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.
My husband and I enthusiastically offered to keep my sister-in- law’s dog at our house while she and her
husband attended a wedding further North.
Mollie is a Shetland Sheepdog. I think technically she’s considered a Blue Merle, but she’s white with
markings on her head and cute as hell. She looks like a cotton ball on very tiny legs. She’s also very
ladylike which is a sharp contrast to our 18-month- old Boston Terrier, Beans. They’re the Beauty and the
Beast of the K9 world with a large dose of hyperactivity thrown in. We found ourselves yelling at Beans
more than usual simply because of the contrast in styles.
This translated into pretty much every doglike behavior. When Mollie drinks, her little pink tongue juts
out quickly and quietly with not a drop left on the floor to show her efforts. Beans sticks his whole face
into the bowl, slurps loudly, and trails water all over the house. Sometimes he wipes his face on the cat’s
head, which is hilarious! Oddly enough the “Cat From Hell” doesn’t seem to care.
When we let the dogs outside to do their business, Beans took off like a bat outta hell and popped a
squat almost immediately. Mollie delicately worked her way down the stairs and was immediately
assaulted by Beans who apparently wanted to help. We started taking them out separately in deference
to Mollie’s feminine sensibilities. We also fed them separately. This was not because the dogs have poor
mat manners but because the CFH always horns in.
Beans wanted to play non-stop. He loves to share a tug toy with anything that moves and was constantly
offering Molly the other end of a rubber ring, which she declined. Beans has amazingly strong jaws and
can tug with a great deal of force, in fact I don’t even play tug with him. Mollie preferred sitting on our
laps and looking pretty, understandably so. But there was an incredibly sweet moment near the end of
the visit when Mollie went into her crate, came out with a fuzzy toy, and offered one end to Beans.
Beans gently took the other end and played “tug” on Mollie’s terms. Beans may be obnoxious but
apparently, he’s not stupid. Maybe that’s why my husband and I are so goofy in love with this dog.
With guest pets, much like children, there is always the issue of different homes, different rules. Mollie
is fed treats; which Beans is not. Mollie barks a lot more than Beans. During Mollie’s visit, Beans’ default
was, “when in doubt bark with the other dog because there must be something going on that I don’t
know about.” This created the effect of Beans hoping around, barking his fool head off, with a confused
look on his face.
Mollie’s people came back for her on Sunday night and I’m sure she was glad to see them. She’ll be back
for Thanksgiving and I’d like to think Beans and the CFH will be glad to see her. I’m not so sure about
Mollie, but I hope she enjoys the change of pace if nothing else.
Thank you for visiting.
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.
Every week I write a blog about hosting and being hosted.
There is nothing I can say this week that comes close to expressing my awe about the citizens of Las Vegas.
According to reports on CNN, Las Vegas residents began lining up to donate blood just hours after the attack that killed 59 and injured 500.
The response was so immense Las Vegas Assistant Sheriff Todd Fasulo said blood donation centers in the area have been “overwhelmed” by the turnout.
When you are willing to give anything to help a guest in need, including your own blood, it humbles the rest of us and provides a beautiful example of humanity at its best.
Thank you Las Vegas.
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.
There have been many occasions when, instead of hosting a dinner party at home, my husband and I have taken people out to eat. There are some obvious incentives, not the least of which is less prep on my part.
We usually pick somewhere we’ve been before. We are fortunate that Richmond is in a restaurant renaissance. That may sound pretentious…until you go to one of the amazing eateries popping up like yummy mushrooms and try the chef’s take on soft- shell crab, fried green tomatoes, or tres leche cake. Then you’ll say, “That’s not pretentious, that’s delicious!”
When hosting we make it clear it’s our treat. If the guest offers to pick up a round of drinks or the tip, I think it’s OK to accept graciously. If they don’t, that’s OK too. Guests should not feel obligated. The only thing I absolutely cannot abide is a tussle over the bill. My husband’s family has mastered this sport. One relative literally ripped a bill in half trying to wrestle it from my husband. Frankly, I would have given it to her gladly! And I’m not talking about the bill. But I digress.
I think hosts should offer to drive and be mindful of their alcohol intake. If a guest has a compelling reason to drive, I think that’s all right too and the offer should be gratefully accepted. It’s a funny thing, when people hear I’m supposed to drive they become very keen on providing the transportation themselves. I’ve been known to back into things.
If possible, we make reservations to prevent a wait. Needless to say, everyone should do their best to be on time. There is nothing more stressful than chasing a reservation at a popular place because your guest wasn’t ready. If there is no emergency, there is only one reason for keeping people waiting. And that is because you’re a jerk.
I often see complaints in etiquette columns from hosts whose guests have ordered expensive entrees. I don’t quite get this. I assume that if my hosts have invited me to a restaurant, they can afford to feed me. I don’t think it would be polite to order a take home meal for the babysitter, but if it’s on the menu it’s fair game. No pun intended. Same for drinks and various courses.
Unfortunately we have hosted guests at restaurants where the service is bad. Although the host has no control over this variable, I always feel awkward about bad service, as if I were the one holding things up. What does one do? You don’t want to bring attention, but it gets to that awkward point when everyone is hungry. It’s like an elephant in the room that you wish were on your plate. On one occasion when the drinks hadn’t shown up after 45 minutes, we got up and left. I think the arrival of drinks is a pretty good gauge. Besides, after a round of drinks you don’t care as much. Another telling sign is if very few diners have food in front of them.
If the actual food is not up to a guest’s standards, I think they should just grin, chew, and bear it. After all, you can’t beat the price. I feel it’s rude to criticize a free meal. That’s happened to me several times and I’m always taken aback by it. To me it’s the same as criticizing a gift. It’s all right to politely send something back that’s the wrong order or woefully undercooked. But to compare food unfavorably to other restaurants, or even home-cooked meals, is insulting to the hosts. What’s the point? Keep it to yourself, or better yet find something you can complement, like the company.
What finishes off the meal best is a heartfelt thank you; from the guests for the meal, and from the hosts, for the fellowship. Even if everything sucked, at least you didn’t have to shop, cook, or clean. That is something to be thankful for.
Thank you for visiting.