Back in the USA (for a few days)

OMG! If I haven’t already bragged about my very sweet husband, here goes: He surprised me with tickets to Houston to see my family and Bruuuuuuuuce!(for those of you who do not know, that is Bruce Springsteen). What a fab Valentine’s present from someone who doesn’t do Hallmark holidays.

We left CDMX on Saturday morning. Everything went off without a hitch and we were able to have lunch with my brother. I just don’t realize how much I miss my peeps until I see them again. Plus, we have a nephew who’s grown a foot since the last time we saw him. Time is a crazy construct and the growth patterns of teen boys may be equally as crazy.

This workhorse has been put out to pasture. I still have the carry-on and the large cases from the set.

Sunday was shop for things we can’t get or are extra expensive in Mexico. Yay, Target! We also bought new suitcases, which was a bit emotional for me as my old suitcase was a 50th birthday present from my other brother and his family, but after almost 8 years of trusty travel to far and near, the wonky wheel had become too difficult to manage as we wandered aimlessly around unfamiliar airports. And trust me, we do a lot of aimless wandering around airports. They are all eerily the same, but just different enough that we seem always to be going the wrong way.

In the evening, we went to a Super Bowl party at my brother’s friend’s house. There was a TV in every direction, delicious food, and good conversation. The game was on, too, and although we always root against Philly, I really did not care that much. Luckily, it was a fun one to watch and, guess what? Rihanna is pregnant.

We got back to my brother’s to find what seemed like 300,000 teenagers, but was probably about 20. I forgot how much airspace they consume. Our niece and nephew are good kids and their friends are as trustworthy as teens get, but that was a lot so we retreated to the hotel. Besides, it was getting late for the old folks and Monday was a work day (for Steven) and a hang out with my brother day for me.

Tuesday. Yes, Tuesday. All I remember about it was waiting and waiting for the show to begin. Did anything else happen Tuesday? Who cares! Bruce happened on Tuesday. He played what I considered a greatest hits show, which made me wonder if he’s getting ready to call it quits. I can’t believe that will ever happen but … like his audience, he’s no spring chicken, but he managed not quite three hours (2:55).

Here’s the set list for anyone who cares (me).

  1. Night
  2. No Surrender
  3. Ghosts
  4. Prove It All Night
  5. Letter to You
  6. Promised Land
  7. Out in the Street
  8. Candy’s Room
  9. Kitty’s Back
  10. If I Were a Priest
  11. Nightshift
  12. Don’t Play That Song
  13. E Street Shuffle
  14. Johnny 99
  15. Last Man Standing
  16. Backstreets
  17. Because the Night
  18. She’s the One
  19. Wrecking Ball
  20. The Rising
  21. Badlands

And the encore (which I guess was an encore but they didn’t really even pretend to leave the stage. Lights came up and the band played on.

  1. Thunder Road
  2. Born to Run
  3. Rosalita
  4. Glory Days
  5. Dancing in the Dark
  6. Tenth Avenue Freeze-out
  7. I’ll See You in My Dreams

Pretty much no one sat and there was a very cute family with three little kids dancing in front of us. Can’t go wrong with Bruce even if his knees, back, or whatever won’t allow for the athletics he once did on stage. There’s nothing like a crowd of Bruce fans. Sadly, Patti wasn’t there (we missed her on Broadway, too) and Nils Lofgren had Covid, but it was great to see Stevie, Max, and Roy. We got back to the hotel, tired, and with scratchy throats, but elated.

Was it the best Bruce show I’ve ever seen? No. Would I go again if I get tickets for later in the tour? Is that even a question?

Wednesday evening, we headed back to CDMX and, oddly, it felt like we had come home (at least for now).

Seeing Family

Happy July 4th to all our American readers.

As Sue said in the last post, we wrapped up our eating fest in Chicago and headed down to Houston to visit Sue’s middle brother. Our three-hour flight to Houston took us a couple of hours longer than expected because we sat on the runway in Chicago waiting for American Airlines to get updated paperwork into the pilot’s hands for some cargo that was in the hold. (Number 1 worst airline, according to me.) We taxied out the runway, sat for an hour, then taxied back to the gate, waited, got the paperwork and then headed south after a two-hour delay. The joys of travel. Once in Houston, Brian (Sue’s brother) met us at the airport and we headed to his house for a fun-filled weekend visiting with him, his wife Chelsey and our adorable niece (Lexi) and nephew (Ethan aka Jett).

On Saturday, Sue, Brian, Jett (and a friend of Jetty’s which meant the entire trip became a gigglefest, so cute) and I took a quick ride over to Austin for a baseball tournament (afternoon temps in low 100s Fahrenheit – high 30s in Celsius because Sue and I are trying to get used to the using Celsius). It is about a three-hour ride, and along the way we stopped at a perfect bit of Americana. It is a glorified–and I mean really glorified gas station and convenience store called Buc-ee’s.

It is enormous, something like 100 gas pumps and a store that sells everything from coffee to all types of travel food (including home made BBQ sandwiches) to kitschy Americana to a store’s worth of Buc-ee branded clothes (including Buc-ee bathing suits!) and things like portable ice machines, tents and meat smokers. It is fabulous. Only in America and only in Texas would there be a convenience store so large that it takes 5 minutes to walk the length of it. I LOVED IT! When we arrived at the ball field we found out that Jett’s game was delayed by an hour or so. We settled in to sweat and wait, but Brian was kind enough to lend us his (Chelsey’s) SUV for the afternoon and we went into Austin. More accurately we headed to a couple of breweries in South Austin. We visited St. Elmo Brewing Company and Vacancy Brewing Company. Both are recently opened in a very cool little area that has breweries, wineries, (a sake brewer? OK) and a distillery along with a bunch of hip businesses like design and marketing companies. They both were very good and we had a great afternoon out.

We stopped for dinner at an excellent little Thai restaurant called Ros Niyom Thai in Round Rock, where our hotel was. Sue ordered her food hot, and the waiter said that she could have it one, two or three in heat, where three was the hottest. Sue ordered three, I ordered two. The food came and it was great, just the right amount of heat for both of us. After we were done the waiter asked how it was and Sue said perfect. He then said that hers was level 2. That their food is medium, hot and Damn Hot and even he couldn’t eat the damn hot.

On Sunday morning we watched another of Jett’s baseball games (9 a.m. temp 34C) and then headed back to Houston for one more day with the family.

Our flight home was uneventful. We flew Spirit airlines, booked the upgraded seats and checked our luggage. (Spirit better than American? Who knew?) The entire process was a little less smooth than other airlines, you had to check in at the airport first, the line to check our bags was a bit long, the boarding was a little more chaotic than usual, nothing–not even water is free on the flight. But, all in, the seats were comfortable, the flight was on time, and our luggage came out fairly quickly, so it was not a bad flight. I’d rather that that a two-hour incompetence delay and a bag of pretzels.

Once home, Sue went into packing monster mode and has packed up much of the house and arranged for our movers. I mostly did work and spent about 6 hours in a dentist’s chair getting three same day crowns. Yes, I have terrible teeth.

For the July Fourth weekend, we made our last real road trip. We went to my sister’s house (about 2 hours away near Harrisburg, PA). Much of my side of the family was there, including my sister (well it was her house), my brother-in-law Mario (it’s also his house), all four of their adult kids, my mother, my son Josh, my daughter-in-law Liz and Hannah, the most amazing granddaughter any grandparents could hope for. For July 4th my sister had a BBQ and invited another dozen or so people including our brother-in-law Karl and his wife Helen. It was wonderful to see them as it has been about 2 years. I had never met them and they are wonderful. They don’t live far from us so maybe if/when we get back we will see them again. The temp was about 30 C, so, of course, Mario lit a fire in the fire pit at about 2 p.m. and kept it going all night as the temps dipped into the high 20s (yes, Celsius again). As always, they had enough food to keep a small army fed for a month, so most of it was gone by the end of the evening. Mario, Karl and my nephew Michael put on a small firework display and everyone survived with all their fingers. An excellent day was had by all.

Monday we returned home to our partially packed house, and prepared for the week ahead. So much to do, so many things still to be organized and what seems like so little time.

Life Messes With My Vacation Plans

Early November to May weather in Chicago. No, really, it snowed on Halloween and last April.

I already mentioned that we are passing on our latest dream vacation: Southeast Asia. Instead, we have decided to jet off somewhere warm the first weeks of February, March, and April. I know what you are thinking: Isn’t it warm in April. NO! April is the beginning of the last third of winter here in Chicagoland. That week, we are planning a trip to Houston to see family and then on to Mechanicsburg, PA, for Passover seder with the other side of the family.

Did you ever notice that places you don’t consider tourist destinations are expensive to fly to? Four hundred dollars to fly to Harrisburg, PA?!?!?!?!? Four-fifty to get to El Paso!?!?!? And I don’t get to check a bag and I have to sit in the back of the tiny plane? Yuck. I really want to go to Big Bend, but we may end up folding it into a roadtrip.

OK, that leads me to the toughest decision. I really want to go to Big Bend, but I really don’t want to spend $450 a person flying to El Paso. I think that’s off the table, but then where to? Somewhere warm, but not expensive. San Diego? Tucson? We need a place with reliable, fast WiFi so Steven can “work.” We’re still pondering that one. Steven has to work during the week, so we want to go somewhere that I will have things to do, unless I manage to find some work. Anyone looking for freelance writing or editing? I’m your woman!

We did get the February trip solidified. We are headed back to Costa Rica courtesy of our friends Karl and Guiselle, who have moved to Playa Flamingo from Arenal.  Can’t go wrong with sun, surf, and friends. I don’t know if it will work out, but I may have to try scuba again. Plus, I have been Duolingoing for a while, so maybe I will even be able to speak to someone in Spanish. This time, I want to see turtles.

I am excited to go to Houston, not because I like Houston, but it’s been more than a year since I have seen my brother, sis-in-law, niece, and nephew. Way too long. It’s more fun to spoil them in person and it will almost be our niece’s birthday. Crazy aunt and uncle fun time!