No, I Wasn’t Drunk When I Bought That… I Was Just on Vacation.

My parents bought a set like this home from South Africa

I was reaching for my grandmother’s ancient but effective hedge trimmers when all of a sudden a crash, a clatter, and a bang left a gaping gash in my big toe. I scolded myself for not changing out of my flip-flops and into my hiking boots, as was the norm for my gardening days. Any one of a number of standard home-care tools could have caused the puddle of blood to form on my garage floor, but to my surprise it wasn’t one of the 4 axes or 8 saws formerly hanging on the wall (is there an army of lumberjacks living in my basement that I don’t know about?). No, the culprit was far less expected — it was a spear.

I hobbled out of the garage waving the spear over head like some crazed primal warrior. Where the hell did this come from, I shouted to my mother who was nursing a wound of her own — she had just lost a vicious fight with a rose bush.

“Oh! I didn’t know it survived!” She cried joyfully, grabbing it from me. “It’s a Zulu spear! I bought it back from South Africa when I visited your father’s family for the first time. There was a shield and knob-carry too, but the shield shed… er, it was made from cow.”

Camilo, Che, & Fidel -- Cuba's revolutionaries... now in technicolor on my dining room wall.

Apparently, 40 years ago a Zulu spear and shield could be carry-on and didn’t raise an eyebrow at customs. Man, have times changed.

Oh! the things you’ll purchase to remember your travels by!

Those flip-flop cocktail coasters I bought in South Beach were such a good idea at the time.

Have you ever heard of a zither? Until one weekend at Lake George, NY, I hadn’t either. Now there’s one sitting next to my fireplace gathering dust.  It’s a musical instrument, by the way. Kind of like a guitar in that it has strings and you strum it. It’s common in Austria and Hungry, so I don’t know why there was one at an antique shop in Bolton’s Landing. Why did I buy it? Because someone told me that when you’re in “upstate” vacation towns, you’re supposed to go antiquing.

When I went to Cuba 2 years ago, there was a lot of stuff I wanted to buy as souvenirs. Even though I was in the country legally, the US Treasury letter granting me permission to travel in Cuba forbade me from spending any money on the island. Silly embargo. Of course, I did acquire a trinket or two (errr… or dozen). There’s a photo of Fidel Castro playing baseball next to my computer, a giant framed silk-screen poster of revolutionary Camil0 Cienfuegos on my dining room wall, and about 8 more silkscreen posters in a closet upstairs awaiting frames.

I’m not a communist. I just have a thing for brightly-colored novelties, particularly of the artistic kind.

everyone needs a set of foam moose antlers... I have 2.

Unpacking after my Newfoundland adventure I realized that my suitcase had gained several pounds in mementos. The “This Rock Rocks” t-shirt was a must have, as where the other tourist-targeted tees and shot-glasses that sneaked into my Delsey. The Alexander Keith’s green foam moose antlers I picked up at the George Street Festival were trivial in comparison to the collection of rocks I had amassed while hiking. Did you know the Tablelands of Gros Morne National Park are really Earth’s mantle exposed? Yea, you bet I threw an 8lb piece of that in my backpack.

I think, though, of all the things I bought back with me from Newfoundland there’s only one thing that’s thoroughly useless — the bottle of Cross & Blackwell’s Fish and Chips Vinegar.

In Newfoundland, if you wanted fish you had to get fish and chips —  I could argue it was a sensible purchase at the time. Then again, as my father reminded me at checkout, restaurants usually carry their own supply of malt vinegar. As for home use? While I’ve broiled, baked, poached, grilled, and sauteed many a fish in my time, I’ve never battered and fried a fillet… nor do I plan to. In fact, come to think of it, before Newfoundland, it had been 5 years since I even ate fish and chips.

Considering I’m not going to carry a 24 ounce bottle of vinegar in my purse on the off-chance I find myself at a fish and chip joint in Manhattan, what am I going to do with it?

Homemade malt-vinaigrette, anyone?

I guess it’s a good thing they talked me down from the puffin chair…

I think this would have looked stellar on my front porch

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: