Sunday, August 27, 2017

‘See You in London’

My finger quivered on the mouse as I moved the curser over the “Cancel Vacation” tab.

One click and I wouldn’t have to go anywhere or do anything. I wouldn’t have to dig out my passport, fly on an airplane, or rent a hotel room and exchange currency.

One click and I could stay in my nice little comfort zone eating wonton soup and watching DVDs.

That was me about 10 days ago just prior to my most fabulous trip to England, where I was so stressed, so nervous, so freaked out that I was ready to scrub the entire mission and stay hidden under the blankets for a week.

I was worried about my job, my health, the plane going down, terrorists, alien invasions, and a whole slew of nameless emotional gargoyles lingering on the rim of my subconscious ready to bum-rush my brain.

But I couldn’t give into the fear. I had told just about everyone I knew that I was heading to the U.K. and it would like pretty ridiculous if I suddenly bailed on the whole shebang. And I had people to see, including fellow bloggers in London and a guy in Manchester who friended me on Facebook a few years ago called Rob Lenihan.

Yes, that’s right, we share the same name. I don’t know if we’re officially related but Rob and his family are such wonderful people that I consider them family regardless of what the DNA has to say.

In addition to Rob and the rest of that lovely Manchester crew, I also met up with one of my official cousins, Keir, and his family who were in London for a brief stay before moving on to Ireland and Barcelona.

The Chimes of Big Ben

Early on in the trip I had a fabulous meeting with Mario, the genius behind A Cuban in London, at a tea shop on Portobello Road. I also managed to visit Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace and Hyde Park, which was just across the street from my hotel.

It was incredible meeting Rob and Mario and so many others in the real world after years of communicating via the Internet.

The only disappointment was the fact that I could not meet up with the lovely and talented Jay of The Sparkling Synapse, who was suffering from a terrible flu attack.

That was tough, frankly, but I vow that I will meet this wonderful woman in person in the near future.

London is a great theater town and I saw Connor McPherson’s The Girl from the North Country and Jez Butterworth’s The Ferryman, both of which were incredible.

I’m also becoming an old hand at riding the Underground and I was impressed with how knowledgeable and courteous that staff were—at least the ones I met certainly were.

I realized how resistant to change I can be and traveling to a different country can cure you of that particular ailment in a hurry. You either adapt or sit around your hotel room all day.

So, yes, I’m really glad I didn’t give into temptation and cancel this trip. I met up with great family and friends, saw some terrific sites, and enjoyed some great theater. That beats a bowl of wonton soup any day of the year.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

A Day in the Park

I couldn’t stay in the house one second more.

It was late Saturday afternoon and I was losing my mind.

I had spent a good part of the day either at the bank or in front of my computer as I prepared for my upcoming vacation and I still hadn’t knocked off several important items on my to-do list.

I was angry at myself for blowing two hours on a Netflix detour and for failing to make plans for the day or evening—but the weather report said it was going to rain all day and I figured this would be a great time to get my chores out of the way.

Then my computer starting slowing down and my blood pressure starting climbing and, once again, I found an excuse to get angry over nothing.

When the sun finally came out at around 5pm, I grabbed a book, bolted out of the door, and made for nearby Shore Road Park where I could read, relax and rejuvenate.

And that’s when I met Jacob.

He was nine-years old and he walked right up to me, giggling and clutching a plastic ray gun. His father was right behind him and we both watched Jacob pick up a piece of cardboard that someone had left on the bench.

“Hey, buddy, how’s it going?” I asked and Jacob just giggled some more. “What’s your name?”

“His name is Jacob,” his father told me. “He’s non-verbal.”

Jacob’s dad, Carl, was accompanied by his wife and Jacob’s younger sister, who was about 5 years old and very interested in a butterfly that was flittering around the nearby bushes.

Usually this is when I start internally whining that I just want to be left alone, but this time I felt I really should put aside my anti-social tendencies and talk with these people.

That piece of cardboard could be folded into a bank and Carl began putting it together while Jacob laughed and tried to snatch it away from him.

Carl told me that he had moved to Shore Road a few years ago, that his family was Norwegian and we talked about how his people once ruled Bay Ridge.

Is This Seat Taken?

“We still have the Norwegian Day Parade every May,” I said. “It was a big deal when I was a kid. The mayor used to come and give a speech.”

“Yeah,” Carl said, “but it’s much smaller now.”

Carl told me he was 56 years old, apparently thinking I’d be shocked, but then I told him that I’d just turned 60 in May.

By now Carl had finished the cardboard bank and he handed it to his son, who began tossing it at my head. Carl was trying to get him to stop, but I assured him I didn’t mind—and I really didn’t.

As they walked away, Carl nodded to me.

“Thank you for your patience,” he said.

Patience? In my six decades of existence no one, and I mean absolutely no one has ever thanked me for my patience. I thought of that grouchy nitwit who was cursing at his computer just a short time ago.

And I thought of Carl and his wife, the kind of patience these people must have to handle Jacob—from the very second they open their eyes in the morning they have to watch him to make sure he doesn’t hurt himself.

They’re not a young couple—this could be a second family for both of them—so it looks like they’ll be taking care of Jacob for as long as they live.

I’m trying to actually learn something from this experience about life, devotion, and yes, patience, instead doing my usual routine of bashing myself in a coma with a guilt-studded club, which doesn’t do anybody a damn bit of good.

I didn’t get much reading done on Saturday, but that family had given me a story I will never forget.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

Under My Umbrella

At least the umbrella lady was nice to me.

My identify theft woes continued this week when my bank sent me an email asking if I had authorized some yin-yang called Jorge Osoria to use my credit card, which of course I hadn’t. So, I had to dump another yet another credit card.

This latest bit of misery follows my recent run-in with cyber-cretin Ruth Dingfield, who taunted me via email and whom I would cheerfully ding with a frying pan and bury in a field of skunkweed.

The bank security woman told me that it’s probably some malware in my computer that could be reading my actual key strokes. (If that’s the case, Jorge, tell me what this says: “F-U-C-K-Y-O-U!”)

I had already done a malware search and turned up nothing, but I downloaded a new program which took nearly eight hours to review every scrap of information in my computer and do you know what it found?

Absolutely nothing. So, however these humps are getting to my account, it ain’t happening on my end.

Things got even worse on Friday when I got this feeling my checking account was a little low. And it was low for the very simple reason that some scum sucking son-of-a-bitch was taking money out of it.

Naturally I freaked and called my bank screaming like a loon. They shut down my account and refunded my money, but I don’t really see this misery ending any time soon. Clearly there’s a breach and no one seems to be able to stop it.

Now I have to go back and have all the automatic payments and deductions—like direct deposit and my credit card and cable TV bills—and set them up with the new account.

All that summer we enjoyed it...

I feel like I’m the criminal here, trying to hide what is rightfully mind, while some misbegotten mole rat with a keyboard merrily wipes his boots on my privacy.

And I feel stupid, convinced that, despite what the virus scan says, this is all somehow my fault. As a reporter, I’ve done plenty of stories about cybersecurity and now I’m the one getting nailed. It’s not a good feeling.

Which brings me back to the umbrella Iady. After all this grief, I was in pretty serious need of a kind gesture and I got it Friday as I was trying to leave my gym in the middle of a monsoon.

I thought the rain would have eased up by the time I finished my workout but I called that one wrong, too. I stood in the gym’s lobby watching the deluge while time slipped down the drain.

I had neglected to take my umbrella because I couldn’t find it and even if I could I’d be embarrassed to use it since it’s falling apart.

There’s a CVS right next store to my gym so I thought this would be a great time to finally deliver on my promise to get a new bumbershoot.

I was about to make the mad dash out the door when a cleaning lady who works at the gym told me to stop. She didn’t speak English very well, but she indicated that she would let me share her umbrella with her.

It was such a kind offer and the timing was perfect given all the online agony I was living through.

Out we went into the deluge and she laughed when she realized how short my walk actually was. But it’s not the distance, it’s the decency that counts. I thanked her profusely, entered the CVS and promptly purchased an umbrella big enough to protect the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

Now if I could only get something to keep Jorge Osoria out of my life...