this is why i fail marketing 101

I think you’re supposed to post links when other people are kind enough to publish your work on their own blogs. I just remembered that. Seriously, I flunk every blog test out there.

I sent in a story to Globejotting this spring during Dave Fox’s 100 Hours of Humour (yeah, that’s how he spelled it; he’s gone rogue), for one of his flash humor writing contests on the theme “Road Trips”. I didn’t win and he published it anyway, because he’s awesome that way. So thanks, Dave!…six months later.

Lumberjacks & Roosters

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note to self: lists from my travel journal

Cambodia (Feb. 2006)

1. Bring a watch. You can’t rely on your cell phone as you do at home because you’re cheap, and you refused to buy the global service plan before you left.

2. Bring an extra camera battery, because you will take 8,000 photos at Angkor Wat alone. Note that Angkor Wat does not provide a charging station.

3. Always have the hotel address in local language from the website in order to avoid angry shouty conversation in which taxi driver assures you at airport that he knows where the hotel is located, drives out of the airport, then pulls over to demand you explain where the hotel is located and when you don’t know he gets mad – at you – because that’s completely reasonable. Oh, and now you’re lost in rural Cambodia.

4. Try not to pick travel companions who steal rocks from Angkor Wat. Sheesh.

5.*Important!* Don’t stand near thieving travel companions in security line at airport, risking confusion for angry shouty Customs agents. Let’s not talk about that any further.

 

Hawaii (Feb. 2007)

1. You still need a watch, because your phone will die somewhere within the Wahiawa Botanical Garden and you will miss the time you’re supposed to meet your travel companions and they will be so pissed they didn’t get to watch the sunset at a tiki bar.

2. Go to tourist sites early to beat the buses or you will be trapped in traffic and and circle hopelessly and eventually have to park on the opposite side of the island. Turns out Hawaii is not especially known for their 6-lane highways and multilevel garages, which is a great thing except when you’re trying to find parking.

3. Learn how to turn off stupid travel alarm clock so it doesn’t shriek madly, waking up everyone in the hostel, until you finally pound it against the floor. On flip side: all travel companions will be suitably awake for early-morning trek to tourist sites, avoiding aforementioned buses.

4. Remind travel companions that they should not listen to you when you assure them the flight is “2-something” without checking, because it might turn out to be “1-something” instead, and then we will spend the next several hours in the small, though lovely, island airport with cranky travel companions (for some reason, they aren’t getting enough sleep), waiting for the 4:10.

4(a). Start checking your flight times.

 

Finland (May 2008)

1. Pack a watch! Thanks for ponying up for the global service plan this time, but we still had to keep it off most of the day because you forgot to pack a power adapter.

2. Pack a power adapter! Note that power adapters are not the same thing as converters. Try to avoid looking immensely stupid by failing to understand this important distinction until it is explained, slowly and loudly, by the clerk at the hostel in front of a long line of better-prepared travelers.

3. Reminder: all your luggage bags should have wheels. Don’t be a hero. There are no medals for dragging a massive bag, uphill, 2 miles, over delightfully historic cobblestones, although – obviously –  there should be.

5. *Important!* Do not cross the old men in the saunas. Don’t saunter in all confident you can handle 175-degree heat longer than grandad & company; they can, and will, outlast you (and on the top shelf, too, you pansy). Give in with good grace early to avoid dehydration, heat stroke, strangled weeping, etc. Let’s not talk about that any further.

 

Botswana (March 2009)

1. Things You Do Not Need on an African Safari:

(a) Makeup. No one’s taking pictures of you. If you are in a picture with lions in the wild, you have made some unfortunate life choices.

(b) Jewelry coordinated with outfits. See 1(a).

(c) Completely impractical knee high leather lace up boots you know damn well you only packed because they look like the kind of thing Meryl Streep wore in Out of Africa.

2. Things You Should’ve Packed for an African Safari:

(a) A watch. We live by the clock here, and your cell phone doesn’t get service on an island only accessible by boat/hippo.

(a)(1) Hey, did you know hippos are extremely dangerous and kill more people than any other animal in Africa?

(b) Neutral-colored clothing, less likely to catch the attention of various animals. Reminder: “french blue” is not a neutral color, except to the color-blind.

(b)(1) Hey, did you know hippos aren’t color-blind?

(c) Extra pants, since the single pair of jeans you packed will get extremely muddy after your hysterical run through the bush to get back in the boat before you’re caught by those lions you posed with in the wild. You make some unfortunate life choices.

 

Malaysia (June 2011)

1. DAMMIT!! How did you forget a watch AGAIN?! Why do we even HAVE these conversations??

2. Please start keeping daily notes of the million things picked up from various night markets so you don’t have to frantically reconstruct a list from scratch when you’re filling out the Customs form in line at Immigration. It does eventually get super awkward explaining all those items in your bag that you forgot to mention.

3. Just because you saw something exciting on the Travel Channel (“Snake Temple?! Awesome!”) does not mean you will find it exciting in person. There is no way you’re going to like a temple where live snakes crawl around on the loose. How did you convince yourself you aren’t insanely terrified of snakes? Did we just meet?

4. Don’t confidently tell your guide “Haha! I eat everything!” after he warns you not to eat something you bought at a hawker stand, because then you feel compelled to ask what it is and when he says “hardened chicken blood” you are in a really tricky position, in which…yeah, you know what? Let’s not talk about that any further.

back to the airport

Going to Charleston, SC this weekend for visit with extended fam and for the Spoleto Festival, which I’ve long wanted to see and never have, despite the 22 years in the South (and, uh, many years afterward when, you know, planes go to Charleston). Looking forward to it (and the bonus: shrimp and grits galore)!

apparently, i have some kind of bad airport karma.

It looks like this!

So I’m in Atlanta for the weekend and my departure flight is at 3:25 pm. I’m actually going to make it, too, despite departing later than I’d planned, driving an hour through Atlanta traffic, missing my exit, and having to double back to refill the tank of the rental car before turning it in. It was going to be close. But I feel confident! Punctual! as I pull into the garage, hand over keys and rented Garmin to the Dollar employee, grab my bags out of the back and point out the pair of black pants evidently left in the trunk by the previous renter (black pants on a black hanger against charcoal interior = no one saw them, including me, until I was unloading my bag at the hotel 2 days ago). Across the parking lot, up the escalator, onto the Skytrain, 2 stops to the Terminal, up the escalator, down the hall, across the crosswalk, down the escalator, to the Delta counters, merrily I go. I just need my confirmation code to check into the kiosk. My confirmation code is in my phone.

 Where the hell is my phone.

 10 minutes of increasingly panicky searching later, including finally dumping my entire bag out into a chair, I face facts. It’s in the rental car. Goddammit.

 Am I going to miss my flight? What time is it? Where’s my phone?

Oh, right. Goddammit!

 I stand for a minute, actually weighing the two: my flight…my phone. Would they mail it to me? Yes. No! What am I saying? I need my phone.

 Up the escalator, across the crosswalk, down the hall, down the escalator to the Skytrain, 2 stops to the parking garage, down the escalator, across the parking lot. The Dollar checker-in remembers me. She also remembers that someone else drove off my car to the lot to be cleaned 5 minutes ago. “Over there,” she points, to the next parking lot over.

 Across the parking lot. Another Dollar employee in a neon green vest greets me. I explain the problem, and he’s willing to help.

“What kind of car is it?” he asked. “A red Chevy,” I answer.

“A red Chevy what?”

I stare at him.  Man, I don’t know. I don’t know cars. I’ve known Other Half and his car for over 6 years now and shared ownership for 3 and still, when asked “What kind of car do you have?” am forced to answer, “A green one”, because that’s all I usually remember. When pressed, while I will seldom come up with “Volkswagen” and certainly not “Passat”, I can usually add (super helpfully, in my opinion), “I think it’s German.”

 Personally, I thought it was pretty freaking amazing I came up with “Chevy”. Also, it’s red. Did I mention that it’s red?

And like this!

 “Like this?” he asks, pointing to a small red sedan. “Yes!” I exclaim. Could it be this easy? I open the door, dig around and under the front passenger seat. No phone. I shut the door and doubt. Is this the right car? Frankly, my dear, I don’t have any damn idea. I don’t know what my rental car looks like without my stuff in it. It had a red exterior and a grey interior. We only spent 2 days together getting from points A to B and back to A. We don’t have much of a relationship.

“There’s one!” Vest Guy says, pointing two rows over. Aha! I scrabble about the floor. No. No phone.

 “Up here?” A third red Chevrolet, several cars up.  Wait a minute. I stop and survey the sea of cars. There must be at least 15 identical red Chevys dotting the parking lot.

 Awesome. I am definitely missing my flight.

 Halfway through the lot we find my phone on the floor of a car which may or may not still have a pair of black pants in the trunk. I thank Vest Guy profusely and trek back to the terminal to arrange a new flight to DC, since mine is currently preparing to taxi the runway. I am lucky, in the sense that there are practically hourly flights from Atlanta to DC, so I am not stranded for an extra night. For a mere $50 change fee (!!) I am booked on the 4:15 to National Airport, arriving only an hour later than planned. Other Half is glad not to have to drive to Dulles, located in the western Godforsaken Hinterlands, which is much further from our house. As far as I know, I arrived home with all my pants. No animatronic animals were involved in my delay. So I guess it could’ve been worse.

 

Also: like this!

I think I’m going to start driving more often.

you say ‘hilarious’, i say…less so. yeah, still got nothing.

Not exactly like this. But close.

I like to think it’s possible to walk outside and not make myself ridiculous on some days, and yet all evidence and Magic 8 balls point to the contrary.

I arrive at the Dayton airport last week and, because I have finished my novel on the plane and have a little time to kill before my shuttle departs, I stop in one of the book stores by the gate. This is one of the stores that carries a mix of things – magazines, t-shirts, candy, shot glasses. I don’t see anything that appeals to me on the bestsellers’ shelf, so I wheel myself out and start down the hallway toward Ground Transportation. As I’m walking out of the store I notice, distantly, an echo-ey cackling noise; sort of a high-pitched giggle, but over and over; a hilariously, insanely, spookily funny laugh. It’s not a person. It sounds vaguely canned or mechanical. Someone’s ring tone? I look over my shoulder as I walk – who knows, there are dozens of people passing me staring at the phones in their hands.

But several steps more and I still hear it. I stop, look up. Is it from the announcement speakers? I don’t know why they would be broadcasting crazy laughter, but it’s so close by! No? I keep walking… and hear it again. Where is it? I stop again. What IS that? Now I’m looking frantically in all directions. NO ONE else seems to be hearing this. I start walking. I hear the laugh. I stop. Now I am starting to doubt myself. DO I hear this? Am I having a breakdown? Is this how it starts? The Voices cackle evilly before they start to form sentences? I set my suitcase upright while I ponder the implications of insanity right on the eve of attending a humor conference. Perhaps this is the right career move after all.

But the suitcase doesn’t sit evenly, and when I look down I solve two mysteries at once. A cackling, wriggling mechanical dog, which I now vaguely recall noticing writhing around on the floor of the bookstore, has caught its tail around the wheel of my suitcase. I have been dragging this ridiculous animal down the hallway of the Dayton airport as it sways and screeches hysterically behind me. Awesome. This might be worse than going insane.

I untangle it from the wheels and pick it up, not without difficulty because it writhes back and forth and I only have one arm since I still have my shoulder bag and suitcase to carry with my other hand (sudden flashback of wrestling an armadillo named Irma several years ago…don’t ask), and start back to the store from which I accidentally shoplifted this screechy little monster. Outside the store sit a row of about 8 airline crew – pilots, flight attendants – studiously gazing at their handheld smartphones, until I pass them, and at once all 8 of them break out into giggles.

“That was hilarious!” one of them tells me with glee.

“I was going to stop you,” adds another one, “but you figured it out pretty soon.”

Thanks a lot, schmucks. Pretty soon? 30 yards! At what point were you going to intervene? “At least I’m not crazy,” is my halfhearted response. It’s lame, I know. I got nothing. I’ll just be off to baggage claim now to track down some dignity.

why, what are you using your conscience for?

Just like this. I tell you, they were real.

It’s a 12 hour flight from Hong Kong to San Francisco, my entry point to the U.S. this time around, and it’s time for the Ambien question. Specifically, if I want to risk it again after last year’s minor episode.

“Is this going to end badly, IB?”

Nope, silence. He has no opinion preemptively. Could go either way.

I have a voice in my head. Some might say it’s my Conscience, or Common Sense, but I call him Internal Bartender, because his main job, at least for a certain portion of my adult life, has been to intervene when I’m drinking. He always knows when it’s time to cut me off, and warns me when I’m approaching the next level. “You ought to be considering some water at this point,” he might remark, conversationally, “before embarking on your third mojito, if you still plan on walking home.” He’s a good sort, Internal Bartender; doesn’t judge or nag much, so I pay attention when he gets all snotty, like, “Bitch, what did I just say? UnHAND that jello shot.”

(Hmm. I never thought about this before, but IB sounds just like Samuel L. Jackson.)

I’d always been a little worried about taking something on flights because I wasn’t sure if I would react well with it. But I don’t sleep well on planes, if at all, and it always makes the first few days of vacation a grim experience as I try to recover from the combination of lack of sleep + jet lag. The last straw was a flight to Norway, when I was somehow moved to a middle seat in the last row of the plane (these seats do not recline, it turns out) and stayed up all night talking and playing trivia with my two other seatmates (admittedly very cool people, with an admirable range of knowledge about geography and European pop culture) and then spent the next 10 days struggling to catch up on my REM by falling asleep on every flat surface I could find. I didn’t actually get back on a normal pattern until 2 weeks after I’d returned to the U.S. After that, I took the prescription from the travel doctor the next time she suggested it, and now I adore the fact that I can count on a solid 6-8 hours of sleep on long flights.

I’d never had any trouble! Until the last time – also a double-digit-hour long trip home from Asia. I pulled out the bottle and asked the flight attendant for water, then stood confusedly in the aisle. I realized I’d failed to pay adequate attention to my travel doctor’s instructions, and now couldn’t remember if I was to take one or two at a time. IB had no recollection either (as I said, he’s not good with preemptive advice), so I decided to start with one and add another if it didn’t seem to be working.

Well, this turned out to be a wise decision overall, because the other item suffering from my inattention was the fact that I had accidentally brought the old bottle of expired meds from a previous trip instead of the recently filled prescription. 15 minutes after swallowing it down I began admiring the very nice pink and yellow plaid taffeta curtains American Airlines had recently installed along the walls of the cabin – as recently as the last 15 minutes, perhaps, since I did not remember it before. So pretty! What a good choice! Coincidentally, I happened to look down and see fluffy white bunnies hopping along the floorboards, heading up toward the cockpit. “Fluffy bunnies!” I squealed in my head, reaching down to pet them.

Internal Bartender screeched like I’ve never heard him. “JESUS CHRIST, Angela, you are on a plane! THERE ARE NO &;@*!# BUNNIES HERE.”

I scowled. There are clearly bunnies here. So cute, fluffy bunny rabbits. Look! I turned to my left to alert my seatmate.

“NO!! Shut the HELL up, do NOT SPEAK TO ANYONE. Do NOT pet the bunnies, do NOT speak to anyone. You GO TO SLEEP now.”

I was dimly aware he might be on to something…though I was dead certain about the bunnies.

On the other hand, IB has never been wrong about the jello shots.

I said nothing to my seatmate and tried to get comfortable, making the mistake of attempting to slightly adjust the pretty, pretty curtains first so I didn’t crush them with my neck pillow. “WHAT the &*@% DID I JUST SAY?! You BEST be asleep, forthwith.”

I did go to sleep, forthwith, and when I woke up several hours later I felt both amazing and grateful that IB had prevented me from telling anyone about the bunnies at the time (though, naturally, I felt compelled to tell everyone I knew about them later).

Now it’s six months later, on another flight from Asia, and I have the bottle in my hand. Risk it? I check the date. No, I got the right bottle this time. Surely it was an expiration issue. I take…one.

travel day: my childhood

The goat came to us because it was sick. And because it was cold.

The goats – along with cows, chickens, a surly pony, and cats – lived on our farm out in the country. We lived in town during the school year and trekked out to the farm to feed the animals every other day. On Dad’s last trip out, he’d found one of the goats slumped in a corner of the barn, dull-eyed and lethargic. The vet said it could go either way, but it needed constant supervision. And, it was cold. Tennessee was experiencing record-low temperatures that year and the animals were huddled together in the stalls. Dad stacked hay against the walls but the wind came in – too much, they worried, for a small sick goat. So it came to town in the back of the Subaru, and was barricaded in the furnace room with blankets and grain and newspaper on the floor.

I’m sorry to say we kids were less compassionate than we might have been. We had a goat…in our basement. Who else keeps goats in their basement? Why do we always have to be so weird?

“Oh, keep your shirt on,” my mother says crossly. “It’ll be fine in a few days and will go back to the farm. No one will know.”
That might have been true except for the fact that my brother’s friend John stopped by to borrow a book for some homework, and was standing in the kitchen when the goat decided to break into its own rendition of “Old MacDonald”.
“What was that?” John asks.
It’s hard to make the following statement with insoucience, but I want you to know I went for it. “Oh, it’s just a goat we have..in the basement.”
A definite pause. But it turns out we have underestimated John. He’s a boy not easily perturbed.
“Really? Nice! Can I see it?”
We trooped down the stairs together to see it, curled up on a rug by the furnace. It didn’t look so good, but it was as friendly as ever, leaning in for a scratch behind the ears.

Two days later, though, we awoke to the news that the goat hadn’t made it.

It was sad, but of course we’d lost a lot of animals over the years, not even including the steers that would disappear in the spring at the same time small white paper packages would mysteriously fill up the back freezer. Some goats had been sold, and both the sheep had run away immediately after the red ribbon for the 4-H project, and we’d lost track of the times we’d find more feathers than chickens in the hen roost.
Dad had wrapped the little goat in an old blanket and plastic and packed it in the trunk of the car for transportation back to the farm for burial. He took the day off work and headed off. And then was back, in too short a time to have buried anything.
“Ground’s completely frozen,” he tells my mother. “We’re going to have to wait until it’s a little warmer.”
“Guess I’m not getting groceries in that car,” is her prompt response.

Oh, sure, hilarious, Mom! So funny! Except that this is the car she picks us up from school in, drives us to soccer and basketball practice, transports us and our friends to the mall. Runs errands, goes to Junior League meetings. The car that now has a dead body in the trunk. And the ground is still frozen the next day. Oh, and also the next.

Now it’s been three days with a body in the trunk and my mother is beginning to become paranoid. One kid catching a ride home with us walks to the back of the car and asks to put his backpack in the trunk. “No!!” my mother snaps. “You can hold it on your lap!”
She watches her rearview mirror constantly. “If we get rear-ended at a stoplight I do not know what I’m going to do. Run for it, probably,” she tells me. I take a moment to contemplate life as fugitives.
“I guess we’re not going to Mexico,” I remind her, “what with the lack of Spanish-speaking, which I continue to blame on you and Dad.”
“Oh, really? Well -” She breaks off in mid-sentence, spotting red and blue lights flickering as a patrol car cruises by.
“Buenas Dias! Estas un federale?” I practice. Learn Spanish in the Car! had been maddeningly unhelpful for this scenario.

In retrospect, I guess it’s a good thing this was long before I’d attended law school or we’d have been twice as worried. I’d have warned her not to keep anything incriminating in her car, because cops can always find a way to search your car without a warrant (free legal advice! don’t ever keep anything incriminating in your car). Not that the goat was incriminating, exactly; I mean, we hadn’t murdered it. But let’s face it: it was going to look really, really bad, no matter what.

In the end, it didn’t come to that. No accidents with trunks springing open!…no speeding tickets…no surprise inspections…no family on the lam to Mexico. I mean, Canada, what with that lack of Spanish thing that I believe we’ve discussed previously. On Day 4 the cold snap broke, and my parents finally drove back to the farm and came back with an empty trunk the rest of us avoided for the remaining lifetime of the car. I’d hold that backpack in your lap, if I were you.

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