Tag: travel

Our vacation: a pop quiz

You get one clue.
You get one hint.

Dave and I spent a week up north to be in nature, see some colors, and generally relax. In the list below, can you spot the 2 things we DIDN’T do to make our vacation a success?

  1. Locate vacuum cleaner immediately upon arrival and vacuum entire cottage.
  2. Replace  fluorescent  bulbs with LEDs purchased at hardware store in town.
  3. Sweep front steps and walk, though no one’s coming over we hope.
  4. Rearrange living room furniture. Twice.
  5. Outfit the dog for woodsy hikes in bright orange hunting vest, bright orange hunting collar, and blinking light for collar, then mostly walk on the beach.
  6. Purchase a sled.
  7. Consider purchasing a 1000-piece Jesus puzzle but ultimately decide on a pack of cards.
  8. Nestle in front of the fire with dog curled adorably in shower stall.
  9. Plan and cook meals that make best use of the available pots and pans.
  10. Confess ourselves genuinely surprised by Tennessee Williams and Gypsy Rose Lee.

The first correct guesser gets a jar of Cherry Republic cherry jelly — because Donna says it’s better than jam.

Non fighting words

Love is a battlefiled.

Maybe one of the reasons I keep feeling that I’m fighting the same battles is that I do things at the same time of day. I write in the morning, even when I’d rather be doing yoga or meditating or getting out with the dog, but I seem to have worked this habit into my bones. Even when I don’t feel much like writing, which is lately, I grab the pen and begin.

Every year at this time, we have a blow-up about taxes. It’s similar to a vacation blow-up, where there’s some funny little thing you joke tentatively about for a few days—his inability to say where he wants to eat, her unfortunate tendency to navigate from a map of the wrong town—and then, by the third day, maybe about four o’clock, when you’re hungry and tired and hot and thirsty and have had to pee for ever, someone says something that might have gotten a laugh a few hours ago but suddenly is grounds for divorce.

“It’s such a beautiful night, let’s work on taxes!” is the non-vacation version. By the twentieth time I say it, we’re usually days away from when we have to get our completed worksheet into our accountant, the beautiful David Turrentine. I generally start my casual references in February, saying things like, “If we just do a few hours a week, we’ll be done before we know it!” or “I worked on mine for a few hours today and I feel great!” To me, this sounds encouraging and helpful, just like it sounds to Dave when he says, “If you just concentrate on the map you won’t feel so carsick.”

“How am I supposed to look at a map when we’re about to topple into the Irish Sea?” is the equivalent of “You don’t understand how much I hate taxes.”

“Everyone hates taxes” and “People drive this road every day.”

“You don’t.”

“It’s really just a matter of doing what needs to be done.”

“But why do they plant hedges right where you need to see what’s coming? It’s like they want to make it as difficult as possible.”

“I’m sorry, that’s just how it is here.”

“I’m not blaming you, it’s just…you have all these expectations.”

“I know you’re doing your best.”

“I really am trying.”

“I know. For God’s sake watch out!”

“I see it.”

“Then why are you driving straight into it?”

“It’s a parking lot. Come on, let’s get some lunch.”

“Don’t forget to save the receipt. Technically, this is research.”

“Don’t start on next year already.”

“But if we start now…”

But this year, we seem to have sidestepped the blow-up. Even though I started earlier than usual this year, with my first “Feel like starting on taxes?” in January instead of February. Even though I danced around the kitchen last night singing “I’m done I’m done I’m done” with my printed report in hand, when Dave had only set up his card table a few hours before. Even though we have to have our stuff to David T. by tomorrow, not Monday as I originally thought. Dave is deep in now, and I think the danger has passed.

Which is good. I’m grateful for the win, but it feels weird. It’s like when I look at the new kitchen and see why we’re not going on any fancy vacations any time soon. It’s totally worth it. It means progress. It means change. But I have to remind myself that change is good. Change is what winners do. And anyway, there’s always next year.

The undeciders

cocktail napkin
Maybe it makes more sense to a decider.

I shot my wad on the way up to Bay City. We were closing in on lunch time, and I remembered a café near New Buffalo that I’d eaten at a few years ago. I didn’t have to actually make that decision, just suggest it. But when you’re travelling with three other undeciders, even a comment can be construed as a command.

Lunch was fine, though for some reason the waitress didn’t want to give Kismet water. Throughout the weekend, we had a hard time getting four waters. However, the booze was cheap.

After lunch, I left the decision-making to Kismet and Kyle and Dave. At the fest, there were multiple good options for doing something at any time: three film venues, plus a few workshops, plus parties, plus restaurants, plus bars. One of us would say, “Do you want to go to this?” Someone would answer, “Sure, if you do.” Followed up by someone else’s “Whatever you think.” Confirmed by the fourth person’s “I’m good either way.”

I was the one who probably should have had some plan, for how I could meet as many other filmmakers as possible, how I could insert myself into as many conversations as possible, so I could be one of those people quoted on film fest sites, “I made so many great connections and we’re already talking about collaborating on future projects!” But that’s not me. The transition from “Liked your film” to “Wanna read my script?” always seems fake.

Plus, I’m too distracted by new faces or off-topic conversations or pictures of peoples’ dogs or another event happening three blocks away. Like the wonderful family parties that ended just as I realized I still hadn’t talked to the one person I wanted to catch up with, I was too busy having fun. Wandering from place to place, sometimes with the other undeciders or sometimes alone, because in addition to being undeciders we are also unclingers. Watching good films. Eating good food. Meeting an occasional filmmaker and making vague plans to talk later. Because there seemed to be infinite time in this friendly, happy world. Just like the parties at Auntie Aggie’s, where there was always another roomful of interesting people, another tray of food coming out of the kitchen, and rumors of Mr. Microphone in the basement. Oh wait, no, Mr. Microphone wasn’t at the festival.

I did a pretty good job of not putting myself down, though Kismet scolded me once for advising someone to watch Sandman “in a group – it’s not as good alone.” “But it’s not,” I protested.

“Have you watched it alone?” she charged.

“That’s different,” I said.

“That’s your opinion,” she replied. “Keep it to yourself.” Kismet also took apart our distribution plan, late at night in the hotel bar, on the napkin from her Manhattan. In response to my presentation of our strategy, “We’ve done some festivals, so now, hopefully, I guess, some distribution,” she asked for a pen.

“First we identify our long-term goals for the film. Then medium-term goals. Then short-term goals. That’s this column. Then organizational considerations. Then allies.”

“What are organizational considerations?”

“Don’t worry about those yet. Start with goals. What are your long-term goals?”

“Um…” Saved by the waitress. “Another round here?”

“Yes, please!” We decided to finish the discussion on the drive home. That was the one actual decision we made, but we didn’t keep it. Instead, we nursed our hangovers and thought about gifts for the people who were taking care of our dogs.

In classic undecider form, we couldn’t figure out where to exit for the gifts. Maybe a gas station would have something suitably kitschy? But these were favorite people; we didn’t want crappy. Was there something local? Dave took out his phone. “If we detour through downtown Lansing, there are two gift shops.”

“Detour? Do we want to detour?” No one said anything. “Is there something right on the highway?”

Dave searched. “There’s a Gifts from the Heart. It’s about a mile off exit 127.”

I wondered what about a mile might mean. “Do you guys want to stop?” “Sure, if you do.”“Whatever you think.” “I’m good either way.”

We neared the exit. There was some construction; there could be delays. “What do you think?” “Should we just keep going?” “Should we stop?” “Should we…?” “Exit,” Dave suddenly said. And Kyle exited.

We followed the directions, the sure enough, one mile off the highway, was Briarbrook road. But it was inside a gated community. Gifts from the Heart is online-only. “But we commend you for deciding,” we consoled Dave. He was done with decisions.

To get back to the highway, Kyle had to turn around in a Cracker Barrel parking lot. Which turned out to be a great place to get kitschy gifts. Even better, once, we’d bought them and could forget about it, we saw a sign for apple cider. We sampled from 23 flavors of cider, ate cider donuts, posed for pictures on rocking chairs that seemed more authentic than the ones at Cracker Barrel, and played in an outdoor metal dinosaur museum. It was the perfect Michigan roadside stop, discovered only because an undecider decided to stop at a store that didn’t exist.

Mrs. Libman disposes

bug climbing
Always giving you a little something extra.

No story today, but there’s this: Yesterday I got on my bike and rode out to the highway, not sure where I was headed. I rode up M-22 a mile or two, terrified the few times a car passed. There’s a good shoulder but I was still convinced I was invisible. I saw a sign for a road that Ruby had said goes around a pretty lake, so I turned off.

Even though there’s no shoulder there’s almost no traffic. I was about the same level of terrified every time a car went by, but it only happened twice. The rest of the time, solitude. A few houses. Great views of the lake. Lots of long, winding downhill slopes and only two uphill ones of any difficulty. I had to get off and walk but I could feel that at some point I might be able to ride them. Later I ran into Rebecca at Molly’s cocktail party and she said she and Rich had also ridden around that lake today. And for the first time since they’ve been coming here she rode both uphill slopes all the way to the top. I asked how she did it. “Are you stronger this year? Have you been training?”

“No,” she said, “This year I just didn’t give up.”