HOUSEGUESTING

It’s summertime. And with summertime comes traveling. And with traveling comes the expected, and even some unexpected houseguests. Growing up, we had a flow of people popping in pretty much most of the year.

My mother was the epitome of grand hostessing. She laid out the welcome mat on many occasions, especially where my girlfriends were concerned. One pal came over in a panic asking if I’d help her learn to insert a particular feminine hygiene product. She ended up staying three days. I remember being locked in the bathroom and listening to pounding from the other side of the door. Having only two bathrooms with nine siblings, one or four of them were usually in need of relieving themselves. We kept hearing, “What are you two doing in there?” I almost said that I was building a dam with certain impervious material to prevent the downstream into the Red Sea. But I overheard my mother bypassing that graphic delivery telling the knockers, “Use the other bathroom and leave them alone.” Then she yelled through the door, “Girls, make it snappy!” But I figured she of all people should know that plugging up holes can be quite the time consuming and tedious task.

Three other girls came by that week and camped out with our brood. My Mother Hubbard always smiled warmly and let them in. She scrounged food for a dozen anyway, including the dog and cat and hamsters. So a few more mouths made no difference. She didn’t store surgical masks to keep away germs associated with guests who occupied our touching and breathing space. She just served herself fermented beverages the size of swimming pools, and activated an isopropyl plan for everyone else. I’m surprised my mother didn’t stipulate some other stiff rules for overnighters. Like cleaning the toilets, so I wouldn’t have to.

My boyfriends son, daughter-in-law, and two granddaughters moved in for a month until their new place becomes vacant. So my funnyman decided to formulate his own set of house rules.

Papa’s Ten Commandments
1. No laughing or crying while Papa is present, unless the laughing is from Papa’s jokes, which requires mandatory cackling.
2. No television unless the program is approved by a higher authority (Papa).
3. No criticizing the expired dates on kitchen food.
4. The person you call “Mom” is banned from the kitchen, unless she is doing dishes, scrubbing floors, or cleaning out last year’s leftovers from the fridge.
5. All showers & baths should be taken in the back yard, or front yard if preferred.
6. The patio is Papa’s domain, so access is denied to all.
7. From now on, Papa shall be referred to as Handsome, Good-Looking, or Hot Stuff.
8. The outdoor bathroom known as Elvis’s loo (a velvet Elvis hangs above the toilet) is designated for the girls and should stay clean and tidy at all times. Spider webs are to be kept intact since it’s breeding season.
9. Handsome’s home office is strictly off limits. You aren’t even allowed to look inside of it.
10. Your dad will no longer be referred to as Boy, Kunta Kinte or Hey You. From this day forward, you will call him Father, or Great Leader. More rules may apply throughout your stay, and solely decided by Hot Stuff.

Me? I’m a fervid loyalist to houseguests. If their departure is on a Sunday, I like to faithfully start reminding them on Friday afternoon. I’ve even gone to Home Steepo and looked into a guest house addition. But it wouldn’t be financially intelligent of me to have that much privacy. Sacrifices are usually made on my part, like having to share my vodka, along with everything else. Some people like to be anally active in cleaning every square inch of home space before callers arrive. While others like delaying it till the next Olympics, or never. Typically, women guests are hesitant in doing dishes when it may wreck their professional manicures, while men can’t if they are practicing their putting with the homeowners glass goblets or dominating the remote control. This delightful welcome is comparable to the Battle of Balaklava, when ignorance of the Allies failed to gain an ultimate victory.

In my own process of pre-houseguest sanitizing, the first order of business is to snuff out any stray varmints whose colonies are very talented in tainting the contents in every cabinet. Which would minimize any risk of abrasions to my hearing membranes if visitors find a bug in their bed and scream in horror. I get a lot of exercise scrubbing, and probably burn a thousand calories. Two thousand if visitors or my Molly Maid had the sniffles. This last cleaning, I went to my penny jar to tip the housekeeper. So I found it peculiar when she mumbled words that sounded like, “Keep the change you filthy animal.”

Being a houseguest has its drawbacks as well. I salute my friends who give me a guest pass, opening their doors regularly to me. But my dietary aspirations don’t include tofu. Nor do I like dogs sniffing through my suitcase, or a cats hacked up hairballs clinging to my clothes. I did apologize for the exasperation I may have created when I left bloodstains on one friends new towel after slicing myself severely with that sharp razor from her bathroom. Then unbeknownst to me, I left more hues of hemoglobin on her white couch cushions and several droplets on the rug. I liked to think she wasn’t initiating some sort of evolvement from being exceptionally hospitable to being scathingly hostile, with the urge to kick me to kingdom come. I advised her on a good soaking solution, and tried telling her to snag some furniture from Goodwill when company comes. I know my furniture is far too nice to have creases planted in them let alone blood stains. Because when it comes to being a guest, I do whatever I can to help out.

(Posts can be seen in the weekend editions of The Parson’s Sun newspaper in Kansas)

BREAKING BAD

Whenever I lost baby teeth and got paid from pillow casing them, I assumed there were other fairies in the world… like the fern fairy. When I was young, my mother’s plant was in the habit of losing leaves, in which case I chopped up the whole plant and left it under my pillow. I assumed that the more I left, the more money I got. She looked as though she was going to need treatment for a nervous breakdown when I cut the dogs hair and swept it off the dirty floor, then deposited the follicles under her freshly laundered linens. She would have bound me to the bed more permanently if the Fuschia fairy got involved and was part of my plan to extort more cash. I was hard letting go of that habit, yet it became easier when no money was left. I never believed in fairies after that. My mother would tell that story to whoever was standing there long enough to listen. I doubt if the nice young boy who changed our flat tire in the rain while we were stranded was the least bit interested in hearing about dead plants under my pillow.

There are moms who still call their forty year old children to ask them if they left the house with their umbrellas because it could rain. My mother would visit for three decades after I was grown, and it was customary for her to let me know how I should cut lettuce. I wanted to stop buying anything leafy when she was around, but she was a firm believer in having a salad with every meal. I was more inclined to eat potato chips layered with maple syrup than enjoy a garden of greenery loaded with radishes. As time went on, I turned my tensions away from her routine instruction to realizing her worth. I didn’t get through life without wise role models such as my mother and Lucy Arnaz. Now that mom is gone, I miss her advisement. Even her slicing advice.

Every day a neighboring kitty has gotten in the habit of showing up at my door, tilting her head and winking at me as if she’s waiting for me to cough up catnip. It would be nice to have the company to debate such subjects as our national defense system and the collapse of sardine fisheries. I’m sure I could win those disagreements. But she may want to use my bed for a nap, and I’m not willing to share it with fleas. The feline’s daily visits are similar to the Dempsey’s. Someone from that household shows up faithfully to talk about how the world is going to hell in a handbasket. And every day I pray that I have answers, or don’t see them again till one of us moves. I could answer the door incognito by changing my hair color to raven, talking like a pirate, or pretending I was from Peru. But since habits die harder than Bruce Willis’s character, I doubt anything will work.

I got in this huge habit of changing diapers when my children were small. Recently one daughter sent me a cute card that read If it’s any consolation, I’ll change YOUR diapers someday too. I’m quite certain that’s a habit she’ll love having. I just need to educate her now on good bum ointments. That same daughter used gobs of toilet paper every bathroom visit. I swore she was mopping up after a tsunami. Although I am equally in the habit of stretching bathroom stays by letting Calgon take me away while I’m sipping Scnapps. I could easily break that routine by using Mr. Bubble, drinking Alabama slammers, and entertaining myself singing Tiny Bubbles. I sing like a soprano. That, or a drunken sailor. Either way, I should start the habit of being just like Jennifer Love Hewitt who bathes in a tiara. I’ve also gotten in this horrible habit of ramming my toes into end tables which forces a dramatic death cry that can probably be heard in Cape Canaveral. That’s why my neighbor left me a note one day quoting Elsie De Wolfe who said: Be pretty if you can, be witty if you must, but be quiet if it kills you.

When traveling long distances, it’s become such a ritual of having to make sure I get oil changes and have decent tires so my car has the physical strength to keep going. I rarely get my kicks off Route 66 if there isn’t a service station within miles of barren heated badlands. Luckily the Shell company had the sense to place one within four hundred miles of each other making the Mojave much more interesting sight-seeing. If stranded, I may have to kill a king cobra and eat it to survive, and hope one doesn’t kill me first. I don’t want a habit of approaching hissing things of any kind.

It’s become a tradition to pay bills. But I’m trying hard to figure a way out of it. If I could get someone to replace the bushes with poison dart frogs near the electric, gas and water meters, it may detour utility readers for a period of say, permanency. Although whether I get more bills or not would be contingent upon stalwart meter men standing a great distance away and using a telescopic lens, or city government officials determining to use a space camera to decipher the datum. If I didn’t have the habit of writing checks every month, I could spend more time relaxing and reading Leek Farming News. It’s important to know what the favorite vegetable is in Mesopotamia, and if they were a habitual meal for Emperor Nero.

It’s enough that I have bad habits of my own. Knowing me I’d break old ones, but start new ones. I like Mark Twain’s idea better. He said, “Nothing so needs reforming like other people’s habits.”

(Posts can be seen in the weekend editions of The Parson’s Sun newspaper in Kansas)

SH SH SH SH SH SH SUGARTOWN

On one hand, I feel a tremendous sense of sympathy for my eldest daughter, caused by the fact that she held a slumber party for my granddaughter in celebration of her tenth birthday. Which in recollection of my past party experiences, was probably the only time I wanted to chug Drano. If I had to do it today, I would be filling a prescription for Xanax and popping them like Reese’s Pieces.

On the other hand, what goes around, comes around. My daughter claims she never had a sleepover. I beg to differ. I vaguely remember several pre-teen rabble-rousers stomping through my petunias and powdering their noses with my baking soda. Beyond that is a blur. Except that my neighbor Delia came over to calm my nerves by throwing me a life preserver, and wanted to fill the Pinata with worms. Plus have a scavenger hunt, sending the kids off to the next county. She didn’t have children. Go figure.

If my memory serves me, one particular partygoer who preferred not touching water altogether, and had essentially the same motor skills as a tortoise, squandered precious festivity time by picking her scabs rather than play sprinkler musical chairs. And I thought it was so ingenious of me to provide such fun game playing. Then all the sleepless girls played “lie still and watch a movie,” a game ideally suited for a hyped up cupcake crowd. Some of the girls wanted to see a scary film. The others bucked that idea knowing their parents weren’t around to clutch onto. That’s when the bickering began. But some pre-teens are less likely to be governed by an overnight hostess.

I once believed that I lived in the wonderful world of cute dresses, butterfly kisses, and the idea that girls matured faster than boys. That was until the sleepover. Eight girls together isn’t always sugar and spice. It’s more like boogers and lice. My daughter only has one child. I still had two younger girls who would soon be eager to have the same soiree. Now I understand my mother’s perpetual disdain for erratic behavior in adolescents, limiting our parties to three hours despite the biological compulsion to trade us all in for pets. As a teen, she told me that I wiggled when I walked and to wear a girdle. If only she could see these young girls today baring thong straps.

I’m sure my daughter wanted to undergo elective surgery just to have her ears sewed shut for that twenty-four hour period. From what I understand, she filled goodie bags in preparation for the event when my granddaughter demanded one with a sort of gimme disquietude. She wielded serious powers of persuasion towards something as insignificant as party favor sacks filled with Dollar Store items. Suffering the pubescent outcry, my rather rational daughter told her, “You’re getting seven much larger presents. Isn’t that way better?” Supposedly the pouty one still wasn’t satisfied. She could be walking through the marvelous maze of Disneyland with Mickey giving her his undivided attention yet her focus would still be on birthday party goodie bags. The experienced parent such as thyself can surely empathize. Although it could have been worse. My granddarling could have said, “Gimme a bag now or I’ll set the house on fire!” But she didn’t. That’s because my granddaughter is perfect in every way.

The integral part of the party materialized with present opening. Her mother was glad she didn’t get an Easy-Bake burn yourself oven or a Razor scooter with no helmet. The youngun wanted a Palomino. Because every delusional child wants a horse and stable and several acres to ride on. When one wasn’t outside wrapped in a big bow, unwrapping soon became a substantial waste of her opening enjoyment.

Thus began the pilgrimage to the tent of terrors erected in their back yard. Other than the traumatic burping, tooting, and claustrophobic atmosphere of the interior, I’m sure the juveniles also provided epic full volume screams while playing hose wars, Bloody Murder, and Ghost in the Graveyard. If my offspring had any sense, she would have barricaded herself in the basement with a baby monitor till the whole thing was over. Having camped before, she was surprised how all of a sudden she disliked such shrilled filled accommodations. And thank heaven for Handi-Wipes. A similar kid who had an allergic reaction to water was the same kid who was launching turd torpedos in the toitee. And when you are sleeping in close proximity of other parasites, germs can spread as quickly as a grandmothers behind.

My daughter never got to doze. Not with the presence of spirited nocturnal grazing girlfriends buzzed on freezer treats. With a sheen of an all-nighter look she asked, “Who wants eggs and toast?” She heard in unison, “Not me!” With the wit she so naturally possesses, she filled a bowl with the remaining Crunch-N-Munch and declared, “Knock yourselves out! And if you don’t hurry and eat it, my mother will be over hogging the bowl, and may even eat the box!” She told me their eyes bugged out with belief while my granddaughter giggled away. Had she consulted with Parents Magazine on “50 ways to shut girls up at a sleepover”, feeding them sugary substances for breakfast was not exactly listed as number one. No one really wrote an article like that, but maybe somebody should have. I suppose sending kids home full of sucrose was partial punishment for not getting any sleep herself. Or for having to sit with the one girl left behind whose parent didn’t bother to pick her up on time. With that hour and a half delay, she still had time to load the kid up on sugar cubes. But my exemplary daughter made the best of it by having a chalk contest on the driveway. I’m surprised she didn’t draw a dead body outline with the no-show parents name inside of it.

(Posts can be seen in the weekend editions of The Parson’s Sun newspaper in Kansas)

LOTS OF HA HA IN BAJA

Part 1

The commotion was consecutive. Rows of noisy passengers, the choiring crowd with hangovers from Cabo who were puking behind us. We sat mesmerized by the ratings from airborne vacationers after being beyond the border. I thought some people’s high priced keg privileges should have been revoked. I’m normally conditioned to amusing myself for two hour flights. Which is why I sat carving airplane pretzels into animal shapes with my teeth, trying to block out the regurgitated jet streams.

Let me back up a bit.

I have lived in California eleven years now and have never been to Mexico. I did get up close and personal by bike riding to the immense barbed wire fencing with all the gun holding gatekeepers. But that’s as far as I got. As I continue bucket-listing my adventures, my steady guy and I booked the trip to Rancho Leonero on the east cape of Baja. I held lots of preconceptions regarding our neighboring country. Mingling cultures. A language barrier. Adobe style saloons situated under saffron skies with us singing 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall. That many days with my boyfriend. Just kidding. He told me to say that. Or Montezuma’s revenge. We could be feasting on tortillas with some questionable meat tucked inside. I’d rather dine in with my Chef-Boy-R-Gleeful boyfriend. I need to alleviate all my anxieties rather than prompt gastrointestinal paranoia. But you can’t go wrong with distilled beverages, unless you overindulge. And no one wants to see hurled Carnitas. I myself tend to hallucinate after too many Tequilas, with the chance of flamenco dancing on tabletops. But there’s nothing like beachfront resorts that furnish well mixed margaritas and meld perfectly with great company. Provided they don’t turn into baptismal fountains with fermented youths.

Ways of transportation came into question. Pack mules, driving, air travel. Except small planes are puttering devices designed to strip me of all my senses and excel to the speed of zero if the engine fails. So call me chicken for not wanting to nose dive into what perhaps could be a cartel compound with the promise of an echoing gunfire. You know, those family dynasties that dominate everyone’s affairs. I like clinging to the concept of a much larger airline. But there are certain people who give me an abundance of terroristic inspiration not to fly. I will never have a bomb strapped to my chest. A bottle of Drambuie maybe. But not a bomb. I’ll try to forget my harebrained thoughts that there might be some loon who wants to illegally enter Mexico by taking us hostage. Although I could simply show the person my passport photo. It just might scare the captor away.

In a state of excitement, I began packing when my teasing boyfriend inquired, ” I want to take a little marijuana with me. Can I pack it in YOUR suitcase?” I responded, “Sure. But I’ll need to pack a little protection. Can I stick a gun in YOUR suitcase?” My strong man, whose most vigorous physical activity on any given day is playing cards on his IPad, had to haul my suitcase, which was the same as pulling a tractor trailer. I didn’t know if it was going to be hot, hotter, or less hot. In which case I should have just worn a fanny pack holding a bathing suit, flip flops, and a wig, so I wouldn’t have to fuss with my hair.

Our amusing conversation continued once we boarded the aircraft. Since I got the window seat, he turned to me with curiosity. “I wonder who will be sitting next to me. Phyllis Diller or Marilyn Monroe?” In a classic expression of girlfriend giddiness I replied, “Well, if it’s Phyllis Diller, you two will share many laughs together. If it’s Marilyn Monroe, we’re switching seats!” While flying south, not once did we have the diversionary entertainment of hearing the tossing of anyone’s tamales.

Apparently not many people survive the beguiling Baja roads with their swift curves and shoulder width of about a quarter inch. The locals erect monuments which was akin to Arlington Cemetery. I was told there would be free range cattle hogging the narrow passageways. I added, “And goats, right?” My loverboy said, “No goats.” Of course the first animal I saw was a goat. Heading off the main road, I wanted to pull out some Pledge to polish the dusty washboard six mile path leading toward the Palapa topped retreat. Although it was still way more fun than driving to Walmart. Because at Walmart, you can’t indulge in lounging, sunning, snorkeling, daycaps, nightcaps, selective conversations with interesting people besides Walmartians. I pictured Poncho Villa greeting us at the front entrance, along with spiders the size of truck tires. I developed a healthy addiction to giggling, but developed an unhealthy addiction to slow roasting. No sunscreen in the world can keep those rays from penetrating. Because I came home looking like a dark and severely laugh lined Pug.

In America, she sells sea shells by the seashore. In Mexico, he sells fake jewels and begs you to buy more. And if the beach vendors don’t have what you want, they’ll surely point you in the direction of someone who will. I was looking for something more along the lines of say, the Hope Diamond. Imagine a man trying to provide for a family of thirty and trying to keep tostadas on the table.

Pictorially, the place was superb. But I didn’t notice any hurricane shutters or workable means of evacuation. If there was any reason to worry, it was because we flew in under cloudy skies. So when you fly into potentially dangerous territory, you really want to know you’ll get out by hook or by crook. But since those fishermen and sand vendors were abundant, I figured I’d be safe. The wind picked up. Words can’t fully convey my nervousness for not bringing along a Barocyclonometer.

Part 2

The second day turned out to be a fine day for renting a couple of sporty terrain vehicles, reuniting me with my love for all things fast and furious. Everyone waves at you. You could be riding a Quad in your bathing suit going 50 mph and they still wave at you. Muchachos don’t really care how old you are. Then we cruised for miles of desolate beach along the Sea of Cortez, streaked with colors of teal to blue to deep blue. Except you have to be aware of one tiny obstacle….called sand. I buried the back end of my four wheeler so extensively that you couldn’t see the tire tread. The advantage of renting two Quads is being able to double up on the second one and keep going without the chance of theft, or anyone seeing that I screwed up. I could have left a Maserati with the keys in it and it would still be sitting there. We called the rental people who alerted us to the winch. I thought they meant a dishonorable woman. Come to find out it was a cable hoist attachment which we could have used to pull out the stranded off-roader. But I would have been concerned about burying the other vehicle as well, and being stranded for days, besides sitting for hours attaining a much deeper tan. And with the amounts of food served at our resort, I could have arrived home looking more like a south African piglet. As it was, it delayed us from being properly hydrated. Because heaven forbid if we were to miss happy hour.

Day three included snorkeling, something I had never done either. But there’s something about the sustenance I require from the atmosphere above water. To ensure my success in this endeavor, I would need a better breathing apparatus, and calmer seas. Blasting waves and the fact that panic erupted when I couldn’t inhale through my nose left little confidence in the aqua lung support system. I waited another day for the smoothness to settle in before my next feat of athleticism. I wore only a mask and fins the second round, and surfaced for air every minute or so. Although having made the mistake a day earlier of letting the rather large aquarium know I was previously present, I didn’t want word to get out and have to fend off sharks. I’d be doing a year’s worth of cardio trying to get to shore. It was bad enough that a big clawed Osprey patrolled our airspace. Despite my exhaustive time in the water, I saw some gorgeous saltwater species. And after beaching it, I asked for a rake. Any golfer knows to smooth the sandy surface for the next person. I was just following etiquette.

The place was definitely a haven for feverish fishermen, where guys have a chance to cast, rock the boat, and tie one on. Now I’m pretty positive they aren’t always thinking about Victoria’s Secret supermodels. The only bare breasts these men saw was in their chicken dinner, or on wandering cows. And when you’re casting all day and come back with nothing, they tend to proselytize into guyness by self-administering anesthesia. Whereas, throw a match to their breath, and they might be able to extinguish the whole Baja peninsula. I must admit, had these men been into mooning, I would have been front and center. Did I say mooning? I meant moonwatching.

We ended up meeting some funny story telling male foursomes. My jawline stretched after hearing one beachcomber’s reluctant story about his previous visit. After rod n’ reeling with no results, he sought solace by drowning his sorrows. He continued to make amazing strides towards the bartender, then finally called it a night and went back to his room. Or that’s what the rest of his buddies thought he did. When they couldn’t find him, they had the entire population out searching with grim determination. Which could have meant two things. An osprey swooped down and carried him off, or he strolled aimlessly into the ocean. He was eventually found sleeping soundly in someone else’s room. Let’s assume that a Papa bear walked in and saw the stranger sleeping in his bed. He could have had his manhood mutilated.

My boyfriend and I did not fish this trip. But I found out the fundamentals of luring, catch and release (often used with old boyfriends), and cheating. That’s when the failure to snag anything results in buying one, getting it stuffed, and having your picture taken with it. Oh, and all you Chilean Sea Bass lovers, you’re really eating Patagonian toothfish. The hideous looking seabeast wouldn’t sell unless there was a name change. Kinda tugs on the old tummy strings doesn’t it?

Men like to tease every moment of their lives, primarily for posterity. Although I must say, hopefully all comedians won’t become extinct in the years to come. Breaking down gender barriers often requires becoming a guy yourself, and giving back. One man’s prime motive was to unsettle me into thinking the border patrol would strip search me upon re-entering the US, because officers are just that curious about blondish redheads. I was able to keep up with the imbibers with my own teasing, with my guy as a back-up slinger.

We spent productive hours in an effort to go home with a bronzed glow. Forget the tragic events that ensued a few times in the past when I got severely sunburned and probably have underlying skin cancer because of it. But everyone knows a vacation is always needed. Especially with tensions that can build from stressful daily living in perfectly sunny San Diego. And after all, I gave up six full nights of stone cold (Coldstone) sobriety just to be able to make this trip. But it was worth it.

(Posts can be seen in the weekend editions of The Parson’s Sun newspaper in Kansas)