Aug 252018
 

Oh, it was fraught with adversity.

My obsession with Holiday World started about five or six years ago when we were planning a small road trip around a visit with our pals Bill and Jessi in Michigan. I started looking up amusement parks around that area and found two in Indiana that seemed promising: Holiday World and Indiana Beach. I remember it was a big to-do because I wanted to go to both parks and didn’t understand what the problem was, no matter how many times Henry showed me on a map that they were on opposing sides of the state from each other.

SO WHAT!?

Henry just wasn’t as committed as me I guess, and in the end he made me choose one.

In his own gruff dad-words: ONE OR THE OTHER!

I ended up choosing Indiana Beach because they had several rides and y’all know that dark rides are my absolute favorite things in amusement parks. A pox on those that don’t have any, I say!

Something made me jump back on the Holiday World train sometime in late April.

“We’ll see,” Henry said, utilizing his favorite cop-out response.

“But we never go anywhere!” I cried.

“We literally just came back from Korea?!” Henry cried while foraging in our backyard for that night’s dandelion dinner because Korea left as poor people.

(It didn’t really but that’s how Henry acted because it gave him an easy way out of having to do anything for the unforeseeable future.)

My begging and pleading went on for MONTHS culminating in him flipping out and yelling, “SOMETIMES I FORGET THAT YOU’RE ACTUALLY AS OLD AS YOU ARE!” in the middle of Target when I was pouting.

I even took this one particular Friday off work because it was getting down to the wire and I couldn’t get that asshole to confirm but if we were going to go, it was going to have to be on that weekend and finally I was like FUCK YOU and booked the hotel and then the rest of that week was really tense and silent in our house, lol, not really but Henry wasn’t pleased with me at all.

At one point, just me and Chooch were going to go but I hoped that my bluff wouldn’t come true because I definitely didn’t want to make that 7 hour drive myself. HOW WOULD I LIVE BLOG?!

After I booked the hotel though, I started to tell work people about it because I thought maybe if I vocalized my desires, they would be more apt to come true so I was all, “YEAH WE’RE GOING TO HOLIDAY WORLD THIS WEEKEND NO BIG DEAL” and blew on my finger nails a few times like I was a 1950s greaser who just called some nerd Coke Bottle Eyes at the soda shop.

Glenn was like, “That sounds dumb” but Lauren and Margie were all in. Especially when I told them that there was the promise of FROZEN HOT CHOCOLATE WITH SANTA IN MRS. CLAUS’S KITCHEN.

I walked past them one time last week and casually called over my shoulder, “Oh, and all soft drinks are FREE at Holiday World. Sunscreen too” and then I fake-yawned and continued on to my desk.

But then the day before I admitted to Lauren that I wasn’t actually sure if we were going for real because I still hadn’t gotten Henry to say the y-word (“yes,” come on guys, I shouldn’t have to spell out everything for you, get a clue) but that I had taken the following day off a month prior.

“Did you take that day off specifically for this, without knowing for sure–” and then she started cracking up when I sadly nodded.

So then Friday came. I knew Henry didn’t take the day off because god forbid he ever takes days off work, but sometimes he can get out of there semi-early depending on other people. I fucking paced around Brookline ALL DAY and then Chooch and I argued because I didn’t feel that he cared enough about this trip, and he was like, “But it’s just….Indiana—I mean, no I’m really excited! I want to go! Yay, Holiday World!” but his forced enthusiasm wasn’t foolin’ nobody. NOBODY.

Finally, that d-bag Henry came waltzing in the house around 3:00 and I was like LET’S GO but then he had to take a stupid shower first and pack and I was tapping holes into the floor with my foot.

It was around 3:30 when we finally left the house and I was like, “OK we’re doing this, we’re finally leaving” and Henry was surprisingly in a good mood so that made me feel ominous, you know? Like was something going to happen? (This isn’t foreshadowing, nothing happened, but I am a very superstitious and paranoid person so I was ON EDGE all weekend.)

The funny part is that part of my deal was that if we went to Holiday World, I would drive part way. Originally, I said I would drive for the first part because I can’t drive well at night (see: eyes that can’t see) and Henry was like, “Deal” but then I was like, “Well, I’ll just drive to Columbus and then you can drive after that because I get confused around Columbus” and he sighed heavily but still agreed.

(When I was friends with my ex-bff who lived in shitty Cinci, I would always make her take the Greyhound to Columbus and then I would pick her up there and make her drive the rest of the way to Cinci because following directions on a highway is not my strongsuit. On my very first time ever visiting her, I got the exit number screwed up and got lost like 2 hours into the trip, lost my temper, and came home. Turns out my head scrambled the exit number and instead of taking, say for example, Exit 81 I took Exit 18 and it didn’t occur to me at all that it was awfully soon into the drive to be “almost there” and then I stopped at a gas station and got in a fight with some trashy bitch in Marietta, OH and I have the rest blacked out but I think I wrote about it on LiveJournal so maybe I’ll go and look that up on a rainy day which could be any day since all it’s done here in Pittsburgh this summer is rain and will you just get back to the story, Erin?!)

I was prepared to get in the drivers seat when we were leaving but Henry said he would drive for a little bit because he’s a big tough man and everyone knows women should just shut up and get in the passenger seat. He was going to switch off with me once we got to West Virginia but HILARIOUSLY it started storming so hard that it was hazardous and everyone was crawling along the highway with their flashers on and by the time it stopped, we were nearly to Columbus, and Henry was like, “WOW YOU SURE GOT OUT OF THAT ONE” and I just smiled cutely because we all knew I wasn’t going to do any driving, come on now, I have shit to do.

It was around 7 at this point (yes, that rain took a major chunk out of our travel time) so we stopped in some podunk town for dinner. We were going to eat some joint called Clay’s which was an ice cream parlour and family restaurant, but there was a bit of a wait. I put in my name and we sat on a wooden bench with some of the locals who knew we were outlanders, but then Henry realized there was a Loving Hut nearby so we left and he was mad at me for not telling the lady to take our name off the list like he suddenly is the authority on restaurant couth.

Got to Loving Hut and originally sat down near a fucking screaming toddler whose ear-piercing screeches were ricocheting in my head, and I almost left because I was on the verge of flipping a table (its mom just sat there and scrolled through her phone, like hello maybe your idiot kid is screaming because it wants you to look at it) but then Henry asked a waitress if she could clean off an empty but dirty table on the other side of a wall so ALL WAS WELL.

I usually try to just eat at local establishments when we travel but the call of Loving was just too strong. We used to have a Loving Hut in Pittsburgh but it closed and I’m not sure if it’s reopening somewhere else or just gonezo forever, but it’s a vegetarian joint that even Hank the Meat-Tank can stand so we were all happy. (Even Korea has Loving Huts!)

I want to go back in time and tear that sandwich apart with my gnashing maw all over again it was so good. (Vegan BBQ with coleslaw, ugh more please). I don’t know what Henry got but he nearly licked the plate clean while Chooch complained because he didn’t like the sauce on his burger bun – that kid is so averse to condiments, it makes me sad.

We were sooooo off-schedule by then. Our original ETA was 10:30pm but we had only made it to Cinci by 10, and Santa Claus was still 3 hours from there. But the bright side of running late was that we got to see fireworks over top of an otherwise bland city.

Chooch fell asleep sometime after this and I was burdened with the task of making sure Henry didn’t fall alseep at the wheel even though I was tired too but SOLIDARITY. The drive from Cinci to Louisville wasn’t too bad (we drove past the Vent Museum!) but holy shit it was all black nothingness once we hit Indiana. And then we somehow got rerouted so the GPS added 45 minutes to the drive time and I started crying out of anger while Henry was threatening the GPS robot lady, but then somehow it recalculated and shaved off a bunch of time so we celebrated.

We rolled up to the super basic (but clean and not crawling with sex workers like the last place Henry booked in Newark) Motel 6 or 8 or whatever number they use sometime after midnight which was actually after 1am for us but time rolled back an hour when we crossed over into the central time zone somewhere in Indiana. There was some family in a banged-up minivan who got there at the same time as us and the dad was like, “HAHA you guys look as thrilled as us” because we were just dragging at that point. He had on shorts and a wife-beater and as the elevator door closed on us, Chooch said, “He looked like a discount Vin Diesel” and I couldn’t stop laughing at that because he kind of did look like that.

We crashed and then woke up bright and early to get ready for HOLIDAY WORLD! First we went to Subway for a light breakfast (I get sick if I go to amusement parks with too much food in my gut) and we were in line with a young alternatrash couple that were super skinny probably from drugs and the dude had TERRIBLE face tattoos, which was basically my prelude to a day full of more face tattoos, so many face tattoos, Indiana must run specials on them. And they weren’t on people who looked cool and edgy, like guys in bands or tattoo artists, guys who can pull that shit off because it’s part of their lifestyle as a musician or artist, you know? No, these were the kinds that screamed, “I just finished beating my girlfriend and gave myself this shoddy prison face tattoo.” Every single guy I saw in that park who had one just looked so fucking trashy and heroin-y and I can guess that they all had at least one Kid Rock CD in their car at that moment.

But that didn’t affect our glorious time at Holiday World!

We got there right when it opened at 10am and expected it to be relatively crowded because it was a Saturday and we try to avoid going to amusement parks on weekends. I was fully prepared to have to do a lot of waiting in lines but it was gloriously sparse!

The Raven was the first ride we rode! It was a wicked coaster and unexpectedly fun – Chooch and I sat in the back and got our asses (and necks) kicked on it.

I took some family’s picture here and then the mom was all, “here I’ll take yours too” and I reluctantly agreed but I hate having my picture taken so bad so that’s why it looks like I have 87 fire-sticks up my ass.

Henry was going to wear a gray shirt that I hate because every time he wears it, he’s in a bad mood, so then he changed into a different gray shirt. The man loves grays and browns, I don’t think he’ll change up his wardrobe at this point.

I’m going to stop here and get into the real meaty portions of Holiday World in my next post because SPOILER ALERT we had such a great time there and I can’t stop thinking about those majestic wooden coasters.

Aug 202018
 

Before I get into the real reason we were in Santa Claus, Indiana, I want to talk about the delightful time we spent at the Santa Claus Museum before departing for Pittsburgh yesterday morning.

Yes, the museum was open on Sundays, much to Henry’s dismay!

I thought it was pretty strange that a random town in Indiana was named after Santa, but luckily, I learned immediately at the museum that it was originally called Santa Fee, but when it was time to, I don’t know, do something postal-related, I can’t remember now (I’m the worst at museum-ing!), they realized that there was a town called Santa Fe also in Indiana (WHICH SANTA FE CAME FIRST!? Who has time to google, not me — I want to get through this blog post and finish watching the Taemin Off-Sick concert!! HE WEARS A SWEATER VEST WITH NOTHING UNDER IT DURING ONE SONG, AND HIS PANTS HAVE SUSPENDERS AND HE HAS SOME WEIRD SWEATER COOZY ON HIS ONE FOREARM – ONLY LEE TAEMIN CAN MAKE THIS DORK-STYLE SIZZLE).

Anyway, back to the Sante Fee vs. Santa Fe debacle. There was a town hall meeting to come up with a new name and during that meeting, a strong gust of wind blew the door open and some child-broad yelled, “SANTA CLAUS?!” So that’s how that happened.

A likely story.

But first, we had to snoop around this creepy Santa statue which is allegedly the oldest in the world but then I also read that it’s the only tribute statue to Santa, so…It was still very cool! When we were walking over to it, we saw an older couple that was standing in line in front of us for our first ride on the Voyage at Holiday World the day before!

SPOILER ALERT: We were in Santa Claus for an amusement park.

Such secrets.

(It wasn’t a secret. But we almost didn’t go so I was trying to refrain from being all FOUR MORE DAYS UNTIL HOLIDAY WORLD except at work. Those poor people had to hear about it a lot. The new admin lady is learning so much about me whether she wants to or not.)

‘Sup Santa.

So the museum was actually a museum for the TOWN and not Santa in general, which was fine. I appreciate learning the history of a quaint little town every now and then.

I love that they keep old letters to Santa on display.

LIKE THIS ONE.

One of my favorites was from some polite bitch who was like I don’t want anything for Xmas but peace and whatnot and then she conveniently left a PS:

But then the one below it, OUCH MY STUPID HEART.

Chooch was diligently working to piece together this puzzle which ended up missing a bunch of edge pieces and he was in a fit of extreme outrage over this but before the rage happened, some super annoying midwest family came in and the young daughter screamed, “MAMA IS THAT REALLY SANTA” while peering at pictures of some old town Santa in a cabinet. Chooch spun around so fast with the most disgusted look on his face and I was like OH GOD IS HE GOING TO END THIS BITCH’S CHILDHOOD RIGHT NOW but then he turned back around and focused all of his energy on that stupid puzzle that I would have had pieced together in like two minutes, but let’s not make this a competition.

Then the mom was hovering while I was reading the letters to Santa so I stepped aside and she swooped in and started taking pictures of every single one.

The other appealing thing about this town is that some dude back in the day was like, “I have a lot of money so I’m going to retired and build Santa Claus Land” and that’s what he did but then it was only mildly successful and something happened, I can’t remember, and now it’s Holiday World.

OH! There was a wall in the hallway that had a bunch of framed celebrities’ headshots with signed dollar bills in each one and it turns out that some townie back in the 80s decided to write to famous people and ask for their autographed pictures and they included a dollar to also be signed and these celebrities like Johnny Carson and Danny DeVito actually complied?! I thought only soap opera actors did that shit.

Chooch was like, “I DON’T KNOW WHO ANY OF THESE PEOPLE ARE” so I pointed to Charlton Heston and started mouthing off about the NRA and Henry gave me the NOT HERE, NOT NOW moustache bristle so then I mumbled, “He was Moses.”

GUYS, IF I WRITE TO G-DRAGON IN THE MILITARY AND INCLUDE A 1000 WON BILL, HE WILL SIGN IT AND SEND ME A GLORIOUS PHOTO OF HIS PERFECT FACE.

THEN WE WENT TO THE FAKE POST OFFICE.

AND CHOOCH WROTE A LETTER TO SANTA.

(Even though the lady in the museum didn’t ask him if he had written his letter yet, but she practically pounced on the kids in the annoying family about it because they were younger OK #AGEISM.)

This fucker really asked Santa for V-Bucks. I RUE THE DAY FORTNIGHT CAME INTO OUR LIVES. I literally start to shake when he starts begging and whining for V-Bucks. He wanted this “special” they were having the other day and then told me it was TWENTY-FIVE REAL DOLLARS to get a bunch of FAKE DOLLARS to buy FAKE GOODS for his VIDEO GAME CHARACTER?! Um, no. This is the dumbest thing ever, Santa don’t you dare get him V-Bucks.

Get me a gift certificate for Choice Music.

Then the annoying family came in and took over so I was like OK LET’S WRAP THIS UP because I just couldn’t handle the mom with her neon pink Loony Toons shirt and fanny pack.

I don’t know if it was actually Loony Toons but it was neon pink and something a mom would wear in the early nineties and I needed to get away from her.

(Ironically, I was wearing a Hypercolor shirt BUT IT WAS FOR THE BAND HANDS LIKE HOUSES so don’t lump me in. Don’t you fucking dare do it.)

This old-ass creepy church was also on the property so we poked around.

Oh god, it smelled SO OLD in there, and I felt like I was for sure inhaling asbestos and ancient sins. I can’t believe they let people go in there. The floorboards were whack in some spots and I felt like rafters could have started falling in on us at any moment and not just because we heathens yo.

The museum was free but there was a suggested donation of $5 for families so I made Henry cough it up and then I only signed Chooch’s and my name in the guest book, hahahahaha.

Afterward, we went down the street to Santa’s Candy Castle which I mentioned in my liveblog (DID YOU READ IT?! I can’t remember what I wrote but it was probably not important). This was originally part of Santa Claus Land – oh hey, the candy castle’s website has a history page! Here, just read this. 

I just love shit like this. I didn’t even want any candy, I just wanted to see the building. But then I saw that they sold salt water taffy so I bought a bag for work just to be a dick because everyone goes to the beach and brings back legit salt water taffy. WELL HERE’S A SACK OF TAFFY FROM SANTA CLAUS, INDIANA!

Glenn was not impressed.

Overall, Santa Claus, Indiana is a quirky little town and even though I couldn’t imagine living there, it was a fun little road trip and I hope that one day Chooch will be like, “KIDS WE’RE GOING TO SANTA CLAUS” and his partner will be like, “WTF WHY.”

Aug 042018
 

Last fall when we visited our friends Bill and Jessi in Michigan, Jessi mentioned that there was a strong possibility they’d be in Pittsburgh at the end of July for a Rocky Horror Picture Show convention and that weekend had been emblazoned in my mind ever since. I refused any publicity events, interviews, or party invites that I received for that weekend (LOL). Seriously though, we had all been looking forward to this so hard but I kept my expectations super low because I knew they would be busy with convention stuff.

They had time Saturday afternoon for a museum break so Henry, Chooch and I met them in front of the Omni William Penn where they were staying (it’s haunted, so that was a bonus for them!) and made the 10 minute walk to the Heinz History Center because they were interested in seeing the Mister Rogers set artifacts.

First we had to walk past a sidewalk filming of this one really aggressive religious group that has a show on the public access channel and that was scary. But then I got to show them the famous Two Andys mural  and of course point out the Army Navy Store with the infamous machete purchased. Meanwhile, they were both saying very nice things about the city and it always helps chip some of the jade off my soul when I’m seeing PIttsburgh through someone else’s eyes. So I was kind of like, “Yeah, it’s not too b ad here.” Then a few days later I got caught in a rainstorm and almost passed out at the rising fumes of urine BUT I GUESS THAT’S MOST CITIES IN THE SUMMER.

Jessi took this picture of Chooch and Bill in front of what used to be the Toonseum, one of only three museums in the US dedicated to cartoon art, but apparently it recently closed and I have no idea how I didn’t notice this because I walk past there nearly every day!? I guess it closed in March and is now going to be a “roaming-museum” where they do events and stuff and honestly that does make more sense to me because my recollection of the Toonseum is that it was very small and not much was in there. So now I’m not too sad about it anymore.

We made it to the History Center safe and sound because I was a fearless troop leader and if there is one place I know my way around, it’s downtown Pittsburgh. Just don’t ask me for street names like some lady did the other day.

“If that’s 6th down there at that corner, is that 7th down this way?” she asked, pointing a certain way and I fucking FROZE and kept saying “um, uh” but then I remembered that she pointing the direction where there is a restaurant called Nine on Nine because it’s on 9th Ave and 900 Penn so that is how I was able to deduce that yes, the numbers went up in that direction. She didn’t seem very confident in my answer and was just like, “mmmmmmkay” but hey, she walked in that direction!

One time someone asked me where to get birth certificates and I was like, “Uh, have your mom re-birth you and the hospital will bring you one?” No really I just screamed I DUNNO and the person acted like it was a personal affront. Sorry, I only know alleys and cafes.

Anyway, it’s a shame that I have only been to the Heinz History Center once, and that was nearly 10 years ago at this point, when Vatican Splendors was touring the country and made a stop here in Pittsburgh so I made Kara go with me and watch me cry because religious artifacts really do it for me.

I know what you’re thinking, wow how much history could a dump like Pittsburgh have that it needs its own museum and here is where I will tell you to fuck off because only I can shit-talk my town, lol. I get really defensive when outsiders say disparaging things about it! But seriously, like most cities, Pittsburgh is rife with history and it’s not all steel mills and football, yay. I think it’s pretty common that Heinz was a huge deal for Pittsburgh and we are morally offended when we go to a restaurant elsewhere that has anything other than classic Heinz 57 on the tables. Piss off with that Hunts catsup junk.

After Bill nearly bought two memberships by accident, we headed straight to the Mr. Rogers exhibit which opened in March to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the show. I actually saw a lot of this stuff back when I was at Pitt when my creative non-fiction class took a field trip (lol) to the WQED building specifically to tour the Mr. Rogers set and write about it. Little did I know we were going to have to read it out loud the next week in class and here I was making asshole-y observations as I am known to do, so that was cool, reading that out loud. My writing teacher was the only person who liked me in that class. She had high hopes for me and I bet she would be so proud to know that I am still doing the same shit I was doing then – writing on a shitty blog.

Anyway! My favorite part of this day was actually seeing how happy it made Jessi to be there.

My second favorite part was when Chooch found out that there a stair-walking challenge where you take a slip of paper and get it stamped next to each stairwell to prove that you took the steps on every floor and then you can turn it into the gift shop and collect a prize! You better believe Chooch and I ran back up to the top of the last two floors to start this process, and yes, it would be super easy to just collect a stamp and not even take the steps but I hope that people wouldn’t do that. YOU’RE ONLY CHEATING YOURSELF!

Chooch was excited to point out the hearse to me. The funerary collections were definitely my favorites out of the whole museum.

This kneeler is so much better than ours! I’m jealous! (Yes, we have a kneeler in our house. Henry brought it home as a surprise one day because sometimes he’s actually in tune with my interests.)

If Jessi’s favorite part was the Mister Roger’s stuff, then Bill’s was this weird tooth-head doll. He was obsessed.

Henry didn’t have a favorite part because he’s seen all this shit before in his daily life. Because he’s old and museum artifacts ain’t got nuthin’ on him.

When we were looking at all the Heinz shit, I had this vivid flashback to when I worked at the Bad Place with Henry and our bosses had just come back from cruise. They were excitedly telling us that they were eating dinner with some other couples on the cruise and one of them was struggling to get the ketchup to pour out of the bottle. You’ve been there before, unless you’ve never had the pleasure of throttling a glass bottle of ketchup. Anyway, our boss Joe excitedly said to us, “And then I told them to strike the 57 with the heel of their hand and they thought I was joking but then they did it and it worked!” It’s a super common trick here in the ‘Burgh but people always think we’re nuts UNTIL THEY TRY IT AND THAT SANGUINE SAUCE COMES SHOOTING OUT. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, there is a small “57” on the actual glass of the bottle, not on the label, and striking it does the trick.  I didn’t see if the museum mentioned that anywhere but I’m also super well-known for peacing out when it comes to reading signs in museums.

I get bored easily.

Jessi was obsessed with the fact that pickle salesmen had leather cases for their pickles back in the day. I wish men still wore hates like hat but I can’t imagine Henry looking good in one.

I am suspicious of people who don’t like ketchup, just like I am of people who don’t have pets.

<3

My third favorite part was when were in the interactive kids zone and I waited until some dumb kid finished making a picture on a lightboard and then I went over and messed it up. Henry frowned so hard but it would not be his biggest frown of the day.

Then I got lost for what seemed like days because that joint is big with lots of different ways to go!

I only went into the sports area to see the Penguins stuff but really it was because I was still lost and ran there in a panic. I almost considered joining another group and no, not once did it occur to me that I could have texted Henry, Jessi, or Bill using that newfangled contraption that it always glued to my hand.

You know, a cell phone.

God, you guys make me spell everything out!

I wish the Racer still looked like this! I’ll post pictures of when it looks like now soon, since I still have to vomit all my Kennywood birthday memories up on here.

Chooch wore this Isaly’s hat for the rest of the afternoon. IF YOU LIKE KLONDIKE BARS, THEN YOU’RE WELCOME.

The museum has an old trolley car that you can walk through and if the trolleys still looked like this perhaps I wouldn’t bitch so much every morning!

Anyway, Chooch and I collected all of the stamps needed and the nice lady at the museum gift shop register gave us each a small plastic Heinz ketchup pin and we were both like WORTH IT.

“Those probably cost like fifty cents,” Henry said, always trying to poop on our joy.

STILL WORTH IT.

Stay tuned for the grand finale of their visit!

Oct 142017
 

Look. I used some ironic Pittsburghese up there in that title and typically that is a pet peeve of mine but I figured since this is kind of a Pittsburgh tourism post thing, might as well add the full flavor, right YINZ GUYS?

Ugh.

Scott and Maya had left the itinerary of the day up to me, but they did express interest on going to the aviary at some point to watch the bats getting fed. I had no objections to this, but I will admit that the aviary is not something that I would have put on my own Pittsburgh travel itinerary. Not because I’m like, anti-birds or whatever, but because I honestly usually forget that this place even exists.

In fact, the last time (and maybe possibly even the only time?) I was ever there was when Chooch was 3 months old and I was adamant on taking him there for some reason even though Henry kept reminding me things like, “He’s only 3 months old” and “His eyes can’t even focus yet” and “He will never remember this.”

I think I got a discount for being a Pitt student maybe, and that was back when I was trying to milk it for all it was worth. So we went and two things happened:

  1. Chooch didn’t care
  2. Chooch doesn’t remember it (and I barely do, either)

I went to the aviary’s website the night before to see what the admission fee situation was like, and was surprised that it was only $15 (that seems reasonable) and that it’s apparently the largest in the country!

So after our Millie’s ice cream lunch, we walked over to the Gateway T station where some elderly couple, clad in Hawaiian button-downs and fanny pants, accosted us and started firing off questions; first they asked us if we were from Pittsburgh and I hesitated, unsure of my answer, because I was afraid of the questions that would follow. Turns out they were trying to get to the Carnegie Museum of Art and Janna and I tried to explain that they couldn’t get there by using the T and then the lady was pointing at a map like, “But it’s right there, can’t we just walk” and we just like, “Hey babe, that’s just where you catch the bus to get you there” but she was arguing with us about it and then the guy was like WHERE ARE ALL THE CABS which is the Pittsburgh equivalent of Pee Wee asking to see the Alamo’s basement, for real.

We suggested an Uber or Lyft but the lady was like, “I DON’T HAVE THAT APP” and honestly, their attitudes were pitiful and didn’t make me feel inspired at all to help them any further. Fucking swim there, it’s a beautiful day and the river’s right there, you know?

Ugh, talking to strangers is so exhausting.

Anyway, we got on the T and Maya was just like, “Aw, this is cute” because she and Scott lived in NYC, so…..the trolley here really is cute compared to a true urban transportation system. But I managed to get us off at the right stop (fine, Janna did – I’m not very familiar with the T past Gateway) and then we made it to the aviary on foot without getting lost so this day was shaping up to be quite the success. And all of my work friends were so worried about what I was going to do to these poor people!

Inside the aviary, I was reminded about how much I love birds and how so many of them remind me of my cats. There was one majestic owl in particular that made me mentally weep for Marcy. :( She always reminded me of an owl.

The penguins were especially delightful and showing off for us. Maya said their daughter is really into penguins so that’s just another check for the “pro Pittsburgh” column because HELLO OUR HOCKEY TEAM IS THE PENGUINS. Plus, they’re a better team than Nashville. *insert fingernail painting emoji*

I really liked this room because not only was there a Buffalo Bill’n flamingo, but Janna almost whacked in the head twice by free-flying birds and it was amazing.

You guys, I didn’t realize the bats were going to be so big!  I was expecting those little tiny fruit bat things that my dad used to taunt in our backyard by throwing a wiffle ball high up into the air and making them dive down for it. Sigh, fun times on Gillcrest Drive. These bats were like ACTUAL VAMPIRES. I was so stoked! These particular bats are Flying Foxes.

Janna mused, “Aw, they’re like foxes with wings.”

“That’s why they’re called FLYING FOXES, JANNA,” I yelled. God!

Anyway, the feeding was way more exciting than I ever could have imagined. One of the aviary workers came into their habitat with a pail of watermelon, grapes, and…papaya? I can’t remember what the third fruit was now. You know me and my details! Let’s just gloss over everything as usual.

While the lady was hand-feeding them (they’re particular little suckers! GET IT—SUCKERS?!), she relayed some facts about them, like how big their wingspan is (like 4 feet or something) and then started talking about the dangers of unsustainable palm oil so now I’m obsessed with it and even downloaded the app that she recommended so that when I buy Halloween candy, I can make sure it’s from a company that’s not an enemy of the rain forest. (Look up “sustainable palm oil” in your app store and join me!)

Major props to Scott and Maya for suggesting the aviary. I had a lot of fun there and felt that just watching the bat feeding alone was worth the price of admission.

While we were there, I sent Chooch a picture of some giant condor that reminded me of his idiot cat Drew and he was so angry that we wnet to the aviary without him. I mean, even before he knew we were going to the aviary, he was mad that he got left behind, but have you met Chooch? He is the worst when it comes to things like this and would have totally impeded upon the day and started to complain that his hip hurt from walking too much. He’s pretty dramatic.

We capped off the day of sightseeing with some coffee at Colony Cafe, where we got to relax and get to know Scott and Maya some more. They are so freaking easy to talk to, it’s kind of maddening. How do I unlock this life skill?!

After that, we all walked back to the Wood Street trolley station, where Janna had a total tourist moment by not being able to put money on her Connect Card, so Scott gave her a dollar so that she could just be a TRUE N00B by paying cash on the T. Oh, Janna. While we waited for the T, some crazy Steelers fan tried to engage me in FOOTBALL TALK but I shot him down, only for Scott to be like, “I know football things” so then they started talking about sports things and I thought to myself, “If they move here, they will be just fine.” Honestly, all it takes is even one small nugget of knowledge of one sport, any sport, and you can get by. Plus, Maya accidentally was wearing a Batman shirt in the official color palette of Pittsburgh so I think people were mistaking her for a fan of the Pirates/Penguins/Steelers, pick one, any one.

(I think it was on the trolley where we heard people talking about Nashville for the second time that day, and we all exchanged looks because what were the odds, you know?)

Anyway, we parted ways with Maya and Scott when the trolley rolled up to Station Square. They were going to check out Mt. Washington via the incline and I really wanted to do that too but Janna had a pie to make and I had to go home and get all of the pie party decorations out of the basement and then decompress because I always get so stressed out the night before the pie party, you have no idea.

As soon as they got off the trolley and the door closed, I looked at Janna and gushed, “OMG I LOVE THEM!” and Janna agreed that she also thought they were great and we both started to hardcore hope that they will move here. There were absolutely zero bad or weird vibes. Yes, I was still a little nervous and a lot shy because that’s just me, but I could tell that these are people I can be myself around and I was really excited for Henry to get to meet them the next day.

Meanwhile, not only did Janna have to pay an extra fare for using cash, she also lost a quarter because the fare thingie doesn’t give change. She was pretty nonchalant about this though which was annoying because I wanted her to be more upset. On the walk back to my house, though, some (possibly drunk?) guy walked past us and when he pulled his hand out of his pocket, some change flew out and clattered to the sidewalk. He glanced behind him when this happened, but then kept walking, undaunted that he lost money.

“Janna, you should pick that up. It will make up for the quarter you lost,” I urged. There was at least a dime and a nickel chilling on the sidewalk, plus whatever he dropped further up the sidewalk, but she chose to just pick up the nickel. As soon as it was in her hand, I yelled, “JANNA YOU JUST STOLE FROM THAT MAN!” and he whipped around to look at us while she tried to pass the nickel off on me! I was like, “I DON’T WANT YOUR STOLEN MONEY!” so she ended up leaving it on some sign that was in front of the pool hall we were walking past.

It was great. You should have been there.

*****

Later that night, I got an alert that the Pens game wa starting. They were playing Nashville. I guess all the “random” Nashville talk we kept overhearing that day wasn’t so random after all! Oh ho ho hockey.

Oct 112017
 

I am so excited to write this blog post and it will likely be rife with typos because of said excitement (and also because it’s me typing this, remember). Ok ok ok. So, my friend Maya and her husband Scott have been tossing around the idea of moving and somehow, someway, Pittsburgh made it on their short list of options.

Maya and I go way back, and by way back I mean to somewhere like 2008 when we were both active members of a sellers group on Etsy called Etsy’s Dark Side. It was a lot of fun – people in the group would swap business cards, etc so when an order would go, you could include a cute little pack of swag from other shops in the group, kind of like back in the PENPALLING DAYS when you’d throw in some FBs* with your letter for an added bonus. Maya was so great at organizing these swaps! Our one friend Agony’s Decay used to send us little skull-shaped soaps to include with our orders. I was just thinking about this yesterday and felt inspired to re-order business cards from Vista Print for the first time since 2011. I’m good at running a fake business.

*(Pre-Facebook, “FB” stood for “friendship book” which was a small handmade book of stapled paper, sometimes just index cards, that would get passed on from one penpal to the next with each person writing their name, address, interests, etc with the hope of making new penpals; it was like a super rudimentary Craigslist.)

Anyway, some of us became “outside of Etsy” friends and by that I mean we friended each other on Facebook. Mostly, I didn’t interact very much with any of them but Maya was one of the few that I felt like I clicked with, even after I stopped being as active on Etsy as I was back then. And you may remember that Maya is the maker of my favorite dolls!

(Christofer Drew, Jonny Craig, Vic Fuentes, Birthday Clown keychain!)

Technically, that Christofer Drew doll is Chooch’s, along with a Ju-On doll she made him a few years ago, which is in his room because she’s one of his favorite possessions.

Maya and Scott have been wanting to head on over to Pittsburgh to scope it out. When I told her the date for the pie party, they decided that would be a fine weekend to come out, eat some pie and check out some possible neighborhoods. I THOUGHT I WAS GOING TO DIE! I was at work when she told me and I made some (probably disruptive) exclamation at my desk and then ran around telling people. SOME PEOPLE were like, “Great, if you’re giving her the grand tour, they’ll probably scratch Pittsburgh off the list.”

Ugh, shut up guys.

They got in Friday afternoon but I was working late shift that day (#fml), but they hit up 21st St. Coffee, Primanti’s, and the Wood Street Gallery on their own because they’re capable humans. We didn’t actually meet up until Saturday. Janna joined us because I was afraid they’d ask simple questions about the city and I wouldn’t be able to answer, like, “What is that building?” or “Is it safe here at night,” but I figured if they asked me things like, “Hey where did that creepy guy hug you that one time?” or “Where did that machete thing happen?” I’d be fine.

They didn’t ask, but don’t worry: I SHOWED THEM ANYWAY!

I feel like I’ve been training for this day though, all these years, all those lunch break walks. I have gotten so good at Pittsburgh! Well….kind of. I know the good alleys and where to get ice cream. I also know when to avoid walking around down there (4pm – when all those fucking school kids are running the sidewalks acting like they own the goddamn town, ugh GET OFF MY LAWN) and where to get a good non-Starbucks cup of coffee. (Pro tip: anywhere that’s not Starbucks.)

Henry dropped Janna and me off at Scott and Maya’s hotel in the Strip District and I was prepared for awkward greetings because have you met me? Maybe you haven’t. I’m missing very valuable social skills. We’ll touch on that when I get to the Pie Party post, don’t you worry. But thank god Maya and Scott have enough of those skills to make up for my deficiency because I immediately felt at ease.

Plus, it helped that right away Maya gave me this adorable Monster-era G-Dragon that she made me, so that got me talking animatedly about kpop which is my ultimate comfort zone, <3

She even embroidered the “BB” on his back, I love this little baby G-Dragon so much!

The first thing we did was walk under the Convention Center, because there’s this cool water-path thing that’s usually lit up by pretty lights but I think that it must be turned off for the season now. But at least it gave Janna and me a chance to tell them about the annual furry convention, WHICH THEY WILL GET TO EXPERIENCE IF THEY MOVE HERE.

Add that to the “pro” column, guys.

We walked down Liberty and I was sad that my favorite homeless guy wasn’t out for them to see. Actually, I don’t think he’s homeless, and I’m mad at him (again) because he was shaking his Big Gulp cup of change super aggressively the last time I saw him which I thought was just completely unnecessary because he should know by now that I don’t have any change to give him.

Then we walked to the Point so I could show them the fountain. (“When you start seeing 87 pictures of the fountain a day on Instagram, that’s when you know it’s officially summer,” I read to them from my guidebook. I’m good at this.) They saw the fountain. They took pictures of the fountain.

Then Scott asked a question!

“Do you get much flooding here?” he asked innocently, not knowing that his simple inquiry was forcing my brain to do things and I JUST DID NOT KNOW THE ANSWER nor could I think fast enough to make one up. It was hot that day, OK? Really hot and humid for October.

Thankfully, Janna started spewing out some mundane flood facts and to myself, I thought, “This is why I brought her. Thank god for Janna and her knowing of things.”

You might notice that this post is curiously remiss of photos of them. That’s because I was still testing the waters and trying not to be as extra as I tend to be when I’m excited about fresh (faux)meat. 

I decided I would lead my tour group to Market Square. Janna and I told them about how the restraurant NOLA catches fire a lot and they were like, “That’s concerning.” Janna was all, “Yeah but the food there is good” and I couldn’t really back that up because I’m a vegetarian and New Orleans-centric cuisine hates my people.

We walked past some scary propaganda thing being filmed and then I lead them to Millie’s for the best ice cream in Pittsburgh. Actually, I lead them past Millie’s because I wasn’t paying attention, and also the Market Square location of Millie’s didn’t have super impressive choices this time, but my condensed milk nectarine was a delight. Janna got strawberry (*snore*) and Maya and Scott both got milkshakes (blackberry cobbler and Vietnamese coffee, respectively) and I was really excited about this because for some reason, I never think about getting milkshakes at Millie’s. They said it was good though! Janna made me get sprinkles on mine because she wanted it to look like I was trying to emulate her. It was OK.

Fine, it was wonderful. I usually only get sprinkles on soft serve! I am a very particular ice cream orderer!

There were old people in Millie’s talking about Nashville which was coincidental because you know, Maya and Scott live in Nashville. I felt like the old people thought we were totally in their way and hated us because we were like half their ages.

We pulled some tables together in the center of Market Square and talked about our lives, and Pittsburgh, and the fact that Maya is too scared of haunted houses (#fakegoth!). I was acutely aware during this time that conversation was flowing effortlessly and I was getting attached to these people, oh god!

Check back later for part 2, where I successfully got them on the trolley, compared every bird in the aviary to one of my cats (past or present), and caught Janna stealing. It was a jam-packed day, you guys. We did lots.

Jun 032017
 

Lol. Possibly in my Top 5 Worst Blog Titles Ever.

I recently had this urge to visit Laurel Caverns, especially after Chooch said he didn’t remember anything about his last two visits other than Henry wouldn’t let us play mini-golf while we were there. So I decided what better way to honor the war people than by skulking around inside a cave-thing.

This meant that for the second straight year, we were going to miss the lame Memorial Day parade that clunks and trips past our house every year. We were mildly sad about that because it’s entertaining for all the wrong reasons, but caverns trump* lame parades.

*(Gonna have to find a new word to use next time. Don’t want to dumb down this blog anymore than it already is.)

Somehow, we were all in a good mood even though we were leaving the house before 10AM which usually entails tons of whining and snapping at Henry.

But we managed to have a nice, leisurely drive to the Laurel Highlands (a little over an hour’s drive, I think). And when I say leisurely, I mean that Henry is now officially one of those old people who gets passed by every single car on the highway.

“I’M ALREADY GOING OVER THE SPEED LIMIT! WHAT DO THESE PEOPLE WANT FROM ME?!” he yelled when I pointed this out to him.

I was happy to see that the parking lot for the Caverns wasn’t too full, which lowered the odds of having douchebags in our group.

Remember the last time we were here when I was making fun of those people—” I started to say as we walked to the main building.

“When don’t you make fun of people?” Chooch interrupted at the same time Henry said, “That could be anywhere.”

We paid for our admission and milled about the gift shop for just five minutes before the next tour was ready to embark. I was sad because the observatory deck was cordoned off! It’s ritual to go out there and take pictures but NOT ON THIS DAY, I guess.

As soon as our tour was called over the speaker, I got a surge of giddiness coursing through my veins. There is just something about being underground that makes me lose control of my behavior. Memories of acting like an asshole with my Girl Scout troop come flooding back; and the time we were there with the French exchange student who was living with us and my dad’s godson fell so my dad started calling him Bobo Bobolinksi (for whatever reason, this made tons of sense at the time); or the time Corey and I went there and photo-stalked some yuppie couple we hated.

Laurel Caverns is just the best! It’s the ultimate funnybone activator for me because I’m an asshole.

Almost immediately, I imprinted on our guide. He had the most adorably sardonic science-y sense of humor and I was ready to lead him down some dark, unexplored part of the cavern where we could start our own society IF YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN.

And if you don’t, I mean that I was prepared to have all of his babies.

BEING ON TOURS IGNITES MY IMAGINATION, OK.

We were in a group of maybe 15 people so it wasn’t too bad, and no one blatantly stood out and begged to be mocked, so that was good but also kind of boring because what am I supposed to do if I can’t be a lowkey dick?

OH THAT’S RIGHT, THINK ABOUT POPULATING THE CAVERN WITH MY TOUR GUIDE OFFSPRING.

Rocks.

More rocks.

Even more rocks still.

There’s a joke here somewhere about us being dumb as rocks.

Chooch spent most of the time walking ahead of us and trying to latch on to other families. That’s what he’s best at. Always looking for the better option.

The last several times we visited, we learned about the terrible bat crisis. Our guide (I can’t believe I don’t know his name, by the way) was telling us that in 2007 or something, they counted over 12,000  hibernating bats in the cave, and this past year it was down to 12.

No, I didn’t accidentally omit any zeros. That’s a 12. A 1-2. One and a two.

TWELVE.

Twelve bats! That’s it!

“Did they like, migrate?” some dumb broad asked.

“Oh no, they’re dead,” our guide said matter-of-factly, causing us to laugh, not because a dying breed is hilarious, but because his delivery was perfect.

This part of the tour kills me every time. I AM SO SAD FOR THE BATS!!

As everyone filed out of the cavern after the hour-long tour, I blurted out, “You’re the best guide I’ve ever had!” and then promptly ran away as he was stammering to thank me.

“I totally have a crush on him,” I squealed when he was out of earshot.

“Ugh, I knew it,” Chooch said with disgust and Henry just sighed, “Of course you do.”

I DON’T THINK HE WAS WEARING A WEDDING BAND AND GUESS WHAT NEITHER AM I.

Afterward, we played a round of mini-golf and I MURDERED the competition. It was almost sickening how good I was, and Chooch and Henry were so annoyed. Especially Henry, since he’s accustomed to being “the best” at mini-golf because he’s usually the only one who tries but I was succeeding purely off luck and shit-shots.

I love winning! I love being me!

There was some little bitch and her mom behind us (they weren’t on our tour) and she kept starting the hole while we were still on it and her mom was barely scolding her! And she kept calling her mom “Mother!” which was really grating my nerves. Stop encroaching on our game!

After Laurel Caverns, we drove home through Uniontown while blasting kpop and garnering confused looks from people at every red light we stopped at.

I’ve driven through Uniontown a million times in my lifetime, and even dated a guy from there for about 3 years, but I have never actually walked around it. The downtown area is so cute!

We ate at Randall’s on the way home. I had a grilled cheese and felt myself getting immediately fat like I do when I stray from my K-diet. Henry and I had coleslaw and it was too mayo-y.

Afterward, we went to Bill’s for ice cream. I was mad because I was forced to order abruptly without adequate menu-gazing time. I piggybacked off of Henry’s “small twist with crunchies” order BUT IT WASN’T WHAT I WANTED.

I was unsatisfied.

Then Henry went back inside to pee and in that short amount of time, Chooch got in a fight about something that I can’t even remember now and spent the whole car ride home not speaking.

THIS WAS RIGHT BEFORE THE FIGHT.

We’re OK now, don’t worry. I’m still a mom, I guess.

Well, now you know how we spent our Memorial Day. It was fine. The Penguins won the first game of the Stanley Cup finals later that night so that was a good ending!

As you were.

Sep 132016
 

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It was after 2pm by the time we were done being dummies at Vent Haven, which means we were precariously close to The Witching Bitching Hour, otherwise known as the hunger twilight, where Chooch and I morph from adorably angelic sweethearts into Regan and Damian in Warped Tour shirts.

Henry had approximately 37 minutes to find us a place to eat before the transformation was complete.

Back when Christina and I were friends, I used to visit her pretty frequently in Hamilton, OH, which is a few miles outside of Cincinnati. Since it was kind of on our way home, I suggested that we eat at Hyde’s, a family restaurant she took me to several times. I remembered liking the aesthetic and the pie, and was prepared to throw a fit if Henry said no, but then something miraculous happened:

Henry’s old SERVICE roommate Tim contacted him because he saw on Facebook that we were in the area! This put Henry in a great mood and he said YES to Hyde’s because now we needed to kill time in order for Tim to come out to meet us from wherever he lived in Indiana which is apparently close to Hamilton, who knew? (People who look at maps, I guess.)

Tim called Henry shortly after we arrived at a Hyde’s. Henry jumped out of the booth and went outside to answer it; I’ve never seen Henry run out of a restaurant that fast in my life, not even the time he dined and dashed at HOOTERS in 1992.

(Probably true?)

So then Mr. WE GOTTA GET HOME, NO MORE STOPPING! decided that after lunch, we would be meeting TIM at Jungle Jim’s!

29429494446_1b03e4e259_c

Holy shit, I was so so excited, I could barely eat. Just kidding, I almost accidentally ate my hand while shoving my grilled cheese into my gnashing maw.

We had a really colorful waitress too who made sure she told us how busy she was every time she swung by our table, and I really liked that Real Talk aspect. I want to believe that we were the only table she confided in. I kept hoping she would talk shit on her other tables to us but she never did.

She probably made fun of me to her other tables though after I was a total tourist and asked WTF “sarasotas” are.

Turns out they’re just homemade potato chips served with BBQ sauce.

“That Yinzer bitch over there asked what them sarasotas is, can you imagine,” she probably said to the table of old bitches who came in for pie.

Chooch of course substituted a basket of sarasotas for his fries and Henry was very perplexed by this.

“Why don’t they just call them homemade chips with BBQ sauce, I don’t undertand,” he said.

SO GIDDY.

One thing to note is that I honestly don’t recogize any of the scenery in Hamilton, for as many times as I have been there. Like, if you set me loose and said, “Find Christina’s old house or die” well I guess I’m dead. I don’t even remember the name of the street, and I used to mail her shit all of the time!

I think this is my mind’s way of protecting me, lol.

On the way there, Henry and Chooch argued over the fact that meth and methane aren’t the same.

So nothing about Jungle Jim’s was familiar to me but who cares because a REAL LIFE PIECE OF HENRY’S SERVICE PAST WAS THERE.

OMG you guys. My mind almost melted.

Chooch took these pictures because he’s my little spy in training.

Unfortunately, Tim and Henry talked about kind of boring things, mostly just catching each other up on their current lives. So Chooch and I were like, “Eh, screw this” and walked ahead of them, looking for the Romania aisle.

I never grocery shop, but Jungle Jim’s is huge and full of weird international goods and animatronics. It’s like Chuck E. Cheese for grocery shoppers. This is where I bought my first and only durian in 2004!

NEVER AGAIN!

The last time I was here was August of 2005, when I was about 65% sure I might be pregnant. There was a fortune teller thing there, so I inserted my quarter and asked, “Hey, am I pregnant? Because I mean, I just turned down ice cream in favor of mustard, so….”

I don’t remember when her prediction was, which shot out of a slot at me, but GUESS WHAT I was definitely pregnant. Technically, this was Chooch’s second time at Jungle Jim’s, I guess.

My favorite thing about Tim is that he chided Henry about not marrying me so TIM, YOU CAN STAY.

****

Here’s a quick Henry Interview!

What did you & Tim used to talk about at night when you were roommates? GIRL STUFF?

Henry: I don’t remember. It was 30 years ago. Literally, 30 years ago.

So, you and Tim lived together in that place in Indiana?

Henry: In the trailer? Yeah.

Did he know you were the town Eunuch?

Henry, sarcastically I think: Hahaha, oh my god, you’re hilarious.

Did he know you were obsessed with being Erik Estrada back then?

Henry: Just answer it yourself. I’m not answering that. You’re making shit up as always.

henryestrada

Hmm, I don’t know Henry. That picture tells a different story. Speaking of stories, I heard you and Tim talking about the time you drove some guy’s car into a ditch. Talk about that.

Henry: It was 1986 maybe? We had just gotten off work at 7:30 that morning and went to the bar. We (guys I worked with, there was maybe 4 or 5 of us) pretty much drank all day. I had to run home to get something* so I borrowed Joe’s car and when I got close to my house I turned the corner too sharp and went into a small ditch on the side of the road. I blew out the tire and bent the rim and then I parked it at my house, took my car back to the bar without telling him I did anything to his. He didn’t find out until the next day when he came to pick it up and he found out it was damaged so I had to pay for it.

*(Probz porn to trade.)

Good, that’s what happens WHEN YOU DRIVE DRUNK, ASSHOLE. Anyway, that was a boring story. Did you ever take a bullet for Tim?!

Henry, in an annoyed/laughing tone: No. Psh, take a bullet for Tim….

What is your most vivid memory of Tim? Was he in Panama with you?

Henry: He was always working on his car because it seemed to always be broken. I don’t remember, I don’t think so but I can’t be sure. It’s possible.

(WOW. SOME FRIENDSHIP.)

Was Tim with you when you went to see CHEAP TRICK in Texas?!

Henry, appalled at this question for some reason: No! That was when I was in training, when I just got out of basic. Tim didn’t come in until my last year maybe…

(So, right before he went AWOL.)

Henry just said he’s not going to divulge the contents of their Jungle Jim’s convo, so basically this was a huge waste of time.

****

Somewhere outside of Columbus, I was imitating Henry so intensely, that Chooch laughed so hard he pissed his pants, which just made Henry even angrier because now he was going to have to stop somewhere so Chooch could change.

“We’re never going to fucking get home. Thanks a lot, assholes,” Henry barked, which just made Chooch and me bust out our sides from all the laughter.

****

When Henry set the GPS that morning as we left our hotel in Louisville, it told us we’d be getting home sometime around 4.

We got home just shy of midnight.

Good god, that was a fun whirlwind trip to Kentucky.

 

Sep 122016
 

 

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As soon as I saw a museum of dummies listed on Roadside America, my heart sang, “This is the place for us, Erin Rachelle Kelly!” I was ready to get lost in the bowels of a ventriloquist’s wet dream.

[Insert joke about why Henry would want to pay to see dummies when he’s with two of them for free every day.]

After killing an hour in Fort Mitchell, we rolled up to Vent Haven about ten minutes early. The curator was outside and waved to us, so we got out of the car and tentatively approached the property.

“Are you the one who just called today?” the curator asked, after introducing herself as Lisa. I said yes, that was me, and she told me that she almost never has an opening the day-of. “So this is almost like winning the lottery!” she laughed, and I could tell Henry was vehemently disagreeing to himself.

Right when I was panicking about having The Small Talk, another group arrived. This alleviated some of the pressure from us (because Henry damn well wasn’t going to be talking — he was still annoyed that this was pushing back our arrival home!).

We all stood around outside in the yard while Lisa gave us a brief rundown of the history of the museum, which was started out of the home of W.S. Berger when he started collecting dummies in the 50s and eventually his collection grew so large that he ran out of room in his house and had to build auxiliary shed-like buildings in his backyard. Thus, Vent Haven was born, the only museum in the world dedicated to the art of ventriloquism!

“When people see that it’s by appointment only, they think this is some pretentious museum, but I’m the ONLY EMPLOYEE!” she stressed. “I can’t give a tour if I’m at Kroger’s! I need to know when people are coming to my house,” she laughed. Because, you know, she actually lives there too. And it’s funny that she mentioned that because Henry totally groaned when I mentioned that I had to call ahead, because I’m sure he had visions of a stuffy exhibit full of stern-looking elderly people popping Werther’s Originals while an unamused curator monotoned facts around accusatory stares.

(Honestly, I always feel like they think I’m up to something!)

The more Lisa talked, the more I loved her. She was the antithesis of what you’d expect from a roadside tour guide: she was hilarious without being cheesy, imformative without being boring, and her genuine enthusiasm for ventriloquism was contagious. Within minutes, Henry was smiling and laughing. The exact opposite of when we went on the Williamsburg ghost tour!

While waiting for the last group to arrive, she talked a bit about the pyschological reasons why a lot of people are scared of dummies, or dolls of any sort.

“But really, even if they were all going to spring to life and come after you, why would you be afraid of something so small? They’re like the size of toddlers, just kick ’em, you know?” and then to Chooch she hurriedly explained, “I mean, I wouldn’t really kick a toddler…well, you know what I mean.”

I looked at Henry and mouthed, “I.LOVE.HER.”

At exactly 1:00, she interrupted herself and said, “Well, it’s 1. I’m not waiting for them. Let’s go inside and get started.”

ANOTHER REASON TO LOVE HER.

I can’t post the majority of the pictures I took, because of copyright reasons, but there were some photo ops that Lisa gave us permission to share on social media, so that’s what you’ll see here. So ust imagine walking into a small building and being met with hundreds of dead, ogling eyes.

IT WAS EXHILERATING.

I’m not scared of this stuff at all. I mean, I collect clowns and have a mannequin that I use as a Christmas tree—I think I’m relatively immune. But it was admittedly slightly overwhelming at first—the collection is just crazy! Vent Haven is up to 900 now, but not all of them are displayed. Lisa actually had just received a literal carful of presidential dummies (from JFK to Dubya) earlier that week, but hadn’t yet built a display for them.

That’s the other thing about Lisa: not only does she know her shit (one of the people in our group pointed to a random dummy and Lisa dove right in, regaling us with its colorful history), she is the sole creator of the displays and exhibits. “I just really love my job,” she said several times during the tour. It really showed.

And when I pointed out that one of the dolls reminded me of Lady Elaine from Mr. Rogers, Lisa looked at me strangely and said, “You’re not old enough to know Mr. Rogers! I grew up with Mr. Rogers!”

Kentucky, I love you. You make me feel young!

(And standing next to Henry helps, too.)

The last couple finally did arrive and as Lisa watched them get out of the car, she promised she wouldn’t shame them. “I’m an Army brat, can you tell? My dad made sure we were always on time.”

“My dad always made me late to everything when I was a kid, so now I make sure I’m always on time!” I blurted out, wanting nothing more than for Lisa to like me. Henry just rolled his eyes. He hates it when Suck Up Erin makes an appearance.

A little bit later, Henry got to steal my thunder when Lisa asked, “Does anyone recognize these famous ventriloquists?” She pointed to three separate b&w photos on the wall. All men in old b&w photos look the same to me so I gave up after 1.6 seconds.

“Hmmmm….Johnny Carson,” Henry said, pointing to the young guy in the middle.

“Yep!” Lisa said happily. “A lot of people didn’t know he was a ventriloquist.” She told us that puppets and dummies were recurring characters on The Tonight Show during his tenure, but when Leno took over, they ever appeared again because he hated ventriloquism.

As if I needed another reason to hate Leno.

Henry studied the pictures a little harder and, with a hint from Lisa, he was able to also guess Ted Knight. No one got the third one — DON KNOTTS. Too bad, so sad, Henry. You’re not that great.

(Honestly though you should have seen how happy he was to know things.)

Then we got to go outside and play around with three demo dummies that Lisa keeps on hand. We were allowed to take pictures of them, and Lisa even took a picture of Chooch to put on Vent Haven’s Facebook page.

(He acted like a little teenaged shit about it, but that kid was secretly enthralled by this place. I know this because he was enrapt every time I looked at him and he never once asked to use my phone.)

 

The wife-portion of the couple who arrived late told Lisa that she had a dummy when she was a kid, but she’s not sure what her parents ended up doing with it.

“I haven’t seen it in years,” she said. “I have no idea where it went.”

“Maybe it’s here!” I said, clearly as a joke, but she very curtly said, “It’s not. I looked.”

OH OK. This is why I don’t talk to people!

After playing around with the dummies, Lisa took us into another building, where we learned about Harry Lester; the most successful vaudevilian of all time (not just in ventriloquy!) who was basically penniless when he died; and Paul Winchell, who was also the voice of Gargamel on The Smurfs and as soon as Lisa said that, I could picture his name in the opening credits! We talked about Edgar Bergan of course (he was really the only famous ventriloquist I had heard of going into this) and Shari Lewis, and then Henry got to go to the head of the class again when he knew that Wayland Flowers and Madame replaced Paul Lynde as center square on Hollywood Squares.

 

Something he can control!

You guys, Vent Haven brought out a side of Henry that I never knew existed.

There was a section on Jeff Dunham here too. Apparently, he is very generous with the museum and donates a lot of his old props, etc. This is where Chooch’s interest was really piqued.  Lisa played a clip of one of Jeff’s Ahmed routines and Chooch, being right on that apathetic cusp of teenagedom, acted like he wasn’t impressed, but I could see his mind reeling.

There was one last building to visit, with even more dummies. It doubled as the gift shop and Henry’s good mood started to shift when he heard me tell Lisa that I wanted a magnet and her book and sure Chooch, you can get that Jeff Dunham handpuppet set. Henry hates souvenirs.

Lisa was so flattered that I wanted to buy her book. But she was so entertaining and knowledgeable! There were numerous dummies throughout Vent Haven that had signs which said “I’m in the book!” so of course I had to buy it. I had to stop myself from gushing my way to a restraining order, but I just really wanted Lisa to know that I was obsessed with her in all of the good ways.


“You’re seriously the best tour guide we ever had,” I said all breathily as she wrote up an invoice for the admission fees and our souvenirs. I could sense Henry’s cringe all the way on the opposite side of the room. But Lisa took it well!

Chooch wants everyone to know that the 90 minutes we spent there got him into Jeff Dunham (he watched YouTube videos of his performances on Henry’s phone almost the whole car ride back to Pittsburgh) and he is trying to learn how to throw his voice now. I can’t tell you how many times this past week we’ve talked about the things we learned on that small, unassuming residential lane in Fort Mitchell, KY.

Oh, and he also wants everyone to know that Henry had a crush on ANGELICA, the main person from the second group who joined us, and that he kept looking at her ass.

If you ever find yourself in the Louisville/Cincinatti area, I highly encourage you to call up Vent Haven and take a tour. Go not just for the dummies, but for Lisa’s biting humor and delightful stories. She’ll make a dummy-lover out of you!

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“That was fucking awesome, admit it, Henry,” I squealed as we drove away.

With just a hint of a smile, he quietly said, “Yeah. It was pretty awesome.” Ladies and gentlemen, I think Henry had a little bit of fun amongst dummies.

I mean, 90 minutes where all three of us were equally entertained and enjoying ourselves? Lisa was right: it really was like winning the lottery!

Sep 102016
 

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If you ask Henry, our drive home from Louisville last Sunday was: long, annoying, awful, terrible, headache-inducing, frustrating, expensive.

If you ask me, it was: SO MUCH FUN OMG WE DID ALL THE THINGS!

Before saying goodbye to Louisville, we stopped for breakfast at For Goodness Crepes. Chooch had been craving crepes recently, god only knows why, so we figured we would be nice parents and find a creperie since we usually force him to eat at places that make him miserable.

LOL j/k I wanted crepes too and thought this place had a cute name and that’s all that matters.

As soon as we walked in, I knew I was going to love it because it wasn’t stuffed with people. Crowded breakfast spots make me so anxious – the AM is way too early for me to voluntarily deal with crowds. No breakfast is worth that, sorry not even Pamela’s and I LOVE PAMELA’S.

(Seriously though, come visit me in Pittsburgh and we will go to Pamela’s during an off-hour and you can have the greatest pancakes of your life. AND LYONAISSE POTATOES.)

But anyway, this is about Louisville, not Pittsburgh. I’m not sure what the “best place” for breakfast is considered because I never research those things beforehand, but I was extremely pleased with our experience at this crepe place. I ordered from the savory menu, something called I Dream of Veggies; it was Asian-inspired and had this glorious ginger mayo-type sauce that I would honestly do a shot of right now if placed in front of me, no fucks given. OMG and edamame. I love edamame. This crepe was the limit.

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Chooch got the cinnamon roll crepe and of course I stole several bites — it was like a carnival on my tongue. An actual cinnamon roll was deconstructed inside there, I think, and the cream cheese sauce was so sweet and tangy….take me back. Take me back right now.

Who cares what Henry got. Meat crepe.

Oh also! After we ordered at the counter, I got to pick my own coffee cup! I chose one shaped like a vintage Santa Claus and was stupdily excited about it.

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We played Hangman while we waited for our crepes and it was Big Fun – I love when restaurants provide games. I literally only looked at my phone when I was using it to take pictures, and that’s how it should be when you’re eating with your family!

(I’m sorry, I know a lot of people lump in “taking pictures” as well, but I honetsly take pictures constantly. I love taking pictures, and I love having picture mementos of each day. It’s important to me, as a chronic memory hoarder. I love collecting snaps!)

During Hangman, one of my words was “hyperbole.”

“What even is that?” Chooch asked after no one guessed it.

“Um,” I started, trying to think of the best way to explaing it. “…my blog.”

“Your mom’s whole life,” Henry muttered.

Chooch’s message to Louisville.

At first, I thought Chooch made this one up too and I was like, “OMG MY SON IS A PRODIGY! WHAT A GODDAMN GENIUS! THE NEXT GREAT AMERICAN POET!” But then he was like, “No it was already there, I was just showing it to you.”

Great. Back to having a basic 5th grader.

It was sad leaving Louisville without really getting a chance to see it (although we did accidentally go over the same bridge to Indiana like 8x during our stage, so that’s one thing we became pretty acquainted with) so now I want to go back again for a full weekend, when there isn’t a show to go to, because on our way out I saw A LOT of antique stores. In spite of Henry’s valiant efforts to distract me.

Originally, we were going to go to some cavern (Lost Caves, I think? Too lazy to look it up, thorough and informative blogger that I am) but Henry was like, ‘THIS IS IN THE COMPLETE OPPOSITE DIRECTION OF WHERE WE NEED TO GO. WHY CAN’T YOU LEARN TO READ A MAP, I DON’T UNDERSTAND.” God, sorry to be such a navigational piece of shit, Henry. Go fuck a compass.

I had a back-up plan though, but I was sure he wasn’t going to go for it.

My back-up plan was a VENTRILOQUIST MUSEUM in Fort Mitchell, KY, right outside of Cincinnati.

I kind of just mumbled it.

Henry got real tense behind the wheel and sighed.

“Never mind. You won’t want to go there,” I said in my soft, sad voice, just one whimper shy of reaching full-blown Sally Struthers level.

“It’s probably not even open on Sundays,” Henry said in a tone that sounded to me like he was trying to will it not to be open.

I checked Roadside America.

“It says it’s open on Sundays from May through September!” I squealed. And then, “Oh. ‘By appointment only.'”

So Henry was all, “Yeah sure whatever, go on and call.” Probably because he thought there was no way in hell that someone was going to answer.

But someone did! A woman! I asked her how far in advance appointments needed to be made and she said usually 2 days, but then she paused and said, “Although….how many do you have in your party? I might be able to squeeze you in with my 1:00pm group.”

I told her three and she said that would be no problem! And she took my name! And said she would see me at 1!!

I was so stoked! But then I hung up and noticed that Henry was staring at me in the way that he does when he’s ready to burst into Flames of Madness and wants to take me down into the ashes with him. 

“So….we have an appointment for today! But….it’s not until 1…..”

It was only a little after 11:00am and we were mere minutes away from Fort Mitchell. Henry had plans on us being home that day by 4 and now this was definitely not going to happen if we were still going to be in Kentucky until at least 2pm at this point. 

So I started doing that thing I do where I get real pouty and repeatedly wail, “JUST FORGET IT!” and make him feel like he’s the worst person in the world when he hasn’t even said no yet.

“DO YOU WANT TO GO THERE OR NOT?!” he yelled, yanking the steering wheel and driving the car onto the exit for Fort Mitchell without even waiting for me to answer because after 15 years, he knows how these games end: with probably some crocodile tears and definitely me getting my way.

So now we had an hour + to kill in some small town in Kentucky.

Obviously, we went to a cemetery, where at first I was still being a baby and said I was just “GOING TO SIT IN THE CAR AND DIE” while they were like, “K have fun” and left me there with the windows up.

And then when I finally got out of the car, I set the car alarm off because our car is dumb so then Henry and Chooch knew that I wasn’t wallowing anymore, ugh.

OUR LITTLE ANGEL.

Oh, I just remembered why I was pouting in the car! I wanted to take a picture of Chooch holding the Artifex Pereo screenprint that he had signed at the show, but his posing and posture wasn’t up to my standards so I shrieked, “JUST FORGET IT!” and if I die first, is that what Henry will use for my epitaph?

DEEP THOUGHTS.

Henry found one of those things he used to smoke when he was a kid and I tried to act like I didn’t care because I was still in Miserable Bitch mode, but then I broke down and took a picture.

Sometimes you just gotta let my mood swings play out, guys. I’ll come back around eventually.

(And then I wonder why barely anyone is close to me, lol.)

We still had time to kill, plus Chooch and I had to pee, so we went to Krogers across the street and walked around like we have never been to a grocery store before and then I flipped out because some girl was handing out samples of cheese TOOTHPICKED ONTO MEAT so of course I gave her a huffy “No!” when she offered one to me. 

“Maybe it’s because it’s the meat they’re trying to get you to buy,” Henry suggested around a mouthful of THE ENEMY’S CHEESE SAMPLE, always the Devil’s advocate.

“NO, IT WAS THE CHEESE. SHE CLEARLY SAID DO YOU WANT TO TRY BLAHBLAH CHEESE?!” I barked, so mad that my rage had erased the memory of what kind of cheese was causing me to launch missiles of protest in the first place. 

“Well, you could ask for a sample of just the cheese,” Henry said. Like, oh OK, let me do this broad’s job for her.

“She should have samples of JUST CHEESE already available, because guess what, NOT EVERYONE LIKES MEAT, god forbid!” I cried, deep in the throes of my scheduled Sunday Shit Fit. There was no turning back now. I hated Kroger’s.

I then proceeded to spend the next twenty minutes bitching about it in a passive aggressive manner, as I’m prone to do, hoping that the right Kroger employee would hear me and publicly flog the cheese-sample meater-upper.

Instead, I just loudly said, “I GUESS I WILL JUST HAVE TO WRITE A LETTER!”

“Literally no one is going to care,” Henry sighed. “And also, that girl wasn’t even a Kroger employee, probably.”

This could be true. Janna had a short-lived job handing out samples of peppers or condoms or pepper condoms at Giant Eagle, and it was some temp agency that got her the gig.

Then Kroger’s can just forward my complaint on to her true employer!

Dumb bitch!

OK, that’s enough for this installment. Tune in later to read all about the most amazing museum, Vent Haven. That place still feels like a dream to me.

Dreamy sighs and eyelash bats,

Erin Rachelle, Dummy Lover.

 

Sep 082016
 

Maybe some people think roadside attractions (a/k/a TOURIST TRAPS) are super tacky, but I just think that road trips would be remiss without stopping to see at least one giant rubberband ball. Henry is one of those people who finds limited, if any, joy in anything off the beaten path, so our travel days are usually full of lots of yelling, pouting, tires squealing, and hands punching the steering wheel.

I almost always get my way, though! And Henry will usually admit later that it “wasn’t bad.” Except for the cuckoo clock cluster. He was 100% not a fan of that side trip.

Loveland Castle has been on my radar for some time now and our travel day on Saturday was actually planned around a stop at its hallowed grounds.  This joint is nearly in the middle of nowhere, right outside of Cincinnati, down a concerning road that seems like it’s going to drop you straight into a river, until it suddenly turns and THERE IS THE CASTLE.

It’s much smaller than I anticipated, though I’m not sure what I was actually expecting — Neuschwanstein Castle? I mean, it’s just Ohio, after all. It was at least bigger than White Castle, so there’s that.

[Though, speaking of Germany — I kept seeing this shit called goetta on menus while we were in the area and it turns out it’s some kind of gross German breakfast meat product that’s a Cincinnati staple and  I’m like, how did I have a best friend from that area for like 6 years and she never mentioned goetta (not that I’d be interested in it because meat, but still) or took me to Loveland Castle?! Probably because she was too busy keeping me hidden in her bedroom like a DEAD BUTTERFLY NAILED TO A BOARD. You know what I mean. If not, just skip ahead.]


My initial thought was: this place is a clusterfuck. There was no order whatsoever! You walk in to some glorified gift shop and bump into people and then when the young guy at the counter fails to acknowledge you, you stand there with money in your hand until he finally asks, “How many adults and kids?” No ticket was administered, no hands were stamped — we could have probably just walked in and not even paid.

He didn’t even tell us where to start!! People were literally stumbling about like drunk lemmings.

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The tour is self-guided. I hate self-guided tours. I need someone beating information into me. I can’t be trusted to stop and read plaques on walls, although at one point, we were passing back through the gift shop when some man in Loveland t-shirt stood up and gave those of us in the room a brief, yet wildly entertaining, history of the Castle. His name was Sir Dave and he had a great local flavor about him, if you know what I mean (do you know what I mean) and I wished so badly that he would just escort us through the whole damn Castle – it wasn’t that big!

He even managed to charm Henry, but I might just be mixing it up with the fact that he mentioned the SERVICE, at which point Henry adopted an “I’m listening” visage.

Sir Dave told us about the Castle’s builder, Sir Harry Delos Andrews, and how he became enamored with architecture when he was in Europe DURING THE WAR (he was a MEDIC). And so in the 1950-something, he started to build his own damn castle on the banks of the Little Miami River, using milk cartons filled with clay or something that I can’t be expected to remember, to make bricks. There are like over a million of them that make up the Castle. I think that’s what I heard somewhere.

Or dreamt.

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Sir Harry was like a Boy Scout leader too or something and they helped him build the Castle. He called them the Knights of the Golden Trail.

I literally can’t imagine Chooch being a Boy Scout.

I almost fell down a stone staircase at one point and Chooch thought this was the funniest thing ever and then wanted me to reenact it later and I was like, “Who taught you to be such an assho—-oh. Never mind.”

YOU SHOULD KNOW WHAT KOGT STANDS FOR SINCE I WRITE SUCH INFORMATIVE TRAVEL GUIDES.

A bedroom cell.

There is something on this wall that I HATE. Bonus points if you can find it.

You can’t expect me to read all of these artifacts. I paid $5 and I wanted someone to tell me The Facts!


Queens of Roadside Attractions.

 

Chooch’s review: I thought Loveland Castle was cool and scary (not really) but it was scary that 2 drunk men came in and attacked Sir Harry and stole some weapons. Also I saw a white box with a Bee’s Nest inside so, YAY!!!

 

I want that lantern.

Sir Harry had an IQ of 189!

Here’s a picture of Henry learning how to build me a castle.

Sir Dave gave us a riddle, something about Sir Harry being pronounced dead in 1918 (I think?) and then died in 1981, and said we would have to watch the short documentary playing upstairs in one of the towers. So we watched it and it wasn’t really a riddle, but like….something that seriously happened? They thought he had died of spinal meningitis when he was IN THE SERVICE and declared him dead but then realized three days later that he wasn’t dead and had to give a shot of adrenaline to the heart, at which point he awoke and it turned out he had some kind of rare antibody in him or something, I quit paying attention once we got the answer.

These two assholes I travel with always act like every roadside attraction we stop at is the worst thing since I introduced Jonny Craig into their lives, but they later admitted that Loveland Castle was “pretty cool.”

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Patriotic party hat!

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Overall, I was glad that we made the detour. It only took about an hour to see it all (and that’s because we looped around it twice and then watched that 20 minute documentary too) and the history was juicy enough to make it worthwhile.  Anyway, if you’re into Boy Scouts; medieval things; and the possibility of tumbling down narrow, uneven, spiral stone staircases, then you should visit Loveland Castle.

(If you collect magnets like I do, prepare to be disappointed though. Their souvenir selection is sparse.)

(I think Henry secretly joined the KOGT when I wasn’t looking.)

(Also, I think I have a crush on Sir Dave?!)

****

Afterward, we ate lunch at Sugar & Spice, another place my ex-BFF never took me!

“Maybe it wasn’t around when you were friends,” Henry said, ALWAYS DEFENDING HER.

“It was established in 1942!” I cried, jabbing my finger at my Sugar & Spice coffee cup that said “EST. 1942.”

Ugh.

Sep 042016
 

I mentioned in the Liveblog yesterday that we visited some Roadside America sight called Jerry’s Junk before the show last night. 

At a quick glance, it’s basically some dude’s private collection of lawn jockeys and old bikes, you know the type of junk. And while it seems like it’s all strewn about in arbitrary assortment, you start to notice that everything is in its place, and Jerry probably for sure knows where to find every last horseshoe.

We peeked in some of the windows and each room was stuffed with old shit. Mannequins. Disco balls. Yard flamingos. A suit of armor. From the various accounts I’ve read online, Jery also owns four other houses in the neighborhood, and they’re all stuffed to the gills with more rusted oddities. 

Henry was annoyed that I made him take us here, but I noticed he was strolling about at a leisurely pace, one hand behind his back like he does when he’s feeing peaceful, stopping here and there to get a closer look at things. (Probably airplane shit.)

Chooch loved it because he got to play I Spy. 

And then I explained to him about how those lawn jockey statues are racist so then he became angrily obsessed with them. 

An educational experience!


Jerry didn’t appear to be home. Various Roadside America tips said that speaking to him makes the experience even better, and I don’t doubt it. I love eccentrics! And if we’re being honest with each other here, I kind of saw my future in this place. 

I LOVE COLLECTIONS. 


Later that night, we were at the Artifex Pereo, talking to the drummer Cory. He asked if we had gotten a chance to see much of Louisville and I excitedly blurted out, “Just Jerry’s Junk!”

He waited a few beats and then said, “Oh…is that the guy who lives on Frankfort? With all the shit in his yard?”

God yes! That’s the one!

And on the way back to the hotel after he show, our Lyft driver Nicholas asked us the same question, at which point I enthusiastically shot forward from the backseat (well Henry internally groaned) to tell him “WE SAW JERRY’S JUNK!!!” 

Again, this was met with a few seconds of silence as he processed this information. Once it dawned on him what Jerry’s Junk is (maybe the locals call it something different? That Jerkoff Who’s Distracting from the Trendy Gentrification of the Neighborhood With All His Rusty Relics?

“Oh that guy! My girlfriend and I were there once and he came out to show us an Indian doll he had just got, that still had all its bits–he pulled down its pants to show us!”

Ugh, why couldn’t that have happened to me?!

Sep 032016
 

7:47am: We just pulled out of the driveway. “I need coffee” I immediately said. “Yeah, I’m well aware of what everyone needs,” Henry snapped. Whoa. CRAPPY PANTS IS HERE, EVERYONE.

7:49am: Chooch is mad because Henry got a new phone (he’s been using an old person flip phone for the last few mths because his real one broke) and he wants to hold it so badly but Henry is like DONT START WITH THIS PHONE SHIT!! Kids and phones, amirite.

8:16am: I can’t believe I’m about to admit this but I succumbed to the basic bitch pressure and got a….pumpkin macchiato. I know! I’m the worst! I’m so predictable! But at least it wasn’t from Starbucks. In other news, I’m not being a bitch anymore because I got a pumpkin macchiato.

8:42am: I had planned on swinging by the Cincinnati area because I have always wanted to go to the Loveland Castle (and by always I mean for the 4 years I’ve known of its existence). Henry just had me look up the directions on Google maps so I clicked on the map thing in my Roadside America app and started crying because it said it was nearly 7 hours away and HOW WILL WE HAVE TIME so Henry got all huffy and said, “send me the directions!” So I did and he was like, “because these directions have us starting in MARYLAND, that’s why it says it’s so far away!”

While I was giggling, Henry said in a very weary voice, “How do you survive?”

8:59am: Chooch just came back with cheese curls from Sheetz and you would have thought I was asking him for a kidney, I hate him.

Oh for fucks sake, Henry couldn’t find the lemon packet things for his signature unsweetened iced tea, and some Sheetz lady JUST BROUGHT THEM OUT TO THE CAR FOR HIM BEFORE WE LEFT and Henry is SO FUCKING EXCITED ABOUT THIS and wants to write to Sheetz now except he doesn’t know the broad’s name.


He can just send them this picture of her then, I guess.

9:18am: I wonder how many hours of mocking Henry in a hick farmer accent before I finally pierce the barrier he mentally puts up between us. YOU CAN’T BLOCK ME OUT FOREVER, SWEET PEA.

9:51am: I hate when I start to like something Top 40ish and Chooch pops up from the backseat to tell me that they used to be a YouTuber, ugh.

10:42am: Stopped at rest area in some Ohio place and a man in a suit asked Chooch if his name was LESTER and then was crippled with disbelief when Chooch said no because HE LOOKS JUST LIKE SOME BOY HE KNOWS and as we left him in our dust, I could still hear him back there wow’ing in shock.


Obligatory rest stop bathroom selfie. If I look haggard that’s because I stayed up all night watching Danity Kane videos/Making the Band recaps on YouTube.

Meanwhile, I almost forgot that Chooch’s name was Lester back when we kidnapped him 10 years ago.

11:57am: Reminsicing about the time I listened to this Perfidious Words song on repeat for approx. 5 hours when I worked the late shift at my last job, and then accidentally became suicidal because of it. Henry is not enjoying this stroll down memory lane.

12:12pm: Henry is in another rest area, doing whatever he does in there, so Lester and I are talking behind his back. “He’s in such a bad mood today.” “I know.”

Just wait until we get to the castle! That’ll be sure to turn his frown upside down and back around into a greater frown.

1:38pm: well we just finished touring Loveland Castle and Henry is in an even worse mood, as predicted! The only time he smiled was when the guide mentioned THE SERVICE.


ASSHOLE ALERT.

Whatever. Lester had a good time in the castle.

1:43pm: Some broad in a car next to us at a red light sneezed so I said bless you and Lester is like SO EMBARRASSED.

2:13pm: we’re at Sugar & Spice for lunch and this place is a WONDERLAND.

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Our waitress was this old lady who seemed concerned that no one had brought me my coffee 30 seconds after I ordered it.

“You had a coffee right?” she asked. “And no one brought it yet???”

I shook my head no, slowly, because I didn’t understand how anyone would know I ordered it when she was still standing there taking our order?

“Wait—did you just tell me that now?” She asked. “Oh, ha! I saw it there and forgot that I had just written it down.”

O.o

The restrooms were DOWNSTAIRS. I love when the restrooms are downstairs! This place was EVERYTHING!


I read about it on Roadside America and literally the only reason we went is because they give out FREE RUBBER DUCKIES. Chooch and I were so nervous that we weren’t going to get one and neither of us wanted to ask and Henry was like THIS IS ALL YOU DONT LOOK AT ME so finally I cleared my throat and asked the lady at the register if the duck thing was still a go, and she silently reached for a bucket on a shelf and told us to go on and take a rubber duck and Chooch nearly clotheslined himself against the counter in his overzealous rummaging.

4:58pm: Nothing noteworthy has happened in hours but we just made it to the hotel – some generic Radisson. Three hours until Artifex Pereo!!

6:51pm: just saw Jerry’s Junk and it was mildly cool but also pretty anticlimactic.


However, I bet that man has a TON OF SHIT that I would buy if he was selling. Meanwhile, Chooch casually asked me to put on Danity Kane, lol.

And Henry is having a blast telling Louisville drivers that they’re doing it wrong. “YOU CANT TURN LEFT ON RED!”

7:24pm: Benjamin the Lyft driver is taking us to the venue now and listening to him and Henry attempt to make small talk with each other is simultaneously killing me and giving me life. Also I couldn’t get my seatbelt to fasten so I’m just sitting here with my arm thru it like a sling.

8:52pm: Huge difference between me and Chooch: when I need to pee in a public place, I freak out and spend 25 minutes trying to build up the courage to look for the bathroom and then I hoarsely whisper to Henry WHERE DO YOU THINK THE BATHROOM IS OMG HELP. Chooch gets right up and sets out to find it himself.

10:32pm: This night is so excelsior. Every band has been wonderful, the venue is great, Henry is actually in a good mood and said that he liked the last band that played (Funeral Portrait) and now Artifex Pereo is about to go on and I’m so sweaty and Chooch is half asleep in a chair and all the Artifex guys keep asking him if he’s going to make it and it’s just good fucking vibes all over, can I stay in Louisville forever.


12:02am: Waiting for our Lyft driver, Nicholas, to pick our exhausted, sweaty asses up. I hope I lost weight. I SWEAT SO MUCH.

“There’s so much wrong with my body,” Chooch just randomly said.

12:23am: Nicholas returned us safely to our hotel (he was an A+ Lyft driver and gave us non-stressful conversation) and then we had cheerful banter with the ladies at the front desk because we’re all delirious from the hotbox that is New Vintage, and now I’m ready to get my Savasana on in this stiff-as-fuck bed.

PEACE OUT, GIRL SCOUT.

Jun 012016
 

We had some time to kill Sunday morning before we were due to arrive at Bill & Jessi’s but don’t cry for us, Michigan-a — Roadside America had our back.

Imagine my sheer delight and giddiness when I discovered that Howell (where we had stayed Saturday night) was only several miles away from Hell, MI! A tourist trap, to be sure, but one that even Henry was quietly on board with.

First though, we stopped at the Pinckney Diner in, omg, Pinckney. I was wearing my Bled Fest shirt in hopes that some of my Bled Fest peeps would be there, but no. Just basic breakfasting locals.

I ordered some type of “healthy” scrambled egg and fruit cup bullshit, and Chooch thought it was hilarious that it came with a small orange juice and I try not to let him bully me, but man did I feel self-conscious drinking it, like I needed to create a curtain with my napkin.

It was a nice place but nothing to write home about so don’t be expecting a post card.

After a slight directional snafu (in which Henry was reminded that I do not understand how to read a map even when Google is practically reading it for me), we whizzed past a short stretch of road that housed a Hell-themed diner called Hell in a Handbasket and a gift shop called Screams, and a bar called the Hell Hole.

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“Oh well, everything is closed,” Henry said in a sing-song voice because I had angered him enough on the way there that he was now ready to forgo the idea and find the nearest gorge to drive into.

But before he had a chance to get very far, I had the proprietor of Screams on the phone confirming that they were set to open in a few minutes, so downtrodden Hank had to turn the car around and head back to Hell, which probably just felt like Groundhog Day to him because when is he not heading back to Hell.

I appreciated that the man at Screams answered the phone with a robust, “How the hell are ya?” I was even more stoked at this point to make it rain in this kitschy souvenir shop.

And it was pretty much exactly as expected – a fun-loving, tongue-in-cheek tourist trap. It provided just enough of a time suck for us to arrive at Bill & Jessi’s right on time and didn’t stress out Henry too terribly much so we showed up in a collectively fine mood.

Without even faking it!

I bought a Hell, MI coffee cup to use as a future succulent vessel and hopefully my asshole cats don’t shatter it. And of course I also bought a magnet because that’s my thing. My closet-thingy at work is covered with magnetic tokens of all my Americana travels, I give it a once-over every morning and it fills me with early-morning joy!

(I mean, my morning coffee also helps with that joy-filling.)

We chatted for a bit for the elder manning the register and it turned out he’s the mayor of Hell! What a piping hot honor! I asked him how much these really cool postcards were that depicted a Hell homage by some local artist, and he was like, “Aw hell, you can just have it.”

HELL FUCKING RULES.

We said goodbye to Mayor of Hell and went outside to mill about the property. Mini golf was open yet, but there was a mini lock-covered bridge to stomp across, a DAM to look at, and a CHAPEL.

No joke, if the chapel had been open,  I totally would have come home to Pittsburgh a married woman. I’m not sure who my husband would be, but at least I could tell people I got married in Hell.

Henry doing his favorite thing: looking at nature and trying desperately to tune out our cries of “I WANT I WANT I WANT!!”

And then it was time to get back in the car and embark on our 45 minute drive to the Wayne-ish area of Michigan, while I yapped on and on about Bled Fest the entire way because I had the time of my life.

No, I never felt this way before.

Yes I swear.

Blah blah blah.

May 152016
 

A/k/a MY MOTHERLAND.
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I know this trip was supposed to be all about the celebration of Chooch’s existence, blah blah blah, Chooch for motherfucking Prez….but you can’t celebrate the spawn without also heralding the INCUBATOR. So I decided that we needed to tack on Universal Studios in order to appease Cesar and my ever-tingling scar. And in usual Erin-Fashion, I can’t just write one post about an amusement park. This is going to take a while. Such thoughts. Many feels.

Henry got some Universal Studios deal through work where he bought two day park-to-park passes and got the third day free. At first I thought, “Maybe three days is excessive…” but then we got there and I was like, “Nope. Three days is going to be a fucking dream.”

To be honest, if it wasn’t for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, maybe we would have skipped out on Universal altogether and found other things to do. But there was no way that I could be IN ORLANDO and not experience the Harry Potter magic. I fucking love Harry Potter (it’s a lowkey love — I read all the books as they came out and watched all the movies, but I don’t like cosplay or write fanfic). Henry knows this. When he was “courting” me back in 2001, he would buy me Halloween and  Harry Potter memorabilia. I guess it worked. I mean, fifteen years and one wild child later…

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My initial assessment of Universal? IT’S NOT JUST HARRY POTTER STUFF*. This place, you guys. This place. Amusement parks are my things, but this one is definitely my new #1 and now I’m convinced that we’re probably going to have to visit at least every two years because I don’t want to miss out on all the things they’re adding. Also, maybe I might even be trying to get a job there. As Lisa Simpson. Or as a psychic. YOU DON’T KNOW.

*(But the HP stuff is phenomenal and will get its own post because I know how to beat a horse. You should see the welts on Henry’s back.)

 

Here are some photos from our first day there, from both Universal and Isles of Adventure.

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The food was more expensive and there were less options for the token VegetErin but I was fine eating cheese pizza because I’M NOT THERE TO EAT, JUST REFUEL.

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The Simpsons Ride was the shit. It made Henry sick though because he’s old and dumb.

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We spent most of our first day at Islands of Adventure, and I instantly fell headfirst in love with Seuss Landing.

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Basically it was like walking into what my house would look like if I wasn’t lazy and poor. A landscape of over-saturated colors.

Naturally, it was there that I may have found my new Wacky Worm, you guys.

 

If you ask Henry, it was “just some stupid kids train” that we had to wait in kind of a long line for (I mean, a 30-minute wait was unusually long on the days we were there). We were really pissed because an entire family of super rambunctious New Yorkers cut in front of everyone to join The Placeholder. Henry usually doesn’t get very riled up over these types of things, but his mustache bristles were starting to singe against the heat of the smoke leaking out of his dragon nostrils.

He was mouthing off about how rude they were and I was pissed too but the fact that there was so much vitriol being produced while waiting in line for a children’s ride was pretty comical.

And then when Henry had to ride with one of the New York Dads? Fucking priceless.

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The train got stopped TWO TIMES because of them! Once when one of the daughters complained that her seatbelt was too tight and Mouthy Mom hollered at a ride attendant to fix it. And then again right as we finally began to pull away from the station and they all reached across to high-five the remaining members of their family who were still waiting in line.

And the whole time, it looked like Henry was a part of them and I’m sure he was slowly dying on the inside because he hates shenanigans and these motherfuckers were LOUD AS SHIT. I went from hating them for line-jumping to absolutely adoring them for embarrassing Henry by association.

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Henry made a friend!

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Afterward, the mouthiest of all the New Yawkers came up to me and screamed, “I THINK YOUR HUSBAND HAD A GOOD TIME RIDING WITH MY FAMILY! HE PROBABLY WON’T BE ABLE TO HEAR FOR THE REST OF THE DAY THOUGH.” And I was almost peeing my pants at this point, laughing too hard to even correct her that hello he is not my “husband.” Like, ew. Gross.

Whatever.

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Cat in the Hat was scared of Chooch’s Chiodos shirt, lawl.

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BUCKLE UP, HANK.

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Chooch suddenly became a Rule Follower and was extremely distressed that the carousel had the audacity to start before he could fasten his seat belt. I mean, his concern was super adorable, but I don’t think he really was in any danger…? I love that I had the good fortune of catching him giving up in this Instavid:

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WHEEEE, HENRY. WHEEE.

A post shared by Erin Appledale (@ohhonestlyerin) on

 

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Post-Popeye & Bluto’s Bilge-Rat Rapids, i.e. the best rapids ride I’ve ever ridden! Henry conveniently couldn’t find a vacant locker near the ride so he was like, “Just go. Go on without me” like some fucking war-zone martyr.

We did get him to go on the Jurassic Park ride though and we were front row so he got soaked. Suckerrrrrrr. And since he was already wet, we convinced him to go on Dudley Do-Right’s Rip-Saw Falls right after in the Comic Strip section of the park, which was the best log flume ride I’ve ever ridden! EVERYTHING IN UNIVERSAL IS BEST. BEST BEST BEST!

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Look at that! What a fucking delight. The final drop had a double-dip!

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Man, we had a great time at Disney, but…Universal kind of stole the show. More later! I have to go and roll around in my bed of vacation pictures now. That’s totally not true at all…I’m not that obsessed. I mean, I look at my pictures constantly on my phone and cry like I just lost my best friend, but I don’t ROLL AROUND IN THEM.

God.

****

Chooch’s review of day 1: “I met a lot of characters that day and I have to agree with my mom that Universal did kind of steal the show from Disney. Mainly because of Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Thanks.”

Henry’s review of day 1: “What? I’m busy cooking. I can’t do this. Day 1 was OK.”

 

May 112016
 

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Originally we were going to spend two days at Magic Kingdom because I thought for sure we wouldn’t have enough to get everything in. Less than halfway through the day, it became evident that we were definitely going to be able to get everything in and even rode Space Mountain twice because the line was so short near the end of the night. So we decided to spend our second Disney day at Hollywood Studios and it really feels like it was a solid choice.

I didn’t realize it until the other day, but I’ve apparently been there before. I honestly thought that all these years that my family and I went to Universal Studios the last time we were in Orlando but nope, turns out it was MGM which is what Hollywood Studios used to be called. Thanks Wiki, for holding my hand as I slowly made my way down Remembrance Lane.

Another fascinating look into my childhood!

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My only memory is that it was very small, new, and had little to do so my dad bitched a lot about what a waste of money it was — typical Kelly! Bitching even when he wasn’t the one who paid for it!

There’s definitely more to do now, but it’s so small and the lines were so short that we really tried to pace ourselves. First though, we went to the guest relations place so Chooch could get a stupid “It’s my birthday” pin because we never got around to doing it at Magic Kingdom on his actual birthday. Which is just as well, because now we got to spend an entire day LIVING A LIE. So every time someone wished him a happy birthday (it was always like a janitor or snack booth cashier though and Chooch was getting SO ANGRY, haha), it felt like we were BREAKING THE LAW. Thrilling!

Right after that, I checked the app and saw that there was a super short wait for the Aerosmith coaster thing, so we headed straight for that.

I mean, after Henry took us 8 wrong ways and then he and Chooch started fighting over the map. Like, give me a break, am I right?

I believe we only waited 15 minutes or so and it was a very quick wait. Granted, we were there during a slower season, but it still seems like Disney is doing it right as far was keeping the lines moving.

Henry got to ride with some broad who was there with her husband but they “always go through the single rider line.” She was a huge talker and kept babbling on right on up until our ride finally launched. Maybe they choose the single rider option because her husband can’t stand her.

The very first thought I had was, “Wow, this ride would be so much better if it wasn’t Aerosmith.” It was really fun, your standard indoor coaster, but obviously an Aerosmith medley was blasting through the building for the duration of our fake trip in a stretch limo and I was not feeling that aspect of it.

I think it should be refurbished into the Toto Coaster. JUST PLAY “AFRICA” THROUGH THE WHOLE THING!

There’s some Star Wars stuff at Hollywood Studios. None of us have seen the new one yet and actually, I’ve only ever seen the original three (numerous times, though), but I still felt like we all collectively knew enough to get some level of enjoyment out of it. There was some 10 minute movie that was also playing but it turns out it was just like one giant, extended trailer for the new one.

Now that I think about it, I don’t think I added this to the Times Henry Fell Asleep list. I’m slacking.

Stood in line for fucking THIRTY MINUTES to meet Not Actually Chewbacca for THIRTY SECONDS (and that’s being generous). Star Wars trivia was playing on TV monitors that were sprinkled around the queue and Chooch kept answering the questions out loud which would have been fine if he was EVER CORRECT. “Stop drawing attention to the Mediocre Star Wars fans!” I hissed because people honestly were starting to turn and stare and I felt like LINDA HAMILTON in Children of the Corn.

OUTLANDER!

He wanted to also meet Kylo Ren but I cried, “YOU HAVEN’T EVEN SEEN THE MOVIE!” I wanted to ride things, not meet awkward teenagers in costumes.

But the problem was that there just weren’t very many rides there, so we did something that we never do because it goes against everything we stand for*: WE WENT AND WATCHED SHOWS.

*(Not really, but I wanted to keep with the whole Outlander theme.)

We watched some condensed stage version of Beauty and the Beast. Chooch sat alone several rows up from us, because he decided he needed to make 85 people stand up so he could barrel through and take the last seat in a full row.

At one point, I had to put my sunglasses on to hide the tears rolling down my face. Totally not my tears though. It was the invisible midget sitting on my face.

Henry just rolled his eyes but I know he walked away silently praising Gaston for his unrelenting desire to hold a bitch back.

My favorite thing is when Chooch and I decide last minute to stop following Henry and meander off in our own direction without alerting him to the change of direction. And then watching Henry tense up as he eventually realizes that his back feels lighter because his burdens have gone missing. And instead of shouting, “HENRY DEAR! OVER HERE!” we just continue doing whatever the fuck we went because we’re our own people and he doesn’t own us.

The only time things got hairy was when we missed lunch because we wanted to eat at the SciFi Dine-In Theater but we couldn’t get a table until 3:15 because we’re bad planners, so then Chooch and I spent a good two hours speaking in tongues and vomiting pea soup until we were finally seated in some classic car table thing and I bitched because it wasn’t as cool as the other ones and Henry snapped, “If we sat in one of the other ones, I’d have to eat alone!” to which I responded, “Yeah, so?”

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There were loops of sci-fi films playing on a large screen in the front of the room—I have never been in a restaurant more quiet in my whole life. Every sat in their cars, staring at the screen while their mouths chewed in slo-mo. It was like being in a roomful of pod people. I felt like I was going to get shushed for talking.

But I still talked anyway.

I dared Chooch to order an Ariel punch, which came in a collectible LITTLE MERMAID cup with some light-up Ariel thing attached to the straw. He was like, “I don’t give a fuck” and drank the shit out of it.

Meanwhile, I apparently poured my beer wrong because I rarely ever drink beer, let alone pour it, which caused Henry to jump at the chance to ridicule me because how often does that opportunity present itself. MAYBE I WANTED MY GLASS TO BE 3/4 FULL OF FOAM.

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I ordered the veggie burger and it was actually super delicious. Shout out to my co-worker Elaina for the pointers! At the end of the meal, Chooch said to our waitress, “Excuse me? It’s my birthday” in an attempt to finally get something better than the attention of a Disney garbage man.

“Oh really? Happy birthday,” she said in a thoroughly unimpressed tone and I bet you felt stupid, kid, didn’t you?

But then she came back with a plate of ice cream and a cupcake, lit candle and all. I wanted to take a picture because when don’t I want to take a picture but he blew out the candle too soon and basically ruined what probably wasn’t going to be a beautiful memory, but you can’t be sure!

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The Great Movie Ride thing was equal parts cheesy and amazing. IT WAS LITERALLY LIKE RIDING THROUGH NUMEROUS MOVIES. My favorite was the Wizard of Oz part. Chooch liked all the James Cagney gun fight shit. Henry liked our tour guide, Rachel.

U + God = ???? We stood around for a bit, waiting for the plane to finish the equation but it never did.

Chooch is a huge Andy Griffith fan ever since visiting Mayberry last summer. (I mean, not really.)

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In addition to cheesin’ with the characters, Chooch also makes me take his picture next to every display he deems worthy of a photo op (which is essentially every single one).

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I was terrified to ride the Tower of Terror because I hate drop-rides. But I also didn’t want to NOT go on it because even HENRY was going on it. (He vowed to ride everything at least once since everything in Orlando costs a zillion dollars + any chance of our kid going to college on our dime, so he wasn’t about to waste a single cent.)

This ride ended up being hands down my favorite at Hollywood Studios, and it managed to come in second overall when Magic Kingdom was factored in. And there’s like an actual part where you’re riding down a hallway too so it’s like WHEN IS THE DROP GOING TO HAPPEN, PAPI HOLD MY HAND!

And the drop wasn’t even that bad, mostly because I couldn’t really tell exactly how high up we were since it was inside. (Although there is one point where you’re hovering in front of an opening that looks out into the park. Holy fuck.)

And one of the gothic ride operators said happy birthday to Chooch, which he dutifully added to his “Is Hollywood Studios going to pay adequate attention to me or will I have to blow this bitch up?” tally.

In addition to Beauty and the Beast, we also took in a riveting Little Mermaid light show thing (Henry fell asleep) and the Indiana Jones stunt thing, which I thought was going to be lame but found myself getting all swept away and super excited when JEFFREY, one of the STUNT GUYS disguised as an audience member, ran right past me! There were all kinds of explosions and gun shots.

Henry actually stayed awake.

One of my co-workers was talking to me in the kitchen last week and he said, “All I remember about MGM was that there was some super lame Indiana Jones stunt show” and I basically had to turn my back so he wouldn’t see me cry. It wasn’t lame!

And then Chooch used the Disney gift card given to him by Chronica for his birthday to buy a Stitch plush because he can’t go anywhere without buying a stuffed animal.

They’re expanding the Pixar area and building a whole new Star Wars thing, so if we ever go back to Orlando, I think Hollywood Studios will be on the itinerary. There were way less strollers. Also, I don’t think I hated anyone there.