Escaping Atlantis…

When you say you don’t prefer the Bahamas to Boston, you’re the asshole. Especially in January. But Bernie and I recently returned early from the Caribbean—choosing to weather Historic Juno (and now Laudable Linus) from the coziness of home rather than getting stuck in “paradise” for a few extra days. We never take proper vacations, my happily housebound husband and me. Rather, we go to Conferences where he attends Lectures and Meetings while I sleep late, order lots of room service, nap poolside, drink too much, and repeat. Grandma travels to Boston to watch the boys, and we’re deliciously childless for three to seven days at least four times a year.

Of all of them, this January conference is my favorite get-away. Though most people think plastic surgeons are obsessed with enhanced cleavage and perfect noses and a Magically Erased visage, that stuff is just meh for the ones I know. Bernie and his colleagues are reconstructive plastic surgeons who can re-attach severed parts, transplant new faces, re-create breasts from jiggly bits, fashion fully functional phalluses, and perform other feats of microsurgical wonderment because they are able to sew teeny tiny vessels together using only their steady hands and a microscope. The January conference coaxes all of these superstars to one warm locale where I entertain myself picking their brains… and pickling mine with supersize mojitos.

Skating around the outskirts of the plastic surgery world as The Wife, and then–quite drastically—plunging cancer first into the deep end as The Patient, I have a deep appreciation for these gifted surgeons. And usually, I am thrilled to reconnect with them at finer resorts everywhere. But this year, some waterslide-loving planner decided this meeting needed a family-friendly venue, so all of us headed for the Vegas-of-the-Caribbean, Atlantis. And Bernie and I just couldn’t stop… giggling.

There was loud, piped-in music everywhere. Insidious jingles invaded every public space and at any moment we’re belting out “I Swear” (All-4-One!) or “I’m Not a Girl” (Britney!) because it’s impossible to ever forget lyrics to these ridiculous, top 40 gems from yesteryear, and enthusiastic sing-alongs to terrible music, well, them’s the rules.

There were goofy photo opportunities around every bend. And there were many bends: we logged thousands of steps between our room and the actual conference, passing through a shopping mall and entire casino to get there. Those better parents who used the conference as an opportunity for family togetherness found that the lazy river had a mean streak, that children could actually get stuck inside the waterslide, that all kid activities shut down at cocktail hour, and that incessantly piped music will drive three-and-unders into a glassy eyed coma or Benadryl-resistant fury, depending on your luck.

There was a rather impressive aquarium lolling beneath the noise. And any weather that doesn’t include a “feels like” caveat is a bit nice this time of year. But my dear friend April, my beacon of preparedness, my travel-tip guru, my have-flight-tracker-phone-app gal texted early in our trip that if we didn’t get back ahead of Juno, we would get stuck listening to “I Swear” until Groundhog Day. So, we packed up our gauzy clothes, spent umpteen WiFi hours acquiring seats on the last plane to Boston, and pulled into our driveway during the first blush of the blizzard, happily housebound again with our boys, Grandma, drinks without novelty containers, and… silence.

We’re enjoying a third snow day this morning. Linus has turned the backyard into a violently shaken snow globe. Nearing noon, we’re still in jammies. The house is warm and safe and incredibly quiet. Plans for the day include baking, movies, and couch snuggling, or maybe nothing at all. Preferring a snowstorm to paradise probably makes me a jerk, might even be unbelievable… but I do. I Swear.

There are too many things I love about this photo.

There are too many things I love about this photo.


18 responses

    • Years ago, in Denver, my father attended a conference. At breakfast one morning, the waitress asked my dad and his colleagues why they were in town, and they said for a conference. What do you do? she asked, and they answered “crystallography.” She put down the coffeepot, fished out a crystal from the chain around her neck, and said breathlessly, “Me too!”

      • Excellent. I wish I could have been there for Randy’s response. You can only imagine the unvaried Botox and fake-boob inquiries to “I’m here with my husband for a Plastic Surgery Conference.” That is the subject for the next set of paragraphs…

        • My fathers and his colleagues decided there was no benefit to anyone to get into crystals with the waitress, so they just let it ride.

          The general public really knows nothing about plastic surgery except Joan Rivers, bad celebrity boob jobs and face lifts, and the like. I think the industry might do well to hire you to help explain the rest of what they accomplish. Then you could go on even more conferences.

          • I don’t think I’d exactly be considered by most as a member of the “general public”, but I just wanted to “chime in” because the misconception of the roles of plastic and reconstructive surgeons is one of those things that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on edge!

            That being said, my cousin is a retired surgeon who did a lot of reconstructive plastic surgery during his career, especially during his [compulsory] service in the USAF during and at the end of the Vietnam war, when he spent hours patching together young, mostly male, service members in efforts to help them regain a semblance of “normalcy” after horrific injuries from that undeclared war.

            You’re right: Too many people don’t realize that plastic surgeons do things like delicate skin grafts to patch up victims of serious burns, which are so vulnerable to major infections. Or with great efforts and delicate hand movement, replace digits or even entire limbs that had been severed in one way or another.

            I know that my cousin never did a single “boob job” or “bobbed” a single nose. Even “reconstructive” breast implants for patients after radical mastectomies he referred to other plastic surgeons who specialized in reconstrutive implants. When I approached him and asked why he didn’t do reconstrutive implants, his answer was that he “knew others who were better at it than he”. Apparently he was the “go-to surgeon” when it came to burns and delicate grafting jobs. That was his specialty. I have always had nothing but respect for him and all plastic surgeons, who are all-too- often confused with “cosmetic surgeons”. There’s a major difference there, and I wish the “general public” could be more informed of the differences.

            I say “Bravo!” to all the plastic surgeons who help to make people’s lives “whole again”. They deserve a standing ovation for keeping up in a field that seems to never stop expanding!

  1. ‘Gather ye rosebuds while you may” as has been written. Think of the good that Bernie brings to so many lives, including yours, and will continue to bring for years to come. Bask in the glory, both reflected and radiated!

    • Love you back. Love “inurement phase”– this is us, ass-holing our way across the planet poking fun at perfectly lovely places because they’re not quiet enough.

  2. I can’t wait to read. But had to add, my favorite thing about the photo is how adorable Bernie looks. It’s like he’s a little boy, from the way he’s sitting to the look on his face. And the fact that he’s sitting next to hottie hot stuff!!!! And I agree there are about a million thing to love about the photo!

  3. Great story Britt. Love the pics, especially the two of you in the giant chair. Sometimes I get jealous that you get to travel so, but i must admit, that conferences for sharing amongst surgeons is a very important cause. And if eveyone has to travel to make it happen, there is no reason not to make it in a warm place.

    Great post Britt. Thanks

    • This conference in particular is always someplace really fabulous. Except for Atlantis. And that one year in Florida when the lizards were falling out of the trees and the oranges froze. But the people? They are incredible. Thanks for reading and always being so wonderfully warm, yourself, Paul! xoxo

  4. As a former resident of the Hudson Valley and NYC, I know what winters can be like, and yet I never took a winter vacation to get away from all the chaos that can come with those heavy winds that whip through Prospect Park, efforts made to throw on clothes as fast as a firefigher (I confess that I slept in my red L.L. Bean Union suit) with enough layers to keep me cozy, while my Labrador, with his “double coat” was more than ready to run out the door and over to the park where he’d be able meet his buddies and run amok, while we humans dealt with the elements, usually standing relatively still (which makes it more difficult, when you think about it) and maybe drinking coffee from a mug.

    No matter. There was something about your piece that brought back wonderful memories of some brutally “angry” weather: The kind that’s the opposite of what you mentioned from the places where your meetings were held. The type of weather you listen for on the radio while getting dressed for an early morning park outing (before changing for the office), when they tell you that “It’s currently 18° out there, but it feels like -1°, so you may want to add an extra layer or two”. I know that temperatures like that made me want to crawl back into my bed (with the dog) but he needed to go outside anyway, so as usual, it did become a bit of a social and exercise “event”.

    That was then. This is now. I live in SoCal (my native turf) again, and I must say that when I hear of the horrible storms, part of me feels that “tug” to be back in NYC with my friends, where we all felt a certain sense of “community” just be bearing the elements together, or even traveling on the subway to and from work (Downtown in my case). There seemed to always be a feeling of “we’re all in the same boat, folks!” and seeing someone I knew on that train platform always made me somehow feel better. No, I wasn’t alone!

    Then there were those too-quiet nights when the falling snow made things eerily silent, yet somehow peaceful. Despite being a serious skier since my youth in Southern California and time living abroad, I never lost the wonder of watching the snow come down from the sixth-floor window of my co-op. I was on the top floor, and could look out and see as far as the snow would permit. And of course the snow would reflect the streetlights, and despite my shades, it was enough to give my great room the feel of orange lights shining through. But it was quiet. Very quiet. No one “back home” would’ve believed me, because they all knew I was living in “the Big Apple”, where “The City Never Sleeps” (or so Citibank used to want us to think). It was spooky in a way. But wonderful as well. Where else could I go down the hall to my friends’ apartment (with my dog) for a Saturday night movie (on the VCR or DVR) and not even have to put on shoes! Or even change from my flannel nightgown, for that matter!

    Your wonderful piece here reminded me of just why I never took vacations (other than to go skiing) during the unkind at best, brutal at worst, winter months in NY and the rest of the Northeastern states. There was something about that “winter silence” that was just so captivating, and so different from anything I knew growing up. Those quiet nights when I’d stand at my window looking out to see if I could guess just how much snow was accumulating on the roofs of the cars parked on the street below, and the sidewalks to be navigated on foot the following morning.

    Is there anything that holds as much wonder for me? I’d be hard-pressed to think of anything. Winter was something to be savored, or at least, endured. Garrison Keillor once said at a show he did from Town Hall, that people needed “to EARN spring”, and that “New Yorkers certainly had ‘paid their dues’ that year.” I don’t remember which winter that was, but whenever I saw the first daffodils come up on the hillsides along the perimeter of Prospect Park, I smiled. I had to. Because without spring, summer, and autumn, when would I be able to anticipate winter?

    I often wonder if, when he wrote the song “Sounds of Silence” if Paul Simon was thinking of winter nights in the City? After my first winter in NYC, I was convinced that he was.

    Again, a wonderful essay and full of meaning, at least for this writer.

    • What a gorgeous response, Susie! I love the idea that we’re earning our Spring. Indeed, we are. And there is something about a HUGE storm that unifies us in a way few things do any more. Strangers help each other dig out. We spend more time with each other, closer to each other. It’s all so darn cozy! More snow is expected tomorrow… and another Sunday. Bring it on!

      And thank you for this wonderful collection of thoughts… xoxo

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