Distractions, Diversion, Uncategorized

What do a Kiss and Exploring the World Have in Common?

Five years ago today I was on a trip for work. It involved a trip (by TRAIN!) to Stamford, Connecticut, a short walk to the hotel and a meet-and-greet style evening where coworkers from the northeast and mid-Atlantic would connect and spend some social time over dinner and drinks before a full-day event kicking off the next morning.

There were maybe two dozen of us chatting amiably over dinner at a nearby Italian place before wandering back to the hotel to linger in the hotel bar over wine and cocktails.

As is typical at this type of event, we talked about life and work and work and life. It was a back-and-forth conversation filled with laughter and easy banter. One-by-one, coworkers headed back to their rooms to “say goodnight to the kids” or “check in with my wife” or simply because it had been a long day.

Somewhere around 1:30 am, the bartender came over and informed Greg and I that it was last call. It wasn’t until then that we noticed we were the only two coworkers left. At that moment, we were deeply ensconced in a conversation about the tasks that needed to be accomplished “in the morning” at the jobs event we were attending. Neither of us was ready to declare the conversation over, so we tossed a coin to decide whose room we would go to so we could finish making our plans.

About an hour later, when the work planning was done, the conversation wandered to the past as we discussed the things we missed about being young.

I said, “kissing,” explaining how, as a high school student, kissing was everything. It was a time when the farthest a couple would go was maybe “second base” and the duo could spend hours just kissing. Yep, I admitted, “I miss kissing.”

Greg rose from the hotel chair and walked over to me, leaning down and kissing me. It was one of those tentative, first date kisses. There were fireworks. I saw lightning and felt the Earth move. We broke the kiss and gave each other that “uh-oh-I-wasn’t-expecting-THAT” look. We were, after all, coworkers.

It was just a kiss … but it was life altering. Nothing else happened that night, but it was enough to put into motion a series of conversations and chain of events that helped us both realize that we did have options other than staying in unhappy relationships and living sad, unfulfilling lives.

Since that day, we moved in together, got engaged, got married and regularly remind each other how important communication is to a healthy, happy, thrilling relationship. We laugh about that kiss and how we had no idea then how many dreams and hopes we had in common – and still do.

It’s been five years and thousands of kisses. Sometimes the best trips don’t involve even getting out of your chair. When we say there’s a whole world out there just waiting to be explored, we mean so much more than travel. We mean exploring each other, people in your lives, yourself … everything. So get out there – explore! The world is calling.

Diversion, Food

Diversion – Getting to Know You, Part 2

A reader responded to my recent post about talking up servers and bartenders with a simple question, “Why?”  I’m not really sure where she was going with this question … “Why travel?”  “Why enjoy yourself?”  “Why talk to people?”  But if ever there was any doubt about the last question, it was answered this past weekend…again.

As often happens, Judy and I needed to spend a night in Fredericksburg, Va., about an hour south of our Alexandria home.  In a few previous instances, we’ve enjoyed the food and vibe of Fahrenheit 132, located in the heart of historic downtown Fredericksburg. Fahrenheit 132 In all our previous visits, we’ve sat at the bar, enjoying fine cocktails (their French Martini is always a hit), excellent appetizers, and even one of the best Filet Mignons we’ve ever tasted.  But this time, I wanted to make it a bit special, so I booked a table (through Open Table…one of my favorite apps) for 8:30.  We arrived scandalously early to the crowded restaurant, so we checked in an ordered a drink at the bar.  We were only halfway into our first cocktail when we were shown to our table.

Two things stuck out about this visit.  First, we had never seen the wine list before.  It was extensive…the selection of Italian reds, alone, took up the better part of a page!  We chose a 2006 Villa Gemma Montepulciano D’Abruzzo (one of our favorite varietals) and to say we were pleased is an understatement. Villa Gemma The legs were longer than Cyd Charisse’s and the color was an incredibly deep, inky maroon.  If you held the glass to the light, you couldn’t see through it.  The nose took you away to some other place, and the first taste on the tongue was captivating.  THIS is why you spend good money on good wine.

Second, our server, Jessica, was everything you could hope for.  Like Araceli in our previous post, Jess was sweet, beautiful, and like our wine, captivating.  In our two hours together, we learned much about this lovely young lady and her zest for life in between bites of the best pork chops you will ever taste.  As a server, she was there before we needed her, suggested brilliant accompaniments to our entree, and instantly recognized and appreciated our desire to take our time enjoying our meal. As a new friend, we learned that she has tackled hardship and heartache in a way that is truly inspiring.  She truly made our evening joyful and we cannot wait to see her…and Fahrenheit 132…again.

There’s a whole world out there just waiting to be explored. Go see it…and take the time to get to know those around you along the way.

Here’s to you!

Greg & Judy


Diversion – Paris is where my friends meet

By Judy

Paris eiffel
This scale model of the Eiffel Tower is a tourist draw for Paris, Tennessee

If you know me, you know about Paris. It’s one of those things Greg and I love to say to mess with people. We talk about going to Paris … (long pause) … Tennessee. It’s a little town on the northern border of Tennessee about halfway between Nashville and Memphis.

Not all diversions are about sightseeing. Not all diversions reveal a hidden tourist destination. Paris, Tennessee, probably isn’t on many world traveler destination lists. But if you want to see true small-town USA, Paris is the place.

I’ve been going to Paris at least three times a year for the last seven years. My best friend in the whole world lived in Paris with her mom. Just over seven years ago she was diagnosed with lung cancer. She beat the odds living this long, but last week she lost her battle. Those of us who knew and loved Melissa knew this day would come and there would be an emergency trip to Paris. A group of us who have stayed close through the years have made the trip for mini reunions and this time we did it again to say goodbye.

This blog is a little about Paris … and a little about everlasting friendship.

Welcome to Paris, Tennessee … home of the world’s biggest fish fry

Melissa was not a big fan of the town where she lived. She always joked about how there were only two bars in town and there was nothing to do. Despite her protestations, visiting Paris was always gut-busting fun. To be fair, there really isn’t a lot to do in Paris. It’s a quaint little town that boasts a scaled down Eiffel Tower in a park and a sign at the entrance to town touting “The World’s Biggest Fish Fry.” But what Paris lacks in attractions, it made up for by being the home of a friend I had known for nearly 40 years.

Melissa and I had something of a tradition of taking pictures in photo booths. It started with this pic around 1977

I met Melissa in 1975. We shared a lifetime of laughter and memories. I know in all those years we must’ve argued, but I only remember once – ONE TIME in almost 40 years. It actually became something of a joke between the two of us and our close little circle of friends. We didn’t agree on everything, but it didn’t matter, because we were best friends … the definition of best friends. I don’t remember a time when Melissa wasn’t in my life … I don’t remember memories that she either wasn’t a part of, or that I wanted her to be a part of.

It’s funny, the one thing we never did was get involved in each other’s love lives … I suppose if we had, we both wouldn’t have had so much trouble in that department. I didn’t meet her husbands before she married them … I’d like to believe I would’ve been able to save her the trouble. Then again, she didn’t meet any of mine until Greg (who she loved) … and I’d like to believe she would’ve saved me the trouble, too.

There are so many memories of her that I can’t even glimpse into my mind without her being there. She was the strong one, she was the bold one. It was Melissa who was there in my mind when I was feeling weak, saying, “Suck it up” or “You can do this, stop being a wimp.” She was my inspiration and the person I’d see in my mind when I needed a boost.

Melissa and I share a laugh with our good friend, Carla, at the base of the Paris Eiffel Tower

Years ago, when the doctors told her she had cancer, I started visiting more often. I wanted to keep her in my life. I think somewhere, somehow, I thought if I kept visiting, she wouldn’t die. She’d fight and win so we could grow old together. Every time I would visit, we’d stay up late together, sharing stories and laughing and just being best friends. I kept crying, but I think somewhere in my mind I stopped believing she would ever die. I figured she’d find a way to outlive us all. I talked to her about a week before she died. She called the day I got married to Greg and it took us more than a week to actually connect. She sounded so strong and we made plans for our trip to Paris in March. We will still visit in March; We have a party planned and have already started working on our tributes to Melissa.

Over the span of my visits to Paris I learned a few things about the area.

tower red
Tower Red from The Paris Winery

— Paris has a winery. In fact, it’s called “The Paris Winery” and for a couple of self-described wine snobs, the wine is pretty good. The winery even boasts “Tower Red,” a red blend in a bottle shaped like the Eiffel Tower.

— Paris Landing State Park is a great place for boaters and fishers. With a triple-wide boat ramp, it can accommodate even the largest of party boats for a day on the river.

— Paris is home to Perry’s BBQ. This little BBQ stand makes the best barbecue I have ever eaten, and I am a BIG fan of barbecue! Perry’s alone is worth the diversion!

— Paris has a quaint little downtown that, like most southern towns, surrounds the courthouse.  The shops and coffee houses are run by locals who treat you like locals.  There’s even an old-school men’s store called The Toggery that has fine suits, sport coats, slacks, ties and sportswear. Greg needed a new shirt for Melissa’s memorial service and they had exactly what he needed, provided by a shop owner who epitomized “service.”

— The people of Paris, Tennessee, are kind and respectful. As we drove around Paris this week, a funeral procession approached from the opposite direction. Every single car — in BOTH directions on a four-lane highway — pulled over to let the procession pass. Greg and I were stunned. It was a magnificent contradiction to what we experience near Washington, DC.

Antique shopping in Hazel, KY makes a side trip worth the drive.


— Just north of Paris is the tiny town of Hazel, Kentucky. Melissa and I went there a couple of times to peruse the antique shops. For a town with a population of just 410 people, it’s spot-on for antique shoppers with 12 stores in about three blocks.

I’ll head back to Paris once in awhile. Melissa’s mom, who I always considered my mom, too, lives there. It’s not exactly a hotbed of activity, but it is charming. Sometimes diversions reveal the best place to get away from it all, put up your feet and let the worries of the world fade away.