(parenthetically speaking)

a random gal’s random thoughts about nothing and everything in general

WWJD? (What Would Jill Do?) August 4, 2009

A colleague of mine recently sent me a survey to fill out that was designed to evaluate her strengths and weaknesses. It was an interesting request since we hadn’t worked together in a traditional office environment—rather I assigned her to write stories for the last magazine I worked on—and, in fact, we’ve never met in person. But having worked with her on multiple assignments, I felt competent to answer at least most of the questions on the survey. One of the ones I wasn’t sure about, and to which I checked “N/A,” was, “Do you think your colleague is challenged by her job?”

This got me to thinking if I was challenged by my own job. Pondering my answer, I started to wonder if I have ever really, truly been challenged at all.

I’ve known and interviewed people who battled cancer but somehow never lost a step. I worked with foster children who, despite having to deal with horrific living conditions and situations so vile it makes your blood boil, still manage to keep a smile on their face. I’ve had friends who had miscarriages and yet still bravely tried again. I’ve seen family members hit rock bottom and, with all their might and against all odds, somehow climb their way back up.

But have I, like they, been challenged? I’ve certainly had my share of bumps in the road—sincerely tough times that tested my strength and spirit, but that ultimately made me a stronger person—but have I ever really, seriously been challenged? I can’t say for sure.

Even more puzzling was the question of how I might respond if I ever was to be seriously challenged. Would I crumble if I went broke and lost the roof over my head? Would I give up if faced with a deadly disease? How would I respond if an accident left me paralyzed and wheelchair bound? What would I do if I couldn’t do what I do for a living anymore? Could I go on, god forbid, if faced with the loss of a family member?
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We deal with challenges big and small every day, many of which challenge us in fun and exciting ways (I don’t mean to dwell on the negative), and how we react reveals a lot about our personalities. I only hope that if I ever am faced with a true challenge, that I show the courage and resolve of so many before me.

 

When I Check Out, I Like to Check In July 19, 2009

I love hotels. Love, love, love them. Like Tiny Tim—who I had the pleasure of interviewing from his Des Moines hotel domicile back in 1994—I think I could even live in a hotel.

Just think, they’d be no bed to make and there’d always be someone to pick up after you. You could crank the AC down as low as you like and use all the hot water you want and not have to worry about huge electric bills. And room service when you get the munchies at 1 a.m.? Hello! Not to mention all the free ice you want.

To me, there’s just something exotic about staying in a hotel. Even in the most rinky-dink, cookie-cutter chain hotels. It somehow makes me feel, um, international. Even when I’m just shacking up for the night in some hole-in-the-wall along an isolated stretch of interstate in Winnemucca, Nevada.

For one thing, I always sleep better in hotels. Maybe it’s those dark, heavy drapes they always seem to have that block out even the slightest hint of daylight—so much so that if you didn’t know better, you’d think the sun had exploded, enveloping the planet in a veil of black while you were busy dreaming about lollipops and unicorns.

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Here's hoping there's room at the inn.

The best I can recollect, my love affair with hotels started when I was 16, when my brother and I were driving in my old brown Toyota Tercel from Texas to Arizona to visit my aunt. I’d drive until I couldn’t drive anymore and then we’d stop at some cheap motel called the All-Nighter or something like that, and then start all over again the next day. Being that it was just the two of us, I felt like such a grown-up walking up to the clerk and saying, “I’d like a room for the night.” Actually, I can’t believe they didn’t look at the two of us and ask us where our parents were and refuse to rent us a room. Because, trust me, I didn’t look then like most 16-year-olds do today—like they’re 18 going on 25. I was lucky if I passed for 13.

In the years since, I’ve stayed in some really nice hotels. The Fairmont in Banff, the Peabody in Memphis, the Owners Suites at Signature in Vegas, to name a few. I’ve also stayed at some real fleabags. Like the time when my mom and sister and I had to scramble to find a room in Galveston, Texas, in the middle of the night after our tent blew down in a storm. I can still picture that tacky red velvet bedspread, the nasty, dingy brown shag carpet, and the live wires coming out of the wall. It was not in the least what you’d call exotic, but it did keep us from having to sleep in the women’s bathroom at our campground all night, where we had retreated after our Coleman SunDome took off in a whirlwind like Dorothy’s house in a Kansas tornado. It was such a pit, the three of us still laugh about to this day. So see, even the crappiest hotels can create lasting memories.

Another reason I love hotels is that they, at least for me, serve as a much-needed escape from the ordinary. I mean, don’t you ever get tired of sleeping in your same old bed night after night? Staring at those faded paisley sheets with the burgundy trim that you’ve had since your thirties?

Sometimes when I’m particularly down or stressed, or some frightening combination of the two, I want nothing more than to check into a hotel, pull the covers up over my head, and get away from the realities of the world. I did that very thing when my precious cat Harold, whom I’d had for 20 long years, got sick and had to be put down. I left the vet’s office, got in my car, and just started driving. I didn’t know, or care, where I was going. I just needed to get away. And rather than turning around and heading home at some point, I simply checked into a hotel for the night. No toothbrush, no night clothes, no nothing. And I think in some small way it may have actually helped start the healing process. (Now some of you will call me crazy for having such an intense reaction to my cat dying, but that’s another blog for another day. Besides, you never met Harold. If you had, you would have done the same thing.)

Anyway, the point is, that when it comes to hotels, it’s like Martha Stewart says: “It’s a good thing.” Of course, Martha would never be caught dead in a beat-up old motel room in Galveston, Texas, with a red velvet bedspread and brown shag carpeting. She doesn’t know what she’s missing.

To further prove I love hotels, check out the column I write about them at Examiner.com.

 

I Only Do It for Money Anymore July 11, 2009

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Hey, baby, what'll it be?

When I first started this blog, I was obsessed by the number of hits I got. I’d check the stats several times a day, and actually battled my brother—who started his blog, jonwbecker.wordpress.com, at about the same time—to see who would rule the Internet. (On about his fifth post, he got more than 1,000 hits, while I’ve just now reached 1,243 hits total, so he obviously KO’ed me in the first round.)

These days, I don’t bother to check how many hits I’ve gotten. In fact, it’s been exactly 66 days since I even added a new post.

What happened? I get paid to write now, that’s what happened. You see, when I got laid off from my editor job back in February, I started freelancing full-time, which means that people actually pay me to write for various magazines, websites, etc. So the simple truth of the matter is that I’m not really motivated anymore to sit down at my computer and write something unless there’s the promise of a paycheck in it for me.

Does this make me a writing whore? I guess so. But I prefer to think of it as the cobbler’s wife who went without shoes. That I’ve used all my energy and creativity in writing the stuff I’m hired to do, that I don’t have much else left when it comes to writing for the sheer joy of it.

But writing for pleasure does help keep one’s professional writing fresh and inspired, so paycheck or not, I’m going to try and add a new entry here every now and again. So stay tuned. In the meantime, if you’d like to check out the stuff I get paid to do, log on to my website (www.mediabistro.com/jillbecker) for copies of recent stories or check out my Examiner.com column (www.examiner.com/x-7514-Atlanta-Hotels-Examiner). You can also follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jillbecker.

Maybe you even have something you want to pay me to write. If so, just leave a comment for me here with your contact info and I’ll be in touch.

 

Rooms With a ’Tude May 6, 2009

I’ve started compiling a list of the world’s most unique hotels. Hopefully I’ll get a few writing assignments out of it. Or even a book deal. (My dream.)

Of course, lots of hotels claim to be unique. But I’m talking truly out-of-the-ordinary here, folks. For instance, did you know that in the Netherlands you can sleep 55 feet up off the ground in a spectacular suite for two atop a working industrial shipping crane?

It’s called the Harlingen Harbour Crane (www.vuurtoren-harlingen.nl) and it sits dockside along the Wadden Sea near the historic town of Harlingen. From its lofty perch, you’ll be afforded sweeping 360-degree views. Inside, you’ll find the accommodations surprisingly comfortable and luxurious (there’s a shower/bath built for two and designer touches like Eames chairs).

Harbour Crane exterior.

Harbour Crane exterior ...

Harbour Crane interior.

and interior.

Know of other unusual lodgings like the Harlingen Harbour Crane? I’d love to hear about them! Want other hotel notes and news? Check out my column on examiner.com.

 

The Bicycle Thief: The Sequel March 11, 2009

Filed under: mishaps and mayhem — jillb @ 2:55 am

In case you didn’t happen to catch Dragon’s comment on my post below about former First Couple Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter getting their bicycles stolen recently, I thought I’d share a quick update with you.

Turns out some friends of an acquaintance of mine who own a local bike shop actually gave those bikes to the Carters. Apparently, the Carters had brought their old bikes in to the shop for repair, but the bikes were so shabby looking that the owners decided to give them each a new set of wheels.

And now they’re gone! A precious gift stolen in the dark of night by some heartless Schwinn snatcher. It shocks and saddens me.

Luckily, thanks to Jon Stewart, the Carters are back in the saddle again. Hopefully, he thought to throw in two bike locks as well!

 

The Bicycle Thief March 6, 2009

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Jimmy Carter saving energy by using good old-fashioned pedal power.

Somebody stole Jimmy Carter’s bicycle. True story.

I was watching the Jon Stewart show a few weeks ago and he had the 84-year-old former president on. They discussed, among other pressing topics, peace in the Middle East and the recent inauguration of Barack Obama. Strangely enough, the two seemed to have a genuine rapport. Carter seemed especially tickled when, at the end of the interview, Stewart gifted him with two new bicycles to replace the ones belonging to Jimmy and Rosalynn that had recently been stolen from The Carter Center here in Atlanta.

What? Someone actually stole Jimmy and Rosalynn’s bicycles? Does this strike anyone else as odd? I mean, how is it even possible? Don’t the Carters have constant Secret Service detail? And wouldn’t The Carter Center be zipped up as tight as a drum with security cameras everywhere? It just seems so … implausible.

My sister-in-law actually works at The Carter Center, so I asked her about it a few days later. She wasn’t sure, but she thought the bikes had been taken from a small storage shed somewhere on the grounds where they stored lawnmowers and stuff like that.

I tell you, these are either the dumbest or the smartest criminals on earth. I’m leaning toward the former, mostly because I wonder if they even realize what they got. I mean, do they even know the bikes they took belonged to the former President and First Lady? If so, how much do you think they can get for them? Are we going to see them being hawked on craigslist one day, in an ad that might read: “One pair gently used bicycles once owned by Prez and Mrs. Carter. Men’s bike is a red 10-speed sporting a Habitat for Humanity sticker. Ladies’ bike is green and has a woven basket handy for carrying peaches”?

 

Snow Day March 2, 2009

It snowed in Atlanta today. Lots. We’re talking accumulation here, people. snowy-atlanta

Snow reminds me of my childhood. Well, part of my childhood. When we lived in Pennsylvania. I was probably around 7 or 8. We lived in a small house at the top of a hill out away from the city (our address was Route 1). It was an idyllic little spot next door to a hay field (where we’d fly kites) and not far from a friend’s farm (they gave us a baby pig as a pet). In winter, we’d slide down our driveway on cookie sheets and use the shell of an old VW Bug as our fort during snowball fights. We’d eat cupfuls of fresh snow with chocolate syrup poured on top.

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Man-Man checks out the snowy scene from the safety of the screened porch.

Snow’s fun when you’re a kid. As an adult, not so much. Sure, there are times when as a grownup snow is great. Like when you’re going skiing. Or it’s Sunday and you just want to snuggle up by the fire and eat chili and read a good book. It’s when you have to get out and drive in it that it becomes a problem. Or maybe that’s just because, since I was old enough to drive, I’ve never lived in a place where the drivers had any idea how to content with ice and snow. Like today, I heard siren after siren, the emergency vehicles whizzing to and fro to rescue Atlantans who don’t realize that when it comes to weather like this, the motto is, “With snow, go slow.”

Lucky for me, I don’t have to commute to work braving treacherous roadways packed with people who don’t have the slightest clue about how to drive in wintery conditions. I don’t have to bundle up in a coat, hat, gloves, and a scarf. I don’t have to scrap the ice and snow off my car and wait for the windows to defrost. I simply walk from one side of the house to the other, turn on my computer, and, voila, I’m ready to go.

Yup, snow’s great for kids. And the self-employed.