Some random thoughts while traveling

680918_hotelNot too long ago, I got to do something I’d never gotten to do before. I was invited on a press trip as a cocktail writer. Now, I have to say, I thought that was pretty darned cool. Not just because it was a chance to travel without having to pay for it myself (and I found plenty of ways to spend my own money while I was gone, trust me), but because it also feels like a bit of validation. Someone must think I’m an OK writer. They even think someone reads my articles on occasion. That’s a pretty good feeling.  (I don’t know if they’re right or not, but I prefer to think that they are. Although I’d like it even better if someone was paying me lots and lots of money for it. Gotta be honest there.)

Anyway, I haven’t done a lot of traveling since I found out about the fibro. Well, to be technical, I haven’t done any traveling, but whatever. It wasn’t going to be a long trip – out on Tuesday, back on Thursday – but a trip that involves one of my least favorite things: a plane trip. Oh, I’m not afraid of flying or anything like that. I just hate dealing with airports. I don’t like dealing with baggage, or checking in, or going through security, or any of the assorted bull that goes with flying, especially making connections and changing planes.

So this trip was a bit of a learning experience. Traveling with fibro isn’t always easy, but there are worse things. One major downside is that being unable to sit comfortably for more than 10, 15 minutes or so is a definitely an issue. You’d think that it wouldn’t be quite such a problem on an airplane. After all, can’t you just stand up and stretch every so often to keep the muscles from tightening up? Ha! Being wedged in like sardines you’re lucky to be able to breathe on a regular basis, never mind standing.

I learned that there are some real advantages to getting a seat in the front row. There’s a little more leg room, and it marginally increases the odds of being able to move around a little bit during the flight, even if actually standing isn’t possible. (Don’t even think about walking. That’s an unattainable fantasy.)

I learned that somehow it’s basically impossible to check in with Southwest early enough to board before the plane is already at least half full, thus greatly decreasing the chances of getting a seat in the front row (aisle seats, incidentally, are another unattainable fantasy). I don’t know how it works that way, but trust me, it does.

I learned that the flight from Chicago to Louisville takes less time than the drive from my house to the airport. While slightly amusing, this is also one of the things I hate about flying.

I learned that you cannot take a carry-out container of grits through airport security. Apparently TSA considers it a suspicious paste and is prohibited as a potential explosive. TSA agents are unswayed by explanations that the potentially explosive paste is loaded with yummy bacon and cheese. TSA agents also have no sense of humor (remember the line in Men in Black? “We at the FBI do not have a sense of humor we’re aware of.”). They will not be amused if you suggest to them that they should not let the confiscated grits go to waste and that someone should eat them while they’re still warm, no matter how sincere the offer.

I learned that I find it extremely annoying to pay $8 for a vanilla latte in an airport coffee shop. It’s even more annoying when it is a very mediocre latte. For $8, that latte ought to help carry my bags.

I learned that I’m just not blasé enough to not act all country-comes-to-town if I’m picked up at the airport by a limo and a driver. This didn’t seem to bother the driver any at all.

I learned that I’m also not blasé enough to not act all country-comes-to-town when confronted with a swanky hotel. As in “this hotel was listed as one of the top 10 hotels in the world” swanky. As in there is an art museum in this hotel. Or maybe there’s a hotel in the art museum. Either way, it’s a boutique motel, which means it’s small, expensive, and the staff is really, really, really nice to you.

I learned that after hearing ‘top 10,’ ’boutique,’ and ‘art museum,’ I really shouldn’t read the rates listed on the little sign on the inside of the door. Seeing the standard per-night cost almost made me choke on my own tongue.

I learned that top 10 boutique art museum hotels have incredibly comfortable beds with lovely, plush pillows. And they don’t skimp on the linens, either.

But one of the most entertaining travel moments wasn’t a learning experience. I boarded the plane at a ridiculously early hour of the morning, and was thrilled to have a couple with a baby sitting right in front of me. (If you believe you detect a note of sarcasm in that statement, you would be correct.) Very young baby; as I learned from overhearing the flight attendant’s chat with mommy, Junior was not quite two months old, and was going to meet Grandma for the first time.

This should be fun. (Not) As the flight attendant took drink requests, I debated whether it would look bad to request vodka before 8 a.m.  I decided that if I had to wonder about it, the answer was probably “Yes, that would look very bad.” Deep sigh. Bottle of water requested. Flight attendant’s next stop – another chat with mommy as they go through the rather extensive list of options. Mommy asks if decaf is available. Why, yes, yes it is, I’d be glad to get that for you. At which point, mommy says, no, that’s OK. I waited to hear the verdict….mommy would like a Budweiser, please.

I should have gotten the vodka after all.

Some deep thoughts (maybe) on the modern family…

It's the Beaver's fault. Everything always is. (Photo: By ABC Television (eBay item photo front photo back) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

OK, technically, my deep thoughts aren’t really on the modern family. More like they’re slightly inspired by the Modern Family. As in the television show. Or to be even more precise, they’re inspired by the thoughts on a new blog, Naomusings, in which my writer friend Naomi muses on mainstream media and related topics. (Yes, I stole that directly from her tagline. If she says it so well, why would I try to say it better?)

But to quote Sophia Petrillo (does that count as a media reference?), I digress.  Today her thoughts had to do with lower-case modern family and its reflection in the upper-case Modern Family. As in the television show. I have to admit, I’ve never watched the show (although I’m now a bit curious). Now, her thoughts are well worth reading, so go check them out when you’re done here, but in the meantime, she made a particular comment that caught my attention.

“Since the onset of TV families, it’s always been very much the norm for families to have lots of stuff. “

To Naomi, this is a situation that advertisers have encouraged. In the process, television has reshaped our notion of what makes us middle class – and maybe not in a good way. We’ve become consumer monsters, needing more and more just to stay even.

And with that, I started thinking. I sometimes like being the contrary sort, so I couldn’t wait to poke holes in her theory. Oh, not the part about how advertisers are evil beings that just want to encourage us to buy things we don’t need, like extra super large bags of peanut butter M&Ms, or can’t use, like one-size-fits-all-stretchy-anythings. (To be fair, she didn’t say advertisers are evil. I added that.) And not the part about our consumerism, because you can’t argue with the sight of people squished into one-size-fits-all-stretchy pants & t-shirts happily grazing out of 5 pound monsters bag of chocolatey goodness while they try to decide between the 800 inch and the 967 inch TVs at the local warehouse club.

No, I mean the part about how much stuff TV families have. (Obviously, if she’s wrong about that, she’s wrong about how it’s affected our consumer habits, right?) I had no doubt that it would be easy-peasy to list at least a dozen or more shows right off the top of my head that would prove her wrong. So, there’s…

The Waltons.

OK, I exaggerate, but maybe not all that much. And to be really fair, The Waltons shouldn’t be considered anyway, because it’s a period piece. A drama revolving around family life during the Depression is about as relevant to modern consumer habits as a Ken Burns documentary. No, to be considered, the show would have to be contemporary (or to have been contemporary).

I bet you can already guess the result. Yeah, families-without-a-lot-of-stuff shows were harder to come up with than you might think. I started with the golden oldies. Hey, Andy Griffith, not too bad an example. Of course, the Taylors still had a pretty nice house, a telephone (still something not universally seen at the time) and a television. And unless it was part of the story line where someone learns a life lesson, you never saw Opie or Aunt Bea doing without something they wanted.

Ozzie and Harriet? Leave it to Beaver? Father Knows Best? The Donna Reed Show? We may wax nostalgic and think of these shows as a showing us a simpler time, but those families weren’t typical then. Shoot, they wouldn’t be typical now. There’s no telling what Ozzie did (really, in 14 seasons they never said), but Jim Anderson managed an insurance company, Ward Cleaver was an accountant, and Alex Stone was a pediatrician. Very white collar, and upper middle class at the very least.

Sure, I can think of some TV families with a lot less stuff. The Evans family on Good Times lived in the projects (although I’m willing to bet their set didn’t look much like the real thing). Archie and Edith Bunker lived paycheck to paycheck, and just about the only shopping we ever saw Edith do was at the corner grocery. I thought about adding their neighbors, the Jeffersons, but realized they were movin’ on up to the east side, and with the deluxe apartment in the sky, well, they definitely don’t fit on my list.

I know there are others, but I have to admit, they’re hard to think of. Looked at objectively, most of the TV families I can think of were extremely comfortable, at the very least. They have gadgets and gizmos and goodies, they wear nice clothes and have new shoes. The women are nicely made up, their hair and nails are done, they wear accessories that match their outfits (hey, I’m a girl, we notice these things). They have the labor saving devices in the the appropriate rooms, if they don’t have someone to do the labor for them (just how much did the Bradys pay Alice, anyway?). And somewhere along the way, the rest of us get the idea that these are ‘typical’ families.

I think I have to concede the point to Naomi. Now go read HER musings.

And a new obsession is born…

Well, maybe not entirely new. I’ve done ‘crafty’ things for as long as I can remember – I think I was 5 or so when I learned to crochet, which is the first artsy-craftsy thing I remember doing (other than kindergarten art projects that involved construction paper, glue, and glitter). Over the years, I’ve crocheted my way through thousands of miles of yarn. Cross-stitch, counted cross-stitch, embroidery, needlepoint, crewel, rug hooking – you name it, I’ve probably tried it.

But to skip a little of my craft-life history, I’ve recently become fascinated by the whole altered art/found art sort of thing. It appeals to my slightly hoarder-ish habit of saving things because you just never know when you might need them. And since I have somewhere right around little to no talent for drawing or painting, well… Anyway, I found myself a few little groups and decided to dive in with a Wild West themed tag swap. I think some of them turned out pretty well.