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Traveling with Sweet Al!

Some of you will be traveling over the holidays. Al and I are staying home and I am relieved. I thought I would send you off with some holiday fun.

You would think if you lived with someone for fifty years, you would have learned how to travel together. Al takes everything in his closet and I am learning how to take just enough. Ten items are enough for a two week stay; one or two pair of shoes which will go with everything, colors which I can interchange with several outfits; dressing up or dressing down. I take a separate suitcase with study books, writings and paint supplies, but it is different, I travel with projects. My mind never goes on vacation.

Al has a fetish for shoes. He takes at least three pairs of tennis shoes, dress shoes and just shoes for incidental reasons. I think it is a throwback from the years he traveled and lived on the road.

Our daughter, Cricket, won an overnight stay and a breakfast buffet for two at a very exclusive hotel in Reno, Nev. It had a living room with a big screen television, a furnished kitchen with granite counter tops and a king size bed with 600 thread sheets. Cricket couldn’t use it; her schedule just wouldn’t allow it, so she gave it to us to use on the way home from California. She called ahead for our reservations.

When we left California, I told Al, “We will each pack a small carry-on with one change of clothes and one piece of reading material.” I had my small Liz Claiborne and he had his. I thought he understood; we were staying over night at a very expensive hotel, and it was important we looked like we belonged even if we were going comp.

The valet attendant looked dubious as I carried my small carryon and Al jumped out of the truck with his huge suitcase. Al was carrying one pair of tennis shoes in one hand, and he had another pair tied together with shoe laces hanging around his neck. He had a sack of snacks which he bought from the Dollar Tree in the other hand and four hunting magazines rolled up and tucked in the waste of his pants. When he opened the door of the truck, a big orange rolled out and he put it in his shirt pocket.

I said to Al, “Absolutely not. We look like backwoods people. You don’t need all that stuff.”

Al said, “I don’t care, I don’t mind carrying it, I might need something. You might get hungry in the room.”

In humiliation I stood at the registration desk and the woman took our comp certificate and looked at Al and all of his belongings. I looked straight ahead as if to say, “I don’t belong to him. I don’t know him.” Al was huddling around me making small talk, I was thinking, “Al, go away.”

We entered into this absolutely posh room with mirrors, a fruit basket, a fancy coffee maker and gourmet coffee. Al left the room and returned shortly with our family size ice cooler. I guess he thought we were going to cook a meal in the furnished kitchen.

“Al”, I said, “did anyone see you? Of course, everyone saw you. And I am sure they all know you are with me. Al, in Reno we can get a prime rib dinner for $5.95, what are you doing with that big cooler?”

Al innocently said, “I was thinking of you, honey. You might get hungry.”

“Deliver me from this kind man who is always thinking of my comfort.”

Al pulled out his shoeshine kit with his multiple colors of shoe polishes, brown, black and maroon and began shining his shoes. (a salesman thing). Al pulled out three bottles of aspirin and offered me an aspirin.

“Al, I need more than an aspirin. I need a strong drink. You could drive me to drink and gamble.” I grabbed the orange out of his pocket and told him, “I am going to the swimming pool. I need some space.”

When I returned Al was beaming with pride. He decided to clean out his suitcase and he filled three trash cans overflowing with stuff.

“Great,” I thought, “even the housekeeper knows how we are.”

After I got over myself, the stay was wonderful.

By the time we were to leave, twenty-four hours later, Al had managed to bring four loads of belongings into the room. Now he began taking them to the valet parking one by one.

I sent Al ahead to deal with the valet attendant So Al was up and down the elevator with load after load and I opt to take the back stairs with my one little overnighter.

Our daughter excitedly called to see how the room was.

“You wouldn’t believe it.” I told her.

“Yes, I would, you are traveling with Daddy,” She said. “I’d be mortified to be seen with him carting his stuff.  I’ve lived it myself when we were in Hawaii trying to pretend we belonged at a 5-star hotel but not fooling anyone as we refused to let the bellhop help us with our luggage.”

“I know, he doesn’t care about the tip, it’s about your Dad thinking he is able to carry his own things. Maybe it is a man’s thing.”

All in all, Al is a good sport for taking all this ribbing. He doesn’t care what people think of him, and apparently I care too much. Believe me, the next time, I’m packing for Al.

But for now, we are home for the holidays in the comfort of our home. We will be sitting by the fireplace thinking of you.

Have a Merry Christmas and if you are traveling, think of us, Al and Betty Slade.

The Final brushstroke: It’s all in Al’s suitcase and there isn’t room to add another thing.

Artist quote

“A true friend knows your weaknesses but shows you your strengths; feels your fears but fortifies your faith; sees your anxieties but frees your spirit; recognizes your disabilities but emphasizes your possibilities.” — William Arthur Ward.

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