Monday, April 30, 2007

The Bane of My Workday

I got a new job. It's much closer to home, great hours, and about the same pay. It's a smallish company, rather than an international corporation. I gave my 2 weeks notice and, but I'm beginning to feel like I made a mistake. I should have just quit my current job, effective immediately, so I could have been working at this new company today.

Let me explain the situation, here. The Oil & Gas Company I work for occupies 4 floors in a high-rise. All the doors are locked except the main doors in front of my desk, which unlock in the morning and lock again in the evening. Everyone has access cards to get around, but the people on my floor are used to not needing them and therefore don't carry them (or don't know where they are). We recently installed a new card reading system which:

1) was very expensive
2) will be obsolete when we move buildings in a few months
3) didn't frickin work at all for the first week and a half
4) necessitated the creation and distribution of new access cards for the several hundred employees who office in the building


1) meant nothing to me. They obviously have enough money to cover it.
2) is just stupid
3) I had to listen to everyone whine and complain because they had to get off the elevator at reception and take one flight of stairs to get to their own floor because their cards don't work, etc. I would have helpfully offered that they could use the exercise but it occurred to me that this may not actually be considered helpful by the recipient of such a well-intentioned comment. It would have been funny, though.
4) was the biggest inconvenience ever.

Now, the aftermath. Some people do not know how to use email and thus have not received the 5 or 6 emails I have sent reminding them to pick up their cards (Is this difficult? Walk down the hall to my desk and I'll just hand you the card. It's that easy, guys.). Many of the cards which have already been distributed have not been activated, forcing me to track down these individuals and obtain a tiny 5 digit number from the card so it can be activated. My own cards have supposedly been "activated" at least 3 times, but I think office services is lying to me.

In a stroke of brilliance, the company has seen fit to issue a new policy: My main lobby doors are to remain locked during business hours.

I'll repeat that. From now on, the main lobby doors stay locked during business hours. It's a ridiculous policy, in my opinion, but I'll get over it. The thing that I hate is how I have to get up and open the doors every time someone needs to get in, ie, every 2 minutes. This looks unprofessional and, more importantly, is extremely inconvenient for me. If I'm opening the door and the phone rings, I miss the call. If I'm answering the phone and someone comes to the doors, they just sit there and wait, gazing at me with a expression of hurt, looking through the glass like orphans at a candy shop store front, longing to go inside but knowing that they'll never be able to.

Furthermore, I'm having to tell everyone the same thing, over and over. "Sorry, but you have to carry your cards with you now. It's [my stupid company] policy to keep these doors locked during business hours. And no, I don't know why." I hate repeating myself, especially when there's a sign on the door that says the same thing. What I'm thinking is; "Are you illiterate, fool?!? (gestures wildly at sign) Now begone, with you! Your endless questions and accusations are as a poison to my soul! (weeps)" All that to say, I can't get out of here fast enough.

In other news, I got my hair cut yesterday and it's really cute. I'd promise to post a picture, but we all know I can't be trusted. But I have figured out HOW to post pictures from the camera. It's all about the WHEN now, so I promise I'll do it... sometime... in the future. You know, whenever. Eventually, ish.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Our Pot Dealer

Stephen and I were not engaged for very long. 5 months, ish. But somehow, they found out.

I probably filled out some form on a bridal website, and soon my yahoo email was completely filled with "special offers" and "not junk email" from legitimate and shady companies alike (them). One shady company that somehow got ahold of my info is Royal Prestige (Please, click the link. The opening montage of women dancing with cookware is not to be missed). I got a voicemail one day from a mumbly woman with the tonal expression, personality, and enthusiasm of a slug.

"Good afternoon, Andrea. This is *mumbling* calling from *mumbling*. You and your husband, er, fiancee, have won a vacation *mumbling* a shopping spree for 1000 dollars. That's right, 1000 dollars. Please call *barely discernable phone number* to redeem your prize. Thank you, uhh... Oh, I'm sorry, Rachel. Thank you Rachel."

Great. So I called and got the same woman who left the voicemail. No surprise, she sounded exactly the same live as she did on a voicemail.
Me: "How did I win?"
Gastropod: "We drew your name at random and-"
Me: "No, I mean I didn't sign up for a contest. How did I win?"
Gastropod: "*mumbling*" (I decide to let it go. I can't understand her anyway)
Me: "Ok, so what's the catch? You're not just giving away vacations, here."
Gastropod: "We do ask that you come to a cookware presentation. There's no obligation to buy. You can schedule it *mumbling* at the Marriott."
Me: Alright, fine.

So that was that. We went to the presentation and these pots and pans were pretty amazing. Non-porous metal. Heats quickly and evenly. Won't burn food. Retains moisture and all the vitamins and minerals found in your food. A healthy, easy, effective cooking system. Lifetime guarantee. The lids are rigged with a little spring encased in a hard plastic that whistle when your food reaches a certain temperature (the highest temperature at which said vitamins and minerals are retained). So we bought them and got out free vacation deal. The "1000 dollar shopping spree" turned out to be an online coupon to be used for bridal party gifts and the like (we didn't use it).

We got our pans, and we were so excited. Very soon after using them we discovered they didn't work quite the same way as we were led to believe, be it due to the actual crappiness of the cookware, or the crappiness of our range, or both. The took half an hour to heat up. The nifty little plastic whistle springs kept melting. They burned our food like crazy. In short, these pans suck.

Last night I stuck the large pan on the stove to heat up for the required ridiculous amount of time so I could boil noodles for dinner. I stuck the lid on, otherwise it takes even longer. I sat on the couch and watched the Simpsons. Stephen got home, and we both noticed a smell. Coming from the kitchen. Like burning plastic.

The little plastic whistle had melted AGAIN, and burned onto the bottom of the pot, and I opened the lid, and black smoke poured from the pan like someone was doing voodoo inside it. We were both running around breathing through the collars of our shirts, hacking and coughing, trying to open doors and windows and keep the smoke away from the smoke detector. I got the pot outside and put it on the grill and poured water in it so it would stop smoking. At this point I noticed the inside of our pan was rainbow colored, like an oil stain in a parking lot. That's not natural.

Neither of us could breathe in the house so we turned on all the fans and left the windows open and went out to dinner. When we got back the air had cleared, but now our large pot has melted plastic in the bottom of it and I'm pretty sure we both inhaled some toxic fumes. Plus, we missed The Office because we couldn't stay in the house.

So I'd like to say a big F*** YOU to Royal Prestige.


I have only 3 letters to share this morning:



Wednesday, April 25, 2007

We left the next morning. As we were walking back and forth, trying to finalize everything, we were approached numerous times by RCI agents and I was proud of Stephen for "just saying no". They took forever trying to refund our food money so we sat in the lobby joking about warning away the arriving visitors; "Run, while you still can! Get out, if you know what's good for you! Don't eat the sausage!" All in all, we only stayed one full day, and less than 48 hours total.

Stephen wanted to buy some quality cigars for himself and one of his groomsmen so we asked the taxi driver if we could stop. Taxi Man drove past several gift shops and a building labeled "Cigar Factory" before stopping in front of his buddy's shop. Stephen was expecting a great deal like a friend of his had gotten, a box of 25 Cohibas for 30 bucks (Cohibas sell for $25 a piece stateside). The shop owner showed us a box of 25 for 125 bucks, not the deal we were hoping for. Finally he showed us a box of 10 for 60 bucks. We checked our money. We had 34 dollars between us. We had also gotten pesos, just enough to pay our driver. I handed him the 34 dollars. He counted it.

Shop Owner: It's not enough. (points at box) 60.
Me: Oh, Ok. Well, Sorry. (reaches for money in his hand)
SO: (yanks hand back) Well, maybe I give it to you for 50.
Stephen: Sorry, that's all we have. 34. (reaches for money again)
SO: (withdrawing money again) Well... maybe, 40? You got 40?
Me: no, no, that's ALL our Money. 34.
SO: You get rest in pesos, yeah? Driver brings extra back to me, ok?
Me: We don't have enough.
Stephen: We have enough to pay our driver. We don't have extra.
SO: Oh, yeah, ok. You just give the rest in pesos, ok? Taxi Driver will bring back to me, yeah?
(This repeats itself 3 or 4 times. SO even gets a calculator to show how many pesos we should send back to him. Stephen explains that a friend found them for much cheaper, and the SO offers helpfully that "that not the real thing".)
ME: Ok, we got enough pesos to pay the taxi for taking us to the airport, and NO MORE. 34 Dollars, that's IT.
Stephen: That's all we have.

When the guy realized it was 34 bucks or nothin, he reluctantly let the box of cigars go for a reduced (yeah, right) price. Stephen jokes about how we had to pay $70 to the cab driver; "If your buddy wants to share some of HIS money with you, that's fine, but we're NOT giving you ANY EXTRA MONEY." The cool thing about this Taxi Man, though, was that he listened to great music. When a new song came on he would tap at his radio and announce "Salsa" or "Meringue", and maybe dance a little, to further indicate what kind of music it was. We even heard a Shakira song.

We had to pay $100 each to change our flight, which, as it turned out, was less than they were supposed to charge us. It took them at least half an hour to charge our card (this is typical in the D. R., we decided) and we took off around 3.

We got to Atlanta and were supposed to fly out at 8:15. We got Qdoba (which was such a delight after the food we ate at the resort) and went to wait at our gate, 45 minutes early. I began to realize just how terrible my legs really looked. Only the tops of my thighs and knees were burned. People are often prone to use hyperbole when describing sunburn: "I was bright red!" People, I am not exaggerating here: RED is exactly the color of the tops of my thighs and knees. RED. As in, Red Lobster. Red Fire Engine. Red Tomato. Red Rachel.

I talked to my dad and reported the situation, and he reserved a nice place in Estes Park for us. So Stephen and I got to talking and lost track of time. Suddenly, I wondered why they weren't boarding yet. My clock said 8:11. Now, this is the icing on the bad honeymoon cake: apparently, they changed the gate without making an announcement, and we had to get from Terminal E to Terminal A in 4 minutes. I can only imagine that we were quite the spectacle running down the walkways, both wearing brown shorts and light blue shirts. Stephen told me just to get to the gate as fast as I could and he'd wait for me. Stephen used to be a runner, and he looked pretty cool dodging between people at a full run. I, as you should know, would rather wrestle a grizzly bear than run a quarter mile, and I made a pathetic show of trying to keep up, panting so hard I'm in tears. Pretend you're walking down terminal A, when a dude in brown in blue darts past you with a hurried, "excuse me!" Just when you're recovering from the surprise, you have an odd sense of de ja vu, except this time it's a woman who looks like she's about to pass out and whose thighs are bright red on the front and white on the back.

We weren't the only ones to miss the flight, which I suppose can be expected when you fail to announce a gate change. We got a different flight about and hour and a half later and got home past midnight after paying a cab almost 30 dollars to drive us literally 3 minutes to the friends house where our car was parked. And let me tell you, there's nothing more romantic than coming home to a tiny, slightly fusty apartment which is absolutely packed with wedding gifts, and suddenly remembering that the bed has no sheets on it because they are in the washing machine.

We spent the next three nights at a cabin in Estes Park that had a kitchen and a hot tub in very suite. It's a modest little place with typical mountainy decor (pine cones, elk, hardwood, etc.) that could best be described as "cute" (which is GREAT), but our resort in the D.R. made this place look positively glamorous. We did dinners, a wine tasting, shopping, horseback riding, and just chilling out. We got the chance to reflect on the tropical disaster we'd survived, and decided that the honeymoon was, on the whole, a success. Stephen told a friend, "If honeymoons are for getting to know each other really well and facing adversity together, we had the best honeymoon ever."

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The next day started innocently enough. Shower. Try to do something with my unruly hair. Get dressed. Head to breakfast. Eat a mediocre meal. Stephen suggests we try this weird tea that sort of smells like like a porta-potty when you put the bag in hot water so I don't drink it.

Unbeknownst to us, the bracelets we were wearing in order to gain access to the many all-inclusive benefits available to us at this fabulous resort were given to us with a secret purpose. Ours were gold colored, making us clearly identifiable as non-members of the timeshare, RCI. So RCI hires guys to just sort of wander around the resort, near the cafeteria and the bar areas, waiting to snag non-members such as ourselves in order to lure them away to a meeting with an RCI agent. They offer promises of a "free gift" and "tour".

We were surprised when one stuck himself directly in our way as we left the cafeteria that morning, shoved his hand out in the typical American handshake greeting (which is very unnatural for Dominicans), and said "Hello!!" far too enthusiastically.

Us: Uhh, hi... (we both shake his hand)
Him: My name is something something and where are you from???
Stephen: We're from Colorado. (I'm sceptical. I'm not saying anything.)
Him: something... work for RCI... something?
Stephen: What?
Him: I'm a guy who works for RCI... something come to a meeting this morning? Something free gift for you. Invitation something in your welcome packet.
(We exchange puzzled glances)
Stephen: I don't think we got a welcome packet. Anyway, we just finished eating, so...
Him: Well maybe you just come round this way tomorrow around 9, yes?
Stephen: Sure, we'll be here all week. We'll stop by. (Lies)

Really the conversation was longer than that but I was so confused by a) his accent, b) his affected enthusiasm, c) the fact that Stephen kept talking to him even after it became obvious that he was just hustling us, and I don't remember it word for word. The thing is, when Stephen was in the D.R. the first time, he was just hanging out with regular people who were genuine and nice and honest, so every time we talked to one of these guys, he was waiting for a sparkle of honesty somewhere in their fakey insincere demeanor, but it never happened.

After that we decided to chill on the beach and read. We put sunscreen on, changed into swimsuits and headed out. At the bar another RCI guy spotted us. He told us we wanted a Puerto Plata tour (which we would get if we went to the meeting, I guess). Stephen said "No, we don't." The guy said, "I think you do, you want a tour..." I decided to crush this man's efforts once and for all by interjecting, "We don't want a tour. We're on our honeymoon. We're getting drinks and towels and going to the beach. Goodbye." I took Stephen by the hand and left the guy mumbling after us.

We had a great afternoon at the beach, while it lasted. I drank a little more than I should have considering the heat and the fact that I hadn't eaten or drank much water. We played in the ocean for a while but we both hurt our feet and got out (Stephen tripped and cut his foot, I stepped on something and got a splinter thing in the ball of my foot). We went back to the hotel room and took a nap. Honestly the rest of the afternoon and evening is a complete blur to me because I came down with food poisoning. I think I told Stephen I was dizzy and I think he helped me walk with him to the cafeteria hoping I just needed to eat. I took a pile of lettuce and some rice and ate 2 or 3 of the pieces of lettuce. The smell of all that food made me feel even more queasy and Stephen must have decided I needed to go back to the room. I felt a little better after throwing up in the bushes but Stephen made me take Pepto Bismol when I started to feel sick again.

By this time I had an impressive sunburn revealing itself on my back, shoulders, chest, stomach, thighs, and scalp, despite the fact that I had sunscreen on. So I'm dizzy, too burned to move, can't walk on one foot (reference my injury diagram, above), and can't walk at all on the slippery hotel room floor. Stephen went to buy some aloe vera but returned fuming when he discovered the outrageous prices. I think that's when he decided he wanted to go home. I decided when I was retching in the bushes. Enough is enough!

Monday, April 23, 2007

I don't know where to begin with our first afternoon (Monday afternoon) at the resort. After we shelled out seventy dollars for Speedy's cab ride, it got crap, crappy, and crappier.

crappy thing 1: They overcharged us by one day for the all-inclusive food deal. Not a huge deal, but it took 20 or 30 minutes for them to put $80 back on the card.

crappy thing 2: We walked into our suite and into the bedroom and saw 2 twin beds. Let me say it again: TWO. BEDS. Separated by a bedside table. Think I Love Lucy- but I bet even Lucy and Ricky shared a bed on their honeymoon. Seriously? 2 tiny beds? ?!?!? Come on, Luperon Beach Resort. That sucks.

crappy thing 3: The floors in our suite were all tile. This means that within 5 minutes of opening the windows and balcony doors, the humidity made the floors completely wet and slippery. This led us to discover a functional use for the superfluous bed: the comforter was spread out on the floor as a rug so we wouldn't slip and break ourselves.

crappy thing 4: The beach. I was thrilled and overjoyed it because the only other time I've seen the ocean (aside from when I was too young to remember) was when Stephen proposed to me in South Carolina. The prospect of SWIMMING in the ocean was almost too much for me to handle. We quickly discovered that it wasn't all it was cracked up to be. The beach itself looks innocent enough, but along this particular stretch of beach, enormous rocks hide just beneath the surface and you end up tripping over them as soon as you get waist deep in the water. Stephen indulged me till' I got tired of this game and we went to go eat dinner.

crappy thing 5: The "restaurant" was in fact more of a buffet. You pick up your own plate, slop out some food , sit at some random table squished between the lady with cankles and the family with 4 unruly children, and eat. This food is kept out in troughs for several hours during meal times, in open air. You narrow down exactly WHAT you will slop onto your plate by choosing from the following categories: "acceptable", "questionable", or "dear god, what IS that?" I'm sorry, but if you don't have a menu, you're not a restaurant.

crappy thing 6: When you picture a beach resort, you probably think of Pina Coladas and Strawberry Daiquiris. As all-inclusive guests, we could have whatever we wanted from the bar. The thing is, the drinks come in disappointing little plastic cups similar to the one you'd use to serve your 5 year old milk, and I don't think our drinks came with much more alcohol than a glass of milk might. For me, pretty glasses are half the fun of mixed drinks. And I need some alcohol in me if I'm going to spend all day surrounded by fat, sunburned, speedo'd men in their late 50s. We started asking for our drinks with double shots- hey, we're paying 80 bucks a day! We want our money's worth!

crappy thing 7: Our building was very near the main bar area where they apparently have live music and karaoke late into the night. Enough said.

crappy thing 8: Crappy thing 7 is even crappier when you already can't sleep because it's sweltering hot. It's even hotter because you're sharing a tiny bed with your husband (we would not sleep in separate beds on principal. It's our frickin honeymoon, we are sleeping in the same bed.) and he can't sleep either and neither of us ate very well that evening. Again, enough said. Things 1-8 make for serious mood ruiners.

We held hands mostly to comfort each other. Dominican driving is terrifying for someone who is used to American driving. It would be an understatement to say it takes some getting used to.

They have lanes (in a fashion) and they drive on the same sides we do in the US, but the general rule of thumb is "if your car fits, it's legal". At first, I was mildly alarmed at how fast Speedy was driving, but I speed too, after all. Then, I was mildly alarmed at how close Speedy passed other cars and mopeds. Then, I was mildly amused by the number of people/amount of random crap that Dominicans are able to fit onto a moped. We saw one moped with 3 people on it. We saw a guy on a moped somehow managing to carry a large metal gas canister while navigating heavy traffic. Another person was carrying a large bundle of some kind of grain. I'm not sure if I could adequately describe the circus that was our drive from the airport to the resort. Vehicles pass each other into oncoming traffic, on blind turns, and while driving up hills. Cars pass mopeds, pedestrians, and each other within inches. Everyone tailgates each other.

It's a mess, but somehow, it works, and you do get used to it. Dominicans grow up driving like this. They go everywhere driving like this. It's a completely different set of expectations there. Dominicans don't get angry when someone is driving 6 inches behind them at 40 miles an hour, or when someone swings out and passes them with 4 inches between them. They don't seem frightened when they're passing on a bend and suddenly a truck is approaching in the opposite lane. They just squeeze back into the right lane. People just make room for each other.

The country is gorgeous. They have dramatic peaks, I would guess 5 or 6 thousand feet high, covered with green to the very tip. The place smells exotic. Everything is lush and growing. The towns are bright and vibrant. The cities we drove through were absolutely bursting with life and energy.

We finally made it to the resort and checked in. (it turned out that *17 dollars* was actually *seventy dollars* and we had to give the driver almost all our cash) My aunt and uncle are members of a timeshare called RCI and as a wedding present offered us a week's stay at one of the all inclusive locations. We chose Luperon Beach Resort- the pictures of the place were beautiful, the reviews sounded great, the amenities were many (restaurant on site, all kinds of activities, beach side location, etc), and we had a good overall impression. Stephen spent time in the D.R. a few years ago and loved it, and I've heard so much about it, I wanted to experience it first hand. All it would cost us was $80 a day for all the food and drink we could want. Everything was perfect. We got our luggage back, we made it to the resort alive, the weather was fabulous- we had a week ahead of us to chill and enjoy each other.

(sorry for not posting this weekend. I wanted to but didn't have time. I'll post like crazy today!)

Friday, April 20, 2007

Our seats on the plane were exit row seats, so they were a) cool because we had tons of leg room and b) crappy because the view from our window was the wing and the engine. I showed Stephen the safety procedures, pointed to the people in the pictures, and quoted Fight Club for at least the third time in 2 days; "Calm as Hindu Cows."

We get off the plane and are immediately met with a sensation I've never really experienced, having lived in Colorado my whole life: Humidity. LOTS of it. There was a little quartet playing salsa music as we exited the terminal. We got to the baggage claim area and waited. And waited. And waited some more. Soon there was only 5 or 6 of us waiting. Still no bags. At this point I am rapidly accelerating into a state of panic. I almost began to cry. Not so much because I wanted my Tiva flip-flops or because I spent a good $150 dollars on lingerie that I would never wear and Stephen would never see, but because nothing seemed more hopeless than the prospect of wearing my stank frickin khakis for another week.

Picture Puerto Plata baggage claim: There are 6, maybe 8 airport employees visible. There are 2 of those rotating stations where you pick up luggage, neither of them are loaded or moving. There is a money exchange station with 2 people working. There is a desk against the wall with a computer on it. There are a bunch of unclaimed bags sitting in a pile (which we checked, with no luck). Across the room is the D.R.'s customs area (4 dudes who look at your bags), open doors, and beyond, waiting taxi drivers framed by swaying palm trees and open skies.

We go to the single desk and talk to a guy who speaks minimal English and ask him where the Delta desk is. He taps his desk and says "This is". Troubling. He takes our baggage claims tickets, mumbles, and messes on the computer for about 10 minutes. Remember, I'm still rapidly approaching a full-blown episode here. I'm chewing my bottom lip, fidgeting with anything and everything I can find, stamping impatiently, and basically doing everything in my power to keep from HAVING an episode. CAN NOTHING GO RIGHT???

Suddenly he said something and I was jolted from my little reverie by Stephen's voice announcing three very important words, "He found them." Turns out, our baggage managed to make the flight we missed and made it into the D.R. despite the supposedly very rigid rules about international baggage, and They had been keeping them in a locked holding area. It turns out Delta had been lying about our bags stopping in Atlanta, being in Atlanta, and being on our flight. One thing I've learned from this trip is that airlines and politicians have a fundamental trait in common: they're all liars.

I could have kissed that little Dominican man (but kissed Stephen instead). My panic was replaced with ecstasy. We got in the taxi that the resort sent for us (they told us on the phone the day before that it would cost $17, payable in American dollars) and got on our way- the trip was supposed to be an hour and a half. The taxi driver had a stuffed Speedy Gonzales hanging from the rear view mirror of his van (which sort of reminded me of the blue line). Our taxi driver sort of resembled Speedy Gonzales. I opened the window, it started to rain. I breathed in the humid island air. "Finally," I thought, "Our honeymoon can actually start". Stephen and I held hands.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

In Atlanta our first order of business was to find our luggage that Delta promised would be there. But Delta lied, ladies and gentleman. After we trusted them, Delta betrayed us. However, I fell instantly in love with Atlanta and with all of Georgia and everyone who lives there. Completely contrary to our NY experience, every single person we talked to was POLITE and SMILED and NICE just to be nice and seemed genuinely interested in helping us out. So if you happen to be a reader from the peach state, let me just say: I love you. A lot. Like, more than I hate New York, I love you.

Anyway, we were assured our luggage was in the dubious "international holding area" mysteriously located "downstairs" and would be put on our flight to the D.R. the next day when we boarded. We settled for 2 Delta overnight care packages which contained a tiny toothbrush, tube of toothpaste, small stick of deodorant just barely this side of opaque, enormous one-size-fits-all Delta t-shirt, and a hairbrush like the kind I used to see little girls using on their barbies. We rented a car (a surprisingly fun-to-ride-in P.T. Cruiser which had omniniftitious* cooling/heating vents on the dashboard that I played with for a full 10 minutes upon getting in the car) and headed to the hotel. As a side note, the hip-hop/rap/R&B radio station in Atlanta plays WAY better music than Denver's.

I was expecting a motel near the airport: cheap, convenient. What Stephen had actually booked was a room at the Grand Hyatt, downtown Atlanta. They upgraded us to the honeymoon suite for FREE. (Atlanta, Seriously. I love you. All of you.) When we walked in, there was a bottle of champagne resting in a bucket of ice next to two glasses, along with a dish set with giant chocolate dipped strawberries and white chocolate shavings. I melted.

We decided to go to a nice restaurant for dinner but, as we didn't have our luggage, we didn't have any clothes to wear except the ones we'd worn all night and all day which looked decent enough for a nice restaurant but were becoming progressively stank. We went anyway, to Atlanta Fish Market, and our waiter sounded like Barry White. He was totally cool just like everyone else in Atlanta. (Atlanta, have I ever told you you're my hero? You're everything I would like to be.)

In the morning Stephen goes, "Babe, I love that shirt. You just look so good in it... I think you should wear it again today." "Yeah?" I responded, "I think I will. It's my new favorite shirt. And I like those jeans you've got. You should wear them again, too." At this point our clothes were legitimately stank, which prompted Stephen to soak his boxers in the sink and then iron them dry. ("This cleans them how?" I wondered, but Stephen explained that were "wrinkly". Huh.)

We got to take free breakfast stuffs from the restaurant downstairs in the morning and made our way hazily to the airport in some famous Atlanta traffic. We got completely lost trying to find the rental car place but a sweet girl at the store stayed on the phone with me and helped us find our way. ( I can fly higher than an eagle, Atlanta, for you are the wind beneath my wings...) The morning went without incident and the very beautiful lady at our gate told us she was sure our luggage was already on the plane, but she would double check.

We got on the plane, again with this hope and false sense of security we were fast becoming accustomed to, all excited to FINALLY be tasting that sweet ocean air in a matter of hours. It's only uphill from here, right?

*omniniftitious: Adj. Possessing the quality of complete niftiness, I.E., Totally Nifty**

**This is in fact not a real word. I made it up in 11th grade during English class and since I went to a small school the English teacher put it on a vocab test as a joke. Please start using it in your regular rotation.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

I'll just start off with some basic info. We were to fly Frontier to New York City, then switch to Delta to fly to Atlanta, then the Dominican Republic. We had troubles from the beginning with our baggage since we were flying international and switching airlines, but Frontier said "No problem, we'll handle it," and checked our baggage all the way to our final destination. So Stephen and I got coffee and hunkered down to wait, all excited for tropical breezes and sex on the beach (I mean the drink, come on guys). I also remember at this point that the cute new flat shoes I had worn to dinner were beginning to be uncomfortable, but I thought "Oh well, I'll be barefoot on the sand by tomorrow afternoon."

We were scheduled to leave Denver at 12:30 am and arrive at the above mentioned airport (I shall not utter the name again) at 6:00 am, local time. Since it was a cold, snowy, and ICY evening, Frontier (logically) decided to wait till we were all boarded and 15 minutes past take-off time to de-ice the plane. We didn't get to New York till 6:40, and then we sat on the ground for what seemed like forever waiting for a gate.

Ever been through LaGuardia Airport in New York, NY? This is possibly the most inconvenient, ill conceived airport ever designed by man.

First this short little New Yorker with a big mouth wouldn't step two feet back in front of her seat so Stephen and I could slip past her and run to catch out flight that left in 10 minutes. "I don't care. I've got places to go, too. I'm in a hurry and I want to go home and I don't give a damn about you." We were both astonished by this attitude and I actually argued with her a little (when Stephen tells the story he says I beat the crap out of her).

Anyway, we get out, we run like mad. This airport actually has the terminals in separate buildings and there are 2 buses (literally, 2 single buses, not lines) that go between them. The RED line and the BLUE line. The red line came first, and the sign said it would take us to Delta. We get on the bus and the driver begins the following exchange:

Driver Dude: (without looking up) Where you goin?
Us: Delta Airlines.
Dude: You need the blue line. This da red line.
Us: Oh... But the sign-
Dude: I'm da red line. You need da blue line for Delta. (Stephen exits bus. I am not satisfied by this reiterated and ultimately ineffectual explanation.)
Me: Are you sure? (Points at sign)
Dude: This is ma job, lady.
Me: (Glowers at him and exits bus)

5 minutes later (By the way, it was FREEZING in NY), the BLUE line shows up. The thing is older than God and makes this terrifying noise when the doors close, when the doors open, when it accelerates, when it slows down, when it stops, and when it makes turns, but the driver is cordial enough and takes us to the correct terminal.

Obviously, we missed our connection. We spent the following 2 or 3 hours going back and forth between Delta and Frontier (in separate buildings, naturally) being told contradictory things about rescheduling our flight, where our baggage would be, etc. Frontier says "No, we can't do that, go to the Delta desk." Delta says "No, you'll have to have Frontier do that for you, we can't." No one exhibited any effort to help us find a solution or track down our baggage. We got nasty attitude and plain rudeness from every agent and representative we talked to. This is service? We were treated like an inconvenience at each desk and office.

In the end, we could get to Atlanta that day, but the sad reality was that we wouldn't make it to the D.R. that day. 2 flights go daily to the airport we were trying to reach, and we would miss both of them. I think I cried the entire morning. I was devastated, Stephen was livid. On our last exasperated visit to the Delta desk, the girl asked "Well? What do you want to do?" Stephen and I exchanged glances and he answered, "We want to get the hell out of New York."

This might be an unfair blanket statement based on my circumstances and the very short amount of time I spent there, but we didn't meet a single person with any discernible compassion or sense of human decency. From now on I won't hesitate to go out of my way to help someone out.

Our flight to Atlanta didn't leave for another hour, so we got some "yogurt" and I sat at our gate while Stephen paced the walkway, on his phone, trying to book a hotel in Atlanta. We were assured that our bags would stop in Atlanta because Delta can get an enormous fine for letting international luggage cross borders without their owners on the flight. So we sat down again, tired and slightly less excited but still ready for those sandy beaches the next day.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

As I said, it was perfect (My only complaint was that it was snowing, but it really was beautiful). My mom and I stopped at Devil's Food in Wash Park for this amazing Jasmine tea that I just can't get enough of. My girls all looked fabulous, though one of my... uh, less endowed bridesmaids was having trouble keeping her strapless dress up and was forced to use safety pins in some rather personal areas. My Grandmother made my dress and veil and I felt beautiful with it on. I looked exactly like I had always imagined.

We had a time of worship before the wedding party marched in, so we got to worship in the balcony so the boys couldn't see us. My good friend John (I've known John since I was 11!! A big thank you for being a part of my wedding!!!) led worship on his guitar, with his brother on the keys (the kid has GIFT), our buddy Sandy on the bass, and the father of the bride himself on the drumset (he sounded great).

There's nothing that compares to the feeling I got when we entered the sanctuary and I saw Stephen standing at the other end of the aisle, grinning like he'd never laid eyes on me before. It was a sweet moment. I kept seeing familiar faces in the pews and I'm the kind of person that drops everything and runs to hug someone she hasn't seen in a while, so this was an exercise in restraint for me, more than anything. Our pastor's charge was short, sweet, and very good. Stephen's vows were lovely, and I managed to spit mine out without stumbling over more than 4 words.

Then, the surprise. After the vows and rings, our pastor told Stephen I had a surprise for him and handed me the mic. You see, I decided to follow in the footsteps of my pastors wife and surprise my husband to be by singing a song at the wedding. Thing is, I decided to be even more foolish and sing it A Capella. The song was "Our Love is Here to Stay", by George and Ira Gershwin (the rendition I did was more like Natalie Cole's). It's a beautiful, classic, jazzy song and the lyrics said exactly what I wanted to say. As I took the mic from my pastor, my mind was racing. "Holy crap holy crap what the HELL am I THINKING?????" I mumbled something about being very nervous and careened right into my surprise.

As I coughed up the first line, "It's very clear..." suddenly, it was. Here I am, in front of a church full of people who love me, looking into the eyes of the man I adore, doing the only thing I've ever felt comfortable doing. Why should I be nervous? I belted out the rest of the song, and Stephen even cried as he mouthed the words of the chorus along with me.

We did communion and a sand ceremony during which Stephen secretly arranged to have John play one of my favorite songs on his guitar (that was wonderful, Stephen). Basically we had 2 colors of sand (blue for him, green for me) and one big vase. We poured the sand into the vase to symbolize our unity, but the jars were awkward shapes so Stephen's poured slower than mine resulting in a good 2 inches of blue sand on top. Later John mentioned this suggestively to Stephen and Stephen responded "Yeah, I start slow but I finish strong". They laughed, as boys do. This is practically my brother Stephen is talking to. Embarrassing.

The reception was fun, fun, fun with dancing and pictures and so much delicious looking food that I didn't get to eat. My dad danced with me when "Play That Funky Music, White Boy" came on. The silly things men do for their daughters. The first thing my cousin David asked me when I walked in was "Which one of your friends will dance with me? Oh, and congratulations!"

We thought we lost our digital camera, found it, and went to Morton's Steakhouse for delicious food and drink and the most bizarre menu presentation. They actually wheeled a cart to our table with a live lobster on it.

Next, our plane leaves at 12:30 am and the fun begins.

Think Before You Give!

I'm back! Thanks for all your sweet comments and the such! (Kelli, it was wonderful to have you guys here! I wish we could have spent more time.)

We had a fabulous wedding day. Everything went perfectly and we had a blast. The honeymoon was sort of a series of disasters, but we ended up laughing about the whole thing and having fun anyway. It's a long, ridiculous story, and I feel in order to do justice to that story I'll be posting it in a series. That series will be titled (what else?): "The Honeymooners". You can check back every day for new episodes. Also, since we have a digital camera now, I'll try to post pictures as soon as Stephen and I figure out how to hook the camera up to the laptop.

Couples typically register for gifts somewhere; we did Bed Bath & Beyond and Target. Pretty standard. There are unwritten rules concerning this practice and I now see it's is my duty to inform the public at large of these rules.

If you are invited to a wedding, you usually fall into 2 different groups: General Admission and Special Privileges. If you are immediate family or close friends that are in regular contact (at least once a week-ie, you know them well) with the bride and/or groom, you can count yourself in the Special Privileges group. If you are anyone else, you are General Admission. Don't take this personally. G.A. just means it's customary for you to give the couple a gift they registered for, or money. You know that part of the invitation advising where the couple is registered? It's not so much a suggestion as it is a polite way of saying "Please don't buy us some random thing you thought we might like even though you the last time we talked was at the Christmas party 2 years ago." If you're in the S.P. group, feel free to use your intimate knowledge of the bride and/or groom to get something meaningful or useful, even if they didn't register for it.

Stephen's aunt (God bless the woman, she really is a cool lady and I can't wait to meet her) gave us something we definitely didn't register for. It reminds me a little of book reports and science projects I did in junior high. You know, you get the posterboard display that folds open and stands up, and you put graphs and pictures and whatever on it. That's kind of what Stephen's aunt got us. It's from hallmark, and it's a stand up photo display that's called something like "Our Love Story", it's hard to describe. It's a nice idea, but... super cheesy... it's NOT our style. A blender or some hand towels would have been more useful and just as sweet.

Stephen and I drink wine, thus, we registered for wine glasses, which we received along with 2 bottles of wine. Our good friend Liz gave us martini glasses and a bottle of vodka, which I thought was a clever idea that reflected something I mentioned in passing during a conversation, and since Liz has special privileges, it was cool to get stuff we didn't register for from her.

Next rule: NO regifting, period (unless you happen to have the exact item the couple registered for and you happen to not need or want said item and said item happens to be in new condition). 2 of Stephen's friends (R&M) just got married 4 months ago. We like them but never hang out. We saw R&M at their wedding and again at someone else's wedding- in other words, they are General Admission. Now, R&M got us martini glasses and a bottle of vodka. Odd. We didn't register for that. Our suspicion is that they got the glasses for their wedding and regifted us. One word, people: TACKY. Now we have 8 martini glasses, 2 bottles of vodka, and we don't drink martinis often.

Here's the next rule. A bunch of people made out checks to "Stephen and Rachel (last name)". Now, I haven't changed my name yet (I'm going to, but it takes time). The thing is, if the check says Stephen and Rachel, we BOTH have to sign for them to deposit it. If it says Stephen or Rachel, only one of us has to. The other other thing is, I can't sign them. My name is still Rachel Maiden, not Rachel Married. What if I wasn't planning on changing my name? Could we not cash those checks? So, checks made out to the married couple: cute at the time, but frickin inconvenient when we want to pay off our credit cards.

I know it's the thought that counts, blah blah blah, but we've spent more time at the bank and running around from home furnishing store to home furnishing store that we have at home with each other. Newlyweds don't want to spend their first day home together driving from Target to Target trying exchange plates. I'm just saying.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

An End, A Beginning

Well, it is currently "the big day". It's 1:09, saturday morning, and I JUST finished writing my vows. Nothing like the last minute, hey? I had them in my head for a while but I just got inspiration and wrote them out. I also went to the spa, did my nails, and packed for the honeymoon. Basically I'm bringing:

flip flops
tank tops

We're headed to the caribbean! Our flight leaves at, like, midnight, so we're just going out to dinner after the reception.

Everyone toasted us at our rehearsal dinner. John was really sweet, and Stephen's sister Kelli brought down the house with funny stories about Stephen as a kid. My dad passed around a photo album of child Rachel (including one shot of me, maybe 2 years old, SHIRTLESS, sitting on his lap while he played his drumset). Then he cried. He almost cried durng the rehearsal every time he put my hands in Stephen's. We're both going to fall apart during the daddy daughter dance (Nat King Cole and Natalie Cole, Unforgettable). My dad sure is crazy about me. I'm one lucky girl. Tomorrow is a beautiful, amazing day, but in a way, a very sad day. I have to leave my daddy's house and name and my childhood behind and begin a new household with my new husband. My dad and I have been through a lot together, some really really terrible years, and increasingly we've enjoyed a beautiful relationship.

I have a surprise for Stephen and I'd write about it here but I'm not sure if he'll read my blog in the next 9 hours, so I won't say anything till' later. I won't be blogging till next Monday or Tuesday! Mel has mono so pray she doesn't pass out on the stage!!

Holy crap I still can't beleive this is happening. Far Out.

Also keep in mind that it's the middle of the night here, so sorry about this post. Really. Sorry. Post.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

We all know how I love coffee. I obviously have stopped sharing the intimate financial details of my coffee spending- It couldn't possibly be 2 months since I purchased a cup o' legal addictive stimulant. I've just gotten lazy about it and, honestly, I've been spending less.

But there's an irresistible little coffee shop called Aviano that serves up a latte like you've never tasted. Aviano caters to the intelligent, trendy, indie crowd, has interesting art exhibits, and all the baristas have tattoos and/or piercings (i.e. I was born to drink coffee from this place). They make beautiful drinks with a pretty flowery thing from the foam and espresso and I always feel guilty taking the first sip because I ruin it.

Truth be told, I feel guilty setting foot in Aviano at all. The brother of one of Stephen's friends used to work for this coffee shop and the owner screwed him over. Fired him for no reason, called the cops when the dude came in the get his last paycheck. So we stopped going there (something in me died that day). It's not been a problem as we're almost never in that neighborhood, but Aviano is ridiculously convenient for me if I happen to be driving to work rather than riding the train, which I am doing all this week. I think God thinks it's funny to play with my emotions. It would have been better if I had not tasted this heavenly latte in the first place.

I did something bad today, guys.

Right this very moment... I am drinking a heavenly latte from the forbidden coffee shop... and it is ecstasy. I did it first when Stephen was on his business trip a few weeks ago... I drove to work every day so I could get home a little earlier to play with Moses. Which means I drove past Aviano every day... which means I broke the rules every day. I told him, of course. I'm the worst secret keeper in the world. This just shows how the wiles of a woman can crack a man's resolve: the other night, Stephen suggested we go to Aviano after dinner. What have I done?

Monday, April 02, 2007

122 hours.

We're getting close now- 5 days.

Our Pastor called us up for prayer on Sunday and the reaction of the church was amazing.

"Before I begin the message... Stephen and Rachel are getting married in a week and I'd like to pray for them. Where are they? (at this point the entire section behind us waved their hands and pointed at us)... oh- Would you two come up here, please?"

Upon hearing our names a handful of people hooted and hollered and clapped. By the time we got up to the front the ENTIRE CHURCH was laughing and applauding and shouting. It felt wonderful.

It's not a really big church and most people know us. I've been in this church since I was 11 and I've been singing on the worship team since I was 17 or 18. Stephen's also on the team- he's a drummer- so most people recognize us because we're both on stage at least once a month. It was just incredible how exuberant everyone was. After church my Pastor's wife saw me and looked like she was going to cry. "You just grew up too fast!! So fast! But it's going to be such a beautiful day." she said as she hugged me.

It's becoming more surreal every day. We went on Friday to get our marriage license but it all could have been ruined because I was stupid enough to have my knife in my purse. Passing through security at the Clerk and Recorder's Office, the deadpan security guard said "You've got a knife in your purse, ma'am." My minds eye shot to an image of my knife, earrings, and handful of change sitting on the bookshelf back at Stephen's house.

"No, I carry a knife but I don't have it with me today," I said. She made me empty my purse and, sure enough, there it was at the very bottom. I took it out and handed it to her. She fooled with it for a moment but couldn't figure out how to open it. I opened it for her and showed her the release and handed it to her. She fooled with it some more but couldn't close it. She handed it back to me blade first (stupid woman) and I showed her a few times how to open and close it. She tried again with minimal success and announced, "Yep, this is a switchblade. I can't hold this for you." (Switchblades are illegal in Colorado and I don't own one. It's just a pocket knife.)

For crap sake, lady. If you can't even open it, how are you supposed to know what kind of a knife it is? The thing is an inch and a half long and opens about a third of the way in a "V" shape when you press the release. It's pretty dull and it's only good for utility purposes. And by law, a knife like that with a blade 3 inches long or less is not considered a concealed weapon and it's my LEGAL RIGHT to carry it around if I want to, but I didn't want to a cause a big scene. She was "kind enough" not to confiscate it and let me put it out in the car. Hassle. Grumble.

I Saw Sparks

On Wednesday I was riding the light rail home after writing my last post, filled with sadness. The route I was on goes through a very industrial area of Denver and through some ghetto neighborhoods. I was just looking at the landscape as we sped along, and all I could see was ugliness and waste. My eyes drifted down to the ground and I felt even more melancholy looking and the rocks and bits of trash strewn about. Is there no beauty in this world?

Then I noticed something else. Some of the rocks had bits of mica in them so that at a certain angle the sun would shine on them and reflect the light. Each little spark happened so fast and faded away just as quickly, but there were so many, and at such a great speed it was like this sea of rocks- this waste- was sparkling.

There's a lot of ugliness in this life. We live in a fallen, imperfect world. But I'm finding that if I look at life from the right angle there's a lot of beauty, too. Over the last few days I keep seeing those little explosions of light happening.

I saw a very pretty woman stop to give some money to a bum- and more importantly, to pause and really look at him- when every single other person had passed him without even acknowledging his existence. I saw a young father being sweet to his little girl at the light rail station. I saw a woman's face light up when her husband walked in the door of a restaurant to meet her. Every single morning since I started working here a year ago the FedEx delivery guy has walked in with a smile on his face and a nice thing to say.

These things seem rather insignificant in the grand scheme but when you string them all together the world starts to look a lot brighter.