Saturday, August 25, 2012

Well Visit to West Virginia

Sandy and Denny's House--Berkeley Springs

Last weekend we went to West Virginia. I am missing a tooth, so we were immediately let across the state line. My tooth has been cosmetically corrected, but we were still let in. Okay, enough cheap shots at West Virginia.

We are fortunate to have friends with a weekend house in Berkeley Springs, and it is really lovely there. Really. We started a family tradition of going at least one night each summer since the boys were little; and we do the same thing every time we go, sort of a West Virginia version of Groundhog's Day. We drive down on Saturday in time for lunch; the men go to Tony's Butcher Block to hunt and gather dinner; we go to the Capacon Resort State Park Lake, which we fondly call The Redneck Riviera, where we swim and count the tattoos; we go to the live music concert (featuring everything from Zydeco to rock and roll cellists) in Berkeley Springs State Park; then we go home and eat very well--Tony's exquisite steaks, really good corn on the cob, and Sandy's delicious peach cobbler; enjoy some time on the deck under the crystal clear skies; sleep like babies with cool breezes and open windows. The next morning we eat a nice breakfast; go to the farmer's market to buy local produce and homemade pie; and then we hit the road.

Last weekend there was a slight variation--no boys; they both had their own getaway plans, so Darr and I went on our own. We still stuck closely to the program, but we chose to skip the Redneck Riviera and were able to go to a Happy Hour before the concert in the park. Also, we had missed last summer and our friends had moved to a nicer bigger house higher up in the hollers which we had yet to see. Gorgeous.

Although you are only about an hour and a half from Washington, DC, you feel a million miles away both through the presence of nature and the absence of stress. People are a little different there too, artsier, friendlier, hippier, with a sprinkling of hillbilly. We often spend our time at the concert chatting about the local characters. One of the prominent women in the community believes in fairies and talks to cats. There are hundreds of such stories. I think there's book material there.

Meanwhile, I plan to book my trip for next summer. It's a rejuvenating, joyful jaunt every time.

Skidmore Website Publishes Story on Peter's College Search

Peter at Whitman Graduation 2011
Here's the story:
...with a link to the Washingtonian article.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Nomen Est Omen (first in a series)

“Nomen est omen” is Latin for the “name is the (an) omen.”  I have always been intrigued by this phenomenon. I like those that stretch beyond the obvious Bakers and Fishers. Anthony Weiner’s fate might have been different had he been born with a less ominous name.
There are two fine examples in the news right now—Helen Gurley Brown, who devoted her life to helping girlies; and Usain Bolt, who will be the first to tell you he is the fastest man in the world.
Please feel free to contribute your favorites.

Monday, August 13, 2012

24 on 95

(I wrote this in 2009 after our last trip to from Maryland to Maine.)

"24 on 95"

We recently took a summer trip from Bethesda to Maine.  I like to say it is a 10-hour drive, and this is the way I can talk myself into doing it again and again. But really, facing facts, it is twelve. Twelve there and twelve back--a commitment to take a full day out of one’s life and spend nearly every minute of it on our nation’s loveliest highway, Interstate 95.

Franky spent the drive up in some form of sleeping sickness. Having just returned from a so-called “sleep-away camp,” he was quite exhausted, and devoted the trip to sleeping through hundreds of miles and several states.  But once he woke up, his bladder was in overdrive and we had to make several stops for him to pee.  I guess the 10 hour itinerary could be achievable if we were to own the proverbial Piss Pot. As my son asked, when we couldn’t stop the car soon enough for his liking: “Can I just pee in a jar?” We considered the modern day solution while browsing at a Wal-Mart --Depends undergarments.  But I would like to research the availability of authentic piss pots, perhaps tracking them down at Ye Olde Antique Shoppes filled with wares from the Middle Ages.  We spent quite a bit of time discussing the piss pot with friends who had bested our torturous journey by driving all the way from Tucson to Maine, and they too had identified the tremendous need for this type of product.   Piss pots play prominent film roles and are oft fetched by boys in The Madness of King George and by various Month Python characters.  Where are they now when we need them? May I propose the introduction of a newly branded product-- The EZPiss©, an EZ pass for the bladder, eliminating, if you will, the need to stop the car or even slow down.

Speaking of the EZ Pass, this tiny white cube of plastic affixed to the windshield has to be one of the best new innovative technologies ever invented.  How many precious moments we saved by being able to whiz through the toll booths while a satellite magically recorded our every move and automatically billed the tolls to our credit card.  How retro to have to slow down and talk to one of those poor toll booth workers (whose jobs are always featured among the occupations-most-likely-to-lead-to-suicide), to scrounge around in your pocket, or paw through the now antiquated “ash tray” for change.  And whiz we did…until we needed to whiz.

Each of the rest stops had its own local color. The New Jersey Turnpike even names their rest stops after famous locals, dead of course, because what living soul would want this honor? Only Howard Stern craves such a distinction.  My older son was quite horrified to see a rest stop named after his high school, Walt Whitman.  By the time I got to the Molly Pilcher Rest Area, I was so punch drunk that I fell into an infantile form of humor. When someone stepped ahead of a woman in a sari and said “I’m sorry.” I told Franky I thought the woman should have said, “No, I’m sari.”  He told me it was the worst he has ever heard from me. That’s saying something.

There are many ways passengers can entertain themselves on a long drive in this day and age. One can read if one has the proper vestibular constitution, and the whole family is blessed with it. One can do puzzles, one can watch movies, one can listen to music or talk shows or comedians (the second prize in road trip technology, after the EZ Pass, goes to satellite radio).  Peter devoted himself to watching the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, figuring this would bite into a good nine hours’ worth of the trip.  The boys read, watched movies, did not complain of ass pain.  I was quite amazed at everyone’s ability to do so very little for so very long.   I told the boys about the sad old days of yore when my parents and I were on long car trips and I would be set up with one of those count-the-license-plate books. Despite the DVD player, IPods, a DS Nintendo game, CD’s and 240 satellite radio stations, my younger son longed for one of the activity books. Instead we instructed him to see how many pick-up drivers had mustaches. It was 100 percent.  As a child, I also used to devise bizarre self-entertainments like making the sign of the cross every time we passed a church (most puzzling to my two agnostic parents), a variation of holding your breath when you go past a cemetery, which the boys do to the point of hyperventilation.

I think that travel calories don’t count, so I always treat myself to an extravagance on the road, a king sized bag of Cheetos.  Fellow travelers we observed seemed have no problem with year round high caloric intake, and we witnessed a great deal of what a doctor in South Carolina calls “biscuit toxicity.”

The states largely flew with the exception of the New York City metropolitan area;   it demanded to be observed in all its glory by deliberately bringing traffic to a standstill.   A well-timed one hour special by Bruce Coburn on Sirius intervened on the way up, but going back we just had to grimace and endure it.

Maine’s state motto is The Way Life Should Be. By the time you get there and see that “Welcome to Maine” sign, you believe with all your heart that getting off 95 is the way life should be.  But when you arrive, after 12 hours on the road, with leg cramps, white knuckles, and headlights and red lights seared into your retina, you really feel like it’s the way life could have been and should have been had you been there.  But that day you missed it.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Goose Gets Gray; Maine Plays Misty for Me

Okay, it was long overdue, a gray foggy day. This is Maine, after all, and we had six continuous days of sunshine which is unusual to say the least. Secretly, we all wanted a day like this. So we got it. I started the morning playing tennis with a woman I met at the round robin on Wednesday.  During the middle of a point she stopped the game because a caterpillar was crossing the court. She got a leaf, carefully wrapped up the caterpillar and took it to a grassy area, saying: "I want you to turn into a butterfly."  This is all you need to know about this woman. Talk about random acts of kindness.  We are friends now.

We went to the Wells National Estuarine Research Reserve for a couple of trail walks, one to the densely foggy ocean, one through the ferns and marshes and birches and maples. The main feature of the outing was a density of mosquitoes so thick we had to run back to the car for Deet and cover ourselves in poison just to save our hides.

We drove around, the boys did some candle pin bowling, we went to a bookstore, we stopped for lunch at a place where the sign advertised the best lobster rolls in Maine and were told by a crusty old lobster man that they weren't making lobster rolls today.

We made up for it at dinner where the boys bibbed up for the final crustacean crescendo.

Tomorrow...back to crabby old Maryland.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Glamour tips for a week at the beach in Maine

The Maine Event--You've Earned It!
1. Do not get a manicure before you go. Your first (if not second, third or fourth) lobster dinner will completely trash it. There is a lot of crustacean excavation required on site and manicures have no business here.

2. Do get a pre-trip pedicure for color but the beach is going to offer lots of supplemental pedicure treatment for free--exfoliation, smoothing, soothing; you can get your feet warm in the sand and then plunge them into the ocean or a little tidal pool to cool them off. Such services could get a little pricey at Elizabeth Arden but here they are just another beach benny.

3. Do not use tan in a can products before the trip, especially the partial leg shorts tan. When the real tan catches up with you in your real bathing suit, it just looks stupid.

4.  Do not bring your hair straightening iron and your smoothing gels. These things are useless in the face of the sea air. Surrender to the waves and the waves.

5. Do not take much jewelry. You won't need it.

6. To avoid gaining weight on your vacation, do the following--sleep late, exercise soon after that, eat breakfast late and SKIP LUNCH. That way you are not only deserving of but ready for the Maine event, the lobstah dinnah.

7. Do not over pack. You won't need as many outfit changes as you think. You may succumb to the purchase of a local t-shirt or sweatshirt. It is perfectly acceptable to wear the same outfit more than once. We are at the beach on vacation for God's sake.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Eating reds and my coffee too

On the menu: lobster, lobster and more lobster
We spent our last night with Joe at Nunan's Lobster Hut in Cape Porpoise where the menu consists of one small lobster; two small lobsters; one large lobster; two large lobsters; lobster stew and lobster salad. Decor-lobster buoys up above; lobster bibs down below. I bibbed up for the twin special, which strictly prohibits sharing but we dodged the lob cop and I slipped a couple of claws to the boys.  

The next morning after some blueberry coffee, which is only palatable in Maine, we bid adieu to our Traipser only to see him return when he realized that he forgot his laptop. Despite his concerns about guests and fish, we insisted he stay a third night; we were having fish anyway.

We have exhausted the house supply of watchable DVD’s-Our Man Flint, which Darr said would explain Austin Powers and Rainman which I said would explain "I am an excellent driver."

We located the local tomatoes leading to a conversation in which we said they just need a little salt and “that’s all,” which we realized is “that sal” in French and Spanish.  
Yesterday we went to the Rachel Carson’s National Wildlife Preserve where we had to explain to the boys that Rachel is largely responsible for the environmental movement of today. Too bad she died in 1964 and never got to see Al Gore’s movie.  We found a driving range where Franky could practice his driving without a permit.  
These tide charts are amazing, and much more reliable than bus schedules. We got up today for the morning low tide-10:18 a.m. achievable even in a house of big sleepers. The shape of the beach completely changes at low tide and allows you to walk to what appear to be distant land masses during high tide.
Today I was wearing my “I am not a tourist. I live here” t-shirt on the beach which made people smile. If only they had seen the back they would have realized it is a promotion for Washingtonian magazine. But as my mother once wisely told me: "They can’t see you coming and going, dear.”
Off to the Ladies Round Robin to play my favorite sport with women who I imagine will be in good spirits if not good sports.

The glory of Goose Rocks Beach

Monday, August 6, 2012

Visiting dignitary

Joe Rhodes and his Traipsmobile (in Bethesda)
Quite unexpectedly, we have been joined by our dear friend Joe Rhodes whom we met in Tucson when he was a writer for the Arizona Daily Star for just one year, 1979-1980. We then bonded for life. Joe is a brilliant writer and hilarious human being and for the past two years has been on an odyssey traveling the country in a tricked-out former TV news van which now serves as his home complete with satellite dish, fridge and all of the amenities of home. In fact it is his home. And in it he follows the sun, or rather the lack of sun in the summer and the presence of sun in the winter, to be in optimally pleasing climes year round. That is why it is no coincidence that he finds himself in Maine in August; and came here from Newfoundland, which he says is basically Ireland, full of highly extroverted party-hearty fishermen. He says it is the first time he had to sneak out of a bar because so many people wanted to buy him a drink. Check out his blog Traipsathon. Joe keeps everyone updated on his whereabouts through Twitter and Facebook and if he finds himself in a place where friends live, he is likely to drop in, park the Traipsmobile in your driveway, perhaps do a load of laundry, sleep in a "real bed" and then move on. This is our third visit by the Traipsmobile. He sustains this existence by filing entertainment stories for The New York Times. Speaking of entertainment, Joe has a quite personal connection to the movie Bernie--the story of the meanest woman in Carthage, Texas who was shot dead by her mortician boyfriend and stored in a freezer. That woman, played by Shirley McLaine, was Joe's aunt. Really. Read his NYT Story How My Aunt Marge Ended Up in the Deep Freeze.

Meanwhile we set achievable vacation goals for the day--mine was to do a morning run and then go the beach. Darr's was to find a fresh produce stand. Peter and Franky's were to sleep late, go to the beach and then go on a family-fun-filled trip to Walmart. Going to Walmart is something we would  never do at home, so these trips are strictly associated with mirth and girth.

Native Fruits!
...from this fine establishment

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Goose Rocks Beach, Maine

The view from my desk
Goose Rocks Beach really does not want you to know that it is here. There are no neon signs indicating its presence from the highway (Route 9). There are a few wooden signs in the shape of arrows with various commercial enterprises on the main road leading into the community, but it is easy to miss, as evidenced by my attempt to find it a couple of weeks ago on the Thelma and Louise trip. We blew right by it.  GRB has a Kennebunkport mailing address, but all they really share is a zip code.  Goose Rocks Beach has a small town sweetness,  hundreds of summer cottages, all tightly packed on quiet, bike filled streets. The toddlers can ride their trikes and the teens their bikes. And ringed by the prize, a three mile stretch of soft sandy beach featuring your friend and mine, the Atlantic Ocean.  The beach is lined with a variety of ocean front manses from ostentatious new builds to old cottages and behind them the houses that have grown vertically to get a view of the blue. That's where I am...on the third floor of a year-round residence rental (as opposed to a cottage) looking out a porthole window at the sea. "Sixty yards from the beach," as advertised.

During one of my stays in nearby Biddeford Pool I discovered the Goose Rocks Beach Community Center, which has four lovely tennis courts and an active group of players. It is run by an old former high school coach named Mike, whom everyone calls Coach. He was still there, even though we have been away for the past two summers, he pretended to remember me. Maybe he did. So did the tennis captain. There is a lot of continuity here, families who own houses and have been coming their entire lives, and many repeat renters, the kind who sign the lease for next summer the day they check out.

I started my day with the Tennis Round Robin which I know the GRBC hosts every Sunday at 9 a.m. And as the haze turned to sunshine, I hit the beach. There was a breeze coming off the ocean, there were kids throwing seaweed, playing paddle ball, building sand castles. All of the things you are supposed to see at the beach. They don't call it a day at the beach for nothing. I feel restored and refreshed and reminded of my childhood summers in Maine, when I used to sleep until noon and then spend the afternoon on the beach reading and writing.

This made us fforget the 11 hour drive
We are not going to discuss the eleven hour drive here because it all forgotten now. But we are going to discuss what our second stop was, after getting the keys from the realtor--O'Reilly's Lobster Coop. Much like Goose Rocks Beach, Mr. O'Reilly doesn't really want you to know he is there, and once you arrive, he will amble into the pound when he is good and ready while the customers look longingly at the crustaceans fated to die for their enjoyment. One year Frank and Jane Beiser visited and tried to photograph Mr. O'Reilly and his establishment and he didn't allow it. But Peter snuck in this one:
O'Reilly's: What else matters?