August 2008

I have to admit, I was caught by surprise with the announcement that McCain’s running mate would be a woman. He may not be my candidate, but he sure does know how to play the game. So this is certainly going to be much more interesting than I think I would have liked it to be. As of yet, none of my rabid Clinton supporter friends have been willing to cross party lines; I’m sure, however, that there will be members of that ‘sisterhood’ (see my earlier post) who will be tempted.

With that in mind, I do have to say that this whole moment in history has certainly been something. Last night, I watched most of Obama’s speech with Lucy next to me. I’m sure anyone who knows me won’t be surprised to learn that I was a little emotional during it. The moment he said ’45 years ago…’ my eyes welled up. When the camera switched to the sixty-something black man who was clearly overcome, the waterworks started. When, at the end of the speech, he was joined onstage by his wife and daughters, I actually let out a sob.

And now we’re looking at a future in which either a black man or a woman will be in the White House. (Knock on wood, of course. I know I’m not the only one who thinks about all the crazies out there.) For my daughter to be able to witness that — for my son to be able to — is nothing short of amazing.

Kelley had the van last night, so when I got into the car this morning, talk radio was on. How bad could it be? I thought. The first leg of my trip was barely a mile, so I figured I could handle it.

MISTAKE. The two commentators were talking about the Hilary speech at last night’s convention. Now, granted, I didn’t actually watch it. I did read some coverage of it in the paper that made it seem like it was pretty convincing in terms of throwing her support towards Obama. From the radio, though, it seemed like it was the most half-hearted, completely unpersuasive speech ever and that it was clear to everyone that she was just preparing for 2012.

As I said above, I didn’t actually watch the speech. Just from listening to these two people though, oh, my goodness. It was a man and a woman. The woman couldn’t stop talking about how she just didn’t buy that Hilary was behind Obama at all, and that most of the women in the party — “the Sisterhood” it’s apparently called — was clearly not convinced either. And, in fact, the Sisterhood was strategically throwing their support behind John McCain, so that they could then put a Democrat in the White House in 2012.

Now, I have to be honest. I was disappointed when Obama chose Biden. It’s probably a much wiser choice than some of the others out there, but those photos of Barack and Hilary together gave me chills. I realize that she is not everyone’s favorite person, but wow. That was truly amazing. And although I do understand that there are many reasons that just couldn’t work, there do seem to be other women out there who could have filled the role. So, yes, I was a little sad.

But to vote for John McCain? To strategically vote for John McCain in order to be able to vote for a Democrat in 2012? Are there seriously people out there doing that? I’m sure there are many reasons people have for making their choices and I’m equally sure that someone will enlighten me. Until then, however, I will just shake my head in wonder and loudly say, Obama/Biden, I’m there.

Today was one of those days that felt like it literally went on forever. From practically the moment I woke up until, well, just now, I have been answering/rushing/on all day. It began with the always lovely getting-out-of-the-house moments. Everything can be going absolutely peachy until I come downstairs and say — “Does everyone have their shoes on?” You’d think that it was the sounding bell for a prizefight. It typically sets off a round of fighting/hitting/crying/whining that lasts at least until we’re in the car. If we’re lucky, that’s only a four-minute span. On some days, like today, it’s at least fifteen.

This morning was extra special because, just as we were leaving (and after, of course, Kelley was out the door and had already left for work), I realized that I needed to give Will his Albuterol (yes, we’re back on that for the moment) as well as the eye medicine (Pinkeye, too! Woo-hoo!). Since the eye medicine makes his eyes tear up like crazy, it is not something that he enjoys. At least today Lucy didn’t refuse to put on her shoes. (That was the Tuesday morning saga. She CAN NOT wear those sneakers with socks. They’re too hot, they’re too tight. The only way to leave the house is sliding along on her bum, saying how awful those shoes are.)

We finally get out the door and I have to go back inside twice — once to put Will’s other medicine (more Albuterol, plus his Epi pen) into his camp backpack, and then once to get my water. I turned around to lock the front door and, while doing so, did what I do just about every morning — open the side door of my van with the remote on the key fob. Except this time, Will happened to be standing directly in its path, leaning in to look at something on the side of the van.

What’s worse than having your precious little boy cry? Having your precious little boy cry because of the bump on his head from something you stupidly did. No, wait — having your precious little boy bravely try and stop crying while he tells you, “It’s o.k., Mama. See? I’m not crying any more.”

You’re not crying any more? I am so very incredibly happy to hear that. I, however, will continue bawling until we pull up to camp.

The drop-off was otherwise o.k. I was in a rush to get to work by 9 for the adjunct orientation, but then ended up hitting crazy weird traffic by WGBH. If that isn’t a sign to pull into the Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot right there, then I don’t know what the hell is. And yes, I went for the two donut special this morning. Hmmm. Not a way to get back on the wagon.

I was then in the orientation from 9 a.m. straight through to 1 p.m. because of a meeting that followed. When I finally got upstairs, Jessica and I decided that we needed iced coffee. Although I certainly could have used the 20 minutes to get more stuff done, I have to say that it was exactly what I needed. The iced coffee hit the spot, but so did the 15 minute walk on this absolutely gorgeous sent-from-Heaven day. 74 degrees, sunny and breezy — that’s definitely my perfect weather day.

The next two and a half hours were actually productive. By the time I got home, I was completely ready to get Lucy to her birthday party in the Back Bay and hang out with Will for awhile. We got Lucy to Siobhan’s house just fine and then Will chose Burger King. (‘Why’ you ask? Well because he specifically did not want the Star Wars toys at McDonald’s. Burger King, however, also gives toys. So that’s where we went.)

With an hour and a half to kill, I thought that the one at Copley would work out just fine. Will was not pleased at how long it took me to find a place to park. He would keep noting spaces, but of course they were all completely on the other side of the street across three lanes of speeding traffic. No go. Finally found one on Newbury Street of all places.

Will ordered his typical — a hamburger kids meal. When we opened it up at the table, though, well… “Mama, why does this hamburger have cheese?”

I looked across the length of the BK — which seemed about 50 yards. Yes, it was probably less than that, but with this BK being among the skankier ones, there was no way I was leaving him at the table to go and tell them they gave me a cheeseburger by mistake. So, I crossed my fingers and said, “That’s the way they make hamburgers here.”

He gave me a look that clearly said, No way, Mama, am I buying that one. He does like cheese, however, and the BK toy was a SpongeBob one, so he seemed to be willing to accept that answer. Big, long, heart-felt PHEW. We ended our lovely little dinner in a chat with the disaffected youth teenage couple next to us about the joys of SpongeBob. (They did seem to wonder why this five-year-old boy was chatting them up, but once they realized that he was seriously engaging with them, they went along with it.) After saying our good-byes, we left the Copley BK.

Dessert was an ice cream sandwich from CVS for him (and a nice yummy Entemann’s thing for me, although I have decided that since my day began with two donuts, perhaps I can hold off until the next day to eat them). He is a boy of simple pleasures. He helped me do the self-checkout at CVS and very much wanted to hold the change for me. I said o.k. for the change change, but not so much for the paper stuff. It was a bit of a fight, but I prevailed.

As we turned the corner onto Clarenden, there were a couple of panhandlers. I asked him if he’d like to give them his change, and his eyes lit up. “Yes!” He ran over to them, gave them a huge smile — completely taking them by surprise, it seemed — and gave them his 58 cents. As we walked away, he said he wanted to find more people who had cups he could put money into. “Can we come back with more money again?” Well, um, not today.

After our nice little walk back to the car — can I say how nice it was to just be on Newbury and Boylston on such a nice evening, strolling along with all the other city folks? [Was it necessary for me to use ‘nice’ three times in that sentence? Why, yes. Yes it was.] — we were exactly on time to get Lucy. Not only exactly on time, but as we pulled up to Siobhan’s street, there, directly in front of me, was a parking spot. A legal parking spot in the Back Bay! (Well, legal if you’re a Back Bay resident, but still…) The only problem was it was exactly three inches bigger than the car. And on the left side of the street.

Parallel parking on the opposite side of the road than normal — not exactly my strong suit. But, after back-and-forthing (and back-and-forthing and back-and-forthing) and a certain amount of bumper parking (“Mommy — you hit that other car!” “The Lexus SUV or the Audi wagon?” Well, at least neither of them had an alarm that went off), I was in! In, I tell you!

Did I mention that the space was only three inches bigger than the car? Literally. The rear bumper was touching the license plate of the car behind me and I couldn’t actually fit my hand in between my bumper and the one in front. Even better? As I was pulling out of the spot, a guy walked by with his two friends and said, “No way she’s getting out of that spot.” Not only was I getting out of it, I actually got myself into it in the first place.

I am completely unable to pull head on into a parking spot, and yet I managed that bit of parking. Between that and having such a lovely Copley Square evening, this was one of those <beat on chest> I am a Bostonian! evenings. Wicked awesome. Hell yeah.

It is now 10:30 p.m. and everyone is in bed. Probably not asleep, in Lucy’s case at least, but in bed. Will barely coughed at all last night (thank God for Prednisone) and hopefully will have another relatively easy night. With fingers crossed (but in a different not-a-bad-mom way this time)… Good night.

1. My email inbox is at 99.91% capacity

2. There are at least 7 non-work meeting/events I should be attending in the next three weeks (and that’s after only getting through the email from yesterday)

3. Will’s cough

4. The car alarm that refuses to go off

5. Eating healthily

6. I just ate 600 calories worth of red hots.

7. Not only did the red hots give me 600 unnecessary calories, they gave me a headache.

8. Despite knowing the red hots were giving me unnecessary calories and a headache, I ate two more handfuls.

9. O.k., three.

10. The stupid ceiling fan that now no longer lights nor fans

Today I write from the William K. Sanford Library in Colonie, NY. From the picture, you can see it’s of the same era of my hometown library, Waterford Public. And, in fact, when I walked in, I was immediately transported back to my days as a page. I even almost took one of the book trucks and started reshelving.

As with the Saratoga Public Library (let’s give you a link right here), this place is quite popular. When I pulled up the driveway at 8:55 a.m., there was already a line of people waiting at the door. Within two minutes of its official 9 a.m. opening time (i.e., the time it took for me to finish my coffee), a stream of cars began pouring into the parking lot. Yay, NY public libraries! Yay, NY public library lovers!

Upon walking in it was clear to see that one of the popular items was, unsurprisingly, the public Internet stations. All the spots were taken within 10 minutes of the library’s opening. Happily, I had my laptop with me; even more happily, the wireless access worked right away. (Speaking of which, I do have to say that the library’s website leaves a bit to be desired. After hunting through the not-so-pretty pages for ten minutes, I was unable to definitively determine whether or not there was wireless access. Which, by the way, was a lesson in ‘Ask Your Friendly Librarian.’ When I went up to the Information Desk at the Saratoga library to ask if all the NY public libraries had wireless access [no], and then asked how I could find out which ones did, she suggested the radical notion of picking up the phone and calling. Frighteningly, that hadn’t even occurred to me.)

The sad part is that, unlike at Saratoga, there doesn’t appear to be a large amount of places that you can easily set up and get power. The one place I was able to find is almost directly under the HVAC vent, the “H” — i.e., “heat” — being the prevalent letter of the day. Although I was a bit cold yesterday due to the AC on a 65 degree day, I much prefer that to my current feeling of sticky and clammy. Blech. I can go outside to feel that. The other sad part is that Colonie does not appear to throw the same amount of funding towards its library as does Saratoga. The seats are decidedly late 70s/early 80s, and the rest of the furniture is of similar provenance. Unlike the huge windows in Saratoga, this building was designed during the lovely moment in time where architects felt that if you were inside, you shouldn’t be thinking about being anywhere else. Therefore, all that is available are the tall, narrow windows that make me feel like I’m on the inside of a fort.

(Hey, let’s try that newfangled technology thing again! Make it work, Camera Phone.)

(Alas, Tim Gunn. I cannot. Although my phone insists the picture has been sent, my email does not acknowledge the same. If/when it comes through, I will post it here.)

Update: The picture just came through.

At your battle stations!

At your battle stations!

I also haven’t come across one of those Used Book rooms like at Saratoga and in tiny Richmond, MA, that I love so much. Man, I am wishing that I’d just bought up all those series books Lucy likes for 25 cents a pop. I may have to send Kelley back there when he’s in Saratoga again on Thursday morning. (I’m also chastising myself for not buying the copy of the Dick/Felix Francis book that literally looked like it had never been open. That whole psychological thing of bargain-shopping is interesting. In a Borders, a $5 book seems like a steal. In a library, where it’s the most expensive thing on the shelf, it feels like you’re being robbed. Damn it, Jennifer. Support your local library! I am so sending Kelley back to buy it.)

That said, it is wonderful to be reminded of the services that libraries can and do perform for their peeps. Need a place to hang out for the day and get some work done? You can find it at your local library.

During our travels this summer, we’ve had the opportunity to stay in several hotels, one more than once. Being a fan of hotel-staying, I would typically say this is a good thing. I have to say, though, I have not been overly pleased with this summer’s experiences. Not that any were particularly awful (at least so far — I still have 14 hours to go here in Saratoga), but none of them are hotels I’d go out of my way to recommend.

The first of the three — the Courtyard Marriott in Hyannis — was my favorite despite looking kind of strip motel-ish, what with it’s location next to the Cape Cod Mall. It had a refrigerator in the room, which was a bonus in my mind, a full breakfast menu in its quasi-restaurant, a fitness room, and a heated pool with a HUGE shallow area, which was perfect for the kids. The Dunkin’ Donuts across the street was an added bonus.

Maybe it was that my expectations were set fairly high, because the next hotel, Water’s Edge in Westport, CT, was a disappointment. Not that it was bad, although when we first arrived we did have to change rooms as the non-smoking signs had clearly been ignored by previous guests. Granted, we were there for K’s work, so we certainly didn’t rate the top level rooms; I just would have preferred a view beyond a tar roof and a parking lot. The room felt a little shabby, kind of like one of those Grande Dame places that hasn’t quite kept up with the times. The thing that really irritated me, though, was that there was nothing — nada, zilch, big fat zero — in the room that told you about the hotel. It’s a family resort, for heaven’s sake. Maybe some literature about what the resort consists of? A note about whether there’s a pool or not? (Which, as it turns out, there was, but you had to walk through the gift shop to get to it.) And so much for my hope to do some working out — I had no desire to go out of my way to find out whether the hotel had treadmills or not. It would also have been nice to know that there was a beach complete with a sand lot that had buckets and pails and construction ‘vehicles’ that Will would have liked to play with. As it was, we didn’t see this area until after dinner when we decided to take a walk down to the water.

Oh, and that was another thing — when we (me, my parents, Lucy and Will) appeared at the hostess station for dinner, no one happened to mention that there was a much more appropriate option than the fancy dinner deck just down the stairs. I suppose I should be happy that we didn’t get automatically downgraded just because we had kids with us. Still, I think it was fairly obvious that the fancy place wasn’t quite what we were looking for. A gracious wave of the hostess’s hand could have easily pointed the way to the more family-friendly option. Or, you know, a guide to the resort that would spell out the services like, say, ‘We’ve got two restaurant options. One’s good for kids and one is very specifically not.’

Keeping up with the trend of no information whatsoever, we found ourselves at the Saratoga Hilton several weeks later. The first night we stayed there was just joining K for an overnight as Lucy, Will and myself were stopping over on our way to visit Aitana. I’m there (here) again tonight, on our last leg of the summer’s journeys. The first time around, there was a similar lack of information as at Water’s Edge. A magazine about the surrounding area, but nothing about the hotel itself. I figured it’s a Hilton, right? It has to have room service. The only way I could tell that for sure, though, was to actually look at that card on the phone and dial the two number extension for room service. Without a menu, I limited it to hot chocolate for Lucy and a pot of coffee for myself. Both were a complete disappointment.

The hot chocolate, which cost us something like $8, was a measly cup that didn’t even come with whipped cream. For that kind of money, you’d think that they could at least do as well as the corner diner. My pot of coffee was even worse. Actually, I can’t really say that for sure since the pot itself was unopenable. I have no idea what the problem was, but I couldn’t for the life of me get the thing to turn. I suppose I could have sat there for the hour it would take to pour my coffee one drip at a time, but it just didn’t seem worth it. When K got back from his dinner at 11:30, he was finally able to crack the top open enough for me to get a cup’s worth. Although I didn’t want it at all by that time, I poured myself a cup. The total room service bill (with tab) had come to $16. I was going to at least have one of the cups.

(I’m not falling for that again tonight. When I went out for dinner, I got an extra bottle of Diet Pepsi just in case I get a hankering for something liquid later on.)

At least with tonight’s room, there’s a piece of paper that has the in-room menu. Someone wrote notes on it — you’d think that’s the kind of thing Housekeeping would pick up on — but it’s at least here. Housekeeping also seems to have missed that there aren’t enough towels. Since it’s only K and me here tonight, though, I think we can manage. Again, it just seems that with a Hilton, those kinds of things should be taken care of.

My other beefs? Still no info on the pool. Is it a top secret? Only for guests in the know? While I was looking for ice (another issue — went to both ends of the hall and only ended up with half an ice bucket full; one machine stopped working after the first spurt, the second machine didn’t work at all), I did happen to spy something very pool-like from the balcony by ice machine #2. Couldn’t tell you how to get to it, though.

With all of these, I think the biggest issue was that my expectations were high. A big family resort? A Hilton? Granted, the Marriott was more expensive than the other two. Still, as far as I’m concerned, these should be destination travel type places. Next time we go somewhere, I’m looking for the Marriott again. Why bother with the others?

I’m sitting here in the Saratoga Springs Public Library and have finally done all my Facebook checking, email scanning, and twittering. Although I do feel that I should be being a bit more productive, this is a vacation day after all. The fact that it is 12:15 and I haven’t accomplished anything beyond that is not a problem.

The question now, of course, is what to do next. Should I step into the cafe to have a bite to eat? Head over to the “Used Book Room” (which is actually two rooms) and spend some money on more paperbacks that I won’t have time to read? Attack the piles of papers in my backpack, some of which have literally been sitting there for a year (as I distinctly remember being in this very library last August with similarly productive intentions)? Continue to procrastinate and write more posts in the blog? Choices, choices, choices…

2:30 p.m.

Well, reader, I decided to have a snack. The nice thing about this particular library is that it has a cafe in it; and in the cafe, it still has access to the wifi. One granola bar and a string cheese later, I wandered around a bit, trying to find a suitable location to hang out for the rest of the day. The cafe was high on the list of possibilities, but it seemed a bit too social. The absolute last thing I want today is to have someone who I don’t know chatting me up; and since I seem to have a neon sign that hangs over me flashing ‘Get Your Mindless Conversation Here!’ I thought it better not to take the chance.

I found my spot in the Young Adult section (with an actual neon sign). I’m attempting to send a picture of it to myself right now.

Oh my gosh. It actually worked. Sure, it’s a blob of light, but still – is technology not the neatest thing? I’m blowing myself away. Must post it here:

The "Young Adults" sign at the Saratoga Springs public library.

The "Young Adults" sign at the Saratoga Springs public library.

O.k. That was fun. Moving on…

I have to say – I’d forgotten how much I love libraries. I know that’s odd coming from me, the person with the degree in Library and Information Science, but I think that in a way I’m much too close to libraries to think about them much. And when closer to home, it’s hard to be in one without running into someone I know. Even at the big BPL in Copley Square, I probably know at least half the librarians there. Forget the A/B branch libraries – those are a minefield.

Here in Saratoga, though, I am reminded about what a wonderful place a public library is. There are people of all shapes (darn, how I wish I hadn’t worn the shorts that are a bit snug), sizes (from the 18″ tall toddler, to the six+ foot man I saw earlier), ages, nationalities, etc. Why, here in the young adult section, I see two teenagers, one 30+-yr-old (o.k., 38-yr-old me), and four folks well into AARP territory. The coolest thing? The twenty-something fraternity boy type sitting on a bench at the end of the row and reading from his stack of hardcovers.

As you might have guessed, I found what I consider to be the perfect spot — hanging back in the corner, but on the first floor so that I hear all the activity around me. And maybe it’s the way they designed it (meaning that there isn’t a preponderance of seating), but it feels like this place is beyond hopping. Not just the ongoing chatter at the circulation desk, but every seat I see is taken. It’s only fifteen minutes away from the time when I can check into the hotel room, but I’m not sure I want to leave. It’s the perfect place to be around people and yet be impersonal.

The other thing, of course, is the books. As much as I adore our little local branch, there’s something about endless rows of books — all there for the taking — that is just wonderful. Since this isn’t my home state, I dare not even browse as it will be too tempting. That said, there’s still the Used Book room (full of barely read paperbacks on sale for $1 each). I might have to tear myself away from this seat yet.

As to other things, I decided to work on old email. Managed to get through April 15, 2006 in the Inbox; sadly discovered that I still go back to February 06 in my “Sent Items” folder. And what a February oh-six was. Geesh.

Well, three pages of “Sent Items” down, 487 to go.

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