Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Well, that was the suck...

Yes indeed it was. And this is a long and overly detailed entry that you hopefully will find funny.

We left here Friday morning after dropping the puppy off at Carrie's. We filled the tank and bought copious Kwik-E-mart snackage before hitting the highway. At that time it was about 10am.

I'd been rushing around since 7:45, dropping Jack at the kennel and doing this that and the other thing to get ready. We were ready ready ready. We were set to go go go!

Getting on the road we gunned it down the highway and immediately ran into a highway lane reduction at traffic total stoppage on 495. So we bailed and took backroads to bypass it. Worked like a charm.

Glad I know the backroads around here, too bad I don't south of Scranton or West of Clearfield.

We trucked along awesomely through the rest of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and NY State. Breezing, making great time. We were in Scranton in four hours.

Four. Hours. That is unheard of from here. Usually Five is good. But Four? Where's my jet pack officer? Sorry, I'm not showing!

We then hit I-80, and SAT in a PARKING LOT all the way to exit 241.

and this long line of cars...People were putting their cars in park, turning off their engines, changing clothes, having snack. There was a guy on a Harley behind me, and he was obviously traveling with the woman in the truck behind him because he parked, got off his helmet (doofus) jacket, and other riding gear. She handed him a sandwich, and his cigarettes. He stood there talking to her while he ate the sandwich.

It was kind of nuts.

If you click on this photo, be sure to go all the way to the original size shot and take a look at the reflection in my rear view mirror. And it went on and on and on like that behind me and before me. It was nuts. We entertained ourselves by saying hi to the truckers around us. The kids were in great spirits. The day wasn't too brutally hot.

We got to the lane reduction where jersey barriers and two guys talking about maybe doing some work I don't know kinda sorta hey what are you doing for this weekend I'm going to a barbecue. Barbara and Sam invited me over and...

I was pissed as hell when we got past that stretch and there wasn't a car in sight. Seriously. When traffic is backed up for 15 miles, where do all the cars and trucks GO the instant you get through the log jam?


We were trucking along, east of Lightstreet, and there was a car on the side of the road. A man was waving his arms frantically in the air and I pulled over thinking there was a medical emergency.

He needed a jump start, and I wasn't in a safe position to even remotely help so I offered to give them a ride up to the Lightstreet Bloombsburg exit so they could see if there was a service station, or they could call a friend from the payphone.

The man went back to ask his lady friend if she wanted to do that, and Geoff was SHOCKED! that I would offer strangers a ride.

"Oh my GOD mom! They are going to KILL us! They are going to ROB us! They'll abduct us and hurt us! They..."

"Honey, I'm not sure they'll do that," I answered, not sure that I believed myself but I just knew that he looked desperate and sad, and I wanted to be a help to someone after wasting two hours of my damn life.

"They just need a ride eight miles up the street to the next exit and they'll be gone. I promise, if they pull anything I'll kill them first, but trust me. Trust me..."

They jumped in, and we rode them up the road. The sky opened up and started pouring at that point, so I felt kinda good that I was giving these folks a ride. The woman was especially thankful saying "Oh Lord, in that rain NO one would EVER stop, and could you imagine if we had started WALKING and it started raining like this. Oh thank you for stopping!"

Geoff, I could feel it, was sensing that we'd done something somewhat stupid and risky, but in the end it was working out.

its a long long storyWe got to the exit and I dropped them off at a gas station by a Denny's.

They didn't have money for the payphone and they wanted to call a friend in Williamsport (50 plus miles away) to have him come help them. So I loaned them my cell phone.

"I HAVE your money for you. I'm just STUCK! Stuck on the damn highway. The traffic was so bad, and the car broke down and we're in Bloomsburg and we ..."

Uh, I have your money for you? What? Uh, can I have my phone back now so we can run? Not sure what I just participated in, and if my number will turn up in some sort of DEA wire tapping situation, but damn.

She gave me back my phone and thanked us for the ride, and we jetted out of there. I was having misgivings for stopping until I heard Geoff.

"Mom, helping people even when it seems somewhat dangerous, that's a good thing. I mean, those people were stranded and in trouble and we helped, and I feel really good about that."

Great buddy. I feel mixed but hey. I'm glad you feel good.

At the next place we stopped, Geoff stood and held the door for everyone coming in and out and he was extra kind and thoughtful to Jessica.

Maybe I'll help stranded weird people more often.

The middle of the state went by like a dream of laughter, bad jokes printed on potato chips, and Jessica doing Jazz Hands to Guster Songs. We laughed a lot, but I was starting to get really wiped out and the headache was growing. We stopped at a McDonalds, I got a large iced coffee and I honestly think that is what kept us alive the rest of the trip.

By 7pm we were in Clearfield. And traffic once again ground to a complete and total stop. We bailed and went to Walmart, me cursing the sky for not having the GPS with us so I could figure out where this road and that road led to so I could bypass the obvious logjam there on the highway. I was starting to really feel exhausted. My hands hurt from holding the steering wheel. Jazz Hands to Guster Songs was no longer making me laugh. We sat and watched a pretty decent sunset over I-80, while watching cars and trucks go absolutely nowhere.

I knew we were about four hours away from where we wanted to be, if not five. Doug called on the phone as I sat in the hellish traffic at 8:30.

"Hi honey, how are you? I'm in the car with Diane and J, we just left the visiting hours."

"Oh, I'm okay I guess. I'm in Clearfield."

"I don't know where that is."

"Way east of DuBois."

dead silence.

"Oh. That's kind of far."

"Uh yeah, you're telling me. I'm stuck in my second major two hour back up of the day. I'm not at all happy right now."

"I'm sorry to hear that. Can you get the truck washed before you come to the funeral tomorrow morning. I'm not picky about a lot of things but if you're going to be in a funeral procession, you should be in a clean car and you've been driving across 80 so..."

Insert noise of a needle scratching across a record here.

I am aghast.

"You've got to be kidding me. I am five hours away and feel like I may not make it there and you want me to get the truck washed? How about this. If you want the truck washed, you get up tomorrow morning and come down to the hotel and YOU GET THE TRUCK! AND YOU GET IT WASHED!"

"Wooo! Sorry!"

I think I hung up on him at that point.

His request was not unreasonable. It was the timing. At the point above where I said "I'm not at all happy right now" he should have thought to maybe make his request in the morning. Right there and then I was in hell. There was a big huge honkin' truck beside my head using his jake brake every ten feet and it sounded like rapid fire gunshots ripping through my skull. It was POURING out, and the traffic jam had no end in sight. There were motorcyclists buzzing up through the middle of traffic IN the dark IN the rain, and I almost took one of the fuckers out right there intentionally. Yes. Intentionally. I saw him coming and had the opportunity to pull to the left and change lanes and had I completed my maneuver, he'd be dead. But I pulled back, and he dropped behind me, then pulled beside me and spit at me.

Nice. I hope someone really does run your ass over you retard.

Eventually the traffic and the rain broke. Breezing onward to DuBois, Clarion, Mercer, Sharon. No diversion to Quaker Steak and Lube even though my soul ached for a bucket of buffalo wings and a beer at this hour.

My sister calls and checks in on us at 11pm. We're still about an hour away but I tell her we're 20 minutes. South onto rte 60. We're in the homestretch! WDVE comes in loud and clear. I may hear a Donnie Iris song if I'm lucky!

New Castle, Beaver Falls, Brighton, Beaver, Monaca. Here!

We check into the hotel at 12:30. We are all in bed at 12:40. I'm twitching and shaking from the caffeine and the stress but terrified to take a Tylenol PM to fall asleep faster so I go without, the day playing back in my head.

Me being mad at Doug playing back in my head.

Me not getting a chance to say good bye or hello to Uncle John in the past two years ... playing. over. in. my. head.

I set the alarm for 7. I will get up and get the truck washed and then take Geoff to swim. We'll be okay.

Be calm, Be brave.
It'll be okay.

The next morning I sleep through the alarm, so does Geoff miraculously. Mr. I'm Always Up at 6am is still dead asleep at 7:30. The fact that I wake up before him frightens me and I check his ankle for a pulse.

We get up, get breakfast and I drive over to Vanport to the carwash to find it closed.


holy crap. This is the only car wash that I know of in the area. What am I going to do now. I'm going to go ask at the front desk of the hotel, because I'm sure there has to be another and they'll know where.

We drive back to the hotel, and I notice a shell station with a carwash, but they don't open until 9. I figure it'll be better to get in a swim and then grab a car wash on the way out now that I know they are there.

As the hobbits say, second breakfast, then swimming. We swim and swim and swim. Then at 9 we go up to shower and red'up our selves. Jess has gotten out of the shower and is dressed and...

her shirt is too small.

She picked out a shirt that had technical difficulties in the wash, and damn if it isn't clinging to every roll and bump in her person.

No worries. We're across the street from the mall. We can grab something to go over it.

No worries, this is how we roll.

No worries. I am freaking out. I throw Geoff in the shower. I then get in the shower and find they've both used all the shampoo.

I also find that not only did they use all the shampoo but Jess used the hand cream on her hair. It is in a little vial marked "Soften" at the Holiday Inn Express. Soften is for hands. Wash and Tame are for hair.

So my daughter has washed her hair with Wash, Tame and Soften.

You've got to be joking.

Jess gets me some shampoo and I chastise her for using Soften on her hair. duh. IQ of eighty million and she uses hand cream on her hair. Whatever.

We're all ready at 9:45. We go to the car wash. It is the slowest car wash in America. We are 10th in line. We watch as the guy vacuums out the cars and then sends them into the thing. Why can't the vacuuming happen at the end! Why is it happening NOW! Hurry! UP!

We get through. We run over JC Penney in the Beaver Valley Mall. Jess immediately finds a blouse that will go over her current shirt VERY nicely. I find Geoff a tie, because I couldn't find one for him at home or at Kohl's the night before we left. In fact, this is the World's Most Perfect Tie Ever© and I'm thrilled.

We throw our stuff on the counter and the lady rings us in. She cuts off the tags so I can instantly clip Geoff up and Jess can slip into her blouse.

We must look like fugitives getting in disguise to her. I look at her and thank her and say "I suck at planning well, and we are most certainly NOT fugitives from justice. We're going to a funeral in Beaver."

Oh, I understand. She replies. We fugitive ourselves from her store and my cell phone rings. It is Doug. I send it to voice mail.

I stop at the drug store to get skin cream and cover up, the bags under my eyes are deplorable. We make it to the funeral home at 10:45 for an 11am ceremony.

I breathe a sigh of relief. Doug is a pall bearer. I'm only hoping he rides over with us because I am not 100% sure where I'm going after this is over.

But my truck is shiny and beautifully clean. And my daughter's hair is wonderfully soft.

The ceremony was short and sweet. No one seemed to want to get up and speak, so John's best friend Mike and uncle Don both got up and did their things. I had hoped Andy would get up and share. I would have loved to hear from him there, eulogizing his dad. But it wasn't to be.

We went to the cemetery and I had to control myself with every ounce of self-control to keep from whipping out my camera and taking pictures of these garish seat-cover things that were cookie-monster blue. At the end of the service, Doug came over and asked me if I'd noticed that they'd killed Cookie Monster. I let him know he should be so proud of me for not being a blog terrorist because I so desperately wanted a picture of these chair covers!!!!!!

Geoff Marine HatGeoff got to meet Doug's cousin Daniel, who is in the Marines.

When we initially got to the funeral home, Geoff was astonished to see a man in uniform... and equally astonished to learn he was related to this dashing young lad.

Daniel picked up on the admiration and winked at him from across the room. At the end of the graveside portion of the service, he walked up to our truck, and we rolled down the window. Daniel reached in with his hat and placed it on Geoff's head and I thought Geoff would explode. He was filled with a lot of emotion, a lot of wondering about death and life and who Uncle John was and how come he didn't remember him very well, and then suddenly this handsome and beautiful Marine marches up to him and gives him his hat.

It was kind of surreal.

We went to dinner afterwards. Immediate family and friends. Andy was sweet. I wanted to spend more time with him, ask him about life and work and stuff. But everyone hogged Andy and I got to hug him and fade into the woodwork and chill with the kids and the cousins.

Diane and J's daughter, our niece Elyse (I've mentioned how I love how her name rhymes) joined us at the table. Rumor has it she never leaves mommy's side, but today she was all about hanging out with her cousins. J came over and asked if she would be joining them at their table and she said "No, I'm sitting with Geoffrey. Now you go to your place right now." And she waved him off.

She was nothing but a delight, even when Geoff was an aloof, disinterested boor. She was tons of fun and really made me laugh. She loves Geoff and Jess and really had a lot of fun with them.

Hours and hours and hours later it seems, we finally left the restaurant. We went back to the hotel and the kids changed. Doug passed out on the bed. I read Douglas Coupland's "All Families Are Psychotic" (I didn't bring it intentionally, it was next on my to-read list. Honest) and fell asleep myself. Jess took the boy to the gym and he ran on the treadmill and rode the bike for an hour. We eventually went up to Grandma's to hang out.

Doug's grandma is not doing too well. She's slowly but surely getting ready to go into an assisted living facility not too far from home. It was wonderful to see her, to talk to her, to be with her.

I worry that I won't get that chance again.

Eventually Geoff ran out of gas and I brought him and Jess back to the hotel. We crashed. We slept deeply.

Sunday was a blur and a mess and I don't want to get into it. Suffice to say, it was a bit much and I'm still overwhelmed. The best part of Sunday was that Diane and J came to the hotel while everyone else was still hopelessly undecided as to what we'd be doing for the day, and the kids swam in the pool with us and we had a terrific time.

jamiel and the poolThere was this little boy at the pool named Jamiel. His bigger brothers and cousin were really playing hard and rough housing, and he couldn't deal with being in the pool with them. It was obvious he couldn't swim.

So. I took him for rides around the pool on my back. I encouraged him to go the whole length of the pool around by holding on to the side. Later on, he figured out where our room was and knocked on the door to give me a big hug. When I woke up the following morning, there was a five dollar bill sticking under my door. I have no clue where that came from but I have a guess.

I will have Jamiel in my thoughts and prayers for a long time. He's from Columbus Ohio. He is 8. He was and is a really sweet little guy.

We were in the pool for two hours. And it was awesome that Elyse wanted to swim with me and play with me. Last year she wouldn't even get in up to her knees.

Craig even got in on the fun, and we had a blast. It felt good to play with cousins, and to visit with Diane and J. I don't get to see them often enough. In the evening, we went out to Ohio to see Great Grandma G at her place. We went rather late, I think it was around 5pm when we got there. It was a short but lovely visit. And I had a great time.

Monday morning Doug came up and got us after Geoff and I swam in the pool. We went up to Grandma's again to spend some time with her before leaving, and we had lunch. Diane brought the kids down, and I think they were sad to lose their cousins after having them for three solid fun and sad and fun and complicated days.

The ride home was tremendous. Ten hours instead of elevendy. We got here at Midnight. Carrie brought the puppy back. And we lived to tell the tale.

I am happy to be home.

Anyway -- that is kind of the lost weekend with no alcohol or drugs causing the loss. There was so much I wanted to do. And now I'm back at Wednesday going to work and getting back into the swing of things. I'm tired.

The best part is that I got a few more license plates for my licenseplate bingo flickr set. Now I only need Nebraska, Arkansas, Hawaii, Idaho and Washington DC.

I saw Arkansas today when we took Doug up to get his car in Manchester, but he deliberately sped up so I couldn't get my camera out in time. He sucks.

I saw a Manitoba plate on I-80 but traffic was moving too fast and it was dark and the flash would have probably freaked the driver out. So we passed on grabbing that one.

I can't believe I have only four states left and the DC plate. It seems weird to have made it to this point.

Now, if you don't mind, I have a cramp in my finger and a beer is calling me names. I must go confront it and teach it a lesson. Prepare to be schooled, Sam Adams!

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