Inappropriate Family Photos

Several times a year my grandparents would pack up their RV (including their toy poodle with rust colored fur and chronic bad breath) and travel across the country. We’d learn of their whereabouts from postcards that would arrive periodically in our mailbox. Their destinations were an odd assortment of common tourist attractions and strange places off the beaten path: the Ozarks, Grand Canyon, Virginia Beach (we received a postcard declaring that Virginia is for lovers with my grandmother’s frilly handwriting, “That’s Us!” inside the heart).

Their travels were documented in a photo album that was displayed on the coffee table in their living room. My mother and I would languidly flip through the album when we visited. The photographs were fairly repetitive: my grandmother standing in front of some touristy sign or statute, clutching her purse and smiling as my grandfather snapped her picture. Or the two of them together, their smiles frozen as they waited for a kind stranger to figure out how to work their camera and take the picture.

My mother and I swallowed yawns as we leafed through the pages of this album. My grandparents seemed less interested in taking snapshots of their surroundings and more interested in pictures of themselves.

Especially when they visited the Poconos.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Poconos, it is an area in northeastern Pennsylvania that is known for its mountains and romantic getaways. During the 1970s – 1990s, resorts popped up like gophers catering to couples who were just dying to relax in heart shaped jacuzzis, circular beds and gigantic, seven foot champagne bubble baths. Competition between resorts was fierce. They battled to outdo one another for the most “alluring” room names: Paradise Stream, Cove Haven, Fantasy and Garden of Eden are just a few of the names given to some of these horrendously gaudy rooms.

While we never received a postcard from the Poconos, evidently my grandparents sojourned in one of these atrocious hotels, because they documented it in the photo album they left on the coffee table in their living room.

Nestled between the pictures of my grandmother wearing her floppy sunhat and standing outside of the Alamo, was a photograph of her wearing a blue negligee and kneeling on a white furry rug. Next to this photograph was my grandfather, donned in blue Speedo underwear, sprawled on the same furry rug and smiling mischievously at the camera.

Thankfully, the pictures stopped there. (And thankfully, they didn’t ask some stranger to pop into their hotel room – which was probably named The Love Nest – to take pictures of them together on the furry rug.)

My mother and I saw these Pocono pictures at the same time. My mother recoiled, as though she had seen something strange and hideous.

“Good heavens!” she said.

I let out a whooping holler of laughter as my mother snapped the photo album shut.

“I think we’ve seen everything we need to see.”

But there are certain things you can’t … un-see. My grandparents racy Pocono photographs are forever burned in my brain. Why they would choose to place those salacious photographs in the album is anyone’s guess. Perhaps they viewed them no differently than the other innocuous shots: saying cheese in front of the Liberty Bell, posing next to a palm tree in South Carolina, scantily clad and smiling seductively from a shag rug in a Pocono hotel room.

Or perhaps they snickered conspiratorially as they slipped the risque photographs in the plastic sleeves.

“Just wait until the kids and grandkids see these! And they think we’re just visiting places like Strubridge Village.”

 

 

Hot Date. Dream Vacation. Perfect House. What Happened?!

We’ve all experienced it. A situation or upcoming event we have imagined would be particular a way, only to have it turn out drastically different than we planned. Our dreamy anticipation vaporizes once reality dawns.

Blind dates are a perfect example. Men – you discovered her through an online dating site. Her picture was unavailable, but this only added to her mystique. Her line of work is listed as ‘entertainment’. You’re not quite sure what that is, but you suspect it involves dancing. Her age? Experienced. Well! As you approach the park where you agreed to meet, you can’t stop your mind from envisioning someone who looks like this:

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Well, hello there!

But your expectations are quickly dashed when you see your date. That line of entertainment she works in? Not dancing, but playing the synthesizer at the local senior center. She’s experienced all right! Experienced at whipping out the tissues she keeps stashed in her sweater sleeves in case she has a sneezing fit.

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“Maybe my dentures fell in this bag. I hope I find them before my date arrives!”

Ladies – you have experienced the same. Your friend swears she has the perfect guy for you. She promises he’s not fat, but “stocky.” He’s a doctor and such a “sweetie.” Why is he still single? He was married to his career, but now he’s ready to settle down and start a family. When you meet this gent, you find he resembles Quasimodo. He confesses your friend did stretch the truth – he’s not really a doctor, but he does work in a hospital. In the cafeteria, to be precise. He proceeds to spend the rest of the evening telling you – in minute detail – his responsibilities in the bustling hospital kitchen. You realize one thing your friend was right about: he really is married to his job.

Let’s move on to vacations. How often do we imagine our vacation will be tranquil, secluded and relaxing?

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Paradise Found

But when we arrive, we learn the beach is a popular destination for cruise ships and it’s filled with screaming children, hollering parents and loud music?

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Paradise Lost

Children. You daydream for months about the upcoming birth of your baby: her little fingers gripping yours, holding her while you glide back and forth in the rocking chair. Perhaps you contemplate learning how to knit baby booties after she is born.

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What you thought you’d get

Yet, when your bundle of screaming joy arrives, you find you’re pacing the floors deep into the night, trying to calm Baby Evil. The only thing you can imagine doing with knitting needles is jamming them into your ears to block out the crying.

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What you got.

House hunting. Your Realtor tells you she has the perfect home in your price range. You follow the winding path to the house, your stomach fluttering. You have already envisioned what color you’ll paint your bedroom. Your neighbor’s house only fuels your excitement:

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This neighborhood is starting to look good!

Yet, the house you can afford – the house your Realtor is excited to show you – looks like this:

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Oh, that’s right. I forgot about our budget.

Lastly, your kids have finally convinced you to get a dog. They vow to walk and pick up after it. One even promises to vacuum for you. You relent, but you tell them it must be calm and small. Your children spend hours online, searching local animal rescue sites. Your husband contacts breeders. You fill out yards of paper work. At one point you’re not certain if you’re adopting a dog or a child, the process  is so rigorous. The night before you pick up Fido, your thoughts drift to the little dog that has managed to wiggle its way into your heart already. You haven’t seen him yet – your kids and husband who have met him tell you he’s brown and lovable. You picture him spending his last night in the shelter:

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Sweet, docile family dog you expect to see

The next afternoon, you hear the family car pull into the driveway. You open the front door, only to see a large beast running towards you. Drool is flying from his mouth and his eyes look crazed. “Yeah, about the ‘being small and calm’ part” your husband says right before Cujo leaps up on you with muddy paws.

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The actual family dog

Bill Watterson, the author/creator, of Calvin and Hobbes, said it best, “I find my life is a lot easier the lower I keep my expectations.”

Photo Credits: 

Attractive Date: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/andre-batista/3548312095/”>André-Batista</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Disappointment Date: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/gingiber/3672189301/”>gingiber</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a&gt; 

Paradise Found Photo Credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/jsmoral/3278536843/”>jsmoral</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Paradise Lost Photo Credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/otimo/182432305/”>Man with no name</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Sleeping Baby Photo Credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/diathesis/2383571187/”>diathesis</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Money Pit Photo Credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/reallyboring/6307845575/”>reallyboring</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Sweet Dog: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/williammarlow/5976796676/”>WilliamMarlow</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Crazy Dog: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/thekellyscope/4627967858/”>thekellyscope</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

Really Bad Romantic Ideas

Really Bad Romantic Ideas

Romantic getaway. What comes to mind? Is it snuggling by a crackling fire in a cozy bed and breakfast? Perhaps it’s strolling, hand in hand, down a beach that has sand as fine and soft as baby powder. Or, if you’re my father, it’s taking your wife to a tractor museum in upstate New York, or to a rustic lodge in the Adirondacks that serves such fine delicacies as locally caught possum and squirrel.

While tractor museums and lodges that serve animals typically scraped off the interstate as road kill would be at the bottom of most Romantic Getaway lists (or, for that matter, at the top of the Worst Romantic Getaway lists), there are several places that challenge my father’s idea for inciting romance. So, without further ado:

The Underground Writer’s Worst Romantic Outings

1. The Museum of Bad Art – Never mind strolling the majestic halls of the Museum of Modern Art in the Upper East Side of Manhattan. To un-romance your gal, bring her to The Museum of Bad Art in Boston, Massachusetts. The MOBA (and I quote) “is the world’s only museum dedicated to the collection, preservation, exhibition and celebration of bad art in all it’s form.” Most of the art is found in thrift stores and garage sales. Some is even donated by the artist themselves. (I suppose bad publicity is sometimes better than no publicity?) Nothing will kill the mood faster then gazing at a floating head in a tornado vortex (at least, that’s what they think is going on in the painting – they’re not quite sure since the painting was rescued from someone’s garbage) or musing over the demon-possessed mother-daughter self portrait. (www.museumofbadart.org

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Aliens? Or a hypoxic mother with severely (and I mean SEVERELY) sunburned, green haired daughter?

2. The Kansas Barbed Wire Museum – For those who have an insatiable curiosity for barbed wire, take your lady to La Crosse, Kansas where there is a building devoted solely to the history and varieties (over two thousand!) of the “Devil’s rope.” Couples can mosey past displays of … well … barbed wire, and see various historical tools used for … barbed wire. If still awake, visitors can peruse the Barbed Wire Hall of Fame, and perhaps pick up a trinket at the gift shop. From their website (www.barbedwiremuseum.com) it appears all of the wire is behind glass. This is for a reason. Wives are prevented from attacking their husbands with the very barbed wire used in the museum’s exhibits.

3. Bible Themed Mini Golf Course – Putt your way through the Old Testament, New Testament and miracles in Lexington, Kentucky. Just don’t slice your ball into the “water to blood” river, or stymie your sweetheart’s ball on the green of Calvary. Hopefully a lover’s quarrel won’t erupt by the time you reach Jesus’ Tomb hole. Nothing sours a date quicker than an out-of-bounds shot into Jonah and the Whale hole … or bringing your date to this place. (www.bibleminigolfcourse.com)

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“Jesus feeds 5,000?! Maybe we can get a free meal too!”

4. Idaho Potato Museum – Don’t spuds deserve a museum to call their own? Probably not. But nonetheless, Blackfoot, Idaho thinks so. Have your picture taken alongside the World’s Largest Styrofoam Potato (take THAT Eiffel Tower!), before stroking the burlap tuxedo worn by the very first Potato Commissioner (be careful not to swoon). If you and your date haven’t passed out from excitement by this point, you can view the World’s Largest Potato Chip before purchasing novelty foods that contain (you guessed it) potatoes as their main ingredient in the museum’s gift shop. (www.idahopotatomuseum.com)

5.  Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix Plant – Want to really depress (and not impress) your date? Bring her to Chelsea, Michigan to visit the Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix Plant. Schedule (yes, reservations are required, believe it or not) a tour of their factory. You and your partner will watch an informative video, receive a product sample, and visit the packaging plant. After this, your relationship will be over in a jiffy. (www.jiffytours.com)

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“This is riveting. I can only imagine where we’re staying tonight.”

The Underground Writer’s Strange/Terrible Places to Stay

1. Dog Bark Park – Un-romance your lady in the stomach of a 30 foot wooden beagle. Cottonwood, Idaho is home to Dog Bark Park, the first and only (for a reason) motel room in a building shaped like a dog. When weary of relaxing in the gut of the hound, couples can scurry up the ladder to the beagle’s snout and enjoy the Idaho views. (www.dogparkinn.com)

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“Is it me? Or does this place smell like a wet dog?”

2. Budget Inn – Booking a night in a motel with the word “budget” in the name is never, ever a good thing. Take a break from frugality for a moment, please. Budget Inn, located in Parsippany, New Jersey, should really be called Disaster Inn. Reviews on Tripadvisor.com included such comments as, “musty odor”, “stay away” and “straight out of a horror film.”  You know those seedy looking motels you drive by and wonder, “who would ever stay there?” The Budget Inn in Parsippany, NJ is one of those places. (www.budgetinnparsippany.com)

3. Wigwam Motel – Sleep in a Wigwam? Cool, right? Think again. While the outside of these wigwams (located in Holbrook, AZ) may seem kitschy, the inside? Not so much. The novelty of spending the night in a mock wigwam ends once you unlock your wigwam door. Per online reviews, wigwam rooms are said to be in need of a good scrub, one guest was concerned about her safety (wigwam doors are not the strongest, and the wigwams are located near a main highway), and being approached by local riffraff  is not uncommon. However, (and that is a big however), the Wigwam Motel offers beds, and a bathroom, and shelter from the elements that only a wigwam can offer. Want to severely disappoint your date? Bring them here. (www.wigwammotelAZ.com)

Her: How adorable! Him (thinking): SCORE!

Her: How adorable!
Him (thinking): SCORE!

Her: Oh. Him: It's a Wigwam, for crying out loud. What did you expect? Her: I get the bed on the right.  Him: Oh.

Her: Oh.
Him: It’s a Wigwam, for crying out loud. What did you expect?
Her: I get the bed on the right.
Him: Oh.

4. The Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast – I have previously written about this rather strange place (click HERE for my review). For those who love a good scare, or for the gruesome, you can sleep in the very room where Lizzie Borden is said to have hacked her mother to death with a hatchet. Forget chocolate dipped strawberries, a bottle of bubbly, or Barry White’s music to set the mood. Try an annual re-enactment of the slaughterings (if your date happened to book your stay during the anniversary of Mr. and Mrs. Borden’s bludgeoning), a tour of the house (“… and on your right is the room where Mr. Borden was napping when Lizzie whacked him to death”), and a gift shop that offers ax shaped cookie cutters, t-shirts, and mugs with photographs depicting the scene of the murder. Perhaps after a sleepless night (many guests absolutely swear Lizzie’s ghost still roams the house with her hatchet) you can visit the Museum Of Bad Art and look at terrible paintings through bleary eyes.

*All photographs are property of Google Images*

A Salutation To Strangers

To all the strangers I observed throughout the day.

Dear …

Person Driving The Car With The Columbia University Window Decal: Thank you for letting me know you were smart enough to get into an Ivy League school … and I was not. That felt great.

Creepy Guy Checking Out Girls From The Corner Of His Eye: You look like a deranged Ron Howard. You may think you’re discreet but you’re not. Us gals all know you’re watching us and it’s freaking us out.

Middle-Aged Man Zipping Around In The Audi Convertible: Driving an expensive German car does not change the fact that you’re middle aged and bald. Please drive responsibly.

Woman in Grocery Store: Thank you for offering to help me with my awkward grocery bags. It’s wonderful to know sweet people like you still exist.

Person Who Left The Plastic Shopping Basket In The Parking Lot: I know people tend to leave shopping carts in the parking lot, but baskets? You have taken laziness to a whole new level.

Person In Corvette: Your car may be fast and cost an impressive $60,000, but whenever I see Corvettes I will forever think “Barbie Car.” Blame Mattel.

3 People Standing Under Their Beach Umbrella: Is there a standing contest I am unaware of? In all my years of going to the beach I have never seen people stand under their umbrella and not sit. So far it’s been almost an hour. I wish you would sit, because now I can’t stop watching you. I should be enjoying the beautiful view of the ocean, but instead I keep waiting for you to sit down.

Woman In Bikini With Twin Baby Girls: You had a tummy tuck, didn’t you? C’mon. Admit it.  

Man Talking Loudly on Cellphone: Your white blood cell count is low? And the specialist you need to see has no appointments for three weeks?  You’re also planning a surprise party for your wife? Yet your boss won’t let you leave early that day? You bet he’s a jerk!  But listen, could you please lower your voice so I don’t hear about your bowel issues, or whatever you’re going to talk about next?

Man Hitchhiking Outside of The Department Of Mental Health Building: Dude, if you have any hope of getting a ride, you might want to scooch down a few feet so you’re standing in front of a different building .

Thank you for making my day a little more interesting.

Sincerely,

The Underground Writer

Bumper Stickers and Vanity Plates: They’re a Commitment

A friend of mine said, “Bumper stickers are a commitment.”  She has a valid point.  I mean, you’re really putting yourself out there with bumper stickers. Similar to road rage (when you can flip someone the bird and then drive off knowing there will be no consequences), you’re not held accountable for whatever you plaster on your car. Generally, people don’t retaliate based on what your bumper stickers say.

But what if they did?

Take the bumper sticker I recently saw: My Other Car is a 747. Clearly this person must be a pilot.  Now, what if I had pulled alongside the pilot’s car, rolled down my window and started frantically waving my arms while shouting, “Hey you! Yes, you!  You’re a pilot? What airline do you fly for? It better not be US Air!  They lost my luggage and then left it out in the rain.  Oh! And my plane had to sit on the tarmac for two hours.  Real nice!”

Or how about those oval black and white bumper stickers that advertise where you have gone on vacation? (They are usually in code too.  Instead of simply saying “Jackson Hole” they say “JH” or “OBX” instead of “Outter Banks.”) Picture driving up next to a car sporting one of these stickers: “You-hoo! Excuse me!  I notice you have been to Martha’s Vineyard. How was it? Where’d you stay?”

Then there are vanity license plates. Personally, I happen to find these a bit troubling. While bumper stickers can be more general, with vanity plates, you’re sort of announcing yourself. One time I noticed a car in the grocery store parking lot that had a vanity plate. I then recognized the same car in the parking lot of another store the following day. Then at the gym. Normally, I would never have paid attention, but it’s hard not to notice (and remember) a car that has a license plate that reads “PINGPONG.”

I have always found MD license plates a bit irksome. What is the purpose?  Do they simply want people to know they went to medical school? Because I don’t know about you – but whenever I pass a car accident, I have never seen a car with a MD license plate at the scene.

What if we tried to solicit free medical advice from these physicians who advertise their profession? Honk! Honk! “Hey! Thanks for letting me know you’re a doctor!  I need to ask you something.  I’ve had this awful cramp on my right side for about a week now.  Any idea what it could be?”

Vanity license plates could also get you in trouble.  It’s hard to be discreet when you have a license plate that is memorable. Imagine attending your kid’s 6th grade violin concert. You pull into a parking spot and as the family climbs out of the car, some buffoon calls out, “Hey!  It’s JOEYD72! I see your car outside of Pleasure Island strip joint all the time!”

In the interest of full disclosure, I must confess I had one of those black and white oval stickers on my previous car.  And I would have been thrilled if someone had honked their horn and said, “Hey! You went to Aruba?  How was it?  I hear it’s awfully hot there.” “Oh it is hot!” I would have hollered back, “but there is a lovely breeze that always keeps you comfortable.”

When I traded in my old car for a newer one, I didn’t transfer the Aruba sticker.  Why?  I didn’t want to take the chance of someone pulling up alongside me in traffic, rolling down their window, and shouting out, “You went to Aruba? Congratulations! Like I care!”