Are We There Yet?

The first time my husband and I traveled together it was pure romance. Early in our relationship he had plan to spend a better part of three months traveling through much of Eastern Europe and I, back home in New York, had tickets to visit a war zone for a month of R and R. But after a few weeks away from each other we had to finally admit that, well, we kinda missed each other. Being the fearless heart first type of gal that I am, I broke my piggy bank, counted my pennies, lied about my age and bought a student ticket to Vienna via Zurich, Stockholm, Nice, Amsterdam and London.

When I finally arrived in Vienna few days later, Hub was standing at the airport looking around like he lost his wallet. In honor of my arrival, he had booked into a much better hotel and ditched the dive that he had been staying in. There was no need, but I didn’t protest too much. I liked that in his mind, I was a traveler of high standards, a bon vivant, a woman of substance, even perhaps dear reader, a trophy wife in the making. Who was I to crush him with the truth of my less than dignified travel history of roach motels and youth hostels that looked more like over crowded Russian prisons? Since I began my stint as a world traveler somewhat early in life, I had applied the Barbizon philosophy. I may not have been a war correspondent, but I was going to look and travel like one.

Spending a few weeks with my then future husband in Central and Eastern Europe I began to get a glimpse of how the other half travels. The other half goes to all the museums. They see every recommended site listed in their Blue Guide. They may actually have a private guide. They go antique hunting. They care about eating in the best restaurants, and pack the proper shoes to do so. The other half does not, for example, strike up conversations with the locals in a bar. They don’t accept invitations to attend tribal weddings (or funerals), they do not eat snake brains just for the hell of it nor do they think a little case of dysentery is like another stamp in the old passport—it proves that you had been somewhere.

My husband may never know or perhaps he may never care to admit that though we travel very well together, we really do approach the whole endeavor differently. Because ever the adventurous one, I have learned to let go of all of my former travel habits (and I’ll admit that it was not difficult to trade bed bugs for a 5 star hotel, sight seeing, and museums).

So now, several years after our first trip together and with many trips under my belt with husband and kid in tow, I am a fully indoctrinated 5 star hotel ho who demands on all the fixin's.

But as my husband and I age, it seems that our approach to traveling has changed. As an expert in Art History, Archeology, mountaineering, and an antique road show know-it-all and gastronome extraordinaire, my husband needs to see every last sight, climb every mountain, shop for the rarest of all old beauties (but not too old). Usually he wants to do this in the shortest amount of time possible, which means that the whole family has to keep up. I, on the other hand being the mom that I am, want to dump the kids off with the complimentary hotel baby sitter and hit the spa. I never do but I have been known to fantasize about it the entire trip. I mean can't my old man just sit on a beach for a few days?


So this week, we are going on a trip that is sure to dazzle the senses. It won’t be a drug trip but I am sure it will have its moments where I wish, with an almost 5 month old and a 2 ½ years old kid that drugs, in heavy doses where involved. That's right, the whole SWC household is packing up and heading to India. Rajasthan, baby with a quick jaunt into Uttar Pradesh (Agra) to see the Taj Mahal, of course.

Am I fucking nuts?

Well there are a few planned 5 and half hours car rides on unpaved roads, the chaos of New Delhi, the I’m-not-sure-how safe-it-is air travel and the threat of the thousands of years old microbes that could do me in.

And there is our 8-hour flight from Hong Kong to Delhi. Thankfully, I have managed to get us upgraded to Business class.

We are leaving this Friday.


10,000 Maniacs

Once there was a man named Jim. And Bert and a guy named Harry, who thankfully I did not kiss. There was a Karl, yes, with a “K” though he was nothing like Karl Marx. There were also men with more exotic names: Rumaldo, Mario, Roberto, Maurizio, Costas, Vasilius, Adjin, and Hassan.

Before I dated and married the man of my dreams I met regular guys in the likely places.

At the grocery store, a boy named Trevor. After one date—dinner at the Olive Garden—I caught him lurking in the parking lot of my apartment building enough times to call the cops and get a restraining order.

The bar guy was called Alex. Another bar rat named Mike although he spoke with a thick accent that told me he was from a place much further away than Texas. Which reminds me of Jacob from Texas, who I also met at a bar. And then there was Ben, the bar tender.

My personal favorite was meeting a guy at the library—Michael. We shared the love of books but he dressed so poorly on our first date (who wears long gym socks and shorts at the age of 30?) and then he got all huffy with the Indian waitress at the Indian restaurant we went to because he, as a Swede, knew the difference between the her fake chapatti and the real thing.

Which reminds me of the waiter that I knew from my favorite Indian restaurant. He hounded me for weeks for a date. In a gorgeous act of fate, my evil twin was visiting me in NYC and he took her out instead. And this brings to mind Tucker who I met in a restaurant and whose real name turned out to be Raj because his white American hippy parents gave birth to him in India.

And I will always remember Moe from a Fashion Week party in Soho. Moe turned out to be my next-door neighbor’s best friend, which turned out to be really awkward because he knew where I lived.

And speaking of knowing where I live, I have met a couple of delivery guys in my days (okay, so sometimes the UPS guy is really cute) there was Rudy who delivered a new bed and then came back an hour later to ask me out on a date and then there was David who delivered office supplies at my work-study job in college.

Then there were a series of now faceless guys I never called or who never called me in my college years.And then there were guys who always called or asked for your number and you wished they hadn't-- like those peter pan types—the balding, aging gents who, when I was 20, didn’t remind me of what my husband would look like in 15 years.

Of the memorable Peter’s was Gary who demanded that I take his phone number after he nearly ran me over in front of my dorm. I thought he was stalking me because I saw him all the time. It turns out that he lived next door.

Also from my college years were guys I met when I was an undergrad and they were in graduate school. There was a guy named Jon who was really cute and smart but I didn’t know what to say to him because he actually read Karl Marx and I only dated a Karl. Then there was this German grad student who I went to a party with. Sadly he got weepy and drunk and professed “erotic love” for me. I can’t remember his name but that phrase will stay with me forever. Then there was the Dutch grad student (oh the joys of going to college in NYC) who I shamelessly turned into my straight guy friend (every girl needs a male ear to lean on) even though I knew he liked me.

And since we are talking about guys from other parts of the world there were a couple of guys I met at the same party in New York --Rory from Ireland who is an unforgettable hottie. Thankfully I lost his number because he had “this will end badly” written all over him. You know the type. And from this same gathering was Philip from Israel. And on separate occasions Mikhail was also from Israel, Wahid from Morocco, a couple of guys named Roberto from Italy and Ecuador, and a beautiful Robert from New Zealand and another lad from the common wealth, Tobias. Rafael was a dreamy guy from Brazil and randomly there have been more than a few Greek men, including Yanis who, I’ll admit, I asked him for his number. And there was Jean-Pierre who I met on the Metro in Paris.

And less you think me fussy or not willing to hand my digits over to blokes born in the US, there has also been a Rodney, a Bill and a Eugene.

Don’t be alarmed. Yes, my list is long. But it is merely a record of all or most of my relatively harmless fully clothed brief encounters with the weaker sex.

Okay, so I am a recovering international man-eater.

And now that I have confessed, tell me, who is in your closet?


Working at the Car Wash

Growing up, I wanted to be a prima ballerina and a marine biologist. Then I wanted to be a lawyer for about two minutes. Then came the long period of wanting to be a Duran Duran roadie followed by an even longer stint wanting to be an archaeologist. And then I thought about revoking my citizenship to become a Greek philosopher. Finally, I settled on being a journalist. I carried the dream of being a reporter all the way across country to college where I landed some very juicy internships that only proved to me that I didn’t have the stomach for “getting a story” at any cost, i.e. my dignity. So I thought, maybe I would become a writer. A writer like Virginia Woolf, a writer like George Eliot, Kate Chopin, or even better, I would become a writer like Judy Blume. Maybe not. Or maybe I would do something grand.

And then came the defining moment of my life, the moment when the earth opened up and a hand dragged me into the underworld, transforming my destiny and making me the woman that I am today.

I remember it all so clearly. I was at the end of my junior year in college having coffee with a professor who I idolized, feeling like a student at Aristotle’s knee, except, we were women sitting in some West Village pseudo intellectual haunt and it was still the Clinton era.

Anyway, this young professor asked me what I was planning on doing with my life and I said that I wanted to travel around the world looking to join a worthy cause that came with some really hot rebel soldiers and fight a great historic battle against the powers that be from some remote jungle location. I would fall in love with the tragically romantic populist leader (think Che as played by Gael Garcia Bernal) and together we would win over hearts and minds across his developing nation. He would rule his country with me at his side. A bloodless coup would oust him and all our comrades. The people would be in tears. Fabulously wealthy leftist Europeans would take up our struggle and my rebel lover and me would live in exile in Paris. We would become celebrities among young idealists everywhere. From our country house in Aix en Provence, Gael and I would charm them with stories from our combat years. Our children, precocious and beautiful, would play at our feet. The birds would sing.

A relatively easy and achievable dream, one would think.

But the professor lacked my faith. Playing the part of mentor in an Oscar winning performance, she started messing with my plan. She planted the seeds of doubt. She corrupted my soul. She showed me the dark side. Basically, she murdered my spirit. And years later, I would come to find out that it is just like her to do that. Of course, my evil twin sister was so on to her, but did I listen? No. Anyway, being young, impressionable and on that day, most likely suffering from a hangover, I took a big bite from her carrot.

Without going into the painful details, I followed a career path that the professor laid out for me with all the aimlessness of a Zombie looking for dinner. Truly, I was never happy doing what I did for many years with middling success. And yes, every once in a while, I would look up from my desk and in the reflection of my computer screen I would see a hint of the woman that I could have been.

And why am I thinking about all of this now, many, many miles away and several years after the fact? Obviously, this is a symptom of having too much time on my hands. So what I am saying here people is that I think I may need an actual J-O-B. I don’t mean this phantom job that I call myself having as I slog away on the computer day after day. I mean an actual get dressed in the morning (or at night should I decide that I could peddle my wares on the street) grab a cup of coffee and head out the door kind of job. I need a job that pays. But with 10 million Americans out of work, I figure I may have some competition. What can a girl do with skills that include: public speaking, surfing the web, in-line skating, master spin artist, expert pillow tester and chocolate taster?

I am racking my brain trying to figure out which jobs I might be qualified for so I thought I would open it up to you— my one loyal reader. You keep me blogging for better, for worse. Thank you.

Anyway, go for broke. The person with the top three suggestions will win a pretty tin of almond cookies—sent directly from Hong Kong.

**I decided to stop offering the can of tainted milk and toxic toys as no one seemed eager get in on that action.

And the cookies will be store bought, don't worry!


We're the Save'ums

Cool fall weather has arrived in Hong Kong at long last. Of course, I write this knowing that in a matter of minutes the weather will change to a damp chilled-to-the-bones days of pollution and fog that characterizes winter in these parts.

But anyway….

This morning, in commemoration of the changing seasons and in the effort of turning back time, I broke out all of my face creams, lotions, oils and started applying them in earnest. But that is when I noticed that most of my creams had turned to water or worse: some gloppy form of way beyond its shelf life mess. It seems that while I have spent the past couple of years aggressively evading the care of my skin that my beauty products shriveled up and died.

I took it all in stride until I decided to open my closet that has become a tomb over the past year and blew off the dust from the boxes of shoes that I have hardly worn and dresses that were purchased for special occasions that never arrived. And it hit me.

I have a problem.

Though I live for today, I have a habit of spending for tomorrow.

Don’t get me wrong I don’t spend beyond my means. I am not a shopaholic. I hate shopping actually, but when I do, I make sure that I purchase exactly what I want, regardless of the price.

Thankfully, I have a natural predilection for being cheap. However, over the years I have accumulated some costly kick ass gear. But oddly, from clothes to cosmetics to shoes to purses to jewelry I have bought more than a few things that rarely see the light of day. It seems that the more expensive the item, the less I wear it out in public.

But no more. From here on out, everyday is going to be worthy of my most luscious ensembles. I am going to be the belle of my own ball, damn it. I’ll admit that it is about time, as most of my stuff is at least fifteen years old anyway.

And I’ll tell you what, I will look so good that no one will ask me why I am dressing like Milli of Milli Vanilli.

Who thought those guys were actually singing these songs?


Day Dream Believer

I am, like loads of people, spending much of my day thinking about Barack Obama. I mean really, it takes a lot of talent and cajones to rise to the top of the political heap in four years. And then I got to thinking… talent is one thing, but to achieve your dreams you need something else: passion, commitment, intelligence and a nice rack doesn’t hurt either. But that’s just me.

Seriously, just thinking about President-elect Obama encourages me to ask myself the important questions of “Who am I?” and “Why the hell am I eating so much ice cream lately?”

So I am announcing right now, that as of today, I am going to tap into my inner Obama, a man that has inspired millions both at home and abroad, and try and be my very, very best. I am going to fight hard to achieve my dreams (even if the dream is just a one nightstand with George Clooney). I am not going to waste any more time on meaningless pursuits (except I may still blog) because, damn it people, I have work to do.

And there is a two-fold bonus in all of this. I will get to tell my children how in some small way, I, like millions of others not only help shift the public debate, re-energized politics, and made what seemed to be impossible, possible by electing a President that knows the U.S. Consitution. I can tell my kids that it was also the day inspired Mommy to get serious and finally put that call in to Clooney’s people.

And the rest, as they say, is history.


Occupational Hazard

After the excitement of Tuesday’s election, I have been forced to settle down to more practical matters.

Today I had to go to the doctor. The problem, it seems, is a growth. For months now I have had growth on my wrist. I know, I know it would have been much more intriguing if I had a growth somewhere else and then later discovered that it was the unbirthed head of an evil triplet. Anyway, this growth is called a ganglion cyst. Apparently, the cyst has formed on the tendon of my middle finger. It seems as though my frequent past time of flipping people off comes with a side effect.

And speaking of side effects, after the visit to my doctor I went next door to another doctor’s office to see about my other growth—the one that I euphemistically call my "belly."

Like flipping people off, pregnancy and birth has some side effects too. Some are more common than others. And I just when thought that I had bounced back from forty extra pounds, loose joints, sore boobs, nausea and exhaustion followed by months of insomnia, I am hit with some new information.


What is this PRSMD you say? According to my doctor I suffer from “postnatal rectus sheath muscle diasthesis.” Funny, I thought it was called (and spelled) diastasis, but what do I know? I am only allowed to practice medicine in Ukrainian prisons.
Basically, it means that my stomach muscles have separated. No biggie you may think to yourself, all pregnant women experience some of this. And you would be correct. But few women have their muscles separate so much that they are faced with the horrifying reality of fitting into their low waist skinny jeans but having to wear maternity tops for the rest of their lives.

This can only be summarized in one word: Yuck.

My doctor, a smartly dressed woman who has an accent that sounds a lot like Nigella Lawson, which I used to find quaint until she told me that surgery is inevitable. Actually she said this:

“Sure you could workout, but there are only a few exercises you can do and your separation is so wide that you really are going to need surgery. So you better hurry up and decide if you are going to have more children. And if another child is in the offing, I would recommend that you start trying in about two months.”

No, you wouldn’t be wrong to scream (along with me) WTF?!

But the Mister has always been geeked for three kids and is now campaigning hard for the next installment. He is, of course, less interested in adopting.

But me? I am not so sure.

Is three really the new two?

Should I drink the Kool Aid?


Who Shot JR?

Being in Hong Kong means that I am one whole day ahead of folks in the US and a little over half a day ahead of people living in Europe.

What I am trying to say is that, it is afternoon here on Nov. 4th and it feels like I am sitting by the phone, waiting, just waiting for that guy (who promised it would be a one nightstand) to call. Or since I am talking about waiting for election results maybe I should liken my current feelings of trepidation/anticipation to waiting for the plus sign to appear after I peed on the stick.

Screw it.

I'm off to get a manicure and pedicure.