Thursday, October 22, 2009


MY WIFE and I went on vacation last week. I don’t have any amazing stories to tell, but there were some interesting and nice happenings. I’ll tell you a bit about those, if you don't mind.

Our first stop was Salem, New Hampshire. Not that the place is a hideous rattrap, but this is not a city usually given as a tourist destination. So, why were we in Salem? We were in Salem because Dollar Bill (cartooned above) was in Derry.

Dollar Bill is, fittingly enough, the proprietor of Dollar Bill’s. It is a store in Derry, just a few miles up the road from Salem. And Dollar Bill’s is a place where we’ve wanted to go ever since we first saw Dollar Bill on TV.

Dollar Bill does a 30-minute infomercial on a New Hampshire TV station every Saturday morning. It is extremely entertaining television. He goes from item to item in his store, extolling the virtues of the various and sundry merchandises, telling us the amazing prices being charged for said items, and occasionally making entirely lewd jokes about (and/or physical interactions with) the goods. There’s always a gut buster of a laugh per episode, sometimes multiples. For instance, in the episode that aired on the Saturday before we left, Dollar Bill was demonstrating a system for vacuuming the air out of pillows and such, in order to make them flat for storage, and he first feigned having the vacuum nozzle up against his crotch giving him some joy. I don’t know about you, but I can’t find anything to top that on Saturday morning TV.

(Watch an episode of the show by going HERE.)

And he really does have some great bargains at his place, so we decided to spend a day there. We figured we could get a whole bunch of Christmas shopping done on the cheap, while still getting some nice things for folks.

(Okay, now some of you are getting ready to deliver a load of grief to my doorstep. You’ve heard me go on and on about Thanksgiving Comes First and you think that I have somehow betrayed the cause. Well, if you believe that, you’re dead wrong. I seem to have to explain this every time I resurrect Thanksgiving Comes First, so I’ll do it again. I have no problem with early Christmas shopping or preparations. What I’m trying to battle are the ads and such that obliterate the less-mercenary holidays that precede Christmas. If you – or I – wish to get some shopping out of the way, who gives a damn? Certainly not me! I hope this explanation forestalls the grief delivery. If not, have at me [and you’ll be wrong] but in any case, that’s my tortured logic. If you feel that my logic is torturing YOU, my sincerest and most heartfelt apologies. To show you my good faith, I’ll see if I can get Dollar Bill to come over and vacuum your... place.)

We made reservations at a Red Roof Inn.

We chose the Red Roof because it was amazingly inexpensive. The Red Roof was amazingly inexpensive because it’s not the Ritz Carlton. It wasn’t absolutely hideous, though, so we were okay with it. It was a place with beds and cable TV, no noisy teenagers or violent domestic disputes in the rooms neighboring ours, free coffee in the lobby, and a parking space for Roddy The Wondercar. Other than those basics, I can’t say much to recommend it (but you probably aren’t going to Salem, so what difference does it make?)

I won't go into great detail concerning the things we bought at Dollar Bill’s. Some of the people who read me might be getting some of those things as presents, so I wouldn’t want to give anything away concerning what they might be receiving and I certainly don’t want to alert them to the tiny bit of cash we laid out on their behalf.

(I said "some of the people", so if you’re one of those folks who think what counts most is the price, rather than the thought, feel free to pretend we got your tube socks at Tiffany’s.)

What I will tell you is that Dollar Bill’s is a place where you can get, say, $450 worth of stuff for about $170. And no taxes, either, since it’s New Hampshire. And, if you’re lucky, you’ll actually see Dollar Bill inside of the store while you’re shopping. We did, but we were too star-struck to actually say hello to him. We did get insider information, though. We know what The Deal Of The Day will be on the next show. Since we got such great bargains, however, we will not divulge this sensitive tidbit.

Aside from the visit to Dollar Bill’s, not much else of import to tell you about concerning our New Hampshire leg of the vacation. We went bowling (which is interesting to one of you, and probably ONLY one of you – Hi, Urbie!) I rolled a 107 in one of the three strings, which made me feel pretty good (I rolled 85 in both of the other two, but let’s not quibble about particulars.) The 107 is not too shabby for candlepins, the only form of bowling New Englanders should ever admit to liking (and rightly so.) As a matter of fact, it is a decent enough score to give me the itch to try again to recapture the past glories of my candlepin youth, which I have gone into excruciating detail about BEFORE (and, you should fervently hope, never again beyond this small mention.)

That’s about it for Salem. Oh, I suppose I should tell you about our breakfast excursion on Tuesday morning. We decided to visit a place called Parker’s Maple Barn, located in Mason, NH. Mason is about 30 miles west of Salem and MY WIFE suggests that if any of you have outstanding warrants, you should go there to hide out. The reason she says this is because we took about an hour-and-a-half to find the place and Parker’s Maple Barn wasn’t trying to hide. If you actually put some effort into keeping yourself hidden in Mason, we’re willing to bet you could successfully evade the authorities for months. It will be especially helpful to your cause if the authorities are trying to locate you using a map printed in the touristy magazine you can get for free at a Red Roof Inn.

I thought for sure that getting to Parker’s Maple Barn would be a snap. The journey looked to be rather direct. Take this route to that route and then Parker’s was on another route. Problem was, none of the three routes intersected the way they appeared on the damned map. We got to see a whole bunch of interesting farmland and then MY WIFE met some nice people at a Catholic school when she went in to get directions after I finally gave in to common sense after driving for the better part of an hour in and out of Nashua and the towns that bordered it and MY WIFE threatened mutiny.

Parker’s Maple Barn is a swell place for breakfast, as it turned out, and even worth a 90-minute drive. I heartily recommend The Parker’s Special, which consists of two pancakes, bacon, sausage, ham, toast, eggs, home fries, and a future appointment with a cardiologist, no doubt, but I’ll still consider it a worthwhile part of my past.


We drove home on Wednesday and then hit the road again on Thursday. We were heading to Amherst, in the western part of Massachusetts, to visit a museum or two and - more important - to visit with my Cousin David and his family.

The ride out to Amherst is about two hours, depending upon what roads you take from the eastern part of the state. We took the Mass Pike, otherwise known as I-90, most of the way. It's quickest, but deadly boring and a toll road besides. Better scenery can be had by taking Route 9, which meanders through every small town along the way, but it costs you about an hour extra in driving time. We took that route on the way home - saving toll money, if not time - and saw some spectacular foliage.

We upgraded to a Comfort Inn for our Amherst stay. Not that they're spectacularly better than Red Roof, but the room was a bit more spacious, there was a pool and fitness center (neither of which we used while there), and we had 10 or 15 more channels on the cable TV. The room also came with a coffee maker, a big plus for a couple of caffeine hounds like us. Surprisingly, though, the clientele were more of a problem at the Comfort Inn. Perhaps it was because we were in a college town during homecoming weekend, but we had loud drunks running up and down the corridor at 2am, slamming doors and otherwise bringing me this close (I'm holding my thumb and forefinger less than an inch apart) to calling the front desk and asking them to send up some tear gas grenades. Before that could happen, all of the drunks either shacked up with other drunks or puked themselves into a coma, so it was okay.

We actually ended up visiting only one museum, but it was a dandy. The Eric Carle Museum Of Picture Book Art is located in Amherst, MA, and is well worth the $9 admission (less if you're a student or a kid or a senior, none of which we were except in our hearts.)

At present, they have exhibits featuring the work of Ernest Sheppard (Winnie-The-Pooh) and Tomie dePaola (Strega Nona, among others.) Both exhibits were fascinating collections of the artist's works, with helpful notes and whatnot, pleasantly presented. Of course, Carle himself has art on exhibit, and there are films, and a library, and... well, just go, if you have the chance. If you like picture books, you'll not be disappointed.

(As with our sighting of Dollar Bill, we actually saw Tomie dePaola while we were there. Once again, we were too awed by his presence to do more than gawk for the few seconds of the sighting.)

One bad thing happened while we were at the museum. Roddy The Wondercar was injured. While we were inside thoroughly enjoying the place, Roddy was scraped by a person trying to back into a parking spot alongside of him. I found this out when I went outside to have a smoke halfway through our visit. As I neared the car (where my smokes were) I saw some salt stains and scrapes on the rear driver's side. I looked on the windshield for a note. There was none.

I lit up my smoke. I could have lit it with my head, I was so burnt up. Poor Roddy is just sitting there, minding his own business, maybe scoping out a cute Honda or two, and he gets his exterior wapped by some clown who not only can't drive but also doesn't have the common decency to leave a note. I took a towel I had in the back seat and wiped down the damage, to see if it was all scrape or maybe more dirt than damage.

It was at this point, as I was stomping, smoking, cursing, and wiping, that a fellow came over and told me he was the one who had hit the car, and he was just in the process of writing out a note, and here it was. He introduced himself, apologized heartily, etc., and I felt much better. The fact that the damage was truly minimal under the paint scraped from his car helped a lot. I should have known that someone visiting a nice place like a museum of picture book art couldn't be a total asshole. After getting a good look at the small scrapes that were left after cleaning away the dirt and his paint, I told him that I doubted I'd be troubling him for a repair. Roddy agreed, and he was the one whacked, so...

(What? Your car doesn't talk to you? One of you has no soul. I won't say which one.)

(Actually, hearing your car talk is greatly facilitated by being at a museum devoted to stories concerning talking teddy bears and such, so maybe the possibility of your having a soul isn't such a longshot.)

Anyway, if that fellow is reading this (now, there's a longshot) he needn't worry about a phone call from me or a repair bill showing up. If he isn't reading me, the suspense of wondering if I'll report him is his payment for hitting me. He'd be less worried if he was a regular reader of me. All of you should remember that for future reference.


The best thing that happened on vacation was going out to dinner with My Cousin David and his wonderful family. That happened on Friday evening.

We met David and his wife, Lori, at their house in Leeds. Actually, the first person we met was the entirely charming Peter, their four-year-old, who saw us drive up and came out onto the porch to greet us. He said, "Hello, I'm Peter. I'm very pleased to meet you!" It was tremendously sweet. I stuck out my hand to shake, which he took, and I said, "I'm your Cousin Jimmy, and this is your Cousin MY WIFE."

(Well, of course, I gave her actual name. He doesn't read my blog, so the other variant would have been lost on him. At least, I sure hope he doesn't read this blog. I mean, I'm always trying to boost readership, but I'd be mighty ashamed if my four-year-old cousin saw some of this crap.)

(These are Peter and Matt, David and Lori's boys, about a year younger than now.)

We went inside and were similarly greeted by Matt, the six-year-old. I introduced MY WIFE to Lori, whom I had previously met while attending a Red Sox game. After a brief house tour, and after giving the boys a couple of very noisy but highly entertaining toys we brought for them and which I hope aren't driving David and Lori up a wall after a few days of playing with them, the boy's sitter arrived and we drove out to Wately, to The Wately Inn.

This is David and Lori's very special restaurant, where they celebrate big anniversaries and such, so we were thrilled and honored to have them choose this for our dinner. And what a magnificent four-star feed it was, too! I had an absolutely gigantic fillet mignon, baked potato, salad, lobster bisque, coffee, tremendous fresh strawberry shortcake, some very good wine, veggies, rolls, all the trimmings, and all served in beautiful fireplace-lit surroundings by very attentive, friendly waitstaff. I would recommend this restaurant, without any hesitation, to anyone wishing to experience truly fine dining at a very reasonable price. A gem of a place, hidden in what is relatively the middle of nowhere in Western Massachusetts.

(I'm serious. The bill for four of us, which included two bottles of a very good Cabernet, came to about $170, including tax, before the tip. And this was, with no exaggeration, a gourmet dining experience. Entrees, which are all-inclusive, run in the $25 range. An amazing bargain.)

It was exceedingly pleasant to share an evening of easy talk, good food, nice drink, and to have had the opportunity to meet two such wonderful boys. MY WIFE had never met any of these family members of mine before last Friday, but she remarked afterward that, since the talk flowed so comfortably, it was as though she had known them for many years.

And that's about it for our vacation.

As I said, nothing of an amazing nature to tell you about, but a few very nice things. Thanks for listening, and feel free to similarly bore me the next time you go out of town!

Soon, with more better stuff.


Michelle H. said...

Dollar Bill was demonstrating a system for vacuuming the air out of pillows and such... and he first feigned having the vacuum nozzle up against his crotch giving him some joy.

Are you saying they actually let people like that walk around in public? I had to click on the show link.

It sounds like you had a great vacation. The museum sounds so cool to visit. I'll have to go someday.

(Roddy the Wondercar speaks to you? Oh... okay...)

Hilary said...

Well I feel like I've just been on a mini-vacation of my own. New England sure is lovely this time of year. Thanks for bringing us along. I'm not sure I could sit through more than a couple of moment with Dollar Bill though. It seems to me that he'd be more suited to Canada and our dollar coins.. where he'd be called "Loony" I know.. loony like a fox. :)

lime said...

well it sounds like a laid back and fun time. dollar bill's sounds like a hoot. any guy who would advertise his baragains by vacuuming his crothe has to be a hoot.

the picture book museum....oh gasp! i didn't even know such a place existed. now i want to go. you know one of my dreams is to build a personal library of caldecott winners and honorees, right?

and it sounds like the visit with yoru cousin was a very lovely time.

yay for happy vacations!

Thumbelina said...

#1 I was not bored. If I was I would stop reading. I read every word.

#2 Are you sure he was feigning pleasure with the vacuum?

#3 Don't send him round please - it wouldn't do the same for me!

#4 I love Eric Carle books and was reading one to a 5 year old only last week.

#5 The relationship between your car and you is overshadowed only bye your relationship with YOUR WIFE. I cannot decide yet if this is wise, cute, sad or needs psychiatric intervention.

#6 I love bowling. So does the Littlun. So that's 3 of us. Don't ask me if I am any good. That is not the point. I love it. (Mainly becasue the Littlun loves it...)

#7 It's weird reading English city names (Leeds?) and realising they are over there!

Thanks for taking you on your vacation! I look forward to the next one. ;0)

Thumbelina said...

Did I say "taking you" on your vacation? I didn't mean to say that. It was a Freudian slip. I should have said "taking me on your vacation" but the original actually makes sense...!

Daryl said...

My computer talks to me all the time .. we dont own a car .. sigh

I have never seen Dollar Bill but here we have BOB .. he sells furniture .. whole suites of furniture for pennies ... I bet he'd like that nozzle thing ..

i beati said...

lovely scenery any four edge books?

Reasons said...

I enjoyed that! Especially Maple Barn - mmmmmm yum! Glad you had fun.xx

Ed said...

Vacations are where you should be whenever you find yourself working...

Ananda girl said...

What a great vacation... except for poor Roddy the Wonder Car's mishap. I'd love to visit the picture book museum... and to see Tommy D in person... Wow! That would get my library spinners twirling.

Buck said...

Wow. What a great time... and thanks for taking us along. I'll say it yet again: your narrative powers are simply amazing.

As for this: What? Your car doesn't talk to you? One of you has no soul. I won't say which one.

Ah, the Green Hornet speaks to me, and often... sometimes it's in a whisper, but it's best when she howls with delight. She and I have a relationship that's going on ten years now, and we've been down many a twisty road and wide open spaces together, with more to come. Our conversations are two-way, as well.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for taking us on that trip with you...I just can't get over the amount of FOOD you eat. We stopped for a short while in Salem in '68...time enough to buy cigarettes and two dozen face cloths which we cooled in the ice chest then put on our heads. It was hot, daddy, hot.

Gennasus said...

Welcome back! Sounds like you had a great time, pretty relaxing too.

I learnt something new today (apart from what ELSE you can do with a vacuum)- I'd never heard of candlepin bowling before. Don't think it's reached our shores.

I loved your little cousin and his introduction, what a fine, upstanding young chap.....are you sure he's related to you?!

Chris said...

Tomie dePaola! I love Strega Nona! What a great vacation.

Must say, though, that you Chowderheads have some funky lookin' bowling pins.

Rebecca said...

Hey Suldog!!
I missed the post -- I'll have to check out the archive for it! :)

Oh, shoot me an email - I dont post the location just incase there are people in the blogosphere who might not be so safe - that follow my blog. A girl can never be too careful, you know what I mean? :)

Talk to you soon!


Anonymous said...

I was on vacation last week also. Up in your area. I had to fly 3000 miles though. I had entertainment and relaxation also.
Castle Hill, Scituate, Newburyport, and alot of good food. Most important, a good time with my daughter and son-in-law.
Glad you enjoyed yours.

Elizabeth Bradley said...

My car is a boy too. He's not very conversational though, but he's been making a weird sound lately.

The museum sounds great, and your description of the meal made me hungry. (Haven't had lunch.) How nice to meet a little boy with some actual manners. Wonderful

Jackie said...

Great post...and the boys are adorable. I am wondering how long it took before they took a dive into the pile of leaves. (That is what I would have wanted to do...unless, of course, I was the one that raked them!) I'm glad that you and your wife had a good time...Thank you for sharing the trip with us. I enjoyed reading about it....(and notice that the bowling pins have been on a diet...or is it just our South Georgia pins that are fat?)...

Anonymous said...

I believe that you (Jim) already know that I have a vacuum cleaner named Arnold (Electrolux Model E) Ziffel that is older than me, and we talk ALL the time.

So I *totally* get your relationship with Roddy.

Aside from The Parking Lot Incident, it sounds like a lovely time was had by all. Congrats, btw on *2* celeb sightings in one vacation!

Theresa said...

Candlestick pins? Very interesting. Sounds like a good trip. Glad you had fun.

David Sullivan said...

A couple of bottles of wine always makes the conversation flow freely...or is the start of a brawl...nice time had by all cuz!!!

Carolina said...

I thoroughly enjoyed this vacation.
And I dó like a man with a big rocket. Sorry about poor Roddy.

We have a car called Bob and one called Gretchen (and another one that remains nameless because it has no personality). Gretchen has a German speaking GPS on board. She can also speak English. Only if you opt for that, she thinks you are driving on the left side of the road, which is highly confusing at intersections and other obstacles. The other option was German. So now we are going immer gerade aus und am nächsten Kreisverkehr biegen wir ab nach links. Oder rechts. Oder wir gehen wieder immer gerade aus. Point being that she talks to us and I usually talk back. Does wonders for your German. It's a British car by the way.
Bob is my favourite and also very British. He's the silent type. I talk to him though.
He's very tough and not hugely comfortable, but he does wonders for your image ;-)
Did you want to know all that? Probably not. Sorry ;-)

Thanks for taking me to Dollar Bill and the picture book museum.

Christina RN LMT said...

Wow! And a wonderful vacation was had by all...except poor Roddy! Thanks for sharing with us. I've never heard of candlepin bowling.

Now you make ME want to go on vacation...wait! I AM going on a mini-vacation in a little over two weeks! I'll have to blog it thoroughly, though I could never be as entertaining as you.

Desmond Jones said...

Molly's brother used to live in Derry. . .

And you remind me of one of our trips across the border into Ontario, where we enjoyed a few lines of five-pin bowling, which is popular there; we made sure to try it out when the proprietor, hearing our accents, said, "You probably want a ten-pin lane; all the Yanks want to bowl ten-pin." The gauntlet having thus been thrown, we said no, bring it - we want five-pin. Which was a fun variation. . .

And hey, good for you to even recognize Tomie DePaola when you saw him. He could walk into my living room, and I wouldn't know who he was, until he stuck out his hand and said "Hi, I'm Tomie DePaola". . .

Anonymous said...

That sounds like a great vacation to me. The east coaters have so much more to do than those of us n the west.

♥ Braja said...

Imagine my surprise when I found myself reading to the very end....


John-Michael said...

Jim, my dear SulDog Friend, I must thank you for this opportunit to share in your lovely vacation. I truly savored each element ... though I could actually relate, experientially, in one element of the trip. Your dialogue with Roddy is something with which I am familiar.

I have been nursing and coaxing Claire the Comfy-Van with fill-ups of coolant after each short outing. Her various other ails (no brake lights, electrical short that drains the battery if I don't disconnect it after each excursion) make for a bit of excentric character in her.

At end of our last outing, I was engaged in the battery disconnect, and felt a wet sensation in my crotchal area. Looking down I saw that Claire was expressing her displeasure by sending a steady stream of green excrement through her grill ... straight into my crotch.

With receipt of this message, I am inclined to interpret the
"piss on you Dude!" as something more fitting a 'Claude' than a Claire. Methinks that I may have mis-understood my Comfy-Van's gender all these years.

Yep! The spirit of the vehicle is all too real!

I sure do appreciate and love all that you are and have been to me and my life.

The Good Cook said...

Love your vacation story! When we were in Mass a few weeks back we tried our hand at Candlepin bowling... for the record - my high score was 108 ... think I'm a natural?

Lisa Johnson said...

Sounds like a great vacation! I had no idea there was a picture book museum here in MA. I'll have to get out there sometime. Nice to see you and David gettting together, and especially over a wonderful meal.

Eddie Bluelights said...

Great vacation Jim but nice to see you back. You enjoyed yourself and that is good. Eddie

Kathryn Magendie said...

First off - thank you for your sweet comment on the post about "food" *smiling*

second - I must see dollar bill now *laughing* - the vacuum thing - lawdy be!

And third -I have seen at least 3 christmas commercials and it isn't even halloween - ARGH!!!!!

last - here's to great vacations! whoopwhoop!

Tea said...

Your vacation sounds wonderful. I love the kind of vacations that aren't all planned out. Take it as it goes.

Jeni said...

Buddy, if you write many more posts like this one -all over the place -people are going to be saying you are picking up my rambling prose habits!
Gotta tell you though I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your vacation even though it did make me a bit jealous cause I haven't taken a vacation similar to yours since 1982! Your "Dollar Bill's" sounds a bit like the New England equivalent to the Ollies stores in central PA -except with entertainment and the owner on Speed! The video was a hoot and a half, for sure! But like Lime, I loved the museum -one of Miss Maya's first toys -and one she actually played with early on too -was a Hungry Caterpillar! I'd love to see that place for sure.
The restaurants -neat is really an understatement there but anyway, you had me drooling so much I had to go get myself a big old bowl of chocolate marshmallow ice cream while reading this post, watching the video, et al. (I'm thinking the choc. i.c. might have been what I needed earlier too that could have improved my nasty mood of yesterday.) Loved the comment too about driving around for over an hour before your wife went and asked for directions. Typical male, in that respect, I see!
Take me along on your vacations any time, anywhere you wanna go too! Maybe you should consider as an alternate form of employment, working as a rep for tourism in New England cause you sure do a great job of making a visit sound fantastic!

Unknown said...

Thanks for the tip on The Wately Inn, sounds like just the kind of place Matt & I like to go for a yummy meal! Our favorite is the Hudson House in Cold Spring, NY right on the Hudson River but the price is a bit more (for dinner we usually go for brunch more reasonably) but it is awful far away.

Because we are total nerds, our favorite thing to do while on the road is try to get all 51 license plates. We started in July and have only 8 to go. The Pike is a great place to find good ones.

Sonds like a truly satisfying week! Glad to have you back.

word verification -- flatesol: for the days when you are far too happy and want to be down in the dumps.

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