Chicago Trip--Part Two

I fully intended to finish this yesterday, but I was narrating by day and momming by late afternoon and evening. Not a lot of time in there to do any of my own stuff. So. We got to Chicago and went directly to the Field Museum. By this time we were already a little tired from a three-hour road trip, but the kids were excited.

(Getting the kids anywhere is always exhausting. I tell my students to avoid words like ‘anywhere’ and ‘always’ but here it’s valid. I’m constantly saying things like “Come on! Let’s move! Let’s go!” I feel like I should wear a whistle and a tacky track and field outfit.)

We parked in the belly of a parking structure. It was dark and moist and dripping with humidity. There were also plenty of shadows. I figured there were probably a dozen or so creepos lurking so I started saying things like “Let’s get out of here fast! We won’t see any dinosaurs unless you move it! Come on!” Finally, we got the kids upstairs, walked to the museum, paid $50 for admission and there we were: Big Sue looking down at us.

I don’t know what I was expecting. I knew that our family vacation wasn’t going to be this perfect vacation of bonding and cheering and general high-fiving. I knew there’d be tantrums and stress and all that. I just didn’t know I’d be the one having a tantrum or feeling stressed. Mostly I just felt old. And fat. So I wrote an opening to a story. Maybe I’ll use that somewhere.

The kids pulled us from exhibit to exhibit. We saw lots and lots of taxidermy animals. That’s a little creepy if you think about it, so I tried not to. Still, the size of those things were pretty staggering and I started to slip into this whole writer-mode thing that sometimes happen. I imagined these animals alive and in their environment and what happened to them and who shot them and what time period was it and was it a safari or an architectural dig and where are those people now….and then Simone had to use the potty.

We loved the evolution exhibit and the animals and the dinosaur bones. My favorite was the skeleton of a giant sloth. I mean, really? They were that big? Crazy to think about.

While the kids tugged us around, I looked at other parents. All the parents had the same expression of fatigue and stress and I could hear random things like “Hurry up! Let’s go! Let’s move it!” and “Don’t touch that!” and “Put that down or you’ll poke out an eye!”

There was a younger couple making out by the stairs and it was nice to see at least two people in the museum not utterly stressed out. (Or stressed out, but in an entirely different way.)

Then we had to take the kids to the gift shop. A mental cash register started tinging off in my brain: Lunch: $50, Tickets: $50, Gift Shop: $30, Parking: $16….and that was just in two hours. That doesn’t include hotel, gas, parking, restaurants, the Cheesecake Factory, and The American Girl Store.

I can’t tell you how much we spent in Chicago. Let me just say that Illinois should thank me. Please send me a ribbon.

The rest of the vacation is your normal family stuff. Lots of walking, tired kiddos, lots of eating and waiting, and jumping on the bed in the hotel.

I took Simone to the American Girl Store and I was horrified at all the creepy dolls in display cases. At least they didn’t all scream “Mommy!” in that scary-doll-voice I sometimes hear in my head. Uhm. Yeah. She loved it though, and I guess when you’re a parent, you do things that make you uncomfortable. She got her first grown-up doll. I talked her into the Emily doll because I liked the 1940s dress. Then I got freaked out because I was actually into that doll and her dress and a little table and cute tea set that you could buy. We didn’t, but it was a close one.

Kealoha took Louis to see The Blue Man Group. Louis came back to the hotel buzzing with delight.

Finally, we came home. Kids passed out in their rooms. Kealoha and I sat on the couch. “Hi,” I said. “I know we were just in Chicago together but I feel like I didn’t even see you.” I guess that’s part of the whole family vacay thing too.

I have to say, even though it was overpriced and exhausting and stressful, I still loved it.

When I was a kid, we were really poor. I cringe when I say things that hint at my poor childhood and some of the stuff that went on. It’s all very old-school Oprah. But it’s true. We never went anywhere and there were too many other issues to ever have a family vacation. It may be average, and everyday and a little bit boring, but this trip was a big deal for me. I was able to give my kids something I never had: a family trip.

We’re going to go again in another six months or so, or a few years, depending on when we can save up enough money.

Other New York Highlights

Now that I’ve had twenty-four hours back at home and have hugged and squeezed my kiddos until they stopped breathing for a second (don’t worry. When I let go the air returned to their lungs) I can now look back on the trip to New York and say with utter sincerity: it was fucking awesome.  

Sorry for the profanity there, but sometimes, a girl just has to use it.


This was the first trip for me and Kealoha. I felt pretty confident that we’d be okay travelling together, but you just never know. You  can love someone but as soon as your trapped in a plane, a taxi, and a hotel room with them, you can end up wanting them to spontaneously combust or something, so much so that you say “Here, have another drink!” That didn’t happen once. Not once! I actually liked having him with me. We joked that he was my support team, but it’s true. He’d get us coffee in the morning, print things I needed for the conference. When I was brain dead and couldn’t think, he took care of finding us someplace to eat. But he didn’t control anything. In fact, when I was adamant about where the subway was and he knew I was wrong, he walked with me the extra five blocks until I saw the truth for myself, and he didn’t even rub it in. Man, what a good guy.


So here are some highlights:




On our first night there (I think) we walked around Times Square (see previous post for me and an M&M). It was loud and bright and filled with people and has that peculiar energy that I’ve only experienced in New York. I don’t know what it is. It’s gritty excitement mixed with awe. We walked and walked and then found this cool Cuban restaurant. They pulled us in with their neon sign. The mojitos made us fall in love. Not with each other, we’ve already done that, but with the restaurant. The mojitos came with mint and real sugar cane. And the dinner was delicious. I sometimes feign vegetarian, but this was not the place for that, although you’d have a perfectly fine veggie dinner. No. The evening called for meat and I had me some fine picadillo. It’s a spicy meat mixture with olives. That doesn’t sound appetizing, so they call it picadillo.



The next night was St. Patrick’s Day and people were pretty much drunk on the streets by 9AM. If you wanted to hear a good New Jersey accent, this was the time. I don’t know how many times I heard people shout into a phone “Are you fuckin’ kidding me? No fuckin’ way!” Or “We’re on MacDougal street. I said we’re fuckin’ on MacFuckinDougal Street!”


I was exhausted from the conference and the last thing I wanted to do was see a play, but Kealoha had already purchased the tickets, so in we went.


“Play Dead” is sort of like visiting that creepy relative’s basement, or worse, visiting your creepy relative’s subconscious. It’s dark and cobwebby and sometimes the lights go out. You sit in total darkness and suddenly your mind kicks in and starts freaking you out. Hearing audience members scream doesn’t help either. At the same time, watching the magic on stage, hearing true ghost stories, is at once horrifying and titillating…and I think that’s good theater. Add to that the unknown of a little audience participation, and you’ve got a great night. And don’t worry. The blood washes out.



The next night we met my cousins Mike and Tessa and our friend Arnie. We ate at the Back Forty, an intimate restaurant with a lot of wood and the magic of Christmas lights. It was so warm out we sat outside in the garden area for dinner. This is where Kealoha ordered the deep fried pork jowls. With a little of the spicy jam, they weren’t bad, although Arnie was right, they were a little mushy. We had wine and fish and laughed a lot and then decided to go to this secret tiki bar Kealoha had researched.


At this point, I’ll be honest, I was a little tipsy. By the end of the night, I was just plain drunk.


The tiki bar was called The Painkiller, and it lived up to its name. It’s tucked on a dark street and the opening looks like any graffiti-ed wall, but when you go down the stairs you enter a bar that’s like a bamboo womb. Great music plays and they have an extensive menu of $16 drinks. It makes sense though. The drinks are enormous, packed with alcohol and real juice, and so good I had two. Well, that’s all I can remember having. We were joined later by New York friends Ryan and Tristan. I hope I didn’t drool.


Not drool over Ryan and Tristan, although they’re very handsome. Just drool in general. Sometimes I do that.




The final night was just me and Kealoha. We were both exhausted, so we found the closest Indian restaurant, ate until we were stuffed and then waddled back to the hotel room. He rubbed my back and I fell instantly asleep.


So my trip to New York this time wasn’t marred by needing a root canal or doing anything terribly embarrassing…


Wait. I did moon the subway. I was wearing a green and black dress, walking shoes, and a mismatched sweater. I looked like Crazy Cat Lady again. A gust of wind tore through the subway lifting my skirt over my head and showing about a dozen people my very boring, almost granny-ish pink and white bikini underwear. So there was that.


At any rate, Kealoha and I came home to cats and kids, to knowing that we could endure travelling together, and I came home feeling a little more confident that someday, somehow, somewhere, I’ll have a book published by a big publishing house. Stranger things have happened.


Day 2 NY: Rare bathrooms and psychic surgery

My plan was to come to New York, go to this little writing conference by day, go to restaurants and shows and out drinking at night, and blog about the whole experience. Promises, promises. So, yeah. I underestimated a few things here.

First, there are hardly any public toilets in New York. They exist, but they’re hidden. What does this have to do with blogging? Well, I spend an inordinate amount of time obsessing about where is the next pee stop. Women, you know what I’m talking about. I’m drinking coffee like crazy to stay awake and spirited, but it makes my bladder all crazy. So that’s taken my mind off blogging.

The second thing is there’s also hardly any free wifi. You can find pockets here and there, but if you want wifi, you’ve got to pay for it. And pay a lot. I guess I’m cheap. I’ve broken down and paid for it at the hotel, but I’m not there all that much.

And the third things I underestimated was just how tired I’d be after the conference. Yesterday, we spent all day listening to book pitch after book pitch. I’m not kidding. ALL DAY. We’d listen to the pitch, give comments, and answer the writer’s questions. It was grueling. I learned a lot, and I also understand why some editors and agents get crabby. When you hear a bad pitch or encounter a writer who isn’t prepared and there are a hundred other writers in line waiting to pitch to you, you sort of feel like “You’re wasting my time”. My goal now is to be so interesting and prepared that I won’t see the editor’s eyes glaze over.

So far this has been a fantastic trip including great food and drinks with Kealoha at a Cuban restaurant, walking around NYC, and last night we saw a terrific show called “Play Dead”. It was creepy and scary and there were moments when you’re in total darkness and then you feel something scurry across your head. And then Kealoha was called up on stage, put on a table, had his shirt lifted, and then had a psychic surgery  in which the magician pulled out all these guts and gore from K’s exposed belly and (oh yeah) a naked woman crawled out too. I wasn’t happy about a naked woman crawling over Kealoha, but he assures me the lights were so bright he didn’t notice her nipples. He said he could only see her when she transformed into an old dead woman.

You’d think I made the above up. I assure you, it’s all true.

As I write this, I’m sitting in my hotel room. I’ve got a busy day today. First pitch to a major publishing house. I feel really confident about the pitch…now I just hope that an editor bites and wants to read it. And if they read it, I hope the novel is strong enough. I think it is. And if it’s not, by golly, I’ll make sure it gets there. I’m so motivated right now I could like, kick things.

Maybe I should cut back on the coffee.


New York DAY 1: Valium, Flight, & Curtains

I’m currently sitting in my hotel room that looks a little bit like a grandmother’s guest room. How? How can there be a room like this in New York? Isn’t New York supposed to be trendy? I blame Priceline. I wanted a deal, and I got one. I also got curtains with those pom pom things hanging from them. Next time, I’m paying the extra fifty bucks or so in hopes of having a room that is sleek and modern and doesn’t smell slightly floral.

Ah, well. Kealoha doesn’t seem to mind it. As soon as we walked into the room, he passed out on the bed. I passed out too. I woke up and we were both next to each other with our arms out and legs spread. We looked like this: XX. I think I was drooling.

The flight went pretty well this morning. I took a valium. “Can you tell I took a valium?” I asked K with a big smile on my face. “Yep, I sure can,” he said. “How can you tell? You can tell? How can you tell?” Then I realized that I kept repeating things, and I was smiling, and I was holding on to him so I didn’t fall over or smash into a wall. Oh. So that’s how he could tell.

The check in line lasted forever. We heard the final boarding call for our flight. There was no way we were going to make it. We were there 45 minutes early, it’s just the line to get body probed was unusually slow. I think security was just being very, very thorough. Possibly sadist. I called out to a security guy sitting at a tiny table. The security dude looked a little like this:

Me: Hey! Excuse me! They just called the final boarding of our flight and we’re stuck in line! Can you tell them we’re coming?

Security Dude: Sorry. I can’t do that.

Me: Why?

Security Dude: Because I can’t leave this spot.

Me: Can’t you call them? Don’t you have a phone or something?

Security Dude: Nope. Sorry.

I scrunched my face. I was thinking, what kind of security guard doesn’t have a phone and can’t leave his chair? What good is he? Luckily, seven or so people let us cut in front of them so we could make our flight. See? There is goodness.

The rest of the morning is a blur of stale air, slight turbulence, and endless circling over Manhattan. Then we had the longest taxi ride ever into the city because of construction, but a very friendly taxi driver.

On the way to the hotel, I saw a sign saying COLIN FIRTH! and I gasped. “Oh, please! I want to see Colin Firth!” Then I realized it was just because it was a movie theater. I turned to Kealoha. “I think they should just put Colin Firth on stage and have him wear a sweater and look cute. I’d totally pay for that.”

We’re at our hotel now about to go exploring, and tomorrow is the conference. We looked for the conference site today but had the wrong address. It was a dingy building smooshed between a burrito joint and a Korean market. It was so scary looking that I broke out in a rash. “That can’t be right,” I said. “It’s what the phone says,” Kealoha said. Then we checked again. There’s a couple of building owned by this conference. We’re hoping the real one won’t be as frightening.

Until tomorrow….

Oh! And I’m giving Broadway regards from many of you who’ve asked. I’ll whisper your name to Broadway and tell her you say hello.

New York Trip Eve--Let the blogging commence!

Tomorrow morning, Kealoha and I leave for New York City. Our flight leaves at 6:45 in the morning, so we’ve had quite the discussion on how to navigate flying when both of us are kinda neurotic freaks about travelling. Kealoha likes to relax with a mai tai or two before flying, but how do you justify that at 5 in the morning? I told him I’m all set. I’m taking a valium. For real. I still have some from my doctor for ‘moments of high anxiety’. I think flying counts. As do PTA meetings. And standing in the line at Starbucks and…

Don’t worry. I’m only joking. Not about all of the above. I really am going to take a valium for the flight. I just have far too many panic attacks. Blugh. But I’m not a 1950s valium addict like in “Valley of the Dolls”. Really.

I’ve got about four different lists in preparation for the trip: things to do, things to take, breathing exercises, etc. I also made a list for K. He needs to change the cat box and eat the leftover Chinese food (hopefully not at the same time). My list has things like clean fridge, get money, pack gadgets. Then I contemplated whether I should specify on the list what I mean by gadgets in case my mom reads the list and wonders if I’m packing some kind of kinky sexual thing to experiment with K. I mean gadgets as in computer, iPod, Kindle, cell phone and all the charging devices.

Last night, as we were leaving the Mike Bribiglia performance (which was AWESOME. I wish I could tell a story like he does) I told K. that I’d made a decision about our trip. “I think we should take your car and park it…” I began, envisioning a long drawn out discussion in which I try to convince him that it’s worth the expense of parking at the airport.

“Okay,” he said. “I agree.”

I looked at him and felt my brow crinkle. “No, wait. I have to go through the justification. I don’t feel satisfied.”

“Okay. Go ahead.” He looked at me with an expression that said: “I am listening and taking you seriously”.

“Well…I want to drive your car because it’s too early in the morning to ask a friend to do it and I don’t want to take a cab because then you just end up sitting around and waiting and when we get back I just want the car there because otherwise we have to wait for someone to come get us and then we have to talk about the trip…”

K finished the sentence for me… “When really all we want to do is just get home and take a shower or go to sleep.”

“Yeah,” I said. I still wasn’t exactly satisfied. “See? I’m right.” I had to say that just because I’d been expecting a fight.

“Okay,” he said.

I think I’ll add on my To Do List, give K a big all smackaroo. On the lips. He barely bats an eye at all my neuroses. In fact, he seems to think exactly the way I do about things. I’m reminded when we were just starting to date and he said to me in that hushed lover-type whisper “You know, it’s like all our neuroses fit together perfectly.”

Isn’t that romantic?

We’ll see how the trip goes. Wish me luck. By day, I’ll be pitching my novel and K. will travel the streets of New York in search of delicious pastries.

I’m not joking.

See you tomorrow. I’m blogging (and tweeting) all week about our adventures.