Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Greensboro, Friends & Beautiful Fiancee's

Lake Oconee

We spent the weekend in Greensboro GA with Sheila’s friend/boss at his (OMG!!) (WTF??) (Really!?) (Holy Cow!!) b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l home in Harbor Club on Lake Oconee. As you might surmise, the house is fantastic! I told Sheila, “This is easily the cleanest home I have ever been in”, and she said, “It really is spotless and beautiful, isn’t it?”, but I could tell by her innuendo that she was thinking, either:

  1. "our house could be this clean if you didn’t have so many unemployed musicians in it every week”, or;
  2. "our house could be this clean if your make-believe dog wasn’t such a PITA”, or;
  3. “our house could be this clean if YOU would clean it”

I’m pretty sure that list could continue on for quite a while, but I’ll just let that drift away for the time being.

We stopped enroute to pick up Sheila’s friend/co-worker Val and her boyfriend at her home in Roswell, then headed east. For some who-the-heck-knows reason there was almost no traffic going through Atlanta (what? … I know, right? There is ALWAYS traffic in the ATL) (as a reminder, if you’re new: I’m going to refer to Atlanta most times as “The ATL”, it’s the hip thing to do, or so I’m told) so we made great time. Val suggested we stop in a town called Madison for a bite to eat since we were running a bit early.

Madison is a pretty little town with some very historic buildings. That, in and of itself, is remarkable since Georgia doesn’t have too much concern for historic structures, routinely knocking crap down to build new, shiny things that the hipsters can “ooh” and “aah” at with reckless abandon. 

Now, according to Sheila, it’s all Sherman’s fault for his march through Georgia when he torched the entire state as they marched (Sheila really dislikes Sherman) (odd, since Sheila grew up in California eating pizza with avocados and sprouts) (pretty sure Sherman didn’t have avocados OR sprouts), thereby creating this “screw history” attitude that seems to exist here in Georgia. To be completely fair, Sheila does have southern roots … her Great-Great-Grandfather fought for the South and was wounded in the Battle of Shiloh, and ultimately died from wounds suffered in the Battle of Shiloh (of course, that was probably 74 years later, but who’s counting) … so her indignation with “Uncle Billy” (the troops called Sherman that) is somewhat understandable.

The WWI Doughboy ... figured I'd ease the Sherman tension with an unrelated war

But anyway, Madison somehow avoided being infected with Sherman-itis (not to mention avocados) and kept a lot of their old buildings, creating a beautiful southern-looking town. We had lunch at a little coffee shop that also had sandwiches, where the service was warm and the food was good … but everything was done at a snail’s pace and the 13-item menu seemed to be overwhelming to the sweet lady who waited on us. Dan (Val’s boyfriend) and I had two semi-similar sandwiches and I’m not sure if I ate the right one or not, but it was very tasty and my digestive tract had plenty of time to work on the processing while we waited for a check. By the time Dan paid (somehow I out-fumbled him for the check 😊) my meal was well on its way to being completely digested.
Madison Courthouse
We did take a quick walk around town (not too long … due to the dirge-like service pace we were now running late) and noted that anything representing a retail environment was closed (this is a Saturday at noon, BTW), so I’m guessing the exchange of cash isn’t a high priority in Madison GA. But the buildings were really nice and I can see a day in the not too distant future where Madison GA will be the cool place to be.

We ventured on to Greensboro, where Sheila’s friend (and boss, too, but they’ve worked together forever) Jeff and his wife Peg have their sort-of vacation home. If I haven’t already said it, OMG, what a beautiful home! Very spacious sitting right on Lake Oconee with a 5-boat dock (replete with lifts), a cool dock surface, wonderfully landscaped property … the very picture of relaxation and peace. This is a pic of the neighbor across the cove ... I’m not posting any pics of Jeff & Peg’s house so the miscreants in Jersey that read this blog can come down here and rip them off  ... (oops, did I write that out loud?) (didn't mean to besmirch the character of my former Jersey brethern) (let me try that again) … I’m not posting any pics of Jeff & Peg’s house so the stellar folks in Jersey that read this blog don’t feel jealous (there, that’s better).

Not Jeff's house

Jeff and Peg took us for a boat ride around Lake Oconee. That lake is HUGE, just about 30 square miles. It was created in the late ‘70’s by the local power utility to work in conjunction with a dam, so as a result all of the land immediately abutting the water surface is owned by Georgia Power and leased to the residents. Unfortunately for Jeff/Peg, the bulkhead is NOT owned by GP … in keeping with the trends of all public utilities, if it is going to cost money you’re paying for it, not the utility. But Jeff explained that, since their property is located in a cove, the bulkhead doesn’t get battered by waves from speeding boats and jet skis and subsequently it’s in pretty good shape.

Jeff - boss, friend, boat captain
It’s always a little awkward for me in these types of settings at first. Frank, Sheila’s husband who passed away a few weeks after Bunny, was a gregarious and outgoing guy who was always well liked, so while I don’t necessarily feel the need to “compete” in any way, I’m always super cognizant of the fact that these are Sheila’s long-term friends (and in this case, co-workers and THE BOSS) and I can’t just be all, you know, uhh … Jersey …   But in this instance, Jeff & Peg and Val & Dan (sounds like some horrible rom-com from ‘80’s, doesn’t it?) were incredibly gracious and welcoming and tolerated my slowly developing Georgia mannerism re-boot.

After a tour of Lake Oconee, which included some lake swimming off of the boat (Jeff cautioned everyone not to dive head-first off the boat) (it’s a man-made lake and anything could be below the, at times, shallow water depth). Neither Sheila nor I participated in the off-the-boat swimming; we had both, independently, come to the conclusion that we weren’t going to do anything that had even a remote possibility of damaging a body part (Jeff: “Don’t jump head-first off the boat, you could easily be impaled on a used-to-be pine tree trunk in some shallow parts”) before we get married … I guess the innuendo is that once we’re married who really cares if stuff breaks or not … plus, I’m the whitest white man since Johnny Winter (who? I can just hear everyone under the age of 50 hitting the Google search pages) and Sheila isn’t very far behind me, pigment-wise. (but why is her skin sooo pretty and mine sooo pasty?) We don’t need to be beet red and peeling while saying “I Do”.

Peg, Dan and Val not impaled on tree trunks
After a beautiful afternoon on the water and relaxing with adult beverages (I did partake in the adult beverages), we were treated to a wonderful meal prepared by Peg (really, truly wonderful!!) and then spent the evening at a local marina off the lake listening to live music and enjoying the end of a really coolio day! These folks are all extremely nice and, BTW, very intelligent, which is always a challenge for me to keep up with conversations regarding, for example, “sustainability” (FYI, they all seriously disliked the over-use of the term) (I was busy wiping spittle off my chin and contemplating the oddity of toe hair) (Sheila was busy looking through her contacts list for a replacement fiancée) (there is a guy in there named Sergio … I really gotta get rid of that guy).

I’ve come to realize that Sheila’s friends, whether work related or otherwise, are all extremely nice. I can’t think of a single one of them that I find to be a drag. Sheila has liked all of my friends, but I’ve been careful to only introduce her to my friends that I know chew with their mouth closed. And her friends always seem interested in my musical background, which is somewhat unique to most people who may never have seen a professional musician live and in person at their dining room table. Kind of like looking at a slug and wondering “How to they move like that and why do they leave a slime trail?” j/k, they were very gracious and friendly and didn’t hold my musical proclivities against me. (Okay … yes, I had to look up “proclivities” … but I had to call Laura first to tell me how to spell it) (Laura is another smarty-pants) (Laura=daughter, if you’re new here)

Sunday morning Peg served up a knock-out breakfast! It’s amazing how effortlessly she put these beautiful and delicious meals together, since she always seemed to be sitting with us without any prolonged absences. When I cook it takes about 4 days to get my ingredients together, then I have to bug Sheila about 20 times while cooking it, the stove is always a mess, dogs begging at my feet, food all over the place, garbage bag getting constantly changed, honestly, it’s a disaster! Peg just kind of floated past the kitchen, I think she might have twitched her nose like Samantha on Bewitched (again, the sounds of Google-searching are likely going on right now), and Bam! … Here’s some delicious food!

The weekend was great and I’m so appreciative of the generosity and kindness shown me by Sheila’s circle of peeps.  It’s all a part of the wonderment that is Sheila and makes me even more aware of the level of my good fortune in meeting this pure soul.

As an aside, when I first began speaking with Sheila she told me she was a “very private person” and “didn’t like having her personal information displayed” for everyone to see. Well, clearly, that goal has been smashed to pieces! I guess those are the perils of falling in love with a Jersey musician who also happens to be a blabbermouth. Yet somehow this beautiful woman continues to keep me around … is there anyone more blessed than me?

Monday, August 7, 2017

From Mine & Yours to Ours

Most of the people that read this blather I call a blog (and that's quite a hefty number, surprisingly) are either old, like me, or at least in a pretty long term relationship (no, not 4 months ... real long term, like years and years) (when did dating for 4 months start to become so meaningful?) (sure, it's nice and all, but it's just dating, right?). So, most of you probably don't remember the start of your relationship and the setting up of ground rules. I certainly didn't ...

Somewhere along the line things went from "mine" and "yours" to "ours" around here. It wasn't purposeful or intentional, we didn't have any long discussions about it, no deep soul searching or extended introspective. It just, one day, was now "ours".

I moved in with Sheila in October last year. Now, for that, we had many long discussions! We weighed the pros (waayyy to many to list here) and the cons (truthfully, couldn't come up with even one) ... Even tried out the old "Devils Advocate" routine, trying to find a reason to not live together. But it just made sense to both of us, so I relocated to Georgia.

Then the reality of having some formerly grumpy Jersey guy living with you started to settle in with Sheila (and I say formerly, because since arriving in Georgia my disposition did a 180) (by 180, I mean a complete turnaround) (explanation provided for the mathematically challenged) . Here's a short list of things she didn't expect:
  • Ownership of a dumb dog
No, really ... not smart
  • Loss of nearly the entire lower level of the house to musical instruments
Take-over includes supply of old rockers
  • Never ending Jersey chatter
Chatter includes things like "guh-head" instead of "go ahead"
  • Constant companionship

Now, in fairness to me, I had to make some adjustments as well:

  •  Ownership of the sweetest dog in the State of Georgia
Seriously, sweet ... polar opposite of the other simpleton
  • Tasked with filling the lower level of the house with musical instruments
    Truthfully, it wasn't too hard to find out-of-work musicians
  • Getting lozenges to keep my voice from getting hoarse
  • Getting used to always having something to do

So, as you can see, we BOTH needed to make some sacrifices. I have a feeling I got the better half of the bargain ....

As we settled into life as a couple some things just naturally developed. A few of them we actually discussed in advance, a few just seemed to morph into the way things are today. For example, we had a real discussion about finances and how to handle things. Luckily for both of us, our money issues are non-issues (we both have been very fortunate in that regard) so it was pretty easy to come to an agreement as to how to handle our routine expenses.  We also discussed the mundane, like cooking and housework, and came to an agreement of sorts about how we would divvy up those tasks ( I do most of the everyday cooking, since I'm retired and Sheila still works) (and I'm learning to become more proficient in the kitchen) (Sheila takes over for the important meals, though).

When we had these "daily life" talks it was always "You do this, I'll do that", a specific set of rules, for lack of a better term ... Maybe guidelines is a bit more appropriate than rules, but you get the idea. "This" was mine, "That" was hers, and we slowly began to have some "ours" start to creep into our lives. One of the very first examples came after Sheila took me to a local auction house, where we bought about $300 worth of stuff and kind of split the cost between us. One of the items we bought was our (see? "Our" not mine/yours) snail vase. Somehow, this snail vase became the first, real tangible thing we could call "ours".
Don't make fun of the snail vase or the dope holding it

One of the things we had decided pretty early on in our relationship and subsequent decision to live together was that family, to include our departed spouses, would always play a huge part in our lives. To that end, we have pictures of family (past and present) throughout our house (see, this is what I mean ... for the longest time it was Sheila's house, but now it's our house) (same goes for the Spotswood NJ house ... it was "my" house, but now we're selling "our" NJ house). So slowly, family pics began to intertwine between clans, with it now simply being "family" pictures.

Our bedroom has a sizable walk-in closet and when I moved down Sheila cleared a space for me to put my 5 shirts and three pairs of jeans (j/k, she left enough room for 8 shirts), but as time went by we started to do our laundry together (just T-shirts at first, then jeans, and eventually co-mingled our underwear). We still have some laundry boundaries, mostly because Sheila is frilly and I'm, decidedly, not frilly, so we have to be careful to not destroy her stuff. But for the most part, the walk-in closet is now "ours".

As we started traveling together, some vacation and some business, we began to collect little momento's of the trips. These collectibles were beginning to get scattered throughout the house. When company would ask, "Where did you get that?" the answer started to become "WE got that in Savannah/Memphis/NYC/Vancouver/wherever". Yes, there are still some things (quite a few, actually) that are distinctly Sheila's or mine, but even there, we now both know how the item or momento was gathered and talk about these things in a joint-possessive tone rather than "That was hers/his".

As Sheila and I talked about this very topic, leading into the writing of this blog post, we both realized that the hard-core definitive start of "ours" was when we got engaged. And in reality, absolutely NOTHING changed in our day-to-day lives, except that Sheila was no longer my "girlfriend", I was no longer her "significant other" ... we were now engaged and she was my fiance.  But the finances? Still the same. Chores? Still the same. Closet space? Well, that's a losing battle for me, I waved the white flag of surrender and gave up any thoughts of hanging more than 10 shirts, 1 suit and three pairs of pants (I did, however, gain a complete 6 drawer chest and 1 nightstand).

Somehow, though, that simple "Yes, I will marry you" lapse of judgement on Sheila's part was the significant turning point to "ours", where suddenly everything became a joint custody arrangement. We sold two (nice) Bose SoundTouch systems on Ebay that I had owned for years before meeting Sheila, but the sale was ours, not mine. In kind, Sheila has had a fantastic Sonos sound system in the house for years, but that system is now mine as much as it is hers. I can't fully explain how that happened, but it did.

And we still have a few things that are not in the "ours" category, like some savings set aside for the kids (note to children: It's not all that much, please don't get rid of us while we're sleeping) and some rental properties Sheila owns. When you have more than 60 years under your belt BEFORE you meet there are bound to be some things that remain separate, but in general, all of our stuff is now mushed up in one big pile. 

We're getting married on September 19th in Destin Florida, on the beach, at sunset, during a small and intimate service, surrounded by immediate family. Lord, Laura's long term (seriously, years, not 4 months) sig other, is an ordained minister and will be performing the service. Sheila will, undoubtedly, be crying the whole time ... it's already been decided that I will say our vows for both of us. The adults who will be at the service are all "Ours"-type couples, in long term (really, not 4 months, but years) relationships, married and otherwise.They are all family and Sheila and I both look forward to officially joining the "ours" couples that will be celebrating with us.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Being Fabulous is Exhausting

Sheila, being fabulous in NYC!
Our engagement celebration vacation ended just in time before we ran out of steam! Sheila remarked that it seemed like we were away for a very long time yet it had only been 6 days. But 6 days away is:

Sunday - Working on the House

We flew into Newark and landed about 6:15. After taking the sky tram to get the rental car (what, exactly, is the big deal with that sky tram?) and driving to Spotswood, we stopped at a traditional Jersey diner for a bite to eat and then went into the Spotswood house.

Broken door at the car rental place ... classic Jersey look
What a wreck!  We (and I say "we" now, meaning Sheila and me) (hey, we're getting married, so my mess is her mess) had a company come in about 4 weeks ago to do an estate sale, and while they sold some stuff they didn't even come close to emptying that house. That was the purpose of the estate sale ... Get rid of junk! What they DID do was sell the shelving and take everything that was on the shelves and dump it onto the floor. And, put all of the contents from the kitchen cabs on TOP of the counters.

No, it's not a movie, just a screen shot

So, we (italics added for emphasis) had to get the house straightened out since it was now a huge mess. Sheila was fantastic in getting a lot of the kitchen and studio stuff organized and directed the Donate-This-Crap drive for stuff going to Goodwill. It was close to 10:30 pm (10:30 PM, like night time 10:30 pm) by the time Sheila ran out of steam. For those who know Sheila, 10:30 pm is like a normal person's 3:30 am ...

Oh, did I tell you the A/C wasn't working properly? So all of this is being done in a house registering 84 degrees with all of the windows opened and fans running ...

Monday - Work on House, Donate Junk, Dinner w/Family 

Monday morning continued the cleanup, just about straight through until 4:00 pm or so. Pretty lousy start to our vacation, huh? I did a run to Goodwill and donated a bunch of stuff, mostly doll furniture, Christmas themed goods and clothing. Sheila had some great ideas about moving furniture and staging the house so it would show better, so we moved some stuff around and cleaned counters and bathrooms and floors (all of which were in pretty good shape BEFORE the estate sale) (I don't know what those folks did to mess that place up so totally).

Staged, thanks to Sheila
We got cleaned up and ready to go to dinner at my brother Frank's home. Frank's wife, Jill, made a fantastic meal (really, really good) and we enjoyed a nice relaxing evening with Frank, Jill and one of my other brother's, Buzz. We left at 9:30 or so and went back to Spotswood ... yes, the house was STILL hot inside! And it was, again, 10:30 before we settled in. Sheila was on a roll ...

Tuesday -  Ferry to NYC, Garment District, Wicked 

We decided to take the ferry (NY Waterways) from Belford NJ. It was about a 1 hour trip and the views were wonderful (Sheila had never seen the famous NYC skyline). Parking was free in Belford, so it was much better (and cheaper!) than fighting NYC traffic to get to the hotel.

NYC WTC view from ferry
NY Waterways has a shuttle bus that takes you to various points in Manhattan, all part of the ferry trip fee. We took the shuttle to Times Square and had a short 5 block walk to our hotel. We were a bit too early for check-in so we left our luggage with the bellhop, grabbed a quick lunch and then walked down to the garment district (not far, 10 blocks or so).

Our first stop in the district was M&S Schmalberg Custom Fabric Flowers. This place was coolio, for sure! This is not a traditional storefront like Michaels or Joann's ... quite the opposite. You go into a commercial building and take the elevator to the 7th floor. There is a small conference room  that exhibits some of the most magnificent flowers you'll ever see, and for that alone the trip is worth it. But the real gold lies in the manufacturing area where you can see these creations being made, by hand, in all of their beautiful detail. 

There is something about being shown the "behind the scenes" operations that result in major stars wearing the goods you're seeing designed right in front of your eyes! While we were there Warren (the owner) let us see a custom order for the Broadway show "Wicked", which we were on our way to see that evening. It was really cool ...

Sheila was in fabric heaven ... after M&S we visited a bunch of other places, one of which had more zippers than either of us ever imagined existed (Sheila had a custom zipper made for one of her dress ideas). Another place had imported Italian blouses, in a style Sheila really loved, at crazy low prices! It was a wild afternoon ...

That evening, we had a real NYC fast dinner of pizza slices and espressos at a little joint (you have to say "joint" when you're in the city) (you could say "pizza place" but then you look like a tourist) just down the street from our hotel. 

A few short blocks away, we arrived at the Gershwin Theatre to see "Wicked". 

Overall, a fantastic day and evening! We didn't get to bed until about 11:00 pm! Can you imagine that!!

Wednesday - garment district, Laura, jewelry, Waitress

Wednesday started off with breakfast, just basic stuff (eggs, french toast, coffee, OJ) just down the street from our hotel. Right after we finished, we hiked back down to the garment district to get stuff Sheila missed on Tuesday (did I tell you Sheila REALLY liked the garment district?). Just before lunch time we returned to the hotel to drop off our purchases and then tried (the most important word is "tried") to use Uber (for the very first time in our lives) to get to Brooklyn to meet with Laura at a vintage shop and have lunch.

I was a serious Uber-signaling failure, so I had to get a taxi to take us to Brooklyn. Of course, by now we were late and I was getting Jersey-stressed for the first time in a year. Sheila was her usual calm self, just looking at me stressing and inwardly rolling her eyes (Sheila would never roll her eyes at me when I was Jersey-stressing, but I know she was doing eye cartwheels in her brain). We finally got to Laura and the vintage shop, 10' Single by Stella Dallas, about 1 hour late.

Tons of vintage clothing jammed into this shop, racks and racks of old stuff ... Sheila and Laura we looking for dresses, or at least dress ideas, but I was somewhat lost in there. After all, I'm already vintage ... if I get any more vintage they'll be shoveling dirt over me ...

One of the things Sheila & I really like to do is to "be tall" around other people. There are times where we clearly tower over those around us, and in those moments we relish the opportunity to be tall (being tall also comes in handy when you are miffed with someone ... just be tall next to them and they'll fall into line). 

Meeting Laura really made us all feel like being tall.  I'm 6'5", and Sheila and Laura are both between 5'11" & 6'. We were definitely being tall while wandering the vintage clothing store.

After the vintage place we went around the corner to a cute little French luncheon restaurant and all had wonderful crepes. Sheila & Laura both ate healthy stuff (of course) while I had the not-so-healthy version. Owing to my poor planning with the Uber deal our time with Laura was far too short, but we'll get a chance to catch up with her & Lord (Laura's sig other) at the wedding in September!(You DO know Sheila & I are getting married in September, right?) Lord is going to officiate our wedding, so cool ...

Lunch was wonderful but over too quick as we had to make our way to Anna Sheffield Designs, the jewelry designer in SoHo. Sheila was desperately seeking some nesting rings to match the engagement ring we bought for her in Hood River OR back in June, and Anna Sheffield didn't disappoint. We found exactly what we had hoped for, in Sheila's size, and it was available for us to take it that day! Y'all will have to wait for pics on those beauties, though ...

We successfully Uber-ed back to the hotel, got dressed for dinner at the Glass House Tavern (wonderful meal) and then on to see the Broadway play "Waitress". We had purchased the Waitress tickets at the TKTS booth in Times Square, 50% off the day of the show. Great seats about 9 rows back. The show was really quite good, we both thoroughly enjoyed it!
Really great seats!!

It was another nearly 11:00 pm evening for Sheila, some kind of record must have been broken here by now ...

... almost done, hang in there ...
... I know, it's long ...
... Hey! you ought to try writing this missive ... 

Thurs. Ellen's Diner, 5th Ave, Ferry, LaTavola

We both woke up Thursday morning looking for breakfast. We had to check out by noon, but that gave us plenty of time to grab a bite and stroll around a little bit more ... because ...we get up at 5:30 every day, yes, even on vacation. So by 7:00 we are out the door and ready to get the day started!

First stop was Ellen's Stardust Diner, a famous NYC attraction where the waiters and waitresses put on show in between serving. I knew it happened at night but I didn't know they did this all day long! What a great time we had, watching the performers and just relaxing before the journey home.
Two of the waiters singing
After breakfast we took a walk along the famous 5th Avenue and gawked at the jewelry and other fantastic stuff in the windows. We didn't go in anywhere ...you could just see the security staff in Harry Winston Jewelers inwardly chuckling at us ... but it sure was fun to look!

The trip back to Spotswood was uneventful, except for when we bought some gelato in NYC while waiting for the ferry, only to realize that the gelato we make at home is about 2000% better!
Thursday night Sheila and I went to a NJ restaurant where I used to play to have dinner with Vinnie & Marilyn and to catch a set or two of jazz. Dinner was great, music was great, Vinnie & I sat in for a tune ... a great night with very good friends to close out our vacation trip!

It was great fun, all of it ... even the house cleaning ... because Sheila and I did it together. But, as told to us by Laura and stated above, being fabulous is exhausting! We were glad to get back to our home in Georgia! 

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