle by then would be the cargo van being used to empty the storage units.
Screw it. I’d figure that out later. Mr. Parker picked me up from the dentist in a fancy rental car that we’d have for the next 24 hours. (That we reserved a compact and got a luxury coupe was luck of the draw in resort town car rental dynamics.) Off we went to our first task: assessing the what we fondly call our “upper storage unit.” It is on the mountain where we used to live, is about a gazillion square feet, but is also not climate controlled and is trafficked freely by mountain rodents. Nonetheless, it is a bargain and half the price of the ”lower storage unit,” a climate controlled closet we have in town.
That’s right, two storage units. Don’t judge.
We got to the mountain storage unit—and he’d forgotten the keys. In his defense, he was dealing with so, so many keys, it was hard to keep track. In my defense, I didn’t say aloud what I was thinking.
When we finally got back to the house, got the keys, returned to the mountain and opened the roll-up door to the storage. We stood there looking at the mountain of crap. He said, “Damn, that’s more than I remembered.”
Day 3 – We drove the very fancy rental car down to Salt Lake to pick up the less-than-fancy cargo van. We then drove both vehicles back to Park City and returned the fancy car. So, so sad to see it go. Then, we drove back to the upper storage unit. (I said “unit.” Note: I’ll be saying it a lot.)
We started bagging things that would be going to the dump, pulling things that we’d by trying to sell to the side, and kept staring incredulously at all the things we were keeping.
Oops. Forgot to mention our trip to Home Depot for boxes, tape and markers. There will be many more trips there. I’m going to leave them out of the rest of the telling. It’s Home Depot. More saving? More doing? Screw that.
In the middle of our junk sorting came the snow flurries. Yep. Mid-May, and it was snowing on us. Why did that feel inevitable?
We ended that day with dinner at another couple’s home. They’re dear friends, and it was lovely to see them. And at this point, we were still semi-decent company. We had bathed. We did not smell. That would change.
Day 4 – Our errands included picking up the giant poster and cases of wine for a book pre-launch party. Not my book, no. Mr. Parker has written a new book called, Free The Pizza! You may be asking yourself, What kind of idiot would plan such an event in the middle of a major move? The answer: Yours truly. There were extenuating circumstances. Don’t judge.
We returned to the upper storage unit for more triage: heaving things into separate piles for junking, saving and selling.
Suddenly, a text message. The nice reporter from the local paper who was going to cover the book event? Sick. Can’t cover the book event. That was a tough one. Arranging press coverage was my big contribution to this event. I felt like I’d failed my husband. On the upside, the reporter could interview him and his chef/foreword writer and party co-host the day before we were scheduled to fly out.
Day 5 – Perhaps the best day of this adventure. Oh, hell. Why hedge? It was flat out the best day. This was the day of the pizza book event. But that wasn’t until 4pm. So we got up early and hustled over to the lower storage unit. Unlike the enormous rodent arena of the mountain storage unit, this is the hermetically sealed and climate controlled closet filled to bulging with our art, clothing, and whatever random miscellaneous shit we’d gathered over the last few years.
We made surprisingly good headway, leaving the place semi-organized with time enough to shower, and for Mr. P. to prep his pizza mis en place.
Or did we?
Nope. Not quite enough time. Our lovely hosts ended up helping us scramble out the door with the poster, wine, prepped food, and a kid’s drawing easel from their playroom. (You gotta stand that poster up on something, and I’ll be damned if we were going to buy a proper display easel from the office supply store only to have to FUCKING MOVE IT in three days time.)
The book event was being held at a Chop Shop Park City. A farm-to-butcher specialty shop with a wood-fired oven, it’s run by chef John Courtney. John is a Chopped Champion with Michelin-star kitchen chops and giant mutton-chop sideburns. He’d written the foreword to Blaine’s book. He greeted us with pony-bottles of Laurent-Perrier champagne, and gave us a taste of his take on an Italian street food item that is essentially a ball of deep-fried cheesy pasta. It is decadent and brilliant.
As guests began arriving, Blaine started churning out stunning pizzas, John put forth a few of his own stunning pizzas, wine was poured, and all were sated and happy. A respite from the storage-unit insanity. Cheers!
Day 6 – This day started out like a winner as well. I had a 7am dentist appointment. It was just a cleaning. It was fast. The hygienist kept repeating, “Your teeth are so clean!” Yay!
Mr. Parker picked me up. I showed him how clean my teeth were and we drove off to the lower unit.
Surprise! After finishing up more quickly than we’d ever imagined, we realized that I had time before my Lyft to the distant dental surgery date to accompany my man on a major dump run. (Garbage dumps and root canals. We know how to party.)
But on the way back from the dump…wait for it… wait for it…
BAM! Slap slap slap slap slap!
Yes, a flat tire. Crap. I had to do what I hate doing: calling my already generous and over-taxed friend to bail me out so I could get to the excitement of that root canal.
She never complained. As Mr. P. was changing the tire (or, more accurately, on the treasure hunt for the hidden cache of tools for changing the tire), she came and picked me up at the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. She left Mr. P. with a bottle of fancy water, I canceled my Lyft, and she drove me about 50 miles to my dreaded appointment with dentistry.
Now, as I’d explained to the nice folks in the dental office days before, I practice great dental hygiene, but I’m a complete weenie when it comes to dental pain. They’d asked if I’d like a Valium beforehand. I replied, “I believe that would be best for all involved.” (Don’t judge.) So I was in the Valium groove by the time I arrived in the chair.
After the doctor examined the area, he dropped the next small dental bomb: “This may or may not be the right tooth.” What?!
Apparently, certainty is not always certain in the realm of dental care. So, we proceeded knowing that I may be back in that chair again soon.
After two and a half hours with my mouth literally wedged open, I wondered if it would be stuck that way for the rest of my life. Me, walking the Earth with my mouth open, waiting for people to throw in quarters.
Day 7 – The last day of purging before packing to move. Everything needed to be packed up, taped shut and readied to roll. With the lower storage unit done and staged for loading, we finished the upper storage unit.
An unwise move was trying to sell a few things at the same time we were packing. Facebook is great for reaching your neighbors who might want to buy your crap. You post pictures. You say things like, “TODAY ONLY FROM 2-4PM! NO EXCEPTIONS!” And people keep showing up early or late, and wanting to have deep conversations. Other people keep texting, asking if they could come at a day, time and place more convenient for them. “NO EXCEPTIONS” does not register with the people who are focused on what it is they want.
The selling was a major time suck. We’re not so smart. Once that was finally done and we netted about 7 cents on the ton, we went to a neighboring town to pick up our second rental van. Yes, tomorrow’s move would to be a two-van operation.
We drove both vans to the lower storage unit and loaded them full. We would be hitting the ground running early the next morning. Why? We only had one day to get all our stuff into the freight company’s trailer, which was parked forty minutes away.
And…task accomplished. Everything made it out of the lower storage unit and into our vans.
Was this going to work? Could we do everything in our estimated three trips? I kept running timing scenarios in my head. Just not sure.
Day 8 – Moving day. 6:30 am. Out the door and down into Salt Lake. The freight company lot was a vast sea of identical trailers. Figuring out where we needed to be took time. But we found our guy, and eventually we found our truck.
We could use as much or as little of the trailer as we wanted/needed. With no moving dolly, Blaine and I began carrying boxes up the ramp and into the cargo space. It was like a giant game of 3-D Tetris. What should go where? How best to protect the art? What bins won’t get crushed on the bottom. Be ever so careful-ish.
9:00 am. One load done. Blaine felt we needed to go to the tire store to deal with the flat spare from two days ago. He was convinced that driving around with heavy loads and without a spare was too great a risk. With the clock ticking loudly in my head and all those mental jumping jacks flailing every which way, I begrudgingly agreed.
Here’s what we learned at the tire store: fuck that flat. All four of our tires had to go. The two rear tires were tread worn, and the two front tires weren’t even meant to be on a cargo-hauling van-like vehicle. They were intended for a passenger vehicle. Potential flats galore!
Everything came to a grinding halt as the nice man in the garage yelled, “Come back in six hours!”, laughed at us, then got to his task. To his credit, he did it all in about 90 minutes. But still, we were burning daylight.
10:30 am. I followed Blaine’s van with its reliable new tires back to the upper storage unit. And here’s some good news. Two friends, whom we never asked for help, volunteered to lend a much-needed hand. With their help, we got both vehicles loaded with what we’d deemed most important and closed the doors. Looking back at what was left we thought, this might actually happen.
12:30 pm. One of our volunteers offered to ride town to SLC with us for loading the trailer. He’d likely have to leave early because of a PT appointment, but could join us again later. Yes, we were offered help moving heavy boxes from the nice man with a bad arm and bad back. And we took it. Don’t judge.
This load was much harder. The Tetris was way more complicated. As predicted, our friend had to leave early. Oh, and by the way, it was really damn hot.
While Blaine was hauling and arranging, I walked across the road to pick up Gatorade and bananas for refueling. By the time we were ready to head back to the mountain for the last load, we were covered in filth. Or maybe it was bananas. Or both.
3:30 pm. We were rejoined by both friends for the loading of the last of the boxes. Another friend showed up for the final push. All in. All of our stuff, crap, shit, treasures and trash were packed in. The final vanloads were ready to be driven down to the valley. Once again, our friend with bad back and the bad arm offered to join us. And once again, without shame, we allowed it to happen.
5:00 pm. When we arrived back at the trailer in the freight depot, I casually asked my friend, “What time do you think we’ll finish?” He answered, “7:00.” My most optimistic guess was 8:00, but I kept that to myself. We were both wrong.
At 9:00pm, everything was in the trailer. But that’s never it, is it? Nope.
The bulkhead panels that would keep our crap in its place inside the trailer, preventing it from cascading into the remaining cargo space, wouldn’t lock into place. Seriously?
More time ticked by as a man from the trucking company found us shiny new panels and helped us install them.
At this point, our friend’s arm was shot, and we were all doing our level best to pretend to be light and act as if this hasn’t been the most ridiculously exhausting day of our lives.
9:30 pm. Time to return the large cargo van. Blaine gave us the address, and with our friend in my little van and the daylight gone, we headed out.
While making our way through the dark, Blaine calls. Wrong address. Shit! “Here’s the right address…Are you mad at me? You sound like you’re mad at me.” “What? No. Let’s do this.”
Okay, I was a little mad. Truthfully, I was just overtired, but it felt like mad. Once the cargo van was parked at the now-closed rental office, Blaine took the wheel of my van with our friend in the passenger seat. I climbed into the back and stretched out on a furniture blanket for the ride home. I did not snore. As far as you know.
10:55 pm. We dropped our friend at his car, made a poor attempt at an adequate thank you, and headed back to our lodging.
But wait. There’s more. Our hosts had left that morning for vacation. We’d be getting inside through the keypad on the garage door. Blaine had the door code in his phone. But his phone battery was dead and he couldn’t access the notes containing the code. OMG. This was never going to end.
Blaine said, “We’re going to have to text our hosts.” (He used their actual names.) I didn’t want to bug our friends on vacation. Remember, they’d already picked us up at the airport, let us use their home, helped us get out the door to Blaine’s event, saved me from the side of the road and driven me to and from my root canal.
No. I wasn’t going to do it. No matter how much Blaine said, “For god’s sake, it’s just a four-second text message, not a small business loan!” No.
Now what? Blaine was about to get in the van and drive to a nearby convenience store to buy a charger cable for his phone so he could plug into the van and charge his phone so he could turn it on to access the four digits that would open the garage door.
Just then, a giant pickup truck rumbled into the driveway. Another friend! She was also staying at the house tonight as well. She knew the code. Halleluiah!
We all hit the kitchen, ate a light snack of leftover pizza, and put a lid on the day. 12:05.
Day 9 – Laundry. I feared that if I didn’t wash our clothes, we’d try to fold them and they’d crack. After getting that going, we returned the second cargo van, returned our unused boxes to Home Depot, and stopped by Chop Shop so Mr. Parker and Chef Courtney could be interviewed for the local paper.
John, being John, made us an incredibly delicious wood-oven toasted roasted pork sandwich that we shared. (Sharing one of his sandwiches still makes you feel as is you may have overeaten. But it’s too good to stop.) In an unexpected turn of events, our dear friend with the bad arm and bad back ambled into the store and we were able to buy him lunch before he expired.
Afterwards, I dropped Mr. Parker at the house, stopped by the library to discuss an upcoming book event, and picked up some wine for dinner with other friends. It seemed like our adventures were coming to an end. Good.
Day 10 – It was Mr. Parker’s turn for a 7:00am dentist appointment. I started packing my bags. When Blaine returned, we reviewed some client work and began cleaning up the place.
And then, we found out we’d been bumped up to first class. Yay!
Then, 20 minutes later, our flight was canceled. Boo!
How not surprising.
When booking the flights, neither of us had focused on the fact that this was Memorial Day weekend. Our non-stop Delta flight from SLC was now two flights with two different airlines. Instead of arriving at 6:30pm, we’d be arriving near midnight. What did that mean?
It meant that the friend who’d be picking us up at the airport in New Orleans and driving us the hour to our home would instead be in bed asleep. Damn. We didn’t mind ordering an Uber or Lyft, but would any driver accept a one-hour midnight drive? How would we get home?
Screw it. We’d cross that bridge if and when we got there. My bigger stress was surrounding our luggage. We typically do all carry on, but Blaine had come across a few items that he wanted to take home that required a checked bag. So, now we’re checking bags and flying two different airlines and hoping baggage control can pull this off without sending out luggage to Bangor. Logistical hell!
But also, out of our hands. We got to the airport, went to the Delta lounge, and had a cocktail. When in doubt, day drink. Don’t judge.
And it seems the day-drinking worked. We still got our first-class seats (such as they were—not every first class is Delta first class). We got our luggage. We got our Lyft. We got home just before midnight.
Epilogue – In the light of the next day, my fingers were throbbing and I was moving extra carefully. My back felt like it could go at any second. Yet, with all of the challenges we ran into, here’s what we avoided:
The day after we flew out, Park City got hit with a late-season blizzard. Once the snow started melting, everything on the mountain turned to a sea of mud. We would’ve never gotten the stuff from the upper unit.
I suddenly felt lucky. Which, of course, we are. Lucky to have so many true friends, without whom we could have never pulled it all off. Lucky us. Tired, dirty, achy, lucky us. And no broken friends. Living careful-ishly again!
On a scale of one to ten?
Go with me on this.
You’re in a doctor’s office because something hurts. Maybe it’s your stomach, a persistent pain in your shoulder, or a twisted ankle.
Sitting in the harsh lighting of this clinical space, hoping for relief, you’re asked the inevitable question, probably by a nurse: “Can you describe your pain on a scale of one to ten?”
I’ve been in this situation too many times. And no, I’m not a hypochondriac. (That’s my dad.) The answer I always want to give is, “No. I can’t.”
I have actually given that answer and it’s been met with this question. “But can you try?”
Here’s my problem with this question. My scale of one to 10 will differ from the nurse’s scale of one to 10, which likely differs from the scale of the last person she/he asked that useless question to.
If I say “five,” and on their scale my pain would have been an eight, am I getting the right treatment? I say no.
If (god forbid) I want pain medication, will I get it if I say five?
But if I say nine will I seem needy? Will they think I’m a closeted addict?
Once upon a time, I had a skiing accident. Well, I’ve actually had lots of them, but this is the one that required immediate medical attention.
I’d been skiing on a slope that was too steep, with too many moguls and too much deep, heavy, wet snow. I was skiing over one of those moguls, my skis decided to stop, and in the tradition of gravity sports, my body kept going forward. I heard something snap.
The snap was the tearing of my large calf muscle. Crazy pain. When I finally got to the ski patrol medical hut, the very nice, very saccharin, very condescending nurse asked me in a voice which should be reserved only for small children, “Can you describe your pain on a scale of one to ten?”
In a clear, level tone, I responded: “I want a big bucket of drugs.”
See gave a small laugh as if to say, “I know you’re joking.” I was not. She then said, “But can you describe your pain on a scale of one to ten?”
As someone who’s never before been so clear about their pain, I thought: Two can play this game. You’re gonna repeat yourself? Back at ya. “I want a big. Bucket. Of. Drugs.”
I was having the kind of pain that makes people pass out. Passing out is arguably a 10+. And the people who pass out are obviously measuring using a different scale than I am. I was still awake and cogent and in pain.
I think a better question is, “On a scale of one to ten, what is your ability to suffer fools?”
Answer, minus five.
But your scale may vary.
Honey Parker has been writing, writing, writing for decades, decades, decades. In there, she has also been a standup comedian, a Hollywood screenwriter, a director, and a co-author of edgy business books. Careful-ish is her debut novel. It is the first in a trilogy. It is comedy-ish.