This is a vacation?

Sunday’s Washington Post devoted too many tape-measured inches to a fitness boot camp vacation. Isn’t that an oxymoron? Imagine spending three precious vacation days at Camp Lejeune. Gee, where do I sign up?

An hour from Tampa you can pay $1,475 recession dollars for 3 days of punishing activities such as a 4-mile beach run before breakfast. If that doesn’t float your avoirdupois, step on a scale at 6am (A splendid way to start the day.) Schlep a 5-gallon water bottle tipping the scales at 45 pounds around a gym. Scuttle crablike across a basketball court. Meet with a nutritionist. Gloriosky!

 Gee, where have I been all my life? 

But wait, for all the self-inflicted corporal punishment there are mealtime rewards: Yogurt and berries! Turkey burgers! Brown rice and broccoli!

 Istanbul is so last year. I want to suffer!

 I don’t know about you, but I favor strolling, climbing museum stairs and bending my elbow (sometimes both) when I leave home. Travel for me is a chance to exercise my eyes and ears and mind. And dining options. I don’t want to compete with—or look like—Isabelle Caro.

 Forget jogging suits, working out in sweaty gyms, watercress and tofu. 

Bring on comfy jeans, walking outdoors, meat and potatoes. And dessert.

Spam Sandwich

Littering my Inbox is more spam than I ingested during three summers at Girl Scout camp. If I had a big jar of yellow mustard and some Wonder bread I could throw a picnic for the Mid-Atlantic.  

I don’t need a physics lesson to know that nature abhors a vacuum. Every time I hit “unsubscribe” to a teaser for something I can live without (such as cheese-filled brats with a pound of bacon tossed in if I order before Easter), a dozen or so new messages pop up to fill the void.

Today I  scanned ads about breast and penis enlargers (No thanks, I like ‘em all  just the way they are), congressional representatives seeking donations, teeth whiteners, personalized calendars, domestic partnerships (I’ll pass), wrinkle removers and fillers (Not if there are needles involved), books I should buy, belly fat minimizers (20 years too late), a bracelet that will “increase strength, flexibility and balance” (Will it increase my  IQ?); gluten-free recipes (hey, I like gluten!), reverse mortgages, yoga retreats, silk underwear (It’s  97° on my deck), a virtual tour of Miss Ollie’s in Jackson, Tennessee, a retirement community in Tierra del Fuego (My kids would never forgive me), Christian Singles/J Date/ Singles, bladder control, and a rodeo in Kalispell. Some smartski marketer asks, “Want to make your book a bestseller?” (Hell, yes. How stupid do I look?).

 I’ve entertained ads for erectile dysfunction, a trip to Antarctica (only $12k), tango lessons, Vocus, to “monitor my brand on social media in near-real time” (is Bill Maher involved?), and cancer/heart disease/MS/diabetes/cerebral palsy/overeaters anonymous/Red Cross/short people organizations.

An airline invited me to fly to Columbus for $49 (Sorry, $49 too much). I’ve dodged pitches for premium business cards “for only $5,” the First Ever Colorado Virtual Beer Tasting (What fun is that?), and the premiere of “Death and Cremation” at Fox Studios. (Go ahead, look it up if you don’t believe me.)

Of the 100 or more announcements clogging my pc’s arteries daily like nasty LDLs, six or seven are work-related, a few are from friends and family, and one is from a Nigerian gentleman with a pile of dough he’s dying to gift me—if only I’ll send him a check because his aunt is ill and, while I’m at it, include my Social Security number.

Brightening my day is the occasional flirtation from a balding blast from the past who thinks we should give it another shot (after 48 years).

If  I had the discipline to delete messages without first inspecting them, I’d conserve  precious hours each day. I could take up cross-stitching! Bake a soufflé. Finish my memoir, Tales of a Fallen Pork Roll Queen. But I’m weak. And, my luck, I would miss the one message sure to bring me riches and fame.

Every time I double-click on Outlook, I see my life passing before my eyes. And that’s something I can ill afford. So, please, stop e-mailing me. Unless you’re in Nigeria and have a lot of money.

Something Special in the Air

Images of pueblos, azure skies and fry bread quickly receded on a recent trip home from New Mexico. 

Grudgingly, I rose at 3am for the first leg of my journey, from Albuquerque to Dallas. (Debbie and her friends may have done Dallas, but this cheerleader avoids Big D like a full-blown case of herpes.) Lucky me, I had a long layover before my connecting flight. 

Around noon I ordered a beer in the airport cantina. “You have to eat something,” the bartender said. Have to?

“It’s Sunday. You have to eat something. It’s an old Texas blue law.” I added this to my life list of dislikes about the Cowboys’ home and ordered a teensy bag of $2 potato chips. Thank God, nobody asked me to praise the Lord for the bounty I had received.

We pushed back from the gate a few minutes late. I took it as another omen that all was not right deep in the heart of Texas.  

With everyone buckled and electronic devices stowed, the (un)American Airlines pilot announced: “Bad weather ahead, outside of Baltimore. We’ll have to wait for further instructions.”  What? I’d just spoken with a friend who said it was sunny and dry at home. Where did the pilot go for the forecast? Pee-wee’s Playhouse?

We taxied and queued up for takeoff. Sky King returned with an update. “Someone on the plane is ill. We have to return to the gate.”

After reattaching to the jetway via retractable umbilicus, a washed-out-looking woman deplaned. My diagnosis, mild heat stroke. Show of hands, please, who will be next?

Inside the pressure cooker, broasting under the blazing Texas sun, my 24-hour deodorant went down in flames. Passengers groused. Babies wailed. The aroma of doody diapers wafted through the cabin.

I recognized the phlegmy sound of throat-clearing. “According to FAA rules, we need to refuel before we can depart.” Of course. We’d burned more than an hour’s worth on our round-trip excursion to the runway and back. “We’re trying to locate the fuel truck.” Hellooo … At the world’s eighth busiest airport, they don’t know where a fuel truck is?  

By now I’m approaching homicidal. It’s hotter than hell. NO ac. NO fuel. NO food. NO freaking flight. And I’m still stuck in Dallas. But, if I can hang on another few hours, I muse, I’ll be able to order a beer without food.  

In his smoothest Peter Graves voice, Captain Clarence Oveur updates the hostages. “Sorry, folks. This is an old TWA plane. We can’t get air-conditioning until we’re airborne. Thanks for your patience.” Patience? I’m poised to storm the cockpit with a coffee stirrer.  

Flight attendants hand out water and apologetic (and apoplectic) looks.  

Meanwhile—as if this were not entertainment enough—I am seated next to a woman who alternately hums and talks to herself.  “How ‘bout this heat?” I offer weakly to interrupt her monologue. She glares.

I worry that the security scanner missed the butterfly knife wedged in her thong. I’d better not nod off. She may have a vendetta against writers. Or grandmothers. Or my turquoise tank top.  

A multitasker, she continues to hum and mutter while reading a book: Women, Food, and God. Wasn’t Eat, Pray, Love more than enough fluff for one decade? From the corner of my eye I watch as she highlights passages. I check Amazon. The book exists.     

I’m having a meltdown. I want out of: this seat, this plane, this world where a bull-goose looney highlights in Neon yellow narrative connecting females, fressing and the Almighty.  

More than two hours after boarding, we taxi to the runway again. Crossing my fingers, I half expect the pilot to announce we’re returning to the gate because his hemorrhoids have flared up.  

By some miracle, we lift off.  My seatmate maintains her solo conversation for the duration of the flight. On landing at BWI, I feel deep gratitude that she hasn’t stabbed me with her highlighter, and we didn’t crash or return to Dallas. 

I crawl into my house more than 12 hours after beginning the 1,600-mile journey. Hell, I could have flown from the East Coast to Honolulu, had a Mai Tai, and surfed the Pipeline.

I start to unpack. The TSA has left me a “Notice of Baggage Inspection.” The caps of my weekly pill organizer are open, the contents commingled with socks covered in red New Mexico clay. I’ll bet the agent was disappointed that the large capsules held Glucosamine Chondroitin, not hashish.    

The coup de grace occurs when I discover my jar of award-winning salsa from El Pinto restaurant has gone missing. Janet Napolitano will hear from me. A lousy flight is one thing. But nobody messes with my salsa.

tweet tweet tweet: my exciting life

 6:45  restless night.  never again watch “the shining” after dark. 

 6:50  bring in the washington post. 

 6:51  finish reading it. 

 7:15  strawberries are mushy. bleck. 

 7:21  brush and floss teeth. 

 7:30  in oral distress.

  7:40  floss stuck between canine and premolar. gum inflamed & bleeding. 

 8:11  note: next time, disinfect masonry nail before digging out floss. 

 8:38   put second load in the washer.

 9:00  mary ann’s line is busy. 

 9:03  line still busy. 

 9:09  e-mail mary ann: get off the fone. 

 9:10  staring at screen. 

 9:11  must sweep cobwebs. later.

  9:16  can’t get motivated. 

 9:18  ant is crawling across the monitor. 

 9:22  frigging neighbor’s dogs are barking. 

10:07 finger jammed from deleting spam. 

10:50 have a paragraph (begun last week) I can live with. tired. 

11:14 deadly duo: writer’s block and constipation. 

11:58 stomach growling.

12:01 hungry. resist!  be strong! u can do it. 

12:03 really hungry. 

12:07 really really hungry. 

12:18 teeth marks in forearm. 

1:02  sleepy.  no more fudge sundaes after 4-egg omelette.

2:05  page one done.  at this rate, will finish novel by 2024.

2:06  exhausted. maybe a brief lie down … 

3:20  cat napped.  hungry. 

3:30  find 14 PB cookies, marked “leftovers,” in freezer. a dozen are history. 

3:32  walk to the mailbox. more estate planning workshops. what estate? 

3:34  exhausted.

3:50  finish cookies. 

4:07  watching oprah. she needs to lose dr. phil on her next diet. 

5:00  cocktail time. olives or lemon peel? 

5:20  call mac to pick up reese’s.  all out. withdrawal setting in. 

6:00  laundry.  50+ years later, still can’t fold contour sheets. 

6:20  thinking about dinner. 

6:40  make enough pasta and pesto sauce for 2 meals. eat both.

7:10  sleepy. 

7:30  run up and down stairs before dessert. 

8:30  catch up on phone calls. 

9:05  dust pollen from furniture. 

9:20  discard dead flowers. 

9:30  can’t stand the excitement. 

10:05  exfoliate, shower, shave, cleanse, lubricate, pluck, brush, floss (ouch!), rinse. 

10:30  read the new yorker in bed. 

11:00  turn off radio. 

11:05  goodnight moon.


A friend, invited to speak at a conference on how to organize, asked for helpful tips on how I manage my office. 

If she’d ever glimpsed my workspace, she would have deleted my name from her e-mail blast before hitting SEND. 

For in the loft office, 6 steps up from my tidy bedroom, works a derelict.  

I may be the most disorganized working person in the universe. It’s almost laughable, since I relish taking charge in other aspects of my life, striving for order and efficiency.

This is a woman who empties wastebaskets, wipes countertops and runs vinegar through the coffeemaker with disturbing regularity.

Yet in my office, I’m a slob.

How slobby am I?

Let me count the ways …

 Not a square inch of white desktop is visible.

To the left of my monitor, a crystal paperweight anchors a stack of to-do notes, some from 1998.

Horizontal files cover the floor: one for materials related to the memoir I’m writing, another for my Frommer’s guidebook, a third for travel pieces I’m working on, a fourth for unclassifiable flotsam. 

The utility table I bought several years ago for deck barbecues and dinner parties I never host, groans under piles of periodicals, newspaper clippings (yes, I still clip newspapers) and assorted stuff I need to go through when I have nothing better to do.  

Under the table you’ll find milk cartons full of maps and travel-related memorabilia and  tax info (just in case Uncle Sam pays a call to find out why I work so many hours and earn less than a 16-year-old hamburger-flipper).  

Despite the disarray, I  can usually find what I need within a week. 

I understand why my M.O. shouts dysfunctional to anyone considered sane. And it works for me.

I’ve never won awards for linear thinking. But somehow, I get the job done.  

And twice a year—three, if I’m really bored—I shift into ruthless mode and fill several Santa-size sacks with recyclable paper.

Yet my pleasure at having achieved order is short-lived. And I am compelled to restore chaos. The sooner the better.

In between these search-and-destroy missions, I live in fear that someone–my agent, editor or, worse yet, my mother–will arrive unannounced and discover my dirty little secret.


Three Cheers for Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D- Florida) gets my vote this National Women’s History month.


A model for multitasking, she juggles the roles of Congresswoman, wife and mother, commuting regularly between Capitol Hill, where she represents Florida’s 20th District, and her home in the Sunshine State.


In her five years in Congress, she has garnered widespread attention, support and respect for her quick thinking, passion on the issues and perseverance. With aplomb, she takes on the tough issues and colleagues on both sides of the aisle.


If you’ve caught her on the tube, you know she’s a force majeure. She may look as though a stiff breeze would knock her down, but this lady is a stately palm, bending in the wind.


And now she steps into the center stage spotlight to assume a new role, perhaps the greatest of her life—that of spokesperson for early breast cancer detection among women 40 and under.


No dilettante, she recently disclosed that in 2008, while serving her constituency and stumping for Hillary and Barack, she underwent seven surgeries for breast cancer, including a bilateral mastectomy and removal of both ovaries.


This she did during recesses, missing only slightly more than 3 percent of congressional floor votes. (I can’t help wondering how her colleagues records stack up for the same period.)


Except for telling a few family members, close friends and associates, she kept the lid on her illness until she had recovered and could reassure her children that mom was okay.


For many women, undergoing breast cancer treatment is labor enough, sapping their physical and emotional strength. Keeping it under wraps? Next to impossible.


While exuding fortitude and resilience, Rep.Wasserman Schultz is not unique. Or alone. Today approximately 240,000 women in this country have breast cancer.


Membership in this sorority carries a certain gravitas. That she is in a position to help others has become her latest challenge.


By introducing the Early Act, a bill to raise awareness among women in their 20s and 30s about the importance of early detection, she hopes to lower the age for a baseline mammogram (currently set at 40 years), especially among high risk women. 


I applaud her Early Act efforts and wish her well on all battlefields.


Beth Rubin is writing a memoir, Breast Cancer Diary: A Mother’s Journey Through Her Daughter’s Illness.


Pay to Pee


It was only a matter of time.


Pay toilets on planes?  This takes the cake, er, toilet tissue.


In addition to a fee for bags and a bill for beverages (payable by credit card only), travelers now face the (sur)real probability that they’ll have to pay to pee in airline toilets.


Thank you, Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary for adding to the list of affronts guaranteed to further piss-off flyers.


What next, armrest coin slots for seat adjustments? A tax to perambulate the spacious aisle to your seat? A surcharge for sitting in the Exit row? A tariff for turning on the reading light? A fee for farting? (Actually, that one might fly!)


How long before a distressed male wets the floor—or a fellow passenger? Would you penalize someone for bad aim? Or defective equipment?


Houston, we have liftoff.


And what about the women who left their coin purses at home? Recycle empty apple juice cans?


I foresee an addendum to flight attendants’ contracts: “It is further stipulated that you will blot and deodorize all emissions from overfull kidneys or face immediate dismissal without pay.”  


I’d like the concession for toss-away catheters and bags. I could retire last month. These could be sold at airport fast-food stands. “Would you like a drink with your burger? Fries? A piss bag?”


To date, no one has mentioned the next piece: Charging double for pooping. Illogic tells me it’s just a matter of time.


I sniff a grassroots movement in the works.