Worth 1000 Words #13: Ol’ Reliable

On the first day of college, I was nervously approaching my first ever class – Health and Wellness – wondering who I would sit with, if I’d make any friends, and why on earth said class needed to be so freakin’ far away from the parking lot, when my backpack strap broke.

Now, superstitious folk might have perceived this occurrence as a bad sign. Unfortunately, I am one of those people.

I immediately assumed that one single stroke of bad luck was going to define my future academic career, and that my pending failures were all due to an unfortunate incident of faulty stitching. I wished I had bought one of those snazzy, colorful L.L. Bean backpacks embroidered with my initials instead of a dowdy brown messenger bag designed to carry my laptop, which I literally brought to class maybe twice in my entire three years of degree-hunting.

So I hobbled to Health class, retained no information while there, then hobbled back to my car with my broken bag and similarly broken spirits. And that night, I went to Staples and shelled out $72 for a backpack that came to be known as Ol’ Reliable.

Ol’ Reliable is a High Sierra brand bag, black with silver/white accents, and contains five pockets of increasing size and a laptop sleeve, so it was quite a lot of bang for my buck. Now, I have owned many a backpack in my time, including one of those wheelie bags that were popular when I was in elementary school, a Big Dogs bag bought at an outlet store in the Poconos, and a really pretty white and purple plaid bag that also broke beneath the burden of weighty books. But I don’t think any backpack past or future can ever eclipse the enduring legacy of Ol’ Reliable, who has been my stalwart traveling companion for the last eight years. Who knew one backpack could carry so many books (I was an English Lit major, remember?), as well as all of my hopes and dreams?

20180926_110729.jpgHe’s suffered through some wear and tear over the years – one shoulder strap is ripped slightly, but it remains resilient and shows no sign of tearing completely. A pen exploded in one of the pockets during an intense rainstorm, so the interior is stained a splotchy black. And, as mentioned earlier, Ol’ Reliable has been through it. My last semester of college alone I had 25 textbooks, including two massive, dreaded literature anthologies. It’s a miracle that both Ol’ Reliable and my spine survived.

Ol’ Reliable not only assisted me on the road to an English degree, he has accompanied me on the literal road on many actual travels. He was with me when I studied abroad in England, which was my first time ever out of the country. When I hiked the steep stairs at St. Paul’s cathedral and then took in the gorgeous view at the top, he was there. As I strolled through Westminster Abbey, looking upon the memorials of poets and writers and kings and queens of yore, he was there. When my crew and I took a whirlwind one day trip to Paris, visiting the Louvre, viewing the Eiffel Tower, and walking through the beautiful and haunting Notre Dame, he was there. Whilst I toured the legendary halls of castles and prestigious universities, he was there. He was strapped firmly to my back when I stood upon the tomb of King Henry VIII in Windsor, and sat quietly at my feet during every exam and quiz. And when I returned to England three years later, he was with me yet again, as solid and hardy as ever. I took him with me to see Stonehenge. He came along when we glimpsed the white cliffs at Dover, rising from the ocean like pale stone beacons. He has visited the Shakespeare House, the royal crescent in Bath, and has graced the floor in many a pub and tavern while I sipped a pint of Strongbow and nibbled on a burger.

Ol’ Reliable was there on my recent trip to Vegas, able to carry everything from my laptop, to my Nintendo DS, to my Nook, and two spare outfits in his sturdy pockets, yet was still able to fit beneath the seat of the person in front of me on the airplane, so I didn’t have to cram him in the overhead bin. He was with me every time I traveled between New England and PA on school breaks and the like, able to fit enough of my belongings in his pockets that I rarely needed to check a bag. He’s been on planes, cars, trains, and ferries. Whenever I have a trip coming up, I feel somewhat less nervous just knowing that Ol’ Reliable will be accompanying me. Because he is exactly that – reliable. With him on my back, I don’t need to worry.

Since I currently work in a retail establishment, I have occasionally had to recommend items to shoppers. Recently, I was assisting a couple with the purchase of a backpack for their grandson from our online store. And wouldn’t you know, a slightly updated version of Ol’ Reliable was available. I sang his praises to them, recounting my eight years of reliable backpack ownership to help them make their decision. And – I like to think due to my persuasion – they made the right choice, and I hope their grandson has an Ol’ Reliable of his own.

Ol’ Reliable isn’t winning any beauty pageants – he’s worn, almost a decade old, and not as glitzy or as glamorous as some of the other backpacks out there. But he gets the job done, and he gets it done well, and without complaint. Any trip I go on, he is automatically the first thing I think of to come along. He has never failed me, and I intend to keep him as my frequent travel-companion until he or I cannot travel any longer, or until that tear in his shoulder strap finally gives.

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK. Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

Advertisements

Viva Las Vegas!

When my sister and her fiance announced that they planned to hold their wedding in Las Vegas, I was… apprehensive. My image of Vegas has always leaned in the “den of debauchery” direction, where I would be a fish out of water. I barely drink, I’ve never gambled, and I have no interest in strip clubs or anything of the sort. I’m not morally opposed to any of that, it just isn’t for me. But, since my sister graciously bestowed the title of Maid of Honor upon me, I had no choice but to go.

Just from walking along the strip each day I saw an Elvis impersonator on a motor scooter, was verbally accosted by a male stripper dressed (well….partially dressed) as a cowboy, was called a “naughty girl” by a female stripper in a risque police getup, politely rebuffed all folks attempting to hand out fliers, and saw numerous feathered and glittery showgirls strutting among the crowd. But Vegas really is what you make of it.

img_20180901_0744021300954137.jpgThough I didn’t indulge in much stereotypical “Vegas” behavior, I still had the time of my life.

First of all, dry heat is SOOO much better than the soupy, jungle-esque humidity that’s been assaulting south-central PA all summer. Yes, it’s the desert out in Nevada, and it is hot – but it’s not a gross, heavy heat like it is here. However, the brilliance of the sun pierced my 50spf sunscreen like scissors through paper, and I was very close to having noticeable tan-lines for the wedding ceremony. Fortunately, frequent slatherings and protective sunglasses kept the worst at bay. The lack of rain probably sucks long-term, though, so I doubt I’ll be moving west any time soon.

img_20180906_211505747688568.jpgThe food is great, if expensive… but if you’ve ever vacationed in a big, bustling tourist destination, that’s no surprise. The best meal I had was probably the shrimp and grits at Pub 1842, which is the restaurant of chef Michael Mina located in the MGM Grand. It was expensive, but it’s the one meal I had that I felt was 100% worth the high price tag. My other favorite meals were the french toast at PBR Rock Bar and Grill, which is very reasonably priced, and Pink Box Donuts, which are sinfully delicious. The poutine appetizer at Robert Irvine’s was also spectacular. I wish I’d made it to one of Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants, but I did get a photo op outside of Hell’s Kitchen. $56 for a Beef Wellington is a bit outside my price range, regardless.

The food might be pricey, but the cost of alcohol in Vegas is insane, so if you’re ever planning on partying it up out there, plan your budget accordingly. I can count the drinks I had over the course of the five days on one hand, and one was at an open bar, but it still hurt my wallet. For reference, I got three drinks at the pool one day (not all for me) and my bill was $60. At breakfast one morning, my meal was $8 and my drink was $13. I mean, I totally get it – it just made me glad I’m a lightweight. And the drinks I did get were fantastic.

Now, I want to get to the actual point of this post, so we’re going into bullet-point mode for a bit…

  • img_20180902_1548112035817839.jpgThere’s a ton of things to do/see on and around the strip for folks of all dispositions. There’s even a Chocolate World, which was a shock to me – someone who is from an area near the actual Hershey, PA.
  • Every casino/hotel has enough inside of it that you technically don’t even need to leave the place you’re staying to have a fulfilling vacation. I stayed at the Tropicana, but also explored Caesar’s Palace, the MGM Grand, New York, New York, and The Cosmopolitan, and wish I’d had time to see more.
  • The Bellagio Fountains are so cool to see. We watched “The Star Spangled Banner” and  “Time to Say Goodbye,” which were brilliant, but my sister got to see “My Heart Will Go On” at night, which I’m sure was a treat.
  • Walking past the Hard Rock Cafe on our last morning, ABBA’s “Take a Chance on Me” started to play. It’s like they knew I was walking by.
  • Everyone working at the various hotels, restaurants, and attractions were all pleasant and nice, and I don’t recall personally encountering anyone who was grumpy or rude. Basically, the hospitality in general is five-star.
  • My parents and I decided to check out a Cirque du Soleil show, and we settled on KA. It was a beautiful performance and top-tier quality show and I highly recommend it if you’re looking for an entertaining night out. My aunt and uncle saw the Beatles-themed show, LOVE, and raved about it as well. They also saw Penn and Teller, but you probably don’t need me to tell you that they were impressed.
  • I won $20 on a slot machine at the airport, though it was technically a net profit of $18. I like slot machines now, but I can see how they are addicting and know to quit when I’m ahead.

img_20180901_161944_578907505970.jpgBut the true highlight of my trip was getting to spend time with friends and family, some of whom we don’t get to see very often, and – of course – getting to see my older sister marry her soulmate… who is now her husband! I know when folks think of a Vegas wedding, they imagine a tacky chapel, a gaudy, rented dress and pale-colored suit, and a short ceremony officiated by an Elvis impersonator.

I mean, it could have been like that – but it wasn’t.

It was simple and lovely, well-thought out, full of joy and enthusiasm, and I’m so happy that they included me in their special day. The ceremony, out on the terrace at the Tropicana and put together by some very patient coordinators and planners, was beautiful. About 30 friends and family members made the trip to see the nuptials, which is impressive for a destination wedding. And the reception at Robert Irvine’s afterward was wonderful, though, while we were waiting for the room to be ready, the wedding party (except for me, who could not care less, and a few others) and guests were all crowded around the restaurant’s television watching the Penn State game, and I’m pretty sure everyone in the establishment knew that we were from PA after some very ardent reactions. It was rewarding to see my sister and her new husband enjoy their day and get to start their life together. And the cake was bomb.

I know they say what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas… but I couldn’t resist writing a post about this trip because I’m so happy for my sister, and look forward to seeing her and her husband star this new chapter in their life.

 

 

 

When I Left

When I left England, part of me stayed behind.

Part of me still rides the train into the city through the early morning haze, and sits at a table by the thatch-roof cottage, sipping tea and admiring the serenity of Richmond Park. Some of me still frolics through the fields of Kew Gardens, the air rich with the scent of flowers. Part of me still cringes at the thought of steak and kidney pie, but yearns for fish and chips with mushy peas. There’s a bit of me still wandering the streets of Bath, still sitting in an elaborate theater as the first haunting notes of a musical ring out, still getting lost in the maze of King Henry VIII’s palace, still nursing a pint or a Pimms at a cozy pub as the sun sets. In a way, I’m still standing in Leicester Square as dusk descends on the city, not ready to go back to the flat and call it a night – and certainly not ready to go back across the sea.

I went to England to learn and take courses, but some lessons could only be learned after falling into a puddle in Paris, exploring castles, or chasing a cat through a graveyard after one-too-many pints of hard cider. My first foray into the world beyond the East coast of the United Sates was too short, and my heart still pines for the fresh sea air of the beach at Brighton and strolls across the Thames. I want to see a snow-kissed England in the winter, and find out if the leaves look beautiful in the fall.

The rest of me eventually got on a plane and came home. I miss the part of me I left behind, but I know we’ll meet again someday.

~~~~~

If you’re in need of a new read, check out my YA novel, I’m With You! The ebook is only $1.99 or (£1.55) and paperback is $9.99 (£7.99) on Amazon Amazon UK.  Nook book is also $1.99 and paperback is $9.99 on BN.com.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑