Anne Frank Never Flew Coach July 18, 2013Posted by J. in Genius.
Anne Frank never flew 3000 miles in United Economy Class. I’m just saying.
So, on Monday I returned to NH after four lovely days in the greater Seattle area. Remember back when I told y’all I was applying for this big craft fair out there and asked you to help with my application pictures? Well, I didn’t get in. “The hell?” you say. It’s true. Poops was rejected. *sad sigh*
Originally, the plan was that I would apply and get accepted (of course), and I’d go out to stay with my Internet Friend Bill and his wife Amy and their assortment of kids and pets. Amy would help me run my booth because she can sell ice cubes to Eskimos, and Bill would carry things for us. I was looking forward to the West Coast exposure in the art community out there, but mostly looking forward to meeting Bill in person after a couple years of being Internet Friends.
Then I didn’t get in and I was all sad panda face about it. In part because hearing “Sorry, you’re just not what we’re looking for at this time” always stings, but because without an excuse to go, it just seemed like we were going to miss our connection this time.
If you’ve been playing along at home, you know I have lots of Internet Friends, and I’ve talked about what they mean to me. I don’t consider people I’ve befriended online to be anything other than real friends, and Bill is no exception. In truth, he’s become one of my best friends in the world, and the idea of getting to meet in person and not just chat via messages and the occasional Skype call was an intoxicating one. But, as shit luck would have it, I was rejected, and the bottom fell out of my plan.
But then Larry said, “I think you should go anyway.” He didn’t think I needed an excuse. So I said to Bill, “Larry thinks I should still make the trip.” And Bill agreed. And ran it by Amy, who had invited me in the first place, and since it seemed no one but me seemed to need an excuse for me to fly across the country, and because Larry and I figured the money could be found in the budget for it, I started pricing plane tickets.
And then the car failed to pass inspection by a wide, wide margin.
Coming up with a down payment on a new vehicle, taking on a monthly payment, higher insurance and registration costs…there was no money for jetting off to Seattle for what was now just a vacation. We could not make the numbers work, and I was sad panda again. Until Larry put forth the idea that if I could raise the money with my knitting, then the household budget need not be a consideration. Now, that’s a game-changer! Happy panda! So, armed with my rudimentary-at-best social media skills and with my fingers crossed, I set to work pimping out my shop.
Here again, my Internet Friends were the ones who rose to the challenge. I asked them for something completely frivolous: can you share my shop links so that I can go on a completely pointless and self-indulgent trip across country? And God bless their hearts, they did. And in a way that made me cry. They posted the link to my shop to their Facebook timelines and Twitter feeds like I asked, but to a person, they all went one better. Every link I saw was accompanied by paragraphs praising my talent and deservedness and all-around awesomeness, and to say I was moved by the response is a bit of an understatement. At one point there were something like 10 links in a row in my news feed just like that, and I was overwhelmed to tears by it. Not “real friends” my ass.
The good news is that in three days, I had taken enough orders to fund my entire trip, and then some. Hell, if I’d started sooner I could have flown first class. And trust me, that’s being considered for next time. But we’ll get to that in a minute.
I bought my ticket and knit my fingers to the bone while I waited very impatiently for July 11 to roll around.
So flying cross-country is quite an experience. And I’m glad I did it after I’d lost 75 pounds. I mostly fit in my seats on the plane, which was my biggest fear. Airlines are cracking down on making fat passengers buy an extra seat if they overflow the one they’re in, and I knew it’d be close. I was on full flights all the way, and I was scared shitless that I wouldn’t be able to go. But it was no problem. Not exactly comfy, but it could have been way worse. God, and being able to stroll through airports carrying all my stuff and not getting winded or needing to stop and rest was just priceless.
My friend Annie is now officially my 3:30 in the morning airport friend. Yes, that woman got up at 3 in the morning to drive me to Boston to catch a 7:30 flight. I knew I’d be there a couple of hours early, but traffic is sometimes a concern and even at that hour, security lines at Logan can be a cluster fuck, so all things considered, I’d rather err on the side of early. And that’s when I found out that my flight was delayed. I checked it the night before just to make sure and everything was a go, but when I got there, the incoming flight was delayed and now I was leaving at 9:11.
Also, here’s a thought: planes should never be estimated to take off at 9:11. Make it 9:10, or 9:12. It just seemed like a bad omen.
I had some extra time to kill, but that’s no problem. I’m good at keeping myself busy. Just trying to get connected to Logan’s shitty wifi so I could fuck around on the internet was a real time-suck, and once I realized I was just making myself crazy and had used up all my lives in Candy Crush, I settled down to do some reading. And that’s when a family pulled up the turf across from me. They got comfy and opened bags of food. It wasn’t until I saw the full, party-sized bag of Lay’s potato chips that I started to twitch.
I may have mentioned my neurosis about hearing people chew with their mouths open. Especially chips. And now this Chinese kid was crunching handfuls of the fuckers, and I was growing increasingly homicidal as the minutes ticked by. My iPod battery was running low since my efforts with the aforementioned shitty wifi service, so I removed myself from the immediate vicinity of the chips and hit the recharging center. I plugged in the Pod and BOOM. Well, not “boom,” exactly. More of a “PFFFFFTPT”. My plug blew.
Mercury is in retrograde, so shit like this is to be expected.
I grabbed my stuff again and headed to the iStore conveniently located in the same terminal and bought a new plug, and got a spiffy new Otter Box for the unit while I had my card out. It was nice to get away from the sound of chips, but if you don’t travel often, you can forget how fucking annoying other people can be. Something about traveling brings out the worst in some people, I swear to God. I encountered a huge troop of Boy Scouts in full uniform wandering around playing grab-ass. A European man at Dunkin’ Donuts mocking how “Americans just can’t get by without their coffee,” which, at that hour of the morning in Boston, could have gotten him shanked in line. People cutting the boarding line. Being in the wrong line and holding things up. People thinking that the two carry-on restriction doesn’t apply to them. And don’t get me started about the size of their carry-on bags. FUCKING CHECK THAT SHIT.
I didn’t think we’d ever board. But of course we did, and the first 6.5 hour flight was uneventful. But I tell you what, bitches. When I make that trip again, I’m flying first class and on a direct flight and I don’t care if I have to sell a thousand pair of mittens, a kidney, my first-born, or my soul to Satan to do it.
It’s exhausting being crammed thigh-to-thigh with a complete stranger for that long a trip, no matter how nice they are. And by the time that endurance test ended and we touched down in San Francisco (no crash this time! Yay!) and I sat at my gate next to a guy talking in rapid Chinese very loudly on his cell phone and an elderly woman who had, I believe, soiled herself at some point, my nerves were starting to fray a little around the edges.
They called my flight and I got on, stowed my bag, and then I saw who my neighbors are. Chinese kid and his mom from the Logan terminal. Hey, I figured, at least they’re small and I won’t be crowding them. (I’m sensitive about these things, still.)
We take off, and the second the captain turned off the fasten seatbelt sign, mom pulled out a container of what looked like hard-boiled quail eggs (because those smell fantastic in a closed space) and A HALF-EATEN BAG OF FUCKING LAY’S POTATO CHIPS. And she handed it to the boy.
I believe I actually said, “Oh, fuck me running” out loud.
Headphones on, airplane noise super-loud, and I could still hear that little fucker chewing.
By the time I landed at Sea-Tac airport, all I wanted to do was run for the baggage claim where I knew Bill was waiting for me, and I should mention that it was as far away from the terminal as it could have possibly been. Honestly, I think the terminal is in Seattle and the baggage claim is in Tacoma. And people were in my way. Here’s how people movers work: step one side if you just want to stand on the belt. Let people who want to keep walking get by. And put your mobile down and stop texting, because if I have to side-step one more person so they don’t walk into me, I’m just going to go ahead and clothesline someone. With malice aforethought.
I swear to the eight-pound-six-ounce Baby Jesus that Anne Frank would never have said “I believe people are good at heart” if she’d flown cross-country. She’d have been convinced, as I am, that people are basically self-centered, thoughtless douchebags that should be killed with fire.
But make it to the baggage claim, I did, and after looking about for a few minutes, I found Bill. And with big smiles and a bigger hug, Internet Friends became Friends.
We got back to the house and checked in, dropped my bags, and I shot a message off to Larry to let him know that I was alive and well and swaddled in domestic tranquility. And that bail money would not be required at this time.
I was tired, but totally amped up. We went out and picked up Chipotle for dinner. Here’s the thing about going to a part of the country far away from your own: they have different stuff. The weekend was an exercise in me learning the ins and outs of how to order food at a place you’ve never been to. Chipotle, for the uninitiated, is sort of like a Subway but with Mexican stuff instead of sandwiches. It’s damned tasty.
We got dinner and beer and went home and hung out. It was a quiet night in, which we all figured was a good idea after a marathon of planes, more planes, and automobiles.
Now, I kept this poor guy up until midnight. Which was 3 a.m. East Coast time, so I’d been up for 24 hours. But it sure helped with the jet lag issue. My eyes most decidedly did not pop open at 4 in the morning thinking it was time to get up. But got up I did, and we hit the gym first thing.
I know it seems weird–especially to me–that working out together was one of the things I was most looking forward to. But when your workout and diet buddy lives three time zones away, it kind of is a rare treat to get to get sweaty together, even if we did it pretty much in different sections of the gym.
After quick showers and a change of clothes, our first day of Seattle adventures began. We had plans to meet up with another Internet Friend, Rebecca, for pho, which for the uninitiated is a bowl of Vietnamese noodle soup. IT IS DELICIOUS. Bill and I share a pathological dislike for being late for any reason, so as usual, we were early. We decided to poke around a bit, and went into a market.
I love Asian markets. They’re so delighfully dirty and funky and smelly. The smell of dried things hits you like a wall, and it’s reminiscent of a dirty sock that someone has rubbed on their taint and boiled for a few hours. With just a hint of that smell you get when something has turned in the fridge but you can’t quite figure out what it is. We were browsing the tacky shit on the shelves, and there were a couple of Asian women in there with us looking around as well. And at one point, I heard someone say, “Herro.”
Now, another thing Bill and I have in common is that we have an almost uncontrollable urge to talk in accents of all kinds. And if someone near us is speaking English with an accent, it’s a mental effort to not mimic that. And before I could stop myself, I parroted, “Herro.” He laughed, but shuffled me out of the store before we could be killed by Asian street gangs, but it was too late for the accent. It was in there, and we spent the next three days speaking with a random, non-specific Asian accent whenever it seemed appropriate. Or inappropriate, which is really more accurate.
The restaurant was the seediest looking dive you can imagine–the kind where you’re afraid you might get hepatitis, but you also know that the food is going to be to fucking DIE FOR. And it was. Rebecca lives in the neighborhood and said it was the best, and I don’t doubt that a bit. Mind you, I wouldn’t have used the restrooms for love or money, but I’d have eaten three bowls of that pho happily.
After consuming our days allotment of sodium in one meal, we headed to Pike Place Market. You may have seen it on the travel shows. It’s the place where the guys throw fish. *shrugs* It was too mobbed to even move, and about five minutes in when we’d already become separated by the crowd, our social anxiety kicked in and we decided we would break for sunlight at the first available chance. I grabbed Rebecca by the bag and took Bill by the hand, and like three special needs kids we headed outside. We walked around only a bit because of the crowds and decided to head into the city.
I wish I could say I did more touristy things when I was there, but honestly, we did a lot of weird shit. We didn’t go to a Mariner’s game, and since Bill and I are both afraid of heights, we both felt that his pointing out the Space Needle was sufficient. I did sign Rebecca’s copy of one of my books for her, and she took a picture of me doing it. It’s completely flattering to be asked to do that, and she was so delightfully excited by it. I think we both were tickled pink.
Bill had messaged yet another Internet Friend, Josh, and made plans to meet for dinner, but Josh was working so we had some time to kill until then. We were driving along and out of nowhere, Bill asked me, “Does Annie like Jimi Hendrix?”
What the what, now?
Turns out Jimi Hendrix is buried in his hometown, so we swung by the cemetery to see his grave site. It’s impressive, and we were respectful when taking our selfie.
So, we left Jimi and wandered about. I like cemeteries. Always have. And we saw some things in that cemetery.
I will admit that sometimes my sense of humor can be a little odd. I find things funny on occasion for reasons I can’t really explain. And the reason Bill is my friend is that his sense of humor works the same way. We’re walking through the cemetery, enjoying the beautiful day, and I glanced down and saw this:
I looked at Bill, pointed at the stone, and said, “See?” And I giggled.
He looked, and started to laugh, too. Don’t get it? I’m not surprised. I don’t think Rebecca got why we were so tickled by that either. But if you do get it…well, that’s why we’re friends.
Then we saw this…thing.
There’s a wedding picture of this couple at the front and center, and their names and dates. At first we were like, “Jesus, that’s a hideous tombstone,” but were all “Awww, do you think they died together? So sad!”
Then we looked closer.
They are not dead. They are not much older than me. They bought this monument to their Love for the Ages while still relatively young people. Which begs the question of what happens if their marriage doesn’t quite work out. Do they split the plot? Destroy the headstone? (It would be a mercy killing, if you ask me.)
We were all still pondering that question when I saw this and laughed so hard I was crying. It’s the best thing I’ve ever seen in a cemetery, bar none.
After we got Rebecca to roll around seductively on a marble bench beside what I assume is the dead version of Little Seoul, we left the cemetery and headed out towards nourishment. Pho was pretty far behind us at this point, and we still had time to kill before Josh was scheduled to meet us, so we ducked into a bar for a couple of beers and so that Rebecca could fish the bark mulch from the cemetery out of her bra.
Dieting for months on end tends to make one a real lightweight. Bill and I were half in the bag after one beer, but it certainly helped as social lubricant when we met Josh for the first time. We may have been a little giggly.
Despite how amazing the brick-oven pizza looked and smelled at the place were were drinking, and even though the idea of telling him to meet us there instead was a tempting one, we stuck with our plan to eat dinner at Five Guys. I’d never had it before and felt I should since I’d heard such amazing things about it.
This may come as a disappointment to some, but I thought it was good. Not drop-dead, eyes-rolling-back-in-my-head good, but good. I enjoyed it. I kind of felt like it was a bit hyped, though. And now I can cross it off of my list of things to eat in a foreign place. Dinner conversation was spectacular, however, and meeting Josh in person was everything I thought it would be. We said we needed a picture of the four of us, and this is what came of that:
However, this picture right here was worth the price of the plane ticket.
One more of me and Josh for good measure, and then we split up again.
We dropped Rebecca off at her place and then Bill and I had to head back to Seattle because we had tickets for a drag show.
But first, because we were early and had some time to kill (shocker!) we did some walking around and poking our head into shops. We wandered into a fetish shop in the Gay District…
I should probably explain this a little, too, knowing that even after I do, it’s still going to seem weird, but it’s who we are. You see, Bill and I talk about sex like other people talk about the weather. Or sports. Or stamp-collecting. Nothing about it makes us flinch–in fact, we have yet to say something to each other that makes the other one’s eyes widen in surprise. No matter how twisted the kink or perverted the fetish, our comments are usually met with a resounding “Me too!” from the other person. Our friendship is entirely platonic, but when we discovered that we both have a deep dirty streak that runs a mile wide, it was almost a relief. You know how sometimes you self-censor with friends because you think, “There’s no way they’d ever understand this fucking freaky shit that’s going on in my head”? We’ve never, ever had that happen because we have openly acknowledged that we are, in fact, complete perverts. Degenerates of the first order. So we’re able talk about things that would make a sailor blush without batting an eye, or have it mean anything more than just everyday conversation. And it means we’re able to saunter into a fetish shop in the Gay District and start admiring the case of cock rings and comparing the merits of the black leather corset over the gray jacquard one with the silver buckles the same way “normal” friends would look at shoes or collectible clown figurines, or whatever the hell regular people like to shop for.
This fabulous little sex shop was oddly empty for how busy the street was, and we had just turned the corner into the back room and were perusing the Wall O’Dildos when a couple of gay gentlemen came in. Go figure, right? They walked right up to us and started chatting, which was a little odd, but I didn’t think much of it at first. Of course Bill’s social anxiety kicked right in, but me? Hell, I’ll talk to anyone. They said they were from England, though their accents told a different story, but who am I to question? Anyway, thirty seconds into the conversation, the blonde one is holding hands with me, and because he’s pointing a billy club with a penis head on the end of it squarely at Bill, Bill is starting to develop an air of uncomfortableness. They were waving huge black cocks at him and insinuating the things they’d like to do with it, asking how he measured up in comparison, and I have to say that after a couple of minutes of it, they got a decidedly predatory look in their eyes.
At first, I was DYING. I wanted to howl with laughter, but I was cool, smiling and going along with their attentions towards him. But things got more…forward, and he really started to get that straight-deer-in-the-gay-headlights look. Don’t get me wrong, Bill loves the gays like I do. But there was something very we-won’t-take-no-for-an-answer about them that kind of ceased to be funny, and would have been no matter who was doing it. It crossed the line into BAD TOUCH territory, so I managed to get him away by taking his hand rather possessively and leading him over to the leather restraints and strapping him into leather wrist cuffs, while discussing the merits of plain leather over the lined ones. Apparently, they knew an alpha female when they saw one, because they left him alone after that.
We made our escape and headed up to Julia’s to get our seats for the drag show “Le Faux.”
It was spectacular. I don’t know how else to describe a drag show, since “fabulous!” seems so overused.
I met one of the dancers in the ladies room before the show. I complemented him on his amazing false eyelashes, and he “Oooh, girl, I LOOOOVE your hair”-ed me. We bonded. (I do that.) We got beers (Yay, beer!) and the show started.
Now, there were about eight or so drunk bachelorette parties there. And drunk bitches are LOUD, y’all. We had one girl behind us who was fucking gooned, and she was screaming her fucking head off. I have never in my life heard a human being make a noise of that pitch, that decibel level, and that duration in my life. By halfway through the show, every time the applause would start, I’d raise my left hand and block my left ear, and he would do the same with his right, and she’d let a blast go right between our heads.
I also have never wanted to punch a bitch so much in my entire life. It was a two-hour show, and by the end, I’m pretty sure if I’d have punched her, he’d have called Amy for bail money happily and gratefully. And would that she was the only annoying drunk chick in the place! Oh, hell no! To our left was a woman who was clearly cocktailed out of her mind, but she was also (by my estimation) not the brightest bulb on the porch to begin with. We were on the aisle, so to tip the performers, she had to cross past Bill’s lap in a crowded row to do so. He turned to me at one point and remarked that if she brushed her ass against his lap again, he was going to have to tip her for the lap dance.
The worst one was the one I call Drunky Bear. She was behind us as well, and she was actually stumbling around, falling off her heels, snot-hanging drunk. She rushed the stage during the show and the ill-tempered Mexican bouncer that we were warned about carried her physically up the aisle with her dress riding up to her boobs and deposited her back in her seat with the equally drunk bitches who were egging her on. Why wasn’t she immediately ejected? No clue. But I told Bill if she puked down the back of my shirt, I would kill her. He said he’d back me up on that. Mostly because she’d probably hit his back, too, and let’s face it, no one likes being vomited on my a complete, drunk stranger. Not that it would surprise or shock me if he’d said that was kind of a turn-on of his, but apparently, it’s not.
Sorry, I digress. As usual.
Anyway, despite the Drunk Bitches from Hell, the show was fantastic and we had a blast and got home really late.
Saturday was our day to hit Urban Craft Uprising (or UCU as it will henceforth be known). We didn’t make it in line in time for swag bags, but such is life. Amy had a friend meet us there and they took off to explore in a systematic and carefully planned route, while Bill and I pinballed from booth to booth.
I honestly thought the show would be bigger. There was easily plenty of room in the venue for more booths, and I thought there could have been a little more variety in the vendors. A lot of the jewelry looked alike, like it was chosen for a particular aesthetic, and there were only two yarn vendors that I saw. There were quite a few clothing vendors, but again, they were pretty much indistinguishable from one another. And the same with soap makers, for that matter. Three or four at least and all with the same “flavors.”
I did figure out that if I’m to get in, I need to tighten my focus on what I make. Pick one or two things and do just those. Booties seems a likely choice because they do get major squeals, but the market is limited. But matching sweaters and hats might still be cohesive enough to work and expand my line a bit. There were only a couple of vendors selling baby things, so that might be a niche for me. It’s what I’m thinking about, anyway. The other thing is wondering what the mix is like for the Winter show and wondering if that would be a better fit for what I do. It’d give me an excuse to go back. I mean, should I need one.
After hitting all the booths in a systematic manner, the girls left the show to do their thing and Bill and I pinballed our way back home. We decided that the brick oven pizza that smelled so good on Friday was calling our name, as were the microbrews, and after deciding that a healthy dinner would make up for a bit of pizza at lunch, we went back and had the best freaking pizza every crafted by man. It was perfect. So before we made our way back to the house to assume Kid Duty, we laid in provisions for dinner at the grocery store. We watched the Matrix because he decreed that it was part of my Nerd Training, and after that we made dinner. Teriyaki flank steak on the grill, packet potatoes, and a big salad. And more beer, of course. And from now on, “YOU EAT FRANK STEAK!” is a “thing.” Fits of giggles. We’re bad. But we raugh, and it make us jorry.
As per our plan, we watched Les Mis and sang really loud and obnoxiously for most of it. Our duet on The Confrontation was epic, as we anticipated, and should have been recorded for posterity.
That movie, by the way, is longer than the actual French Revolution. And I’m realizing that this blog post might be longer than the trip itself. I’m not sure.
Sunday was my last day in town, and because fair is fair, it was Bill’s day to man the home front while his bride and I hit a GIGANTIC antique show in Portland. There were 200,000 square feet of vendors, which was mind boggling all on its own. She collects depression glass, and got some great deals. I spent most of the day avoiding buying estate jewelry that I can’t afford and taking pictures of Things That Look Like Other Things. It all started with a cheese danish at Starbucks….
Okay, what the fuck is the deal with Starbucks? It should not be that hard to order a cup of iced coffee. I mean, I asked for it with cream and one sugar and the hipster behind the counter asked me if I wanted it unsweetened not once, but twice. ONE SUGAR. It’s coffee, not brain surgery. I missed Dunkin’ Donuts something fierce, man.
Anyway, here’s the danish. Yeah, both of us were like, “What the hell?”
We got home with enough time for me to visit with Bill for a little while before he had to take me to the airport. Even before we left the house, the trip felt all of a sudden way too short. Not enough time together by half. And before I headed out, he gave me this little guy:
One of Bill’s not-often-talked-about-talents, among other things, is his ability to paint miniatures. That little mouseling is the height of a quarter. The base he’s on? It’s a one-inch square. He’s TINY. Bill just competed in a painting tournament for the first time and he placed in the top half of the field, getting as high as 3rd place on the leader board at one point. Amy and I think he got robbed on a couple of rounds, though admittedly we might have a bias, but for a first-showing, he did amazing by anyone’s standards. And he’s only been doing it for a couple of years. He went up against people who do this professionally, and I loved seeing the new entries every week. And as the weeks went by, I fell in love with some of the little pieces, especially the mouselings. I kept threatening to steal them and smuggle them home in my bra, so I was pleased and surprised to get this one for my very own. I love him and he sits right by me at my desk in a place of honor. (At the moment he’s sitting on top of a stack of receipts to remind me to record them for tax purposes. Adorable and functional!)
I discovered at the airport when Bill dropped me off that there’s a real drawback to your Internet Friend transitioning to Friend. See, when he was just my Internet Friend, he lived in my computer. He was always there at the click of a mouse. But now I’ve spent time with him in his home, with his family, seen his life, and now 3000 miles seems a lot bigger than it used to. Hell, I drove by the one Starbucks in our area and felt a little homesick for Seattle. Or whatever the equivalent is for being homesick for a place you’ve only visited. It’s the people that make it special in this case. Now it feels like our messages are a poor substitute for being able to talk face-to-face, and I miss him way more than I expected to. Although I will say that it’s lovely to read his words and be able to hear his voice in my head, or picture his facial expressions. I guess that’s the real advantage FTFF’s (face-to-face-friends) have over Internet Friends. Although, now we might just have the best of both worlds.
As I was preparing to board and say goodbye to Seattle for awhile, it was the first time I can remember in my life being truly sad to be leaving a place at the end of my vacation. I’m usually really looking forward to my own bed and the comforts of home by the time I’m getting on the plane, but all I felt was how acutely I missed him already. I was glad as hell to see Larry and the kids, and I did miss them a ton. But it was hard to leave knowing that there would be three time zones and a whole continent between sharing beers and bowls of pho. I’m grateful for this crazy Internet though, man. How did I find a BFF in freaking Washington, of all places? It’s crazy!
We were just saying this morning how the past weekend seems like a million years ago. And as I relive it in my head and my heart, I find that every day I’m more full of gratitude for and towards Larry and Amy. It’s hard to explain to anyone how you get to be best friends with someone you’ve never really “met”, even more so when that best friend is of the opposite gender. We never take for granted the fact that our spouses put up with our messaging over the miles and ridiculous in-jokes on a daily basis. But both Bill and I are acutely aware of and infinitely grateful for the fact that they are very generous in sharing us, in trusting us, and we know that without their blessing, this trip wouldn’t have happened. Our friendship is possible because of their generosity of spirit, and I can’t thank the both of them enough for that gift.