The Emerald Bile

The following post contains graphic tales of stomach upset. For those who want their hilarity sans vomit I shall direct you to a delightful post about a 5′ chicken.

I’m not sure if this is a common side effect of pregnancy, but I have found that during my time of incubation I am far more prone to motion sickness than I usually am–and under normal circumstances I am very prone indeed. Sea Bands help enormously but only if Maggie doesn’t notice I’m wearing them because she gets jealous that I’m wearing “pitty bwacelets.” I bought her some pitty bwacelets of her own but she’s managed to lose both sets. Anyway, the point I’m slowly making is that aside from a nice cup of mint tea there isn’t much that alleviates motion sickness for me.

On Thursday we left for four days and nights in Dublin, Ireland and got a fast, cheap dinner at the little cafe in the Leeds-Bradford airport (an international venue that’s roughly the size of the parking garage). Let me say a few words about Ryan Air: if a subway car and a flea market merchant had a baby that could fly, it would be a Ryan Air 737 plane. Ads cover every possible space (that reminds me, I need to check out that one ad for a trip to Provence), everything from magazines to smokeless cigarettes is for sale, and the landings are as quick and fast as your standard Southwest descent. So by the time we boarded the bus into the city I was already feeling a mite queasy.

In past travels, I had always carried either gallon Ziploc bags or plastic shopping bags. You never know when you might need to carry muddy socks or…whatever. Since I had Maggie you’d think this tendency would be multiplied, but we use cloth diapers and as such I have two very handy “wet bags.” These are reusable bags meant to carry soiled diapers home in a diaper bag without ruining the rest of your gear. And hey, REUSABLE. I like that! That goes right in the diaper bag even when we travel and use disposables because…whatever. You never know.

Less than five minutes from our intended stop I knew the possible was going to become the inevitable and I would meet dinnertime’s cheese toasty once again. Foolishly, I clung to the hope that I could at least get off the bus and on to the street; surely I would not be the first or last person to befoul the streets of Dublin with partially-used dinner. But I felt that awful watering sensation in my mouth and knew it was not to be. Scrambling to think of anything that could hold what was coming, I reached for the wet bag and let loose.

Now, a wet bag is meant to hold sodden clothes and soiled diapers. They are NOT designed to hold enormously large volumes of liquid–particularly liquid deposited in a violent manner into a bag that has seen two years of twice-weekly washings. As we exited the bus just seconds after my episode I noticed small beads of cheese-scented bile beginning to ooze out of the seams. And because that bag was ten dollars (plus shipping!) my pride and Yankee frugality held out and I decided the best course of action was just to hustle to the hotel and clean the whole mess out.

It’s a reusable bag, guys. I had to REUSE IT, because I am a RIDICULOUS PERSON.

You know where this is going, right? There was a problem with our hotel room (several, in fact, but that is a post for later); seems that the notation that we needed a separate bed for Maggie was not heeded and they didn’t have a room that would fit all of us. Tom, fully aware of his green wife, her reeking, leaking bag of cheese chunks and bile, and the antsy small child in his care, just said to send us to the original room and we would make it work. And so we did and I was finally able to tidy up my mess–although that bag did not accompany us on any of our Irish journey. I swore that for the return journey, I would bring at LEAST two plastic shopping bags just in case.

I don’t know if there actually is a citywide ban and I’m too lazy to check, but there was not a single plastic shopping bag to be found in our travels in Dublin. Like most halfhearted hippies I am very much in favor of plastic bag bans and enjoy the smug moral superiority of my canvas bags, at least until it directly affects my needs and what I needed was a leakproof, disposable vessel in case of…whatever…on the return trip to the airport and I didn’t want to buy a full box of gallon Ziplocs. Tom, in his genius, noticed the trash can liners in our hotel room were the perfect size and scored a few from housekeeping. I married him for many reasons but time and time again it is his resourcefulness and general ability to solve my immediate crises in an efficient manner that reaffirms my love. Who else but the love of your life would invest so much time in the efficacy of your vomit receptacle?

Naturally I didn’t need it on our return trip to the airport yesterday. Possibly we had a better driver and better traffic; possibly it was also that the driver had Michael Jackson cranked and the kids on the bus were singing “Billie Jean” with some gusto. I defy you to notice your nausea when schoolkids are rocking out to MJ. But as a nice bookend to our trip the little toddler sitting in the airplane row in front of us spontaneously erupted about halfway into the flight. She managed to hit the airsick bag on the second gag and we were right there with baby wipes and hand sanitizer to help them out, and I would have happily offered my plastic bag if it had been needed. I’m a little surprised with the way that they nickel and dime you that Ryan Air doesn’t charge extra for airsick bags.

But as it was, safe in the knowledge my plastic bag was handy in case I needed it, I was able to reassure her frazzled mother with the utter certainty of the wizened traveler: “Don’t worry about it. It happened to me just a few days ago. I’ve been there.”

Flashback Friday: First Aid

Let us put the past week of civil rights violations, idiot mechanics and potentially nasty skin bumps behind us and speak of pleasant things. First, two new articles at the Examiner: Baby Bedtime Gift Basket and Surfer Room Makeover. And below, I offer you a giggling baby. I may market this at $0.50 a view as an alternative to Prozac.

Today’s Flashback Friday is inspired by Hawaii’s rainy season, which started earlier this week and aggravated the knee I dislocated in 2005 in the process of picking up my cell phone. Really! It was the most mundane injury ever. Anyway, I dislike the rainy season because of that, and also because my customary flip flops become slick, smelly, and ripe for slipping and tripping. With a baby in my arms I can’t be flopping about the sidewalk like a fish, so I force my feet into close-toe shoes and hope for sunnier days.

About a year prior to that knee injury, I was living in Madrid with a host family. Host families are funny things, it’s like a blind date with an authoritarian figure that doesn’t speak your language but does occasionally wash your undies. Because I have no talent for languages, I was placed with a roommate but didn’t need her to translate to see that our host mother had some control issues. A nurse by occupation, she had several quirks (my doorknob stuck, for example, and I was often accused of opening the door too loudly) and wanted to be involved whereas I wanted, mostly, to enjoy the quiet. She was nice enough, but I tried to avoid her interventions at all costs as they turned into animated and loud affairs where I was yelled at for eating tomatoes after it was determined that I normally do not eat tomatoes (true story).

One night, out on the town with friends, we ordered wine. Oh, how we ordered wine. And cider. There may have been a platter of wings. I know that there were churros con chocolate from the chocolateria at 4am, reason enough to visit Madrid for anyone who likes using sugar-encrusted pastry to dip up pudding-thick hot chocolate (and if you don’t like that idea, I don’t want to know you). And there was rain, lots of rain that poured down the steps of the Madrid Metro, carrying the filth and pestilence of the urban street with it. And obviously, boarding the 6am train home because in Madrid anyone who goes home on the last midnight train is a sucker, I slipped and fell on the stairs in my seasonally inappropriate rubber flip flops.

This didn’t concern me until that afternoon, when upon waking after passing out on top of my bed fully clothed, I discovered my foot was encrusted in red and black foulness. Close inspection revealed a long gash in my foot, scraped open as I slipped and my ankle rolled. Gently clutching my head to filter the harsh glare of the sun, I ascertained that though filthy, I probably didn’t need stitches for my social blunder. Not wanting to succumb to whatever infection lurked in the stairwells, I knew I needed something to kill the germs and wash out the wound. The problem was that all the first aid materials were in my host mother’s sanctum sanctorum, not to be accessed without specific permission and in my case, pantomime. Not an option.

Gingerly lowering myself in the tub, I swabbed my foot as well as I could with the shower gel. It took care of the external layers of grime, but I could see lots of specs of…something…deep in the cut. It was then that I remembered a souvenir bottle of Absolut Vodka I had picked up a month or so before in a Greek duty-free shop that was collecting dust in my closet. Pouring a shot or two onto a clean sock and thinking that sock that would have served me better the night before, I steeled myself against the nauseating fumes and slapped it against my foot.

The sting was appalling. I yelped like a poodle. It had a wicked bite, but as the days wore on it seemed as though it had served to keep any infection at bay.

So the moral of the story, children, is to keep a bit of vodka or other grain alcohol in your emergency travel kit. An airplane-size bottle will do nicely. Perfect for antiseptic purposes, if you just want to freshen up your juice, will save you from gangrene.

Hey, I didn’t die. It worked well enough. (Hmm, “Hey, I didn’t die” = future memoir title?)

Flashback Friday: The Bathhouse Beatdown

In the spirit of writing something every day that makes me happy, I think I’m going to institute Flashback Friday. We’ve amassed a fair amount of travel misadventures over the years, and who doesn’t like to read about the humorous calamities that befall others? Truthfully, nothing that bad has ever happened to me. I’ve never been scammed or assaulted, and the recent incident of theft at Newark Airport was the only travel-related crime I’ve encountered. Oh, I’ve been inconvenienced, certainly, but I’ve never experienced a serious threat to my person or property.

I have, however, had the everloving shit beaten out of me by an enormous naked Turkish woman in the company of twenty naked chicks.

In 2004, my parents agreed to send me on a study abroad program. Among its many experiences, this program included stays in five countries in four-star hotels, fine dining, a cruise of the Greek Isles, and enough booze to sink Sinatra. I know. To this day I can’t believe my parents signed that check. It also included four days in Istanbul. I’m not sure how the topic came about, perhaps it was the rainy afternoon spent drinking apple tea on enormous pillows, but it was suggested that we–as a group of 20-24 year olds–go en masse to a Turkish bath house. Specifically, the Cemberlitas Hamam, where the treatment on the site is exactly what you get: you lie on an enormous marble platform on a blanket where you sweat out every last impurity before receiving a scrub, hair wash and a massage.

There really is nothing quite like 20 college girls in a situation that requires total nudity that doesn’t somehow involve booze or “Girls Gone Wild.” I have never seen so many people maintaining such vigilant eye contact in all my life, and that was just us standing around fully clothed in the locker room. Body image neuroses were on parade. Someone had to take charge, so a few of us led the way and stripped down. You see, being childless and spoiled, we had no idea that this was absolutely as good as we were ever going to look.

Fast-forward an hour or two, now that we’re all thoroughly soggy, frizzy, and light-headed. My turn came up, and I was summoned to the stone slab to be worked on. My friends, the word “pendulous” cannot begin to describe the woman before me. This was a woman who easily topped DD status and spent the majority of her working hours free of the bonds of underwire. If she was aware she was being sized up by spoiled American college girls, she didn’t show it or didn’t give a damn.

And then it started. I took karate for five years and have twenty cousins and even when we fought with weapons (in class and at home, for the curious) I have never experienced a working-over like this. Dispassionate and dead-eyed, she began the treatment. First the loofah, which was as rough as industrial grit sandpaper. It tickled, it scraped, it scoured my backside like steel wool on a pot. My body was redder than the faces of those journalists who had to cover Mark Sanford.

I have to believe the massage was an active therapy for having chosen such a profession. It was not a happy rubbing, nor a firm kneading. There were fists. There was pounding. At one point she might have been driving her knee into my spine while drumming the intro from “Longview,” it was so intense. Then a grunt, a bucket of water dumped on my head, and the scalp massage to end all scalp massages before shampooing and another bucket of water. My classmates watched in horror and submitted meekly before our droopy dominatrix. Anything for the authentic experience, I suppose.

But you know, I felt AWESOME at the end. Like I could have run a marathon, or like I had a low electrical current running through me. It was easily the most interesting 15 Euro I spent, if not the best. You want to know how to freak out a group of waspy collegiates? Tell them you loved your Turkish bath so much that you want one installed in your dream home. Shocks the Pottery Barn right out of them.

Tom just reminded me that he has a similar story, except it took place in Budapest and involved some hirsuite Hungarians. He doesn’t want to talk about it. We’ll add it to the therapy list.

And I see now that it’s Saturday. Well, can’t win ‘em all.

The Bright Side

Cross fingers and nothing definite, but we juuuuuust might have enough flier points for a single free plane fare to Sydney.  If the stars align properly and there’s a conference there that Tom can attend, that’s two free fares.  Be still my heart.

We also just booked a sweet bed and breakfast in the Haight neighborhood of San Francisco for our trip and we’re camping in Sonoma.  Going on Mark Twain’s advice on summer in San Francisco, I’m keeping my favorite fleece jacket handy.  In a serendipitous twist, our team leader for the Avon Walk works for his family’s Sonoma-based winery and has generously offered to show us around.  That, right there, is worth the plane fare fiasco.