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From Snowstorms to Sunscreen (and a little coin jewelry)

Yes, writing about the weather is so boring and banal, but I’m not feeling too inspired these days (which is evident if you’ve been to my apartment recently) but it’s gotten really warm and sunny, all of a sudden. I spent several hours outside selling jewelry at the cart on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, and even though I put on sunscreen, I still managed to get quite a lovely burn on my arms and forehead. It’s only May and I already look like I’m done with summer.

In other news…I do wonder if anyone reading this would be interested in buying some of the jewelry I sell. It’s all made by my dear friend right here in Madison from vintage/recycled materials from all around the world, so think global shop local (I came up with that one!) We don’t have a web presence just yet, but here’s some of the stuff we sell. If you’d like to own any of it, just comment below, I’ll send it to you, and we can work out some type of payment plan or something.

Here is a selection of just a few of the coin earrings that we sell, made from real coins from around the world. They sell for $15 USD, and if you’re interested, just let me know. I took pictures of eight of our stock, from the beginning of the alphabet, and I will take more pictures – we have many more coins, and other items as well – and upload them here sometime. These coins are from Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, and Bhutan. I’ll send them anywhere…any takers?

Ooh la la

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The Best Little Breakfast in the Bahamas

Wow, a morning post! I know, I’m just as shocked as you are. I don’t know if it was because I was in bed for most of yesterday, but for some reason I was awake at 6:00 and out of bed by 7 or so. In between packing for the trip home tomorrow and doing some last-minute laundry, I figured now would be as good a time as any to share a fun breakfast story.

After my freshman year of college, I wanted to take a vacation somewhere outside the United States, because I hadn’t left the country for awhile. Normally, my dad would embark on these trips with me, as seen in previous posts, but since my grandmother had recently died, I recruited my mom to go with me instead.

Of course, the day we leave is the day of the London shoe bomber, so the lines at BWI are atrocious, people are throwing out liquids left and right, and we missed our plane. Despite having arrived at the airport at 6:30 AM, we missed our 8:30 AM flight, which took off only 25% full because the rest of us were waiting in line. I had a small panic attack at going to the airport only to have to go right back home, but through a small series of miracles, we were able to get to the Bahamas that night, at around midnight. Fortunately, we had not checked anything so other than the liquids we had to toss, we had everything we needed. The couple checking in before us at the hotel basically had only the clothes on their backs and whatever was in the woman’s purse.

Despite a completely harrowing day (and a terrible, completely overpriced dinner of sandwiches at the hotel), we must have slept very deeply because we both woke up refreshed at 9:00 the next morning, to a beautiful sunny day. Mom and I got a cab into town, and I guess the Bahamas decided to stay in its pajamas that morning because we were the only people in downtown Nassau. We were hungry, so we decided to look for something to eat, and we ended up walking through a beachside shopping area called Prince Roger’s Walk. I don’t know why we went in there, because it was mostly souvenir shops, but I spotted a sign that said “Swiss Confiseur” and smelled something baking, so we went inside to find a teeny cafe with one lady working there. All she seemed to have was a case of drinks and some breakfasts breads and pastries, but she had just finished making some warm apple turnovers and they smelled really good. We asked for two, and my mom got a can of orange juice, and I got a can of fruit punch. Getting her credit card out of her purse, Mom asked how much it all came to for the two pastries and two drinks.

Grand total?

Four dollars. 

One each for the pastry, and one each for the canned drink.

She handed over a five and we headed outside to enjoy our modestly-priced breakfast at a tiny table overlooking an empty beach, and for the first time all trip, we felt relaxed. Even Mom, who hates traveling and anything outside of her routine, managed to smile and acknowledge that this was one of the best breakfasts ever.

Who says the Caribbean is a rip-off?

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Children Are Always Cute When Saying the Four Questions

And that’s just about the only time.

Yeah, I’m being serious.

Small children at meals usually mean that I need earplugs and two Advil. There’s just something about their voices screeching in unison at unholy pitches that just goes straight through the brain. With babies it’s somewhat more tolerable, since they don’t know what they’re doing, bless ’em. It’s the walkers-and-talkers who are germ-spreading, attention-seeking little future-people.

But at the Passover seder, it’s different.

The first night, I dined with YJP (which was supposed to be at the Concourse, but ended up moving to Chabad, oddly enough) and there were no children, so that was cool.

The second night, I returned to Chabad for an undergrad seder. Basically, it was four long tables of loud, obnoxious undergrads over whom the rabbi had to shout the seder.

At the normal point, the rabbi asked everyone to quiet down for the Four Questions, which the youngest children traditionally sing. The baby is still a baby, but fortunately most of the wild undergraduate elephants quieted their roar for the shy, overshadowed middle child to say the four questions with the help of his father. The talking got a little louder when the older, outspoken one started to do it double-time, English interspersed with Yiddish, but strangely, I found myself siding with the kid rather than the crowd. Maybe I like the underdog, or maybe I just intensely dislike the JAPs who go to Chabad because a) their parents told them to and b) they’re getting free food. And they’re probably going to hit up Wendy’s or Chipotle at the soonest opportunity. Or maybe because it’s actually a legit part of the seder.

The cool part of the seder was, after dinner, the rabbi directed anyone wishing to sing more songs over to our table. Because that’s how we Chabad regulars roll.

Not a lot of new visitors over the past few days, but welcome to The Bahamas. Bring friends. And now that I have people who actually read/comment…I’m taking suggestions.

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Radio Radio

I upgraded to an iPhone 5 shortly before New Year’s Day, and transferred all my data onto it. I have 680 songs on it already from my previous iPhone, but they’ve barely been listened to.

That is because I have discovered the free, wonderful, FREE, new, FREE feature on the new iPhone, iTunes Radio. According to its Wikipedia, it’s been available to Apple users since the launch of iOS 7 on September 18, 2013, so I haven’t been living under a rock for too long.

Radio has a very special place in my heart for a long time. It made car trips bearable, whether it was playing in the car or on my pre-Walkman handheld radio. Listening to the radio helped my bond with my mom. As an adolescent/teenager of the 1960s and 70s, the oldies station was the go-to station. Hits by the Beatles always made car trips go faster. My mom’s favorites, however, were Motown hits: Aretha Franklin, The Temptations, The Four Tops, The Shirelles, Martha and the Vandellas, and of course Diana Ross/The Supremes. The first song I remember learning all the lyrics of (and I know A LOT of song lyrics) were “Respect” by Aretha Franklin, followed by Phil Collins’ “(You) Can’t Hurry Love” – kind of odd for an early 1990s kid, but that’s the music that’s always stayed with me.

The Queen of Soul

The radio itself was exciting – it was always heartwarming when an old favorite came on, or that song that you’d really wanted to hear that day. It was unpredictable; they could play five awesome songs in a row, then a bunch of duds. Sometimes it seemed to be all commercials. There were times when we’d hear the same song several times in a day, then not hear it again for awhile. Usually it would be a welcome reunion, as if with a long-lost friend. Sometimes there were songs that were good on first listen, but hearing them over and over made me despise them. For some reason, the oldies station liked to play two Herman and the Hermits songs, “Mrs. Brown You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter,” and “I’m Into Something Good.” It became so bad that I cringed whenever I heard the opening chords of “I’m Into Something Good,” the radio was turned off immediately and not turned back on for at least four minutes, to prevent scanning stations and happening upon it once again.

In recent times, I’ve had worse luck with radio stations – in Houston, there were about three good ones, but in Madison, there are absolutely no good radio stations. So I’ve had to resort to iTunes for long rides, and when I get bored, the occasional battery-life-draining YouTube song. Even though iTunes radio doesn’t solve my problem on the road (it only works via WiFi, but who knows, that might change), it’s completely redefined the soundtrack of my life. Instead of listening to Sade singing “Smooth Operator” and having to press repeat until I fall asleep, I put on Jazz Vocals and I’m out by the second song. I wake up in the morning with a half-dead battery since I’m not in my apartment where my lamp-charger is, but that’ll change next week.

They’ve got an impressive array of stations with extensive choices, but I’ve got a few that I just keep going through until I’m bored of the station or have used up all my skips for the hour (not the day, fortunately!). My go-to stations are 80s Pop Hits, Jazz Vocals, Smooth 90s Pop, 90s Radio, DJ @iTunes – Decades, Smooth Pop, Smooth 00s Pop, Smooth 80s pop, and Spin the Globe. I also have Hits of the 80s, World Showcase, African Radio, and Pop Singer/Songwriter, but I usually end up skipping through those, resulting in a smart selection of music because you can tell it to never play a certain song. Call me late to the game, but that’s a new one for me. It even shares that info with other stations; now that I’ve asked it not to play “Truly Madly Deeply” by Savage Garden, a song I truly madly deeply despise, on 90s Radio, whatever station has that song in their rotation, like Smooth Pop or Smooth 90s Pop, will adapt to this information. You can also save songs that you like so you don’t forget the titles when you want to listen to them elsewhere.

The late great June Christy. Seriously, how cute is she?

It’s alerted me to songs I haven’t heard from artists I know, such as Selena‘s “I Could Fall in Love” (I kind of always associated her with “Dreaming of You,” which I don’t particularly like – sorry for judging you so quickly, Selena) and “Brave,” by Sara Bareilles (which I just added to the list since it just came on Smooth Pop). And like any good radio station, has turned me on to some artists I’ve never heard before, like Mads Langer (“Heartquake”), Orlando Cachaito Lopez (“Mis Dos Pequenas”), Bahamas (“Caught Me Thinking”), Wasis Diop (“Everything Is Never Quite Enough”), and since I’ve really gotten into vocal jazz in the past year, some great singers that have somehow been hiding from me, like June Christy, (“Something Cool”) and Anita O’Day (“Let’s Face the Music and Dance”). There’s a duet of Carmen McRae and Sammy Davis, Jr. on a cute song called “Happy To Make Your Acquaintance,” which upon further investigation comes from a little-known musical, The Most Happy Fella, (it sounds awesome as a jazz duet – it’s from a musical, obviously).

I used to have a rule that if you ride in my car and the radio is playing, you must sing or get out of the car. (Usually not strictly enforced.) With iTunes Radio, my OCD side has started with making rules. The first one is: if it’s a song that’s already on my iPhone, I must skip it, because it defeats the purpose of The Radio.

Unless it’s a really, really good song.

I’m so bad at following my own rules, but sometimes it be like…

 

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Happy Birthday, Bahamas!

Today I learned that it’s Bahamian Independence Day. So I thought I’d use this entry to tell you about my trip there.

It was the summer of 2006. My dad was still in mourning for his mother, so he couldn’t go anywhere. Therefore, I convinced my mom to go on vacation with me. Since she’s not a road trip/national parks/geocaching person, I picked a place where she could focus on her favorite pastime – reading. So, naturally, I picked Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas.

Day 1: Probably one of the worst days of my life. We get to the airport in Baltimore at 7 in the morning, planning to fly US Airways from Baltimore to Charlotte to Nassau. Several hours earlier, some idiot in London had tried to smuggle a bomb into Heathrow in his shoe, so basically air travel became just about impossible. The security line at BWI stretched all around the airport, and we knew we were probably not going to make our flight. And…we didn’t. Along with 3/4 of the other people on the flight. So our choices were a) scrap the trip and go back home or b) try to get to Charlotte, spend the night there, then get the first flight to Nassau in the morning. But first, the challenge was to get to Charlotte, as everyone else was scrambling and in the same situation. We got on the standby list for the next flight but didn’t get on it. Someone pointed us down to the US Airways Express gate, where we asked for standby tickets for the next flight to Charlotte. At this point I was crying, pretty much destroyed, and feeling like the trip was over before it had even started. Through my tears, I took our standby tickets from the agent for seats 7A and 7C.

BUT WAIT!

As my mom prepared to head home and the flight was about to depart, I went up to the gate agent.

JACOB: “Excuse me, sir, we have standby tickets, but they have seat numbers on them. What does that mean?”

GATE AGENT: “These aren’t standby tickets…these are tickets.”

Huh?

So I go over to my mom, telling her to hurry up and get on the plane. Even though the plane was tiny, it got us there. Unfortunately, our flight to Nassau had left without us. We went over to the US Airways Special Services desk, which was, incidentally, right next to the gate.

JACOB: “Excuse me, sir, but we were supposed to have been on the earlier flight to Nassau. Is there a way we can get a hotel room tonight and tickets to Nassau in the morning?”

SPECIAL SERVICES AGENT: “I can get you to Nassau tonight.”

Huh?

SPECIAL SERVICES AGENT: “We’ll have to switch your airline and re-route you to another city, but yeah, we’ll have you there tonight.”

So, that’s how we ended up in Fort Lauderdale a few hours later. And a few hours after that, we took a 9 PM flight on Bahamasair to Nassau – the last of the day.

We got to our hotel at about midnight, and the couple in front of us in the check-in line had checked their bags and had only the clothes on their backs. We looked at each other and were glad that we had held on to our bags the whole time, so we went on up to the fifteenth floor and hopped into bed, thinking that our ordeal was over….

Day 2: …And it was. We woke up to a sunny, beautiful Nassau morning, and took a cab into town for breakfast. It was early enough that we had the town to ourselves. We walked down towards Prince Rogers Walk in search of food and saw a small sign in the marketplace reading “SWISS CONFISEUR.” Inside was a Bahamian lady behind a counter, making pastries. It cost us $2 dollars for two  apple turnovers, and $2 for two fruit juices. We ate at a tiny table behind the cafe, overlooking the beach. We agreed – it was the best breakfast ever.

Our tour began at Rawson Square, where we saw the Bahamian head of government and the library. Behind that was the Governor’s Mansion, which had a geocache hidden in the fence, and that’s how we ended up on that tiny piece sidewalk with traffic whizzing by us in both directions as I stuck my hand under the fence and got the cache (see: previous post on geocaching). We then went up to Fort Fincastle, and walked down the Queen’s Staircase. In the Straw Market, I bargained for souvenirs while Mom was…less than happy. We ended the day by going to the Ardastra Zoo and Gardens, where we got to walk around among the animals and get our pictures taken with a parrot. I also got to feed fruit to these small, brightly colored tropical birds (finches, I think). We also stayed for the flamingo show, where the flamingos marched around in a circle and I got to go in the pen and run around with the flamingos WHICH WAS AWESOME. Also, Starbucks in Bahamas is expensive.

Day 3: Saturday = relaxing day. I got Mom to jump in the clear blue water with me and watch as tiny fish swam around our feet. Then, I left Mom on a beach chair under a palm tree while I went snorkeling just off the beach.

Day 4: I begged Mom to let me swim with the dolphins, so we got on a boat to an island where I did just that while Mom took pictures and was surprisingly cool despite just having a) taken a boat, and b) landed on a tourist-trap of an island in the middle of summer. But, she agreed with me, IT WAS AWESOME.

Day 5: We said goodbye to the Bahamas, and our ride home was pretty uneventful, Nassau-Charlotte-Baltimore. Well, not too uneventful – Mom finished all that she had brought to read on the trip on the first flight of the day, so she spent the second flight being bored.

So that’s the story. My favorite part was when, after the trip, Mom actually admitted to enjoying running all around town with me. Unlike our past family vacations, where Dad enjoys wandering around, I obsessively planned the trip and our route around the city so we always know where we were, where we were going, what we were doing, and how we were going to get there. We haven’t taken a trip together since.

So…Happy birthday, Bahamas!