Monday, March 1, 2010

No Wife Left Behind

For those of you playing at home, this is the very first picture I saw of Neal...way back in 2004, and the whole reason I decided to email him...just to see if he liked "long walks on the beach (yes, as long as it's IED-free), grilled shrimp (absolutely, with spicy cocktail sauce please) and getting caught in the rain (as long as it's with you). I'm so glad it worked out.

We survived our trip to Phoenix (which ended up being the Phoenix/Scottsdale/Tempe trifecta...also, I'm not sure why Blogger thinks "trifecta" is spelled wrong. I live in Horse Country. Trifecta was the first word I learned to say. OK..second..first was McDonald's). There was way too much goodness in this adventure to be squeezed into one post (500 words or less or not) so I'm going to spread it out across the week, matching each day this week to last week. Clever, no? Or maybe I just lost you on that last sentence. Anyway, this is all about last Monday's escape to the land of sand, cacti, and mountains (and the manager's reception...thank you very much, Embassy Suites. Your hotel was ghettorific but your free wine was somewhat redemptive). Also? This blog now serves as my new Travel Journal since apparently I'm weak at actually writing anything down, like with ink and papyrus. I will have to learn to back up this baby ASAP. So, here goes...

Picture it...the legitimate asscrack of dawn, roughly 4:00 AM on Monday morning. I've just slept about 3 hours on the couch because suddenly our pillowtop mattress has become just too damn uncomfortable. Plus, I was hot and what better way to cool off than in the frozen tundra of our living room at 1 AM (it's called a programmable thermostat and it will keep you from leaving the cave until the heat kicks back on around 6). We shower, caffeinate, leave the house, come back to the house because I forgot my electric toothbrush and finally arrive at the airport around 5:15...which in theory is PLENTY of time before our 6:05 AM flight departs. Except the airport is busy. Really, LEX??? You're never this busy. Usually your security personnel are chatting me up because it's the first human interaction they've had since the night before. So, we checked our bag (thank you, U.S. Army for picking up that tab) and headed to security....where they swabbed my hands, deduced that I was positive for some sort of bomb-making material, pulled me aside (did I mention that I was with a man in FULL Army uniform, from his Frenchie black beret to his camel-kickin boots) and searched me from head to toe (and sometimes in virginal territory). They searched my bag, had me strip down to what was still publicly acceptable outside of Great Britain, and checked the bottoms of my bare feet.'s always the captain's wife. Interestingly, they finished with me at the exact same time Neal was pulling his laptop off the conveyor belt. We walkran to the gate, made one more bathroom call, and loaded the plane with 3 minutes to spare. No harm, no foul...we made the plane and I got a little action from a woman in latex gloves.

Let me stop here and say that my father is a Vietnam vet. I've heard stories. Mostly about how they were treated upon return from war. And while I know that, in general, Americans are far less rude to the men and women who put themselves in front of bombs so they don't have too, I also believe that most Americans do not think about soldiers unless they are married to one, child of one, or parent of one. Neal and I don't go parading about in uniform to get attention or gratitude...the Army actually requests that he travel in uniform (soldiers in uniform are the ultimate recruiting tool) and I'm with him, so there we are, on a plane, together, looking like Uncle Sam and Ally Army. But it is nice when civilians express appreciation when they see him out and about in his ACU's. I don't expect it, but am somewhat disappointed when people not only omit their thanks, but also plow him down in an attempt to load the plane first. So, let me just say that I was pretty impressed by the way he was treated on this trip. In 5 days he received:

1) Several (and by that, I mean probably a dozen or so) people stopping to shake his hand and thank him for his service (no thank you's to the wife, but we are the forgotten warriors. I bet if I was wearing my "I'm with the soldier" t-shirt, I would have received all kinds of accolades).
2) An offer from the captain of our returning flight from Phoenix to drink for free on him (this was also how I learned that stripes on the sleeve jacket does not indicate seniority in the flight attendants). Neal obviously declined, no worse recruiting tool than a drunk and puking soldier in uniform. Offhandedly, the captain offered it to me. Neal gave me a disapproving look so I drank ginger ale. I don't know what one (or five) tiny vodka and cranberry would have hurt...
3) An offer from the flight attendant to move to first class during the longest leg of our journey. But she only had one seat...not two. 5000 points to Neal: he declined, refusing to leave behind his warrior in an apron. Note: she did not then offer it to me. I might have taken it. But I would have totally sent back champagne and shrimp. I'm not a total bitch.

It sort of redeemed my faith in the American public. Yes, we are still at war and yes, there are still people who openly appreciate Neal's (read: not my) sacrifice for the cause.

We landed in Phoenix around lunchtime on Monday and picked up the rental car from one of the other soldiers in the battalion. Then...we had this conversation:

Me: Y'know...Flagstaff is only about 2 hours away. And it's only noon. We could totally get up there and back before the manager's reception starts. Have you ever been to the Grand Canyon?
Neal: I'm sure I have...that's not to say I remember it. Well, we have all day. That sounds good. What time do they close?
Me: I don't know. Let me check (furious typing on BlackBerry Storm, accompanied by slew of curse words because the "new" phone they gave me to replace the one that flickered has a screen that sticks). OK, I've got the National Parks Service website pulled up. Oh. Uh-oh.
Neal: What?
Me: Umm...winter weather advisory for Flag. Accumulating snow, 30 degree temps. I sure as hell did not fly 8 hours to go back to 30 degrees. I only brought flip flops.
Neal: There's always next summer. Well, next next summer.

Thus the dream of going to the Grand Canyon backed by 8 minutes of planning died a quick death.

Me: We could go to Tempe. Arizona State is there.
Neal: Does Tempe have food?
Me: Probably. (Man cannot subsist on oatmeal and trail mix alone. Although I'm sure a vodka and cranberry could have held him over).

We found Tempe. And a parking space that cost 25 cents per 10 minutes!

Dear Tempe,
In case you were unaware, Phoenix is Ground Zero for home foreclosures and unemployment. Charging $1.50 to park for an hour is like asking someone on food stamps to pay to pee in public. Also? Perhaps you would like to take the money you are robbing us of, hand over fist, and invest it in some parking meters that accept credit cards. I hate being limited by the amount of change in my wallet.
A tourist with some rare extra quarters

We found a Mediterranean restaurant with the most fabulous kabobs and hummus. It was a pricey lunch, but authentic and delish. This was also where I learned not to trust Neal when he says "oh you should try this pepper. It's really not that spicy." My tongue and the whole left side of my cheek went numb. I didn't regain sensation until we were in the hippy store with the bongs displayed in the back. Bongs have come a long way since 2000...or so I've heard.

After lunch, we headed over to Camelback Mountain and hiked around the base a bit. I was in dress pants and flip flops and the sun was going down. Hiking to the summit had crossed our minds. We decided against it in favor of heading back in time for the manager's reception. Good thing. We hiked the summit on Friday morning. I wouldn't have lasted 10 minutes in flip flops. And I'm still walking a little funny from the effort. It's Monday.

The manager's reception is chips/salsa + free wine + free beer + free well liquor for 2 hours. It's a lot like being at a Catholic wedding (or funeral for that matter) without the hour-long mass. 6 glasses of wine in, I became whiny and aggressive and decided to call it quits. Nobody likes that girl...including Neal who finally said "are you finished?" We ate a pizza...we watched some CNN...we crashed. At like 9 PM (which is 11 our time, so don't judge me). Neal started his conference at 8 AM Tuesday morning and I had a rental car to pick up. We needed our beauty sleep.

To all of those who expressed such heartfelt thoughts and prayers last Monday: thank you, thank you, thank you! I felt each and every one of them. It was a milestone date and I'm glad to have it behind me. Life is still one day at a time but that would only be upsetting if I had expected anything different.

Tomorrow: Tuesday's fun (Budget Rental gives me an "economy car" with 8 cylinders and Neal and I lunch at a restaurant with Jaguars and Maserati's in the parking lot).


  1. Next time I try to find a hotel, I'm going to make sure there is a manager's did you finagle that one? Something special for the conference?

    I don't judge people for falling asleep early...we were on a weekend trip this weekend and went to bed by 10. OUR TIME.

  2. I love reading your blog so much! First off THANK YOU NEAL FOR ALL YOU DO FOR OUR COUNTRY and THANK YOU ALLYSON for all you do for the man that does all he does for our country and for being a supportive Military Wife! :) I will remember to not be shy next time I see men and women in uniform - I always wonder how they will take me rushing up to thank them. Truth be told I'll probably cry... I always cry when military stuff comes on TV... or if I hear the National Anthem. I'm a serious sap when it comes to things like this. :)

  3. Love this! Very funny. I didn't know you were an army wife (or that your hubby looks really hot in his uniform). But then again, I haven't been reading all that long. I'll pay more attention going forward.

    Can't wait to see what tomorrow's adventure will bring.

  4. That is one very handsome soldier in that first photo! Your writing skills are superb! I enjoyed your first installment today. I HATE flying and stories like yours only adds to my dislike. As I have never been to Arizona or anywhere near that area I am taking a keen interest. Thanks to your husband for serving our country. I so appreciate what people in our military do and the sacrifices they and their families make. Thank you too!

  5. Man, I always feel the need to thank soldiers that I see in uniform... and I always get that little clump in my throat right before I do it because I start thinking about all that they do to keep us safe. And you're right - it's not just what they do. There's a whole team (family) of people behind each soldier, supporting them and giving up a hell of a lot for them to go overseas and make sure that we are all safe. And I thank each and every one of them - AND YOU, Neal & Ally - for doing exactly that.

    Sounds like an interesting adventure in AZ. My MIL lives in Scotsdale, so I'm a little bit familiar. I've never had the cahones to climb Camelback... but I might actually try it now - you've inspired me! I just love how everything in the Phoenix area looks so much different than what I'm used to - stucco, cactus, desert, mountains, palm trees - it's visually appealing to me.

    Can't wait to see how the trip progresses... :)

    Cheers lady - glad you're back!

  6. I always want to thank soliders in uniform but stop myself because I'm afraid they will think I'm a lunatic. (It's bad enought that people who know me think that.)

  7. just so you know, you are on a first name basis around here. I was LAUGHING OUT LOUD and said something along the lines of "Ahohhhhhh she is SO funny." Cory said, "who? Allyson?" mmhm. yup. you.

    I am not a shy person (i always tell people my favorite part about them, whethter it's their lipstick or sassy way of dealing with a shit cashier. and i mean people i don't know) but i always get a little nervous telling the troops (and their wives) thank you because i really don't know what the hell im talking about. capt? lt? officer? dont know the difference. and that's a shame becuase my dad was in desert storm, Cory in Iraq and my brother in iraq now. shame on me. SHAME ON ME.

    thanks neal. thanks allyson.

    oh and you're smart to know that az is hot almost all year around. when i went 2 decembers ago i packed a wool dress and boots. and corys relatives thought it was cold so their heat was jacked up to 74 degrees. at night. i died.

  8. i can't imagine how hard it must be to be a military wife. manfriend was just finishing his reserve time when we met- he was on his last year our first year together, and every letter that came from the air force made me nauseous. i seriously do not know how you do it- but i thank you and neal for being so awesome.
    and so you don't feel bad...manfriend and i were at a bar with grant of ghosthunters (ok, i know not an a-list celeb. but like a c-list...?) so anyways- i had two drinks and was ready for bed at like 9:30. so making it to 11 your time is way better than me.

  9. How sweet of your husband not to take the first class seat :) I am SO looking forward to our trip to Phoenix this weekend - I think we are doing the Camelback thing too!

    Thanks to you BOTH for what you do for our country!

    Oh, and manager's receptions - freaking awesome.

  10. Allyson, I don't think I knew that Neal was in the Army. Thanks to both of you for the sacrifices you make!

  11. What a great photo of your hunnie! He has a great smile! I have never thanked a soldier but only because I'm a fairly shy person and I've felt too nervous but I am extremely grateful. My grandfather was in the Army and then the Navy. He did clean up after Pearl Harbor. He had to be in Psycho-Therapy for a while after that. Very sad. Anyway, glad you trip is full of adventure, sunshine and fun. :)

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  13. I, like some others, didn't realize Neal was in the army. I just want to thank you both for your sacrifices for our country.

  14. allyson... do you REALLY have any virginal territory left?? ;)

  15. When did the Embassy Suites sink into the crapper? They used to be nice! I had to chuckle at your face going numb from the spicy meal! LOL

  16. I *loved* are an excellent travel writer. :) I also love being with my hubby when he's out in uniform, as much as he detests it...even if he doesn't believe he deserves thanks, it makes me feel good to see other people recognize his service.

    So, Thank you, Neal. And Ally, thanks for being a warrior wife. ;)

  17. We are the unsung heroes, but oh well...we know our worth, right?? I'm just happy when our soldiers get the kudos!!

  18. You guys are hilarious.

    (I think what Neal does is really admirable, by the way.)



That's it, let it all out....