Ever since I can remember, I’ve been going to Toronto, Canada for Christmas, home to my aunt (mom’s sister) and my cousin and family. They are my closest family (except Spanky of course) and it just would not be Christmas without visiting them.
Normal people would fly up to Canada from Florida for a Christmas visit. But………..as you have probably figured out by now………I’m not exactly normal. I drive! There is actually a little logic to it (my opinion). I make a point of visiting some of my closest friends back home (New Jersey) and I always visit the cemetery where my parents are buried (New York) along the way. Airline tickets, with multiple stopovers tend to be prohibitively expensive. And……..it goes without saying………..I don’t want to subject Spanky to the trials and tribulations of being held captive in a cage in the cargo hold of an airplane – if anyone ever did that to me……….I’d never talk to em again.
Kinda makes sense? The truth is, however, when I travel, I absolutely, positively, no way, no how, want to be saddled with a detailed schedule. Airlines are funny about that stuff. They expect you to show up at specific times on specific days. That just doesn’t work for me and the Spankster. We like to show up and leave when we want to. Actually there is always a plan………..but just in case………I wanna be able to change plans, go somewhere else, get the hell out of Dodge, whatever.
OK, so we rent a Honda Civic from the local Herz office. Little do they know that the car is gonna get thousands of miles thrown at it over the next couple of weeks. Why rent, you ask. Cause a Honda Civic gets more than 30 miles to a gallon, my truck gets 15 mpg at best. At today’s skyrocketing gas prices, the rental vs driving the truck is a break even proposition. Plus, with 211,000 miles on it, not sure that the truck is 100% reliable.
Now, I don’t want to bore the hell out of everyone with a detailed travelogue so I’ll just kinda breeze through our itinerary. First stop, Lexington, NC where we visited our friends Jaan, Linda, and their dog Susi. Spanky and Susi had a great time frolicking in the woods – 6 acres of it! Spanks especially enjoyed the bones from the most excellent prime rib dinner offered up by our hosts.
Next we headed to Waterford, VA, home of Peeter and Any and their 4 dogs. Spanky and Spike (the pit bull) spent endless hours chasing each other, wrestling, and generally running amok. I must mention that it was Peeter’s mom’s 92nd birthday on the day of our visit. That poor woman had to deal with us when we were teenagers (we were just a wee bit out of hand). It was really cool to see her.
New Jersey – my home state. Spanks and I initially stayed with our friend Frank and his family. Frank’s son was in town on Christmas break from school and it just so happens that he brought his 12 week (I think) old husky pup with him. Cali (the husky) was convinced that Spanky is a chew toy – Spanky enjoyed all the attention to a point. Every once in a while he needed to escape and just chill with me and Frank.
My parents and grandparents (father’s mom and dad) are buried in Kensico Cemetary in the Hamlet of Valhalla, NY. It’s a huge cemetery, first established in 1889, lots of mature trees, rolling hills, ponds, etc – actually a gorgeous setting. We Estonians actually have our own section. My folks are buried amongst some of their closest friends, fellow immigrants that escaped Soviet oppression and made a life for themselves here in the United States.
I think it’s pretty cool that all these people that chose to leave their homeland, thousands of miles away, on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, are still together. Not to mention in a place called Valhalla, which in Norse mythology is a Viking burial ground. Perhaps not a coincidence?
Spanky and I paid our respects to my family as well as the parents of many of my Estonian friends. We placed a wreath and lit a Christmas candle on the family grave. Spanky sat in the snow calmly while I updated the folks on our lives and took a few pics of Spanky and the headstone. Dogs are amazing! I truly believe that Spanky sensed that he was in a special place. Normally, Spanky would be bounding about like a nut in a wide open space. Nope, not at the cemetery. The boy calmly followed me around, stopped when I stopped, occasionally just sat, he knew!
My pal Urmas, his mother in law, daughter Aleksa, and their dog comet (his wife Karin was at work), live down the street (so to speak) from the graveyard. They were nice enough to have us over for some home made mushroom soup – very appropriate cause it was a lousy cold day outside. We warmed up, caught up on life, gobbled down soup and bread, and headed back to NJ.
Next stop, my god daughter Lilly’s house. Spanky loves it there! He is the absolute center of Lilly’s and her brother Mik’s attention. Spanky loves attention – I have no doubt spoiled him in that department. The kids just want to spend every waking (and sleeping for that matter) moment with Spanks – I think he would have stayed longer if given the choice.
A major highlight of the annual Christmas pilgrimage is my friend Tiina’s annual holiday bash. I get to enjoy the privilege of hanging out with some of my oldest and dearest friends – many since childhood. Great food, excellent company, it is a holiday tradition for me – always look forward to it and always enjoy the hell out of it.
Off to the great white north. The boy and I arrived in Toronto, Canada on Dec 23rd. This year the Canadians planned ahead and welcomed us with a decent covering of snow on the ground. It’s winter, there is supposed to be snow in Canada! Spanky loves snow, it offers up a whole new world of leaping about, sliding on ice, eating snow, playing fetch the snowball.
Long and short of it……..Spanky and I had a great Christmas with our family (my aunt Elsa, my cousin Kati and her husband Toomas, her yungins (all growed up now) Taimi, Paul, and Allan). We went to church on Christmas Eve, we sang Christmas carols, we ate roast pork, blood sausage (sounds gross but it’s and Estonian tradition), turkey, sauerkraut, oven browned potatoes, stuffing, etc, we exchanged presents, and we sat around endlessly telling all the stories we could tell. I loved every minute of it.
There is only one thing that pissed me off about the whole trip – just kidding actually. Spanky got a hell of lot more presents than I did. He has enough snacks, chew toys, and other doggy paraphernalia to last him into the next millennium. What the hell, don’t I matter anymore?
Spanky got to see a couple of girlfriends; (Tibetan Terrier) Heidi – she lives next door and another chick he met in the summer named Lucky in the park – they had a nice romp running around on the snow and ice. Indoors, Spanky thoroughly enjoyed curling up next to the heat duct on my aunt’s living room floor. Oh what a life you have Spanky!
Homeward bound. First stop, Cincinnati and the home of Keith & Barri, their boys Kees and Aidan, and last but not least, their doggies, Crash and Nola. Spanky has the same relationship with Crash that he has with Spike (pit from VA). They chase each other, bite each other, and wrestle endlessly, to the point that they are both so tired that they just fall down and pass out on the floor. We enjoyed an excellent stroganoff dinner, got caught up on life, ate too many cookies and other stuff, and drifted off to never never land.
Atlanta – almost home. My ex wife, Helje, had us over for dinner upon our arrival in Atlanta. Somehow, as if by magic, she has learned to cook. When we were married, I did all the cooking – life just isn’t fair. Helje – please don’t take it personally – I’m just trying to get a cheap laugh.
In any case, me and the boy had a really nice dinner with Helje and her kids, Heili and Mart. I give her endless credit for still talking to me. I was not exactly what you’d call a “Prince of a Guy” during our marriage. But that was then, and this is now. Glad that we could remain friends and have fun hanging out. Oh, and did I mention that Spanky, once again, was treated like gold.
Me and the Spankster stayed with my friend Tom in Atlanta. The weather sucked (pouring rain) so we just chilled, watched some football, and went out to gobble down some Thai food. Tom, if you remember from previous posts, has provided me, and now Spanks and me, with roadside lodging since the early 90’s. We certainly appreciate it.
That’s about it for the ’07 Christmas Extravaganza. Me and Spanks are busy trying to peddle our book here in Saint Pete, Fl. We have a few irons in the fire (Borders, PetSmart) and hopefully something will hit. Actually we’ve been reasonably successful selling our silly chronicles and we’d like, once again, to thank all of you for your support of our endeavor.
Hope ’08 brings lots of good health and happiness to all!
Spanky and Rein
Me and Spanks Prepare for Some Excavating In NC
Cali The Husky Pup Tries To Eat Spanky
Spanky Dutifully Guards The Family Grave Site
The Boy Attacks One Of His Hundreds Of Presents
New Years Day Back In FL