The Road to Farley

The Road to Farley

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Travel Diaries

I had a two-hour layover at DFW (Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport) today, so it gave me time to reflect on some of my airport observations from time spent on business and leisure travel over the years. I don't claim to be the Iowa City equivalent to Rick Steves or Rudy Maxa. I haven't been able to attain Platinum status on American. But, for what it's worth, here's my unofficial airport guide. 

Best Bathrooms: Hands down to ORD (O'Hare International Airport)--not necessarily because they are the most modern or cleanest bathrooms. But, I am quite fond of the "toilet condoms" that give a clean sheath of plastic to rest your bum on. Why haven't other airports caught on to this trend??

Shortest/Fastest Security Line: I'm going to have to give the nod to the hometown favorite CID (The Eastern Iowa Airport). They always seem to have twice as many TSA agents as they probably need, and I don't think I've ever stood in a line with more than 10 people. Also, no full body scans here! CID also gets bonus points for what I call the "Touchdown to 380" factor, which is the time it takes from landing until I am out of the parking lot and headed home on 380. On most days, it is less than 15 minutes, which includes waiting for checked bags to arrive at the luggage carousel. Oh, one more little tidbit I love about CID -- the snack shop frequently has no-bake cookies for sale. CID - WINNING! 

Airport Most Resembling a Bus Terminal: I'm going to have to go with LGA here (New York LaGuardia). I think New York is one of the most fantastic cities in the world, but sadly, their three airports are kind of crappy and rundown. 

Best Food Selection: Terminal D at DFW. If I have the time to kill, it has the best selection for noshing by far. Here you'll find choices other than Chili's and Friday's. They've got everything from Popeye's and Fuddrucker's to swanky cantinas and bistros. Bonus points for having a Ben & Jerry's. 

Most Annoying Airport: I'm going to have to go with MCO (Orlando International Airport). Way too many kids and Disney overkill. Enough said.

Best View: DIA (Denver International Airport). You can't beat the Rockies as a backdrop...either the real thing or the signature "peaks" on the airport roof.

Most Relaxing Gate Area: PSP (Palm Springs [CA] International Airport). Sit outside on patio furniture. California living at its best.

Most Celebrity Sightings: Surprisingly, this is not LAX (Los Angeles International)--at least for me. I must not hang out where the "paps" do. I've seen the most celebrities at JFK (NY Kennedy Airport).

Best Airport for a Walking Workout: DFW. I tried to find out how many miles it was if you walked the perimeter of all five terminals. I couldn't find the answer, but it has to be somewhere between 3 and 5 miles. If you have the time, skip the SkyLink and make the rounds. Everything is big in Texas. DFW's unique design allows for future expansion and shortens the distance from car to terminal and reduces congestion at baggage claim and security checkpoints; however, this design makes the distance between terminals quite a hike. 

Strangest Airport Memory: This could be a toss-up between BFS (Belfast City Airport) and LAS (Las Vegas McCarren International Airport). This is only fitting, right? In Belfast, Pearl and I were randomly selected for a special screening while Uncle Harry was allowed to pass right on through. We weren't even flying that day, we were just exchanging the rental car. In Vegas, after a loonnngggg night of partying post-conference and about one hour of sleep, I was on a 6:30 a.m. flight home. I fell asleep before we even left the gate. I woke up what seemed like hours later and asked the guy next to me where we were. He said we hadn't left the gate yet because we were waiting to be de-iced. Ummmm, this is the desert, right? I went back to sleep.

My favorite part of traveling, no matter where I go or how much fun I have had, is coming home and crawling into my own comfy bed. Pure heaven.

Friday, April 22, 2011


There is something to be said about laundromats. After my spring cleaning relapse yesterday, I got back in the saddle today and loaded the Accord down with all the dirty fabrics in my home that were not stapled to furniture.

I was a whirling dervish at the laundromat: six double-size loads plus two loads in the "big ones" -- the washers that hold up to 55 pounds of stuff. By the time I got everything loaded and on its washing way, the first load was already done. Man, I worked up a sweat keeping up with the wash loads finishing and getting the dryers (11 total) loaded. I had a 12 minute window when there were no loading/unloading duties, so I was able to zip down to Java House for a white caramel mocha and a Scotcheroo. SCORE!

When I was younger -- you know, college age or shortly thereafter -- I dreamed of the time I would have my own washer and dryer and would be able to wash my clothes in the comfort of my own home. A sure sign of being a grown up is when you start purchasing major appliances. The only thing that would be better is if I had the disposable income to pay someone to do my laundry. I really dislike mundane tasks like cleaning and washing when there are so many more interesting things to do on the weekend or a day off. That's the beauty of a laundromat. What literally would have taken me two days to do at home in my little washing machine was fluffed and folded in about 75 minutes. I'm all about efficiencies.

Of course, you have to deal with the borderline creepy factor of laundromats. Laundromania isn't too bad, they have multiple TVs to watch and free Internet, although it still is just a little bit un-clean and you wonder about the unclaimed clothing in the "lost and found."

Clearly a weekday morning is the prime time to go. When I first arrived there was just one other guy in the place. For a while, I was there alone; which, with my sometimes overactive imagination, really creeped me out. So, I called Katie to tell her I was at Laundromania alone just in case I went missing. Someone would know where to start searching for clues. A short time later, a 20-something guy came in with one basket of clothes that he threw into a single machine. Then he wandered around for a bit looking perplexed and finally asked me in non-native English if the bottle he had was soap (international grad student was my assumption on this one -- probably northern European). I looked, it was a bottle of bleach alternative for colored clothes. I told him it wasn't soap, that it was something you usually mixed with soap. He seemed confused. I was about to offer him my soap that I had already taken back out to the car, but then he asked if it would still clean his clothes. I said sure, so he poured in way more than he probably needed to and disappeared.

A young family came in with about six baskets of wet clothes. Ahhh, yes, dryer problems at home. I had a similar problem a few months back, only my washer was on the blink. So I washed my clothes at the laundromat and took them home to dry. Another family of grad students I suspected, with a cute little boy about 3. I'm guessing they were from an African country.

Two young women came in next, each with a small basket. They were very confused about the front loading machines; it took them a good 10 minutes of discussion before they were operational. A young guy came in and loaded his clothes in a washing machine then walked around the laundromat for 5 minutes trying to find where to buy tokens. He asked the young family where to buy them. The man told him that the machines just used quarters. The guy replied, "Oh quarters, I didn't see that." Too much time at the Sports Column last night? The signs on every machine that read "Insert quarters here" weren't obvious enough, I guess. Oh, I did notice that since my last foray into Laundromania, they have upgraded about half the machines to accept credit or debit cards. Handy, because it is a pain to tote $30 worth of quarters around.

A little cross-section of Iowa City visited Laundromania this morning. I wonder if the other people there were observing the other patrons like I was. What did they think of me? They might have wondered why I was sweating as if I'd been on the treadmill for 45 minutes. Honest to God, I must have been having a hot flash...I had sweat dripping off my nose, and I had to remove my sweatshirt 5 minutes in to my work. Or, maybe they wondered why I had so much dirty stuff to wash? Or, maybe they wondered what I was doing at the laundromat on a workday.

At any can't beat a laundromat if you want to do all your laundry in the shortest amount of time possible.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Afternoon Delight

I took vacation days today and tomorrow to complete my spring "to do" list, which consisted of cleaning/organizing the closets, taking oversized items to Laundromania to wash, cleaning the basement carpet, and hauling crap I no longer needed to Goodwill. Oh, I had big plans for the day. But, then, I got a text message from JoEllen.

That was us at our 30-year class reunion last summer. JoEllen was in Iowa from Georgia to visit her siblings for Easter. She was in Iowa City today for a campus visit with her daughter, who is graduating from high school. After a couple of hours her daughter decided Auburn was more her speed, so they canceled the rest of the campus visit. That's where I come in. Nothing left to do but to meet up with JoEllen at the Airliner and spend the afternoon reminiscing and laughing over Blue Moons. Thirty years ago, we probably would have kept right on drinking through the night. Now, after a few pints, we decided it was time to take the party to the Java House. Yes, this is clearly a sign of aging. Quite frankly, a nap entered my mind more than once. JoEllen and I had many late nights when we were in our early twenties. Her poor mother, Eleanor, I can still picture her sitting in their kitchen as we came stumbling in at the crack of dawn and saying "What are you girls doing all night?"

These thoughts, of course, make me laugh and scare JoEllen as she is about to send her first born off to college.

So much for my spring cleaning list. Well, tomorrow is another day.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

They clearly weren't like my mother...

LZ Granderson, a contributor, recently received a lot of press regarding his editorial entitled, "Parents, don't dress your girls like tramps." It was quite a hot topic. He got over 4300 comments posted as of today. If you haven't seen the op-ed, you can read it in its entirety at the following link:

Parents, don't dress your girls like tramps

The point of his article is that parents should dress their children, particularly girls, like -- well, little girls! They shouldn't be wearing push up bras, thong underwear, and low cut jeans. I completely agree.

My mother would never have let me out of the house wearing clothes like that. Heck, I'm pushing 50 and she still wouldn't let me out of the house wearing clothes like that. I distinctly remember when I was growing up desperately wanting a bikini to wear to the swimming pool. Nope...never got it. The only two piece swimming suit I had was what we called an apron swimsuit with bikini bottoms and a top that literally looked like a cooking apron. I suppose it wouldn't have really mattered if I had a bikini anyway because it was before the advent of SPF sunscreen and, with my redhair, I always wore a t-shirt over my swimsuit at the pool to ward off excruciating sunburns.

I also envied my friends who got to wear halter tops and tops with spaghetti straps. They were not in my wardrobe either. The "hot pants" craze of the '70s was lost on me too. My mother made me wear longer shorts even when they weren't cool to wear. Of course, I thought my mother was completely unreasonable and mean for not letting me wear what all the other kids were wearing.

I realize now, as an adult, that my mother was sensible and didn't want her red-haired, freckle-faced, larger than most girls her age daughter to wear clothing that (a) might promote skin cancer later in life and (b) would most definitely not have been flattering on my body. This sensibility remains with me today.

Thank you mom, for not allowing me to dress like a tramp despite a few years in my tween and teen years when I most certainly wanted to.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Gravity and Other Signs of Aging

When I started this blog, my "niche" was supposed to be about turning 50 in 2012. I look back at my posts and my thoughts are completely scattered about whatever the hell pops in my mind--most of which has nothing to do with aging, unless you consider that my randomness is a sign of dementia.

Tonight, a group of friends went to dinner at Augusta. No, not the Augusta with Amen Corner and the Butler Cabin. Evidently, I'm the only dumb ass to make that mistake. This is Augusta in Oxford, Iowa. It's a quaint little restaurant started by some New Orleans residents who ended up in Iowa after Hurricane Katrina. Good times with good friends and good food. And, did I mention that the New Orleans Hurricanes were superb?

So, after coming home liquored up with three of those Hurricanes, I put on my little jammie outfit that I bought on sale at Von Maur several years ago. I look in the mirror at myself every day, but why is it when you've got several shots of alcohol coursing through your veins you look at yourself in a whole new light? So, these jammies consist of a little camisole top and shorts. What the hell? Am I really just noticing for the first time that my boobs totally do not land in the little triangle of material that connects to the spaghetti straps? Jesus...they are seriously pointing straight to the ground. Where is Christian Troy when I need him. "Carol, tell me what you don't like about yourself?" Hello -- do you see my boobs pointing to my toes? That's what I'm talking about. At the rate I'm going, gravity will wreak havoc on all my body parts before it's over. I actually recall seeing a picture of my great grandmother Horsfield when I was a little girl and thinking her boobs came out of her stomach. Welcome to my future.

Maybe this doesn't make sense to you. Let me illustrate. Let's just say I *do not* look like this pic. But, you get what I mean when I say my boobs do not fit in the little triangle...instead, they are a compass pointing to the South pole.

Well, enough about my boobs.

Last week, I went to get a hair cut. My last cut was in November. Now, that didn't seem that bad as I've been liking my longer hair, but I knew I could use a little trim to clean up the edges. My stylist, whom I've known since first grade, says, "You need to come in for a color." OK, I get that you are trying to drum up business, but that doesn't make me feel all that good? Now, I'm paranoid that my gray hair is excessive. What the hell?

I also had a spa facial last week, and the facialist (is that what you call them??) said I had "really dry skin." Seriously? Is that why you had to squeeze the hell out of my nose to clear the pores and why I have no less than three pimples on my face this week? I'm so conflicted -- dry skin + acne. What is up with that?

As I noted...I'm three Hurricanes in tonight. Of course, in the morning it will feel as if I drank a dozen. Another side effect of aging. More than two drinks throws my system off kilter for two days.

I'm also reminiscing about the old days when weekends meant sleeping in until at least 10 or 11. Bailey doesn't understand Saturday, so she promptly wakes me up at 5:15. I do go back to bed, but I seriously cannot stay in bed past 7. I'm turning into my grandmother. Just let me drink my half a can of Bud, listen to the Cubs, and take a nap on the davenport.

Life is good.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The End of Daytime TV as We Know It

ABC announced today that it is canceling "All My Children" and "One Life to Live." I am not ashamed to admit that I have been an All My Children fan for about 35 of the 40 plus years that it has been on the air. The residents of Pine Valley were kind of like my friends...or maybe distant relatives that I didn't see very often but always kept tabs on what was going on in their lives.

In the early days, I ran the full gamut of soaps during the summer: Ryan's Hope (duh, Kate Mulgrew was from Dubuque!), All My Children, General Hospital, and The Edge of Night. After Ryan's Hope was canceled, I converted to The Young & The Restless. (The Young & The Restless is in Genoa City, Wisconsin. On the show, of course it's a huge city. I've been to Genoa City. It's about as big as Farley.) When you are a pre-teen or teen and are bored and full of teenage angst, and you live in the country and only get three TV channels, three months of summer vacation from school can compel you to do a lot of things for just a little bit of excitement. So, I suppose becoming addicted to soaps was pretty mild all things considered. I hated going back to school in August because I would miss all the action (pre-VCR days...I'm old).

In college, I would schedule my classes around the soaps. Everyone was caught up in the Luke and Laura drama/romance. And Tad Martin was the first "bad boy" I knew about. Now, Tad Martin is one of the oldest characters in Pine Valley. He's gotten pudgy and gray -- Tad, I feel your pain. 

I read that ABC will end All My Children in September and bring "appropriate closure" to the show. Well, I suppose that means that at least two or three people who we thought were dead will reappear. Somebody will find out they are somebody else's illegitimate child, and maybe somebody will finally kill David Hayward.   I'm going to miss that 37 minutes of mindless TV. (Of late, I had started to watch episodes online. Without commercials, a one hour episode takes just 37 minutes to watch.) There will still be the void of some of the great characters from that show who have passed away -- no more Phoebe Wallingford, no Palmer Cortland/Pete Cooney, no Myrtle Fargate, no Mona Kane.

I also read that one of the replacement shows will be something called "The Chew." Oh...another cooking show. I'm so over that. I was a Food Network addict about 10 years ago, but when the likes of Rachael Ray and Paula Deen starting coming out with 3-4 different shows, it was overkill.

Sure, soaps are mindless, but so is about 80% of the programming currently on TV. At least they tried to have a storyline, and they frequently spawned actors who went on to bigger and better things. Who remembers Demi Moore as Jackie Templeton on General Hospital?? And, the celebrity guests -- Elizabeth Taylor on General Hospital, Oprah and Carol Burnett on All My Children?

So long Pine Valley and Llanview. I, for one, will miss you.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A House Is Not A Home...

Who doesn't love Luther's song (big Luther..not Lil' Luther) "A House Is Not A Home..."

A room is a still a room
Even when there's nothin' there but gloom
But a room is not a house
And a house is not a home
When the two of us are far apart
And one of us has a broken heart
These lyrics were running through my head when I pulled up in front of what used to be my the Parkview Terrace (AKA Mosquito Flats) neighborhood in Iowa City.

A house is not a home when it has disappeared in the name of flood mitigation. As I sat staring at the now empty lot of what had been Bailey's and my home for nearly six years, I thought back to the emotional summer of 2008 and the historic flood. On June 12, 2008, my lovely neighborhood next to City Park looked more like this:

The entire neighborhood was swallowed up by the Iowa River, which had breached the emergency spillway at the Coralville Reservoir in only the second time in history. It was a really strange time, leading up to the actual flood. They started sandbagging operations a week before the actual flood. My neighbor Jim and I pitched in to "help those poor people on Normandy" save their homes. While neither of us lived in the neighborhood during the flood of 1993, we were assured that the homes on Eastmoor remained dry. As the week edged on, and the sandbag wall inched ever higher, we started to have doubts that we would be spared this time around. Two days before the flood, someone from the city walked up and down the street pounding stakes into the ground. When I asked him what they meant, he replied that it was noting the "new" 100 year flood level. The mark on the stake was just below the living room window. Holy I started to panic.
It was at this moment that I finally understood why the residents of New Orleans didn't just up and leave when Hurricane Katrina was bearing down on them. You're completely torn between leaving everything behind and running for higher ground and waiting until the last possible moment to save your possessions, your treasures, your every day way of living. Some of us adapted better than others. But, regardless, it was a sucky situation. While I was barely holding it together, my friends rallied to support me. Seth and Sara came and took every piece of my clothing from my house to Solon. Liz offered me her guest room in North Liberty, and my nephew Jake and I took all my photos, scrapbooks, bedding, and assorted treasures there. My friend Andy brought his enormous snowmobile trailer and loaded all of my antiques and took them to his storage building on the east side of Iowa City.
(A side story about Andy's antique rescue. First, he inadvertently drove down Normandy instead of turning onto Manor and then Eastmoor. Well, by this time, Normandy was underwater at the end of the block and impassable. He had to back up this big trailer and turn around through all the people trying to evacuate and pile sandbags. Needless to say, he had to drive across a few lawns to get back to my street. Then, after loading my stuff and heading to his storage unit, he ran out of gas on North Dodge Street! Kudos to Andy for the exceptional effort!)
In retrospect, I should have loaded everything into that snowmobile trailer. But, again, we were all still in denial that our street would actually flood. Two nights before the actual flood, my neighbor Jim and I sat in my now nearly empty house and drank shots of Irish Whiskey. It seemed the right thing to do at the time. The next day, Jim finally threw in the towel and sought alternate living arrangements. He didn't get as much out as I did. Many on my street didn't. By 9 a.m. on June 12th, the neighborhood was completely flooded.
We didn't get back in the neighborhood until June 25th. You cannot imagine what it is like to enter into a house after a flood. Let me just say, it is disgusting. Here are a few shots to show you what my once cute little home looked like. This was the kitchen. The refrigerator was knocked over. You can only see a small patch of the floor. It used to be white.
This was my office. You can see that the water was about 3 feet up the wall. Carpet -- gross.
Living room (formerly with a light peach colored carpet). You cannot imagine how heavy a sofa gets when it is water logged. My first thought when I walked in the house that day was, "I can't believe I lived in this dump."

What followed were four and a half months of living out of boxes and helping out rebuilding the house. The demo was the worse. The smell is simply indescribable. I swear that smell was stuck in my sinuses for weeks. At random times when I inhaled through my nose I would get a whiff of it. God bless my coworkers for coming to help with this gross dirty job of ripping out carpets, tearing out drywall, and sweeping up garbage. The neighborhood literally looked like a war zone. I actually regret not taking pictures of it. The curbs were piled 8-10 feet high with garbage. The dump trucks could not keep up hauling it away. It was months before the neighborhood started to return to normal. But, slowly, it did, at least on Eastmoor Drive.

By Christmas, just about everyone who planned to return did. I was among the earlier returnees. I moved back the second weekend of November in 2008. The house was perfect on the inside, like a brand new home. I especially loved my new kitchen. 

I bonded more with my neighbors during those months that I had in the previous four years. Everyone took turns hosting Saturday "soup suppers" to show off their new and improved homes. On the one year anniversary of the flood, we hosted a block party and invited the whole neighborhood. 

When I drove by my home when I heard it had been torn down, I was tinged with sadness about the little community that was lost. The flood was devastating both emotionally and financially for many people. But, we rallied to rebuild the homes and our lives when the city initially said there would be no money for buyouts except those offered by FEMA to residents within the 100 year flood plain. So, after months of painstakingly putting the pieces of the neighborhood together and getting back to a new normal, the city began to offer buyouts. One by one, people took the offer because there were no plans to mitigate future flooding in the neighborhood. I think I counted over 45 homes that have been torn down in this once quaint neighborhood. Some would argue that the neighborhood should have never been developed. That is probably true. But, the fact remains, that it was developed and many people called it home for many years. And, then, it was gone. (Admittedly, that's a little dramatic. The entire neighborhood isn't "gone." There are still quite a number of people who live there with no plans to leave. But, to me, the soul of the neighborhood is gone.) 

What I learned from this experience is:
  • Never buy a home in a flood plain.
  • You can handle more than you think you can.
  • It's OK to simultaneously do shots and cry over the unknown.
  • Sometimes the weatherman is actually right.
  • If you find a stake in your yard with a flood level marked on it, you should probably believe it.
  • You find out very quickly who your friends are by their unconditional willingness to do whatever they need to do to help you.
  • Don't make assumptions about what people faced with challenges should or shouldn't do until you have actually walked in their shoes.
  • Throw the treadmill away the first time! (That's an inside joke.)
  • Buy flood insurance! It's not that expensive.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Sunshine, Blue Skies..., I can't believe we are in April. Looking back at my first posts of the year, I was so ambitious. Blogging every day..right. Clearly, I was on some kind of euphoric high with the new year. You see how long I lasted. Now...I'm lucky if I manage to write one blog per week. we go, first rambling for the month of April.

I'll start by going back to January 4th. Remember, this is what Willow Creek Park looked like that day.

The first week of February, we couldn't even get in the park. The neighborhood looked more like this:

March started to look a little better. It's still kind of dreary, but looked something like this:

And today, you could really sense spring. It was a warm 60 degrees at 4:00. Best part...Dane's Dairy opens this weekend. A sure sign that spring has arrived. We love that place. Free doggie cups!

There you go....river days can't be far away.

But, what is really on my mind tonight is our #@!%$! government. Obviously, I've been aware of the threat of a government shutdown for a time. And, because I work for a government contractor, I've even been through this before. But, it does not stop me from being infuriated at the President and every member of Congress. If there is a government shutdown, there is a possibility that I will personally be affected if our company is advised to stop work. We've been told we will either have to use up our vacation time or go without pay. Neither of these options make me very happy. But, what really pisses me off is that paychecks to our dedicated troops--serving our country in wars that seem like they will never end--will likely be disrupted while the President AND Congress will continue to receive their checks. Wow! I mean, that really takes some balls. They sit on their asses in Washington playing their bullshit political games, and because they can't come to any reasonable agreement, the individuals responsible for protecting our freedom get the short end of the stick. Unconscionable! Why should Congress continue to receive their checks? They aren't performing their jobs. 

See, now I've got myself all riled up to the point that I'm going to send Harkin, Grassley, and Loebsack a message. I know it won't do any good. But, perhaps I will feel better.