Monthly Archives: October 2011

october

What a month, folks. What. A. Month. And it’s not even over yet! We still have Halloween to attend to! Norah’s first trick-or-treating adventure, which of course will be mostly for our sake and not hers, but still. It’s her first. And there will be photos for us to embarrass her with at some future date with some future date (assuming Pete lets her date in the future). We got your basic fuzzy ladybug costume and a little pumpkin pale for collecting candy. Hopefully she lasts long enough for us to at least show her off to our bff neighbors. Grandma Deb has been kind enough to volunteer to sit at our house and dole out the goods while we’re out and about. Here’s hoping we actually bought enough candy this year as we definitely ran out the last two years (our first two years in this house). We get an absurd amount of trick-or-treaters being that we live on one of the main streets in Mebane. We should totally get a clicker counter and actually tally the number of kids. I think you’d be shocked. So that’s coming Monday, but here’s a little recap of what has happened so far in the great month of October:

The weekend of October 1st Norah experienced many firsts of her own. She got her first pair of chucks! Oh my goodness this pair of shoes is simply the cutest little thing I’ve ever laid eyes on (except Norah of course) and Pete was beaming proud of his hip little baby. She also attended a good pal’s 40th birthday party with us where she experienced her first bounce house, her first bonfire, her first felt goatee and her first bowl of chili. Outstanding! She was just a wee bit afraid of the bounce house and preferred to be in Pete’s arms while in there. To the fire she said “hot!”, smart little cookie, and to the chili she said “mo!” Snappy!

The next weekend was equally eventful but more so for us grown-ups than for the the little bear. On Friday the 7th we attended my coworker/friend’s wedding in Durham and had a blast. Perhaps a little too much of a blast as we didn’t make it home until the wee hours, and got not quite as much sleep as we should have considering that the next day was all set for Pete’s big birthday partay. We can’t always make the best decisions, eh? But we powered through and come 3 PM we kicked off the 4th annual Brouwer-Elder Oktoberfest, a dual birthday celebration with our neighbors for the husbands and their October birthdays. That too was a blast and then come Sunday we simply couldn’t let the rest of the keg go to waste and so had a few people over to assist us with that. Needless to say, Monday hurt.

For Pete’s actual birthday on the 12th, a Wednesday, I was of course at work, so Pete spent a fun filled day with the bear. Then after work he and I went to a shmancy dinner in Durham. We had such a dang good time and Pete said it was truly one of the best birthdays ever. Happy times!

Later that week, Bob and Linda drove up from Valdosta to visit our happy little family. On Friday we loaded the troops in Penny the Vanagon and they took us out to another shmancy dinner. It was the first time we braved a finer establishment with Norah (another first!) and she did tremendously well. Really all it takes is to be on top of it with the distractions – armed and ready with milk, food and random objects from my purse, we kept her little mind and hands busy and avoided any major scenes or catastrophes. She actually spent much of the time smiling and saying hi to the various servers. Our little flirty ham. I mean, one of the servers did look shockingly like Ethan Hawke, so can you blame her? The rest of the visit was spent hanging out at our house, going to the park, having dinner at Grandma Deb and Grams’ house, and just enjoying each other’s company. Always so wonderful to have time with Norah’s grandparents. Snappy!

On Tuesday the 18th, I said bye-bye to most of my hair. Between post-partum hair loss and another bout of extreme shedding associated with an acne medication I was taking, my longish tresses were icky thin and I was bored with my appearance anyway, so off it went, all the way up to the chin. It looks best when I put some time into styling it, but even when it dries naturally and does weird curly, frizzy things, I’m still totally happy with it. And for anyone that didn’t already see it on Facebook, snappy!

The weekend of the 22nd/23rd was for celebrating my mom’s 50th birthday, HOO HA! She and I spent the day together on Saturday – shopping, a movie, chatty time in the car, and the dinner and cake at her house. Pete made one of her fave dishes, Jamaican Jerk chicken, and Norah helped her blow out the candles on the cake. Twas a really awesome day and I’m just glad my mom lives so close to me. A few days later Pete took her to Performance to get a new bike, woot! A shiny red one, so pretty and fun. Snappies!

Like I said, what a month! Coming soon, what has that bear been up to?

Elderland out, XO.

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ny part three – the subway

 

underground...

...hotshots

Growing up in Southern California and South Florida and never having lived in a big city, my exposure to public transportation was limited. I did ride the city bus to and from campus in Gainesville because parking on campus was reserved for special people (grad students, rich folks and dormies), but up until the ripe old age of 23 I had never traveled a rapid transit system. My first experience was in Atlanta while I was there with my company exhibiting at a trade show. Our hotel was a long walk from the show site, which we gladly made despite the frigid January temps, but when on the first day I realized I had forgotten something important back in my room, my boss said, well you better go get it. And since he’d lost a bit of his patience already with me having forgotten it in the first place, he gave me some cash and said take the MARTA. But, but, but. The train? By myself? I don’t understand. You’ll be fine, he said, and then gave me that just do it look and since at that time I’d only been working for him for about four months I was still a little afraid of him (I’m way past that now). So I found the entrance and walked down the stairs and stood there for a minute mustering my independence and focusing my mind because the last thing I needed was to be calling bossman from the airport because somehow I’d wound up on an express train to the end of the road. Then I did the smartest thing ever – I asked the attendant to tell me what to do. Scariness over. Tokens in hand. Made it to the hotel and back and felt damn proud of myself. Over the next few years I had a handful of experiences on the ‘L’ in Chicago – some with Pete, some by myself – and then came this trip to NY…

Knowing that our three forms of transportation in the city would be bus, subway and foot (cabs are for fancy people) we had purchased Metro cards with unlimited rides for the duration of our trip, so we were armed and ready for some subway shenanigans. After a few days in the big city I’ve decided that the subway is pretty much awesome. Sure it’s crowded and sometimes dirty and there’s no shortage of weird people doing weird things and making you feel weird, but that’s all part of the fun! We rode the subway constantly and made a few novice mistakes, but for the most part it was perfection, and let’s not forget super cheap. Two fun subway stories:

“Excellent Mustache”

On our first full day in NYC it was raining like a son of a gun, so all of the walking we had planned was put temporarily on hold and we did as much travel as possible by bus and train. On our very first ride on the subway we had our very first awesome experience. We got on the train at the stop closest to the Metropolitan (musuems are good for rainy days and apparently everyone else in the city agreed) and headed in the direction of McSorley’s (pubs are also good for rainy days). We were on at an early enough stop to grab seats but as we progressed the train grew crowded. We sat there quietly – there’s something weird about subways and not talking to each other – and watched the people. Then out of nowhere, from the other end of the car, we hear a top of the lungs holler… “EXCELLENT MUSTACHE!” All riders (apathetic locals excluded) turned their heads toward the direction of the holler where they saw a little old man in a cute little cap with a curmudgeonly countenance staring in the direction of the opposite end of the car. So then we all turned our heads to follow his gaze and there was this amazingly tall Austrian gentleman (we’re guessing on the nationality) in denim shirt and jeans (also amazing) with this fantastic handlebar mustache. Austrian dude tipped his head, grinned and hollered “THANK YOU!” And all went about their business.

“The Boob and the Pole”

After a long day of city exploration we hopped on the subway to head back to our apartment. We were pretty far south, so it was going to be a long ride back to the upper west side, but it was later in the evening and the subway was fairly empty. Right across from us however, sat a mother and her two kids – a little girl, maybe 4-5 years old and a baby boy, no more than 9-10 months. All was carrying on without fanfare; the little boy was smiling at us and the little girl was asking her mom a million questions – “when will I die, mommy? when I’m 20? what happens when I die?” (I’m so not ready for that shit). But then out of nowhere, mom yanks down the front of her shirt and there it was, a big ‘ol boob right out in the open. Of course I wanted to stare mouth agape, but I quickly averted my gaze lest she see me ogling. When I looked back the baby was now on the boob, but dang that boob was twice the size of that baby’s head and so much of it was still hanging out. Now, I’m a mother and I understand that baby needs to eat when baby is hungry, and I’m sure that I could kick start a whole heated debate about breastfeeding in public, but really lady? The boob out in all its glory on the subway for at least a full two seconds before baby hopped on? Get a blanket or something. So baby finishes, boob goes back under its shirt, and then mom straps him in to his Bjorn and stands up. About to get off at the next stop? Nope. She turns around so her back is facing us, grabs on to the pole above her head with both hands and proceeds to bounce up and down, back and forth, shaking, and I mean really shaking, her not so small ass in front of us while goo goo gaa-ing at the baby. The four year old had also stood up and was twirling around one of the vertical poles like a stripper. And this goes on for minutes, and it’s all we can do to not lose it laughing our asses off watching this mother daughter “dance” two feet from our face.

Public transportation rocks.

Elderland out, XO.

ny part two – the apartment

While booking our plane tickets to New York was quick, cheap and easy, finding appropriate accommodations proved quite the challenge. We’re not at all persnickety when it comes to our lodging, but we are cheap (did you know that?) and we do have at least some semblance of standards. The few things we were looking for in our home away from home were a private bathroom, proximity to subway and bus lines, and a kitchenette (fridge and microwave at a minimum). Those three things together are actually not at all difficult to find in NYC. But…those three things together in NYC during the popular travel month of September for a nightly rate that wouldn’t make actually leaving our room impossible? Commence most exhaustive lodging search ever. We searched every hotel, travel deal, NYC vacation rental and Craigslist site possible in our attempts to line up a reasonable stay. That one had a shared bathroom, that one wasn’t available, that one got 1 out of 5 stars with reports of roaches/rodents/robberies, that one was in Jersey City, that one was half my mortgage payment for one night, and so on and so on. Finally Pete found it – a charming little apartment on the upper west side with exactly what we needed and within budget. WHEW! But was it too good to be true?

When you’re reading the reviews on these vacation apartment sites one of the common complaints and cause for a thumbs down is that the owner pulled a little bait and switch. They post cute photos of a place to stay, take your money, and then when you show up to check in they feed you some line about why the original room is not ready/available and put you up in an entirely different space that in no way resembles the cozy digs you were expecting, but rather comes a little closer to that 1 out of 5 stars hovel with the roaches/rodents/robberies. Needless to say, we were nervous.

We arrive at our building just before 10 and call our vacation landlord to let him know we’re outside. A pleasant little dude in his late sixties – Bill – meets us at the front door, we exchange pleasantries and he assists us with our things. The interior of his building is quite lovely and we’re feeling pretty good. Bill guides us to his “elevator” – a 3×3 box that couldn’t possibly be safety rated for more than a couple hundred pounds – and we cram three grown adults and two suitcases inside and shut the “door.” With his face just inches from mine (I can see pretty much every ounce of dental work Bill has had in his sixty plus years) Bill proceeds to tell us about his cleaning lady canceling on him that day, leaving the room we were supposed to occupy unprepared. Oh. Shit. So many things raced through my mind in the brief moment between that statement and his next, most of which would not be suitable for children under 13. His next statement, however, was that instead of the ground level apartment we were expecting, he was going to put us in his wife’s office on a higher floor and there was still a private bathroom and kitchenette and bedroom. Huh. Bill let us in to the room and despite the semi-awkwardness we felt at being in what was clearly his wife’s personal space (she was out of town), the place was pretty nice. Whew. We bid goodnight to Bill and head out for some beer and grub.

Upon returning to our humble abode, Pete decides to go and test the bed and what does he find? A fucking air mattress. It was actually a double stacked air mattress all dressed up with sheets, skirt and pillows so that the only way you’d know it’s true substance was to touch it. Pete was livid. Air mattresses are what you sleep on when you go visit relatives with limited space and beds, and are absurdly inappropriate for an anniversary vacation. Of course at this point it was nearing midnight and though we were just a wee bit annoyed with Bill, we decided to be decent and wait for the AM to give him a piece of our mind. We made it through night one without too much discomfort and then first thing in the morning, Pete took care of business.

Pete told Bill this was unacceptable, Bill feigned ignorance about the crapiness of air mattresses, Pete gave him a thorough account of the pitfalls, Bill got the point and agreed to remedy the situation. After explaining that he still wasn’t able to get his cleaning lady to come (really, Bill? there aren’t 8,000 other cleaning people in NYC you could call?) he said he could move us up to his “library” (quotes because it was really just some built-ins with books on one wall, but there was a bed!). We gathered and packed our things, met him in the hall and moved on up. The library was on the top floor of the brownstone and just one flight of stairs up from where Bill and his wife Reese hosted the Contemporary African Art Gallery. It was kind of freakin’ amazing. We again had a private bathroom, Bill let us keep the keys to the last spot to continue use of the kitchenette, and we were surrounded by some pretty badass art. Perhaps best of all was that we had the only access in the building to the rooftop deck. Schwing! Bill offered that his cleaning woman could come the next day and we could move once again, but we offered that we were done moving and would be fine to stay right there. I imagine that wasn’t an ideal situation for him as we were kind of in his space, but I also imagine he understood that he was no longer in the position to get his ideal.

So there we stayed for the remainder of our trip and it was perfection. Sunsets and skyline views with some dining and drinking al fresco, a walk through the Gallery every time we came and went from our space, and no awful air mattress. We never did see the original apartment. We do believe that Bill’s story was legit and he wasn’t trying to put one over on us and that said apartment did actually exist, but in the end we weren’t at all sad to miss it. All in all, Bill was super nice and worked very hard to make sure we were happy and had everything we need. And we sure did.

check out our room!! just kidding. this was at the met.

our building

our first room with the air mattresses.

original rembrandt in our space. no shit.

rooftop deck

Still to come, some snippets about the subway and a general recap of what we did/ate/saw.

Elderland out. XO.

ny part one

Our trip to the big city was fantastically marvelous and there are many stories to tell, so rather than burn holes in your eyes by forcing you to take in one epically long post, I’ll break it up into parts and give you time in between to get a snack, take a nap, go for a walk, visit the toilet…whatever you feel the need to accomplish before settling in for another walk around the writer’s block. See what I did there?

Part One – Arrival

We purchased our plane tickets for this trip back in June while Southwest was having one of those super sales with $40 – $80 fares, literally minutes before the sale ended. Shockingly, we weren’t the only ones on the interweb at the 11th hour scurrying to book a trip, and the favored times for flying were disappearing fast, so what we wound up with were one stop tickets that landed us in NY around 8 PM. Layovers are the pits and we’d of course have preferred to arrive a bit earlier since we knew an 8 PM landing meant not getting to our actual apartment until close to 10, but a penny saved is a penny earned and $100 saved is at least three cocktails each at a swanky NY bar. Even with some extended taxiing due to inclement weather, we still arrived on time and so began our first city adventure – the M60 bus from LGA.

A cab from the airport to anywhere in Manhattan costs about $50 plus tip. The M60 bus from our terminal to exactly three blocks from our apartment costs $2.25 each. For your $50 plus tip you get privacy, fairly comfortable seats, limited stoppage time and door to door service. But for $2.25 each you get one hell of an experience.

A handful of folks boarded the bus with us at LGA and off we went. Through Astoria/Queens the ride was pretty uneventful, but then at the last stop, before we crossed the bridge into Harlem, a family of five joined our coach – mom, dad and three small children, the youngest of which couldn’t have been more than a year old. It was about 9 PM at this point. Now, I’ve seen babies at the Mebane bowling alley past 10 PM (I judged those parents too) and I accept that I have no idea what this family’s situation was or how common an occurrence it was for them to tote the troop around town late at night, but I’d say the next round of happenings didn’t do much to help my opinion of the matter. Mom sat with the two older kids in one row, dad with the baby right behind her. Mom mumbled something to dad about helping keep the kids under control to which dad replied “don’t worry, I’ve got my son!” I’m not sure what his definition of “got” is, but little one-year-old-late-night-bus-riding-baby was climbing all over the place and standing on the seat and dad certainly had no form of grasp on him and if you’ve never ridden a city bus before, one good word to describe the ride would be jolty. Pete and I both sat there, directly behind this show of fine parenting, just waiting to catch a baby in our lap. Then mom started turning around to give dad the evil eye (not sure why) so dad began intermittent smackings on the back of her head. Nothing I would call abusive, more like a sibling rivalry style provocation. Mom “requested” that dad stop and when he didn’t, she whipped around and shot him the evilest of glares and said something like boy, you better quit that shit right now. Dad just went “ohh ho ho! Mom’s goin’ gangsta on us!” Good times.

A stop or so later our driver puts the bus in park, grabs his gear, and gets off the bus. Ummmmm. It’s after 9 PM and we’re in the middle of Harlem and our bus driver appears to be walking home. But wait! He starts walking back in our direction. He steps inside and is about to say something when an automated bus announcement begins – something about staying alert for your safety and reporting any suspicious behavior – okay, sure no problem. Announcement ends, bus driver starts talking again – “so yeah, my shift is over and my replacement’s not here, so um, I’m just going to go and if another bus shows up before he gets here, you should get on that one.” Awesome.

Thankfully another bus pulled up within minutes and we exited bus one to head toward bus two. As the doors closed on bus two and we started to pull away we heard someone outside yelling “HEY! HEY! WAIT! STOP!” and we looked out the windows to see a young dude chasing the bus with a folded stroller in his hands. The bus driver chose to ignore his pleas and carried on which apparently had quite the affect on this young man. Let me just take a moment here to point out, in case you missed it a sentence ago, that he had a stroller, read: he too was traversing the city with his young children late at night. Anyhoo, the driver’s failure to stop and wait prompted the young man to heave his stroller a good 15 feet down the road. No the baby was not in there. He then abandoned said stroller, and I assume his family as well, and proceeded to high-tail it a couple blocks to catch up with the bus at its next stop. The driver started to open the door, saw that it was the same dude, closed the doors in his face and began to pull away. Young dude, anger mounting, moved around to stand in front of the bus and shout and cuss at the driver through the front window. Driver paused briefly and then veered into the lane of oncoming traffic to get around him. Young dude smacked the windshield with all his might and then got out of the way, with a few more f-bombs and the like thrown in for good measure. Again, awesome.

A few stops later we pulled up to 106th and Broadway, grabbed our luggage, breathed a sigh of relief to have somehow made it and began our few block walk to 330 W. 108th Street on the Upper West Side of New York City.

Tune in next time for our little apartment anecdote.

Elderland out. XO.

PS Norah did not go with us on the trip, but we did bring back this shirt for her and she does look mind blowingly adorable in this photo.