Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Strangers on a Plane

     Recently, I had the good fortune to travel up to Boston for a surprise visit on my Dad's 80th birthday.  My middle sister cooked up the surprise part and generously funded my flight, so all I had to was show up.  Jonathan and I dutifully left for the Augusta airport in the pitch black dark at 4:45 a.m. to ensure that I'd have plenty of time to make the 6:20 a.m. flight.  The Augusta airport is very, very tiny as airport's go.  It's like a little boutique airport, with tiny planes and one terminal, but it's very convenient for us since it's super close.  I kissed Jonathan goodbye once he made sure that I had my itinerary set and stood in the TSA line.  The line was full of groggy adults, a few kids that parents hadn't even bothered to take out of their pj's,  and one enormous woman in a wheelchair.  This lady wasn't that old, maybe 50, but she was incredibly obese.  I always wonder how a person gets quite to that level of obesity. Its not like it can't sneak up on a person.  I mean for most people you gain a few pounds and your pants get tighter, you lay of the ice cream and that's that.  This level of overweight takes some real commitment.  As in Olympic level amounts of food are needed to maintain that bulk.  Anyway, this lady gets to the front of the line and the TSA lady makes her stand up out of her wheelchair. Okay, that's fair, but then she proceeds to frisk this woman like she's hiding a machine gun under her gut fat.  I was watching this scene unfold, thinking to myself, "Is this normal protocol for incredibly overweight traveler's?" I mean, call me naive, but I didn't know that whomever likes to blow up airplanes sought out the most gigantic passenger they could find to stash bombs, etc.

"Hey, you fatty...I have a bag of Big Macs in it for you if you let me tape this device between your rolls of back fat,"

 As I'm still saying What the Fuck in my head, a man behind me starts muttering how ridiculous it is that the TSA agent is making such a meticulous process of searching this poor lady so thoroughly.  We both stood there shaking our heads, until finally the heavy woman was cleared to go on.  I sailed through security and sat in the tiny terminal to wait for my flight.

  After about a half hour, we were cleared to board, but the funky tunnel that connects the airport to the plane was broken so we were ushered out onto the tarmac in the dark, like pre schoolers going on a field trip to the zoo.  Climbing the stairs, I checked my seat number again. 23C.  Being careful not to clock anyone in the head with my bag I made my way down the aisle until I arrived at my seat number. A man in a business suit was in the aisle seat of my row and he gave me a pained, apologetic look. My seat was the window seat (my least favorite) and in the middle was you got it, the obese terrorist.  She gave me a smile and as she struggled to free her ass from the seat she said, "This might take me a few minutes."   Why on God's green earth wouldn't this woman request any seat, BUT the middle?  Not only for her comfort, but what if I had been a big gal myself?   When she finally wedged herself free, I slipped into my seat and looked out the window as she got herself re-situated.  It's a good thing that I'm reed thin, because there was quite a bit of overhang infringing on my seat.  And then it hit my nostrils, a faint, yet pungent sour scent of flesh that hadn't seen soap in more days than one wants to know.  A mild panic reached out from my brain, and I struggled to control my breathing.  I was trapped in this seat next to a very nice, but giant woman who smelled like a dishcloth that hadn't been washed in a year.  Somehow I managed to keep myself from losing it through sheer mind over matter.  I could just scramble over her if I had to leave my seat in a hurry, I told myself over and over again.  The plane eventually taxied down the runway and soon we were in the air.  I put my nose in a book for the entire flight, while my seat mate played Candy Crush like a boss. Luckily, it was a short flight to Atlanta and we landed without incident.  My captor released me from my seat, with great physical effort, and I wished her a good day. Oy, what a start to my trip.

   My next flight to Boston was filled to the gills.  This time my seat assignment led me to the very back seat in the plane where I learned that I was sitting next to...an infant.

"Hi," I said shyly to the mother. The baby gurgled and wobbled about in her lap.  I'm not really a baby person, not that I have anything against kids, but infants aren't my strong suit and I know that flying can be hell on little kids. The mother was very tanned, with her hair thrown up in a messy knot on top of her head. She looked exhausted, but she gave me a nod as I sat in the middle seat.  The woman who was in the aisle seat of my row appeared to be around my age. When she sat down she launched into some quick small talk.

 "Whew, I'm sweating so much. Hot flashes, " she said with a giggle. "I had to have an emergency hysterectomy six months ago and it threw me into early menopause. I'm always so hot!"

 I smiled at her all the while thinking to myself, really?  That was too much information to tell a stranger on an airplane.  This flight seemed doomed. Caught between a tiny baby and a woman who was telling me intimate details about her recently removed uterus. To top it off the sweaty lady confessed to having a bad cold, otherwise she would be holding that baby the whole flight.  She broke out her kleenex, pulled out her laptop and launched into a vigorous game of Candy Crush. Am I the only person who hasn't ever played Candy Crush???  Again, I pulled out my book prepared to be tuning out the wails of an infant any second. Much to my immense relief and surprise that little boy baby fell asleep for the ENTIRE flight!  And the sniffling Candy Crusher was so involved in her stacking of sweets that she never opened her mouth again, except to cough.

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Cowboy Way

     It was a bright April morning when Kenny, the trainer at the race farm where I was working, introduced  me to our new exercise rider.  A slim figure, around 5'7 wearing a straw cowboy hat and scuffed boots slipped around the corner of the barn. A cigarette waggled precariously between his lips.

  "The name's Jerry," he said, offering his hand. I shook it and gave him a big smile. "Nice to meet you," I replied, stepping back from the cloud of smoke that was surrounding him.

"Jerry here is going to straighten out all of these knuckleheads, " Kenny said.  I refrained from saying "about time", since I had to parse out my smart ass comments judiciously, lest I get fired.  Truthfully, the string of racehorses had been running rough shod over all of the young girls who'd been riding them over the course of the winter.  It was becoming a joke all over the farm on how many times we'd have to yell, "Loose horse!!!" each day, because they literally got dumped multiple times per morning.  Jonathan and I had debated about getting on some of the horses, but in the end we decided we didn't want to take any risks on these two bit, flea brained idiot race horses. It just wasn't worth it, despite the frustration of watching them leap, wheel, go sideways and flat out run off with the girls.

  I set about tacking up the first set to go out that morning.  A tall rangy dark bay gelding would be Jerry's first steed.  This horse was as dumb as can be, but he was smart enough to have terrorized everyone who had ridden him for months.  All he needed was someone who could sit up there, take hold of him and get him going in a straight line.  Jerry walked into the stall wearing his skull cap, jockey bat in hand.  He started checking over the tack, muttering about how it should be adjusted, tightening this, shortening that, basically rearranging everything that I had already carefully set up.  I kept my mouth shut and silently smoldered.  Just give him a chance, I told myself, it's no big deal.  I legged him up in the stall and with great pomp and circumstance he shooed the horse out into the shed row and began to kick him in the ribcage, yelling "HAA".  The horse shook his head back and forth in protest, but he listened. Soon they were jogging around the shed row, with Jerry hollering, "Coming around, jogging in the barn" before each corner.  After a few minutes, he jerked him out of the barn and galloped him up the driveway to the race track.  Though the guy had irritated me, by treating me like I didn't now what I was doing as his lowly race groom, I had to hand it to him; the dude could ride.

  The rest of the morning went much the same.  The naughty horses all got a dose of what they needed, which was a positive, confident ride.  With each ride under his belt, Jerry got more and more cocky himself.  Crowing about his skills, like a banty rooster.  He'd been riding race horses for over twenty years at tracks all over the country.  His face was a battle of wrinkles, from years of riding in wind, rain and heavy drinking.  Most of his teeth were gone, but he had a fastidiously manicured mustache perched above his upper lip.  I suspected at one point in his youth he'd been able to seduce many women with his pretty blue eyes and long lashes, but there was a sense of deep fatigue in them now, like he'd lost too many nights of sleep that he'd never make up.

   It became a routine that Jonathan and I would pick Jerry up on our way to the farm, since he had no transportation except a bicycle with a hinky motor that left him stranded more often than not.  At a quarter to seven his powerful odor of Irish Spring and cigarettes permeating our car was nearly gag inducing.  He began to refer to himself in the third person, using his nickname of "Cowboy".  It was so absurd that I'd have to hide my smiles and snorts. As he got comfortable he starting regaling us with tales of his conquests from the previous nights. Often, I had to put up my hand and tell him to just stop. He had no filter. Some days he'd be so hung over we'd have to stop and get him a beer on the way just so he could get through his rides and collect his paycheck.  It was pathetic, but he was still doing a good job on the horses.  We had to give him that credit.  If he was still drunk from the night before he'd get a little uppity and start giving me advice on riding. I'm all for learning new things, but listening to him slurring tips on basics, just made me crazy.  Being a groom was already kind of bumming me out from a professional standpoint, but to be treated like a moron by this washed up dude? I've always been a fairly civilized person, but this guy would get under my skin. I started to really let him have it, and sometimes I even shocked myself with what I'd say to him.

"Jerry, just get on the mother fucking horse and zip it!" I'd yell, causing my co-workers to titter and scuttle off.

  He'd act all offended, but he never argued back, no matter how mean I was to him.  I reckon he was conditioned to being yelled at. You can't be that big of an arrogant jerk, while swaggering from too much beer and not get some payback for it.  In fact, he admitted that he was usually the guy at the bar who got beaten up, because he was big enough so it wasn't embarrassing to kick his ass, but little enough that he got his ass kicked.

   And so it went for four months, until one morning Cowboy announced that he'd be moving on.

"You two are real decent people,  and I want to thank you for all you did for me while I was here," he said, tipping his crumpled straw cowboy hat, a small belch popping from his lips.

  I wasn't going to miss him, but he sure was a character, unlike anyone I'd ever met.  He was true to himself, for better, or worse, which is more than you can say for some people.  He'd created this persona for himself as "Cowboy" and he was going to ride it to the bitter end. We wished him well and he took off, with his bike motor sputtering.

Happy trails, Cowboy.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Molar Madness

     True to my word,  I bravely made myself a dentist appointment.  The only time they could offer me was for 8 o'clock this morning.  What a gross time to go to the dentist. Up and at 'em by 7:15, I shook off the morning grog, gulped down coffee and mouthwash, put on semi nice clothes, plus shoes without manure on them, and off I went to solve the mystery of my upset molar.

   This was my first time at South Aiken Dental.  Upon arrival I was given the usual forms to fill out in the gently lit waiting room.  After a short wait I was summoned to enter the hallway by a squat woman in her 30's, who informed me that her name was Tina, and I was to follow her.  Tina sat me down in a chair, and I began to fill her in on my dental history, which is long and detailed.  I've had a significant amount of dental work, from implants, to bridges, crowns, root canals, fillings, you name it.  I have two implants that are still patiently waiting for implant crowns, which Tina nicely pointed out that they could do that work for me.  I felt like saying, "Great news! Do you want to front me the 3.5k that'll cost to get the work done? "  First bristle of irritation.

  Tina proceeded to take her tiny mirror and explore my upper and lower teeth.

"Hmmm, them two are a bridge," said Tina.  "That ain't a problem."

My eyes popped wide open. Immediately, in my head I repeated "them two" "ain't"????  Seriously???  How about some attention to proper grammar to project a modicum of confidence in your professional skills???  If the lady at the convenience store uses improper grammar it's not a red flag, but the dentist office?  I began to feel uncomfortable.

"Ima need to take an x-ray now, Mizz Edel," said Tina with a pinched smile on her pudgy face.

    I held my cool while she wedged an x-ray plate the size of a notebook in my mouth.  The first one she took was too dark so I was fortunate enough to repeat the procedure.  Well, there it was in black and white.  The tooth that was bothering me has already had a root canal, as well as the one in front of it.  Gee, so glad I spent 1k to save that little bugger only to have it fail me now.

  Tina turned to face me with her serious dental person face on.

"Do you brush and floss?" she said in a pandering tone, like she was talking to a 6 yr. old.
"Of course, I do!" I said indignantly.  Who doesn't brush their teeth?? Gross!

"Do you know why your teeth have had so many problems? How's your diet?" She leaned down closer to my face for my answers.

I stared blankly at her heavily made up eyes. My mind began to whiz.  Do I know why my teeth are so crummy? Uh, I think it's called genetics?  Just like some people have kidney issues, or arthritis.  I have bad teeth.  And my diet?? I took a deep breath and fought back the urge to tell her that I sustain myself with crystal meth, cotton candy and Coca-cola. Instead, I smiled sweetly, batted my eyelashes and said:

"My teeth have had many issues,  none due to lack of proper hygiene, or attention.  I was born with bad teeth.  {I added You Dumb Bitch, but only in my head, cuz I was raised properly}  And as for my diet I stay away from junk food, I don't drink soda, or eat many sweets. It's not like I've had all of this dental work, because I find it so enjoyable."

     I mean, I'm 5'8 and about 125 lbs. I do not look like an unhealthy person.  I let my eyes peruse her figure to let her know that I was taking note of her fat gut and thighs which clearly indicated she visited the drive thru more than a few times per week.  Gee, how's your DIET, Tina???  Can you say GLUTTONOUS?

  On that note, she took her leave so I could have a private consultation with the actual dentist, Dr. Miranda.  He was a baby faced, little Spanish fellow, very polite, and I appreciated the confidence in his voice while he spelled out a few options for me.  Turns out an endodontist might be able to save my tooth, but if not he could extract the damn thing.

  The best part of the whole experience was paying the bill. I had received a coupon in the mail from this place that offered a $1 emergency consultation. I know, right??!!!  You can't use the bathroom at the dentist for less than $50.  I could've complained about Tina's bedside manner, but if these people are going to pull my tooth I don't want any behind the scenes scuttlebutt about me being a whiny bitch.  Better to just keep quiet and hope that Tina's Big Mac gives her heartburn this afternoon.

Have a nice day, y'all!!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Deep thoughts from a shallow well

   Have you ever met someone who annoys you just by the very sight of them?  One minute you're in a good mood, thinking happy thoughts and then you spot him/her and it's like a switch is flipped.  Your eyes become narrow slits, lips tighten and your mood goes dark.  You begin to pray that they don't come over and talk to you, but they always do.  People like this are akin to cats who sense the non cat person in the room and then proceed to rub all over them, until they are shooed away.

   I have one of the above mentioned people in my life.  I'm a fairly tolerant person, but I have a low capacity when it comes to listening to someone brag about themselves.  It really grinds my gears.  This person really, truly has no cause to brag, but they do...shamelessly, incessantly and mercilessly. When it starts up  I end up clenching my teeth so tightly I fear they may crack. Because I'm a terrible actor I cannot even remotely pretend to be supportive of the brags that bubble forth from this person's maw.   Usually, I mumble something like, "how nice", or  "good for you" then I hurry off before I punch them in the throat.  I'm trying to be positive about this person appearing in my life as an opportunity for me to grow and become more tolerant and accepting,  less judgy.  But it's very, very difficult.  I've come close to calling them out on the brag-a-thon's more than once, but each time I hold back not wanting to come off like a giant bitch.  I know myself.  If I react out of hostile emotion I will say things that aren't nice, and I don't want to be that person. I never want to hurt a person's feelings.  This person is a harmless soul and perhaps not the sharpest knife in the drawer, so I need to let it go.  But it's very, very difficult.  We all know that bragging stems from insecurity.  I need to find some empathy for this person's insecurity issue.  Find a deeper understanding into what the bragging does for this person, not what listening to it does to me.  Can I do that? Any suggestions?  Most days I'm pretty sure I can manage to pull it off.  I'll just have to rearrange my schedule if PMS comes into the picture.  

  December has been kind of a shite month.  Jonathan's Dad had a quick, but serious bout with bronchitis that landed him in the hospital.  He's doing great now, thank goodness.  We had to say goodbye to lovely old Zeke, the 21 year old cat who was featured in the prior blog.  He was doing well and then one day he decided he didn't want to eat.  Our lovely vet friend gracefully assisted him over the Rainbow Bridge from the comfort of his window bed.  No scary last vet visit for my animals if I can help it.  I mean, we know he was incredibly old so his passing away wasn't a major shocker, but it still was very sad.  Jonathan made the comment that if he was our child he'd be graduating from college.  Cue:floods of tears.

  Also in Dec, my horse received a routine vaccine which gave him a terrible reaction so he was very muscle sore for about two weeks. That sucked (more for me than him, since he got good meds and no work).  Fortunately, he's fine now, but it's been raining like a SOB in Aiken for the last couple of weeks, which has made consistent training a challenge.

  Two weeks ago, one of my lower molars has decided to abscess.  I caught it in the nick of time with antibiotics, but that's not a perma fix.  It needs to be addressed by a dentist. I decided to give myself until after Christmas to have anything drastic done to it. It's now after Christmas, and I still haven't called for an appointment. I guess it's time to be a big girl and make the call.

  And last but not least, our car is having some sort of oil pressure issue. I'm waiting to hear what the report is from the fancy German car mechanic. Gulp.  I've done a lot of research on the problem so I know two things. It can be an easy fix, or it will be an expensive fix.  Fingers crossed here.

 All in all, I'm feeling good about the arrival of 2016.  We're really excited about all of the horses we're working with at the moment.  Our house has two rooms that are ready for color to go on the walls, to be followed by redoing the floors, which I happen to find very satisfying and fun.  It's a good time right now.  Life will always have blips and hiccups.  Sometimes it seems like enough is enough, but I try to look for balance.  Find something good that makes me happy, like making a video of Miles while I'm having a solo dance party (which I promise I'll stop posting those vids on FB).  I recently read a meme that said something like, "You don't live once, you die once".  It's important to be nice, do what makes you happy and the rest of it just sorts out somehow.  At least that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.  Time to go call that dentist...

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Top Cat

Twenty one years ago we adopted a fluffy little grey and white cat. She was ever so feminine, with large green eyes and perfect pink lips, and I gave her the name Miss Girl.  Not long after she moved into our tack room Miss Girl began to expand in her mid-section.  Though a vet assured me that wasn't with child, one month later she gave birth to two tiny kittens.  Pictured above is "Big Zekie", one of those tiny kittens, now at age 21.  Much like his mother, Zeke has always been a hardy sort.  He spent his early years as a barn cat, with no rules.  He crossed the street, he roamed the fields, dodged coyotes, was picked up by a great horned owl and lived to tell the story.  The cat was always smart and knew how to stay alive.  When we closed our barn, Zeke became a house cat.  He learned quite quickly that sleeping on beds and couches was fairly wonderful.  He adjusted to the rules of staying in at night, with free rein to come and go during the day.  He endured four moves during our years of living in the northeast. Each time he'd survey the new domain, pick a comfortable spot to sleep, make sure he knew where the litter box and food bowls were located and that was that.  Two years ago he survived the trip from NY to SC, while in a crate with Miles in the the peak of a horse van.  And he came out of that with his usual aplomb.

  About a month ago I started to think that Zeke might be losing weight.  Well, he's old, I told myself. I know he won't last forever.  Then I noticed that he was losing hair.

"It's his thyroid," said my pet savvy older sister, Pam. "Go get him tested at the vet."

Off we went to the vet.  While in the examining room I heard the vet outside the door talking to the tech.

"The cat is 21??", he said.  "Wow."

  Zeke and I left the vet office with a bottle of pills meant to balance his thyroid levels.  Within a few days I began to see a difference.  His hair started growing in and he didn't look quite so gaunt.  Another thing began to change, too.  Giving Zeke the half pill every morning began to be progressively difficult.  At first he ate them in his food. His appetite was so voracious that he was unaware he was taking his medicine.  Then one day I noticed a little white sliver being left behind in his bowl.

"Bastard," I muttered, grabbing the slimy sliver and forcing it between his teeth. That went okay at first, though he didn't like it any more than I did.

"It's for your own good!", I'd yell, as Z clenched his jaws and pawed at my hands.  This went on for a couple of weeks, but at least he was getting his meds and looking so much better.  Then he started a new trick.  I'd walk away from one of our pill forcing sessions, feeling victorious that I'd properly medicated my old kitty, only to return and find the pill on the floor, or in his dish.  He'd apparently learned how to mimic swallowing it then spit it out, like a petulant child.

   My frustration level reached a crescendo yesterday morning. Zeke is now so much healthier from having a balanced thyroid that he can actually claw the crap out of me.  Basically, I have an ancient kitty that I can only medicate while he's sick. Once he's healthy, it's like trying to pill a crotchety, angry mountain lion. It's ridiculous.  I can manhandle a 1200 lb horse with no trouble, but this senile, deaf, nearly blind husk of a cat is beating the shit out of me.  Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled that Zeke is doing so well. He's rather miraculous to still be such a force at his advanced age, but there has to be an easier way.  After hearing me complain about it last night, Jonathan agreed to help me with the "pilling of Freddy Cougar".  We're going to start giving him the pill before his dinner this evening.  If no one hears from us for a few days, please send help.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

And we're off!

   A year ago Jonathan and I were hired by a racehorse training center to work in the barn taking care of the horses.  Jonathan ended up spending most of his time working out of the barn fixing fencing and repairing the long driveway with the Bobcat, a machine which he became very skilled at operating. I spent most of my time in the barn with the racehorses.  After a  full year, I can say that I don't care for looking after racehorses. They're all a bunch of nut jobs.  It's not their fault that they're nut jobs, because they're cooped up for 23 hours of the day, fed tons of high octane grain/vitamins, never turned out and the only time they do get to go out during the day is to gallop around the training track.  Handling them requires finesse, strategy, bravery and skill.  It's very easy to get hurt around horses, even quiet riding horses.  Young thoroughbred race horses are like ticking bombs. Anything can (and will) set them off.  Oh look, a bird! cue:rearing.  Oh, here comes a car down the driveway! cue:bolt sideways, then segue way into rearing. Oh, a big gust of wind! cue:hang the fuck on, because I'm going to go apeshit.  You get the message.  Either you learn quickly how to keep their feet on the ground and away from your body, or you get injured.  I've been lucky in that I've kept myself out of harms way, with the exception of one dislocated knuckle in my second week of working there due to a rearing fit from a spastic filly.  The one predictable thing about these youngsters is that you can never assume that they're going to behave.  I operate under the boy scouts motto in that I'm always prepared for a fit.  I've learned to tell them how good they are in a soft, gentle voice, and that a hand on their neck can keep the savage beast that lives within them at bay. I've also learned that not having a chain shank is a dumb idea.  It's not like you have to be rough with a chain over the nose, but having it there helps when the flying monkeys in their heads start buzzing around. Our time is now over at the race farm. It was a fine job and it helped keep us afloat while we established ourselves in a new area. Recently, we've been teaching and riding more, which feels much more like home. In order to move our own business forward it became clear that we needed to stop the morning hours spent at the race farm.  I could say that leaving will be bittersweet, but it's not.  With the exception of one person that we've worked with for the last several months and the two roosters (Comanche and Rupert), I'm not going to miss that place with its daily series of chores and the death defying antics of the Thoroughbred's.  We've met a lot of good people at this job and made some very good friends, so it wasn't all bad, but it sure feels good to be moving on!

Friday, June 12, 2015

An unexpected getaway

   Life presented an impromptu opportunity for us last week.  We were offered the chance to have two days off in a row!  IN A ROW!  That is a rare luxury in the horse business.  There is no such thing as TGIF when you work with horses, no weekends "off", more often it's no days off for weeks at a time. It was a special offer, one not to waste.  Jonathan suggested that we go to Savannah, do a little city time, then some beach time.  I weighed the options of staying home vs. going away.  I don't make split second decisions very well. I'm getting better with age, maybe by the time I'm 80 I can add spontaneous to my character traits, but not quite yet.  I pictured us staying home with me feeling guilty for not vacuuming, or writing, or paying bills and that did it.

"Yes! Let's go to Savannah!"

  Sunday morning we took to the road on a drive that drove us through the Savannah River Project, the super secret, supposedly defunct, hinky feeling nuclear facility that is buried deep in the SC wilderness.  It was a very pleasant meandering road, with little to see except for woods and open fields.  There were occasional residences and series of abandoned, dilapidated shacks and mobile homes, which is sadly common in SC.  Poverty and abundance are separated by very little in the south.  I always feel a little sad when we pass houses that are falling in, with masses of foliage growing all over the front yards, rusted cars and other detritus getting overtaken by vines with each passing day.  Who lived there? And why did they just leave it all?

But that's not what this blog is about, so back to the trip.

   Soon we were in sight of a giant, arching bridge that spanned the Savannah river itself.  The bridge is something to see, with it's mid section peaking sky high to allow for very large boats to pass under it.  Our GPS very nicely got us into town and since it was too early to check into our hotel we decided to hit the first stop on our tour,  Bonaventure Cemetery.   I realize a cemetery might not be an ideal place to visit while on vacation, but this cemetery is like no other I've ever been in.  The grave sites are decorated with all manner of ornate sculptured marble, crosses, huge angels, obelisks, large tombs, cherubs, all are beautiful.  Designed more like a park, people are encouraged to walk through the various sections, with certain grave sites being highlighted for various important historical figures.  There are gigantic live oaks everywhere, with copious amounts of lacy Spanish moss draping from their limbs adding to an air of solemn mystery.  A storm front crept in while we were there giving the atmosphere an ominous tone under a deep purple sky.  As the first rain drops fell, we took our cue and headed out.

   We located our hotel, the B Historic Hotel on the edge of downtown Savannah, and we were pleasantly surprised with it.  A wicked deal on Hotwire had landed us a room for almost half price which made us raise our eyebrows a little, but this was an authentic, clean, well appointed hotel. Big score for Hotwire!   When you visit Savannah the first thing you need to do is make sure that you're wearing comfortable shoes. It truly is a walking city and well worth the effort we made to walk the entire city.  There are squares every third block, or so, set up like mini parks, with tall shady trees, benches and well tended gardens.  We made sure to stop, sit and inhale the vibe more than once.  The residential sections of Savannah are just stunning.  The architecture is so beautiful, with stately Greek revival home fronts, hidden back gardens and secret alley ways.  Passing a bed and breakfast that was up for sale had us dreaming of running a B & B for all of ten minutes, until I looked up the price and at $1 million bucks that'd be a lot of waffles to make before we saw any return.  Maybe it's because we were away from real life for the first time in a long time, but Savannah seemed to be wooing us as a couple.  It's urbane enough, without the actual grit of a bigger city, while maintaining a quaint, historical aspect that is reminiscent of the small New England towns we grew up in.  Jonathan has always said how much he loves this city, and now I can say the same.  A lazy early evening walk on the busy Savannah river showed us the tourist and local color.  Another chance to have a seat and soak it in.  A delicious dinner at a tapas based restaurant and a last stroll in dusky light ended our day.

   After a restful night, we awoke the next morning and promptly headed off to Tybee Island, approximately 25 minutes from our hotel.  Once we were in the car I began to whine about getting coffee,  but Jonathan adopted a "Dad" approach and told me I'd just have to wait till we got there.  I'm not one who does well in the morning without my first cup of dark brown brew, so my mood was less than cheery for the entire drive.  A stop at a seedy diner buoyed my spirits with a styrofoam cup to go, and in no time we were parked at the beach.  A breeze off of the ocean seasoned the air and kept us cool under the bright June sun.  The beach was expansive, but not overly populated. Still we got in some excellent people watching, particularly from a rather squat woman in her mid 30's I'd guess, who stood talking non stop to an older woman seated beneath a vibrant blue umbrella. Her topics were wide and varied, from recipes, to Boy Scout trips, to various past vacations, which included restaurants and menus and who had ordered what.  Her attention to detail was riveting and Jonathan and I kept bursting into giggles at the absurdity of it all.  For me half of the fun of the beach is observing our fellow beachcombers.  The various body styles and bathing suits, from the magnificent to the cringe worthy all mingle together in one unabashed group just there to have a good time and enjoy the experience. I absolutely love it.

   After about two hours of enjoying the surf and sand, we decided it was time to head back to Aiken. I looked wistfully over my shoulder for a last glance at the ocean as I exited the boardwalk.  It might've been one of the shortest vacations we've ever taken, but it certainly was one of the very best.