Fractured Facade


"A fathers death...a daughter's life...a sociopath's vendetta...FRACTURED FACADE ...a novel written as memoir. Only $3.99 and only on Amazon! Kindle Unlimited Members read for free! Click here - Amazon

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Driving in New York



After visiting New York City I continue to believe the worst part of the greatest city in the world is the traffic situation. Driving is not for the faint of heart. Luckily I never realized my horn was broken until I got back to Roanoke. I had my thumb poised at all times on the steering wheel, ready to blow loudly as a back-up in case my quick maneuvering failed. I never had to use it.

In New York, the driving horror begins before you even enter the red-headed stepchild boro -- Staten Island. No matter how much great time you'll make zipping through many states you can always count on coming to a standstill in the worst state of the country, New Jersey.

We enter New York via NJ and have to crawl through the smelly parking lot known as Staten Island before we escape via the majestic Verrazano into Brooklyn.



Every time we drive to New York traffic seems to get heavier. I blame this on the genius who invented the EZ-Pass. The majority of toll booth lanes accept EZ-Pass with a mere single lane left open for cash customers. The EZ-Pass lanes are always empty. The Cash lane had a 6 mile back-up just to get through the Outerbridge Crossing. One lane open for Cash. Five lanes open for EZ-Pass. The EZ-Pass lanes do not accept cash. If they did there wouldn't be six mile back-ups. These are the bridges we crossed and the latest tolls -- $8.00/Outerbridge -- $13.00/Verrazano -- $6.50/Bklyn Battery Tunnel -- $6.50/Triboro, all using EZ-Pass which makes driving anything but easy.

At every bridge and tunnel we encountered, the situation was the same. Doesn't NY and NJ realize they attract tourists, and some locals, who do not own an EZ-Pass? Why are cash carrying folks treated as second class citizens? I got tired of hearing, "Dontcha have anything smaller?" every time I handed over a bill. I could understand a hundred or fifty, but a twenty? And I don't own a MetroCard either. You can't get on a city bus without one. They no longer take exact change. You know where you have to get a MetroCard for the bus? In the subway. I have to find and walk to a subway to get a card so I can ride the bus that I'm taking because I don't want to walk. And for the record I miss not being able to pay cash to a man sitting in a glass booth and getting a token in return to plop into the turnstile as I rush to catch a train. Inserting a card is so cold, and awkward for me. But I digress. This is about driving in New York.

Once you finally enter the city the next driving debacle ensues...trying to find a parking spot. My parents never jumped on the whole "cut out a driveway to the front of my house to stop my life from being a living hell" bandwagon years ago, and now it's "illegal" and impossible to accomplish. So many other houses spent their money wisely, and with all the older homes knocked down and made into multi-family units, there's not enough parking on the block. And why, oh why, do people who do have driveways and garages keep their freaking car on the street instead of in them hoarding a precious spot?

I'm actually luckier in finding a parking spot in Manhattan than I am in Bensonhurst. Naturally you have to already be aware of the parking regulations. Sundays are pretty wide open. You gotta get there right after 7:00pm when parking is allowed during the week. Certain neighborhoods will be easier to find than others and always be prepared to walk. I could only imagine how much worse the congestion would have been those days if it wasn't for the Jewish holidays. And the reason I knew there was a Jewish holiday going on was because alternate side of the street was lifted. Good thing the Jews have a lot of holidays.



It's always an adventure when we drive into the city. This trip we hit four out of five boros in one day -- road and bridge construction everywhere.



We weren't supposed to hit Queens coming from the Bronx, but wound up lost there on Randall's Island after crossing the Triboro which I think has been renamed the RFK Bridge, adding to the confusion. We had Miss Garmin with us who got us up to The Cloisters (pics in a future post) and into the Bronx and luckily nowhere near Yankee stadium's night game. She attempted to get us to the Village, but she's only as good as the driver who knows his left from right. We eventually got back to the mainland and I was able to put my mace away.

At Union Square we found a spot very quickly. As we walked through the Village I forgot about what I hated about New York City and remembered what I loved about it...New York City itself.

...to be continued.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Azaleas

My azaleas, are tough.



The front bushes stood in the way of window replacements. Willy nilly they were hacked away to make room for ladders and workers. I feared they wouldn't survive the stress and I had seen the last of the blooms.



I was wrong. Although they're not as full and well-shaped as they were last year, they soldiered on, adapted to the conditions and managed to bloom beautifully.



Even the most recent white azalea bush I planted in the back had been stomped upon during a winter snow. My husband said I killed it under my motorcycle boot sole. He was wrong.



The shrub adapted -- it's lower and wider than before -- but its blooms are more beautiful this year than last.



Then there's the yew -- notorious for being stubborn and tough -- it didn't fare as well as the dainty lady-like azaleas.



Yet, new growth springs forth...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Evil Egg Hunt Repost

Yup, Easter is Sunday and that means it's that time of the year again when I reach back into the archives and repost an old entry entitled "Evil Egg Hunt." I guarantee it's not your ordinary Easter egg hunt...

Evil Egg Hunt

In my travels I recently picked up a couple of papier mache Easter eggs from Tuesday Morning. At the time I wasn't sure if I really liked the Victorian era eggs or not, but figured I should just buy them because if I decided later on I did like them they would probably be gone. When I got home I really couldn't find a place for them so I just put them on top of the tv center.




When the kids got home from school my daughter asked what they were and brought them down to get a closer look. When she saw them up close and personal she screamed, "What are these Easter eggs from hell?" She thought they were scary and creepy looking and told me to get rid of them as they gave her the willies.




She particularly hated this one...who she said reminded her of a deranged devil rabbit walking his sidekick familiar, chick demon spawn.




Since she kept going on and on and on about my questionable "taste", I decided I would have a little fun with her. While she was having her snack I placed the evil egg on her bed, hiding it under her covers. I'm not very good at keeping secrets when playing a practical joke so kept giggling the whole night in anticipation of her discovery.




I actually went to bed first, but before I could fall into my peaceful slumber I heard her screams echo all the way from the other side of the house. She marched into my room trying to act all upset, holding the evil egg at arm's length, but instead cracked up laughing, finally realizing what I was giggling about all night. I told her I wouldn't tease her with it anymore. As I looked at the eggs closer I realized she was right, these things could give you a nightmare. The next morning I awoke to find Mr. Evil Rabbit staring at me...





Man, she was good. And silent. I never even heard her come into my room. Again, we laughed so hard that the $1.99 I paid for each one was suddenly worth it. Naturally I couldn't let her get the best of me so I sneaked the egg into her school bag.



We both left the house at the same time, she heading into the mini van with my husband, me in the Jeep with my son. Waiting at the light, next to each other, we both were cracking up and I told her her to look in her schoolbag. She started really cracking up and told me to look in the backseat of the Jeep. Holy shit! There it was! Just sitting there, staring at me. She is damn good. The light turned green and we went our separate ways, with me practically peeing my pants. Driving my son to school he came up with a brilliant idea to notch up the competition a bit. He suggested I bring the big guns out, Pee Wee Herman.




Yes! She hates that doll more than anything, and at her request, I've had it hidden in my closet for years. What a great idea. So while she was in school I placed Pee Wee under her covers. Later when she came home she felt something under her as she plopped on her bed. She slowly pulled the covers down to see what was under there and was met with his spooky stare.




She wouldn't even touch him to remove him, so asked her brother to come and get him out of her room, who by now realized what happened and was bent over in laughter as I was. She vowed revenge. Inadvertently when she sat on Pee Wee I think she may have wounded him because when I pulled the string on his back he just garbled gibberish. I was saddened to see him lose his voice but it was my own fault for placing it where she couldn't see it.

That night my husband wasn't feeling too good, so being the compassionate wife that I am, I kicked him out of our bed and sent him downstairs to infect the spare room instead of me. Hey, if mom goes down, we all go down. When I awoke in the morning I didn't have a 200 pound man next to me but this instead...





Pee Wee with a plastic bag over his head. She suffocated Pee Wee! Check and mate for the little one, as the only thing left to put in her bed is a horse's head...

Monday, April 18, 2011

Cherry Petals

As soon as the cherry trees blossomed fully the tornadic wind whipped up and blew most of the petals away...











All that's left is the pink carpet of petals...so soft between the toes.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Cherry Tree Blossoms

I hope today's weather doesn't wipe out all my cherry tree blossoms. I was waiting for the azaela bushes to bloom to photograph the front of the house. Hope I didn't wait too long. At least I got a couple of close-ups the other day...





Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Roanoke Times' Reckless Response to a 4th Grader

Imagine your fourth grader gets assigned a project to find out more about a particular state so he decides to contact newspapers across that state asking for help. Imagine he writes a note such as this one that landed across the desk of the Roanoke Times - "I am in fourth grade and my school is in Massachusetts. I’ve been so lucky to get the wonderful state of Virginia. I am so excited to learn more about the Old Dominion state so please help me!

Most of the stuff we use to learn about the state is kind of lame so I want some really cool stuff to learn about your amazing state. Some of the things that would be nice to get is, this newspaper article, little souvenirs, post cards, maps, pictures, general information, or any other items would be useful. Nothing alive or that can rot. Thank you for all your help."


Imagine your nine year old receiving a package containing among other things a Texas Tavern bumper sticker and key chain, a map of the Blue Ridge Parkway and a copy of this column written by Dan Casey.

Just a couple of excerpts -- "I’ve lived here almost 17 years, and it still amazes me every day. I promise that none of what follows will be lame. Or rotting."

"Virginia has only one ‘G’ in it, but there are three Gs that are very important down here. The first two are God and guns. Most people love both."

"Since July 1, Virginia has allowed concealed guns in bars, and just last week our attorney general ruled that carrying a concealed gun is OK in church. You need a permit to carry a concealed handgun, of course, but those are ridiculously easy to get. You can get one even if you’ve never touched a gun in your life."


"The third ‘G’ is for gays. Many people in Virginia do not love them. Unlike Massachusetts, gays can’t marry in Virginia....It’s OK for gays to own guns, though — at least so far."

Can you imagine the posterboard the nine year old can make from Mr. Casey's "help?" Yeah, neither can I. It doesn't matter if you agree or disagree with Casey's "thoughts," although I do differ with his contention that what he writes isn't "lame" or "rotting." What matters is it's a ridiculous response unsuitable for a nine or ten year old and posting the child's personal information is reckless at best.

How would you feel if your child received this response for a school project? How would you feel if your child was used as a pawn in order for a columnist to write a controversial column? How would you feel if your child's name, school and location was posted in the paper and on-line without your permission? Casey should be glad it wasn't my kid.

I'd be curious to read how other papers across the state and country handled the fourth graders' requests. I'd bet none of them got a lecture on guns and gays. And the Roanoke Times wonders why its circulation has plummetted and many locals say the paper's only suitable for fishwrapping...

fish wrapped in newspaper Pictures, Images and Photos

****UPDATE****

After "further reflection" Dan Casey contacted the student's teacher before sending his column. This is the teacher's response: "Thank you for contacting me; it would be better if you did not include the article from the paper. I am sure he will appreciate the other items."

Score one for common sense...Now let's hear the child's parents' response.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Dogwoods

When we had that cold spell it was like the dogwood blossoms froze in time. Some of the flowers haven't grown any larger since then and I don't think they will..





But at least one of my dogwood's has flourished...





Tuesday, April 5, 2011

ParaQuest 2011



Last weekend us Ghost Gals spent a day in Lynchburg attending a paranormal conference called ParaQuest hosted by the Seven Hills Paranormal group. It was a full day event filled with speakers focusing on different elements of the paranormal.

The first session I attended was entitled "Near Death Experiences" with Debbie Carvelli.



For over a decade a friend of mine kept telling me I simply MUST meet Debbie who is an intuitive. At that time she was a teacher at VWCC. I never contacted her and she eventually moved to Williamsburg and my friend moved to Florida. So naturally as soon as I saw her I introduced myself and told her what my friend had said. She held my hand and told me someone had told her that there was someone she had to meet that day. If I was the person, I don't know why because I didn't "feel" anything when I held her hand. Her session was quite interesting and I did come away with the title of my next book which is going to be about the paranormal.

Next up was Pat Bussard speaking about "Death and Burial Customs in the Victorian Era." I found the practice many folks of that time had of propping up their dead loved ones and posing them for a family portrait pretty gruesome. Some of the superstitions she mentioned are ones that I was taught such as grabbing a button and holding it until the funeral procession passes. Why? I still don't know. I just continue to do it.

A very entertaining speaker was Alpheus Chewning who runs a ghost tour in Virginia Beach.



I should have known he would be good just by the top hat he was wearing. He spoke of how people faked spirit photos in the early days reusing the glass negatives and superimposing a new photo with it. Even Mrs. Lincoln was fooled and swore Abe was looking over her shoulder. PT Barnum debunked the practice but some folks will believe what they want to believe so ignored him.

I'm sure you all heard of the Fox Sisters and their ability to communicate with the dead via rapping. They became famous but oddly enough when they were strapped to chairs and restrained they weren't able to communicate. They said it was because the spirits were angry but of course it was really because they were using their toes to make a snapping noise. Eventually one of the sisters admitted their hoax but again, people didn't want to believe it.

Mike St. Clair from VIPER, a local paranormal group, covered modern "Hoaxes and Fakes."



Lord knows there are plenty of those -- just Youtube poltergeist activity and a bunch will pop up. Mike debunked a couple and even created his own "poltergeist" video. Good stuff there, haha! Unfortunately some folks fake activity so they could become "popular" which makes it bad for the rest of us who truly do capture legit evidence. One word to the wise, if any group offers to investigate your premises for a fee, and/or promises to rid you of the activity, run!

By far the most interesting session of the day was hosted by Beth Brown and entitled "Civil War Ghosts of Virginia." Beth lives in Richmond, has a couple of books out, and has investigated many Civil War sites. She introduced us to locations this Yankee had never heard of before, but now wants to explore. You can investigate national park spots during the day free, but if you want to go after hours you must get permission and be prepared to pay a hefty overtime fee for the park ranger who will accompany you. Beth showed a video of Cold Harbor where she captured the 1:00am "mist" which is supposed to be soldiers walking through the forests. I couldn't find it on-line but it was quite eerie. If you don't want to pay big bucks to explore battlefields Beth recommended going as soon as the parks open so you will avoid the crowds.

Beth relayed a story how one spirit answered, "now or then?" when asked what year it was. When I told her my personal experience of a spirit in my house who answered, "This year!" to the investigator's question of what year was it, her eyes widened and she asked me, "Why in your own house?" Because I have too, was my response. She and others will understand when the book is finished...after the mystery is solved.

All in all it was an informative and fun day. I met some interesting people that I share common interests with and I look forward to next year's event. One friend of mine posted on Facebook saying he thought it sounded interesting, but he would be skeptical. My response was, "We're all skeptics, until we're not..."