Tuna Tar-Tart

I suck at everything. Probably more than you do. I enjoy experimenting with cheese and playing with glue sticks. You might know me from that other joint, LiveJournal.

Dec 092018
 

Oh shit son, I had you fooled. You really thought I was done slapping out Dolly-words, didn’t you? But nope! I have more pictures and thoughts to share because I’m a freak who really likes things past the acceptable limit.

Contrary to popular belief (and the overly, grossly gushing romance novel I wrote last week) there are other rides at Dollywood other than Lightning Rod, and they are all fun too!

Basically, Dollywood has a stash of fine-ass coasters up in those Smokies and Chooch and I rode the fuck out of them. Except for Wild Eagle, which was evidently the first winged coaster in the country! (Maybe the world? I don’t know, too lazy to google.) For some reason, these types of coasters don’t do much for me so Chooch and I only rode it once. It was good, but not “I can’t wait to get back on that bitch!” good. There was a highlight though: when we were next in line, some young girl was exiting and said to us, “It was easy!” Chooch really latched on to this and decided he needed to pass it on too so when we were exiting, he said it to the next person in line, some middle-aged dude who thoughtfully responded with, “It was easy, huh? Ok!”

Across from the Wild Eagle, though, was a family coaster called Fire Chaser. It’s by no means a “thrill ride” so we went into it with very expectations but it ended up pleasantly surprising us!

First of all, it has a mild launch to it which is kind of unexpected for family coasters, but I thought it was cool because it kind of prepares kids for bigger thrills in life, you know?

This part is cool because it features a BACKWARD LAUNCH, at which point, the track changes and you ride the rest of the way back to the station backward, and you enter the station the same way you enter while another coaster is currently out for a spin! OH THE MAGIC OF CHANGING TRACKS! We were so stupidly giddy about this that we dragged Henry on later in the day.

He was this thrilled about it:

It was even more fun this time around because Henry and I sat in the back seat with Chooch in front of us, and Chooch and I did our really obnoxious and exaggerated WOO HOO HOO! WOOOOOO HOO HOO HOOOOOOO!s through the entire ride and Henry was begging us to stop. “YOU’RE PISSING EVERYONE OFF!” he hissed, and we were like, “duh that’s why we do it.”

God, Henry just doesn’t get it.

But yeah, this ride was tons of fun. I especially loved that it had a storyline and that there were actual flames in the firecracker storage room!

The ride I was the most excited to ride, after the Lightning Rod, was MYSTERY MINE. It was the ride that most stuck in my mind after our last visit in 2011 and since Chooch was too short to ride it that time,  I was so stoked for him to get to experience it this time. At the time, it was the first ride like this I had ever ridden – it starts out like a darkride, but then it has two outside portions with crazy drops and loops. It’s actually QUITE painful (you know that when you’re 12-year-old’s takeaway is, “That was so much fun, but it really hurt” then it is definitely not a comfortable ride!) but the theming is 100% worth it. I remember being so surprised by it the first time I rode it, and then I made Henry ride it and he pretty much needed a neckbrace for the rest of our vacation. That being said, he politely opted out during this visit, haha.

It’s so beautiful at night! We rode it three times because we were determined to finally get the front row, and third time’s a charm. It was worth it!

The first time we rode it, we were in line behind a family and I noticed that one of the guys was wearing a shirt that said Pittsburgh on the back, so I got all MISS BUTTINSKI on them (Chooch’s favorite thing about me) and asked, “Excuse me, are you from Pittsburgh?” because you never know, I wear a shirt from some bar in Cleveland sometimes, you know? PEOPLE WEAR STUFF, IS WHAT I’M SAYING. But in the case, they actually were from Pittsburgh! Well, a little bit outside of the city, but close enough that they would definitely be fans of the sports teams.

“We’re actually sneaking out of here at 4 to watch the game,” the one guy faux-whispered to me and I was like, “OH HO HO HO” which is my “I’m trying to fit in with the football fans” laugh.

Mystery Mine for life!

Another great darkride/coaster combo at Dollywood is the less-thrilling but hilariously-themed Blazing Fury which takes you through an 1880s hillbilly town that’s about to go up in flames. The ride operator screams FIRE IN THE HOLE! We actually got Henry to ride this with us later in the day and he was annoyed because he had to stand in a separate queue by himself while Chooch and I giggled secretly because Chooch was air-dropping pictures of his cat to unsuspecting iPhone users in line. Henry probably thought we were laughing at him though because he has a Victim Complex.

Here in this photo, you can see part of Chooch’s and my second favorite in the park, our bae the Thunderhead. In the forefront of the photo is Wildwood Grove construction, the new-for-2019 area of the park which is going to include whatever that green coaster is in the background.

But, Thunderhead. Wow wow wow wow. I 100% do not remember loving this ride so much when Henry and I rode it 7 years ago. Maybe my love for woodies (lol) needed to develop a bit more with age, I don’t know, but my appreciation for these types of coasters is much more massive now. I understand them a little better now, after falling down the Coaster Vlogs rabbit hole, and goddamn do I wish Kennywood had a beastly wooden coaster that could stand up to some of these fancy ones out there. Not only is this ride pretty long, it is VICIOUS! From the moment the coaster starts to bend over the initial lift hill, it is non-stop. This coaster fucking FLIES and it has some incredible banks. My favorite part of it is when it actually COMES BACK THROUGH THE STATION:

This is a really shitty photo, but you can see how there is an elevated track so that while people are loading in to one car, another one comes roaring through and the whole station rumbles. Chooch and I screamed our dumb faces off the hardest during this part every time.

The best part is that the park was so empty that day, at least rider-wise, that we were able to just walk right on this badass babe every single time.

Riding it at night though, wow motherfuckers. I even didn’t mind Chooch screaming Papa Roach lyrics while we were on it because it just added to the giddiness. (I don’t know why he has been doing that lately — it must have been in some Tic Toc video or something.)

Chooch loved the Tennessee Tornado which was just a standard steel loop coaster and it did nothing for me but I rode it twice anyway because sometimes I actually do shit for my kid.

Sometimes.

The second time we rode it, some dumb bitch teenagers behind us spent the whole ride up the lift hill talking about how “anything could happen,” like “the restraints could break” or “a plane could crash on us right now.” It was awesome commentary as you can imagine. I wanted to turn around and try to punch them, a la Frankie Avalon in “Back to the Beach.”

Little bitches.

Anyway, Henry is like our pageant mom, standing on the sidelines with a camera.

Henry’s new family.

We also rode some non-coasters too, like the carousel, where Chooch was extremely downtrodden because he WANTED TO RIDE THE DEER, BUT SOME DUMB LITTLE KID BEAT HIM THERE, WAH. So instead, he pouted on a pig.

THE DEER.

Most of the ride operators in Dollywood are like tall glasses of sweet tea (lol whut) but the older broad at the swings was a miserable biotch. She was angrily telling people where to sit and then gave us the shorter ride of our lives.

What a Waltzing Bitch.

Chooch and I had a strange encounter with some woman in line for the Lemon Twist. I saw him make eye contact with someone so I turned around and this older blond woman in a hoodie was like RIGHT UP AGAINST ME doing this super weird smile-thing that was more frightening than friendly. I thought she was with the kids behind us but it turned out she was alone and then I felt kind of bad for being so judgey when I saw her joyfully solo-spinning in her cup. But honestly, my first thought when I saw her was that she left her gingerbread house to take a spin on the Lemon Twist and would finish cooking the children upon return.

I feel like all Chooch and I did was laugh all the livelong day. We get along the best at amusement parks.

A trip to an amusement park would be remiss without a cruise on the kiddie cars! It’s also right next to the Lightning Rod, which is so perfect, theme-wise. This ride has a dual track so halfway in the line, you can split up and go on the other side. The guy in front of us was so annoying and had like 8 children with him, so I hissed, “Cut across to the other line!” to Chooch. Chooch was reluctant, because he really wanted to get the pink cadillac and didn’t there was one on the other track. He had even been counting when we were in the other line to see when the pink car would come back. He gets really tightly-wound about these things and I have no idea where he gets that.

From Henry, I guess.

Anyway, turns out the original line we were in actually moved faster than the second one for some reason, AND if we had stayed over there….we would have gotten the pink Cadillac.

Um, oops.

That’s Chooch’s “I’m smiling because we’re in public but please know that tonight might be the night we all learn about matricide” face.

Meanwhile, some dumb guy cut in front of us because his group was up ahead and we were so annoyed because he was a douchey hipster and said, “Hey can I squeeze through thanks” WHILE HE WAS ALREADY SQUEEZING  THROUGH. Hello last time I checked you can’t hold some asshole’s place in line.

Anyway, Chooch was doubly pissed now because it looked like we weren’t going to get his second choice either, the baby blue car. “Great, we’re going to get this ugly ORANGE car now,” he angrily spat and in case you missed it before, let me remind you that these things are HUGE DEALS to him.  I tried to calm him down by pointing out that at least we probably weren’t going to get the ugliest car in the lot (I said it was probably one of the many things that Henry would White Knight if he heard us talking about, like, “THAT CAR IS NOT THAT UGLY. A LOT OF PEOPLE WOULD BE EXCITED TO GET THAT CAR” because this is his role in life, the most annoying devil’s advocate ever). But then! The hipster douche in front of us wasn’t just with some broad, but also A CHILD and he seriously tried to stuff himself into the car with both of them, like a Carhartt flannel that fit him before becoming a dad drove him to drink more artisanal hard ciders and mead.

So this meant that douche-dad had to ride alone, so he took the ugly orange car that we were going to get and that meant we got the baby blue car after all!

Oh man, we had so much fun on this, rocking out to oldie Christmas carols while I beeped along like a maniac.

God, never let either of us grow out of this stuff. I feel like every “best day ever” we had in 2018 involved an amusement park and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Dec 082018
 

In addition to the 5 billion other things I’m obsessed with, I’m extremely fond of Bavarian things. I definitely get this from my grandparents, man, and their house had some awesome Bavarian footprints in it.

(Like, not real footprints. But you know, Hummel figurines and cuckoo clocks and other fine Black Forest shit.)

This is why I keep going back to the Bayernhof Museum. It’s not like much changes, but I just can’t get enough of the early-80s tackiness.

I’ve written about this place before, so there won’t be much detail here, but here’s a bit of background: The owner of the house was a real quirky son of a bitch named Charles Brown, a super rich business owner with a sprawling imagination.

My kind of guy.

He built this big house right outside of Pittsburgh without even consulting legit contractors or architects and then filled it flea market finds and exorbitantly priced pieces. It’s like my pappap’s house on steroids. So many parts of this house have strong Gillcrest vibes and it’s bittersweet. Long story short, he knew that when he died, he wanted this place to be opened to the public, because one of his favorite things to do was host parties and give friends and their friends tours of his sprawling Bavarian bachelor pad. But he knew he needed something that would be more of a draw, some gimmick that would enable the house to be labeled a museum, so he started collecting these massive antique music machines, nickelodeons, calliopes, etc etc. Some of the pieces in his collection are the only ones left in the world, which is nuts considering he didn’t even know how to use them!

Charles died in 1999 and the house was eventually opened to the public in 2006, I believe. That was around the first time I saw a billboard for it, on my way to class at Pitt. I knew immediately that I needed to go and Kara was going to go with me, but then we realized right before leaving  my house that we needed to make an actual appointment for a tour, like a real life grown-up thing, so instead we went to Phipp’s and made fun of people looking at flowers and I found out that Kara hates orchids.

I finally managed to get to the Bayernhof in 2011, when some broad was visiting me from California. She absolutely hated it there because she basically just hates everything in life, but it may have also been because the guy who gave us the tour was also the guy in charge of maintaining and servicing the music machines, so he was a bit stuffy.

I went again a year later, this time with my brother and my friend Kristy, and it was just as fantastic. Especially being there with Corey, who immediately picked up all the Gillcrest vibes that the Bayernhof was throwing down.

Now that Chooch is 12, he’s finally at the acceptable age listed on the Bayernhof website, so I gathered Janna and Kara (finally!) for a Sunday tour last weekend.

The Bayernhof is one of those places that you can tell people about until you’re blue in the face and your mouth is all gummy but there is no way better to paint the picture than by having them step into it themselves. So while Chooch was feigning excitement in that awesome, monotone pre-teen way, I knew that as soon as the tour started, his outlook would turn around and he would maybe stop pining for Fortnite for a few hours.

We got there as soon as it opened, fifteen minutes before the tour started, because I am a fucking eager beaver and I also know from past trips there that they don’t wait around – that tour starts at 2 and one of my greatest fears is walking into something that has already started and then everyone stops and looks at me and, NO THANKS.

So, of course we were the first group there, which meant we had to awkwardly stand in the foyer with our guide (a young woman whose name I forget but she is a SCIENTIST and also super cool) and an older woman assisting with the tour. The older woman started laughing at one point and said, “Oh, I just noticed that your purse is a rollerskate!” and Chooch started to grumble because as you know, he hates when my accessories take attention away from him. I laughed back and said that it was from the kids section at Target* and she said, “Hey, you might have to grow old, but you don’t have to grow up” and I was like, “MOM?!”

*(My friend Katrina sent me a picture of the purse a few months ago and I sent Henry out THAT DAY to get it. It was on sale too for like $6! Granted, I can only fit  my car keys, one lipgloss, and one small vial of hemlock in it, but the cuteness is worth it.)

Meanwhile, Chooch was pocketing a discount card for some brewery affiliate, and the guide saw this happen and started jokingly calling him out for being too young to go to a brewery. So Chooch was happy to have the attention back in his court.

Eventually, two more groups arrived: two men and a yuppie couple. I had strong feelings against the woman part of the couple because almost immediately she made it perfectly clear that she was going to be That Person on the tour that had Something To Say about everything. There was also something about her that reminded me of my ex-friend Cinn so I was immediately turned off.

 

As I mentioned before, I’m not going to get into the details of the tour because I have numerous posts about it in the blog archives, and also because it’s something best experienced in person. I can tell you that it is not one of those boring tours full of needles dates and facts – Charles had a fucking fascinating personality and this new guide actually told some stories about him and the origins of the house that I definitely don’t remember hearing the other two times I was there. So it was almost like being there for the first time for me, too!

The cool thing about this is that many of his friends are still around and involved in the estate so the stories are almost always first hand accounts.

See that gas lantern thingie? These are the products that were manufactured at Charles’s company and I don’t know why I never made the connection before but my pappap’s house was FULL of these lights. He had them outside his front door and at the end of his driveway too so I wonder if they were from Charles’s company!? I asked my mom if the name sounded familiar and she said she wasn’t sure, and that my grandparents had a decorator named Herbie who did all that shit for them. But it’s still fun to imagine my pappap and Charles knowing each other!

They were in the process of decorating for Christmas!

The lady I disliked of course knew almost all of the old-timey songs that the machines played, and then her dumb yuppie husband would high-five her. After the tour, Kara was like, “I kept trying to make eye contact with you because that lady was so annoying” and I was like “FUCK YES I KNEW IT WASN’T JUST ME!” I think the guide was even getting a little miffed at the constant “witty” interruptions and would just respond with, “I know, right.”

They call this guest room The Red Room, not to be confused with Redrum. I want to sleep here.

This other guest room REALLY reminded me of my pappap’s house and I can tell you without a doubt that some of the furniture in there was either the same or extremely similar. I almost started to cry.

This was Chooch’s favorite room until he saw the billiards room. He’s obsessed with pool lately and the pool table at the Bayernhof has purple top!

The amount of times Chooch’s eyes widened like saucers was hilarious.

When you have to share your seat.

Janna was upset that my grandparents never thought to add a pool into their enclosed porch.

The infamous “horse-shoeing” picture! I actually made this into a pendant after the last time I was there. The other curator caught me giggling at it and he sighed, “They’re shoeing a horse.” Lol!

I already can’t wait to go back again. It’s honestly one of Pittsburgh’s hidden treasures and I would 100% recommend it to anyone visiting. I even included it in my Pittsburgh Tourism List that I wrote several years ago! So if you’re planning a trip to the ‘Burgh, or already live here and want to go to this place, PLEASE LET ME GO WITH YOU. I will even call and make the appointment and I hate calling and making appointments! IT’S ONLY $10 FOR A TWO HOUR TOUR!

Dec 062018
 

It’s that time of year again when everyone is stressed to the max about Christmas hoohaw so why not add in some additional holiday stress at work too!? I was thinking about what my team should get Boss Amber this year and instead of just being normal and buying a card at the store and stuffing it with a giftcard or something, I decided to make her work for it.

LET ME BACK UP.

This past year, we started using Docusign in our department and my group acts as the backup for the people who usually send shit through it. Since we use it so irregularly, it’s a pain in the ass for us and we are all very vocal and crybabyish about it. It’s just one of those things, you know? Every job has one! Anyway, Boss Amber is always annoyed with it too whenever she has to use it so I thought, “WHY DON’T WE SEND HER XMAS CARD THROUGH DOCUSIGN” and my work friends were like WHY ARE YOU SUCH A JERK, BUT YES LET’S….WAIT, HOW. Don’t worry – I made it work and then I forced them pose for a totally cringey picture (my original idea was to buy a nice frame and put a giant picture of us in it for Amber’s desk but that was meant with a a barricade of frowns) which we we planned to send her today before our holiday lunch, along with a gift card, through Docusign.

Glenn’s wife Amanda took this for us! Glenn was actually on his way out for the day because he was sick but here I am, forcing the guy to tangle himself up in garland in the cold weather first. Anyway, I wasn’t satisfied with how the garland looked in this so I demanded a do-over.

Lauren was like, “Should we be….touching each other?” Amanda was like, “I mean, do you want to?” We all just looked at each other, like, “Nah” and continued standing together like strangers. Look, we have boundaries, OK.

This was the final version, a motherfuckin’ Cringemas miracle. Carrie was like, “Did you come up with that? I thought so” – lol. I photoshopped that Jethro Tull record into Glenn’s hand because one time he sent me Jethro Tull videos and said, “This is what real music is” and I have been making offhand comments about it ever since, in fact, I just made one last week and he told me that I should really consider letting it go.

Never.

My thought bubble says that because it’s what I’m always saying on Monday except not just in my head, but out loud to everyone who will listen. One time Amber was off on a Monday so our meeting was canceled and I was so happy BUT THEN SHE RESCHEDULED IT FOR THE NEXT DAY.

Now I’m questioning why I put together this Xmas gift for her!!

Anyway, I added the picture of us to a word doc and put something like “We hope you have a great Christmas __________” so that when Amber electronically signed it, it would complete the sentence with her Docusign signature.

We all signed it (via Docusign, so our signatures are all weird and formal) and then once that was complete, we all ran outside of Amber’s office and waited for her to get her notification. When I heard her say, “What the hell is this?” I knew the game had started!

So now we were all crowded around her office, laughing at our brilliant idea, and I noticed that she HADN’T SIGNED IT YET because she was too busy smiling at the picture so I had to force her to complete the process and she was just like, “WOW.”

Yes, Amber. WOW. I did that.

We also “spruced” up (OH HO HO HO) Dead-Again Bob Ross and used this as the picture for the Amazon gift e-card.

God, we’re such great minions.

Then today was our holiday lunch (which Todd didn’t know about until Amber sent an email telling us when to meet at the elevator bank, lol) and I was so excited because we went to the Yard and they have the Impossible Burger now and I have been dying to try that except  I guess not that urgently because I’ve known for a while now the various places around town that has it on the menu but am super lazy and ambivalent when it comes to food.

Clearly.

Anyway: worth it!

And after that, we went over to Santa’s House to have our now-traditional picture taken with the Big Guy! Everyone thought they were off the hook since we did this last year, but Cathy moved back to Pittsburgh from Harrisburg since then so we had to get an updated picture with her in it!

Everyone was grumbly about it but brought out their best (forced) smiles when it was time for the picture. Amber and Cathy were not thrilled about having to sit on Santa’s knees but the “photographer” was like, “I can’t fit everyone in the shot” and it’s like, “Maybe….turn the camera then?” They kept telling me to lean in and now that I’m looking at this, I don’t understand why I had to lean in.

Anyway, it’s awkward and cute and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Dec 042018
 

Regularly scheduled amusement park and Kpop posts are interrupted because Blake and Haley’s baby was born today! Haley managed to break the Henry Family Curse by finally bringing a girl into the fold!

Chooch’s first niece! Henry’s first granddaughter!

Her name is Lily Anne and we’re obsessed. I am so prepared to buy all the cute baby girl clothes for her!

Congratulations to Haley & Blake!

Dec 032018
 

Oh you didn’t think there would be only ONE Dollywood recap, I hope. Come on, you know how gratuitous I am with the amusement park montages. It’s a sickness! I have to get it all out of my system, like a cleanse, so that I’m ready for the next park, which sadly probably won’t be until next spring, omg ugh no fml.

Just in case you couldn’t already tell, we had the best day ever at Dollywood! This holiday season is a slippery slope for me. I’m either shooting tinsel out from between my legs or I’m severely depressed or I’m casually ambivalent but here’s some backstage info: in all of those cases, I’m usually severely depressed, ha.

However, removing myself from the situation actually really helped because on actual Thanksgiving, I wasn’t even thinking about being sad over family who isn’t here anymore, etc etc. Instead, I was enjoying the day with Henry and Chooch and being excited because I knew we would be leaving for Tennessee soon!

I think this needs to happen every year. It’s the perfect solution, and we all had a ton of fun (yes, even Henry!). So, this might be why I’m feel especially sentimental about this particular adventure.

In this episode of No One Gives a Fuck About Your Theme Park Fetish, Erin, let’s look at some (read: a lot) of snapshots I took that day on my phone, like it’s 1957 and we’re watching a slideshow of my trip to the Alamo while knocking back some White Russians.

Except without the White Russians.

Shit, I haven’t had a White Russian in a LOOOOOONG minute.

Now I want to have another gross vintage food party and serve up some tacky W.Russhies.

No one calls them that.

Henry could have married me at Dollywood, maybe, if he really cared enough.

I don’t get it, you guys.

I don’t know how we missed this last time we were there (wait, I know how—I hadn’t discovered the underbelly of roller coaster YouTubers yet) but Dollywood is apparently famous for their CINNAMON BREAD. Look, we had only ridden ONE RIDE before I was seduced by the sweet siren call (read: FUCKING GOOD SMELL) of the Grist Mill.

“We just got there!” Henry said, when I was like, “GET YOUR ASS IN THERE AND BUY SOME.”

But look, I didn’t eat anything for breakfast because I was convinced that there was ham in the hotel’s scrambled eggs (there wasn’t, supposedly), and you know how things like that set me off and make me throw silent tantrums, right? Well, that happened and I rejected every other option that Henry pushed my way and then growled, “Just give me the room key” where I went back and wrote awful things about the hotel in my spell book.

I mean, I could have just told you that I was really damn hungry, but I felt like YOU NEEDED TO KNOW WHY. #BLAMETHERAMSEYHOTEL

Shit, I scarfed my share, maybe more than my share, of that warm slab of cinnamon dough, sometimes after dunking it in apple butter, sometimes with a slather of cream cheese icing. You don’t know how I eat my cinnamon bread.

Shit, except I just told you.

Chooch was complaining about it hurting his teeth, so he’s basically an old person already.

Henry, delivering the goods.

I guess this guy was making the bread? Or gristing something in the mill? Is gristing a thing?

My best friend for the day. If I had to compare our giddiness and get-along-ingness to something, it would have to be our time in Korea when we had a zillion inside jokes about Henry and laughed like little shitty hyenas much to Henry’s chagrin. It was just like that.

If you look right in the center of the picture, you can see Henry walking alone, which is what he did every time Chooch and I went on a ride when he wasn’t sitting on a bench. He just lurked. He’s a pro at theme park lurking. Guy knows theme park benches and restrooms better than anyone under the age of 55, OK.

The weather was a perfectly mild 65 most of the day! Dolly Parton approved.

Being vegetarian, I try to do my due diligence before throwing myself into the arms of hot dog vendors. Dollywood said that the Front Porch Cafe had veggie burgers, but when we rolled up and I looked at the outside menu, I DID NOT SEE IT. This almost caused the day to sour, because food is the impetus of all our fights. It’s like that in your house too, right? I stormed off and frantically checked my phone for a plan B but all that came up was emergency contraceptive. I was honestly watching the whole day deteriorate around me when Chooch was like, “We could just….ask?”

THIS IS WHY MY BOY IS IN THE GIFTED PROGRAM, YO.

So he strode right back up to that hostess at Front Porch Cafe and confidently asked, “Do you have veggie burgers?” and she said, “YES THEY ARE JUST NOT ON THE MENU.”

Henry said that’s probably because they don’t want anyone to know because then they’ll have to run out and buy some.

Chooch and I were happy to order our veggie burgers and they waitress was just like, “MMmmmmkay” while giving us the side-eye, buy then Henry brought back the southern cred by ordering THE CHRISTMAS HAM DINNER HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

EWWWWWW LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL. That stuffing looks like Jabba the Hut! It’s like an elementary school lunch lady dumped all that shit on his plate with an ice cream scooper.

Hhhhrrrrrnnnnk.

OMG I’m going to puke.

Anyway, halfway through our lunch, we realized that this was the same place we ate with Bill when we had SHERBET as a waiter but SHERBET was not there. I wonder if he still works there? I sent Bill a framed picture of him for Christmas one year and he was v. thankful.

Here’s Chooch convincing passers-by that he’s never fed ducks before. He was so committed to his new role that he even let one of them bite his hand.

(Honestly, when we first walked past this lake area, he started cooing over the ducks with so much vim and vigor that several people actually stopped to see if they were special ducks or something.

Nope, the only thing special over there was my son. Keep it moving.

THIS WAS AFTER WE RODE THE LIGHTNING ROD FOR THE FIRST TIME. Chooch was actually hiding there like that while I was in the bathroom and several people got scared. We really left our mark on Dollywood that day, you guys.

I’ve mentioned my favorite theme park vlog on here, In the Loop, before and I’m pretty sure I ALSO mentioned that my favorite person from that vlog is a guy named Legend but ONLY because sometimes his girlfriend Molly makes cameos in some of the videos and I don’t know what it is, her Peter Brady “Time to Change” episode voice, her casual “it’s beer-thirty” declarations, or her laid-back “just here for the ride” demeanor, but I just fucking love her. Anyway, of course we’ve watched their Dollywood vlog and Chooch was so excited when he saw this photo-op.

“This is where Molly had her picture taken! We have to have our picture taken there too!”

Henry was just like, “Oh for god’s sake” as we ran over to pose.

We rode the train later that night so we could see the lights. Christmas carols played the whole time, and during one of the songs, Chooch asked, “Is this Dolly Parton singing?” and I started to stammer because I wasn’t sure — I only know “9-to-5” and “Jolene” OK?!

OK, and “I Will Always Love You” but I like to pretend that song doesn’t exist, I dislike both versions.

SIDE BAR: when I was in middle school, one of the local DJs was mad about something and he played Whitney Houston’s version back to back with Rumpshaker for like four hours and got fired.

(Shocking outcome.)

Any Pittsburgh friends out there remember that?

I love this picture so much! Also, that’s my Cure t-shirt he’s wearing because someone was supposed to supervise him when he was packing and failed to do so, so he didn’t bring enough clothes, lol.

(Don’t ask who that “someone” is.)

It stayed pretty sparsely occupied in the park all day because, again, most people were old and just there for the shows and atmosphere, I guess.

“Rural” usually isn’t aesthetic, but the…wood-y? theming definitely works here and it’s very charming. I also like that the rides themselves aren’t very in-your-face. You have to actually walk around a bit to get to each one.

The color palette is definitely “timber.”

You guys, this Christmas tree did all kinds of cool color-changing bullshit that I thought would be lame but was actually pretty nice.

I was definitely just there to ride the rides, but the lights were pretty cool, I guess. I don’t think I would have paid to just see the lights though.

No, I know I wouldn’t have. I only care about the coasters! Fuck Christmas.

I mean, I love you Christmas — you keep amusement parks open longer!

Dec 012018
 

Some people at work kept asking me if I’m a big Dolly Parton fan, because they couldn’t understand why else I would make my family travel 8 hours to go to an amusement park in Tennessee. So then I gave them a condensed version of the explanation I’m about to pour great detail into below, and they were just like, “….oh.”

I watch a lot of theme park vlogs because I am a huge dork cool person with lots of various interests.  My obsession with amusement parks typically shapes the way our vacations are planned, too, and watching these vlogs is how I knew that when we were in Korea, we had to take a bus to Everland and ride the T-Express. I have always loved wooden coasters, and over the years, I’ve realized that the steel coasters do less and less for me, and I will take a big thick woodie (lol) over a coaster with 78792837 inversions any day. But it wasn’t until I rode the T-Express that something REALLY clicked for me — it was the wildest wooden coaster I had ever ridden at that time. It holds the #1 position in Asia for a myriad of factors, and was once even the top dog in the whole world. It still ranks in the Top 10 for a lot of different factors* though and it ignited in me a fiery urge to seek out more like it.

*(Per Wiki, as of this writing, it’s the world’s ninth fastest, fourth tallest, and sixth longest wooden coaster.)

That’s where Dollywood comes in. In 2016, they debuted the world’s first ever LAUNCHED wooded coaster. It’s also, at the time of this writing, the world’s fastest wooden coaster. However, it’s been plagued with mechanical problems since it’s debut and was shut down for most of the 2016 season. This season wasn’t much better with reliability, and the theme park blogosphere was flooded with angry posts from coaster enthusiasts who had traveled just for a ride on the world’s most infamously finicky woodie.

I developed a major obsession over it and NEEDED to stuff my ass in a seat on that plighted coaster. I kept stalking it online, checking tags on Instagram, and grew cautiously optimistic when I saw that it had reopened in October, with some slight barely noticeable modifications, and that is when I settled on Dollywood for our Thanksgiving Theme Park getaway.

Henry was less sure about this and muttered, “If we drive 8 hours and that thing isn’t running…”

I mean, if a real life Wally World sitch is going to happen to anyone, it’d be us!

The other factor was weather. Look, Christmas lights are cool, but that’s not why I’m going to a theme park, OK. I want to ride the rides. And coasters usually won’t operate below 40 degrees. I obsessively checked the weather (I added Pigeon Forge to my weather app — I still have Seoul and Busan in there too, ouch my heart) numerous times a day like I have a meteorology fetish, and it was looking pretty fucking good – low 60s and rain. Of course, the rain part wasn’t preferable but I was OK with it.

But it ended up being BEAUTIFUL on Sunday! A high of 66 and partly sunny! I demanded that we leave the hotel before 10am and Henry was like, “WE ARE LITERALLY FIVE MINUTES AWAY FROM THE PARK AND IT DOESN’T OPEN UTIL 11!?” He knows better than to try and reason with me when a day of FUN is on the line, so we piled into the car and drove literally five minutes, no exaggeration, to the Dollywood entrance and the lot was open already so Henry sighed, paid the parking lady, and we set off for Parking Lot B for Butterfly.

Chooch was just so thrilled.

(He HATES butterflies, lol.)

“I don’t know why we’re in such a hurry, the park doesn’t even open until 11!” Henry muttered again, so I said we could just sit in the car until the BIGBANG song we were listening to was over. (“Cafe”, never forget.)

On the short walk to the park, Henry sarcastically said, “Yeah, better run. All these people and their walkers are going to get in line for Lightning Rod before you.”

I mean, he wasn’t wrong to be sarcastic. When we lined up at the gate, I did a precursory glance around me and it was pretty much 90% elderly people. This is how it was the last time we were there too! I guess Dollywood is well-known for having really great shows or something, and that brings all the olds to the yard.

While we were in line, two women behind us from Texas were freaking out about getting their show vouchers, and one of them was annoyed that the other made her get there so early. “Now we have to stand here for an hour!” she cried.

But then an old person with a good hearing aid piped up and said that the park actually opens at 10:30!! I looked at my phone and it was already 10:10! I started to get really excited but also nervous because I get really anxious when it comes to beating crowds. Again, Henry mumbled that he didn’t think I had anything to worry about.

Right before 10:30, some weird quartet came out and sang the Star Spangled Banner. Most everyone took their hats off but I purposely kept mine on because fuck patriotism. I looked around and some people were legit crying, lol.

“Dammit!” I said later to Henry. “I should have taken a knee!!”

“Yeah, you’re in Tennessee. Those people would have killed you,” Henry laughed, but I could see that he was relieved that my idea was belated.

Once the gates opened and we had our tickets checked, Chooch and I took off to the right while honest to god, a horde of octogenarians clanked and wheeled their way straight ahead to the theater to maul the workers for their show vouchers. It was a spectacle.

And then, a minute later (I knew exactly where it was because I studied a map at work last week) we made it to the Lightning Rod. The doors were still closed because none of the rides opened until 11, but there were only about 15 people in line ahead of us. I started to get a nervous stomach—what if it wasn’t running that day?! I couldn’t see a sign that said anything about it, but I was still nervous.

Once the super annoying teenaged trio in front of us left the line, the rest of the wait went by pretty quick. Halfway through, a test train was sent out and everyone cheered when they saw it. And then, at exactly 11AM, someone came out and opened the doors.

WE WERE IN!

We could have potentially gone on the first run of the day, but there were only two groups in the queue for the front row so I was like, “Fuck it, we’re waiting for the front row.” Who knew what the lines would be like later?! I wasn’t blowing this opportunity.

Of course, Henry had to ride by himself in the second row, though, lol. In the bitch seat.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so nervous waiting in line for a woodie before. I was doing the pee-jig, for sure, and when it was our turn to load in, I honestly thought I was going to start crying. As the car pulled out of the station and turned right, and that fucking dominating lift hill loomed ahead, I started having major doubts about my choices. Especially knowing that the launch was going to happen at any second, with the sounds of revving engines surrounding us on both sides of the track.

And then it happened. We were launched up that hill, and I’ll tell you what — no amount of YouTube videos could have prepared me for just HOW FAST that car was going to shoot us up that lift hill. IT WAS, in a word, HORRIFIC. I didn’t have enough things to hold on to. I wanted my stuffed dog Purple. A rosary. A parachute. It was that scary. And then you come over the crest of that hill, down a short dip, and right back up and over another crest where you goddamn PLUMMET down into the abyss of Dollywood and everything after that is a blur. I couldn’t figure out if we were going left or right, if we were upside down, still alive…I had no idea.

By the time we got to the much-anticipated quadruple down portion of the ride, I had been screaming SO HARD that I was having actual chest pains and wasn’t sure if I had broken my collarbone from all the vocal exertion, and was that even possible?

When we rolled back into the station after the last mind-bending bank that makes no sense to me when I look at that portion of the track, I had to wipe the tears off my face. Sure, most of it was caused by the massive amount of cold wind that continuously cold-cocked me through the duration of the ride, but I’m not going to pretend that some of that orbital wetness wasn’t actual tears.

Short version? IT WAS AMAZING!!

It felt like being in a cartoon, in some high-speed chase that’s humanly impossible in real life, and you’re going from A to B by glitching. It was insanely fast, but not rough – I’ve seen people online complaining about the restraints or bumpiness in the backseat, but I personally did not experience any of that, and I was hashtag-blessed to ride it FOUR TIMES that day.

Throughout the day, we rode it in the 6th seat (though in line, we had a FRONT ROW seat for some weird family feud that was happening in front of us) and the 3rd seat, which were equally as fantastic, leading me to believe that there just isn’t a bad seat on this ride.

Stoked for Lightning Rod! I asked him if he had anything to say for this blog review, and he started singing Papa Roach’s “Last Resort,” which is what he did on every roller coaster that day at Dollywood and it was infuriating because ew, Papa Roach, but also hilarious because how random.

Toward the end of the night, we wanted to ride it one last time but we got coaster-blocked by the dumb parade, ughhh. There was absolutely no way around it and no other way to get to the Lightning Rod without having to actually cut through the parade and I had a feeling that Henry would probably go out of his way to prevent us from doing that. So we had to wait “patiently” for it to end and Henry was like THERE IS NO TIME. THE PARK IS GOING TO CLOSE. YOU WILL NEVER MAKE IT but I guess Henry has never heard the saying, “WHERE THERE’S A WILL THERE IS A WAY.”

It’s a shame that I don’t live by that when it comes to other things in life, like I don’t know, a career.

When the parade ended, the crowd dispersed alright, but they were all flooded right in our direction, so now we were fighting our way upstream past all these Old Folks, but it was worth it because we fucking made it and there was hardly ANYONE in line! We ran straight for the back row, with only two sets of riders in front of us. I was so excited! Back row at night, it was going to be awesome!

After about 10 minutes, it was our turn. As soon as everyone boarded and the restraints came down, the ride attendant who was checking my restraint gave a thumbs down. Apparently, the red lights were going off, which meant that it was in need of a maintenance check. The ride operators didn’t seem too concerned about this, but still, everyone had to get out of the car and go back into the queue. They said there was no way of knowing how long it would take, and that we were welcome to stay in line. Most everyone opted to stay, and it was kind of exciting watching the maintenance men come off the elevator, like the Men In Black, and I was trying not to crack up because it’s probably the only time in their lives they looked cool.

Meanwhile, the ride attendant on our side of the car, a young guy named Kenneth, was SO NICE to us. He made casual small talk and asked Chooch and me if we wanted him to turn on the heat lamp. He said he just wanted to make sure we were comfortable!

Like, the legit embodiment of southern hospitality.

Look, if that’s me, and I’m standing there in a ride station in a theme park that’s due to close in 5 minutes and now I have to stand here even longer waiting for the maintenance men to fiddle around and make it go again, because we told these park attendees that they could stay in line, I would be huffing and puffing and fucking my life, you know?

But, after about 10 minutes and two test runs (one with a Dollywood worker who volunteered as tribune — Chooch said, “Let’s applaud if she comes back on it” and I was like I HOPE SHE COMES BACK ON IT!!), we were good to go! I was fucking scared to ride it after that, but I did it and it was the best ride of the day. We could even see the pretty lights of Dollywood for a split second but then I nearly whiplash when Lightning Rod yanked me in another ungodly direction.

(“Look at the pretty li—AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH@@#$$%%#$!!!” was all I was able to scream.)

Oh for God’s sake, that ride. THAT RIDE! Chooch and I were doubled over in laughter when we reunited with Henry on terra firma. It’s just that good.

***

I don’t know what it was about Kenneth, maybe the fact that I’m used to the teenagers at Kennywood not giving a fuck about anything, but it really stuck with me, so much that when I went back to work on Tuesday, I thought to myself, “I have to do something about this” so I went to Dollywood’s website and did the OPPOSITE of what I’m used to doing: I opened the contact form and tap-tap-tapped out a POLITE COMMENT, completely devoid of swears and threats, to let them know that Kenneth’s kindness really went a long way, especially since we were kind of freaking out about the fact that the ride went out of commission while we were sitting in it. He assured me that this was normal and that the only surprising part was that it had lasted all day up until then without this happening.

The next day, I received a response from some broad named Paula who does something at Dollywood! She said that she was so pleased to read my nice comments and shared them immediately with Kenneth’s supervisor, and that they have an internal employee recognition program that his name has been added to! IS THIS WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO BE HUMAN?! I texted Henry and said, “I’m a nice person now!” and he was like, “LOL no your (sic) not.”

He didn’t care, but my co-workers did! (OK, Lauren did. Glenn was just like, “Why are you like this.”) The best part was the NEXT day when I was watching Lightning Rod videos like the completely normal person that I am, I noticed that KENNETH IS IN ONE OF THEM! I screenshot it and sent it to Lauren who was like, “Wow, look at him pressing that button! *swoon*” Lol. I also sent it to Henry who said nothing.

I was going to talk about this in a meeting on Thursday, but instead I said to myself, “Reel it in, Erin.”

I added all that stuff to the picture, in case you didn’t know. Lol.

This ride was 100% worth traveling for. I was so worried I had it over-hyped in my head, but no. It’s the real deal, man. Dollywood is officially on the map!

And for anyone reading this who might be interested, here’s a Lighting Rod front seat POV video:

Nov 292018
 

When we first decided* we were going to Tennessee for Thanksgiving weekend, I figured we’d get in sometime Saturday evening, have dinner or something, and then go to DOLLYWOOD on Sunday, because that was legitimately the sole impetus of this trip.

*(See also: when I decided and told Henry and Chooch we were going to Tennessee for Thanksgiving weekend.)

But then Henry was like, “Let’s just leave sometime Friday evening, drive halfway, and then have most of Saturday to do the Tennessee things.”  Who is this Captain Funtime Spirit using Henry as a host body!? I was stoked on this idea and we even got along the whole night in the car and only fought once on Saturday while still in West Virginia, when I was angry and had my typical knee-jerk temper explosion all over not being able to find my conditioner when I woke up Saturday morning. And then Henry told me to “end it” which is basically just the same as telling me to CALM DOWN which he doesn’t do anymore, but I can see we’re going to have a battle over semantics here soon.

We arrived in Pigeon Forge sometime around 1:00pm, I think. It would have been later than that if Henry had given in to my desire to tour the BUSH’S BAKED BEANS FACTORY. I was heart-broken when we drove past the visitor center and I saw tourists out there posing with all the baked beans signs, living their best gassy lives.

Once we hit that main drag in Pigeon Forge, the one that’s like the Las Vegas strip of tourist traps, Chooch’s eyes lit up like an orphan about to dive into a hot bowl of porridge.

Here are the highlights from Saturday, aka Every Single Thing We Did because it was such a great FAMILY FUNTIME day, as Chooch would call it. We love us some funtime.

POORLY PLANNED LUNCH!

Apparently, Pigeon Forge loves pancakes. There are pancake house everywhere! But you know what pancake houses are notorious for? Closing at 2-fucking-PM. So, no pancake houses for us. Then we were going to eat at some Cuban place I found on shitty Yelp but I got irrationally mad when we pulled up and found that it was in a strip mall-ish area. I didn’t want to eat in a strip mall! By then, we were halfway to Gatlinburg and I didn’t want to go too far away because we still needed to go back to our hotel so Chooch could change clothes for his Cool Boy Smoky Mountain Photoshoot since they let us check in but then the maid had literally JUST started cleaning our room so we just dumped our bags, hung out in the fitness room for a bit so I could walk like a freak on the treadmill after being in the car all morning, and then left for lunch.

So when we saw the Wild Bear Tavern, I screamed, “FUCK IT, JUST STOP HERE, I DON’T CARE.” Hilariously, it ended up being a German restaurant. First of all, German food and vegetarians rarely mesh well. Second of all, the last time we ate a German restaurant was in 2011 (OMG the same year we were last in Tennessee too!) and Henry and I both got major food poisoning. We were with two other people that night who didn’t get sick at all and the only common denominator was the apple strudel that Henry and I had for dessert so I guess we were poisoned by the Evil Queen? Henry has been terrified of German food ever since so he opted for a burger and Chooch and I both ordered grilled cheese from the kids menu and the waitress was just like, “Why did you come here, tho?”

I did get a side of spaetzel though which was drowning in a pool of melted, watery cheese so it was kind of like German mac n’ cheese I guess and not even close to being as glorious as the spaetzel my Pappap used to make for Christmas. He was the spaetzel king.

Chooch got like 3 new stains on his hoodie just from lunch because he eats like a three-year-old, so going back to the hotel afterward was imperative! Luckily, our room was done for real that time.

TRAIL MIX CHOKING!

Next up was the aforementioned Cool Boy Smoky Mountain Photoshoot! The highlight of this for us, don’t hate, was when we were driving back down the mountains to go  to Gatlinburg and Henry started choking on trail mix to the point where one lone tour dripped down his cheek and Chooch and I were going WILD over this. Then we were just like, “OMG please stop choking!” and it reminded me of how Glenn always chokes on peanuts at work. Good job being like Glenn, Henry. Anyway, Tuesday night, I was like, “Hey Chooch remember when Dad was choking on trail mix?” and  then we were crying because we were laughing so hard at the three-day-old memory and Henry called us a bunch of fuckers.

MYSTERIOUS MANSION!!

I wanted to do this the last time we were in Tennessee but it was before Chooch was wild about going to haunted houses and no one else thought it was a Super Great Idea like I did, so I did not go. But this time I was determined, and Chooch was pretty hyped up about it too. It took us a while to get through the Gatlinburg tourist traffic, but once we found somewhere to park, it was just a short walk from there. Henry was like, “I am not going in this thing, have fun” but had to come in anyway to pay for us, haha.

It was relatively “cheap” by haunted house standards ($13 for me, $8 for Chooch; something like that) and the ticket booth guy gave us the run-down in a melodramatic tone without making eye contact with us once. It was weird. But also, thank you for not looking at me, ticket guy.

Anyway, he sent us into a waiting room which was very dim and themed like an old-fashioned sitting room with a fireplace. There was a family of 5 waiting for us to join them, and then the ticket guy came over the intercom and told us it was time to find our way out of the room.

We were allowed to touch everything and push things, so that was really cool, and eventually we figured out that the fireplace had to be pushed in order for an entrance to be found. Every single person in that family (a mom, a SUPER TALL dad, a young son and daughter, and a SUPER TALL teenaged daughter) were absolutely paralyzed with fear and holding on to each other, so finally I offered to go first and they were basically treating me like a fucking hero, like I was some chick Van Helsing or something. It was HILAR. These people totally made the haunted house that much better for us, Chooch and I both agreed, which is no small feat because we barely agree on the color of the sky these days.

They were absolutely latched on to us and at first, I thought to myself, “Wow, this haunted house isn’t even that—-”  but then SHIT STARTED TO GO DOWN. Basically, without writing a goddamn screenplay, we were being stalked and terrorized by the same two or three guys and they were effective as fuck. One of them kept making a raptor-like sound in our faces, and at one point, we had walked up a staircase and were crossing a balcony-like hallway that overlooked the downstairs when one of them JUMPED FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF THE HOUSE INTO THE HALLWAY WE WERE IN and I’ll tell you what, that family started a veritable stampede and I thought we were going to get turned into one a Pigeon Forge pancake for real. My throat hurt from screaming and laughing and scream-laughing! Oh shit, Chooch and I were cracking up so bad, this family was the limit.

At one point, the SUPER TALL daughter had my arm in a death grip, but she was pulling it behind my back at an uncomfortable angle, and then one of those guys came back to terrorize us some more and I was bracing myself for the crunch of cartilage as she snapped my arm back, but luckily I was able to break free. Her mom was holding on to my back and eventually realized what she was doing and said, “I AM SO SORRY. WE ARE REALLY DOING THE MOST RIGHT NOW” and I couldn’t stop laughing long enough to tell her it was fine. But real talk – if Chooch and I had gone through on our own, I might have had to utilize an emergency exit because it really like some real life terror situation at times. And the theming inside the house was great too, from what I was able to see in the flurry of hysteria going on around me. So damn good, would recommend. Exceeded expectations!

KILLING TIME IN G-BURG

We weren’t hungry yet so we decided to just walk around Gatlinburg and count how many times we got to say NOPE every time Chooch would excitedly point out some arcade or shooting gallery. Ripley’s pretty much owns eastern Tennessee, I’ve learned, so every other tourist attraction we passed had their name on it. We did some of that stuff last time, but ever since that duck boat tragedy last summer, I have been determined to boycott those motherfuckers so all I had to say was, “No, Ripley’s killed people” and then Chooch said, “Oh, I didn’t know” and NEVER ASKED AGAIN.

It was wonderful.

We walked by Christ in the Smokeys and I got a picture of Christ all dressed up in twinkle lights for Christmas to send to our friend Bill, who I dragged there along with us last time, but he admitted it was a real diamond in the rough. Of course it was!

Just in case I ever started to forget that we were in the south, we’d walk past a souvenir shop that had several pro-Trump novelty shirt hanging in the window. Yup. Cool fucking story.

MELLOW MUSHROOM!

We ate at the Pigeon Forge location twice last time we were there and all I could remember was that I had something with tempeh, so I wanted to go back because tempeh is one of my favorite vegetarian foods and also, we were in the South and my veg options were slim.

Admittedly, it wasn’t as great as I remembered, but it was still a nice dinner. Henry got the Holy Shiitake mushroom pizza so I could have a slice, Chooch got something with two different kinds of tomatoes and then remembered he doesn’t like tomatoes so he had to pick them off but supposedly liked whatever remained, and I got that tempeh sandwich thing which was great but not like, “OH SHIT I HAVE TO WRITE SEVERAL PARAGRAPHS IN MY BLOG ABOUT THIS” great.

I had a beer and I normally don’t drink very often anymore so I was pretty much plastered. Henry asked me what I ordered and I honestly have no idea, it was whatever the waiter recommended when I told him I only really like wheat beers. It was OK! I drank the whole glass! But it wasn’t very big, so….

We found the fountain where Bill almost actually drowned Chooch when he was pretending to drown him, lol.

(I know I’m referencing our last trip here so much but you have to understand that it was an epic time, and Chooch and Bill even have a commemorative book for it.)

Right after this, we walked past a bunch of small kids who were singing some song, that went like, “I am a C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N” and passers-by were straight charmed by this Flanders-esque display of religion, but not us. We were gagging and trying to push our horns back into our scalps. There’s only one thing worse than kids and it’s RELIGIOUS kids.

We watched this guy poop out taffy logs from a machine. I also bought Ole Smoky moonshine taffy at some other candy store for work and Henry was pissed because my work always gets all the candy.

JURASSIC JUNGLE OAT RIDE!

After walking off our dinner, we went back to Pigeon Forge so that Chooch and I go on the Jurassic Jungle Boat Ride!

Or, Oat Ride, I guess.

Now look, you don’t need to read the reviews to know that this is going to be a hokey trip through a glorified warehouse, but I NEEDED TO DO THIS. Henry kept saying it was going to be a rip-off, but he still handed over the credit card to the bored teenager working the ticket booth, and then he promptly went back and sat in the car while Chooch and I boarded a boat, or oat, with another family of suckers tourists.

That one dummy looks like a psycho Nick Jonas.

Sooooo…..it was actually pretty horrific in that I felt like we could have potentially been murdered in there. It was so dark (except for the jackass dad’s phone flashlight that he had turned on for THE ENTIRE RIDE because he was recording THE ENTIRE RIDE. Bro, that shit’s already on YouTube, don’t re-do it.) Chooch and I were especially terrified of the larger-than-life, extremely and inexplicably buff pterodactyl that was perched in anger above us.

We had so many questions.

I mean, I’m no dinosaur expert, but many things in there did not add up.

Overall, IT WAS FUCKING GREAT! Chooch started applauding sarcastically at the end, so then the mom of the family in front of us turned around and also started clapping but I think she actually meant it.

But yeah, if you’re into supremely tacky tourist shit from the 1970s, then this will be the jam to your peanut buttered travel itinerary.

I might still be drunk from that beer.

WHEN CHOOCH DIVORCED HIMSELF FROM THE FAMILY

We went back to the hotel after the Jurassic thing so we could drop the car off and just walk to play mini golf — HENRY’S IDEA! He must have been having so much fun hemorrhaging money on family time.

But it was hard to cross the big bad Pigeon Forge tourist highway so we couldn’t go to the mini golf place that Chooch originally chose and had to pick one of the dozens of places on the side we were already on.

So we chose Professor Hacker’s Lost Treasure, where Chooch finally realized after all this time that he sucks at mini golf.

I was so giddy by this point of the night, and spent most of the time doubled over in laughter while Chooch was practically roid-raging over his inability to get the ball in the hole in less than 9 strokes while Henry was looking up flights for one from Knoxville to Pittsburgh.

I sincerely don’t know how we didn’t get kicked out.

But most importantly, I won! Taemin’s wife always wins!

Somehow we missed an entire hole, Chooch lost his ball right at the end which resulted in him having a major psychiatric break and so he stormed off back to the hotel ahead of us, I nearly laughed myself to death because I’m a great mom, and Henry kept mumbling about wanting ice cream but then he never got ice cream.

We made it back to the hotel and almost immediately crashed. It’s amazing that we managed to mostly get along so well!

(Although, there was one time earlier that day when Chooch was trying to make a video for Instagram and got mad later when he realized you could hear Henry and me arguing in the background. I asked him what we were saying and he said we were arguing about where something was and then he imitated me saying, “That’s literally what I just said” and I said that he made me sound like a sassy teenage girl. “Yeah. That’s because that’s what you sound like,” he said in a way that implied it was NOT a compliment. Rude.)

Nov 282018
 

Taking a break from words today to share four kpop MVs that are getting lots of play in my house.

  1. The new NCT 127 slays, as expected. I think I finally have an NCT bias, and it’s Haechan! Now I have a curiously sudden urge to bedazzle my gas mask:

2. This song by newcomers Fanatics-Flavor reminds me of the girl group songs that originally got me into kpop: it’s quirky, colorful, and VERY kpop:

3. Guys, Key from SHINee released his first solo album and it’s *fire emoji*. This is the second MV from it and it features Crush, whom I also love. Support Key, support SHINee!!!

4. This next song came out last week and I must have watched this MV 100 times on Thanksgiving. EXID was one of the first girl groups I stanned, and this comeback is significant because it’s the much-anticipated of their leader, Solji (second from the left in the YouTube thumbnail below), who sat on the sidelines for over a year due to complications with hyperthroidism.  This new song is DAEBAK and the MV is classic EXID. It’s all saturated colors,  simple yet mesmerizing choreo, and effortless comedy.

SO THERE YOU GO. Four music videos that you can either ignore or watch, maybe even send to a coworker or show the guy next to you on the bus.

Nov 272018
 

The last time we were in Tennessee was in 2011 with our friends Bill and Jessi, and we missed them so much this time around! I remember when they invited us to go with them that year, I was like, “Ew, Tennessee. What’s even in Tennessee?” and then found out that this area in particular is A FUCKING WONDERLAND. It has something for everyone! Country crap for country people. Old people shit for old people. Church garbage for Christians. Outdoor junk for nature nerds. AND A ZILLION TOURIST TRAPS FOR ME.  We will get to all that stuff later.

On Saturday, aka Dollywood Eve, we made some time for some Smoky Mountain action, because you can’t go to the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area without doing at least a little bit of nature shit.  I made sure Chooch changed out of his stained hoodie (literally got like 48 stains on it just in the four hours it took us to get from our hotel in Beckley, WV to Tennessee — just watching him eat lunch made me realize that I failed as a mom because my kid is 12 and still needs a bib) and into socially-acceptable garb beforehand, and then we set off for the Great Smoky National Park or whatever, where Henry was immediately at wit’s end with us and praying for a bear attack.

He’s so mean. :(

I’m not the most nature-y person, but damn, it’s really fucking beautiful there you guys. Not a bad view anywhere. (Unless someone with a MAGA hat gets in your line of vision.)

Second time in the Smokies and I still don’t know how to spell it.

Senior picture practice.

He’s a good sport (mostly) about these photoshoots and always has a pose or two of his own to contribute. Um, like this one.

We actually kind of got along during our scenic stroll through the bear-laden woods. (I was so afraid of getting attacked! Are they hibernating yet? I’M NOT SURE!) I felt like we were, I don’t know, making family memories or something. Like some day, Chooch will fondly recount this day to his future kids and they’ll be like, “What’s a mountain? What’s a tree?”

OMG WHY DID I TYPE THAT NOW I’M SO DEPRESSED.

Mood.

Here’s some more that I took with my phone-y-phone-la-la-la.

My favorite part was when Chooch and I were practicing exaggerated walking moves from Leslie Sansone walking workouts and didn’t realize that there was a family having some type of celebratory picnic nearby, watching our every move. THEY WERE SO JEALOUS OF OUR CREATIVE WALKING. I think this was the point where Henry ran back to the car ahead of us and tried to lock us out.

It’s nothing short of a miracle that he didn’t:

  • faceplant on a rock
  • fall into the water and get swept away into the jaws of a bear

How many murders have happened in these woods.

In Korean, the word for mountain is SAN (산) which you would know IF YOU READ MY KOREA TRAVEL BLOG POSTS.

God, you guys. The things you could learn from this stupid blog! IT IS A TREASURE TROVE OF TRIVIA.

We kept making Henry pull over at overlooks and he was getting so pissed because people weren’t parking to his liking.

We came here last time too!

Man, for only being in Tennessee for two days, I have so much to tell you! So, check back or whatever.

Nov 262018
 

It’s 8:05am and we’re waiting for Henry to check out of the hotel (the Ramsay – actually not a shit hole!). I wanted to have been on the road much earlier but no one listens to me. Anyway, I’m live-blogging because this is an 8-hour drive and I need to stay occupied or else I’ll start picking fights with Henry – which I’ll do anyway, who am I kidding LOLOL.

The mysterious bruise on my thumb went away but now I have a mysterious cut on my finger that even cut thorough my nailpolish?? It hurts but it’s not bleeding.

8:14am: So here we is y’all at the Red Rooster Pancake House where Chooch was thrown off that there is NO LEMONADE on the menu and proceeded to act like it was his first time ordering in a restaurant and kept looking at us with frantic PHONE A FRIEND eyes and we were like psychically coaxing him to just order chocolate milk and then when it was time to order breakfast, he got eggs and toast and ordered the eggs like a pro (overeasy FTW) but then he complicated the toast part of the order by making her run down the whole bread inventory and then asking “do you have Texas toast?” and we were like OH COME ON and she was like “Oh no, honey lololol” in her thick southern drawl like he just asked to see the Alamo’s bread pantry.

This waitress hates us so bad.

Ugh some old song just came on and I could vividly remember it playing in my pappap’s kitchen when I was little and now I’m crying in the Red Rooster Pancake House.

9:04: I couldn’t stand that bitch GPS voice so I made Henry change it to Santa, who just now told us that there was a cop reported up ahead. “Thanks, Santa,” Henry mumbled.

10:24: Chooch has me playing some word game called Letter Press and he is cheating sooooooo bad it’s not even funny.

We just stopped at Sheetz and Chooch and I got so riled up that Henry threw our stuff at us when we got back in the car and then he started eating a banana that I got for myself but didn’t want because it wasn’t done enough so then that set Chooch and me off all over again and we almost peed and then Henry yelled IF YOU PEE YOURE SITTING IN IT! and then he saw some guy sitting alone in an RV and said he wished he was him.

11:10am: Stupid GPS Santa keeps calling us Comet big what if I want to be Donner?! LIKE THE DONNER PARTY.

11:24am: Mino’s solo album dropped today and the MV for “Fiancé” is fire. I watched it this morning in the hotel while Henry struggled to pack everything on his own. I don’t care what anyone says, YG has the best rappers in Korea. DON’T @ ME.

12:33pm: One of our favorite road trip games to play is calling out HENRY LOOKED! HENRYS WANTS TO GO THERE! every time we pass billboards for adultmarts and strip clubs. Henry just blocks us out now.

1:26pm: Hello from some highway in WV! We ate a quick lunch at Sheetz (ballin’) and now we’re en route to some monster museum in Sutton WV. Speaking of museums, I need to call the Bayernhof Museum to schedule a tour for this Saturday but every time I tried to dial the number I started to crack up because I’m so giddy so finally I admitted defeat and Henry said he would do it for me next time we stop YES ANOTHER VICTORY!

2:40: We just rolled up in Sutton and Henry read the welcome sign out loud. I thought he said “bitchin’ history and hospitality” but it actually said “rich in history and hospitality” which is less rad.

3:03: Wow so the Flatwoods Monster Museum was pretty amazing! I mean, if you have low expectations. They had the documentary playing and it was creppy (autocorrect is always trying to change this to creepy ugh). Basically A UFO CRASHED THERE in the 50s and a bunch of boys and some old broad SAW A MONSTER and experienced symptoms similar to those that MUSTARD GAS cause but also HYSTERIA!!! So you tell me!!!

We’re back in the car and cracking up so bad at everything and Henry is like NO ONE IS LAUGHING and I’m like CAN YOU NOT COUNT BECAUSE TWO PEOPLE ARE LAUGHING?!

Anyway, that was a fun detour! Henry probably disagrees.

He actually bought us this adorable miniature Flatwoods monster but then bitched about it being EXPENSIVE.

Then we saw this creppy Santa on the way back to the car.

Chooch is playing this dumb Scattergories-type game; the letter was P and the thing was “Things You Find in a Bedroom” so Chooch and I simultaneously screamed PLAYBOY and PENIS while Henry calmly and vanilla-ly suggested PILLOW lol Henry you’re so square.

4:34pm: Oh god, we were just talking about the Dollywood coasters and then I said, “Remember when they went to an amusement park on The Smile Has Left Your Eyes??” which is the last drama that Henry and I just watched and in fact, I refused to leave for this road trip on Friday until we watched the finale because I knew it would bother me all weekend otherwise and turns out, it was THE MOST TRAGIC KDRAMA I have seen yet and the impact it has had on me is so ridiculous, so my weekend was totally affected by it anyway because I just started crying after saying that to Henry and he was like, “…oh my god” because the whole way to Tennessee I was dissecting the entire show and then I would start wailing WHYYYYYYYY in the stylings of a Korean Kerrigan.

Honestly, this drama was spectacular and I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a thriller / emotional roller coaster.

4:57pm: One more hour to go! I just said, “It doesn’t seem like we’ve been driving that long” and in tandem, Chooch piped up from the backseat, “I know!” while Henry frowned deeply.

“I guess that’s because we’ve been playing those games,” I said, all up-beat, and this made Henry’s frown deepen into something more murderous.

5:38pm: “Nice turn signal, a-hole” — Henry, in a very calm voice to someone in a minivan.

We are 35 minutes from home and I have to pee BUT I DONT WANT TO STOP DO YOU THINK I WILL MAKE IT? Also I forgot to mention that at our last Sheetz stop, Henry had the nerve to tell me and Chooch that we are embarrassing. WE ARE?? He’s the one who dresses like an off-duty trucker shopping for guns and jerky!! I just started cracking up after I wrote that because I’m the only person I make laugh, and Henry tried to quote an IU song where she says “Stu-p-i-d” but he completely fucked it up so then I started laughing harder and now he won’t talk to me.

5:45pm: Chooch and I are playing that letterpress game again and he just cried in anguish from the backseat, “I wish there was a P because I wanted to play ‘pansexual'” and I cried OMG ME TOO and Henry just shot me a glare. Eyes on the road, partner.

6:00pm: 17 minutes from home! I’d like to thank all the new Kpop drops, Chooch inviting me to play Letter Press or whatever it’s called, and Henry’s willingness to be the laughing stock of the car. BITCH LASAGNA.

6:19pm: We’re a mile from home and Henry just said we’re the stupidest people he’s ever met and this is the last trip he’s taking with us, so there you have it! The official ending of the liveblog!

Nov 242018
 

We made it safely to Tennessee! Now we gotta convince Henry that he really really really wants to take us to the Gatlinburg haunted house.

Hope everyone is having a great weekend & eating lots of Thanksgiving leftovers!

Nov 232018
 

Look man I was just happy to have some days off work where I didn’t have to trudge to the damn trolley in premature winter temps. Plus, we’re leaving for Tennessee later today (Dollywood!) so I was content having nothing to do on actual Thanksgiving. My mom and I are both pretty meh about the holiday so I don’t mind that she doesn’t want to host anymore.

But then Chooch pulled out his vegetarian cookbook the night before and was all, “Papa*, I’m going to find some recipes for you for tomorrow” and then I was like, “Oh shit. The kid. We should probably do something for the kid.” Lol.

*(What Chooch calls Henry when he’s trying to pretend like we’re like a wholesome family.)

So then Henry was like I GUESS I AM GOING TO THE STORE THEN and set off on Thanksgiving Eve to procure the tofurkey which is usually sold out because he waits too long. I remember way back in the day when we had to drive like 45 minutes to some weird health store to get one because regular grocery stores didn’t sell stuff like that and I got made fun of for eating it but no one bats an eye. Changing times, etc etc.

The first half of the day consisted of Leslie Sansone walking workouts (lol), kdramas but no family drama, watching Henry cook & clean, looking at Kpop idols, freaking out over a mystery bruise on my thumb, and planning all our amusement park trips for 2019. It was splendid! (Not the bruise part though, I’m mildly alarmed by it.)

I was in such a good mood that I even felt inspired to decorate for Christmas:

Chooch was all excited when I told him I decorated and then said, “…oh” when he saw it.

Since there was just the three of us and we’re going away this weekend, Henry kept the spread the simple: a tofurkey for Chooch and me (he made gross chicken for himself because he doesn’t like real turkey), whatever garlicky mashed potato recipe Chooch found, and a completely revamped version of the broccoli rabe & white bean casserole recipe that Chooch also requested, because Henry couldn’t find broccoli rabe at 8pm on Thanksgiving Eve so he used regular broccoli and brussels sprouts instead and it was delicious.

(I don’t even know what broccoli rabe is and I know for damn sure Chooch doesn’t either, so this made no difference to us.)

Henry kept yelling at us from the kitchen to start eating but we were like NO WE HAVE TO WAIT FOR YOUUUUUU IT’S THANKSGIVING.

But it was really because we needed him to plate our Tofurkey.

Oh Lord, we got so giddy right away and Chooch had a Code Red laughing fit which caused him to flee the table in search of a Kleenex, so you know Henry was in a great mood! That combined with the fact that the same NCT 127 song was playing repeatedly in the background really completed the mood. Look at Henry’s delirious face! I think deep down, he’s thankful for us, lunacy and all, even if he sometimes must feel like he’s living in an asylum.

Tofurky looks like a giant hotdog butt.

After dinner, Chooch and I continued our tradition of watching birthday party videos on YouTube (4th year!). We found a whole slew of new million subscriber families to hate! I called the one birthday girl and all her friends “a bunch of bitches” and Chooch was like “Aren’t they like three?!”

OK now for the Friday Five portion, which is FIVE THINGS I AM THANKFUL FOR:

  1. Korea (Henry and Chooch rolled their eyes when we went around the table and “gave thanks” and this was of course the first thing I said and whatever because Chooch just kept saying “Bambi” over and over and now that I think about it, I don’t think Henry said ANYTHING!?
  2. Having a job that I like – yeah, I know, I complain about it at times, who doesn’t complain about having to leave the house to go to work?! But when you’ve had jobs that have made you sick to your stomach and have panic attacks while paying you pennies, getting one where you feel comfortable and needed is really something to be thankful for.  Thanks, job!
  3. The willpower to get in shape – when I first started dieting in 2012 I was just about 200 pounds.  I did WW for a bit and got myself down to about 170 but it was a struggle. I had no energy! I was miserable! I can’t remember when I started spending my lunch break hour walking around downtown, but that helped me get my energy back and also kept my weight stable so I wasn’t gaining, but I also wasn’t really losing anything either. Since starting my own routine in 2016, being more mindful of what I eat and when I eat, and keeping up on those lunch break walks (even in the rain, even when I’m sick, even when it’s cold), I’ve managed to get myself down to 145. I never felt “unhealthy” even when I was heavier, but I do FOR SURE feel more “able.” Sure, I still have major body image issues that I need to work on, but baby steps!
  4. Eternal Youth! – I’m going to be 40 next year, I have a shit-ton of gray hairs, but my brain refuses to accept that and still spends most of its time thinking about concerts and amusement parks and Kpop idols. I was talking to Amber about this at work the other day, how I’m trying to fit in a few days in Tokyo during my birthday Korea trip next summer because I want to go to DisneySea and how Henry is like dreaming of the day when we can plan a vacation that doesn’t include an amusement park, and Amber said, “I can’t believe you’re going to be 40. You’re like, ageless, to me.” YES.  I’m thankful that I have managed to maintain that part of myself because goddamn does it make life fun! Except for when you watch so many vlogs about roller coasters and are constantly hearing people talking about the “head chopper” elements and then you go to bed and have a horribly vivid nightmare that you’re watching a movie where some girl is walking down the steps of some Victorian mansion and gets her head lopped off by her dad, completely out of nowhere, but then it turns out to be YOU, you just had YOUR head chopped off, but later in the dream, you realize that your head was put back on, but apparently your ear had also been cut off and that was put back on much more jankily than your head, so it’s all bloody and it BURNS and also it’s not aligned properly with your head and you are FREAKING OUT ABOUT THIS. I mean, that’s just something that might happen.
  5. Henry & Chooch, le duh – Come on, this is a given. I have a guy who is mild-tempered and goes along with all my crazy ideas, he gets totally engrossed in every k-drama with me to the point where he’s mad when I start a new one without him (he’ll still watch it though), he sends me kpop-related texts on Kakao throughout the day (I made him download Kakao awhile back and it’s the only way we text now unless I’m mad at him then I use regular text and he’s like, “wow you must be mad”), he does whatever he can to make my life easier, and well, he’s just the best and I’m glad we’ve lasted together all these years because I can’t imagine many other people who would be like, “Yes, let me completely change the way I cook for you because now you’re on a make-believe Korean diet and sure, let’s go to Party City for new home decor so our house can continue to look like Pee Wee’s Playhouse and OK, let’s talk about going to some random town in the Netherlands so you can spend Easter 2020 at some weird amusement park.” Lol. And then Chooch! I couldn’t ask for a better kid. He is such a mini-Erin that it’s actually scary at times (or, “all times” if you’re Henry). He’s independent and self-motivated when it comes to school (he’s basically a genius but has ZERO COMMON SENSE though, oh my god, he is street-stupid), a mini-politician when it comes to the neighborhood (everyone knows him!), and he is SO ENTERTAINING. Janna was over here on Saturday for Kpop Fitness Night and afterward, he effortlessly had us cracking up just by being him, sitting there making his dumb Rainbow Loom bracelets. No, our life isn’t perfect, and we do all bicker with each other like normal TV families, but we never go to bed mad at each. (EXCEPT FOR LAST NIGHT BECAUSE WE GOT A BUNCH OF CARD ORDERS AND HENRY AND I DO NOT WORK WELL TOGETHER IN THE GREETING CARD FACTORY.)

Anyway, that’s my Thanksgiving 2018 recap and obligatory “thankful” list. I’ll end here with a video of Mini-Erin stalking his nemesis Larry:

ETA: Chooch just woke up and said, “Well, I see the dining room table is back to its old self” and I screamed “WELL, WE HAD 80 MILLION CARDS TO MAKE LAST NIGHT OK, THANKS FOR THE HELP!”

Nov 212018
 

Finally, after months of being put on the back burner because of supply issues, KPOPendants have finally debuted! I’m smitten with them. I wanted them to have a Victorian-esque cameo feel to them.

Here are the first four in the shop, but in the coming days, I’ll be adding Taemin, Jackson, Kai, Jin, and Jungkook, plus more!

First up, for your consideration, is the perfectly elven face of Kim Taehyung from BTS.

This is my friend Janna’s bias, only because I made her choose one.

Next up is Park Jimin, also from BTS (Armys, I hear you, and soon all 7 will be in pendant-form).

Please don’t mind the glare! These things are difficult to photograph.

I’m sorry, but I just don’t see enough Cha Eun-woo things out there. They don’t call him a face genius for no reason!

And the one that started it all, our king, Kwon Jiyong aka the legendary G-Dragon. This was my first pendant design and it was honestly because I wanted one to wear for myself, lol.

And it’s no surprise that he was the first one to sell!

All pendants set in a resin frame, capped off with a glass cabochon, and come ready-to-wear with a silver-plated 18 inch chain. Pendant itself measures 2.75in. x 1.5in.

These cuties can be found in the pendant section of Hello Hanguk and while you’re there, maybe grab a greeting card to go with it?! God, I’m such a great peddler.

Nov 202018
 

Ugh, I have tried to keep Wanna One at arm’s length because I knew my heart would eventually be broken if I gave in and let full Wannable (their fan group name lol) mode take over. Wanna One are the product of a Korean music survival show, where trainees from different agencies compete to be in a Kpop group. I don’t watch those shows regularly (and there are numerous) so I’m not sure if they’re all this way, but the show Wanna One was born from gives their groups expiration dates.

And Wanna One’s is coming up quickly. There have been rumors of an extension but it still doesn’t seem like any rule is going to be broken for them to stay together as long as they want. Once the contract is up, they’ll all go back to their respective agencies and hopefully have a bright future, like (most) of the winning girls from the first season of this show did.

Anyway, then they had to go and release this new song yesterday and I’m over here blubbering and finally admitting that Kang Daniel is my bias (I’m basic). But oh, this video! It sure lifts my bleak November mindset! I love the color palette and the choreo (when they do that plié/squat thing, my knees hurt for them) and the song and their cherubic faces and and and, ow my heart.

Nov 192018
 

You know how sometimes, before you go to bed, your mind wants to narrate to you in full detail the specifics of C-sections? GIRL, that happened to me just last night!

I know it’s been like, what, 12+ years since I was sliced and diced but I swear I still have incision pain.

“That’s probably why I can’t get rid of this little belly-bulge! It’s my body’s way of shielding me from the incision scar!” I cried hysterically to Henry, who mumbled, “You don’t even have a scar there” at the same time I was describing the scar as my Ouchie Strip.

“Really? Ouchie Strip?” Henry repeated with something in the middle of disgust and disappointment. Look, it was the first thing I could think of ok.

“CHILD BIRTH IS UNNATURAL!” I wailed in my next breath. “People should be born from….SEEDS!”

“So what, men should just walk around ejaculating in the dirt?” Henry asked.

“No, men won’t have anything to do with this. Fuck those jackasses. God will just drop the seeds from a cloud in Heaven,” I said slowly, thinking about it as I went on. “Farmer God.”

Then Henry reminded me that I don’t even believe in God, AND THAT’S WHY! GOD MAKES CRUEL THINGS HAPPEN TO US LIKE DONALD TRUMP AND CHILD BIRTH.

Henry fell asleep soon after this, leaving me to lie there, thinking about how MY ORGANS* WERE POTENTIALLY SCOOPED OUT OF MY BODY CAVITY AND DUMPED INTO A TROUGH, THANKS CHOOCH.

*(I didn’t even know that this could happen until 2 years ago when I was watching some BuzzFeed video about men going through fake child birth and they were like dry heaving when they found that out about C-sections and I was like, “WAIT, DID THAT HAPPEN TO ME TOO?!” and Henry was like, “Maybe your intestines?” And then I was dry-heaving too.)

(Seriously my insides feel bruised right now at the thought.)

(I just asked Henry about it again and he said, “I don’t know if they took anything out. They grabbed him by his big head and—”

“OH MY GOD!!” I shrieked, wincing.

“You brought it up!!” Henry spat.)

***

 I was moderately annoyed when I first went out on my break today because I had to go to the dumb post office to mail my greeting cards since I have to stand there and watch the postal workers scan them in because I can’t trust them to always do their job properly! For it being such a bleak, rainy day today, people were fucking FRIENDLY out there on the streets of Pittsburgh. Like, people were actually SMILING at me when I would pause to let them pass me since sometimes the sidewalks don’t accommodate two people passing with umbrellas. And then I found that instead of stomping along with resting bitch face like usual, I was smiling too and then even more people were smiling back and I was like WHAT IS THIS SORCERY.

And then I started to CRY. Not like full-blown Hallmark TV movie sobbing but my eyes were for sure welling up and it BURNT, like Holy Water on the face of Satan.

(Or Saran, as I originally typed. You know, that motherfucker and his sinister kitchen wrap products. Hisssss.)

***

I think maybe I’m becoming weak and soft because basic things like humanity and compassion or whatever the fuck are starting to sneak through my wall of hate and I just don’t care anymore. Like, this one day last week, I was waiting for the trolley (i.e. how all of my Horror Stories start) when I heard this broad’s loud-ass mouth from many yards away (I forget how much of a distance a yard is but it was like distance between my desk and Wendy’s office away, which means nothing to you if you don’t work with me).

She had that terrible “smoking since 13” Pittsburgh trash voice that I loathe so much and immediately start prejudging, when I hear it LOOK I’M SORRY I’M NOT A FUCKING SAINT. But keep reading because maybe I’m changing, who knows.

Now, this broad had cut our distance in half and she was scream-talking to the fare attendant about the weather. As she shouted for him to have a good day, I began to pray to the trolley lords to help repel her from my area but apparently no fucking religion wants me because she pushed her stroller right up next to me and that’s when I realized I’ve seen her, but not heard her, on the trolley a few months ago.

Immediately, she started talking to me about her kid in the stroller who turned two in September, didn’t want to wear her gloves, and can count to 10 but skips 7 & 8 (Chooch always skipped 7 and said it was because he didn’t need it so I was softening up to this broad before I had a chance to stop myself). She was also a lot younger than her CDC Smoker Voice tv commercial made her out to be.

This broad was so chatty and usually I blanch at this but I robotically said things like “My son does not like to keep gloves on either” in an effort to balance the camaraderie. I even picked up the kid’s plastic Elmo phone one of the 18 she chucked it.

But then the T came and I sat five rows back her. She sat near the lady who likes Phyllis from The Office aka the only person on the T who is ever charmed by that annoying family I sometimes bitch about on here. Immediately, this girl proceeded to tell Phyllis everything going on in her life, which is all pretty awful:

  • she has an older daughter who is a super bad seed and was in Western Psych and basically sounds like she’s capable of murder except that she loves animals thank god so the therapists at Western Psych would use animal therapy on here
  • her baby’s daddy sounds like a piece of shit
  • she’s adopted and doesn’t have close family which is why she talks to strangers (GURL STOP)
  • she had to check to see if she had homework due that day not because she’s in school but because she had to take weekly Bible classes in order for her rent to be paid — THAT WAS THE WORST PART!

Anyway there was so much more she was telling Phyllis and normally people flapping and wringing out their dirty laundry on pub-trans makes me so disgusted but this girl was like…still upbeat. Like, she wasn’t complaining or relaying any of this shit in a woe-is-me fashion, but she was being very matter-of-fact and conversational probably because that dumb boyfriend of hers doesn’t talk to her!!!

Look, this might have been another time in less than a week that my eyes spontaneously sprinkled. And when the trolley arrived at my stop, I went out of my way to walk by her just so I could tell her I hoped she has a good day. Henry said it’s like when the Grinch’s heart grew ten sizes or whatever. I guess.

Per-fucking-spective, bro.

If that girl can get off her ass and do the work expected of her to make her life better, in spite of all the hurdles and challenges in her way, then maybe I could at the very least take the T to work without acting like it’s the worst thing to ever happen to me…

Ok, baby steps, Erin. Tiny baby gnome steps.