I’m going up the country Babe, don’t you wanna go?
I’m going up the country Babe, don’t you wanna go?
I’m going to some place where I’ve never been before
Lyrics, Going up to the Country, Canned Heat
Well the dog days of this Texas Summer are almost over and I got the itch. Want to go somewhere, get on the road, in a car, board a plane. It’s time to start packing. Mr. Husband and I are heading to Seattle in a week or so and I can’t wait. We are attending my cousin’s wedding. That’s my excuse anyway, not that I’m not looking forward to her wedding.
I Love the Pacific Northwest, it’s so green and lush and laid back. If money was no object I would have a summer house up there. Texas winters can be a bit on the nasty side, but it’s the wicked summers that really do me in. A hundred degrees in the shade every day, where’s the fun in that? I’m hoping that the Hubman falls in love with the area like I am and wants to go back frequently.
With Hubman holding my hand to draw strength from, maybe I’ll finally go up in the Space Needle. It’s a major tourist attraction in Seattle that I’ve avoided like the plague, mainly because I don’t handle heights well. I get dizzy on a step stool.
Furthermore with travel plans, I’ve decided that’s it my turn this year to spend Thanksgiving with my family in New Orleans. I’ve done the last 3 here in Texas with Mr. Husband’s family and it’s always a fine and sumptuous feast, but I miss my family, even if they do drive me bat shit crazy on a regular basis.
My sister is going to China about the same time we will be in Seattle. She’s going with her dad to visit her extended family in Beijing. Her father is a Hawaiian Chinese mix and he had children prior to meeting my mother, so she has a half-brother, his wife and children there. They have plans to visit the Great Wall and all kinds of exotic adventures. I can’t wait to experience it vicariously through pictures.
She asked me if I had any advice for her about traveling to China. I’ve been to Hong Kong, Kowloon, and Macau, but never mainland China. I told her that the most important thing to bring was an open mind and a sense of humor. Although a voltage converter plug, lots of stomach medicine, and her favorite brand of contact lens solution would be an asset.
I also warned her that men treat women entirely different there. There is no concept of chivalry as we know it here in the deep south of the U.S.A. A man will not only not hold a door for a woman at any time, but will knock her down in his attempt to get through the door before her. They will even swarm and bash into you in a rush to beat you to board a plane. I never did understand that. The seats are assigned and no matter whether you board first or last, you’re all leaving at the same time when the plane takes off. It must be a cultural thing.
I’m also contemplating squeezing a trip to Tucson, New Mexico in October to visit an old friend there. I haven’t visited with her in almost 9 years. She is in her late 70’s so I think it’s high time to get my butt out there for a visit.
Life is good. I love to travel and I have 3 trips stored in my hopper of imagination already. Tally Ho!
Now that I have your attention…this is a book review. Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven is a memoir written by Susan Jane Gilman. A New York Times best-selling author of Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress.
Right out of an ivy league college, she and a friend decided to backpack around the world starting in the People’s Republic of China. In 1986, before Tiananmen Square. Two fresh-faced girls with no life experience. One a leggy blond, pampered from birth, the author sporting 36 double Ds. Both pining for boyfriends left behind.
They arrive in Hong Kong and proceed to have a meltdown. Culture shock, strange foods, soul stealing heat and a language barrier ended up being the least of their problems. From the comfort of my recliner it’s easy to say “oh my God woman, you need to learn the words of that old song. You gotta know when to hold em, know when to fold em. Know when to walk away, know when to run.” Not so easy when you are smack in the middle of the situation and it’s all so crazy to begin with, that it is extremely difficult to sort out what it just too crazy. The only spoiler I’m going to give away is that they lived, of course. The book is not a posthumous memoir.
It got me thinking. You never really know someone and how much intestinal fortitude, pardon my pun, they have or do not have until you travel with them. I tested Mr. Husband on this point by going along with him on a decision to stay at a hotel on South Padre Island when a tropical storm was rolling in, instead of evacuating. Duh!
I have been through hurricanes and typhoons so I take full and complete blame for the stupidity of this particular adventure. During the night the tropical storm turned into category 3 Hurricane Dolly that slammed into the Texas gulf coast a few years back. We lived and are still married so he passed the test. It was an epic intelligence fail for me because I knew full well what we might be in for and did it anyway. As we were using the garbage can from the room to scoop water out of a puddle behind the building to flush the toilet, it began to dawn on him too.
There have been times during travel that I have looked at my companion and thought “I don’t know you, I don’t want to know you, and if I ever see your face again it will be too soon!” But I usually back down later on when the situation is better and I’m sipping a cold beer. Such is the nature of adventure.
I hereby for-with, do formally and unequivocally grant myself the right to be silly. Life is just too short. My days of jumping through hoops is about to come to a screeching halt. “What will people think?” has got to be the most insidious mind control twist ever. I don’t know what will people think? That I had a good time? That I’m certifiable, call the padded van? Don’t know, don’t care.
Who is this “they” that we all worry about. I think women especially are raised to have this internal sensor switched on in high gear. “Oh if you do that, people won’t think you’re a nice girl.” After 55 years hanging around the old planetary water cooler I have yet to hear even a second-hand tale of anyone who got any benefit from that kind of “niceness.” The nice that you are when you allow others to take credit for your accomplishments. This nice you are not when you refuse to do someone’s work for them while they goof off. Nice girls don’t get angry, Nice girls don’t stand up for themselves. If you were my friend you would…wash my car for me, babysit my cat for 3 months, drive in the middle of the night to come to my house and scratch my left eyebrow.
It’s amazing what people will expect you to do. And are shocked when you don’t go along with the plan. One time my daughter and I were on a train in Boston, chatting away, people watching and just in general having a good time. A woman who was financially endowed, shall we say, climbed on the train. She was fur clad, dripping with jewelry, hair shellacked into some kind of blond helmet. In each hand was huge handful of Neiman Marcus and Sax Fifth Avenue shopping bags. She looked around, walked down the aisle, stood over me and said “get up, I want your seat.” No please or anything. This woman was not much older than me and certainly not in the category of ‘be nice and give the elderly person your seat.’ Something about having my daughter with me made me think carefully about my answer. The last thing I wanted to do was set the example of a wishy washy scullery maid. Finally I looked at this woman, smiled a big smile and and “no, thank you.” She stomped her foot in an immature mini tantrum and walked off down the train. Maybe she bullied someone else out of their seat. I didn’t look to see. It was something about her sense of entitlement that just galled me.
When I travel I love to be open, ask dumb questions, pretend to not read the signs. There is no way you can pass yourself, as a local so why try? I talked at the JFK memorial and got scolded by a guard. I leaned too far over to see a Faberge Egg and set off the alarm. I lost my day pass at the Imperial Gardens in Tokyo and almost caused an international tourism incident. I laughed at the appetizer at a snooty hotel in Hong Kong. It was chunks of tofu with hotdog relish. Charging $20 for it didn’t make it a bit more sophisticated. I send my food back if it’s horrible. I climbed up the Statue of Liberty with a silly green crown hat on. I eat food from street vendors and don’t care if it dribbles on my clothes.
When I got older I’m going to enjoy that too. My walker will be metallic pink with racing stripes and a bicycle bell. I’m also going to refuse to wear a hearing aid but instead use an ear horn and crack up laughing at people trying to shout down it. I will still pretend to not understand and do as I please. Life is to be lived, loved and enjoyed. This is not a dress rehearsal, folks.