Waiting for the bus downtown in winter, a large building has a video screen with a film projected 30 feet wide. A dark field is suddenly lit by a spiraling flame. A tanned, beautiful face comes into view, green palms collar his neck, skirt his shirtless waist, and cuff his wrists. He is a fireknife dancer, twirling the machete-like nifo oti, or “tooth of death.” He brings the long flamed edge to his open mouth like a hot drink and taps it to the edge of his tongue where a brief lap of blue and orange ignites and smokes out like a bare-skinned dragon and I think, “yes, perhaps a trip to Hawaii.”
It’s not like you haven’t heard from me . . . but i suppose you haven’t heard all the tales and tidbits. i DID just make a cross-country move with my darling husband. So let’s see what i can tell you about what it is to move from Virginia to Oregon with everything you own, a car dragging behind you, plus a landlubbing Bengal Cat to which any confinement in a moving vehicle is a personal affront to be met with vociferous fury . . .
We’ll begin with the end of days: the weekend of Saturday August 23rd was my last day of work, i waited on Joe’s family, we said goodbyes and he sold them his car. Sunday afternoon we were off to a baby shower for my dear friend Megan in Annapolis and a late-night fevered packing session on Sunday which brings us early into Monday . . .
Monday morning we were supposed to pick up our Budget Rental truck. Penske doesn’t do it that far and U-Haul was NOT an option by poor reputation and my friends’ numerous horror stories and breakdown variations on a theme so Budget had our business, begrudgingly we were to find out. Due to some unknown fuckery at the rental shop, we received a phonecall in the morning, informing us that our honkin’ monster truck (24 ft) would be available closer to noon as the current drop-off hadn’t arrived, but that they would call when it was ready. It was verging .. 2pm by the time Joe actually went there in person to experience – more fuckery. Apparently, Larry, Curly, Moe (and possibly Shemp) were not capable of doing anything by hand (filling out forms, figuring out taxes) and the whole Eastern seaboard Budget computer system was apparently mysteriously “broken.” Once it came back online, (and partway through the manual entry) they insisted Joe stay to put it all in the computer. My poor husband, fuming, but controlled did not arrive until 3:30. Luckily we had angels waiting for us.
i don’t know what we would’ve done without Jared and Patrick helping us haul things down and load the truck. i don’t know why we thought we could’ve done it by ourselves; we would’ve had to add another whole day to our trip exhausting ourselves getting everything loaded! Of course, the late truck meant later packing, meant later loading meant later cleaning of the apartment, and we really wanted to be out early evening, get somewhere outside of the DC Beltway morning rush hour, hole up in a little motel and rest, and to then start the trek first thing in the am. Well, it wasn’t until after midnight, when we finally packed the vacuum and cleaning supplies. i gave Odin some PetCalm to ease his nerves (but it didn’t, much) while we drove over an hour (an eternity with howling feline) to Hagerstown, Maryland.
A word about the Motel 6 . . . sketch. Okay, lots of snaky S words. Like, skeevy, scary, bars on the window where the night clerk sits, sketchity spookville. We were only here because they had a pet friendly policy, not to save on any moving expenses as they were covered by Joe’s university job. A quick survey of the area (and the big sign about NO TRUCKS) and it was clear we had to park the moving truck (24 ft + now the extra 10ft or more with my car in a flatbed tow) at the shopping mall lot across the way. We figured it was ok to do since other trucks were parked similarly.
But just to be sure, Joe asked the clerk, “Is it ok to park over there?” motioning to the direction of the trucks.
The clerk offered a nervous, and falsely reassuring answer, “yeah – a security guard patrols there every hour or so. Any room preference?”
“Where we can see the truck,” Joe said plainly.
So, Odin got settled quickly (he can bed down anywhere, he just hates MOVING in a vehicle), chowed down, did some encouraging kitty business in the newly re-located litterbox and perched himself at the highest point in the room, the tv, to survey his new domain. We pulled the scratchy, toilet paper thin bedsheets over us and commenced sleeping into morning one of our cross-country adventure.
The next morning, it was the breakfast buffet at Shoney’s which smelled like greasy, eggy-bacon heaven floating atop pancake clouds; evil and delicious but the type of meal one could not hork down shamelessly every morning without regret or consequence. Our waitress was pleasant, quick and dirty with the coffee cups and water and plodded through the standard “Hello, my name is ______, and i’ll be your server today.” There wasn’t any fresh fruit, unless you counted all the sugary canned ones for pancake toppings, but there were three types of gravy to include chipped beef and four types of potatoes – all fried.
And boy howdy it hurt my soul; there were some very unhealthy, ungainly, unhappy people milling around the breakfast bar. People shuffled up with oxygen tanks and walkers, sort of a One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest revisited meets Dawn Of The Dead, and honestly, forgive me for this description, but between all the medical equipment, the staggering display of obesity, and the general slow-moving malaise owing to an early morning it was not an easy square to maneuver. Conversely, the buffet was patrolled and replenished by a pasty, skinny, pock-marked, shifty-eyed, surlier than Satan, quick-handed, would be mass-murderer type, luckily armed only with a few spatulas. i hesitated to ask for anything that might come off sounding like a snooty, pain in the ass dietary concern, should Jethro James Manson, Jr. decide this was his morning to “waste ’em all.”
The bill didn’t amount to much, as we had a per diem for food in our moving expenses, so Joe left the waitress a $10 tip.
“Whoa, what’s that say?” the cash register jockey drawled, incredulously.
Joe is lovely, but his hand-writing is difficult and deeply codified, plus the pen was a little dry, so i assumed the numbers were hard to make out.
“Joe went back over the numbers in pen and told him “Ten dollars.”
“Wow! That’s a great tip.” This was the lottery to this guy.
As a waitress in fine dining where the average low end tip is a straight $20, this statement made me terribly sad, but i could see the grubby, wrinkled, single bills and piles of change emptied from pockets and cup holders, piled on dirty tables under brown coffee mugs as we walked by, looking more like several police searches than gratuities. We must’ve made, “Hello, my name is ______, and i’ll be your server today”‘s day.
We wound our way through Appalachia through the first of many many miles of corn on our way to Indianapolis.
What should’ve been an 8-hour drive grew into a 12-hour nitemare of three terrible realizations. One – we had one angry, frightened, inconsolable cat (no matter how much herbal tranquilizer administered) who slept for 20 minutes and howled and climbed windows, dashboard and floorboard the other 40. Two – a mysterious idiot light came on depicting a wrench and an oilcan. This to me meant “You’re fucked, Tin Man.” After one of the first tiffs my sweet husband and i ever had about how to handle this second crap-laden fact, we decided the best course was to pull over and call the Budget help line. After being jockeyed through the phone system of choices, we finally pushed enough numbers and spoke to an informed human service agent who wasn’t reading verbatim from the “How-To Talk To The Pissed And Stranded” manual. She spoke to an actual mechanic who assured us it was simply an early warning oil change interval and that we could tell the delivery place on the other end that it came on and needs the service. They even told us how to disable it, but we never did. And finally, Three – with footnotes a) & b) were realizations we made about the truck. a) it laughed at and evaporated fuel – 5 miles to the gallon. b) uphill grades any steeper than say 4%, with the pedal to the metal resulted in the hazard lights being flicked on and a maximum speed of 35mph.
After we finally arrived in Indianapolis to my sister’s place, hair matted, mood dampened, cat howling, with furrowed brow, exhausted and hungry as hostages, we came around to the idea that we had to add a day to our ambitious arrival time. This was decided over a fabulous pork dinner and several ears of corn on the cob plus two bottles of wine. We also decided (and thankfully, my sister and her husband agreed) to leave Odin to stay with them for a week for a later flight retrieval operation that my poor Joe volunteered for. It was clear that completing the rest of the trip with kitty in the cab would make for a longer, more difficult, harrowing and stressful journey – for all of us. Let’s just say that Odin is not easily calmed or sedated, by natural, herbal, homeopathic, psychological, or pharmacological means. On the two-leg (no direct flights from Indy) trip home, he even managed to surf above the double dose of chicken flavored kitty Valium and maintained a constant meow from under the seat, save for the last hour. Joe reports that he made lots of friends on the planes. When Odin did finally arrive, he was all hyped up. Apparently, diazepam, instead of having the nice calming effect, can cause a paradoxical reaction and instead make a human (or bad kitty) wildly alert and excitable. So Odin, above the normal exploratory passes that go along with an animal in new surroundings, paced, mewed, jumped from window to window and trotted from room to room with a lack of coordination and on wobbly legs until pretty much the next morning when he was able to settle in and have a good long sleep. And he’s doing fine now . . .
But back to the adventures of the Janda’s cross-country excursion . . .
Getting fuel was always exciting. Finding diesel in Hellhole, Nebraska often required the help of my fancy new Instinct phone’s GPS Navigation, then it was determining whether we could get the moving truck under, around and out of places without jackknifing, tearing off the trailer or bringing down awnings and taking out gas pumps. EVERY stop, which was more frequent with the awesome fuel consumption, required this exercise in mathematical probability and turning radius.
The cities moved on as I downloaded the local weather. Amazing to me that i could find where we were and what was close by to eat or refuel by the help of Jenny (the name i have dubbed my cell phone’s navigational voice, as in: “Jenny Jenny, where do i turn now? 867-530 ni-eeee-ine.” and yes, Iain . . . a tip o’ the hat to you as well on the name.) Lore City, OH – Grass Lake, MI – Normal, IL – Exira, IA, Waverly, NE – Grand Island, NE. Oh, which by the way, appears to be in the center, like a bullseye dart throw at the US map. However, Grand Island is, as far as i can tell, neither “grand” nor an “island” and is not even remotely near water. Or culture. Or . . .
The waitstaff at the local Perkins gave me very confused looks when, upon having my own oolong tea, i simply requested a pot of hot water, a pitcher of milk and a cup.
“So, you want a glass of milk, like orange juice?” Lloyd asked.
“No, i want a small container, for milk instead of cream, like for coffee,” i tried to explain. He brought me a pitcher of milk normally reserved for syrup and a plastic carafe big enough for 8 cups of coffee but filled with hot water and still, sadly, no vessel to put any of my tea in. 2 out of 3 wasn’t bad i supposed. i was finally able to flag down another waitress to ask for a coffee mug since i was certain tea cups were not to be had. forget about latte mugs too in case i wanted to make a BIG cup of tea . . .
In Rock Springs, Wyoming we stayed on Elk Street at the “Outlaw Inn” Best Western, ordered my first breakfast in bed and watched my first episode of “It’s Me Or The Dog.” We had traveled all nite through so much flatland (called the Great Plains for a reason, clearly – they go on plainly forever) and when we woke up, we were surprised that we found ourselves in the desert. Rocky, golden stoned climbs and scrubby green & brown foliage dotted the hillsides and ground like so many funny little clown wigs left out in the sun after the carnival left town and never came back. But here’s what surprised me. Sure, we laughed at first, because the winds picked up and there were some honest to goodness TUMBLEWEEDS moving across the road which to me, signals true desolation and nowhereness. Then the sky grew ominous, black and bruised and instead of being hot and blazing, it rained through most of our trip through the desert and on our way as we dipped barely into Utah north of Salt Lake and on into Idaho.
And can i just say here, forgive me if you grew up in, lived or currently live in Idaho, because, i know the northern part is beautiful, but damn. Boise proper, from the road and some of the rare farms and outlying suburbs hurt a little to look at. It was hard for me to imagine where you would live, where you would work, how far you had to drive, the manner and means by which you’d survive. Strange domiciles huddled like hungry masses, bumped up against and thrown together in a manner almost suburban, but more like third world dilapidated houses of clap-trap metal sheds and sheets, some barely wooden, functional farmlike lean-tos. Meant for animals. Weathervanes on top seemed an unnecessary after thought. A spritely windchime tinkling and floating off a broken fence made me sad. i hesitate to say soul-crushing, but it did approach that. Once, after a batch of mean road food, we rolled down the windows to umm . . . get some fresh air, and were assaulted by an even worse smell. and here’s where tasting food and wine and trying to disseminate spices, essences, flavors and smells comes in, though i hope to never come across any food or beverage of the sort. i can only describe the smell in Idaho as a dead squirrel/rodent rolled in mocha and put on a pyre of leaves. It had a pungent, smoky, mocha, sweet, rotting meat, dead, acrid, burnt, dry smell that was enough to make us prefer our own flatulence. damn.
Crossing over into Oregon, we stayed in Baker City at the Oregon Trail Motel & Restaurant to prepare for the last leg of our journey into Portland. What a funny, little old, almost stagecoach town. The room was cheap, and included free breakfast the next morning, which was delightful and a good thing, because our first dinner in Oregon, was when we arrived there near closing time to have a most disappointing steak dinner. flavorless, tough, square shaped strip steak (definitely frozen and hauled in), grey-tinged green beans, sad and soggy (definitely canned and not sautéed), and a dusty baked potato (the best part, sadly) which could’ve benefitted from a good wash and less time in foil, so it was easier to strip it out to eat. we probably should’ve had to the fried chicken dinner special that the kooky local ordered when he bellied up to the counter, because he ordered a second plate. but then again, “special” to me in the far restaurant outreaches does not mean “fresh today, on the mind of the chef,” it means, “get this scary shit out of the kitchen before it violates health code.”
Speaking of health code . . . the not so sanitary, no sneeze-guard, precursory salad bar on a small wheeled cart had a threatening sign tacked to it about allowing only one visit with no sharing and one plate per person limit. This plate, by the way, had a 4in diameter, enough to hold a slice of bread with some overhang. and the usual sad green fare of anemic looking iceberg lettuce, limp, shredded carrots, sulfurous purple cabbage, some unidentifiable, unnaturally colored, jiggling gelatinous something, creamy thick dressings, crushed into sawdust croutons, and luckily for me, some watermelon. a rare one-off fruit treat with more crunch, water, and possibly more nutrients than the iceberg lettuce.
i know – i am spoiled. of course, i did not expect to pass through the middle of the heartland, the dairyland, the plains, the land of plenty and to have a diverse and delicate gourmet experience, but being that close to corn, vegetables, grains and cows, i had my standards set high enough that i might actually receive something on a plate that tasted farm raised and had enough color to shine through the blue pallored spectrum of fluorescent lighting that haunts every diner. i realize, i may come off as a food snob, but more i find myself grateful. it occurs to me how fortunate i am to work in an industry and now live in a city and state where culinary excellence, even in the simplest of places, hinges on fresh, whole, organic, local, seasonal, and sustainable food sources. you can taste the difference, people. tomatoes that aren’t pale pink, mealy and flavorless. Strawberries that although smaller than the grocery bought flats, stain the fingers and taste sweet and heavenly. i made a soup last week with these huge gnarly carrots, just pulled from the ground, bundled with the tops on and even after boiling were the most amazing flavorful carrots i’ve ever eaten.
So on the tip of food et al, we’ve been hitting the wine bars, the sake bars, the breweries, the Saturday Farmer’s Market, dinner here and there and lots cooking at home. a few weeks back, my friend Tiffany and i went to the Portland Classical Chinese Garden where we had a traditional tea and ate a red bean mooncake to celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival.
Joe and i have already met new people and are definitely getting some socializing done. on one such event, i even canned peaches and tomatoes w/ garlic and green peppers for sauces. first months out here out here and were discovering how to compost, rethinking everything i throw away, recycling the hell out of EVERYTHING i touch, and putting food into Ball jars for the winter! holy granola! stop me if i cease wearing deodorant, let my hair dread, get a nose or lip piercing, go on road trips to support jam bands and start practicing hacky sack in my backyard, k?
One of the prettiest parts of the trip – The Columbia Gorge . . .
i’m the impatient type. i’m the girl who wants to feel established and settled the minute i set foot in a new situation. i crave quick learning and acclimation and seem to give myself a bit of hell if i don’t have all my systems, rituals and routines in place. Joe’s sister, Laura reminded us (me, really, who needs the patience and the temperance) that we are setting up a HOME, not just a house or living space, so i should just ease into it without spazzing out too much. but yes, the “house” is mostly setup and the “home” bit is starting to warm in me. we have been sleeping fitfully in a new king-sized bed, (Odin’s all about it too!) the weather has been stellar to mild, with yes, some rain here and there though we’ve apparently entered the rainy season. But Indian Summer came and went in full-swing (it was in the 90’s a few days in the first weeks of arrival and not a drop of rain) and i am certainly enjoying my little garden, deck space, cool mornings, quiet breakfasts and tea in a sunny kitchen, dinners & wine with my Joe and friends. it’s all been quite good. And i know it’s going to be at least a year until all things truly settle, i have a solid base of friends, a job i enjoy and can get all the way around socially and physically without getting lost.
As for our immediate locale – there’s a little coffee house nearby and as we walk down to it, we get a clear view of Mt. Hood, and off to the left, Mt. St. Helens (which i read are two “active” stratovolcanos, kind of “exciting”). there are pear trees along the walk, overflowing and dropping in the grass – ah, the spoils. In our yard, we have roses lining the wooden fence, blueberries, raspberries, tomatoes, fennel, ferns, lavender, rosemary, sage, hydrangea and little bursts of wild flowers. In fact, this year i am putting in Spring bulbs and next year, i think i will revive the tomatoes, put in cucumbers and plant squash.
i put out hummingbird feeders and they’ve come and i put out a regular seed feeder and the loudass squawking Scrub and Stellar Jays (plus some sweet Chickadees) have depleted it twice. the squirrels are plentiful – one (or a party of several) gnawed through our Comcast dropline to the house, so we had to have our internets fixed the first few days here. they also chase and skitter across the length of our roof top and you can hear the entire scrabbling pursuit from room to room. This drives Odin wild! Bad little tree rats!
Joe got his haircut at this little local barbershop on the corner by this big brawny tough dude named Justice who had two teensy-weensy grey kittens scurrying about that his friend dumped on him and now he has seemingly been forced to adopt. Their names are Guns & Roses. seriously. And, as recent pictures depict, i also whacked my hair off. it’s a bit curly and untame unless i brush it down some and straighten it, but i like the shortness. Hair clips are my friends.
The fine people i worked with in Virginia bought Joe and i a most original going away gift. A hot air balloon ride over Yamhill wine country which ends in a catered hot, champagne/mimosa brunch! We’re going to try to fit that in while the weather holds . . . but, there is always Spring and Summer next year.
Joe started work on September 15th, and me, after hitting craigslist like a whore, i’ve had a few bites and started a job that’s going to require endurance of some growing pains, but i won’t bore you with those details here. i’m not one to talk shop and air dirty laundry of how i trade time for money; it’s one of those questions i’ve always hated and dislike answering. “So – what do you do?” Of course, i grew a bit bored being a lady of leisure but there are some things i loved about it, like seeing my husband during normal evening hours for dinner in or out and watching or reading things together. Life moves slower here, hours go slower. Life is more leisurely it seems, and it’s not just lack of full-on social or work obligations either, it seems to be an engrained mindset.
On September 23rd, Joe and i celebrated our 1st wedding anniversary. We had a low key day of salad, pizza and beer, some board games with some rosé champagne, some tv time, some private time, and some blissful sleep. The beer and first bottle of bubbly did us in, so we didn’t get to some really nice champagne gifted to us last year, but there was always lunch the next day . . . and me, i never need a celebratory excuse to crack the bubbly.
Well, two things i am looking forward to out here – Halloween and voting. Both bring a certain level of ghoulish fright and giddy excitement. It’s safe to say that by lawn and houses alone, it appears that Oregon is largely an Obamanation. (heh!) Voter registration was made pretty easy for us: they got me in front of an organic market out here, and Joe at the Saturday Farmer’s market. It was convenient and fast, done by the last four of my SS (since i don’t have an OR license yet) and the voter’s card arrived days later. Apparently, we send all of our ballots in by mail here, which surprised me. i was really hoping to go into a secret squirrel booth for my first voting experience. But hey – no nervousness about machines to manipulate and no hanging chads. i wonder if it’s a scantron?
And if you need to go back a few lines, yes . . . that’s right. MY FIRST. in all my 36 years i have never been registered to vote. Never cared for the process, and living near DC never endeared me to the constant conversation, the dogged preoccupation nor the convocation. (Apologies to my friends for whom it is an occupation.) But i am doing it this year. i am fortunate to survive and do well in as they say, “times like these,” and it occurs to me that being politically active when it counts is by extension, a survival tactic to hold onto all the ideals in life that brought Joe and i out here in the first place.
Oregon is already proving itself as some manner of heaven and a lifestyle i can love.
So come visit us! We have a nice guest room in the basement, right next to the wine cellar.
Well . . .
We got back from Rome and semi-settled back into our workaday lives. Now it’s time for the big Holiday Road trip.
Joe and i are traveling to Rock Hill, South Carolina to visit his family where his sisters, Rachael and Laura will be there as well as my friend Graham.
Then we are off to Detroit to see my family, including my youngest sister, Angel who just turned 15!
More stories from the road soon . . .
Calendula comes from the Latin “calends” meaning “throughout the months” and became the English “calendar.” The calendula is also the word for marigold as it typically blossoms according to the calendar, either once a month or at the new moon. And it has been many months and plenty of moons since i have been back where i came from.
Bittersweet should be a description reserved for terrible confectionaries, and not the visit home. 4 days since i’ve returned from Detroit . . . such a strange thing it is to go back there now. It was once thought that placing garlands of calendula or marigold under a bed would cause the sleeping person to have prophetic dreams, but the dreams refuse to visit me in the old bed now. The house – a museum, a shrine to a deceased mother/grandmother, a storage facility for nest padding. Life in concentric, obligatory circles of work, sleep, shopping, sustenance. My mother is still deeply depressed and heartbroken over the loss of her mother more than a year ago and it really destroys me to see her like that.
My youngest sister is 12 now, 13 in December and is a masterful soccer player, a beautiful girl, and wildly sarcastic. She still thinks that strapping down her developing breasts in a sports bra built like a duct tape prison is a workable solution to putting off womanhood. Good grief – then she’ll menstruate and it will be Judy Blume all over again. She is a thoughtful, occasionally reserved girl, but quick-witted and i think, surely, a survivor type.
They told Jimmy when he was 17 he had third stage Hodgkins Lymphoma and that he would never father children after chemotherapy and radiation. He dated my sister and lived with us for a year while we were all in high school. Had his sperm samples frozen, met some not so nice girl Rhonda and now, he is expecting his second child . . . without the help of his cryogenic progeny. His voice has changed from too much cigarette smoke and his face is as weathered as the carpenter’s belt he wears at his too slender waist. Is he cured? Possibly. Is he happy? You can’t tell from his smartass tales of drinking and sex 12 times a year when he gets horny and his wife will permit. Stories of falling off roofs and friends who drank themselves to death. A kiss on the cheek before and after and he is out the door. The same whirlwind of strange energy as he ever was. Not even cancer slowed him or toned him down any.
Travis dropped by. His wife going back to grad school, possibly here in DC or Maryland. Is she pregnant too did he say? Either way, she called looking for him. He politely ate the baked brie i made even though he already had dinner and beer. He just lost his father a week or so back. Says i haven’t changed a bit, still deeply sarcastic, but in a nice way – just as he remembered.
I learned one of our friends recently drove himself to a funeral home and shot himself. Perhaps out of convenience or practicality. Perhaps he saw that episode of Six Feet Under. Perhaps it was morbid curiosity to see if he could really go through with it and what they would say in the papers. Not that he would know in any event when the light went out. They found him on a Monday morning.
On the way out of town i ran into Katrice’s mother in front of the liquor store. Her husband, the locally celebrated and revered fire chief (and drunk known to grope you at the fireman’s ball) dropped dead of a heart attack while he was quite young. Barb had Katrice’s son in tow who looked up at me and smiled mischievously. i only knew about her first daughter who had multiple surgeries and illnesses in her infancy. Katrice had to leave the father – he was actually what we call, no joke, a crack addict. She finally decided it was time after he sold the vacuum cleaner.
Michigan’s death rates continue on a downward trend – more every year than live births from what I’ve learned. Alcohol and drug addiction is high and Governor Jennifer M. Granholm has declared September as Michigan Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month. Depression and suicide rates are high. There are health advisories against eating some of the wild game and fish in certain areas due to environmental pollutants. Factory wokers fall out from poor work conditions and accidents. And don’t get me started on obesity . . .
i wondered as Zoey and I drove and made pit stops at rest areas for food and fuel – where do these people LIVE that work in these places? I cannot imagine driving from some outlying area to see the daily influx of road stragglers: tired, irritable, hungry, perhaps unshowered. (Pardon the sweeping judgmental stereotypical guess) but if some of them weren’t so simple, they’d probably be amazingly accomplished writers. There must be so much to tell about seeing so many different people and never having to travel far yourself to see them.
It was after midnite on one stretch of the trip. We saw a sign for a rest area that included Starbuck’s, Cinnabon, Sbarro (pizza/pasta) and McDonald’s. Well – all or some of that sounded good to us both – save the golden arches. Of course, we arrive and ALL of it is closed EXCEPT for McDeath.
“Welcome to McDonald’s, can I help you?”
“Do you know of any restaurants in the area that are open?” i politely asked the smiling, rotund creature behind the counter.
“What’s wrong with Mickey D’s?” she asked earnestly, grinning wider.
“Hasn’t she seen the damn movie?” Zoey whispered to me as we walked away.
i was very proud of myself for NOT enumerating precisely all things that are indeed WRONG with Mickey fucking D’s. We grudgingly selected some snacks from the metal coffins that dispense garbage swaddled in plastic and drop them in a dump bin from corkscrewing silver pigtails. We selected Pringles and the ever popular road food – beef jerky, which we found to be tasty but unusually tough. So much that it misaligned our teeth and set our bite out of whack for a few hours. “Tiny sour gummy spider of death?” Zoey jiggled a sugar-coated purple and red sour candy spider at me and we tried to find the best way to eat it: leg by leg and belly treat to finish? Or fat round abdomen and legs last?
On the return trip, we stopped at some place where as always, the music is horrible enough to make you want to hang yourself in the LYSOL doused, Pepto-Bismol colored, “faux-citrus mingled with old urine” scented bathrooms. But what am I talking about – we actually busted out the Macarena on the way there to see if we could stomach it. This and some “Mmmm-Bop” from Hanson sent us into fits of laughter.
This particular rest stop had the oddest open room full of copper-colored mirrors reflecting from all four walls from the floor to the enormously vaulted ceiling. Everything looked rusted and sickly and you couldn’t tell where one room ended and another began. The girl behind the counter here announced everything that each person carried with them to the counter as she rang them up. Or rather – instead of asking if that would be all, she asked if that’s what they had, as if the items might be an optical illusion.
“Is that a cinnabon?”
“Is that a coke and bagel?”
“Is that a bottled water?”
We showed up and were asked, “is that a slice of pizza?” i had the mad urge to pet my pizza lovingly and reply in my best brit accent, “Why no, this is a tiny kitten, do you mind if i eat it here, then?” I told Zoey this and we had a good laugh and remarked how glad we were that we weren’t high and trapped in this room.
i brought her back a small orange and red marigold from a vase in the bathroom and instructed her to let it dry so we could pluck the crumpled blossom, which when pulled from the stem become the seeds themselves. This was something my mother showed me. We saved them at the end of the season – snipped off their crowning heads and put them away in envelopes as seedlings for the next season.
Despite all the deaths, all the emotional hardships, my mother’s garden is still the most impressive one on the block: wild, tall, almost overgrown, but in a beautiful way. Marigolds, petunias, morning glories, double impatients, miniature rose bushes, daisies (her favorite).
Despite its beautiful, sunny appearance, the marigold remains a mythological symbol of pain and sorrow, closing its petals daily when the sun goes down. It can be meant for joy or sadness when given as a gift and is a reminder of the acceptance of both.
It’s still drying on the dashboard of my car . . .
i’m heading back home to Detroit for a few days – Friday PM through Monday AM. i’m dragging Zoey with me for the pilgrimage.
i haven’t been home in more than a year. in essence – since my grandmother died. i also haven’t seen my sister in about that long. i have 2 of them, a 30 year-old and a 12 year-old, who just got a cell phone (*gulp*) and who calls me just to chat quite a bit, which is nice .
i could sure use the road trip, cold Rockstar bevvies, cheap food and little sleep. there’s no way in hell i’m flying out of DC the weekend of 9.11 on an election year. too likely my plane will have come from FL and lost in a storm or be grounded for some unusual terror alert du jour: CODE ORANGE plus CHARTREUSE SPOTS.
there’s a church festival that occurs over this weekend just up the street from my mother’s house. St. Linus. my sister attends school at this place and we, as a strange little family, have memories of polish food and beer tents, polka music and rickety rides. i feel a little tense about the trip home (for longer personal reasons i will NOT delve into here) so this fair may be just the silliness i need.
i will be back soon enough, and possibly, with more pictures
Zoey has landed in Maryland. On Monday April 26th, she and i plus 4 others take a plane to Puerto Rico, then a small puddle jumper to Beef Island and then a small ferry over to Tortola (a.k.a. Chocolate Island, this is how i sold her on the trip) .
We will be spending 8 glorious punk rock days (26th-4th) in the British Virgin Islands on a 41′ Beneteau, bareboat chartered sailboat we are crewing ourselves.
Seeing as how Zoey and i have Wonder Twin Power cameras, i’m certain we’ll come back with some spectacular images and wonderful memories.
more soon . . .