Friday, October 31, 2014

Bubble Bubble Toil and Bah Humbug

It's that day again, the one day out of the year when I am certifiably cool because I am owned by a black cat. I used to be excited for today but, as I sit here, looking out my office window at precipitation-laden clouds, I'm about as amused as Pilchard is.

It could be because I was gone at the end of last week to be with my daughter. The original intent of the weekend was to be at the Central Virginia Celtic Festival and Highland Games. Since it was held in Richmond, that gave me an excuse to see her again. But I was weirdly affected by this trip.

My knees, on Saturday, were painful. Ironically, I got the most relief from standing. As long as I stood and could take my time to move about, it wasn't bad. But I can't stand for long periods of time so I had to sit and sitting without elevating my knees caused pain. I'm assuming it was related to my RA, but I don't completely know. I haven't had that kind of pain in years. Later, as I was getting ready for bed, I noticed my right knee was swollen and slightly discolored. It was gone in the morning, however. We wound up leaving the event early because I simply couldn't tolerate it.

My allergies acted up, big time. I got out of the car at my daughter's on Thursday night and my head instantly filled up. She said the weather had been cool and damp prior to my arrival. The weekend was impossibly beautiful with a wind on Saturday and a breeze on Sunday and highs in the upper 70's. The sky was clear and although the trees were just beyond their peak color, it was so pretty out. But, there wasn't enough allergy medication on the planet to keep my sinuses open. I have a cough now that can wrack my body and make my chest hurt. I know that this will pass but, man, it's not what you want to happen when you go visiting.

So, I don't want to be getting up and down all the time to answer the door. I don't want to open the door and dissolve into a coughing fit. Parents have no idea if it's allergies or the flu or a cold. Why scare them? And this allergy reaction has me tired. Being over tired leads to RA flare ups. I want to get better, not prolong this.

But perhaps my deeper reason is that it's not fun anymore. It feels like there is a great deal of pressure to pass out candy. It feels as if it's required. If you give something else, as I used to do, you run the risk of being called something unprintable to your face as you close the door. Why can't I give out pencils or stickers? I don't feel like contributing to nutritional deficits by giving mini-Mounds bars. I also don't feel like having left over bags in my house where I will eat them. If I'm going to have candy in the house, it will be 50% off holiday M&Ms. I have standards, low ones, but I have them.

I don't like that kids lean on the doorbell if you don't open the door within 3 seconds of the initial ring. I don't like that if I don't have my front light on, which has always been the standard for knowing which houses were participating, kids still stomp up on the porch and ring the doorbell. Then they stand there and ring it three or four more times. If there are more than one child in the group, over the age of 8, they all ring the bell. Would it be bad of me to disconnect the bell tonight?

This holiday terrifies the girls. It's always terrified all my cats, except Shakespeare. For some reason, he was never scared. Everyone else hid. I've got Pilchard, right now, asserting her irritation with me for being gone by peeing at the edge of the litter box. This is a known habit. I'll be switching this litter box out for a clean one and the availability of my lap will cause this behavior to go away over the weekend. Not having additional stress in her life would be very welcome for both of us.

Maybe it's because I'm older now and I'm not taking a little one around. Maybe I'd feel differently if I had an under age 8 who wanted to go out. I didn't drag out my minion costume from last year. The cat pumpkin I made still sits on the table in the living room. I love it, but I never did put it on the front steps with the spiders from 3 years ago, as I envisioned I would. I was too tired to decorate when I came home. Maybe if I simply felt physically better.

Whatever the root cause of this, I just don't feel Halloween this year. I have this big "back off" vibe going on. I just want to go home, make myself some hot cocoa and be all nice and quiet in my house, without stomps on the front steps and ringing doorbells.

Beverage:  Dunkin Donuts Tea


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Leave The Driving To Us

I remember when taking the bus wasn't viewed with disdain. Bus companies were everywhere and, if you couldn't or didn't want to drive, you could get from here to there by bus. When I was in college, I took the bus to visit my grandmother. It was a 5 hour trip, what with stops in scores of small towns, but it didn't cost much. When I was dating my ex, I would take the bus from college to visit him because the bus stopped in his hometown.

I don't think the bus stopped in my hometown, at least I don't remember it stopping there. But given the fact that bus travel in the past was a vital connection between cities and towns, it probably did. In small towns, the "bus stop" was usually a restaurant or gas station. You couldn't buy tickets there. Those would be sold by the driver. Sometimes the bus was full. Sometimes it wasn't. For getting around on a budget, it was a college student's preferred mode of travel.

Greyhound was the cream of the crop when it came to bus travel. They were always more expensive than regional carriers, but you got bigger, nicer and, dare we say it, cleaner buses. I remember the station in downtown LaCrosse was not very big but it was neat, with those plastic chairs with the scoop bottom. They had blue, silver and black ones and the interior of the station was tiled in white, blue and cream-colored tile, with stainless steel trim. I never traveled on Greyhound. They were outside my budget, but you could use their terminal to travel by the regional carriers which served the small towns Greyhound deemed too expensive to service.

 My sister came for Christmas one year and it was the first, and only, time I was in the old main bus terminal in Chicago. It was on Randolph Street. Our parents came to Wheaton and we took the train into the city and then, because it was snowing and cold, took a cab to the bus station. I remember you walked down into the bowels of an old building. It was a far cry from what the terminal looks like today.

I remember the dark and dank arrival and departure area. There was a creaky escalator, wooden, if I remember correctly, that took you from the street level down to the actual terminal. It wasn't clean. Perhaps it has always been a part of places open to the public that they would attract some of the less fortunate of humanity. It was my first contact with homelessness. Before organized shelters, bus stations and airports were the places the homeless went because it was warm and there was a bathroom. The old bus station, in operation since a bus terminal was needed in Chicago, was not inviting and fully fit the stereotype of a dirty, smelly, scary place.

This one, built in the mid-2000's, is open and airy with a small deli, lots of open space and clean restrooms. It's set off of downtown which means there's a bit of a hike to get into the city.

There weren't a lot of taxis waiting for people, either. It's almost like Chicago is not a bus destination city. Buses are not seen as the way to go to visit a place.

We have bought into the view from the past of a bus station as a less than secure place, situated in a part of town you shouldn't go to with the exception of the hours of 11 am -2:30 pm. The homeless "live" there. Don't use the bathrooms because they are never cleaned. And only people really poor, who can't afford air travel, take the bus.

But, in searching fares as a "what if", I can go from Chicago to Washington, DC, let Greyhound do the driving, and it would cost me from $155 to $305, depending upon the amenities I chose. I can't take a competitor to Washington. Greyhound seems to be my only option, but I took a look at the cost to, say, go back to Iowa for Thanksgiving. $80 round trip. If I drive for work, I would get reimbursed for the mileage to the tune of around $240. There would be the cost of a cab from the train station to the bus station because that is a hike, but I would be money ahead, plus the cost of wear and tear on my body. I would just need someone to be at the airport to pick me up and drop me off.

The thought of flying chills me. It's just not a friendly way to go anymore. For my sister and I, getting from point A to point B involved a bus, with fares that fit our budget. We could not have gone where we wanted to go without a bus.

We give bus travel such a negative image now. As I age, I'm thinking leaving the driving to someone else might not be such a bad idea.

Beverage:  English Teatime Tea



I'm cleaning the basement in fits and starts. Carole wants me to find her history and anthropology books so that gives me an incentive to tidy up some areas while I search. Wheaton had an electronics recycling event last weekend and I got rid of two printers and four bags of cables I no longer needed, in addition to that behemoth of a TV. I really need to be ruthless in what I save and what I get rid of.

In organizing, I stumbled across a stack of these.

This represents a couple years of photos on a medium I no longer can access. "Flowers, July 1996". I wonder what flowers, where. Probably in the yard, which is long overgrown. My friend, Doo, who has lots of computer equipment took the discs and was able to get images off the ones that were not formatted for Macintosh computers. He has a friend who has Mac hardware and who has offered to try to access these.

We thought this technology would last for a very long time. I don't think I have any more random discs in the basement, but who knows. It will be interesting to see what's on these.

Beverage:  English Teatime Tea



Here's a collection of random images taken in my travels over the past month.

This reminded me of a flamingo.

The room was dark. From the doorway, I could see the cord for the light bulb. When I turned on the light, there stood these. I was startled. I probably would have actually gasped had it been the other half of the body; that feeling that I'm being watched. This was like walking into Salvador Dali's store room.

Abandoned. Tell me you don't see the face. It reminded me of Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel, only that has a happy ending.

Built in the 1930's. How many people walked up and down these stairs? Admittedly, these went to a basement, so not all that many, but if they could talk, what would be the stories they could tell?

Autumn in Chicago. A typical tree along a busy street.

There was no spider to be seen. Given the state of the shed, I'm thinking this web dates from summer. It's been awhile since I've seen a web like this. Such beauty.

Usually, you see the old Airstream campers on the road. This one is new.

I'm not much of a camper. My dad loved to camp and we went out and about at least twice a year. It was never as luxurious as this although one year we rented a cabin for a weekend. I think it was a Memorial Day weekend in northern Minnesota. The only things I remember are that it was cold and damp and when dad tried to get the wood burning furnace going, out poured all these mosquitoes. There was a leak in the flue which had allowed rain to come into the belly of the furnace where it sat in a pool. He couldn't see the standing water, perfect mosquito breeding grounds, so when he tossed in the first sticks of wood and the kindling, the mosquitoes poured out the open door. We never rented a cabin after that. You can rent Airstreams for camping. My idea of "roughing it" is Motel 6 so this might be a step up from that.

Found on the ground while adjacent to a job site. Someone is not king of the world.

If I knew more chemistry, I probably could figure out what chemical reaction is going on here. Maybe it's just the salts in the plaster leeching out. I don't know. It's cool to see, however.

Finally, I should have saved the tag from these. I don't remember what they are but they have been a source of happiness all summer. They seem to like this pot and I love the way they drape over the side. I think I watered all of three times this year. We got enough, sometimes more than enough, so things didn't dry out.

Beverage:  English Teatime Tea