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3:07 p.m. - 2013-06-03
This Year's Getaway!

So I ran away from home. (I dunno, does it count as 'running away from home' if everybody knows where you're going, when you'll be back, and your husband takes you to the train station? However I enjoy the adventuresome sound of 'running away from home' as opposed to 'I went on a short visit to a friend's'. So selah, I ran away from home.)

How She Got There

The commuter train from Mini-dunk into Secaucus is always a breeze. Okay, more often than not the a/c is broken and there's very little air of any kind- breezy or otherwise- but the trip itself is a snap. Unless you go at hella dark-thirty with all the grim-faced commuters the train is lightly populated. Choice of seats and if you do plump down near some yammering twit on a cell phone who can't shut up for ONE FUCKING SECOND or SHE'LL DIE!!! It's simple enough to go off to another car and find some unconscious drunks to sit by. The drunks are usually pretty quiet. They fart and mumble occasionally but that's it.

Once in Secaucus the trip's tempo picks up speed as this is the convergence point of many, many commuter trains from all points on the compass. ALL the people who arrive in Secaucus want to go to the same place- Penn Station. Trains from Secaucus into Penn Station run every 10 minutes. But the people arriving from Armpit, PA and Cod Pudding, MA and Mecca-lecca-hi-hidey-ho, NJ do not know this. The first time I had to change trains in Secaucus I didn't know this either. Thus to the newbies it becomes a Hunger Games-style race to get off the commuter train, shove your way onto the escalator, jam your ticket through the meter at the electric gates that let you out into the terminal proper, rattle-bang across the big empty floor in the middle (hopefully taking out as many of your competitors as you can with your rolling luggage or 300lb backpack) and get downstairs again to Track G and onto the train to Penn Station. You MUST make that train! There will never, ever, ever be another one and you will be forced to stay in Secaucus, NJ! Forever! Which everyone knows (even the people who live in Secaucus) this is a fate worse than death. There is fuck-all to do in Secaucus, NJ except to stare longingly across the Meadowlands at the glittering wonderfulness of NYC and wait for merciful oblivion to finally take you home to Jesus.

I am an old hand at doing the Secaucus-Penn Station run now. When my train gets there I let all the newbies do their mad scrum at the escalator and wait for the dust to clear. Once upstairs I step over the bleeding corpses of the unfortunate luggage murder victims and head for the ladies room. It's clean. It's quiet. And very seldom is there one of those strange sad smelly old ladies wearing assorted cast-offs sitting just inside the doorway of the loo having a conversation with something she's got tucked inside her coat. Sometimes this is an invisible friend, sometimes it's a half-eaten liverwurst sandwich, sometimes it's a critter, but always always the smelly sad mad woman asks ME to talk it to too. Why? I don't know, guess I just have one of those faces. People are always asking me for directions and whether this is the correct line for tickets or the train to Pasadena or if there's a nice place for lunch nearby too. LA the Helpful Answer Lady who also conveniently speaks the esoteric dialect known as liverwurst sandwich.

I do my biz in Secaucus, refill my water bottle at the drinking fountain and mosey back downstairs to get the shuttle train into the city. By being among the first on the platform I can amuse myself when the next wave of anxious "Don't leave us here!" newbies comes tear-assing down in that same mad, violent scramble as the previous batch. I am a woman of simple pleasures.

As predicted, the weather on Friday was beastly. I had a substantial layover but stayed inside the station. Too fricken hot to go upstairs to the street. 'Treated' myself to lunch at TGI Friday's. I loathe Friday's. The food is pre-digested sludge and the tables are always sticky but there isn't much of a selection of places to eat in Penn Station. The Friday's has replaced the much nicer joint that used to be there. That's the place I had lunch and a fabulous time cheering the World Cup finals with a congenial group of strangers on my way home from a previous trip to Deb's. I guess I should clarify in that there are many, many kiosks and walk-up stands that sell food. Hurry-up, eat it from your hand food. But there's just the one sit-down restaurant. And this being the one holiday I'll get this year I wanted to eat somewhere with forks and a nice server to bring me my food. Crouching along a quiet stretch of wall gnawing on an overpriced bagel or gyro just didn't sound appealing. Besides, there's always the chance I'll get pinned down by the mad sad smelly lady who's out taking a break from her usual place in the toilet and finds me for a chat.

Once I'd eaten and called home to update Mick of my status and whereabouts, I checked the big board, saw my train was running on time and went into the Amtrak waiting area. Score! I found a row of seats right in front of a huge fan. There was an elderly couple at one end of the row then five empty seats. I took up the one on the far end, pulled my book from my purse and settled in. The breeze was nice. My book ('The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake' by Aimee Bender) was amazingly strange and wonderful. All was well in my little world. I'd been reading for about 15 minutes when a thin young man with a scruffy beard, a wildly overstuffed rolling backpack dealie, a laptop tucked under his arm, and some serious B.O. dropped into the seat next to me. He then parked his feet on the backpack dealie, whipped out a headset (jamming me in the ribs a couple times as he untangled the cord), made a desk-lap on his outstretched legs, opened the laptop, plugged in his headset, clacked his fingers on the keyboard and began a long, shouted conversation in what I finally figured out was Brazilian Portuguese.

The nerve! I tried not to let the young man's space-hogging, noise-polluting, olfactory outraging nasty twerpishness bother me, but damn! Even if he'd chosen to put ONE seat between us I might have been okay. The waiting area wasn't very crowded. There were plenty of other places he could have sat down. But nooo. He parked it right next to me and proceeded to stink up my ears, nose, and space. Without once even acknowledging I was there and had been there first. GAH!!!!!! I ran through the list. Male under 30? Check. From a culture of even bigger male privilege than ours? Check. The self-absorbed behavior of the eternally plugged in? Check. (The disgusting body odor could have been from one or all of those three.) Was I wearing my '50, fat, and female' invisibility cloak? Check. I tried. This was my one and only get-away after all and for this wee space of time I didn't have to sacrifice my comfort and devote my attention and patience to and give over my preferences to those of my own men. Choice- I could get into it with the Brazilian dude or I could move.

I moved, but it took some time before I could get my Zen back. This was the whole point of taking a getaway. This was MY time. I was going to see MY friend. I wasn't my guys' minder and tender this weekend. I was allowed to be only for ME. I was going to see my darling with whom I could be wholly myself without censor or artifice. As it is with Stephanie, the time with Deb was all about each of us being the women we are without the baggage and rules that go with all the other places and people in our lives. No one's mother, mate, employee, sister, daughter, whatever. I wear those other hats voluntarily. I do my job(s) well, happily, and without a gun to my head. But when I am off-duty I am fierce about it. Even something as simple as that stinky rude boy crowding me pissed me off.

Heh. I'm on page three already and I haven't even left New York. Sorry. I didn't begin this with the idea I'd write a testimony to my martyrdom and a muttering treatise on All I Do for Them. If nothing else that stinker from South America brought it home to me that I need to be far more proactive about taking time and space for myself far more often than I do now.

Moving on. The train to Baltimore was horrifically overbooked. Leaving NY we chugged away with every car filled to the bursting point and people swaying trying to keep their feet while standing in the aisles. I was lucky. A trio of women taking up a four-square of seats cleared off the purses and such off the one open seat and I plopped down. What a lucky stroke! The ladies I spent the next three hours with were a hoot! A little older than me, kids grown, husbands dead or gone, this group of friends (there were another four in their gang in the next set of seats) were off on just another of the many adventures they'd gone on together. I heard about cruises, trips to Aruba, Vegas, Florida. They'd been going on trips together for almost 20 years and knew how to amuse themselves and have a wonderful time no matter the circumstances. I fell right in. Gladly. We talked and laughed and swapped stories. I picked up some great tips about resorts and venues to try. By the time I got off the train in Baltimore all of my good humor and zest for Me time was back in place and I was ready, ready, ready to start my visit with Deb.

Baltimore and Beyond

She was there. My dear one. The one and only Deb. I raced over to her car in the pickup lane outside Baltimore Penn and after chucking my bag in the back, I hopped in, gave her a seat-belted hug, a wet kiss and our squeals matched those of the car's tires as we peeled out to begin our weekend adventures.

Thus began a conversation that ran for the next two days. Gossip. Memories. Plans. Confidences. Jokes. Tears. Sillies. Sidebars. Snark. Oy, how I adore this woman. And bless the day she came into my life!

After getting back to her place, stashing my stuff, walking the dog, freshening up, and other such necessaries, we hied off for a long leisurely dinner at a local Mexican place. A most enjoyable meal. I'm always amazed at the quality and variety of restaurants in Deb's neighborhood. Sure, it's more populated and slightly less bucolic than it is around here, but her 'burb isn't that much different than mine, yet it's dazzling in its choices.

It was late when we got home and we were both yawning but equally reluctant to go to bed. We stayed up for a while and Talked Serious. I help her. She helps me. We both come away better for it.

Slept in the next day. Oddly enough I woke up several times during the night and was amused when I saw the clock read triple digits every single time. 1:11, 2:22, 3:33, 4:44, 5:55. Somewhere in there I had a nightmare-ish dream I was falling out of bed. It's been a long time since I slept on a twin and though I never did tumble out, the narrow bed required a space-awareness I don't have to have in my own. Also I realized just how spoiled I am by the fantabulous womb I've made for myself at home. Pillow-topped mattress. Memory foam topper. Five pillows of varying densities and stuffing. All piled onto an antique bedstead three feet off the floor, with the window a/c and an oscillating fan aimed right at my poor night-sweat plagued bod. I think my bed is more personal than my toothbrush. Not a ding on Deb's hospitality just an observation about how far I've come since the days when I hardly allowed myself enough soap and warm water to take a decent shower. Not everything about my current life is rugged, make-do, and last on the totem pole.

The next day we shuffled around making a late breakfast, talking (of course!), and not bothering to wash and dress until after noon. Much loving attention was paid to Mr Tini. Who, btw, has the best ears of any dog ever. Expressive. Funny. Charming semaphores of mood and intent.

Deb then made ready for the dinner party and I helped...not! Efficient and enviously self-sufficient Deb got it all ready. Prepared a feast to go on the grill. Marinated beef. Root veggies and peppers. A spinach and strawberry salad I could spend the rest of my life eating nothing but and still die content and happy.

Our guests arrived in due time. How good it was to see them! Mary and Joe showed up first. Joe, of course, is my second-favorite Irishman. (No lesser status implied here, it's just he belongs to Mary and my own dear Mick is first to me.) We caught up and hugged A LOT! Sometimes Mary and I jumping up from our seats just to hug some more and be glad of each other. Say what you must about Andrew and D-land, but he and his dopey blog hosting site have brought me riches beyond counting. Without D-land I wouldn't have Mary or Deb. (Many more too, but I am trying to stick to the narrative here.) Not long after the Best Babe showed up. More hugs and squealing. Articulate, talented, beautiful, BB's huge circle of friends happily overlaps mine like Olympic rings. I was so happy she came! Chat and chips and salsa and stories and laughing.

Just in time for dinner BB's ridiculously attractive husband arrived. With only a brief intro on my last visit, getting to know Steve better was a real pleasure. Over food and drinks we sat at table and had a hilariously good time. Along with Deb's marvelous food and the shared bounty of wine, hard cider, and many bottles of biggity beer (handcrafted, micro-brewed treasures) we entertained ourselves and each other as only six witty, articulate, smart people can. It was like an Algonquin roundtable without the bitchiness and jealousy.

It was EXACTLY the night I'd been hoping for. I sometimes crab and whine about not going and doing crazy stuff during what should have been a misspent youth. However in my mellowing middle-age Saturday night's dinner party was a treasure. No noisy dance club or thundering concert or snitty art gallery opening could hold a lick to just being with good company sharing a great meal and a dozen dozen stories. And if I was odd man out in not having the same geography and longtime shared history it was more than balanced by the genuine interest in my stories and the shared experience that comes from being of an age and of a time if not a place. One thing we all agreed on was how different and probably limited our adventures would have been if the internet had been around when we were young. I feel sorry for my kids. As Boomers and members of Generation Jones we got up to all kinds of stupid shit that without the ever-present eye of YouTube and Facebook we had been free to over-indulge, puke, screw up, hook up, wander, and experiment without witnesses, video evidence, and trolls. We'd been allowed to live out loud without it being BuzzFeed fodder.

After that the time went quick. Not even midnight the guests were gone and the night was over. Deb cleaned up, we talked while I watched. (The woman is aggravating in her refusal of help.) The next morning we had a leisurely breakfast of blueberry muffins. Got shined up. Repacked my bag. And off to the train station we went. Got my train in due time. The trip home was long, too long, hot and smelly. Took the better part of the day. But at the end of it Wolf and Mick were there at the train station waiting to kiss and hug me. Back in Mini-dunk and immediately took up the threads of my regular life. Put my wife and mom hats back on before we even hit the parking lot. Had dinner at the diner. Got home, greeted the pets, changed into my grubbies, checked in on FB. Farted around getting caught up with home and fambly then scrubbed off the travel grime and tumbled into my welcoming bed and slept like a dead thing for 12 hours straight.

Here I am back in my chair, talking to you guys via the magic machine, grateful for the time away and the love of good friends, and vowing to not let it go another three years before I do it again. Deb, I love you. And thanks.


Refreshed and relaxed and delighted with my weekend's adventures, ~LA

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