Thursday, August 10, 2006

Why, oh why does stuff happen when I come out to visit the in-laws?

One of the last times my son and I were out here on the Left Coast, the big Northeast blackout happened out in...well, the northeast, forcing my husband to walk all the way home to central Queens from the Madison Square Park area in Manhattan. Another time, when I was out here, my husband seriously underestimated how much stuff we had when we moved down the road from one apartment to another, and ended up taking the rest of a work week off to pack and move all the smaller stuff back and forth in our car all by himself.

And now these terrorist yutzes who were just days away from blowing up a number of airplanes using basic household chemistry (the Anarchist Cookbook, anyone? Or maybe Die Hard With A Vengeance...). They have now become instrumental in a new sort of prohibition, one that might have made Carry Nation proud. No liquids or gels allowed in airports past security checkpoints. That means I've got to leave the big bottle of Garnier Fructis I got recently with my in-laws, probably. For whatever reason, I find it tough to locate a bottle of that particular type of shampoo in New Orleans. Maybe I'm just going to the wrong places to get it, but the family size of shampoo would have lasted me a while.

The only other thought that comes to mind is a plot from Jack Nicholson's Joker in Batman - a combination of beauty products that, when used all together, cause people to drop dead from the effects of Smilex. Wouldn't it be lovely to see supermodels and celebrities scared right out of their makeup? It might be funny if it weren't so frightening.

And so I continue on out here in Northern California, as ambassador for the main attraction: my three year old son. My duties as ambassador are as follows:

- I must be present so that the grandparents of said son can hand him over to me if he is getting difficult. Difficult is defined as a number of things: poopy pants that need to be changed, frustrations over said son's lack of appetite, frustrations over the young 'un's reluctance to conform to a planned day's activities, and grandparental reluctance to deal with the kid when he wakes up at the crack of dawn.

- I must accompany said son on airline flights to and from the grandparents' domain, braving all airport security checkpoints and the screeners who may call the toxicity of my son's Pull-Up pants' contents into question as a security risk, yanking the child through all airport hurdles while waiting on a connecting flight, and, above all, I should NEVER, at any time, expect the kid to fall asleep on the plane. People think I'm kidding when I say this. After three-plus years of travel with a young infant/toddler, any rest from him is a cherished gift.

- I must leave any normal ideas of vacationing far behind me. My husband has quit saying, "Enjoy your vacation," to me when I embark on these trips, and wisely so. The only vacation I have here is when I don't have to walk my dog or clean out my cats' litter boxes. Anything else is a bonus. Dan usually has to work, so he can't accompany me on these trips. I also get the feeling he doesn't want to come, after having grown up with his parents for eighteen-plus years. His parents are sweethearts, but we also have to brave their blatant hints that sure, my husband can find a long-term job in Silicon Valley that can support us, too... and then we can all live close by! All I picture from here on out with that scenario is my mother-in-law as Marie Barone, letting herself in our place whenever she feels like. Much as I love my in-laws, it's also nice to have extended breaks from them- namely, our lives, such as they are.

And so I travel here fairly regularly and brave the comments, the kvetching about everything under the sun, and all other family quirks because they do love us and want to see their grandson. Plus, it is fun, overall. There is great effort put into finding places for the little guy to go - local parenting magazines are searched for daily kid-friendly activities, a selection of toys is put out for the little guy, videos are borrowed from the library for his viewing pleasure, and standby attractions are always good places to go. And my son gets to get with Grandma and Grandpa for up to two weeks.

Sure, the stuff will happen while I'm out here, because the rest of the world doesn't take a chill pill whenever I go off, although the camp where I worked did end for this summer. But what if there were at least one week when everybody took a break? Among the possible happenings:

- The NOPD and the Louisiana National Guard could let down their guard for a few days, as all criminal activity will have ceased.

- All these terrorist organizations will use their Rare Flyer miles to head for, say, someplace in Polynesia, have a grand old time, and actually return from their vacations without hurting another person in any way.

- My in-laws' talk about the terrorist doings will cease to be, and my son won't get upset about the "bad news", as he calls it.

It is nice to take a break from a mostly ruined city, from all the talk of rebirth and the ways in which the actions fall short of that talk. Ever the optimist, my mother-in-law has said that the city may well be waiting for the right moment to declare eminent domain over large unclaimed flooded parts of the city, and then to redevelop those sites as the city sees fit. I hope she's wrong, but chances are, she's on the mark. I still have to laugh at the concept of building some high rise condos in the Broadmoor, Gentilly, or Ninth Ward neighborhoods, though. If Louisiana's coastline continues to erode at an unchecked pace, those high-rises will be surrounded by waterfront property that will also be in the lower floors of the buildings. Prime real estate, indeed.

As it is, I get so angry trying to discuss the political and law enforcement situation to my in-laws. I hear what is coming out of my mouth and I sound as though I am insane. Describing an ineffectual court system and a bevy of opportunistic politicos that have not changed their ways - and then trying to hold my head up high and say that this is my home - well, it is to laugh and to cry all at once. I hate that this summer has had the aura of New Orleanians feeling they can make it through all the problems if the area emerges from this hurricane season unscathed. The people who care about this city, whose lives as they know it would not exist without it, need to just get off their duffs or move on. Granted, there is a natural inertia that comes with sweltering NOLA heat, but come on.

Must stop on this train of thought before I really bust a gut.

Know what helps? Cross-stitching and making stuff in the kitchen. I've been cross-stitching fleurs-de-lis in loads of colors, all from a pattern I purchased at a place down the street and around the corner a bit from my home. Easy to carry along with me in my purse and whip out whenever I have the time. As for the cooking, I have a nice slice of a blackberry-strawberry crumb tart waiting for me, and I'd better get to it.

God, I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be so stereotypically womanly and domestic.

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