Unpacking a Time Vampire

My time suck this week?  Unpacking.

Packing gets plenty of credit for the amount of time it Hoover’s out of your life, but unpacking is just as time consuming and it comes with the added negative hit of NOT having an exciting trip to follow it.

I’ve been back home for a week now, and I’m still not completely done with this chore.  Some of this is just my procrastination, but some is the pure time involved.  I had summer clothes packed, so now I have no real motivation to move quickly here.  Do I want to put the clean stuff up straight away?  It got kind of wrinkled, should I iron it before storing it?  Then there’s the dirty clothes, not enough to make a load yet, so I’m waiting on more to add to the pile–in the meantime, it’s lumped into one of the two suitcases.

Then there’s the placement of the other stuff.  Souvenirs linger in the suitcase until I figure out where I want to put them.  Toiletries are half un-packed with the items I need regularly already back on the counter while the travel-only things are in the half-emptied toiletry bag….

I’ll get it cleared out eventually.  In the meantime, it’s sucking little bits of time here and there as I whittle away at the explosion of crap in the middle of the room.

If I drag it out long enough, I’ll be partially packed for my next big journey.




New Adventures of Travel with the W&M Hoodie

A key part of my standard travel gear is a hoodie.  I have two, one from my law school alma mater and one from my undergraduate alma mater.  I’ve found that both of these have generated interest and conversation from strangers while I’m traveling, but the William and Mary hoodie in particular seems to possess almost magical powers of garnering attention (I’m basically never wearing the thing near the East Coast, thus it’s far from a common siting).  Introvert though I am, I’ve found that I enjoy the polite conversations I usually get when someone lays eyes on the green and gold and strikes up conversation.

Usually, the hoodie results in one of three conversation starts:  (1) General comments on the quality of the school (2) Mentions of friends/family/co-workers etc. who attended the school (and the “do you know?” game that follows).  (3) Geographic comments (“Oh!  You’re from Virginia?”).  Once in a great while, it gets (usually from children seated next to me on planes) “Who’re William and Mary?”

But this most recent trip to Australia generated a new kind of conversation starter for the hoodie.

Now, understand, The Hoodie has been to Oz before (it got high praise from a gentleman in the International Terminal of San Francisco Airport on my way out, and a “Hey!  William and Mary!  Great school!” in a parking garage in Canberra.  So the bizarre change I encountered in both Australia and New Zealand on this trip was a head-scratch-er for me.

I had four different people, in widely different areas of Australia and New Zealand, question why I had the names of old British monarchs on my shirt.

Not “Who are William and Mary?”  No, they were all very clear on who William and Mary were.  The mystery lay in why a person would embroider the names on a sweatshirt in large letters.

All four were from some part of the Commonwealth (a Brit, a Kiwi and two Aussies), so that kind of removes any reason for surprise at them knowing who William and Mary were in history (unlike the U.S. where an astonishing number of people don’t have a clue).  Since I’ve traveled around and with so many Aussies, Brits, Kiwis, Canadians, etc before, it’s really rather strange that this is the first time that it happened.

In two cases, it was all very pleasant.  I grinned and assured them, yes, it was the same William and Mary from that list of monarchs some ancient schoolmaster made them memorize, and explained about the charter.  None of these people had known anything about this part royal history, and they seemed pleasantly surprised and then the chat turned to the usual “What brings you down here?”

But one (and I’ll let you guess which nationality), well, let’s just say the encounter was far more amusing for me than the questioner.  The woman (whom I’d heard behind me, commenting to a companion something about “American girl…monarchs…shirt…” in a none-too-friendly tone) all but marched up to me:

“Do you know William and Mary were our king and queen in the late 17th century?  WHY are their names on your shirt?”

I could see it in her eyes and hear it in her voice:  there was a challenge.  This wasn’t just a question or a demand.  She was expecting me not to have the answer.  I don’t know if it was a moment to confirm American stupidity, or if it was just another opportunity to use blunt confrontation to establish her intellectual superiority (I think it it’s the latter–I heard her giving an unsolicited lecture to a group of Asian tourists about English shrubbery a bit later), either way, she failed rather spectacularly.  Instead of gaping like a fish, or giggling inanely and making a reduced-IQ comment about liking the style, I met her with a very cheerful smile.

“Yes, they were, and during their reign, in 1693, they chartered  The College of William and Mary in Virginia.”

The superior stare faltered and she actually took a step back.

“1693, well, yes, that would be the right time period…I never–” she paused, and her shoulders sagged a little.  “Well, I didn’t know that.”

I could tell the admission pained her and before I could sweetly begin to elaborate on how The College was supposed to educate clergy for the colonies and about how Thomas Jefferson was an alum….she walked off.  I probably shouldn’t be this delighted about it, but I’m quite pleased.  I could tell it really stuck in her craw that she hadn’t one-upped me, and had, in fact, been one upped herself.

The Hoodie went from a tool of conversation to a tool of education smack-down.

As I turned away from my little victory, a couple from approached and asked me to take their photo.  “We saw your shirt.  We’re from North Carolina!”

Sydney Style Memo

Attention men of Sydney:

You have officially surpassed all recommended per capita limits on males wearing girly pants.  For the record, the tapered leg look is a bad idea generally, so to allow more than half your male population to go about thus attired does nothing to improve my view of your city.  Guys should not be wearing their girlfriends’ pants. Ever.  The 80s are over, and “Don’t You Forget About Me” May be a fantastic song, but it’s no justification for reviving those tapered legs.

For a town that is otherwise so trendy that they should have stopped my fashion-fail ass at the airport, the men here are taking “metro” to new and terrifying levels with sadly NOT attractive results.  I am fairly certain judgement on my outfits and hair are passed more by the men than the women ( I am beneath the notice of the Sydney female set, all of whom appear to be petite and can bra shop wherever they want–If they see me, they assume I am a figment of an alcohol soaked mind, for surely nothing so chubby and worn down could be real), though I am not sure where they get off with those critical looks when they are wearing shirts that look like they are made from my grandma’s old house dresses and scarves from the ladies accessories section.

Playlist for a Time Vampire

Taking care of the music has always rather fallen to me in our family.  In the cassette tape days, I was the one coming up with mixed tapes for the road before family trips.  Then came the CDs.  Now it’s the playlists for the MP3 player.

I always considered it an art.  You need to start strong–usually up-beat.  I prefer to end on something slow and a bit melancholy.  You sprinkle in songs appropriate to the areas you’re traveling, you vary the genres, the speeds, and in the case of my collection, the languages to maintain a balance.  Occasionally you have fun, like the time I had an entire CD where back to back pairs of songs all had something in common–a phrase, a background singer.

My upcoming trip in the month of December requires special planning.  I’ll be gone for more or less a full month, and have probably 50+ hours spent on planes.  I’m going to need a lot of music, a lot of variety, some familiar must-haves (Reba, George), current obsessions (Lucero, Jaime Camil and Bollywood) some new music to tie to the new things I’ll be seeing (still to be identified and purchased), and, to add complexity, this is all happening over the holidays.  I’ll grant you that Christmas in the middle of summer in the Australian bush doesn’t feel very Christmas-y to our Northern Hemisphere set, but the thought of a holiday season without a shot of “Silent Night” is unconscionable to me, so I’ll have to mix in some holiday fare.

I’m left with a delicate task to balance all of these into the perfect playlist to cover the flights, a family Christmas, a side trip to New Zealand (Lord of the Rings soundtrack?  Check), and road-tripping for probably 6-8 hours with my entire family.

Unfortunately, I haven’t done myself any favors by neglecting my music library.  I’ve never really done a proper transfer and clean-up to the new server.  The lengthy library refresh-times as I’ve sat down and added in essential tracks and re-ripped CDs has delayed my efforts to begin constructing this playlist, eating into the dwindling window until departure.

If I would just load up the Mp3 player at random, it would be enough to satisfy most people….but I can’t.  The desire to score major trips and events in my life with the proper music is just too great.  Without the right sound, I’ll be thinking of what could have been.  I need this to fully enjoy the experience.  And if it devours as much time as the trip itself?  So be it.

Back-road warrior

I missed Friday.  I know.  In my defense I was on the road again.  I had grand plans to get a post sent from my phone and, well…yeah.  No.

My travels took me up to Iowa for a visit with the parents of on of our gentle readers.  As always, visiting with them was a blast and, despite the fiendishly-October weather (grey, wet, pea-soupy) I got to see something of Iowa (other than I-35).  It’s not as boring as some people might claim, but then I’m a girl who appreciates small towns and plains (note: Kristy, I did identify a fair number of wooded areas for you to hide in).

My trip up was heavy with free-way driving.  For reasons dealing with cell reception and teleconferences, I had to stay where I knew I would have signal at least through the 11am hour.  This derailed my plans of taking smaller highways and back-roads up through northern Missouri (I’ve driven that area more than once and cell coverage is less than spotty).

But today I had no pressing phone calls to be concerned about so, I avoided the freeway my entire drive.

And it was fantastic.

As much as I appreciate that the US Interstate system is reliable and saves time, I really love getting off the damned things.  The scenery is better, for one.  And not having an ass-load of trucks driving well over the speed limit and honking up on my tail pipe was beyond worth it.  In fact, the roads were so empty in some places that I could drive completely as I pleased–which included slowing down if I bloody well felt like it. And I felt like it quite often because despite this summer’s painful drought, Mother Nature is still managing some nice fall color these days and there was plenty of wild-life out (crap-tons of turkeys out today).

I’ve done plenty of this kind of driving before.  Over the summer, I did most of my driving in Texas, down to Houston and over to my grandparents on these kinds of roads.  But it strikes me that, other than very local-travel, most people don’t see the country this way much.  Understandably, it’s mostly an issue of time.  Between flying and interstate driving, these state and U.S. highways just don’t get the kinds of road-trip traffic they did once upon a time.  Kind of a shame, really.  How else do you see turkeys in Iowa, or pass by the Calamity Jane roadside park, or find out about the Kolache festival in Prague, OK, or stumble on the Watermelon Thump in Luling, TX, or dodge 4 deer the size of cattle in Northern Missouri?


Wash Blogs!

Neither Kristy nor Cammy will be blogging tonight.  For I, Wash Seamus Downs, have hijacked it.  I interrupt this blog because… Mommy says I can’t type due to my lack of opposable thumbs.  Shows how much she knows.

So what’s new?  Well… last week Mommy gave me a greenie loaded with drugs and loaded me into my carrier and then into the car.  Where she imprisoned me for more than thirteen hours.  I spent most of that time curled up Mommy’s seat, but periodically she would prod me out so she could shove me back into my carrier.  This was so she could get out and stretch her legs, refuel the car, or use the restroom.  Please note:  she did not offer me any of those opportunities.  (Yes, there was a litter box in the car, but I have a little dignity).

At present we are staying at the home of Mommy’s parents.  They seem to be okay enough except that her father wears boots and walks very heavily.  The problem is that the house comes with two resident cats of its own, neither of which seems to appreciate my charms.  One of them is significantly larger than me which is kind of scary.  As are the noises she makes if I get near her.  My first day here, not only did she chase me under the bed; she sat beside it so that I couldn’t get from under it.  I’m not sure what’s worse: her or the little one.  The other cat here is definitely smaller than me.  Unfortunately, she’s also crazy. The kind of crazy that is so terrified of me she has to seek me out regularly so she can yell at me.  It took me a couple days, but I recently realized that if I just run at her she runs away.  It’s kind of fun, I’m not going to lie.

Other than that, I kind of like the temporary digs.  Things I have discovered here that I think we need to get at our house:

A refrigerator that sits low enough of the floor that wine corks don’t roll under it when I’m playing with them.

A cool combination scratching post/climbing tower.  It has things that hang off it and I can attack it.  And it only sometimes falls over on me.

A sunroom.  Windows everywhere!  Close up view of the squirrels!

An attic.  Mommy won’t let me play in it, but I’m pretty sure it’s awesome.

Hardwood floors.

A treadmill.  I don’t want to use it, but it sure is fun to pose on.

Damn You Airlines

So, I’m preparing for yet another jaunt on a plane in the near future, and I am daily growing more pissed at the airline charges for checked bags.   I’m trying to save on checking a bag (and on the amount of luggage I’m toting around Texas).  I have to pack for 2 days at a conference where I’ll be donning professional attire and at least one day of which I will probably be sitting for a photo, followed by 2 additional days in the sweltering heat of S. Texas (including at least 6 hours in a house with no AC).

First problem:  business suit.  I could try a garment bag, but I hate those damned things and it’s just going to get crunched in the overhead bin anyhow.  It’s still going to get wrinkled in my other carry on, but at least then I’ll have room for everything else.  Because I’ve yet to encounter a garment bag that held much of anything more than 2-3 items on hangers and a pack of gum without it taking up as much space as my full sized suitcase.  I’m sure one of you is going to rave and tell wonderous stories about your luggage, but for me, these bags are always either too big or too small.

Second problem: Cosmetics.  I’m a homely critter.  The only chance I have of looking decent enough to pass muster at this conference is via chemical intervention.  Even when I have things in the appropriate under 3 oz. container size, the number of containers necessary renders that 1 quart bag useless.  Primer, lip gloss, mascara, shampoo, conditioner, make up remover, moisturizer, gel, perfume.  And that’s not even the real basics like deodorant, toothpaste, the topical meds for my knee and contact solution.  I don’t care how small the container is, you just can’t get that much in a 1 quart bag.

If I weren’t worried about how I come off in my attempts to network at this meeting, I’d chuck the suit and the cosmetics and laugh all the way down the jetway.  Instead, I’m shaking my fist at the airlines (and at the TSA….stupid 1quart arbitrary bullshit).  Ah well, time to google to see the hotel has an iron to press the business attire, and if there’s a drug store within walking distance–I might save some space and buy contact solution there….

Stupid damn airlines.

More Travel B*tching

Cammy has already made a couple of posts about traveling and all the things that drive her nuts about it.  I’m not posting about the costs and bureaucracy and all those things that drive Cammy nuts.  None of those things seem to bother me on the same level that they infuriate Cammy.  What drives me crazy are the people I have to travel with.  On two and a half hours sleep I traveled from Indianapolis to southeastern Virginia.  With a stopover in DC this means two flights:  one about an hour and a half, one just under an hour.  I’m good at sleeping on planes, so that was my plan.  Unfortunately those flights were so short I didn’t get much sleep to speak of.  Which meant I had less patience than normal with humanity.  So here are a few of the travel behaviors that irritate me the most:

1.        Cologne Fiends. Dousing yourself in cologne before flying is in no way a good idea.  Now, I don’t know, it’s possible that you’re going to be traveling for thirty hours like Cammy and without the benefit of your daily shower you’re concerned how you’ll smell afterwards.  Here’s the thing:  contrary to what the musicals tell you, perfume does not cover a stench.  After thirty hours, you’re just going to smell like BO + cologne.  If you want to absorb odors put some baking soda or talcum powder in your pockets or something.  It so happens that I’m allergic to a lot of cologne’s, especially men’s colognes.  But even if I wasn’t, there’s no cologne that smells good that strong.  And, you know, no matter how short the flight, it’s a fair bet that someone on the plane will want to breathe at some point.  Don’t get in their way.

2.       Ass Lady. My second flight was on a tiny school bus sized plane.  When we landed the lady sitting across from me stood up to get situated long before the door was opened.  For some reason she could not figure out how to do this without sticking her ass in my face.  Which was not small.  And judging by the smell, it’s possible she’s got some hygiene issues.  Then she stood there, for like, bloody ever, with her ass in my face.  She could have turned to face the front, pointing her ass down the aisle.  But no.  She kept it in my face.  It’s a wonder it didn’t wind up covered in my vomit.

3.       Seat stealers. Maybe I’m just ordinarily oblivious, but I swear I’ve never seen so many people just taking seats that weren’t theirs and just acting like there’s nothing wrong with it.  On my first flight I heard a guy ask a woman to get out of his seat.  Her response was, “I don’t think it really matters where we sit.”  Um… maybe not, but if that’s not your seat, and the man who booked it wants it back?  Get the heck out of it.  A woman stole my seat on my second flight.  I didn’t make a big deal out of it, seeing as it was only going to be half an hour to forty-five minutes and sitting in the aisle allowed me to extend my busted knee, but seriously?  All she had to do to make me stop directing angry energy at her for the duration was ask, “Oh, do you mind?” Yes, I would have minded, and yes, like a good passive aggressive southern girl I would have pretended I didn’t.  But I would have felt better about the whole thing.

4.       Seat hogs. I’m not talking about on plane behavior here.  I’m talking about people in waiting areas who take one seat for their ass and two for their stuff.  This is quite acceptable when there are plenty of seats, but when you start to notice the seats are all filling up?  Put some of those bags at your feet, jack ass.

The trip wasn’t all bad though.  National Airport does have awesome food courts and there was one right by my gate that supplied me with some California Tortilla action and a good dose of nostalgia.

Time Vampire Travels Again!

Yes, I know, I bitch about the time wasted during air travel with startling regularity.  But this time, well, this time, I’m beyond justified.

For those of you who’ve made the hellacious trip down to Australia, you get me.  I know you do.  Except for those of you who either got to A) Start on the West Coast or B) Had a direct flight to a major west coast airport.

Yeah.  I have two legs before I ever get to San Francisco.  THEN I make the hop on to Sydney.

And guess what?  Then I get to fly local to a place, which, while I hesitate to refer to it as “the outback” is certainly more off the regular tourist path than I’ve ever had anyone else talk about going (except my friend Jen, who was chillin’ with a local Aussie buddy and no doubt got the insider’s tour).  We’re looking at over 30 hours door to door.

At present, I’m just at the start of all this.  I’m sitting at my initial airport gate, which, sadly, is an American Airlines gate so no nice power outlets or anything here.  There are outlets.  But they’re dead.  Fuckers.  And I know DFW won’t let me have free power because they’re douche-bags as well (and also controlled by American).  Here’s hoping all goes well….and here’s hoping that San Francisco is less stingy with the electricity.

Another Return

This will probably be a dull post, but….I’ve returned home from travel yet again.  The visit to help Kristy celebrate the big 3-0 was successful and entertaining (at least I thought so).  Unfortunately the lure of a paycheck caused me to hit the road today.  Well, the paycheck and the realization that I had a cat who was undoubtedly missing me (or at least missing a lap to sit on).

But, even if it sucks to end the fun, it’s always nice to get home especially when the journey in between has been a long drive.  Even after a short visit, I come back to a tomato plant that has apparently decided to take over the entire flower bed, a bunch of peppers that weren’t there when I left, and an eggplant that will be ready to pluck in a few days (plus others which look to be on the way).

Of course, I also came home to laundry had to finish, and a cat that literally bitched me out before I even got in the door (I could hear her inside).  Oh, and the knowledge that the bill-paying-job starts up again tomorrow.

But I won’t dwell on that.  For now, the cat is done bitching and has curled up next to me contentedly, the garden will be dealt with tomorrow and I’m back in my cozy chair after having had an oddly pleasant cross country drive back from a fantastic weekend with an old friend, eating, drinking and generally being merry.  Oh, and I’ve put Rio Grande in the DVD player.

I’ve got the warm and fuzzies and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

Maybe it doesn’t make for an entertaining post, but the pleasant-yet-un-exciting really ought to be worth a mention just as much as the annoyances, right?