Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A few fond memories of 2008

Just a few hours left of 2008 - an awful year for many. Not so bad for me. Here's what I want to remember:

Laney calling and saying,"Go Google The Endeavor Talent Agency in Beverly Hills."
"Why?" I asked her.
"Because they now represent the movie rights to your book!"

Driving and smoking (the RV, not us!) and breaking down and LAUGHING cross country (well, okay, we only made it as far as Niagara Falls, but you get the idea) in that damn bio-diesel RV!

The night we sat around the campfire and Sierra and Jeremiah discovered they sometimes had the same dream!

Finally giving in to the hope that Barack Obama could get elected and that maybe, just maybe, he could help turn our country around.

Getting together with the group I went into the Peace Corps with - 20 years after we went to Ecuador. And having a really great time.

That incredible day, Nov. 4, 2008, as I sat watching polls in Keene, NH and people lined up, excited about voting. They were young - never having voted before. The came in old - some having admitted to never voting before or at least not in a very, very long time. They came on crutches. They came with arms in slings. They came in wheelchairs, one having recently had a stroke, several having to be assisted in the voting booth. But damn, these people would not be stopped from voting. They were mostly white in rural New Hampshire - and I know that in other parts of the country, people of color came out in droves. But this was the amazing and very telling thing to me. Barack Obama didn't just speak to people of color. He spoke to and mobilized and excited a whole lot of Americans - of every race, creed and color - who hadn't been excited about politics in a very long time. And though his victory is certainly a milestone and a victory for African Americans, it is also a milestone and a victory for All Americans.

The wonderful feeling I woke up with on November 5th to know that I now lived in a country where the best person for the job - regardless of race - can be President. And believing that soon it will be true for women as well!

But perhaps my favorite memory of all might be the Iraqi reporter who flung his shoes at Bush. Damn, he deserved it! Anyone know what happened to him? Ya think President Obama can pardon him?

I'll keep you posted,

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Mr. Waite Goes To Washington!

My own personal "Peace Corps Poster Boy" (AKA St. John) will be marching with the Peace Corps contingent in the Inaugural Parade! How cool is that? It's actually cooler than even he knows. Oh, he's excited . . . kind of. Well, as excited as probably anyone would be knowing that he has to be ON HIS FEET absolutely all day carrying a five-pound flag the whole day, in a huge mob of people and he has to be there - rain, shine, sleet, hail, snow, whatever. Okay, so he's not so excited really.

Oh, but I am. I'm thrilled! And yes, I'm the one who entered him in the lottery to begin with. It was open to all RPCVs (that's Returned Peace Corps Volunteers) - and I could have entered myself. But really, me stand in the cold/wet/ice/snow all day, no place to sit down, hoisting a five-pound flag, in a crowd? Not likely. But John can handle it. Hell, that boy can handle anything. Listen he chooses to sleep on top of mountains in the snow in -20 degree weather! This should be no problem.

And I KNOW John getting picked was pure luck. But I can't think of anything more fitting than my husband - Super (3-year) volunteer, recruiter, trainer, Associate Director - carrying a Peace Corps flag in this parade on a day when history is being made. Not only because Barack Obama is our first black President. But because he truly has a world view. He's a citizen of the world. As I like to say, "He's from OUR neighborhood!" I also think that maybe Barrack Obama understands that you can actually serve your country - and the planet - by working to bring peace to it. And isn't that what Peace Corps Volunteers have been doing for nearly 50 years?

I'm not sure how John is going to feel on Inauguration Day. Cold? Tired? Mobbed? Excited? But here's something I know: One day, he'll tell OUR grandchildren about it!

Monday, December 15, 2008

But was there any dog poop on them???

Oh, was that a thing of beauty? Was that a site for sore eyes? Was that half the world I heard standing up and cheering when that Iraqi reporter threw his shoes at W?

Oh, I know. It's not nice. You don't throw your shoes at anybody. Certainly not the "President." Even if you think he deserves it. Really . . . it's not nice. Don't do it. Especially not if there's dog poop on them. (Does anyone know if, perchance, there was dog poop on them? Maybe, oh, maybe just a little?)

But our Commander-in-Thief, good ol' boy that he is, took it well, didn't he? Just stood there and kept smiling (and really, he DOES have an uncanny ability to SMILE through anything - a war, an economy in shambles, a devastating hurricane, another war, a plague. He just keeps on smiling . . . and shrugging.) "The guy just wanted to get on TV," W shrugged after ducking the shoes.

Well, maybe you're right, Mr. "President" (although that would be something for the history books). But maybe the guy was a wee bit upset at you for invading his country - unprovoked - and turning it into a totally chaotic living hell (yes, it might have been hell under Saddam Hussein - but at least it wasn't chaotic and it was THEIR hell), and now instead of apologizing profusely as you ought to be (and perhaps handing out copious amounts of retribution money - why not ask Dick Cheney to kick in some of the big profits he and Haliburton made off this war?), you just sort of stand there and smile, kinda clueless like.

I don't think the guy who threw the shoe actually meant to hurt W, I think he might have just wanted to knock some sense into him. Not that I advocate that kind of thing, mind you.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

That's how they do it in Putney

Sometimes I think I just don't have enough strange experiences here in America. But then today I found myself up in Putney, Vermont (which is an adorable little town, should be snow-tinged all year long and set in someone's window). Not that Putney is strange. But there I was lying on some doctor's table with my arm stuck up in the air while she asked me a series of yes or no questions and divined the sources of my physical ailments - and their treatments - by muscle testing my arm.

And the whole time I'm thinking, Okay, this is really weird. Probably a scam. Now she's going to tell me I need this and that supplement or herb or whatever she's got on the shelf and sell it to me and then tell me to come back and see her next week for more.

But she didn't. Odd and illogical as it was, she really seemed to be able to figure some stuff out about a bunch of disparate symptoms I've been plagued with for some time. And more often than not, when she "asked" my muscles if I needed this or that supplement or herb that she had, the answer was "no." I did leave with a few bottles of supplements, but they were far cheaper than they'd cost me at my local food co-op. But she also told me where to get them directly when/if I needed more. And she said I really only needed to come back if/when I felt the need to.

So, while the whole technique of how she parsed out my ailments was odd, it's not odder than how medicine is practiced - and has been practiced - in many ancient cultures all over the world. This woman did seem, for all the world, like some sort of shaman. And I don't mean funky weird at all. I mean totally centered and grounded and wise. Her office was full of feathers and stones and chimes, yes, but also books (walls of books) and balance balls and yoga mats. I got the sense that in her medical practice she incorporates all the knowledge and wisdom available to her - wherever it comes from and however it shows itself.

I mean, why is her asking my muscles to tell her what's going on in my bowels (roundworms picked up 13 years ago) or my larynx (muscle compression of the rings around the larynx AND blocked energy in the chakra and a whole lot of things out of alignment in my neck) any weirder than a traditional type of doctor shrugging his shoulders and saying "gee, we have no idea why you have migraines, but try this medicine - which may or may not cause your retinas to detach!"

Anyway, she sent me on my way with some explanations that sound plausible, some supplements to try, an admonition not to drink milk, some things to do for my neck and doctor's orders to (get this) have 30 minutes of FUN four times a week! Now, laugh at that if you must. But I have known for some time that I was suffering from a serious lack of fun in my life!

Okay, laugh at it all if you must. But I'm going to try this new regimen and see if I don't start to feel better.

I'll keep you posted,

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thanksgiving In America

Thanksgiving in America, 2008

Those of us who have, probably ate too much; while others stood in the cold holding signs that read "Hungry." And on Black Friday, a man was trampled to death in the crush of Wal-Mart shoppers so eager for cheap goods they didn't notice a fellow human being in distress and then refused to stop shopping even when it was discovered that he was dead. 'Tis the season, America. And boy, do we know how to usher it in with a bang!

I wrote the following poem in honor of Barack Obama's inauguration. (Yeah, sometimes I fancy myself the next Maya Angelou! Hey, a girl's gotta dream!) My mom thinks it's too negative for the occasion. But I think you've got to live with your eyes and heart open. And if you do, how can you not pick up on the negative? I might not send the poem to Obama's transition team, but I'll go ahead and post it here. Maybe I'll even figure out how to put a little comment thingy, so you can all give me your feedback.

The Language of Hope
by Eve Brown-Waite

It is a hopeful thing to reach out a hand and say, “Come.”
It is a hopeful thing to take that hand and answer, “Yes.”
Eyes reflecting eyes ahead we march.
We shall overcome
we shall not be moved
and we are unafraid though we have no idea where the road will lead us
or if it will run out before we even get there.

We walk in beautiful for spacious skies
our amber grain beckoning
our sea to shining sea rising up in waves of hallelujah
God crowning from the tops of our purple mountain majesty.
We lift our lamp beside the golden door – this way to the Promised Land.
Our doors are always open,
Open for one day only,
hurry in this offer may be revoked at any time.
So run rabbit run coyote, dog, woman, child,
Run for the roses, run for the hills, run for your life.
Run and lift your eyes up to the lord at the same time,
Lift them up to see the millions of twinkling diamonds on sale now in the inky black sky.
Follow the North Star, follow the drinking gourd and get thee to the other side.
We’re all swimming to the other side now,
And if you can’t swim, tread water.
Wade in the water, the troubled, troubled water,
Water, water everywhere, crystal proud rivers, oceans buffer, lakes soothe.
So much water, we are drunk with it,
it spills over and runs in rivulets down our glorious thighs.

Then why are we so damn thirsty?
The amber grains come back from their ghost factories and we can’t afford to eat.
How have we lost our home, our voice, our way?
Now we walk barefoot because baby needs a new pair of shoes and so does Big Brother.
Our feet are blistered and bare and we dare only tiptoe around the edges of where our shining cities used to be.
The shining city on the hill that glistened until the rain washed it away.
It is a hopeful thing to put hammer to nail, nail to board and dare to rebuild.
It is a hopeful thing to stay all over this land that was your land but never my land, America.
Hope brought us to America
And then left us like one last gasp before we drowned.
Or slowly bled out of us,
leaving gleaming, oily puddles in the fields of Iraq,
trails disappearing into the mountains of Afghanistan.
Hope had been beaten out of us, tortured out of us in the prisons of our own making.
And the blood was so thick in our eyes, we couldn’t see.

What if these songs of freedom are all we’ll ever have
because everything else was stolen?
The fields of pineapples,
The sacred lands, drenched with the blood of the ancestors,
Going once . . . going twice . . . ripped from our arms and sold into slavery,
handed over to the corporations,
paved into shrines to the living gods.

What if we laid our bodies down in saffron robes in front of the bombers
and the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air were dropped on unsuspecting villagers anyway?
Our revenge scattered like the wails of the dying, fleeing, screaming, tear-stained faces of fathers burying their sons.
We howled into that wind, we screamed, and our pleas fell on deaf ears.
If a people yell and beg and cry on the streets of Washington and no one hears them,
they do not make a sound.

So we had forgotten the language of hope.
The rhyme and poetry of it we could no longer recall.
The sounds we made were guttural and stuck in the back of our parched throats.
Until all we could do was dig in the dirt of all that had been left to us.
Backs bowed, aching and sweating, hands calloused and bruised, we dig in the dirt and plant seeds and try to remember to practice hope once again,
whisper it while we dig in the dirt.

It is a hopeful thing to plant a seed.

It is a hopeful thing to reach out a hand and say, “Come.”

It is a hopeful thing to take that hand and answer, “Yes.”

I'll Keep You Posted,

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Special Kind of Hell

Ah, I've recently visited a special kind of hell. The hell reserved for mothers of sick children. And I'm not saying that lightly. My visit there will be short and for a relatively minor reason. I can only shudder and imagine what it's like there for mothers of children with life-threatening illnesses or conditions that drag on and on for years. (Oh and fathers of sick children, too, I should say. Although I seriously doubt any of them would call a receptionist a BITCH and threaten her with bodily harm. I'm pretty sure that's a mother thing.)

But this week brought endless hours of phone calls to numerous hospital departments, doctors' offices and insurance companies. And let me tell you, that's a special kind of hell. On Tuesday I was frantically calling around trying to find an orthopedic surgeon - frankly, anywhere in the state - who could give us a second opinion - preferably BEFORE the surgery that is scheduled on Friday. HA! Good luck with that as I was told over and over again that the soonest appointment I could get was January.

"Okay, let me get this straight. My kid has a chipped elbow and I'm supposed to wait two months to see the doctor?"

And the really funny part was always the receptionist's answer, "Yeah."

I tell you, Cuba is beginning to look better and better every minute!

But my lowest moment had to be when I was on hold - for about the fifth time - with the bitch (and I do not say this lightly, for this particular woman really earned the title) at my (very possibly soon-to-be ex) pediatrician's office. I'd left a message there first thing that morning (after being put on hold) asking for the doc to call me so I could tell her what had happened, get her thoughts on the orthopedic surgeon's recommendation, and maybe get some help finding someone to give us a second opinion. Two hours later, when the doctor's nurse called me back, I was on hold with yet another orthopedist's office, trying to wheedle my way into an appointment sometime this year. I called my pediatrician's office back - mere moments later and was immediately put on hold. Well, maybe I should not say immediately. For the receptionist did first ask, "Mind if I put you on hold?" to which I answered "Please don't put me on hold. I just missed a call from the nurse and I need to catch her before she goes in with another patient." None of which mattered or was even heard, because the receptionist put me on hold the second the question came out of her mouth. It wasn't really a question anyway. I was getting put on hold, whether I minded or not!

Let me just cut to the chase and say that this same scenario happened about four more times, once with the variation of being cut off while on hold. Until finally the phone call in which I cut the receptionist off mid-"Mind if I put you on hold?" with "IF YOU PUT ME ON HOLD BITCH I WILL PERSONALLY COME DOWN THERE AND THROTTLE YOU!" At which point she put me on hold.

Then there was the lovely conversation with our health insurance company this morning. I was surprised to find out we did NOT need any pre-approval for his surgery. But I shouldn't have been. I doubt they'll be paying for any of it. Each family member has a $2,000 yearly deductible before the insurance company even pays out a penny. And lucky - or unlucky us - none of us have even spent a penny in deductibles. So we'll be paying at least $2,000 of whatever Jeremiah's surgery costs. Okay, but it just begs the question: WHY ARE WE PAYING FOR HEALTH INSURANCE????

Jeremiah's surgery is scheduled for this afternoon. I'm sure he will recover just fine. I'm not so sure about me. And we will be looking for a new pediatrician. Possibly one in a country with a more humane healthcare system - like Cuba!

Monday, November 17, 2008

it's just a little break

"I think I dislocated my elbow," Jeremiah bellowed as he ran in from jumping on the trampoline. (Damn, I knew that thing was going to catch up with us someday!)

"Dislocated?" I ask. Is that why the darn thing looks kind of inside out and the rest of your arm is hanging down like a limp fish? "John fix it!" I yelled. After all he played sports. He comes from a family of five boys. They all played sports. Surely he knows how to relocate a dislocated joint, right?

Turns out, John's more squeamish than I am. Takes one look at it, looks at me, gets pale and goes to get the car. "We're going to the emergency room!"

But Jeremiah's kinda moaning, not in great pain, but I can tell the whole thing is just grossing him out and I'm wondering how he's going to do on the drive over the emergency room ... and how John and I are going to do on the drive over. And I know when we get there, someone's just going to pop it back into place and hand us a huge bill. I remember that somewhere along the line I heard that you can just pop these misbehaving joints back into place. Moms do that all the time, right?

So I take Jeremiah's hand and say, let's try to straighten out this arm. And he does and pop - there goes one bone back into place. And we straighten some more and pop - there goes the other one. Elbow good as new. I give him some rescue remedy, rub some comfry on the elbow and give him an icepack. I mean, I was a Peace Corps volunteer; I lived in the bush in Africa. I could give myself a tracheotomy if I needed to. Who needs trained medical professionals?

Well, it turns out, we did. 'Cause the next day, his arm was still hurting him and he was holding it funny (although that joint was holding up just fine, I'm proud to report). But it turns out, in addition to the dislocation, he also chipped a bone and the doctor is recommending surgery to repair it.

But I'm thinking about just getting out the Crazy Glue . . .

I'll keep you posted,

Saturday, November 8, 2008

March of the Lightbearers

Well a long overdue hello again. It's been quite a dry spell between postings. Maybe that's because life seemed kind of boring after coming off the road, and getting back to life as usual. I mean, really, what fun is it when you can count on water to come out of the tap, the engine to turn on and rain water not to seep UP onto your bed?

Oh, there were some adventures alright - the day I spent bird-dogging that weasely Senator John Kerry, trying to get him to accept his responsibility for giving Bush the blank check to go to war - and to tell us what he was going to do about it. And even though I followed him around the entire day with my bright PINK "How do YOU like YOUR war now?" sign, I could not even get myself in the newspaper, much less arrested! The police officer on his detail came over to me first thing in the morning and said, "Eve," (yes, he called me by name!), "I am NOT going to arrest you today. Your husband says don't forget to pick up the kids at 3:00." It's hell living in a small town, I tell you!

And then of course, there were the days in New Hampshire working to turn that state for Obama. That felt pretty adventurous. Especially because I should have signed up for the Big Schlepp. You know, I should have gotten my "fat Jewish ass on a plane to Florida" as Sarah Silverman said. My grandparents are no longer there and though they are dead, I'm pretty sure they both voted for Obama (you can do that in Florida y'know). But I could have been useful in Florida (the old Jewish part) because I speak that language. But instead I found myself in New Hampshire - a swing state I could drive to, but let's face it, can't even speak the language. Here's the thing about New England: I've lived here for ten years and I am still a newcomer. I can live here the rest of my life and I will NEVER not be an outsider. But I think I turned ONE vote for Obama (had to give away my Obama button to seal the deal, but I'm committed) and that felt good.

So now here we are, in a hopeful new political landscape. And I do think a whole new adventure is just beginning. I don't think anyone kids themselves that now that we've elected Obama everything is going to get better. Now that we've elected Obama, our work is just beginning. But at least those of us who want to, can roll up our sleeves and get to work.

I am offering up myself to that task.

And I'll keep you posted,

P.S. Check out my website at for the latest on my book - and even an excerpt! And check me out at where I blog with five other wonderful debut authors.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Biggest Adventure Yet

Okay, I know I haven't posted here in awhile. But basically I've been feeling like I've had no adventures to speak of. But now, in a way, I feel on the verge of the riskiest adventure yet. Well, at least the riskiest since deciding to schlep the family to Minnesota in a million-year-old RV that was on fire! (Alright, it wasn't on fire when we got in it!)

Anyway, I am about to debut at The Debutante Ball - which is a grog - or group blog - where you get to watch as five debut authors go through the fun, adventure and madness of our launch year. I was thrilled to be chosen and have polished up my tiara and all. But gosh, I'm such a klutz! What if I get out on the dance floor and trip - or more likely, step on someone else's toes? Drink too much punch and dance on the table (and those of you who know me, know that this can happen!)? Barf in the punchbowl? And what, oh what will I wear?

Okay, it's not really a ball (and this was disappointment number one, because really, when was the last time you were invited to an actual ball?) It's just a virtual thing and everyone seems so nice and supportive of everyone else. But still, I'm a little afraid of busting in with my brash humor and no-holds-barred kind of writing (these other gals all seem so ... I don't know ... nice!)and well, what if they don't like me?

Well, maybe that's just my way of inviting (okay, begging) all of you (anyone still out there???) to check me out at on Friday and let me know you LOVE me. You do LOVE me ...don'tcha?

I'll keep you posted,

and p.s. I don't care if it's virtual, I'm gonna wear my tiara on Friday!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Adventures closer to home

Here's the problem with being an intrepid travel writer. No intrepid travels, nothing to write about!

The biggest adventure I've had lately was a foray to the HUGE mall with Sierra on her birthday. We try to avoid that madhouse at all costs, but have been known to make an exception on "Mommy, can I have this? Day," also known as Sierra's birthday. A hundred ladies will fall all over you to give you a free make-over (didn't know you needed a make-over? Just go to Macy's!), but good luck finding a cashier so you can pay for something!

Yesterday's big adventure was getting my annual mammogram (hey, take care of the girls and they'll take care of you ... hopefully). Does anyone else feel compelled to smile and say "cheese" when you have a mammogram?

Oh and how can I forget the recent Waite family get-together on Cape Cod? All 22 of us - in our numbered t-shirts - had a fabulous time at the Lighthouse Inn, where the Einhorn Family was enjoying their own family reunion. We scoped out the competition, figured we could easily take them, and challenged them to a kite-flying competition. The Waites are natural athletes after all, and now, well, suffice it to say, Ellen Einhorn Zerkin now wears Waite t-shirt #23. There's talk of trading her back next year ... but only if the Einhorns beat us in the three-legged race.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Would have been better if it ran

After giving you my own in-depth evaluation of the Waite family not-so-bio-diesel oddysey to Minnesota, I decided to poll the rest of the family to see if they agreed with me, er, I mean to see what they think.

I was pleasantly surprised by John's overwhelmingly positive analysis. I would have thought that he, as the founder of the 'let's all shrink our carbon footprint by living in tents club,' would have deemed the whole trip and its attendant carbon emissions a huge failure. But he actually thought we accomplished some good things - namely getting the kids to the Baseball Hall of Fame, seeing Niagara Falls, prying Sierra off the internet and cell phone for hours at a time, and burning more than a few marshmallows around the campfire. "And," he added, "the indoor water park and Seneca Falls were unexpected gravy." I was surprised he hadn't mentioned the Jello Museum (which is still high on my list of highlights).

Sierra's reaction was typically low-key. When asked what she thought of the whole trip she replied, "Huh? What? Do I have to get off the computer again?" But did finally agree that it was "interesting." Her fondest memory is the day at the indoor water park.

But Jeremiah may have summed it up best. When asked his assessment of the whole RV adventure, he replied, "It was FUN. Would have been better if it ran."

I'll keep you posted,

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Post Mortem

Well, it took the biggest, baddest battery charger from Taylor Rent-A-Center, two extension cords, and three good samitarans in the (thankfully) very friendly town of Great Barrington to finally get the alum-a-womb going again. Once we got the motor going again, we didn't stop again until we parked it back in David's driveway - where it promptly died. Today we're home - unpacking, picking the kale, cucumbers and tomatoes (and even more weeds) that have ripened in my garden and evaluating our trip. (Oh, we overthink, I mean process EVERYTHING around here.)

So here is my warts-and-all evaluation of the success or failure of our trip:

Goal: Bring family out to Minnesota while not using fossil fuels.
Did we achieve this goal? Absolutely not. Next goal.
Well, okay: Bring family out to Minnesota while using as little fossil fuels as possible.
That's better. Did we achieve that? Well, John figured out that the alum-a-womb averaged 7.5 miles to the gallon of diesel. Okay, we get to stretch that because half the diesel we used was bio-diesel (made from old vegetable oil, so therefore not a fossil fuel, less polluting and No, it's not responsible for driving up the price of corn). So John figured that into the equation (thank God, that boy loves math), and we still average only 12.5 miles to the gallon. Yeah, still nothing to brag about. Ah, but the good news is that we got 23 miles to the gallon once we ditched the RV and rented the mini-van. But of course that's burning regular old gas with all of its environmental impacts and unsustainability and that's what we were trying to avoid in the first place. So. we were a big fat failure on Goal #1. Well, wait a minute, I'm gonna give us half credit on this one. We did get the family out to Minnesota.

Okay, but as any good researcher knows, if you fail miserably on your original goal, what you have to do is revise your goal.

Goal #2: Have a fun vacation with some quality family time.
I would have to say we did much better on this goal. The alum-a-womb inspired LOTS of laughter (and I don't just mean from the little old ladies who zipped by us on the roads. Even Sierra's elusive laughter was heard. And we certainly spent LOTS of quality time together (all that slow driving and time spent stuck in parking lots waiting for a jump, and then of course, there was that lovely Ford Service Center. Well, you get the picture.) And everyone in the family got to do what s/he really loved. John got to drive - and read maps, calculate gas mileage, talk on the phone - usually simultaneously, which he does love. I got to sleep while John did all the driving. Jeremiah got to play endless video games while John did all the driving (oh, and he got to buy gumballs at vending machines in at least six states and two countries!). And Sierra plowed through an entire four-book teenage vampire epic, and eat nothing but junk food, while John did all the driving.

Now of course for John and I, everything has to have some redeeming value. Surprisingly enough, no one asked us to dig them a latrine or donate blood along the way. But we did get to tell a lot of people about bio-diesel and the importance of figuring out a way to drive across country without burning fossil fuels. This conversation happened a lot, really. Whenever anyone asked why in the world we would rent a 24 year old motorhome in the first place.

Well, that's my assessment. I'm going to poll the rest of the family and tomorrow, I'll bring you their reviews.

I'll keep you posted,

Saturday, August 9, 2008

On waking up in a parking lot

... it's not as comfy cozy as you might think. Certainly doesn't encourage one to sleep in. So we're up earlier than we have been in awhile. In fact, I've been up since 4AM beating myself up (mentally only, it's way too close quarters in the alum-a-womb for any actual flogging) for suggesting we stop for dinner at the way overpriced restaurant in Great Barrington, thus shutting off the iffy engine and thus getting us stuck in a parking lot for the night. Not to mention the way overpriced dinner (Did I mention that already? The sushi was superb, but I'm sorry, for that price they should have offered us overnight accommodations AND breakfast in the morning!).

But Jeremiah says this just might be the best campground we've stayed in so far! We ended up parking beside a walking trail and a rushing river, we woke up this morning and walked to a lovely town and had a great breakfast and best of all, we had Wi-Fi all night (well, at least as long as our battery power lasted). So not so much harm done, after all.

We might just make it home.

I'll keep you posted,

Friday, August 8, 2008

Parking Lot sweet Parking Lot

We're finally getting to spend the night in a parking lot - the consummate RV experience! Long story short: the battery died, got recharged and we figured let's not push our luck and headed toward home. But not wanting to end the trip on a sour note - and a six hour drive to get nowhere - and it being nearly my birthday and all, we decided to stop in the Berkshires for supper. It WAS a lovely (and expensive) sushi dinner at the world-famous Bizen and when we got back to the RV, well, the battery is dead again. So here we are at what John refers to as "the church camp ground" since the parking lot seems to be attached to a church. And here we'll stay at least until we can get a jump in the morning - of course, not until we've had breakfast and a mosey through this lovely town because once we get started - WE WILL NOT BE STOPPING AGAIN.

Well, time to bunk down and get cozy for the night. It IS a lovely parking lot.

I'll keep you posted,


We stopped at a service area on the NY State Thruway and that seemed to be our fatal mistake because we can't start the RV again. The alum-a-womb is DEAD. Maybe it's the battery. Maybe the alternator. Maybe borrowing a 24 year old motorhome from a guy who says "oh, don't worry about the smoke" was not such a wise thing to do. John just called for roadside assistance and now we're waiting for the verdict. Funny, but it's just not that much fun anymore. We're supposed to spend two more days in the Adirondacks before heading home. But I'm thinking when/if we get the RV going again, we should NOT pass go and NOT stop until we are home.

Besides, I'm out of clean undies.

I'll keep you posted,

Thursday, August 7, 2008

In the Wi-Fi Wilderness

HELP! John has dragged us off into the woods for his kind of vacation. That means we are staying at a state park campground without all of the amenities. Okay, it is beautiful and right on the shores of a lovely Finger Lake and you can fish and swim and watch the birds. But it has no miniature golf, no arcade, no swimming pool and worst of all, no Wi-Fi! But we rode bikes into nearby Seneca Falls and the nearest Wi-Fi hotspot. (Oh, also it's the home of the Women's Hall of Fame which is way cool and has all MY people (I was a Women's Studies minor, after all.) I got all verklempt reading about all these amazing women. Okay, I cried ... just a little.) Sierra was NOT impressed, but that's okay. See, she can take all this stuff for granted, in large part because of the mighty women lining the walls of the Hall of Fame.

Anyway, before we get hauled back off into the Wi-Fi-less wildnerness I have got to tell you about yesterday's visit to (okay, get ready for this) the Jell-O Museum. Yeah, you read that right. And I was afraid I hadn't, but the billboard on the NYState Thruway promised that it was just five miles off exit 41, just 13 miles away from Brockport. I know, I almost couldn't believe it. I mean my younger brother, Josh, spent at least four years at SUNY Brockport and never once mentioned his proximity to the Jell-O Museum. Could it be that he missed this jewel of Americanan kitsch? You might be surprised to hear that the rest of the family was not as excited about this as I was. But hell, they had already stopped me from getting my picture taken with Abraham Lincoln (Indiana), kept me from Carhenge (Nebraska) and weren't even remotely interested in tracking down the world's biggest ball of string. Whiners be damned! We WERE going to see America's foremost tribute to all things Jell-O!

We almost turned back once we got there and found the entrance fee was $4 per person. After all, we had already taken a picture of the bronze plaque outside which commemorates Jell-O employees who served in WWII (I'm not sure if they served by actually serving Jell-O). Wasn't that enough? But boy am I glad we paid (the now tax deductible) entrance fee. Who knew there was that much to know about Jell-O? Certainly our tourguide, Ruthie did. She was a veritable font of Jell-O factoids (although she seemed to be lacking in humor, which one would think would be a job requirement. But Jell-O is a serious business in LeRoy, NY!). Anyway, here's a little gelatine tid-bit for my in-laws: the Jell-O recipe was invented by one Pearl Bixby Wait - and there is some discrepency over whether his name was actually spelled Waite. Folks, we could be related to the genius who discovered that the connective tissue of bovines and swine (that whole thing about horses' hooves is apparently nasty rumor) could be made into a delicious food-like dessert! (Fear not my Jewish readers, Ruthie informed us that there is Jell-O available that "meets the dietary restrictions of those of the Jewish faith!")

Alls I'm saying is I can rest a bit easier now. Whatever becomes of my writing career, the Wait(e) name has already been ensured a place in history. (It may, however, dissolve in boiling water!)
Well, back to the woods now.

I'll keep you posted,

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Pick Your Poison

We're holed up in a Holiday Inn in Buffalo (where there REALLY is not much to write about) waiting for John. He got up early this morning to drive over the border, return the Pod to the rental place and retrieve the Alum-a-womb. He just called to report that it's still smoking (albeit less and, hopefully, a more benign color). I say, Thank God! We'll finally have some adventures to write about! Sorry, but we get bored when everything goes smoothly. Maybe that's why I spend so much time in "Third World" countries.

Just a few observations on our travels through the mid-west in our pod: if you want to see America, you better hurry. If Sandusky, Ohio and all of Lake Michigan is any indication, it's at risk of being swallowed up by strip malls, superstores and McMansions. People ARE friendlier in the mid-west - I swear. They are just so nice out there. On the other hand, the landscape is boring! Oh, sure, it's all green and cornfields and pastoral, but it's flat and goes on forever and after a few hours of that, well, I don't know about you, but I just get desperate for an edge! Frankly, and as a former New Yorker (emphasis on former, here) I hate to admit this, but coming from the midwest, the landscape doesn't get interesting again until you hit New York state. On the other hand, almost no one here will look you in the eye or say "good morning" to you! So pick your poison, I guess.

I'll keep you posted,
Ahhh... morning in Buffalo, NY. Nothing to write home about.


I'll keep you posted,

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

We find ourselves in a strange, strange country

Sandusky, Ohio, which the last time I consulted an atlas was thousands of miles from the ocean. (Okay, you caught me, I don't consult atlases, but John does). Yet, we were greeted with "aloha" and given leis when we checked into "The Maui Sands Resort" yesterday. Maui Sands is plonked right down between an Applebees and a gas station at a major intersection, yet the menu at their "Lagoon" restaurant is rife with Polynesian dishes and boat drinks served in coconut shells. I used to think it strange to be served horsemeat or sheep's eyeballs in Uzbekistan, or to be invited to soak in water with tiny, pecking pirannha fish in Turkey. But America ... you are by far, the strangest country I have travelled in yet!

I actually hear we are on the shores of one of those big lakes out here (Erie, perhaps ... if I ask John, he'll get out the danged atlas again!) and thus the whole resort-y theme. But I sure as hell can't see it for all the strip malls, highways and chain restaraunts around here. Besides, the kids are having too damn much fun at the giant indoor water park and ocean-themed arcade to let us leave this plastic paradise. And I have to admit, after I got over the wedgie I received from getting tossed around in the giant whirlpool flume ride, it IS kind of fun!

It is a rather strange country out here. Billboards along the highway advertise all these "Oriental" and "Japanese" spas. And I thought, ooh I could use a pedicure. And then I noticed that the road we were on was frequented by mostly truckers and the "spas" were all open until 2AM! Every road stop, gas station, restaurant and hotel lobby has a giant TV screen on which FOX news is blathering on about the latest tragedy, corruption scandal or movie star mishap and I'm wondering what exactly I'm supposed to do with this information. Seems like Americans really love their bad news. But we are travelling in the protective pod - the minivan we rented in Niagara Falls where our RV (remember the RV? That's how we started this trip.) is STILL being serviced. The pod bears Ontario license plates and at every rest stop, the kids and I hum "Oh Canada" and try to pay with Canadian money and hope everyone mistakes us for Canadians.

I'll keep you posted, eh,

Monday, August 4, 2008

Mission Meet the Misters Accomplished

Mission "Meet Misters in Minnesota" accomplished! We ARE still us - fatter, older and (for the most part) wiser. A gangly and gregarious group of folks who came together in the Peace Corps for many different reasons. The twenty years in between Peace Corps Ecuador and the rest of our lives changed - and mellowed - a lot of us in many ways. But the intensity of Peace Corps seems to have left an indelible impression on everyone. And the bonds forged between us are as stronge as ever. Okay, I'm veering dangerously into the corny here. Let me just say that when it was time to (reluctantly) say good-bye, it took me over an hour to make my way around the group - hugging and kissing absolutely everyone and never even caring that I hadn't even brushed my teeth that day! You see, that's how it is with your Peace Corps friends. We are there for each other - hung over, stinking breath, dirty clothes, bad hair and all. It doesn't matter.

I hope to see more of these folks in the future ... and I just may. They have all promised to come if I am ever doing a book promotion in their neck of the country ... and heckle me from the audience with THEIR version of how it went down. Everyone is an editor!

We're heading back to the Mother Ship being serviced in Niagara Falls.

I'll keep you posted,

Friday, August 1, 2008

Braving the next frontier

It suddenly feels as if we've left the relative safety of the "aluminum womb"as we've come to call it (hey, it beats the "giant rolling turd") and have ventured out in our docking vehicle. Next stop, The Misters 20th Reunion. Pardon all the space shuttle analogies, but it does feel a bit like we're heading into God knows what. For all the fun and misadventures of life on the slow road in our RV, I had almost forgotten that we were going to the reunion.

For those of you who are new to the story (and is there anybody reading this who is NOT my editor, my agent, or a relative?), I ventured into the great jungley unknown as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ecuador 20 years ago. That whole adventure didn't exactly turn out exactly like I'd planned (and you can read more about my hilarious misadventures in my book: FIRST COMES LOVE, THEN COMES MALARIA (Broadway Books, April '09) end of shameless self promotion) and seeing everyone again after 20 years, well, it's as diarrhea-inducing as it is exciting. 

Twenty years after those first shaky steps into the big world on our own (hey, we were nervous. Okay we were hung-over, too.) and the remaining Misters (so named because all the kids on the streets of Ecuador yelled, "Hey, Mister, give us something!" whenever we walked by) are getting together for a weekend blowout. It begs the existential questions: what have we done with our lives? are all the best parts over? can we ever recapture our glory days? and most importantly, will they think I've gotten fat and old? 

Seriously, I'm writing to you this morning from the absolutely picture perfect house of a couple of fellow Misters. I'm recalling one of our Peace Corps happy housekeeping ditties ("Dig yourself a ditch, for to take a shit ... at least a hundred meters from you house. Dig it nice and deep or when you go to sleep, your poop will be dinner for a mouse!") and now I'm staying in a house that is so gorgeous, I'm afraid to mess it up by using the toilet! How did we get here? And are we still us?

Ah ... but we are adventurers if nothing else. If not, I assure you, we would never have ended up with malaria half a dozen times between us, chasing mountain gorillas at six months pregnant, and being held hostage in a war zone. It's true and all in the book (okay, more shameless self promotion, I'm sorry. The end. Really.).  So onward we go to see what awaits us in the great beyond of Minnesota. It is a new frontier, one that I understand might not even have Wi Fi! but we will tough it out. Hey, we are RPCVs (Returned Peace Corps Volunteers), a band of brothers and sisters with a tough-it-out mentality, not unlike the Marines (without the guns, of course, and all those bothersome rules ... and probably more beer). 

Anyway if you don't hear from us for a few days imagine us on a big, old farm - perhaps like Max Yasger's farm in a small upstate NY town called Woodstock. Yes, imagine us having a grand old peace and love, hippie kind of time. Imagine us holding hands and dancing in the rain. Imagine us singing Cum Ba Ya and closing down the New York State Thruway. (If none of this means anything to you, you are clearly under 40. Go ask your mother.) 

I'll keep you posted,

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Where is that lake, anyway?

 "Ah, something new and different," John said as the RV stalled and we noticed smoke coming out of the tailpipe as we were leaving the campground this morning. But things were looking up by the time we got to the Ford Service Center.  By then the smoke was only coming out of the engine.

But things were not looking good for getting to Minnesota in time for my Peace Corps reunion this weekend. Two thousand miles to go, can't go more than 50 miles an hour, have to stop regularly to put out fires, 8 miles to the gallon ... well, you can do the math. But John, riding a rented mini-van came to the rescue! "I got you into the Peace Corps in the first place, and I'll get you to the reunion," he said or something like that.  (Okay, it was more along the lines of, "if you're really that determined to go re-live your drunken glory days with those boozers, the least I can do is see that you get there.") Ah, John ... bound and determined to always be the hero of all my stories.

Soooo .... we left the RV to be fixed, loaded up some stuff in the (awfully nice, fully decked out) rented mini-van and drove today ... A LOT! We drove through Ontario(and I can tell you why Canadians are less obese than Americans: they have Tim Horton's instead of Dunkin Donuts; nice place, not such tasty donuts!), and over the border (carrying our contraband grapes, shh, don't tell), and through Michigan, all the while looking to see that big lake we heard so much about. Where do they keep that lake by the way?  We couldn't find it. They must keep it hidden behind all those huge houses and big gated compounds. 

Well, we made it all the way to Chicago, which was fairly easy.  I mean, no one was honking at us, we didn't have to stop once because we were a fire hazard, and no one's leg got cramped up from having to stomp down on the accelerator with 50 pounds of pressure just to get the thing going up to 40 miles an hour. John and I looked at each other after about an hour and shrugged. "Kind of takes all the thrill out of it!" 

But tomorrow is another day - with another 250 miles to go before we sleep. Anything can happen, right?  

I'll keep you posted,

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Minnesota - how'd you get so far away?

Turns out the lovely Ford Service Center wasn't the only nice site around town. They're ordering a new part and told us to come back tomorrow morning. So we eased on down the road (and I mean that literally as the steering wheel now makes a god-awful sound. But only when you turn it.) down to the actual Falls - Niagara, that is, although it was hard to make out at first what with the torrential downpour that made everything look like Niagara Falls. Jeremiah and I discovered a huge puddle that seemed to be seeping UP from underneath the RV (really!) and we figured, what the hell, might as well go outside and get wet!

So Niagara Falls, the Canadian side, is really, really awesome. Even Sierra seemed a teeny bit impressed. When we walked around enough - and it finally stopped raining - we drove to another campground - this one somewhat closer to the Ford Service Center and somewhat less tacky than last night's - and set up camp, such as it is. John took a bicycle ride back to the Falls - and came back reporting a huge rainbow over the falls. Could this be the residual effects of his minor electrocution earlier in the day when he decided to rescue an ant from an electric socket using his key?

We are hopeful that tomorrow morning's visit to the Service Center will cure the smoke effect and perhaps increase our gas (diesel) mileage up to 9 or 10 to the gallon. But it's doubtful that this will help our speed and Minnesota - with all of it's glorious, flat roads (how could I have ever disparaged you?) - is seeming farther away than ever.

I'll keep you posted,

Such a lovely Ford Service Center!

Ahhh... Niagara Falls. So far it looks very much like ... a Ford Service Center. Wait a minute! It is a Ford Service Center. We got up early this morning, hightailed it out of the way-too-kitschy parking lot cum campground and got us to a place that could maybe fix the diesel leak in our engine so we could maybe continue our cross-country adventure. But I have to say, it IS a lovely Ford Service Center - with X-Box (Jeremiah's happy), free coffee and a place to charge our cell phones (John's taking care of business), television and trashy magazines (Sierra is at least NOT complaining), and computers with internet (so here I am!).

Now whether they can do anything about the diesel plumes and the painful lack of pickup on our RV is another story. But on the half hour (12 mile) drive over here, we did experience another first: we passed another vehicle on the road. It was a bicycle!

I'll keep you posted,

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Does this diesel make us look fat?

Well, we jettisoned as much weight as we could before setting out this morning, hoping that lightening the load might help with speed (or lack of) issue. We threw out the garbage, wasted water, ate all the goodies, I even let the kids into my stash of organic green iced tea - as long as they agreed to take full advantage of the campground facilities ... if you get my drift. And speaking of which, we took our first dump. I mean, we used the campground's dump station to ... ahem ... lighten our load somewhat.

"This is disgusting!" declared Sierra, who was lounging on her bunk and scarfing down a chocolate chip granola bar. "How many times are we going to have to do this?" As if she were the one, not John, who was out there with nothing but a thin hose between him and the flying fecal matter.

Losing weight did seem to help some, as we practically zipped down the road, sometimes getting up to 50 miles an hour! Still, what with truckers helpfully waving us over to let us know that big gray clouds of smoke were billowing out from underneath us, and John stopping to check that we were not, indeed, on fire, and because we are leaking diesel and getting all of 8 miles to the gallon, we have to stop to fill up more often than my grandmother has to pee, we were lucky to make it from Cooperstown to Niagara Falls in only seven hours! My mother was under the impression that we were making this drive on chicken fat - she meant used vegetable grease. Which would have been nice - and smelled ever so much better if it were leaking. But RVs that run on grease are distresssingly hard to find (I know, what's wrong with this country?) and finding an RV that we could run on bio-diesel - while not ideal - still seemed like a more environmentally sound option than straight gas. Not cheap, but environmentally sound. Sane? Well, that's a whole 'nother thing!

So now we are camped (READ: plugged in) for the night at an RV campground that looks a bit like a retirement village and more than a bit like a parking lot. Tomorrow's agenda includes trying to fix the leak and figure out how far we actually can continue on this journey before being declared legally insane. Oh, also it would be nice to see some Falls. I hear they have them somewhere around here.

We might not be making much progress, but we are laughing. It's like a Third World vacation, right here in North America!

I'll keep you posted,

Monday, July 28, 2008

Handles like a Marshmallow

Okay, we finally got on the road today. And made it all the way to Cooperstown, NY - home of the Baseball Hall of Fame, which for some incomprehensible reason is of far more interest to the rest of my family than the Otsego County Jail. You'd think we'd have enough time to visit both, but the drive from Western Massachusetts to Cooperstown (All of what? Two hundred miles) took all day. Turns out the newly fixed up bio-diesel motorhome handles like a marshmallow. This is what the mechanic, Don said to John when he gave him the keys yesterday. We had no idea what that meant. Now we do - the whole thing is kind of jiggly and wobbly ... and has the pick up and speed of, well, a marshmallow! But it is pretty sweet on the inside.

We might have said "good-bye" a bit prematurely to Don and David yesterday. John called them (several times) today to ask if we should be concerned about the lack of speed going uphill. "Oh, that's an RV. Kind of slow going up hills," David said. (Do you think he meant 20 miles an hour? We can push it to 25 if we all sit in the front and lean forward.) Or about the black smoke billowing out from underneath the engine. "Just a little diesel leak," Don told us. "Pick up a new O ring, when you get to Buffalo."

If we get to Buffalo. Wasn't it an O ring that brought down the Space Shuttle?

I'll keep you posted,

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Still in our driveway

Well, the little cupboards are packed with the barest of essentials (that's chocolate, beer, and gin & tonic, right?). We had our first dinner at the little dining table that will double as Jeremiah's bed and soon we'll all snuggle down to watch RV (how appropriate) on our tiny television. Then we'll fall asleep to the sounds of crickets and rain and thunder ... a lot like last night. In fact, not so far from where we slept last night. The motorhome is still in our driveway.

Our rental RV inconveniently blew a head gasket a day before we were to take possesion of it. And apparently a head gasket is a pretty key feature in an engine (blah, blah, blah) and it took like a million hours to fix it. But thanks to Don who knows diesel engines like the back of his greasy hands and David who recently had a heart attack (and I won't mention his last name because his wife doesn't know about it. The heart attack, not the last name.) we're up and running again and ready to hit the hippie highway first thing in the morning.

A day late and a dollar short (actually, David's a dollar short; it's his RV.), but hopefully, tomorrow we're headed for Cooperstown, NY, where we'll visit one of my old stomping grounds, the Otsego County Jail. Does anyone know if jails generally welcome back former inmates and their families? Y'know, like Alumni Day? Well, if not, there's always the Baseball Hall of Fame. I understand it's always visiting day there. (No orange jump suit required!)

I'll keep you posted,

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Waite a Minute!

T-minus one. Or whatever you call it when it's one day 'til blast off. Or take off, as the case may be, in the rented bio-diesel RV bound for Preston, Minnesota. What's in Preston, Minnesota, you ask? Lots and lots of flat nothingness is what I recall from my last trip there. That and the Wisconsin Dells. Don't ask me why, but you pass about nine million miles of signs for the Wisconsin Dells on the way to Preston, Minnesota.

We're going to Preston for the 20th reunion of my Peace Corps group. Why we don't just have our reunion in Ecuador - where we were actually in the Peace Corps - is beyond me. Geez, it'd be easier - and cheaper - to get there. And I'm guessing, more interesting than Preston, Minnesota. So besides all the signs for the Dells, my guess is that there will also be about forty very drunk former Peace Corps volunteers reliving their glory days of, well, being drunk in Ecuador!

Well, I'll keep you posted!