My Autumn Vacation: What I Did/What HAPPENED TO ME

    I rented  a cottage in Westport, Massachusetts for a week.

 The things I packed:

   1) one piebald dachshund, a bit chunky

  2) one schnauzer-dachshund mix, still recovering from a bad trip--(see other blog)

  3) and then everything else--paints, paper, clothes, linens, pillows, towels, and my meds

  4) two bottles of pinot noir; one bottle of vodka, with dirty martini mix

The first bad thing that happened:

I  got lost, horribly lost, two hours into what was suppose to be a four-hour trip.  Getting lost: common occurrence for me, yet each time I feel as if I am eight and at the Dallas State Fair, during the OU/UT game, which actually happened, and I have wandered into the FREAK show of the state fair, which actually happened.  And I have the same feeling that I had then: I will never ever be found and the world is very, very bad.  

I had good excuses for being lost, which I told myself all during my lost time; there was rain, then there was fog, mainly there was fog in my car, inside on my windshield.  My car has had a humidity problem from day one. 

 I will not tell you how many hours I was on the road.  I did keep thinking about where I could have driven to if I had not driven in circles. 

I needed to pee, my dogs needed to pee.  It was very late, and we all three peed in some neighborhood in some small New England town. People had lights on in their homes.  They were home.  They were not lost.  They were probably watching the season premiere of Scandal. 

After peeing, I drove to the center of town and parked on the Main Street of a town that I could not find the name of anywhere ON the TOWN.  I saw waiters and waitresses who had cleaned tables while I sat in my car; they had turned off lights while I sat in my car..  Why could  I not get out of my car and ask them--Where am I?  I couldn't.  I just couldn't.  At these moments of lost-ness, I always think of Monroe Spears, a brilliant scholar, my mentor, the auditor of Auden's estate!  I think of Mary Robison, a brilliant fiction writer.  They both have geographic dyslexia..  I always remind myself of these people, and I am always consoled by the thought.  

I found Yelp on my iPhone and called someone to find a hotel near me--near my "CURRENT LOCATION"--and the woman was Indian.  She said, "How do you say that name -- Shrewsbury?"  This woman was in India and she knew where I was and I loved her.

She told me there was a Days Inn only five miles from me.  Then she asked me to hold on for just a minute, and when she came back, her voice sounded so sad.  She said,  "Oh I am so sorry they do not take pets."

She sensed my mood.   She said, "You must be very tired."  (Then I become mildly paranoid.  Was there a way that Yelp had tracked my Mapquest?)

I had not been able to read my Mapquest directions while eighteen-wheelers were bearing down on me like in the Stephen King novel, Spielberg's first movie--The Duel--where a huge tractor trailer truck with a faceless driver, is chasing, chasing a car--it is as if a JAWS shark truck is loose--that was like my life on the freeway to the Cape.    I had to have this woman find me lodging, right then.  I was not going on.  I could not risk my life just not to be lost.  That is how I consoled myself for losing a whole night that I could have had at a cottage on the CAPE.  

(An aside, my  godson happened to post on FB the next day (!) a long and disturbing article about the deaths in New England and the Midwest, the result of  big rigs with drivers who have had  little or no sleep. )  

The Indian woman, the amazing, the beloved Indian woman, found me a Holiday Inn Express, one of my favorite places to stay!    I LOVE HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS!!! Those cinnamon rolls!  Holiday Inn Express welcomes your pets.

I traveled 20 miles in the opposite direction from Westport to get to my inn.  After checking in, I used the side door to come in and up the stairs instead of going through the lobby to the elevator.  When we got to my floor,  my pets decided to run full speed down the hall and bark joyfully, and it was now eleven o'clock, and I had, as usual, lied, and said I had one small dog.  Just like with Mapquest,  just like with the Indian woman--I knew the young man in the lobby could see me sneaking around up the stairs with two small dogs--well, one fat dog and one thin dog--and now could see AND hear two dogs.  

I woke up at four in the morning and decided to get to the beach.  I decided to forgo the cinnamon rolls. As I drove away, I looked in the lobby window, thinking of them.  But I am drinking Shakeology these days, trying to lose weight. Even though I'd only had a scrambled egg at two in the afternoon, before I left,  I MUST put those cinnamon rolls in my rearview mirror. 

I drove to Westport as the sun was rising.  In a very short time--forty five minutes--I discovered that Google Earth does not do justice to this cottage, this beach, this heavenly spot on earth.  

These are the things I did:  

1)  Saw seagulls as big as Amos

2) Took about five walks a day down the road to the public beach--because the dogs wanted to go to the beach ALL THE TIME. Who knew they loved the sea so much?   We walked around a curve in the road to the beach front where there were large rocks and not much sand so the dogs and I stayed on the black topped road;  the horizon was always an amazing color, either pinkish, or grey or pearl white, and the water was the color of deep gray slate, or like molten iron, powerful as fluid molten iron.  

2)  Found four feathers

3)  Painted two paintings and worked on one I'd thought I'd  finished.

4)  Burned my host's very brand-new looking frying pan. Burned my host's nice sauce pan

5)   Had a doctor's appointment in Boston and did not get lost but got stuck in hours and hours of traffic.  When I came to the central area of Boston, cars were racing around the figure eight roundabouts.  I felt as if perhaps I'd gotten in the midst of the Amazing Race and was in everyone's way.  Many people honked at me and at everyone else. There seemed to be no real rhyme of reason for much of this honking.  It was like the dogs running down the hall of the hotel, just honking out of wild energy.

I had to call the doctor's research assistant and ask her to help me find their building.  My iPhone was playing with me, I swear to you; it told me to go 500 hundred feet forward, then 500 feet to the left, the 500 feet to the left again, until i said out loud on the street--What are you doing?  To my phone.  When II realized it was sending me around in circles.

 When I finally got the the appointment--twenty minutes late, maybe thirty. I asked for the restroom.  The receptionist--yes, a receptionist--this Harvard research center suite was interior decorated as if for a wealth management firm.  The receptionist  gave me a large key to the restroom outside the suite in the hallway.

 I dropped my inhaler in the toilet.  

6)   Got back to Westport and my friend had come from Providence.  He had already walked the dogs and we ate something.  I don't remember what.  Oh yes, he so kindly brought me delicious food from Whole Foods in Providence, and it was roasted chicken and butternut squash, and I enjoyed it, but I had had a hard day at the doctor's appointment.  I had cried, much to my disappointment in myself, when I was told I could not be in the study.  I forgot until the next day that I didn't want to be in the research study.   

7)  My friend said, "You look really sexy, Marsha, even though you've had this bad day."  I said no, no,no I don't look sexy AT ALL.  He said, "Gay men know these things." 

8)  The next day I had to drive an hour to another town to get a prescription refilled that I'd brought with me which had been written by a doctor in Bennington who was covering for my doctor, my GP. When I got to the Rite Aid, I was told that the prescription was post-dated so 1) it could not  be filled yet and 2) that is a moot point because it was past the five days that you had to get it filled before it was invalid.  You must grasp this point, hard:  the prescription was useless no matter what I would have done. 

This prescription was for five mg Ritalin.  Other people with MS fatigue take powerful rocket-fuel type stimulants-- nuvigil, provigil.  I don't take these because the first time I did I stayed up for two straight days.

 My GP is retiring and now takes many vacation days.  I'd needed to have the Ritalin three days earlier than when the pills were going to be all gone.   When I had called with my request, (one has to pick up the prescription at the office because this is a Level 1 or whatever they call very controlled drugs, yes, my tiny gray pills the size and looks of gravel with the kick of a Dr. Pepper, are akin to heroin around here), my doctor's nurse, Cindy, spoke to me. She  is judgmental of my use of Ritalin; when I requested the prescription three days before my allotted number of pills per month were to run out, she'd  lectured me as if I were a methadone client who had asked for two cups instead of the usual one.  She said-- you can't have the prescription early.  I said I am leaving town, and if the doctor doesn't give me the script,  I will not have my meds for my week-long trip.   I am certain she knows no one with MS. She not only made me beg but ultimately, I believed with all my heart, had conspired to screw up this plan, and as a result I would have trouble walking toward the pebbled beach with seagulls the size of small dogs and horizons the color of pearly glazed Japanese porcelain.  As I stood out in the light rain of the Rite-Aid in Fall River, Massachusetts,  I hated Cindy and wished I did not have that kind of hate in my heart. 

 I had called Cindy from outside Rite-Aid and what I wanted to tell her was that it was a miracle I did not get lost getting to this other town, or killed while trying to get my tiny pills; but I did almost  pee in the car because MS makes you have to pee right when you need to pee.  I wanted to tell her that I had tried  constantly to count my blessings in spite of having MS.  And I do have many, many blessings, unlike, I am certain, poor Cindy, who I was convinced hated being a nurse, had a teenager who was doing some kind of speed and doesn't like her, and her life is hard, very hard.  Maybe she has chronic back pain.

Anyway I called Cindy and said, "Do you know what you all did to me?"  I had pretty much been unable to get out of bed in Westport after I ran out of my meds.   Of course I had tried to explain to Cindy the week before  why this plan was never gonna work, the postdated script with a five day expiration date.  DO THE MATH CINDY.  Now that what I'd anticipated had come true,  I wanted to say--This is Kafka-esque.  This is a Catch-22.  I thought I should not say this because I sensed Cindy was not a big reader. She might resent me more and try to sabotage my life further.

Cindy said to me: "From now on you should plan your vacations around your medication refill time periods."  

I could not believe that Cindy had said this to me.  I hung up on Cindy and cried for the hour back to Westport.  I did not want to waste a moment of my time in this beautiful place being so sad.  I tried to regain my composure.  I tried to think of  everything I have. My bountiful life, I thought.  I repeated the word bountiful.  Beautiful, the word, the fullness of it.  But there was a terrible feeling of doom:  "You should manage your vacation around your medication refills......"

There was something that went to the heart of my problem; would go to the heart of anyone, I believed, who has a degenerative neurological disorder.  

The thoughts on my drive back to Westport, which I vaguely remember, so fueled by fury, fueled by, yes, by self-pity, sickening, pathetic self-pity.

 I thought--Dear Cindy:  

I must plan around many things.  I must plan around steep hills, cobblestone streets, heat, as in any heat that warms my body more than two degrees from my core temperature; so no spring and summer weddings, even if it is the wedding of your beloved godson;

 I must remember to plan my appointments for the neurologist, the endocrinologist, the pain management specialist, the psychopharmacologist ,the general practitioner (where Cindy works).  I must manage to smile at these men who have total control over much of my life.  I must smile when my GP calls me "My Friend."

The next to the last day on my vacation, I had to use my cane because my right leg was weak--most likely from the whole conflict with Cindy even more than the lack of the medication.  But both conspired to render me somewhat sick, and somewhat off kilter, not on an even keel, even for a person who has balance "issues."

Instead of walking to the beach, I was walking the dogs around the neighborhood.  I had "pulled myself together;"  I had combed my hair and put on some of my frilly beach frocks.  I was feeling pretty jaunty, though listing to the left, cane in right hand, Amos and Lola in the other.  A gentleman at least fifteen years older than me was slowly driving past, his truck crunching the shell and rock road in a satisfying, good memory filled way, this sound, the way my father's Buick had crunched the oyster shelled roads to our boat at Lake Bistineau.

He stopped his truck, leaned over to roll down the shot-gun window, and asked me if I was alright.  I gave him a big smile and said, -"Oh yes.  Oh yes. I'm fine  I'm fine.  I just have this damn disease."  I laughed and waved my hand, as if swatting away his concern.

 He was handsome and seemed to know something about me, like Mapquest had, as if he had his own internal mapquest that made him know stuff. .  He looked right into my eyes, and we stay locked there for more than a second, before he said "Take care."  His truck then rocked and crunched as he slowly drove away, making sure, I knew, not to buckshot us with crushed road shells.  

I was left standing, stupefied, in the wake of his kindness.