Monday, June 27, 2011


They call it Security Theatre. (who does?  this guy.  You would screen him too.) 

I have gotten quite savvy about the jetway baggage check.  After all, the bag I bought says it fits in the overhead.  And before we de-regulated everything into Teeny Weeny Airlines, it did.  And the airlines insist on charging for baggage claim, so to hell with them.  I am happy to check at the jetway.


Until your booking agent does not realize that she has you transferring from one TERMINAL to another (and another airline) in an airport where the terminals are not connected.  In 60 minutes.  The real drama is me unable to find my destination on the Departure board at all and trying to find a gate agent who could help me.  By the way, USAirways, if you give me a boarding pass that says USAirways on it, and the flight is abbreviated as UA###, how would I know that is United Airlines?  I started this journey at 5am; I can't be held responsible.

More like Security Grand Opera.
I run - from Terminal 1 to the "Air Train," (so you know it's already over), but I make it to Terminal 3 with 15 minutes to spare, except.

Except that at this airport you have to go through security again.  Do you hear me, America?  And I now know I will miss this connection.  Long-time readers (of this blog and my life) know that I have learned to call the customer service line while standing in the customer service line.  (robots are replacing you all) So I get rebooked for 2 hours later and begin to wonder... where is my suitcase going to go?

No one in America has a job, but there are always 15 TSA agents at any given security line.  1st one says, it's OK to go through on my missed boarding pass, since I am getting the new one at the gate, and as long as the pass is for today, it's OK.  so put that in your information bank for your next heist.  Write a screenplay around it.  2nd agent says that the line is breaking into 3 lines, and I am in the longest one, but I am free to choose any one.

What kind of walk-on line is this?  "You are free to choose any one."

Agent 3 is having trouble with his spy flashlight that makes a hologram on your license.  He is waiting for batteries, so in the meantime, he is asking people to confirm their last names (because that is totally the same thing).  Agent 4 is getting the batteries.

Agent 5 is screening my bag -- which contains one half full (half empty?) bottle of WATER.  I wish I could display that in spooky font.  My home computer would do that.

"Whose is this?" asks Miss Marple, and delicately draws out my suspicious article with a 2-fingered grip.
I immediately say (still wearing the belt I also forgot to remove), "Oh right -- I didn't expect to go through security between terminals.  Just take it."

And she says, "I'll just pour it out here."
"Can I keep the bottle at least?"  I say... looking like a harried business traveller in jeans that don't fit and NOT my attention-getting new bra.

Suddenly, even TSA Marple realizes that her "just pouring it out" does not justify her existence, so she says, "I am going to bring it over here and test it, then pour out the liquid and you can have the bottle."

Whatever, Trixie Belden.  I have 2 hours now.   (I call this one "Trixie scores some weed.")

We step aside and she stands back, and asks me to open the bottle, please.  Then she swabs it with something I probably shouldn't drink behind, pours out the water (still 2 fingered, so careful.  She would have done it with her pencil if the thing had only had a trigger) and invited me to replace the cap.

The day is not over.  I have another hour to wait -- another hour for my bag (which has fallen out of my possession) to find a new friend in Eugene.  My biggest worry then is what I will wear tomorrow.  But we'll panic about that when we have to.  I don't mind making a concierge find something appropriate in a college town on a Monday night.

They have theatre of their own.  

More Security Theatre from the archives:

Early security theatre at Guilt-Ridden Logan Airport
My personal TSA story, which ends here, but tags back to the beginning
Airports respond to new standards

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A loss for corporate travel

Say good-bye to the Highlander Inn in Manchester, NH, and a dreadful omen of the beginning of the end of civilized travel in the vertical states of New England.

Founded as a vacation lodge, and rediscovered as a businessperson's best kept secret for avoiding the mayhem of Logan Airport, The Highlander is the place you go to for overnight lodging for your early morning departures, the cheapest long-term parking at any commercial airport, an always-available room for under $100 when you were too snowed in to make the drive home, and an amusing transient bar scene somewhere between Mos Eisley and Miss Kitty's.

Tonight at the front desk, sad news was delivered.  The restaurant is closed.  The bar is closed.  I have been upgraded to the main building... because the 2nd building is closed.  This is when I notice that the china cabinet of toiletries and other personal items is reduced to several shelves of Snuggle, and there really isn't anyone else around the place.

The airport has bought the property, says the desk clerk.  And this will be a parking lot next year.  The shuttle can comes to lead me to the long-term parking, and instead leads me 25 yards to an empty slot in the visitors' lot.  As I climb into the van, I say (cheerily) "I hardly needed a shuttle for this!"  And she says, "It gives me something to do."

I expected to spend the evening with a salad and a glass of wine, light bartender conversation, then a little email catch up before rising at 4am for a 7am flight.  Instead it is a 24oz PBR out of the ice bucket and a delivery pizza.  Desk Clerk Amanda recommends the local place (over the usual delivery chains), and when the delivery arrives, it is carried by the former owner of another local joint, which lost its lease after missing a few months' payments.  She tells me this while unzipping the thermal bag.

Well... when in Rome.
"That's ha-ra-bull," I say, with furrowed brow, "We're all just trying to make it."  I don't really know what that means, but it seems like I am watching the granite state fold up before my eyes, so I try to be sympathetic.  I had to order the  Vegetarian, then add one more topping, to meet the $10 minimum for delivery. 

If you're wondering how you get one of those glamorous global business jobs where you travel the world and stay in 4 star hotels on a per diem...

so do I.     

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Lift and separate

If there were ever an event that might have convinced me to Tweet, it would have been my session with the certified bra fitter.

This is one of those things Oprah is always on about.  She is such a bully.   I don't know if it is one of the things I "LLLoooovve, People!"  I'm not even sure it was such a great idea.  But I know you want to know what goes down in there before you do it yourself.

You know the Certified Fitters of  N**trom.  After shoes, and a possibly apocryphal story about tires, certified fitting is one of their hallmarks.  Don't set aside an afternoon for it or anything.  Don't try to make a "girls' day" out of it.  It is better to put it on a list of things you will never do after work one of these days, then plunge in one rainy night because you have just cut off about 5 inches of hair and you don't want to lose the Verve of Reinvention.

Do not be shy about asking for a fitting.  Do not be shy about anything in N**trom.  They smell your fear.   Just request whoever is on duty.

Let me get to your main question: will I be topless with this certified fitter?
Yes, of course you will.  This store is founded by Swedes.  Get over yourself.

But first... you will be measured.  And this will be in your horrible dingy sad stretched-to-its-limit Sears bra that they will spot a mile away and politely pretend is not happening.  My fitter was a petite young woman in Smart Girl glasses, with the Drew Barrymore accent of her generationnnnn......?  One can't duplicate it in print.  It has to be texted.  Don't tell her what size you think you are; if you knew you wouldn't need her.  She knows it, you know it, the American people know it....

I have long considered myself a 38; Drew believes that a bra should, in fact, fit like a corset.  She explains that she will bring back samples they use for fitting (think of the "get one free" choice of frames at the optometrist's office) then we will work on cup.  While I wait, I think that the self-appointed arbiter of ladies' supports would have a special fitting room for this purpose that would already have bras in it.  But I think this is supposed to feel like European style shopping.  In which case, spice cookies and tea should really be served.  Stupid Swedes.

When Drew returns with the samples is when you go knockers out and let another woman put a bra on you.  This is like letting another woman shave you:  you will learn a lot about the finer points of personal habit.  I have never been a front-in, reverse-vest, hook behind you dresser.  I hook in front, twist around and lift.  This probably ruins the shape of my bra more than my breasts do.  rim-shot.  But, ow, it hurts my shoulders to do it Drew's way.  Fortunately, she is going to valet me from behind (excuse me?)

I want to complete the picture here by revealing (or reminding) that my skirt rarely fits correctly either, and is generally held in place with a safety pin.  I have yet to prototype the perfect skirt clip, but I know how it would work.  Tonight, though, I hadn't even bothered with the safety pin, so I am in too tight a bra, too loose a skirt, too short a haircut, and no sense of shame at all. 

The most valuable bra fitting tip I have for you is that once you are strapped in, you are supposed to dig in, ("scoop," Drew delicately put it) and shape everything into the cup where so that it makes some kind of sense.  And you can give a quick exam while you're in there.  Perhaps this is the training that should come with the first bra.  Try it at home, and your own bra may actually fit better.

Drew does not care for the way that the sternum area (where the bumble bee used to be embroidered) will not lie flush to my actual sternum.  This is part of her Ahab-like obsession with the ever-tighter band size.  I said, "well, I hear you, Drew.  But I'll tell you that I hate that far less than I hate this overhang.  Because I don't care for that at all."

Fellas, I could not even find a picture of overhang to explain it to you.  We are so horrified by it we don't even allow it on the Internet.  We will tolerate it when we are 80.  But until then... uh. no. 

Once you have a size you can both agree on (read: someone gives in to), your fitter will disappear again for much longer and come back with every style of bra in the place that is more expensive than you would believe.  We also had to rule out a lot of bra designs that probably make Drew's job fun for her.  Again, I am reminded of my optician.  I said, "black, white, ivory.  That's what we're here for."

And a little more coverage, please, if you don't mind.  Less lace - I am just going to ruin that.  Can you find straps that adjust in the front?
I'm not really bitchy.  After all, I'm the one 3/4 naked (counting the skirt that is falling off) and she's the one doing all the running around.

So we find a style that is not at all adorable and exactly what you would expect someone who walked in wearing a Sears bra to walk out in.  And I get to say, "now let's come down in price by half."  Oh, yes, I did - in ever-lovin' N**strom. 
She, like, totally wanted me to try this other awesome style, which I did in lieu of tipping her, but I will not pay more for my underwear than I just did for a haircut.  And I pay pretty high for the haircut.  I pretended for a minute to decide whether I was buying 2 of the Amish bra or 1 of the totally awesome one (which I thought gave me Lana Turner Breasts - nice enough on some, but nothing I could live up to) and watched Drew calculate her commission.  I said if she could find the Amish in black (you would think... after all....) then I would get both of those.

Fun fact of the Bay State: bras are clothing.  No tax.
They did not have the black in-store, but being the Kings of Kustomer Service, they ordered it shipped (n/c) to my home.

I'll let you know how it turns out.  Or other people will, when they try to figure out what... what's... did you cut your hair?  Yep.  Yeh, that's what's different.   

Monday, June 20, 2011


How I love turn of the century New England money...    
And I get a little weepy when park rangers wax on about preserving our natural space.

Ranger fact:  450,000 acres of public lands in our little state -- one of the largest of the state park systems.  This one... is a grand jewel, and it is having its big ol' birthday.

In 1911, a Harvard botanist and orchid expert, and his sculptor/painter suffragist wife (do you love this story already?) moved in to the granite fortress they called Borderlands, where every floor has floor-to-ceiling windows, and every window opens like a door.  Where the lawn rivals that of The Breakers (without the breathtaking drop-off into the sea, sadly, but a tennis court, so that's not bad).  The Ames family (yes, same Ames family as this Ames family, but not the same couple) lived there, raised there children there, and died off there in 1968.  The family sold the land as-was to the state, and through the furnished house in for good measure.  ya know, full of old stuff and all...
Take this day trip.

This is what Elm Bank strives to be, and comes very close, but being able to walk inside the Ames house is what puts it ahead.  Exterior tours happen every Sunday; interior tours only the 3rd Sunday.  It was a state park miracle I was there.  Look for Director of Education Joe (no last name, other than The Ranger.  Or maybe "Ranger" is his first name and his last name is Joe.) on whom I developed a ranger-crush within moments.  Maybe it was the way he said "this land is your land" without irony, or the way he spoke of the Ameses as their personal caretaker.  No, it was the enthusiasm and wonder with which he showed us the turn of the century sprinkler system he discovered himself while clearing brush.

I luurved him.

So ok, you don't like 2-story libraries, victorian furniture and mission bells rescued from a war-torn Cuba.  I'm surprised you're my friend, but ok.  How about this then: 5 ponds with fishing permitted, hiking trails with and without horses, dogs, and mountain bikes?  NEMBA calls it "almost paradise," where 45% of the trails are black diamond.  I veered off to the Swamp trail (exactly what you think) where none of the aforementioned are allowed and had a little respite.

This is not a rugged hiker's destination.  This is for families, young lovers, Sunday parents, wives looking for a nice walk that doesn't make them sweat. There is also a cool-looking farmhouse that was there when the Ameses moved in, and the fishing lodge they built for the boys and their friends.  Horseback rides, picnic (hibachis are apparently OK, but no alcohol), open meadows for having a catch, and did I save for the last...

Disc Golf?
It's a lovely course, in fact.  Busy enough so you don't feel like a freak show, and sparse enough that you don't feel pressured.  BYO Wham-o brand Frisbee sports disc, or buy/borrow one from the ranger station.  Top rated disc golf course in the Bay State.  And don't "pfft" and say "out of how many?"  because it's 32, smart ass.

I fell in love with this place, as you can see, but I have no need to keep it to myself.  I can parade around it pretending to twirl a parasol and plan a hunger strike on my own time.  But you have a pile of family to entertain on a summer's day.  For $2, park the car and bring a lunch.
  You can not go wrong.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


Condo life means putting up with a lot of... "say."  "Say" is a passive-aggressive form of "hand."  Here's a prime example.

In recent years here at Del Boca Vista, there has been a militant interest in the condition of our grass.  And individual condo yard here is about 20 fit square.  My bedroom might be bigger.  If you live on a corner, the line between your grass and our grass starts to get murky, but it is all their grass in the end.  And They are deathly afraid of brown spots.

It all started a couple of springs ago when the gas tanks were replaced in the backyards, which was a Big Dig of its own kind (and I believe when the mice proved in, thank you very much).  Lawns were relaid and reseeded and we were asked to please water. 

Watering one's 20 sq ft lawn is a tedious process that exposes you to the neighbors and everything that's wrong with the outside of the house you never look at -- starting with learning that the outside faucet leaks.  I am working on a way of turning it off and on from inside at the moment.  That's today's big accomplishment.  And if I replace the screen door at the same time, well get a load o' me.

Of course we didn't water.  All over Central Mass are towns enforcing water bans through systems that fall just short of Shirley Jackson's lottery, but we are watering our brains out.  "One of the best times to water is when it's raining!" says the newsletter.  Because we sit on 65 billions gallons of free water, we should use it up 20 sq ft at a time.

Things to yak about in Massachusetts include the outrageous "wat-a" rates and whether you are on town or soo-a, reservoir or MRWA.  Bore yourself over it here.  It's lower than "how did you get here" and "how bout them {sports team]," but it will come up at the cookout.  Clinton sold its soul (and a whole lotta land) in 1897 in exchange for not paying the water bill.  So yes they can force us to do it.

The Grassatpo was born.  Like most para-military organizations, it began reaching out to the neighbors who were annoying and disliked to start with, and gave them a little power -- in this case the power to scold and bully us about whether we were watering often enough, long enough, with enough patriotic zeal.

This season, the band formalized, with a title, a structure, and I expect before long fluorescent vests.

So at this hour I should already be out there, bed-head and all, sprinkling a lush green lawn that the officers of our village feel is living proof this work is necessary.

Keep Calm and Carry On.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Alyssa throws out a meme:  

How To Create An Un-Bucket List
1. Create a list of things you vow never to do.
2. Die
3. Congratulations! You have accomplished an enormous amount!

You've heard me say, "I hope to/could go my entire life without..."  You know that I am fond of absolutes like these, finger pointed in the air Cathy Guisewite style.

1.  Play Putt-Putt.  This is the first thing I recall saying Never about, and it was mostly as a joke, the way we in my home-circle say, "I don't believe in scars."  For a short period, we tried to outdo each other with outrageous moral platforms.  So I said I intended to go my entire life without playing Putt-Putt.  I have played plenty of rounds of miniature golf since then, but never the official PP.  

2.  Read Twilight.  Just to tweak the zeitgeist.

3.  Shoot drugs.  You have to have one on the list you can be sure of.  Especially if you have already blown # 1

4.  Know where I lost my glasses in 1982.  But I think it through all the time.

5.  Leave Netflix.   They will have to leave me first.

6.  Believe that I need undercoating.

7. Get back to my fighting weight.

8.  Stay in West Dorm at another reunion.  

9.  Fix ______________.   I had something there, but it turned into a list.

10.  Finish this list.