Monday, October 6, 2014

Winds of Fortune

I'm interrupting my series of posts on my wonderful trip to Europe to address a mounting issue I have with the universe.  Or maybe it's the universe that has an issue with me.

Freaking fortune cookies.

I get the WORST fortunes you have ever seen out of a fortune cookie.
Here's a real, live fortune that I got once:



I felt like the kid in A Christmas Story when I got this one...you know, where he's got the magic decoder ring and then when he laboriously decodes the message off of the radio program it reads, "Be sure to drink your Ovaltine"?

Also?  This is not even a fortune!  It's like, advice from a cardiologist.  Or not even that.  It's like advice from your Home Health teacher in 7th grade.

This one at least makes a stab at being a fortune.  But you have to admit, it's still pretty damn lame.

And this one:


For one thing, most shades of green make me look like I've got jaundice.  For another...honestly, is that the best you can do, fortune cookie.
You know that game that people will play with fortune cookies...where you're supposed to read your fortune and then add "...between the sheets?"  My fortune cookies are so lame that I can't even seem a little ribald when I take my turn.

But the fortune that FINALLY put me over the edge.  The cookie that made me realize that either:

A) I am hopelessly beyond good fortune (sing with me, "If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all! Oh! Gloom, despair, and agony on me.")
B) The universe hates me. or
C) Confucius was an asshole

was this one I got just the other day:




What? The? Actual? Hell?  I live in Alabama.  We don't even grow parsnips down here.  I don't know that I've ever even seen one in the grocery store.  I'm pretty sure I've never tasted one.
What does this even mean??  I haven't got a clue.  It's sure not a FORTUNE.  It's not telling me anything that will or won't happen.  It's not even giving me sound advice like, "Floss you teeth for good oral hygiene."

Is this happening to everyone?  Have all fortunes gone to crap?  Did we lose a war or something?


Saturday, October 4, 2014

Dear France





Dear France, I owe you a huge apology.  I have had a bad opinion of you for years...and it was totally undeserved.  You are beautiful and your people (most of them) are lovely.

Of course, the rumors of rude, mean people came via friends and relatives visiting Paris...and that may be a very different thing.  I know that someone visiting, say...New York would get a whole different opinion about how people in the US act than someone visiting the South. (I'm sure there are some very nice people in NY...but they aren't as openly friendly to strangers...I'm just sayin!)
And I was a leetle underwhelmed when we first made port.  The main cruise ship port at Marseille was shared with your regular shipping facilities.


But then, oh then...we took a smaller boat to Vieux Port...


And ohmygosh, ohmygosh, ohmygosh!  I fell in love.

This is Fort St. Jean at the mouth of the Villeux Port.  This picture does not do it justice.

So the night before, Mom and I had out our little map of the area where we were making port and plotting out what we wanted to see.  We decided we'd check out the cathedral right there at the port and then go see the Basilique Notre Dame.  Looking at the map, we were actually thinking (since we had the whole day)...why, we'll probably just stroll around and make our way on foot...I mean, how far can it be, right?  A kilometer is a little over half a mile...so we should be able to do that. 



First things first, the Cahedrale de la Major:




Gorgeous, isn't it?  Sadly, it was closed until September 21st... the day after we returned to the US.  We got some nice pictures of the exterior and then decided we'd head in the direction of the Notre Dame.


So. What was not readily apparent on a map is this...Notre Dame de la Garde?  Was at a very, very different elevation than the port.  Prolly why the Germans occupied it during WWII as lookout.  I did not know that.
Fortunately, the bus system for Marseille is incredibly simple and can be understood by non-French-speaking bumbling American tourists.  The bus driver was SO patient and friendly.  He was trying to convey something to us...and did we really want to go up there?  And of course we did, and he was like, "Okay, Ladies...it's your Euro"

And it was worth the trip:




That's Marseille, way, way down below us.



I think this angel is picking his nose.

There was lots to see on the outside and a good many other tourists had come up as well.  Sadly, the Cathedral itself (and gift stores, and resturant) was closed on Mondays.  Dude, don't ask me...I don't even know.

After we saw and did what we could even though it was Monday (again, what's with that, France?) we caught a cab with another couple from the ship to go back down to "Old Port" where there were supposed to be lovely resturants.

The cab driver(s) up at the cathedral who were SUPPOSEDLY there to make money by taking people places in their cabs were the only rude people I met in France.

Us: Can the four of us get a cab to take us back down?

Spokesperson (I guess) for the cab drivers gathered around: Yes, yes.  You wait over there.

We went "over there" and waited.  We could see the group of 10-12 cabbies still clustered together, talking and smoking.  No one was looking at us.  I wandered over.

Me: Um, you did say one of you could take us back down?

Spokesperson: I say wait over there!

Me: I know.  But someone is interested in taking us back down the hill? Right?  For money.

Spokesperson: We have fares. We wait on them. Someone take you soon.  Wait over there.

I go back to Mom and the British couple.  We wait another 10 minutes until a cab comes up the hill and lets some people out. Before he can drive over to the cluster of others...who are STILL standing together, smoking and not looking at us, I go to his window with money out and ask if he can take the four of us down.

Spokesman cabbie LOSES. HIS. SHIT. :Wait!  I get cab for you when it is time!  I tell you to wait over there!  Not get your own cab!

We just bundled into the newly arrived cab and zoomed away...spokesman cabbie gesturing rudely and sputtering with rage left behind us.

For the life of me I don't know what all of that was about.

Five minutes and approx. 500 vertical feet later, we at Old Port, where we get out and go in search of sustenance.

We settled on this cute little outdoor restaurant:

 
Where we had this cute little outdoor waitress:



 
She was funny and attentive and helpful and completely restored my faith in the people of Marseilles. 
 
We had this for lunch:


 
Yes, it was as delicious as it looks. 
Afterwards, we did some shopping.  Every shop keeper, every cashier, every other patron we saw was friendly...very smiling and helpful.  Apparently, the only assholes are cab drivers.  I bought some trinkets and something called Pastis that I haven't tried yet, but was supposedly a local favorite liquor.  Then we headed back to the ship for some relaxation by the pool before dinner.


 
Sigh...
One (of the very few) downsides to a cruise in Europe.  There are A LOT of speedos out there.  Way, way too many speedos.
 
Say what you will about Americans. At least our men understand the rules for wearing a Speedo.
And they are as follows:

1. Open your wallet.

 2. Take out your driver's license.

 3. Does it say "Daniel Craig"? - if so, maybe you can wear the speedo. Proceed to step 4.

 4. Check your wallet again. Is there an actors guild card also reading "Daniel Craig"?...

 5. If yes, wear that banana sling! If no...then no, you may not wear a speedo


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Day two: Da boat

Day Two dawns on us in Barcelona, Spain.  (If you missed Day One...where we got to see the porn that Picasso created, it's here.) Feeling like a human again, after finally getting some sleep, we trotted on down to the free breakfast.
I travel a good bit (though within the continental US).  I think I know what to usually expect with a free breakfast...some form of reconstituted rubber eggs, some microwaved bacon and/or sausage...toast.  Not that I'm complaining...many's the time that a Hampton Inn grab n' go kept me from going hungry.
But Hotel Barcelona Catedral had a whole different idea about free breakfast:

Basket of fresh baked delishiousness...with jams and butters of your choice.

Do not know what these are called.  But they are dense little cakes that come with a raspberry/cream dipping sauce that will cause you to make sounds not fit for polite company.

Not pictured: made to order eggs, Iberian ham (apparently in Spain, no hour is complete without a little taste of Iberian ham), fruit, wine (yes, wine...red, white and sparking) or coffee and tea.
 
Speaking of the fruit...at every restaurant/cafĂ©/bar/whatever that we went to, they had these pears...they were always cut up so I don't know what they looked like.  They were the best pears I have ever eaten, no lie.  I'm not a huge pear fan, because so many of them are mealy and I hate that.  But these pears were crisp and light and juicy and just delightful.  They were served with everything...they were in every glass of sangria I had.  If anyone knows what I was eating, please let me know.

Door across the street from the hotel that I notice while waiting on our cab.  First thing that springs to my mind is The Bloggess's giant chicken, BeyoncĂ©.  Of course, the Barcelona version would say, "Toc, toc Hijo de puta !"
 
There are no photographs taken during the cab ride to the port.  Do you want to know why?  It's because Mom & I spent the entire trip clutching each other's hands and praying for deliverance.  Barcelona cab drivers are INSANE.  We had a lady cab driver.  She seemed normal. She was polite to us, very helpful with our bags, expressed how deeply touched she was about our mother/daughter bonding vacation.
Then she got behind the wheel of her cab.
And became possessed of a demon.
I have no idea how we arrived at our destination unscathed.  I REALLY don't know how we got there without killing a pedestrian or someone on a motorcycle or Vespa.  The woman had no regard for the sanctity of life of anyone around her while she was operating her death-machine masquerading as a cab.  Of course, all of the other cabs were acting like they were being driven by lunatics as well.  Lunatics that honked and yelled obscenities (I assume) at each other.
Our driver would be gesturing out the window, screeching like a harpy and then turn around to us, and in a normal, sane, conversational voice, point out some landmark to us that we needed to visit the next time we were in Barcelona.  The experience was surreal.
She got us to our designated port, unloaded our luggage for us and told us it had been her pleasure to serve us this morning.  We tipped her heavily...she terrified us.
 
Then we were on the ship:

 
Bye, Bye, Barcelona!  See you in 8 days!
 

Castle or Monastery or something on the hill.  Our bat-shit crazy taxi driver told us what it was, but I was too busy crawling into my Mother's lap for comfort at the time to remember.

Selfies on the boat deck. We have survived our ordeal, and are ready for sail.
 
A real mojito.  Those always help to steady the nerves after a string of near-death encounters in a motor vehicle.

Next up: Marseilles, France. Stay tuned.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Holy Mackrel


Having just returned from a  Mediterranean cruise (that my fabulous mother took me on) I have to say, I highly recommend it.  Now, my documented account of my travels will not do the experience justice, but it will be my account.

First up in my journal of my journey...Barcelona!  Unfortunately, to get to Barcelona, I had to get on a plane...for 9 1/2 hours.  I had seriously hoped to get some snooze time in so that I'd be all bright eyed and bushy-tailed and ready to see the sites.  I had an eye mask.  I had ear plugs. I had an Ambien.  I had free wine, beer and cocktails available to me.  No dice.  I did not sleep a wink.  Oh, but the good news was that about half way across the Atlantic, we ran into a thunderstorm that kept me entertained:



Only thing missing was the Twilight Zone gremlin on the wing of the plane.

But FINALLY, we get to Barcelona!  I get the first stamp in my passport (I've been to Canada, Mexico and the Bahamas...I'm not a total back woods hick, but none of those places stamps your passport)

We hop our shuttle and are delivered to our hotel:





Mom is there seated on the left with our many, many pieces of luggage.
Oh, and fun fact: "Catedral" in Barcelona is like "Peachtree" in Atlanta.  EVERYTHING has "Catedral" in its name.  Asking where the "Hotel Barcelona Catedral" is located is about as effective as asking someone (in a language that is not their native tongue) "Where's that place where your can rent a room?"  Not their fault that they can't answer you....because there's the Barcelona Hotel Catedral, the Catedral Barcelona Hotel, the Hotel Catedral Barcelona, the Barcelona Hotel on Catedral....
Or within a reasonable proximity (in our shuttle driver's opinion) to our hotel.  We were about 5 city blocks away when he kicked us off the shuttle and pointed in the general direction of the hotel.  All of our luggage was on wheels, so it was manageable...but we were dragging it along cobblestones, so it wasn't effortless.  I was pretty sweaty and gnarly when I got to our desitnation.
The hotel was lovely and the staff helpful...it was WAY early for check-in, but they stowed our bags for us and we headed out into the city...half a block later and:  


Ahhhhh, Sangria.  It was lovely and refreshing.  We took a minute to relax and strategize our next move:


Mother/Daughter Spanish selfie.  The Barcelona humdity (and resultant sweat) was not kind to my hair
And decided to try for the Picasso museum.  We had our tour book, and an app on my iPhone...we can do this...we're only a few blocks away.
Of course, by this time, neither of us has slept in approx. 30 hours.  We were easily distracted by all of the lovliness around us, but we weren't in a hurry.  We were following the street signs that matched the street names on our map.  Then we came to this:

What this indicated to ME was that you could go either route and get to the Picasso museum.  NOT THE CASE.  That, or we were more punch-drunk than I thought.  We passed this sign three times without seeing the Picasso museum....we were just going 'round in circles.  I still couldn't tell you how we got away from the gravitational pull of this corner that kept trying to draw us back in...we just started making turns into alleys at random until we noticed a line of people waiting outside a gothic palace-y looking place.  Pfft, whaddya know?  The Picasso museum.



Taken while waiting in line to get in the museum.  In my head I'm singing "He sees angels in the architechture...spinning in infinity, he says, "Amen! Hallelujah!" If you'll be my bodyguard....


Inside the courtyard of the museum.  It was gorgeous.
 
Apparently, the Picasso museum is sort of four palaces kind of hooked together.  The building itself was worth the visit.  And I really enjoyed most of the art displayed there.
Now, I'm getting ready to say something that's probably going to be very unpopular.  Before I do that, I want to say that I always thought I was a big ole Picasso fan.  One of my favorite works of all time is his Guernica.  I am not turned off by the somewhat weirdness of his Cubism or some of his other surreal works. (Guernica is not in the Barcelona museum...I'm just saying I've always loved it...I mean, doesn't it just SCREAM how awful the Nazi bombing of this villiage was?)

 
A story I always loved about this painting...it's said that once the Gestapo were in Picasso's apartment searching it & saw a photograph of Guernica and asked Picasso, "Did you do this?" and he (allegedly) replied, "No, you did."
That being said...I never realized that Picasso's art took a freaking sharp left turn into crazy-town....apparently in the year of 1903


What the actual Hell, Pablo?  I mean, seriously?  One minute, I'm strolling past The Portrait of Aunt Pepe, then I'm admiring the painting of his sister, Lola...then I turn into a room with THIS.  What the crap was WRONG with him?  This isn't art....this is a doodle that a junior high school perverted little pimple faced douche canoe would draw in study hall just to be vulgar.  I'm sure someone's gonna try to convince me that there's some sort of sublime artistic value in this...but sorry...this Alabama girl ain't buyin' that.  Pablo Picasso may have been some kind of revolutionary artist most of the time...but that crap also tells me he had some pretty sick shit swimmin around in that genius brain of his as well.  Sorry about that little side track.
Apart from the drawing of a FISH (A Mackrel, apparently...since that's the title of this "work") performing sex acts on a woman badly in need of some personal grooming, I enjoyed the visit to the museum.  (That room should have had some "Only 18 and over" sign on it or something.  My friend Meg had her daughter in Barcelona last month....I'm glad I wasn't trying to explain that hot mess to MY pre-schooler).

ANYWAY...we finished our couple/three hours in the museum and then made our way back to our hotel (only one or two wrong turns on the way back).  By then, we had a room, were able to freshen up and go out to dinner.  We ended up in a little tapas resturant right by the Barcelona Catedral.  

Selfie in front of the Barcelona Cathedral.  The contacts have come out...the hair...I'm not even sure what the heck is going on with that side cowlick thing...and of course, I've rubbed all my makeup off.  I am the epitomy of a weary traveler at this point.

It was fabulous!  They served us 4 different tapas, then a monk fish on black rice entree and finally a dessert plate with a sampling of three different desserts.




By this time, we'd been up about 36 hours and were ready to lay our little heads down.  Before we turned in, however, we took a dip into the pool on the rooftop of our hotel.  Here was our view:


I slept 10 straight hours.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Down the drain

Hi guys!  Yes, it has been awhile since I posted...
But that is because I have been on the most awesome vacation of all time.
My mother, who as of this moment is my very favorite Mom I ever had, took us (just us...no spouse, no child) on a cruise through the Mediterranean.  We were gone 10 whole days and were in 3 different countries.  We saw lots of stuff and had a chance to do some serious bonding.  Also?  I now have to find a way to finance my retirement in the French Riviera.
I am planning to write about this trip soon.  Right now?  I'm still in the throes of some serious jet lag.  I'm having a hard time stringing two sentences together and make any sense.
 
I also flushed one of my earrings down the toilet this afternoon:
 
 
See how the latch thingy is?  Well, the one on the other earring was a little worn.  I went to the bathroom and when I stood up and flipped the flusher gizmo, my earring fell out and Whoosh!  was gone.
I wish I could say that this was the first piece of jewelry I've lost to the porcelain god, but sadly, that is not the case.  (of course it's not...we're talking me here) A few years ago while trying desperately to get to New Orleans, I had a bracelet come off just as I was sitting down...but as I jumped up and spun around, the motion-sensor automatic flusher-mabob activated and Whoosh! there went my cute little silver bracelet.
Um...there should be some clever way for me to wrap this post up, but my body thinks that it's almost three in the morning right now and nothing's coming to me.
 
I'll have a more coherent post soon, I promise. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Addendum

I am leaving the country for 10 days.  I'm excited and I'm nervous and....I morbidly feel like I need to have my "what ifs" instructions right out there front and center in case something happens. (I know...nothing's going to happen). 

First, you need to stop and go

Here

for my basic last wishes. 
One of my (many) quirks is that I am constantly refining my funeral arrangements.  (don't judge.  If you lived here in the South and saw some of the atrocities that occur during funerals, you'd have an issue too).

Well, recently, there has been a rash of really, really corny poems and such in the paper (I know these are probably all heartfelt, sincere tributes to wonderful people and I am GOING TO HELL because I make fun of them, but they're really awful)...so anyway, I say to Annette that to add to my instructions (above) that she should stomp to death anyone who tries to submit a ridiculous poem about me when I shuck off this mortal coil. (And yeah, here I’m assuming that anyone WOULD…)

Anyway, in lieu of hackneyed poems, Annette has provided some wonderful haikus and one dirty limerick.  Please ensure they are read aloud at my funeral…by Annette if possible, but you know, she could have kicked it with me ala Thelma & Louise.  (BTW, you won't understand ANY of these if you don't go read that first link)

Sassy, taunting one    

Full of good tales and laughs  

Quick!  Search her nightstand

 

Beulah Land, she says

For me is the land of hot

Sweaty studs: Jackson

 

 

There was a hot chick from Tutwiler

Who liked for her man to defile 'er

Her lips - red and shiny

Quite active, her hiney

When she went, she was wearin' a smiler

 
Tell me those don’t bring a tear to your eye! Sniffle.  I am so blessed with friends you get me.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Can't fix stupid...

I have never really been much of a car person.  As long as it was reliable, comfortable and not too hard on gas mileage, I have been fine with whatever I was driving.  If I also did not mortify the neighbors with whatever vehicle I had or embarrass the child so much that she would have me drop her off 2 blocks away from where I was taking her...that was a plus. (This was a real issue with a car Jeff had...it was a beat-to-shit Altima with 385,000 miles on it that smoked and backfired.  Its rear quarter panel was held on primarily with dirt and I think a wasp's nest.  The kiddo HATED when he picked her up from after-school care.  She called the Altima "Dad's junkyard.")

That being said...a few years ago, we purchased a car that I am actually proud to drive:




We did not buy it because it was prettiful and all zoomy-zoom looking.  We got it because it was a fantastic deal (divorcing couple...she was all "getting rid of anything he gave her")  But I admit, I have come to love this car.  I notice people admiring it.  I actually keep it washed and looking nice (I've always kept my vehicle mechanically maintained...the exterior.....not so much.)

So anyway, last week something bad happened.  I don't want to get into it too much...I hit a puppy on my way to work.  I know. I know.  I hate it too.
It was absolutley not my fault.  Some redneck asshole who lives in a trailer not 7 feet from a very busy, curvy road lets all eleventy-eight of his dogs just run loose.  There are dogs of all ages, shapes and sizes...I had noticed a litter of about 6 puppies over the last few weeks had apparently gotten to the really active stage.  Anyway, two of these puppies ran out into the road as I was rounding a curve...and I got the second one.
Just made me sick to my stomach.
I stopped, got out...checked the poor thing...and noticed I had car parts laying in the road.
Namely, my vent cover by my fog light.  The fog light itself was busted and dangling from its cable.

Now, I'm not trying to be insensitive.  The puppy was the worst part of this whole thing...even though I think it's pretty inevitable that at least half of that litter is destined to the same end.  Their so-called "owner" is some white-trash, pediphile-looking loser I've occassionally seen getting his mail or sitting on the chewed up sofa that sits out on the rotting wooden front "porch" that he built onto his trailer.  He obviously lets whatever breed with whatever and the curve on Morrisville road control the population somewhat through attrition.  These kind of people make me sick.  They absolutely do not deserve pets. (Yes, I made a call later that day to Animal Control Dept...should have done it a week earlier).

At work, I took a closer look at the damage...unplugged the dangling flood light assembly and tossed it and the vent cover in the back seat & went inside to search for a replacement fog light assembly.

A $78 charge on my credit card later, and my new fog light assembly began its journey to my house.  Since then...I've been having to live with this:

 

Which I haaaaaate.  I know I'm a little OCD.  It shouldn't bother me so much...that little Exclamation mark ! in a triangle.
It. Is. Driving. Me. CRAZY.  Also?

I'm used to my car giving me little bursts of information.  Over on the left of the dashboard, I have a message box.  I can see what kind of gas mileage I'm getting (instanteneous or average)...I can see my Distance to Empty (DTE)...it tells me when I need an oil change.  Unless.  Unless something has happened to turn the exclamation mark on.  Then, the only message you get (and you cannot change, and you cannot turn off) is WHY you have an exclamation mark.
In this case: 


 

Yeah.  Something's wrong with my bulb's position. I know that, Volvo!  I know that rolling around in the backseat is the incorrect position for the bulb.  Gah!  What I DON'T know right now is how many more miles I can go before I run out of gas...which is something you USED to tell me.

Well, I feel better getting all of that off my chest.  Hopefully, I haven't come across as some kind of a materialistic, puppy-killing neurotic.