Monday, July 25, 2011


(Landscape with Cattle & Sheep, Constant Troyon, 1858, Minneapolis Museum of Art)

The Bobster and I have been traveling for days and we still haven't seen an inch of the Canadian border.

That's what happens when you stop at every art museum in your path.

It's hard for me to admit this, but even I am growing a teensy bit tired of our drive-museum-sleep routine.

So I look at Bob and say, "Hey, maybe we can find some fun place to stop and visit today. Something that doesn't have anything to do with art!"

Bob is stretched out on the bed reading "USA Today."

He looks up long enough to reply, "Sure, if we can find something we both want to see."

I shoot a hasty glance at Tess Tudhope as I head for the desk.

She's sprawled all over the top of my suitcase acting like she owns it.

I roll my eyes and begin searching for the travel brochures I picked up yesterday.

But nothing in that stack of information lights my fire.

I decide to check the net.

"Oh, my stars!!!" I practically scream at Bob.

"There's a Ben & Jerry's Factory just a few miles up the road from here!"

I turn around and study Bob's reaction to this flash of news.

The corners of his mouth quiver as his eyes begin to light up.

Whammo - I've got him!

Of course, he can't let me know that I've got him.

He yawns slowly and says, "I suppose we could stop there for a few minutes - if you really want to."

Oh, pleeeeeeeeeeeease!!!

Give me a bloomin' break!

The truth is, most of us earthly mortals struggle with a bunch of desires and addictions on a daily basis.

The Bobster isn't one of them.

Unless you count his raging need to stuff himself with ice cream every five minutes.


Ice cream is his one and only edible weakness.

I can't really relate.

I like the stuff well enough.

Especially during the hot, humid days of summer.

But I could easily live without it.

I'd rather cram a bag of Dove Dark Chocolate Promises down my throat any day of the week.

And I usually do.

But Bob can't survive without his creamy vanilla, his caramel-laden dulche le leche, and his absolute favorite - butter pecan - ice cream.

I know this about him.

I also know that he would rather have all of his fingernails pulled out in slow motion than pass up the free sample at the Ben & Jerry's Factory.

So I casually mention:

"Honey, we really should go to the factory. Think about all the things we'll learn about making ice cream. And it'll be fun to tell the kids we saw something on our vacation besides art. They are never going to believe it!"

Bob, thinking things over, says, "Well, since it's on our way, I guess it won't hurt to check it out."

Suddenly, the command "DEPART!" rings out loud and clear from the direction of my suitcase.

"Did you hear that?" I ask Bob.

"Tess just told us to leave!"

Why that nervy little minx!!!

"How dare she tell us what to do in our hotel room!" I huff and puff to Bob.

"Didn't you turn her off last night?" I quickly inquire.

"Yes, I did," Bob replies, "but I programmed her early this morning while you were in the shower. That explains her ability to speak in here."

"It's bad enough she yaks at us non-stop in the car. Do we have to listen to her nag when we're out of the car too?" I ask him indignantly.

Bob rises and walks over to Tess who has wisely decided to zip her busy little lips.

He picks Tess up, turns her over and flicks the "off" switch on her back.

Minutes later, we follow Tess's command to "depart."

That's NOT because she told us to leave, by the way.

It's because we're burning precious daylight in this hotel room.

Besides, Ben & Jerry are expecting us up at their place.

And it's not nice to keep your hosts waiting.

Monday, July 18, 2011


(Woman & Child Driving, Mary Cassatt, 1881, Philadelphia Museum of Art)

"Here's the thing," I say to Bob, "I'm just not feelin' it with those names we've given the GPS lady."

"Both Tilly and Lilly sound prissy to me and neither one of them speaks to her true character. She is a take charge, no nonsense type of gal."

"WAIT!" I scream at him, "I think I've got it. How about Tess?"

Bob blinks as he focuses on the winding Vermont roads.

"I see your point," he says too quickly, "Tess seems appropriate. Let's go with it."

Now I'm not - at this moment in time - completely crazy.

So I totally understand that Bob is doing his best to appease me on this name thing with the GPS lady.

I also know that he doesn't give a rat's patoody what name, we - excuse me - I, choose for her.

He's simply playing along with me for the sake of his own sanity.

"Yes," I murmur to him excitedly, "Tess is it!"

Just then I glance to my right and see a "it's seen its better days" construction truck roll past us in the right lane.

The back of the truck says "Tudhope Construction Company" in big, bold, black letters.

"That's it!" I shout to Bob, "her last name is Tudhope. Tess Tudhope. WHEW! That's a load off! It took us awhile to get there but she's finally got the perfect name!"

Bob nods his head in agreement.

"Yes, dear," he says.


Hours later, Tess is getting on my very last nerve.

I'm tired.

Tired of sitting in the car.

Tired of looking at passing trees, green grass, fat cows and other natural stuff.

But Tess, as usual, is at it again.


How many times today has she said this?

I can't believe it but she's sending us onto another twisty, curvy country road!

Silly me, I keep hoping that she's trying to connect us with some sort of interstate.

But Tess has no such intentions.

Her greatest desire is to see me barf my cookies all over the inside of the Malibu.

Which is gonna happen within the next 3.7 seconds.

I turn to Bob and say, "It's now 8 p.m. We have been switchbacking ourselves all over Vermont for four ridiculous hours. IN WHICH CENTURY ARE WE ACTUALLY GOING TO ARRIVE IN BURLINGTON?"

Bob glances at Tess.

He thinks I didn't notice.

Oh...... I noticed.

"Tess says we are scheduled to arrive in Burlington in 33 minutes."

"Is that right?" I ask innocently.

"Is she using earth time to make her calculations because this route can NOT be the shortest way to Burlington."

Bob decides to enlighten me with this comment, "Tess is taking us on the shortest possible route. But it may not be the quickest way to get there."

"Do ya think?" I ask him sarcastically, "because I'm really, really old. And I'm not wasting another precious second of my life listening to that nasty little hussie's directions!"

Bob replies, "I have to admit it. I'm getting tired of the scenic route too."

Then he turns his face to me and says, "But that's what I get for letting a woman tell me what to do."

My mouth falls open as I suck in the biggest breath of my life.

"What did you just say to me?" I ask pointedly.

"You heard me," he says.

I know Bob is messing with my mind.

I know this because he has lived with me for 40 blissful years.

And he and I both know that if I thought for one nano-second that his statement was serious, he'd already be dead.

I turn and look at Bob who is grinning from ear to ear.

"I'm glad you think......


"Did you hear that? TESS INTERRUPTED ME!!! This girl has guts flowing out the ying yang! Here we are trying to have an important conversation and this willful, wicked wench decides that what she has to say is more important than what I have to say!"

Bob is laughing.

I'm not.

I'm fuming.

And Tess?

Tess is talking.


I want to rip her big fat mouth right off the windshield!

I want to crush her tiny little screen body into a gazillion pieces with my warrior woman's foot.

I want to scoop her pathetic remains into my hands and throw them like forgotten crumbs of crystal out my passenger side window.

I do none of those things.

Instead, I watch Bob tenderly carry Tess into our hotel room.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


(Julius Leblanc Stewart, The Goldsmith Ladies in the Bois de Boulogne in a Peugeot "Voiturette", 1897, Bordeaux Museum of Art, France)

Thursday morning arrives much too early for our sleepy head tastes.

But it doesn't matter.

Like zombies, we have to keep pushing ourselves down whatever interstates lie within our destination's pathway.

Bob's chomping at the bit and ready to go.

So I plop my tush on the passenger side of the Malibu, reach for the door and slam it shut.

He points the car in the direction of the interstate and we're off again.

The GPS lady obviously had a restful night.

She wastes no time with early morning niceties.

As usual she is belting out orders.

Always with her soft as velvet voice.




Blah, blah.....


Blah, blah, blah......

"Yes, ma'am!" I reply, "thank you for telling us where to go!"

Tired of listening to her endless directions, my agitated mind thinks:

"Honey, if you don't button up your lips immediately, I'm going to tell you where to go."

I turn to Bob and say, "I think it's time to give the GPS lady a decent name. She definitely has a distinct personality and she's interacting with us all the time."

He stares at the road ahead and says nothing.

I think to myself, "Honestly, this man has no sense of fun whatsoever!"

Several minutes later Bob opens his mouth.

"How about Tilly Fay?" he asks.

"Hey, I like it!," I say excitedly.

Then I add, "I was thinking about Lilly Beth."

"That's good too," Bob replies.

"Which one do you like better?" I ask.

"Come on now, you know which one I'm voting for."

"And I've got to support my dear Lilly Beth!"

A lively discussion ensues for the next 10 minutes as we each volley for our chosen name.



This is what can happen to road warriors who are bored out of their freshly crazed minds.


Realizing it's time to wind this debate down, I say to Bob:

"Let's use both of our names interchangeably for the rest of the day. We'll go with the one that feels right after we hit the hotel tonight."

Bob turns to me and stares.

I know exactly what he's thinking......

"She's finally certifiable."

But wisely, he stays silent.

I wish I could say the same for Tilly Lilly.

She continues to badger us with her directive tongue all morning.

Sometime after lunch - at Subway, of course - I let Bob know that Ms. TL is getting to me.

"I'm tired of listening to that flophouse floozie tell us what to do every minute," I say to him.

"Can't you just turn her off for awhile?" I beg.

Bob keeps his eyes on the interstate.

"No, I can't, because we're getting into some tricky country roads here in just a few minutes," he explains.

"I may need her to help me out."

This - from a man who was born with a Rand McNally Road Atlas tied to his tiny right foot.

"Can't you use the road atlas?" I implore, "I"ll help you figure out where we need to go."

"The GPS is more accurate and definitely quicker," Bob counters.

I realize that I'm fighting a losing battle.

Tilly Lilly has seductively slid into Bob's life.

This bargain-basement Barbie has tickled his fancy.

Stolen his mind.

And stomped all over his heart.

But if she thinks she's gonna push me out the door like a bag of week old trash...... it ain't gonna happen.

I staked my claim a long time ago and no dimestore dolly is going to ride off into the sunset with my man!

Not now.

Not ever.

TL, it's time for you to get the heck out of Dodge.

So pack your bags, darlin'.

Your days are numbered..

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


(Jasper Francis Cropsey, Starrucca Viaduct, Pennsylvania, 1865, Toledo Museum of Art)

It all began innocently enough.

These things usually do.

One week before the Bobster and I left for our Canadian adventure Heidi asked her father this question:

"Would you like to borrow my new GPS for your trip? I'd like you to check it out - to see if it's really worth all the hype."

Bob's brain shifted into high gear as he carefully examined the digital contraption in his hands.

I could see that he was highly interested in this thing.

In fact, he was actually getting - dare I say it - excited.

"Sure," Bob replied, "I'll test it out for you and give you a full report."

Heidi responded, "It'll be nice to have your insights."

The three of them - John had just walked into the room - talked techno-speak for the next 20 minutes as they took turns caressing the GPS in their sweaty little palms.


I sat on the sofa staring at the ticking clock on the mantel.


Fast forward one week.

The evening before our departure I notice that Bob is doing some mighty fast thumbing on the GPS screen.

"What are you doing?" I ask.

Ten minutes later he finally responds to my question.

"I'm programming the GPS for tomorrow's drive," he answers.

"Good," I say cheerfully, "that thing should keep me from having to slap you silly when you refuse to stop and ask for directions."

Bob replies, "Very funny."


We drive a whopping 660 miles on the first day of our journey.

Arriving in Hazelton, Pennsylvania we pull into the hotel parking lot in the early evening.

Miraculously, Bob and I are still speaking to each other as we open the door to our room.

Seconds later, I collapse onto the bed.

I see Bob grab the GPS.

I watch him thumb the tiny screen for awhile.

Then I say to him, "You're really into this thing."

The manic thumbing continues as he mutters, "Not really."


We hit the road again bright and early the next morning.

I notice that Bob is looking kinda spiffy in his mauve-y hued shirt.

I turn to him and say, "Do you know that the color of your shirt perfectly matches the color of your lips?"

He glances at me and says, "Why are you surprised? I planned it that way."

I laugh until my guts hurt.

Bob and I speed down the interstate for another three and a half mind-numbing hours.

Suddenly, the GPS voice - which is a woman's, by the way - calmly says:


Bob glides into the right lane at the speed of light.


Obediently, he does exactly what she tells him to do.


Bob makes a sharp right turn.


I think to myself, "Come on, GPS lady, are you sure it isn't 1.26758 miles?"

Bob, of course,  is busy proceeding exactly 1.2 miles.

In the left lane.


Bob flies down the road another 250 feet.

Then something truly amazing happens.

I hear choirs of angels singing as I gaze starry eyed at the Cracker Barrel sitting majestically before me.

I turn my head and say to Bob, "Hey, this thing works like magic!"

He smiles contentedly.

Let's be honest here.

It's not like we needed the GPS to find a Cracker Barrel.

They practically sit on top of every interstate in this country.

And you can find one every 7.539 miles.

But Bob is trying to impress me with the talents of his new friend.

It's working.

I look at him again.

I think I see a twinkle in his eye.

I double check to be sure.


It's definitely there.

Bob's eyes don't twinkle that often.

In fact, the last time I saw it happen was back in 1995.

I'm no mathematician but I'm thinking that was around 16 years ago.

Bob had just fired up his first non-work-related PC.

Suddenly, the monitor glowed with an eerie light.

And that's the moment when I saw his first twinkle.

Now, I've just witnessed the second one.

I'm pretty sure I have the GPS lady to thank for that.


I can see I'm going to have to keep a very close eye on this little chickie.