by Kiki Nelson | Nov 14, 2017 | Animals, Events, History, Host, Hostess, Reunions, Travel
Every year my husband’s family gathers in Chincoteague, Virginia on Veterans’ Day Weekend. For many years we have been blessed with gorgeous weather, lots of wildlife, lots of good seafood, and abundant fuzzy pony sightings on neighboring Assateague Island. We are now on the third generation of youngins’ who have participated in this annual pilgrimage. But this year there was a first.
This year there was a rocket launch from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility scheduled for Saturday, November 11.
At about 7:00 AM lots of hardy folks in numerous layers of warm outer wear started gathering on the causeway between Chincoteague and Assateague. There is an unobstructed view of the launch site, which I think is about 3 miles as the crow flies. Although I wouldn’t advise a crow or anyone else flying near a launch. However, that’s exactly what happened.
We were all gathered on the causeway at 7:37 AM, freezing our butts off, waiting for the big event when some idiot pilot decides to ignore the restricted airspace and take a joy ride! A launch window is only open so long so they had to scrub. The launch was rescheduled for the next morning at the same time.
The next morning, we all gathered on the causeway at the same time. I think there might have been even more people on Sunday. It was a little warmer and the mood was upbeat.
They “lit the candle” (that’s what the cool people say) right on time and up it went! I was underwhelmed by the actual rocket, which was smaller than I expected but had an impressive flash. What was cool was the after boom (I don’t know what the cool people or anyone else calls that officially). About ten seconds after liftoff there is this incredible, deep, rumble, like nothing you’ve ever heard before. Walls shake and folks reflexively Ooh and Aaah. There is also an impressive amount of smoke left behind on the launch pad.
It was incongruous to see a rocket being launched so near a natural wildlife refuge. However, the fuzzy ponies weren’t phased in the least. I guess they’re so used to seeing tourists exhibit goofy behavior that nothing phases them. They just kept munchin’ on that salty marsh grass and bloating.
Afterward the launch everyone walked away looking satisfied and for hot coffee.
I must say Chincoteague did a great job of hosting the event on both days. Traffic control, signage, and even first aid were provided by local law enforcement. But it was all low key in keeping with the Chincoteague vibe.
Thank you for visiting.
by Kiki Nelson | Oct 31, 2017 | Events, Food, Holidays
(The accompanying photo is gratuitous cuteness of my grandson and his buddy in Munchkin Costumes and has nothing to do with the blog.)
Tonight my husband and I will join another couple in Ashland, Virginia where they close the roads next to the Railroad Tracks for Trick or Treaters. On either side of the tracks are lovely old homes with lots of scary stories attached to them. Like the signal man who was killed on the job and now sits (all bloody and gross) on a porch waving his lamp. I think that one is true.
I suspect there are some millennials in Colorado who still tell the tale of the haunted limousine. It all started when our neighbors down the street started a limo company. Well one of those limos had a sun roof. My husband and the other guy decided it would be hilarious to park the limo in a dark driveway, get all ghouly, and then pop out of the top when kids came up the driveway. The Limo Massacre got the desired results and then some. One kid did a backward somersault down the driveway, Skittles and mini Snickers flying every which-a-way. Another wet her costume. This was all going on while me and the wife of the other guy took our kids around the neighborhood. As the evening progressed we started to hear, “Hey man, don’t go near the limo!”
Our 5-little trick or treaters ranged in age from 2 to 7. The older three ran ahead of us and stopped at houses with an amazing degree of efficiency coupled with the mandatory manners so as not to get yanked home.
The two-year old, my son, was quite tall for his age and speech delayed because of ear troubles. The three-year-old was abnormally small for her age and very precocious. She was dressed as Elmo, he was dressed as a two-year-old on a cold Colorado night. The two young ones would walk up to the houses together. The little girl would say, just as cute as you please, “Happy Halloween! Trick or Treat, I’m Elmo!” My son would say, “Gah!” The other mom almost wet her costume after a couple of houses with those two. I happen to know she needed a good laugh after eating an entire bag of Smarties in an unusual loss of self control.
Besides the Halloween when I was 12 and Mike Uzzo cracked an egg over my head, this is the Halloween that will remain etched on my memory.
For the record, the guys only performed the Limo Massacre once. But folks in Longmont, Colorado say those ghouls still appear every year on Halloween and no one knows who they are. Hey man, don’t go near the Limo!
Thank you for visiting.
by Kiki Nelson | Oct 17, 2017 | Ettiquette, Events, History, Host
When I started my first job after many years in television news, I was an electronic doofus! That’s because the software we used at that time in television was industry specific. Oh, and spelling was optional. I could produce the hell out of a 90-minute news program with battling talent and breaking news, but write a business letter in Word. No way! That’s why I’ll always be grateful to my friend Renee.
My first job in the Real World was as a Public Information Officer (unsworn) at the Richmond Police Department. I knew how to turn the computer on and off and was acquainted with a mouse. Renee taught me the rest. After two years, I was up to speed in most tasks and even editing a pretty good electronic newsletter.
I wouldn’t have lasted a week had it not been for Renee’s patience and tremendous skill as a teacher. It wasn’t like she had extra time to school her electronically ignorant co-workers, she just did. She’s now the head of a Department. You go girl!
Renee is an American Indian, a fact I always thought was really cool. How many American Indians do YOU know? She never made much of it until a few years ago when she married an American Indian and started to get more involved in the culture. This past Saturday I went to see her dance with the Yapatoko Drummers & Singers at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. She was gorgeous and graceful.
I must admit I went more out of friendship than interest. But I was blown away! First of all, her husband—a lovely, quiet man who doesn’t say much during visits—is like a rock star! He was the Emcee for more than a 100 people gathered in the Museum’s atrium. He was also one of the performers and has a beautiful voice. No wonder he doesn’t talk much socially, who wants to waste that voice on mere mortals? He explained the meaning of the dances and their origin. One of the dances was about a man running from a group of white interlopers who are shooting at him. The interpretation of the explosions and near misses in song and dance was something I’ll never forget.
My friend’s husband also talked about the clothing the dancers wore, explaining they should never be referred to as “costumes.” They are clothing with added regalia for special occasions. He asked the audience members never to dress as an “Indian” for Halloween because that is disrespectful. The audience was a sea of bobble-head agreement dolls as he explained this concept in his non-threatening, dignified way.
But the thing he did that left me with permanent goose bumps was when he asked the veterans in the audience to come forward so they could be honored for protecting us, all of us no, matter what our origins. At this point, most of the bobble-head agreement dolls had turned into jaw-dropped dummies. “You’re thanking us?! Uninvited guests show up, trash the place, get you sick, steal your land, kill you off, and herd you onto tiny pieces of useless land….and you can be thankful!” Damn, that’s a gracious host.
Thank you for visiting and thank you my most excellent, beautiful, friend Renee. You’re still teaching me.
by Kiki Nelson | Oct 10, 2017 | Events, Food, Hostess, Reunions, Travel
The reunion of my best girlfriends from high school can now be called an “annual event.” That’s because
technically you can’t call something an annual event until it’s happened twice. Last year I hosted the
inaugural, and while I enjoyed the company, it’s more fun to be a guest.
This year’s hostess invited us to her vacation home in Bethany Beach, Delaware and specified we were
welcome any time after 4:00 PM. Apparently, we were all raised right because no one was early. I left
after work and was the last to arrive at about 10:00 PM.
Every hellish minute in I-95 traffic was worth it when I was greeted by six screaming ladies on the front
porch, brandishing wine glasses. Each of them embraced me in turn and continued to scream their
greetings in my ear. If you’re ever feeling low, be the last one to arrive at a reunion of half-tanked high
school friends. It’s an amazing ego boost. At that point in the festivities the air conditioner repairman
might have gotten the same reaction, but I’ll take the love just the same.
I was offered food and beverages immediately by my amazing hostess. This was the girl in high school
who most guys wanted to date but got too tongue tied in her presence to form the words. Strangely enough, all that adoration never went to her head. To this day that amazes me. After all the screaming had stopped she took me by the hand, looked very seriously into my eyes and said, “Would you like some chocolate lava cake?”
I turned down the chocolate lava cake but managed to drink waaaay too much Prosecco. So much so
that I fell out of my bunk and had to be tended to by the group’s remaining cogent person. Thank you
Dr. P. I owe you one. She informed me the next morning that I speak fluent Wookie. Who knew?
The rest of the weekend was wonderful. Time on the beach, good food, nonstop talking. I’m still
touched by the memories we all own of each other. It’s like the various puzzle pieces form a complete
We talked a lot about parenting; the way we were parented, the way we parent our kids, and the way
our kids are raising their own kids. I’m more convinced than ever that having a safe and stable home life
is the most important gift you can give a child. It doesn’t have to fit traditional models, but simple
stability is crucial. I’m in awe of the women who could create stable and loving homes when that was
not their experience growing up.
I’m hoping to raise a glass of Presecco among these precious friends for many years to come. We should
probably take turns being the last one to arrive.
Thank you for visiting,
by Kiki Nelson | Sep 12, 2017 | Ettiquette, Events, Food, Host, Hostess, Travel, Uncategorized
Many years ago during a television interview with the actress Bonnie Hunt, she said her family used the “Door Bell” method of housekeeping. You don’t bother to clean until the doorbell rings. While I don’t personally subscribe to this method, I do appreciate it.
I feel strongly about guests showing up early. I am strongly against it. Unless you’re having a medical emergency—in which case you should probably go to the hospital first—please don’t come to my house or event one second ahead of the stated time.
I was reminded of this concept several times in the last couple of weeks. I went to a baby shower in Jersey where half the guests showed up early. What is that all about? Is it a Jersey thing? The baby Grandma was rushing around trying to put the finishing touches on a lovely venue and was forced to entertain at least two dozen people ahead of schedule. Another friend of mine was hosting house guests who gleefully texted they’d hit the road sooner than expected and would be hours early. What! For God sakes, take the scenic route! Yet another acquaintance works weddings. She told me about an event just last weekend when many of the guests arrived at the reception venue half an hour early and actually banged on the doors. When she did let them in several people demanded mixed drinks even before the bar was set up.
For those of you who don’t get it, here’s the deal. Most of us mortals don’t keep a spotless house and must prepare for visitors. I take pride in presenting a clean home or well prepared venue. My mother used to say it should look like a stage set when folks walk in and then everything can go to hell. This prep takes a certain amount of time and scheduling because I have other stuff going on. Some of us also have pets so it doesn’t make sense to start cleaning a moment too soon because all will be re-fuzzed within minutes. When I’m done cleaning and prepping food, I like to enjoy a glass of wine while I prep myself. If you show up early, I miss the one part of party prep I enjoy.
Many people will say, “I thought you might need help so I came early”. If I need help, believe me I’ll ask for it in advance. I’ve never been accused of martyrdom. If you volunteer and I politely decline, I’m not being polite, I really don’t want you early. No one is that helpful. Some people will assume their bond with the hosts is strong enough that it doesn’t matter if they show up early and just hang out. Unless you’re still in the womb, there is no bond strong enough for an early arrival.
I realize I’m a little crazy about time. I worked in the television news business for many years where every second was accounted for. Time really WAS money! The only exception was 16 years ago when the clock stopped and we threw revenue to the wind in order to supply a platform for our community to grieve.
My family tells me this television-time perspective has left me with an unhealthy attitude toward punctuality on both ends of the punctal spectrum. OK, I can live with that.
Do you mind people showing up early? Don’t you cherish those last few moments when you can look around your house and admire your work while sipping Prosecco and applying mascara? In my husband’s case, it’s drinking beer and watching whatever sport is on TV (sorry son, I know you hate stereotypes but it’s true.)
Thank you for visiting, and not a moment too soon.
by Kiki Nelson | Sep 5, 2017 | Events, History, Travel
Several times a year my family and I drive past an historical marker on Route 301 in Maryland indicating the turnoff to “The Dr. Samuel Mudd House.” Each time I suggest we stop and each time I am met with a tortured chorus of “NOOOOO!” Last Saturday I was driving the route by myself with no spouse, child, dog, or cat and decided this was my chance.
For those of you asking “Dr. Who?” I begin with a short history lesson. Samuel Mudd was a country doctor in Maryland in April of 1865 when two men stopped at his house in the middle of the night asking treatment for one of the men who had broken his leg. No one disputes the story this far.
The house is five miles off of Route 301 and sits by itself on pristine farm land. A pretty young woman in period dress greeted me. This woman was not just dressed in the fashion of 1865; she looked like she belonged to 1865. At any moment I expected to see her face in one of the sepia-tinted Civil War era portraits hanging on the walls….cue the spooky music.
The house is very much the same as it was on that fateful morning when John Wilkes Booth arrived seeking medical attention. That’s because the house, and its substantial acreage, remained in the Mudd family until a nonprofit organization was formed to take control of it in 1980. While there have been some updates—such as indoor plumbing, central air, and heat—much is original to the house as it was built in 1857.
The tour started with a recounting of how Dr. Samuel Mudd, who lived with his wife and four small children, was awakened before dawn by someone pounding on the front door. On his front porch was a man asking help for his traveling companion who had broken his leg. Dr. Mudd allowed them in and did a cursory physical exam on the living room sofa. That sofa is still there in the same spot.
The two men carried Booth upstairs to a room and laid him on a bed. Dr. Mudd cut the boot off the swollen leg and proceeded to set the bone. Once that was done Dr. Mudd left the patient to rest and heal. When daylight came, Dr. Mudd and Booth’s companion headed into town. Not sure why. When Booth’s companion saw union troops nosing around town, he turned around and went BACK to the farmhouse. Dr. Mudd proceeded into town and discovered that Abraham Lincoln had been shot and John Wilkes Booth was almost definitely the culprit. Here’s the weird part. Instead of alerting the solders to the killer in his guest room, or hot footing it back to his house and family, Dr. Mudd hung out in town for almost 12 hours!
Eventually the dragnet for Booth spread to the Mudd House. Booth was long gone, but his discarded boot was found. They knew it was his boot because his name was written inside it. Despite his protestations of innocence and claiming he was merely helping an unknown traveler, Dr. Mudd was arrested and his wife and children put under house arrest. Dr. Mudd was tried with the rest of the conspirators and sentenced to life in prison on a penal island off Florida.
For more than a hundred years the Mudd family tried to clear his name. But guess what? While Dr. Mudd was not in on the assassination attempt, he did know Booth and was privy to an earlier Lincoln kidnapping plot. That’s the reason he let those guys into his house in the middle of the night. As the docent put it, “John Wilkes Booth was the matinee idol of his time. It would be like George Clooney stopping at your house. You’d probably recognize him.” My apologies to George Clooney. Dr. Mudd spent the next few years in prison making beautiful handicrafts (many of which are in the house) until he volunteered to help with a Yellow Fever epidemic and was pardoned for his efforts.
In the meantime, Mrs. Mudd ran the farm and apparently did a damn fine job of it. When Dr. Mudd was pardoned he came back to the house, fathered five more children, and spent the remainder of his life the way he started his career in the first place, as a country doctor.
There were a lot of fascinating details about domestic life during the Civil War. I learned the origins of sayings like: “Sleep tight,” “Don’t let the bed bugs bite,” and “Hitting the hay.” I also learned the finer points about the use of chamber pots. It’s a little different than you might think.
But in the midst of all the recent confederate statue debate, here’s what I really appreciated about this experience. It was based on the facts, there was no sugar-coating what happened, and it was interesting as hell! The docents didn’t defend Mudd or try to explain his thought process. They simply told a compelling and true story based on solid research that has an important place in our Nation’s history. I asked if they’d gotten any negative feedback since the Charlottesville Riot. The Made-for-a-Stephen-King-Novel-tour-guide said there had been none. She suspects they are under the radar. That may be part of it….how many of you asked, “Who is Dr. Mudd?” I would like to think they’re not getting any negative feedback because they respect history and the telling of it as honestly as possible.
On my way home Monday, I passed another sign that read, “The End of the Road for an Assassin.” This of course is where John Wilkes Booth was finally trapped and died. I didn’t stop here because, like most historical figures, I think Booth’s journey was much more interesting than his end.
Thank you for visiting.