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YOU’VE BEEN EXPEDITED!

Well, I’m back!  Back from a cruise on a big ol’ fancy ship to Northern Spain, Portugal, the Island of Majorca, Gibraltar, and Rome.  Went to celebrate 40 years of marriage with my man, “WW” (White and Wonderful) and my birthday of 71 years.  I had a blast ‘cause my man knows how to treat his woman—Oh yes, Jesus, he does!  He had been organizing this trip for two years, and it was outstanding—first class all the way!

Photo Credit: Eleanor Tomczyk/Bilboa, Spain

Talk about acting like a “balla”—for two weeks I was a committed hedonist.  (For the uninitiated, a “balla” [baller] is someone like a successful basketball or football player who lives like she is queen of everything—a Serena Williams or Beyoncé with so much money to burn that one’s lavish and outlandish lifestyle is de rigueur.) The way I acted over the course of those two weeks onboard the cruise, you would have never guessed that I was born a poor-Black-child in the inner-city of Cleveland because I took to being pampered like a pig to slop or a Trump. 

Everything was just perfect, and I can see why people prefer being rich rather than poor.  For me, this lifestyle was temporary, but if I could have stayed on an eternal cruise on this particular ship, you bet your sweet tuckus, I would have. That’s because humans—especially Americans—are prone to the seductive life of getting our own way when everything is how you want it, when you want it, and where you want it—a.k.a. easy.  In other words, my “idealized persona” (what Carl Jung calls our mask, and what the author Mateo Sol of Loner Wolf describes as “…what we would like to be and how we wish to be seen by the world”) was livin’ the dream on this floating luxury resort.  That is…until I boarded the plane in Rome to return home, and I got into a rip-roaring fight with my “shadow self” which is still whimpering today as I try to wean myself from all that rich food and pampering.

What is a “shadow self,” you might ask?  First of all, we all have one.  Mateo Sol* describes the “shadow self” as “an archetype that forms part of the unconscious mind and is composed of repressed ideas, instincts, impulses, weaknesses, desires, perversions and embarrassing fears.”  Carl Jung furthers Sol’s definition from his book: On the Psychology of the Unconscious:

It is a frightening thought that man also has a shadow side to him, consisting not just of little weaknesses—and foibles, but of a positively demonic dynamism. The individual seldom knows anything of this; to him, as an individual, it is incredible that he should ever in any circumstances go beyond himself. But let these harmless creatures form a mass, and there emerges a raging monster.

Spoiled Brat meme/Sylvester me.me

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BELOW IS THE TRANSCRIPT OF THE FIGHT WITH MY SHADOW SELF WHO HAD STOWED AWAY UNDERNEATH MY SOUL AND STAYED HIDDEN AND SILENT UNTIL MID-WAY DURING THE TRANSATLANTIC FLIGHT HOME AFTER THE CRUISE.

SHADOW SELF:  Psst!  Wake up!  Wake up, Fool!! Why the fuck are we in coach?  This is not what I signed up for.

MY PERSONA:  Oh, my God—where did you come from?  I thought I left you locked in the closet at home.

SHADOW SELF:  As if!  Where you go, I go.  Do you hear that nasty-ass old man hacking up loogies sitting just three seats from you?  He’s been doing it all night. We’re going to catch “p-new-moania” from this dude and be bedridden for weeks.  We’re almost 71 years old.  We can’t be putting ourselves in this kind of danger.  Now, on the other hand, do you hear anyone coughing and sneezing in First Class?  Did you notice their lovely hot meals (three choices—each with hot soup options) served on linen table clothes along with champagne and copious wine and hot fudge sundaes on trays in front of their lay-down beds and massive TV screens that tilt for maximum viewing? It’s a different world up there — a world where we definitely belong.  A world where people have been “expedited.”

What did we have for dinner?  A freezer-burned gluten-free cardboard chicken piece in a tin (half cooked) with unseasoned veggies (also freezer burned).  We are in a seat with a TV screen on the back of the seat in front of us which is the size of a postage stamp.  I tried to pee an hour or so ago and there were at least 250 people lined up to use the toilet.

MY PERSONA:  Listen, SS, we discussed this before I left.  We used all our Benjamins for the cruise and all our frequent flyer points for the flight to London.  You’ll survive this return flight from Rome. I know it’s like being in a can of sardines flying in coach, but unless you are Trump or a televangelist with a fleet of private planes, you’ll just have to suck it up.  Besides, this is why I thought I left you home.  I don’t want to hear any whining after such a fabulous vacation.

Used by permission: 212692_600 Jeff Koterba, Omaha World Herald, NE

SHADOW SELF:  There is always room for improvement, Chickadee.  The cruise line showed you the blueprint.  I keep dreaming of that ship and how this is the first time you’ve really treated me as I truly deserve.  The cruise ship had me at “hello!”  Remember the entry-way to the ship when one of the stewards looked at your ticket and said, “Oh, you don’t belong in THIS LINE, Mr. and Mrs. Tomczyk.  Come with me to the VIP line because “you’ve been expedited!”  God, I love the sound of those words:  “YOU’VE BEEN EXPEDITED!”  We were swiftly escorted onto the ship with not another person ahead of us which meant no lines and no waiting.  (Bitch, you know how I hate waiting in lines!)  Then, before I could say, “Let’s locate the martini bar,” a waitress gave us our choice between straight champagne or mimosas as we toured the ship — champagne in hand.  Didn’t even have to pick up the keys to our suite…just told to go to our lodging at our leisure where we’d find the keys in our mail slot. 

MY PERSONA:  I must say that was nice.  So easy. So expedient. Kind of makes you wish all of life was like that, especially the DMV.

SHADOW SELF:  Exactly.  See…now you’re thinkin’ like me.  That cabin was just to die for, wasn’t it?  A bathroom that was big enough to throw a party in with a bathtub the size of a six-person Jacuzzi.  And remember what was waiting for you when you opened the door?  MORE CHAMPAGNE! And not the cheap-ass stuff either.  Slap me some Moët, Baby…Happy Birthday and Happy Anniversary to me, Sister-Friend! 

Photo Credit: Eleanor Tomczyk

MY PERSONA:  Ummm…and the delicious chocolate-covered strawberries—so sweet, they made my toes curl.  And the flowers…weren’t they precious?

SHADOW SELF:  Yep, if only everyday could be like that, right?  Now my favorite was when we heard the knock on the door and in walks our own private butler.  Lawd, have mercy, I almost fainted!  I thought to myself: This po-black-chil’ done hit the lottery!  Remember what he said to you:  “Welcome Madam.  Do you find everything to your liking? I’m sorry that I didn’t have a chance to sprinkle the rose petals on the bed, but I can bring them later, if you’d like.  I’m on-call to serve you 24/7.  Also, would you like to be addressed as Mrs. Tomczyk, Eleanor, or Madam?” Sweet Jesus, I just knew we had died and gone to Heaven.  I was hoping you’d choose to be called “Madam” so I could pretend we were in an episode of Downton Abbey.  This would be the only time in my life that my Black-ass would be called “Madam” by a White butler.  BUT NOOOO…you went all egalitarian and shit on me, and said he could address you as “Eleanor.”  But I forgive you, because the butler was so hot.  Him with his silver-fox hair and Ukrainian accent—looking like a bleached Denzel Washington.  I knew right there, he would be just perfect for all my needs.

Stock Photo: Butler similar to one on cruise

MY PERSONA:  Would you cut that shit out, SS.  Did you forget I’m married?  I did not perceive the butler like that.  He was nice and attentive.  That’s all I noticed.  That and the fact he offered to do my laundry anytime I needed it done—for free.  I would have taken him home just for that.  Anyway, enough of this.  You know that the downside of any wonderful experience or gift is the sin of ingratitude. The worst part of the cruise were all the habitual cruisers (people who cruise every three months or so) who brought along their shadow selves and bitched and complained about everything under the sun (“it’s too hot, it’s too cold, this isn’t as nice as the other cruise, I don’t like the entertainment, why did they change the private bar area, why is the elevator so slow, where in hell did my butler go…”).  Get yourself together because if you think today is bad, wait until I get us back home and put us on a diet to take off all the pounds we gained over the past two weeks with a butler who would bring us any food and drink anytime we wanted it.

SHADOW SELF:  I loved that the first activity you did on the ship was get an 80 minute massage. I liked that almost as much as sampling the six different specialty restaurants with chocolate desserts that would make a grown man weep, and the premium drink package that could stock a neighborhood bar.  I figured if we started drinking at breakfast and kept going straight on to dawn, maybe we’d be able to use up all that drink package, but you wouldn’t even give it a try.  I kept nudging you to “go for it,” but after a while you kept choosing hot tea instead of pina coladas.  Where’s the fun in that, Girlfriend?

Photo Credit: Eleanor Tomczyk

MY PERSONA:  Because after the third day, my body was saturated.  I can only take so much rich food and alcoholic drinks.  Pretty soon the mojitos and creamed lobster artfully placed on a Sriracha aioli and partitioned by figs and fried marigold flowers have to be replaced by a juice cleanse and salad or I would have rolled back into town weighing 300 pounds. Besides, I wasn’t touring Spain, Portugal, and the like to just eat and drink.  I loved seeing the history of the towns (especially Sintra, Portugal).  I loved discovering their Jewish quarter and learning about Aristides de Sousa Mendes do Amaral e Abranches, a Portuguese man who issued thousands of visas for Jews to escape Nazi Germany against the wishes of his own king.  It was fascinating to learn how a large group of Jews appeared to assimilate into the Portuguese culture, pretending to be Christians (hidden in plain sight), and even inventing a sausage as proof of their conversion.  What the authorities didn’t know was that the sausage was made of cooked chicken, bread, spices, and tomatoes to give it a “bloody” look, but it was strictly kosher.  The sausage is still one of Portugal’s most sumptuous delicacies. 

And to top it all off, when I turned a corner after leaving the Old Jewish Quarter, I thought I saw Barack Obama waving to me from an apartment window as he stood with Chinese President Xi Jinping.  I almost fainted at the shock!  For a minute he looked eerily real, and another American tourist, an Australian and I teared up and waved back.  The White American from New Jersey said out loud to the other nationalities longingly gazing at the picture in the window: “We’re sorry we couldn’t give you another Barack Obama.  It’s not personally my fault, but we’re working on fixing it.  Please, please don’t give up on America. Ignore the clown masquerading as our President in the White House.”  That’s when I knew, this cruise was only a momentary fun event and brief respite; once I got back home, it was back to the grind of reality and into the resistance movement I had signed up for to help undo the national nightmare that had engulfed our country.

Photo Credit: Eleanor Tomczyk in Sintra, Portugal

SHADOW SELF:  Fine.  You went for the culture, history, and inspiration, I stowed away for the pampering and the spoiling.  I want you to figure out how the phrase “You’ve been expedited!” gets me rollin’ like a balla when we get home.  If you don’t, I’m gonna raise bloody hell!  I will be unable to be lived with—do you hear me, Bitch! ‘Cause once you go coddled and pampered, you never go back!  You tell WW, your trip to Africa next year has to at least be business class or I’m gonna throw a stage 4 temper tantrum in the terminal! 

MY PERSONNA:  Shut the fuck up and go to sleep!  You are officially on lock-down, Shadow self. I don’t want to hear another word from you!  Get yourself prepared to eat nothing but lettuce wraps, exercise incessantly, and attempt to write the next great American novel because my “idealized persona,” that I am a disciplined writer and in control of my flesh, is my modus operandi when I’m state side.

SELAH (MEDITATIVE THOUGHT FOR THE DAY)

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WANT TO READ MORE?  CHECK OUT AUTHOR’S LATEST BOOKS:  “Monsters’ Throwdown,” Fleeing Oz,” and “The Fetus Chronicles:  Podcasts From my Miseducated Self”—on sale now at Amazon!

WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THE AUTHOR?  Check out her website at www.eleanortomczyk.com

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REFERENCES:

https://lonerwolf.com/shadow-self/*

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eleanor Tomczyk and “How the Hell Did I End Up Here?” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

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LOSING MY MIND—FINDING IT AGAIN!

Do you know what I discovered today?  I am back home, which may come as a surprise to my readers because you thought I was home all along during my much-announced spring break.  Well . . . you see, what had happened was . . .

I started off the week with great intentions:  to commune with nature while I pulled together my garden for the season.  What could be better?  But if you’ve been following my blog for any amount of time, you will know that in my new retirement abode, I am at war with the moles, the voles, and the deer.  Everyone told me when I moved here that I would lose that war with these creatures (my home backs up to a nature preserve), but I refused to believe them. And then the pollen swirled and landed—like an apocalyptic yellow blanket causing me to sneeze my head off every time I poked my Allegra-saturated noggin out of the house to spray some animal-go-away spray at a pesky creature.  Everything was covered in yellow dust, making me want to personally ring Mother Nature’s neck.  So several days after I announced in my blog that I was going to spend my entire spring break working outside in my yard, I threw away the garden shovel, the Mole-b-gone, the allergy meds, and the Deer FU spray and surrendered my land to its original inhabitants and their allergy dust.  (Have you ever noticed that squirrels, birds, moles, voles, and deer don’t sneeze even when they are knee deep in pollen as they devour your newly planted mole and deer resistant shrubs which have cost you hundreds of dollars?  What’s up with that?)

Garden Issues Dave Granlund Politicalcartoons com

Cartoon Used by Permission: Dave Granlund, Politicalcartoons.com

I came indoors and tried to work on my third book, but I soon lost interest because I couldn’t see through the film of allergy tears streaming down my cheeks, puffy frog-eyes, and allergy snot dripping from my nose like a broken faucet.  (Apparently, pollen can still get into a hermetically sealed house—who knew?)  Blowing my nose every third word became a chore, so I figured that maybe I needed a rest from both my garden and my writing and turned to that great intellectual stimulation:  Facebook.

Let me make one thing clear:  I hate Facebook.  So you know that I have to be pretty desperate if I start trolling that colossal waste of time.  Since FB changed its format by adding “like” options, I have to confess that I don’t have a clue how to use them or even if I want to use them, but I thought I’d give them that good ol’ college try and figure the system out.  After fiddling around with a few of Facebook’s “like” options on some of my friends’ pages, I got bored as hell and wanted to kill myself.  (How do people spend day in and day out cruising FB pages without going insane?)  I swear I left 30% of my brain cells on the Altar of Zuckerman as I tried to “connect” with “friends” and saw an eternity’s worth of pictures of “the most delicious meal I’ve eaten—ever,” the greatest vacation, the most adorable babies crawling, walking, pooping, or gurgling like every other baby in the world who has done so since the beginning of time.  AUUUGH!

Facebook Likes Nate Beeler The Columbus Dispatch

Cartoon used by permission: Nate Beeler, The Columbus Dispatch

And don’t even get me started on the news.  When my news feed began to alternate between that demon Trump’s Neanderthal antics . . .

Trump Lord of Darkness John Cole The Scranton TimesTribune

. . . or whether my vagina was going to be a matter of inspection by the toilet police the next time I walked into a North Carolina restroom, I almost lost it.

Restroom Rules Steve Sack The Minneapolis Star Tribune

Cartoon used by permission: Steve Sack, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune

This was supposed to be a time of rest for me but I was so restless—so fucking bored and agitated that I was beginning to get on even Jesus’ nerves!  I mean I realized the problem was me.  My equilibrium was off.  The politics, the madness, and the chaos had sucked out my sense of well-being, and I didn’t know how to get it back until my sweet man (WW—“White and Wonderful”) came to the rescue.  (WW always comes to the rescue when I’m like this—frazzled, overwrought, and not much good to myself or anybody else.)

WW:  Hey Cutie, I know what you need—a change of scenery to foster a different mindset without any access to news or moles.

ME:  I’m intrigued.  Tell me more.

WW:  What has seven islands, monkeys, lizards, diamonds, and lots of sea and sand?  Is your passport up-to-date?  Can you say rum punch three times fast without tripping up your tongue?

ME:  Okay, I give up.  What?

WW:  A 12-day cruise to Aruba, Curacao, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, Barbados, Antigua, and St. Maarten.

ME:  SHUT UP!?!  When do we leave?

WW:  As soon as you can pack.  BUT . . . you have to promise me one thing:  you cannot watch any news for twelve days, and you must swear that you will retool your mind to live more in the moment.

ME:  Really, Yoda, How do I do that?

WW:   I have no idea, but we’re not getting any younger and life as we know it is slip-sliding away at a depressingly fast rate.  How about focusing on being mindful in the moment instead of stressing out about what is going to happen tomorrow or worrying about things you can’t control?  In fact, I bought you a few thousand books to consider as traveling/reading companions:  Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World, Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the Present Moment and Your Life, Mindfulness in Plain English, Little Book of Mindfulness: 10 minutes a day to less stress, more peace, Mindfulness: Mindfulness For Anxiety Relief—How To Use Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Meditation Exercises…, Mindfulness in Everyday Life: How to Stop Worries and Stress and Enjoy Peace and Happiness with Mindfulness and…, Wherever You Go, There You Are…

ME:  Okay, okay, I get your point.  I’ll go away with you and try and get my sanity back.  IN THE MEANTIME I’M GOING ON A CRUISE!

Celebrity Cruise Ship

CELEBRITY ECLIPSE, Photo Credit by E. Tomczyk

Along with my bathing suit, my Gucci shades, my sea-sickness bands, and the latest Adele album, I packed Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Wherever You Go There You Are, and I began to forget all about Trump and Cruz, moles and voles, ISIS and chaos, and a Republican Party gone completely mad.  I became one with my surroundings and the world became my oyster.

Iggy the Iguana

IGGY THE IGUANA: Photo Credit by E. Tomczyk

It didn’t take me long to get into my new state of mindfulness, and boy did my world open up when I started paying attention to what was in front of me and not what I feared would happen tomorrow or mourn over what had happened yesterday.  I met a little dude called Iggy the Iguana in Curacao.  He told me how much he loved a mosquito-rum cocktail and how much he hated owls and snakes.  How the world would be a much better place without either of those predators, thank you very much.  I tended to agree with him about the snakes.

Willemstads Harbour Curacao By Mtmelendez at the English language Wikipedia

Willemstads Harbour Curacao: Photo Credit by Mtmelendez at the English language, Wikipedia

Curacao took my breath away, and I considered moving there for a nano-second because they have no moles and voles. I swear it looked like what I had imagined heaven to be, but WW said he liked his mole/vole retirement space back in Virginia, and maybe I was taking this mindfulness thing a little too seriously.

Turtles for sale

WATER BOARD BUSINESSMAN: Photo Credit by E. Tomczyk

I became friends with a camera-shy, water-board businessman who tried to sell me two turtles for $20 (“han crafted by me own hans, darlin’, right out of volcanic rock”), which I later discovered were made in China, sold on all seven islands, and were probably worth seventy-five cents apiece.  But in my new “zen state” I thought his scam was hysterical as I exclaimed to my husband:  “I’m being cheated by one of the locals—isn’t life simply delightful” (said no one ever!).

Pitons

GROS AND PETIT PITONS IN ST. LUCIA: Photo Credit by E. Tomczyk

I sailed past the Gros and Petit Pitons in a sailboat in total silence, and I was humbled by the realization of the power of what a volcanic eruption can do.  According to Wikipedia, “at least 148 plant species have been recorded on Gros Piton, 97 on Petit Piton and the intervening ridge, among them eight rare tree species. The Gros Piton is home to some 27 bird species . . . three indigenous rodents, one opossum, three bats, eight reptiles and three amphibians.”

Catamarans II

CATAMARAN #5: Photo Credit by E. Tomczyk

I lost count of the catamarans I went on—chillin’ with my rum punch while WW went snorkeling.  IMP. NOTE:  I don’t do water—anyone who knows me knows this is one diva who does not immerse herself in wet stuff.  In fact, one of the captains of one of the myriad catamarans I sailed on “playfully” threatened to throw me overboard to join my husband, whether I wanted to snorkel or not.  Without missing a beat, I emerged from my “mindfulness” mindset and announced to all who had ears to hear (including the angels in heaven and the fishes in the sea):  “Young man, if you toss me overboard, the next thing you will be doing is singing with Jesus because I will personally kill you.”  He bowed in homage to me, gave me two more rum punches, and I returned to my zen-like state of “being in tune with where I was.”

St. Martins

ST. MAARTEN: Photo Credit by E. Tomczyk

The Diva took a tempting stroll down diamond row in St. Maartens and almost got hooked on a cute little bracelet that was simply “to die for,” but at the last moment remembered that she had enough bling to last a lifetime, and that greed was unbecoming to her new spiritual state of just “being.”

monkey 2

MARVIN GAY, THE VERVENT MONKEY AND WW: Photo by E. Tomczyk

Ran into Marvin Gay in St. Kitts.   He told me that he was a Vervent monkey, and he and his peeps rule that island. He said his ancestors came to St. Kitts on the slave ships from Africa in the 1600s as pets to the French.  Says his great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather helped lead a Vervent monkey revolt against their owners during the local wars in 1666 between the British and the French, and that his ancestors escaped their cages and roamed the island in gangs raiding crops and causing horrendous mischief.  He said if I didn’t believe him, I should check out the diary of one Father Labat, a French Priest.  I told him I would do as he instructed if he promised not to shit on my husband’s head (he looked like he was contemplating just such an action).  When I got back to the ship, I checked out the following essay from the library which sported the following quote about Marvin Gay’s relatives:

“Their [Vervent] frolics are mischievous, their thefts dexterous. They are subtle enemies and false friends. When pursued, they fly to the mountain and laugh at their pursuers, as they are little ashamed of a defeat as a French admiral or general. In short, they are the torment of planters; they destroy whole cane pieces in a few hours and come in troops from the mountain, whose trees afford them shelter. No methods to get the better of them has yet been found out.”—Professor Frank Ervin or a member of his team at the Behavioral Science Foundation located at Estridge Estate on St. Kitts in response to a request from the St. Christopher Heritage Society

WW and Monkey

MARVIN, THE VERVENT MONKEY: Photo by E. Tomczyk

Marvin kept his word, and I maintained my mindfulness—amazed what one can learn when one is mindful.  (Who knew that iguanas and monkeys could communicate in English?)

Happiness

Photo Credit:  E. Tomczyk, My Man and Me doin’ the “Mindful” thing

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ELEANOR’S SELAH (“AHA MOMENT”) ABOUT MINDFULNESS

I am discovering that according to Jon Kabat-Zinn the lack of mindfulness “…scavenges to fill time, conspires with my mind to keep me unconscious and lulled in a fog of numbness to a certain extent. It has me unavailable to others, missing the play of the light on the table, the smells in the room, the energies of the moment.  Stillness, insight, and wisdom arise only when we can settle into being complete in this moment, without having to seek or hold on to or reject anything.”

All joking aside, I am trying to turn over a new leaf.  I think this mindfulness thing is what I need at this stage.  If at almost 68, I can’t settle down and smell the island flowers then I don’t know when I’m going to do so because at this point of my journey, this life is as good as it gets for me.  Of course, maybe mindfulness is just learning how to pay attention—period.

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INSPIRATIONAL QUOTES ABOUT MINDFULNESS

“Mindfulness is about love and loving life. When you cultivate this love, it gives you clarity and compassion for life, and your actions happen in accordance with that.”Jon Kabat-Zinn

“Mindfulness helps us freeze the frame so that we can become aware of our sensations and experiences as they are, without the distorting coloration of socially conditioned responses or habitual reactions.”Henepola Gunaratana

 “When you have children, you realize how easy it is to not see them fully, and perhaps miss all those early years. If you are not careful, you can be too absorbed in work, and they will be only too happy to tell you about it later. Being a parent is one of greatest mindfulness practices of all.”Jon Kabat-Zinn

“I’m pretty much done with mindfulness. I’m just going to start paying attention.”Gina Barreca

INSPIRATIONAL QUOTES: www.brainyquotes.com

WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THE AUTHOR?  Check out www.eleanortomczyk.com

WANT TO READ THE AUTHOR’S LATEST BOOKS?  Monsters’ Throwdown and Fleeing Oz are both on sale at Amazon (hardcopy and Kindle).

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eleanor Tomczyk and “How the Hell Did I End Up Here?” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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NEWS JUNKIE REHAB

Do you know what I discovered this week? I just got back from news junkie rehab, and it was quite the journey! When we last spoke, I was committed to chilling out in my end-of-summer garden, abstaining from all news outlets for an extended period of time, and regaining my peace of mind that had been brutally shredded by the bombardment of too many sources of information in order to stay “au courant” as a blogger. Having recently been diagnosed with “The Sugar” (partially caused by stress), I had become a teetotaler vegan who planned to master a fartless lotus position while I meditated myself into a Zen-like state of catatonia. But somewhere in the midst of it all, I “fell off the wagon” and my husband (WW) had to stage an intervention. I don’t know how it happened. All I remember is going to the salon to get a mani-pedi, mindlessly browsing through a couple of copies of OK! Magazine and promptly falling asleep in the pedicure chair while I feverishly murmured: “I can’t believe Mariah and Nick are getting a divorce; I didn’t know Jordan Sparks and Jason Derulo had split after he took her virginity (that bastard!); and what is this world coming to now that Pat and Gina Neeley of ‘Down Home with the Neeleys’ are getting divorced after twenty years of marriage and fabulous recipes? not to mention that Tyler Perry’s having a baby (I always thought he was gay) ….”

OK Cover Mariah and Nick Split

I dreamt that my husband (WW) came to the mani-pedi salon to rescue me at the behest of my manicurist. In my haze I could hear Suchi mumble something about getting me some help, and my husband responding that he was staging an intervention that very day, and that he knew just where to take me to do it: Vancouver, Canada.

SUCHI:  Who’s in Vancouver, Mr. John?

WW: Not who, Suchi, what! A cruise ship. Once we get to Canada, after several days of decompression, we’ll set sail on a cruise to Hawaii, starting with five days at sea and no Internet access that is worth the cost—I’ve seen to that. I’ve planned the entire itinerary: sea-day upon sea-day, day-long hikes upon docking at several islands, helicopter rides in the morning, dancing in the evenings, fine dining, and entertainment. There will be absolutely no way on God’s green Earth that my wife will have time for gathering bad news from anywhere. By the time she gets finished with the itinerary I’ve planned for her each day, the only thing she’ll be able to do is fall into bed and go to sleep. When we return in fourteen days, she will be a changed woman. You’ll see.

SUCHI: Well, if you say so, my friend. She’s pretty far gone from “newsites” overload—the worst I’ve ever seen in my customers. I wish you smooth sailing, Mr. John. Bon Voyage!

Vancouver JTomczyk Photo credit

Vancouver Harbor||Photo Credit: E. Tomczyk

From what I can remember, Vancouver was lovely but rainy. But WW insisted that we bundle up and walk the sea wall, Gastown, and China Town. (After six hours of walking in the rain with my ass truly dragging, we stopped for a delicious lunch at The Flying Pig.) I must admit that I began to feel clear-headed for the first time in months. Of course, it might have been the Three Pea-Split Soup and the Seared Chili-Rubbed Skirt Steak. The restaurant was really lovely, but the TV in the hotel room didn’t seem to work when we got back for me to catch up on the daily news. I could feel the energy of news happening all around the world, and I didn’t have a clue what was going on. I developed a nervous tic. I tried to check out Huff Post, CNN, or the NYTimes on my phone while WW was in the bathroom, but almost immediately I got a message from my carrier telling me that I was dangerously approaching my expanded data limit, and I needed to call them ASAP!

CELL CARRIER:   Mrs. Tomczyk, you have already spent ten times your original data allowance and you’ve only been traveling 24 hours, according to what you’ve just told me. I’ll adjust your bill and take off these charges, but I’m warning you: shut off your phone on the ship. Turn it to airplane mode. I cannot save you from the ship’s charges. They are their own government. At the rate you’re going, you’ll owe thousands of dollars in roaming charges by the time you return just because you want to stay “connected.” Once you are three miles away from the ship at each port, you can turn your phone on. Is that clear? I’ve been very gracious to you, but if you turn your phone on at sea, you are on your own.

ME: But, but . . . what about the news? How will I know what’s going on? What if the world ends?

CELL CARRIER: Seriously, Ma’am? And you could stop the world from ending, how? You have a choice, Mrs. Tomczyk. It’s up to you: either pay us the thousands of dollars needed to facilitate your data gathering or forget about the world for 12 days. Besides if zombies attack or we enter WWIII, the Captain will let you know.

ME: [mumbled after hanging up] Smart ass—everybody’s a critic.

Map Hawaii Cruise

Google Image

The ship was exquisite, our room expansive and gorgeous, the food was outstanding, but no one told me that the Alaska current from the Bering Sea could or would mingle with the subarctic current on our way west and then south to Hawaii (I had assumed the ship would follow the coast line of California and Mexico and then scoot over). At 6:00 a.m. the first day at sea, waves that some say were 18 – 25 ft. high (they felt like they were 60 ft. high) attacked the ship while I was on a treadmill determined to keep off the weight I had lost before the cruise, crashing against the vessel (one of them being a rogue wave), and sending me flying. At the time, I was attempting to read the tiny news scroll from CNN, Fox News (yes, I was so desperate for news, I had stooped to “Faux News”), and MSNBC on the treadmill.  All that reading, while riding the waves from Hell on an inclined treadmill, must have tripped my stomach into what I called the Great Bering Sea rock-and-roll upchuck—six times. By the time I got to the infirmary along with the rest of the ship, my brown skin was as green as a farmer’s market cucumber. Taking one look at me, the Doc wasted no time: “Nurse, give the patient two shots in the bum.” I was ordered to close my eyes and go to sleep (not that I had much choice—the drug could have dropped an elephant in its tracks), and try and live to see another day. I couldn’t read anything without getting nauseous—not a book and certainly not my iPhone.

By God’s grace I was back on my feet by dinner and able to enjoy a wonderful meal and keep it down. Many of the passengers could not do so for days, so I considered myself lucky. I obeyed my cell carrier (I’m convinced WW paid him off) and didn’t try to turn on my phone but simply relished in the wonderful moments of being at sea with the love of my life (my man, not my iPhone).

On the sixth day, heaven appeared, and I promptly forgot about being in the know about the troubles of this world. (Have I ever told you that God was having a really good day when he made Hawaii?)

Oaho Movie Sites Photo Credit JTomczyk

Oahu ranch used for movie making||Setting for the filming of: Pearl Harbor, 50 First Dates, Lost, and Jurassic Park||Photo Credit: JTomczyk

Helicopter Ride Photo Credit JTomczyk

Blogger and Main Squeeze getting ready to helicopter around Oahu||Photo Credit: ETomczyk

Hawaiian Cruise 071

Diamond Head from helicopter||Photo Credit: JTomczyk

Volcano on Hawaii ETomczyk Photo Credit

Helicopter view of active volcano in Hawaii (the big island) ||Photo Credit: ETomczyk

We had a TV in our room but it only featured a couple news outlets and they kept losing their satellite feed. At one point toward the end of the cruise, the server went down and by the time it came back up signals had crossed, and Musette’s Waltz from La Bohème was blaring over the newscaster’s report. I could only half-way make out that there was a revolution happening in Hong Kong that had something to do with umbrellas and that someone had come to the United States carrying the Ebola virus, while the prostitute, Musette, robustly sang in Italian: “When I walk alone in the street, people stop and stare at me.”  Puccini won over CNN International. (Somehow, I think WW paid some technician off to make that channel mash-up happen in our cabin because no one else on the ship had a clue about it when I explained the Puccini take-over. You’d be amazed at what my man is capable of doing once he sets his mind to it.)

Ebola and Hong Kong John Cole The Scranton Times Tribune

Used by Permission: John Cole, The Scranton Times, Tribune

***

I am discovering that I had temporarily lost my way, and the bombardment of so many nefarious messages from people with mixed motives, hateful hearts, and gossipy tongues had almost taken control of my spirit. I had been especially manipulated by the haters of our President who wish him ill (have you heard that the spread of Ebola is his fault?*), as if keeping informed and getting incensed over their defamations would keep President Obama from being hurt or assassinated. I had forgotten that I don’t have control over much, including the success of our first black president, but I do have control over my own peace of mind. I had forgotten about letting go of issues and negative attitudes, actively forgiving, not judging others, and trusting that God will make all things right if I just trust in him. I had forgotten that it is my responsibility to keep my heart free of fear, and that my perspective will need cleaning up from time to time—much like scouring a cruddy skillet spotless with a spiritual Brillo pad.

Thanks “My Captain! My Captain” for whisking me away to Paradise and giving me a refreshed perspective on life—for restoring my peace of mind.

Rain Forest Hike Mauii JTomczyk photo credit

Hiking in a Hawaiian rain forest on Maui with “My Captain”—as close to total peace of mind as I can get!

***

“We are bombarded on all sides by a vast number of messages we don’t want or need. More information is generated in a single day than we can absorb in a lifetime. To fully enjoy life, all of us must find our own breathing space and peace of mind.”James E. Faust

“I am thankful the most important key in history was invented. It’s not the key to your house, your car, your boat, your safety deposit box, your bike lock or your private community. It’s the key to order, sanity, and peace of mind. The key is ‘Delete.’”Elayne Boosler

“I never will have peace of mind. I’m not constructed that way. Some things in life can be horrible.”—Julie Christie

WANT TO READ THE AUTHOR’S BOOK, “MONSTERS’ THROWDOWN”? EXCELLENT REVIEWS!

BUY NOW AT AMAZON.COM

WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT THE AUTHOR? CHECK OUT www.eleanortomczyk.com

frontcover

REFERENCES

http://www.bostonherald.com/inside_track/celebrity_news/2014/10/hot_hollywood_jordin_sparks_and_jason_derulos_shocking_split

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tony-posnanski/nine-things-i-hated-about_b_5945006.html

*http://www.cnn.com/2014/10/07/opinion/granderson-ebola-obama/index.html?hpt=hp_t3

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/10/dont-call-hong-kongs-protests-an-umbrella-revolution/381231/ 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eleanor Tomczyk and “How the Hell Did I End Up Here?” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 
25 Comments

Posted by on October 9, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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There’s No Place Like Home

Do you know what I’ve discovered?   Sometimes living in America makes my head hurt—especially when one is a humorist who draws stories from real life, and real life can sometimes be overrun with fools.  No matter what TV channel I turned on last week, there was something stupidly disheartening about living in the good ol’ US of A:

An old-fart of a man thought his basketball team was a plantation and racism was his passkey.

 Georgia passed a “guns everywhere law” (guns in churches, guns in bars—yeah, that should work out well).

And a proven duplicitous head of the LA NAACP resigned after admitting he was well on his way to giving the racist basketball team owner a lifetime achievement award in civil rights for previous monetary contributions (WTF?).  No amount of awards could disprove the onerous racism of the team owner, but it does prove that the LA NAACP needs a major moral overhaul and new leadership. There are no winners here.

Viewers David Horsey Los Angeles Times

Cartoonist:  David Horsey/LA Times

As a mother and a grandmother, I was frightened to say the least.  As a humorous writer, I was drained.  There is nothing funny about deep-seated racism, proliferating gun availability, and downright stupidity bolstered by alleged payola to a group that is supposed to be one of our guardians against racism.  And don’t get me started about the incessant attacks against our President by people who resent his election and reelection.  After returning from a promotion gig for my new book, Monsters’ Throwdown, I made my malaise known to my husband (WW), and he came up with a “get out of Dodge” plan.

WW:     Go somewhere else.  I’m off to Europe for a while—why don’t you meet me in Germany for the weekend?  There is nothing like trying to navigate a country whose language one doesn’t speak to give one perspective.  Given your ability to turn into a chocolate Lucille Ball at the slightest provocation, you should have entertaining blog fodder within the first 24 hours.  Hell, just trying to get you through the TSA screening will provide me with tons of laughter and you with at least three posts.

ME:        Excuse me, buster!  I’ll have you know that I traveled all over Germany 46 years ago as a choir soloist (singing in German, thank you very much!), and I got by okay on two-years of ghetto high school German.

WW:     Oh, really?  How much German vocabulary do you remember forty-six years later?

ME:        Um . . . besides “bitte” (please), “danke” (thank you), and “guten morgen” (good morning).  I remember three very vital sentences:  Wo ist die Toilette?  Ich habe das Reizdarmsyndrom.  Ich bin  zwei minuten nur vor blitzkrieg. (Where is the bathroom?  I have irritable bowel syndrome. I only have two minutes before she blows!)

WW:     Yep, this is going to be worth the price of admission.

Leg Room John Cole The Scranton Times Tribune

Used by permission: “Leg Room” John Cole, The Scranton Times-Tribune

So off I flew for my 3-day adventure in Germany.   I flew economy class—although WW assured me that I had won the lottery when I got the new TSA preferred pre-clearance ticket:  no removal of shoes, no pulling out the bag of 3oz liquids, no removal of my sweater, and no threatening to yank the wig off my head and run it through the x-ray machine because the bobby-pins tripped the scanner.  In other words I’d be treated like a human being.

The pre-screen was a joke for me, of course.  I kept tripping the scanner over and over again (was it the stays in my “over-the-shoulder-boulder-holder,” was it the fillings in my teeth, or could it be my rubber-soled shoes?), leading to me being patted down and ordered to remove everything except my back teeth.  (Next time, don’t do me any favors TSA—just stuff me into the unpre-screened “orgasmitron” and continue to let my naked body be comedy fodder for the backroom TSA pervs.

TSA Daryl Cagle CagleCartoons com

The TSA and Our Liberties:  Used by permission | Daryl Cagle CagleCartoons.com

Once I was on the plane, I surveyed the lay of the land and determined that there were two bathrooms for a couple hundred people in economy, so another passenger and I tried to sneak into first class to use the potties.  My comrade got through unnoticed, but the German stewardess caught me just as I rounded the bend:  “Wo gehst du hin?” (Where are you going?)

ME:        Ich habe das Reizdarmsyndrom.  Ich bin zwei minuten nur vor blitzkrieg!!!

FLUGBEGLEITERIN (flight attendant):  Zurück zur Economy-Klasse! (Get your sorry-ass back into economy class!)

I didn’t sleep a wink on the plane, but I hit the ground running.  I took a trip up the Rhine on a boat full of nice people from all over the world viewing medieval castles with colorful histories. . .

“But let me talk of its castle. . . . [Heidelberg Castle] What times it has been through! Five hundred years long it has been victim to everything that has shaken Europe, and now it has collapsed under its weight. That is because this Heidelberg Castle, the residence of the counts Palatine, who were answerable only to kings, emperors, and popes, and was of too much significance to bend to their whims, but couldn’t raise his head without coming into conflict with them, and that is because, in my opinion, that the Heidelberg Castle has always taken up some position of opposition towards the powerful.”Victor Hugo (1838)/Wikipedia

I drank tons of wonderful German wine and consumed wonderful stews, bratwurst, Wiener schnitzel, and some kind of boiled egg in dill sour cream sauce that I could have definitely done without.  But nothing could beat the view while I ate it sitting in the old town square of Heidelberg.

***

I am discovering that after observing every traveler I saw and chatting with some of them, that we all have many things that are lovely about our histories and ourselves.  My greatest take-away was how similar we all are—from the Japanese tourist to the German waitress to the American traveler.  But we also have our shameful places of hatred, spite, disdain, contempt, and genocide.  I didn’t visit the darker side of Germany this time around.  I didn’t want to.  I did notice how 46 years ago there was a palpable sense of shame and heaviness upon the German people.  This time I sensed none of that, and that is good.  But they must never forget the evil their ancestors were capable of.  It still boggles my mind that a predominantly Christian nation created the demonic infernos of the death camps—just as my countrymen must never forget the immoral stain of slavery and the brutality of the Apartheid Jim Crow era, while we continually strive towards better days as a nation and as a people.

I was glad to return home.  I love my country and all its people (well, maybe not the haters).  I didn’t sleep on the return flight either, but I didn’t think I was any worse for wear until I looked in the mirror once I got in the cab.  I wondered why the custom agent stared at me so intently and questioned me so thoroughly.  Oh well, at least I learned something while I was away.

Beyonce How you think you look www vibe com

 “Perhaps travel cannot prevent bigotry, but by demonstrating that all peoples cry, laugh, eat, worry, and die, it can introduce the idea that if we try and understand each other, we may even become friends.”Maya Angelou

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” ― Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad/Roughing It

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” ― Terry Pratchett, A Hat Full of Sky

REFERENCES

http://thegrio.com/2014/05/01/naacp-la-chapter-head-leon-jenkins-resigns-over-sterling-award-controversy/ 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eleanor Tomczyk and “How the Hell Did I End Up Here?” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 
3 Comments

Posted by on May 10, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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The TSA and Me

Do you know what I’ve discovered?  Fear of the unknown plagues us from kindergarten to the grave.  It might even start at birth; maybe that is the reason for the blood-curdling cry that all babies cut loose when they take their first gulp of air—“What the fuck is going on, and why didn’t anyone warn me about what to expect on this third rock from the sun?”  My grandson started kindergarten today, and when asked how he was handling it all, as he resolutely marched toward the school with a grimace on his face, he replied:  “I feel a little crunchy inside—you know—I’m a little bit waggy.”  I just had an encounter with the TSA this weekend (when will they ever get over the fact that I’m black with a Polish name and I dress like a diva?), and I know exactly what my grandson means.

TSA School Starts

Used by permission:  Cartoonist, David Fitzsimmons—The Arizona Star

I’m one of the most organized people on the planet.  I am so because I don’t like surprises.  I’m not interested in the unknown popping up when I least expect it and messing with me.  When you’ve been raised by a pack of wolves as a child like I was, chaos follows you around like a cluster of tornados.  You can surrender to the mayhem and lose your soul, or you can try to put up knowledgeable barriers to shield your life and keep that shit at bay.  Before any unknown procedure or journey, I ask questions (every which way but Sunday), I research, and I practice, practice, practice.  (If I have to drive to a new location for a doctor’s appointment or the like, I’ll practice how to get there the day before so as not to get lost on the day of and end up being late.)  My methodology is exhausting but at least I am usually well-prepared, on time, and in command. There are rarely any surprises in my life—except when it comes to the TSA.  I don’t know what it is about those people and me, but no two trips are ever the same when it comes to me passing through their realm unscathed.

TSA Clean Underwear Bob Englehart The Hartford Courant

Used by permission:  Cartoonist Bob Englehart, The Hartford Courant

I just got back from a trip this weekend and despite all my best efforts, I got patted down by the TSA (TSA probably mistook my fluffer-nutter, post-menopausal belly to be ideal smuggling encasement for drugs?), my head got swiped with a wand (TSA probably thought wig was a great camouflage for an Uzi?), and I took my 567th nudie pic in the “Orgasmatron known as the full-body scan” (TSA probably thought my old-lady bits were perfect hiding places for explosives?).   But I’m used to this and come prepared because the TSA can’t get over the chocolate face with the Polish name.  It sends them into tilt every time.  I usually carry a white man with me and announce loudly that I belong to him as I pass through the security line (“Coming through and I’m married to the white dude up ahead”).  I travel with my passport at all times so that the black face and the Polish last name carry more gravitas.  It usually works—but not this time.  As I bent over to put my shoes back on after running the gauntlet, something goosed me in the ass—not once, but twice!  When I stood up to see what it was, it turned out to be a bomb-sniffing dog and his handler.

TSA Pat Down Nate Beeler The Columbus Dispatch

Used by permission: Nate Beeler, The Columbus Dispatch

Now what that dog thought I had up my ass is beyond me!  I wanted to say something (“WTF!”) so badly when the cop scrutinized me up and down as his bomb-sniffing dog circled in and around me and my stuff.   But I knew I’d get hauled off to some holding room for questioning and miss the flight to my grandson’s 5th birthday party.  So I pulled myself together and continued on my way, and I ran right into another TSA person a couple yards away who menacingly took a picture of me without explanation.  His face read:  “Slightly chunky terrorist/drug-mule with Polish name got past canine but still remains suspicious—documenting her features in case there is an issue on the other end.”  Like the canine handler, the picture taker looked mean but he didn’t say a word—he just clicked away.   By this point in the TSA maze, I couldn’t tell why they thought I looked suspicious.  As I started to confront the TSA camera man to explain himself, my husband grabbed my arm and shuffled me off toward our gate before I could say a word as if to say: “Choose your battles, Cutie—there is nothing you could have done to prepare for this.”

Well, I’ve been thinking about it, and I’ve decided that I think I’m going to prepare for my next flight by wearing a sign to the airport in order to make my passageway a little smoother.

DEAR TSA PEEPS:

I’ve done everything you’ve asked and complied with all the rules and still you mess with me when I travel.  I know I don’t look Polish, but it doesn’t mean I stole my identification and am traveling incognito as a drug mule or a terrorist.  Trust me, if I were going to steal a name it would be something like Juliette Binoche or Isabelle Adjani—not Tomczyk (sorry Honey), and if I were going to be a drug mule, I’d look like Angelina Jolie.  In fact, if you think I’ve stolen my identity then I suggest you return to profiling school for another go-around with an addendum covering “How Sixty-five-year-old Black Divas Roll.”  As to my enticing behind, my perfume probably messed with your dog’s sense of smell the last time, because I did a pass-over on my ass with a spritz of Very Irresistible Perfume by Givenchy before we left the house.  The scent was supposed to arouse my husband not your canine patrol.   I promise not to be so heavy-handed next time.

*

WW (my husband) says he doesn’t plan to travel with me on the days I bring my sign because he is not prepared for the unknown world of going to jail.   Just the thought of being thrown in jail by the TSA because his wife can’t keep her mouth shut makes him all “crunchy and a little bit waggy” inside.

TSA Check Dignity Rick McKee The Augusta Chronicle

Used by permission: Rick McKee, The Augusta Chronicle

I am discovering that there are a lot of things in life that you cannot prepare for:  a couple of them are the first day you enter kindergarten and every time you encounter the TSA.   The “unknown” is meant to build courage in us as we fight the good fight of living life.  I’ll tell my grandson that the best way to conquer the unknowns in kindergarten is to put one foot in front of the other and charge full speed ahead, trusting that he will wind up where he’s supposed to be in due time.  I’ll have to do the same thing when I travel and determine to keep my mouth shut no matter how humiliating the pre-boarding process becomes.  Besides, I have an eerie feeling that the real terrorists are just thrilled with the undignified tangles they have embroiled us in, and they are hoping we’ll all lose our minds in the process.   I must never give them the satisfaction of having a meltdown.  Why would terrorists ever need to bomb us as long as the TSA is hell-bent on traumatizing diva grandmothers on their way to visit their grandkids?  Just the thought of it does make one all crunchy and a little bit waggy inside!

TSA Full Cavity John Darkow Columbia Daily Tribune Missouri

Used by permission:  John Darkow, Columbia Daily Tribune-Missouri

 “Have you heard the TSA’s new slogan?’ We handle more junk than eBay.'” –Jay Leno

The TSA has issued some special packing tips for travelers before Thanksgiving weekend. They say not to bring food, sharp tools, or any shred of dignity.” –Jimmy Fallon

“It was bad enough when the TSA agents would go through your underwear in your luggage. Now they’re going through your underwear while you’re wearing it.” –Jay Leno

“You can opt out of the full-body scan and choose the alternative, letting the TSA touch your T&A. It’s just like an 8th grade basement make-out party, except instead of your mother interrupting, she’s getting stroked in the next line.” –Stephen Colbert

“There was supposed to be a protest, but nobody opted out of the full-body scans, maybe because of the signs TSA posted: ‘If you are embarrassed by your penis size, you may opt out of being scanned.'”–Jimmy Kimmel

TSA Terrorists won Mike Keefe Cagle Cartoons

Used by Permission:   Mike Keefe, Cagle Cartoons

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eleanor Tomczyk and “How the Hell Did I End Up Here?” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 
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Posted by on September 9, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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A Different Set of Rules

Do you know what I’ve discovered?   If I spent every day visiting all the places that I couldn’t enter before the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (I was born in 1948), except through the back door as a maid or a slave, I’d probably never die—at least not anytime soon.  That is why I engage in a project surrounding Martin Luther King Holiday weekend that brings me great joy.

Not only do I sashay my black ass (dripping with bling) through the front door of a former slave-owning or white’s only establishment at least once a year, but I stay in the best room they have to offer, order room service for breakfast, and get an 80-minute massage if they offer it.  Since MLK weekend coincides with my husband’s (WW—“White and Wonderful”) birthday, I walk through the front door of those former plantations with my arm wrapped around my white husband’s arm, a big smile on my face, and give a silent middle finger to the racists ghosts who surely must roam the halls of said establishments.  Because there is no way any god worth his salt would ever allow those unrepentant slave owners entrance into Heaven (are you hearing me Thomas Jefferson?), I am convinced their Hell must be tailor-made to watch an African-American making herself at home with sheer abandonment in their “whites only” environment.

I call this bitch slap to the haunted the FYRS-LWITBR Project, which stands for “FUCK YOU RACIST SPECTERS—LIVING WELL IS THE BEST REVENGE!”  My “in your face” rebel cry has nothing to do with the current owners (I do not visit the sins of their ancestors upon them so long as they treat me with dignity and respect), but I do take on the racist ghosts of their lineage.

***

In the interest of full disclosure, my children think I’m crazy.  That’s because I’ve raised them to be color blind, and to my knowledge they have never suffered at the hands of racists, which makes me very happy.   Their friends are color blind (black, white, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Straight, Gay), as well, and have formed little urban families around each other to unite against the hardships and vagaries of life.   I am very proud of them, and I consider them all “my children.”

But my children and their friends have not seen what I’ve seen or experienced the hatred I’ve embodied.  They have never heard of The Negro Motorist Green Book which was in full swing the year I was born and lasted until after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and they have never had to plan their travel around such a book just to keep from having their asses kicked (or killed) by men in white robes and pointy hats carrying burning crosses.

The Green Book was started by Victor Hugo Green (a Harlem mail carrier) in the 1930s and it would eventually cover lodging, eateries, and stores in every state in the USA as well as Bermuda, Mexico, and Canada that would do business with Negroes.    If there were no hotels that would cater to African-Americans (often the case), the book would list “tourist homes” that would rent the traveler a room or two for their journey.  The Green Book spoke volumes by “omission,” as the writer Justin Hyde has noted.   In 1949, no restaurant was listed in Alabama that would serve black people.  Justin Hyde in his article on The Green Book in Jalopnik underscored the fact that “Black motorists in those eras frequently kept extra fuel, food and portable toilets on hand to avoid stopping in unfriendly locations. Even outside the South, roadside motels and diners often wouldn’t serve black customers.”  In 1963 (one year before The Green Book was taken out of circulation), I was kicked out of a New Jersey hotel in the middle of the night along with a family (a lawyer and school teacher and their two young children) that I was the babysitter for, and we were forced to drive through the night to our approved “Negro cabin” in Maine.

***

INTRODUCTION PAGE OF THE NEGRO TOURIST GUIDE:   “There will be a day sometime in the near future when this guide will not have to be published. That is when we as a race will have equal opportunities and privileges in the United States. It will be a great day for us to suspend this publication for then we can go wherever we please, and without embarrassment. But until that time comes we shall continue to publish this information for your convenience each year.”

The fact that President Obama’s 2nd inauguration (talk about “living well is the best revenge!”) fell on the same day as the MLK holiday weekend and coincided with my husband’s b-day gave me the perfect excuse to engage in my “project” (not at the plantation above used only as an example, but at another glorious location in the South and situated on the Gulf of Mexico).

***

As I stretched out on the beautiful “sugar sand” of a site where there once stood a private mansion that I could have only entered the back door of to make the beds and empty the slop pans, I meditated for hours on how far we had come as a Nation since the publication of The Green Book.   I watched the inauguration of our  magnificent 44th president from my waterfront suite as I lifted a glass of champagne to the triumph of a man that we are lucky to have as a leader.  As I contemplated my own American journey, I joined President Obama in spirit to pray for the further emancipation of our Hispanic brothers and sisters, our Gay and Lesbian brothers and sisters, and the disenfranchised jobless families in our midst who need a helping hand.

***

I am discovering, however, that even though we are in more “tolerant times,” one must be ever vigilant against the spirit of bigotry—especially amongst the religious—or we will be doomed to repeat our history.  Martin Luther King often preached about the complacency of white Christians toward the suffering of those who did not fit their cultural narrow-minded viewpoint (specifically the Southern Baptists).    I have read many of the multitudinous sermons preached by well-intentioned pastors in favor of slavery in the 1800s and then again against desegregation in the 60s and their arrogance and cold-heartedness grip my heart with horror.  Where would we be as a country if righteousness had not won the day?

Today it boggles my mind that Christians who say they love Jesus are part of the Tea Party, but they don’t speak out against the racism that is so visible on their websites and from the mouths of their leaders.  I know that not all Tea Party members are racist but their silence is killing me.  The language of the Tea Partier is slightly different from the overt racist (normally doesn’t include the “n” word), but it is deceiving to the perpetrator because they see themselves as righteous:  “I respect the office of the presidency but I don’t respect this president because he is a Socialist, a Muslim, a spawn of Satan or Hitler (I’m searching for his hidden horns and drawing on his Hitler mustache even as we speak)” or “I don’t have a racist bone in my body, I just worship Sarah Palin, Fox News, and the Drudge Report who do”—said with such vehemence and so many times that it prompts the person of color to scream to the heavens:  “me thinks thou doth protest too much, Tea-bagger!”

racist teabaggers cartoon politiskink dot com

Racist Tea Party Cartoon|image from politiskink.com

DEAR TEA PARTY:
“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than
sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

Even though we’ve come a long way, whenever I do a Google search with our President’s name, I almost vomit from the visceral racial hatred and disrespect that lashes out at me from the Internet because it seems that some of us are playing by a different set of rules, requiring others of us to reinstate “The Green Book” in order to survive.  This causes me great despair until I read the blogs of people like Frank Angle who wrote “On MLK 2013” (http://afrankangle.wordpress.com/2013/01/20/on-mlk-2013/ ) about the repentance of Elwin Wilson in 2009, a former Klansman, who attacked and beat a black college student in 1961 when he was one of the Freedom Riders trying to win the ability for African-Americans to travel across country via Greyhound and Trailway buses.  The black freedom rider grew up to be Congressman Joe Lewis.   Frank Angle included a YouTube video in his blog post of Wilson and Lewis’ exchange of repentance and forgiveness after 50 years, and it makes the viewer understand that there is a God, and one day we will all overcome our bigotry, our stupidity, our short-sightedness, our lack of grace, and our arrogance!

***

For years, Elwin, an admitted former member of the Ku Klux Klan, says he prayed that he would meet the man he attacked at the bus station.Oprah.com

***

QUOTES BY MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.

“In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”Martin Luther King, Jr.

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

 “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

      “It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.” – Martin Luther King, Jr

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Drop It Like It’s Hot!/redo

(formerly: “High School Never Ends”)

(I will be taking the next two weeks off to retool my memoirs so that I can start knocking on the doors of literary agents across the land—again!  Wish me luck!  While I’m otherwise preoccupied, please enjoy one of the stories I wrote last year, which I have revamped.  This story helped me launch my blog site and boosted my courage to become a writer.  Enjoy!)

***

Do you know what I’ve discovered?  High school never ends.

Why is it in our adult lives, as in high school, we exert so much energy trying to impress people we don’t know, won’t ever see again after our season of random internment, and who have no financial or emotional investment in our future?

I have beautiful, white girlfriends who won’t go to a swimming pool while on vacation because they don’t have the figures they had in college anymore.   The strangers across the pool from them who they don’t know and couldn’t care a rat’s ass about, might become scornful of their cellulite or less than perky boobs. When in reality, they should be embracing Joy Behar’s classic observation of things that shouldn’t matter one iota:  “So what – who cares?”

Women in bathing suits on Collaroy Beach, 1908, photo by Colin Caird

All my baby-boomer girlfriends have better bodies than I, but even though I’m at least 40 pounds heavier (when I’m telling the truth), I have a black woman’s sensibility about this issue: accent the positive, suck in the negative, and skirt the thunderous. Then bedazzle your entire goddess self with a rhinestone cover-up and rhinestone flip-flops, add a Sophia Loren hat, and “drop it like it’s hot, baby”!

“The Author” droppin’ it like it’s hot!||”WW” Tomczyk photo

Not too long ago, my husband and I celebrated our 32nd anniversary on a cruise in the Mediterranean.  It was the trip of a lifetime. Everything was better than we had fantasized: the weather was picture perfect, the people were warm and accepting, the 3,000 passenger ship was outstanding, the food was superb, and we were like newlyweds reveling in each other’s company. The only thing that seemed to cause just a tiny bit of consternation was the very aggressive touring itinerary (4 days of excursions, 1 day at sea, 3 days of excursion, 1 day at sea, 2 days of excursion, 1 day at sea) that we had been given. But I wasn’t overly concerned because even though I’m a “fat-bottom girl,” it doesn’t mean I’m not in good health. I’m a daily exerciser and had trained for this trip for 8 months.  I added strenuous hills to my daily treadmill workout, climbed the stairs at work in the afternoons, and special ordered shoes a triathlon athlete would use.

What I didn’t expect and what my research never revealed was that all of our 10 touring sites were perched on the top of hills or mountains with steep inclines to protect the ancient inhabitants from marauders.  Most accesses to these cities of antiquities were like scaling walls.

Malta||”WW” Tomczyk Photo

Every evening we’d be given an overview of the activities for the next day.  In between the instructions for the cake decorating class and the marzipan demonstrations would be listed the information the cruise director felt we needed in order to survive our shore excursions.

  • Ship Brochure: It takes 300 steps to reach the top of your fabulous destination.  There is a cable car if you prefer or you can employ a donkey to transport you up and down the ancient stone stairs.  Wear comfortable shoes. Cost: $100 – $400/person.  WARNING: The ship departs at 5:30 – if you miss the departure, you will have to make your own way to the next port to meet the ship.
  • Translation: The 300 steps are straight up the face of a mountain; the cable car often has a two-hour wait, and you will miss your ship utilizing that mode of transportation. The stairs are shared by donkeys that slip constantly on the descent and leave slippery “pooh” all over the staircase from Hell. No manner of footwear is capable of keeping you upright once you lose your footing going down – you might as well kiss your sorry-ass goodbye. Before you leave this beautiful island, the tour guide will make sure she dumps you in the shopping area that has only one way in and out to the stairs or the unreliable, overly-crowded cable car system. The shopkeepers will try to help you by relieving you of as many Benjamins as possible to lighten the load of your descent. Trying to balance yourself on a donkey while your hands are stuffed with chotzkies, however, will be proof-positive that you have lost your ever-loving mind — once and for all. Good luck, silly over-weight Americans!

ENTER STAGE LEFT: My husband (the Energizer Bunny), the gay couple (the extremely handsome, not-one-ounce-of-fat-on-their-bones Neil Patrick Harris and his partner David Burtka look-alikes), the lesbian couple (50’ish with similar body frames as mine whose bodies had each born children in their former lives), the grandmother from Iowa sporting a recent double-knee replacement (60’ish and looking like she could be my sister in height and weight, only Caucasian and blonde), and the old dude with Parkinson’s disease who shook so badly I thought my glasses where out of focus (who should have been anywhere but here — on the shore excursion from Hell).

Because I temporarily lost consciousness, I can’t remember at what point I lost my mind and reverted back to high school.  I do remember approaching a sky-high escalator in a museum with hundreds of other people in sweltering heat and watching the escalator break down right before my group got on.  Because there was a wall of people behind us, we were forced to go forward and mount a circular ramp that seemed like twenty flights of stairs that shot straight up to the heavens. The lesbian mothers, the grandmother from Iowa, the quivering dude, and I stared at each other in total horror! Hadn’t we just climbed 300 steps the day before and 200 steps the day before that, as well as an unexpected 100 steps in a museum that wasn’t listed?  Didn’t the brochure assure us there would be no more steps to climb? I could have sworn someone said we’d catch a break today.

Vatican Circular Ramp||Google Image

All I know is that my husband, who has the ability to walk faster than most people can run, took off up the ramp so as not to lose sight of the tour guide who had been swallowed up by the crowd.  (Getting disconnected from the tour guide could mean missing our ship’s departure, and the “hubby” was not letting that happen on his watch.)  As our group began to ascend the inevitable, the gay guys began telling us about a rather large, fat-bottomed woman (with an ass the size of Cleveland) who couldn’t make it up the last ramp in the previous city, and they just couldn’t understand why people didn’t read the ship instructions about the strenuous nature of the excursions.

 “I mean, really now, why can’t they ‘just say no’ if they’re too fat to complete the course without looking like they’re going to die,” said our Neil Patrick Harris look-alike cruise mate. “Personally, I feel like making an announcement tonight at dinner over the PA system.

 ‘Really people – know your limitations; because you need to cut the rest of us some freakin’ slack.

  We’re having heart attacks just wondering if you’re gonna’ have a heart attack right in front of us out here'”!

The lesbian couple, the grandmother, the tremulous old man, and I gingerly laughed along with the boys, but we silently heard the “Rocky theme song” roaring in our ears (or was it the blood rushing to our heads before the onset of major strokes as we secretly wondered if they were talking about us?).  We took off up the incline like thoroughbreds at the Kentucky Derby trying to match the gait of the boys, leaning almost at a 45 degree angle to balance our bodies on the slope. As I passed the old man at my road-runner pace, his eyes widened in terror as his lips mouthed, “what the fuck?” but my team and I had to leave him in the dust.

Beating the Adonises was all that mattered, even if it meant moving at the speed of light and losing a soldier along the way.  These bodies had born children and nursed babies. The fat on our asses, our low-hanging breasts, and puff-n-stuff stomachs were badges of honor.  Maybe the gay boys had children but they sure as hell hadn’t “had” children.

Vatican Museum Ceiling||”WW” Tomczyk Photo

The grandmother dropped out about two-thirds of the way (clutching her side) and gasping for air. My lesbian sisters and I made it to the top of the Vatican Museum without dying, but I had a Charlie-horse in my ass that wouldn’t quit. As the girls and I high-fived each other (sisters, hangin’ tough!), I could see (being the chubbiest in the bunch) that I had really impressed the boys. What they didn’t know was that I couldn’t say more than two words without gasping for air or I would keel over and die.  I didn’t dare speak without great measure.  I knew if I tried to articulate more than one five-word sentence, I’d be the gay boys’ prophecy come true: one fat-bottom woman careening into their perfectly fit, athletic bodies and knocking them back down the slope like a giant brown snowball from on high.  So I took out my Blackberry, nonchalantly leaned against the museum wall, and pretended to check messages as if I were some high-muckety-muck at a Fortune 500 company and the business couldn’t live without me.

“Some hike, huh?  Girl, you were awesome,” said the boys.

 “Uh, huh. . . ah thanks.” I whispered, as my hands uncontrollable shook while trying to fake search my emails on my Blackberry.

“Great ship, isn’t it?  What’s on your agenda tomorrow?  We’re going rock climbing!” chirped my gay companions.

 “G-r-e-a-t!” (tap) “Me doing” (tap) “pool” (tap) “volley-ball” (tap), I replied.

“Excellent!  You go, girlfriend!” cheered the boys.

Ephesus Library||”WW” Tomczyk photo

The next day found the quivering old man glued to a walker while arduously climbing into the hot tub (he was still there at dinner time).  The lesbian couple, the grandmother, and I met up at the spa first, and then we subsequently found our separate “quiet” corners around the adult pool and spent the afternoon hiding from our handsome gay boys — sipping rum punches, and napping the day away in our “rockin’ bathing suits.”

Bathing beauty from 1908||Image from “Clocks, Cancer, and the Best Time to Tan” By Elizabeth Preston

I’ve discovered that if my girlfriends (old and new) and I ever want to shake the specter of high school, we need to travel at the beat of our own drummer, because it’s the condition in which we arrive at the final destination, not the opinions of others, that really matter.  And Joy Behar really is an oracle whose mantra we should adopt when the high school spirit tries to make us forget the amazing women that we have become:  “So what – who cares!”

Mykonos||”WW” Tomczyk Photo

“To avoid criticism do

 nothing, say nothing, be nothing.”

Elbert Hubbard (1856-1915)

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eleanor Tomczyk and “How the Hell Did I End Up Here?” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Copyrighted 2011.

 
21 Comments

Posted by on June 7, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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