Wednesday, July 27, 2011

War stories from the Big Highway.

Traveling home from Orlando by car was a little more difficult than getting there, in some ways. I think the big reason for that was that we had planned the "getting there" phase to be three stops--DC, Hilton Head, then Orlando, so the driving wasn't as intense. The trip home was only two, days, driving.

There were a few disasters that first day back, too. I blame it on Corb spending most of the time reading a book on Real Ghost Stories, frankly. A lot of the material he was reading dealt with the theme of possession, and that always freaks me out.

About two hours into the trip, a car passed us that said "Jesus Loves You" on the back. Corb grinned. "That's what I always say. About myself."

About ten minutes later, Corb put his book down and saw a gust of brown smoke in the distance. He didn't say anything, because he thought they were mowing in the median area, or something.

But as we got closer, I suddenly realized that something was wrong. There was a car jutting out into the high speed lane, and a truck stopped at an angle, a few feet away from that. I slowed down to avoid contact.

We suddenly realized it was the "Jesus Loves You" car. The front of the car had been sliced off, cut clean in half. The driver, a man with a shaved head, was leaning back in his seat, eyes closed, his face covered in blood. On his lap was a four-year-old girl, covering his chest.

There were people already stopping to help, as we passed by, and the kids were getting upset by the sight, but it isn't a scene that you soon forget, and I spent much of the day praying that the man and his child ended up all right.


On my return back to work, I spent the first day talking, of course, about the Great Road Trip of 2011. Lo, I mentioned it to my friend Sarah, during the course of several meetings, to various folks on the phone, and finally, toward the end of the day, to my friend Cap'n Vic.

I like Cap'n Vic because he kind of reminds me of...well, me. It's always nice to see yourself reflected in the form of another person, don't you think? The echo is not intentional, by the way. Still, Cap'n Vic has a shaved head (as I do), a goatee (as I do), and usually dresses all in black (as I occasionally do). He's a little older and a little tougher than I am...was probably a sixties hippy (which I only wished I was). But also, he has a little fire in his soul and he likes to tell interesting stories. All around, my kind of guy.

Anyway, I was telling Cap'n Vic about the "Jesus Loves You" incident (see my post from a few days ago), and he kind of listened and then he said,

"Oh, that reminds me of when I once drove to Florida with a few guys a few years after college. We were driving down 95, all four of us were single at the time and had nothing better to do. We had agreed we'd all take turns at the wheel. I'd drive for a few hours, then another guy would drive, and so, all of a sudden we see this car driving down the high speed lane like a bat of hell. Well, we're wondering what the hell was going on, when four police cars pass us, going just as fast as the first car, so we kind of figured out what the hell was going on, you knwo? So, we go along a little further, and in the break down lane, there's one of the police cars, all burned up because it had been going so fast. Engine couldn't keep up.

"So there we are, wondering what happened with the high speed chase, when the traffic in front of us starts to slow to a crawl. And a short while after that, we pass that first car. It had rolled over, so there were bits of it, all across the highway. And we saw the body of the driver of the car, lying in the road. Only, his head had been ripped right off from his body, and it was just lying there like a small basketball, a few feet away.

"That kept the four of us awake all the rest of the way to Florida."

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Quality Encounter

This story takes place at a Quality Inn somewhere in North Carolina, a few miles north of South of the Border...

"We only have one more two-bed and it's on the second floor," said the tired-looking woman behind the counter. "You don't mind, do you? Who knows, maybe you'll like it here so much, you'll stay another night!"

"Thank you," I replied, and tapped Corb on his arm with the key card she handed me. One look at the slightly nauseous expression on his face and I knew that another night was out of the question.

"Why don't we take a look at the room first?" I whispered, as we started to exit. "That way you can get all of your comments out of the way before we bring the kids upstairs."

Corb nodded grimly, looking as if this hotel was scarier than any of the roller coasters at Universal. "Look, we're going to leave early in the morning, right?"

"We might be leaving at five," he said, as we started up the stairs to the second floor, and a faint smell of urine assailed my nostrils. "And I might be sleeping in the bathroom. Bedbugs don't like bathtubs. Oh, by the way, if this place has those old form-fitted comforters on the beds, that's it, I'm--"

We opened up the room with the key card and turned on the light. It flickered a bit, wobbling every every few seconds. Sure enough, form fitted comforters on the beds, only these were so faded they must have been from the eighties.

"You can check for bedbugs if you'd like," I said, knowing this had just made things worse.

Corb moved over to a bed and touched the headboard, tempted. Then, he pulled away and recoiled in horror. "No, no, that's okay. Let's just get this over with."

Decided, we exited the room, gathered up our luggage from the car, and brought the kids up. Corb would only take his clothes, refusing to bring his suitcase into the room. That bedbug thing, again.

The moment we got into the room, Corb grabbed the comforters on top of the bed and threw it into a corner. "I will only sleep on the top sheet," he announced.

I glanced over at Theo and Ashes, who seemed more amused with Corb than anything. "Okay, Ashes, you and I will have the other bed," I said. "I can pull off the comforter, if you'd like."

Ashes yawned and moved over to our bed, patting the pillow in front of her. "Sure, whatever..." she said, then stopped for a minute. "What's this?"

"What's what?"

She reached under her pillow. "It's an empty Tic Tac case."

"If you think that's bad," said Theo, on his side of the other bed. "I'm looking down at a pile of toenail clippings." Oh. Ugh.

"Oh God..." said Corb, heading away from us."I'm checking out that bathtub..."

Ashes sat on the side of the bed, wiggling her toes. "Daddy, would you check all the drawers?" she asked. "I'm getting a little creeped out."

"Sure, honey," I said, desperate to please, and getting an increasingly bad feeling about things. "Let's go through them all, okay?" I opened a randon drawer in the dresser in front of me. "See, nothing in here..."

Theo ran over to the night stand between the beds and opened the top drawer. "Only a Bible and phone book here..." He grabbed the Bible. "Oh, look! There's a love letter in the Bible."

Ashes lifted up the phone book. "And inside this there's a..." She pulled back the cover. Something fell to the floor. "Ummm...Dad?"

I closed the drawer in front of me and moved over to her. "What the...?" And then, calling out to the bathroom. "Corb!"


"So, the empty Tic Tac container we were going to put up with, and even the toenail clippings," I said to the older man behind the counter (evidently the tired looking woman had gone to take a nap.) "But I kind of have to draw the line at this!"

I placed the rusty straight-edge razor onto the counter.

The old man grimaced. "Boy is the owner going to blow a gasket when he sees that tomorrow."

Ya think?

"Of course, sir. I'll reverse the charges."

"Thank you."

"Terribly sorry, sir. We never have things like that happen here. We take great pride in having a clean establishment."

"Triple A endorsed," I said, looking outside and thinking, "Guess that doesn't mean much..."

A grin flickered on the old man's face. "Of course, I have seen some things. One time, someone came down because they sat down on the desk chair and a hypodermic needle fell onto the floor. We went up and took care of that, and then, half an hour later, they called downstairs again because another one fell out. I went up, checked the chair, and turns out, the chair was full of them! Can you believe it? The guy who had been there for two weeks before had been hiding needles in the chair!"

I shook my head, not exactly sure how to respond.

"Another time a customer called down because they found a starter pistol under their pillow," continued the old man, really warming up to his subject. "And another time, one of the housemaids discovered a briefcase with $15,000 in cash in it!"

"I'll take that over a straight edged razor," said Corb.

Conclusion: that night was spent at the Country Inn. A bit more expensive, but the guy at the front desk let us check out the room beforehand. Comfortable beds, nice clean room. Breakfast in the morning. No razor blades!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Pucker up.

"It's an anal kazoo."

I look at my mother in stunned disbelief. "An anal kazoo?" I hold the object delicately in my hands, unsure as to whether she's telling me the truth.

Mom, embarrassed, waves her hand at me dismissively and heads back into the kitchen. "Ah, just put it in your mouth and blow on it. I've got dishes to clean."

"And, why do you have an anal kazoo?" I call out after her.

"It was in storage!" she shouts, then pauses. "It just kind of fell out."

Corb barks out a laugh. "That's always a problem with an anal kazoo..."

The porch erupts into laughter. Gamely, I place the anal kazoo in my lips and blow on it. It makes a whooshy sound at all.

I squint my eye and look inside. "Looks like I have a defective anal kazoo here..."

"You're not holding it in the right place," offers Corb.

“Okay, Pauloo, you’re up,” I said, as we turned our attention to the serious job of finishing the board game in front of us, called “The Game of Things.” “What’s our next question?”

Pauline grabbed a card from the box and giggled. “Name the thing you hate most about family get togethers.”

Everyone laughs and starts writing down answers. The point of the game is to try and figure out who wrote what. My problem, of course, is that I usually made my responses a little too distinctive; also, more than a little filthy. The round before, the question had been, "Name a thing that shouldn't be photographed." My answer: a fly landing on steaming hot diarrhea. Pauline fingered me, right off the bat.

Truth be told, there's nothing that I hated about family get togethers, especially those held at the beach house. Further, I was determined to love this gathering most of all, seeing as how it may very well be one of the last ones at the beach. With Cathy's passing, I knew that the ties that bound my parents and Jim to the place had weakened. Too many memories, too much of a past.

The day hadn't cooperated much, however. My parents had been subdued most of the day, understandably so. My friend Buns had hit the road after her son Nathan had pitched a hissy fit. The hamburgers had been tough to cook. It had been a cloudy day, and halfway through dinner, it had started to rain. The fates had not been kind.

Hence the group of us, crowded in a tiny screened-in porch. Of the group, my dad had chosen to stay outside and my mom was busy cleaning, leaving me and the kids, Corb, and my friends (more like family, I suppose) Pauline and Jo-Anne.

Soon enough, all the answers, turned in. Pauline places them in a row, laughing as she looks a few of them over. "Okay, here we go," she says. "Anal kazoo playing. Playing in the anal kazoo marching band. Ted's mom playing the anal kazoo." She places the card down and shouts out to the kitchen. "Thanks, Mom!"

Annie laughs. "So they're all anal kazoo answers?"

Pauline shakes her head. "My dad saying embarrassing dirty things. The family. The get together. Oh, and the flinging of the steamy hot diarrhea."

Everyone stares at me. "I didn't write, it swear!" Then I glance over at Annie. "Gee, I wonder who wrote, 'my dad saying embarrassing things'?"

Annie, ever the Cheshire cat, grins and holds her hands over the baby in her belly.

I hold the anal kazoo to my lips and try to speak instead of blow. Suddenly, it makes an actual noise. "Look, I got it to play!" I cry out. "I'm an anal kazoo expert!"

I get the laughter I crave and then we dive into the important work of guessing the correct answers. Rainy day or not, the best part of the day has just begun, for me. Friends, games and laughter, and just a whiff of the scatological. That's heaven, at least to me.