Bucket List: Bronx Camping

It’s been a lot colder here than it should be for late August – early September… so much so, that we had to scuttle plans to go camping last weekend. Never to be deterred from the pleasures of sleeping in what essentially amounts to a very large Ziploc with my children (and apparently the cat) we decided to pitch a tent in the backyard.  I may or may not have made it the entire night. 

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Limp Mode

I ran into a friend this morning. I saw she was on foot with shopping bags. 

“Need a ride?” I asked. 

“No way! I’m not getting into that car!” She replied, casting a derisive eye on the many dents of my blue minivan. 

“It wasn’t my car!” I yelled as I pulled away in shame. 

My friend was referring to my recent 200 mile trip home in a tow truck. As you can see below, the car in question was not my car. 

 
The car in question belonged to my friend, A. The car in question is also brand-spanking new, which we all know my car is most definitely NOT. Earlier this week, A, and I were driving our daughters home from camp. Camp is seven hours away and we drove there without problem. About 4 hours into the drive home, all the lights on the dashboard went on, including the light that could either have been a) the battery, or b) the engine. It’s gone on in my car several times, and I still couldn’t tell you which it is. 

I suspected we should probably stop driving, so I urged A to pull over and call AAA. She wisely told me that we did not need to be stranded on the side of a two-lane highway in Nowhere, Pennsylvania, waiting for AAA to show up, and that we should keep driving until we could get off the highway. At some point the car informed us that things were getting far worse, as it promptly refused to drive over 40 mph, if that. We made it off the highway and pulled into a Valero gas station, where the attendant directed us to the auto shop across the street. 

AAA sent someone who told us that because it was 4.55, the car could not possibly be looked at until the next day, at the earliest. We explained what was happening in the car and he said,

“Yup. Limp Mode.” 

“Huh?” We asked, sure we’d misheard him. 

“Limp mode,” he said nodding to his sidekick, who added, “Limp Mode, alright.”

Limp mode? That sounded suggestive, dirty, and downright unpleasant, but that was all lost on these guys (and a succession of other men who chimed in over the course of the afternoon). (It is worth noting that all the men were quite helpful, even if one had a distracting swollen cheek and black stuff oozing out the corner of his mouth.)

Inside the auto shop sat possibly the least helpful human being in North America, and that includes Florida. As it was now 4.57, she told us that not only could she not help us, but that there was not a single person in town, or in any of the neighboring towns, who could help us. 

“There’s a rental car company in Bumfuck,” she said. But it closes in three minutes.” Big smile. 

I could see this was going nowhere quickly, so we called AAA back and began to do the math. We could either shell out for a hotel room, towing, and possible a rental car while we hung out in Nowhere, PA and waited for the car to be fixed. Or, we could shell out to have the car towed 200 miles home (actually 100 miles, because I got 100 miles covered in my AAA plan. Go AAA Plus!) I thought about the toothless Valero attendant across the street who looked like he wandered off the set of Deliverance. Whenever I went in to stock up on Twizzlers and BBQ potato chips, he smiled strangely and looked at me the way my husband looks at a chicken dinner. I thought it best to get out of town. 

Enter Ryan.  

 
Ryan showed up an hour later and confirmed that the car was, in fact, in Limp Mode.  A was a trooper and gamely drove the car onto the back of his tow truck, and climbed down. Before she could say anything, I called shotgun and jumped in the front seat. She and I both get carsick, but I can’t imagine she suffers anywhere near as much as I do, and besides, I’m taller. Taller people get to choose where they sit. The front seat also gave me a better view of Ryan and a better position from which I could pepper him with questions. 

Here is what I learned: 

1. Ryan had never been to New York. (New York is less than 3 hours away.)

2. Even though he spoke with a strong southern accent, Ryan was born and bred in PA. (I really don’t know how this happens, although I think it may have something to do with all the country music I was forced to listen to.) 

3. Ryan lived in West Virginia for a while and worked in a coal mine. He started to complain about all the safety regulations, but I knew EXACTLY where that was going, so I quickly asked him another question and learned that…

4. The furthest Ryan has driven is Colorado. 

Ryan drank a lot of Mountain Dew and at some point he pulled out of tin of tobacco. For a while my grandfather smoked a pipe, and I actually love the smoky sweet smell of tobacco, but I’ve never seen it chewed before. I tried not to stare. I tried not to crane my neck and gape as Ryan rolled down the window and spat. There was a little piece of me that wanted to taste it to see what all the fuss was about, but I didn’t think it would mix well with my steady diet of Twizzler and BBQ potato chips. (They are the cure-all for car sickness, as long as you eat them continually, without pause, on the journey.) 

We pulled into a rest-stop at the Delware Water Gap and peed. Ryan was giddy with excitement. New York was moments away. I realized that were were headed over the Tappan Zee and not the GW Bridge, and that poor Ryan would not get a shot of the Manhattan skyline. He’d have to settle for downtown White Plains. As it turned out, Ryan had no plans to stick around. Once we’d arrived, taken the car off the tow and paid him, he chugged a couple of Red Bulls and headed back to PA. 

It was close to midnight and we were all fried. At home, I put my eight year old to bed, got undressed, and was glad no one was there to see three potato chips and a third of a Twizzler fall out of my bra. 

Still no word on what was really wrong with the car. Limp Mode, indeed. 

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Diner Coffee

Every time someone calls me a snob (something of a thrice a week phenomenon at its slowest), I mutter to myself: “diner coffee.”

That’s right. I’ve travelled. I’ve tasted. Hell, I even lived in Seattle. You can have your espresso-based drinks with foamy whatever-milk. Give me a steaming mug of American diner coffee. In fact, give me 3 mugs of it. No milk. I like it best when I don’t even know my mug is being filled and I can pretend its one loooong cup of coffee.

M and I were on the Jersey Shore this weekend with some friends when I fell upon this:I don’t know what makes diner coffee Jersey-style, but I do know this stuff is roasted in Asbury Park, which brings me one step closer to Springsteen. (Asbury Park, by the way, is definitely worth a visit, even if you don’t worship at the shrine of Bruce.)

The last time I was on the Shore, I ended up on TV. This time I found some coffee. I’m brewing a cup of it in the French press this morning.

Stay tuned. 

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My One Day. 

I was supposed to have one full day this summer – one full day with no children. Four finally shipped off to camp yesterday and the baby (ok, she’s six) and I are headed out of town tomorrow afternoon. She was supposed to do her last full day of camp while I basked in the rare solitude of summer. One day. 

It’s been a pretty hands on summer so far. I’ve spent hours at the pool. Took an eleven year old to see Miss Saigon for her birthday (I may have forgotten that 2/3 of the play is set in a strip club brimming with hookers) and packed and unpacked the beach bag more times than I can remember. I have supervised the making of slime (what’s up with that shit anyway?) and made vats of pasta. As I may have mentioned, I’ve spent a lot of time gardening, but not much of it has been alone. In short, I’m a little on the tired side.  

I had plans for today, big plans. Plans that involved hours alone, including a long run and time at the keyboard. (I admit, we may not all celebrate in quite the same way.)

But the baby woke up in the middle of the night with a fever. She woke up in the middle of the night in my bed because that is where she went to sleep. She figured if it’s just the two of us, she may as well skip the middle man and jump into bed with me. Before she woke up, I slept alongside her, her toes wedged in between my ribs. 

So, my One Day has turned into this:

That long run never quite materialized (and frankly, I’m a little too tired to make the most of it) and while I’m getting time at the computer, I’m doing my fair share of mothering, which includes watching Barbie movies on an endless loop and making cups of tea. Say what you want about Barbie, but that girl can seriously do anything. In just one morning she has piloted a space ship, designed an entire fashion line with the help of some fairies, and turned into a mermaid while winning a surfing competition. I, on the other hand, have yet to get dressed.  

There’s always next year. 

Right? 

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Nice girls grow zucchini.

I can’t bake. I have horrible handwriting. I can do no sport which calls for hand-eye coordination or the use of a bat, racket, or paddle. I am, at best, a fair driver. Some would even say I am unsafe behind the wheel. 

But I just did this:

This zucchini is so big it borders on the obscene – I felt almost dirty picking it. (As I yanked the thing out of the ground, I heard myself whispering, really, I’m not that kind of girl…)

But pick it, I did. And tonight – we feast.  

All those other things that I’m bad at, all those many many things, the driving, the baking, the dancing (yup), heck, even the parenting… They can all suck it because I just went and grew part of dinner.

P.S. Fuck. I just burnt the chicken.

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Have Nest, Will Travel.

It’s comforting to know that there are some things married couples can fight about even when they are on the road.

One of these things is air conditioning. At home we have a Nest thermostat, and M. tells me that it actually has a mind of its own and sets the house to the temperature it thinks the house needs to be. But I refuse to believe that any computer believes our house needs to be the exact temperature of a meat freezer. The coldest spot is our bedroom, and the coldest spot in our bedroom happens to be on my side of the bed, most likely because the AC vents blow directly onto my pillow. (Also because I sleep next to the always open window, because M believes in sleeping in a room full of fresh air. Even with the air conditioner blasting.)

I once told him that Jimmy Carter said that in the interest of conservation, we should set our house to 74°. M wanted to know why I would cite Jimmy Carter when I was neither living in the US during his presidency, or politically aware at the time. I had no answer for him, but just thinking about Jimmy Carter right now makes me want to cry, so I’ll move on.

We are currently in a vacation rental. There is also a Nest here and hours into our visit the entire rental is the exact temperature of… you guessed it, a meat freezer. Naturally,  every time I pass the Nest I do this: Occasionally, just like at home, spite will often get the best of me and I will set it to 80°. But within seconds it has plunged back down again…

The other thing we can apparently fight about anywhere is towels. M. does not understand why I refuse to go a full week before laundering my bath towel. I tell him that I am happy to wear the same pair of jeans unwashed for two months, but if it were up to me, I would have a clean bath towel every single day.

Here we are in a cute little vacation cottage, and just like at home, I am doing laundry from sunup to sundown. Please do not get me started on the sand. 

If I am going to be doing round-the-clock laundry, and sweeping sand from crevices unknown, I get to have a clean towel. Every day. 

I’m sure that Jimmy Carter would agree.

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The Next Stop: Home Goods

Once you’ve packed what you think are the entire contents of your home, the second step of summer road tripping (if you survived the car ride), is the trip to Home Goods to buy the things you thought would be in your rented cottage, but aren’t: BEDDING.

Last night at 10.30 pm, when the kids were already a hot mess, we discovered that even know there was a quilt on every bed, there was nothing under the quilt. We made do with what we could find last night and huddled together for warmth, but this morning M. took the boys fishing and the girls and I headed to Home Goods. We thought about Walmart, but it was 20 miles away, and it’s Walmart.

And Walmart, while it has its uses, does not provide your children the opportunity of waiting in the mile-long checkout line and finding things like this to beg you to buy:What the hell would I even do with that?

Or this:DENIED.

Or, Dear Lord, this: Once they have declared you the meanest mother on earth, you shuffle to the checkout, pay and leave. You may not have two sets of press-on nails, but at least you’ll all be warmer tonight.

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