I can't finish writing about Utah until I have pictures from my nephew (ahem! Chad!). In the mean time, I can write about this - last night I met this dude for the first time and somehow in between eating Vietnamese soup in what is easily the tackiest Asian eatery I have ever frequented (D describes it well here) and walking to one of the top five reasons I live in Chicago, we also ended up running into this lady and seeing the play with her. It felt kind of like having people from other sitcoms guest star on the television show of my life. Here's a note about voyeuristically reading about someone's life online and then actually running into them on the street - It's awkward and there's absolutely no way to get around that. If you openly acknowledge the situation and say something like "Oh hey, I...uh...read about your life online, by the way how's your cat? Can he really sit up straight like that or do you pose him?," you automatically sound like you're as socially coordinated as a level 6 Dungeon Master. If you ignore the situation and don't say anything at all, you'll probably still accidentally creep said person out by giving them a perplexed stare and walking away. Luckily, Megs is cool enough not to be deterred by a freakish small woman gawking at her from outside a restaurant and when we all ran into each other inside Barrel's tiny theatre, she sat next to us as if the three of us...you know...had met each other prior to that night.
After the play D and I drank liquor and talked about crack whores and I ended up feeling out of breath from laughing so hard. Throughout the night, I kept getting the same feeling I used to get in high school when a friend and I would have secret Saturday 10AM phone dates to discuss our English teacher's unbelievably craggy face and the latest plot development in X-Men the Animated Series. I remember thinking then By all laws of logic, this shouldn't be awesome AND YET IT IS. In case you're wondering, THAT is how meeting someone from the internet for the first time and then haphazardly picking up someone else from the internet feels - unexpectedly and slightly shamefully awesome.
I got home around midnight, kind of high off of the extreme amount of pho, musical numbers, laughter, mayhem, and general absurdity that had ensued over the past few hours. When I walked in, my roommate asked where I was all night on a Monday. "Hot date?" he asked. "Not exactly," I said. "It was a much better adventure than that."
I don't know how to begin to explain the adventure I had in Utah over the past week, so I'm just going to break it down into a series of stories. I think that will work better than doing what I did with my real-life friends and telling the whole thing in one giant monologue, turning red-faced in the process and punctuating it with giant hand gestures simply because I couldn't find words that could capture the right level of excitement. Just to give some idea of how much adventure was involved, I was in Utah for 5 days, and pulled not one, but two 48-hour, sleep-is-for-suckahs marathons. It made me feel like a punk rock allstar.
I knew that the Utah trip would be awesome the minute I left the house. After working all night to get ready for the trip, I dragged my backpack o' fun to ye olde subway station at 4:30AM, passing by this sign in the process:
I'm not sure if it was the lack of sleep or the excitement about going on a trip, but I do remember thinking that anytime vegetables with novelty facial hair are directly asking me if I'm ready for adventure, that has to be a good sign.
And it was a good sign, a very good sign in fact. The minute I landed in Salt Lake City, I met up with my friend Shaun and my nephew:
and his lovely girlfriend:
You can't see it in this picture, but Jan looks a bit like Scarlett Johansson and she knows about things like eyelash curlers and volumizers that are completely foreign to me and sometimes she smells like wildflowers. If she weren't dating my nephew, I would totally want her to be my slightly older, way prettier Sweet Valley High-reading sister who will trade knowledge of how to be a girl for help on trig homework. These are the kinds of things I think about when alone.
After meeting up with our swarthy cast of characters, Shaun said, "hey, I need to make a pit stop," by which he meant, I need to go to the hospital to make sure I don't have an aneurysm. Whereas a potential aneurysm may have caused worry for some people (me, me, me, me, me), Shaun didn't seem to think it was that big a deal. The three of us dropped him off then took our sweet-ass Chevy Cobalt through Salt Lake where we stumbled upon this:
That is a gun range called Get Some located in a strip mall in the most Mormon state on Earth. Hungry for Adventure indeed. After Shaun's tests had checked out as clear, we mentioned Get Some and he looked me straight in the eye and said, "Dude, let's go shoot a gun."
Despite, all badasses know how to use a gun. They may not own one or carry one around, but they have at least a cursory knowledge of how guns work and so in my quest to be a badass, I guess I need that too. We went into Get Some and after a brief lesson in how to safely load and fire a pistol, I worked up the nerve to ask the one question we were all wondering: What is the largest gun you will let me fire? The answer to that is an M16:
That gun is worth $17,000 which is approximately $16,000 more than my soul is worth.
Here's the thing about firing a gun, particularly a big gun - remember this scene in American Beauty:
Firing an M16 in real life feels nothing like that. For me, it was the exact opposite. Though Shaun and I unloaded 4 boxes of ammo (and he looked pretty badass while doing it):
I never fully succumbed to the charm of the automatic weapon and spent the majority of our time at Get Some making faces like this:
Nevertheless, it was an adventure! and when I left the shooting range to find this man casually perusing the big-ass weapons section with his puppy:
I smiled in spite of myself. It was a good day to be a badass.
I am out on an adventure right now of epic proportions! I don't want to give anything away but it involves celebrities! And deceit! And guns! Big ones! And bacon! I will be back on Wednesday. Go have lots of adventures in the mean time.
While I was in Virginia, big big changes were made back here in Chicago. The bars went smoke-free, Christmas-themed karaoke happened without me, and my house got another roommate. For those who don't know, let me explain a little bit about my living situation. I came to Chicago in March, gave myself 48 hours to find housing, and at the last minute happened to stumble upon a fully furnished room in a gorgeous three story house in the northern part of the city, all for significantly less than I paid for my apartment in Richmond. And it comes with a maid service. I mention that only because when I was informed that a monthly maid service was included in my rent, it felt just like that scene in Beauty and the Beast when the entire kitchen comes to life and starts dancing. Some women fall for jewelry and flowers. This woman falls for the idea of not having to clean anyone's pubes out of the shower.
Falling in love with the roommates came just as easily as falling in love with the house. I moved in with two roommates - one boy and one girl - both of whom are funny and immensely laid back and seem to appreciate my awkwardness. The three of us instantaneously got along and in the 8 months I've been here, there hasn't been a single dispute, not even a minor PMS-driven one, over anything. It's kind of like living in The Waltons, but, you know, less poor and stuff.
When the boy roommate informed me that another boy would be moving in, I was a bit wary that perhaps the easy-going dynamic of the house would be thrown off. When I learned that the new boy also worked from home, I was even more wary that if it didn't work out, not only would my housing be screwed, but my job environment as well. The new guy moved in two weeks before I got back. The morning of the day after I drove into town, I woke up expecting to see a tall, bald Italian dude across the hall. Instead I saw this:
You can't really tell from this grainy picture, but that's definitely a framed poster of a boldly mustachioed Mike Ditka surrounded by the fadey faces of prominent American heroes in the background. It's hanging just outside of the new guy's door and is currently the only piece of art gracing the second story of our humble abode. When the new guy caught me in my snowflake-themed pajamas staring at the new art at 9:30 in the morning, he skipped salutations entirely and simply said, "Can you believe I found that thing IN A DUMPSTER?!?!?! What kind of crazy asshole would throw that away?"
"Hi, I'm Chris," I said shaking his hand. "We're going to get along just fine."
The drive from Richmond, VA to Chicago, IL with this:
in the car takes approximately 14 hours. Most of the trip looks like this:
Although my mom is convinced that I'm going to encounter at least one drugged-up trucker, rabid animal, natural disaster, or Hell's Angel bent on feasting on nubile girl meat while on the road, I can tell you from experience that the most dangerous part of the trip is the sheer boredom. That's why God invented places like Hurricane, West Virginia. I'm not really sure how to describe the town other than to say that when I Googled the town name, this is what came up:
and that's pretty spot-on. Located approximately 5 hours and 22 minutes from Richmond (~7 hours, 58 minutes from Chicago), Hurricane, WV is this haven of everything that is good and right in this world. There are American flags flying from trucks. There are crustaches lurking behind every corner. There are gas stations that will sell you tiny statues of big-eyed children with angel wings all covered in glitter right beside a rack of trucker hats that feature cartoon boys pissing on various racing numbers. There is also Tudor's Biscuit World,:
home to approximately 40 different types of biscuit-themed sandwiches, all of which you can purchase either in person or through the convenient biscuit drive-through. It's like heaven. Beyond simply serving one's biscuity needs, Tudor's also features this on their dinner menu:
I don't know a thing about cabbage rolls and cannot attest to their deliciousness factor, but I can tell you that that picture alone is worth the 5 dollars and 69 cents. If biscuits aren't your thing,* you can always go to Gino's Pizza and Spaghetti House:
which is located in the same building and features the same semi-surly, semi-smiley cast of employees wearing different hats. After getting food, you can either head to the pawn shop/gun store located next door or you can take your personal pizza to the gas station on the other side of Tudor's and eat it from the hood of your car while simultaneously pumping gas. If the image of a young woman with one hand on the gas pump and the other shoving cheese covered dough into her mouth while watching sauce drip down her v-neck American Eagle circa 1996 sweatshirt doesn't sound sexy, you should tell that to the two high school kids who drove by and yelled "YOU ARE HOT, OWWWWWW!" at me from the passenger's side of their Dad's 1986 sedan. While Wade and Ray-Ray didn't give me a chance to say thank you, the sentiment was appreciated.
Full of pizza, biscuits, compliments/possible harassment, gasoline, and bitchin sunglasses:
(I found those treasures in a gas station next to a shelf of dream catchers), it was time to put my dog in the back, crank up the Johnny Cash, and drive with the windows down through the mountains of WV. Hurricane - Thanks for rockin me just as hard as your name implies.
* then get the hell out of town you city-lovin swine
My friend Shaun is currently a finalist in an eBay video contest here. His is the one in the Seller category that's clearly way better than everyone else's. Voting is on every day from now until the 28th of January with 5 large* on the line. Let's make it happen internet, for the children...specifically for Mr. and Ms. Irving's child.
* I think that 5 large means $5,000, but I'm really not sure since all of my knowledge of street talk comes from watching Walker Texas Ranger.
I'm pretty sure I started my embarrassing internet girl crush on you the day I learned that you name your photographs after spam subject headers, spelling errors included. To be perfectly frank, I don't really want to be friends with anyone that doesn't find this amusing and the fact that you just went ahead and put it out there made for very fertile girl crush ground. The crush progressed when we began our not-always-sober e-mail exchanges, but I'm pretty sure you moved directly into the elite category of Women I Would Probably Be Pretty Cool With Marrying If I Were Into Lay-Days And We Both Had To Marry People We Had Never Met In Real Life Before when you sent me an e-mail that contained absolutely nothing except for this:
Now all I want to do is drink a lot of Wild Turkey and watch that video on repeat while eating Taco Bell off of my own stomach until I pass out my own desk chair all covered in lettuce shreds and medium salsa, basking in awesomely awful goodness. I know that's a strange way to say I think you're cool, but I don't really know how to say it any better. Thanks for turning the rock up to 11.
We haven't talked for a very long time. So long in fact, that I kind of have that inevitable awkward feeling one has when you run into someone you haven't seen for a good ten years and conversation has to start out with something like "So...what have you been up to in the last...I don't know...decade or so?" I've thought about calling you or sending you a flirty text message about 8 million times in the past 5 weeks, but these days I'm getting easily distracted and frankly, other things had to take a higher priority. I do want you to know that I had a very good reason, several good reasons in fact, the top one being that my grandmother passed away and the experience of watching her slowly disintegrate and then eventually just stop existing made me feel like I had been flipped inside out and God himself was prodding my innards with hot pokers. I don't really know what to say about it - mainly because I'm not sure I even have the vernacular to accurately describe it. You know those nature documentaries that show icebergs falling apart in massive, perfectly dusty frozen chunks? It felt like that. It felt exactly like that.
2007 was a Band-Aid year for me and I think for my family too to a lesser extent. We buried the remaining members of an entire generation of our family. We buried major relationships, lifelong fears, shitty friends, shittier apartments, towns and jobs and lovers and projects that simply couldn't offer what we needed anymore. In fact the whole year was a Whitman's sampler of experiences - some the best of my life, some really, really OH MY GOD I FEEL LIKE I'M BEING SAWED IN HALF painful - that simply needed doing in order to become the kind of kickass lady worthy to succeed other kickass ladies like my grandmother.
After it was all over, after presents were opened and ornaments were removed and a woman I love was sealed in a box the color of storm clouds, my whole body just shut down and demanded a full week to rebuild itself from the inside out. And while missing a karaoke and champagne-themed party to nurse a fever of 1-0-fuckin-2 on New Year's Eve seemed like a final middle finger from 2007 at the time, in retrospect, welcoming in 2008: The Year of Adventure by watching movies with the two people who love me most in this world while my own flesh burns the remaining toxins from the previous year out cell by cell seems like a very, very good sign. When I got back to Chicago this past Tuesday, I had a batch of Christmas cards waiting on my desk. My favorite featured red foil peppermint spirals on a white glitter snow background: "Here's to a new year filled with ridiculous stories, tawdry hook-ups, ambiguously gay friends, and lots of herbal tea." Here's to that and to oh so very much more.
I hope your 2008 is and continues to be nothing short of magnificent.