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.

This came close to evicting the Wacky Worm from my heart. 😯

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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:

WHEEEE, HENRY. WHEEE.

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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.

May 072016
 

The last time I was at Disney World, I was 10 years old and barely remember anything other than being a permed dork who hounded characters for their autographs while my dad spent the entire time singing “Yo ho yo ho a pirate’s life for me” thanks to one spin on Pirates of the Caribbean.

What I learned is that 26 years later, Pirates of the Caribbean is way more awesome than it was in 1990 and dorky kids are still chasing characters for autographs except that now you need to get a fucking Fast Pass for that shit unless you want to spend half your day waiting in inexplicably long queues for some kid in a costume to forge the signature of an animated character.

And my kid was one of those dorks.


He only wanted to meet Chip and Dale though because he saw a picture of me meeting them in 1984 and he is like obsessed with being just like me because I’m fucking fantastic.


The line was really short because who even cares about Chip & Dale anymore I guess now that all these horribly animated, newfangled characters are on the scene, but there were two high school graduates a few people in front of us who totally monopolized C&D’s time and had them signing like 69 different things including their idiotic graduation caps and then had unlimited photos taken and then danced with them and finally C&D’s handler was like “OK the Stars have to take their break now” so the girls got to SKIP OFF INTO THE SUNSET with them while the rest of us normal people in line with their age-appropriate CHILDREN stood there in disbelief and then the grandma in front of us was screaming at her granddaughter who appeared to be 12 or 13 for having teh audacity to WANDER OFF after she was told to SIT ON THE BENCH OVER THERE and the granddaughter was all, “I WAS SITTING ON THE BENCH” and the mom very quietly said, “OK guys, drop it” but grandma just kept railing on granddaughter and then granddaugter was ugly crying.

I wanted to leave but Chooch was like ITS MY DYING WISH and Henry was like STOP RUINING HIS BIRTHDAY so we continued to wait.

When it was the people’s turn in front of us, I was impressed by granddaughter’s ability to turn off the tears in time to jump in with Chip, Dale, her mom and little brother while smiling brightly for the photographer. What a nice big FUCK YOU to grandma. That old hag ain’t gon’ ruin no granddaughter’s day.

Meanwhile, Chooch whined about not having an autograph book so I dug out a receipt for him to have them sign, hahahaha.  #DisneyN00bs

But when it was his turn, their handler was like “the fuck is this?” and gave Chip and Dale two pieces of actual paper to sign for Chooch. It was pretty embarrassing but I was like “The answer is still no” when Chooch asked again for an autograph book.

There was no way we were wasting anymore time standing in line for this shit.

I probably would have made a concession for Pluto though. Does anyone still even care about Pluto? He was always my favorite. The first time I went to Disney, I was 4 and my DAD wouldn’t let me bring my favorite stuffed animal in the entire world with me, so my Pappap was all, “Haha we’ll show him” and proceeded to buy me any Disney plush I wanted  while we were there because he was the best man to ever exist. Anyway, the Pluto one was my favorite.

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I started to tell Henry this story and he sighed, “You’ve told me this story so many times” with an eye roll. Rude!!

My Pappap gave me the greatest childhood ever and if I can give Chooch even a tiny glimmer of that, I’ll feel like I made my Pappap proud.

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It’s a Small World is one of the few rides there that I have any sliver of memory of. Funnily, I remember more from my first trip there than the last trip when I was 10; this is likely due to the rage black outs since my brother Ryan was around by then and I was still extremely butt-hurt over the fact that I wasn’t an only child anymore.

OH THE PERILS OF BEING ERIN RACHELLE KELLY.

I really felt that this ride held up. It made me giddy.

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Even Henry was choking back a smile or two. Hard to imagine, I know.

The ride that didn’t hold up in my mind was Big Thunder Mountain. I was just OK.

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All three of us agreed that Space Mountain was the best though! It wasn’t anything like I remembered.

Mid-afternoon, we were strolling about, probably with linked arms because you know how we stroll, when someone started shouting “Riley! Riley!” In case you didn’t know, that’s Chooch’s actual name that he goes by pretty much just in school and nowhere else, lol. Turns out, it was his friend from school! He was there with his grandma, and they had lost his parents, so the grandma asked Henry if he would please call her daughter so they could be reunited.

So Henry did that and I can’t believe that lady even answered because I NEVER ANSWER MY PHONE IF I DON’T RECOGNIZE THE NUMBER and it’s weird to me that people actually will answer EVEN IF IT’S A 1-800 NUMBER!!! Anyway, Henry explained the sitch and said, “You know what’s funny is that my son actually goes to school with your son” and then it turned out that she was standing not too far away from us….

…IN FRONT OF IT’S A SMALL WORLD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

She said to Henry, “Wow, it really is a small world after all.”

And that was our super-touching Disney moment.

I think the lowest point of the day was when this family of fuckers blatantly cut in front of us in line for Pirates of the Caribbean and I couldn’t even believe the audacity. Not only did they cut in front of us, but also a lady who was with her HANDICAPPED MOTHER. I was so outraged by this and Henry was like, “Please don’t.” So instead, I just stared at them non-stop and made loud, passive-aggressive statements about people being rude motherfuckers and Henry just sighed deeply as a new wrinkle etched itself under his right eye.

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Here’s a picture I took of them afterward in order to SHAME THEM on the Internet. (The guy with the stroller and blue balls balloons was not a part of their rude family so he can remain shame-free in this matter.

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Other things to note:

  • Haunted Mansion was way better than I ever remembered
    • So was Splash Mountain
      • My favorite part of this ride was when some dickhead served as a placeholder in line and then suddenly, his entire family came barreling through the line to join him, we’re talking a good 12 additional people! I was so livid about this because HELLO THAT IS NOT THE PROPER WAY TO STAND IN LINE, but then as we were nearing the front of the line, it was nearly those assholes’ turn to ride, when one of the Disney broads called out, “Is there a party of two?” and as luck would have it, Henry was too scared to ride this one so YES, MA’AM THERE IS A PARTY OF TWO! Chooch and I got to jump ahead of those pushy assholes. WHO’S LAUGHING NOW!?
        • My least favorite part of this was standing in line sandwiched between two families of tiny Elsas, UGH to the max. I am so glad my child isn’t into that shit.
  • Even in April, it looks like every single person in the country has descended upon Lake Buena Vista, but the lines for the actual rides were extremely reasonable, except for:
    • The 7 Dwarfs Mine Ride, which we got tricked into waiting for a good 90 minutes even though the sign said THIRTY-FIVE MINUTES. And friends, it was not worth it.
      • However, what was worth it was that Henry had to ride with some dad, who said something to him immediately after sitting next to him, and that something made Henry laugh very hard, but he very conveniently “couldn’t remember what it was” when Chooch and I interrogated him afterward.
    • Peter Pan’s Flight, which was always over 75 minutes every time I checked, but then we waited until the parade was happening and literally walked right on.
  • Decent vegetarian options, especially at Pecos Bill’s Tall Tale Inn — their veggie rice bowl was a motherfucking dream come true for this meatless mouth.
  • The stupid Little Mermaid ride made my heart melt a little bit. I forgot how much I used to love that dumb movie. I even bought the soundtrack (ON CASSETTE) from the Scholastic book order in 4th or 5th grade, doesn’t really matter, I was a fucking dork in both grades. Listening to all of the completely off-base names Chooch was coming up when when he was trying to remember “Ursula” may have been my favorite part of the day. One of them had approximately 8 syllables and the only thing he had right was that it started with a U.
    • Pretty sure Henry slept on this ride.
    • There was absolutely no line.
  • We almost accidentally got in line for some story time with Belle attraction which turns out is literally having Belle read you a story. Nope.
  • I fucking hate strollers. There were soooooo many strollers. EVERY WHERE. STROLLERS HERE AND THERE. Boooooooooo, babies!
  • We had a Dole Whip and I guess I don’t really get the mania over those because I know I have soft serve here in Pittsburgh that tastes pretty much exactly the same…what am I missing!? I actually didn’t even finish mine, but gave it to Henry who had given his to Chooch who had spilled him approximately .0005 seconds after Henry handed it to him. The circle of Dole Whip.
  • The monorail is decidedly NOT as fun as I remembered it to be.
    • We took it back to the parking lot that night, and it was mayhem. We didn’t get to sit with Henry, and Chooch said, “I feel bad for daddy. He’s sitting next to some Duck Dynasty guy.” I didn’t get to see though because there were people standing in between us. I told Henry about it later and he said, “I don’t know what the fuck he’s talking about. I was sitting next to a lady.”

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When Henry wouldn’t ride the Barnstormer with us. :( ALSO, HE’S TOTALLY LOOKING AT THAT BROAD.

Overall, I’m glad we went when we did because it turned out to be far less stressful and intimidating than I had imagined it to be. No one got lost (although Chooch and I did leave Henry once by the carousel and then “forgot” to come back) and we didn’t even really spend as much money there as I thought we would. I’m trying to remember if we fought at all and I think that we probably did at some point, but clearly it wasn’t major enough for me to immediately blog about right after unfriending Henry on Facebook.

Henry’s thoughts: I liked Space Mountain. I liked the Haunted Mansion. I would say the park was pretty people-friendly, easy to move around.* It was too expensive.

Chooch’s thoughts: It was way more than I expected. I thought it was just going to be like a couple of rides, a couple of food places, and just. But then when I went there, I saw a FANTASY. It was AWESOME. There was so much to do. There was a lot of rides. But Big Thunder Mountain wasn’t as fun as mommy remembered it so that was a big bummer**. That’s it.

 

*DISAGREE. SEE: STROLLERS.

**I must have bitched about this more than I remembered that day.

****

My first day back at work last week, I was telling my co-worker Carrie about Disney and how, while it was a fun experience, Henry and I probably won’t ever go back.

“No, you’ll go again. You’ll have to take your grandkid, Emarosa!”

Touché, Carrie!

May 062016
 

I fluctuate between thinking I don’t do enough for my kid and wondering if I’m enabling his Spoiled Brat status. But, you only get one childhood and I really wanted to get him to Disney before he was too old to give a shit. It kind of goes against everything Chooch stands for when you think about it, but he has always been very WHEN ARE WE GOING TO DISNEY WORLD!? even though we’re totally not a Disney family.  I think the last Disney movie (animated, anyway) that I saw was Lion King. Kind of not sorry about that, either. I didn’t like how the animation changed, OK?!!

Disney always kind of seemed like it was out of reach for us though because we’re not good at planning and saving for “real” vacations. But then we got roped into that time share which has turned out to be a good fit for our weird lifestyle and Henry found a way to make it work for what was kind of a poorly-planned almost last minute surprise birthday trip.

And by “almost last minute,” I mean that unlike normal families who start planning Disney trips a year in advance, we booked everything 2 months in advance and then had to deflect and ignore Chooch’s constant suggestions about where he wanted his birthday party to be.

I did a pretty good job of keeping things under my hat; only a few people knew about it because I just really didn’t want it to slip out. I didn’t even mention it on here until I was live-blogging on the way there!

Somehow, we managed to make the secret last all the way up until the morning of his birthday when we were driving to Magic Kingdom. Guys, my kid is fucking smart as shit, but WHOA NELLY is he dense. I started recorded him when we told him what was going on and his initial reaction was an ambivalent, “Oh. Cool.”

HONESTLY? YOU’RE GOING TO “COOL STORY BRO” ME?!

I was just about ready to tell Henry to turn the fucking car around, we’re going home, when Kid Genius in the backseat had a moment to think about this, let it sink in and swish around in his brain, before having an A-HA! moment. “We’re going to Disney World? REALLY?!?!” and then he lost his mind.

I’m not going to lie, it was pretty magical and I’m still so excited that we managed to make it happen! He’s a good kid 90% of the time and I try so hard to fill these formative years with happy memories. My childhood was pretty great and I want Chooch to grow up and COMPLETELY LIVE IN THE PAST LIKE I DO.

Oh my god, I miss the 80s!!!!!!! Wah.

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Here are some photos from his birthday at Magic Kingdom. I will be back with part 2 once I collect all of my thoughts. HOLD ONTO YOUR MICKEY EARS. Such revelations forthcoming.

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I love how miserable he looks here but I swear to god he’s not. We had literally just walked through the security check so we hadn’t been around each other long enough to have misery oozes down our faces yet. I think he was just in the middle of saying something.

Duh.

When isn’t he in the middle of saying something.

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Chooch and “Uncle Walt.” It was honestly hours into the day when he asked, “Wait—are we still going to visit Uncle Walt?” I gave him the universal look for “Are you an idiot?” I let that marinate for a few seconds and then he gasped, “Oh! Walt Disney. I get it now.”

Jesus Christ.

You’d never know it, but Henry was pretty much in an OK mood all day, even after Chooch knocked over his $6 Dole Whip float before even taking one bite.

At Home Henry would have made Chooch pay for it and then chained him up for a few days in the attic. But At Disney Henry was like, “FOR CHRIST’S SAKE CHOOCH YOU’RE LUCKY IT’S YOUR BIRTHDAY” and then took a few deep breaths and went off to fetch some napkins. Then we went on the Jungle Ride and he was OK again.

Maybe I’ll try to coax a review out of him sometime this weekend.

Drunk on Disney.

Huge shout out to Time Share and Tax Refund for making this thing happen.

In hindsight, it’s kind of hilarious to me that a family like us (a bunch of dicks) was even at Disney World at all. Chooch kept yelling at me, “You can’t swear at Disney World!” and I was like, “For fuck’s sake, kid. I’m fucking sorry! Look, there’s that cunt Elsa!”

WHAT A MOTHERFUCKING MAGICAL DAY.

Does this finally erase that time Child Protective Services got called to our house? Lol forever.

Apr 262016
 

You guys. I found out recently that Henry has never been to Disney World. Apparently he was supposed to go when he was Chooch’s age. He went to Florida for two weeks to visit family and they were going to go to Disney on week two but Henry ended up getting SWIMMERS EAR or something — I don’t always pay attention when he spins his yarns–and so this was his first visit. It took him FIFTY YEARS to get there. The moral is never give up! And also, visit Disney before swimming with your family.  

I don’t know why I thought Henry was going to be stoked for this experience, like it was some late-bloomer, coming-of-age feel-good tale. Because of course he wasn’t stoked and it was none of those things. From the tram to the ferry to the park entrance, he was very “MEH” as you can see in that first photo up there, and there was no twist ending, trust me. 

Here is a collection of photos from Henry on Day One and Day Two because why not. 

DAY ONE: MAGIC KINGDOM

We made Henry wait some absurd amount of time (90 minutes maybe) to ride the Seven Dwarves Mine Ride thing and he got paired up with some other dad who immediately started yukking it up with him and Chooch and I heard Henry LAUGH before the ride even started! When I asked Henry afterward what the man said to make him laugh, he conveniently “couldn’t remember.” Probably some SERVICE joke. 

Henry rides alone on Big Thunder Mountain. HOLD ON, HANK! (That should be the name of Henry’s emo band.)

Unimpressed with the line for the Jungle Ride….

…but slightly amused about taking a boat ride full of mechanical animals and bad puns. 

Confused by all of the magic and happiness. 

Sleeping on the Little Mermaid ride. 

Ambivalent to ride through Winnie the Pooh’s story and also not cool enough to have ears. 

Henry said he wished they had a “First & Last Time” pin. Dang Henry. Maybe if they had more places to nap? 

DAY TWO: HOLLYWOOD STUDIOS

This park had less lines to stand in and about 90% less strollers to dodge, and In turn, Henry seemed a little less hemorrhoid-flared. 

Here we find Henry angry because when he buys pretzels for himself, we always eat most of it, but when he buys one for us, we never offer him any. I mean, you have legs Henry. Walk up and get your own pretzel ok thx. 


Family portrait: me, Chooch, pretzel with cheese. Also, some rando. 

When Chooch and I changed directions without alerting the warden. 


At the SciFi Dine-In, Henry wouldn’t let us get one of the good tables inside the old cars because then one of us would have to dine alone (lol it would have been him) so we had to sit at some dumb table which wasn’t as cool BUT WHATEVER HENRY WANTS, AMIRITE. Here he is considering getting the Ariel punch in the souvenir cup but remembering he doesn’t have enough security in his manhood to get away with it. You know, like Chooch. 

Running tally of all the attractions Henry has fallen asleep on so far:

  • Carousel of Progress
  • Little Mermaid ride thing at Disney
  • Little Mermaid show at Hollywood Studios (a splash of water woke him up lol)
  • Walt Disney Productions film
  • Muppets 3D