Saturday, February 26, 2011

Naming Right

Over the weekend, I spent some time at a really posh resort hotel.  It being a long holiday weekend, there were lots of families.  I was surprised by the ratio of boys to girls…the boys in the 5-9 year old age range far outnumbered the little girls of that same age.  While my husband was working, I was on my own to enjoy the resort.  I explored and observed.  One of the things that caught my attention, as I took a stroll about the grounds or sat in the gardens, was the names of the children, boys in particular.  Hunter, Connor, Taylor, Tanner, Tucker and Max…with a few other exceptions, these were the names of most of the boys running around the hotel in their cargo shorts and Ralph Lauren button down broad cloth shirts.  I heard a few parents call out to the girls…there was a Tiffany, Emma, Audrey and yup, Paris.
The seed of this blog was born last night as Bill was changing channels and surfed over an episode of Super Nanny  or some other such title, and Nanny Jo was there to rescue a family with a “triplet” threat…2 boys and a girl…I heard the names but the name of the youngest triplet, Milo, caught my ear and I thought to myself, “Milo, really?  That poor kid is going to become the wedgie king of his class.”
Names are important.  In many a case, our names create our first impression to the world…as in the case of the boys names above,  to me they sounded of a certain ilk, generation and yes socio-economic class…I think that is why Max’s parents didn’t call him Joe (all due respect to the Joes in the world…but you don’t hear people say, “He’s not your average Max.”, now do you?)
I know about unusual names.  I love my name, Alice Anne.  I was named after my paternal and maternal grandmothers…two common names, Alice and Anne, combined to create an unusual yet as I have been oft told pretty name. I love my name because I love the story of my name, the history of the people for whom I am named and I love that my name is pretty unique.  For this blog, I googled my name “Alice Anne” and 202,000 possible search results popped up.  Then I googled “William”, my husband’s given name…595,000,000 possible search results popped up…
 I have never met another Alice Anne face to face.  The only other Alice Anne I have heard of was back in the ‘80’s when, a newswoman from a major network, Mary Alice Williams gave birth to a daughter, whom she named Alice Anne.  The only other personal encounter with my name as it was not applied to me was when I found a book for my eldest daughter.   She was getting ready to go to kindergarten and lo and behold, I found a book entitled Aliceann Goes to Kindergarten.  I bought the book.  I hope to read it to my future grandkids and grandnieces and nephews when they embark on this adventure!
Alice and Anne….two common names once placed together to create a unique name.   I have been correcting people for as long as I can remember.  First of all, my name is Alice Anne…two words, one name, an “e” on the end of Anne and no hyphen.  Most people mistake Anne as my middle name.  I was not given a middle name, as in the old Catholic tradition, my confirmation name would be used as a middle name.   For some reason, my name is difficult to remember and difficult for children to pronounce!  My earliest recollection of this goes back to my childhood and my Pennsylvania cousins.  Maybe it was just them, but somewhere among my older cousins, someone had a problem with names…was it Anne Marie (aka Ree)?  Perhaps it was Drew…shortened from Andrew.  Joe/Joseph or Patty/Patricia…which one of you nicknamed kids saddled me with the nickname “San”? From the time I was born to this day, my PA cousins call me San. 
I did have occasion to use my nickname with some new friends.   Back in 1982, a Japanese couple came Massachusetts to live and work.  Hideo, worked at the same company as Bill and his wife Mako came to study occupational therapy with assist animals out in Grafton.  They were a young couple like us , so Bill’s boss at the lab asked us to take them under our wings and make them comfortable while they were here.  It was our pleasure.  One little hurdle though…both our names were difficult for Mako and Hideo to pronounce…Bill became Beer…not too bad, but they could not say Alice for the life of them. I suggested they call me San.  “San” in Japanese is added to the ends of names as a sign of affection and respect; Papa-san, Hideo-san…well I became San-San.  I loved it.
Later in life, one of my nephews, Jonathan would struggle with my name…I became his Auntie Zan…after he passed away at far too young an age, I retired that name permanently.
In my life, I have been called Alice, Ann, Mary Alice, Mary Ann, Anne Marie, Mary Jane, Annalise, Alexandra, Alexander, and Alison.   Well this is the top ten list of incorrect names I have been called anyway.
Being called Alice Anne has presented challenges in my life.  Little did my parents know how difficult it would be for me to correct an adult, especially teachers when they called me by the wrong name.  My second grade teacher, Mrs. Jones was forever calling me Alice and I was forever not responding to her when she did…she might as well have called me Max for the response she would get. Alice is not my name…I didn’t hear it as my name, so why would I answer to someone else’s name?   I used to get in such trouble for being insubordinate…have to stay after school and clap erasers because I, one, ignored the teacher when she called on me and two, corrected her as to my name. My mom tried to impress upon Mrs. Jones what my name is/was…but she was a stubborn person.   Eventually she would just stop calling on me.  I think that happened a lot when I was in grade school…my teachers couldn’t remember the unusual name and I would shrink away to the back row or corner so as not to be called upon by name incorrectly and or having to “defend” my name.  I shied away from attention and I became a painfully shy child.  And with a maiden name of Rump…oh well…that is a whole other character building story.
There are only a few people in this world who can get away with calling me something other than Alice Anne.  The first is Bill Stone, a close friend of my parents.  He gave me the nickname A-squared (A2).  It wasn’t because he couldn’t remember my name; obviously he did.  He did it to make me feel special.  And to this day, when I sign off on e-mails, notes and other correspondence to those with whom I am very close, I sign, “A2”.  The other person is Mr. Johnson, a friend of my in-laws.  The dear old man really did have a hard time remembering my name at first…he kept calling me Mary Alice.  As I came to know Mr. J better, he would greet me with a warm “Hello Mary Alice!” and I in turn would give him a “Hello Fred!”…his name is Warren.  And this is how we addressed each other for years;  Fred and Mary Alice. 
Back to this past weekend…I joined my husband on a business trip to this resort, with the plans for making it an extended vacation over the long weekend.  We encountered some of his business colleagues, some old, some new and we chatted about life, especially about our time since Bill and I returned from Paris.  I gave hugs to friends and old acquaintances and shook hands of the new.  On one occasion, Bill and I were returning from a walk about the gardens when we saw Tom, a fellow Bill has been working with for over 25 years.  He approached us, recognizing us and then I saw a look pass across his face…uh, oh…what’s her name!!!  He took my  offered hand, drew me in for a hug and said, “Mary Jane…how are you?”  and almost immediately he said, “Your name is not Mary Jane, is it?”  Bill reminded him and we laughed it off.
The next day, I was invited to join Bill and some of his colleagues for lunch.  I entered the room and with exception of the CEO, I had seen everyone present in the room, earlier in our stay.  I went over and shook the CEO’s hand and we all enjoyed some polite luncheon conversation.  As I stood in the buffet line, Tom and his wife, Cindy entered the room.  They too were going to enjoy Florida for the long weekend.  I had met Cindy at a few company functions; holiday parties, family picnics and the occasional Red Sox game…we shook hands, said hello and then I turned my attention to Tom…a quick look of panic crossed his face.  I took his hand and drew him in for a hug and said, “Fred!! How are you!”  He laughed…everyone else in the room looked at me as though I was a nut.  Bill laughed and without explanation we enjoyed lunch.
Character building…that is what your name does for you.  So, I guess it is important to think about your child’s future character when naming him or her.  I recently heard that someone out there named their child FaceBook.  Milo…meet the person you will give a wedgie!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Lifestyles of the Rich and Obnoxius

So what do author James Patterson, former WCVB anchor Natalie Jacobson and the Jersey Shore's DJ Pauly D have in common?  They stayed at the same Palm Beach resort hotel while I was there this past long weekend!  I nodded nonchalantly when they looked my way but not so welcomly so as to encourage autograph seeking.   Heh.

It is true that we all were there over President's day weekend...along with a whole host of other people  many of whom have too much money.  So why was I there...I certainly do not fall into the rolling in dough category...I cut coupons dontcha know...I was lucky enough to tag along on a business trip with Bill and we extended it into the first vacation we've had in almost two years.  It seems that even swanky places in Palm Beach are strapped for business and they have many a good deal for group rates, one of which we were able to take advantage.  Don't get me wrong, it wasn't cheap, but it didn't blow out any savings accounts either.

I have never stayed at any place like this in all my travels, but I guess the best way to describe this resort is a landlocked cruiseliner.  There are several restaurants and bars on the property, shuttle service to two other exclusive restaurants affiliated with the hotel in Palm Beach, a gorgeous golf course, 4 swimming pools, 3 wading pools and at least 4 outdoor hot tub/spas.  There was entertainment and activities galore for families.  Pretty cool.  There is a lovely stretch of private beach, complete with all sorts of water activity equipment.  Sadly, the thousands of migrating sharks and the annual spate of Man-o-War jellyfish limited our enjoyment of the ocean to walking in the sand and letting the waves wash over our feet.

Within the hotel, there are a number of cute yet posh boutiques...the likes of whose threshholds I dared not cross...Tom Ford sunglasses for $500...really?  I needed some sunscreen after having an allergic reaction to a name brand lotion I bought at CVS...I also needed to upgrade from an SPF 15 to a I popped into the little Beach shop near the pools for a 6 ounce can of Caribbean Breeze spray on sunscreen...$15!  I bought it because I needed it...that can was empty after 3 applications so I stayed under the lovely canvas beach umbrellas for most of the time we lounged by the Zen Meditation pool.

The hotel is dripping in opulence.  Its greatest feature though are the staff.  At every turn there was a warm hello...may I help you?...thank's your bill...the gratuity is included...No question was too stupid to ask and the responses were clear, concise and cheerful.  On occasion we would strike up a conversation with the staff, when appropriate and we met some really great people.  There was Ed from Boston, who retired to Florida several years ago, but took a job at the resort because he is a people person. We talked about the upcoming baseball season and how if everyone on the Red Sox team stays healthy (and with egos in check), this could be another World Series year.  Andreve from Russia came to the US to study, got a job as a waiter at the hotel's French inspired restaurant...and he never left.  There was Alexis, the bartender who on the one night I was on my own, taught me a little bit about mixology and I gave her few tips too. 

Over the course of the weekend, I noticed that quite a few visitors greeted or were greeted by staff as if they were longtime seems that many folks annually visit this is their family vacation destination.  Wow.  I also noticed that there were quite a few people who ignored the "gratutity included" clause and palm a bill to a pool runner or a cabana steward...and they would expect preferential treatment.  Being the curious person I am, I asked Ed about the included 20% service charge. I assumed it was in place to ensure that the staff didn't get stiffed...which is true but it is also to discourage the aforementioned  expectation of preferred status for certain people.    Staff members are not supposed to except cash...but a few did.  The hotel goes to the "trouble" of issuing each visitor with a room card key that is linked to a charge card so people do not have to carry cash, credit cards or separate ID.  It is a pretty nifty system...and if you are not careful, you might be surprised at your bill at the end of the stay.

On Saturday, Bill and I staked out a couple of chaise lounges under an delicate Irish skin you the Meditation Pool loud conversation, no cell phones (YAY!) and no rough housing in the water.  It was a place designed to mellow out, read and snooze...exactly what we wanted.   We were greeted by Joey and Sammy who manuevered the parasol around our lounges throughout the day...they brought us water with lemon slices, offered to go to the Tiki Bar and get us the drink of the day...fresh towels were offered after we went swimming...pretty great.   So, as you enter the pool area there are BIG signs that describe the Zen Mediation Pool area...requesting that visitors here respect the others in the area, keep conversations quiet and to a running, splashing and NO CELL PHONES.  Good gracious, you'd think people had been asked to cut off an arm.  Poor Joey and Sammy would go about the pool deck asking the SAME people over and over to please take their phone conversations outside the quiet woman tried to hide under a towel and keep up her conversation with her daughter in New Jersey...I know because she was seated 3 lounges down from me and she just kept getting louder and louder.  At one point a manager came over to her and her husband who was clipping his toe nails...and asked them if he could find them some other lounges in the next pool area over....which is not a quiet she could use her phone at her leisure...her, it is too noisy over there.  GAW!  After some insistence, she opted to stay and put her phone away.  Joey brought the toe nail clipper a clean towel and informed him if he needed to tidy up his toes, it might be better to do so in the locker room, located 25 feet away from the pool area. 

Shortly after we arrived in the Zen pool, there was a bit of commotion.  The manager who was responsible for staff in the area and the neighboring pool houses...yes, people with too much money could rent "private" pool houses with really cushy lounges, umbrellas a small bedroom, changing area, private bathroom, TV,  kitchenette,  a personal attendant, and each house had a little patch of lawn and lovely gardens...was trying to strategically place together 4 lounges under unbrellas for some guests who would be arriving shortly.  Joey and Sammy hustled about, placed the umbrellas for maximun shade, brought chaise covers, fresh towels and a couple of little tables...prepping a quiet little oasis for whomever was to arrived.  They reserved the seats...and an hour went by...then two hours passed.  Bill and I decided to take a walk along the beach so we told Joey we'd be back in an hour and that we'd be returning to the pool area...he thanked us for letting him know and he'd keep and eye on our stuff.  So off we went. We dodged jellyfish on the beach...they are stunningly beautiful, blue, opalescent creatures, even as they lay stranded in the sand.  We worked our leg muscles digging our toes deep into the warm, wet sand.  We saw spinning sharks leap out of the water as they migrated down the Florida was a great walk.

Returning to the pool area, we made a pit stop at the outdoor shower to wash the sand and salt off our legs and feet.  We rinsed off before heading into the pool.  Sammy and Joey gave us a nod and Sammy rushed over to our lounges, bringing fresh towels.  We swam a bit and then we parked ourselves on a little bench at the pools edge, our legs drifting slowly back and forth in the water.  It then struck me that those four lounges were still ready and waiting for the mystery guests.  While we enjoyed the not overly cool pool, a couple of couples; not together...they just arrived to the mediation area at the same time...were looking for a place perhaps in the shade to rest and relax.  One couple approached the reserved seats and Sammy rushed to their aid...the other couple seeing an opportunity asked Sammy if he would help them too.  Sammy explained that these seats were reserved but he would do his best to find them suitable accomodations for the afternoon...Now these reserved seats had been unoccupied for at least three hours.  Sammy made an executive decision...he gave the reserved seating to these couples.  He brought fresh towels...even though the ones there had not been used yet...he brought them water and they settled in quietly and gratefully.  As Bill and I got out of the pool and made our way to our spot, an older gentleman shot like a bat outta hell from one of the private pool houses over to Sammy and proceded to dress him down quite loudly and publicly for giving away his four lounges.  Sammy being ever so polite and respectful assured the man that he would find the disgruntled guy four new was just that these seats had been unoccupied for so long and these people wanted seats...well Mr. Pool House was having none of it.  He wanted those seats to be available to him, his wife (who wasn't even on site...she was shopping in Palm Beach at the time) or any of his guests at their whim.  Sammy said he appreciated that, but it was his responsibility to all the hotel guests to see that their needs be accomodated...Mr. Pool House was still not having it, so a manager had to be called...Sammy explained that the seats had not been occupied for nearly four hours and that the new arrivals respectfully asked if they could be seated there...the manager decided to take the confrontation over to the private pool house...I was feeling a bit defensive on Sammy's part and really had to fight the urge to stick my nose into this bit of nastiness, I didn't get involved at the time...and sad to say in this instance money of the two couples were very nicely displaced to another set of lounges...they didn't mind.  The other couple wasn't asked to move as four other seats together under unbrellas were wedged together, but when two teenaged granddaughters emerged from the pool house, cell phone, ipods and attitudes in tow, that couple soon abandoned their not so zen like refuge.  The girls called some friends who apparently were staying at the resort and within minutes a plague of hormonal overly privileged pipsqueaks invaded the Zen.  7 of them (4 girls 3 boys aged 14-17 ish) took up residence in the hot tub spa off to the left behind our lounges.  They turned the bubbles up to maximum and proceded to shriek at each other and bark orders at poor Sammy...he had to run for soda...which he brought to the food or drink near the pool or spas...and they barked at him to bring them the drinks...he balked...but Mr. Pool House was watching...when the kids had enough of the hot tub, they took to the pool and the splashing and noise was getting to be too much.  The lifeguard on duty requested that the kids follow the rules.  They quieted down for a few minutes but when a game of pool chicken looked like it was in the offing, he told them to get out.  A few patrons who sought out the quiet had made their way to the Zen area manager and I guess the number of people complaining hit the tipping point, because, Mr. Pool House was spoken to...the kids were warned that if they wanted to return to the area, including the private pool house, they would have to follow the rules and repect the 60  or so other people in the being the Zen Mediation pool, a silent cheer went up and there was a palpable shift in the mood.  Quiet returned and we could hear the piped in chimes and mediative music, which when we first arrived we found odd and a wee bit annoying...what a lovely sound it turned out to be!  After a while Bill and I decided to head to our room and get ready for we left, I found Joey and thanked him for his attention.  I asked that he thank Sammy too...they had done yeomen's work at the pool.  I also told Ed  our friend the Water Recreation Area Greeter, about the day's events and he assured me that he would share our comments about the guys with the managers.  It wasn't a bill palmed off to a hard worker, but I hope the positive words would serve them well.

So when did having money mean you do not have to be mannerly?  A question this observer of human nature would ask herself be continued.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Ant, Aunt, Auntie

There is a Dunkin' Donuts commercial featuring two rough around the edges fellows, one testing the other on his New England-ese.  "War-chester.", says one and the other replies, "Woosta."  Again, one says "Ant.", the other "Aunt."  On it goes until they both say "Wicked!" knowingly and quaff their D&D scalding hot coffee.

I love this commercial for its tongue in cheek poke at our colloquialisms and especially for that reference to  the proper pronounciation of Aunt .  As a child, my sisters and I would twice annually visit our Pennsylvania cousins.  I would hug and kiss my Aunts Nancy, Eilene and Dee while the cousins would hug my mother Ant cousins would make fun of our New England accents and I in turn would poke some fun at their mid-Atlantic, Jersey-esque articulations.  They drank melk, wooder and pop...while we Massachusetts malcontents consumed milk, wawtah and tonic.  There were debates over Jimmies versus Sprinkles, Milk shakes versus Frappes, Pizzas versus Pies, Calzones versus Stromboli and the nearly come to blows Subs versus Hoagies.

We kidded each other lovingly and would head off to play our regional versions of 1-2-3-Red Light or Red Rover (Rovah) and flashlight tag.  We'd squirrel away into secret hiding places to create and then tell ghost stories.  We'd tease each other, tell on each other and defend each other to the end...we were cousins...13 of us ranging in ages with nearly 20 years separating the oldest and youngest!

But the one nudgy point was that I, a proper New Englander, refused to cave into pronounciation pressure and stuck to my guns about how to say Aunt..."ah-nt".  My sisters caved to the cousin peer pressure...Ant Nancy, Ant Dee and so on...but I would not capitulate and I got teased and tempted and they tried to trick me...but I stood fast on this...After all an ant is a bug...not the precious magical mother figure who wielded the same potential for maternal powers as your Mom (Mum, Mommy, Momma...) and seemingly amazingly cool because of the powers she had over your own mother!  My Mom was the baby of her family and they did not let her forget it...much to our delight!  This was worthy of a distinguished pronunciation even if I were the only bearer of the sounds.

Over the years, the word aunt has deepened in its meaning for me and it has morphed somewhat.  I am Auntie. Aunt Alice Anne didn't roll off the tongue, but add the "ie" and woo I am, Auntie! I was so assertive with my new nomenclature that all the other women in the family (in-laws and out-laws included) are called Ants and Aunts...I am so synonymous with Auntie that I am the only aunt who can be called just Auntie.  There are Auntie Judy, Auntie Jane, Aunty Karen, Auntie Jeanne, Aunty Patty and Aunty Kathy...and then there is me, Auntie Alice Anne, aka A3, or yup, just Auntie. When the kids talk about Auntie, they are talking about or to me!!! Is it no wonder that this is one of my favorite words...and personal identifiers?  Being Auntie ranks right up there with being wife and Mom.  I love my nieces and nephews.  I love spoiling them when I can.  I love surprising them with a care package or impromptu card to mark an occasion.  I am immensely proud of them. I worry about them.  I love them the way only an auntie can. 

Recently, I became A3 to the power of one more.  My eldest neice and her husband have blessed the family with a baby boy.   Great Aunt Alice Anne...certainly has a distinguished sound to it, but little MJ, just call me Auntie and I'll come a running to sing you a song and tell you a story just like when your mommy was a baby!  I am a Great Aunt in every sense of the words... just ask my brillant, good looking, talented, sweet nieces and nephews.  But in case you didn't know, I prefer being a wicked great Auntie! 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

With Age Comes Wisdom and the Ability to Keep One's Mouth Shut

We are preparing for a busy weekend...another bout of snowy weather, the Celtics versus the Magic and of course that other game of little consequence being played down in Dallas.

With dutiful husband at my side, we set out to get our provisions and enjoy some time together.  First we hit the new cafe in town for an excellent cup of coffee and to my delight and so not on my reduced sugar routine, an almond croissant!  We enjoyed our coffee and each other's company.  Fortified, off we went to my favorite market, Idywilde Farms. 

It was busy, busy, busy at the market, but with canvas bags in hand, I wound my way to my favorite cheese counter to pick up some mozzarella and tallegio cheeses for the pizza I will make for the game...the Celtics game...and peruse the other delights available to us.  I picked up some Stilton with lemon, an aged cheddar and ...insert angels singing and trumpets sounding...St. Marcellin.  I make this awesome appetizer with the lovely little  cow's milk cheese, by removing the top rind and drizzling lavender honey over the cheese and topping it with slivered almonds, popping it into a 375 degree oven until the almonds toast and the cheese starts to bubble ever so slighlty...served with French baguette and something bubbly, ooh la la.  I am a happy woman.

I picked up some bread, shrimp on sugar cane skewers and vegetables; some beautiful tomatoes for the pizza and some gorgeous flowers that reminded me of my apartment in Paris.

Satisified that I had the stuff for a great weekend, Bill and I headed over to checkout.  I placed my prizes on the counter and Bill headed down to the end of the counter to start packing our totes.  The very pleasant cashier ran the items over the scanner and boink...the St. Marcellin cheese wouldn't scan...time for a price check.  Well, my very pleasant shopping excursion was about to be spoiled by Smarm.  Waiting next to me in line was a smarmy couple, a little younger than me, but certainly old enough to know better.  As the nice lady behind the cash register asked for help in getting a price on the cheese, the man next to me whom I will call Poop for Brains, in his best stage whisper said, "Great, now we have to wait for a price check on cheese that smells like (wait for it)...ass."  Upon this overly loud utterance, I stood up a bit straighter and took in a deep Yoga breath...where upon the woman with Poop for Brains whom I affectionately named Witchy-poo, chimed in with..."Yeah, it leaves a nasty butt taste in the back of your throat." 

Now dear friend, I am known for my Irish temper and I do NOT suffer fools at all...but something in my heart told me not to utter any of the myriad of retorts bouncing about in my brain,  including but not limited to:  "So do you taste ass often?"  And,"It is better to eat cheese that smells like ass rather than stand in line next to an ass that is cheesy", or, " Sorry, your cone of silence seems to be out of order...I heard that, you moron." And, of course,  the obvious..."Ass#*!@".  Instead, I squared my shoulders and slowly turned my head to look at Poop for Brains and Witchy-Poo.  As my head turned, one eyebrow arched, quite high and severely...if and when my children read this, they will shudder in horror at the thought...and I looked at them.  I said nothing...I let my eyebrow do all my talking.  They immediately shut up and moved to another line.  The cashier who witnessed the scene smiled at me and complimented my choice of flowers..."Yes, the freesia smell lovely"...and my brain said...just enough to cover the stinky cheese smells...

Go Packers!