This has been a long week, and I am ready to go home. I want to see Isabella. I hate having to leave her. I’m hoping I’ll get home around 5 or 6 pm tonight. I’d like to be home earlier, and if I had come on my own, I would be. However, I have to stay with my colleagues for the final lunch which won’t be over until at least 2 pm. Luckily, the car should be packed and ready to go as soon as everything ends.
I usually like going to conferences, even though they are often boring, but usually, I get to do something fun in the city where the conference is held. This time though, I was not here with fun people, and I kept getting pulled in different directions and had little time on my own. The good thing was that I was able to run into a friend of mine that I haven’t seen since before the pandemic. I used to see her regularly at LGBTQ+ events in Burlington, but neither of us have been going to many of those events, not to mention that there haven’t been a whole lot of them to got to. She was mostly busy at the conference, so I only got to see her for a short time, but it was really nice to see her.
There won’t be a “Food Report #3” today, because I didn’t eat anything worth mentioning.
Yesterday was a long, boring day. I went to bed early last night because I was just tired.
Food Report #2
For dinner last night, a coworker and I went to a Mediterranean restaurant called Nadim’s. It was actually pretty good. We started out with appetizers. I had stuffed grape leaves with tzatziki that were delicious, though my coworker didn’t like them; she got something on the menu called “Hummachos.” They were surprisingly delicious. It sounds odd, but they were hummus, ground meat, onions, jalapeños, tomatoes, and feta cheese served over homemade pita chips. For our entrees, I had chicken shish kebabs with rice pilaf, and she had lamb shish kebabs with mashed potatoes. I wouldn’t mind eating here again.
We made it to our conference. It wasn’t a bad drive down, just two and a half hours. When we were booking our rooms, I chose one with a king-sized bed, my coworkers opted for rooms with two queen-sized beds so they could lay their luggage on one of them. I didn’t want to do that, because I hung up all my clothes once I got in my room. I’m glad I chose the room with the king-sized bed, I have the much better view. My room looks out over the Connecticut River. My boss’s room has not view and looks out over a rooftop. My other coworker, apparently, has a view of a clock tower.
The conference actually starts today. I have four sessions to attend today. We’ll see if I actually go to all of them, or stay through the whole session on any of them. If one of my coworkers is in the same session, I’ll probably have to stay and act interested, but they usually don’t attend the same topics that I do. I also have a luncheon that I do not want to attend, but the lunch is part of our registration, so I’m expected to go. They have these luncheons for different groups, such as education, libraries, collections, etc. In the past, they held them all at the same time, but now they spread them out over two days so you can attend more than one. Oh joy. 🙄 These are workshop type lunches so you have to interact, which is the point, but I’m not always thrilled about the group activities. Double joy. 🙄 Tomorrow’s might be better because I think it’s for LGBTQ+ museum professionals. 🏳️🌈
Food Report #1
Hopefully, we’ll go somewhere good for dinner tonight. Last night we went to a BBQ joint, Theodore’s Blues Booze and BBQ. They tried, but the BBQ was ok if you put enough BBQ sauce on it. My sides were collard greens which were good, but had a little too much vinegar in them, they don’t understand apparently that the vinegar, i.e. pepper sauce (vinegar poured over hot peppers in a jar), should be served on the side. Not everyone likes it. That being said, the collard greens were the second best part of the meal. The fried pickles appetizer was the best part even if they tried to serve them with a chipotle sauce. As a friend of mine said, the only proper sauce to serve with them is ranch dressing, which I had to request. My other side was BBQ baked beans. I ate everything else, but I only ate a few bites of the baked beans. They needed to be cooked a few hours longer. My beverages were sweet tea (it was not fresh, but not awful) and what they called a “Mardi Gras Hurricane.” If you have ever been to New Orleans, you know that the only real place to get a hurricane is Pat O’Brien’s, and they’ve never shared their recipe. It is basically rum and tropical fruit juices. What this place served me as a “hurricane” was, I think, rum and cranberry juice. I don’t think a real hurricane has cranberry juice, but uses grenadine to give the drinks its signature red color.
I’m going to be away at a conference for the rest of the week, so if the posts are a bit short, blame it on me being away from home. I like going to conferences because it’s an all expense paid vacation; however, I don’t enjoy participating in conferences. If I’m presenting a paper, that’s one thing, but to go and sit and listen to people drone on about things I have little interest in is boring. This particular conference has the worst session descriptions. I have learned that if the session sounds interesting from the description, then it is likely that whatever is presented has very little to do with the description. Plus, my job at the museum is education and public programs, but they never have any sessions about public programs, and the ones they have about education are often geared towards K-12, which is only a very minor part of what I do.
My boss always requires me to attend this conference because it’s our regional conference, but I never get anything out of the sessions I have to attend. I have attended interesting conferences in the past, but this has never been one of them. I guess it will be good to do some networking while I’m there. I always feel awkward at these things though, so it’s anxiety inducing. While this conference is held in interesting places sometimes, this one isn’t the most exciting, even if it’s in one of the larger cities in New England. It’s certainly not Boston, which was an interesting place to attend a conference. I’m sure I’ll find some interesting things to do in the evenings, and hopefully, we’ll find some good places to eat. At least this city has some gay bars.
My colleagues and I are heading down to Boston for a quick trip down and back. We did this trip about a month ago to test some new technology for the museum, and this will be the final test of that technology before they come next month to install everything. (Or, will it be August? I can’t remember.) I picked up the rental car yesterday, and I’ll be driving. I prefer to drive as my colleagues tend to have lead feet and drive a little to fast for my taste, not to mention that my director hates to drive in Boston. Honestly, I don’t mind. Southern deivers are far worse than anything in New England, even the so-called “Massholes” aren’t as bad as drivers from Nashville, Tennessee, (notoriously known for being bad drivers) or even Montgomery, Alabama, for that matter. Driving is one of the times that I am a bit of a control freak. Most of the time I tend to think I am pretty easy going and go with the flow. However, I’d rather be the one to drive and be in control then be scared the whole time because of someone else’s driving.
It’s going to be a very tiring day. When we went down last month, I was fine until I got home and sat on my couch and felt like I never wanted to move again. The good thing is that I’m taking vacation days tomorrow and Monday. I need to start using my vacation time a little along so that I don’t end up taking it all in May before the fiscal year ends. I’ll also be off Tuesday, but I’ll have to go in for a short while for a meeting. I’m looking forward to a four-day weekend. Will I be doing anything this weekend? Probably not, but I’ll have some time to relax and take it easy.
Yesterday, I went down to Boston for work. The new interactives for the museum are fantastic. They are so impressive and I can’t wait for them to be installed at the end of the summer. That was the good news. But, I knew from the moment I got in that rental car, that it was not going to go smoothly. As soon as I started the SUV, I realized that the instrument panel on the dashboard was not lighting up. It had worked the night before, but not yesterday morning. I tried several different things to get it to work, and nothing did. So, I thought I’d deal with it on the way. That was problem #1; problem #2 started a few minutes later when I was about a mile or so from my apartment. I had a thermos/tumbler of hot tea to drink on the way, and when I opened the spout and went to take a sip, the tea spilled all over the front of my shirt. I knew I had to quickly turn around and go back to my apartment to change shirts. I was only about a mile down the road, so it was a minor problem. The instrument panel was the major problem because one of the things not working was the gas gauge.
When I stopped to pick up the first of my coworkers, I googled on my phone how to fix the instrument panel. I watched a YouTube video and tried all the other troubleshooting sites. Nothing worked, so I had my coworker google it while I drove. She couldn’t find anything else. We were running late, so I headed to pick up my second coworker. After picking her up, I tried googling again. Finally, I came across a site that said, if you’ve tried everything else, it’s probably a blown fuse. I decided when I picked up our boss, I’d have him call Enterprise Rent-A-Car, tell them the problem, and have a car waiting for us at the place we were going in Boston. They’d been shitty enough yesterday, I thought this was the least they could do. My boss first said, “Oh, I can fix this.” I said, “I doubt it.” I know my boss, he always thinks he knows everything technical. So, he tried all the same things I tried, but nothing worked, just like I had told him.
His solution was to call our secretary and have her deal with Enterprise because if he or I called Enterprise, it was not going to be pretty. So, our secretary called. Enterprise’s suggestion was for us to go buy a fuse and change it out. I said, “No, no, no. That’s not going to work. We are on a schedule. See what else they suggest.” Their next suggestion was for us to show up at an Enterprise office on the way and try to talk them into exchanging our vehicle for one that worked. *eyes roll* Well, there were two fairly close to where we were, so our secretary called them to explain. The first did not have any vehicles for rent. Then, as we were waiting for our secretary to call the second place, suddenly, the instrument panel lights began to come on one at a time. My only assumption is that the fuse came loose, and as we were driving, it wiggled its way back in place. We did not have any more problems. It was smooth sailing the rest of the day.
Today, I am finally going for my next Botox treatment. With the problems I have been having with my migraines the last couple of weeks, I am really hoping this will provide some relief. I was happy that yesterday my headache was kept to a minimum. Yesterday was a long and tiring day, and today is another drive, but only an hour, not the three hours to Boston.
I’m taking a work trip today down to Boston. We are driving down, having a meeting, eating lunch, and then driving back. I hate doing a trip like that all in one day. It’s about three hours from my new apartment.
We are renting a car because my university says that any travel over 50 (or it may be 100) miles requires renting a car. We always have to use Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Back when I was the oral historian and traveled all over New England conducting interviews, I had a great relationship with Enterprise. The guys there knew me and really worked hard to be as helpful as possible. I never had any trouble except they’d often give me a free upgrade to an SUV when I really just wanted a car. Those guys transferred up to Burlington, and there is a whole new crew there.
With the new crew, I have only one thing to say, “Fuck Enterprise.” We booked a full-sized car (there are four of us going, so we wanted to be comfortable). They didn’t have a car that worked (no air conditioner), so they gave us an SUV. Because I’ll be driving in downtown Boston, I had specifically wanted a car because I think it’s more maneuverable. The “free upgrade” to an SUV really pissed me off because we were very specific on what we wanted. I don’t care if it’s a free upgrade. I booked a car for a reason!
As I said, I used to rent cars from them on a regular basis and have never had an issue with picking up the car. Yesterday was different. I was using the museum’s travel card, which is in my boss’s name. We’ve always done it this way. But when I went to pay, I was told that only my boss could sign for it because the card is in his name.
This has never been an issue. It’s a corporate account, and they always understood that the card may have a specific name but it was for anyone who worked at the museum. I pitched a fit, and after calling my boss to see if he could come to sign it (he lives about 30 minutes from Enterprise and was already home), the guy reluctantly decided he’d make an “exception” just this one time. I told him I’ve booked many cars with the museum card not in my name. He said “The policy changed.” If you change a policy like this, you should probably have inform you largest customer (my university rents a lot of cars from them because they are the only place here to rent a car from).
I’m also renting a car next week, again to go to Boston, for a four-day conference. So, I thought I’d check to make sure this wouldn’t be a problem again. When I told him it shouldn’t be because the car was already paid for through a direct payment from our corporate account, he said, “I doubt I that’s true.” I told him that it was booked through our CFO’s office. Thanks made him check, and when he did, he realized I was right and assured me that there would be no problem. I hope he’s right, and I hope he remembers me and makes sure they have car available.
Enterprise is going to think I’m a real asshole. Some of you may also after reading this, but I had a similar issue the last time I tried to rent a car by myself. I was not nice then, and I wasn’t particularly nice today because they were being unreasonable. Enterprise and really anyone that changes the rules without letting anyone know bring out the bitch in me.
Oh, and to top all of that off, they didn’t even have it ready. I had to wait forever for them to clean and wash the car. 🙄
Sometimes, especially during the coldest days of winter, I miss the sugary white sands and emerald waters of the beaches on Florida’s Gulf Coast. I especially miss going into a store to pick up a few things and see similar sights to the one above: a hot guy in swim trunks and barefoot doing a little shopping before heading back to the beach. I also used to love sitting on a blanket at the beach and reading a good book. Beach reads were always the best. The only problem with the beach is that you can easily get sunburned if you’re not paying close attention, and there is no way to leave the beach without having sand in uncomfortable places. Not to mention, on a hot summer day, the sand could literally burn your bare feet. Also, I never much cared for swimming in the ocean. It was okay once yo got past the waves, but for the most part, I just loved the scenery. More so than sitting on a blanket on the beach, I preferred sitting on the balcony of a hotel room looking out over the beach and watching all the hot guys. There was always a cute lifeguard or cabana boy to look at.
I remember one winter, my parents and I went down to Navarre Beach, which is about halfway between Pensacola and Fort Walton Beach. (All of these places are in Florida, of course.) I don’t remember where my sister was, but she was not with us. We stayed at a nice hotel on the beach, and I think it’s one of the only times we went the whole trip without arguing about something. I think this was just before Christmas and we did some Christmas shopping at the outlet stores in Sandestin. My fondest memory though was going to this little restaurant near our hotel. It was winter, and we mostly had the restaurant to ourselves. The food was good, but what made it so wonderful is that we laughed, talked, and had a great time having dinner that night. There weren’t many times like that. My father could be mean to my mother, and he and I often argued. My mother and I always got along much better than my father and I. However, this night, there was no fussing or fighting. I don’t remember what we were laughing so much about, but it was a very happy memory.
Like many of us, I have not traveled very far since the pandemic began. I went home to Alabama the Christmas before the pandemic started. In fact that holiday season, I took a cruise from New Orleans to Mexico with some friends of mine, then flew home to Alabama before returning to Vermont just before the New Year. I could not have guessed back then that I’d be spending my second Christmas in Vermont away from my family. I don’t completely miss traveling to Alabama. I know that probably makes me a bit of a bad person, but when I go home, I basically still have to pretend to be someone else and suppress my sexuality. I don’t miss doing that. I also have zero alone time when I go home, and I like my solitude at times.
While I may not miss going back to Alabama too much, I do miss traveling. For Thanksgiving and my birthday in 2019, I went to New York City to see my friend Susan, and we had a very lovely Thanksgiving dinner, and she took me to see Chicago, one of my favorite musicals, on Broadway. I got to see the Stonewall Inn and the Freedom Tower among other famous Manhattan landmarks. I would love to get to spend more time with Susan in person, whether that is her coming to Vermont or me going to Manhattan to see her, but that won’t happen until COVID-19 becomes as routine and as seasonal as the flu.
I also want to get back to Montreal, which has become one of my favorite places to visit. New Orleans used to be my favorite place to visit in North America (Italy, especially Florence and Rome, still beat out everywhere else), but while New Orleans is fun, it’s also kind of nasty; it stinks, and it’s filled with drunk tourists. Montreal is a much cleaner city. The Village (formerly the Gay Village) is much larger than New Orleans’s gay area in the French Quarter, and Canadians are much nicer than Louisianans. I just always have more fun and feel safer in Montreal, so I’d really like to go back when the border is easier to cross again.
When you are like me and enjoy traveling, it’s hard being somewhat confined to central Vermont. The farthest I’ve been is Burlington to the northwest of me and Lebanon, NH, to the southeast of me. Both cities are about 45 minutes away. I guess I got spoiled working at my museum. When I first started as the oral historian, I traveled all the time to conduct interviews all over New England. Then, we had the traveling exhibit which took me to places all over the eastern seaboard. It all came to a sudden halt when the pandemic began. At some point, I do believe we’ll get back to normal. Vermont thought it was ace enough to return to some sort of normalcy, and now we have the fifth highest percentage of COVID cases in the country. All we can really do is stay vigilant and keep up with our vaccinations. If we do that, then maybe we will return to normal sooner or later.
Six years ago today, I arrived in Vermont. It had been a hellacious trip up here from Alabama. My plan had been to drive to Blacksburg, Virginia, the first day to see a friend who was a PhD student at Virginia Tech. Then I’d drive to Albany, New York, for the second leg of my trip getting up the next morning and drive to my new apartment in Vermont. The trip did not go as planned. In Knoxville, Tennessee, while blocked in on both sides by semi trucks, I had no choice but to run over something in the road. Whatever it was punctured my gas tank. I pulled over on the side of the interstate and watched as gasoline poured out from under my car. I had to call 911 and they sent police and a fire truck to make sure everything was okay and put some type of absorbent over the leaked gas.
Close to tears, I called my dad. All of my possessions to begin my new life in Vermont were inside my little car. One spark or a lit cigarette from a passing car and it would have all gone up in flames. My dad called the insurance company and they found me a mechanic, a hotel, and a rental car because it was going to take at least several days before the mechanic could get a new gas tank. The police called a tow truck who loaded up my car and drove me to the mechanic. The tow truck driver was kind enough to wait as the mechanic and I did whatever we initially had to do, and then he drove me to my hotel. He was so nice and kind; he made the whole thing a little more bearable.
I checked into the hotel and waited for my rental car to be delivered the next day. Only one restaurant was nearby, a Mexican restaurant, so that’s where I ate dinner and had a huge margarita. Luckily, I got a call from the mechanic saying they’d been lucky and were able to locate a gas tank at another mechanic in town. They were able to get it late the next day and install it the next. I was stuck in Knoxville for two and a half days, but my car was ready around 11 am if I remember correctly.
Off I was again to see how far I could drove that day. The remember driving through the Shenandoah Valley and thinking I’d never get through Virginia. Finally, I did and continued north. Late that night, I was so tired, I could not drive any further than Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I pulled over at a hotel only to be told there was no room ar the inn. In fact some major convention was in town and few hotels had any vacancies. I finally found one, checked in and quickly crawled into bed and fell asleep. I got up early the next day and drove the rest of the way to my new apartment. That last eight hours and 500 miles was rough, but I did it.
October 7, 2015, I started my new life in Vermont.