Monday, May 21, 2018

Pack This, Not That

Baggalini purse - awesome.
Secret silk neck purse - never used.
Having planned carefully (so I thought) I found some things I packed for my three week trip to Europe turned out to be super-helpful - and other things, much less so. Learn now from my mistakes, kids.

The Baggalini purse on the left was awesome, with pockets for EVERYTHING. Comfortable, lightweight, adjustable strap... I would marry this purse if I could.

Pro-tip: If you're like me, and rarely change your purse, switch to your "travel purse" a week or two before the trip, so you can get used to it.


I thought the little silk, under-the-clothes purse would be handy, but I never used it. It was just a little too small to fit in all the things I needed, and the neck string was irritating.



This set of credit card and passport sleeves - I don't know whether they actually protected me from having my information lifted, or were an unnecessary precaution. But there were no issues and made me feel more secure, so I'll go with, worth the investment (under $10 for the set).




Small(ish) suitcase with an EXPANSION ZIPPER and wheels that go in ALL the directions. OMG, yes! Provided you are not too close to pushing the baggage weight limit, it will provide just enough room for souvenirs (if you don't go too overboard on them), for the return leg.








Which brings us to: small hand-held baggage scale. I got this (along with my suitcase) at TJ Maxx. It will weigh a suitcase in both kilograms and pounds, necessary for an American flying both domestic and internationally.

Rather than a standard carry-on, I bought this Victorinox travel backpack (again, with the zillion pockets!!) It even had a padded pocket that is perfect for a small laptop or a Kindle.




The amount of things it could hold and still fit under an airline seat or into the overhead bin was truly remarkable.

This was both a good thing, and a bad thing, as I discovered the first day I loaded it up to go touristing. The sucker got progressively heavier and heaver as the day went on, even WITHOUT adding significant souvenir weight.

I swear, I think there were gremlins adding invisible bricks to it.







Converter kits - I bought this one, which had plugs and attachments for both the UK and France. Heavy, but worth it, as we had not only cellphones and Kindles to charge, but standard "plug" units for our camera batteries.

Even though our AirBnB hosts had some converters, this power converter was still something we used every day.




Do: put extra electrical cords, earbuds, and charging plugs in a ziploc bag for ease of getting to them. Do NOT forget to bring a charging cord with you everywhere you go. DO bring earplugs (but maybe not a whole box of them).

If you are not 100% certain you can use your phone in Europe, DO buy an "Orange Holiday" SIM card at the earliest opportunity.

I missed out on meeting a wonderful friend in London, and almost lost my mind when my niece and  I got separated at the Louvre and we couldn't communicate, due to lack of the European SIM card in my phone. Also due to my phone running out of juice because I was carrying these recharging batteries but did not have a cord with me. *heavy sigh*



These portable batteries, on the left, one of the best trip purchases I made. Inexpensive, (relatively) lightweight, and powerful, I used them every day we were out and about. By buying different colors, it also helped me track which one was all tapped out, which one still had juice.







All the travel-sized things... Pack them! If nothing else, they help create a great feeling of accomplishment, as you finish each travel size bottle or tube. Especially since I've been working on my travel toothpaste stash for something like ten years.

Optimistic Me: And now that I've gotten rid of .3 fluid ounces of contact lens solution, I will have room for three pounds of souvenirs in its place.











DO bring a calendar with lots of room for taking notes for what you did each day. I also brought a journal, because I was going to journal, every night, about that day and evening's experiences.

Bwahahahaha! Three weeks, and ONE day's journaling.

Also, the extra notebooks I brought, in case I was seized with the creative inspiration and time to work on one of my fictional stories? See bwahaha, above. Extra. Dead. Weight.



My Kindle Fire: Pack this, if you have one. I used mine to read a little, to play music, including soothe you to sleep stuff when I was having problems falling asleep, and to access social media. Several nights I streamed movies for the two of us to watch.

Note: there were a lot of documentaries and travelogues I wanted to watch and show my niece, about the places we were visiting, that were not available to stream, while we were across the Pond. So if there is something of the sort you really WANT to watch, download it while in America.

Selfie Stick - don't bother. My niece brought hers, and we NEVER used it.

Many of the places we were visiting do NOT allow selfie sticks or tripods in the place, at all. Something about not wanting clumsy tourists to leave a gash across the Mona Lisa's face or something.

Mostly you can get good selfies at arms' length, or trade with other tourists to take their pictures, and then they'll take yours.


Some kind of facial cleansing, makeup remover wipes - oh, yes!! Used every day. And the premoistened wipes aren't considered liquid, so they can go in the carry on.

Bring hair scrunchies, and whatever else you "do" your hair with. If you use a curling iron, like my niece does, make sure you have the kind of power converter that will work with it. Ours worked okay in Paris, but not in London.











Wet wipes - a Yes, but. They came in handy on several occasions, but MOST places had access to running water and paper hand towels. Bringing a half dozen packets, rather than an entire box of 24, would have been plenty.


Travel neck pillows - ditch the old style ones, filled with memory foam, and get one of the inflatable ones. Try not to lose the carrying bag for it on the very first leg of the trip (but still, even if you do, it's not a tragedy).




Sunscreen: the large can of sunscreen was packed in my outgoing checked luggage, as a sealed virgin container - and came home as a sealed virgin container. Most cities DO sell sunscreen, as needed, and we really didn't need it.

However, if you have sensitive skin and a particular brand of sunscreen specifically for the face works for you, do bring that.

Other suggestions: If you have a small, compact rainjacket, bring it. I used mine on several days. My niece also brought a down jacket that could be compressed into a small bag when not worn - and then the bag used as a small-of-the-back support pillow.



And now, my brilliant idea... My books and bookmarks.  Because they were going on tour, too. I had plans taking pictures of the books everywhere. Me, my tiara, and my book right up next to the Crown Jewels. And in all the places we visited.

My therapist suggested that instead of bringing my actual books, I get mock-ups made of the covers, and use those, to save on weight.

But how heavy could a couple of books be? I was running short of time, and besides, I wanted them to look AUTHENTIC.

My books were ridiculously heavy, especially as the day wore on. And many of the historic places, like the room with the Crown Jewels, didn't allow photos anyway. If I were to do it again, I would bring half the bookmarks, and cover facsimiles, only. By the end of the trip, I was NOT lugging around one gum wrapper more than I had to. Sorry, Versailles, Marie Antoinette and company will just have to accept being photoshopped in, in future work.


And of course, I forgot my tiara in my mad dash out the door to meet my Lyft. Which I had somehow ordered to pick me up at my work address rather than home address, but the driver was nice enough not to cancel on me despite that.

I did acquire a new tiara from Westminster Abbey, so I only had to spend a few days tiara-less.

There are dozens more stories and photos coming, but I wanted to start you - and your travel adventures, should you be planning any - off on the right foot.

Your thoughts?

Questions?
Things you forgot you wish you'd packed? Or vice-versa?


Monday, April 30, 2018

Motherless on Mothers' Day

Do you ever feel stabby about all the ads and commercials for picture-perfect mother-daughter Mothers' Day outings, from brunches to pedis to long warm Facetime chats?

You don't want to get all bitchy and jealous, because it's not like anyone's fault they still have a great relationship with a living, healthy mother, but...

If you are dealing with the effect of feeling like you are on the outside, looking in, for seemingly endless weeks of what many describe as a Hallmark holiday, you are not the only one.




It took me a long time to start processing my mother loss and grief, and longer still to realize that this process is a journey I will always be on. (Unlike Paris, which I'll be leaving shortly, boo-hoo!)

The good news is, mother loss doesn't have to be awful all the time. And, unlike Rose clinging to Jack's hand in Titanic, we don't have to let go. Our relationship with our missing mothers can be magical and empowering and a thing of beauty and connection, not merely loss and pain.

Mothers' Day, for me, is now a time I connect with my mother, emotionally, and practice self-care. That might look like something pink and bubbly to drink, or soak in, it might mean watching a favorite movie or buying myself flowers or diving into a juicy book.

What does your Mothers' Day self-care look like?

P.S. - As this post is being published, I am enjoying my bucket trip to Paris! But I have
un petit cadeau for you. My memoir is on sale as a Mothers' Day gift to you, OR you can get a FREEE review copy through Netgalley in May. 





Monday, April 16, 2018

Getting Found Through Getting Lost... In Space

I probably spent as much time living vicariously on the Jupiter 2, as a child, as was possible. Because even with intergalactic monsters and cosmic storms, there was a comforting expectation that at the end of the show, the family would be intact, Robot, Dr. Smith, and all.

Autographed Cast Photo via Jimmy on Flickr

It's been a fun, and sometimes introspective look back to my childhood to revisit Lost in Space, with the help of Marc Cushman's amazing TV show biographies, one thick, ridiculously detailed volume per show season.

My Goodreads reviews: Lost in Space Volume I/First Season ( 699 pages)
Lost in Space Volume II/Second Season ( 492 pages)
Lost in Space Volume III/Third Season (522 pages)


As I did previously with Marc's Star Trek series, I read the chapter about it, then watched each episode while pedaling my recumbent bike. 83 episodes times 50 minutes pedaling per episode = almost seventy hours biking. Not bad.



Lost in Space was originally broadcast beginning in 1965, through 1968; three seasons in all, and picked up for syndication immediately after it ceased production, beginning in 1969. Keep in mind, space was happening - we were sending astronauts to walk on the moon! But they were adult men. LIS gave me a way to picture myself as a space explorer - and not only as a woman, but as a girl. Kids in space!

From the eyes of a child...

I wanted to look like Penny, and had a major crush on Major West. (The first, if not last Mark I would have a crush on.) I loved both John and Maureen Robinson; they made me feel safe and warm. Dr. Smith was annoying AF, I did not understand why they didn't drop him off at the nearest asteroid. Judy seemed blondeishly nice. I also adored The Robot, and was the proud owner of one or two of the small knock-off Robots Remco sold. Will Robinson, meh. I had nothing against him, but he seemed like a bit of a know-it-all, and why was he getting to do all the fun, exciting things?

From adult eyes...

Now I'm cognizant of the behind-the-scenes issues with the cast, the scripts, the production. I didn't realize that Guy Williams, Professor Robinson, had been Zorro! (Somebody whom, due to the magic of syndication, I would later develop a girlish ladyboner for, based on that show. Apparently I have a thing for the angry young man stereotype.) But in Lost in Space, he portrayed a brave, kind, heroic father. The father I wished I had.

Maureen reminded me much of my own mother: also kind, smart, lovely. Also underappreciated and vastly underused. While some of the characters who rarely got screen time occasionally got an episode with a starring role, like Marta Kristen did in Attack of the Killer Plants, which was brilliant, Maureen was regularly sidelined except when needed, as mothers often are.

I also found, interestingly, that the sizzling chemistry and kisses between John and Maureen in the first few episodes made show creator Irwin Allen uneasy, so PDA's became forbidden. Kids were not supposed to see adults acting attracted to one another, the horror! I believe the married Robinsons might have theoretically shared a cabin, but I don't recall any footage of them in it, or emerging from it together. How you make three children without kissing and chemistry, I know not.

Allen also put the kibosh on exploring the chemistry between Don and Judy. Although there were scenes whether they seemed to have an "understanding," and might have indicated attraction via posture and body language, after the first couple episodes, no mushy stuff allowed!! Monsters and spaceship crashes, yes, kisses, no! The sex negativity of this and other shows of the period really pisses me off, now.

Mark Goddard as Don West... I still have a crush. Although in watching the series over again, good heavens, the poor dude was always getting beat up, knocked unconscious, getting a body part trapped somewhere, not to mention, always crashing the Jupiter 2. He and Guy Williams were terrific in The Anti-Matter Man, and it was amusing to read in the book about Goddard's beard mishap during the filming.

Marta Kristen was much more than just a pretty face, she was a very talented actress, but she was sidelined almost as much as June Lockhart. Angela Cartwright as Penny got a bit more screen time, and I wanted a Bloop as a pet (though reading about that chimp made me very sad, the way she was treated). As an adult, it is easy to see all the ways sexist dynamics narrowed the way little girls could envision themselves, even ones who were theoretically astronauts. Maureen Robinson was supposed to be a biochemist, but did we ever see her biochemisting? Nope, just making dinner and doing the laundry.

Billy, now Bill Mumy. I found him him less of a show-off and more as a brilliant child actor who became a thoughtful, interesting, and very attractive man. (I have since discovered a taste for gingers.)  I really enjoyed episodes like Return From Outer Space and Trip Through the Robot, the many interviews with Mumy sprinkled throughout the books and in some of the bonus features on the DVDs.

Jonathan Harris, the nefarious, cowardly, pompous Dr. Zachary Smith. He, too, was brilliant, if a bit of an asshole. He could have performed his role and left space and advocated for the other actors, been more of a team player, but he chose not to, though he nurtured a super warm relationship with the crew. I can see from an adult storyteller's perspective, how much Harris brought to the table, and how that made the show more conflict-laden (which we want in stories, not so much in real life) and entertaining. I must admit waiting to hear "Oh, the pain, the pain!" and whatever alliterative insult Dr. Smith would spout at The Robot, the poor Bubbleheaded Booby.

The Robot, loyal companion in all circumstances, performed brilliantly by Bob May (body) and Dick Tufeld (voice). I still think of him like a cross between an uncle and older brother, and sooo believable. Who doesn't know how to say, "Danger, danger, Will Robinson!" while waving their arms like The Robot?

Paul Zastupnevich, assistant to Irwin Allen and costume designer. He designed so many costumes and props that would fit right in at a BDSM dungeon, today. Deliberate, or accidental?

Jonathan Harris and guest star Francine York from The Colonists, via Lost in Space wikia
The music:

I had remembered the music having a big impact on me, but I was really struck by it, in my revisiting of it.  The initial theme song and much of the first few episodes were scored by Johnny Williams (later to be John Williams, of Jaws, Close Encounters, Star Wars, and so much more).  There were also snippets borrowed from The Day the Earth Stood Still, and original themes by Alexander Courage (Star Trek,Superman) and others.

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Watching the show, and really listening to it... It would have had a fraction of the impact on me, without the soundtrack. (I think I've mentioned being a groupie at heart.)

There's one sweet, warm theme frequently repeated, which I discovered from the Cushman LIS books, is called "Family." You can hear it, above, at about 19:56.

Other themes weren't identified, but I invite you to listen to how I've labeled some of them, and see if you agree:

0:00 - Original Lost in Space Theme by John(ny) Williams

My labeling:
  0:56 - Tense Times
  1:59 - something chilling from The Day the Earth Stood Still
  3:42 - Noble Exploration
  5:10 - Something Creepy is Around the Corner (this makes my heart beat faster)
  6:22 - The Monster Is Coming. One. Step. At. A. Time. (my heart POUNDS)
  8:45 - Silly Dr. Smith theme (a dark version, sometimes it's lighter)
  9:29 - Look Out For That Rock - The Chariot Charioting
11:22 - Curiosity Killed the Cat
12:08 - Entering Twisted Fairyland (used a lot with Penny stories)
13:09 - Come Into My Lair, Said The Spider
18:48 - Perhaps We've Learned Our Lesson
19:28 - The Robot's March
19:56 - Family, as described above. Tender, wistful, sentimental.
There's so much more. Circusy themes, playful themes, Western themes, more stuff that almost kidnaps you to come back after commercial. As much as the sight of The Robot waving his arms and announcing, "Danger! Danger!" or my happy interest at the sight of Mark Goddard in his silver jumpsuit, this music is my childhood.

Do you have a favorite Los in Space episode, star, or musical theme?
And have you voted in my tiara poll. yet? Only a couple days left.
Your thoughts?