the beige blues

Terrible Spiders

(But First, How’s this Blog Going to Work, Anyway?)

Let me start by explaining the structure of this blog, and by “blog,” I mean the tapestry of posts comprising it.

I’m going to reveal things that have happened to me in my journey from beige to surprisingly well-coordinated schemes of soft pink and shrieking orange. Things and people and experiences and illnesses that have shaped the way I think and therefore the way I decorate houses. Because decorating is art, and art can’t be taught in a straightforward way. The technique can, but not the je ne sais quoi of something people won’t forget.

Between posts telling you various things, funny things, lovely things and painful things that have shaped me as a person, I am going to weave in posts about what my homes looked like along the way so you can see the physical manifestation of an ever-evolving (and often devolving) creativeness in tangent with the good and bad things happening in my life. Something tells me, you’ll be able to relate, and either tap into your own creative potentials or enlarge appreciation of ones you already express.

I’m also going to narrow the focus and segue back and forth into posts about the nitty gritty of decorating rooms, art of all kinds, and about some of our friends who have created their own memorable homes. Next week I’m going to talk about how I decorated our parlor, and the week after that, share stories and pictures of my friend Mo’s groovy-oh-so-cool California apartment. We’ve also got a kitchen remodel cooking and a few other projects on the horizon.

There will be times when you won’t see or understand where I’m going with all this and how it will help you decorate fabulous rooms. But believe me, I know. More or less. You’re just going to have to trust me.

In the meantime, you’re going to laugh. A lot, and at my expense.

So, buckle your seatbelts. We’re going to Cadillac, Michigan.

Misadventures in Moving

If it’s Called A Meathead, It Just Might Be A Meathead

This time last year Mike and I were in escrow, preparing to sell our cottage in Orange, California and move to Michigan. We’d already sold our house in the Tehachapi mountains (second home) several months prior before putting its contents in storage and then sending them to Cadillac via Mayflower movers. That’s a whole ‘nuther story which I’ll leave out for now. Bottom line, Mike and I decided the experience of using a moving company was bad enough that we should rent U-Hauls and move the rest of our possessions ourselves. Brilliant plan.

I left my job as a litigator on May 6, 2016, giving me about three weeks to pack.

Our cottage would be missed. I started detaching myself from it a few months before it went on the market, sort of a self-preservation thing. I wanted to pack with cool objectivity rather than reminiscing to the point of tears every time I wrapped a serving bowl or toilet paper stand. That would slow things down.

Three weeks went by fast and close of escrow was looming large. We rented a 26-foot F650 U-Haul van and two 6 x 12 trailers, one of which Mike would haul behind the F650 and the other I would pull behind my Jeep. Mike’s only concern, which he said was the only real downside of a DIY move across the country, was someone stealing the trucks and/or trailers at one of the hotels while we slept. So we developed an elaborate theft deterrent plan.

Every night at each stop, we were going to back the trailers against a wall. If one wasn’t available, we’d back the trailers against each other, real tight, so no one would be able to open the doors. Then, we’d remove the distributor caps from both vehicles, making them inoperable. Or maybe not. After pondering this for 2 seconds, Mike concluded this strategy was a no-go because, after a long day of driving, the engines would be hot, making extraction of the distributor cap a pain in the ass. As a result, he concluded the best plan was to purchase after-market motion sensors so, if a bad guy opened the trailer door, he’d be treated to blaring sirens and circus lights. Oh, and we’d buy ginormous industrial-sized padlocks for the truck and trailer doors.

We also spent hours, with my mom’s help, mapping out stops on this cross-country tour. We have four dogs (Hannah, Owen, Roxy, and Levi), so we needed dog-friendly hotels. All of this had to be coordinated with the projected pace of our journey, factoring in various weather issues such as tornados in Oklahoma. Of course, we also had to research which states recognized California’s (rarely issued) concealed carry permits and which did not. Both Mike and I had CCW’s, and we packed. So the trek across the country vis-à-vis our loaded weapons had to be carefully orchestrated if we wanted to stay out of jail. It would be 2,300 miles of pistols out, pistols in, pistols out, pistols in, out, in, out, in etc. and so forth in accordance with a mind-boggling reciprocity map of the United States that looked something like a crazy quilt. The plan was to leave at 8:00 a.m. on May 23rd and drive to Flagstaff. Next day, we’d go to Tucumcari, New Mexico. From there, it was Oklahoma City, then Valley Park, Missouri before hitting South Bend as our last stop before Cadillac.

We also had anticipated the difficulty of packing the truck and trailers by ourselves. We’re not spring chickens. Not only did we have lots of heavy furniture, we also had 20,000 rounds of ammunition and about three hundred books I refused to part with. So we decided to hire a moving company for the sole purpose of loading the van and trailers. After much research, Mike settled on a company called “Meathead Movers.” I know that sounds like an inauspicious beginning to a cross-country move, but Mike researched the company and they had great reviews on the Internet so we signed ‘em up.

The Meatheads arrived on Saturday, May 21st. Immediately, I was impressed. Clean cut, polite, friendly, strong, patient. Big, wide smiles. Twinkling eyes. Everything you’d expect from nice young college athletes trying to earn money for tuition. Mike introduced himself and shared his vision of the packing logistics. He explained that I would be pulling one of the trailers behind the Jeep, and this trailer should be packed light. The heavy stuff needed to go in the beefy F650 van and trailer he would tow behind it.

They nodded politely and promptly began moving boxes and stuff out of the house and into the backyard and onto the parkways. They did not walk or saunter like other movers. They jogged everywhere. From the upstairs to the downstairs, from one room to the next, from the house to the yard, from the yard to the truck. Running, running. There was just all this running. I stopped one of them, a guy who was huffing and puffing more than the rest, and asked why everyone was running. He said it was to save their customers money by getting things done quicker. I said, maybe you should slow down, because it’s always better to do something right than to do it fast.

They kept running.

In the meantime, it was crunch time and we couldn’t watch over the Meatheads. They seemed to know what they were doing anyway. So, along with family, our friends Deborah D. and Diana P., our neighbors Gary and Diana Z., my nephew Shawn, and Mike’s employee Kenneth, we frantically packed out the rest of the house and garage. Gary Z. donned hazmat gear and dove into the crawl space under our house to retrieve our sound system because everyone else was afraid there might be spiders down there. Mike’s brother Todd was in the garage, packing box after box with laundry detergent, paint cans, insecticide, Costco-sized refill bottles of 409, jugs of vinegar, mildewed sponges, half-empty boxes of Plaster of Paris, and discarded wood scraps because we forgot to tell him not to. Bubble wrap was flying, tape guns were zinging, art and mirrors were hoisted off the walls and wrapped with record speed while Meatheads were grabbing boxes and flying in and out of the house and garage like bats out of hell.

Of course, one of the perils of having friends and family help you move is their packing can only be as good as your own organization was in the first place. Every drawer in every home or workplace I’ve every inhabited has been a miscellaneous drawer. Closets too. This increased the frenzy of the pack out exponentially, with friends and family asking me what they were supposed to do with my medical records which were mixed in with my certificate to practice law in the Northern District of California which was interspersed with overdue dog tag bills, blu-rays, and wallpaper samples. “Just throw it all in a box and mark it ‘office’,” I say. Next question: “What do we do with all the ammunition we found in your kitchen drawers?” Overwhelmed by the complexities of where things would go when we got to Cadillac, I instruct it all be put in a box and marked “office.” Somewhere, Diana P. finds Bob, the sparkly sequined orange and yellow fish that used to dangle from the ceiling over my desk at work. She queries, “Michelle, what do I do with Bob?” It takes me half a second to retort, “Throw that fucker away. Brings back bad memories.”

This goat rodeo continued into nightfall, at which point the last of our kind helpers departed. Despite our planning, the garage was now wall-to-wall full with all the furniture, boxes, exercise equipment, dog crates, gardening equipment, bicycles, and other odds and ends we couldn’t fit in the truck and trailers.

Whatever. We were pulling out of Orange early the next morning and were too tired to give a rat’s ass about garage leftovers. We’d address that detail later. So we cracked open a much-needed bottle of wine and treated ourselves to extra heavy pours before going outside to padlock the truck and trailers that had been packed by the Meatheads. I mentioned to Mike that, in all the chaos of moving, we’d forgotten to purchase the motion sensors. Mike told me not to worry and proceeded to pull out the most kickass padlock I’d ever seen. “They won’t get through this with 2-foot bolt cutters,” he said proudly as he began clamping the metal beast lock onto the F650’s rear cargo doors.

But just before he clicked the monster lock shut, Mike paused. “You know, I probably should just check inside really quick,” he said as he hoisted open the rolling door.

I stared inside. It was dark, but it didn’t take long for my eyes to adjust and take in the scene. Within the first few feet of the rear door, the Meatheads had flanked an armchair with two five-foot crystal floor lamps in a very aesthetically pleasing arrangement. Next to that was my antique red velvet vanity chair and next to that was a bookshelf. Sprinkled here and there between all of this were lamps of assorted shapes and sizes. Nothing, and I mean NOT ONE THING, was strapped to anything. It was all just sort of sitting there, happy and carefree. I don’t know how else to describe it, other than the back of the moving van looked like a passably well-decorated living room.

Mike notices this too. He shines a flashlight deeper into the Meatpacking job and sees our multiple thousand dollar intricately carved antique marble-topped gorgeous French table plunked on its side in the middle of the truck directly on the rough metal floor. No padding under the table. No padding around it. Not strapped to nothin’. Mike’s comment? “That table made it from Paris, France to Orange, California without a scratch and I’m pretty sure we won’t get three blocks before it snaps in half.”

Further analysis of the Meatpacking had to be deferred to morning. We turned in, spending the last night in our now-empty little cottage, squeezed with four dogs on a half-deflated blow up bed.

First order of business the next morning was resolution of the Meatpacking. It was way worse than we imagined. Two-thirds of the van was not strapped down or covered or wrapped with anything at all.

Mike started on his own, then realized it was too much disaster for one man to manage. So he brought in backup. For the next four and a half hours, Mike, his brother Greg, Shawn, and Kenneth unpacked and repacked two-thirds of the 26-foot van. In the meantime, I was running around the OC, going from one U-Haul dealer to the next, collecting enough felt pads to protect our loot. 12 pads here, 5 there, 10 at the next, and oh, you don’t have any pads? Rats, on to the next one.

By the time I got back, I was pissed. I dropped 40 felt pads on the parkway and went into the house where I sat on the floor against a wall with my arms crossed. It was like 10:00 a.m. and we were supposed to be on the road. Mike and I wanted out of California in the worst way. The onerous taxes, staggering traffic, ridiculous housing prices, sky-high gas prices, rampant illegal immigration, asinine gun laws, more traffic, two-hour waits at the DMV, a dysfunctional legislature, wildfires, Kamala Harris, earthquakes, Jerry Brown, people stealing porch furniture if you didn’t cable lock it down, and more and more taxes, taxes, taxes. Our escape was so close, but here we were unpacking and repacking a moving van we just paid a lot of money for “professional” movers to “professionally” pack.

Anger building, I got up and stormed outside to assess progress. All of our stuff still was out on the parkway awaiting repacking. I went back inside, grabbed my phone and dialed Meathead Movers. The conversation was completely one-sided and it went something like this:

"!@#$%^&*!!!_+&^%$#@!*@#*!+&@#$!&%&^#$%@*&*#@ …. $%&^(@)!!!!!!&%$@#!*&+%$*#^*(%#@*(#&*()(*^&$$(*&(*&()$#*()_)#@)))$*()^&)&*)_&()_^$(_)*_)&#_#&*_)*&_)*_)*_)*_)*!!!!!*!+&@#$!&%&^#$%@*

%^&*!!!_+&^%$#@!*@#*!+&@#$!&%&^#$%@*&*#@ &%$@#!*&+%$*#^*(%#@*$%&^(@)!!!!!!&%$@#!*&+%$*#^*!@#$%^&*!!!_+&^%$#@!*@#*!+&@#$!&%&^#$%@*&*#@$%&^&%$@#!*&+%$*#^*!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Have a nice day!"


I threw down the phone. Boss Meathead immediately called Mike, apparently to placate the situation. Mike, ever the voice of reason in our house, patiently explained to Boss Meathead the need for better employee training and even gave the guy some helpful pointers before hanging up to continue repacking the van.

The repacking continued for several hours. We finally pulled out of Orange at around 12:30 p.m., four and a half hours behind schedule. But at least we were on the road. I took a deep breath, patted Owen on the head, and drove away from my home of ten years.

We got about two blocks into the journey when I noticed something weird. The Jeep was, like, I don’t know, sort of surging and the trailer felt kind of grabby and wobbly. Having hauled horses back and forth across the country and around California, I had enough experience driving a rig to know when something’s not right, but I’d never felt anything like this before. I figured it must have something to do with driving a Jeep rather than a one-ton dually and just kept driving, thinking if I ignore it, maybe it’ll go away.

Or not. Just after that big loopy change of direction that takes you from the 91E to the 15E, when I was merging into traffic on the 15, the trailer started to get super squirrely. Horse-hauling instincts kicked in. I took my foot off the accelerator and let the rig slow itself down while I waited for it to straighten out, keeping my foot way clear of the brake. Huh, I thought. This is just so weird. I called Mike (we had started using our iPhones as walkie-talkies). “Something’s not right with the rig,” I say and explain what was going on. Mike said it probably had something to do with all the nanny-state controls on the Jeep taking over. You know, the stability control, the anti-sway, anti-lock, anti-this and that because people today can’t be trusted to operate a motor vehicle on their own.

Okay, I said. Sounds logical.

Continuing Eastward Ho! in oblivion, we reached Barstow and stopped to let our four dogs do their respective business. We pulled into a big gas station and let loose the hounds, three of whom are older than the pyramids. Mike disappeared behind the van to retrieve water bowls while I stood like a maypole in the middle of four dogs circling me on 15-foot extendo-leashes.

I was there for a while, immobilized by the circle of leashes which by now had me entrapped like a goat tying dummy. Mike returned from the back of the van, no water bowls in sight. “Have you seen the key to the padlock?” he asks. No, I say, I haven’t. Back to the van he goes. I see him digging through the console and glove box. Then to the Jeep. Same thing. No key. Back to the van to check again. Nope. Not there. Back to the Jeep. Back to the van. Back and forth, over and over. Still not there. I am thinking, jeez, I hope it’s not in one of 25 boxes marked “office” before realizing the timing was not right for that to be possible. I sigh in relief. At least this will be his fault, not mine.

For the next hour, we kept looking for the key and traipsed to Starbucks to get cups and water for the dogs. We were on our way back from Starbucks when the full implications of the lost key to the turbo lock on the back of the van hit me. All the dog food was in the van, but just as important, so was all of our wine. Of all times to lose one’s wine, this was not a good one. But then I perked up, remembering our friends Rachelle and Chris had given us a very nice bottle of Caymus WHICH I HAD PUT IN THE JEEP! Oh, joy! We were saving it for our first night in Cadillac, but you know what they say about the best laid plans.

Back at the vehicles, Mike and I divided the mutts into pairs and piled them into their respective spots. Off we went again, still thinking we could make it to Flagstaff if we drove late. But do you remember what I just said about the best laid plans?

We were on the 40E, somewhere near a little town called Daggett, still in the Great State of California, when the shit hit the fan. I’m motoring along blithely, humming tunes, when the trailer starts to do that squirrelly thing again, but now it’s not just a little bit of fishtail. The trailer was whipping wildly back and forth, throwing the Jeep into the next lane where the rig continued to buck and thrash violently. I thought it was going to flip, and it almost did. I got it under control and slowly worked my way to the right shoulder.

I called Mike, who had to be at least a mile ahead of me, and explained the problem as I was inching the rig forward, literally dragging the trailer like a boulder because the wheels by now were locked. I caught up with him and we traded rigs so he could evaluate. It took less than a minute for him to figure it out.

Of course. The Meatheads.

We drove real slow and pulled off at a rest stop near Ludlow. Parked in the middle of the California desert, Mike opened my trailer. The first thing we saw were big crates filled with ammunition and boxes marked “Books” – crates and boxes so heavy I couldn’t lift them higher than my ankles. Box after box of books and ammunition packed behind the axle. Mike started pulling things out, decorating the rest stop with a delightful array of ammo and reading material. Then he got to the middle of trailer. Here, we had upside-down boxes containing Murano chandeliers conspicuously marked “Fragile!” and “Glass” and bearing arrows pointing up which were now pointing down. More crates of ammunition were stacked on top, caving in the boxes. Mike continued to unload the trailer, box after box after box after box. By the time we reached the front of the trailer, you know, the part in front of the axle, we were greeted with feather-light boxes marked “Master Bedroom – Linen” and similarly-situated objects d’ lightness.

By now, Mike has thrown out his already dodgy back. He’s hot. He’s unhappy. But me? There are no words.

I climbed into the trailer and marched towards two signs plastered conspicuously on the front wall. The one on the left said, “LOAD HEAVIER IN FRONT,” instructing the user to put 60% of the cargo weight at the front of the trailer and including a helpful little picture for any Meathead who can’t read. The bright red and yellow sign to the right was even more explicit. Under the word, “! WARNING” U-Haul explained that “FAILURE to load heavier in front will result in WHIPPING and dangerous loss of control.”

Now my anger had become fomenting. I redialed Meathead Movers. A gal answered the phone, real cheerful and sing-songy, repeating some slogan or tagline or whatever. As soon as she finished her spiel, I launched. I don’t think I need to repeat what I said. You probably can imagine. I ended the call by telling her the Meatheads almost killed me, and by the time I was done with them, they were going to wish they’d succeeded. I then proceeded to stomp around, taking pictures and sending them one by one to Meathead Movers, attached to serial e-mails in which I relentlessly exploited the irony of anyone being dumb enough to name a moving company MEATHEAD and then hire a bunch of MEATHEADS.

Two hours later, Mike finished repacking the trailer. The 6.5 hour Meathead delay meant we wouldn’t make it to Flagstaff that night, so we found a dog-friendly hotel in Kingman, Arizona and headed in that direction with Mike leading the convoy. We were driving along without incident for about an hour and a half when I saw Mike pull off the freeway at some exit in Needles. I figure, it’s a restroom break and see no need to call. I just followed him down the offramp. He turns, left or right, I really don’t remember. Drives past all the gas stations and fast food joints. Turns again. Drives some more. Turns again. Now we’re going past the same gas stations and dining establishments. Didn’t I just see those? Another turn. Around and around we go. What’s going on? I felt like crying. I wanted so bad to get out of California and we just kept driving around in circles in Needles.

I’m not sure how many circles we made or exactly where we were in BFE, somewhere on a bridge over the Colorado River going the wrong direction, when Mike finally pulled to the side of the road. He got out of the F650 and walked to the Jeep. He looked so beaten. Sort of hunched over too, from all the back pain induced by unpacking and repacking a 26-foot moving van and trailer in less than 8 hours.

I drop the window, not sure if one or both of us has lost our minds. Mike says he thinks his Garmin led us astray. I agree. “Let me lead and I’ll use my navigation,” I say. He agrees. Walks back to the F650. Climbs in. Starts to turn the rig around. But it’s a real tight turn, and I’m watching, thinking, how’s he going to make that u-ey? He keeps at it. Backs up. Pulls forward. Backs up. Pulls forward. Backs up. Pulls forward. Will this ever end? The truck and trailer are slowly starting to form the most perfect jackknife I’ve ever seen. Finally, I think he just said, “screw it,” as I watched him gun it forward with abandon and take out a Yucca tree on the side of the road.

We were motoring along, getting close to Kingman, when I called Mike. I said, “I think there’s something that just keeps reaching out and grabbing us, trying to pull us back into California.” Mike says he agrees it’s all very odd. “What do you think it is,” I ponder out loud. Mike says he doesn’t know. I say, “I think it’s evil. I think it’s Satan. I think Satan wants us to stay here. Or maybe it’s Jerry Brown?”

We pulled into the Kingman hotel close to 11:00 p.m. and parked our rigs all willy nilly-like. Woody Woodpecker’s laugh was now playing in my head over and over. I don’t know why, but I couldn’t make it stop.

We fall out of our respective vehicles. Mike says, you get the dogs, I’ll get the guns and the luggage. Not inclined to argue, I take Levi and Owen and check in. I go back to get Hannah and Roxy and pass Mike on the way. He is lugging a gun case large enough to transport large livestock, a suitcase, and a duffel bag. Back I go with the other two dogs to the hotel room where I let them loose. I flop halfway on the bed and stare blankly at the ceiling, not a thought in my head, dogs running around sniffing the scent of 400 other doggies who have occupied this particular room as guests of a pet-friendly hotel. Out the corner of my eye, I see Levi lift his leg and pee on the curtain.

At this point, it occurred to me the dogs hadn’t eaten all day and their food was securely locked in the van. The hotel had no food outside vending machine offerings such as Snickers bars and M&M’s. Surely, there must be something I can find in the Jeep? Off I go.

I pass Mike again on the way to the Jeep. He’s carrying two more large gun cases, slightly smaller than the livestock transporter, and another duffel bag. I’m starting to get delirious but I keep moving. I decide to help Mike before feeding the dogs, so I grab two more gun cases and hump them back to the room. Then back to the Jeep. I pass Mike again. He’s dragging two suitcases with another gun case tucked under his arm. I think that might be everything that needs to be extracted from the vehicles? Six gun cases, four dogs, three suitcases, two duffel bags, and a partridge in a pear tree?

Then I remember why I came back to the Jeep. The dogs. I open the Jeep and begin searching for edibles. It didn’t take me long to find leftover cold French fries from our Barstow stop. That’ll do. I slam the door shut and lock the Jeep. Locking the car made me remember our elaborate theft deterrent strategies. How ironic. I laugh, out loud, literally, and yell to no one, “You know what? Just take it. Take it all. I don’t give a shit. If you can cut the fucking lock, it’s all yours.” Then I flip the bird to no one in general before starting my way back to our room, soggy French fries in hand.

I got about 10 feet towards my destination before I stopped cold in my tracks. Spun a fast 180.

The Caymus. OMG. It’s in the Jeep. Yippee!!! I love you Rachelle and Chris!

Back in the room, Mike is half asleep in a chair. I plow through my suitcase, find the wine opener, crank that bottle open, grab two flimsy plastic hotel cups and pour away. Cuz THIS is a celebration. We made it. We’re out of California!!!!

So, Who’s the Meathead?

The next morning, Mike drove to the local Kingman U-Haul dealer to get the lock cut off the van. The U-Haul guy thought Mike had stolen the van and required our contract to prove otherwise. Well, that was locked in the back of the van along with the keys to the lock. U-Haul guy, now really skeptical, asks Mike, “Why don’t you wait until you get to Michigan to cut the lock?” Mike, sensing a Catch 22 as well as the supreme irony of his theft deterrent strategy being turned against him, explained the whole thing about the dog food and the wine.

The U-Haul guy is very bothered by all this, but he must have been a risk taker, because he disappeared into his shop and returned with two and a half foot bolt cutters. As we had predicted, they did not phase the super duper lock. Nope. It took a two hundred foot extension cord and a chop saw to get that bad boy off the van. After retrieving paperwork to prove we didn’t commit grand theft auto from the back of the van, Mike purchased a much less robust lock, thanked the U-Haul guy, and departed. Three hours behind schedule, we left Kingman and headed toward New Mexico.

We were rolling along the highway somewhere in the southwest desert – which, by the way, is replete with faded billboards advertising various products that haven’t been on the market for 30 years – when I started noticing all these official-looking Navajo Nation cars whizzing by. Every few minutes there was another Navajo Nation car blazing down the road. “Where are they going,” I thought, “and why are they in such a hurry?”

Meanwhile, because of all the Meathead delays, our carefully orchestrated pitstop plan was foiled. Mom had been tracking us via our phones and called several times to comment on our lack of progress. I think she sensed I was sort of stressed, so she offered to help us find our next pet-friendly hotel. I agreed. She said she thought we should stay in Albuquerque. I disagreed and explained we had four dogs, a lot of guns, two largish rigs, and enough ammo to supply the National Guard. It would be a total pain in the arse to be anywhere near a metropolis as thriving as the City of Albuquerque, and not the greatest idea to have all that ammo in the parking lot of a hotel in a busy city. But mom didn’t want us on the road after dark and therefore persisted. I finally gave in and told mom “okay” at about the same time I noticed another Navajo Nation car roaring by and passing me like I was standing still.

Fifteen minutes goes by and mom calls again. She explained we really didn’t have any good options other than staying in Albuquerque if we wanted to get to bed before midnight. I agreed. We’d been through this already. She proceeded to explain there were only a few hotel rooms left in the entire city of Albuquerque and we’d better grab one fast. But it would cost a small fortune.

“Why?” I ask. I think she doesn’t want to tell me why, but she does anyway. “Because Donald Trump is in Albuquerque,” she announces. Suddenly, everything was making perfect sense. Right. A rally. Protests. All those Navajos. I thought, driving through a Donald Trump protest with 30 pistols, an AR-15, two shotguns, a 9mm carbine, and 20,000 rounds of ammunition just sounded like bad judgment. And where the hell would we park?

The night in Albuquerque was just so super sparkly. We got past the rally without being ambushed and ended up at some really swanky dog-friendly hotel swarming with Navajo Nation cars. It took foooorrrreeeevvvveeeer to park and get everything and everyone into the room.

Later that night, I took Hannah for a short walk, hoping she’d do her business somewhere other than my suitcase for once on this debacle of a trip. Hannah dillydallied around, sniffing this and sniffing that. She wouldn’t go poddy, so we headed back to the room. I was walking through the fancy lobby, Hannah waddling along beside me, saying in my head, “please don’t poop, please don’t poop, please don’t poop.” I smiled and waved to the desk clerk. “Please don’t poop, please don’t poop, please don’t poop,” I continued to implore in my mind, hoping my message was telepathing to Hannah as I got to the elevator and punched the button. The door swished open and Hannah waddled in next to me as her dump commenced, one turd landing at the threshold of the elevator door in the lobby, the next dropping down the elevator shaft, and the next plopping down inside the elevator. I already had the bag ready and grabbed the lobby turd before the door closed. The one that went down the shaft? That would be someone else’s problem. I picked up the third turd and called it a night.

We rolled out of Albuquerque the next morning, late again, and headed towards bad weather in Oklahoma. By this time, we had given up the whole “pistol out, pistol in” thing, because it was far too complicated for our shrinking brains. We spent the third night of our adventure in Elk City, Oklahoma. By this time, Mike had discovered the wonders of this thing called a bellman luggage cart which enabled him to tote all our gun cases, suitcases, and duffel bags from vehicles to room in one rolling heap.

Mike was pushing the cart into the elevator of the Elk City hotel when a mom and her kids squeezed in just before he shut the door. Mom looked at the pile of gun cases containing a small arsenal and asked, “Are there instruments in all those cases?” Mike lies. “Yes.” Lady says, “Are you in a band?” Mike lies. “Yep.” Lady asks, “What instrument do you play.” Now Mike tells the truth. “I’m just the guy who carries everything around.”

I can’t say the rest of the trip got any less entertaining. Our fourth stop was Rolla, Missouri. Missouri, in my personal opinion, is a shithole. I think I lost brain cells just because I drove through Missouri without tin foil wrapped around my head. Mike took out another tree while we were driving in circles around the slums of St. Louis. But at least we figured out he had his Garmin set to “avoid tolls,” which was why we kept getting lost and driving in circles. It took us, oh, 1,800 miles to figure that one out.

Anyway, we made it through a storm so intense that I thought Armageddon would surely happen before Cadillac, and we made it to Rolla. By this time, Owen was sleeping in my suitcase. After spending the fourth night in a truly crappy hotel, we were on our way towards the last stop before Cadillac – South Bend, Indiana. Yeah, we finally caught up with our best laid plans. In South Bend, we stayed in another dumpy pet-friendly hotel with our four doggies, who, by this time, were at their wits end and pretty darn grouchy.

Why Did the Turtle Cross the Road?

I woke on Saturday, May 28, 2016, filled with anticipation. Actually, I was giddy. I ran around the room gathering random clothes, shoes, dog bowls, leashes, whatever, throwing them into suitcases in no particular order. “Let’s blow this taco stand and go home!!!”

Out to the Jeep I go (okay, skipped) towing three dogs, because by this time, various conflicts had arisen within the pooch troop, the details of which are unimportant. The net result is that Roxy, our quiet yet oh-so snarky terrier, traveled alone with Mike. I got the three yappy Maltese, none of whom cared who was sleeping on top of who. Life’s just a big party for those three.

I take the lead and we rolled out of South Bend around 9:00 a.m. Ish. In almost no time we crossed into the Great State of Michigan. Wow! So exciting. I mean, really. Motoring along, I saw exit signs to Berrien Springs, where mom and I spent a week showing horses when I was 17-years-old. I got my first glimpse of the shores of Lake Michigan. OMG! It looks like an ocean! And OMG everything’s so green and the air smells so clean and the sky’s soooo blue and there’s noooo traffic! California ain’t got nothin’ on this!

We were about a half hour out of Cadillac. My joy was unparalleled. I was in the driver’s seat sitting cross-legged, barefoot, with the cruise control set at 70 mph (I know – not good, but Mike was some distance behind and couldn’t see what I was doing). The weather was glorious. Puffy clouds here and there. Birds tweeting and soaring around with poetic grace. Butterflies were flitting and lilting softly through the air. Dogs were snoring and farting with impunity.

And I was singin’ out loud along with the boys from The National. Terrible Love. (Alternate Version.)

It’s a terrible love when I’m walkin’ with spiiiiDERS

It’s a terrible love that I’m walkin’ in

It’s a terrible love when I’m walkin’ with spiiiiDERS

It’s a terrible love that I’m walkin’ in

(Tempo subdued and clippy. Drum beats. Bum. Bum. Bum. Tap steering wheel. Tap. Tap. Tap.)

It’s quiet compANY

It’s quiet compANY

It’s a terrible love and I’m walkin’ with spiiiiDERS

It’s a terrible love and I’m walkin’ in

It’s a terrible love, when I’m walkin’ with spiiiiDERS

It’s a terrible love that I’m walkin’ in

(Drum tap on steering wheel. Drum tap. Drum tap. Bum. Bum. Bum. Melody still subdued and now smoothing out.)

It’s quiet compahneeeee

It’s quiet compahneeeee

It’s quiet compahneeeee

(Instrumental tension building. Now BIG drums! Air drums! Play ‘em! Now lots of frenzied instruments exploding everywhere. Arms extended through sun roof pumping like World Cup fan.)


aNd I

cAn’T fall AsLeEp

wItHoUt a lit’l help

It takes a while to settle dooowwwwn

My shivered bonesssssszzzz

Until the paaahhhhnic’s out

(Now tempo drops. Melody gets real clippy. Subdued drum taps on steering wheel. Tap. Tap. Shoulder wiggles. Drums. Bum. Bum. Bum. Bum.)

It TaKeS An oCeAn NoT tO bReAk

iT tAkEs aN oCeAn nOt to BrEaK

It TaKeS An oCeAn NoT tO bReAk

iT tAkEs aN oCeAn nOt to BrEaK

(Now tempo gets more subdued and silky. More drums. Bum. Bum. Bum. Tap. Tap. Tap.)


It’s quiet compahneeeee

It’s quiet compahneeeee

(Now song builds. Repeat escalating drums! BIG drums! More air drums! Faster faster faster! Arms flailing wildly. Bouncing up and down in driver’s seat. Fists pumping. People in cars passing, staring.)

But I

wOn’T fOlLoW yOuUU

InTo tHe raahhhhbit hole

I said I would, but tHeN I sawwww

Your shivered bonesssssszzz

They didn’t waaaaant

Me too

(Now totally out of control.)

It’s a tErRibLe lOvE thAt I’m WalKin’ with spiDERS

It’s a terRiBle loVe tHat i’M wAlKin’ iN

It’s a tErrIblE LovE aNd I’m wAlkiN’ with spiDERS

It’s a TerrIble love that I’m WaLkiN’ iN


iT tAkEs an oCeAn nOt tO bReAk

iT tAkEs an ohhhCeAn nOt tO bReAk

iT tAkEs an oh shit …


Suddenly, I’m all business.

In one fluid motion, I pull my arms down out of the air and grasp the steering wheel, hands in the textbook 10:00/2:00 configuration. I unfurl my legs, leaving my right foot in a hovering position over the brake pedal before tapping it to disengage the cruise control.

Poised for action, I crane my neck forward and squint my eyes for a better focus on the road ahead, trying to understand what I was seeing. It looked like a low-riding flying saucer scooting from right to left across the road. Huh? Then it registers. Is that a … a … a … turtle??? It was so super-sized that at first I didn’t recognize it as a turtle. Do turtles on the roads of Michigan really grow that large? What’s a turtle doing here? Why is the turtle crossing the road?

I am thinking these thoughts as I prepare myself for some turtle road slalom. Here he comes! Closer, closer, closer, he gets. I tap the brakes, gently tug the wheel to the right and watch as the turtle moves into my left field of vision and then safely appears in my rear view mirror.

Yes! I RULE! He made it! The turtle lives!

Oh shit.

In a split second, I remember I’m traveling with a F650 U-Haul chase vehicle and its trailer weighing in at combined total of about 15 tons. Now in a panic and too flustered to use steering wheel or voice commands to dial Mike and warn him of the turtle in the road, I started digging through a week’s worth of mini-mart receipts and protein bar wrappers for my phone. Rock Star energy drink goes flying. There’s just not enough time. It’s in God’s hands.

Now I’m a helpless spectator. I watch my side mirror as 15 tons of furniture, weapons, a man, a dog, and a roll of toilet paper barrel down the road towards Squirt the Turtle. I hunch down in my seat and an anxiety-ridden expression starts to take over my face. I’m trying not to shut my eyes because I’m driving and I need them open. I don’t want to witness this, and yet, I can’t stop myself from watching.


I watched in slow motion as a geyser of turtle carnage shot high into the air on the driver’s side of the F650 and sprayed in multiple directions. My phone rings. It’s Mike. “Did I just run over a turtle?” I affirm. “What are turtles doing on the highway,” he asks. “Not sure,” I say, “but do you think it was someone’s pet that got loose?” Not sure, he says. “That thing was HUGE,” he continued. “It felt like I ran over a couch.” Mike then informs me there are turtle guts all over the truck.

Well, that was a real buzz kill.

I finished the last half hour of the journey tight-lipped and little bummed out. This was not what I expected. I didn’t know exactly what shape we’d be in when we arrived in Cadillac. I just didn’t think we’d pull up covered in road kill.

We arrived at our new home in the early afternoon, letting the dogs out of the vehicles as the first order of business. I stepped onto the sidewalk and spent a few moments assessing our new 119-year-old home. What a beauty. Four-story brick Queen Ann with a tower and turret, she looked like a fairy tale. Crumbling, maybe falling down according to local legend, but a rock star of a house nonetheless.

I climbed the porch stairs and plugged the key in the lock, turned the tumbler backwards and swung open the massive front door. Before stepping into the vestibule, I glanced up and noticed a sci-fi-sized spider in the middle of an epic web over my head. Then I looked around some more and realized there were spider-filled webs all over the porch. I shrieked and ran into the house.

I don’t like spiders. I grew up in a place where black widow spiders run amok. My brain is filled with bad black widow spider memories. Black widows in the garage leaping out of their webs if you got too close. Clusters of black widows lurking in webs behind the living room couch. Black widows in the barn under saddle pads and horse blankets. Black widows hiding in hay bales (one of which once scurried up my bare arm as I broke off a flake of hay; it’s the only time in my life I’ve actually had an out-of-body experience). Grotesque creatures, with skinny arched legs and shiny rotund black vinyl abdomens marked underneath by the deadly red hourglass my dad always told me to watch out for. Bottom line, I’m so obsessively freaked out by spiders that, until today, I thought The National’s song was called “Terrible Spiders” rather than “Terrible Love.”

Funny how the mind works.

Later, I learned that Cadillac has a lot of spiders. They die off in the winter and reappear in the spring with a vengeance. In fact, spiders are Cadillac’s groundhogs, heralding the onset of glorious warm weather after the most fuh-fuh-fuh-fuh-freezing winters known to man. Little arachnoids crawl out of curtains and down walls even before buds start poking out of tree branches.

Maybe the spiders won’t be so terrible after all.

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