Friday, September 22, 2006

Planes, Drains & Automobiles

Oh, I suppose I need to post about our "vacation" and get the suspense over with. (And I have 5 posts waiting to go that I refuse to do until this is in the bag.) Although I'm sure you're going to be sadly disappointed by my lacklusterness. And it's been so long you probably don't give a rats anus about it but I'll do it anyway. And I'm super hacked over how almost all of my pictures turned out (crappy) so I'm not posting them until I send them through my fancy digital fancier- upper thing.


I don't like to call these kinds of outings "vacations". When you're with family for an extended period of time, more than 4 hours, it's a "trip". Sort of like an acid trip. A bad one. Where the furniture is talking to you and ants dressed in clown suits are eating your face and every morsel of food you consume turns into a churning, glugging, splashing bucket of Drano that cause your guts to melt and spring forth a bevy of evil Keebler elves who spend the day kicking the lining of your stomach to a frothy pulp. Except the first part is a slight exaggeration but the last part is absolutely one hundred percent fucking true!!

Air travel being what it is today, I knew we'd need to leave for our 12:50 p.m. Saturday flight by 8:30 a.m. on Friday. I'd managed to waste some precious packing time by playing 193 games of spider solitaire, 2 suits (snap), during the week and now was rushing around trying to make sure I hadn't forgotten anything which I did anyway thanks for charging 2 freaking bucks for 1 tab of Airborne San Diego Stupid Airport!

We ended up having pretty perfect timing, which almost never happens. Thank god the off-site parking lot I'd made my semi-bogus reservation with had a spot for our car or else I would have had to rip my first face off of the day and frankly I was too stressed for any face ripping at the moment. We got checked in, sailed through security without any anal probing or tearing my purse apart, and had time for a snack and a beer for whitey. I have to take drugs to fly so my beer was in the form of a cute, little white pill that makes it all better. And if I take 2 it makes it all better with sparkles.

By the time we walked over to our flight I only had time to go potty and our plane was boarding. So much better than sitting there for 2 hours like cattle waiting to be jammed into a semi. We didn't have much to carry on since they don't allow you to breathe until your lungs have been properly scanned for weapons and we took our seats.

And this is where the rituals began.

I wear a special necklace every time I fly that keeps the planes from crashing to the ground in a fiery splendor. It looks like a little silver earth and it has jingle jangle chimes inside. So before takeoff I have to put the earth up to my ear and hear the chimes. Then I have to flip it around and hold onto it until we're up in the air for a few minutes. And I have to look at every page of the Skymall catalog before we takeoff too.

Do no mock me. These thing work.

We hit a few bits of turbulence and I freaked out and whitey held my hand and did not make fun of me for whining and scowling like a baby, not once. We landed in Salt Lake City and on our way to the connecting terminal I stopped by a little store that sells jewelry. I've bought some cheapo silver rings in there before and I noticed they had a large selection of turquoise stuff which is what I was hoping to find on our "trip". I haven't been wearing a lot of jewelry but have wanted some pretty earrings 2 years after the trend because I'm hip like that.

So we walk in and I immediately see the less-than-desirable quality of the merchandise and mention that you have to be careful with turquoise or you'll get fake colored crap. Right after I said that the old lady retail nazi swooped out from behind the counter in all her elastic wasted pants glory and spat in my general direction, "ALL tour-qwase is dyed!!"

And you know what? Man, am I sick of crappy cashiers and snotty strangers feeling a sense of entitlement and invitation to say whatever the fuck they want to say to you and however the fuck they want to say it. So I adopted an air of superiority and said, without looking at her, "No, that's not true." HA! Burn! She then followed me around right on my heels and after a minute of being in my personal space I'd had enough of her chatty stalking and I yelled "whatever" and we walked away. Freaking weirdo airport worker.

We made it down to the commuter area since our next flight would be on a super-deathtrap puddle jumper oh joy. And may I digress for a moment? Why thank you.

Despite my retarded and very real fear of flying, I do it quite a bit. Some of my favorite people and my family are too far away to drive and I'm forced to travel by air. One of my only respites is the people watching. Holy god in an exit row, the people. Airports are even better than Disneyland for plethora of freaks. And the flavors change depending on which airport you're in. LAX finds a lot of anorexic women in stiletto heals. Chicago has men in suits. Florida has the world's concentration of black socks with sandals.

Since my parents choose to live in the woods of Montana the best way to get there takes me through Salt Lake City, which is Delta's hub. (Delta sucks, btw. Sucks with a sucking so sucky they suck super times seven. But thanks for not crashing!) Being in SLC so often I've noticed some undeniable similarities with the travelers. And mind you, these are my observations so don't go all crazy thinking I'm picking on certain people or something. Well, I am but don't we all so get over it.

First off, this damn airport has more child brides and strollers filled with babies than anywhere else in the entire world. I swear to you, I was in the bathroom once eavesdropping on a young mother that looked all of about 19 1/2, changing her little babies diaper and cooing into its face while saying "Hey baby. Which one do you want? Scott or Jeff? Mama's gonna get you a new daddy so tell me which one you like the best." Utah. Need I say more.

Also, flying to places like Idaho Falls and Bozeman, Montana (which I frequently have to do since the little, and when I say little I mean smaller than your local McDonald's, airport in my parents town is only open from April to September) brings with a certain demographic that flies with you. The weekly beauty parlor high-hair small-town granny being one of them. These ladies I love. Love love love.

With their 30 year-old sweaters hanging over the shoulders and cemented hair-do's and sensible shoes. You just know they'd call you dear even if you weren't related, could bake the best cookies you've ever tasted with nothing more than a pound of butter a half cup of sugar and whisky and pinch your arm until your eyes watered if you swore.

I'll never forget one such lady I saw a few years ago when I was flying up for Thanksgiving. I'm sure her name was Esther or Mildred or something. She was sitting across from me and nervously rearranging her pocket book and Readers Digests. I watched her as she reached into her purse and pulled out what at first looked like a small bundle of trash. She turned whatever it was over in her hands then began to disassemble it.

First she took off a rubberband that'd been wound around a plastic sandwich baggy which was protecting a paper lightbulb sleeve that had been cut in half. After the band and baggy were removed she reached into the lightbulb holder and slid out a cell phone. (You just know some pushy son-in-law insisted she get a new-fangled telephone and my goodness no don't spend any money on a fancy case I can fix something up from home.)

She stared at it for a minute with a scowl on her face then went into action. She pushed a button, looked at the phone, placed the phone to her ear, pulled it away from her ear, looked at, put it back to her ear, looked at it again, then put it all back together and tucked it into her purse. I don't think she hung it up or turned it off so I'm pretty certain some family member in Pocatello got to listen to the rustling insides of Nana's purse for an hour. One of the greatest things I ever saw.

As we were sitting waiting for our connecting flight I had a hotflash of epic proportions. I actually had to take my shoes off and send whitey off to get me some cold water or I was surely going to melt. And then I started to feel pretty lousy, like I was getting a cold. Damn the 2 dollar Airborne! It did nothing! Thankfully I only felt shitty for the rest of the day and didn't get a cold. Just raging allergies and diarrhea, so it was all good.

My parents picked us up and we went to their pallatial home. I was excited to see their puppy and the house is incredible so the accommodations are always nice. Unfortunately my parents exude stress like a fine mist so amidst the majesty of Yellowstone and the fun of being off of work, you still have to deal with the famdamily crap. And to my utter heartbreak, my father isn't doing very well and without going into details it's going to get nothing but worse and while I try to pay attention to every good moment the bad moments are getting impossible to ignore and it's really fucking sad. My mother is nearly incapable of handling any of this so add that to the poop soup and you get quite the mess.

Thank god there was beer waiting for us and we finally got to enjoy one on the patio as we attempted to relax and plan the next few days. To our dismay, there was not just one but several fires burning the park as-well-as the state and it really pissed on our parade.

On our first full day my parents took us up to Old Faithful to check out the scenery and the impressive lodge but it was choked with Labor Day travelers.


We got the hell out of there and drove home, and I wished we'd stopped to take pictures a little more because that day proved to be the only one with a hint of a blue sky that wasn't covered in smoke painting every scenery with a nasty haze which then caused me to take copious amounts of Benedryl that I have since discovered is not tolerated well by my delicate system and results in said delicate system being pulverized into a painful goo which would reveal itself not when I was lounging around the house for hours and hours mere feet from a toilet but as soon as I was trapped in a car speeding past open plains or dense forest containing nothing but barbed wire fencing and killer moose for miles and miles and miles, you'll see.

(And perhaps I should have heeded whitey's warning when he told me that Benedryl-type stuff makes him "shit liquid" which was valuable information coming from the man who can eat gas station mayo-slathered meat expired by 10 days that's been left on the hood of his car in the noon-day sun in the middle of summer washed down with moonshine and a pickled egg chaser. So why I thought me, the girl who bloats into Violet Beauregard like she'd been pumped full of castor oil and hooked up to an airhose if I merely glance at an innocent stem of broccoli or consume one too many sips of red wine, could buy drugs at the Conoco and eat them like candy.)

The next day we went out on our own and this is where God Damn Stupid Angry Guts reared their angry heads. We were cruising along the lake making our way to a famous earthquake area and stopping here and there to take pictures. Just as we got back into the car for the 3rd time I felt an unfortunate cramp in my lower half. Uh oh. This could be bad.

I put my foot through the floor and hastily said something about the pretty lake, here's where the earthquake was, try to spot and eagle, oh shit oh shit oh shit. I made it to the park-sponsored Quake Lake lookout pavilion thingy and spotted the bathroom building with the red curb in front. Fuck the red curb, this was an emergency. I put the car in neutral and hopped out while saying "GO PARK THE AHH EHH UH CAR GO!".

And then a snotty little skinny ranger bitch tried to yell at us that "you can't park here" and I yelled back as I clenched my ass cheeks together and tried to shuffle to the potty "DO YOU SEE THE ENGINE RUNNING? YES? THEN WE'RE NOT PARKED!" And I might have muttered something under my breath about her being a stupid bitch but the important thing is I made it and everything was OK.

On our third full day of the trip I had an appointment for a massage and nutritional counseling from the very knowledgeable and very intense granola chickie in my parents town. Picture Pink in yoga pants. She's really good but a little scary and she could crush your skull with her bare hands. We went into the park in the afternoon and watched idiots get too close to wildlife and I'm not ashamed to admit that we started routing for the animals to take someone down. Nothing fatal, mind you, just a little ramming sending Bill from Wisconsin on his ass. (We would later turn into one of these idiots.)

On our way home we stopped by the Grizzly Discovery Center where we were almost alone so it was nice and quiet. They have rescued wolves as well as bears and the doggies were all agitated about something. Perhaps being confined to a too-small area. Don't know. The bears were lazy but close enough to impress us with 3 inch claws.

Our last full day we'd planned to drive the big loop all around Yellowstone. This was by far the worst day regarding the air quality and conditions. Everything was so hazy it was a total bummer. All of my pictures taken of anything more than 10 feet away look like I rubbed vaseline on the lens. I felt really bad for whitey since he was getting a pretty crappy rendition of a place I love so much and is usually so beautiful but he's a trooper and still appreciated what we saw.

We woke up way too late and scrambled to get out of the house. I was praying my tummy would play nice, which, big surprise! It did not. We'd made it about 20 miles into the park and were planning on getting up to Mammoth by skipping another area called Norris. Just as I'd past a rest stop God Damn Stupid Angry Guts made another warrior cry. OH NO! I thought. This one was bad.

I whipped our SUV around and screamed back to the glorified porto-john and saw a maintenence guy sitting in his truck out front. I panicked. Oh god, is this thing closed or something? I quickly asked if I could use the bathroom and he grunted at me that yes I could but there was a line. Where did all of these fucking people come from? There were at least 3 in front of me and I know I didn't have that kind of time.

So, my head exploded a little and I blurted out with wild eyes and a crazy face, "please, I beg of you, this is an emergency, CAN I PLEASE GO FIRST??". The 2 women and one man looked at me like I had a human head in my hands then the man said something to the women in German. Oh fuck, I though, they don't speak English. One women said something back to him then he said something like, "Crazen Murican poopin shootin" and they all laughed and he turned to me and said I could go first. Which, let me tell you, was still no prize because that toilet was nastier than all the shitters in all the bars in Tijuana. But hell, I made it once again.

I spent the next 40 minutes thinking about trying not to think about having another emergency. We made it to Mammoth and didn't get to spend as much time there as I'd have liked but it was impressive nonetheless. We decided to stop at the little village there to pee and maybe get a bite to eat but the smell of food churned my stomach one more crank and as everyone was enjoying ice cream from the general store I was chugging pepto bismol. Good times!

The Pink Stuff started working right away, much to my relief, and we proceeded to see some of the most breath-taking scenery in the world. Totally ruined by smoke, of course, but spectacular anyway. Our main goal was seeing animals and this day was no disappointment. In addition to the bald eagle we saw 5 miles into the trip, and the giant bull elk with his posse of bitches, we ran into a trio of deer munching leaves on the side of the road.

Inbetween waterfalls, one bogus 20 minute pull-over for an invisible fake wolf, and one petrified tree we saw a moose and tons of bison and then we hit the jackpot. Whenever you see a gazillion cars precariously pulled over you know they're looking at something. This is what the locals call a "bear jam" even if it's not for a bear. Well, sucka's, this time it was!

I looked up into a tree and there I saw two furry black feet hanging down and another black lump further up. I grabbed the camera and shot as many pic's as I could without driving us over the cliff on our right. I was forced to slow down anyway and managed to take a few good ones before the very cranky ranger waved me on. I glanced back once and spotted the mama bear hanging out on the ground under her babies. Score!

We rounded the corner and I happened to see some movement down an embankment and lucky for us there was a pull-out right there. So I ripped the car over and said "oh my god, I think there's another bear!". Then we jumped out and ran over to the edge and got like 30 feet from a foraging black bear like the big idiots we are since you're supposed to give any bear a 25 yard berth. Oops.

My new camera decided to be a fucking whore and only focus on the weeds right in front of me. I was getting really pissed and growled "mother fucker!" Then the stupid lady who was crowding my ass getting in my way thought I was yelling at her and she squeaked "I'm sorry" but I wasn't talking to her but realized I'd scared her pretty good and I love doing that because I'm evil so it made me laugh.

I did manage to get some good shots, ah, which I'm not showing you so I guess it's stupid to talk about them, but take my word for it! They're incredible! The bear started getting a little close and a million people caught on and we got surrounded so we left. And not 2 more miles down the road we saw another gaggle of tourons pulled over so we joined them and I snapped another black bear right before it went off into the trees! 5 bears within 5 miles. Unbelievable.

We spent the rest of our drive in the park stopping here and there and then I got freaked because the sun was going down and I'm totally afraid I'm going to take out an elk baby or something and do not want to drive in the dark in that kind of country. But we made it home before the sun set so all was good.

The next morning my parents dropped us off at the airport to pick up our rental car for the drive to Great Falls to see whitey's mom. My tummy was still wonky but I tried to stay chill and not worry too much. And eating nothing helps so I did that. Our trip up was good and we made record time and I didn't poop my pants in the car!

We pulled up in front of his mom's cute little house in a cute little neighborhood and I didn't give myself time to get nervous. She was a ball of energy and super cool, just like her son. Her house was an endless supply of visual entertainment because people, this lady is a pack rat like you've never seen. Bless her sweet heart, but good grief, no one needs 29 cases of Pepsi!

She does have a lot of cool collections and we spent the next 2 days looking through pictures and river crystals and fossils and shit. She even has a whole room dedicated to Mickey stuff. Like, 10,000 pieces of Mickey stuff. It's impressive to say the least. We also did a bit of shopping and went to the Charlie Russell museum which was pretty fun. I was starting to majorly run out of steam by this point and should have gone with my instincts and STAYED AWAY FROM THE SUPER MEGA INCREDIBLE BLOODY CESARS WHITEY MADE. But nooooooo, I'm weak to the drink and had 2.

And 2 is all is took to kick the God Damn Stupid Angry Guts back into high gear. Pair that with the mystery meat pasta I ate for dinner and by the next morning I was in big, big trouble. We met up with his grandma for breakfast, who is a total spitfire too, and I had to excuse myself twice to go to the less-then-desirable bathroom. Hi, nice to meet you, I have the shits.

We were so ready to come home and I was wiped out so I asked if we could hang out at the house until we needed to go to the airport. Where I proceeded to make my way to bathroom every 29 minutes for the next 3 hours. Hi, thanks for having us, I ruined your plumbing. Whitey was very sweet about it and I did the smart thing by swigging more Pepto hoping that it would kick in by the time we had to fly.

It was finally time to go and while I was worried I was thankful to be going home. We got to the airport, dropped off the car, waited for 30 minutes while the Avis chick fixed the gross overcharges on our bill, then headed to the Delta check-in desk. And without further ado, the anti-luck that both he and I share that gets exponentially worse when we're together, our flight was CANCELLED as we were standing there.

Yea, yea, mechanical problems, grounded plane in another city, thanks for saving our lives, but it was the last fucking flight of the fucking day and we wanted to get fucking home!

Of course I start crying, whitey starts swearing, and the slower-than-molasses counter people acted like they'd never seen such a dilemma and oh my stars what do we do? They're trying to tell us that we can fly the next morning but hell no, we cannot, because I need my bed and my kitties and my own toilet! Our only alternative is to try and catch the last flight out of Helena.


90 miles away, Helena.


Well, thank GOD whitey's mom came to see us off and we asked her if she could get us there. She agreed to give it a shot and we jumped into her 1986 Eagle, I shit you not, an Eagle, and took off.

His grandma had shown up too so she was in the car with us. I was so petrified that my stomach wouldn't cooperate and we were both so worried about not making it that whitey and I couldn't speak for an hour. Not to mention that I'm the worst passenger in the entire world and we had to scream through a 20 mile canyon of sharp curves in a car that felt like it was held together with superglue and masking tape. I thought I broke his hand at one point I was squeezing so hard.

But god damn if super-mama and her little car didn't get us there in the nick of time! We left Great Falls at 3:30 and jumped out the car in Helena at 4:40. That's some type of record in my book.

I still demand that she gets rid of that car, though. It's a death trap! But viva la eagle!!

We ran into the airport screaming "we're here, we're here" and got looked at like we were crazy. I wanted to say, crazed people, not crazy, crazed. The snotty counter guy checked our bags and we breezed through security with 2 minutes to spare before we boarded the plane. With one minor issue to clear up in our connecting airport (dumbasses in Great Falls rebooked our connecting flight and had us sitting 5 rows apart), we made it home safe and sound.

Despite my, ahem, challenges, we did have a great time and I love that man even more. The kitties were in good shape, although Boo yelled at us for 2 days straight, and we survived our first "trip" together.

And I can't wait for the next one.

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