Saturday, December 31, 2011

Later, 2011!

Another year has passed us by, which means it's time for me to search the depths of my noggin to answer the following questions. If you happen to do the same thing on your blog, please leave me a link in comments - I'd love to read what you've written.

1. What did you do in 2011 that you’d never done before?
the defeat of bees which included a suprise visit from a rattlesnake; got an iPhone and went a little crazy in the app store; met the Plum Trucker and RuthAnn in person; went to the Louisville truck show as a VIP; did a round-trip, regular run between Baltimore and Seattle for FOUR months; virtually attended the wedding of a Prince; discovered the Instagram app; held a giveaway contest sponsored by a major boot manufacturer; went parasailing, found a conch shell and survived a hurricane in the Turks and Caicos; visited an airplane graveyard; and “grew” a money tree.

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I didn't make any last year, but this year I resolve to learn Italian via audiobook, eat less fast food, try to do a little exercise, eat more fresh fruit (which I love, but don't eat as often as I should), and manage my time better.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
My friend Jen, from ARI, gave birth to a beautiful little girl they named Scout Quinn.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
Yes. Two very loved people. My
Aunt Jennie and my beloved step-father Frank.

5. What countries did you visit?
We went to the Turks and Caicos – during a hurricane, no less.

6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?
A smaller body. More vacations. Time to just sit and write stuff.

7. What dates from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
The day my step-father died and the three weeks leading up to it, for obvious reasons. The shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords because I was home in Tucson when it happened and the store she was shot at is the place I grocery shop. President Obama finally capturing and killing Osama bin Laden and Muammar Gaddafi because it couldn’t be escaped on the news. And June 28 for personal reasons.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Losing 12 pounds.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Gaining it back.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Nope, knock on wood. Healthy as a horse, again.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
My iPhone. Life is not worth living without it.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Ed’s, during
this event. I was a crying, babbling mess because I was tired, annoyed and overwhelmed and he handled me so kindly and took care of me and the situation like a champ. He is truly a knight in a shining armor. My knight.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
I don't get depressed, but I am often appalled. This year, the biggest transgression belongs to my step-father's grandchildren. Their behavior prior to and at the time of his death was disgusting. No phonecalls, no letters, no text messages, no NOTHING. After all he did for them, it makes me want to line them up and smack them one by one. Hard. Also, there are some people in my family who didn't offer condolences to me personally when he died. I find all of that absolutely appalling. There's no excuse. None at all.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Vacation, dining out and investments.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Surprisingly, having more time to drive so I could listen to my audiobooks.

16. What song will always remind you of 2011?
"Turning Tables" by Adele - I first heard it on Glee, performed by Gwyneth Paltrow - I think she did a great job.

Anything by Amy Winehouse, because 2011 is the year I first discovered her - I know, I must have been living under a rock, but Glee was also responsible for that when Santana (OMG, she's the sexiest thing on two legs!) sang "Back To Black"; and this song by Christina Aguilera and Beverly McClellan. Beautiful.

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: (a) happier or sadder? (b) thinner or fatter? (c) richer or poorer?
I'm always pretty happy with the exception of some life bumps (like deaths), I'm still as fat as I was last year (-12 pounds, then +12 pounds = 0 pounds lost) and I have more money than I did last year, as I fully funded my IRA this year. Woo Hoo!

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Talking to my step-father about his life. I had intended to gather information but it just didn't happen. Now he's gone. I also wish I had taken more pictures...of everything.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Waste time.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
With family in Arizona…and it was actually a little chilly this time!

21. Did you fall in love in 2011?
I actually fell a little more in love with Ed this year. Seeing how he handled the death of my step-father, and watching his kind, gentle nature made me realize how very lucky I am to have him. He doesn't just say he loves me, he always, always shows it.

22. What was your favorite TV program?
Well, I never miss Glee, Grey's Anatomy or Project Runway, but in addition to that, I'm absolutely addicted to Chopped and I also watch David Rocco's Dolce Vita and Nadia G's Bitchin' Kitchen whenever I have the chance.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Well, I wouldn’t exactly say hate; it’s more like a growing dislike.

24. What was the best book you read?
Oh, Lord. This is a hard question to answer this year, as I've devoured SO many books! I can narrow it down to five - will that help?
Nothing To Envy by Barbara Demick (Best book I've ever read. Ever. LOVED it.)
Mosaic by Diane Armstrong (Fantastic true family saga. Very absorbing.)
Loving Frank by Nancy Horan (Fiction based on fact about the love affair between Frank Lloyd Wright and Mameh Borthwick. I really enjoyed this one.)
Blood, Bones & Butter by Gabrielle Hamilton
The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Amy Winehouse. I know, I know. I live in a cave. But when she first came out, I poo-pooed her, thinking it wasn't my kind of music. She is SO my kind of music. Then she went and died. WTF?

26. What did you want and get?
An iPad. Well, I didn’t actually get it yet. Ed bought me an iPad 3 for Christmas. Yes, yes, I know the only iPad out right now is the 2, but Ed wrapped up a little note promising me the iPad 3 when it comes out in early 2012. Exciiiited!

27. What did you want and not get?
A week in Tennessee with my best friend.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?
We watch a lot of movies, especially from Red Box – what a great invention – pick up a movie in one state, drop it off in another, at only $1 per night - how can you not use this service?? Of the ones we saw, I liked “The Last King of Scotland”, "The Switch", "The Help", and "Hanna".

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I spent my 44th birthday in St. Louis, Missouri because that's where we happened to be, so we took a few days and explored the town (The Hill, Downtown, the BBQ joints). But we actually went to Turks and Caicos for my birthday trip (even though Ed desired that location more than I did) – we snorkeled, met a really nice couple from the UK, and battened down the hatches when the hurricane came. Good times.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Canada. Canada. Canada! I haven’t been in years and I’m jonesin’ a little bit. I want to visit the Le Château Frontenac during the
Carnaval de Québec - it's already on the 2012 schedule.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?
For driving: Spaghetti strap tank, velour sweatpants, and socks.
For anything outside of the truck: Capris and flip-flops in hot weather, jeans and sneaks in cold.

32. What kept you sane?
Frequent visits to Barnes & Noble, talking to my best friend, snuggling with Eddie.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
My mother said The Crustaceans. I’m pretty sure she means The Kardashians. I’m not really into them, so I’m not sure why she said that, but I guess I'll go with it because I can’t think of anyone I was obsessed with this year.

34. What political issue stirred you the most?
The horrid anti-immigration laws being drafted and passed in states like Arizona, South Carolina, Mississippi and specifically Alabama.

35. Who did you miss?
My brother, because I don’t get to see him enough, and my family on the East Coast for the same reason.

36. Who was the best new person you met?
Mark, even though it was a short-lived friendship, and RuthAnn Bradbury. THAT meeting was a long time coming. She’s great!

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011.
Well, I don't know if I learned this in 2011, but it was talked about a lot: Less is more. And I know this because I live it every day. When on the road, I have a limited amout of stuff with me, and by having to leave things home because of space considerations, I have realized that I don't really need anything. I have everything I need within arms length. People own too much stuff, they live above their means and they think they need "things". Money is wasted buying crap for your kids (toys, video games, etc.) that they'll never remember when they get older. Your money would be better spent creating an experience where you can spend more time with them, creating an indelible memory. It would do kids and families good.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
This comes from one of my favorite songs of the year called "Come On Get Higher" by Matt Nathanson. I like the Sugarland version better, but either way, I'm lovin' this song.

So come on, get higher, loosen my lips
Faith and desire in the swing of your hips
Just throw me down hard
And drown me in love

And my slogan for the new year...Money, Honey!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
That’s A Wrap!
Out With The Old
Another Year, Another 365 Days
All Good Things Come To An End
The Symphony Of A Thousand Saws
Suicidal Firewood

Friday, December 30, 2011

They Really Mean It When They Say, "We Come To You"

Yesterday Ed took the truck to the shop to have some motor mounts replaced; the truck has over 400,000 miles on it now and it was time. I haven't driven in it yet, but Ed said there was a noticeable reduction in vibration. In this case, that's a good thing.

Today we had the passenger side window replaced. There was a crack creeping up from the bottom and as I mentioned
in this post when we got our driver's side window done earlier this year in California, that it's an FMCSA no-no. The guy who repaired it this time actually came to our house!
Nice guy, originally from Romania (which I was thrilled to find out!), who used to be a truck driver himself for thirty years. Ed and he had much to discuss. With all the chit-chat the two of them were doing, it probably took longer than normal, but in the end we had a bright, shiny new windshield! It was beautiful.

This is the third window we've installed on this truck since we got it. It's so convenient that these guys come to you, but coming to the house was the best deal because while Ed went out to meet the guy, I got to sleep late. I needed my energy - to run errands, do returns and hit Nordstrom Rack in the afternoon.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Happy 5005!!

I was in the grocery store yesterday when I came across this display, created from cases of soda. I didn't know what the orange thing on top was - I thought it was supposed to be some sort of starburst for New Year's Eve, it was only later did I realize it was a basketball.

I stood there looking at it because it just wasn't right. I squinted thinking I would be able to see it better, that it'd be easier to make the colors into whatever it was supposed to be.

I thought I was seeing two-zero-zero-two. 2002? That's not right, I said to myself, I must be reading it wrong.

So I stepped back, shook my head as if to clear what I was seeing, and looked again. It did say 2002. Seriously?? That's when I heard the woman bagging groceries say to the cashier standing beside her, "Looks like she likes it."

I turned toward her, caught her eye, and she said to me, "Isn't it great?"

"Uh, yeah. But it would be even greater if it said 2012, instead of 2002." I said.

She looked confused, then looked at it for a long time and said, "Oh. It does say 2002, doesn't it?"

"Yep." I said.

We then both walked in the direction of the structure and she went over to the guys who were behind it, adding more soda cases to it and said, "You have to do it again guys - it says 2002."

Which means this was the second (or third, or fourth, who knows) time they were doing it and it was still wrong. They didn't look very happy.

The best part? From the other side, it said 5005.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
It Really Doesn’t Need Any Help
The Day The Music Lived
It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas
He Raises A Valid Point
Eddie In Stripes Friday
Customer Service Vigilante

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Lighting Up The Night Griswold Style

Last night after Ed and I took my mother out to dinner, we swung by the house of one of her friends because she told us they put up "a lot of lights" during Christmas. I've been all over the country, and I couldn't imagine what this little podunk neighborhood have to offer.

Well, I sure found out!

They do this every year and I guess leading up to Christmas, offer hot chocolate and cookies to people coming by to see it. They also ask for donations to the local food bank. One year they got over $4,000.00 in donations!
It was AMAZING. Every surface of the front of their house was covered with lights. Strings of lights hanging from the eaves, trees wrapped with lights, even the cactus were decorated! It was spectacular. I loved the big green Christmas tree in the middle, and you can't see it very clearly, but there are two 1965 Ford Mustangs parked in the driveway.
It's probably the best individual house I've ever seen. Even the homes in Winterhaven, which is an area known for it's light displays - The Festival of Lights - can't compare. I love that people do this. I LOVE Christmas lights. And like I said in a recent Facebook status update, "since I'm usually the night driver, I'd like to thank all the people out there who make an effort to put up holiday lights. It's so great to see lights on homes and businesses all over the country as I drive. Even the piss poor displays are a delight!"

And I really mean that.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Plum Is Missing

I'm writing this post because I want to tell my readers all I know about where the Plum Trucker went:


That's right, folks, I know nothing. She has not posted on her blog since October 26th. Normally, if someone decides to abandon blogging, they'll do a final blog post, but since that didn't happen, I really have no explanation.

She hasn't authorized any comments to go through (I know, I've left some), she hasn't responded to any emails I've sent her, and she's no longer showing up on my Google Latitude tracking software (all of us trucker friends have added each other so we know where we all are). I sent another email yesterday, but again, haven't heard anything. I haven't called because I feel a little awkward since it's pretty clear she doesn't want to communicate.

There was a little fracas in the comments section of
this post and I thought maybe what I said caused her to be upset - it was the only thing I could think of, since she stopped writing shortly after - but then I went back and re-read it several times and came to the conclusion that it wasn't rude at all. I even contacted Kendall's mother via Facebook - who is super-nice and has been on my friend list for quite some time now - asking her about them and what was up, but she didn't respond either.

RuthAnn had been texting with her but didn't have any idea what was going on. According to Kendall's mother, in one of her Facebook posts, they have "big news" but she wasn't sure if she was allowed to talk about it on Facebook, so she hasn't. I'm not really sure what that could be - I did write her and ask, but that's the message she didn't answer.

At first, we were all worried. When you don't see hide nor hair of someone that you've made friends with, suddenly you think the worst - are they in a ditch? did something happen with their truck? are they hurt? But when months went by and there was no word, and I knew they'd been home for the holidays, and I knew they were still working (RuthAnn could still track them on Latitude), I started to wonder.

And I'm not the only one. I've had no less then twelve people contact me in the last few weeks, asking about Plum - people I know, my readers, her readers. I've gotten emails and messages through the comments section of my blog. In fact, I just got another one yesterday.

I am very curious to know what's going on. They're great kids and I'd love to know what's happening in their life and why they've stopped all communication with everyone (well, us trucking folks). I hope everything is going well, I hope they had a great holiday, I hope they have a good new year and I really hope to hear from them soon.

In the meantime, keep them in your thoughts. And Plum, if you're reading this - we miss you!!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The Voodoo That You Do
Meet Me In St. Louis…If You Can Find It
We Don’t Eat Gefilte Fish But We Do Like The Multi-Cultural Birthdays
How To Picnic Like An Italian
Dead Ant, Dead Ant, Dead Ant, Dead Ant, Dead Ant, Dead Ant, Dead Ant…
The Cactus King

Monday, December 26, 2011

No One Mentioned The Elephant In The Room, But The Zebra Was A Big Topic Of Discussion

For years now I have been the purchaser of much of the art that graces the walls of my brother's home.

I have bought large scale paintings for their living room and bedroom, elaborate oversized mirrors (one round, one square) that command attention, candlestick holders the size of a teenager's leg, an old style clock for the mantle, a three foot tall urn that looks like it was unearthed in Pompeii, and even a trio of black and white photographs that I took myself. My brother's house is big - with vaulted ceilings and cavernous rooms - and it needs pieces that will not be dwarfed by their surroundings.

Enter The Zebra.
When I saw this painting in the store, at four feet wide by six feet tall, I was intrigued. It was laying in the rack on its side and all I saw was an abstract of black and white. I couldn't make out what it was. Then Ed helped me turn it upright, and he stood back and said, "It's a zebra."

"What?" I said.

"A zebra."

I asked him to hold it so I could step back to view it. I did and I loved it. Falling more in love with it by the minute. I had big plans for it. I knew exactly where it was going to go, and coupled with my plan to strip and re-paint their dining room set, it was going to to be fabulous.

My brother usually likes everything I buy, but I knew he was going to be on the fence with this one. Or even just flat out on the other side of the fence, in the land of dislike. I was thinking that might be the case. Because of that very thought, I bought a second piece of art as my Plan B.

I did everything I could to convince him to love the zebra. I had Ed hold it up in all the places I thought it would look great. I extolled the virtues of the simple black and white color palette. How it would accent any room. How it was sort of an abstract zebra. I even held it sideways, in the position I originially saw it in, giving him a different take on it. Who says it can't hang sideways?? At one point I thought I had him. He was quiet for a long time, pausing as if to say he was now beginning to see what I saw. That he could make it work. But when he opened his mouth, he just said "" I had to give him the Plan B gift.

He liked the Plan B gift, but wasn't completely thrilled with it because I had gotten him something similar a few years ago. I remembered the item he spoke of, just as I had when I was in the store, but I got it anyway. It was different. Dramatic. Eye-catching. But he didn't think he could figure out a place to put it where it wouldn't cause someone to do a double-take and say, "Heyyyy, isn't that just like the..."

So now I have two items to return this week. And rather than buying him something else that he might not love, I decided just to give him the amount we agreed to spend.

In one dollar bills.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
White Chocolate Melts Away
An Appetizer With Heart
Angelic Eddie Friday
Would You Like A Fried Egg With A Side Of Influenza?
The Best Gift Of All

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Who Says Money Doesn't Grow On Trees? It's Christmas!!

We started our day yesterday in Phoenix; there was last minute shopping to be done and I had a plan. Ed was the chauffer, I was the one darting in and out of stores. Some of them, like Best Buy and Ross, he joined me in. We had three hours sleep the night before and were running on Dunkin'. We had to be in Tucson before six because we were having dinner at my mother's house with my friend Kim and her son Ty. I was hoping we'd make it.

We did make it, skating in at half past five. Thankfully, my mother had EVERYTHING done. The table was set, the gravy was on the stove, the salad was made, the garlic bread was buttered and garlicked up and ready to hit the oven, and the house was filled with Christmas; music, decorations, cookies and more! Dinner was great, we had a lot of laughs and Kim and Ty left after desert, as Ty (being a sixteen-year-old) had friends to visit.

I had presents to wrap and stuff to get ready for today. I was tired but had to keep going. And if my mother could do it at her age, who was I to wimp out? That's when the tree trimming started. And by tree trimming, I mean my bright idea to deck out three trees (each about 18" tall), one for each of my nephews, with money. WTF was I thinking???

With the help of Ed and my mother, we got it done. Ed was in charge of making the money into little accordian folds, I was in charge of wrapping ribbon around them and my mother was in charge of tying them on the branches of the trees. I put fifty dollars on each tree and after tree number one, my hand was cramping from tying the tiny little ribbons. I felt like I was working in a factory in a third world country. My mother tied almost every one of these little dollar bill bundles onto the trees.

Fourty-five little bundles of dollar bills (five were used in the star), with glistening red ribbon, placed among the lights and pinecones. My Aunt Ronni used to do this for me over thirty-five years ago - creatively placing money on an item that became my gift. I had such memories of getting those gifts that I was hoping my nephews would love it just as much. What a labor of love!

It took quite a while, but it was beautiful when finished. See how fast things go when everyone pulls together? That's the Christmas spirit! Or should I say the Christmas sweatshop spirit; Hey! - get back over here - you're not done with your accordion folds. You, over there - speed it up a little! We have to get this thing done by midnight. One more screw-up like that missy and you'll never tie dollar bill bundles in this town again!

The pièce de résistance of the whole tree was my
Origami star. Made from five one dollar bills, it completed the whole look.

And because it's Christmas, I am going to choose to believe that money does grow on trees. 'Tis the season in which miracles happen, no?

So Merry Christmas to all (and for all my multi-cultural readers)...

Season’s Greetings!
Happy Holidays!
Happy Chanukah!
Joyeux Noël!
Bada Din Mubarak Ho
Nollaig Shona Dhuit
Buon Natale!
Feliz Navidad!
Maligayang Pasko!
Nadolig Llawen!

and to all a good night!!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Christmas Time Is Here
Commanding Attention Once Again
A Meal Of Delicious Cheesy Goodness And A Day Of Good Delicious Cheeriness
The Merry. The Moments. The Memories.
I Love Your Bawwwlls!!
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Call Me For A Good Time - I'm ALWAYS Happy

We finished our UPS run around two this morning. My eyes are falling out of my head and I'm ready for some sleep. I'm thrilled that it's over, but I am not thrilled at the last minute things I have to do today. Believe or not, I still have shopping left. On Christmas Eve! I always vow to start early, to get things done in October, to shop online, but it never seems to happen. And then before I know it - BOOM! - it's Christmas Eve. WTF??

I took this picture of Ed yesterday. I'm not sure if he's also happy that the run is over or if he's just delirious from all the driving we've been doing, but whatever it is, I'm happy to be able to sit next to this smiling face day in and day out. It makes all the aggravation worth it.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Blue Plates And Books For Christmas Eve
Holiday Theft Is On The Rise…Right In Your Own Neighborhood!!
The Team Finally Takes A Rest
The Night Before Christmas And All Through The House
The Only Visible Flames Came From The Candles On The Altar
Tonight’s The Night, People

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Road To Laramie

Yesterday in the wee hours of the morning, as we were heading through Wyoming, we came across signs on the interstate telling us the road was closed at Laramie. It had been slow going for a while, with the slick spots and blowing snow, and it was only a matter of time before a road closure was in our future. We decided to stop ten miles east of Laramie, in Buford, because there's always the chance there will be no truck parking at the actual stopping place.

We pulled into the Lincoln Rest Area atop the I-80 summit, a place I've been wanting to go for years. We've passed here many times but have never had the time to stop. It's just a regular rest area, but I love that it has this giant monument with Abraham Lincoln's head on it, which is perched just above the interstate - you can see it when traveling in both directions, and at night it's illuminated. says Lincoln's head was built by Wyoming's Parks Commission to honor Lincoln's 150th birthday. The bronze head weighs over two tons and is 13.5 feet tall. It's perched atop a 30-foot granite pedestal. It was sculpted by Robert Russin, a University of Wyoming art professor and a Lincoln fan. In fact, when he died in 2007, his ashes were interred in the hollow monument. I don't know if that's cool, or creepy.
I took these photos the morning after. I love when the fresh snow covers absolutely everything. For instance - look at this bush, the fence, and the blades of grass in front of it - all powdercoated to perfection. Look at this close up - each individual snow covered branch, untouched by anything but nature.

And this picture - it's so "Wyoming" to me, a snow covered, rickety wood fence.

The road was beautiful once they opened it back up. There didn't seem to be that much snowfall, as indicated by the amount that was plowed to each side, so the closure must have been primarily due to blowing snow. There are areas along the route that were said to have had zero visibility because of it.

It was smooth sailing the rest of the way with pretty scenery, clear skies and open road. We should be in Sacramento by morning.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Muscling Christ Back Into Christmas
Holiday Gift Suggestions
Weighing In
When You Need Maternity Clothes And You’re Not Pregnant, You Know It’s Time For A Diet
It’s The Real Thing!
Spiraling Out Of Control

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Window To The Past

In our travels during this UPS thing (I've taken to calling it a "thing" around the truck), we went through Pella, Iowa, a place I've been wanting to visit for a while. Maybe it's because I'm familiar with Pella Windows, the company with the bright yellow logo, although that's kind of a lame reason, huh? I think it has something to do with the fact that it's a place that shares the name of a well-known product and when I heard it, just wanted to visit. Kinda like Corning, New York or Hershey, Pennsylvania. It's a little more interesting. Although Hershey does have chocolate.

So, we went. I wanted to see the famous
Vermeer Mill, an authentic working Dutch Mill. So we drove past the Pella Manufacturing Plant, through downtown Pella, in order to pass by the mill so I can snap a picture. It stands on the corner of Franklin and East First Street.
The Pella website says the windmill is 100% wind powered and the total height to the tip of the most upright blade is 124', giving the Vermeer Mill the distinction of being the tallest working windmill in the United States. It was built by Lucas Verbij from Hoogemade, Netherlands and assembled in Pella by two Dutch craftsman. It's an authentic, working grain mill (grinding wheat into flour) patterned after a similar 1850's grain mill in the province of Groningen, Netherlands. The stone ground flour the mill grinds is packaged and used by local bakeries and restaurants.

According to Wikipedia, Pella was founded in 1847 when eight hundred Dutch immigrants led by Dominee (a Dominee is a pastor in the Dutch Reformed Church) Hendrik P. Scholte settled the area. The name Pella is a reference to "Pella in the Perea", where the Christians of Jerusalem had found refuge during the Roman-Jewish war of 70. The name was selected because Dominee Scholte and the rest were also seeking religious freedom. Pella is also the childhood home of Wyatt Earp, whose father Nicholas Porter Earp had settled on a farm near Pella. His brothers Warren and Morgan were born in Pella.

It's a pretty area, with a downtown that personifies what people think of when they hear the words "small town America". The streets of downtown converge around a main square, where
Tulip Time, the tulip festival, is held in May. The businesses that line the streets have names harkening to its Dutch heritage, like the Vander Ploeg Bakery. Next time, I'll definitely be stopping in for one of their famous Almond Logs!
I'd love to see the town in spring and summer, when the trees are full and the flowers are in bloom, or on a snowy winter night when all the Christmas lights are twinkling. It almost makes me want to live in a place like this.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
1 YEAR AGO: A Killer Rest Area
2 YEARS AGO: The Barn Man
3 YEARS AGO: Text Me
4 YEARS AGO: Eddie Gets Impatient Friday
5 YEARS AGO: If You Have A Note, Then It’s Perfectly Okay To Commit Credit Card Fraud
6 YEARS AGO: Limo Scene

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The King Lived Here

Today we delivered our trailer to the UPS hub in Memphis, Tennessee. After we dropped it off, we had about seven hours to kill, so we decided to hit Walgreen's for some Tylenol and Afrin (I know, more than you want to know, but I have a VERY stuffy nose and a teensy bit of a headache), and then we'd go for dinner. But on the way to Walgreen's, we happened upon...
The home of Elvis Presley! Of course, I knew it was in Memphis, but I didn't know it was right there. Well, the fact that we were on Elvis Presley Boulevard should have given it away, but it's right in the middle of town, a few stops down from the Captain D's - a national fried fish fast food joint (ooh, say that five times fast!). I mean, it's quite a ways from downtown Memphis, as the UPS facility is near the airport, but I didn't expect it to be plopped in the middle of regular stuff. We didn't go in because we didn't have time to sightsee in that manner, but I did take pictures. It was about fifty degrees and rainy, but I got some pretty good shots just by hanging out the window of the truck as Ed drove.
As we drove along the front of the property, we noticed that on the wall in front, people have written their names. All over. Hundreds of fans. It was kind of amazing. Then we finally got to the main gate, where I assume the tour busses enter to bring you up the main drive, since no other vehicles were allowed there.

Each side of the gate has mirror images of Elvis playing the guitar and several musical notes. I got these pictures just seconds before the guard came flying out of the little guard shack to tell us that we couldn't stop there and take pictures. What. Ever! Some little rent-a-cop wasn't gonna stop me from capturing a little Elvis!
This is the view from the bottom of the driveway, just inside the gates, as you go up to the main house. The sign in front reads:

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Elvis Presley was born in Tupelo, Mississippi on January 8, 1395, the son of Vernon and Gladys Presley. He moved to Memphis in 1948. Soon after signing a contract with Sun Records in 1954 he achieved tremendous popularity. His musical and acting career in records, movies, television, and concerts made him one of the most successful and outstanding entertainers in the world. He died on August 16, 1977 and is buried here at his Memphis home, Graceland.

The house was all lit up and decorated for Christmas - the only thing that would make this scene more appealing, would have been snow.
Here's a close-up of the front of the house. It looks very common by today's standards. Typical of almost any house you'd see in Westchester, New York or Chicago, Illinois or Charlotte, North Carolina. But I bet he's the first one to have the famed "jungle room". His plane, the "Lisa Marie", was parked across the street from the estate and people were touring it as I snapped pictures. Very cool that you get to go inside! And then we left as quickly as we came. Just passing by, us and Elvis like two ships in the night. Although I've heard reviews from friends that it was unimpressive - and to us, it probably would be with the kind of mansions we see today - but I'd still like to see it someday. It must have been really something in its heyday. Imagine what the folks of Memphis thought when Elvis moved in??What's really "regular" about the place is, that if you just go to the next block at the end of the property - which we did to turn the truck around - there's an entire street of houses that butt right up against Elvis' property. So from the backyard of these homes, they can look right over their pool, or BBQ pit, or fence, and see right into Graceland.

That's gotta do something for their property values.

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Over The Hill And Over The Top
Mr. & Mrs. Javelina And The Carb Encounter
Disk This
Ghostly Landmark
Shopping In Hell

Monday, December 19, 2011

New Life

A while back, I asked Ed if he wanted to do a guest post for me. The idea sort of hung in the air for months and months, never being brought up again. But back in November, he expressed an interest in writing one and I expressed much joy at the idea. It gives me a break and we get to see life through his eyes.

The topics he chooses to cover are his choice alone, I have no input. He's done one already, this will be his second. And now I bring you Ed's View:

There are all kinds of truckers out here and they make up the industry in several ways. Here are just a few:

Regional Drivers: Home every night, these drivers only go a couple of hundred miles away each day, servicing distribution centers and local manufacturers. Some of them operate dump trucks and rock hauling trailers to supply local construction sites. They are home quite frequently.

Regional Long Haul: Covering territories as far as 500 miles away, these drivers are usually home every other day or every 3 days and on the weekends. Many less-than-truckload (LTL) carriers like UPS, Central, Old Dominion, and Conway move trailers on routes which keep trucks on a regular daily schedule, servicing the same terminals every day whether there is anything in the trailer or not. These drivers stop at the same truck stops every day and often travel the same routes weekly for years.

Long Haul: Like Salena and I, these drivers cover the contiguous 48 states, sometimes Alaska and often, Canada. They’re on the road for weeks at a time, and when they do go home it’s for just a few days at a time. They can haul everything from toilet paper to truck parts.

Since there are so many needs for trucks and so many uses for them in the transportation business, trucks are everywhere and just about anyone can drive one. Many drivers go into the business for different reasons. Here are a few of the reasons I’ve been given, in the 16 years I’ve been out here, for why people have taken to the open road:

They need to feed their family. Wife works full time, they need to work out here, to make the kind of money they need, to help their kids have a bright future. If they weren’t truckers, their kids would never have a shot at college.

They’re retired. After working in (insert various professions here) for more than twenty years or so, they want to see the country and get paid for it. These people are usually fun to talk to, but they often have no idea about the many issues that career truckers like me, face daily. The carrier they work for makes tons of money off of them while they’re usually clueless about how much they could be making out here.

They like trucking because they don’t play well with others. They’re like the atypical trucker in movies like “Duel”, or have imagined being behind the wheel in stories like Stephen King’s “Maximum Overdrive”. This is the guy who burned the town down, shot your sister, and then disappeared to who knows where. Now he’s sitting next to you eating biscuits and gravy and scrambled eggs at the trucker’s food counter. MMM, MMM, MMM he sure does love coffee! To be honest, these people have all but died out and are incredibly hard to find these days.

Team Truckers. These are the smartest people I’ve met out here. They’re the couple who went out and decided to run together to rake in the dough so they can live out their dreams. Some of them are only out here for a short time – two years or so - to make money, buy a house (for cash!) and then go back to whatever they were doing before the trucking bug hit them. They realized the only way to make really good money in trucking would be for the two of them to run around the clock for high rates, working as a very effective, well-oiled team. If they happen to own their own equipment, in a couple of years they could clear over a half a million dollars. This kind of cash can buy a nice house, car, education, or even a new life. In short, they’ve cleaned up.

This kind of thing happens all over the United States, every day. I’ve known teams who own multiple trucks, cars, homes, airplanes and even have their own small fleets. They started with nothing and earned everything in a few short years. It isn’t as easy as it sounds, though. Try living with someone 24/7 in a high stress environment, making on time deliveries, while dealing with the many personalities that exist in the trucking dispatch offices and at shippers and receivers. You also have to be your own mechanic, office secretary, and doctor. All of this while trying to maintain friendships and relationships with family and friends back home (if they’re even still talking to you).

I can tell you from experience, that I know entire platoons of Marines who couldn’t hack that type of lifestyle for a week let alone a couple of years. It takes dedication, loyalty, and a perseverance that only some people have. That’s why there’s a huge shortage of teams out here. Most just do it for a little while and then move on to other things.

A way around the problem of being cooped up for 24/7 with a significant other, is to each drive your own truck. Separately. These couples usually say that they love each other and both love driving, just don’t love being with each other all day, every day. These people do very well in the business and can multi-task while servicing several different customers with multiple trucks, instead of two people in the same truck. And they sort of each have their own life while on the road.

The list goes on regarding driver type, and it gets even more interesting in some cases. Imagine being the driver for entertainment road shows, ballet troupes, rock stars, race car drivers. What fun!

In fact, I’ve met lots of people on the road myself, just doing what I do. I met the music group Green Day at the Pilot Travel Center in Little Rock, Arkansas; when I approached them to talk, they claimed they were the “Foxboro Hot Tubs”, but I knew better, since I’m a fan of their music. I met Nickelback in Ohio, George Thoroughgood in Nevada, Reba McEntire in Connecticut and was treated to breakfast in Reno, NV by the driver of the bus that transported the cast of Girl’s Gone Wild. He didn’t know what to say when I asked if he was also the babysitter to the “stars” of the show.

We meet all kinds of people out here and it’s one of the things I love most about this job. I’ve worked in fast food, retail, construction, furniture moving and on freight docks. I was also a United States Marine. But I’ve had the most fun being an over-the-road truck driver, meeting all kinds of people from all over the United States and Canada.

Someday I think I’m going to go back to school and take U.S. History again, just so I can meld together the places I’ve been with their history. Being there in person, talking to the people who live and work there, puts history in perspective.

The information gained from being exposed to all walks of life because of the career I’ve chosen, makes my life, in a sense, take on new life.

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Wearing Your Message On Your Sleeve. Er, Wrist.
In The Round
Eddie’s Adoring/Bored Girlfriend Friday
Lux Perpetua
The Lesser Known King Of Romance
Wow. What Beautiful Gums You Have.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

My, What A Long Truck You Have

Ed and I both have a doubles and triples endorsement on our license. Having it means we're qualified to pull two or three trailers behind our tractor. When we do the UPS run, we're required to have that just in case they need us to pull doubles or triples but in the past three years that we've done UPS, we've never had the opportunity to do so.

But this year, we got dispatched to pull two trailers! Well, "we" didn't pull doubles, Ed did. He took this picture when we were parked. It's not the greatest since a) it's at night, b) the place they told him to park was against the wall, and c) another set of doubles is parked on the other side of us. So there really wasn't any way he could get a side shot of the truck - this is more like an alley shot.

We had two "pups" as they call them, which are about twenty-five feet long each. With the coupling apparatus and our tractor, we were about ninety feet long. I've seen guys out there with one regular sized trailer and one pup, or even three pups, which makes 'em look super long. A Facebook friend of mine in South Africa says he pulls doubles all the time and over there they call them "super-links" - here, we call them "wiggle wagons" - for obvious reasons.

Ed said that driving them didn't seem really much different other than a little lag in braking, that it felt like the brakes had to catch up with the trailers. And of course, you don't go anywhere that you can't back out of. If you wind up in a jam, from what I understand, it's a real pain in the ass to drop one pup, then the other, reposition both trailers in a way that you can pick them up again and continue on. I'm famous for pulling into a place I can't get out of, so I'm glad I wasn't driving.

But now I can say we finally made use of the endorsement. I guess it was worth the eight dollars we paid to have it added to our license!

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A Place For The Snow To Rest
They’re Always Touching Their Hammers
Raindrops On Roses And Whiskers On Kittens
Love Hate Relationship
Full Service

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Getting Stoned In New York*

A few years ago, I wrote about my brother and his trip to New York to tile my cousin's new house. This year he went back, to install the stone fireplace he designed for the space. This is my brother...
To see how he transformed this plain wall (with tiny fireplace)...

Into this beautiful stone masterpiece...

Click HERE for the photos. FYI - I didn't take the pictures, so forgive the quality, but I included them all so you can see the process.


*My mother is SO not going to like this title.

Friday, December 16, 2011

She Strikes Again

My mother was telling me about a house we used to live in almost thirty years ago, explaining how my step-father "made a mint" when he sold it.

"We bought it for $100,000.00 cash and sold it for $230,000.00 cash. That was a beautiful house." she said.

"Yeah, I loved that place. It was tucked away in the woods. Great property." I said.

"The guy who bought it had just got divorced." she said.

"Why would a guy who just got divorced buy a five bedroom house??" I said.

"I don't know. What do you mean?" she said.

"I'm asking why you think he'd need a five bedroom house if he just got divorced. Did he have a lot of kids or something?" I said.

"I don't know." she said. "He was a professional black man."

"Really? Not an amateur black man?" I said.

"What??" she said, in that confused tone she uses when she doesn't realize what she just said.

"A professional, as opposed to an amateur. You're saying he was a professional black man. Does that mean he was good at being black?" At this point, I'm busting her chops but she still doesn't know it.

"Well, that's what the realtor told me - that he was a professional, not just a regular black guy from the Bronx." she said. Boy, I wonder how the realtor described us.

"Ohhhhh." I said.

Then I had to explain to her what she just said. Of course, once I told her how what she said sounded, she was flustered and sputtered out, "That's not what I meant!"

I know, Mom, I know. But if I didn't let you continue (and egg you on), I'd have nothing to write on my blog, now would I?

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The Frozen Tundra
Your Tax Dollars Hard At Work
What’s Next, Reporting Your Maid In The Middle Of Her Dusting The Living Room Tsochkes?
Fashion Forwards
Swimming Po
Just Call Me Rosa

Thursday, December 15, 2011

If It Ain't Sweet, It Ain't Southern Made

Yesterday while in Shreveport, Louisiana we came across a famous, local donut shop - Southern Maid. The "Hot Donuts" neon sign is clearly visible from Interstate 20, beckoning. Apparently, they're the South's "finest donut". We shall see...
I read in the history page on their website that Elvis frequented this location while in town to perform on the Louisiana Hayride radio show. Elvis, really? I had to check it out.

The donuts are almost identical to the Krispy Kreme style, glazed and sweet enough to give you a cavity. This is not my favorite kind of donut as I prefer the cakey style of Dunkin', but I had to try them since I was here so Ed and I each got one. He had a maple bar and I had a cream cheese donut - which is like a Boston Creme but with thicker, cream cheesy-like filling. It was good, but damn, these southerners really like their treats sweet; fudge, pralines, taffy, pecan pie, bourbon balls, moon pies, peach cobler, etc. The list seems endless.

There was one girl working the counter and I saw three people in the back. I could see through the window rows of donuts waiting to be dropped into hot oil, then dipped in their sugar sweet glaze. The girl working the counter didn't know anything about Elvis, but she did point me to a wall at the very end of the building that displayed pictures of stars that apparently had eaten or created music about these donuts. Wherever you can find your inspiration, I say.

From what the website said, this is also the only product Elvis ever did a commercial for. He sang their jingle; "You can get them piping hot after 4 P.M., you can get them piping hot, Southern Maid Donuts hits the spot, you can get them piping hot after 4 P.M." Not very creative, but hey - it's Elvis - I'm sure it was a big hit.

So if you're in Shreveport, be sure to stop by. After 4pm, of course.

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Portland Bound
Dear Blog Santa
The Trees Help Guide The Way
Just In Time For The Holidays
Eddie Leans On A Barrio Door Friday
Glowing Reminder