Saturday, February 27, 2010

Poem for Grandma

Grandma W passed away four years ago today. This is the poem I wrote for and read at her services.
Mrs. B
I Know

We’re not together

So very often

Those of us gathered here

And although we are all missing you

I know that you are near

Your sweet face

Is reflected

In many of those that I see

And your eyes are also reflected

I know, when they look at me

We’re sad but

We’re also laughing

Our family bond is strong

We’re catching up on all the news

For which I know you always longed

Last night

I saw a picture

Of you swinging on the moon

From little girl to 89

I know--it came too soon

And now we must

Come to the part

Where you go away, so very far

You’re with Grandpa and Uncle Bill now

I know that’s where you are

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Happy Birthday Grandma W

Today is my grandmother's birthday. She would have been 93. Grandma died two days after her 89th birthday in 2006.

In her memory, here is a repost of something I wrote (and subsequently revised) for a college course back in the 80s. Parts of it may seem a bit out of place; this is because it was the middle section of a term paper for a women's studies course in which we were discussing our female ancestors/relatives and how they either did or did not involve themselves with the women's movement and whether they did or did not use birth control, breast feed, work out of the home, etc.

Love you, Grandma.

Mrs. B

My grandmother, Virginia, was born February 25th 1917. The youngest of five children, she inherited strong religious and moral beliefs from her mother, Elsie. Hard work was the family norm; especially after the onset of the depression. Virginia knew that her working was vital to the economic stability of her family and she regarded her education as preparation for this work. This was a marked difference from her mother and her mother's family's stance that education for females was a necessary evil only so much as (and for so long as) to make them appropriate marriage material.

Virginia’s Senior High School Picture

Virginia graduated from high school in 1935, yet, because of the depression, good jobs were hard to find so she was hired out as domestic help. She told me when she filled out her questionnaire (the answers to which I used to write this paper) that her dreams were unfulfilled. She did not specify then what those dreams were and, sadly, at twenty-one or twenty-two, I didn't have either the interest or the maturity to probe further. From her second daughter Mary, I learned she wished she could have gone to nursing school. Perhaps this was the unfulfilled dream Virginia referred to? If so, she lived it vicariously through Mary who did indeed go to nursing school and become a nurse.

Eventually, Virginia obtained a job in Indianapolis working in a clothing factory making neckties. Here she worked until she met her future husband, Marvin, who was a bus driver at the interurban station.

Virginia (right) with her older sister Cordelia in Indianapolis circa 1939

There are different views in family lore surrounding how exactly they met and subsequently entered into a romantic relationship. One is that they were introduced by mutual friends. Although probable, I prefer the version told to me by my mother, which is certainly more romantic, and, to my way of thinking, more in line with how I envision my grandmother must have been as a young lady and as a precursor of my family's tendency to be passive-aggressive (otherwise known as "Welty-ese").

My mother’s story goes that Virginia took the interurban bus from the small town where she lived to the big city of Indianapolis each and every weekday to her job at the clothing factory. Marvin was usually the driver and conductor of the bus she took. Tall, blond and blue-eyed, Marvin most certainly would have caught Virginia’s eye. But how would she manage to steer him towards asking her out for a date? To come right out and ask certainly was not done in those days and even if it were, Virginia was not the type to be so blatantly forward. After weeks of internal debate, Virginia finally arrived at a suitable solution. She left her gloves, with her name and address clearly and neatly printed on the inside of them, on her seat when she got off the bus one evening. It took a few days, but Marvin eventually showed up on her parent’s doorstep with Virginia’s gloves in hand and while he was there, asked permission to take her out. So, obviously, Virginia had caught his eye as well!

Marvin and Virginia shortly after their marriage

They courted and married in 1939; she was twenty-two, he was twenty-six. After their marriage, Virginia dropped out of the work force. Marvin had a lot of old country beliefs in him and didn’t think married women should work or even learn to drive a car (and my grandmother never DID learn to drive a car). Women were to be dependent on men.

Virginia bore four children over the period of eight years. Her first child, my mother Dina, was born in 1941 when Virginia was twenty-four. The next, my Aunt Mary, was born a year and a half later; the others, my Uncles David and Bill, in 1946 and 1949. After Bill’s birth, Virginia’s doctor told her to have a tubal ligation, and this was done.

Virginia and my mother, Dina 1941

Marvin didn’t go to war during WWII, leaving no opportunity for Virginia to become a female war worker, and it is doubtful that she would have desired to do so. My mother says that her mother was completely in love with and a total slave to Marvin; she wouldn’t have disobeyed him or manipulated him even if she had the chance to do so (that glove incident not-with-standing!)

Virginia, like her mother Elsie before her, became a devoted wife and mother. She instilled religion into her children by herself since Marvin was not a religious person until later in his life (likely after years of Virginia’s influence in that regard). As with her mother, her husband and children remained her primary relationships and she also maintained a close relationship with her older sister, Martha. Additionally, Virginia established close friendships with other mothers during the years of raising her children. One of her closest friends and all of her children were killed in an automobile/train wreck. My mother recalls how the accident changed her mother. “She would never consider getting a driver’s license after that, even after daddy was no longer around to express disapproval”.

Life flowed smoothly along its domestic trail. Three of her children married and her sphere opened wide enough to envelop the grandchildren. Cooking, doing laundry, ironing, babysitting grandkids, sewing baby clothes planning family dinners and supervising her youngest child Billy through his remaining years of high school occupied Virginia twenty-four hours a day, leaving virtually no time for herself. Certainly, with her complete deference to Marvin, no time for involvement in the women’s movement. She was the perfect Freudian mother; the family a prime example of the new American way of life after WWII.

Soon all of that would change in the course of two tragic events. In 1968, Billy was killed in an automobile accident and soon after, Marvin became terminally ill. Virginia, after nearly thirty years of housewifery and once again out of pure economic necessity, returned to the workforce. There was no objection from Marvin about her working; he had Alzheimer’s disease.

Marvin, Virginia and Dina 1969

She obtained a position in a nursing home while Marvin, who with his strange behavior and difficult health issues was becoming increasingly unmanageable, was ultimately placed in another.

Marvin remained ill for several years before dying in 1975. Throughout this period and beyond, Virginia worked full time to cover expenses. She remained fairly isolated from all but her family, close friends and co-workers.

Virginia and Amy 1986

My grandmother passed away in 2006; two days after her 89th birthday. There is much that I might add by the way of memories of her that would have little to do with the original intent of this paper. However, one very important observation that is relevant, I believe, is that my grandmother, for all her earlier dependence, turned out to be fiercely independent in her later years. Although her family continued to be extremely important to her, the ability to come and go as she pleased (even if it meant walking, taking a cab, riding the bus or securing a ride with friends) was equally important. When the time came that she could no longer care for herself, she opted to go into a nursing home rather than to live with any of her surviving children. This she did, I believe, both from the desire to not become a burden to anyone and to maintain some sense of liberty by staying in familiar environs of the town she’d lived in for the majority of her life. Even the nursing home she chose was familiar to her as it was the one she’d worked in years before when her husband first became ill.

From her answers to my questionnaire, it was very apparent that in no way did my grandmother believe that she was oppressed. She was a product of her generation and once she was married, she adapted to the prescribed style and went about it in the most moral and efficient way possible.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Rainy Day Ramble About Our Pets

We had a few days of nice weather; now, it is back to crappy rain. Seriously, we've had far too much moisture these past months. I'm tired of it. It's a pain in the butt, too, when you have a dog. Every time she has to go out, one of us (usually me since I'm home with her) has to wipe Lucy's feet off or else she'll leave wet doggie foot prints all over the tile floor. Of course, it typically happens that it starts to rain right after I've newly mopped the floor. Then, I have to admit, I tend to make her wait longer than I probably should to go out, in hopes that it will stop raining. Not that this really matters because the ground is still wet and muddy. And, boy, does she HATE having her feet wiped. We've finally gotten her to the point where she won't try and yank her feet away and will actually give us, in turn, her front paws. The back ones, well, it's sort of hit or miss.
Anyway, I'm tired of the rain for a lot of reasons, not just because I have to wipe my dog's feet. On to the subject at hand, our pets.
I think our cats are convinced my alias is Carlton the Door Man. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you are far too young and/or never watched 70s comedy TV. So, yeah; the cats love to be out in the sun room. Pete and Lily in particular, Lily the most. She'll go out there first thing in the morning and won't want to come in unless she is hungry or needs to use the box (no, I don't leave anyone out there if I'm going to be away for a long period of time). Ares and Apollo like to be out there as well but they tend to want to come right back in. Ares has an incredibly annoying habit of scratching at the door when he wants to come inside. Apollo just sits there letting Ares do the work. The weirdest, though, is Pete. When he wants out and hears me unlocking the deadbolt, he comes running from wherever he is; chirping away, and will literally jump up on the door and try to turn the door knob. If he ever manages to get the door open, I'll turn the Carlton The Door Man responsibilities over to him and call it a day. When he is ready to come back in, he'll sit at the door and stare at me through the glass. Like this:
Lucy usually gets in on the action as well; when I get up to open the door, she'll run over and try to barge out into the sun room. Of course, she is required to sit and wait politely to be told it is okay to go out (which happens, oh, zero percent of the time; she ALWAYS has to be reminded). So, not only am I ping-ponging up and down to open the door to let one cat or another in or out, I'm constantly saying "Sit! Sit!" to Lucy. The other day, I got all sorts of confused and found myself standing at the door instructing Ares to sit. He just looked at me and yawned.
The only cat who doesn't really like to be out in the sun room (unless the door is left open) is Athena. She'll stay inside; either upstairs napping or down in the kitchen with me. This usually is of great benefit to her as, if I'm cooking something, she'll get a treat while the others remain clueless out in the sun room.
Another sort of funny thing that's come to our attention and that is Ares HAS to be with Pete as much as he possibly can. We should probably nickname Ares "Shadow" because that is exactly what he is, Pete's shadow. If Pete comes strolling into a room and Ares is not already in the room, you can rest assured Ares will be right behind him, trying to cozy up to him, even while Pete is walking. If Pete's in an ok mood, fine. If not, Pete starts to growl and hiss, which doesn't really detract Ares all that much. If Pete jumps up onto our bed at night, Ares is right behind, purring away. If I go into the bathroom and Pete follows me (both Pete and Lily have a "thing" for climbing into the magazine basket next to the toilet and keeping me company while I do my business (and I must pet them, too, which is sometimes quite a feat early in the am when I'm half zonked; pee, pet, wipe, flush)); Ares will run in behind him and try to climb into the basket, which causes all sorts of fuss. Every once in awhile, Apollo will attempt the same trick but if he does, Ares usually butts him out of the way.
We're finally getting to the point where The Little Kids don't typically run away from us and might even venture down if we have company (but if there is any attempt to touch them, off they'll scamper). Pete and Lily don't care one way or another; Pete, in particular, will be a bit sociable if he's feeling generous. They still run a bit from Mr. B (usually Athena), but, she'll climb up on the bed and cuddle next to him so she must be deciding he's not half bad.
When Mr. B comes home, not only do we have Lucy running around like ape shit when she hears the garage door go up carrying one of her toys and dashing madly about the island until he comes in, now Apollo comes running when the garage door goes up as well. Seriously! If he's upstairs, I'll hear the "thud" of him jumping down from wherever and down he'll trot. He'll usually go right over to the refrigerator so he can wait for Mr. B to make the evening martinis and give him a few pieces of ice (which he plays with but does ultimately eat).
Lily had some gunk in her ears so I took her to see Uncle Chuck who determined it was some sort of bacterial infection; no big deal. She had to have drops in her ears twice a day for two weeks. She HATED HATED HATED having those drops put in her ears. Pets are not dumb; she'd try to go running when she saw the bottle. Before we started this procedure, she slept on the bed every night next to Mr. B. Now, she's pissed off at both of us and doesn't so much any longer. Hopefully, she'll come around soon (although she still has to assist Mr. B with getting ready in the bathroom each and every morning).
And then there is Lucy. Oh, Lucy, God passed over you in the brains department, my dearest Goosie. I think, frankly, she may have suffered some brain damage in her other life. What else can explain it? It's not AWFUL but, cheese! Sometimes, however, her lack of mental attributes is very comical, like yesterday. We were outside enjoying the afternoon sun. Lucy was laying on the patio next to us when Mr. B (who has been trying to work with her on fetching) said, "Lucy! Go get your ball!" Ok, she knows what this means and she did go get her pink tennis ball. However, she still won't bring it to you so you can throw it. She still does this thing where she runs around you, almost like she's showing off; "Ha ha! My ball! My ball!"
Anyway, Mr. B finally got her to drop the ball close enough that he picked it up and threw it. She went after it; brought it back to the patio; repeat the process. This time, he picked it up and threw it and either the sun got in her eyes or she turned her head and didn't see where it went, but, she couldn't find it. She went running off in the wrong direction, then, eventually, trotted over to Mr. B and looked at him as if to say, "Where is it? Where is my ball?" He made a movement as if he was tossing the ball and damned if she didn't go running off in the direction his hand went. She still couldn't find it, though; so, he did this a few more times until she accidentally stepped on it. By this time, I was laughing so hard, I could hardly stand it!
Ah, pets are so amusing!
Mrs B

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Mardi Gras Masquerade

Here are a few pictures from last night's bash. An official photographer also took a shot of the B's; I will post it when I receive it (unless I look terrible, that is!)
It's not every day that I get the excuse to wear my slinky red gown (which I'm proud to say I still fit in nicely; I bought it over 10 years ago). I found the perfect red feather mask at Party City to go along with it and Mr. B looked smashing in his tux and red accessories! Too bad the cell phone didn't capture all of us!
The masquerade was great fun; Mr. B bid on and won a nice bottle of scotch (32 years old); Mrs. B ended up with a few items that will eventually be gifts for others (except the wine gift certificate, that is).
We spent most of the evening chatting with brother Jon and SIL Shannon and the girls's Godparents (turns out their Godmother plays with the orchestra; something you'd think I would have known but I somehow didn't).
Food was catered by Blue Mountain Catering Co; bang up job of a Cajun meal.
Wine, dancing to a fantastic live band (the woman had a VOICE on her); really, a delightful evening and a nice way to end my stint on the Board of Directors for the Durham Symphony.
Mrs. B

Jon and Shannon
Hope (President), Jane (Co-President) and Linda (President Elect)
Our GM Kelly; probably the happiest I've ever seen her. The wine helped, I think :-)
One of the tables
Mr. and Mrs. B (some of her, anyway)
Red Lady

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Mrs. B's 2009 Book Reviews -- 4 Stars The End



People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks (Book Club Selection)

A fascinating tale of the journey of a rare, illustrated Jewish prayer book and the people it came into contact with from its inception in the 15th century to its final resting place. Wonderful characters, interesting sub plots (with the exception of a silly romance; why do authors feel it is necessary to throw this unrelated drivel in?) and mystery as the primary narrator of the book, a woman in charge of restoring it, attempts to put the puzzle together as to where it originated and the places it had been to using as clues small artifacts left behind in the book itself.

This was my first exposure to Geraldine Brooks. Immediately after finishing it, I put “March” on my Christmas list, which I devoured a few weeks ago (and also gave four stars). I’m looking forward to reading everything Brooks has written/will write. She’s in the same league with a few of my other personal favorites who also excel at character development and interesting tales; namely, Pat Conroy, Amy Tan and Anne Tyler.

Roots by Alex Haley

Highly interesting, engaging, moving and significant from so many different perspectives.

Roots was and is obviously an important work in telling the tragedy of slavery, but, also, as a reminder that we all have roots somewhere and the importance of remembering our ancestors. In this case, the history and stories had all been oral; passed down to Haley through his maternal grandmother (his mother having passed away at an early age) all the way back to "The African" Kunta Kinte relaying what he could, in his broken English, to his daughter on a plantation in Virginia (about where he came from, what happened to him, how he was taken from Africa on a ship to a place called "Napolis" (Annapolis, MD) and a few words in his native language); which is how Haley eventually tracked down where in Africa he came from.

A few things that really struck me from reading the story (that didn't from watching the TV miniseries) was how and why the telling of the story changed voices: Kunta, then his daughter Kizzy, then her son Chicken George, then his 4th son Tom, etc.; these being the primary carriers of the tale and Haley's direct ancestors. And, as a tiny mirror of how terrible the actual gut wrenching pain must have been when slaves were sold away from loved ones; certain voices just simply and abruptly stopped.

As was intended, I found the section of the book where Haley recounts going to Africa and finding where his ancestor came from and hearing from a aged story teller the long lineage of the Kinte clan and where and when "he was never seen again" (when he was stolen by slave traders) quite moving.

I listened to this on audio; 24 CDS! It was read extremely well by an Avery Brooks.

The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler (CD)

If you like Anne Tyler's style, you'll love this book. It spans several generations and perspectives/the telling of the story alternates between the major characters. As many of her other tales, it takes place in Baltimore, MD and involves typical middle class American families with strong roots to their original heritage (in this case, Polish).

The marriage in question is that of Michael and Maxine who meet during start of WWII and get caught up in the emotion and drama of boys signing up to go off to war. They hook up, marry, and spend the next several decades trying to figure out why they did; all the while attempting to raise their three children and then, later, take in a 4 year old grandson after his mother goes missing.

This is an engaging story with no nicely tied up happily ever after ending, but, rather, a realistic one. It is never dull!

I believe the narrator was the same who narrated "Digging to America". She's very easy to listen to.

So, there you have it! You have, with this posting, just read thirty-seven book reviews!

Mrs. B

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Pet Pictures

I've got Blog-block going on so in the meantime, here are recent (as of this afternoon) pictures of our zoo. I've referred to them by their nicknames (they each have several). Funny how I tend to call them by their nicknames more often than I do their real names. I guess that is because we gave them their names before we really knew them all that much; in fact, all six's names were chosen before we even had them in the house. As for their nicknames, they've earned them and they better describe their personalities.
Mrs. B
Gooster The Rooster (yeah, I know; two different types of fowl but somehow, it works for her!) She was looking expectantly at me as she watched me take pictures of the others and knew her turn was up.

Pan Man. Can you figure the nickname out? He has taken to refusing to look at me when I point the camera at him.

P.P. The Queen of the Zoo; not happy that I woke her up from her pm nap.

Jaba the Butt. This should be fairly obvious! This cat is ALWAYS eating. He's got a good several pounds on his brother and sister and is gaining on P.P.



Little Boop. One of her prior nicknames was "Fat Face Feena"; I got to thinking that wasn't so awfully nice! This has to do with a noise she makes when you swat at her tail end. As an aside, I don't know why this is being underlined. I can't get it to go away! ARGH! Anyway, she was sleeping next to P.P.

Scrappy. And he is just that. It fits him to a "T"! He was asleep two seconds prior to taking this, hence why he looks a bit startled.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Pictures From V-Day Dinner 2010

Goofing off before the first course
Creamy Garlic Seafood Soup (we used shrimp and crab)
Chef B preparing the beef tenderloin
Beef Tenderloin Medallions with Yukon Potato Risotto and Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus
Upside Down Almond Fudge Tart with Italian Raspberry Sorbet








Saturday, February 13, 2010

Valentine's Day Eve Dinner Tonight!

We're in the throes now of preparing our special dinner for Valentine's Day (celebrating tonight, since it is Saturday, rather than tomorrow, a "school" night).

Here is the menu:

Starter Course (Mrs. B)
Creamy Garlic Seafood Soup
2008 Stony Knoll Viognier (Dobson, North Carolina)

Main Course (Chef B)
Beef Tenderloin Medallions with Potato Risotto
Roasted Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus with Fresh Parmesan Cheese and Ground
Black Pepper
2004 Ridge Zinfandel Caboose (Sonoma, California)

Dessert Course (Mrs. B)
Upside-Down Almond Fudge Tart with Italian Raspberry Sorbet
Ponte Late Harvest Cabernet-Zinfandel (Temecula, California)

Happy Valentine's Day, all!

Mrs. B

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Wind


Wind. I’ve never been a fan of it for as long as I can recall. Most likely because when it is windy, especially very windy, it brings to mind a time in West Lafayette, Indiana, when me, mom and Ann went fleeing down the street from our house, attempting to out run a tornado, to the only neighbor in the area who had a basement. Mom had us both by the hand and I do believe I was literally flying; both feet off the ground. I don’t remember anything other than this about the event, though. Obviously, we made it to safety; that, or the tornado, (ever fickle as to where they land), chose to go elsewhere.

When I lived in Anaheim Hills in California, we’d get these super-duper winds known as “Santa Ana Winds”. They’d blow and blow; causing the vent in the kitchen (which went outside) to flip and flap on end. Despite the fact the house was securely built, it did, at times, feel as though it would simply crumple. The winds would keep up all day and pretty much all night. I was always thankful then I didn’t have to walk a dog early in the morning or late in the evening as the winds were dreadfully cold in the winter (or, what passes for winter in Southern California).

Physical reasons why I loathe wind: Being relatively small, wind typically will blow me in whatever direction I’m headed; sort of like a rough push on my back. A rude shove. And, how about that annoying act of it blowing one’s umbrella inside out during a windy rain storm or flipping one’s skirt up over one’s head while walking across a parking lot? Or, if you wear contact lenses, having to deal with the grit that the wind deposits in your eyes. No fun. No thanks.

Regardless, I just can’t seem to escape wind. It was also quite windy in Colorado Springs. They had a special term for the winds there which now I cannot remember. It seemed to me, in hindsight, that the winds there were a bit friendlier there; gentler. And, it was windy in the summer more than it was windy in the winter, which was a good thing as windy weather would tend to blow one off the road and into a ditch in snowy, icy conditions.

Several years ago, I went to the Indianapolis 500 race with my family. Throughout the entire race, there was the threat of a tornado. At one point, towards the end, they called the race, concerned about hundreds of thousands of fans getting electrocuted in the metal stands should a lighting storm arrive. We left the speedway in rainy conditions, the wind blowing up a storm. I was walking with mom when we heard a loud siren. “What’s that?” I inquired. “Oh, that’s just the tornado alarm. We’d better hurry, now.” Needless to say, we scrambled!

SHE was calm; I was sort of freaked. When we got back to mom and dad’s RV, dad was seated in front of the TV, intently watching the weather. My brother and his wife were huddled together on one of the couches looking decidedly uneasy. My mom started bustling around the RV, handing out throw pillows. “Now, if the tornado hits, put these over your head. Ok, then, who is hungry? Anyone for some meatloaf?”

Now, here I am in Durham, North Carolina; where it is not uncommon to get tornado watches and warnings (the two “w’s” which I always get confused as to which one is worse) in December and high wind advisories just about any time throughout the year. We’ve got one going this morning; and, yeah, it’s howling out there. One of our neighbors didn’t secure their garbage can and it fell over so now their trash is floating around our back yard, causing our cats (who insist on hanging out in the sun room despite all the banging going on) to run from one side of the room to the other in a futile attempt to catch flying paper plates, newspapers and what looks suspiciously like a dirty diaper.

As I type this, I can hear the kitchen vent flipping and flapping behind me so, for a moment, it’s almost as though I’m back in another house, in another state, in another marriage.

Blow THAT off!

Mrs.B

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Ares and Lucy's Nightly Ritual

It figures that it would be our "meanest" cat who likes to love on Lucy! They do this every night for several minutes. Lucy is very gentle with him and usually just lets him do all the rubbing. Note her tail wagging up a storm!

She, of course, has an eye on me to make sure she's not doing anything wrong as she may realize she's on probation right now.

Mrs. B


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Mrs. B's 2009 Book Reviews -- 4 Stars (Part Two)


Ok, ok, this is taking far too long, I know. I'm getting there! Only one more post after this one.

Digging to America by Anne Tyler (Book Club Selection/Re-Read)

This is the 2nd time I've read this book. Actually, the first time I listened to it on CD. Because I enjoyed it so much then, I suggested it for my book club last year and so I "read-read" it and was just as entertained as I was when listening to it.

Interestingly enough, but, I suppose not terribly surprising given the diversity of the ladies in the book club, not everyone liked it. It seemed those who have had children liked it the most (which really doesn't explain why I liked it unless you count six pets to be children!)

Tyler’s written A LOT of books and some of them have been fantastic, like “The Accidental Tourist” and some not so hot. This one is a gem. It’s the story of two families from Baltimore, one “typical” American and the other Iranian who meet in the airport on the night they are there to each greet infant girls that they have adopted from Korea because both families have “failed” to conceive their own children. The book follows both their individual stories and their collective ones for, from the night they meet, they become part of one another’s lives. Tyler does a great job of describing all of the personalities, conflicts, primary and side story lines over the course of roughly 15 years in a wholly engaging way.

Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx (CD)

I saw the movie several years ago and, although there were admittedly a few scenes that were difficult for me to watch (sexual AND violence), in general, I found the movie to be, well, moving and thought provoking (not to mention the acting was suburb all around).

I listened to this very short story (amazing how they were able to turn it into a 2+ hour movie!) and it brought back all the thoughts and feelings I'd had when I saw the movie. Let me say, I think they excellently cast this film; and this is one of few instances that I can think of where the book and the movie were in total simpatico; likely thanks to the genius of Ang Lee.

Anyway, since the movie and book were so very close, I suppose I am really reviewing them both.

After I saw the movie, I went to my step-mom's book club (for another book); it came up that I'd seen it and there were at least one, if not more, of the ladies who had very strong feelings against it (likely due to the homosexual aspects of the tale). Another lady asked me what I thought, and, although I cannot remember every thing I said, I do recall the main point I made, and, the primary reason why the movie (and later book) has stayed with me and I gave it 4-stars:

It's not so much about two Gay men. It's about two people that love each other, who cannot be together in the traditional way, and all the problems and heartache that ensues for EVERYONE, not just them.

Although it has strong themes of hatred, intolerance and ugliness, it is, really, a classic tale of tragic love.

Now that I've "read" the book, I will probably go back and re-watch the movie; that is, if my heart can handle it.

Night by Elie Wiesel (CD)

It's hard to say it was "good" because it was about such a tragic time. Frankly, and maybe this was part of his intent, I found myself really irritated that the Jews had so much damn hope, even with this awful circumstance looking them in the face.

Which brought to my mind the Greek myth about Pandora's Box. Remember it? She opens up a box which she'd been admonished to leave alone. She does so, and all of the evils of the world fly out: Jealousy. Rage. Ill-Temper. Etc. She snaps the box shut and there is only one thing left inside, HOPE.

Is hope a good thing or a bad thing? I suppose it depends on the situation and the beholder.

For the Jews in the town in which Wiesel writes about (his own, I'm sure), it seemingly is a bad thing (I thought at first) because it caused them to do nothing. On the other hand, upon further thought and contemplation, what, really, COULD they do?

Anyway, I'd recommend this book, obviously. It's an important one to read and consider what people can become and what they can endure.


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Conversations with Idiots


The following has taken place over the course of the last month or so, culminating in two extremely frustrating (and somewhat laughable) conversations this afternoon.

Background: Mr. B and I oh so foolishly purchased a timeshare in 2006. Originally, it seemed like a fantastic deal at a beautiful resort in Cabo San Lucas. It IS beautiful; we love going there. The problem is, we’ve discovered it is very difficult to book our week (which can take place anytime between 1 May and 31 October) for a time when we want to go UNLESS we do so at least a year in advance. Also, since Cabo San Lucas is fairly far away from Durham, we end up paying close to $800 per person for an airline ticket. And, the joys of airline travel these days. $1600 for cattle car coach? Yuck.

In hindsight, I’d not purchase it, or, at least, not the one in Mexico. But, what is done is done. We’ve discovered that it is relatively (at least up to now) easy to deposit our week with a company that facilitates timeshare week exchanges. The concept is neat; you deposit your week and then search through the vast database of available resorts WORLDWIDE. You are not required to exchange for the same period of time, either; so, if we’d prefer to go on vacation in November or February, we could. There is an exchange fee (which, along with the annual maintenance fees for the timeshare seem to be accelerating at a rapid rate).

After the Puerto Vallarta disaster, we decided to remain state-side for our next two major vacations; going to Escondido, California (near San Diego) in October/November of 2008 and Orlando, Florida last year. In both instances, we exchanged our one bedroom unit for a two bedroom unit in extremely nice resorts.

This year, Mr. B started to get nostalgic about Cabo San Lucas so I called the timeshare to make an RSVP, hopefully around our 5th anniversary in May. No such luck. Nothing was available at Villa del Arco until the middle of July. I went ahead and made the RSVP knowing we could always change our mind, deposit the week, and go elsewhere anytime for up to two years.

I got curious about whether there really was no availability at the resort so I did an online search (via Expedia or some such) and discovered, not surprisingly, that there were units available the week we’d wanted to go. I called up the timeshare and asked them what was going on; why couldn’t WE get an RSVP when there appeared to be space available? I received the song and dance about the developers holding back a certain number of units (don’t sell them) and those are the units that are on travel sites. Uh-huh. Did I really believe this? But, what could I do.

Not too long after, we decided we’d rather try Cancun as many of our friends and family go there and really love it. Plus, it’s closer (airfare is about ½ of what is costs to get to Cabo). Or, we thought, perhaps we’d exchange for a cruise. The bottom line; we wanted to go in May so that Mr. B would have a nice week or so to decompress from busy season and we could celebrate our 5th anniversary (the Italy trip, as an aside, is on hold until Mr. B retires).

I went to Interval International’s web site (the timeshare exchange company) to poke around to see what might be available around May 15th. Guess what? I couldn’t search because my week wasn’t deposited. The thing is, I didn’t WANT to deposit my week until I knew whether or not there would be something out there we’d really want to do. To deposit the week means automatically losing the RSVP at Villa del Arco in Cabo. I called Interval to ask them if there was any way at all to find out what might be out there without having to deposit the week.

No. That’s the way the system is set up. End of statement. Not very helpful. The representative went on to tell me that maybe if I contacted my timeshare, they’d give me a “fake” confirmation/date so that I could at least “shop”.

I contacted my timeshare to ask if they’d do this.

No.

We discussed it, and decided to go ahead and deposit the week, reasoning that if we found something in Cancun, we’d at least save some money. Cabo will always be there (hopefully).

I called the timeshare back the next day and told them we wanted to deposit the week with Interval International.

Before I go any further, let me explain some things about calling the timeshare.

First, even though we are Gold Members, it takes forever to talk to someone; endless navigation through menus, submenus, and listening to a recording tell you that you could probably be doing this on-line (BTW, their web site is even worse than their phone center). Second, English does not appear to be the primary language of anyone I’ve spoken to over the years. Next, half the time, they provide erroneous information. And, when you first talk to a person, they ask you the same questions: Your account. Your name. Your address. Your phone number. Your email address. Then, they inform you of your on-line user name (thank you very much, I didn’t realize what it was…dolts!) and, lastly, tell you that you could be completing your transaction on-line and avoid the wait. Except, you morons, there are certain transaction that you cannot do on-line, like, apparently, depositing your week with Interval International.

Anyway, I finally got a rep, told him what I wanted to do. He says, “Well, all you have to do is call Interval International and give them the confirmation number/check in-date for your RSVP in Cabo”. Uh, no, that’s never worked before. He goes off the phone, then comes back and says, “Oh, I guess there are usually problems with Villa del Arco, I’ll have to manually do it”. Ok…

He puts me on hold and then comes back and says, “My supervisor says we cannot deposit Villa del Arco so we’ll have to cancel that RSVP and give you one for another of our resorts”. Me: “What do you mean?” Him: We don’t allow exchanges for Villa del Arco because it’s an elite resort and we want owners to always be able to use their week if they wish. How would you feel if you wanted to use your week and you couldn’t because someone from another timeshare was using the week?” Hello? How do I feel when I try to make an RSVP for my home resort and I can never get the date I want? And, oh by the way, no special promos EVER apply to our resort (buy one week, get one free).

Whatever. He makes an RSVP for the sister resort in Cabo. I ask him if he’s going to deposit the week in Interval. He tells me (again) that I can do it now that he’s switched it from Villa del Arco. WHAT?

FINE!

A day or so later, I start playing around on Interval’s site. I enter the confirmation number and check-in date and start “shopping”. Unfortunately, it quickly became apparent that we were not going to be able to get anything in Cancun. So, I started playing around with the cruises and came across one in May leaving from Norfolk, VA (yey, no airfare!)

After I checked out the cost (cruises are not a direct exchange; in addition to swapping your week, you have to pay more per person depending on the cruise), I looked on-line at sites such as Cruise.com and realized it wouldn’t cost us THAT much more to keep the week in Interval and just book the cruise somewhere else.

But, to be sure, I called Interval to ask if there were any other “hidden” fees for cruise exchanges and to ask about depositing my week.

Rep: You need to call your timeshare so that they’ll contact us to deposit the week. Me: That’s not what they said. Rep: That’s what has to happen. Me: Well, I have the confirmation number and check-in date so at least I've been able to see what is available. Rep: You're not supposed to do that. Me: That is what someone else there told me to do. Rep: Well, that is wrong. You need to get your timeshare to deposit your week before you do that. Me: Ok, fine, I’ll do that. Are there any more fees for cruise exchanges other than the cost per person and the regular exchange fee? Rep: The cost per person does not include taxes or port charges. Me: Ok, so, is there any other fee?” Rep: No. Me: What, in general, can I expect to pay for taxes. Rep: I have no idea. Me: You have NO idea? Rep: It varies by cruise line.

I call the timeshare AGAIN. I tell guy who answers this time that I need him to deposit my week with Interval.

Him: You need to call Interval…

Me: I just called them and they said you needed to do it.

Him: That’s not right.

Me: I don’t care! Someone get my week deposited.

Him: How about I get Interval on a conference call and we’ll get it taken care of? Me: THANK YOU!

After waiting five minutes or so, he comes back on the line and informs me he’s talked to his supervisor (the mysterious “supervisor” who seems to know all) and was told he’d have to electronically deposit my week and it would be done within hours. But, to do so, he had to cancel my RSVP. Me: That’s not what’s been done in the past. Him: Well, that’s what has to be done now. Check with Interval in a few hours and your week will be there.

Uh, hmmm…do we REALLY think so?

I haven’t checked yet since I’ve convinced myself booking the cruise elsewhere is a better deal in the long run. The week, once it shows up, will be available for two years so we can always use it later.

What a goat rope!

Mrs. B