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Adventures in Europe

From: Kathleen Rotondaro
To: Cara McDonough
Sent: Sun June 4, 2006

Hi, Cara-- Just got back from an afternoon of walking around an old Parisian neighborhood called " le Marais". It was fun. Dad bought a ridiculous pork pie hat that is all different color checks-- he loves it, of course. He is going a little crazy because my blackberry works and his doesn't.

We are going out to dinner later but are now taking a rest. Glad you guys are having a good week.

Tomorrow we are going to Monmartre and the flea market. Then we leave for Istanbul on Sunday.

Talk to you soon.


From: Fred Rotondaro
To: Cara McDonough, Vinnie Rotondaro
Sent: Tue June 6, 2006
Subject: The Turkish cop

Just asked a cop for directions. We started talking, switched hats, and took a picture.

He wore my plaid hat and I wore his cop hat.


From: Kathleen Rotondaro
To: Cara McDonough
Sent: Thurs Jun 8, 2006

Dad and I are sitting in a sidewalk cafe in the theoretical high end shopping district. Dad has on a green shirt with blue stripes and his madras patchwork bermudas. He is also sporting his Gerber baby hairdo. Very cute.

Hope everything is good there.



Move over Terry Gross

A few weeks ago, with my trusty friend Max by my side, I did my very first radio show on WCOM, a low-power station in Carrboro. The station is completely volunteer-run, and after several months of providing them with a daily news report (grabbing this and that from the local news websites) the station manager asked if I'd be interested in taking over the Wednesday West End Report. The show features local events listings, interviews and commentaries. I answered with a resounding "Yes!" My very own thirty minutes on air? Definitely. Not that, you know, the throngs would be listening. You can hear WCOM in about a ten-mile radius surrounding the transmitter, but, really, you can hear it best when you drive right up under the radio tower and just, you know, keep your car completely still.

Max B. was in town for my debut (after an on-air training session I'd participated in the week before - in order to learn how to answer the phones on-air, the station manager's daughter called in and read her middle school lunch menu aloud). Since he'd been a DJ in college, playing the latest and greatest in contemporary alternative, Max wasn't nervous. I, surprisingly, was. I don't get nervous that often anymore. Not like this anyway. Sweaty and whatnot. But I was, and have been every week since.

It's an interesting scenario. I don't think that that many people who know me would categorize me as "nervous." I'm not shy around new people, or scared marching up to strangers and demanding that they answer my questions. Part of that is my job, and part of it is just how I am. I don't mind public speaking or big groups. I wasn't nervous on my wedding day, but maybe that was because of the number of bottles of white wine opened by my lovely bridesmaids - or the fact that we were experiencing the "drenching rain" that had been predicted, and when it is drenching rain on your wedding day, you just aren't nervous, because nothing else bad is going to happen.

The radio, however, makes me nervous. Before my show, I actually pace, or sit on the couch, just staring or talking to myself. Things that people in movies do. I'm always watching these people in movies, as they do things like lay on their beds and think about the date they just went on and just - daydream - or whatever, and I decide I should do more things like that. And less watching "Little People, Big World" on the Discovery Channel and Ina Garten on the Food Network, who, by the way, I've finally gotten into - and that woman makes mighty cocktails. I'm serious. I watched her make one recently that was, like, 70 parts vodka, 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice. Party it up, Ina.

Today I interviewed John Heuer, who's heading the N.C. Grassroots Impeachment Movement (G.R.I.M.), part of a larger, nationwide network pushing for the impeachment of President Bush. I was pretty much ready to lose it before I headed over to the station - either throw up or crawl into bed with a vat of ice cream in my sweats, never to emerge again - but J came home and not only assured me that I'd be fine, but that he'd have dinner ready when I got home. This last promise was enough to carry me through, and he was right, I was totally fine. Whatever that radio thing is that makes me nervous, whether it's the fact that I can't see the audience, or that I have to remember so many buttons and cues at once, or that talking into a metal microphone is so very different from talking to a real, breathing person - when I got in there with John, who was extremely friendly, it was just me and him talking, and I sort of forgot that we were on air. I was in my element, just asking a stranger questions.

I was in my element, that is, until I decided to end the conversation roughly a minute before the show's closeout music was scheduled to start up, thinking I'd, I don't know - say goodnight for a really long time? Tell a joke? When I realized a minute of air time is pretty long when no one is talking, I tried to quickly pull up a song, all the while glancing over at my guest, smiling, like, "It's cool - this is Carrboro VOLUNTEER radio, see. Carrboro. Hippies." While explaining to my audience (of, oh, 10 people? 12?) that I was having a few small problems, the closing music started up and I said good night. I will, hopefully, be a little less nervous next week, and the week after and so on, but I have a feeling that the technical difficulties may persist for a little while. I suppose that's why people go to school for broadcast journalism. To learn about the buttons and timing and all. And maybe to be on radio stations you can hear in more than one zip code. But I'll get there, or somewhere. The School of Life for me. At least I'm not paying tuition. Or getting paid.

You can hear me on the West End Report Wednesdays from 6-6:30 on WCOM, 103.5, in Carrboro and Chapel Hill, or by streaming the show at www.communityradio.coop.

A beautiful woman with a beautiful message

Thanks to J for finding the video of Ann Coulter on the Today Show. For those of you who missed it in the comments, here it is.


Ann takes a jab at widows!

I'm going to stray from my normal policy of not discussing politics on this blog (because I would become unstoppable, and what's more, unruly, and you guys don't want to read lengthy, unruly posts, I know you don't) and ask if anyone was fortunate enough to catch the always charming Ann Coulter on The Today Show this morning, publicizing her new book, Godless: The Church of Liberalism.

While I don't have a clip of the Matt Lauer interview just yet, I can tell you that I was pretty close to losing it on the television set. Just clawing at her. I know this is coming from the other side - the "Godless" side - and could be construed as un-trustworthy advice, but from the bottom of my heart, Conservatives, you might want to distance yourselves from this woman. She's, um...she's nuts, guys. I know this isn't news to you or anything, but seriously - I'd maybe stage an "accident" - I mean, a non-harmful one, because I'm not for violence or anything. Maybe some sort of spa-incident, like a bad highlighting job. But get her out of the public eye. There are elections coming up, people, and she is crazy. She. Is. Crazy.


Come to Debbie Country

Yesterday J and I took off in his Saturn with no agenda but to do something fun and maybe a little adventurous. Perhaps visit some places we hadn't before. We ended up driving down roads off Franklin St., ogling the huge houses and gorgeous, immaculately-kept gardens. We drove down 15-501 to Fearrington Village where I showed J the barn swallows I'd spotted while covering an event the week before. We took country roads down to U.S. 64, crossed Jordan Lake and drove all the way to Raleigh where we visited the Museum of Natural Sciences briefly, before I started feeling very tired and headachey (nothing more than seasonal allergies) and we headed home after a busy day.

Once there, and I wasn't feeling all that much better, I decided that a night lying on the couch wouldn't kill me and, while J took a nap in the bedroom, I settled into one of my favorite recent activities: watching movies I've seen about 100 times. It's not that I don't want to watch new movies, or that I'm not thrilled with our digital cable (that is absolutely mind-numbing) just that the comfort of movies I've seen over and over is too tempting not to give into lately. I don't know if I'm stuck in a rut, or there just aren't any good movies coming out. I think it's mainly just knowing what's going to happen next in these, my favorite stories, that makes it such an enjoyable experience. And since J won't let me watch "The Office" (British version) over and over anymore, it's come down to movies, like "Best in Show," and "Old School." Sometimes "Ghostbusters."

But last night I picked what might just be the ultimate in this category of movies, "Singles", a movie I watched in high school, after it came out, and shortly after plotted a move to Seattle with friends. We'd rock, we'd dance in the rain, we'd drink a lot of coffee. Of course, that potential Seattle venture was merely a nod to the times. The 1990s were all about that. I mean, I didn't wear leggings and a long flannel shirt just for kicks. I wanted to be an integral part of that whole movement.

"Singles," however, for me, went beyond the whole Seattle thing and into realms much more meaningful. Like the part where Janet Livermore, who loved leggings and flannel by the way, played by Bridget Fonda, decides she'll break up with the commitment-phobe Cliff, and in the next shot we see her sitting atop the roof, happy and carefree - but with the phone within reach. Too true Cameron Crowe! The scene I like best, the one that still moves me after all these years, is when Steve, played by Campbell Scott, sits in the telephone booth at the club after having "many beers" and tells Linda's answering machine that he loves her. That he shouldn't have been Mr. Casual, and wants to be Mr. New to her, and all the while other club-goers are knocking like crazy on the booth's door, because they think it's the bathroom.

I like this movie so much that the actors who were in it can do whatever the hell they want as far as I'm concerned and they're always going to rock. I stumbled upon the award-winning "Lake Placid" the other day on one of our hundreds of channels. Fonda is in that, too, but criticize her for that career move? Hell no. She was in "Singles."


A post which brings to mind the question: Should the razor people be paying me, maybe just a little stipend or something?

I don't want this to become some ultra-girl-tampon blog or anything, but I recently bought a Schick Intuition razor, which has a blade surrounded on both sides by a soothing skin-conditioning solid, and I must say, shaving with it has been rather enjoyable. Not like shaving one's legs is a remarkable challenge or anything. Would I rather not do it? Sure. I mean, only if my legs would somehow remain smooth going without, but it's more of an annoyance than an actual problem. And one of the major annoyances regarding shaving, in my opinion, is that sometimes when you prop your leg up and get the shaving cream on, sufficient to protect you from nicks and burn, you might change your position ever so slightly, and the showerhead, which someone-who-is-extremely-tall places so that water shoots out and covers the entire length of the bathtub so that he has the most fulfilling lengthy shower experience, is then spraying water directly on your shaving cream-covered leg, and it all washes off.

While we're on the topic, another thing that sometimes, accidentally, happens when you're showering is that, because the showerhead is positioned as such, and is shooting water across the whole of the bathtub, so that it rains against the back wall, instead of pointing an a more acute angle, which causes the water to flow directly into the bottom of the tub and into the drain, well, if the shower curtain is not "sealed," as someone who loves showering more than life itself likes to put it, against that back tub wall, the water can sometimes end up trickling down that wall, and then down the outside edge of the tub and onto the bathroom floor. Which I don't care about so much about as a general principle, as some people do, except for the fact that the floor, by the way, is sometimes covered with little pieces of balled up toilet paper that some people like to use to blow their noses and then throw into the trash basket, but sometimes, the person misses and they end up on the floor, where they get wet, which, I don't know about you - but I think is quite possibly the most disgusting thing ever. Ever.

Anyway, the great thing about this Schick Intuition razor is that you don't have to worry about the shaving cream washing off, because the shaving cream is built into the razor itself. And I may not be up to date on the latest in technology, per se, but I think that's pretty revolutionary.


A little more than we bargained for

Over Memorial Day weekend a group of us decided to head down to Ocracoke Island in North Carolina's Outer Banks and spend the weekend camping near the beach as we had last year. The island is a gorgeous and relaxing place and so the idea was a popular one. About 20 of us packed our cars with tents and sleeping bags, coolers full of food to grill and beer, our dogs and our favorite beach reading material, and were off Friday afternoon.

Most of us took the Swan Quarter ferry - a roughly three hour drive from Chapel Hill and then, once you're on the boat, another 2 and a half hours. It was glorious. We emerged from our crowded vehicles and passed margaritas and beers around. Just before docking on the island we spotted a group of dolphins swimming beside us. The sky was slightly cloudy but we weren't too worried.

After unpacking and pitching tents all around our campsite, about 14 of us decided to head into the small town and have dinner. We picked a seafood place and due to the large number of our party, had to wait a while. But we settled in with drinks and waited our turn. By the time we got to the table a lot of us were so hungry and tired that all we could think of was a big dinner and the long night of sleep ahead. But you see, that's where we got ahead of ourselves. Thinking we were so worthy, so special, that we deserved anything other than complete and utter hell.

When we arrived back at the site, some three hours after departing, the skies had darkened considerably, the wind picked up, and as we were all dutifully marching back and forth to the muggy bathrooms to brush our teeth, the rain began to fall. J and I were borrowing a two-man tent from friends, and although it would be a tight fit for me, him, Mina and Cecilia, humans and dogs alike were so sleepy by this point that I was pretty sure it would be no problem. It wasn't. Not at first. We snuggled in - Cecilia, after she came to realize that laying her heavy, hot body across the midsection of our sheets and covers (as we did not have sleeping bags, waterproof or otherwise) was not acceptable, went to lay at our feet and Mina curled up tightly in a corner, having heard the distant roar of thunder and getting a little worried.

As we settled in it was raining hard. I felt certain it would taper off as these warm-weather storms so often do, but contrary to my amateur meteorological guess, the rain actually got harder. The lightning and thunder increased, too, tenfold, and pretty soon we were in a full-force gale and I was wondering how in the name of God our tent was holding steady. But it was, and somehow - by some mixture of true fatigue and those margaritas on the boat ride over I fell asleep. That is, I fell asleep until I woke abruptly in the middle of the night to find J sitting up and inspecting his surroundings by the light of a single flashlight. When I asked him what the matter was he informed me "our tent is leaking," and I laid back down, because I was pretty sure that for J, a more prepared and neurotic camper than I, "leaking" meant nothing more than some damp spots here and there. But that's when I felt the distinctly unpleasant and unmistakable chill of sodden bedsheets; the water was coming through the ground and into my pajamas. Our tent had become lagoon-like, and I knew we couldn't sleep there any longer.

J and I decided we'd have to sleep in the car, but to say it that way you might think we were getting along and working proactively in order to come to a solution. Perhaps I should put it more like: J and I decided, using harsh tones and cursing our fate, to sleep in the car, after basically accusing each other of being no help in the matter - which is funny, if you think about it, because really, what were we going to do? We put on our shoes and faced the very extreme elements to run over to J's Saturn. In a moment of that poignant dog loyalty you're always wishing your own dogs would showcase but they rarely do, Mina and Cecilia obediently followed suit and hopped into the back seat which was crowded with ropes and our clothes, backpacks and beach chairs. They proceeded to make themselves as comfortable as possible (not very) and fell asleep without a whine or questioning look, as if to say, "Look, people, this is what we've got to work with, so shut it, and make the best out of the situation."

The situation, however, was dire. As the windows fogged we wondered how we'd crack them and be able to breathe freely, what with this yet-unnamed hurricane or tornado bellowing just outside. Our clothes were wet and we were cold, but it was hot and stuffy inside the car. I thought about our shower and bed at home and wondered just who we were, thinking it was an ok idea to sleep outside with just a thin layer of nylon to protect us. I could get my seat back a little, but J had to try and sleep sitting straight up since the bulk of our materials was stacked behind the driver's side. It was 2 a.m. and the only semi-positive thing I could think to say was that in 3 hours it would be 5, and then we could get up and go for a walk.

Luckily, J and I both have a gift, a gift of extreme value in such a situation and that's the gift of being able to fall asleep easily. At home it's usually only minutes before we both begin reading in bed that we've tossed our books aside and are out for the night. So when I awoke about three hours later I felt proud that we'd somehow been able to make it, sort of, through the night. We even drifted off for a little longer until the sun was beginning to finally shine, and fellow campers were emerging.

I was primed to tell them all about our nightmarish evening. The evening we'd spent in a half-flooded tent and the cramped and humid car, dogs and all. "We had to sleep in the CAR," I'd tell them, and we'd certainly have had the worst of it, they'd decide.

But when we got out and began to walk around, I found that our story was not the dramatic tragedy I'd thought it would be when compared with the others' tales. First of all, Nate and Ginnie's tent was rippling gently in the wind, sort of sideways, almost, a tarp dangling off the top like a wild beast, some bear or bobcat, had grabbed hold of it. Since they were both still inside, I wondered if maybe their night hadn't been so peaceful, either. Others were greeting each other with wild-eyed stares, no "Good morning" or "How'd you sleep?" as a salutation, but instead, "Oh my GOD WHAT WAS THAT!?" followed by their recounting hours of sleep vs. non-sleep, the latter beating the former by a wide margin.

It seemed, in fact, that while J and I had been angrily running through the mud and wind to the safety of our family sedan, the others, unseen and unheard, were trembling in their own tents, sleepless, being rained on, too. And that, inconceivably, we may have slept better than them all. Except Max, who'd wisely not succumbed to fatigue after a long day, and had just kept drinking at the site long after we others, we who thought ourselves "smart," had drunk big glasses of water and called it quits for the evening. Max, the only smart camper, who'd apparently slept a deep and dreamless sleep, who had the audacity to ask - upon waking up and greeting the rest of us, who, inevitably, at some point the night before, had thought about getting back on that ferry and going home or perhaps plunging our bodies into the icy waters of the Atlantic and letting nature take its course - "Did is rain last night?"

Whereupon the Rotondaros head to various European destinations (except for one, who chooses to remain in the beautiful south)

From: Angelo Rotondaro
To: Cara McDonough, Fred Rotondaro, Kathleen Rotondaro
Date: Jun 1, 2006
Subject: The Trip

Hey, Everythings going great. I'm in Positano. It's beautiful here, we're about to leave for Rome. I'll write you with more details when I get there and have some time. Love, Vinnie

From: Kathleen Rotondaro
To: Cara McDonough, Vinnie Rotondaro
Date: Jun 1, 2006
Subject: Nous sommes arrivee a Paris

We are here and on a "bateau mouche" travelling on the Seine seeing the sites in the rain.

You can email me but not dad, as his blackberry is not working.

Love, Mom

From: Cara McDonough
To: Kathleen Rotondaro, Fred Rotondaro, Angelo Rotondaro
Date: Jun 1, 2006 9:23 AM
Subject: I'm in Pittsboro!

Dear Mom, Dad and Vinnie,

I'm really glad to hear you guys are all safely in Europe and enjoying your vacations. Keep me up to date on the sites, weather, food, etc...

I arrived in Siler City, NC, this morning, quite early, by way of Honda Civic littered with newspapers and a half-eaten scone I've neglected to throw away since last week. I got some coffee on the way at a drive-thru place. It was delicious. You should have seen the way the sun was rising over the Bojangles fast-food restaurant, and the WalMart. It was truly amazing and I felt so lucky to be spending a lovely summer morning in such a place!

After the event I was covering was over I came back here to my office in Pittsboro. I stopped to get a bagel at the local cafe first and was glad to see some of the same faces I see every day. No need for change or new inspiriration! I always wanted to live in a big, thriving city, sure! But this girl can really dig a small town.

Now I'm at my desk, reading the paper and checking emails. I have a feeling it's going to be a pretty good day. If anything, I might take a walk to get something cool to drink at the Snack Stop later this afternoon. On the way I'll wave hello to the local barbers. I'll swap stories with the antiques dealers.

But before all that excitement I'll have a lunch of leftovers warmed up in our 20-year-old microwave and perhaps get a chance to read some of the press releases Josephine just laid on my desk, including one on the newest "designer dog," the Giant Schnoodle!

I hope this email doesn't make you guys homesick. I miss you all very much, and am glad we are all having such a great start to our summer vacations.