Thursday, February 28, 2013

Amigas Gone Loco

                                                * Guest Blog!* Guest Blog!* Guest Blog!
      This installment of More Fun In Mexico is brought to you by my second travel companion                     Christine Baudrexl.

Recently two of my coworkers conjured up a very impromptu winter getaway to the whale watching beaches of Cabo San Lucas. The idea of traveling together with these very intelligent, humorous* girlfriends to the remote,adventurous, desert terrain near the tropic of Cancer seemed like the stuff a Quentin Terrantino film. The backdrop full of scorpions and stinging centipedes (which I later learned made one of my friends nervous.)** There are rattlesnakes that when coiled to strike can reach 10 feet! (Also a concern for this friend on our horseback ride through the desert.)***

Mexico is a very beautiful but not a gentle land. For all of its colors and Day of Dead relics,the skulls of longhorn cattle intermingled with brush and cactus, delicious fish tacos and tuna ceviche, calm beaches with crashing waves and premium blends of top,agave, tequila, Mexico is a place where you could get "Gringo'd" (Kindly explained by our gracious host as "overcharged") If you were a local or knew one you got the "Local" price . Our hostess and her friendly neighbor, with much kindness, skill and class, took us all under their wings and their "Casas", quickly explaining the economic ways of Baja life.

We were certainly three very different amigas! My palest girlfriend wore spf clothing and hats. She was a gear model straight out of "Lands End" catalog. She took the most amazing camera equipment to get the most primo shots of the whales we saw and of things we did. What an artist eye! My other traveling companion/roomate sported a wardrobe of cute dresses and outfits. She possesses journalsitic talent rivaling that of Hemingway and Gellhorn**** and documented and described all of our travels, told wonderful stories and was such a wonderful conversationlist. And myself? Well versed in the college of street smarts, fun travel, survival and trivia, I wore Harley and active wear. I learned and laughed a great deal with my two pals in the best way by living with them for 5 days. I was amazed to discover the real creativity between both of them and together we three spun a travel tale with a common thread of high adventure on a low modest price on the Peso to dollar ratio!

Nerve racking enough are the stories about boarder patrol, Federales with guns and the drug cartel, being lost forever naked in a Mexican jails. We found that Cabo is surprisingly safe.Except for the driving. We traveled the streets of Cabo by dune buggy and noticed "Alto" means "Stop' and its a red sign shaped like ours in the states.Yet no one really seems to pay attention to it. Not really so safe. My literary journalistic, comrade tells us all its just merely a suggestion, not really a street sign. Where were the Law Firms of Pedro, Paco and Ramo, personal injury lawyers?

By the end of the week we were grinning at our good fortune,the sights, the beach, the land, the food. I giggled to my girlfriends next to me in the back seat of the car, "Baja Baja Baa Haa haa ha ha! Bahareahha! Bahareah! Mamma Mia let me go! Easy Come Easy Go!" Bohemian Rhapsody in unison that would make Freddy Mercury proud...tooling down a Mexican highway, hair tossing, heads bouncing like "Wayne's World".*****

Three amigas gone Loco!

*The check is in the mail. 
**This is an understatement. To call her 'Safety Girl' is an understatement. The safety of everything was cause for concern - from horse back riding (no, they do not provide helmets, its a beach, sand is soft) to ratio of dogs to staircases in our hostess's home (two dogs, at least three flights of stairs. You do the tripping math.)
 ***See above and add ginormous moths to the list.
****Fine. I will include my Amex card along with the check.
*****Bohemian Rhapsody and Wayne's World are copywrited somewhere, I am quite sure. No uber talented English rock bands or Saturday Night Live sketch comedians were injured in the singing of this song. Freddy Mercury may have rolled over a time or two but really, that ship sailed with the lip synch debaucle at the summer Olympics.

Not the sort of  'hog' you ride.

When not imitating British rock stars or being patted down, Christine works as a recovery room nurse at a top ten hospital on the Coast of Illinois. She makes wine, hikes with her dog Jack and rides motorcycles. Harleys, I think...

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Hey! Mr. Spaceman

I met my first Alien Abduction survivor the other day. He was as credible a source as he could be – a professional, living in the Southwest in the 1970's at the time. His story consisted of loss of four hours of time spent in a car and a sketchy radar blip collaboration.

Which brought to mind some questions:

Why did so many A-Abductions occur in the 70's?
Was it the ease with which their tractor beams could latch on and raise up our gigantic steel cars?
Were they fascinated by our use of polyester as a clothing material, our attempts to be taller via the wearing of platform heels...our white guy 'fros?
Did they groove to the sweet tunes of pre-royalty Elton John and Paul McCartney?
Maybe they were trying to learn more about our methods of teaching safety through movies – The Towering Inferno, Airport...Jaws....

And why did these A-Abductions slack off?
It was disco, wasn't it.

Why is it we don't hear much about A-Abductions anymore?

Did they learn all they needed?
Is space fuel just too expensive?
Are they terrified that one of their more athletic guys will wind up married to Kim Kardashian?
Maybe our plastic cars are too tiny and difficult to beam up.
Have we become so jaded that we blame our lapses in time on 'sleep driving' side effects of medication?

Or...maybe that's exactly what They want us to believe...

Sunday, February 24, 2013


Golden. A word sometimes used to describe that perfect set of circumstances when everything is working at its absolute best. I first noted a 'golden' existence back in my ER days – my co-workers were interesting, fun and each brought a different set of skills to the room so that when we had to kick things into high gear, it worked. For a brief moment in time, we were golden.

I am not talking about those magical moments with friends or family. Those moments are so much more personal and fluid. I am talking about those periods of time outside that world of house and home; those periods of time when all the players are brought together for a purpose.

Like a sports team. Or a club. Or work.

I work within a large and varied department. But, because of the nature of our work, which calls for more than a little reliance on one another, it feels like a family. And just like a family we have our favorites and our differences and our weird Aunts and odd Uncles. Which brings me to last night.

I attended a work function to celebrate a friend. The circumstances which led us to this night of celebration were unthinkable but our friend was there. We were all together, nearly every aspect of our work family represented. One of our eccentric family, the musical cousin if you will, said it best, "We are here to raise you up, brother." I hope that we succeeded. But here's the thing. I feel that in our attempts to cheer and support our friend and co-worker, we ourselves were 'raised up'. We may not always agree, or even get along but at this moment in time we are golden.

And that's whats funny about those golden moments. It seems to me that the more you recognize those times in life that are as close to perfect as they can be, the more of these moments you are given.

And that is the best gift of all. 

You know my feelings on palm trees...

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Baja is the SH*T

                                        ****Guest Blog!****Guest Blog!****Guest Blog!****
          (Presenting a guest blog, written by my friend and fellow traveler, Melanie Somercik)

Let's just be honest here--there is a certain fear that travel to Mexico is associated with these days.
Fear of the drug cartel.Those frightening headlines--pun intended--of decapitated people.
Fear of not knowing the language. Why did I take four years of German in high school?
And come on, you know what's coming next...the fear of...Montezuma's revenge...dysentery...flux...the trots...dehli medical terms - the abnormally frequent intestinal evacuations with more or less fluid - get ready for it - stools. Yes stools, people!!! For you Spanish speaking peeps: diarrea.

Being a nurse, diarrhea – here on out referred to as THE WORD - inflicts a certain fear. Think of what nurse do. There is not a nurse on this planet that doesn't mind so much when a patient pukes but say THE WORD and a really great day turns into bad one. And there really isn't a traveler that enters Mexico who isn't aware of THE WORD. Compound all the fear and worry with someone who has a intestinal disease and well you just have to worry about how many times it will come up in conversation if you are traveling with that person. I am THAT person.

So when my writer/nurse and my hilarious funny nurse agreed to travel with me to Cabo I was a little surprised. I didn't think they knew what they were getting into. But I was pleasantly surprised. I must admit that the subject of bowels came up sometimes but not as much as I thought during our trip because the writer/nurse and hilarious funny nurse are nurses. Nurses are trained to know what a patient needs before the patient asks for it and it is this training of my most excellent nurse friends that avoided many conversations of THE WORD of doom.*

Now I'm not saying that THE WORD was not hanging there in the wind....waiting for it to present itself....CONSTANTLY.... but we were able to avoid actually experiencing THE WORD. Every meal was a fear for me but my traveling companions and most gracious hosts were there to guide me in food choices and make sure that I drank lots of beer and only bottled water. (DISCLAIMER: this blog owner does not take responsibility for amount of beer drank or any resulting facebook posts which may or may not have occurred on this trip. She will witness to the fact that the guest blogger was very very brave and did try the sashimi tuna but passed on the ceviche, which was delicious.)

And after all that worrying and fear the trip to Cabo was fantastic!!!! The three of us have a crazy streak and we played off each other's craziness through the entire time together down to the tram trip at the Denver airport when it was suggested that writer/nurse could use the standing pole to practice some moves prior to the reunion with her husband. Nothing says sexy more than a pole and stripping down to that money belt.**

I would like to thank my friends and fellow nurses, my great traveling companions for one wild ride!!! You provided me with some lovely memories.

*'doom' when used in all lower case letters as an expletive or manner of voicing displeasure is a trademark of Jenny Tucker, non-nurse but Professional Person Of Science.

** (DISCLAIMER: The blog owner was not the one wearing a money belt. No pole dancing actually occurred on the Happy Tram. There may have been some singing of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody while in the back seat of the truck but seriously, when you have three people in a back seat, how can this not happen.)

When not guest blogging, Melanie Somerick aka 'CrapMonkey' aka Birthday Girl  provides excellent anesthesia care at a Top 10 hospital here on the Coast of Illinois. She is also an advocate for stray rescue and spends a huge amount of her free time taking photographs which are used to promote adoption of stray and abandoned pets.
She should never be allowed unsupervised access to antibacterial wipes or sunscreen.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Hello Customs? Here's a Few Ideas...

I have a 'guilt' issue. It has been passed down from mother to daughter all the way back to my grand grand mere in Paris, France. And thanks to this highly developed ability to feel as though everything is my fault, I am petrified of authority. Most recently Customs Agents.

Customs and I have a history:

The first time I went to Tijuana I was positive they wouldn't let me back into the United States. Never mind that we were walking across the border with nothing but the clothes on our backs. (Granted, the clothes on our backs were Cardinals shirts and they were playing the much beloved Dodgers that day.)

I routinely ship gifts to my brother in Germany. Every year we ship his family Christmas presents and every year they get hung up in Customs. I guess the children's toys and home baked cookies are just to hard to pass up. This year I pushed the boundaries and sent my favorite home blended spice mix for bbq. When the box went missing for nearly a month I didn't have the heart to tell my brother what I had done. I figured if there was any question he would be better off to be COMPLETELY innocent.

And then there is THE INCIDENT

So, with this impromptu trip to Mexico I figured what better to take two ex-pat semi-CoasterofIllinois-ers that coffee and spice blends from Soulard Market – the oldest farmers market that side of the Mississippi. (U.S.) I happily claimed my 'food' imports on the Customs form and after an excruciating wait in the immigration line (read that unattainable bathroom), was pulled aside for a bag search.


Yet, even with my poor grasp on Spanish and the Customs Agent's apparent mutism, I was able to communicate – with frantic hand gestures and much eye rolling on his part – that the coffee and spices in the GIFT BAG were He shook, sniffed and eyeballed the contents, especially the Orange Chipotle blend,which I explained was delicious on fish. In the end, seemingly not much of a foodie, he stuffed everything back in my bag and then looked perplexed when I tossed the tiny TSA lock into my pocket. What's the point of locking the bag now?

My little foray into near fugitive status freed my fellow travelers to pass through semi-unscathed. Harley Girl (explanation to follow) was also bag searched, But Birthday Girl (also to follow) – who, by the way had millions of dollars of camera equipment on her person – skipped on by.

Their fate was not so rosy on our return trip.

US Customs Agents covering return trips from Mexico are unfazed by declarations of liters of tequila and vanilla. They chuckle at silver charms and glass hearts. They do, however, have a penchant for motorcycle t-shirts. Evidenced by travel companion number one – who chose to wear her studded Harley t-shirt home. Not only did this warrant a pre-scan warning that 'you'll never get through with that on' but it won her a full pat-down.

My other co-hort, now known as Birthday Girl, also won a pat-down. Best we can figure it was because they couldn't fathom how anyone could return from a trip to Mexico so pale as to be considered transparent. Pat-down city sweetheart!

But, Birthday Girl didn't stop there. You see, we returned on February 13. Which happened to be Birthday Girl's...birthday. Our airplane seat row was 13. So, when the Customs Guy told Birthday Girl to go stand in line 13, how could she not react with surprise.

On retrospect, it probably wasn't such a good idea. Customs Agents do not like it when their people shreik, "WHAT LINE DID YOU SAY?!" It took a rapid explanation of the situation from my spot on line 11 for the poor agent to regain his composure and allow her to pass.

In the end, Harley Girl and Birthday Girl survived their first pat-down and we developed some undeniable truths about Customs:

It might take a while to move millions of dollars of the drug of the day in one pound of coffee and 8 ounces of spices but what drug lord would have the guts to disguise his haul in the very substances that the Customs people look for?

Harley t-shirts are subject to profiling.

Customs Agents have no respect for 'number significance'.

And lastly, we would like to propose Celebrity Pat-Down. Seriously, who could get upset if say, Brad Pit or Salma Hayek were to do your pat-down? Shoot, I might even go through twice, just to be safe.

*In a previous installment the term CrapMonkey was attributed to my sister. It is in fact a term coined by an artist/writer friend of mine Melissa Stevens. She is waiving all royalties for its use in this blog.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Is That Your Jib or are You Just Happy to See Me?

(Cabo travelogue is being interrupted for very important boat update. regularly scheduled travel hijinks will resume shortly.)

So today, I helped my husband raise his mast...(insert dirty joke here...)
 (okay, are you through?)
(Fine, just one more...)
seriously, maybe if the US drug companies more sandwich boards to advertise our drugs would be cheaper too. plus, I had to use this pic somewhere...and how else could I add 'super viagra' to the search words?

The REAL mast – 22.5 feet of hand lathed Douglas fir – just like the Christmas Trees, only bigger. Sounds like a minor feet to those that sail however, this is our hand-made sail boat and Rob likes to point out that the plans are sometimes more of just suggestions. However, we hoisted that puppy up with the aid of a climbing rope and a rubber mallet.

He adjusted the stays – fore-stay and ...stays.... and then it was time to test my handiwork. The jib was attached and hoisted unceremoniously to the top. And, it held together! It even flapped a little before filling with air, just as it should!

note the tiny emblem in the tack corner -SailRite- (ahem, unpaid advertisement...ahem, made it myself...)

For a brief moment we both stood back and admired the site of our boat, standing majestically in our gravel driveway on the Coast of Illinois. I can speak only for myself, but for a moment I am sure we felt the warm breezes of the Caribbean tacking along with the thirty degree February afternoon. 

Okay, not very Caribbean but I was in Mexico when this was taken.*

*Awesome sailing photo of me is by my traveling amiga and friend Mel Somerick, anesthetist and photographer extraordinaire. It had to be added as a way for me to remind everyone to check back soon for more on our adventures in Cabo! or Locked Up Abroad, St Louis edition!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Travels with CrapMonkey

Consider this your warning!

Every journey begins with a single step.

My recent journey to Baja, California began with two coffee stouts at the airport Schaffley's, a grande latte (mine) and an in-depth discussion of intestinal revolution. We were three middle aged women traveling to a country notorious for its digestion hating microbes. However, Montezuma was an intestinal amateur. We raised bowel problems to a professional level.

After much discussion travel toilet paper, antibacterial wipes, bottled versus filtered water, hazmat protocol for airplane toilets and finally...'adult padding', I came to the realization that we were, in fact, traveling with the original CrapMonkey.*

We devised a checklist prior to leaving our host's home:
Toilet paper? Check.
Baby wipes? Check.
Daily...constitutional? Um...check?

Our hostess had done her homework and gave us a bathroom status at each place we stopped. These varied from 'super clean' to 'bring your own toilet paper and don't touch anything or you can't reenter the house until you go through the decontam shower.'

We were warned. Don't drink the water. Don't eat the ice. Don't eat anything you can't peel or cook. Don't throw your toilet paper into the commode.
Wait. What?

It would appear that while Montezuma thought it hilarious to curse travelers to his lovely country with intestinal distress, he failed to equip his countrymen with a sewer system to handle flushing inorganic matter. Dude! Charmin – Enjoy the Go – Fail!

Yet, the trip moved forward with little incident. I even threw caution to the wind and poured my bottled water over ice one afternoon while taste testing sashimi tuna fresh off the boat. My hostess reassured me that they had lived in country for several years now and had never been sick. With this vote of confidence I moved forward with my vacation motto – 'No chain food and try something new each day' – and tried the ceviche tostados. It was only after I ate a grilled Serrano pepper that she mentioned the need to take anti-microbial medication every six months.

FULL DISCLOSURE, PEOPLE!! full disclosure...

I lived in fear for thirty-six hours. But, except for a tense moment standing in a long immigration line being taunted by a bathroom beyond our entry level, the trip was without toileting incident. 

Taunting! Taunting me with the fresh picked, non-shipped colors and freshness. Curse you Montezuma!

Stay tuned! The next installment here at the CoastofIllinois – How to do Customs or Let's Kick it Up a Notch!

*CrapMonkey is the trademark of my sister who coined this term after years of living in a house where cursing was barely tolerated. It is suitable for use as a noun or a verb. And occasionally as a Proper Name.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Peri-Menopausal Women Gone Wild...just doesn't sound quite the same...

I never went on 'spring break'. Yet here I am at 50-something looking at what can only be described as 'Don't Wind Up in A Mexican Prison or Get Kidnapped by Mexican Drug Lords – Almost Spring but Not Really for Another Five Weeks – Break'.

I have only had three 'girl trips' in my life. One was an overnight shopping trip with my closest friend and our daughters. Two moms, two teen girls in one hotel room. It went surprisingly well, although we almost crashed a wedding...

The next was an overnight for this same friend's birthday. Four women, one hotel room, cruising up and down the 'club' strip on the Coast of Illinois. There may have been some glass bottles at the hot tub...

The most recent was a bachelorette party with these same women. The bride's sister-in-law joined us and as she was the newest member I am blaming her for the dancing. On the bar. There was also an incident with a State Senator and his 'daughter'. No, really, I am sure she was his daughter. Yea, pretty sure... And did I mention the cooler full of alcohol which dumped over in the hotel lobby on Sunday morning as we were leaving? No? Well, probably shouldn't mention it anyway what with the underage help and the fact that we were all wearing semi-rude t-shirts advertising vodka....

So now thanks to a spur of the moment invite from a work friend, her awesome friends in Mexico who are hosting us, and the best husband in the world who understands how crazy I can be sometimes, I am heading for Cabo san Lucas for nearly five days. Three women, international travel, Mardi Gras...What could possibly happen?

I have not left the country for over twenty years. Back then the travel restrictions were for 'obvious' things like knives and guns. And now I have to travel with one quart size bag full of three ounce or smaller bottles of anti-aging creams and 150 proof sunblock. Oh yea, this ought to go well.

(If you want to know why 'obvious' is in quotes and italics click here for what happened the last time I traveled outside the USA.)

Thursday, February 7, 2013

And so it begins...

Got an email yesterday regarding a transaction on an account I hold. The subject was FRAUD ALERT!

Way to give me a panic attack.

Of course, I see this email while on lunch at work where I can do nothing but fidget and stew about the possible implications. The transaction was one which I had authorized but was clearly not in my usual spending habit. (Okay, it was on a check paid to a friend for a spur of the moment trip to Mexico. What could the bank possibly find suspicious about that? I put CABO! in the memo for pete's sake.)

After discovering the transaction was actually one of mine and not for...I don't know...thirty two big screen TV's ...I felt somewhat relieved. Until I called to verify the transaction.

My work shift starts early and ends late – the beauty of ten/twelve hour days. This put me calling the bank's 24 hour number this morning at 5:50 AM. Nothing odd about that, right? The representative was very pleasant and friendly. Pleased that I had called. Happy that I was going on a trip. But she insisted that I answer 'a few questions'.

The questions were multiple choice. Things like 'which of these are a type of car that you have owned', 'on Monday, what color did you paint your toenails', and 'where were you on the night of January 6'.

Maybe I shouldn't have asked if I needed my lawyer...

After promising to wear a wire and ratting out three relatives my transaction was approved.

Looks like this trip to Mexico is going to be smooooth sailing from here on out...

(stay tuned tomorrow for the original "International Incident"!)