The plan: the teenager and I would head out after school today and meet my college roommate Curly for a belated Beltane dinner at a brewery in Harrisburg— approximately half way between our home and hers.
But in the pouring down rain, the accidents started to pile up (pun intended) and Curly would arrive at the Mill Works 30 minutes or more before we would.
And that would have us arriving in Harrisburg and at the brewery for Happy Hour.
So I suggested a mid-travel switch from Harrisburg to Hershey. And since we needed to agree on a coordinate before driving too much farther, I suggested Fuddruckers as we used to take the teenager there on road trips in her younger days and for some reason, she adores it.
We lingered there as long as we could trying to find something to do in the evening and in the rain. I found a couple cafes and a family amusement center with go-karts but it seemed something called the cocoabeanery was nearby so we headed there.
Which turned out to be Hershey Lodge.
And when I texted Sobaka’s mom that we ended up at Hershey Lodge, where she often stays for the state school board conference she asked if we could pick up her lotion. And sent us a photo.
We did some chatting over beverages in the lobby. I had a lavender latte. The cocoabeanery turned out to be the hotel’s breakfast room in the off hours. We got to watch many teens at their prom.
Curly and the teenager did some energy work, and invited me to join, but my vibrations freaked out the teen.
Author’s note: this post will contain some language I don’t usually use in my blog posts, probably only the word ‘bitch.’ But you’ve been warned
A few weeks ago, M (my friend from college and traveling companion for the last decade) made arrangements that I would come to Washington DC to deliver popcorn, give M a copy of my novel MANIPULATIONS (order here), discuss upcoming projects for Parisian Phoenix, and relax.
The hope was that my “day job” at the Stitch Fix Bizzy Hizzy would offer us voluntary time off between 7:30 and 10 p.m. Friday night and that I might have off Monday.
I could arrive in D.C. late Friday night and stay until lunch time Monday.
Except on Wednesday, I was reminded I had a 9 a.m. doctor appointment Monday. But, it could easily be virtual. So no big.
But then we didn’t get out early Friday. And I didn’t have Monday off. But also my supervisor stopped by for an observation and despite spasming back muscles I performed at 96% and finished the night at 129 fixes, which is 99.2%. I could have hit 100, but I helped a colleague who is struggling to learn QC.
I arrived home very grumpy at 12:30 a.m., left my purse and suitcase in the car (with my toothbrush no less), and ran in the house to release Misty from his crate (the teenager forgot him) and put the dog to bed.
I took a shower and collapsed in bed naked as my alarm was set for 7:45 and it was 1:10 a.m. Now, M calls me crazy bitch (or CB for short) as I am prone to do things like drive to his house for dinner. And the idea of getting six hours sleep and heading to DC for a 24 hour visit is another crazy bitch move.
But then the cats starting fighting at 2 a.m. So now I’m super-annoyed, naked, and turning on my roomba to scare my personal cat Fog out of my room. He’s the asshole that scares the fosters.
Now I’m down to about five hours before I leave for DC.
At 7:45, my alarm goes off. I clean cat boxes, feed the birds, check food bowls, get dressed and leave the house by 8:15. I stop at Dunkin to grab a cold brew and try the new peanut butter cup flavor. They screwed up and gave me pumpkin. The teenager had purchased me candy — so I had Haribo berries for breakfast/ road trip fuel.
I was on the road by 8:30 a.m. Stopped at a rest stop outside Hershey around 10:30 a.m., then decided it wisest to stop outside the Baltimore loop in Hereford, Md., for gas. I ended up at an Exxon and I needed to pee, but my gut said this wasn’t the place.
But Carly Simon was singing You’re so vain on a loudspeaker at the creepy gas station. And there is a short story I wrote— that may be completely lost— where one of the main characters in my Fashion and Fiends horror book series gives his virginity to an older girl at a party. The character is Étienne d’Amille, the girl is Arlette (who makes an appearance in Manipulations), the year is 1973 (I think) and Arlette is singing You’re sovain when they meet.
I arrived in DC at noon and had no trouble finding parking despite youth soccer games less than a block from M’s house. City parking. During a soccer game.
Finally some good luck.
But PS— the popcorn was stale and nasty.
M ordered some chicken sandwiches and fries from Roaming Rooster. We ate, made coffee, changed into sweatpants and started to chat. Eventually I started editing manuscripts for Parisian Phoenix and M enjoyed several episodes of Dr. Pimple Popper.
M also reviewed my bloodwork, as he works in a medical lab.
Meanwhile his housemates, my Indian friends, couldn’t believe I drove all that way… to sit around and do nothing.
In the morning, we drank more coffee. I did some more work and we drove To Alexandria, Va., to visit the Mediterranean Bakery so M could get his fresh pita for the week and we had breakfast of Lebanese flatbread— one with cheeses and another with zaatar and labneh. We washed it down with mint Aryam yogurt drink. M informed me that if I mispronounce it, I will be saying “two testicles” in Arabic.
I purchased some goodies for the teenager (pita chips with zaatar, halva and dried kiwi) and some candy and chocolate covered espresso beans for the drive home. And some spices and harissa.
Then I had a cup of coffee and drove home. I left at 2:45 pm. I was in DC for 25 hours.
And on the way home, Spotify played Carly Simon’s Nobody does it better. That song came from a James Bond movie, The Spy Who Loved Me. Étienne is also a huge Bond fan. Again, James Bond has a few appearances in Manipulations.
As mentioned in yesterday’s post, William Prystauk and I ventured down to Easton’s Silk Mill. We had enjoyed a lovely sushi dinner and wanted to imbibe a classy cocktail and some decadent ice cream.
Our plan was to hit County Seat Spirits and Ow Wow Cow. Neither Bill nor I had ever been inside County Seat Spirits as I had discovered them during pandemic “lockdown.” I ordered quite a few of their to go items during last summer. (More about my history with County Seat Spirits here.)
So Saturday was my first visit inside the venue and I was not disappointed, especially in the afternoon light.
I had the Mint Condition and Bill had the Pommes 76 while listening to a talented female soloist.
We later grabbed some MIXO gin lavender lemonade to go.
Bill and I meandered around the Silk Mill as he had photographed it when it was still abandoned and later he visited when it was unfinished and hosting a film festival. He marveled at the transformation as the complex came alive with various live entertainment at many of the businesses.
At Ow Wow Cow, I enjoyed the apple caramel cashew and Bill partook in the local peach pie. I do love the early summer flavors, like strawberry rhubarb crumble, but the autumn flavors are delightful, too.
Meanwhile, Tucker and Easton Wine Project spilled over with patrons (more on Tucker here). My experiences with Tucker again stem from the pandemic and using their online grocery service to procure some amazing produce.
I’ve visited Easton Wine Project when a local citizen hosted a fundraiser for ProJeCt of Easton there. I was still in the development office at that nonprofit and Easton Wine Project perfected a classy vibe and delightful vintages.
But there are several new businesses at the Silk Mill that I have yet to try, so this might be the perfect place to have a middle-aged date night.
This one brings to mind memories of my mother’s flower gardens during my childhood— her lovingly tending her petunias, impatiens, zinniasand marigolds. I begged for straw flowers, snap dragons and “blue angels.” I thought of my mother’s gifted green thumb while frolicking in these fields.
Last week, knowing my teenager had left me home with no car, my sweet friend Joan had invited me to a pick-your-own-bouquet workshop at Terra Fauna Farm. Joan is a member of their CSA.
For those who don’t know, like the teenager, let me explain the concept of CSA or “Community Supported Agriculture.”
First, some history. Our area (the Lehigh Valley/Slate Belt of Pennsylvania) is traditionally primarily rural, with a few small cities scattered here and there and one of the largest cities in Pennsylvania on the one side (Allentown) and the Poconos on the other. New Jersey lies to the east and more rural areas to the West.
I once served as an advisory board member for the Penn State University Cooperative Extension. I completed six years, many of those as Secretary. I never realized how passionate I was about the area’s agricultural heritage until I had this opportunity. I took it for granted.
I grew up in the rural Slate Belt in the 1980s where most of my neighbors were dairy farmers. One literal neighbor had a green house business. And our school bus route cut through a pig farm. Pig farms smell bad, by the way.
Corn fields. Horses. 4-H. Farm Shows. Future Farmers of America. Horticulture and Agriculture as high school science electives. I took horticulture one and it was an amazing exposure to organic gardening (in 1990 before it became trendy), flower arrangement, and gardening. You haven’t lived until you’ve washed a greenhouse of poinsettias with lye soap to kill the white flies.
At that time your parents were either farmers or blue collar workers. My dad was a diesel mechanic.
During the last two decades, farm land has given way to suburban developments and warehousing.
And to compete with large commercial farm and maintain some smaller farms as viable, farmers have embraced the CSA model.
In a CSA arrangement, when selecting his crops and ordering his seeds, the farmer also contacts those who have expressed interest in supporting the farm. These supporters then purchase a share of the season’s crops by sending money in advance. There’s usually a “full share” customarily enough for a family of four and a “half share” for those who don’t have a family or are timid about how much produce they can use.
The farm typically shares what crops they want to plant and the supporter can usually cater their share to their likes and dislikes.
The farmer uses that money to buy his supplies and pay his bills until the crop is ready. And has a guaranteed market for some of his crop.
Terra Fauna (located in Northampton, Pa.) planted a flower and herb garden on what I believe they said used to be their cow pasture. For $5, you can pick a bouquet.
As I mentioned, they had planned a workshop for last week but the heat and the threat of thunderstorms made them postpone until July 5.
Joan took photos and the teenager and I indulged our witchy senses and gathered blooms and herbs from the rows.
We spent $26.50 on extras— a farm fresh cucumber, two zucchini, a quart of new potatoes, a pound of local honey harvested this past Saturday, some garden herb cheese spread and a coffee flavored yogurt smoothie which I think tasted like a milkshake.
The teenager came home and spread her cheese spread on some crisp fresh cucumber and for the sandwich effect added “chicken in a biskit” crackers I bought over the weekend. The juxtaposition of ultra-processed and farm fresh was not lost on her.
Perhaps before the end of the summer, Joan and I can “do lunch” at the farm on one of her weekly CSA pick up days. Which, as a country girl, let me tell you this one truth:
The only way to eat sweet corn is fresh off the farm. If you’re buying sweet corn at a local big box grocery store, I’m sad for you.
The other day I asked myself— what would happen if we approached our everyday lives like a writer taking notes for a travelogue?
Interesting that I thought of this now, as Facebook reminded me that 5 years ago I was in Somalia eating fruit so succulent it was like ice cream. I remember the dark wood of the built-in wardrobe of our hotel room, the way the guard at the top of the stairs would chit-chat with me as he rocked his plastic lawn chair with his gun across his lap.
That was also the week I decided to overhaul my marriage— because as I was traveling the streets of Mogadishu trying to interpret the paintings that adorned the shops and watched a women make coffee on the side of the road amidst traffic, I realized I had my laptop in Somalia with all of our household information. If anything had happened to me, I didn’t know if my husband knew how to log into our bank account or when to pay the mortgage (or how much it was or who receives the payment).
I suddenly realized my own mortality. And that my control of everything needed to change.
To return this ramble to the idea of a quotidienne travelogue, I always blog while we travel, even to places more mundane than Africa, and M, my traveling companion, would always sit down with his phone and his cigarette about to read the link I sent him.
“Oh good,” he would say, “Let’s see what I did today.”
Life at the Aviary
The colors in the room— vivid pink (almost a fuchsia) walls in semi-gloss, teal swirly floral-paisley curtains and a yellow patterned duvet color with pink sheets adorned with white polka dots— created a cheery environment that brightened exponentially with every ray of sunshine that crept in through the three windows facing south.
The birds grew more animated as the sun intensified, three adult parakeets and three freshly hatched chicks under three weeks old and a Goffin’s cockatoo, a mini-parrot who expressed her nervousness by barbering and plucking her own feathers. Even bird teenagers are prone to rituals of self-harm.
Once awake, I strolled down to the living area, also decorated boldly but simply with sky blue walls with a hint of turquoise and a chalkboard wall under the stairs with a variety of notes. The furniture included a cushioned bench, cozy teal chairs, and an emerald green loveseat that sat oddly low to the ground.
I sipped a very hot cup of coffee with cream not brewed but steamed for me as if it were espresso. Cats swirled at my feet, including one with a gruff, tired face. He wore a Captain America collar. When he moved, his gait revealed his amputee status— having lost his front left leg to kitty cat cancer.
After this, I traveled back to the aviary chamber to help care for the birds. I handled these tiny chicks!
My companion and I departed shortly after our “chores” to have breakfast at Tic Toc Diner. My companion has a love of chocolate milk and pancakes. She insists that both always tastes better at a diner.
I discover what might be my new all time favorite breakfast: Eggs Benedict Florentine with garlic and tomato. As a poached egg is one of my favorite things on Earth, it only gets better when we add some nutritionally dense spinach smothered in hollandais sauce.
The pleasures here and simple and the environment chaotic.
The parks/trails seemed so crowded and people were from out of state, which is fine, but they seemed to be hanging out more than hiking.
A hiking guide’s idea of a mile is shorter than mine.
If land is designated as National Recreation Area, people can hunt and fish on that property. You cannot hunt or fish in a National Park.
Rhododendron and Mountain Laurel are nearly identical. Mountain Laurel grows in high elevations and has leaves smaller than the palm of your hand. If the leaves are bigger than your hand, it is a rhododendron.
Burning poison ivy and breathing the fumes can give you internal poison ivy.
Our tour guides had some interesting knowledge of the area; and our favorite had an eclectic post-college experience of accepting Americorps posts all over the country. She apparently had extraordinary prowess with a chain saw.
We learned a lot about plants, both native and invasive; trees and their insect diseases; and history— they even discussed how this area was shaped by the proposed Tock’s Island Dam project.
I find the Tock’s Island Dam controversy fascinating. Because the land was taken by eminent domain and not originally destined for National Park use, the people who had their homes seized did not have much time to move. So much debris was left behind but nothing can be removed from a National Park.
These high school students did a great job on this brief documentary explaining the project.
What is even more fascinating is that without the proposed Tock’s Island Dam, the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area would not exist as it does today and it wouldn’t be as expansive. Even one of the biggest anti-Tock’s dam activists says that the process of condemning those homes and entire towns for the dam protected the area from future development.
I grew up on the Delaware River. Much downstream from where we were today, at the start of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. So hearing about “Hurricane Diane,” “the (19)’55 flood,” etc., was like listening to legends about my own history, as if the river were my blood.
My bedroom faced the river, and when I find myself someone where I can hear water washing against the shore in the lazy way that river does, I close my eyes and can revisit some of the best memories of my childhood.
And of course no 65 minute road trip is complete without some sites on the road:
One of the women I went to school with took her kids to Slateford Creek Falls, a place about 5-6 miles from my childhood home. I have never been there. Her pictures left me captivated.
How could something so beautiful exist so close to my former home?
Gayle joined the teenager and I for a morning walk. We did a little web research— apparently not enough.
Gayle drove and I took her on a scenic detour to my childhood home between Tuscarora Inn and Driftstone Campground in Upper Mount Bethel Township.
We arrived at the main parking lot on National Park Drive in one of the first parks that make up Delaware Water Gap.
And we knew from our research that the falls weren’t by the main parking lot but we decided to follow the main trail anyway. Maybe we thought the falls would move just for us.
We were rewarded for our adventurous spirit by seeing two very large woodpeckers with vivid red heads.
Someone gave us helpful directions that the falls were across the street and by the “pull off” between the guard rails. I remembered seeing the pull off on the way in, and I was sure it wasn’t that far.
I was wrong. We followed the road, on foot, down the steep, windy road. And we almost made it, but we weren’t sure how far it was and wasn’t sure we could walk to the falls AND make it up the hill.
Gayle offered to get the car, which didn’t make much sense because Gayle doesn’t do well on hills. Her knees have aged faster than she has.
The teenager volunteered me to go get the car. I asked if she was coming too— she said no, that I would only slow her down. Apparently, the now-16-year-old can’t keep up with me on hills. And I have cerebral palsy!
So I hauled my butt up that hill, huffing and puffing. Gayle and The Teenager almost made it, too!
I didn’t move Gayle’s seat so I was sitting on the edge barely reaching the pedals and then I couldn’t get the doors to unlock but Gayle took over and saved the day.
And when we found the trail, it was intimidatingly vertical. I’ll let Gayle’s blog entry cover the specifics of the trail:
The teenager got to play in the falls, and Gayle and I didn’t end up on the wrong side of gravity although Gayle did bump her head on that tree.
It occurred to me— as the teenager and I gathered slate for future spiritual purposes, climbed among the rocks and fallen trees in the middle of the creek, and enjoyed the peace of the rumbling water—that this moment was full of freedom, nature and life giving resources.
The stats on this hike weren’t accurately counted. The teen got 4 miles, I got 2.5 and Gayle’s numbers were different from those. I got credit for 3 flights of stairs, Gayle got 14.
And perhaps it was no coincidence that I had received notice that I am losing my job with the full moon and “Independence Day” approaching.
With this in mind, I arrived home in time to meet up with our favorite little dog, Sobaka, who is hanging out with us while her “mom” is at a picnic.
Sobaka laid at my feet while I did some public relations work for upcoming events hosted by Aspire to Autonomy, Inc.
I am constantly blessed to work with such a wide range of people with different outlooks and different strengths. I learn something from everyone of them— admiring one person’s brilliance, another’s kind heart, and yet another’s passion and willingness for boots-on-the-ground work.
My memories of Ellicott City, MD, are vague but happy. I somehow missed the severity of the 2016 and 2018 floods, perhaps due to marital issues.
My college roommate hailed from Ellicott City, and after living in Texas and North Carolina, returned to the Baltimore suburbs. A town neighboring Ellicott.
My college roommate, we’ll call her N to respect her privacy, was part of the same college social circle as my husband and I. Long before my husband and I dated, we did things like pile into N’s black Honda Accord, the car on which I learned to drive a manual transmission while blasting Alanis Morrissette’s Jagged Little Pill, to swarm into N’s parents’ split level house and spend the weekend at the Maryland Renaissance Faire.
I can’t even tell you for sure what I did in Ellicott City. I know N always took me proudly down Main Street for a walk. I remember a shop with crazy hats, lively colors and the memory of a velvety texture.
When my daughter was 2, yes the teenager, I drove the three hours alone to meet N and my high school best friend who drove three hours up from Virginia. And we took lots of photos on Main Street in Ellicott City. I recall antique stores on that trip.
And I locked my keys in the trunk of the car at a rest stop two hours away from home at dusk.
I also know of another trip where N took me for coffee and dessert at what I believe was a French restaurant one night. Where I taste pear tart tartine for the first time.
I have very key memories of Ellicott City.
Now, if you’ve been around this blog for a while, you probably know I have a strong admiration for Gordon Ramsay. I also have some rather strong unladylike feelings for Chef.
I can’t help it— I like tall, athletic men with exotic accents and bad attitudes. And I’m a Taurus so food is really important to me.
So when I saw that Gordon filmed an episode of his latest TV show in Ellicott City a few months ago, I did what any fan girl would do: I squealed and texted all my friends. Okay, maybe not all of them. My almost ex-husband and N. I haven’t reached out to N in months but this was important.
The episode aired May 13 and is available on Hulu now.
N said she hadn’t seen it, but most of Ellicott City is still boarded up. She’s heard that the locals feel like Gordon came across as single-handedly taking credit for rebuilding the town.
(They had catastrophic 1,000 year floods two years apart—2016 and 2018.)
Gordon worked with four local businesses and made some cosmetic improvements. And then Covid hit.
I watched the double episode and didn’t feel like Gordon was being an egotistical maniac. He was kinder and more in the background than he usually is.
The story of the episode really focused on the trauma and the struggles and the personalities of the business owners and the community at large.
If anything, it seemed to honor the spirit of the town and the grit of the businesses.
I hope N gets to watch it.
I’d like to hear her opinion.
In the meantime, we need to amend the constitution so Gordon can run for President. He always seems to have his act together. Maybe Arnold Schwarzenegger can be his running mate.
The last few days became so busy, both emotionally and professionally, that I never even finished blogging about my perfectly awesome birthday.
That may have something to do with the bottle of Vouvray the teenager and her father selected for me to accompany a most amazing cheese and fruit platter with charcuterie that they provided for my birthday dinner.
The meal came courtesy of a trip to Wegmans and included a block of applewood smoked Gouda, dill ha art I, and intense Brie. The fruits were white grapes and some succulent watermelon. A fresh baguette. Some Italian meats, include prosciutto. (Which I love to say in my best Sicilian accent) and silly cupcakes.
And the morning after my birthday I breakfasted like a princess in chocolate dipped fruits and a cookie and a tea from Dunkin’.
And yesterday I made the birthday Spam by mom brought me. On Wonder Bread for the teenager. Me. Accordion was jealous. He offered me some recipes.
This might be why my Corona weight gain is up to 10 lbs.
The artwork featured above is by Gayle Hendricks.
My friend Gayle appears in this blog from time to time, for our silly adventures, long walks or random road trips. She is a fantastic graphic designer with a very clean style. She specializes in typography and can set books in both traditional and electronic formats. I connected her portfolio to the image above, which she made for me representing my flock. (She altered a stock image in Adobe illustrator.)
Please consider her if you need freelance graphic design and know we are available as a team. I handle the editorial and she handles the pretty stuff. And we’re efficient.
And we celebrated my 40th birthday at a Trampoline Park.