Get rid of it!

The ‘it’

My blogging friend, Ilona over at Rainy Day Writing, has an AGMA-esque sense of humor.  Or maybe AGMA has an Ilona-esque sense of humor? Whatever…

She posted a really funny piece a few weeks ago called Mantras for Old Age.  You can read it here.

One of my favorites is her Better Pee First mantra.  Tell the truth, shame the devil – those of you of a certain age know what she’s talking about…

AGMA needed to recite that mantra this past weekend.

Specifically, Saturday evening.  But didn’t.

That was the day AGMA had my High Noon showdown. 

We live in the city limits of Chicago, but have our share of wildlife.  There are signs in the alleys about not leaving trash around for the rats to eat.  So there are rats. Thankfully, AGMA’s never seen one.  And my neighbor had a small snake in her yard.  There was even a coyote wandering down the railroad tracks behind our house this spring.

Because there’s a buffer of trees between the alley behind our house and railroad track (it’s a spur line that is only used several times a week by an 6 car train), we have a plethora of perky, pesky squirrels literally hanging around.

Last summer, a squirrel, let’s call it Pitas (pain in the ass squirrel), would come up on our deck in the wee hours of the morning and dig in my tomato plant planter.  When AGMA opened the blinds in the morning, dirt was scattered all around the planter. 

As the summer wore on, Pitas got bolder.  It started picking MY cherry tomatoes and eating them.  Oh, the humanity!

When Pitas got bored with a diet of partially consumed cherry tomatoes, he/she ordered carry-out.  I found a half eaten piece of pizza, a partial bagel, and bits of bread on our deck at different points in the summer.

AGMA’s grateful Pitas got to them before the rats.

Bouyed by his/her foraging success last year, Pitas returned this summer.  At least I think it’s Pitas…

No longer operating under the cover of darkness, it staked its claim on our deck by boldly walking around in light of day.  

Our cat, Max, is quite interested in looking out the large sliding glass door at Pitas.   Max walks up to the window every morning in anticipation of seeing his rodent buddy.

And I think Pitas is interested in Max.  So interested that it started literally hanging on our screen door to look inside the house.  At Max.  And sometimes Gus.

“Wanna come out and play?”

Sometimes when AGMA goes out on the deck, Pitas flops down on the deck railing or steps, and just watches me.  It’s like he/she’s plotting something.

Pitas in front of ‘the chair’ staring at me

Kiinda creepy.

All this is to say, this is one ballsy squirrel who, like honey badger, doesn’t give a sh*t. And apparently isn’t afraid of too much.

But AGMA’s discovered a chink in Pitas’ armor. It’s not at all fond of getting squirted with the hose. 

Fast forward to Saturday evening when my DIL, grandchildren V & T, and AGMA were sitting on the upper deck.

Pitas startled us by crawling up onto our deck from our nice neighbors deck.  My DIL tried to chase him/her away but it held its ground.  She tried again.  Again, Pitas stayed anchored to its spot.

I explained that “our” squirrel was very bold and not easily chased away.

After a third time, Pitas scurried behind my chair.  Thinking he/she may have scampered down to the ground or hopped back onto our nice neighbors deck, I peeked behind the chair

Before I continue, AGMA needs to let you know that my DIL does not like animals at all.  She is kind of terrified of them.  Especially in the ‘wild’.

This is key to understanding what happened next…

“He’s still here…I see his tail,” I said.

Just about then Pitas popped its head up over the back of the chair and stared at us.

My DIL then proceeded to scream bloody murder, and we all ran down the stairs to the main deck.

I was laughing so hard, I could barely breathe.  

It was at that point that AGMA regretted not doing the Better Pee First mantra.  I won’t make that mistake again…. Ugh.

Five minutes later, after a quick change, I was in the kitchen filling up a pitcher. 

AGMA’s battle plan was to spritz him with water until he ran away.

My DIL, 5 year old granddaughter, 3 year old grandson and I slowly went back up the stairs to the upper deck with AGMA in the lead carrying the water pitcher.  Pitas was now on top of the back of my chair. 

Squirrel scene in Christmas Vacation minus the Christmas tree and dog, right?

It jumped down on the chair cushion which sent my DIL flying down the steps and back into the house, leaving her 2 young children and myself out on the deck at the mercy of arch villian, Pitas. 

Evidently it was every man for himself.

But V soon followed her mother into the house, and she called to little T, to follow her (which he did.) 

It was just AGMA (the squirrel hunter), Pitas, and the water pitcher.

In my mind, I heard Tex Ritter singing, “Do not forsake me, oh my darling.”

So this was how it was going to end…

I managed to spritz him/her and get it off the deck.  But Pitas decided to hang around on nice neighbor’s deck ledge. He/she was trying to wait me out.  

Nah baby nah – AGMA dumped the whole pitcher on the little a-hole.

Unbeknownst (is this a word?) to me, my DIL was videoing our shoot out at the AGMA-OK Corral from the kitchen window.

When she sent me the video, I lost it again and started laughing uncontrollably.

It starts out with the 3 year old screaming through the window, “Nana, get rid of it!”

Priceless!

Yesterday, I got the brilliant idea of checking our Ring camera video to see if it captured any of our Keystone Cops antics.

Sure enough, I got us all running down the stairs after Pitas popped his/her head up behind the chair, and AGMA running into the house howling with laughter.

The second video captured my DIL flying down the stairs and directly into the house (when Pitas was advancing on me.)  And leaving her children to fend for themselves. 

It’s hysterical.

Since I started writing this, I’ve broken down into fits of laughter multiple times.

Fortunately, AGMA did my Better Pee First mantra before I started typing.

TMI right?

Things I hate

Ewwww… I hate starting starting a post about hate that has hate in the title.

Hate is such an incredibly strong and powerful word.

And AGMA has tried to use it sparingly in my life because it conveys such bigly negative feelings and emotions.

But I’ll have to confess that I have used it to describe my feelings more in the last six years than at any other period of my life.

I think hating people is very iffy….   To AGMA, it implies that that the object of this strong emotion has absolutely zero redeeming qualities and is basically an evil person intent on inflicting as much damage in the world as possible. Up until six years ago, I can’t say that I ever used ‘hate’ to describe my feelings toward another human.  

But now it seems as if there are a number of people (an alarmingly large number) in the news cycle who definitely live up to (or down to) my definition.

Lock ’em up!

So leaving people out of the mix, here are some of the things that AGMA hates…

1.  Single-ply toilet paper

Seriously, do I need to explain this?

2.   Speed bumps (humps) 

More specifically, Chicago speed bumps.

I’ve lived 18 months or longer in 6 different cities during my lifetime before moving to Chicago.  Most have used speed bumps to slow down speeders.  But nothing, absolutely NOTHING, has prepared me for Chicago’s mountainous speed bumps. 

They are BRUTAL.

Incredibly high and often camaflogued in mottled sunlight during the summer, they can do a number on your car. 

The City paints white stripes on them to alert people of the perils ahead, but after a few Chicago winters, most fade to almost nothing.

So…surprise! Your car has now suddenly become airborne.

We’ve started naming the worst of them.

FrameBender is close to my son’s house, and bears the scars of those who have taken it on and lost.  We slowly pass over it with a reverent respect having had some close calls with it in the past.

AxelBreaker is no too far from our house close to a Starbucks with a small parking lot AND a drive-thru (which is rare and coveted in the city.)   This was the one that I hit at 25 mph and felt like my entire spine got shoved up into my brain. Thankfully, neither Peaches (my car) or I was critically injured.

3.  Reading about people my age or younger dying of “natural causes”.

 WTF???  That’s just plain wrong.

4.  Living next to a MAGA cult member.

He not only drinks the cult Kool-aid, but he drinks copious amounts of adult beverages as well.  This is not a good combination.  

He’s constantly trying to own his liberal snowflake neighbors (us) by playing domestic terrorist cult talk shows on high volume on his radio on his deck.  The fact that we live in townhomes, and our decks are only 6 inches apart makes this an interesting situation.  My question is, who owns a portable radio these days?? 

But AGMA gets that he wants to turn the clock back to the 1960’s so I guess that makes sense.

He waters his wife’s plants hanging on the edge of his deck and can never seem to not end up covering our deck with water.  I’m guessing he doesn’t realize that the deck gets rained on on a fairly regular basis, and the water will eventually evaporate.  Plus, he is actually watering some of my plants as well.

Score!

After several months of no signage bliss because he got into big trouble with our HOA for posting MAGA cult signs using foul language on the community’s fence, he’s back to posting signs again.  This time in the front of his yard, as close to our property as possible.  I appears as if he has a yuge man crush on Merritt Garland. His sign indicated he wants to have sexual relations (f*ck) with him.  The HOA took it down.

Hubs and I wonder where he was on January 6, 2021….

5.  Primary Lateral Scoliosis (PLS)

This is the diagnosis for Hubs as he continues to lose the use of his right leg, and is starting to lose functionality in the left as well.  He has walkers on each floor of our house (2) and we recently got one for Son#1’s house as well.  Hubs now has a severe S curve in his back causing him almost constant back pain.  He’s going to be evaluated soon to see if it is safe for him to continue drive (which he does rarely – AGMA drives most of the time.)  If was a betting woman (I am…), I’d say we’ll probably be putting hand controls in our cars in the near future.  And a stairlift up to our bedroom level.

It is what it is, and we deal with it.  We’re very thankful that it isn’t ALS and that he has no pain in his legs.  But if I stop to really think about how PLS has impacted both of our lives, and will impact our lives in the coming years, it brings tears to my eyes.

So I try not to think of it.

6.  COVID fragmentation

Pre-COVID, AGMA had my life semi-together.  Which was probably as good as it was going to get.

I loved my part-time job as a massage therapist, was part of a running group, had my fun little eBay business, was part of an Indivisible group helping to turn Georgia blue (yay Warnock and Ossoff!), blogged regularly, and had a pretty active social life.  

Since COVID became a thing, it’s kind of all gone to hell in a handbasket. 

Let me pause in my whining to say that none of my family or friends died or got horribly sick with COVID. In that I have been very, very fortunate.  And my intimate tango with COVID back in February was very mild thanks to the vaccine and boosters.  

But COVID has caused a serious disturbance in The AGMA Force. A speed bump of another sort…

Clearly, moving to Chicago during COVID had a major impact on our lives, and I lost all of my Atlanta connections.   But it’s been over 2 years now, and things for AGMA still continue to feel stagnant, disoriented, and ‘stuck’.   

It’s kind of obvious to ya’ll that I can’t get my blogging life geared up again. 

Duh.

I’ve been writing the very occasional post, but pre-COVID, I blogged every week.  And I would enjoy other people’s posts. And comment on them.  It’s been eons since I’ve done that.  I truly miss it (and ya’ll), but can’t seem to bring any focus or energy to it.

Or much of anything else.  

Except travel.  AGMA is still all about traveling.  But it kind of seems like it’s become more of an escape than anything else.  When I travel, I can put all that fragmented life stuff on the back burner, and don’t have think about it.  Or feel like I am living ‘less than’.

And yes, I do what some cheese with my whine please.

Actually, AGMA still loves her cycling (which, again, is a great escape.) And I adore living close to the grands and being a part of their lives – more than I can say.

So I guess it’s not all doom and gloom, but I sure would like to get my sh*t together after 2 1/2 years of internal and external chaos…

….said most everybody else in the world.

Travel goals

(AGMAniacs: This was written back in June with AGMA’s full intention of publishing it that day.  All I had to do was attach the pictures…  Clearly, that didn’t happen.  Typical.  But I wanted to give you the moment AGMA in June when I wrote it so I’m not going to edit it.  And it’s loooonnnggg. Opa!)

So yesterday it was 102 degrees.  Yeah – I know that it’s been hot all over the Southwest and South.  But I live in Chicago.

Holy sidewalk fried egg!

Today, it’s “cooled down” to 95.  Last week I was wearing jeans, a long sleeve shirt, and a light hoodie over it.  I’m just so confused…

My good friend, K, and I had similar weather in Greece last month. 

AGMA, as loyal readers know, is the amateur master trip planner. And, if I do say so myself, the trip went off without a sneeze.  Except maybe a hiccup on the way home, but that’s just the way it is with flying these days.

It sucks.

(But not bad enough for me to stay home!)

We started out in Athens.  AGMA has been to Athens three times before this trip, but I realized that I never spent more than 2 nights in that amazing city.  On this trip, we hung out there for 4 nights and it was marvelous (COVID not withstanding.) The breakfast room in our hotel, The Astor (a couple of blocks off Syntagma Square) is on the top floor, and has an incredible view of the Acropolis. 

A really great way to start our day!

And K and I decided that we would end every day on a different rooftop bar. That, of course, had a view of the Acropolis. I mean, you have to have travel goals…

Yeah we did!

This trip to Athens was almost exactly 50 years after my first visit as a student. The top image below is a view of Mars Hill from the Acropolis that I took last month. The bottom one is an orange shirted AGMA on Mars Hill in 1972.

I know – I can’t tell a difference in how I look either… 😉

After 3 full days of exploring Athens (and rooftop bars!), it was time to island hop!

Going Greek island hopping has been on my bucket list for a long time. And hop we did – we visited Naxos, Santorini, and Milos. But Greek island hopping is staying on my bucket list because there are LOTS more Greek islands that need a good dose of AGMA!

After Athens, we flew to Naxos, which was like a 30 minute flight. Easy peasy. We did an AirB&B in Naxos City that was right on the harbor with a great view over the water and of the Temple of Apollo. Or at least what was left of the Temple of Apollo. Which isn’t much. But it’s the symbol of Naxos, and is in prominent place right on the water as you enter Naxos town from the Aegean.

The view of the Naxos City Harbor from our AirB&B
What remains of the Temple of Apollo on Naxos.

Naxos is the largest of the Cyclades Island group, and is surprisingly mountainous. It’s also an island that, unlike so many others, does not rely on solely on tourism for its livelyhood. It’s the most self-sufficient island in the Cyclades because of cattle breeding, cheese, fruit and veggie (esp potatoes) crops, Kitron (a citrus spirit that is incredible!), and cheese. Did I mention the yummy cheese?

The back of a cheese shop in Naxos City where we did a cheese tasting.

We did a day tour around the island that was well worth the cost. Lunch at a seaside taverna in the village of Apollonas was honestly like out of a movie!

K enjoying her pre-lunch adult beverage.

After 3 wonderful nights, it was time to hop again! This time we took a speedy ferry (that was absolutely PACKED with tourists) to Santorini.

Santorini is one of “the” islands that is a must do in Greece, and LOTS and LOTS of people got the memo. It’s a major stop on the Greek cruise circuit. AGMA has been to Santorini twice, but only for day trips on a shore excursions.

I was pumped to be staying 3 nights there.

The BIG BIG BIG (did I mention that it was BIG) thing to do on Santorini is to watch the sunset. While you can watch the sunset from many locations on the island, the town of Oia (pronounce Eea) seems to get the bulk of the crowds. Sunset picture to come…

The other big thing to do is to stay in a cave house. Because Santorini is volcanic in origin, the cliffs are made of soft volcanic rock. Back in the day, the economically disadvantage would build their homes by digging back into the soft volcanic rock with an exterior addition in the front. Cheap digs that stayed relatively cool in the summer. Over the years, these peasant ‘houses’ have become THE places to stay on Santorini sometimes commanding up to $1000 a night (depending on amenities and location.)

So, of course, AGMA wanted to stay in Oia in a cave house where we could watch the sunset. No problem… Gulp. But the key to getting semi-reasonable accommodations is to book as far in advance as you can. As soon as we had made our airline reservations last October, I pretty much booked our lodging, Fotinos House in Oia, right away. While not cheap, it was still a bargain (for the location, the amenities, and the ‘experience’) for $160 per night. And it was awesome…

Our cave house

We booked our ferry pickup and drop transfer from our host.  The transport cost included the portage of our bags from the drop off/pick up point in Oia to/and from our cave house. It was worth more than we paid! The path went up and down, and up and down, and up and down hundreds (no exaggeration) of stairs.  All of the buildings in the Castle area (the area were were staying at) are literally built into a cliff.  

Steps, steps, and more steps! See the mustard colored building center right? Our cave house is at 11 o’clock and our private sunset viewing platform is at 10 o’clock right next to it.

The Castle area of Oia is where 90% of the people go to watch the sunset every night.  And we had our own, private viewing platform.  Seriously. We finished each day with a glass Assyrtiko wine from Domaine Sigalas vineyards while watching two of the most amazing sunsets I’ve ever seen.

Our private sunset viewing platform!!
A stunning view, great wine, and a good friend – life is good!

Yeah – the 3rd night was a bust with lots o’ clouds.  I felt bad for the cruise folks who only had one evening there. First world problem.

It can still be beautiful even on a cloudy evening.

For some reason, AGMA thought it would be fun to walk the 10K from Oia to Fira (the largest town on Santorini) on the walking trail that goes along the rim of the collapsed volcanic caldera.  K agreed.  After all, we hiked the Cinque Terra together 5 years ago.   It would be a snap.

Nah baby nah.

5 hours and 30 minutes after leaving Oia, we arrived in Fira.  It was not a snap.  We had to walk over mountains (at least they seemed like mountains to us.) It was hot. We were sweaty. And hungry. And tired. But we did it!

We started in Oia, at the tip of that white village on the left. We were maybe 2k from Fira when I took this picture. It was a loooonnnng hike!

What the hell were we thinking??   But it makes for a great travel story….

After 3 nights, we reluctantly said goodbye to Santorini and jumped a slow ferry to Milos.  AGMA pretended I was on a Aegean cruise because we stopped at 4 islands before we got to Milos.  More ideas for future island hopping adventures?

We rented a car on Milos.  Our lodging was in the charming village of Pollonia that is about 6 miles from Adamas, the main town on the island.  There is public transportation, but everything I read about visiting Milos suggested renting a car.  We ended up with a little white car from a local Milos rental company that we nicknamed The Paper Cup. 

She was quite yar!

The other thing that travel bloggers suggest was a ‘must do’ on Milos was to take an all day boat trip around the island.  Check.

Our boat, the Eleni, and Dora the Explorer, our guide for the day, in the yellow top.

I waited until a couple of days before our visit to book our boat excursion because of the nature of the weather around the islands.  Wind can be a problem and the excursions boats won’t go when it’s really windy. It was very windy and even a bit chilly when we were on Naxos.  So much so that I had to buy a velour hoodie to wear in the evenings.

AGMA stylin’ in her new deep Aegean blue velour on Naxos.

Velour is trendy again… Who knew?? 

The weather was pretty perfect when we were on Milos, so off we went for our 10 hour trip around the island.  What a fantastic time!  We had a wonderful guide in Dora, and lots of great food, and pretty much as much wine as you wanted.  Plus, it had gotten warm enough to go swimming from the boat.

I case you were wondering, I did not do any sort of editing of my photos. The sky was THAT vivid blue and the water was THAT turquoise.

However, K and I didn’t bring our bathing suits to Greece because we both feel like we couldn’t fit the volume of fabric it would take to cover our COVID-angst fed bodies into our carry ons.  So we improvised wearing sports bras & running shorts!

Oh la la!

And yes – we met two hot French men…  And their wives.  Who gave their approval for the photo. Damn. But nobody else has to know that we weren’t being cougars – it will just be between us WordPressers.

The last night on Milos was the night of the blood moon.  Cafe Opsidianoa in Pollonia was the perfect place to watch it and spend some time thinking about how much we didn’t want to leave Greece yet…

Terrible picture of the blood moon rising over Milos. In person, it appeared much, much larger.

We flew back to Athens the next day and spent our last night near the Athens airport.  The hiccup the morning we were going home was that our direct flight from Athens to Newark that was supposed to leave at noon, was rescheduled to leave at 8 PM, and now included a stop in Iceland.  Which would have caused us to miss our connecting flight to Cincinnati in Newark, and me to miss my early morning flight the next day from Cincinnati to Chicago.

Through AGMA’s dogged determination, we managed to get rebooked onto a direct flight from Athens to DC then onto Cincinnati. Yay! But because of stupid issues (multiple) with the plane from DC and a really bad thunderstorm in Cincinnati, we ended up arriving there 5 hours late anyway.  Boo.

So let’s review… There are 227 Greek islands.  I have visited 7 of them (Crete, Mykonos, Rhodes & Patmos plus the three on this trip)

Only 220 to go!

#travelgoals

AGMA after yet another sweaty hike up a mountain (on Milos this time) pondering what islands I’ll visit on my next trip to Greece!

  

Russian _______ (fill in the blank), go f*ck yourself

The t-shirt Hubs bought for me!

So clearly the Russian cyber-attacks in response to the global sanctions on Russia for Putin’s illegal, immoral, and Hitler-ish invasion of Ukraine, have started.

AGMA’s sitting in my 3rd favorite coffee shop (for blogging) and my MAC is as slow as molasses. (Do people even say that anymore…??). 

It’s taking like 3 minutes for a page to load.  Oh the humanity!

Back in the dark ages when we had to dial into the world wide web via a modem, this wait would not seem excessive.  In some cases, this was considered ‘fast’.

But times have moved on, and now we’re used to split second responsiveness.  And AGMA tends to get very impatient when I experience a technology hiccup.  Talk about your champagne problems…!

But I noticed a slow down a couple of days ago and again today.  This just might be the tip of the iceberg.

People I consider rational and reasonable are seriously getting ready for the Russian ‘cyber invasion’. They are preparing for an all out cyber attack, taking 1000’s out of the bank, freezing milk and other perishables, and loading up on non-perishable food items.  AGMA hates to tell them that the power grids will probably be an early target (Texas, are you listening?) which will take out electricity, hence freezing anything will provide only a short term supply.  Unless you have a generator and then, of course, there will be the shortage of gas to power it.

Don’t you hate it when that happens? 

I find that those of us living at Casa AGMA are woefully unprepared for Armageddon, cyber or otherwise.

And that’s okay with us.  

It’s always been my position that I want to be taken out by the initial strike.  AGMA’s seen too many movies/TV shows about surviving in a post-apocalyptic world.

No, brain eating does not sound like a survival technique I would like, thank you.

I’ll just be like Scarlett O’Hara – I’ll worry about it tomorrow.

AGMA is 50% Ukrainian.  My grandparents emigrated from Ukraine in the very early 1900’s and settled in Western Pennsylvania.  My mother and her siblings were all 1st generation Americans.

My other 50% is mostly German with a tiny sprinkling of the Biritish Isles mixed in.  Very tiny.  

To be honest, I’ve never been overly excited about my heritage.

Until now.

It’s stunning to see the resolve of Ukrainians in defense of their homeland against the unprovoked, terrorist aggression of super-power lead by an unhinged, wannabe Nazi.  AGMA is gobsmacked by the courage and bravery of ordinary citizens being reported in the media.  

And just when you think that there are no courageous, inspirational leaders left in the world who not only talk the talk, but walk the walk, Volodymyr Zelenskyy is doing a most excellent job channeling Churchill.

I’m hoping he’s a distant cousin…

We always wonder (at least AGMA does) what we would do put in a situation like the Ukrainian people.  I like to think that I would be the lady offering the Russian soldier sunflower seeds.  Or the grandma who is learning to shoot an automatic weapon.  Or the woman who learned how to make molotov cocktails by Googling it.  Or the Ukrainian soldiers on Snake Island who told the Russian warship to, “…go f*ck yourself!”

Make no mistake, AGMA (being the liberal, progressive snowflake that I am) is totally against war, and the horrors it brings to the innocents involved on both sides.  I mourn not only for the Ukrainian lives lost, but for the young Russian soldiers who do not want to be doing what they are doing in Ukraine. I mourn for a country that can never return to what it was a week ago; forever changed by the untenable reality of either kill or be killed.  I grieve for the children, wives, husbands, mothers, and fathers who are and will be grieving for their murdered loved ones.  And for those who have fled their country and left everything behind.

My heart is broken for my (50%) homeland.

That being said, I am also filled with pride that I have the same DNA as these incredibly brave, courageous people with their dogged determination to defend their homeland against incredible odds.  

And AGMA believes that they will ultimately prevail over their would-be oppressors, though there will be much more death and devastation before that happens.

Damn Putin.

In the meantime, I pray the world will support the people of Ukraine in every way possible.

Right now, there doesn’t seem to be a more important item on the pro-democracy checklist than stopping this war-crime laden aggression with all of our collective global efforts.   Despite the temporary inconveniences that may happen as a result.  Higher prices at the gas pump or grocery store are nothing in comparison to having thermobaric vacuum bombs used to kill your children.

We kind of need to suck it up folks…. Again.  But AMGA knows ya’ll can do it!

Also, and this is really important, let’s work as hard as we can on keeping pro-Putin fascists (otherwise known as Republicans or the GQP) out of power here in the US.  

If you think what is happening in Ukraine can’t happen in the US, you haven’t been paying attention.

Let it go

Some of you are old enough to remember a TV show in the mid-60’s called That Was the Week that Was.  It was the forerunner of much of the political/news satire of today.

Being a clueless, dewey eyed, innocent of 10 when it premiered in the US, I didn’t understand that much of it.  But one thing I do remember is part of the theme song…

 “That was the week that was; it’s over, let it go.”

Holy sh*t, that WAS the December (and 2021) that was; thank God it’s over.  And AGMA is all about letting it go!

December saw the hopes of a return to some semblance of pre-COVID normalcy totally screwed.

Damn omicron.

I went from personally knowing about 10 people who’ve had COVID since March 2020 to knowing 40+ people who got COVID just in the LAST 10 days of December.  Son#1 and his family included.

And omicron’s timing couldn’t have been more precise. Wouldn’t you know it?  Grand#1’s 7th birthday was messed up, Christmas was messed up and New Year Eve was messed up.

Delightful.

Thankfully, due to being fully vaxed (other than Grand#3 who is too young), all recovered quickly and are back to their normal abnormalness.  Grand#3, after a few concerning days of really high fever, is back to his enchanting and delightful self.

But hearing how full pediatric hospitals were (and are now), AGMA has to admit it was scary. 

And, of course, there were the losses. 

Personally, it started with 12/10 passing of Mike Nesmith of the 1960’s group, The Monkees. The group was “created” by Hollywood television types for a TV show to capitalize on the success of The Beatles’ A Hard Days Night.

AGMA was the exact demographic The Monkees TV show was aiming to capture – the little sisters of Beatles fans.  And I totally fell for it!!  I read about The Monkees in teen magazines.  I constantly passed notes – the 60’s version of Tweeting – with another Monkee obsessed friend at school.

And, of course, I watched the television show religiously.  It was like a sacred 30 minutes every week for my soul!  Such a Monkee devotee was I that, at dinner one night, when I absolutely refused to eat the live and onions my step-mother fixed, I was punished by not being able to watch the show that week.

Oh the humanity! 

But it goes to show you exactly how much AGMA hated (and still hates) liver and onions….

The Monkees was the first concert I ever attended.  My neighbor and I screamed the entire time.  It was glorious!  

It was difficult in 2012 when Davy Jones passed away at 66.  But imagine my shock when I found out, reading some tributes to Mike Nesmith, that Peter Took, the favorite of a starry eyed 13 year old AGMA, had passed in February 2019.  How did I miss that??

Double damn.

Then there was the unexpected passing of John Madden.  I can’t say I was a huge football fan in my younger years, but being married to football crazy Hubs, I watched more than my share over the last 40+ years and have become a fan.  And John Madden was THE voice of football for many, many of those years.  

In 1991, the John Madden Football game came to Super Nintendo.  Also, in 1991, AGMA had 8 and 9 year old boys with a Super Nintendo.  Madden Football became a staple in Casa AGMA.  It was John Madden, all the time.

Finally, and this is one I am not sure AGMA will be able to get over, there was Betty.  Sweet, sassy, talented, inspirational, naughty Betty.

She was the personification of NOT aging gracefully, and will ALWAYS be my AGMA-spiration.

Since her passing, I’ve seen many memes created to honor her memory and amazing spirit, but this is my favorite…

As Forrest Gump said, “And that’s all I’m going to say about that.”

The losses weren’t only in the national news.  2021 brought the passing of a number of close friends, and family of close friends.  It sucked.

So now we are 4 days into 2022.

The new year is starting out kinda wild and crazy. Dire warnings about omicron crippling the country, continued US political turmoil (the Big Lie of Cheetolini continues to be propagated by the QOP), inflation, crazy weather caused by climate change, wildfires, global supply chain issues, Russian aggression, Chinese censorship, and ___________________ (you fill in your favorite Debbie Downer prediction.) 

But AGMA is very hopeful that 2022 will be like the month of March.  You know, it will come in like a lion, but go out like a lamb.

I’m claiming that.

HAPPY NEW YEAR my friends, please stay hopeful, and be safe out there!!

Practice falling

AGMA has become very “sturdy” in the last two years.

I always tell people that I’m still working to lose the baby weight I gained while preggers with Son#2.

Son#2 will be 38 next month.

I’ve gained and lost the same 15 pounds for years now.  And every time I lose them, SWEAR that I will not gain them back.  And AGMA means it.  

At the time.

For about 6 years, until late 2019, when I ran on a regular basis, I managed to bar the door to the oh too familiar FPM (Fifteen Pound Monster.)  No matter how loud it screamed and screeched and pounded at the door, AGMA kept the deadbolt on tight.  

Then there was COVID.

AGMA was already on shaky ground in March 2020.

I had finished my last marathon in October 2019.  And I ended up injuring my knee. And I couldn’t run for about 3 months.

Ah oh….

Then of course there was the holiday season (which lasts from Halloween until January 1st!!) which definitely perks up the ever vigilant FPM.

It whispers through the door, “A few more of those cookies that you LOVE won’t hurt you.”  and “It’s only once a year, enjoy another glass of nog!” and “It would be rude not to sample everything your host made for his open house.” 

Demon.

AGMA cautiously takes the deadbolt off and opens the door a crack, but keeps the chain on.  I can always go on a diet after New Year. Right?

Of course, then there are January birthdays.  Of course.  I mean, you HAVE to celebrate birthdays with rich food and homemade German chocolate cake. Right?  

February saw the door’s chain straining to the max.  Hubs and I take off for a 2 week trip to Provence and the Cote de Azure.  Pretty much any thoughts of restraint as far as food goes is now limited to the volume of my stomach.  I mean, it’s France! Right?

AGMA can always go on a diet when we get back from the trip.  And as soon as my knee gets better, I can start running again and that will really help. Right?

By the time COVID19 shut the world down, the screws holding the chain on the door are almost completely out. 

Between the stress of COVID19’s deadly spread, the Orange Cheetolini telling us to drink bleach, selling our house in Atlanta and moving to Chicago, and a still wonky knee, the door bursts open.

The FPM is, once again, in the building.

Sh*t.

But it didn’t stop there…. Oh no…. Soon, it’s little sibling, Eight Pound Monster (EPM) joins big brother.

They pretty much took up residence until this past summer when AGMA started running again. And eating more sensibly.  Things were looking up, even after a week long trip to France in July.  I had almost gotten rid of little sib EPM.  

But….after a 24 day trip overseas in October, all bets were off. It was over.  FPM & EPM were in charge again.

Now, it’s cold in Chicago.  And AGMA is a major wimp when it comes to running outside in the cold.  And I like to eat warm comfort food when it’s cold.

Honestly, right now I look like a panda bear without the fur. And the cute look on my face.          .

Desperately trying to find some sort of indoor activity that might kickstart my purging of FPM and EPM, I….

wait for it….

wait for it…

Took an introduction to bouldering class this past week.

WTF?

At the beginning of class, we were asked to introduce ourselves and include our preferred pronoun.  I was glad I wasn’t first because AGMA was a bit confused by the pronoun thing.

Sometimes it’s best to just shut up and listen.  

Turns out it helps identify your gender orientation – her/she, him/he, them/they.  

Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore…

(But AGMA thinks it’s wonderful that people are allowed to be who they are and are given the dignity and respect to be addressed in the way they want to be addressed.  Something I think that the Rethuglicans hate…  I savor that!)

Everybody in the class was AT LEAST 40 years younger than me.  And 50% my bodyweight. And didn’t have bad knees or a bad back.  And looked like they worked out.  And probably didn’t have a fear of heights

OMG – what was AGMA thinking signing up for this class???

But I DO have a great sense of humor. So I got that going for me…

But I was kind of a party pooper. I didn’t participate in the “practice” how to fall drills.  And I didn’t participate in the climbing.  Other than on the kiddie wall.

I’m short… 

However, after class was over, realizing my reluctance to look like a beached whale in the practice falling drills, and to show my panic at going more than 5 feet off the ground on a climbing wall, the very kind instructor offered to work with me privately on falling and climbing. 

Julia rocks!

I did two practice falls (ouch – those knees!) And I climbed a purple circuit.  Purple is supposed to be the easiest.  Of course, my 5 year old granddaughter did the same circuit on Sunday…

Show off! 

The day after, my back hurt.  And my knees twinged.  And I realize how my immense mass of panda body must have looked trying to scale that wall to all of those young, fit, lithe GenZers who were there.

But in a masochistic kinda way, it was kinda fun.

AGMA can’t wait to go back! 

Obsession

So the weeks are just flying by like Marjorie “Traitor” Greene (of the Jewish space laser delusion) on her MAGA broom!

AGMA could have sworn I wrote my last post only a couple of weeks ago. Hmmm – nope!

Sheesh…

What a sh*tty month it has been news wise.

For my own survival, AGMA has had to regularly turn off the news and not look at social media. While this feels a bit like being an ostrich, I think we’re all entitled to a mental health break every so often. Please.

And with the news of this past week out of Afghanistan and the Rethuglicans efforts to gleefully politicize the murder of our service members and Afghan innocents, I’ve been watching re-runs of Bob Ross’ The Joy of Painting 24/7.

That could be an exaggeration.

Of course the COVID-19 Delta variant is causing ERs and ICUs in states with low vaccination rates to fill up again. Dangerously so. It’s estimated that nearly 100,000 Americans will die – most needlessly – before the end of this surge.

Who knows how many desperately needed doctors, nurses and other medical support staff will quit from hopelessness, trauma, and sheer exhaustion with this spike of unvaccinated people getting COVID.

Have you heard about the Lambda variant? Coming soon to a hospital near you…

And AGMA needs to go into my address book to remove the names of four friends who have left (3 way too early) our dangerously warming, chaotic, COVID infected planet to fly high with the angels. I’m hoping that they might put in a good word for those of us left behind because we sure do need friends in high places right about now.

It’s been a hard summer.

And now a hurricane is bearing down on New Orleans with a predicted life threatening storm surge. Sadly many parts of the city haven’t recovered from Katrina in 2005. And unless some miracle has occured, much of the city is still below sea level.

Damn.

Oh, did I mention my new neighbor decided that he hates (I mean really hates) Hubs and I because we are not Trumpers? The minute he found out last January, he stopped talking to us and has been everything you expect a MAGA crazy to be.

He turned a creepy dark magic voodoo statue on his deck to face our townhouse for a couple of months. That was bizarre.

He plays ultra right wing talk radio on his back deck all day loud enough for us to hear when we are on our deck. So very relaxing.

He ordered two dogs that his poor, long suffering wife was dog sitting, to eat our cats. They didn’t. I think they’re closet Democrats.

And just this morning, he posted this sign on his deck right above our deck pointing toward our back door.

Yeah – his upper deck is really, really close to our townhouse. Damn.

Charming.

I think he needs to cut back on his Ivermectin.

Is it any wonder that AGMA has developed a new obsession to help ease my angst from a world gone mad?

Comfort eating has always been a thing with me, but it’s gone up to a whole new level with COVID and everything else that seems out of control.

At the beginning of the pandemic, it was mug cakes. A year ago, it was peach/blueberry crisp. This past winter it was hot fudge sundaes with home made hot fudge.

Every night.

No wonder AGMA gained 14 pounds since March 2020.

With my 50th high school reunion (OMG!!!) looming in September, I decided I need to try to at least try to fit into my pre-pandemic clothes. There is no way in h*ll that I could ever be my svelt 115 pounds self of 1971. That ship has sailed into the Bermuda Triangle, never to be found again.

AGMA has been making progress.

With my knees (sort of, kind of) not causing too many problems, I started run/walking again. And I’ve built up to run/walking a 5K every time I go out.

However it’s been beastly hot and humid here in Chicago for a good part of August. And we watch our grands pretty often. The running has been spotty to say the least.

But I was making better choices with my diet. Less sugar, more fruits and vegetables, fewer carbs.

Until…

I finally, after a lifetime of searching, found my one true love. In the candy aisle of Jewel Osco.

AGMA has downed two bags of these puppies in the last week to steady my nerves after going back to listening to the news. The 2nd bag was half empty by the time I got to the checkout.

It’s bad.

Like Girl Scout Thin Mints bad.

Very bad.

Even now, I find myself wondering if I have the energy to drive the 5 minutes to get to Jewel to buy a bag that would probably be empty by the time AGMA goes to bed tonight.

Must.Resist.Must.Be.Strong.

I do have some “gummies” that could help take the edge off. Did you know that recreational cannibis & products with THC/CBD are legal in Illinois?

Don’t judge me.

But 1/2 of a gummy would not be nearly as orally satisfying as my sweet, soft, delectable Australian delight.

Oh myyyyyyyy…

I think I need a cigarette.

So it looks like, until the earth starts to cool, vaccination rates rise to 95%, the Taliban surrenders, the GOP rejects the politics of fear & hatred, my friends stop dying, and my neighbor turns into Mr. Rogers, AGMA will be “pleasingly plump” for my reunion.

There are far worse things in the world to be than pleasingly plump. Somebody like my neighbor for example.

I’ll try to lose weight for the 60th.

Always listening

Good Lord…

AGMA has posted so infrequently lately that every time I sign into WordPress, there is a new format for pretty much everything.

They need to not change stuff so often.

Or, I need to get my arse in gear and start posting more than once every 8 weeks.

I suspect the latter would be more realistic… But I’m not sure.

Between the MAGITW (most adorable grandchildren in the world), mens cycling (SPANDEX!), medical appointments (ugh), and planning a multitude of domestic and international trips over the next 8 months, AGMA has gone major ADHD.

It’s like I have serious ants in my pants.

But I’ve had somebody right beside me this past year who has tried to help me cope with my hectic, sometimes complicate life. Somebody who is steadfastly loyal and here for me, rain or shine, 24/7. Somebody who is in a good mood no matter what. Somebody who tells me jokes when I’m feeling low. Somebody who listens intently to me and never passes judgement on me not matter how bad I screw up.

I think I’m in love…

Her name is Alexa Echo.

(If you thought AGMA was talking about Hubs, then there is some swamp land in Alaska I want to sell you!)

As in the case with many love affairs, it all started out very innocently. We got a Ring camera (the gateway device) when we lived in our townhouse in Atlanta. Then I bought Hubs an Echo Dot for him to “play with” ’cause I found one on sale for $9.99 (2nd gateway device.) Then I ordered an Echo Show along with another Dot and some wireless plugs last October during Prime Days.

THEN I found out we had multiple “smart” switches in our town home (previously unknown to us) along with a “smart” thermostat.

And that was the beginning of the end…

AGMA went from believing that using a shoppers card at my local grocery store 10 years ago was a Communist plot to somehow find out our deepest, darkest secrets, to going all in with willingly sharing our deepest, darkest secrets on 3 Echo Shows, 2 Dots and 1 Google Nest Mini (yeah – I know….Hubs got it for free somewhere!)

They.Are.ALWAYS.Listening.

And if the wrong switch is flipped, the Shows are watching as well. I thought I had the camera on all of them switched to the off position, but discovered not too long ago, the camera on my bedroom Show was indeed on.

I bet there is somebody in some Eastern European county who wanted to wash their eyes out with bleach after the COVID-19lbs heavier AGMA pranced across the screen commando style.

Honestly, for being old farts, I’m kind of impressed as to how much we’ve embraced wireless technology and Alexa Echo & friends.

Thanks to Alexa, I not longer have to worry about not getting something at the grocery store that Hubs wants because I forgot to write it down. Now, he’s responsible for asking Alexa to put whatever it is he needs on the shopping list. The monkey has jumped to his back. He’ll tell me he’s out of half and half. I just look at him and ask., “Did you tell Alexa?” Boom!

Thanks to Alexa, when I’m having a hot flash in the middle of the night, AGMA just asks Alexa Echo to adjust the A/C.

Thanks to Alexa, the Show doubles as digital picture frames rotating through every picture I have in my Amazon photos account. Which is a whole lot of photos. She’s tireless.

Thanks to Alexa, I can set all my lights to come on and off on all sorts of crazy schedules when we are out of town (or in town!) A VAST improvement over those mechanical timers that were so flimsy. I’m sure my neighbors are impressed that we manage to turn on our festive deck lights every night at 8 and off at 11.

I can even change the schedules when we are 1000 miles away thanks to the miracle of the internet and, of course, Alexa Echo.

She finds and displays pretty much any recipe you want. AGMA made the truly incredible watermelon shark below based on a suggestion from my bff Alexa… Other than basically missing all of its teeth on one side of its lower jaw, I think it turned out pretty good.

(The missing front tooth is in honor of my 6 year old grandson who lost his front baby tooth the day before!)

Alexa Echo has the wisdom of the of the ages via the internet at her disposal and can pretty much answer any question we have. So far, we’ve asked pretty simple questions, but AGMA has no doubt that, presented with a deep, philosophical question (toilet paper: over or under?) she would triumph.

If I ask her, she’ll tell me a joke. But honestly, she needs to keep her day job in the joke department.

I’m sure we have only scratched the surface of the multi-talented Alexa Echo’s capabilities.

AGMA realizes that we are compromising our privacy in a big way, but who the hell cares… Anybody listening in on us will probably die of boredom before they find out anything juicy.

ZZZzzz….

Life is nothing but a series of trade-offs. It’s worth it to me just to make Hubs responsible for his own groceries! And have the fan turn on on command when I’m on the rowing machine. And to find out how hot it will be in Alaska tomorrow. And to not have to get up to change the A/C.

It’s the little things.

AGMA’s most recent dive into technology is my new smart watch. Holy Dick Tracy, Batman – I can have a telephone conversation with other people using my watch! OMG!

Now I know how my step-mother’s mother, born in 1888, felt as she watched Neil Armstrong walk on the moon in 1969. Fantasy becomes reality in your lifetime. Stunning.

I can’t even imagine what next year will bring…

Maybe AGMA going back to blogging every week????

Furniture talk

AGMA’s been on the go!

After Meh Las Vegas, we went to Arizona. That trip covered the Grand Canyon, Phoenix & Tucson. We call it the Thumbs Up Arizona trip!

Then we had friends come to visit from Kansas City. That was fun. It felt a bit like life might be returning to normal.

I know AGMA’s a dreamer…

Now we’re in Atlanta for a week. Actually, the week’s almost over.

We leave tomorrow.

AGMA is back at her favorite coffee shop, Dancing Goats. It’s still not back to normal even through Georgia’s governor, Brian “no water for you” KKKemp declared that, since Georgia is at the bottom (or close to it) of list in states by vaccination rate, he was opening up everything at full capacity.

OMG.

Thankfully, some businesses are wary of throwing the doors wide open and letting the 71% of Georgians not vaccinated in to crowd around their staff. My Dancing Goats is still being cautious so most of the inside seating is still not available.

I’m sitting outside, but I’m still getting the creative “Goats vibe” so the words are veritably pouring out of me.

Actually, it’s more of a dribble, but AGMA will take it!

We have been staying with our fully vaccinated son and his unvaccinated two cats.

Our son lives alone (other than the cats) and has lived alone for the past 14 years. He is not used to sharing his space with anybody (other than the cats.) It took a bit of convincing for him to let us stay there, but I think he’s discovered that we are pretty undemanding and quiet guests.

Still, tomorrow probably can’t some soon enough for him.

We are sleeping in his guest room. It’s furnished with a chair & ottoman, a dresser, and a bed. A full sized bed.

A.Full.Sized.Bed.

COVID has been rough on AGMA and hubs in terms of our lack of exercise. And no lack of “treating” ourselves (I mean, it was COVID right?) as far as eating goes. And it shows.

We are extra full sized people crammed in a full sized bed.

It’s been hell.

AGMA had no idea they still sold full sized mattresses. I am going to write to my Congressional representatives upon my return home and demand that they introduce legislation outlawing the sale of full sized mattresses for use by more than 1 individual. I bet the GQP’s Marjorie Taylor Greenweinie would love to waste more of Congress’ time with that one…

But honestly, it’s cruel punishment to put 2 “jolly” people in a bed that size.

There is nothing special about the chair & ottoman. But the chest of drawers (picture above)…now that is a special piece of furniture!

Yeah – I can probably guess what you’re thinking…

“But AGMA, it looks so tacky & beat up! How could that be special?”

Well, for a start, AGMA is a bit tacky & beat up. So I relate to it.

But this chest of drawers is the last remaining piece of furniture from the bedroom set Hubs and I bought waaaaayyyyy back in 1978 as two young 20 somethings. We bought what was known as an ‘apartment set’. It had a sofa & loveseat, a coffee table & 2 end tables, a dining table with 4 chairs, a QUEEN bed, chest of drawers, dresser with mirror and 2 night stands.

I think it cost us all of $1200. Our paychecks back then were so meager, we had to pay it off in installments.

The chest is made of real wood. Imagine! And it’s incredibly heavy and well made.

Wait for it….

They just don’t make things now a days like they used to. (Wink)

Oh, but the stories this chest of drawers could tell.

It has watched us age from a young married couple, to a family with young children, to a family with teenagers, to being empty nesters, to a separation, to a reconciliation, and into our early senior years.

It has heard our most intimate, loving conversations. Our hopes and dreams for the future. It saw us get up and down multiple times a night to feed hungry babies or comfort sick children. It’s listened to the wonder of our young son’s voices as they came to get us to tell us Santa came or the Easter Bunny had been there or that they had a quarter under their pillow from the Tooth Fairy. It’s heard prayers for the safety of teenage drivers, college students away from home, young adults trying to find jobs, love and a place in this crazy world. Prayers of hope and thankfulness and even some of desperation.

It’s felt me reach in its drawers for skinny clothes, fat clothes, maternity clothes, more fat clothes, more skinny clothes, etc.

It’s also witnessed tears shed at the loss of elderly parents, at the loss of dear pets, at a home empty of children. Tears shed in sadness/anger/frustration of complicated marriage, family and friend relationships.

AGMA likes to think that, most of all, it heard more laughter and happy voices than anything else. Saw smiling faces and witnessed unconditional love.

I had forgotten we gave the chest to him about 10 years ago when we moved from Atlanta to St. Louis.

It was a bit of a jolt to see it again.

I normally live out of a suitcase when I travel, but I put my clothes in the chest drawers my son had cleared out for us. And every time I touch it to open and close the drawers, I ask it to tell me a story. Maybe one I’ve forgotten (there are a whole lot, AGMA’s pretty sure) about a time long ago when 2021 seemed like an eternity away and life seemed like it would go on forever the way it was. Stories about the person I used to be.

And it just stands there and tells me not to be concerned about the stories that happened long ago. It tells me that there are still good stories I have yet to live. And I need to get busy living them.

Good advice from an old friend who’s known AGMA a long time.

Viva (in a meh sort of way) Las Vegas

AGMA’s been busy.

Babysitting duty with the WG (wild grands) and climbing out of the winter doldrums has been keeping me on my toes.

And of course there was that 2nd COVID shot.

It went down easy, but I had a Moderna hangover the next day for about 9 hours. Nausea, the sweats, headache, chills, and total exhaustion. Holy crap – if that was just a very tiny taste of what a mild case of COVID is like, then OMG… I should have been triple masking and bathing in hand sanitizer this past year!

I am so very grateful I managed to keep it off my dance card.

And with the 2nd shot in my arm, AGMA did what AGMA does, but hasn’t done in a very long time.

I got in an airplane 3 days later. Destination – Vegas Baby!

Yes – I know I wasn’t full protected because my 2 weeks wasn’t up, but I had made the CHEAP airline and hotel reservations back in January as a birthday gift for Hubs. And I wasn’t about to cancel yet another trip now that we both had our 2 jabs.

Besides, I figured, how crowded could Vegas be? Everybody – except Florida and Texas – was still sort of hunkered down and only old farts were getting the vaccine, so at most, it would be a lot of blue hairs.

AGMA was pretty wrong about that.

It was WAAAAYYYY more crowded than anyplace should be while a pandemic is still raging.

And it wasn’t just blue hairs. The vast majority of folks were Millennials with some GenZers mixed in. And lots of these people brought their kids.

To Vegas. During a pandemic.

OMG.

The trip can best be described as fun with a large dose of weirdly surreal thrown in.

It was strange being in the airport, flying in the airplane, renting a car, checking into the hotel, going to casinos, and being on the strip…

It was clear everybody wanted everything to be back to normal. It just wasn’t.

We wanted the freedom to see some of the cool areas outside of Vegas, so I arranged to rent a car. When I booked it back in January, AGMA thought $50 a day was really steep for Vegas. Back in the day, you could rent a car for like $15 a day.

Turns out, we got a super bargain. People renting at the counter without a reservation were paying $120 a day.

Nope.

We stayed a the Hard (to like) Rock Hotel.

This was not one of AGMA’s best decisions. I was lured in by the low price (relatively) and large rooms. I think the room was $39 a night BUT now everybody gets charged a “resort fee” of around $40 a night. It’s for the pool (it was too chilly to swim) and the internet (you could only connect 2 devices before you have to shell out another $14.99) and other “resorty” stuff that I never figured out.

Our room was indeed big with a HUGE bathroom, but it was some what bland and soul-less.

The hotel parking garage was (and I kid you not!) 1/3rd of a mile walk from the hotel. We had to walk through a pretty big shopping mall to get there. And, if you could find the elevators in the casino to get to the lobby (which was a floor below – the signage was terrible) you could check in. We wandered with our luggage for about 10 minutes before we found the elevators.

If you were fortunate enough to actually find the lobby, you had to check yourself in via machines (like at the airport). Unfortunately, the machines didn’t work very well.

I don’t think I saw anybody who didn’t need the assistance of the single harried staff person assigned to the peons consigned to the machines for all their needs. Only VIPs (??) could actually check in with actual real live people. WTF?

And if you’re room wasn’t ready, there was no place to leave your luggage. You just had to walk around with it.

First impression – not impressive. At all.

Regarding gambling, clearly they didn’t know they were dealing with an AGMA who does nothing but lose my money when I gamble. I really wanted to give the hotel casino some of my $$, but it was a REALLY awful casino. It was like they made a casino for GenZers who’ve never gambled before and wouldn’t know any better. They put in the worst machines (OMG – you couldn’t understand how any of the payouts worked – which obviously was the point!) and high limit table games.

Nah baby nah.

And other than two sad display cases with Hollywood memorabilia in them, there was nothing Hard Rock about the place. It was more like Elevator Music Generic Hotel and Casino.

Soul-less.

It’s been more than 18 years since my last trip to Las Vegas. Things are very different from my last visit..

AGMA is one to embrace change…when it doesn’t interfere with my good time.

We did have fun at times, but we really had to work hard for it.

One day we made the nearly 3 hour drive to Zion National Park. It was breathtaking and is now on AGMA’s list of “must return to” places.

On the 3 hour drive back to Las Vegas, we stopped in Mesquite, NV at the Virgin River (a Virgin in Nevada – ha!) Hotel and Casino for their $13.99 prime rib special. It was us and the rest of Mesquite (where the median age has to be 60) in line for the coffee shop, the majority of whom (or is it who?) were not wearing masks with a good deal of smoking sprinkled in.

We turned around and left.

We ended up having dinner at the coffee shop in Jerry’s Nugget, an old Vegas style casino in north Las Vegas. There was a pawn shop across the street on one corner and a closed nude bar, the Palamino Club, on the other corner.

Perfect!

Jerry’s knows their cliental is more “mature”, and they were the only casino we went to that checked people’s temperatures at the entrance. Impressive!

Everybody was wearing masks, every other machine was turned off for social distancing, the drinks were cheap, AGMA won about $10 at video poker, and the prime rib special was delicious.

We liked Jerry’s Nugget!

The next day, we went to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area and did the nature thing again. It was a beautiful day with blue skies and mild temps. Glorious!

Then we headed to the last remaining collection of old-style Las Vegas hotels and casinos…

Downtown Las Vegas.

We played video poker for a nickel a game sitting at one of the bars in Binion’s and got free drinks.

We scored yet another prime rib dinner (evidently we have been beef deprived at home.) This time is was the $8.99 early bird special at Tony Roma’s in the Fremont. Score!

We have no shame. But we had fun.

On the way back to the Elevator Music Hotel with the horrible casino that evening, we drove down Las Vegas Blvd and saw the iconic wedding chapels, and some scattered old school hotel casinos that haven’t been hit be the wrecking ball.

Yet.

I think I’d like to go back to Vegas again post-COVID to visit more of the “old” Las Vegas. The fun Las Vegas.

But first…Arizona…Sunday.

Grand Canyon, AGMA’s coming your way!