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.
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!
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.
The Oscar Speech That Changed Your Life And Other Stuff That Didn't Happen Sunday Night.
Here in the US, Sunday was Oscars night. What did that give us? Everything I expected, and a few things nobody saw coming.
As expected, there was endless coverage of celebs arriving at the venue and talking about earth-shaking matters like their clothing. The phrase, “Who are you wearing?” was asked many times. Nobody answered by saying, “That question literally makes no sense.” Or, “I’m wearing Nancy and boy are her arms tired.”
However, this was the first live Oscar event in two years. People were just itching to trot out or answer that now time-honored question. It’s a question which, if I remember correctly, was first coined by the late Joan Rivers. So OK, we’re back live. “Who are you wearing?” “Nobody you can afford without a second mortgage.” OK!
Next came the expected opening monologue with someone (or paired someones) trying their best to be funny. But now that we’re in a time when being funny is fraught with danger, what might happen? (Try not to flash forward to Chris Rock just yet.) I waited and wondered.
Amy Schumer did a fine job of deflecting danger and stupidity. She starting with self-deprecating humor. Amy pointed out her own full figure, saying “Not Bad for one year after a baby, [applause!] well two, closer to three.” Smart. She made fun of herself, which then allowed her to make fun of others. Careful-ishly. She finished by saying, “I’ll do my best to stay present…until I pass out.”
Amy was then joined by Wanda Sykes and Regina Hall and quipped, “This year the academy hired three women to host because it’s cheaper than hiring one man.” Big laughs. Seems it’s still safe to make fun of the men. Then, when Wanda referenced Black Twitter. Amy asked, “Black Twitter, what’s that?” Wanda and Regina shook their heads. “No, no. Not for you.” So, also on the Careful-ishly safe list is black people pointing out how not-in-tune white people are. And of course, making fun of the movies themselves is still safe. Wanda joked, “Power Of The Dog. I watched that movie three times and I’m almost half way through it.”
The unexpected touching moments for me included when CODA won awards. Each time, the audience showed their appreciation, signing their applause by fluttering their hands in the air. If you don’t know, the acronym CODA stands for “Children Of Deaf Adults.” And I did love the movie, so that was nice. I’m signing my applause right now, in fact. Can you feel the flutter?
An expected touching moment is the In Memoriam. Strangely, I always look forward to the montage of much-loved people from the film industry who passed away during the last year. It’s like a trip down memory lane. For some reason, I enjoy wrapping myself in the sadness of the loss as if I was close to them. And typing this makes me feel like an idiot for sharing so much. But for me, the touching moment didn’t happen. While they did the In Memoriam segment, there were dancers and singers in front of the on-stage screen showing the montage. This staging completely took away from those being remembered. Bummer.
Then, this was particularly, oddly unexpected: the presentation was stopped three times to pay extra tribute. The tributees were, respectively, Sidney Poitier, Ivan Reitman and Betty White. The feeling was Yes, many Hollywood people died. But these three Hollywood people were the best of the Hollywood dead people. I imagined the families and friends of all the others being remembered watching this slight. How pissed were they? I would have totally called “bullshit” and turned off the show, then thought, “God, I miss Betty White.”
Next, back to the expected: the instructive acceptance speeches by stars informing us of the injustices in our world. Yep, freedom of speech. I’m for it. But why, why, WHY do these very privileged and wealthy people think that if they tell us all about things like prejudice (which by the way, I’m already against), someone at home will say, “Ya know, I been a bigot all my life, but gosh damn, that Brandy Chastain is right. I’m changing my ways, starting now. Quick! Find me a lesbian to hug!”
Up next and most unexpected: Chris Rock and the slap heard round the world. Apparently, Jada Pinkett Smith humor is unsafe and un-careful-ish. So noted. Someone posted this about Will Smith’s assault on Rock: “This kind of behavior is why his mom moved him to his Auntie and Uncle in Bel Air in the first place.” But this unfortunate event has already been over-covered, so I’ll stop there.
What else? Oh, yeah. Liza. Whose idea was that? Liza Minelli was in no condition. But then again… And it seems Lady Gaga’s new job description includes being escort to giant, older stars who are slipping away to supernova. And trust me, I’m not making fun people slipping. I’ve been through it with loved ones. Lady Gaga handled it with grace, offering Liza as much dignity as possible. She could be heard telling the icon, “I got you.” Still, t’was not a Cabaret, ol’ chum.
So, what have we learned? A) Careful who you joke about. Being on national television does not save you from a smackdown. B) Betty White was more important than Olympia Dukakis. C) Brandy Chastain’s statuette acceptance speech will turn the tide on bigotry and hatred. D) At some point, we’ll all want Lady Gaga by our side.
Cheers and stay Careful-ish,
It was only a matter of time, right?
The author of the series that laughs at COVID lockdown (you know who she is) finally tested positive for COVID and went into lockdown. Ugh!
Just to be clear, I was never laughing at COVID, only the nutty behavior that came out of being shut in for endless days, months, years.
Yet karma found me. Not only did I test positive, but I tested positive while on the road. I’d traveled to Park City for skiing and celebrating a friend’s birthday. Several days into my trip, someone we’d been hanging out with called to say that he just tested positive. Crap. So, the couple I was visiting and I immediately jumped into the car and raced over to the urgent care for a lengthy session of spitting into vials.
I’d done this once before with Mr. Parker. That time was (dare I say it?) fun. We were sitting in our car, parked outside the hospital, doing our best to generate the required amount of spit while enjoying the beautiful view of snow-covered mountains. Relatively sure we were going to be negative, the whole thing just seemed ridiculous enough to laugh at. So, we did. We laughed a lot.
This time was nothing like that time and no one was laughing.
My two friends and I were now parked beneath the urgent care in a concrete parking bunker that was reminiscent of the scene in All the President’s Men where Robert Redford meets Deep Throat. All very clandestine and foreboding.
Not wanting to wait three days for the official results, we stopped at the pharmacy on the way back and purchased home-test kits. First, we fumbled with all the vials and swabs and instructions, worried we’d screw it up. Then we got underway. Swab, swab, dip, swirl, drop, wait. And not long.
In about 10 seconds, two dark red, parallel lines glared at me from my test stick. It was clear that I’d tested positive. G*d damn it! My friends, who both tested negative, encouraged me to retest. These things had been known to give false results and because mine came up so quickly, perhaps something wasn’t right. So, with a sinking heart, I agreed to burn another test kit. Can you guess the result?
I looked my friends in the eye, tried to not cry, gathered my nuts and berries (i.e., jacket and phone) and went upstairs to wait out the next five days under quarantine in one of their guest bedrooms.
Could this suck more? I suppose it could. But I needed at least a good hour to feel sorry for myself before I could begin looking at the bright side.
After my hour (perhaps three) had passed, I was ready to try to consider that bright-ish side:
1) My friends’ home is far from small. The room I was in was bright and spacious.
2) I was indeed at a friend’s house, not a Motel 6. (Not that there’s anything wrong with Motel 6. But five days locked inside “the lowest-priced room of any national chain” doesn’t come with a lot of jazz hands no matter how long they leave the light on.)
3) Number three? My host’s birthday was two days away. I’d get to be locked in a room while listening to other people having a raucous drinkfest mere feet away from the closed door. Oh, wait. That’s not a bright side. Yup. I was stepping back into the darkness.
Calling Mr. Parker didn’t do much to help the situation. Why? He laughed at me. He said he felt bad for me, but he was laughing while saying it. I get it. I do. It was ridiculous, therefore laughable. But it didn’t help. At least not yet.
So, I sat. Then I slept. Then I sat some more. It was a beautiful, bluebird ski day, but there would be no skiing for me. I was a leper. Too dramatic? Fine, back to the bright side. I didn’t feel sick at all. That was good, right? Wrong. In truth, my good health only added to the frustration. If I was achy or had a fever, or a sore throat, sequestering from life would seem more of an imperative. Ugh.
It's so hard to stay bright. Let me try again. My friends brought me a rolling desk so I could set up my computer and get work done. And another friend, who knew of my captivity, dropped off soup. Yet another friend brought me flowers. Well, she left them at the door and ran. But, okay. I’m a leper with lovely friends.
Later, because I was asymptomatic (a phrase I used more in five days then I ever had in my entire life previously), my friends encouraged me to retest. This time the stick did not immediately show a positive. Was there hope? Nope. After about five minutes, the telltale second line came up red. Albeit, not as red as on day one. But still, back to solitary.
The bright side? I was getting a lot of work done. Work that I’d been putting off because I had better things to do, more fun things. Not now. At least now I was being productive. So, sitting and working. Then I remembered YouTube with its endless rabbit holes. What to watch? I believe I viewed every Kennedy Center Honors telecast ever recorded. I heart you, YouTube.
Next day: Birthday bash. The birthday boy, my host, hates that anyone should miss a party. He suggested that I could stand in my bedroom doorway and look over the mezzanine railing and down onto the party below. (OMG! How sad would that be?) Very politely, I passed. But I decided to get out of my softies, (sweatshirt and stretchy pants) and dress like a person, just in case. In case what? I wasn’t sure. At least I wouldn’t feel like a patient.
Right before people started arriving, Birthday Boy came to my door and asked if I’d like the hired bartender to mix me a margarita. “They’re really good.” I thought, Ya know what? I could use a good cocktail right about now. “Sure!” He walked off to place my order. And I did not hear from him again for the rest of the evening. Back to the dark side.
I found a video of Bette Midler’s Kennedy Center Honors. That helped. Then, knock, knock! A rapping at my chamber door by a party reveler who’d recently gotten over COVID. In truth, she wasn’t looking for me. She was wondering where my cat was. This is the cat I’d given to a friend several years ago because I’m on the road too much, and it was the right thing to do, and I still feel completely guilty about. So, this was not a fun exchange. When her boyfriend came to find her and stood there at the door, politely staring in at me, it felt like I was in a terrarium. Make it stop! Finally, they moved on to other, actual fun.
But, bright side. They let the birthday boy’s wife (my dear friend) know that I never got my drink. Up came an entire bottle of whiskey. While that seemed like overkill, I welcomed it with open arms. I stayed in my chair until the wee hours of the morning when the sound of revelry finally died down enough that I thought I might sleep.
The next morning I was again asked how I was feeling. “Fine,” I said. I’d always felt fine. “You should retest.” Ugh. I didn’t really want to, but they were anxious for me to gain my freedom. Who really wants anyone locked in their guest room? It starts to feel like a bad cable show about awkward social situations. (Or perhaps, a series of novels?) So I tested. Again. Waited. Again. Could this be possible? “I think I’m negative.” My friend took a look. And even with his eyes officially one year older, he was able to see a faint second red line. Back to my chamber.
At this point the whole thing was starting to seem funny, even to me. And my cell was feeling like my new home. Was this my life now? So odd how quickly that happens.
But a better mood made the rest of my count-down to freedom pass more easily. Oh wait. That’s right. I forgot to mention that since about two hours into lockdown, I’d kept a countdown clock on my computer desktop. Every time I spoke to Mr. Parker, I’d report how many hours where left. 104 hours. 89 hours. 72, 54, 37… I could now see the finish line.
But then—an entirely new concern! What happens when I get home? Do I need to sleep in a separate bedroom from my guy for another five nights? I posed this to Mr. Parker and he laughed. “I’m not worried.” When I told a friend his response, she called him a daredevil. Daredevil? I started wondering if Red Bull would sponsor him. At least send one of those blue helmets with the charging red bulls. The sport would be called, “Extreme Spousing.”
When the countdown clock hit zero, it was time to head home. I went from my residential prison to the car to airport to airline lounge to plane to Mr. Parker picking me up at arrivals with no hugging and no kissing and no breathing without a mask.
When I finally got home seven hours later, and I had to know. I took out my last test kit. Drum roll…
The next morning, I reminded myself to be careful what I choose to write about. Karma’s a bitch. Then I remembered what my next series of novels is about. I am so screwed.
LOCKDOWN BONUS: While under quarantine, I was a guest on the Australian podcast Stories: The True And The Fictional. It’s the most fun I’ve ever had in an interview. Maybe I was just happy for people to actually talk to. You can hear it at Apple Podcasts by clicking here.
I’m just going to come out and say it. Since when does curvy mean fat?
I did not get the memo.
Why am I bringing this up now?
I recently finished writing the third book in the Careful-ish series (thank you), and sent it to my editor. When he questioned one character’s physical appearance, I was taken aback. He assumed that Carmen was overweight. I asked why he thought that, and he said it was because I had described her as curvy.
Doesn’t curvy mean someone with curves? An ample bust, a smaller waist, nice hips…curves?
So, I argued with him.
Not being one to let things go, he needed to prove his point. That’s his job. I, of course, was waiting for him to be proven wrong. But no. If you Google “curvy,” you’re flooded with images of plus size women.
This can’t be.
So, I went to the dictionary. “Curvy – (Of a woman's figure) shapely and voluptuous.” See!
But then I went to the Urban Dictionary which says, “Despite popular belief, curvy does not mean fat. Curvy is an hour-glass figure; large breasts, hips, and with a comparatively small waist.”
Popular belief? Why is that belief popular?
My impression is that too many people walking the Earth feel that any departure from a stick figure is fat, unwelcome, not desirable, not worthy of being desired.
Depressing. But there is hope.
I recently moved to the American deep south. And I am pleased to say that things here are a bit different in regard to framing the curvy debate. I was invited to someone’s pool. When I said that I wasn’t feeling particularly bathing suit-ish after New Year’s Eve, she said, “Oh come on. I’m fluffier than you.”
I love fluffy.
All of a sudden, having a shape other than a straight line was a warm fuzzy. Playful. Dare I say, desirable?
So, what is the take away?
I’d like to reclaim the word “curvy.” To embrace it. Because curves are worth embracing. No matter how large or small, curves are visually interesting, can be exciting, and are worthy of being embraced.
Curvy is not a size. It can be thin, ample, large and beyond.
Curvy is shapely.
So, if—excuse me, when you read Daughter of Careful-ish or the forthcoming Bride of Careful-ish, please know that Carmen is a beautiful, curvy Latina. And you’d be crazy not to be attracted to her.
I did it. I left the country.
We were invited to visit an old friend of Mr. Parker’s in Mexico. The two hadn’t seen each other in about 25 years, and I’d never met the man. But, they both seemed to think it was a swell idea. Also, this old friend had told my husband that we should come for at least two weeks. “So much to see.” So, a plan was made. Plane tickets were purchased. Careful-ish-ness cast to the wind!
With travel being open-ish, then closing again somewhat, then kind of relaxing again, we had no idea if we’d actually be able to travel when the time came. But, as luck would have it, Mexico had no travel requirements for Americans to enter the country other than a vaccination card. We had those. Plus, we’d both caeful-ishly gotten boosters. The only catch: the U.S. would require us to show proof of a negative COVID test 72 hours or less before returning home, and that was easily attainable.
But, what to expect when we got there? Who knew? We weren’t going to one of those places that Americans typically go to for long sessions of lounging on a beach with umbrella drinks. We were headed to Cholula Puebla. This is where Mr. Parker’s friend, John and his wife own and operate a craft brewery. Oooooh. The friend has a brewery! It’s called Cerveceria Crazy Moon. Ulterior motive? We can stay home and drink beer, ya know. No passport required.
The flight to Mexico City was on one of our favorite carrier’s older planes. That was bummer number one. (Not that I’m counting.) We tried to not let it get us down. We whipped through immigration and dashed for the motor coach (see: nice bus) for the two-hour ride to Puebla. While we got to the counter in time, sweaty and panting, the bus was sold out. We had to wait another 90 minutes. Bummer number two. Once aboard our bus, it turned out they had a movie. A movie! Yay! Except—loud audio throughout the coach. We got to hear Peter Rabbit starring Rose Byrne and Sam Neill dubbed in Spanish. Loud. Bummer number three. And that, my friends, was the end of the bummers. These are first-world problems.
Arriving in Puebla, John greeted us with open arms. And his wife, who neither of us had ever even spoken to, treated us like old friends. We brought a bottle of craft bourbon as a gift, shared it alongside some craft beer, then promptly passed out.
The rest of the two weeks featured tours of beautiful old towns, a visit to the largest pyramid in Mexico, enjoying various kinds of street food, learning much about Day of The Dead, and enjoying the company of our friend’s friends. Truly, that latter part was the best. Everywhere we went, we felt like we were upping the U.S. population by 100%. It was a rich dive into someone else’s culture. Warm and fascinating. I could go on too long.
But what of COVID? The Mexicans have a much different approach to COVID than we do in the U.S. Everyone was wearing a mask, even while walking down the street. All public places, restaurants, churches, museums, all of them take your temperature before you can enter. There are hand sanitizer pumps everywhere. And no one had a problem with it. No one. When we asked about their mindset, our friends told us that everyone was determined to do everything possible to keep businesses open.
Speaking of business, we visited our friend’s tasting room and brewery. And I’m not just blowing beer foam when I say: the product is exceptional. The Munich-style Helles lager reminded me of Oktoberfest in Munich. The IPA was easy drinking without being overtly bitter. And the stout was rich without being heavy. It’s a bourgeoning craft brewery, and I can’t wait until they export to the U.S.
It was a magical time in Mexico. We’d been there long enough that we acclimated. It all just began to feel like home. That is, until it was time to leave. We’d gotten our swab-to-the back-of the-brain COVID test, which was comical. My Spanish left me as the very nice nurse with the foot-long swab up my nose kept laughing and saying, “¡Gracias!” And, of course, we were COVID-negative. All good.
Our flight out of Mexico City was very early, so we’d decided to spend the night at the Airport Hilton. Smart, right?
Wrong. Good luck finding the Airport Hilton at Mexico City Terminal One. Mr. Parker had seen online that it wasn’t easy to locate, but it’s literally in the airport. So come on. How bad can it be?
We walked the length of the terminal four times, getting wrong directions from multiple airport employees. Yet, find it we did. Next, our very fine dinner in an airport steakhouse cost us more money than any other meal during our trip (yet half the price of a comparable meal at home). After that, we returned to the hotel bar for an adult beverage. That’s where we heard all the stories of people whose flights had been cancelled the previous day due to bad weather in Atlanta.
Realizing that we’d be getting home well before people scheduled to leave before us, I let it all go—until the next day, when the non-VIP treatment in the airline VIP lounge let us know that the best part of our trip was well over. It was filled with entitled passengers and surly staffers. But, two uneventful flights and we were home—home where no one was wearing a mask.
The bottom line? Traveling during COVID is just plain weird. The being-someplace-else part is fine. Allow yourself to adopt their rhythm of life and it all seems normal. Then, traveling back breaks the spell. It was the trip of a lifetime with people I hope to count as friends forever. Will I travel again in the near future? Mmmm…we’ll see.
I am one of the few people bummed at masking rules being loosened. And no, it’s not flattering. It’s 100% vanity.
I hate my nose!
There. I said it. I never talk about it but it’s bothered me all my life. My nose is, in a word, large. It’s the kind of ethnic nose that makes people say things like, “But it’s a part of you.” “We love you the way you are.” Or my personal fave, “It gives you character.” Really? I’m lousy with character. I have too much character. My character should be continued on the next person. I don’t need an oversized nose to let folks in on that non-secret.
Over the years, I’ve considered and reconsidered getting a nose job--a process more attractively known as rhinoplasty. Hello, rhino!
But then came the mask mandates. At the beginning, they took some getting used to. How many times did I get to a destination and realize I had to go back home and get a mask? We finally started leaving them in the car.
And then came the inevitable pictures. I always have my phone with me which for me (as it is for most teenage girls) at least as much of a camera as a communication device. In selfies with my mask, I’m reduced to eyes and hair. It’s an image I can live with. The nose? Under there somewhere, but it didn’t pull focus.
I imagined that those who knew me might think something like, “I can’t see her nose. I know it’s large, but it’s probably not as large as I remember.” And those who didn’t know me might think, “Hey, is she a WASP?”
So, when we began seeing fewer mask requirements, I began feeling a twinge of sadness. I’m as happy as the next person to be able to work out without sucking cotton, or go to a restaurant without accidentally trying to put a fork through my face covering. But I just look better with one on.
But now, be still my heart! As I write this, the CDC is talking about going back to masking up in certain situations. I also feel a bit guilty about saying that. Should I be more upset? I’m upset for the social condition, for sure. Was it brought on by my vanity? Probably not. I’m just not that powerful.
Ultimately, I’ll follow guidelines and mask up when needed. And I’ll know in my heart that on those occasions, I’ll look like the smaller-nosed person I’d always hoped to be.
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.