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Space Coast, Ghost to Ghost

My husband is a beach-o-phile. (No, I don't care if that's an actual word or not.) Every time the temperature gets within 5 degrees of 70, he gets that hopeful look on his face and starts perusing the road atlas, looking for beaches we haven't yet visited. Cocoa Beach caught his interest yesterday, on Florida's so-called Space Coast. It was too damned nipply yesterday to go to the frickin' Atlantic Ocean, a body of water that's frigid even in August, but we went anyway...

We paused in Cocoa Beach for a couple of hours to build sand castles with the kids. And that part was a blast. Even though my hands and feet are now fingerprintless from the lovely exfoliating properties of pulverized seashells. I built a mermaid lying on her side down below the high tide mark. With any luck, enough of her will remain this morning to give the lifeguard a mild stiffy/coronary. (insert evil smirk here)

I don't object to toll roads in principle, but I thought that principle was you either pay a toll to get on or to get off...not to be hit by a succession of booths with increasingly higher tolls in the middle of the freakin' highway. It cost us $3 in tolls to travel 30 miles. I'd like to see the diagrams and flowcharts on that one.

I hate communities/homesteads/whatever-they-ares called Snug Harbor. I always want to know the location of the corresponding Ass-Flappin'-In-The-Wind Harbor.

Did you know it's legal to be nude on beaches on federal property? That is to say, there is no specific law against it.

The hamlet of Kissimmee, which suckles at the great swollen triple-E of Disney, looks like a miniature and more tacky sort of redneck version of Las Vegas. And that was just the view at night when we drove through. I imagine it's exponentially more hideous in the daytime.

The stretch of state road 192 between Melbourne and Kissimmee can be adequately described as "bleak desolation."

Once we got back on I-4 for the mad rush home, both the husband and I had run out of euphemisms, imprecations and expletives. Do NOT try to compete with adults attempting to escape the clutches of Disneyland. They are desperate and they are not afraid to die. And they will take you with them.

I found the power line tower shaped like Mickey Mouse's head particularly disturbing. It speaks of the power that Disney has with the local and state governments down here. Oh, I'm sure they paid for the tower, but to even have the gumption to request such a thing...I just don't see McDonald's getting the same treatment. Oh, and the world's biggest McDonald's is in Kissimmee, too. If there is a god in the heavens, I will never be required to set foot in the joint. However, I see from Google that it's not the largest McDonalds, that Oklahoma, Vatican City and someplace in Rio all make that claim. Whew! That was a close one.

Mad drivers and kids tripping on gummi worms notwithstanding, it was a Very Good Day.

Posted 01/02/02
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Hey, Now I Remember!

More on the travels abroad (sorry folks, most of these memories are 15 to 20 years old)....

  • Germany - We took a river cruise of the Rhine. Many fine castly things to be seen on the Rhine. And it smells bad.

  • The Netherlands - Or is it Holland? Pick one. We, of course, saw many windmills but no fields of tulips, we were there in winter. We did get to visit the massive bulb exchange and see the Wall Street of the flower world at work. It wasn't as fascinating as I expected it to be. It just looked like a huge warehouse with many shelves and conveyor belts and little, glassed-in offices for the various important personages. Not sure what I was expecting...girls in dirndls and bouquets of flowers everywhere, I suppose. Oh dear gods, I see from this website that there's a Van Gogh and Gauguin museum there, and we missed it...oh why oh why didn't I pay more attention?!?! Oh the humanity! Och, almost forgot the Delft pottery factory. That obnoxious blue and white patterned crap is all over my mother's house.

  • London, England - My parents had an awful fight because one of the aforementioned girls with lilting accents got a little too touchy feely with my father while pinning something to his lapel. I'm pretty sure she worked for British Airways and I'm also pretty sure she was a whore.

  • Did I mention they bought me postage stamps from literally everywhere we went?

  • We had to take a MAC flight back to the states due to a family emergency. I actually fell asleep during the flight, if you can believe that...anyone who's ever travelled as a passenger in a C-130 simply will not. When I woke up, my family was gone. The fuckers had gone up to tour the cockpit without waking me up. So that was fun. To make up for it, I got to steer the plane! Neener, neener, neener! I made some sort of turn over Egypt. The pilots labeled a map showing where I did it and signed it for me. I still have it. Pretty sure that's where my long-standing love of military men comes from.

Okay, that's it. I believe that's all I can wring from the dessicated sponge that is my mind. Unless you ask more questions, that is...

Posted 12/16/01
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The Places I've Been

The Places I've Been and the Things I Remember About Them

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

  • Lived there for about 3 years. It's a port city on the Red Sea and, being at sea level and a desert, the humidity and the heat are unbelieveable. We used to take regular afternoon siestas.
  • There was (is?) a store called al Mouktar's that had, among other things, a lion for sale. His cage ran the length of the back of the store and was not much wider than the lion.
  • We made trips to the suks (markets) on the weekends to buy, literally, everything. We bought jewelry, brass tchochkes, rugs, pots...a little of everything it seemed.
  • We went to the beach constantly, collecting shells and sunburns. My parents would dive occasionally from the J-boat.
  • The best Chinese restaurant in the whole world, the Shangri-La, is in Jeddah. They have spring rolls the size of a respectable porn star.
  • It rains once a year in Jeddah...for three solid days.

Taif, Saudi Arabia

  • Lived there for about two years.
  • Taif is more than a mile above sea level, still bloody hot, but "it's a dry heat."
  • We called the drive up to Taif from Jeddah the Escarpment. This is actually the geological definition of the sheer cliff face but it is such an appropriately daunting name that The Escarpment is, in fact, it's official designation. The road is a series of switchbacks that make the one mile as-the-crow-flies distance into about 50 miles of actual road. Going back and forth, back and forth, and usually at a steep angle. I had to make that drive lying down in the back seat with my eyes screwed shut. I can still feel that nausea.
  • The Mercedes transport trucks in Taif all had brightly colored feather dusters tucked into their hood ornaments. Please do not ask me why.
  • On weekends we would trek out into the desert, gathering century plants for our "yard" and picking up loose garnet studded rocks at an old mine rumored to have been one of King Solomon's.

Paris, France

  • Cold and mostly dirty.
  • My father insisted that we could walk to the Eiffel Tower from the Hotel Intercontinental. From there, the tower on the horizon appeared roughly four inches tall. We've never let him forget it.
  • The Louvre was closed. I will never forgive France for that.
  • I'm told we visited Notre was a really good book.

Versailles, France

  • According to family hearsay, I spent the entire drive from Paris to Versailles with my nose in a book. It must've been a good book because all I remember of Versailles is this: gold.

Frankfurt, Germany

  • Heavy snow, a welcome change from the incessant desert.
  • A hotel Continental Breakfast by which I now compare all others: a dozen different types of rolls and breads, fruit, jams, butter and plenty of strong coffee. Gotta know how to stoke the inner furnace in that benighted climate.

Vienna, Austria

  • Many places that looked like cuckoo clocks.
  • Book.

London, England

  • Rain, guvnor, and perky girls with lilting accents.
  • More book.

Nairobi, Kenya

  • A real honest-to-gods photo safari.
  • The lodge was inhabited by fruit-flinging monkeys.
  • They would stoke up huge bonfires every night so the elephants in musth (sexual readiness) wouldn't approach.
  • My parents have acres and acres of pictures
  • Book again.

Cairo, Egypt

  • Nasty city. But who cares about the city?! Take me to Giza, I want pyramids! And pyramids I got.
  • My parents rented camels for themselves and my little brother. I insisted on a horse. And what a horse! The Barb bloodline remains mostly pure in even the sad rental animals and I was rapturous. I let the little beast have his head as we rode towards Libya (!) and, knowing he had a rookie on his back, he slid to a stop (without asking me) and tossed me over his left shoulder. I didn't let go of the reins though, so, nyah. As I was getting back up on the beast, he sidestepped at just the right time and I did, in the words of my photographic-memory-having family, a perfect Three Stooges pratfall and went over the other side of the horse. I still didn't let go of the reins.
  • We went into the Pyramid of Khufu, also known as the Great Pyramid, the largest of the three in Giza. And by "went into," I do mean "climbed up inside to the burial chamber." It was an amazing experience. The weight of all that stone, the weight of all those years. Imagine my utter disappointment to discover that the burial chamber was now being used as a toilet. What, climbing up a 45 degree angled passage makes your bladder a little tingly? Morons. Still, it was fascinating.
  • The Egyptian Museum houses a fraction of the funerary equipment of excavated tombs. The Egyptians have been looting their own dead for centuries.

Luxor, Egypt

  • The short plane ride from Cairo was, um...interesting, to say the least. If you call a sideways landing "interesting."
  • The hamburger at the hotel was most assuredly not.
  • I still dream about the temple of Karnak, with it's massive pillars and crio-sphinxes (they have the heads of rams).
  • We found a small piece of alabaster statue lying about...the heritage of Egypt is in a million private collections.

  • The Valley of the Kings was like stepping into history, billion degree, sweat-pouring off every surface, history. We went into Rameses IV's tomb and even dared to peek into Tutankhamen's, despite the "curse." The only curse in Egypt is if you drink the water. Wish yourself dead if this should happen.

  • We saw the Colossi of Memnon, the Ramesseum and the Valley of the Queens.
  • Egyptology continues to fascintate me to this day.

Athens, Greece

  • Very green.

  • There was a massive anti-American demonstration in the streets of Athens our second or third day there. The hotel concierge told us it was a parade.

  • My father felt it expedient to book a tour of the Greek Islands after a cab driver asked if he was CIA.

The Islands of Santorini, Rhodes, Crete and Mykonos, Greece

  • Indescribable. Pick the most gorgeous color of turquoise blue and that's the Med. Pick the most vivid color of emerald green and that's the islands. The whitewashed buildings of Santorini sparkled in this setting.
  • The city of Lindos on Rhodes was a blur of an open-air market area (that I would give my left arm to return to) and a smoky tavern where I got my first taste of ouzo. It makes grappa taste like tapwater. And of course it's made with anise so it's pretty much poison. Still...opa!
  • Saw where the Colossus once stood.
  • Waved at Turkey.

Egypt remains my favorite. The history and culture are just so vivid.

Where is your favorite place in the world?

Posted 12/15/01
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