Sometimes it’s just you and the cat.

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My girlfriend is away.

The talented thing she is, she’s off rehearsing a play, doing what she wants to do, living the dream, etc, etc.  The only unfortunate thing is, it is away.  Some 2,500 miles and two time zones away.  So it’s just me and the cat for about two months.

Sure, we talk on the phone, and we’re texting every day, but alas, her smiling visage no longer graces the capacious rooms of our castle home.

Therefore, I am getting A LOT of work done.

It’s not that I don’t get work done when she’s here, but when she’s not here, boy howdy!  From the time I wake up until my eyes close on my pillow at night, I’m doing something or other:  I’m writing, I’m transferring my writing from my notebook to my computer, I’m corresponding via email about my writing, I’m recording audiobooks, I’m editing audiobooks previously recorded, I’m working on the musical I’m writing, I’m corresponding with my writing partner about said musical, I’m traveling to my day job, or I’m working at my day job.

There are only MINUTES of my waking hours when I’m not doing one of these things, and I usually watch Doctor Who during that time.  I’m a very busy boy.

If Becca was here, there would be less of this, and more of canoodling and general nesting activities with my loved one.  More time spent on eating, sitting together, engaging in conversation, etc.

What’s been nice in this time of separation, however, is the Travel Notebook.

OH YES.  CAPITAL LETTERS.

The Travel Notebook was a BRILLIANT idea I had (thank you very much) the last time she was away.  I bought a small, pretty, hard-backed notebook for her to take with her on her travels.  For every day she was away, I wrote a prompt for her to complete.  “Describe where you are at this exact second.”  “What was the most interesting thing you saw today?”  “If our cat was there, what would she be doing?” and so on.  

Since she had it the last time she was away, I was deemed the notebook-holder this time.  When I visit her in the middle of her time away, we’ll trade, and I’ll give her the notebook.

It’s nice, and it keeps us thinking about each other.  It also provides a fun diary on which we can look back once together and see what the heck we were up to.

Until then, though, it’s just me and the cat.

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Sometimes you have a *click click* ssssssssss-steam leak.

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While we were on vacation our apartment was left unattended from 18 December to 11 January.  (Sorry, burglers.  Even if I had told you this before the fact, there really wasn’t much in there to satisfy.)

This was the longest stretch it had been sitting empty in, like, forever.  As least in the four years I’ve lived there.  Needless to say, I was a bit concerned.  Not I’m-going-to-set-up-a-nanny-cam-to-make-sure-everything-is-ok-everyday concerned, but at least I-think-about-it-every-so-often-and-hope-everything-is-ok concerned.

I had left a card for our superintendent (complete with Christmas tip) and let him know we were going to be out of town for that stretch of time, asking him to keep an eye on things and grab our mail if it overflowed.  All seemed well.

The vacation happened.

We come back home (after an exhausting day of traveling, much of which was delayed) at 2am.  We open the door to our apartment and there, in the middle of the kitchen floor, is our window A/C unit.  That was IN the window when we left.  There is the Christmas tree, star akimbo, wearing only half our ornaments.  The rest are on the ground in various pieces.  Curious.

We put down our bags and investigate.  There is no sign of forced entry.  There’s nothing stolen.  There’s nothing broken.  Everything in the apartment is a little sticky.  Everything in the apartment looks like it got wet.  The floors are sticky.  The walls are streaked.  The dishes look like they had dirty water in them at one point.

“There must have been a leak,” we say.  “But why is the A/C moved?  Why did the tree obviously fall?  And why is it not messy?”  One would assume that, if there was a leak, things would be much dirtier and disgusting than they are.  Especially since someone obviously came into our apartment to do something (in theory, fix the leak).  And where did the leak come from?  There’s no origin point in the ceiling or anything.

Confused, we went to bed.

The next day was Sunday, so I couldn’t talk to the super.  It’s his day off.  We cleaned instead.  All the stickiness.  All the warped books.  All the streaks on the walls.  It was so weird.  We couldn’t even ask our cat what had happened because we took her with us!

When I finally caught up with my super, I got the story.  And it all makes sense:

During the deepfreeze that hit the east coast, the heat was cranked up.  We have radiator heat.  The force from the steam must have been so powerful that it popped the cap off the radiator.  Steam billowed into the apartment (for how long, who knows? A day? A week? I shudder at the thought.)  A neighbor saw the steam and thought it was smoke.  They called 911.  The fire department came.  My super couldn’t find the keys to our apartment.  The fire department climbed up the fire escape, busted the A/C out of the window, knocking over the Christmas tree right in front of the window.  

They came in and did whatever needed to happen to fix the radiator, but the place was still moist.  I imagine it was rather like a steam room.  The super and fire department left, closing the door behind them.  The steam could not escape.  Now that it was cooling down in the apartment, it turned to liquid and rained down from the ceiling over everything.  And then we came home at 2am on the 12th of January befuddled to no end.

Thankfully, nothing was damaged, no claims need to be filed.  Some of our books have warped covers, but that’s pretty much it.  Our Fosse-esque steam leak (it’s not really Fosse-esque unless you describe it like this post’s title, but that’s ok) was minor.  All’s well.

Now we just have to keep our eye out for mold!

Good to be home!!  🙂

Sometimes you get lost on an Idaho mountain while snowshoeing.

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Behold the beauty of the western United States. (Click the panorama for a larger picture) Marvel in its magnificence. Kowtow to its comeliness.  This is where I have been for the past week.

Here, in the shadow of the Rockies, I traveled with my girlfriend’s family north into Winter itself and rented a cabin in the wilderness.

(NOTE: It is odd how I left the east coast at a balmy 45 degrees Fahrenheit only to discover it is now in the negatives!  Got out of there just in time, I’d say.  It hovers in the positive single digits here at its worst.)

On our first full day in rural snow-country, we went snowshoeing.  It was my first time.  Apparently there is usually a lot more snow on the ground than the good six inches under our feet at the trail-head.  This was the lowest elevation on which we would stand today, though, so I was already sufficiently impressed.

After strapping on the odd contraptions and grasping poles in hand, we set off.  After a bit, we came upon this helpful map:

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After studying the trails for a bit, we decided to head right to the summit of the hill and gaze upon nature’s visage.  Just because I’m such a helpful helper, I snapped a picture of it with my iPhone (its only use, since we were well out of cell service).  And we were off!

We made it to the summit and beheld the view (see first picture).  We stopped for a selfie:

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And then we made our way down.  And no, we were not going to simply reverse our snowshoes and retrace our steps.  We were witnesses Gaea’s spendor!  We consulted the iPhone picture (good on me, right?) and mapped a route back to the trailhead.

An hour later, we found ourselves blazing our own trail through up to two feet of snow.  So we backtracked.  Then we found ourselves on a cross-country ski trail.  So we backtracked.  Then we found what we thought was the correct snowshoe trail, but this only made a tiny loop and reconnected with the cross-country ski trail again.  So we had to make a decision.

It was now late afternoon, the sun sitting low in its easy chair on the horizon.  Something must be done.  It was decided we would follow the ski trail.  After all, based on the map (thank you very much), this trail should take us directly to “The Hub,” wherein we first saw the sign and snapped the life-saving picture itself.

(NOTE: I was pretty proud of myself for taking that picture)

The ski trail, however, brought us to a crossroads of ski trails that existed nowhere on the map.

Peril.

After more discourse, one of us discovered he had a bit of cell reception.  He fired up the ol’ iPhone and turned on his compass (thanks, iOS).  South was the direction of choice, because that led back to the trailhead and parking lot.  We turned right and made our way down that ski trail.

After a bit we came to another “hub,” complete with several intersecting ski trails and THIS ONE HAD A MAP!  Huzzah!  Unfortunately, it was a completely different map than the one we had previously seen:

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Perplexed as we were, we decided – dash it all! – we would just follow the ski trail all the way back to “The Hub” (the original), and then follow the actual snowshoe trail back to the trailhead.

Glorious day when we happened upon that original sign with the original map.  Our error, it seemed, lie not with what direction in which we chose to go, but with the fact that the first map we came upon was not specifically a winter map.  It had all sorts of hiking trails on it, too.

Sigh.

Safe and sound, though, we made it back to the cabin, where we could marvel upon the splendor of our cat:

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Sometimes Connecticut is the best place. PART THREE

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On our final full day in Connecticut, we woke up early.  After eating a quick breakfast, we headed up to Mystic, Connecticut.

It was Nerd Heaven.

Our first stop was the Mystic Seaport, which is an entire complex set up as a 19th-centry seaport.  SO MANY DEMONSTRATIONS.  SO MANY COOL SHIPS TO WALK AROUND.  SO MANY COOL OLD STOREFRONTS TO WALK INTO.  SO MUCH LEARNING. 

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Neat old ship! It had a fascinating history too detailed to recount here.

I cannot stress enough how much fun it was to watch an anchor being brought up or to watch an open-sea fishing demonstration or to walk through an actual old whaling ships.  Those areas that were not equipped with actual demonstrators in them doing something (blacksmiths, coopers, most of the ships) had wonderful educational plaques and reconstructions that you could read.  And then there’s the actual thrill of walking through another world – a world without computers and cellphones and electronic navigational equipment.  A brilliant place.  Just brilliant.

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That one’s mine. That cute girl there.

On that day, we wanted to stay forever.  We, however, had bought a double ticket that gave us admission to the Mystic Aquarium as well, so we begrudgingly left the seaport and headed across town to the aquarium, which was super-fun as well.

We both had grown up with the advantage of great aquariums, but this was no less fantastic than others we’ve seen.  The most entrancing animals present were the beluga whales.  I likened them to a cross between a dolphin and a dog.  They swam like dolphins – graceful, playful, upside-down, right next to the glass to show off for the kids – but there was something more (less?) there than you see in dolphins.  It was almost an openness, a simpler way of looking at things.  I know they’re not as intelligent as dolphins, so perhaps it was really just the lesser intelligence I was seeing.  But it was still charming to watch and something that I had never seen up close.

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Clarification: we saw actual beluga whales as well as plastic ones.

My one point of contention with the aquarium was the touch tank.  UGH.  I cannot abide by families (read: parents) who have no awareness of others around them. 

Yes, Ma’am – my girlfriend and I are standing right behind your child, waiting for a turn to touch the sting rays.  Yes, you’ve been there for ten minutes on your phone and your kid hasn’t even tried to put his hand in the water once since you first plopped him down there.  Yes, every other person around the tank is doing the same thing, i.e. – not paying attention to anyone but themselves.

After an extended wait, however, we managed to steal a spot and touch the ray.  After we did so, we left to make way for others who wanted to do the same.  How hard was that??

We ate dinner at a charming little place and made plans to come back the next day.

Which we did.

After a harrowing laundry experience the next morning (we may have overestimated the drying power of the standard Maytag), we loaded up the car and left our little house in Fairfield.  Then we drove right back up to Mystic Seaport.

After all, there was so much we didn’t do the first time!  The planetarium, the hauling up of the anchor, the exhibit on figureheads, the small boat museum!  We strolled the grounds a second time (AND STILL DIDN’T HAVE TIME TO DO EVERYTHING) and realized we had to head back home.

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The drive back was lovely as we listened to showtunes, refreshed from our New England vacay.

We dropped off the rental car and greeted our cat with open arms.
We were home.

Sometimes Connecticut is the best place. PART TWO

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We awoke with a wandering song singing in our hearts (Or something like that).  Vacation Day number two was our traveling day, and travel we certainly did.

Setting out early in the morning, we drove northward to Gillette Castle State Park, which is somewhere in between East Haddam and Old Lyme.  Here we purchased admission to the park’s main attraction, Gillette Castle.

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In 1914, William Gillette, the actor most famous for being the first Sherlock Holmes, built a huge frickin’ castle.  Out of stone.  He custom-made all the doors in the thing.  He created a secret passageway where he could spy on guests to decide if he wanted to come down to greet them.  He created a trick bar that only he knew how to open.  And he built a train.  And a railroad station.  And a track.  Just for fun.  He was a really cool, funny, fun dude.

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After eating lunch on the edge of a swamp (much prettier than you’re envisioning right now in your heads), we set off in search of more fun.  It wasn’t more than a half-hour before we stumbled upon The Goodspeed Opera House.  Of course, I said.  This is where it is!  I’ve never been.  Nor have I, said Becca.

On a whim, we thought we’d see if there were any seats left for that evening’s performance of “Hello, Dolly!”  Lo and behold, there were!  With a quick swipe of the Visa, we were the proud occupants of balcony seats.  Serendipity.  Sometimes you drive past a regional theater and just pop in for a show.  It happens.

With the afternoon still free, we drove into Hartford to the Mark Twain House.  Right next door?  The Harriet Beecher Stowe House!  Why tour one when you can tour both?  On that beautiful afternoon, we saw where two of the century’s pre-eminent authors wrote some of their best work.  We saw the actual desk where Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn sprang to life.  Pretty neat, if I do say so myself.

But we musn’t tarry too long, we said.  We found – again, thanks to Siri – a nice little Mexican restaurant on the way back to East Haddam where we satiated our appetites.  Then, with a quick trip to an ice cream parlor, we were set to see some theatre!

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The Goodspeed Opera House, for those of you who haven’t been, is lovely.  Gorgeous architecture and a really neat history.  The production featured the Australian Tony Sheldon as Horace Vandergelder, whom you may recall from his Tony-nominated performance in “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.”  After living in NYC and watching productions with such a jaded eye, it was glorious to be in a theater with hundreds of people who came in that night specifically to enjoy themselves and who succeeded marvelously.  A riotous good time.

Pooped from another long day, we made our way back to the house in Fairfield.

The next day was BEACH DAY (Take Two).  There’s not much to say about Beach Day except that it was perfect.  The weather was perfect – sunny and warm, but with a nice little breeze every now and then.  The beach was perfect – not too crowded, but not awkwardly vacant, either.  The water was perfect – the ocean was cool and refreshing and not as dirty as the more populated commercial beaches.  We enjoyed ourselves thoroughly.  After a lobster roll for Becca and a chicken sandwich for me, we even squeezed in another movie.

Sunburnt and happy, we prepared ourselves for our next and last day of vacation, which was better than either of us could have dreamed.

Stay tuned for PART THREE, the final exciting chapter in the amazing Connecticut vacation!

Sometimes Connecticut is the best place. PART ONE

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After a crazy busy summer filled with a massive overhaul of my novel for my agent, house managing a sold-out run of an Off-Broadway show, and spending three weeks playing war for Army, a vacation was in order. 

An acquaintance of my gal Becca just bought a house in Fairfield, CT right by the beach and was going to be out of town for the month of August.  Take it, she said.  Use my beach pass, she said.  Have a good time, she said.  

Thank you, we said. 

So one Wednesday evening we rented a car, packed it up with our belongings, and drove north.  We knew that her son, a twenty-something who is normally off in school somewhere, was going to be present for the duration.  Oof, I said.  Human interaction.  Easy, Becca said.  It’ll be ok. 

When we arrived late that night, the son was not at home.  He had left the key under the mat for us, however.  So we grabbed our bags and went up to the door. 

We were a few feet from the front door when we heard a meow.  Suddenly, out from the bushes, springs a mangy cat.  Oh dear, I said.  Must be a stray.  Its fur was matted and scraggly and its meow was deep and scratchy.  

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This cat is more well-groomed than our Connecticut cat.

As we tried to open the door, the cat tried to go inside.  Hey there, I said.  Don’t go in there.  We shooed it away.  It didn’t move.  I walked away and called it so that Becca could at least get inside.  It didn’t move.  We set down the leftovers from our fast food dinner on the other side of the driveway.  It certainly appreciated our offering but came right back as soon as we went to open the door. 

Is it their cat, I asked.  It can’t be, Becca said.  She said nothing about a cat.  It must be a stray.  It has no collar and no tag. 

Finally we managed to get inside and slam the door in the cat’s face.  Thank goodness, we said.  Then we set about exploring the house, which was lovely.  We were offered the master bedroom on the third floor, which we gladly took.  We settled in for a good night’s sleep. 

In the middle of the night an incident occurred to which I was not privy, as I was sound asleep.  There was a knock on the door and a shadowy figure opened it up.  Hello, it said.  Becca, sleepily, responded in kind.  Did you feed the cat, it asked.  No, Becca replied.  OK, it said.  Have a good night. 

SO IT WAS THEIR CAT!  The epiphany may not be as profound as it was in person, but you get the idea.  We basically just told a cat to go screw itself because we weren’t going to let it in its own house or feed it either.  C’est la vie. 

The next day was a bit overcast, but we had already decided to do the beach.  It’s our vacation, darnit, so let’s start it off right.  After quietly taking the beach chairs from the garage (since the son’s bedroom was right across the hall from the garage), we loaded up our rental car and set off to find breakfast. 

Find it we did.  Siri, ever helpful, suggested Home On The Range, a small café in a quaint downtown area.  It had, without a doubt, the absolute best French Toast I’ve ever eaten.  The sweet little old lady that runs the place works there all by herself, taking the order, cooking up the grub, and clearing away your plates and serving as cashier when you’re through.  We would spend two more mornings savoring her wares. 

After we were stuffed, we went to the beach.  And there was nobody there.  Oh sure, there was a lap-swimmer.  And a couple strolling.  And an old man sitting on a beach chair.  But that’s it.  It was deserted.  The ominous-looking storm clouds may have had something to do with that. 

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Still, we were determined to have a good time.  Let’s not take the chairs, we said, as we may not be here long.  It’s a good thing we didn’t.  After frolicking a bit in the waves, Becca set out to carve words in the sand while I took pictures. 

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Artie plus Becca plus Rising-Tide Cat.

Then, after about ten minutes of watching the tide come in ridiculously fast, we skedaddled.  It was no more than a few seconds after we got back into our car that the clouds burst open and a monsoon began. 

What does one do on vacation in Connecticut at ten in the morning when it’s raining?  Why, go to the movies of course!  Eating popcorn and drinking soda for brunch, we sat with one other couple in a giant movie theater and watched The Butler (which I highly recommend, by the way). 

Back outside, the sky was no longer angry, but it wasn’t too happy yet, either.  What to do?  Go to the Barnum Museum, of course!  It’s so close, after all, in Bridgeport, CT.  Let us away, I said. 

Unfortunately, the Barnum Museum was hit pretty hard by a tornado a few years ago and is still not open to the public.  Sigh.  Back to the house to regroup. 

Upon arriving, we were met with a shirtless, skinny, tattoo-covered young man sitting on the front stoop smoking a cigarette.  The son, we guessed.  We guessed correctly.  After exchanging pleasantries and learning that the cat did, in fact, belong to the family, we scooted upstairs to plan our evening.

 We decided to venture north to New Haven, to The Original Frank Pepe Pizza Napoletana.  It’s this amazing little pizza place for which people line up down the street to get a table.  It’s been around since 1925 in the same location and owned by the same family.  Check is out at pepespizzeria.com.  It was scrumptious.  Certainly different than our usual New York City pie, but amazing nonetheless. 

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Only slightly tipsy from the entire bottle of wine we drank, we decided then to stroll the campus of the Ivy League member Yale University.  We imagined ourselves in more scholarly pursuits than our art schools offered us.  We dreamed of singing in the Whiffenpoofs and eating in the Spoonery.  And we watched all the kids move into their dorms for the start of the semester.  None of them looked smarter than us, we decided, so we totally should have gone to Yale. 

Because Becca had never been, and because there was one right by the entrance to the highway, and because we had nothing better to do and because we were on vacation, gosh darnit, we went to IKEA.  This activity needs no greater explanation.  It was pure, unadulterated, built-it-yourself furniture bliss.  We didn’t buy anything, but boy howdy did we make some I-want lists.

Full of pizza, popcorn, French Toast, and tired from a fun-filled day, we made our way back to the house to sleep.

It was a good first day of vacation. 

Stay tuned for PART TWO in my next post!

Sometimes your day isn’t the best one.

I am currently sitting on Amtrak train number 649 out of New York, NY heading to Harrisburg, PA. I am going home.
Not “home” in the sense of my clothes and my bed and my toys and my cat, but “home” as in that inestimable Homestead from whence I sprang oh-those-many years ago. Pennsyltuckey. Ma and Pa. The incubator of my impressionable younger self.
Normally, I take a rental car. Why, you ask? Well, because it ends up being cheaper, dear readers. To rent a car for five days is actually less expensive than a train ticket there and back for my lady love and me. (Oh, Amtrak, where has the hey-day of working-man train travel gone?) Plus, I get to drive right up to the house as opposed to making my folks pick me up at a train station 45 minutes away. So all in all, a better deal, no?
Oh, dear readers, today was fraught with peril from the first. I should have smelled it in the air but, alas, my olfactory organs failed me in this endeavor.
My gal and I went for lunch before I was to pick up the car (she has to work the rest of the week so she’ll be joining me and the fam on Friday eve to spend the weekend with us).
I put on my jaunty straw hat (heck – I’m going on a mini vacay!), strapped on my overstuffed backpack, and set out. Becca was dressed well because she has several auditions and meetings today in her very important arts-y life.Her hair was up and blown and her shoes were tall and suede.
We stepped outside in beautiful summer weather. This was going to be a good day.
We got on the subway and rode downtown. Then things got real.
We come up the stairs to find ourselves in the rain. Sigh. This is not what we wanted. Becca, ever-industrious, took out an umbrella from her bag. She took my poor little straw hat in hand and protected her hair and outfit as much as she could while we trudged to Panera Bread.
AFTER placing our order, our cashier informed us that all the tables were taken so they’d be giving us our food to go. Thanks, Mandy. Super helpful. I glanced out the window to see the sidewalk seating covered in water. Would we have to sit there? Or would we have to find somewhere else to go, under an awning maybe?
Luckily, the gods of NYC were still smiling upon us – or, at the very least, they were indifferent. We managed to secure the smallest table in the joint. It was at the back, crammed between the trash can and the restrooms. A swinging door about three feet led to the kitchen. By the time we left, a queue to pee had formed right beside us.
Forced out by an anxious young woman who had circled the entire seating area and who now asked us outright “Are you done?”, we left.
With the skies still spitting, my love and I parted ways. I carried my straw hat, trying to steer it clear of any noticeable raindrops. I walked a few blocks to Herald Square, where I picked up the uptown F. I got off at Rockefeller Center and walked another block to Enterprise Rent-a-Car.
Now, I’ve rented cars often before, but never from Enterprise. Kayak.com told me they had the cheapest rate this time, though, so I listened to the price-comparing boating craft and made the reservation. I paid for it with my debit card, as I always do with other rental cars.
Anthony greeted me dressed in a white shirt and tie. He shook my hand and wanted to chat about the weather. This was a far-cry different than, say, Alamo, where half-asleep polo shirt-clad workers ask for your card as a form of greeting.
(Side note: I much prefer the half-asleep ones. I don’t like chit-chat, and I don’t like smiley customer service where I’m meant to feel like I’m special. I’m of the New Yorker mindset of get-in-get-out as quick as you can.)
Anyway, he asks for my card. I give him the card I paid with. He says, oh no, not a debit card. A credit card. I say, oh of course. This has happened before. They always like that credit card. Even though one may have a million dollars in your checking account, they want the card with a twenty-dollar limit. Even though I’ve prepaid for the reservation and the money was already taken out. C’est la vie.
I hand him one. Ooh, I’m sorry – do you have another one? This one didn’t go through. Brow furrowed, I give him another. The same story.
Then I think back:
My gal and I had just come from a vacation in Connecticut (more deets on that to come), but I know neither of my cards are maxed out… I used the card on vacay since its easier to track purchases. In fact, at the end of this month, I will rectify those purchases by including extra in my credit card bill payment.
Anthony: “We need enough for a $600 credit hold.”
I furrowed my brow again. I didn’t have $600 left on either one?? Embarrassed, I stepped outside to check some balances.
One had $387 left on it. Boo. The other had $589. Double boo. If I would have spent $11 less on vacation by card, this situation would be non-existent, and Anthony would be trying to sell me insurance by now.
Then I came up with a genius plan. Chortling with glee, I called up the credit card company. I told them the situation. I asked them if I could pay off a few hundred right now. They said certainly, but the credit balance wouldn’t reflect it until next month. Curses!!
Then another idea crossed my mind. Rushing back inside, I asked Anthony if I could give him a credit card number. I know that I could get somebody to give me their card number so I could place a credit hold on it. After all, it won’t be charged (unless I total the car, that is, but that’s beside the point). He shakes his head. No. It has to be swiped. And you really can’t take this bank card, which has Visa on the side, WHICH IS RUN AS A CREDIT CARD EVERY TIME I GO TO A BODEGA? Nope.
Drat and double drat!
Curse my paycheck-to-paycheck existence! Curse my what-I-thought-was good planning by putting everything for this last vacation on the card and then paying it off. Curse not looking ahead to see this coming.
Defeated, I informed Anthony that I needed to cancel my reservation. I think he took pity on me and didn’t charge me a cancellation fee (that I know of) and said I’d get my money back in about 24 hours. (Again, since I had already pre-paid!)
Then I looked at a train schedule. There was a train leaving at 2:11that got in at 5:35, and one leaving at 2:44 that got in at 6:35. Why two trains, otherwise exactly the same, on the same track, going to the same place, travel at different speeds, I do not know. I looked at the time. It was 2:00.
I could never make the 2:11, I told myself, so I decided on the 2:44. I came to terms with the fact that I’d be getting in an hour later.
I walked the block (in the rain) to the subway station. I went back down to Herald Square (from whence I had just come, mind you). I walked two blocks (in the rain) to Penn Station. I got there at 2:13. I went down and bought a ticket for the 2:44.
Then I see that the 2:11 is still boarding. I could have gotten in an hour earlier.
SIGH.
I wait the half-hour. Then our track is announced – 13. How auspicious.
We begin to file toward the track stairwell when someone taps me on the shoulder. It is a policeman wearing body armor. “Please step aside, sir, so we can check your bag.”
Great.
I go up to his compatriots, who stand ominously beside their terrorist-detector. They wear white gloves and trace my shoulder strap with a piece of cloth. Ah yes, I think. That’s where most people keep their bombs. Of course.
The machine does not give a reading, positive or negative. The policemen look at me as though I’ve broken the machine telepathically. I watch the line of passengers all board the train before me. They’re all picking their seats, siting where they want… The machine is turned off and back on. They rub the other shoulder strap. We wait patiently. The machine beeps. I pass. I am not a threat to Homeland Security.
They tell me I can skip the line. Happily, I go up to the Amtrak employee examining tickets at the stairway.
She scowls and tells me to get to the back of the line. I say I had my bag checked. She doesn’t believe me. I can see it in her eyes. But she lets me pass.
Wet, defeated, and embarrassed, I board the train.
Now, in my seat, I watch the rain fall. My phone just buzzed. Flash flood warning for most of the east coast.
Harrisburg, my destination, is right on the Susquehanna River. The train station has closed before due to flooding.
Here’s hoping I make it there, but today’s track record hasn’t been great.
Keep your fingers crossed.

UPDATE:
Around fifteen miles from Harrisburg, the train slowed to a crawl. It took us an hour to cover this distance due to “signal problems ahead.” I arrived fifty minutes late. Still pouring rain. Oof.