Nov 042019
 

What’s a road trip without a stop at some obscure, dilapidated roadside attraction? We had about an hour to kill on Saturday because Lake Compounce didn’t open until 5 pm, so I convinced Henry to finally take me to Holy Land USA in nearby Waterbury, Connecticut. And by “finally,” I mean that I suggested we stop there once in 2013 when we were on our way home from visiting our friend Alyson in New Hampshire and he said “N-O.”

But you know me and odd religious things. Gotta see ’em all!

(Ex: Ultraviolet Apocalypse; Giant Mary, Museum of Religious Statues; Troy Hill Relics.)

Chooch, who had his headphones on for 99% of the trip, was like, “The fuck are we?” when we rolled to a stop at the crest of a hill in what appeared to be a Mexican part of town (I kept begging Henry to stop at one of the Mexican markets so we could get candy but he was like NOT TODAY so I guess the next time we’re driving through Connecticut? Henry has no jams.

I guess this place was built in the 50s and was meant to be an actual, booming religious theme park. Were there going to be rides though? How can you have a theme park without rides? I wish this place had taken off because I could have sold them my plans for the Crucifixion-themed restaurant I’ve wanted to open for like 20 years now – The Rusty Nail. (Side of Pontius pilaf anyone?)

Up until 2013, the land was possessively presided over by a group of nuns called the Religious Sisters of Filippi Greco who got all nuts anytime they were approached by people who wanted to restore it, but apparently they could be bought for $350,000, which is what some car dealer and the mayor offered them on June 20, 2013. So I guess now those goons own the place and so far, all they have managed to do was replace the cross with a new and larger lighted cross, and I guess they cleared away some of the weeds or whatever.

I found this picture when scouring the Internet for more information on what this place was like in its heyday and I found this picture:

Image result for holy land usa

I 100% would NOT recommend crawling inside any of the structures that are still standing at Holy Land. Chooch made me look inside one of the windows and I had so much trepidation, expecting to see the jaw of a cat and Satanic symbols in dried blood, but there was nothing – just dirt and cobwebs.

Thank god.

Although I can’t rule out that there weren’t any demonic spirits swirling about. That’s where I would loaf if I was Satan’s relative.

The whole area was so scraggly and ugly. Someone’s comment on Roadside America said to check for ticks before getting back into the car so then I began obsessing about ticks and Chooch was like, “We’re wearing pants and long-sleeves, and it’s November. I think we will be fine.”

Thank god Henry wasn’t there when I was spiraling-out about ticks (he walked a different direction than us, and then went back to the car to look at Reddit probably) or else I would have received sedation in the form of a Hencyclopedia diatribe about ticks.

The view of Waterbury from the summit of Holy Land, USA.

Chooch slipped on a rock and almost slid down a hill by the cross and then denied it when I was standing right there and saw it happen with my own two eyes, and then wondered why I was all, “NO WAY, MISTER NIMBLE” when he wanted to scale some treacherous pile of rocks a few minutes later, so I kept imitating him slipping on the rock and it’s a wonder I haven’t won any awards yet for excelsior parenting.

I looked inside the Tower of Babel, expecting to see the remains of a Devil’s Night sacrifice, but all I saw was an empty water bottle.

NOT EVEN ONE BEER CAN!

Rando key.

Several other people showed up while we there, with the intent of casually poking around just like us, so Henry was less concerned about trespassing at that point. He is a big follower of warning signs. Like, if I ever wanted to just completely shut myself off to him, a strategically-placed “no trespassing” sign would easily get the job done.

THAT IS ALL I’M SAYING.

We walked back to the car, where Henry was casually leaning against the hood, scrolling on his phone like a teenager, when Chooch decided he needed to go geocaching and then got tangled in the bare branches of a tree and fell on another rock, so that was cool. If anyone came back with ticks, it was that careless dumbass.

I mean, Holy Land USA was a cool place to stretch our legs, but unless you’re a HARDCORE Roadside America app user and obsessed with marking sights as BEEN THERE, then I wouldn’t necessarily recommend going too far out of your way to visit this run-down plot of ruins.

Jun 202019
 

Our Big Day On the Loose W/O Henry wasn’t over after we left Conneaut Lake Park, oh no. We had some kind of famous frozen custard that we needed to motorboat.

But first! Janna had to go the wrong way when leaving the Conneaut parking lot and proceed to turn around.

Janna’s murder podcast was still playing. Chooch told me later that he was frustrated because she had it playing on the back speakers only so he couldn’t hear what we were talking about and if there’s one thing about Chooch, it’s that he’s exactly like me and HATES missing out on adult conversations.

When I was a kid, I would always be desperate to know what my Pappap was talking about to other adults in the room so I would constantly be piping up with a “Who?” or “Why?” and he’d be all, “Are you writing a book? Leave this chapter out.”

HARSH.

Anyway, this joint isn’t too far from the lake and Janna seemed to know where she was going once she got her bearings. I guess Janna used to patronize this establishment a lot back when she went to college in this area, so that makes more sense now that I know this is why she follows them on Facebook and not just because she collects the Facebook pages of random ice cream parlors in the boonies.

I was mad when we got there though because it’s a CASH ONLY CREAMERY and Janna did not WARN ME of this! So we had to stand in line and wait for these two elderly women to push every button on the courtesy ATM and I feel like it’s blasphemy to mention my Pappap in a blog post and then go on to bash old ladies a few paragraphs later, but these bitches were so slow and annoying! I swear to God, I almost flipped out (not on them, on Janna) and demanded that we just leave because the hatred was making me not care for ice cream so much anymore!

ALSO, THE FLAVOR OF THE DAY WAS BANANA AND I DON’T LIKE BANANA-FLAVORED THINGS USUALLY.

(I love real bananas though and will typically slice one up as a mix-in for my pathetic everyday lunch of instant oatmeal at work.)

(Actually, for a while, A-ron thought that I was putting a banana in my tea because I make my oatmeal in my coffee cup using the hot water that everyone uses for tea…so he was going around telling people that I was making banana tea which I can’t tell if that sounds good or gross.)

Once those bitches finally got their money, it was my turn and now not only was I mad that those ladies got to the ATM first, I was additionally angry at the $2.50 service fee! UGH, JANNA!

AND THE SMALLEST DENOMINATION WAS $20!!

This is what happens when I’m out in the real world with Henry and now I have to be responsible for paying for things. Shit’s expensive! That inflation hullabaloo is real talk! Ugh, I really like it when I can be all young and ignorant while Henry is the one opening the wallet.

Luckily, the line to order went super fast because they were well-staffed and efficient. The guys in front of me got TWO SCOOPS each – one of banana and one of chocolate.

Well, now I was intrigued. I never considered mixing the banana with another flavor. So on a whim, I ordered the same and then prayed I wouldn’t have regerts. Unless it was like, banana cream pie, I would probably never get a banana-flavored scoop of ice cream so this was a big step for me.

I really hate banana popsicles too.

WAIT A MINUTE – banana pudding pops are pretty good though.

Sorry, I’m like really writing a research paper on my palate here.

You guys. Janna was right. So were the guys in front of me. This custard was AMAZE. I had assumed it was just going to be like the soft serve-esque version of custard but NO. It was thick, rich, creamy, and scooped straight from these giant metal vats.

And the banana tasted l like decadent banana pudding so I was SOLD. Even Chooch was like, “Wow, I wasn’t expecting to like this as much as I do…” I mean, we liked it so much that it wasn’t even worth pretending like we didn’t just to piss Janna off. That should tell you something.

We were in love with these sweet lickable mounds.

Meanwhile, Janna got two scoops of chocolate (#NoAdventure) and then had the audacity to ask for JIMMIES but of course the scooper was like, “WTF, you mean, SPRINKLES?” I was so offended that Janna said “jimmies” and I’m glad that I didn’t hear it happen because it might have caused me to lose one of my scoops.

God, Janna.

It was still raining so we stood under the overhang of Hank’s right in front of the car of the OLD LADIES, like we were having an scoop-slurping standoff.

Then it was time for post-dessert dinner. We were still starving even though we were filled with Hank (gross) and to be honest, I probably could have sucked back another scoop or three. But we wanted real food now, and I was adamant that we go to this place we passed hours ago when we first got off the highway – it was a family restaurant/truck stop diner called Aunt Bee’s and for some reason, I had really latched on to it.

But first, Janna made us drive around Meadville so she could show Chooch her old college and say things like, “I REMEMBER DRIVING ACROSS THIS BRIDGE WHILE LISTENING TO KC & JOJO” and Chooch probably thought she was talking about Jojo Siwa but also he probably couldn’t hear her over all the murder in the backseat.

It was while looking for Aunt Bee’s that Janna committed the most U-Turns. When I think of this day, I will think of U-Turns first. I lost count of how many U-Turns happened, but there was definitely one instance where two U-Turns went down on the exact same part of this road road.

In Janna’s defense though, several of the U-Turns happened because the road that Aunt Bee’s is on literally looks like some gravel dumping ground for machinery, so we didn’t think it was right, but the Google bitch just kept repeating over and over to TURN LEFT ON SMOCK and Janna was like THIS CAN’T BE IT! And then somehow we ended up on a road above it, looking down at Aunt Bee’s, screaming, “HOW DO WE GET THERE?!” Finally, I told Janna that she was just going to have to take a leap of faith and drive her car off the overpass into the parking lot for Aunt Bee’s and she did that and sadly perished but Chooch and I survived.

See?:

Janna’s ghost took this picture for us. And by ghost, I mean the pinwheel made from her vertebrae.

Anyway, see how that sign that says “WELCOME”? Oh yeah OK. Sure. We were anything but welcome! We walked in and all the elderly townies swiveled in their seats and leered upon us like we were three Pee Wee Hermans entering a senior citizen biker bar after knocking over a row of their Hover-Rounds.

“Maybe they think we’re a lesbian couple!” I said to Janna and she was like, “You’re not my type.”

Their tagline should be, “GOOD LUCK FINDING US.”

Also, I love that they bake wedding cakes.

We were the youngest people there, except for our waitress who was so nice but Janna was kind of mean to her?! She was like, “IS THERE MAYO ON MY BLT?! OH WAIT, NEVER MIND THERE IS” and didn’t apologize for jumping to conclusions!

Also, Janna ordered potato soup that looked like a clump of mashed potatoes in a cup.

(The following Monday at a work lunch, Sue mentioned that she likes thick soups and I was like, “Boy, do I know a place for you!”)

Chooch ordered spaghetti and failed to note that it came with meatballs, so while making gagging noises, he attempted to transfer them onto his napkin but then one went rogue and nearly rolled off the table, causing all carnivores within a 5 mile radius to feel a sharp pain in their heart.

Me? Oh I just had a grilled cheese and the best fresh cut fries I’ve had in some time, so I was alright.

Baby animals and life advice on the wall of the bathroom. I was going to text this to my pal Alyson but her band was in LA playing a show at the Whiskey Go Go (!!!!!) so I didn’t want to interrupt that with a loo text even though I don’t think she would have minded too much!

Selfie in Aunt Bee’s bathroom.

Now I’m kind of sad that we didn’t have Hank’s way earlier in the day, before we went to Conneaut Lake Park, because I would have like to have stuck my thumb in one of their alleged fresh-baked pies.

And then we went home, but first Janna had to literally pass up the highway exit immediately after leaving Aunt Bee’s. Like, she even slowed down and looked right at it then failed to turn.

I can’t wait for our next day trip!!!

Jun 122019
 

When I look back on this day now, all I can see is that we had really quality FAMILY TIME learning about another religion, eating good foods, and talking to peacocks.

But it started out to a completely different tune, less Donna Reed Show theme wafting from a 1950s den and way more Viking death metal blasting from behind a teenager’s locked bedroom door. Remember how I was just droning on last week about how I’ve been getting a bad case of the (je)Junes every year? (And, that’s putting it mildly.) Well, I have been READY FOR IT, you guys. I have been standing at the door with my paper mache armor fashioned from pages of self help books, I’ve been extra-exercising to keep those endorphins pumping like a bad 1990s club hit, and I have been trying to make plans – you know, the good old DISTRACTION TACTIC.

This…almost backfired. When I suggested to those two ass poles (this was the name of a company that I saw today at work!) I live with that we take a day trip out to New Vrindaban a/k/a The Palace of Gold after Chooch’s piano lesson on Sunday, Henry said nothing and Chooch just flat out said no.

Yeah, this went over real with me, the girl who wakes up on the perpetual wrong side of the bed on Sundays. So I threw a mini-fit, said JUST FORGET IT, pretended like I was going to go alone, and in the meantime, Chooch and Henry had some emergency meeting in Restrain Erin Headquarters, I guess, because suddenly Henry was like, “We’re going to Palace of Gold and we’re so excited about it! Yay! Woo! Look at us!” and he and Chooch were waving their arms in the air like they were trying to lure people off the highway to buy new mattresses.

So I grudgingly got in the car and then Chooch immediately started bitching because he realized he left his headphones at home and had to GOD FORBID listen to his lame parents talk which just consisted of Henry trying to butter me up and me telling him to fuck off in a myriad of super creative and sickening ways. I even told him to take us home three times and then Chooch started screaming about being kidnapped and I yelled, “I’VE HAD ENOUGH OF THIS SHIT” and TURNED OFF the 1980s Soft Rock Spotify playlist that usually always pacifies me. This is when Henry was realizing that maybe this was a bad idea.

However, once we got to shitty West Virginia, things turned around because Chooch and I started making comments about how the rural town we passed through looked like a place where Henry would gladly live and then we saw a hick walking down the road with a fishing road jutting out of his backpack and I started dry-heaving and then I decided that if Henry didn’t have Chooch and me in his life, he’d probably live in a houseboat, and then Chooch and I started laughing so hard we were crying and JUST LIKE THAT our day turned around.

Thank god we worked out our grumps because it ended up being a fantastic day!

But first, we had to deal with the car from Florida doing 12 MPH that wound up in front of us as we swerved through the windy roads to Palace of Gold and suddenly we had a common enemy so we bonded as a family over this.

Then, I was disoriented because Henry brought us in the back way! Of course he’d have to go rogue with directions, this is basically what he was born to do.

Anyway, by now we were all pretty much acting like sane, non-possessed human beings again and maybe even sort of looked like a family who liked each other. We parked at the top of the hill, across from the Palace, and then walked down the road to where the compound, Temple, and–most importantly–the CAFETERIA are located. I marched them right into the establishment like I was a seasoned regular, even though this was only my third time eating there…

…but first time FINALLY indulging in the buffet!

Chooch almost ordered from the “regular food” menu but at the last minute, he sighed and said he would try the buffet.

Newsflash: Chooch has spent the last thirteen years of his life actively avoiding Indian food. Henry and I used to eat it pretty often in the glory days of our relationship, but then Chooch was hatched with a bland palate so we can only feast on paneer and curry when we’re sans Chooch.

Since this is a Hare Krishna compound, there is NO MEAT to be found on site. Henry said that there was actually a sign forbidding visitors to bring the fleshy contraband on to the grounds which made me wonder if Henry pitched his pocket jerky beforehand.

SPOILER: Chooch LOVES Indian food now. He kept going on and on about how shocked he was and how he never realized it was so good while Henry and I just glared at him.

He even went back up for seconds!

Meanwhile, Henry was writing an investigative report under the table about how everyone started at the buffet FROM THE WRONG END so then he was TRAPPED BY THE SALAD.

Honestly, boyfriend kept jawing off about this — NO ONE CARED.

After we ate, I wanted to take them into the Temple but they were too scared or something because there were a lot of people milling about probably because it was some sacred prayer hour.

Well, those heathens don’t know what they were missing because the Temple is one of the best parts of the joint!

You should have seen the first handful of pictures Henry took of us in front of this holy elephant. Most of them weren’t even centered! I kept yelling, “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU” until I got distracted by an empty beverage can that someone had carelessly discarded by the pond so then I spent a good whole 2 minutes holding it gingerly between the tips of two fingers because GERMS, looking for a garbage can.

I’ll never understand what goes through a bitch’s mind when they toss trash onto the ground except that OH WAIT nothing goes through their mind because they’re self-centered pigs with low IQs.

Honest question: if you were strolling along this beautiful path, would you feel compelled to litter?!

“Why didn’t you tell me there are PEACOCKS here? I wouldn’t have been so mad about coming here then!” Chooch cried, and seriously, why didn’t I?? I should have known that would have been the biggest selling point for him and we could have avoided all the dysfunction in the car.

WOW I HAVE ORIGINAL IDEAS.

I’m trying to be less camera shy in my older age. I was thinking about how when Chooch is older, he won’t have many pictures of us that aren’t just shitty selfies so I’m trying to put aside my self-consciousness.

(I still delete a lot of pictures, though.)

(I need to find someone better than Henry to take pictures — he usually finds my worst angles and I’m starting to think he does it purpose.)

Man, we spent a good long while out in the area of the swan pond and Dancing Acolytes, listening to the mating calls of the peacocks and waiting for some crazy cult person to come bursting out of one of the cabins, wielding a handsaw and shrieking the Hare Krishna mantra in reverse.

Next, we walked back up to the Palace for a tour. Hoo boy, better tune in tomorrow (probably) for that installment.

Apr 142019
 

My egghead son got straight A’s again and our half-assed tradition is to let him pick a place to eat out (as opposed to our usual parenting tactic of forgetting to feed him). He almost immediately chose the neighborhood sandwich hotspot, Parker’s, and no one argued with that.

  • Can we walk there? CHECK
  • Is it cheap? CHECK
  • Is the owner the coolest guy in town? CHECK TIMES OUR ZIPCODE

Parker’s is one of those places that we love but don’t hit up very often. “Why don’t we eat here more often?” Chooch and I are known to questioningly lament when we walk past it, which is nearly everyday.

Well, it’s one of those places that closes at 3pm so weeknights are out. And we honestly just don’t dine out too often, because I’m always freaking out about things I learned in that nutrition class I attended once in a dream.

We invited Blake and his brood–Haley was working, sadly, so it was just me, Lily, and a bunch of boys. When we got to the Boulevard, it was POPPIN’! Spring has definitely sprung. I always bitch about my town but there is really something special about that main street in spring and summer. And there have been so many improvements over the last few years so it’s not just a row of dives and pits.

The addition of Parker’s is definitely one of the best improvements!

I ordered the Sunnydale which is meatless and comes on a pretzel bun and who doesn’t like a pretzel bun other than people who don’t like pretzely breads.

Chooch and I gloated because Parker himself acknowledged us as usual and NOT HENRY. Not gonna lie, I’d probably try to pursue Parker if I were single.

Lol.

Gotta get them free ‘wiches.

Meanwhile, Calvin got french toast sticks and licked every single one of them so then no one else could try one, THANKS CALVIN!

Henry and Lily scrutinized Chooch’s coloring skills.

Then the guy who owns the gaming place came in with his gf and said, “Congrats on being student of the month at the teen center!” and I was like, “Well, there are only like 8 kids there, so….” because my self-deprecation extends to Chooch, but then I whispered, “How did Ed know!?!?” and Chooch just shrugged.

After breakfast, we went next door to the post office to mail some card orders and our favorite postal worker Michael gave Chooch and Calvin suckers and I was like, “Really, we come here every Saturday and this is the first I’m seeing of these suckers?!”

Then! We walked past the fire station and the firemen let Calving sit in the fire truck for no reason other than he is a baby and for god’s sake, I miss being a baby! Also, I miss being a blond 18-year-old, because I got a lot of perks at that age too, just saying.

Then! Immediately after this, we crossed the street and Chooch tripped over the curb and twisted his knee, causing A Scene right in front of our Mexican friend manning the taco cart so that was great, but luckily Chooch lived to take another step.

Then! We went to the library so Chooch could get a new library card and the librarians scowled because they are the only people in our neighborhood who hate them. I just asked him why and he said because they’re stupid…and also because he talks in a volume one level up from a whisper, and one time he–GOD FORBID–helped someone on the computer.

I’m sure there isn’t ANY OTHER reason, you guys.

Our last stop was the bakery for post-breakfast dessert (what, that’s a thing) and then on the way home, some lady was all HI RILEY and it turns out it was the woman who is in charge of the teen center, and then the weird lady who lives in the big house up the street started asking me about Lily because I was pushing her in the stroller and my immediate response was to yell, “SHE IS NOT MY BABY” like a paranoid kidnapper, and then some girl who lives on our block walked by with her dogs and said, “I saw on Facebook that you’re student of the month at the teen center!” so then Chooch and I exchanged “a-ha!” looks and he checked Facebook and found this:

So, mystery solved!

Also, Henry and I went back up to the boulevard later that day to get our weekly supply of pita bread and dates from Pitaland, and the guy working was all, “HELLO FRIENDS” because we’re there so often, and then we went to CVS and Chooch’s cashier-friend Hayley rang us up and then later I saw Chooch’s friend Spencer the corgi and his owner Bob and I started cracking up because it’s kind of like a Yinzer Stars Hollow, now that I think about it, and Chooch is Rory.

Every time I start to consider moving away from Brookline, I think of the boulevard and how it has everything we need short of an Asian market (it does have a Chinese restaurant, a Chinese massage parlor, and a Vietnamese nail salon though!) and then I realize that I have somehow become attached to this town over the years.

Saturday was just a really perfect spring day all around. And the rest of the weekend was great too but that’s a post for later!

Mar 122019
 

This past weekend was a good one because as I noted in my last cop-out of a blog post, it was finally starting to feel a little bit like spring! (Granted, it’s back to the 30s at the time of this “writing”…) We made sure to take lots of neighborhood strolls, and this is one of the things I love about living in Brookline (as opposed to the millions of things that I hate) – so many things are easily accessible to us.

FOR EXAMPLE: We stopped at the post office where our favorite* mail guy Michael scanned in our card orders; we went to Party Cake to grab some cookies and a monster glob of icing for Calvin to wipe all over his parents’ new furniture  (you’re welcome, Blake and Haley!),; we grabbed some pita at Pitaland which is basically just Henry’s excuse to go and visit the one guy who works there because he’s always like “MY FRIEND!” when he sees Henry and sometimes even someone as emotionless and bearded as Henry needs to know that someone is happy to see him, I guess; and then I bought tampons at CVS, all while rolling our eyes at Candy Cane, the cane-using broad who usurps the entire girth of the sidewalk and I am hard-pressed to believe that she needs the cane at all! That bitch fucking CRUISES, all while refusing to move over for anyone — I purposely stepped into the street once just so she could see the PERILS she puts other people in!

*(Speaking of postal workers, I need to eat crow or whatever it is people say instead of I FUCKED UP AND RETRACT MY PRIOR STATEMENTS because I have been known to lambaste the weekday postal worker on here from time to time but over the last several months, I have truly softened to her and we have really great chats now about how she is misunderstood as a postal worker, and now my heart breaks for her and all of the bad reviews she gets on the Brookline community forum**.)

**(I have never been to the Brookline community forum but I do remember one time a bunch of years ago someone posted my blog on the Brookline Facebook page and I thought we were going to have to move and change our names, buy some wigs, but thankfully everything was fine and people chuckled or whatever.)

Meanwhile, that stupid photography bordello Babe Cave suffered some vandalism and now I’m panicking a little because I said shitty things about it on Twitter before it opened and what if I’m a suspect now?! I mean, it was probably the local Feminist Fotog group rising up and taking action, so hopefully it won’t take long for me to clear my name.

LOOK, I USE WORDS NOT ROCKS, OK!? IT WASN’T ME.

Later on Saturday afternoon, we went to Rock Bottom for our friend Patty’s 40th birthday dinner! I actually haven’t seen her in about a year because I’m a lazy person but it was great seeing how far she’s come with her physical therapy!

I told Chooch to take a picture of the cake. He really took his job seriously. Look at that artistically-situated shadow, the creatively-cut off cake corner. Chooch really has a future in photography. He should get an internship at BABE CAVE.

I know Chooch, that’s how I feel when adults are talking, too.

Gayle and her husband Jeffrey were also there and I was happy to sit at a table with people we know because almost every time we go to a party, we are our own island. This meant I had a new audience for my incessant calls of “I’m so hungrrrrryyy.” The waitresses were so worried about getting everyone’s drink orders, completely ignoring the fact that I was literally chewing on my hair and swaying in my seat from malnourishment. (<—which WordPress is telling me isn’t a word. It tells me that a lot.)

Put my preschool-mentality son in a room with balloons and watch the obsession mount. He fucked around with those balloons nearly the whole time, attempting to clandestinely saw one of the strings off with a knife, before finally just flat out asking Patty if he could take one….

And then Henry tied Chooch’s arm to the chair with it when he wasn’t paying attention.

…and then before we left, Chooch accidentally let go of the string and the balloon drifted off toward the ceiling. Instead of just getting another balloon, he stood on a chair and then jumped for it, and thankfully he waited until my back was turned because I probably would have gotten Jello-legs and  then wailed, “OMG BE CAREFUL” with my hand on my chest. I’m “that” kind of mom.

In addition to balloon-obsessions, all of the tables were generously sprinkled with confetti, and APPARENTLY Chooch had filled my purse with handfuls of the shit, unbeknownst to me but THANKS JEFFREY for NARCing on him. So then I transferred all of it to Gayle’s purse while she was in the bathroom, plus a piece of dried plant from the centerpiece, for good measure.

But the best was when Chooch shoved a fistful of confetti down Dumb Henry’s shirt.

This picture looks like it was  taken with my old Blackberry Curve that had the perpetually smeared lens.

We got home later that evening and immediately…..

He only cried for like a minute at least, lol.

The rest of the weekend was chill AF, as illustrated by Penelope:

Henry was in Grandpa Nanny mode that night so Chooch and I had to make our own dinners which was weird, but then we started watching Umbrella Academy so that was cool (never forget that time Gerard Way gave Chooch a Twitter shout out for his 8th birthday!).

And that was 1000-some words about a weekend.

Mar 082019
 

It’s been a minute since I regaled this bleak corner of the Internet with some Lunch Break Tales. To be fair, not much has been happening because it’s been fucking COLD in case you didn’t know, so I spend most of my time on the streets of PGH walking super fast to stay warm, or forcing Henry to talk to me on the phone because I am a lonely person, there I said it. Now that spring’s approaching, things should start to pick up out there, for example, Downtown Jesus should like, rise out from behind his tomb or whatever.

(Seriously, where has he been?! I haven’t seen him…since sometime right after his birthday/Christmas, I think!)

Anyway, let’s see what kind of janky recap I can construct from the last couple of garbage weeks.

  1. LUKE PERRY

I found out about Luke Perry dying while I was out gallivanting on my lunch break (obviously, otherwise this wouldn’t be here in LUNCH BREAK TALES). I got a CNN notification, or Washington Post, some kind of notification. This was right after Henry rudely cut me off mid-Seungri Scandal rant and said he’d “call me back” so I had no one to share my sorrow with and I NEEDED HUMAN INTERACTION RIGHT THEN. Come on, Luke Perry’s death had pretty much every broad in my age bracket shook that day. I started to run up to someone in a winter parka, the kind with the fur-lined hood, because I was sure it was my co-worker Regina, but then she lifted her head at the last second and I was just about to hysterically scream LUKE PERRY DIED but at the very last possible second I realized, AS WE MADE EYE CONTACT WITH MY MOUTH AGAPE, that it wasn’t Regina. Maybe could have been Regina’s mom and wow my eyes are really bad. So then I had to abruptly veer a different direction but it was so obvious.

(I take that back about “every broad in my age bracket” because later that day, Nate came over to my desk and was like LUKE PERRY and we commiserated over that for a bit. He was like, “REMEMBER ON 90210 WHEN HE WAS MARRIED TO THE NOXEMA GIRL AND SHE GOT SHOT” and I only vaguely remember that but I started freaking out because just over the weeken I made Chooch watch “I Know What You Did Last Summer”* and during that my mind started wandering into “other teen horror movies from the 90s” which made me think about “that one that Rebecca Gayheart was in” and I was so relieved when I was able to remember without the aid of Google that it was “Urban Legend” but the whole reason I’m even mentioning this is because who the hell has Rebecca Gayheart pop up twice in less than a week in 2019 aside from like, her mom, or, I dunno, the family of the person she vehicularly man-slaughtered?)

*(Chooch’s main takeaway from this movie was: “THEY HAD LAPTOPS IN 1997!?”)

2. GABRIEL, THE STREET FASHION REPORTER

OK, this is going back several weeks now, possibly even months so I can’t even be certain I’m remembering this bro’s name correctly, but I kept forgetting to write about. Although, I DID send a Postcard From Erin’s Lunch Break about it to my pal Valarie! But there was this one day when I was heading back to work when some young guy crossed the street in what seemed like a purposely attempt to intercept me.

He succeeded.

“I really like your jacket!” he began, and I was like, “Yeah I know, right?! It’s great!” I mean, it really is. It’s COW-PRINT, people.

“Did you buy it somewhere down here?” he asked.

“Oh god no, I bought it like…20 years ago probably at Contempo,” I laughed. (I think that’s where it’s from! I honestly can’t remember but I was definitely 20 when that purchase was made, probably using my corporate credit card that my mom paid, HAHAHAHAH no really, I’m crying because I miss those days.)

“Would you consider yourself someone who’s into fashion?” he pressed, and now I was getting paranoid. I mean, if you’re going to either sexually harass me or pick my pocket, let’s get this over with, boo. You know?

I just shrugged and mumbled something about how wearing clothes without stains or wrinkles was enough for me these days, and he went on to compliment me for mixing patterns.

“I really like when people mix patterns,” he said with a smile and now I was really wondering if he was stalling me while the kidnapper van found a spot to park. “I went to the Art Institute for fashion design,” he explained, so I guess that made a little more sense and I was less worried now about the chance of blood ruining my cow jacket post-kidney harvesting.

He introduced himself as Gabriel and we shook hands which is always weird yet exciting for me, touching another stranger on the street. For as anti-social and introverted I have become over the years, I am also curiously starved for human interaction at the same time.

Then he asked me if I was in a hurry to get somewhere and I was like YES, WORK and he was like, “Oh darn, well, maybe I’ll see you around again sometime, hopefully in another cool coat!” and then I became aware of the fact that all of the people on the sidewalk waiting for the bus were watching this strange not-really-flirtation and I walked away wondering wtf had just happened.

I mean, nice guy. Real nice guy. But way too interested in my clothes!?

3. SIDEWALK LAWS

I can’t remember if I’ve ever mentioned this on here but I hate when people walk down the sidewalk in a three or more person throng, so that they are occupying the entire girth of the damn sidewalk and then NOT A SINGLE ONE OF THEM does the proper “fall back” when someone approaches from the opposite way. This happens nearly every time I walk through the Strip District and it fucking drives me mad. The one day, I super passively aggressively said, “No it’s fine, I’ll just STEP OUT ONTO THE ROAD so you guys don’t have to break up your yuppie huddle.”

God for-fucking-bid.

I flipped out the one day while walking through the Strip and decided that I’m going to run for Mayor and then when I win (obviously) I’m going to patrol the sidewalks of downtown Pittsburgh, issuing warrants for arrest for sidewalk hogs.

“You can’t do that,” Henry said, white knighting sidewalk slobs worldwide.

“I CAN AFTER I MAKE IT A LAW!” I cried.

It’s too bad I don’t already have power because I really have so much I would like to change. For instance, Pittsburgh needs to get on board with vending machine culture. Perhaps if I suggest a TERRIBLE TOWEL dispenser, that would get the attention of whoever is in charge of Pittsburgh.

Oh yeah, the actual mayor. Lol.

Well, I really think that’s all I have. In my head, so much more has happened on my walks, but “in my head” is the operative phrase there, I guess. I’d have so much more to write about if I lived in Korea, probably.

Jan 232019
 

Henry had to work because I guess Faygo doesn’t recognize the importance of Martin Luther King Jr., but Chooch and I had the day off. We had lunch plans with Janna but first Chooch got all involved in some pirated version of Heathers he found on YouTube and I was like “Oh ok so I’m watching Heathers with my kid” but then I quickly was like, “Wait should I be watching Heathers with my kid?” It’s funny how you don’t realize how inappropriate/crude/parentally alarming things are until you watch it with your pre-teen.

Chooch’s main takeaway was that Christian Slater isn’t all that great.

WELL OK BUT YOU WERE BORN IN 2006 SO…

Janna came and picked us up around 12:30 (she originally thought I wanted her to pick us up at 12:03 and thought I was being oddly specific when really she’s a number-dummy) and we headed off to Lawrenceville via some weird scenic route. Originally, our plan was to go to B52, which is a vegan place that Henry refuses to go to not because he’s some big burly bacon-eater, but because he just knows that the clientele within those walls is going to be pretentious AF.

And deep down, I know this too.

So we arrived around 1:00 and there was a 30 minute wait because every yuppie vegan in the area who had the day off had the same idea as us. We gave the hostess our name, figuring we were there so we might as well just deal with the wait. Some weird bitch came in and started asking us all these questions about the wait and where to leave her name and there were two other people standing closer to her so I don’t understand why she couldn’t just ask them—oh yeah, because they looked like stuck-up douches and we looked like regular people without a list of French films about incest shoved up our asses.

Eventually, the hostess with the weird bob, 1980s Babysitters Club glasses and super red lipstick came over and said that some space opened up at the counter if we wanted to sit there instead of continuing to wait for a table, and we stupidly said yes, which was such a mistake because it was awkward at the counter and I couldn’t get comfortable long enough to even concentrate on the menu. I kept hoarsely whispering to Janna, “I hate this. I hate it here. I’m so uncomfortable. They don’t even have what I wanted* on the menu today. Let’s just leave OMG should we just leave Janna can we leave?” and Janna really picked up handsomely on my hints and said, “Yes, we can just leave” so we did and I was like DEUCES MALORIE (that’s what I imagine the hostess’s name was).

*(Vegan mousakka! Do you know how rare that is?! Real mousakka used to be one of my favorite foods after I had it in Greece when my aunt Sharon was like YOU WILL NOT LIKE THAT but bam bitch, I did.)

Anyway, we left and Janna was like, “Thank god, I hated sitting there too” and so many more people had lined up after us that we figured we had probably lost our spot for a table by then anyway, so fuck off B52. I don’t get why vegan eateries have to be soooooo uppity and uncomfortable. The only place I’ve been to that wasn’t like that, that didn’t make me feel like I needed to have pixie bangs or a neck tattoo or a Schwinn with a wicker basket as my primary means of transportation, is Zenith. Long live Zenith!!

We went down the street a bit and hit up our backup plan, Ki Ramen. I mean, after driving around for an eternity because Lawrenceville needs to trade in some hipsters for parking spaces, for real. It’s a huge reason why we don’t frequent that area more often.

Anyway, Ki Ramen was OK. It was weird because we walked in and stood there for a while before some waiter came over and asked, “You guys eatin’?”

Um, yes, that was the plan.

Apparently, we were in the wrong dining area? I was so confused! There were people eating in the room we were standing in, but the waiter took us down into a glorified garage (seriously, there were big wires coming out of the concrete walls) and at first I thought he was seating us AT ANOTHER COUNTER but at the last minute, he slid the menus down on the last empty table in that room. Thank god.

We started off with cauliflower wings – they were delicious!

Janna and I both got curry ramen. It wasn’t the best ramen I’ve ever had, that’s for sure. I mean, not to be a spoiled brat, but I’ve had ramen in actual Asia, so…

LOL, I cringed so hard when I typed that. Keeping it!

You think I’m bad, Chooch is like the biggest ramen snob ever and was definitely not impressed with his ramen.

But, the service was pretty quick which was nice because we were fucking starving.

Chooch-Eating-Ramen is my favorite Chooch, I think. He has such chopsticks-wielding pizzazz.

Chooch said this looked like our cat Penelope. :(

When the waitress brought our checks, the one she gave me was waaaaay cheaper than what it should have been. It was like half of what ours should have really been and there was that split second when I wanted to be an asshole and not say anything but this blog ain’t called OH HONESTLY ERIN for nothin’, OK?! I am stupid-honest! So I waved the waitress over and told her she brought me the wrong check, thinking that at the very least, maybe it would bring me some good old-fashioned Karma, but so far all it brought me was two shitty days in a row at work and $40 out of my bank account.

I was bitching about this to Henry who said, “Yeah, but even if you had kept the wrong check, you paid by credit card so they would have just charged the difference to the account later when they realized what happened,” and oh I’m sorry, I forgot that Henry teaches a class on Restaurant Check Fraud at the community college.

See also: STFU Henry.

Apparently, this was Chooch’s “take it easy” pose.

The post-lunch plan was to go to a cafe and get caffeine and dessert. We decided on Black Forge because Janna had never been there and I don’t go there as much as I should, but first Janna had to get stuck in a one-way street cesspool downtown, causing Chooch and I to have a million laughing fits until she tried to back out of a parking lot into oncoming traffic and then we weren’t laughing anymore.

But, she did eventually get us to Allentown in one piece, and then tried to park in a lot designated for the police at the local police station, lol. Fucking popo and their own private, convenient parking lots. Pfft.

Allentown has murals, you guys. We live for murals.

I have one pose, and this is it.

At Black Forge, Janna and I attended Chooch’s lecture on gender equality, inspired by the fact that Black Forge’s bathrooms are designated for “Wizards” and “Witches” but both genders can be either of those things, and also included a reference to “old men holding their dingalings in the bathroom.”

It was a great learning experience. I felt so enlightened.

The last time I was at Black Forge, their punch cards featured Trump and various members of his shitty administration, but now that most of those people have been ousted, their current cards just feature a bunch of Trump’s degenerate visages. I really fucking hate that man so goddamn much, that Black Forge could sell gas station swill and I would still happily support them.

But as it turns out, their coffee and other beverages are fantastic and they sell pastries made at the nearby vegan restaurant Onion Maiden, which is actually another vegan place that doesn’t make me like an outcast. But it’s also very small inside and gets crowded fast so you have to be strategic when planning a meal there.

Totally worth it though and now I’m kicking myself for not just suggesting we have lunch there that day!

In case you were wondering, which you weren’t I know, I got the My Dying Chai which may have been the best chai latte I’ve ever had, Janna got something mocha-y, and Chooch had to be difficult and inquire if the hot chocolate came in different flavors because he is spoiled rotten by the baristas at Muddy Cup who will make any fucking kind of fancy-ass hot chocolate your imagination can concoct as long as they have the syrup there (and they have the most extensive syrup collection I’ve ever seen), so the barista at Black Forge was like, “………flavors?” and then realized what he was asking so she was like, “Yeah go for it, bro” and he went with strawberry because I think he felt panicked since he didn’t have a list to reference, but he said the final product was “really fucking good” and I was like, “I will take your word for it” because I don’t play that backwash game.

Wow, that was a good way to spend the day off. It was only like 10 degrees and the perfect day to stay inside, but I’m really glad we went out and braved the bitter winter.

***

Later that evening, I made fun of Henry which caused Chooch to laugh so hard that he vomited and then I made the mistake of looking at it, so I started dry-heaving really bad and then Henry was like CLEAN THAT UP to Chooch, so then Chooch was dry-heaving while he was mopping up his puke, and this made me dry-heave even HARDER to the point where I was for certain that I was going to throw up, so I had to push Henry out of the way and run to the bathroom, where I could still hear Chooch dry-heaving from downstairs so then we were like gang-gagging back and forth, this terrible volley of vomit-coughs, and my eyes were watering so bad and eventually I FELL TO MY KNEES and screamed, “STOP MAKING THAT NOISE, CHOOCH, PLEASE!!!” because his hoarking was contagious. This went on for a solid five-minutes, passing puke-scares back and forth and Henry calmly muttered, “You two are fucking idiots” while the cats were like, “DO YA’LL HAVE HAIRBALLS TOO?!”

My abs were actually sore the next day from my fake bulimia bout.

Anyway, that’s just a little glimpse of what it’s like to be in this hell house.

Aug 252018
 

Oh, it was fraught with adversity.

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

SO WHAT!?

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

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

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

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

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

“But we never go anywhere!” I cried.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aug 202018
 

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

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

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

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

A likely story.

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

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

Such secrets.

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

‘Sup Santa.

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

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

LIKE THIS ONE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THEN WE WENT TO THE FAKE POST OFFICE.

AND CHOOCH WROTE A LETTER TO SANTA.

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

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

Get me a gift certificate for Choice Music.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Glenn was not impressed.

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

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.

Nov 142016
 

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What better way to decompress after a long week than by ice creammiserating with friends? (I JUST MADE THAT UP. THANKS, FOUR CUPS OF COFFEE.) I know that Chris and Monica were a little concerned walking the streets of Brookline in this hostile political climate, but I assured them that we would be fine because my White Herero Henry* was going to be with us. No one would fuck with us while we were beneath his canopy of privilege.

And also in his shadow.

*(I’ve been singing this in a vaudevillian manner with jazz hands and Henry is not a fan.)

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We made it all the way to Scoops without incident, unless you count Chris and Monica endlessly heckling me for wearing wedges. Guys, they’re comfortable OK? I wasn’t trying to be fancy — they’re TOMS!

Chooch and I ordered almost immediately. He got one scoop of Boring and one scoop of Ordinary, and I got a scoop each of That’s So 2012 and Basic White Girl, aka Red Velvet and Pumpkin Pie.

Henry joined us at a table a few minutes later, leaving Chris and Monica alone at the counter. But I mean, you can’t get much safer and friendlier than an ice cream shop, right? WRONG.

While Chris and Monica were still weighing their sundae options, the bell over the door jingled and in walked your typical middle-aged Brookline creep. I knew he was a creep by the way our .0003  second eye contact signaled for my Fairy Godmother to flutter down from the rafters and add some dentata to my vagina.

Brookline Sleaze turned his objectifying gaze back where it belonged—on the case of ice cream. Sorry, ice cream.

I went back to pounding my cone into my mouth like it was sugary misogyny meeting its long-overdue demise, until I became acutely aware that Brookline Sleaze and Monica were now exchanging words. At first glance, it seemed casual, like maybe he was suggesting she put a wig of Steelers-colored sprinkles on her sundae, or inviting her to go huff some empty whipped cream cans with him out by the Brookline cannon. YOU NEVER KNOW WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO YOU IN MY HOOD.

Then I heard Monica say something to him a strained, terse tone. I could now see that this wasn’t a friendly conversation after all, that this man was clearly offending her, and I started to pray that he wasn’t saying something idiotic and ignorant about the election. Please, not here, not now, not while we’re trying to escape all of the hope-pummeling commentary by taking refuge at a fucking ICE CREAM SHOP.

He tried to sneak in a few more words, at which point Monica completely shut him down, telling him that she just didn’t want to talk about it anymore.

“What the fuck?” I mouthed as she sat down at our table with her sundae.

And then she told us exactly what happened, starting with her having a conversation with the Scoops lady about how it had been a long day.

“Yesterday was a long day too,” Brookline Sleaze butt in. Turns out he was referring to a local cop getting killed when responding to a domestic violence call last Thursday.

Monica reminded him that a woman was also killed by the shooter— her husband—and he said he didn’t know that.

“Yeah, and she was six months pregnant,” Monica added. Brookline Sleaze went on to say, “Yeah, but you know, the cop—” which completely verifies that we live in a world where women really do come second, if anywhere at all. And the BEST PART, oh boy, are you ready?

The best part was when Monica told us that he essentially insinuated that the cop’s death was more important because he died while doing his job, and you know, she probably asked for it.

HOLY. FUCKING. SHIT.

She probably nagged him. She probably cheated on him. She probably emasculated him.

She probably did something to have her life and the life of her unborn baby taken away.

Good call, asshole.

Mad props to Monica for keeping her head from spinning during that moronic discourse; in that moment, she was the Michelle Obama of Scoops. 

 To be honest, I probably would have been too stunned to continue the conversation, as well. Or I’d have just burst into tears because I just can’t handle anything anymore. And then White Hetero Henry probably would have told me I’m overreacting or asked if I’m on my period.

Fuck you, White Hetero Henry.

And fuck you harder, Brookline Sleaze.

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Chris and Chooch were like, “Fuck this noise, let’s talk about Disney Emoji Blitz.”

And that’s right, White Hetero Henry — you just sit there and keep your privileged mouth shut before you unwittingly marginalize someone. Why do I feel like the Trump administration is going to turn me into a chubby crusader who lops off penises with hedgeclippers. FAT SHAME ME, MOTHERFUCKERS.

*****

If you’d like to learn more about the pregnant woman who, like the cop, didn’t deserve to die, her name was Dalia Sabae and it sounds like she was really fucking amazing. I didn’t know about her either until Monica told me, because every news source I saw that day only mentioned the slain cop.

There’s not enough ice cream in the world….

Sep 222016
 

Henry: There’s Notre Dame.

Me: ….that big dirt pile?

Henry: Well….no. On the other side of that.

***

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I woke up Monday morning with a dire need to get the hell home. We had driven straight to South Bend, Indiana after saying goodbye to Riot Fest on Sunday, and I was so happy to be staying in a decent hotel after four nights in the worst Motel 6 — hey, we do what we need to do to be able to go to Riot Fest, and it may be just be one step up from sleeping in a car, but at least there was hot (almost pressure-less) water…? I tried not to complain too much because #SOBLESSED to be there, blah blah blah. Trying on a pair of grateful-pants. They don’t fit very well.

You know that I missed Chooch a lot when I didn’t consult my Roadside America app ONCE on the way home to Pittsburgh on Monday.  The struggle was real, man, and I barely even wanted to stop for breakfast. But we missed breakfast at the hotel because prissy Henry was too busy lollygagging, blowing out his hair, pomading his beard — I don’t know what Henry does. I never watch him get ready because it’s boring.

Anyway, since Henry fucked up, I found a placed called JEANNIE’S HOUSE which was somewhere that required us to drive around like 8 “traffic circles.”

Traffic circles are cunts. And second of all, they’re roundabouts.

Jeannie’s ended up being… the bomb dot com? All that and a bag of chip? Why were these things ever acceptable to say? Jeannie’s was great. We got to hang with the locals at the counter! And our waitress loved me because I have an awesome phone case; she even made another waitress come over and said, “Show her your phone case!”

I have better accessories than most high school girls.

MAYBE EVEN MIDDLE SCHOOL GIRLS.

Honestly, that part of me has never changed. I’m literally still the same 10th grader who brought an argyle knapsack to study hall everyday, stuffed with travel games and Floam. People called it the Barney bag, which seemed accurate at the time but now I’m like, Mary Poppins bag would have been better.

But yeah, that’s still me: wearing giant plastic rings and carrying holographic eyeball purses.

Henry just rolled his eyes and proceeded to zone out during this whole exchange.

Anyway, the breakfast fare was standard, but what drew me there was the promise of homemade jams.

I made sure to get a grilled biscuit with my swiss omelet and then proceeded to ask, with urgency, “DO YOU HAVE THE HOMEMADE JAMS?” Our waitress was like “….Yes?” And  then she told me the flavors. I picked peach, which is what Henry tried to also choose until I sternly said, “You have to get a different one so we can share!” and then I coughed, “Idiot” under my breath.

Breakfast was delightful and those jams really did make a big difference.

And then it was back in the car, where Henry was confused by how roads work in Indiana.

Henry: So I can only go left or right? Not straight?

Me: Who cares.

Henry: Well…I care. I don’t want to get a ticket…?

Didn’t Henry LIVE IN INDIANA? I guess he was too busy driving other people’s cars into ditches.

I should have peed before we left Jeannie’s but then we wouldn’t have seen some large, shirtless man yelling at someone sitting in their car in a McDonald’s parking lot after utilizing a surprisingly nice and updated bathroom in a gas station in Smalltown, Indiana where we then got a ton of beverages (including a gross iced coffee), a bag of chip and a (gross) Snickerdoodle for under $5! I think that’s cheap, right?

We also saw not one but THREE cars pulled off to the side of the road where people were picking grapes growing along a median. Wow.

Indiana, you’re flavorful.

That iced coffee was so disgusting though, no surprise. It was this terribly thick concoction and whether it actually had coffee in it is debatable. Also, I was having a hard time getting it to come out of the spout so Henry went and got a gas station employee to assist me before I pushed the whole thing out of a window, and the lady  took the top of which is how I know that the “coffee” lives inside a foiled pouch thing, like ew, and the lady was all, “Sometimes if I squeeze it, it’ll get it started again” and it was just so wrong.

So, so wrong.

Anyway, Henry thinks that she didn’t charge me for it, which was why it seemed so cheap.

“You know like at a bar, when they give you the shot for free if it’s the end of the bottle?” Henry said, and is that what happened the day he drove “Joe’s” car into the ditch!? Too many free “bottom of the bottle” shots?!

Whatever. It didn’t help that shitty iced coffee taste any better.

By the time we reached the first travel plaza in Ohio, I was on the prowl for an iced coffee do-over. Unforch, it was a Starbucks, which I usually tend to avoid, but anything was better than that gas station swill!

I ordered my SMALL NOT TALL coffee and then loudly to Henry I said, “I make a point of ordering either a SM, MED or LG whenever I come here. Fuck a venti.”

“Wow, you’re a real rebel,” Henry mumbled, and then when I asked him if he was getting anything, he scoffed, “No!” Because Henry is hugely against coffee (see also: Henry is a terrorist) and claims that even the cookies at Starbucks tastes like coffee. AND HE HATES THEIR ICED TEA!

Who’s the rebel now?

While at the travel plaza, Henry decided he wanted to get some Hershey’s ice cream and he’s a grown-up so he can have ice cream in the middle of the day if he wants. But there were these two old broads who were lollygagging, changing their orders, musing over which flavor would best complement their daily prunes. Henry quickly grew impatient and, ice cream dreams shattered, moved over to the next kiosk to get some iced tea instead.

But by the time he had finished paying and was handed his empty plastic cup, some man came over for a refill, stepping right in front of Henry and proceeded to pour the slowest cup of iced tea this side of shitty Indiana gas station iced coffee dispenser.

And the whole time, the old broads, now placated with their cups of Hershey chill, hovered behind Henry. They were closer to him than I was and we all know that Chooch and I walk so close to Henry that if he stops abruptly, there’s a people pile-up. Oh shit, Henry hates that about us but I bet if we ever suddenly gave him personal space, he would miss the sound of our adorable shuffling feet.

So now, he’s got this dude tea-blocking him and these broads taunting him with the ice cream he was too impatient to stand in line for, not to mention me standing there laughing at him, and he just looked so defeated and slumped over.

It was amazing.

He was so angry.

Once he finally filled up his cup with Burger King’s iced tea, the old broads walked away. Just like that. We exited the travel plaza the opposite direction as them so Henry could have time to cool off.

“And I thought that guy getting iced tea was the husband of one of those broads!” Henry chirped. “But no, they were just standing there for no reason!” Untrue, Henry – they were standing there to further ruin your experience at the shitty Ohio travel plaza.

In between rehashing every waking moment of Riot Fest, I got Henry to open up a bit about the SERVICE. “Did they ever scream in your face?” I asked him. My only real insight into the SERVICE world is Full Metal Jacket and M.A.S.H.

“I mean, they screamed at us, but not like what you see in  the movies,” he causally answered, temporarily forgetting that he put a ban on answering SERVICE questions.

He said he wasn’t scared when they would scream at him because “eventually they have to stop.” Why did this make me crack up so bad!? How is Henry constantly so even-keeled and level-headed?! Not being screamed at while in the SERVICE fazed him.

I call shenanigans on this, though. I feel like he probably made a lot of tearful calls home to his mommy.

“What was your first day like? Did you cry a lot? Were you worried about not making friends?” I asked, on the edge of my seat but not really because we were in  the car and if I get too close to the edge, my knees are squished against the glove compartment and that’s annoying.

Also, I recently realized that it’s called a glove compartment because its original use was probably to literally put gloves in it!? It was just one of those things where I kept saying the words over and over in my head until it fragmented and I said, real slow, “Glove……compartment. A compartment….for gloves!”

You just gotta let me figure these things out on my own sometimes. Like the time I realized that the logo for the old department store Hornes was actually…A HORN.

Anyway, where were we. Oh! I was asking Henry about his first day at the SERVICE.

“I don’t know…the plane landed at like, 1 in the morning. Then we woke up and got our hair cut.”

Oh for god’s sake, I was squealing with laughter at this point.

“You got your hair cut!” I wheezed.

“Well, yeah,” Henry said, flashing me a concerned look, the kinds that doctors give their patients after they ask if they’ve gone off their meds. “Shaved, actually.”

By this time, I was laughing so hard that nothing at all was coming out but strangulated gasps and Henry was officially done answering questions.

And then we were home, reunited with Chooch and two cats who I’m not certain remembered us. Ob-la-di, motherfuckers.

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 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!

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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 understand,” he said.

SO GIDDY.

One thing to note is that I honestly don’t recognize 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 [if he was in Panama], 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!