Monthly Archives: June 2008

Vegas revisited

Ok, so now that I have the airport security rant out of my system, I can actually deliver the list of things about Vegas that are distinctly Vegas, yet definitely disturbing. Don’t misunderstand, the trip was great and I’d probably even do it again, but as with nearly every vacation, there were a few things that made it a bit less than pleasant.

1. Overpriced everything. I understand that when going on vacation one should expect to pay. I’ve been on some expensive vacations before, but it seems I’ve always managed to find a way to have lots of fun for just a little coin. For instance, tickets for Disneyworld are expensive. However, once inside the park, prices are actually rather affordable. Sure, I paid $6.50 for a Caesar salad, but it was a huge salad I couldn’t even finish. A bottle of water ran about $2, but I found it easy to refill it because there were water fountains everywhere. Not true of most of Vegas. Even the Burger King was pricey. A quick breakfast before our flight ended up costing us nearly $20 and all we got were two croissant meals and an extra coffee. I think each meal was almost $8 and the coffe was close to $2. The first morning in Vegas I ordered water at the patisserie in Paris and it was $5. Sure it was a liter bottle, but it was just regular ol’ Aquafina. And the only place to fill it was our hotel room. The gondola rides at the Venetian were $16 a person. Who in their right mind pays $16 to ride a boat on a fake river through a fake Venice? Well, lots of people as it turns out since there was a line to ride and people in the shop buying tickets. But not me, that’s for sure. On a vacation to London, I saw an absolutely phenominal performance of Romeo and Juliet, and it only cost me 5 pounds (about $8.50). Our tickets to Ka, which granted was even better, were $90 each. About the only good value we found were the people hawking ice cold bottled water on some of the bridges for $1 each. And I’m not entirely sure that was legal.

2. Smut Peddlers. I want to make it quite clear that I am not opposed to the actual smut itself, but rather the ten guys/gals per block trying to force business cards for very naked women on us every time we walked anywhere. It didn’t matter what time of day it was (although there were even more at night), someone was constantly trying to hand one of us “Candy” or “Shelli” or “Tiffani’s” cards with promises they’d be in our room in less than an hour. The peddlers even had this annoying way of “clicking” the cards to grab attention. The streets were littered with business cards and overly made up faces of private “dancers.”

3. Even more annoying were the women who took the cards from the smut peddlers and then threw little hissy fits about them. Not because of the content of the card (especially since most of them had little more on than “Amber” and “Bunny”), but because those perverts actually thought they might enjoy “that sort of thing.” Who doesn’t realize they probably don’t even look at the people who pass by? They are paid to get hand out cards. They don’t care who gets them. Although, the do seem to care enough to hold back when they see children. I have a feeling it’s more out of a fear of the law than actual moral restraint.

4. While I’m on the subject of annoying people in the city, I have to mention the comp guys. Every time we entered any building we had to avoid making eye contact, fall into immediate conversation and still squeeze past the fifty guys ready to comp us tickets to see all kinds of horrid shows if we just come to their presentation on their new resort/hotel/condo. Even the guy we thought worked for the mall and actually wanted to tell us about the stores and give us a map (it’s a miles worth of stores in a loop), wanted us to check out some new resort. It wasn’t just in buildings either. Comp guys walked up and down the street offering tickets to night clubs. I felt kind of bad since I know it’s their job, but after the never ending barrage of offers the first day, I just had to look straight ahead and preempt them with a no before they got more than “do you have tickets tonight?” out.

5. Losing money. Not exactly original or unexpected, but I was a little disappointed I walked away with less than I brought. Not in an “I didn’t expect it” kind of way, more of a “darn, I wish I’d have won” way. In all fairness this barely makes the list since I only gambled with $26 and actually walked away with $16 of it. And I got four free drinks out of that, which at $6.50 a pop if you order them outside the casino, means I sort of came out ahead. Plus I was playing the nickel poker machines, so it’s not like I was going to break the bank. Although the last time I was in Vegas, I did win 400 nickels, so I think I was expecting similar luck. My husband faired a little worse. He gambled away about $35, which his four free drinks didn’t even cover. Come to think of it, the last time I was in Vegas my S.O. lost more than I did too. Hmmm…

6. Fatties in teeny, tiny, almost non-existant clothes. I know, I know, I shouldn’t be rude. However, being a bit of a chubster myself, I’ve learned what I should and shouldn’t wear in public if I want to keep my self-respect. I realize I’m talking about Vegas where any sort of dignity does seem a rare commodity, but the clothing (or lack of it) on some people was shocking. At about 10 a.m. on Sunday, we were entering the Bellagio. A woman was coming out, obstensibly from the hotel wearing nothing but a bikini top and daisy dukes. The woman was about my size, and while the actual size doesn’t need to be related here, it’s in the double digits and it was extremely unpleasant to see. There were fat rolls just about everywhere. There were men with large, large guts wearing the tiniest of bathing trunks, just walking around the shops in our hotel. I also saw a guy with a huge gut wearing a shirt he must have bought when he was much thinner. His gut stretched it so far it no longer covered his torso. It was a belly shirt and his belly was hairy. I shudder recalling it.

7. Dumb walkers/stoppers. I realize it’s vacation and people like to take things at a leisurely pace, but my nearly 90 year-old grandmother walked faster than some people, and she has gout. Not to mention the number of people who just stop, for no apparent reason, in the middle of a sidewalk. It was never just one person either. It was an entire family of five. And of course, it was always with no warning whatsoever and right in front of me. I nearly bumped in to a ton of people and actually couldn’t stop in time for a few of them. I know it earned me some choice words from those behind me who nearly rammed into me. Vegas is not a place to just randomly stop. No matter what time of day it is, people are walking.

8. Burning sun. It was obvious to me that it was going to be hot. I realize Vegas is in the desert. And we chose June to visit. But man, that sun is blistering. We had to constantly duck into stores and casinos for relief. I think my husband would have liked spending more time in the sun, but I was starting to pink and unlike him, my pink doesn’t turn tan. It turns red, really red, and then it hurts. In the shade it was actually tolerable. I’d forgotten what life without humidity was like. Ninty degrees in Vegas, especially in the shade is about 50 times easier to deal with than 90 degrees in the Mid-West. Plus my hair didn’t frizz all over the place. Still, 90 degrees with the sun beating right down on me is not fun.

9. Our hotel bed. We booked a room with a king size bed at Bally’s. I had the paperwork from my travel agent (my mother-in-law, who I guarentee quadruple checked it) that clearly said a room with a king bed was confirmed and that a non-smoking room was requested. When we checked in we were told all non-smoking rooms with king beds were taken. I pointed out that we had it confirmed only to be told that no hotel in Vegas actually confirms the type of room. They have too much business for that. Personally, I think that is bull and they’d just given away all the king size rooms. We checked in during the early evening and I’m sure those early to arrive got our room. As compensation we were given a “mini-suite” with a living room and a queen sized bed. I would have been ok with the size of the bed, but it was harder than a rock. The bed, it seems, was some sort of fancy sofa bed. It folded up into the wall in some way. Although there was no rod running right down the middle of my back all night, it was still almost as bad as every other sofa bed I’d ever slept on.

10. Smoking everywhere. And not just cigarettes either…cigars and pipes. Yuck! Every time we walked into a casino or restaurant it hit us. I know I have been spoiled living in a town that is virtually smoke free, but like good chocolate, it’s a luxury I’m not willing to give up. Most places really worked on their ventilation and had really high ceilings to make it breatable, but people constantly walked by me smoking and it grossed me out. Smoking is obviously part of the Vegas lifestyle. Everyone was doing it.

While some of these are obviously more annoying to me than others, my overall Vegas experience was pretty positive. If they could just work on some of these small details, I know I’d go back more often. Oh well, I guess it’s better this way. There are, afterall, 43 more states we need to visit.

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Saving the world, one 3 oz. bottle at a time.

So I raved on (and on I realize) about the great parts of Vegas. However, under it’s neon sheen of abundance and glamour (albeit a strange, cruise-shipesque glamour), there are definitely things about Vegas that bugged the heck out of me and make a return trip just a tad less likely. I have a top 10 list of those as well, but first, I feel I must rant about the biggest annoyance of my entire trip, which happened far from the bright lights and dancing girls.

I’m talking about my run-in with a truly evil force in this world:

Airport security at McCarran

Now, I realize that since 9/11 airport security has gotten a bit tighter. I’m ok with waiting a bit longer in security lines, taking my shoes off and putting them through the x-ray and although it is a trifle annoying, I’m even ok with limiting myself to 3 oz bottles of necessities like shampoo and saline solution. Although I’m not quite sure what more than a quart of tiny bottles of hair products, make-up and toothpaste can do (I think it might be bomb related), I grabbed a generic plastic bag and filled it with all my toiletry needs. As we were only going on a four day mini-break, we decided not to check any luggage since the last two times I’ve taken planes, my checked bags have ended up in different cities than I have. We didn’t have a single problem in Chicago. When we tried to return though, my bag was yanked out of the grey tote, held up and scrutinized by two female TSA agents.

“Have you ever seen a bag this big?” one of them asked.

“No,” her partner said, “it must be two, maybe three quarts.”

Granted, it was a big bag, but it was also less than half full of tiny bottles, most of which were also half full. No matter. I got pulled to the side and the contents of my bag dumped out in front of me. See, my bag was bigger than a quart. Regulations clearly say one clear quart sized bag. I had three options 1) go back and buy a quart size bag and return through security for another check, 2) throw the entire contents of my bag away or 3) go back to the ticket counter and check my bag. My husband, nice guy that he is, offered a fourth solution. He dumped his tiny sandwich bag of things and let me cram mine in. All but three items fit in his bag. Which clearly showed the woman that I had less than a quart worth of 3 oz. liquids. And yet she still dumped my extra three tubes. Why? Because they weren’t in the clear quart-sized bag.

Now, unless I am really mistaken, the actual size and material of the bag will in no way stop any sort of terrorist attack from happening. Nor can a mere plastic bag be used for any nefarious purposes on board an aircraft. The actual “dangerous” materials are the liquids. And I clearly had less than a quart worth of them. She explained to me that the rule was clearly to make it easy for airport security to make sure travelers did not have the extra liquids that could somehow harm the plane. I understood, but I also clearly had less than a quart of liquids. Then she made it very clear to me that she was throwing away my extras, not because I was over my limit, but because there was a rule and she had the power to follow it.

It put me in mind of another encounter I’d had with a government employee who had a taste of power and went way too far with it: the border patrol.

Years ago, on the exact same trip that also showed me Vegas for the first time as an adult, a band of friends and I decided to head slightly south of the border for a visit to Tijuana. Friends had moved to San Diego right out of college, so on a visit with them, we took a day trip to Mexico just to drink cheap booze, shop for cheaper trinkets, and well, say we’d been to Mexico. During our foray into another country, one of my friends bought a little stone pipe for her father. Her father has a huge pipe collection and at the time even subscribed to a pipe magazine. We were still pretty poor since none of us had real jobs, so the sweet $2 she’d paid for it was perfect.

As we were crossing the border, they asked what we had to declare. Two of us had nothing, but she honestly told them she had a wooden carving and a pipe. None of us thought anything of it, until she was wisked away by a guard to an area to be searched. Her pipe was taken and she was told it would be destroyed because it was “drug paraphernalia.” She told the officer it was a gift for her father, and he looked at her, laughed and said “yeah, sure it is.”

Now, I realize we were young (22), and that he probably had heard the excuse before, but we had no hint of drugs on us. Heck, we’d each only had one drink in Mexico. We were, however, recent college grads and felt a great injustice was being done. Both because the pipe had been taken without any sort of cause and because we’d been honest. If we were tying to hide something or be deceptive, she could have said nothing. It’s not like the checked any of us. Heck, they didn’t even ask to see our licenses or any sort of identification when we crossed. All they did was ask us to declare our citizenship. So, we asked what the deal was. One of us was particularly vocal about how ridiculous they were being. He was asked what he purchased in Mexico, to which he replied, “A chess set which is perfectly legal on both sides of the border.”

Apparently that was the wrong answer. They didn’t like his tone and the officer actually told him, “I want you to know that everything I’m doing right now, I’m doing simply because I can.”

My friend retorted, “And that’s a wonderful abuse of power.” At which point he was escorted into a back room by one of the officers. We were given a pamphlet to read on what could and could not be taken across the border and another officer tried (and failed) to explain why they took the pipe. According to the literature, in order to be classified as paraphernalia, there has to be no other possible use other than drug related. It was a pipe. Last time I checked, their primary use was for smoking tobacco. The exact same pipes are sold on the American side of the border. Sure, they could be used for drugs. But they could also be used by someone like my friend’s father. We argued this, but to no avail.

Our friend returned on oddly friendly terms with the officer. It seems in the back room the officer had made him take his shoes off and lift up his shirt, but that’s where the search had ended. I believe a strip search was threatened, however, my friend had the good senes to mention that his father worked at the Pentagon as part of military intelligence. The officer was much nicer after that.

We left, without the pipe or further hassle.

While my most recent run-in only left me sans some free hotel shampoo, conditioner and lotion, it still left me angry. Both times we’d broken no real law. We weren’t going to hurt ourselves or anyone else. We were detained, harrassed and our stuff tossed away for no other reason than an employee with a bit of power and a serious hard on for the rules wanted to make a point. I just wanted to shake the woman and tell her to get over herself, but I was pretty sure that would lead to me being led off to a tiny room and since my dad is just a fire chief in a podunk town, I’m guessing a full cavity search might have ensued.

 I also wanted to offer her another option, to realize I wasn’t a terrorist, didn’t have a quarts worth of liquids on me and that the bag was just as arbitrary as the job she was doing keeping our country “safe.” But considering how amazed she was that two or three quart plastic bags existed, I doubt she’d understand.

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Vegas, Baby

It’s after 11 and while normally my head would be sinking into my pillow, I am wide awake right now. See, I’ve just returned from a four day mini-break in Las Vegas and while my eyes and brain clearly see it is nearly midnight, my body is convinced it’s only 8. It’s just now ready to eat dinner and get the evening started. It’s forgotten all about my generally hum-drum quiet existance. It craves neon, mobs of people and the steady ding of coins pouring out of slot machines.*

Aw Vegas. Land of, well, pretty much anything you could want, as long as it’s some kind of vice. If you can eat it, bet it, smoke it, drink it or have sex with it, Vegas is your place. It’s like Disneyland for grown ups. Except that there were a lot of families there. I saw many small children being drug around at 10 o’clock at night from one casino to the next. I’m not really sure what parents did with them since it’s illegal for anyone under 21 to technically be on the gambling floor, but I saw a lot of parents with a giant drink in one hand pushing strollers with very tired little ones in them. Wierd. Especially since the real call of Vegas seems to be vice and lots of it. What’s the good of going to Vegas if you have to worry about changing diapers or making sure a baby gets fed?

But I digress. This isn’t a diatribe about the absolutely ridiculous parenting I saw during my four day stint in neon city. No, instead, this is a list of the top 10 things I LOVED about Vegas. These are in no particular order as my brain still can’t focus with all this darn quiet.

1) Ka by Cirque de Soleil. We wanted to see one of the seven or eight shows while we were in town. Personally, I was all about Love, which is the Beatles themed show running at the Mirage. Tickets to any Cirque show are a bit pricey though, and since the half price ticket place only had seats to Ka and Zumanity available, we opted for Ka. It was, without a doubt, the most amazing show I’ve ever seen. I like theater and have been to some spectacular shows in my time (including Romeo and Juliet at the Globe in London) and this blows them all away. The pre-show entertainment from the ushers was hysterical. They really set the mood. The set was incredibly impressive. There were four, count ’em, four catwalks which various bad guys soared, twirled and jumped from. Bad guys ran amok through the audience while terrorizing the villagers in the story. The stage not only turned 360 degrees around, but actually went completely vertical so people could scale it in an attempt to outrun the bad guys. People slid off the stage like crazy. There was a beautiful love ballet. The two actors were spinning and doing all sorts of acrobatic feets and half the time only one of them was harnessed. Oh, and that harness, was simply two long pieces of what looked like drapes. PHENOMINAL. I cannot give this attraction higher praise. It is a must see.

2) Frozen bellinis from Fat Tuesdays. While other bars on the strip sold slushy, fruity drinks, only Fat Tuesdays sold these amazingly tasty peach concoctions and added an extra shot for a buck. Plus, I was able to get them in three different casinos and a mall. By the time we’d finish one, we were at the next place to buy one. Out of desperation we tried another store’s frozen drink and it was so sub-par, I actually tossed it away. Plus, Vegas apparently has open container laws, but unless you punch a cop while drinking, no one pays any bit of attention to them. We walked all over the strip sipping our alco-licious fruity drinks from 10 am until 10 pm and no one said anything unless they were asking us where we got our drinks.

3) Crepes. We stayed at Bally’s, which is not only pretty much right in the middle of the strip, but also connected to Paris. Down Paris’s quaint “street” was a little crepe store. I desperately wanted one, but my husband, in retaliation to my moritorium on Chinese food stubbornly refused to stop. So one morning he got a croissant from the pastery place and I got a spinach, mushroom and cheese crepe with some sort of bechemal sauce. It was AMAZING! Without a doubt the best food I had the entire trip. And considering I couldn’t even finish it, it was a pretty darn good value at 8. 95.

4) Ethel M’s chocolates. The first store we saw when we got off the plane at the airport was a chocolate shop. For me, this was far better than playing slots or drinking. Everything in the shop looked vaguely familiar but it took me a minute to realize why. My best friend and I had stumbled into one of these on a shopping trip to Chicago. Not only is the chocolate delicious, but every time you go in, they give you a free sample. They have sinfully yummy flavors like lemon drop, gingerbread spice and even peanut butter and jelly.

5. Love Lettuce facial mask from Lush. Yes, I realize there are Lush stores around the country and I can (and do) order from them online, however, the only place to get their amazing face masks is at an actual store. The closest one to me is about 3.5 hours away, so when I was sipping a bellini in Mandalay Bay and turned the corner to find a store, boy was I in heaven! Not only did I get a fantastic face mask that helped make my skin feel semi-normal after days in the sun, but I got a great foot bar that relieved some of the ache from walking all day and a bubble bar that made for an amazingly relaxing bath my last night in Vegas.

6. The cool “streets” inside the casinos. In less than four days I strolled the streets of Paris, Rome, Venice and New York. While I’ll admit the bright lights and constant ding of machines in the casinos is distracting and a bit annoying (as is the smell of both cigarettes and cigars which are everywhere), I liked strolling down the calmer shop filled indoor streets made to look like the actual streets of famous cities. I think my favorite was Paris, although that could just be because I spent so much time using it to get to the strip. Venice was also really cool. The waterways were lovely and the water sparkled blue. New York was just as crowded and frenetic as I remember the real New York being, although much easier to get from “Times Square” to “Coney Island” in Vegas. Rome was fairly cheesy, but it was also just like every movie that features Vegas. The talking statues in one of the mall areas were particularly hard to take, but the escalator shaped like a spiral staircase in the forum shops was pretty darn cool. Plus there was a tasty place called Trevi we ate at. It was right next to a giant fountain and while we ate the “sky” actually got darker. Plus, they had super tasty gellato right down the way.

7. My cool new haircut. Yes, for once in my life, I’m actually kind of trendy. At least from the neck up. I took an afternoon (three hours as it turns out) and got my hair cut and highlighted. I’ve never done anything quite so bold (or spent quite so much to do it), but I really like it. I was a bit nervous at first because she used bleach and when I saw the first strand, it looked really blond. My fears were soon alleviated when I saw the finished product. Over priced, sure, but cute and flippy, so it’s ok by me.

8. Atomic Testing Museum. Although we had to leave the strip for this one (and walk way down the block to a sketchy casino called Terribles to get a cab back), it was well worth it. Not only was it a great escape from the blisteringly hot weather outside, I learned a lot and was entertained. A must see for anyone interseted in history, and especially relevant after just seeing the latest Indiana Jones movie. The museum has great artifacts from the atomic craze like atomic Boy Scout merit badges, atomic cocktail books and atomic records. Everything in the 50’s was atomic! Plus there are some fascinating movies about the tests and some unbelievable facts. It’s hard to fathom a time when people sat on wooden benches less than three miles from the blast and watched it for entertainment with only goggles to protect their eyes. Interesting and scary.

9. Del Taco. To many I know this may seem like just another fast food taco place. Honestly, it is. But it’s a good fast food taco chain. And more importantly, it’s the one I grew up eating from in Southern California. Del Taco is slightly more expensive than Taco Bell, but it’s also light years better. Everything just tastes better there. Plus, for some odd reason, all of their combo meals come with fries. Who doesn’t love a burrito a taco and fries? Yummy! There aren’t that many restaurants I get nostalgic about, but Del Taco is one. Every time I see one, I am compelled to eat there.

10. Being a grown up. I know it sounds silly, but for a few days I got a glimpse back at my life sans baby. I was able to stay up really late (nearly 4 am in my regular time zone) and sleep in late as well (nearly 2pm one morning). I got to drink without control (which for me still isn’t much). I got to go wherever I wanted whenever I wanted without worrying about anyone else. I saw two movies in the middle of the day. I ate when I wanted to with no worries about balanced nutrition. In fact, I’m not sure I ate a vegetable the entire time I was there**. I shopped without worry and bought what I wanted. We threw caution to the wind and actually spent money. I splurged in a way I’ve never really splurged before. Not enough to send us to the poor house, but enough to make me feel just a tad decadent. And I’ll admit it, it was nice.

Overall, Vegas was pretty darn fun. Four days was definitely enough though. Vacations are fun, but I’m glad to be home.

*Well, of the sound of coins. Slots don’t actually give coins anymore. They give credits, but make the sound of money pouring from them as they do it. When you want to cash out, you hit a button and then take the receipt to the cashier.

**Aside from my spinach and mushroom crepe that is.

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Taxes, that’s how they get you

A couple of years ago I came into a little money as part of a settlement over an inheritance issue. Now I’m not talking about, “hey, I’m gonna go buy my own tropical island” sort of money. It’s not even, “hey let’s buy a bigger house” kind of money. It’s not even enough money to buy a very stripped down new car. It was just enough money to pay off my credit card, sock a little in the savings account and go out to a nice dinner. Heck, I couldn’t even pay off my car with it.

When I got the money, I talked to several people who are pretty well versed in money matters, including a financial planner. I was under the impression that the money would be non-taxable. So, I didn’t report it on my taxes. It’s not like it would have put me into another tax bracket. I wouldn’t have even had to pay that year. I probably just would have gotten a smaller refund check. Everything seemed fine.

In April though, I got the rest of the money and this time we talked to a different financial planner. He also thought the money would be non-taxable, but suggested we talk to an actual accountant. Seeing as how this bit of cash was more substantial than the last and could actually pay off most of our mortgage, we also thought an accountant would be a good idea. That’s when we found out not only was this money taxable, but so was the bit we recieved two years ago. You know, the money we hadn’t paid taxes on.

Now, we could have just pretended ignorance about the other money and hoped the IRS never found out. We could have paid on the current money and left it at that, but when I found out about the mistake, I wanted to rectify it. So we had the accountant do all the paperwork and figure up the late fees and penalties. Wanna guess what it came to?

While I won’t give an actual $ value here, it equivocates to 70% of the money we got. Yes, that’s right, 70%. Now, I’m in full support of paying my taxes to help make the world a better place. As a citizen, I believe it is my responsibility to help fund local schools (even though my son doesn’t attend), pay for roads and a I’m even ok with contributing to services for the those in poverty, despite the fact I hopefully will never have to use them. I am at least partially responsible for my fellow human being and am ok with that. What I am not ok with is giving the government 70% of my money.

The thing that really cheeses me off about this is that if I had kept my mouth shut, there’s a good chance I would never have to pay a cent of it. I did the responsible thing. When I realized my error, I wanted to make it right. Now, I realize if the government didn’t have some sort of punishment, people would just not pay their taxes and then when caught would claim “oops” and pay right up. I’m not one of those people. I’m dumb and was careless, I admit it. I even feel like I should have to pay some late fees for it, but 70%? It would have been one thing if I was trying to get away with something and they had to spend the time and resources to track me down. But not only did I come quietly, I turned myself in. I didn’t hurt anyone.

I feel like there should be some sort of break. It’s not like my husband and I are wealthy. I’m a teacher. He’s in sales. I work for one of the lowest paying school districts in the state. He works for a cheap publishing company. When we got the money, I was in my first year teaching at my school and I’d actually taken a pay cut. He was in telesales then and was making diddly/squat. We were getting by just fine, but we weren’t exactly painting the town red with our extravagance.

What makes this situation even suckier is that in addition to the 70% the government took, to cover all the lawyer’s fees and mediations and consultations, the lawyer took 18% of my money before I even got it. As it turns out, I got to keep a whopping 12% of my money. Granted, that was just for the first part of my settlement. I have no idea what is in store for this current money. I’m assuming since I just got it and I haven’t had to file my taxes this year, I can at least escape without the late fees and penalties. I may get by with the government only taking 40% of my money. And while that is still way too much considering what I make and how we live, it’s better. Plus, I don’t have any more lawyers fees. Of course, I now have accountant fees. So far I’ve acrued about four hours of work from him and let me tell you, even the junior accountants there aren’t cheap.

How in the world does anyone get ahead? All I wanted was to pay my mortgage off so I could start saving a little more for my son’s college education and so that I could take a few weeks off when we get ready to have our second baby. At this rate my son better get some major scholarships and a part time job at McDonald’s.

Yeah, I’m being a bit mellow dramatic, but I feel very violated by our government right now. I’m all for paying my share, but this is my share and a couple of my neighbor’s shares as well.

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I find friends in wierd places

This morning I took my son to the Children’s Museum. One of my summer goals is to put the passes to the museum and the zoo that we have to good use. Not only is a great way for him to play and learn in a safe environment, it’s also a way to get us out of the house.

There was some sort of special event going on when we arrived. A group of official looking people wearing suits and making speeches about an upcoming Egypt exhibit (one that is over a year away from opening) crowded the usual entrance. We had to circumnavigate the crowd and sneak into the museum through the Dinosphere. I’d never been that way before and I have to say, it was pretty cool. I can’t wait until my son is older and really likes dinosaurs so we can spend more time there. As it stands, we spend most of our time on the third floor in the little kids’ play area. It is also cool, if you are under 5.

The good part is that the entrance to the play area for those under five usually has closed doors and a “greeter” so rambunctious little monkeys like mine can’t just run off. Plus, there are tons of things just his size for him to get in to. He can climb without much fear (on my part) of hurting himself and run around all he wants. He splashed at the water table, groped sand, climbed up and slid down all by himself, banged cups on the table in the pretend kitchen, “planted” flowers and pulled a tiny-sized popping plastic lawn mower all over the place. I ran after him, working up a considerable sweat. It was kind of gross.

I also ran into an old acquaintance of mine. When I saw him, I was completely taken aback. I don’t know why really. I knew he had a daughter and that he and his wife lived in Indy. In fact, his wife and I used to be pretty decent friends. His wife and I went to college together and stayed friends well after graduation. In fact, I am also friends with her younger sister. I see her sister at least a couple of times a year at parties and get togethers.

I haven’t seen her in ages though. Not since I accidently ran into her with several of my other old friends one night while getting sushi at our favorite local place. That was awkward since we hadn’t seen each other in at least a year before that and the sushi place is pretty small. We actually sat only one table away from them and after a polite hello, we pretty much went on with our own coversations. I can’t speak for them, but I thought it was a little odd. I mean, we were friends. We’d never had any sort of fight. Heck, I don’t think we’d ever had a disagreement. We lived in the same town, and yet somehow, our group had factioned off and we no longer called each other for book clubs, or invited each other to gatherings. The only way I even found out she was pregnant was through her sister.

It’s wierd running in to someone I used to know. Especially someone I used to be friends with. I always feel the need to make polite small talk, but am never really sure what to say. While we never exactly bared our souls to each other, we did see each other often for several years until one year we just didn’t see each other. It was especially awkward for me today because I was never really friends with her husband, but knew him well enough to feel obligated to make small talk. That obligation was deepened when my son ran away from the water table to the slide and he and his daughter followed only moments later.

Since we are both teachers, we had a little to say to each other. I asked about his summer break so far. He told me about his “new” job (which he’d for a few years). I asked about his wife’s job. He asked if I’d see his sister-in-law’s new baby. We spoke briefly about another mutual friend of sorts who’d actually graduated from the school he currently works at. He seemed very perplexed by that fact, and then amused by it.

Overall, it was a wierd experience. I never know what to do in these situations. I don’t ever want to be the rude person who just walks on by even though we’ve clearly made eye contact. I also don’t want to be the person who unfolds every detail of her life story from the moment we last talked until now. I’m not opposed to possibly renewing old friendships, but I also don’t feel like forcing something that isn’t there. Friendships usually die for a reason, right? Plus, small talk always un-nerves me a bit. It’s not that I want former friends to have good lives. It’s just that I don’t know how much I should care or ask about them. Because one of them might be the gusher and then I’m stuck hearing all about the last four years of their life.

I hate awkward conversations.

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Filed under cool places, entertainment, motherhood, my friends, my son, ramblings, what makes me me