Today is my mother's birthday. She and my father drove home from Baltimore today. My father reports that she is going to cook a turkey (for him, really, because she doesn't care) for Christmas on Sunday. I warned him that she may not have the energy to complete the job, so he should take that into consideration. Translation: Dad, you are the Plan B cook.
Addison has colitis. It took me until this afternoon to figure that out. Duh. She had diarrhea twice in the middle of the night and all day today. I made some basmati rice in beef stock for her. I gave her a half cup of rice with a spoonful of wet dog food, and she inhaled it. Jasper got some rice with his dog food, so he was happy, too.
I met a Canadian woman named Sherri last night who is parked down the street from me. Before stretching class today, she warned me that the class gets crowded after the New Year and she advised me to arrive early to get a spot. I did some modifications to the CD exercises to get more out of the session. I hope that doing these classes will help my hamstring heal. When does, I'll think twice about playing ping pong again with 70-somethings.
Jean told me on Wednesday that I would be receiving a package via USPS Priority Mail today. She said it is a Christmas present but that I should open it immediately. It was delivered to me by a staff member at quarter to three today. I opened it immediately per Jean's instructions. The box contained three 12-inch pieces of homemade pepperoni, a slab of smoked cheddar cheese, and Christmas and birthday cards – neither of which was signed or sealed so that I can reuse them. That's funny. Maybe I'll sign them and send them back to her.
The pepperoni is the best pepperoni I have ever had. I put two sticks in the freezer, and I ate about two inches of the third. A friend of Jean's smokes it, and apparently she had him do these sticks especially for me. Again, Jean's a good friend.
I applied for a job via ZipRecruiter the other day and I was required to register with ExecuNet to complete the online application. During the registration process I was asked if I want a free resume review. I said yes, and a call was scheduled for today at noon. I knew that I would be pitched to hire ExecuNet to “package” me as a job candidate. During the call, I answered the man's questions about me and my desired job, and I took notes on his comments about my resume. He directed me online to a resume he had redone for a "client." I told him that disliked it per se because it's too wordy, there is no white space, it is three pages, and it's unreadable on a smart phone. Further, I wouldn’t take the time to read it as an employer.
Next, he critiqued my LinkedIn profile, and I agreed with his comments as they pertained to search optimization. However, he then proceeded to trash my photograph because I'm “wearing a hat and there is too much going on in the background.” For the record, I'm sitting at a cafe in Rome, wearing a dress, a sweater, a straw hat, silver pearls, have a cappuccino in front of me, and I'm reading a guide book. You can't really see my face, but I think it adds mystery. (My friends love this photo.) He said I should have a head shot with no background. He finished by pitching ExecuNet’s services to me: I listened out of politeness, thanked him for his time, and I updated my resume and LinkedIn profile as soon as the call ended. Although it was unlikely from the start that I’d hire anyone to “package” me, his assault on my photograph would have trumped both a perfect sample resume and great pricing. Someone needs to “package” him.
Both Addison and Jasper had diarrhea this morning, and Jasper didn't eat any star fruit. Their symptoms may be coincidental, and their may be causes unrelated. Who knows? I had to Clorox-wipey-thing their butts when we returned. Then Addison barfed. When I walked them this evening, neither pooped. Both ate their dinners vigorously, so perhaps their digestion and elimination will return to normal in the morning.
There is an analogous "bumper sticker" phenomenon in RV parks with park models: people announce their university loyalties, professional sports fandoms, political and religious affiliations, military service, and hometowns via various placards, stickers, and painted driveways. Did one or both of them go to the university or are they just fans because they live in Michigan? Are they telling others that they Patriots fans to start a conversation or a fight? If there are any Clinton fans in this park they remain anonymous. Thank you for your service in Korea and Vietnam: that's what you want me to say, right? I'd rather say, "I'm sorry you were drafted." But, if you enlisted, you made a career choice like becoming a police officer or firefighter, neither of whom ever seem to broadcast their service.Also, thank you for telling me your names and hometowns: I'll call a bad guy and have him rob you while you're here.
These affiliations are often accompanied by statuary and other yard art expressing their senses of style. The park models, yards, and golf carts have Christmas wreaths, lights and garland. It's all incongruous with the weather, especially the snowman holding the sign which says "Let It Snow." I hope it's all gone by the 26th, but I know it will be well after the New Year.
It was sunnier and warmer today, but there was a good breeze. My standing, oscillating fan arrived, and it's doing a good job moving air around the main cabin. I'm not sure what I'll do with it tonight since it isn't high enough to blow air above the bed and there is no counter on which to put it in the bedroom. The breeze is from the north, so it's actually moving through the dinette window. When the air come from the perpendicular direction, BOB becomes a steam room and I need the AC. It will be interesting to see whether the fan can conquer a breezeless BOB. I miss Montana and Wyoming in the summer: hot, dry days and cool nights, bloody nose and cracked feet notwithstanding.
I spent the afternoon gathering more contacts for my postcard mailings. I have 89 companies and I addressed another 23 cards today. VistaPrint says the next two iterations will arrive on Tuesday. I've used one-and-one-half pen's worth of ink. I have three brand new pens left. I'll probably have to order more from Staples. I think my postcard waste rate will exceed 10% due to pilot error – information on the wrong line, misspellings, misjudging space, etc. Tomorrow, I'll rework postcard number four.
Next Wednesday, I plan on driving BOB to Melbourne to get blood work because I'm due (and before my insurance changes). I'll get propane and dog food as a CYA, too. I also spent time this afternoon "shopping" for haircuts thinking that I might drop into a SuperCuts and end the five-plus-month-grow-out. What I think I want (ultimately) is Diane Keaton's layered bob with bangs.
What I will probably do to stage that grow out is a version of a Meg Ryan long pixie. My forehead is large, my face is small, I have two forehead cow licks, and my hair is a little wavy (probably because it's getting grey). It's a shit show of shiny brown hair managed by someone with no skills – which is why I'm always shopping for a wash-and-wear do. I downloaded pictures of Keaton, Ryan and Katie Couric hoping that one of their styles will be adaptable to my grow-out. It will be interesting to see if the stylist can convert a photo into a haircut which I like. The other night I dreamed that I buzzed my hair with Wahl beard clippers. It didn't go well. If SuperCuts fucks up my hair I'll go to a barber who has real clippers and get a GI Jane.
I rode my bike to Publix this afternoon. I shopped enough to get through Christmas. I bought a bag of shelled pistachios as a treat, and I've consumed over 600 calories of them since I got home. Bad pistachios, bad!
My alarm went off at four-thirty this morning so I could give my father a wake-up call for my mother’s surgery. Although the hotel could have provided this service, my father wanted me to do it. When he answered, he said that he had been awake for hours, and that he had already showered and dressed. I suspect that he tortured my mother from the moment he woke, reminding her of their departure time, and asking what he can do for her to ensure to ensure they leave on time. I hung up, read my email, and did Sudoku until I was tired enough to go back to sleep.
Today, is my 52nd birthday. My dog Addison gave me the gift of poo: diarrhea all over the cabin floor. Just what I wanted. How did she know? I have no way of constraining the dogs inside BOB, so they tend to wander between their beds on either side of mine and the dinette or ottoman in the main cabin. I heard her nails clicking on the floor after I called my father, but I didn't think anything of it. I should have. I have now learned the hard way that a 20 pound dog should not eat most of a star fruit – no matter how much she likes it, even if it is small. I cleaned up the mess, made coffee, did my ablutions, and took the dogs for a walk. Addison had more diarrhea, so I had to return to the scene of the slime with a bucket of water to wash it away. I drank my coffee, had a protein shake, and went to the nine o'clock septuagenarian stretching class, as one does at age 52.
I got to the class just as it started. I had my own mat thanks to Amazon Prime. I grabbed a chair and found a place on the floor near the front of the room – not my preference since it's harder to follow along when I can't watch others. Fortunately, the routine was the same as Monday's so I knew what to expect. During class, I deduced that Beverly had made the CD. I asked her about it after class, and she said she made it over 15 years ago. Beverly learned the routine from someone else, she’s been doing it for 25 years, and she plays the same routine for every class.
Afterwards, I went back to BOB, stopped by the mail room, and headed for the exercise room for a cardio workout. I took my jump rope with me hoping to be able to use it inside but the ceiling was too low. The exercise machines were old and didn't appeal to me, so I just lifted free weights and jumped rope on the pool deck. On the way back to BOB, a maintenance man suggested I top off my fresh water tank as a precaution in case the water main blew again. I thanked him, and decided to bathe the dogs and do the laundry while the water was still flowing.
My father called in the afternoon to report that mother's surgery had gone well. Because eating is one of my father’s hobbies, he informed the surgeon that he and my mother had decided to postpone Christmas dinner until she had fully recovered. The surgeon offered that my mother could eat mashed potatoes on Christmas Day, and my father told her that my mother hates them. (Not eating is one of my mother’s hobbies.) My mother will be discharged either tomorrow or Friday – my mother's 78th birthday – and they'll drive home on Christmas Eve. My father gave me my mother’s room number, then he told me not to call her because she wants to sleep. Instead, he could have offered to call me from his phone when he visits her, but that would be easier for all of us – like requesting a wake-up call from the hotel.
Jean called me after five tonight. She said that she couldn't talk, but that the FedEx guy was at the park gate and couldn't get in to deliver the present she sent me for my birthday. I told her that I needed five minutes to get there via bike. I left my birthday bourbon to dilute, exited BOB, unlocked my bike, and road like a bat out of hell towards the gate. As I approached, both the UPS trucks and FedEx trucks were coming through the gate. I flagged down the FedEx guy. He said the packages were too heavy for me to carry on my bike, so he followed me. When we got to BOB he said they are from JET.com, and that they are probably food. He deposited the two heavy boxes on my folding table and drove away. Jean sent me 124 cans of CRACK: eight 12-packs of coconut, one 12-pack of apricot, one eight-pack of cantaloupe-pink grapefruit, and one eight-pack of blackberry-cucumber. It is probably the best birthday present anyone has ever given me! Jean is a good friend.
Vin Diesel was on FX tonight. Could the day have gone any better?
I decided this morning that I don’t want to do aqua fitness at eight. I figured I could tread water for 30-40 minutes on my own and call it even. When I took the dogs for their morning walk, I discovered that the park’s water was still off: the "fix job" blew, too. The crew was hand-cutting another three-to-four feet square or rectangle to replace more pipes. A "sidewalk supervisor" in an orange shirt filled me in on the details. When I asked him why he was watching, he said that he found it entertaining. Only a woman would ask a man such a question.
Yesterday, I worked on three more job postcard ideas. The first, Kim helped me re-position to a happier note; the second, Kate graded "excellent" and no amendments were suggested; the third, however, remains a work in progress. This morning, I uploaded the first two to Vista Print and called their customer service to make sure that they were clear and bright enough. I placed the orders and suspect I'll have them before them the promised date.
I accumulated another 40 contacts for the first postcard, and I hand-addressed all of them. That increases my list to 165 names. I'll wait to mail them until the 2nd of January because I don't want them to get lost among the unopened holiday mail. I'll continue to research contacts for the first mailing while I wait for the second and third cards. It is a time-consuming and exhausting process, especially to find people at private companies which make things I like. I've also included famous people who run huge public companies – people who can make the decision to hire me per se, a suitable opening notwithstanding.
I went to get my mail this morning. The park's "post office" is really only a mailroom (it doesn't sell stamps), and it's only open from nine to ten in the morning Tuesday through Saturday. Mail is distributed the day after it's received. The "postmaster" told me that in order to get my mail I had to "open my box," i.e. write my name, forwarding address, and phone number on a slip of paper, and give her one dollar. I didn't have a dollar on me, but she still gave me my mail. I took my mail home and returned immediately with my dollar. It turns out that the dollar is to cover a sheet of labels with my forwarding address.
I ran out of Clorox Wipes this afternoon which constituted a crisis. I grabbed my backpack and my credit card and set out for Publix. I realized that my rear tire needed air, so I detoured north to the gas station. The air machine didn't take American Express, so I road back to BOB and grabbed a VISA card. That didn't work, either. I suspect that Hurricane Matthew killed the air machine since there were dead fish near it. A couple getting gas offered to give me a quarter for air. When I told them it costs $1.50, they said there is another station a little farther north. That machine didn't take credit cards, and the gas station employee would not sell me quarters with a credit card. OK, I understand: that's a great way to create fake transactions to steal cash, so he probably isn't allowed to do. He didn’t need to treat me with contempt, however. Asshole.
I resorted to using my small hand pump to inflate my rear tire. At Publix, I also bought a gallon of spring water because the fucking water was still off at two this afternoon.
I went to the nine o'clock stretching class this morning. There is a leader, Beverly, but the class instruction is via CD. The 40-minute class is fine except for one set of leg stretching which is done while sitting on a folding chair: I found it to be uncomfortable. There were about 20 women there. The woman who told me about the class was there, and she introduced me to Beverly. She also pointed out a dolphin in the Indian River a few minutes into the class – exercise with a view!
I took the dogs for their pre-prandial stroll at three-thirty this afternoon. I intended to take them to the beach, but a maintenance man in a golf cart stopped me to tell me that the water would be shutting off in ten minutes for several hours because the water main had blown. I reeled the dogs in and beat a path back to BOB to add water to his tank. The meter read two-thirds full when the water stopped flowing. It's enough for two showers and dishes, the former being more important than the latter.
This morning, maintenance men starting cutting through the asphalt around the corner from me. By sunset, there were six male residents standing beside the hole watching the crew work. Men like to watch other men work. I had always assumed that the road construction crew guys were just a bunch of lazy bastards because I never saw more than one guy working while the others watched. Now I realize that they can't help it: there’s some genetic code transmitted on the "Y" chromosome which says, "Watch while one man does. Each take a turn. Maybe." Run your own experiment with any guy: take him to construction site and he will become a statue. You could leave him there for hours and he won't move. The only thing that would distract him from the crane, backhoe, or steam roller is a hot chick in a bikini. Once she was out of sight, the heavy equipment would once again have all of his attention.
My parents drove to Baltimore today from their house in northern Pennsylvania. My mother has a hernia which impedes her ability to swallow, and she is having laparoscopic surgery at Johns Hopkins on Wednesday, my 52nd birthday. My father pointed out that the last time she was in the hospital on my birthday was when I was born: this time, it’s not my fault.
This is their fourth trip to Hopkins for diagnosis and treatment. I have made all of their hotel reservations at Marriott properties because I have "gold" status. My father likes the concierge (hospitality) suites at the various Marriott properties. He has enjoyed them with me in places like Bucharest, Copenhagen, and Heidelberg. He meets people, has buffet breakfasts, has light snacks and drinks, and escapes his room just to occupy a different space. The Marriott property in Baltimore didn't want to give him access to the concierge suite because I wasn't there, although the reservation was in both our names. (The last time they stayed there it wasn't a problem.) My father called me when he learned this at the check-in, and I had a conversation with the desk clerk. Apparently, he couldn't see my account information attached to the reservation. I haven't heard from my father since his call, so I know everything is fine – at least with the snacks.
After my aborted dog walk this afternoon, I rode my bike to Publix to buy groceries. Considering I can only buy a backpack's worth of groceries at a time, any list which fills the pack is worth getting. The ride is 10-15 minutes each way, and it is relatively safe and pleasant. I locked my bike up to the railing outside Publix to the sound of the most horrific Christmas song wailing I have ever heard. Animals in their death throes are more melodic than the Salvation Army solicitor was. I can't sing, but I can hear, and I have never heard anything so bad. She didn't even know the words as she sung above recorded tracks. If I had had cash, I would have paid her to stop singing as a public service. I can't wait until Christmas is over.
I spent the entire morning and early afternoon trying to create a web page on www.wordpress.com. I joined Word Press so I could see Camilla's blogs, but it occurred to me that I could use it as a self-promotional vehicle – uploading my postcards, writing about my observations of the job search process, etc. However, Word Press was not intuitive to me, so I found the experience to be unpleasant. I called Camilla to ask her whether she bought an upgraded package, but she hadn't. So, I "built" a home page – basically my resume – and left it at that.
Since I'm here for at least a month, I've decided to institute military rule on myself: out of bed at six-thirty (I'm often awake at five, and I remain in bed reading and doing Sudoku until seven-something), take the dogs and my coffee for a one-mile-long morning walk, exercise daily (stretching, aqua fitness, or my own routine), and walk the dogs on the beach in the late afternoon. That will leave me two-three hours to look for work, and one-two hours to write and attend to the banalities of life. Structure! I love it.
Over the past few weeks I've noticed a change in the dogs. When we lived in Providence, they slept in a cage during the night. I would get up, make my bed, make coffee, do my ablutions, and empty the dishwasher, before taking them out for their morning walk. They didn't make a sound during the 20-30 minutes it took to complete the routine. The crying started only when I put on my dog-walking clothes. In BOB, they are free-range Westies, so they sleep wherever they want. In the beginning, they didn't agitate for “Puppy Love” until I put on my dog-walking clothes – just like in Providence. Recently, however, they have begun to emerge from their places of slumber when they hear me gargle. It’s the last thing I do before I put on my dog-walking clothes, so they are anticipating my next step! They circle me like sharks, waiting for me to get dressed, so I can give them puppy love, and we can start our day together.
It's a half mile to the beach from our site, and the distance is largely inside the park. The dogs are not used to being walked long distances because our neighborhood in Providence was neither conducive nor pleasant to do so (mostly the latter). When I lived in Philadelphia with Chloe and Duncan, we could walk out our door and cruise Elfreth's Alley and Independence Hall without breaking a sweat or navigating through trash. They had fewer but longer urban walks. By contrast, Addison and Jasper went to work with me, so they had more frequent but shorter walks. By the time we got to the beach this afternoon, they were dragging. They didn't run around, and they only had one brief period of play. I thought I'd walk them for 20 minutes on the beach, but we only walked for a little more than five. They liked wading in the low surf, but they didn’t want to walk at a pace. It was hot and humid, so perhaps that was a factor, too.
After the beach walk, I devised three new postcard concepts. I shot them to Kim and Kate via email, and worked on the backside of one. Having created the original template, the ensuing ideas have come more easily.
Years ago, I worked for a company which needed a Chief Financial Officer. I could have filled the role, but I had been hired to run the direct-to-consumer business, and was therefore labeled as an “e-commerce” person. I spent the last decade of my career functioning as a Chief Operating Officer, but my “public” face was as the sales and marketing person. When I sold the company, the acquirers praised my marketing work. Hmm. I had hired a creative person to do the original work, hired her to teach an employee to replicate it technically, and I followed up thematically. It didn't make me feel like a marketer because my work wasn't really original, but I was gracious enough to accept the compliment. I was also good enough at sales during trade shows and on store visits, but that never made me feel like a salesperson either.
In order for me to get a job, I have to be good at sales and marketing: I am my product, and I have to convey the message that I am a “must-have” entity. I have never been good at selling myself, so I struggled with my job search until I started the postcard campaign. After getting that one encouraging response yesterday, I decided to embrace my “new” sales and marketing role. I will be successful because I can’t disappoint my new client!
The RV park office wasn't open when I left Naples this morning, so I called from the road to inquire about returning on January 16th when my month's stay in Melbourne Beach ends. I was informed that there is no availability, so I was waitlisted. It is $500 more per month to stay in Naples than MB, so even if a spot opens I don't know how I can justify the expense.
I drove through Okeechobee en route to the beach. There's just nothing to see in Florida unless you are driving down the coast while going over a bridge. I stopped at a Pilot to get propane, since neither the park in Naples nor the one in MB fill tanks. The kid who helped me had a bit of trouble with the connectors, so I was there about twice as long as I wanted to be.
When I registered at the MB park around four this afternoon, I extended my reservation on the site for an additional month. I have to commit to it (make a deposit) by the 26th of December, or I will risk losing the option to stay. Ten days will give me enough time to assess this park further and to look for alternatives farther north on the Atlantic coast.
I hooked up the electric, turned on the AC, and I took the dogs for a long walk. I saw the couple who gave Kate and me a tour of their 5th-wheel-lanai-patio-retirement-complex sitting on their patio, and I reintroduced myself. They gave me the low-down on aqua fitness and other activities which are not on the official schedule. I'll see her next on Monday at the stretching class at nine.
I returned the dogs to air-conditioned BOB, then I continued setting up, washed BOB's face, put my bike together, and set up the table and chairs. In the middle of it, a woman walked by with her two miniature schnauzer litter mates. Her dogs are 10-and-a-half years old, are blind, have skin issues, and the male's ears were filthy with mites. Addison and Jasper smelled them and started to bark. She said she used to breed Westies a long time ago. Meeting them reminded me to be grateful that my kids are healthy, obnoxious as they are.
It was after six when I started the interior portion of encamping BOB. I fed the dogs and put away the non-perishable groceries. I wired the cable box and had one minute of undesired collegiate basketball before the screen became FUBAR. I finished my interior chores, took a shower, and then retried the connection to no avail. I Googled the provider, tried calling, gave up, and Googled, "Is spectrum cable out in Melbourne Beach?" I found a site called www.downdetector.com, and it said that the cable is out across all of central Florida. Fabulous.
It occurred to me that while my new "friends" in the Naples RV park encouraged me to return, none invited me to join in any social gatherings. Perhaps they all have busy lives, or perhaps they don't host gatherings. I don't know. If I spent the extra money to go back there, would I ever be invited to drinks or dinner? I could cook for them, but I can't plate more than four servings, since that's all the table- and flat-ware I have. Will anyone here invite me to anything personal? I don't know. I'm here for a month or two, but I'm not here for the season. And, I'm alone, and younger, and…
And, I like to move. I like to travel. I like to drive BOB as well as live in him. A few weeks ago, when Powerball was worth nearly half a billion dollars, I had the thought that if I won it I could go live in various European cities for a year at a time: Rome, Paris, London, Vienna, Stockholm, etc. When would it end? Five years? Ten? Money or no money, it's interesting that my first instinct is to move, to travel, not to have roots. Maybe, that's why I bought BOB in what seemed to be an uncharacteristically impulsive decision. Maybe, it wasn't impulsive: maybe, it's just in my DNA.
Spiderman and I played ping pong for an hour before the official group event began this afternoon. I lost every game to him, getting between nine and 12 points at best. Spiderman may have been holding back on me, but he ran me around and tutored me as I had requested. Betty, the woman who roped me into these games, showed up a little early and played singles with me. She beat me 21-4. I had a great time, and I was the only one who needed a shower and physical therapy when we finished. I told my partners I felt like a fly in their web. They grinned and expressed their hope that I would return to the park in January.
The last time I felt like I was a part of a community was when I worked at Abercrombie & Fitch in Columbus, Ohio in the late 1990s. Although at 32, I was above the average age of the home office employee, the esprit de couer of the age mix suited me. Work and play intermingled. Conversely, my decade in Providence was a social desert. I think people make new friends because they live in a residential neighborhood (I lived in a mixed use one), because their kids go to school together (I have no kids), because they work together (my company was too small), because they belong to a club or association or religion of like-interested people (I’m not a joiner), so I didn’t make any new friends. I felt as though the few acquaintances I made had enough friends and they didn't need any more. Or, maybe they were just too busy with the rest of their lives.
After aqua fitness this morning, I stopped by the park office to inquire about returning in January. The woman with whom I needed to speak wasn't there, so I took her card. I would return depending on availability AND price. I do want to give Melbourne Beach a chance because the people there are also friendly, there are a lot of activities, I can bike to Publix, the site is on the Indian River, and the ocean is across the street.
I mailed 125 postcards this week soliciting employment. Today, I received an email from a man who runs an RV manufacturing company. He wrote, "I was charmed by your postcard, and an A for creativity.” Wow! Heart beep, heart beep, heart beat, that this campaign may actually work. Maybe I am good at marketing? Maybe it’s that Kim and Kate are good at marketing. I had the inspiration, and they helped me take it to the next level. Good for us! I wrote back and told the guy I really want to be his COO! I had a great day!
My hamstrings were really tight this morning when I went to aqua fitness. The class lasted about 40 minutes, and there were six of us in the pool. The instruction was via a cassette tape which was produced in the 1990s. My new friend helped me understand what to do. A ping pong player who reminded me of Spiderman came by the pool to fill his water bottle before his tennis game at the neighboring court. His wife and a few of the other women in the pool called to him. He ignored them. His wife then got out of the pool to chastise him, so Spiderman doused her with the hose. It was very funny – not to mention sweet – to see a couple who have probably been together for nearly forty years still behave in a playful manner with each other. I suggested that as a means of retaliation, she gather all of his underwear, wet them, then put them in the freezer.
The class was, in part, what I had previously witnessed while swimming laps over the years and observing such: talk-not-fitness. A bunch of fat, older broads get in the pool and bounce around while carrying on conversations: the instruction goes unheeded, therefore the exercise de minimus. It made me crazy to have to get out of the pool at YMCA so a bunch of women could have a social event in an athletic facility. I know socialization is important. I know exercise is important. But, if you talk and tread water in the deep end, you get both. My new friend and I were the only ones who went full bore. She used to row two hours a day when she lived in California 20 years ago. She's probably 75, and is in terrific shape, in addition to being friendly, interesting, and feisty. I like her.
Tomorrow, I have a busy day: aqua fitness for an hour at nine-thirty, and ping pong at one for three hours with my new friends. By the time I finish walking the dogs, I'll be flushing the black tank and packing up the table and chairs as the sun sets. My drive back to Melbourne Beach on Saturday is about four hours. I want to leave between nine and ten so I can arrive by three after stopping for groceries, etc. I have never stayed at an RV park for more than eight nights, and I have a month-long reservation in Melbourne Beach. As Spiderman said to me yesterday, I can always unhook BOB and drive anywhere I need to go. Right. I don't have to ride my bike to Publix to buy a case of crack, then ride back to buy another: I can drive BOB to Publix to buy the heavy, bulky things. I can drive BOB to have blood work. I can drive BOB to buy Blue Buffalo dog food at PetSmart. I can drive BOB because I like driving BOB. Right. I'm neither a hostage nor a survivalist because I can always drive BOB.
The other day Kim and Kate asked me if I were sick of them. I replied, "Not both of you." They grinned. I went on to say that I didn't know what I was going to do with all the space I'd have inside BOB after they left. There is only one place to sit and work inside of BOB, and that is the dinette. Four non-sugar-eaters can sit there comfortably. The real problem with the limited seating is that the dogs like the dinette, too. If you get up, one will take your place. If you slide in, one will sit beside you. And, when you put three tech-dependent adults together, there will be seven to nine gadgets on top of the dinette, swapping power sources below it, and competing for space with the tissue box and bowl of fruit on top of it. Serving a meal requires a complete dinette reorganization: we all move all of our shit to our beds. It works, especially when you have known each other for 20 years and traveled all over the world together. So, no, I’m not sick of them – either of them.
I love that Florida does not feel like Christmas. I have a hard time remembering what time of year it is because there are no environmental clues other than the amount of daylight. If I still lived in Providence, I'd be freezing and dealing with a little over nine hours of daylight. I have ten-and-a-half here, and everything is tropical and green. If it weren't so fucking humid here, it would be paradise; if it weren't so fucking humid here, it would be California – without the fires, earthquakes, water shortages, smog, etc.
I love that ibises roam the RV park poking their long beaks into the Florida grass: they remind me of dogs snuffling for scraps.
I haven't had a haircut in five months. I have entered the extreme shit-show stage of growing out hair which is exacerbated by the humidity. Kate says she likes my hair longer; Kim says he likes my hair short. I need a hair style which I don't have to dry, and which covers my rent-this-space forehead. What is that? I can now pull my hair into pony tails – one at the top of my head and one at the bottom. Oh, so pretty. Hat? Yes, please.
My new postcards were here when I arrived. They are terrific. Between Sunday night and this morning, I hand-addressed 125 of them – the entirety of my list – and they are all in the mail.
On Monday, Kim, Kate, and I went on an airboat ride in the Everglades. Before the ride, we drove a short distance to see an alligator exhibit. We entered a small building, and exited it through the back to walk a maze of boardwalks ensnared with spider webs. Yuck. We passed a pen of alligators, and turned the corner to find a tall, thin man holding a young alligator. He was talking to a crowd which quickly dispersed, so we became his only audience. The man was holding Cooter, a three year old alligator who was about three feet long. I asked him if I could touch Cooter, and he said I could hold him. Yes! He put a band around his jaw, and he handed Cooter to me. I love Cooter: his looks, his lines, his smile, his feel, his relaxed attitude, etc. I held him for about five minutes then I put him down on the railing so I could look at his feet and feel his back and tail. Alligators have five toes on their front feet, four toes on their rear feet, and have nails only on the three innermost of each foot. Their nails are used for gripping, rather than as weapons – which would be insignificant compared to their teeth and jaws.
There was an eleven feet long alligator hanging out under the deck of the tour company when we departed. It had been there all day. Only males grow above eight feet. We saw only one other alligator on our airboat ride: the guide took us to where it had been sunning itself all day. Other than that, our ride was a cruise through the disorienting mangroves, a few obligatory airboat spin-outs, and the siting of a smattering of herons, snowy egrets, and model ducks. I missed Cooter the whole time.
Yesterday, three weeks after I sent a job-solicitation letter to Patagonia, someone responded to it via email. The respondent wasn't the recipient, but it is the first time someone has extended to me the courtesy of an acknowledgment. Bravo, Patagonia! I have loved their gear since I was in high school, and I have wanted to work Patagonia since I graduated from business school. I do think that Patagonia’s women's gear needs some work from a color perspective, but I feel that way about all active sport purveyors who make garments in pink or purple princess colors. I want colors that can handle grass, dirt, and blood – like black and grey.
Walking dogs is a great way to meet people, and to learn about any given RV park. A woman
whom I met on Monday told me about the aqua fitness classes and ping pong sessions at the park. I said I would attend both after my guests left on Wednesday.
Kim and Kate left just before one this afternoon. They helped me do the bedding laundry this morning which was great. I then spent two hours cleaning BOB, making my bed, and moving back into my bedroom. I bombed the sinks and shower with baking soda and vinegar. I ate lunch in between tasks. At a little after three, I interrupted my cleaning fest and took a shower so I could show up for the last half hour of ping pong.
People meet to play doubles ping pong between two and four on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. As a newcomer, I expected that I would only watch others play, so I wore khakis, a poplin shirt, and sandals. There were only four players when I arrived, and they insisted that I play. So, I did. Barefoot. I told them I hadn't played since I was a kid, and I didn't know how to play doubles. It didn't matter to them. I played four games with four different partners, and I lost all them. I had expected their play to be at the novice level: instead, my partners were all Will Shortz wannabees and I was the novice! They were very kind to me and invited me back. So, I'm playing singles for an hour on Friday at one, then joining the doubles rounds for two hours at two. I'm going to wear spandex and sneakers. And, they will still kick my ass!
Kim, Kate and I all like Naples a lot, and we prefer the older part of town near the pier to Pelican Bay. We also prefer Naples to the Fort Lauderdale-Miami urban sprawl. Between Naples and Melbourne Beach, I am starting to like Florida in a way I never have. Naples is one of the wealthiest cities per capita, so that probably contributes to its appeal, but other than the cost of real estate it feels accessible.
My kitchen sink still doesn't leak!
My first male Westie Duncan died 10 years ago today. Chunky love muffin. Sweet boy. He would have been 14 in less than three months of his death. He had lung cancer, but I didn't know it until the end. He collapsed on a Sunday night and flopped on the floor like a fish. I held him next to me on the couch all night, and took him to the vet the next day. He didn't come home: he was euthanized in my arms. Duncan loved to chase laser beams or watch glass reflections like a cat. He also had inexplicable occurrences of shaking which I referred to as "earthquakes." I think he would say that the best night of his life resulted from my father injecting him with the insulin meant for his sister: the veterinary clinic kept him up all night feeding him as a counter measure! I'll never forget the moment: "Ralph!" What, Dad?" "I think I shot the wrong dog." "Does it have a penis?" Yes." "Then you shot the wrong dog." "What do you want me to do?" "Shoot the other dog while I call the vet."
Kim and Kate arrived just before midnight last night. I was in bed. I let the dogs sleep with me so they wouldn't escape when Kim and Kate opened the door. Today is the dogs' ninth birthday. Their vet in Massachusetts sent them each a birthday text at eight this morning. I should probably inform the vet that they can't read.
I took the kids for a big walk this morning around our RV park in Naples. This place makes the park in Melbourne Beach look like just a mobile home park. The lots are huge, the park homes are double-wide, it's on a golf course, and the landscaping is beautiful. The retirees buzz around in their golf carts like the characters in "The Jetsons" did in their space cars. The golf carts seem to make the same bubbling sound, too – or maybe, the occupants are gurgling.
I arrived at my new RV park in Naples at three-thirty: I walked the dogs, washed BOB, set up the electric, water and sewer lines, and set up the chairs, tables and drying rack. I cleaned the cabin floor. I walked about 750 feet to the laundromat. I forgot the bleach, so I walked back with a third load. The machines don't take quarters so I walked back, finished setting up the inside of BOB, took a shower and walked back to the laundromat with a credit card. It took me 10 minutes to figure out how to buy a laundry card and load it. I didn't realize that the five dollars I was initially charged was just the card acquisition cost. What a fucking expensive pain in the ass.
The people with whom I last worked are having Christmas dinner together tonight at the same inn where we always had it. I used to organize a Yankee Swap and a trivia game of sorts. They wanted to FaceTime me, but I was so cranky about the laundry that I couldn't bear to make myself presentable. I had planned to wear the green wig Meredith gave me in the spirit of the holiday, but given my mood, I texted one of my former bosses and asked that they just call instead. I chatted with everyone, caught up on their news, and we said our good-byes. Within a minute, the phone rang again: it was our perennial waiter Justin. He was always very good with our parties – attentive but not interfering. One year, I gifted him my Yankee Swap present to him: it was a tee shirt which said, "Tell Your Boobs to Stop Staring at My Eyes." It was sweet that he wanted to talk to me, too.
Kim and I drove down A1A from Fort Lauderdale to Miami Beach around noon. I was in a Coricidin-induced coma, having acquired a head cold. Apparently Kate has a cold, too. Either we got it from Kim, or we picked it up at the Kennedy Space Center. Kate is blaming Kim. We talked to her while were driving down A1A. Dallas is having unseasonably cold weather, and she is freezing – and snot-ridden. We told her that the humidity here is unbearable, but that didn’t make her feel better.
We had lunch at a Cuban restaurant in Miami Beach, then we went for a walk on South Beach. The rain, which was long promised, began not long after we started walking. It ranged from drizzle to downpour. Kim gave me his umbrella, and sacrificed himself as we headed back to the car. When we got close, I remained under the awning of a commercial building, and Kim continued with the brolly to fetch “Sunny,” their car is sunshine yellow Fiat. Unfortunately, every passing taxi made me think it was Kim returning for me!
It took us over an hour to drive the 31 miles back to the Gulag – Kim’s name for the RV park. Upon arrival, we took a driving tour of the other side of the park and discovered that its tenants keep their sites in better repair. Kim walked back there after we parked to check out those toilet and shower facilities: he reported that they are better but still grim.
Yesterday, I did some research on RV parks on the Gulf Coast of Florida. I found a place on Estero Island south of Fort Myers. Part of the park is right on the beach, and Publix and Enterprise are nearby. I called to inquire about rates and availability. I was told that I could only stay from the 17th to the 24th for $650 plus tax because the park is booked for the holidays. Neither the duration of the stay nor the cost worked for me, so I kept researching. I found nothing I liked on the Gulf Coast, so I called the park we just left in Melbourne Beach. I could have a site without a view of the Indian River for $1,440 plus tax per month. I called this morning and booked it. The park has multiple pools, multiple tennis courts, exercise classes, is well kept, is across the street from the Atlantic Ocean, and the people are really friendly – and 70-something. There is a Publix market two miles away, and I can ride my bike there on a path. There is an animal clinic beside the park's office, so if Addison or Jasper need veterinary care that is easy. I can ride my bike to Super Cuts if I decide I need a haircut (next week will mark five months since my last!). And, a very nice young man named William at Enterprise said he'd deliver a car to me if I need one. Bingo! Now I need a tennis pro and tennis gear!
I plan on becoming an expert on 70-somethings while I'm staying at the park in Melbourne Beach. I'll do aqua-fitness, shuffleboard, and cocktails. Jean warned me not to do boogie-boogie with them because Floridian geriatrics all have STDs. Right. I'm not planning on getting to know them THAT well!
Kim took Kate to the Miami airport this morning. She'll be back Friday night. Kim and I are holed up near Ft. Lauderdale. We wanted to camp within an hour of the airport, and my research revealed three RV parks. The first was too expensive; the second doesn't allow dogs over 20 pounds; and, the third was dirt cheap with a Passport America club discount. I booked the third place in spite of its poor user reviews. It is the saddest RV park I have ever seen. The people who “season” or live year-round here must be poor. The school bus has a pick-up and drop-off service at the park's office. There are feral cats. Fred Sanford would have made the cover of “Good Housekeeping” if this park had been the bellwether.
The place is infested with French Canadians. When I was checking in, a woman came into the office sporting a bikini top so she could show off her excellent silicone rack. Sun damage to skin makes it hard to guess a person's age, but she is at least 45 years old. When I wore bikinis I always put on a shirt and shorts when I left the beach – even to go to the boardwalk. To me, swim attire is for the pool or the beach, and not for the boardwalk, restaurant, store, or office. Clearly, I'm a prude. The woman wanted to know if the water from the hose is potable, but she was having trouble communicating in English.
The site lots are small and the park's roadways are narrow. I was guided into my site and told to follow the golf cart exactly. The guide said he would bring me a plastic table and four chairs. He did: the chairs are either mildewed or covered in black dirt. There is no cable. The Wi-Fi doesn't work – they've been having "technical" problems. Kim and Kate said the restrooms and shower facilities are filthy, so they are using BOB. The pad upon which I'm parked has BOB listing to port about five degrees, so the shower doesn't drain properly.
I spent about an hour yesterday afternoon setting up and checking BOB's vitals – oil, DEF, windshield fluid, and tire pressure. The temperature was in the mid-80s, and the humidity waseven higher. I had to take a shower to cool off. I ran the air conditioner from the time we arrived until seven-thirty this morning – when it was only 74 degrees with 94% humidity. I put it back on at eleven-thirty. Thunderstorms were promised last night and today, but they haven't materialized. They are promised for tomorrow as well. I left the bra off of BOB so the rain could wash the bugs off his windshield since I couldn't bring myself to do it when I arrived.
My postcards were at the RV office when I checked in. I opened the box before I set up BOB, and I was disappointed to see that they were 4"x6" instead of 5"x7", and that they were also very dark. I called the online printer to inquire about my order because I couldn't see the size of the cards in the order details. A woman named Coretta walked me through how I could choose the size online. I told her the cards were much darker than the proof. She saw that, offered me a full refund, and then offered to lighten the photo. She did, and it was much better. I asked her if I could just pay the difference for the reprints in the correct size. She said yes, then she put me on hold to check to see if any promotions were available. There were, and thanks to her, the new cards are being printed and shipped free of charge. It was the most delightful customer service experience I have ever had, and I would have felt the same if there were no promotion. I told Coretta that and thanked her profusely.
I stopped at a post office in Vero Beach yesterday to buy 200 first class mail stamps for my oversized postcard mailing. There were two employees servicing the customers, and there was a line of more than 10 people. The female employee would occasionally shout out a greeting to the line and thank them for their patience. It wasn't an unpleasant experience for a change. There is a post office around the corner from this park. I walked there this afternoon to mail a return to Amazon – a rare occasion for me. Four federal employees were servicing the line when I arrived, and two more joined the desk as the line grew and grew. I needed a mailing vessel for my parcel post return, and a means of affixing the pre-printed return label. The woman who serviced me did not return my greeting. She mumbled her responses to my questions, and I had to ask her to repeat herself. She said she could glue the label on the pouch or I could buy a role of tape for $3.50. Glue is not a viable alternative to clear packing tape, so I purchased the 90% gross margin role of tape. She sent me away to seal the pouch and label it, saying I could bring the package back to her when I was finished. Thank you. And, thank you for your shitty attitude. Enjoy your undeserved pension, you-lazy-assed son-of-a-bitch. I hate the fucking post office.
I hope the fucking post office delivers my fucking postcards.
I listened to a "Ted Radio Hour" broadcast called "Food" while I was driving yesterday. The piece on added sugars was enlightening: over-consumption of added sugars leads to obesity which can lead to Type II diabetes, heart disease, fatty liver disease and tooth decay. Apparently, the USDA or FDA suggested the average person consume no more than 25 grams of sugar per day until the processed food lobby leveraged up the limit. I decided on the spot that I would examine my protein powder, yogurt, and protein bars for their added sugar content: if any is too high, I will to stop consuming it when my supply is exhausted. The Spiru-Tein protein powder has seven grams of fructose per serving, so it's in. The Kind protein bars only contain five grams of sugar, so they are in. However, I'm breaking up with lime Chobani yogurt because it contains 17 grams of "evaporated cane juice," one of the many food euphemisms for sugar. If Chobani's plain yogurt has no added sugar, the brand will still be in; otherwise, I'll be shopping for a new brand
Siobhan M. Knox
In May 2016, I bought a five ton, 25’ long Class C motorhome because I like to drive, I like to travel, and it’s more fun and less expensive than living in a hotel. No prior RV experience was required, and I had none: perfect. I’m writing a book about my adventures which will come to an end when I get a job. The dogs will be sad.