Friday, June 20, 2014

A visit to the country and the big fall

Second post in a month, whatta you know? Last weekend we took Georgie out to spend the weekend with our friends in Granby. We always have a great time with Annick and Jesus and last weekend was no different. She greeted us with bloody marys and Georgie promptly claimed his spot on the chaise lounge on the patio. After a couple drinks, we poured into their van with the pups and drove around town. It is quite a lovely place and we visited an awesome brand new condo that is renting for around $950 a month. We discussed how fun it would be to rent out our Montreal condo and move out there. It would mean an hour commute for me to work though so we probably won`t do that.

A call to the uncle who is a real estate tycoon of sorts and we were invited to stroll the grounds of his vast estate or "domaine" as it is called here. After looking at the gardens near the house we walked for an hour around the many lakes peppering the estate. All the while classical music filled the air from hidden speakers in the forest. I felt like I was in a movie. Although we were invited to stay for dinner, Annick and Jesus had already planned a great supper for us so we declined.

We finished off our visit with a cold beer up in that tree house. It had a bedroom, fridge and working toilet. So very cool. When asked why he had built it, he said, "for kicks". Ah to have the moolah to indulge any whim. But I was grateful just to get a peak into how the 1% lives.

Once back to their house we got started with dinner. This salad was amazing and you wouldn't think it given the ingredients. Fresh spinach with smoked salmon, a wedge of grapefruit to squeeze on and topped with guacamole. Mix it all up and the taste was just divine.

After the salad, we had raclette which I had only heard about but never had before. That contraption is both grill and oven. You cook the various meats and seafood on top and underneath you use little trays to melt special cheese over veggies and bread. We also had several sauces to dip our goodies into. It was fun and interactive. Mom said it was like shabu shabu, a Japanese meal, so now that is on my list to try.

Dessert came out of a box in the freezer, but we were not all that hungry after the feast. Even so, I finished my slice. We drank quite a lot and sang, played heads up and shared things you only share with your closest friends. Seriously, we all felt like there were no taboo subjects. So fun. I stayed up until 2am which, if you know me, is quite the compliment to our hosts.

The next morning was pretty lazy. We did the "grasse matinée" as they say up here. Slept in late and had a wonderful breakfast spread with mimosas. Divine. We decided to drive home on country roads instead of the freeway. We put the top down and it was the most gorgeous day. Just before we got home I realized I had left my ipad at their house so I dropped Serge off and hopped back in the car and spent two more hours to go and pick it up. That time I took the freeway of course. It gave Serge a chance to mow the lawn which will now be my duty for the next month because the next day something terrible happened.

I thought Serge had gone to bed as I was finishing up an episode of Nurse Jackie that I was riveted to. Then I went to brush my teeth and got ready for bed but when I got there, Serge was not in bed. Where the heck was he? I searched the house and then went down to the garage. Apparently, Serge had taken a terrible tumble down the stairs as he was taking out the trash. He had been calling out for help for a good ten minutes before I found him. He was bleeding from his face and elbow and had quite the goose egg on his head. I helped him up the stairs to the sofa. Call 911 he said, "I think I'm dying." So I called and here you see him in the ambulance. (That generated a ton of comments on Facebook and we were so appreciative of the outpouring of love and concern.) In the ambulance he kept holding his side and saying he had a cramp. Turns out it wasn't a cramp, it was broken ribs! He insisted I leave the hospital and go home and get some rest so I did. He called me 7 hours later to pick him up when he was released.

Now his face looks like this with each cough, giggle, sneeze and even fart. We are hoping for no hiccups in his future. He can't bend over and his sitting down and getting up is a chore. So I will be doing all the heavy lifting for the next several weeks. I am just grateful he didn't have a brain trauma. The first 24 hours I had to watch him to look for any changes in speech. Of course he messed with me every time I asked, "What day is it, what year is it?" That's also how I knew he was okay, he just cannot be serious. I love him so much and the thought of losing him really snapped me back to being grateful for each and every minute I have with him.

Last night we went out for happy hour and although he winced with every laugh, I think the alcohol combined with the morphine pill prescription they had given him at the hospital let him endure the pain more easily. It was so great to see him happy like that. He is pretty groany again today though and likely will be for some time.

So now you are all caught up on what's been shakin' around here. Oh wait, Wednesday was my last day of work for the next two months. I have been socking away enough money so that I don't have to stress about it, but of course there is a fly in the ointment - we will have an empty apartment upstairs as of the first of July. I really hope we find renters for it but it is not looking good as there are only ten days left. We even lowered the price. If you know anyone looking, here is the link:

I am hoping to post here more frequently this summer and get around to reading other blogs as well. After all, those activities are fun AND free. Until next time, mwah!

Monday, June 02, 2014

Blogger/Camper Road Trip 2014

Grab a cup of something cuz this post is long. Alternatively, skim it to see all the pretty pictures.

Here I am. After my lengthiest absence yet from this platform. I do have a good excuse but cannot talk about it here. So few people know what I've been through although I am dying to tell the story, maybe I will set up a secret blog to spell it all out. Anyway, Rox knows all about it if she cares to share privately.

So we had planned on going to Switzerland for my cousin's wedding last weekend but our investment property in Florida that we embarked on last June has just been a money pit. We have fired our property management company and hired another, so I am feeling optimistic that once we get the deadbeats out and the empty units rented, things will eventually be smooth sailing. We couldn't justify spending so much money to go to Europe in these frugal times but I had already arranged for all the time off work so I came up with an idea for a vacation that would both be fun and cheap - a road trip to see bloggers and campers around the Northeast US. It turned out to be one of the funnest vacations we have ever had and something I can see becoming an annual thing. So ready or not, here we go.

We headed out on Friday May 23rd. The plan was to leave when I got home from work at 1:30 after Serge had dropped off the dog at his cousin's. During that jaunt, Serge encountered traffic and got lost so he was a little late. He also noticed something weird with the brakes. I noticed it right away too when we headed out. The car braked (broke?) fine and stopped but once stopped the pedal slowly continued easing itself to the floor requiring a little pumping to keep the car still. I just put it in park at stop lights after that. Once we were on the highway, there was very little braking and the border crossing was a breeze. The officer at the border was extraordinarily cheerful and when he asked what we were bringing in I told him chips, candy bars and maple syrup. He asked if the chips were ketchup flavored (a popular variety up here) and I told him no they are maple bacon flavored. His eyes lit up and he wanted to know the brand and where to buy them. It was cute and certainly not the surly demeanor we are accustomed to while crossing into the US. At a certain point I had to pee and they have closed all the rest stops or turned them into parking areas and "text stops" so we stopped at one so I could let loose in the bushes. The brakes seemed perfectly fine at that point. It's not the first time something seems to have fixed itself on this car. Our first stop was to see Sean and Jeffrey at their lovely home in Troy, NY.

We were greeted warmly by the boys and the pups. We also watched as Sean had a nurse over explaining the contraption he would have to be hooked up to for the next ten days due to an infection. He seemed just fine, but those pesky blood tests told a different story. We had a couple drinks and then went out to a great Mexican joint for sangria and burrito goodness. We didn't go to bed too late and we warned them about my recent sleepwalking bouts, luckily I didn't sleepwalk the entire trip nor pee in any non-toilet spots. (Seriously, I get this text from Serge the other day. "Why are all my underwear wet in the underwear drawer?" Shudder)

We got to stay in the super hero guest suite. The following day we hung out and played some Wii bowling which oddly enough made my arm hurt just as much as if I were actually bowling with a big ol' bowling ball. Weird. Serge and I want to get one, but at the moment we are buying only what we need and not what we want. Maybe Serge can get one for my birthday. Hint hint honey.

We went out to breakfast and Serge ordered the steak and eggs and will you just look at the size of that thing? It was ridiculous even though he managed to consume the entire thing.

That evening, Sean and Jeffrey had invited friends over for a cookout and everybody brought some food and I decided to make my Grandpa's chili cheese dip. I haven't had it in over a decade mostly because the ingredients aren't readily available here. There are two ingredients - small box of Velveeta and one can of no-bean chili. Microwave and mix, microwave some more and mix some more. Serve with tortilla chips. So white trash but so dang good. Discovered it went great on a hot dog too. Yes, I do have a classy pallet. Anyway, we all had a great time and I turned everyone onto Heads Up, an app that Ellen Degeneres came up with and that I learned about at camp. I use it in my classes all the time and this gang had never heard of it. I think we played for a couple of hours. 15 gay men can get quite raucous. Here, I'll show you:

A great time was had by all. Now we were ready to head over to the Camp Camp reunion and visit with Camper Charles. We took a last selfie of the four of us before leaving.

The drive was nice, we kinda went up into Vermont and found a charming town called Wilmington and I just HAD to stop for ICE CREAM. We had the top down and it was just the most gorgeous day. 

We made our way to Colrain Massachusetts a very small town (it had a post office but no other commerce it seemed) that really was in the middle of nowhere. The nearest gas station was a twenty minute drive through the woods. A small group of Campers hung out and made pizza and yakked and played guitar and sang and it was a delightfully pleasant gathering. When it started to get dark, I walked down the hill to get a sweatshirt and a flashlight and decided to drive back up the hill. That is when I discovered we had no brakes. The pedal just went straight to the floor. Nothing to be done at that point so we just enjoyed the rest of the evening.

We didn't get any pics of the group oddly enough. I guess we were too engrossed in conversation or stuffing pizza into our face. We finished off the evening at Charles' awesome "green" home. I woke up early the next morning and caught up on Facebook and played my turns in Words with Friends, Scrabble, Dice with Buddies and Scramble with Friends. Yes that is a cigarette in my hand. I had gotten about five months into my quit when the last of a series of sucky events occurred. I have given myself permission to smoke for the summer and then I am looking forward to quitting again with Champix (Chantix in America) because it made it super easy to quit and I slept better while taking it than I have in the past two decades. Seriously, 8-9 hours every night. Now I'm back to my usual 5, sigh.

Charles' home really is stunning with lovely views into the wilderness. When everyone was up it was time to tackle the brake problem. There was no brake fluid in the container and noone attending the reunion had any in their car so Charles took us to the one gas station where we purchased the last two bottles on the shelf. While in the little town of Shelburne Falls, Charles showed us the "sights". The Bridge of Flowers, the Glacial Potholes and the covered bridge. Quaint. Then we headed back to add the brake fluid to the car.

As I had ascertained that there were no garages open nor VW service bays at any dealerships since it was Memorial Day, we decided to try our luck with failing brakes and make the five hour drive to Conshohocken, PA. I kept hoping that the brakes would fix themselves again but it wasn't to be. Midway through our journey we stopped for gas, realized there were essentially no brakes and had to shift down to slow. And do the Fred Flinstone thing for the final stop. Ugh. The brake fluid was gone again so we bought some more and then discovered that when I pushed on the brake pedal, brake fluid squirted out to the ground. I couldn't tell if it was from the cylinder or from the hydraulic line, but we were at a service area on the 95 with no idea how far a garage was, no idea where we would stay if we did have it towed so I came up with a plan. We will simply be the slowest vehicle at all times on the road. Total folly, I know, but it worked. The highway was fine but those last couple miles on surface streets were a challenge. Slowing enough to make sure the red lights turned green before we arrived at the intersection was the most difficult, but I spotted a garage just before we arrived at Roger's and knew we would be dropping the car off there in the morning.

Camper Roger (aka Blanche) greeted us with vodka tonics and it was quite clear he had had a head start on us. Roger is a happy drinker though so that was fun. We walked to a nearby restaurant and had some delicious food. Calamari to start, a fiesta salad for me and seafood pasta for Serge and Roger had the ravioli. I chose Blue Moon beer which I always do where it is offered. The next day we dropped the car off and waited for the call. Roger had taken the day off to hang out with us and we were maybe going to go into Philadelphia to play tourist but Roger's back was acting up so we basically sat on the porch all day sipping drinks. It was just lovely and there was wonderful entertainment from Sammy Jo, Roger's grand nephew who will surely be a successful comedian some day. I have never seen a 3 year old with such perfect comedic timing. Charmed the socks off of us.

What a lovely way to spend the day. It's always drink time at Roger's, yay! The call came finally and there were multiple breaks in the hydraulic line and the whole thing had to be replaced. It was finally done around 4pm so we could continue our journey to the DC suburb of Silver Spring MD to see VUBOQ, also known as Steven. When I picked up the car, I was so psyched that it was fixed that I pumped my arm on the way out and uttered "YAY!" since I was so happy. I heard the guy behind the counter let out a big laugh at that. Glad I could share the happiness.

We arrived into the DC area just as one of the most wicked thunderstorms I have ever been in was unleashing it's fury. Constant lightning, the sky dark as night and we could see absolutely nothing except blurred hazard lights as everyone on the road put them on. It was more intense than the automatic car wash. And it made it really difficult to find Steven's house because we couldn't see the addresses and GPS was inaccurate about the actual placement of his building. After several trips around the block we found it. Steven greeted us with his special homemade cocktails. Mine was blueberry infused gin with Italian lemon soda. Serge's was tea infused vodka with a splash of Peach nectar and something else, I forget.

Steven forbade me from posting this on Facebook but he didn't say nuthin about the blog and it is one of my favorite shots from the trip. We went out for Mexican food (I will never say no to Mexican food.) and came back for cookies and more drinks. It was pretty hot that night and sleep was a bit fitful, but it was great to hang out with him and meet his best friend neighbor upstairs Tomoko. We talked about our time in Japan and before we knew it, those who had to work in the morning were off to bed. The next morning we discovered that Steven had no coffee in the house. Correction, he had no caffeinated coffee. So we drank decaf and confirmed to ourselves once again that decaf doesn't cut it. Once on the road, first order of business was high octane coffee. We headed off to Blogger Mark's place in Lewes DE. Yay, we get to visit a state we have never been to.

I love Agnes, our GPS. She has real time traffic updates and at a certain point started showing an 18 minute delay then 23 then 46 and *poof* she asked, "I found a route that is 42 minutes faster, would you like to take that route?" Uh, yes, yes we do. I can't imagine why anyone would push the no button. She took us into a shopping center and exited us out the other side on a different road and we zig zagged our way across the state of Delaware.

We arrived at Mark and Joe's beautiful home and met Marvin, a feisty little chihuahua. We went out for a yummy seafood lunch and took a walk on the boardwalk in Rehoboth Beach. It was a bit cool and overcast but we could see how it would really be rocking on a warm summer day. Mark showed us around town and then we went back and hung out talking until Joe came home. It was so effortless, like meeting a friend after not having seen them in a long time. But in this case, it was the first time we had met in person. That's the great thing about the blogging years. I feel like I know these people and consider them friends even though it was all virtually. Bloggers blog their real selves for the most part and Mark is just as down to earth and genuine as you can imagine. It was great meeting Joe too, such a sweet guy. They took us out to another fabulous seafood restaurant and I had the best lobster roll of my life. And I have had many. I should go Yelp that for them, it was heaven in my mouth.

Then we went back and played with Marvin and we showed them Heads Up and it was great fun. I Facebooked Serge's response when trying to guess Yoda and after we got exasperated mimicking Yoda, we said, "Rhymes with Soda!" and Serge responded, "Spartacus!" So funny. Mark made a boo-boo too when he said while I was trying to guess "Pegasus", "It's a horse with one horn!" to which I naturally answered "unicorn" but then Joe clarified no, not a horse with one horn, a horse with wings. Then I correctly guessed it.

Marvin dominating. To cap off the night after Joe headed off to bed we had some prosecco and shot the shit well into the night. Slept great and then walked over to have breakfast at a local joint. Then it was time to head to the big apple.

Agnes started to alert us to traffic problems but little did I know she was going to end up taking us into Manhattan to get to Brooklyn. Really, we were coming up from the South so I didn't think that would happen. Unfortunately traffic conditions and our constant yes to her questions whether or not we wanted to take the fastest route necessitated it. I HATE DRIVING IN MANHATTAN. It is my second time and I certainly hope it is the last. We finally made it to the huge apartment inhabited by campers Michael, Eric and soon but not yet arrived at that point John.

The apartment was very big by NY standards and there were three floors like this and a great little balcony.
Michael had to work so he left the key under the matt for us and left us instructions to get to the subway and the wifi code. Such a perfect host. We stashed our things and headed out. We headed to Michael's work to say hi and then went down to Whole Foods at Columbus circle, grabbed some sushi and went into to Central Park to eat it and people watch.

That skinny little skyscraper (oxymoron?) looked nearly finished and we commented how pissed the residents of the building behind must be, their view of Central Park forever sullied. We remembered the generous pours at happy hour at Posh so headed over there for a martini. I kept asking Serge if we could go to Nobu 57 for dinner, but he was a no, and he was right it is really too expensive for us to splurge like that right now and we HAVE already been there twice.

So a couple martinis there, then a couple of beers at Flaming Saddles which has been named best gay bar in New York City. I certainly liked the bartenders and I drooled over the arms of one of them and he caught me staring and said something and I said, "I just can't get over how perfect your arms are." And he lit up and said, "Thank you, you know that is the part of my body that I'm most self-conscious about." Well he shouldn't be I assured him. Then we headed out to look for something to eat. We happened upon a crowded chinese place and I am not a big fan of it usually, but Serge wanted some so in we went. We sat down and the menu was huge and had so many things and we had had drinks so when the waitress arrived with the hot tea, Serge asked if they had Singapore Noodles and the waitress pointed to something on the menu and we both said, I'll take it! It was my first time having that and it was darned good. We both cleared our plates. I got a great fortune in my fortune cookie too.

My jaw about hit the floor when the bill came though. $18.00 with tax. Are you kidding me? We are in New York City, you can't go to Starbucks for $18. What a happy dance we did outside. I wanted to cruise through Time's Square before meeting up with Michael at the apartment to take some pics.

We hung out with Michael and had a lovely time catching up, talking about other campers, explaining why we can't go again this year (mostly about $) and before we knew it it was bed time. The next day we were astonished to find another household with NO COFFEE in it. We settled for black tea, but despite the claims of equal caffeine, it just isn't the same. So after stopping at a local coffee joint for the real thing Michael took us to the High Line park which we had been to but only after it first opened. Now it is much longer.

It was a lovely day, perfect temperature and since it wasn't the weekend, the park wasn't too crowded. Michael insisted on taking us out to lunch, we tried to pay but he was having none of it. Thanks again to a perfect host.

He went with us to Century 21 where we always stop by to buy shoes. I found a cute pair right away and Serge did too. Fastest trip there I can remember. Then Michael had to go pretty himself for a date later and Serge and I decided to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge which we have done before but it is a wonderful way to view the city.

Then we went back to chill a bit before heading to our final stop on the road trip, East Meadow Long Island. Traffic was just awful and my bladder about exploded by the time we got there. Doc's got me on a diuretic as it seems my family history has finally caught up with me on the blood pressure front so I can't be away from a bathroom for too much time. I almost peed in a bottle but we had the top down so it might not have been all that discreet. We were greeted warmly at blogger Jess and Marc's home. Their dog is sick and no one is sure quite what is wrong with him so they were understandably a bit preoccupied. I only got a couple pics because it just didn't seem too celebratory with worrying about the dog. We had a lovely dinner though and homemade brownies and ice cream for dessert. The next day Marc made a lovely breakfast and we readied ourselves for the 7 hour trek home.

Poor little guy. I hope Dodger feels better real soon.

The drive home was uneventful but another gorgeous spring day. We had originally planned to head over to the Boston area but for a variety of reasons decided to skip that. All in all we spent less than a grand and that was with the car repair so a very successful vacation all in all. And we had big big fun. Thanks to all our hosts!

I am hoping this marks a more frequent blog posting phase. I feel like I have found myself again, that I got my voice back, that I got my mojo back and that life is good again. I hope to share that with y'all more often now. But I will not be doing marathon posts such as this one. I should have broken this up into several posts but it's done now so I am posting. Peace.