Not for Federal Identification!

Things keep popping up in my news feed about driver’s licenses. A friend who’d moved from Tennessee to Arizona was surprised that her new Arizona-issued license bore the ominous phrase “Not For Federal Identification.” A friend who lived in Kentucky was shocked to be told she could be turned away from boarding a flight.

In case you missed it, the REAL ID Act was passed (in 2005) in the wake of the 9/11 report. It established minimum standards that states must follow when issuing and producing driver’s licenses and ID cards. (A REAL ID credential can either be an ID card or a driver’s license.)

Some states just haven’t gotten around to making these changes to the way they issue driver’s licenses/IDs. And if you’ve been renewing online or through the mail, the license you have may not be compliant with federal regulations.

Here are some links that will help you get a handle on the situation:

Enhanced Drivers Licenses: What Are They?
REAL ID FAQs
Current REAL ID Status of States/Territories

All of this is important because, as you know, you must show your driver’s license or state ID in order to board a plane.

Trust me when I say you don’t need any trouble from the authorities right now. Make sure your driver’s license is good for federal ID as well as for driving. Even if the chart I’ve linked above indicates your state is in compliance, you may still be carrying an “old” license. Take a ride down to your local Department of Motor Vehicles office and find out for sure. Make sure you have alternate forms of identification with you when you go.

The REAL ID Act takes effect on 22 January 2018.

Do do it now and get it out of the way. Don’t wait until you’re about to leave for the Bahamas next Christmas.

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Long Weekend

Oh, the things you can get done on a long weekend (after the kitchen is cleaned). We went through all the congrats cards we brought back from the party in Ireland and made a list for thank-you notes. Started writing thank-you notes. Then I did my usual thing of displaying the cards for a while on the bookshelf. Many a birthday card, thank-you card, wedding announcements, and more have been displayed on this shelf. It prolongs the delight. 🙂

Wedding cards.

Wedding cards.

And those little bells? They were repurposed from my friend Amy’s wedding (more than a decade ago) and used by a group of friends to ring us “in” when we arrived at the Nashville Airport on 20 October.

This is the weekend for counting our blessings, and we really are blessed when it comes to friends.

Hello, Dublin! I’m So Excited to Be Here!

30 September 2015, Wednesday
I think the most unusual thing I’ve ever seen from the window of an airplane is this: as we were taxiing in to the Dublin terminal, I saw a large rabbit running alongside the runway.

It’s a long walk from the gates in to where you claim your luggage, and I swear I nearly had a heart attack from sheer excitement and anticipation. You wouldn’t think we chubby middle-aged gals get the butterflies and suchlike, but we do. (Also, I was just ready for the traveling to be over, and to have someone else carry the luggage for a bit!)

It was hard not to blurt out my story to the customs agent: “Just here for a little holiday, are ya, Missus Chavez?” “Oh, yes, and I’m throwing a party and then I’m going on my honeymoon, and after that I’m taking my husband home with me!” is what I was thinking, but “Yes, thank you!” is what I said. 🙂

John Lambert had landed at 5:25am and I knew he’d be waiting for me. (Although we left Chicago late, they made it up in the air; it was just a little after 7am when I walked through those doors, and this after a long slow taxi and unloading and customs.) But Gerry was there with him, and that was so nice.

One always comes away from travel with at least one good story (mine was Ginger, the American with a slight Irish accent*), and John had a doozie: he’d splurged on a business class ticket out of New York (in order to have the sleeper chair), and the man sitting next to him on the trip was Michael D. Higgins, President of Ireland, which means he is head of state. (This is different from the taoiseach, who functions as head of government. The taoiseach is appointed by the president.) Michael D., as he is known, had been in New York for Pope Francis’s visit. John and Michael D. had had a lovely conversation, I’m told (as one would; here he reads Yeats). Naturally, the first words out of my mouth were, “Well, I hope you invited him to our party!” 🙂

We picked up our rental car (a manual transmission Skoda), and headed to Gerry’s house for breakfast.

Gerry and John, unloading my bags. I came with two but consolidated to one for the trip ’round Ireland.

Gerry and John, unloading my bags. I came with two but consolidated to one for the trip ’round Ireland.

I also pulled out some gifts I’d brought, and my mattress pad, transferred clothing to one suitcase, and just generally got situated. Gerry had a dental appointment (one of the quick kind), so the three of us drove into Dublin City. Gerry had a crazy idea that John and I could sightsee (again, just some little thing) while he was with the dentist, but traffic was insane, we couldn’t find a parking spot anywhere, and very quickly we were lost. 🙂 So then we had to figure out how to call Gerry to get the address of where he was—he was already finished, which was a good thing, because I was already frazzled!

As it turns out, there’s a lot of construction going on in Dublin—a new Luas (light rail) route and station—and traffic is more harrowing than normal. The trip from Gerry’s house to the city centre used to take about twenty minutes, but over the course of our trip, it routinely took double that, and sometimes as much as an hour. Just think of all the shifting, and clutching on my bad hip. Yeesh. And streets are changed to one-ways, or closed entirely; the locals are as confused as we tourists.

So we’re driving through the Dublin city centre at noon on an overcast day, just headed back to Gerry’s place, and we come to one of the construction sites. There’s a Garda there, allowing trucks to pass thru as normal and directing cars to detour to the right—several cars in front of us and he’s just motioning them past, but he halts me and motions to roll down the window. He leans in and says, and I quote, “You have your headlights on and you’re blinding everyone. Turn your lights off.” Oh, my gosh, his tone of voice—it was angry.

Now … I knew my lights were on, but I just assumed this was the sort of car that the lights came on automatically, because I hadn’t touched them. Regardless, it was broad daylight, and my lights weren’t blinding anyone, and there were plenty of cars behind me with lights on approaching this Garda that were not stopped. What in the world? I won’t repeat what Gerry said, but I stewed about that for days. Were my brights on? No, I checked. Had he known I’d been up for twenty-four hours and was driving on the wrong side of the road in a strange car and an unfamiliar city, he might well have yelled at me a little more. But picking me out of a crowd to vent … that was just rude. I still have half a mind to complain to someone.

Finally, it was late enough for us to decamp to the Portmarnock. Oh, friends, I do love this hotel. It’s … just right. Just the right amount of luxury and comfort, with great staff and service. We stayed in a few very nice hotels on this trip—and I’m working on a comparison chart to grade them, which I’ll post later—but from a gut-reaction, emotional standpoint, I’ll just tell you right now, I love this hotel. It’s about a fifteen-minute drive from the airport, in a small village (Portmarnock) that is close to a larger village (Malahide), right on the sea. Great beaches and a DART station too. Convenient!

A beautiful wall of ivy, turned red in the autumn, at the entrance to the Portmarnock Hotel.

A beautiful wall of ivy, turned red in the autumn, at the entrance to the Portmarnock Hotel.

Also, of course … this was “The Beginning.” The run-up to our party that we’d been planning for literally two years. At last. So it was exciting.

We had a very nice room: third floor, golf-course view. The sea view rooms are very nice, too, but they are in the old wing of the hotel, in the original Jameson estate. The golf-view rooms all have air conditioning, and tiny balconies. Perfect for Yanks.

This was a little bit of the view from ours.

This was a little bit of the view from ours.

And this little graveyard that impinges on the golf course fascinates me. One of these days …

And this little graveyard that impinges on the golf course fascinates me. One of these days …

John was staying right across the hall from us; his room (“garden view”) overlooked the courtyard.

So we checked in, checked with our party-planner and made an appointment for the next day, and started to unpack. I’d scheduled a massage with a licensed therapist in town to alleviate the edema I get lately from air travel. I’d spent a lot of time shopping around online, but ultimately settled on Sunshine Massage Therapy in Portmarnock Village. The appointment was at three o’clock. Marta is a delightful young woman and she gave me a fabulous, one-hour full body massage. No, really. I’d been upfront with her: I’m an American, just passing through. She could have given me a crap massage, she could have just “phoned it in”—but she didn’t. I’ve been getting regular massage for twenty-five years; I know a good massage when I get one. And it was only €35 (just a little over $38 at today’s exchange rates).

I was rejuvenated after a great massage.

I was rejuvenated after a great massage.

Back at the hotel, we took a little walk outside, and after we were collapsed back in the room (OK, I was collapsed), I got a text from my niece, Alli. You remember Al. She and her mom, my sis, traveled around Ireland with Margaret and I back in September of 2012.

A lot has happened since then. To wit: Sabas. He’s the lovely man who fell in love with the beautiful Al, and married her at her parents’ home in California about two weeks before today. (Oh, you should see those photos!) They’d been saving for and planning their honeymoon trip to Greece and Spain … and Dublin, for our party.

They’d arrived in Dublin a few hours earlier. Could we get together? she texted. I really want to see you. I want you to meet Sabas. I wanted to meet Sabas, too, but not enough to drive back into Dublin; at this point I was well past twenty-four hours with no sleep. So I was honest: I’m too tired to go anywhere. But: We’ll come to you, Alli replied. A light supper in the Seaview Lounge? That sounded perfect. They’d be here in about an hour.

Oh, just look at them! Aren’t they gorgeous? Sabas, Alli, and Gerry in the Seaview Lounge, late afternoon.

Oh, just look at them! Aren’t they gorgeous? Sabas, Alli, and Gerry in the Seaview Lounge, late afternoon.

We had soup and brown bread and talked and laughed and watched the sun go down outside. It was perfect. And when it got dark, they went back to one of the Hampson cousins’ house, and Gerry and I went to bed.

* I know another American (Marilyn Cullen) who’s lived in Ireland for twenty years, and she still sounds as American as the day she left. I can’t even imitate an Irish accent!

Slogging to Dublin

29 September 2015, Tuesday
So this is how my journey began: screaming in my kitchen. From the taxi on his ride home, Gerry texted “OK” and I danced around the room, laughing, clutching my phone. He’d passed the interview for his visa. The only time I’ve appreciated the six-hour time difference is that text from the cab while I was still at home. It was a great way to start the trip, looking forward to the life to come.

I also spent some quality time with my new phone, configuring apps. Dowloaded Verizon Wifi Connect International, and WhatsApp. (What else do I need?) Checked my email for the last time before shutting down the computer,* and had one from Margaret and John’s daughter, Marina:

T. took Dad to the airport early early this morning, and his plane is on schedule. He’ll be in NY in 3hrs and 55min and then on to Dublin! I asked him if he was a little excited last evening, and he said he was very excited. 🙂

I myself would be connecting through Chicago—but first Kaci got me to Nashville International with my two large suitcases. One was mostly filled with the mattress pad that I’d purchased to help alleviate the hard-mattress problem I always encounter in Ireland; it would stay behind with Gerry’s mother, but we’d need the luggage space bringing Gerry back to Tennessee. I also had three items to carry on: purse, laptop, and CPAP, which is a medical device and exempt from the two-bag limit. Still, they’re all three small enough to easily fit in one of those rolling overnight bags you see in the overhead bins.

Yes, this is why traveling’s a slog for me, the five-foot tall, chubby, middle-aged woman.

I do enjoy the international concourse with the skylight and all the flags from the countries you can reach flying out of O’Hare. And there’s lots of places to linger and get some decent food and drink (if you have the time).

And people-watch. I’m not advocating taking a chance on missing your flight but wouldn’t it be fun to go flying through the international terminal on one of those golf carts with the driver beeping the horn in a steady rhythm? I’m thinkin’ yeah. 🙂

I get a little excited once I’m away from Nashville. The trip becomes “real.” And boarding the big plane was very nice, easy, low-stress loading; nobody anxious or pushy. I had an aisle seat on the right and, it turns out, an empty seat beside me. American Airlines was playing some great slow-jam music, which added to the calm ambience.

And even just three months after my earlier trip (and, more importantly, my continued weight loss), it wasn’t hard to fasten my seatbelt, and in fact I had belt to spare. Wow. Sometimes it’s easier to see/feel your progress in things like this than on the scale, you know? Getting in and out of the seat was a breeze compared to June.

So we got loaded, and then we sat on the runway for thirty-five minutes in the gathering dusk, waiting for other planes to land.

Interesting in its own way, the wait. Each plane began as a tiny twinkle, then quickly became this. One after the other, every two minutes.

Interesting in its own way, the wait. Each plane began as a tiny twinkle, then quickly became this (on the left, close to the horizon). One after the other, every two minutes.

Finally we were in the air. I chatted for quite a while with a young woman seated across the aisle from me, Ginger—an American gal who had married an Irishman. They were traveling “home” with their two little girls to attend a wedding. They’d met in Ireland and lived there for nine years—Ginger had a light lilt on certain words—but now his job has taken them to the States.

Absence of a seatmate made it possible for me to doze for two or three hours, but most of the time I read. I was reading Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys and truly laughing out loud. The scene where Grady persuades Crabtree to go rescue James Leer is just classic stuff. I love the movie they made from this book, but you should really read the book. I’m still chortling.

* I very rarely use my phone to check email. I’m either working—or I’m not.

I Like Having a Plan

My experiences on this trip gave me some food for thought:

  • As soon as I got home, I purchased a plug with multiple USB slots to facilitate charging in airports.
  • I also purchased multiple adapters—one each for camera battery, laptop, Kindle, and CPAP. No one has to share.
  • I also gave a lot of thought to the swelling ankles/painful feet problem: I diagnosed the pain (tendonitis) and learned exercises to prevent; discussed it with healthcare professionals; purchased compression socks; and have realized that a full massage is something I need to have within twenty-four hours of landing.

I like having a plan.

I’m ready for the next trip.

I’m ready for the next trip.

I also learned something about overbooking on the airlines. (When you travel alone, as I mostly do, you end up as an observer, a listener, a lot.) Sitting in Nashville waiting for my outbound flight to JFK, the gate announced they were overbooked and looking for three volunteers to step off (before they started bumping people involuntarily). (I’m not sure why they overbook in the first place—perhaps because people don’t always show for a flight they’ve booked?)

Anyway, in this case, the offer to a volunteer was they’d put you on the next flight to NY (although it would land in LaGuardia, not JFK, which was where my next flight would depart), and they would give you a $300 voucher as a thank-you. I’ve done that LGA to JFK thing and know what it involves. You have to retrieve your luggage, schlep it out to the curb, and catch a shuttle (at a cost of $15 last time I checked) to JFK. The shuttles come by every fifteen minutes and it’s a forty-five–minute ride. Then you check your luggage back in and wait for your flight.

Five minutes later the gate attendant asked again, only this time the offer was $400. Five minutes later it was $500. And they got takers. But I’d never been aware of—never listened attentively enough to—the escalating offer. So if you’re so inclined, you gamble on the reward getting more lucrative … or people taking the offer ahead of you.

I had the time to participate—a five-hour layover—but really didn’t want to spend it humping luggage across New York City by myself. Not to mention the fact that something could go wrong—a storm delay here, a traffic jam there—and I sure didn’t want to miss my overnight flight to Dublin. I decided then and there that I’m too old to switch itineraries in the middle of the stream … and let someone else grab that five hundred dollars.

Flying Is Both a Blessing and a Curse

Sunday, 28 June 2015
We got up extra early and were at the restaurant for breakfast early—6am—and then caught the shuttle at 7am. I was checking a second piece of luggage, so we had to wait in line for that. (They didn’t charge me! Three years ago I had to pay extra to bring a second piece of luggage, but now the American Airlines website proclaims that the second piece is free. When did that change?)

Gerry walked me right up through the security gate and watched me pass through. (sigh) Watched me, in fact, until I rounded the next corner and couldn’t be seen.

It was very, very busy. The lines were long to check in, to go through security, to pass through U.S. Customs. Tourist season, remember. I don’t usually travel during the height of the tourist rush, so I know now I should have allowed more than the recommended two hours (and I was there two and a half hours early). I didn’t have time to do my VAT forms or get anything in the duty-free.

There are no electric plugs in the Dublin Airport, except in one little room that had two plugs (what’s up with that?)—and I’d forgotten to charge up the Kindle the night before (partly because I was using my adapter for other things: CPAP, for example). But all the lines I stood in took so long that they’d started boarding by the time I arrived at my gate.

Honestly, flying is a miserable experience. It used to be exciting and fun, back in the day. Today it felt like the seats had gotten smaller since my arrival—in the last eleven days.

That said, one of the nice things about flying is the view from above. This last view of Ireland always makes me a bit melancholy, though.

That said, one of the nice things about flying is the view from above. This last sight of Ireland always makes me a bit melancholy, though.

And then I got to Chicago. My Kindle and phone were both dead. I needed electricity, stat. JFK was so civilized: every hundred feet or so there was a huge column with a dozen or more outlets. Electricity was easy to find in New York. But Chicago had only one electricity supply area per concourse: little desks with four chairs and four measley outlets, and at first I was just glad to get a seat. Until I realized that the guy next to me was having an argument with his girlfriend while his phone charged. He absolutely did not care that there were three of us sitting there, unable to escape from his verbal posturing and strutting. Oh my goodness, it was painful. He was an idiot.

And then … Nashville. Home.

My friends Jenny and Kevin were waiting to pick me up in mid-afternoon; they’d been visiting Middle Tennessee friends and house-sitting for me.

At the Nashville International Airport: me, Kevin, Jenny.

At the Nashville International Airport: me, Kevin, Jenny.

• • •

That wasn’t the end of the excitement, though. My son and his girlfriend were in the process of moving to Tennessee from Phoenix. The next day, they crossed the state line.

Heading east over the Mississippi River at Memphis. Welcome home!

Heading east over the Mississippi River at Memphis. Welcome home!

I ran to the farmers market to get ready to greet them in the best way I know.

I ran to the farmers market to get ready to greet them in the best way I know.

Supper!

Supper!

It was definitely very good to be home.

Winding It Down …

Saturday, 27 June 2015
I’d been wanting to check out a Dublin farmers market that I’d read about, held on Saturdays (only) in St. Anne’s Park. I’d visited the park a couple times, but never the Red Stables, which have been converted to an art center, and whose grounds host the farmers market.

It was a pretty day and there was a good turnout, and if I lived here, I’d definitely shop at this market. There were lots of tempting foodstuffs.

The farmers market at the Red Stables in St. Anne’s Park, Dublin, June 2015.

The farmers market at the Red Stables in St. Anne’s Park, Dublin, June 2015.

The market was just a stop on our way to Gerry’s house, where I packed a second suitcase of things to travel home with me in anticipation of Gerry’s emigration.

Interestingly, we’d checked out of a Clayton Hotel downtown … and were checking back in to a Clayton Hotel (the former Bewley’s Hotel) at the airport. This is our standard routine: check in to the airport hotel, drop our bags, fill (the gas tank) and then return the car. All the rental car concerns have shuttles that take you to and from the airport, and all the hotels have shuttles that take you to and from the airport—so we went from Hertz to the airport and from there back to the hotel.

This sounds like a lot but it was a matter of minutes. When I was here two years ago, everything around the airport was torn up for construction and it was a nightmare getting around. Signs were missing, lanes were missing, entrances were closed … I’ll never forget the utter humiliation of the shaming number the Budget Car Rental guy did on me during that trip. (“What TOOK you so long?” he said, as if I’d purposely been avoiding him. “You were supposed to follow me!” But we were five miles away on the other side of a complicated freeway interchange, and you took off and didn’t wait, you arrogant little prick, is what I thought, and now wish I’d said. There was no signage. We drove around the airport loop three times. We had to stop and ask how to find you.) It was all I could do not to cry that evening, and we wouldn’t have been there at all if the car hadn’t kept overheating, which was their fault, not mine. (Moral of the story: don’t use Budget in Dublin.)

But all that construction is finished now. It’s all cleaned up. We drove right to where we wanted to be, and my blood pressure remained at a reasonable level. 🙂

So we got settled, and just went down to the dining room for a quick supper at 6pm, which was when it was advertised to open. “Do you have a reservation?” the manager asked. Ummm. There’s no one in the dining room. No, we say. (Really? A dinner reservation? In a hotel specializing in people leaving—an airport hotel? But the staff were running around completely disorganized and crazy. Turns out they were preparing for a tour group to be in for dinner at 7pm. That group took up about a third of the room.) Our service was slow, of course. But the floorshow was interesting.