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Archive for September, 2010

Southwest Airlines must’ve known Tina and I were flying with them today: they threw a party! We arrived at the gate to find cookies, punch and loads of colorful decorations. Afraid it wasn’t just because we were there (although I’m sure that was part of it); they are celebrating Spirit Week. I love Southwest. Any excuse for a party – and bags still fly free with them, unlike so many others. One of the pilots was making the most of it: ‘I think I’ll take some of these cookies for the crew and tell them I bought them for them.’ You go, guy.

Afraid the flights (we switched in Baltimore) weren’t as good as the terminal, as we experienced an insane amount of turbulence. Weren’t quite sure we were going to make it through the second leg, but somehow we did. Tina is just getting her color back.

So we didn’t spend much time in Arkansas, and I’m now back in Massachusetts for a few days. It’s Nick’s college family weekend so I’m going to spend as much time with him as possible, see family and catch up on a few things around the house before flying back to Arkansas and getting back on the road Monday. I probably won’t blog much, if at all, over the next few days ’cause my life just isn’t that exciting, but if  I stumble on anything interesting in Salem, I’ll be sure to let you know. It is, after all, October and I will be in Salem, Massachusetts, the witch capital of the world! (And yes, I do feel quite at home there. 🙂 )

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I’m sad to say that Day 21 was my final day in Nashville – in all of Tennessee – for at least the near future. I’ve spent so much time here over the past month, I’ve grown so fond of it and will miss this state. I had to give it a proper goodbye. So Tina, Kristen and I went on a Nashville trolley tour to get to know Nashville a bit more before we bid it adieu. (We actually set out to find a Big Green Tractor Tour led by handsome men in black cowboy hats – why don’t they have those? That would bring money to music city!)

Well, I say we went on a trolley tour, but that’s not exactly true – the trolley was being painted, so we had to go on a bus instead. Oh well, at least we had a good driver – Steve – and got to learn more about our home-away-from-home, even though we didn’t quite have the photo opportunities we would have had in an open trolley.  (Apologies for many of the photos – remember most were taken through glass on a moving bus!) What did we learn? I guess the question is actually what do I remember?

  • It started as Nashborough in the late 1700s – and there’s a replica Fort Nashborough on the banks of the Cumberland River, right across from the Titans’ football stadium. Something fun to tour on our next visit.
  • There’s a really cool concrete timeline and facts built as a walking trail throughout a park by the state house. It tells the history of Tennessee through its milestones, including how it was divided in the Civil War and how it became known as The Volunteer State.
  • There are a zillion (well, maybe not quite that many) recording studios in Nashville, most concentrated on 16th and 17th Streets. We drove by many of them, including the famous RCA Studio B, which was Elvis’ favourite. And we think he said the most top 10 songs have been recorded here than any other studio. (I hope no children are using this site as a research paper resource – may want to verify any facts I’m recalling in the middle of the night…)
  • Every city has its claim to fame, and Nashville has many. One that I didn’t know before the tour is that at the Parthenon (a replica of the original in Athens minus the marble and used as an art museum) there’s a statue of Athena that is 42 feet tall making it the tallest statue indoors in the western hemisphere. And her garb is really cool, made out of 24 karat gold.
  • There’s a lot more to Nashville’s music obsession than just country. There are clubs and studios featuring all kinds of music: Blues, Southern Rock, Bluegrass, hip hop, pop, metal…
  • Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville will be opening downtown this fall – isn’t that a good enough reason to visit again soon?

Our final moments in Nashville were spent in Legends, listening to live music and having a bite to eat. We then dropped Kristen at the airport and Tina and I set off for Arkansas. Simply to go to the airport. You see, I’m enroute to see my friend Jason, his family, and my aunt, uncle and cousins in Oklahoma, but need to take a quick detour north to see my son (who I miss sooooooo much) beforehand. Since Little Rock is halfway between Tennessee and Oklahoma, that’s where Tina and I are flying from.

We had a blast on the drive – it was so good having Tina’s company, wish I could keep her but know I have to share her with Bill and my three beautiful goddaughters who wouldn’t love me nearly so much if I stole their mother full-time. Can’t say we saw much of Arkansas as we mainly drove in the dark, and just oohed and aahed when we saw Aidan’s map turn blue, assuming it meant we were by water. The only other thing to note was that they lock their vending machines behind bars in this state. Can anyone tell me why?

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Talk about a city with a heart and soul. Nashville is like nowhere I have ever been. Admittedly, I haven’t been everywhere which is why I’m on this road trip, but this place has something special – an actual beating heart that shines through its people. They don’t call this the Volunteer State for nothing.

Now I know that the best comes out in people during a crisis (I’ve been through my share of them with work, and I, too, thrive in them), and that was certainly evidenced following the flooding from the Cumberland River which devastated downtown and surrounding areas, taking lives and livelihoods – and destroyed much of the Grand Ole Opry building. Of course people in most places pull together and pitch in to help recovery efforts following tragic events. But I can tell that the kindness and support offered then was no different than the people of Tennessee display every day. They care for each other, are interested in others and want to make everyone welcome. Who wouldn’t want to live here?

This spirit couldn’t have been better demonstrated than at the reopening of the Grand Ole Opry, five months after the floods, on Day 20 of my road trip. Tina, Kristen and I flew in from three different cities to spend the one night here and were so honored to witness this incredible event. It wasn’t just the stars, although they couldn’t have shown much brighter as the show featured: Trace Adkins, Brad Paisley, Martina McBride, Josh Turner, Jason Aldean, Dierks Bentley, Charlie Daniels Band, Diamond Rio, Montgomery Gentry, Lorrie Morgan and Blake Shelton, Ricky Skaggs, Mel Tillis, Steve Wariner – and the list goes on! It was the feeling that emanated through the building. The shared love of the music, the history and the community came through every note, whether sung or spoken. We got chills. 

In addition to the artists glowing with pride to be singing on the restored Opry circle, we witnessed other memorable Opry moments such as a video tribute to Nashville from President Obama (didn’t really go down too well with the people of Tennessee); a welcome home and thank you from the Mayor of Nashville (which went down much better); a hair-raising, electric performance of The Devil Went Down to Georgia by The Charlie Daniels Band and Montgomery Gentry; Trace Adkins giving Blake Shelton a tweet that invited him to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry; and a rousing concluding set by Keith Urban, Brad Paisley, Ricky Skaggs, Steve Wariner and Marty Stewart.

It’s the next morning and we’re still in awe of the fact that we were there and experienced such a historic event.  I was lucky enough to have my seat changed (not sure by whom) so I was in the front section and able to go to the stage as every artist appeared. Never have I been in a more welcoming venue for photographers – and with more polite people who actually took turns moving so everyone got a chance to be at the stage for the best view! I glowed when a man said to me at the end, “You’re going to have some great pictures. You put your heart and soul into taking them.” I told him I love it all so much, and he said it clearly showed. I couldn’t have gotten a better compliment.

The rest of Day 20 is a blur but combined Tina, Kristen and I remember: getting up way too early, traveling to Nashville, exploring the shops downtown in our quest for cowboy boots (yes, we found them – three for the price of one!), meeting the friendliest people on earth around every corner (including these two great ladies from Indiana who we ran into multiple times during the day and the night) and concluding the night after the big show at the bars of Broadway where live music filtered through every open door and poured onto the street.

We love it here. Nashville, we’ll be back!

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  1. Of course New York is better if you’re a local because of all the secret (or non) communication that I mentioned yesterday. BUT if you’re not a local, all you have to do is ask. The vast majority of the time if you ask, you’ll be helped. With a smile – really!
  2. New Yorkers actually like to talk to you. If you are brave enough to ask a stranger a question, you often can’t shut them up.
  3. Don’t be scared, even in skeezy parts. If you’re scared, it’s hard to hide it. Look relaxed and confident and everyone will leave you alone. I saw some scared tourists on the subway and it’s just so obvious, I felt bad for them.
  4. New York has the very best shopping in the world – yes, better than London. No, I didn’t shop more today, although I wanted to. It was so awesome to see stores open – real, full fledged stores – at 7:30 this morning. And they stay open late too! (I really, really wanted to go to Tiffany’s. They just introduced a new handbag collection and you know those are my two of my biggest weaknesses: handbags and little blue boxes from Tiffany’s. But I didn’t let myself go. What does an unemployed girl living out of her car need with a Tiffany’s handbag???)
  5. Don’t be afraid to wear your non-New York team apparel. Just be ready for some friendly banter with the enemy!
  6. It may not be London, but you really shouldn’t leave home without an umbrella. I was practically soaked to the bone in a downpour trying to get to my meeting this morning!
  7. Every where I look, it’s a picture. New York is so incredibly photogenic – and of course, I left my camera at the hotel today!

It was actually ok that I left the camera because I was in an office the entire day. Today was the first day of my job search. I had an orientation session and meeting with my job coach, then used their research library. Waking up at 6 am, getting dressed in work attire, joining the rush hour bus and subway crowds, I simply wasn’t looking forward to it. But it was great. Once I was there and focused on it, I was excited by the prospect of throwing myself back in the working world – as long as it’s in a role that I’m truly passionate about.  I think my cousin is right: once a workaholic, always a workaholic. It really is in our blood!

So this is another thing to work into my daily road trip agenda: the job search, research, networking, professional development, interviews – luckily a lot of it can be done online and via phone, although I’ll have to do some face-to-face.  My dream would be to find the right job, in the right place, that I could start in January. Of course, I have to figure out what that right job is and where the right place is, but hopefully the research and the road trip will help me figure all that out…

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It was a very nice day in New York. I joined Jamie, her parents and friend and we spent the day in typical New York fashion: window shopping, eating, taking a walk in the park and visiting a museum. I, of course, couldn’t put my camera down and tried to catch a bit of New York life on film. I love playing tourist. It was a very nice distraction to keep me from thinking about how I wasn’t with my son on his 19th birthday. (At least we spoke, he seemed to be having a good birthday, wrote a sweet message on my facebook wall and I’ll see him very soon!)

There are unlimited neighborhoods to explore in this city, all with their own unique feel. But there’s also the distinct, charged ‘New York’ air that flows through and connects it all. You feel it everywhere you go, from the World Trade Center site, through Midtown to the Upper East side. We wandered a few neighborhoods, had a great lunch (there are unlimited little restaurants to sample), then made our way into Central Park. It reminded me so much of London and all of our fabulous green spaces there, especially Hyde Park. From the families picnicking on the lawn, the kids rolling down the hill and the couples strolling hand in hand to the teens dancing by the fountain where so many movies have been filmed. It’s a gathering place for everyone.

We made our way to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It’s a great place not only to look at art, but to people watch. We were lucky to discover the Big Bambu exhibit on the rooftop. It is an incredible structure that you can even walk on (if you take the guided tour, of course). And the view of the city is beautiful.

After some afternoon tea and cocktails, it was time to go – we all had planes to catch or hotels to switch. I was sad to part ways with everyone, but also looked forward to crashing into bed after the crazy, nonstop week. I think I need a weekend to recover! Only, with this road trip, I hardly know what a weekday or weekend is anymore. I’m lucky I know it’s Day 18!

So am I loving or hating New York? I’m in like right now, but we know that could change…

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I have a love/hate relationship with New York. It goes beyond the Red Sox/Yankees. I have been coming here off and on for years for work, so have had my chances to explore and get to know the city bit by bit, although I can’t yet play tour guide here like I can in other cities.

I never thought I could live in New York – too busy, too new and modern, too many skyscrapers, too many Yankees fans. Then when we were living in London and trying to figure out where to move next, Nick determined I am a New York person. I’m always busy and rushing, I have a new love for modern apartments, I’m always taking pictures of all different architecture and I can get really cheap Red S0x apparel in New York (last visit I got an Ortiz shirt for $4.99). He had other reasons too, but I wasn’t really convinced myself.

Then when I visited in March, I was smitten. So many stores that open early and stay open late unlike London, but also so many things in common with London like hearing all the different languages around you, fabulous restaurants and so many cultural things to see and do.  I don’t think you could ever get bored here, either.

Road trip day 17 , though, was a different story. While I was enthused to head out into the city yesterday morning (well, afternoon, once my head calmed down), it quickly wore off. People being rude and pushing. The complete lack of signage on the subway – not even telling you what lines are running or when they will be there. Or maybe they say that somewhere, but it must be a secret locals-only location or language. Needless to say, it made my entire day late. (Not that that’s completely unusual for me, but even more so.)

I was late to meet my old high school friend and family for lunch (so good to catch up – can’t wait for LA!), and then late leaving to get ready for the evening festivities, so went to Plan B. Forget the hotel, I went shopping. Bought a new Michael Kors black dress, new heels at Macy’s, new makeup at Benefit and finally, a new bra at Victoria’s Secret. I got ready in Victoria’s Secret’s bathroom, threw on some perfume and lotion on the way through the store and simply stuffed my other stuff in my back pack. Not exactly the purse of choice for an evening out, but I stopped myself from buying a giant new Coach bag, too. I have my limits.

The agenda for the evening was a combined guy/girl pub crawl, with a Southeast Asian theme, since Tamara and Kris are moving to Shanghai. We started at Bia Garden and made our way to a few other places – including two very non-Southeast Asian stops, one at Mikey’s for burgers and capping the evening off at 2 am with tacos.  We worked up the appetite dancing at the last official destination, Fat Baby.

It was there that the clock struck midnight and it was my son’s birthday. The first one I’ve ever not spent with him, and not made his cake (will be doing that next weekend when I’m home for his college weekend – can’t not do that!). I left him messages on his phone and facebook, and started to cry as Michael Jackson, one of his favorites, was blasted through the club. Luckily one of my old friends – he must have ESP – called at that precise moment and turned my mood around. (See other blog entry from earlier today for more on Nick and his birthday.)

So today I’m going to give New York another chance. Let’s see how it goes…

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I have to pause my regular blog updates to mark a milestone: my son’s 19th birthday. (Don’t worry – I’ll still fill you in on Day 17, but that will be a bit later.) Nick is a huge reason for my being on this road trip. Actually, he’s the reason for nearly every aspect of my life.

I got pregnant when I was 16. I hid it for the longest time and was in such denial that it was happening that I practically hid it from myself. With my closest friends I considered all my options, but never made any moves to do anything about it. In fact, it was someone else who told my mother: when I was six months pregnant she got a card in the mail with a beautiful beach scene on the cover and inside it said in big, red block letters: AMY IS PREGNANT. To this day we don’t know who sent it. But it was the biggest relief because we could then all face it together and my mom gave me the strength and inspiration to become a mother myself.

I gave birth to Nick in September of my senior year of high school. I was scared to death, but the second I held that little boy in my arms I was in love. I have thanked God every single day since for blessing me with Nicholas George. And I have prayed every day that he will be happy and healthy and safe and smart. For all of these years I have had a good deal of control over that, helping him, protecting him, seeing him nearly every day. But now he’s (in the eyes of the law) a grown up. He lives away at college. I am lucky when he returns my texts or calls. And his reliance on me is more emotional – I’m here for him any time he needs me, wants to talk, anything – and, of course, financial. I know he is strong and smart and independant. I am so proud of him, and know he’ll thrive and succeed at anything he puts his mind to, as long as he’s willing to work hard to make it happen. But…

It is so hard letting go. One of the things I wrote in a diary to him when he was born was how he was my new best friend and how happy I was that we had each other and I’d never be alone. I certainly wasn’t thinking about him growing up and moving out! The time passed too quickly, where did these 19 years go??? But I am so thankful for all our special times, our adventures, our time together in London. And I know we’ll still have those – he’s already got me signed up for family vacations with him, Alivia and my future grandchildren (hopefully way in the future) – but I know it will never be just him and me again, and that’s what’s so hard to let go of. And one of the main reasons for this road trip.

As I mentioned at the very beginning of the blog, I do believe this road trip is in part my denial of being left at home, alone. I moved out of my parents house into an apartment with baby Nicky. I’ve never lived alone in my entire life. I’m not even sure what the heck to do with any down time. Add to that no longer having my job (where I was quite the workaholic) or a fiance (broke up when I was in England) and selling my house (so no desire to remodel or redecorate), there didn’t seem to be anything (or anyone) needing me at home.

The road trip is definitely doing it’s job. I have been so on the go nearly every waking minute of the last 17 days that I really haven’t had time to think or realize (or face) all the major changes in my life. But today when the clock struck midnight, the tears started flowing. I called Nick and left him a message, and one on facebook too. Luckily, perfect timing, an old friend called right at that moment and cheered me up. 

So yes, I do know that at some point I will have to face all those things, but for now I am thankful I have this road trip so I can face them bit by bit. And I am so very, very thankful for every moment of the last 19 years and for the most wonderful son in the world. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and you, Nick, are the very best thing that’s ever happened to me.

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