Flat Stanley, Five Guys and a Finale November 26, 2011Posted by J. in Genius.
Can I get a big round of applause for guest blogger Aunt Bunny? You have to hand it to her: she took the instructions to “tell the second-graders a little something about your trip for their social studies project” and turned it into a 40-page scrapbook. Can you imagine what she’d do with a blog of her own? I’d read it.
Anyway, here is the final installment of Flat Stanley’s Adventures, in which our intrepid paper hero makes it all the way to the Sunshine State. Thanks, Aunt Bunny! Love you!
Stanley is in the home stretch! A quick stopover in Georgia and then home to Florida! Let’s see how this all wraps up…
5:15 p.m. We no sooner cross the line into Georgia and we are pulling into the Comfort Inn and Suites located in the beautiful city of Savannah. I wish our hotel was downtown near the river, but we wouldn’t have the time nor the energy to do any sightseeing if we were there. It’s been a long day.
We do a very quick check in at the front desk and begin making plans to grab dinner across the street.
Back to the hotel and Stanley is feeling frisky. I discover him out in the hall trying to climb into the soda machine. I guess he figured that if he got inside the machine, maybe he could just snap the top and drink it sitting inside. I crush his plan and haul him back to the room. Next thing I know he has my shower cap on and is getting ready to step under the water. Stanley’s next stop was bed, with orders not to move.
“Just listen to me.”
Monday, October 3, 2001
7:30 a.m. We have once again inhaled our free continental breakfast and are back on the road. During our 8 minute meal, I had to explain to Stanley how the cereal dispensers actually worked. He was absolutely crushed when he learned that they were filled right there in the dining room. He had somehow gotten it into his head that they were hooked directly to a pipe line at Kellogg’s in Battle Creek, Michigan, and that Tony the Tiger was running the whole show out there. I believe the next time Stanley is told that there is a breakfast buffet waiting for him downstairs, he will enter the dining room with the dry cleaning bag that he snagged from the hotel closet. You never know when you’re going to drive through lunch.
That lady in the picture is Paula Deen and every other word out of her mouth is “y’all,” which is short for “you all,” which is something you hear a lot of down here in Georgia. Here’s a few other examples:
- Ahr. What we breathe. Also a unit of time. “They should have been here about an ahr ago.”
- Cayut. “Be sure to put the cayut out before you go to bed.”
- Clone. “What’s that clone you got on, honey?”
- Dreckly. “He’ll be along dreckly.”
- Jewant. “Jewant to go over to the Red Rooster and have a few beers?”
- Retard. No longer employed. “He’s retard now.”
- Yontny. “Yontny more cornbread?”
The list is endless. I almost hate to stop.
8. Zit. “Zit already midnight, Sugar? Tahm sure flies when you’re having fun.”
Sorry, I couldn’t help it, being from up nawth and all. Getting back to Paula Deen. She is a well-known television cooking show host and she has almost reached sainthood right here in Savannah where she resides. I dined at her restaurant a few years ago and enjoyed Southern cooking at its finest. If Bruce only knew how much butter is dished up there, I guarantee that we would have spent last night in the seedy rooming house across the street from the place.
Miss Paula surely does tawk, er, talk with a southern accent. Have your mother turn on her wonderful cooking show to see what I mean. Not only will you see a true southern belle, but you will also watch her make a recipe that requires a minimum 3 sticks of butter. You will also order your mother to stop what she is doing and immediately whip up that recipe. One day I saw Paula make a jello mold and somehow incorporate butter into the recipe. She’s absolutely brilliant, but deadly. She’s married to some old guy named Michael, but everybody calls him Captain. He says very little, stumbles around, and has one eye that droops. Five will get you ten* her cooking gave him a stroke.
As our route takes us south through Georgia, we literally hug the coastline and take in the beautiful scenery of the state’s outer banks and islands. We cross lots of bridges, affording us many chances to see birds and boats and all the homes situated on the river. This area always seems like a lovely spot to stop and visit.
I have been told that Georgia is a terrific state to go hunting in, since you can find wild boars (pigs) the size of a small Volkswagen running loose in the woods. Boars also have front tusks (teeth) the size of a Chiquita banana and since they do not enjoy getting shot at, you really don’t want to miss on your first attempt. You could always take your friend Bubba as backup just in case you miss. If he misses, his hound dog will jump in and try to do something. Anybody named Bubba always has a hound dog that goes everywhere with him, and in this type of situation, maybe you will get lucky and the dog happens to be a pit bull.
Personally, I’d never shoot at anything that had teeth and a temper that big. Come to think of it, I wouldn’t enter any woods south of Virginia due to all the creepy, crawly things you’re apt to run into. Last week in Florida, they killed a 16 foot python on the outskirts of the Everglades (big swamp) and you know what the authorities found when they cut it open? It had just eaten a full grown, 75 pound deer in one bite. Sort of reminds you of good old Mr. Venus Fly Trap doesn’t it? Only this time Mr. Python slithered up from behind and got himself a Big Gulp, not unlike the one that Aunt Bunny gets at the 7 Eleven.
Now, it’s not that it’s not safe to walk in the streets down here in Florida, but if your golf ball rolls into the bushes, you don’t just reach for it willy-nilly. You part the greenery with a golf club and hope that a reptile is not wrapped around it trying to make friends. New Hampshire has tons of snakes. Almost every place on Earth has snakes. However, once you start heading south, they tend to grow longer and become poisonous.
9:00 a.m. Welcome to Florida, our thirteenth and final state! I didn’t think we’d ever get here. Time for a pit stop, so for the first time in all our years of traveling, we pull into the welcome center.
Now, we grow a lot of oranges and grapefruit here in Florida, but imagine my surprise when I discovered that we hand out free juice samples of the above named fruits! What a lovely revelation, since we purposely stopped at the other 12 welcome centers and were offered nothing but dirty toilets. Oh, I take that back. The state of New Hampshire offered to sell us liquor at discounted prices, sort of like they were saying, “Here, we’ll sell you liquor cheap, now go drive responsibly on I-93.” I hear that next summer NH will be selling liquor at the Loudon racetrack. What a plan! Let 120,000 half-drunk, irritated people spill out of that venue after a 12-hour day, ony to get caught up in a massive traffic jam with a fresh bottle of booze in their vehicle. But then again, V & V always did put a smile on my face.
12:30 p.m. We are nearing Melbourne, Florida and spirits are at an all time high. The car thermometer is reading 85 degrees and I’m down to only one layer of clothing, having lost the jacket and sneakers when we entered the state. It’s shorts and flip-flops and I’m feeling as if I may survive the upcoming winter.
At this point we are less than an hour and a half from home and it’s time for lunch. I would like to tell you that we stepped off the grease and caloric carnival ride that we have been on, but I have to take full responsibility for the next meal. The next lunch is Aunt Bunny’s secret indulgence. Two years ago Bruce had plans to take me to a $28 per person buffet on Mother’s Day and I squashed that deal and made him take me to Five Guys. I saved him a lot of money, but created a monster because I KNOW FOR A FACT he often slides through the one we have in town, whereas I might go maybe once a month. Obviously, when I suggest this place for lunch, I don’t hear a peep about his being on the Atkins diet.
“Remember the grease at Shoney’s?” I asked Stanley.
“Yes’sum, that was some powerful grease I seen,” replied Stanley.
“Uh, Stan, you spent less than 12 hours in Georgia. Lose the accent,” I sighed, continuing on. “Seriously, after awhile some of those accents begin to wear on me.”
“I get exactly what you’re saying,” Stanley said. “By the way, where do you store your vehicles in Florida?”
“Oh, we pahk the cahs in the garahge all wintah,” I said.
Since Bruce was swigging water from a bottle, he managed to blow a cup of it out of his nose. I believe it was at this point that the two of them bonded.
“As I was saying, there’s going to be a lot of grease involved in this next meal.”
“Well, shut mah mouth and call my momma shocked!” snickered Stanley.
The next thing you know, we’re entering the kingdom of Five Guys.
I don’t know anything about this place except for the fact that I should be their spokesperson. Everything is made fresh. They serve hamburgers, french fries, and fried hot dogs. As you are waiting in line, you eat peanuts and then throw the shells on the floor. Name any kind of topping for a burger and they have it. When they load your order of fries into the bag, they then take another big scoop of fries and throw it into the bag.
The food is so indescribably delicious, you know it’s deadly, but you just don’t care. Don’t look to buy any dessert after your meal here because someone high enough up in corporate figured that introducing sugar to this type of meal would someday lead to a lawsuit in the 9 figures.
This place has more food reviews than Tavern on the Green in New York City. Zagat’s gives it more thumbs up than the Roman coliseum ever had on a busy Sunday afternoon. BUT (isn’t there always a catch?) you will derive absolutely no nutritional value from a visit. Perhaps if you consumed a handful of peanuts and immediately left the building we could call that roughage, which is good when you’re constipated. I know this sounds selfish on my part, but I hope that Five Guys doesn’t come to Laconia so that I won’t be tempted year round.
“Quick, easy, cheap, bright, loud, and fun,” is how the Savannah Morning News describes Five Guys. If you were to add the word “short” to that list, you have just described Grammie Hane.
2:00 p.m. Home! We pull into our community of Hammock Creek, located in Palm City, and breathe a collective sigh of relief. We have driven 1600 miles in three days, through 13 states, not always in the best of weather, but we are back where our hearts really want to be. Even though I was born and raised in New Hampshire, fortunate enough to have gone through the Shaker Regional School System, I am always ready to leave my home in Belmont and head to Florida for the winter.
Bruce did not settle in New Hampshire until the 1970’s, but he feels much the same way I do. We taught our kids how to ski at Gunstock Recreation Area, not to mention how to skate on our many lakes and ponds. But with age comes the desire to seek warmer climates, and that’s what Florida does for us.
Over the winter we will have a few cold spells where frost could become a problem for our delicate plants, but overall, the temperature will stay warm enough so that we will be able to wear shorts throughout the winter. I drive a convertible car and will put the top down in January while you kids are outside sledding. When you school is cancelled due to a blizzard, I will be playing a round of golf.
Florida is the perfect spot for old people and trust me, we’re loaded with them. The nice section of housing that we live in has around 170 homes in the development. I feel that we have a nice blend of families here because quite often you see lemonade stands set up by the curb, as well as many kids playing outside. This past Halloween I gave out candy to about 50 little goblins. However, at least two-thirds of the homes are owned by older folks who are retired like us, some of whom travel north for the summer.
If you have an old-person ailment like varicose veins, glaucoma, bad heart, or skin cancer, you should have a doctor here look at it. Stuff like this is looked at as pesky little problems, since it’s so common. Bad knees and ingrown toenails? That’s like a trip to Hannaford’s.
Just be careful when you drive. You’ll need lots of metal and a minimum of four airbags. Old people stink at driving. If you can afford it, drive a Cadillac.
The time has come that I must now follow the Flat Stanley rules of engagement. I probably should have read them two weeks ago and saved myself a ton of printer ink and the possibility of a bad grade for Emma Bo Lacey. I will begin describing my home state and the little bit I know about it. Prepare yourselves for a picture montage, otherwise info was coming directly from Wikipedia and what second-grader wants that? No fact checking would be appreciated.
That’s Stanley making new friends while he’s here. He was thrilled to find someone his size to play with.
Tiger Woods lives just a few miles down the road from us. He recently moved into his new home and I’m not sure why he hasn’t called to try and make friends with me. I’d have no problem setting up a tee time and showing him around Palm City. He’s probably still going through boxes.
Time to say “good-bye”, Stanley. We enjoyed having you travel along with us on our trip back home to Florida. We made many stops on our 1600 mile journey and we saw many things. We hope that this journal gives a little insight, as well as laughter, into the lives of Uncle Bruce and Aunt Bunny.
Next Memorial Day weekend we get to do this all over again, only this time we’ll be heading north, back towards all of our relatives whom we dearly miss all winter long.
When you get home, please give Miss Emma Bo a big hug and a kiss from me and tell her that I love her. Please thank her for entrusting me with this project. It was a pleasure.
“Where you headed, cowboy?”
“Nowhere special. I always wanted to go there.”
—Blazing Saddles, 1974
Stanley, South of the Manson/Nixon Line November 25, 2011Posted by J. in Genius.
How was your Thanksgiving? Mine was excellent, thanks for asking. While I have finished my Great American Novel, the rough draft of which finished up at 50,874 by their Word Count Verifier, and 50,916 by mine, I broke the tape almost a full week ahead of schedule and will be able to resume my usual blogging activities before you know it.
But not before I let Aunt Bunny finish the tale of Flat Stanley’s adventures. Poops would never leave you hanging like that. Take it away, Bun.
It’s Day Two of Stanley’s three-day trip to Florida. Let’s see what he learns about life on the road today, shall we…
Sunday, October 2, 2011
6:20 a.m. The alarm is set to go off, but the only one who has to be shaken awake is Stanley. He isn’t any happier about it today than he was yesterday morning. I can hardly wait for Monday. When I tell him that we have a hot breakfast waiting for us downstairs, his valise gets packed a little quicker.
7:00 a.m. Breakfast. Bruce likes to stay at the Comfort Inn and Suites because a continental breakfast is provided free of charge every morning. They actually put out a pretty good spread featuring eggs and some sort of mystery meat, waffles, cereal, and depending on how far south you travel, grits. Personally, I’d like to go to the first gas station I can find, grab a cup of coffee, a Krispy Kreme doughnut and hit the road. Bruce chows down at these breakfast buffets like we’re going to drive right through lunch. Like that ever happened in his life. Another thing to point out? You’d best be shoveling your food in fast because we are burning daylight. Time is miles, people.
Stanley caught sight of the cereal dispensers and gave an audible gasp. When I explained that it’s an all-you-can-eat buffet and no limit to the cereal, he literally began to tremble. When I further explained the breakfast rules as written by Bruce and that he had exactly 8 minutes to eat, he pleaded with me to either go out and slash one of the car tires or spill hot coffee in Bruce’s lap.
7:20 a.m. Breakfast is over. We have eaten. We have bused our tables and refilled our coffees. We’ve gone to the rest rooms. Bruce has checked out of the hotel and is sitting in the car and I am climbing into the front seat. Stanley is in a daze in the back seat with a Froot Loop stuck to his head. Bruce is giving me a look like I had stopped to read a magazine in the lobby.
“What were those grits?” asked Stanley, after regaining his composure.
“That’s something that Southerner’s eat to put even more fat into their diets,” I explained. “Think of it as sort of like cream of wheat, only instead of adding a little milk and sugar, down south you add about a half a stick of butter and two tablespoons of salt to one serving.”
“I noticed Uncle Bruce really likes it.”
“It’s a vessel for butter. If he could figure out a way to eat 1/2 a stick of butter off his cell phone and get away with it, he would.”
During our travels thus far, it has been quite cool. When we left New Hampshire, the temperature was in the low 60’s and overcast, and as we continued driving south, the temperature only got colder. By the time we arrived at the hotel in Virginia, the weather was down in the 50’s and the next morning we awoke to 46 degrees. The sun was shining, but for early October in Virginia, we all found this weather to be quite chilly.
11:15 a.m. OMG! I was so excited to find this out about North Carolina! This state has carnivorous plants that grow wild in a few areas. Carnivorous means that the plant will eat something that is alive, like a fly or an ant or any insect that happens to crawl in its mouth.
Let’s say some innocent bee comes tooling along and decides that he’s simply had enough of flying and lands on the venus fly trap plant. Mr. Bee is minding his own business and is simply walking around on the head of the venus fly trap. Then he happens to look down inside of the venus fly trap’s mouth and spots all of that nice reddish area that bees are so attracted to when they are busy pollinating.
Yeah, you’ve all seen PG-13 movies when you shouldn’t have and you know what happens next. Sure enough, Mr. Bee crawls down right inside of venus fly trap and as Emeril has said one to many time, BAM! Mr. Venus Fly Trap’s mouth slams shut and lets Mr. Bee dissolve slowly in his mouth, much as you would do with a piece of taffy in your own mouth.
When I was a kid, I was always buying these things and sticking my finger into its “mouth” just to watch it snap shut. I felt that they were so exotic and mysterious that surely these plants had to come from places like Bangkok and Timbuktu. But Holly Shelter, North Carolina? I didn’t see that one coming.
Check out the picture of the girl bent down near the field of these plants and how they seem to individually rise up and look at her. Then look at a close-up of this plant. Right now that thumping noise from the movie Jaws is looping through my head. Aunt Bunny got the skeeves…
1:00 p.m. By this time of day we have already stopped once for gas and probably twice for bathroom relief. Old bladders and caffeine are not good travel companions. It is also time to eat lunch, as I feel quite certain that Bruce is down at least 2 quarts of grease since breakfast.
I should explain the phenomenon that takes place when Bruce travels for over an hour. It’s a little like being on Gilligan’s Island, playing Monopoly and he is Mr. Howell, who as we all remember only signed up for a three-hour tour. I will be playing the part of Ginger. Seriously, throw me a bone here.
I have been serving this man low-carbohydrate meals for the last 10 years. No rice, pasta, potatoes, or veggies high in sugar. No desserts or breads. He refuses anything that is high in carbs. In a restaurant he will order a sandwich without the bread. Instead of french fries, he’ll get a vegetable. Yum. If I didn’t attend casserole night with my family or keep junk in the house, I would be lying in a hospital somewhere with a feeding tube up my nose.
But put this man on any kind of a road trip and he acts like Mr. Howell with a get-out-of-jail-free card when it comes to mealtime. Bruce eats like his three-day road trip is going to somehow turn into a five-year excursion and he should approach every meal like it’s his last. I live in Florida, so I know it didn’t take Thurston Howell too long to figure out that a tropical palm fruit doesn’t grow overnight and that there aren’t that many on one tree. But certainly that isn’t Bruce’s problem since we pass enough fast food restaurants on I-95 to make Julia Child roll over in her grave.
Why does he do this on the road? Stress, maybe. Although Bruce goes to the gym religiously every other day for two hours, he never loses an ounce. I go a few times a week if I can squeeze it in to walk for half an hour and I have to eat bags of candy to keep the weight on. Come to think of it, we have Cracker Barrel, Denny’s, Five Guys, and tons of places like that here in town and I never ask where he goes for lunch. Wait a minute. Bunny’s having herself one of those Oprah “Aha” moments. She is also planning on serving spaghetti and garlic bread for dinner.
Suddenly there is a squeal of tires and we are coming off an exit ramp practically on two wheels. Remember that thumping noise from Jaws just before the shark hits? Okay, restart that music. Bruce has spotted the ultimate buffet and he’s going in for the kill. God help us, he spotted a Shoney’s.
“Why do you look so worried?” asked Stanley.
“Oh, no, no. I’m just fine,” I said, forcing a smile.
“Any reason why you just made the Sign of the Cross?”
You’ll know in a minute, I thought to myself. Bruce manages to get the car into only one parking spot and in we go.
In the past I’ve eaten at some moderately okay Shoney’s where I felt that perhaps only half of the buffet offerings would give me food poisoning. Not this one. A skull and crossbones flag should have been flown high above this location, large enough to spot from the highway. You know the highway signs that are used for Amber alerts that give out dire information? The state of North Carolina should have had one flashing for this place.
I took a look at the buffet and then I thought in an effort to save my life, why not have something cooked fresh? After I perused the menu and found 1/3 of the items blacked out with Magic Marker, I opted for the all-you-can-eat $5.99 buffet. I think they had hot dogs in the kitchen older than our waitress Tanya. When she offered Bruce a menu, he laughed in her face. At this point, his eyes had begun to glaze over.
“Y’all can start while I go get your drinks,” said Tanya, prompting Bruce to hurtle out of the booth, causing Stanley to hit the floor.
“What happened?” asked Stanley, as he crawled out from underneath the menu.
“Round one,” I answered. “Quick, get up off the floor because he’s heading back!”
“What exactly are you afraid of here?” asked Stanley as we walked towards the buffet together.
“Well, normally it would be just a small case of diarrhea, not too severe,” I answered. “But in this place I believe that we could be flirting with salmonella or possible ptomaine. I really don’t know how great the hospitals are in Georgia, but I know that a lot of people named Bubba work in them, so we need to choose wisely.”
After circling the lukewarm steam tables and trying to find something edible, we pass by Bruce as he is already on Round Two of his meal.
“I LOVE this place!” he hollers out as he dashes by us with a plate of pulled pork, bacon, and mac and cheese.
I settle on vegetables and dessert. I have never heard of anyone having to have their stomach pumped from consuming anything like this, no matter how dirty the kitchen. When it comes to eat my desserts, imagine my surprise when I’m less than enchanted.
I have chosen for my culinary treat: bread pudding, banana pudding, roasted apples with strawberry sauce, and whipped cream. I have provided a picture below for ease in description.
Starting at the top and going clockwise is the bread pudding. Where I come from, we have been taught to put eggs in the recipe. Lots of them. I’m not so sure this recipe called for any since I was unable to cut it with a steak knife. At the 3 o’clock position we have the banana pudding which usually involves adding fresh bananas. Again, not in the Shoney’s recipe file.
Sitting at the six o’clock position is what the buffet sign described as the apples in strawberry sauce. I was not sure where these apples came from because upon biting into the first one I felt compelled to spit it out. The strawberry sauce turned out to be reduced strawberry Kool-Aid. This was nasty, however, I thought it very clever on the chef’s part. Who knows what else you can to do to Kool-Aid?
If you check out the 9 o’clock position, you’ll spot the whipped cream. What can possibly go wrong, you ask? Turns out to be whipped butter. The 8 x 13 tray of it was sitting right smack dab in the middle of all the desserts. Not near the bread and veggies. Nope, right there in the middle of the sweets. I’m beginning to think that perhaps Bruce sits on a Shoney’s advisory committee for food placement. When he finished up Round Four and looked over at this plate of food, want to take a stab at the first place Bruce’s fork began to head?
“Don’t worry, Stanley, we’re gassing up across the street and I’ll grab us a big bag of Cape Cod potato chips to tide us over until dinner,” I told him as we left Shoney’s.
“Why do I feel so dirty?” asked Stanley.
“Think of it, kid. You’re made of paper.”
“Hello?” He said, rolling his eyes. “Grease spots.”
1:40 p.m. Lunch is over and the car is once again full of gas. As is Bruce. Pulled pork and greens will do that to you. The sun is shining bright as it has been since early this morning and it would appear that all that nasty weather is far behind us. The temperature is still hovering in the high 50’s and low 60’s.
2:30 p.m. We are crossing our eleventh state line and Bruce announces that he can’t keep his eyes open and a nap is required.
Well, we certainly give new meaning to the words defensive driving. We stop and stuff our faces with food. Next we hop back in the car and resume the book on tape that has been droning on for the last 8 hours, usually with the sun beating down on us as we drive 80 mph. All while trying to stay awake. Maybe I’ll start packing water bottles with sprayers and we can blast one another if the drowsiness becomes obvious. I wonder how hard it is to post bail money when you’re traveling out of state.
We are never long in South Carolina so I know very little about it. It doesn’t help that we went to the bathroom less than an hour ago so we don’t stop a the welcoming booth along the highway. Oh, wait a minute, we did stop and there’s nothing much in their booklet. It’s all about golf here in South Carolina. Myrtle Beach is where you want to go to find a bazillion golf courses.
Since your Uncle Boo has retired, and being the excellent golfer that he has become, I feel quite certain that he will probably begin to visit here. Boo hits his driver like no one I’ve ever seen and his iron control is unbelievable. I have tried for years to emulate his chipping swing, but alas, I cannot do it. Perhaps if he invites me to come play golf with him at his new private golf course…
“No need to be coy, Roy.”
The only other place I know about is South of the Border. This is kind of an amusement park, tourist trap kind of a place. When you are going down the highway, you see this huge tower rise up and on top sits a Mexican sombrero. It always grabbed my attention, so I would imagine that it would get a carload of kids crying if you drove by it without stopping. It took me six years to get Bruce to pull over and stop and I’m married to him. turns out that you can climb to the top of that tower and walk around that hat and take pictures or whatever. After getting a good look at the place, if I had to work there, I would walk to the top of that sombrero and jump.
Now, there’s not a chance that you’re going to drive by this place and somehow miss it. Billboards begin showing up by the side of the road at approximately 127 miles before you reach the pit stop. In fact, the minute I see the first one, it’s imperative that I call your Grammy Hane and advise her of my location. Sometimes it’s only a simple text. I don’t know how we got into this habit, or why, but if I do not make contact I believe the State Police would become involved.
“I’m 97 miles away.”
The one time I did stop, I bought Hanie a coffee mug from the gift shop just to prove I’d been there. It’s been for years and I’m still reeling from the fact that Bruce actually pulled over and stopped. I also remember thinking that the snack bar reminded me a lot of Shoney’s. I’m trying to come up with another place that I can begin to nag about stopping at for future trips. I’m pretty sure I saw signs for a snake and reptile zoo in Georgia.
Next time, Stanley gets Georgia on his mind…
In Which Stanley Visits Maryland and Doesn’t Get Crabs November 21, 2011Posted by J. in Genius.
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In this installment of “The Excellent Adventures of Flat Stanley as told by Aunt Bunny,” our intrepid adventurers are halfway through their first day on the road, have just filled their bellies at Cracker Barrel and have crossed into the great state of Pennsylvania. Let’s read…
2:00 p.m. Lunch ended and within not too many miles we cross into Pennsylvania. I’m actually glad that we ate lunch at Cracker Barrel because should we end up in a multi-car pile-up on I-78 and die, I will have at least checked out with a belly full of grease and biscuits. It is now raining very hard and both Stanley and I are staring straight ahead since you cannot see very much looking sideways.
“I bet you could sleep if you would put your head back and close your eyes,” I said to Stanley.
“Just like you’re gonna do?” snickered Stanley. “Are we almost there yet?”
“To what, exactly? Sudden death or arrival at the hotel for the night?” I asked.
“What do you say we get off at the next exit and you just mail me home from here?”
“I could also crumple you up and toss you in that old Dunkin’ Donuts bag,” I warned. “I promised Emma that I would give you a three-day trip and that is what you’re going to get.”
“Is it going to be like this on Sunday?” whispered Stanley.
“Absolutely not,” I laughed. “Tomorrow you will have had a bad night’s sleep and your butt will be sore.”
Now, I kind of like Pennsylvania. Not today, particularly, but pretty much in general. I have friends that I have known for years who live in Williamsport, which is located in the middle of the state. It is a nice little city and also home to the Little League Championship which is held there every August. This is where teams from all over this country and the rest of the world come to play to see who is the very best in the game. There is an old saying that states “There’s no crying in baseball,” but not here in Williamsport PA. These kids are aged from 9 to 14 and play with the hearts of professional (except for the Boston Red Sox) players.
I love watching these games because these are kids from small towns all over the United States who range in size from 4 to 6 feet tall. The kids respect and listen to their beloved coach, so when a player makes an error and starts to cry, that same man goes over and gives him a big hug and tells him “It’s going to be all right,” because he knows that young boy did his best. Pure respect. Baseball at its finest.
We’re still traveling through the Keystone State. It’s good sized. It is also home to the city of Hershey, the sweetest place on Earth. This is pretty much where all your candy is made. Name a candy bar or gum and the Hershey corporation owns the brand. I have been told that the smell of chocolate is in the air when you walk around this city, which is terrific when you’re in second grade and outside playing in the yard. I don’t think that it would be a stretch by my saying that this phenomenon must create total havoc when you are dieting and leaving your weekly Weight Watchers meeting.
Imagine sitting for an hour trying to garner enough will power to make the correct dietary choices for the upcoming week, you walk outside and “POW!” you get a full frontal lobotomy with the smell of a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. As a former member of the “Hefty Honeys” quasi diet club, I can guarantee you that will power and common sense are non-existent. Common sense and will power are talking to each other just like Scooby Doo and the next thing you know you’re sitting at Dairy Queen with a Blizzard in your hand. That’s why if I lived in Hershey, I would open ice cream stands near Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig store fronts. Seriously, it would be just like the free booze scam at Foxwoods Casino. Stand back and watch the profits roll in.*
Although chocolate is hazardous to a diet, there’s no denying just how good it tastes. It should also be pointed out that chocolate, at least in the female population, has long been considered a life-saving drug. Women are prescribed estrogen and progesterone for an assortment of lady issues, but if the truth be told, without chocolate, PMS and menopause would be a plague on mankind. Seriously. It would not be safe for men to look directly into their wives eyes and and then actually say something for possibly three days of every month. It also comes in pretty handy when you’re dealing with children. It would not surprise me to learn that Mrs. Clifford has a stash of Hershey’s Miniatures hidden in her desk that she hits while you kids are at recess.
The other cool thing about Pennsylvania is the Amish community. The Amish are a group of people whose religion states that they are to live a life of simplicity. They grow and make absolutely everything needed to survive. They seldom go to the store. They do not have electricity. They all dress alike in the clothes that they have made for themselves. When you get home tonight, take a moment to sit in your bedroom and count all of the things that you would not have if you were Amish. Right off the bat, your television and play station are gone. The lamp is gone, replaced by a kerosene lantern The Hello Kitty bedroom ensemble and the Miley Cyrus collection? Gone, replaced with a beautiful handmade quilt. Oh, and when the Amish have to take a trip in to town for medical reasons, they travel by horse and carriage. No cars allowed.
Want to know how kids entertain themselves? They all go outside and play together. Imagine that. I feel quite certain that they climb trees, throw rocks and sticks at each other and pretty much have a grand old time because there is always somebody to play with since nobody is inside flopped on the couch watching television.
Another cool thing about the Amish is the fact that the women never cut their hair and the men all wear beards. So if you’re a 12-year-old boy and able to grow a beard due to puberty setting in early, well, by golly, you get to keep it. I don’t believe you see a lot of 5th and 6th graders sporting beards at Belmont Middle School.
I bet by now you’re all saying “yuck.” Yes, children of the Amish are expected to work and do their chores diligently without whining and carrying on. This is how they are raised. But the nice thing about their way of life is that you always work as a family. When it’s time for a project, everybody helps. It’s sort of like having Old Home Day every weekend, but instead of eating fried dough and watching a parade, something is getting accomplished.
Could I go live with the Amish? I’m to settled in my ways, I think. If there was Direct TV, I might give it a week trial as long as I had a round trip buggy ticket to get me home.
“Altoona, come in. You’re on the air.”
(Regis Philbin impersonating Larry King)
The last thing I know about Pennsylvania has to do with Groundhog Day. It happens every February 2nd in the city of Punxsutawney. The town officials get dressed up in tuxedos and top hats and haul this poor groundhog named Phil out of his warm little burrow and drag him out into the cold. The story goes, if he should see his shadow, well then we have 6 more weeks of winter. If Phil should see no shadow, well then the theory is that the country will experience an early spring.
Bear in mind that this process happens whether it’s sunny, rainy, or snowing outside. Not what you would call an exact science, but all of the major TV networks broadcast the proceedings and report back what we can plan on paying for home heating until April. All because a wild animal, in a very bad mood due to his being roused from hibernation, is forced to look for his shadow, even on a cloudy day.
4:40 p.m. The rain has finally stopped and we are beginning to see blue sky in the distance.
4:50 p.m. You may have noticed how I said nothing about the state of Maryland. That’s because we were only in it for ten minutes. I got nothing. You go there to get crabs. Brace yourselves because you are going to get just about the same amount of information from me about the state of West Virginia since we’re going to be in this state less than 30 minutes. They are famous for coal, the Hatfield & McCoy feud, and a song made famous by John Denver.
“Almost heaven, West Virginia. Blue ridge mountains, Shenandoah River.”**
5:20 p.m. We are getting close now. I have been informed by the GPS, as well as Bruce, that the arrival time to the hotel will be in less than 10 minutes.
5:30 p.m. Welcome to the Country Inn and Suites for the night! Well, we managed to make it through the first day in the car with no crying and no one puking. Nobody snarled and pointed their finger at anyone in particular. I don’t remember anyone threatening to not get back in the car tomorrow, so I believe this ranks as one of my best travel days ever. Dinner must still be consumed, but I believe we should be able to get through it without incident.
We unpacked the little bit of stuff we hauled into the hotel for the evening and I took Stanley down to the pool for a quick swim. Upon arrival, Stanley, of course, runs directly for the deep end.
“Don’t jump, Stanley!” I yelled.
‘Why not?” he hollered back over his shoulder. “This looks easy enough.”
When I explained about swim lessons, drowning, and the fact that I would not be jumping in to save him, he seemed both disappointed and confused. I suppose it’s hard for a little kid to understand that when you’re traveling, one does not take the time to fool with your hair in the morning. Especially Bunny, when her hair dryer and curling iron are packed deep in the back of the Sequoia.
We moved over to the whirlpool where I introduced him to another kid. His name was Elijah and he was very familiar with the Flat Stanley story, so he swore that he would take excellent care of Stanley.
We had an early dinner at a restaurant right across the street from the hotel, so we managed to crawl into bed at a pretty good hour of the night. Lights are out by 9:45 and the snoring begins.
**Ask Mama or Tanta to sing it for you. Just make sure that you allow plenty of time because you’re likely to get songs from the entire album.
In our next installment, Stanley learns about which is more deadly: a Venus fly trap or Shoney’s.
Don’t Let Flat Stanley Drive the Bus November 19, 2011Posted by J. in Genius.
Since I’m tearing through my 50,000 word magnum opus like a raped ape and am well on my way to winning NaNoWriMo for the first time, let’s talk about books.
It’s reported that I could read by the time I was four, which I honestly don’t doubt. Both the girls could read by the time they entered kindergarten, and Dave at three, while he can’t talk, acts out books he knows by heart, so I know he’s on his way to being an early reader, too. And I think that is awesome.
But here’s the damnable misery of it. It’s the books you have to read over and over again. I know that it’s a normal part of reading development, and it’s for damned sure they come by it rightly anyway. Part of the weirdness of being me is that I can read a book and months later not remember much about it. I have no real powers of retention, especially when it comes to fiction.
It sucks hard when it comes to having to remember what I’ve read because it’s information I need to absorb. Believe me though, if I’m interested in what I’m reading, it does tend to stick with me. But fiction? Not so much. I have taken books out of the library, all excited that there’s a novel that sounds like something I’d like very much, only to get home and realize that part of it seem oddly familiar to me. And sure enough, when I get back to the library and ask if I’ve ever had it out before…yep. You have. Twice, in fact. In two years.
The librarian thinks I have a brain injury.
But it’s not familiar enough that I can say “Hey, I’ve read this. I know what happens!” Usually, I pretty much don’t. I get a lot of mileage out of my favorite novels that way. Do you know how many times I’ve read James Michener’s Hawaii, Gone with the Wind, or QBVII by Leon Uris? Lots, man. Lots and lots.
Coming up fast on books I’ve read more times than I can count is the Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems. It’s an awesome picture book and it’s Dave’s current favorite, and if I’ve read it once today I’ve read it fifty times.
I took three more of the “Pigeon” books out of the library last week, so I’ve spent the past 8 days rotating the first one with The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog, Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay up Late, and The Pigeon Wants a Puppy. I’ve read them so many times that I’m starting to change the words just to amuse myself.
“Hi! I’m the bus driver. I have to go smoke a bowl right now, so could you keep an eye on the sauce hound passed out in a pool of his own urine until I get back? Great, thanks! Oh, and remember, don’t let the pigeon drive the bus!”
It’s not like Dave can repeat them at school and prompt a visit by CPS. Which is good, especially in light of my rendition of The Pigeon Solicits a Transsexual Prostitute.
For Mary it was Goodnight, Moon and we read that every night until my eyes bled. I read that so often that I actually hid the book. I hid it so well I still can’t find it. Luckily for us, Emma didn’t have that kind of literary OCD, so we got a reprieve with her.
No, Emma’s in the middle of the annual second grade Flat Stanley project. For the uninitiated, Flat Stanley is a book about a little boy who gets squashed flat, and when the airline won’t let him fly (because he’s flat), he gets mailed to his destination instead. As a tie-in social studies project, the kids cut out and decorate a Flat Stanley of their own and mail him somewhere, where he has adventures with the person he visits. Then he gets mailed back full of information about where he’s been.
Mary’s Flat Stanley went to New York City to visit Bob and never came home. My theory is, if the pictures are any indication, that he’s joined the road company of Wicked and is living with a Brazilian chorus boy who speaks little English and has a penchant for light bondage.
But I’m just guessing. He never writes.
Emma’s Flat Stanley went on a road trip with Aunt Bunny. Bunny and Bruce are snowbirds and when the weather in Belmont gets chilly, they get the fuck out of Dodge. This year, Flat Stanley went with them and saw most of the Eastern Seaboard from the window of the Sequoia. Aunt Bunny just sent her Flat Stanley material back and it should be noted for the record that she may have surpassed the project requirements a bit. It’s more than 40 pages of travelogue, and quite frankly, it’s entirely too good to just send to school without sharing. So while I’m pounding out the last 15,000 words to my novel before November wanes completely, I’ll let Aunt Bunny entertain you with the story of Flat Stanley’s trip to Florida.
Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome guest blogger, Aunt Bunny.
The Adventures of Flat Stanley
as told by Aunt Bunny
(with circles and arrows and paragraphs explaining what everything is)
Saturday, October 1, 2011
Belmont, New Hampshire
6:00 a.m. Beep, beep, beep! The alarm clock sounds and no one is thrilled with the early hour, especially Stanley. As he wiped the sawdust from his little paper face, he informed me that, whereas he certainly was looking forward to his three day road trip to Floria, he felt that perhaps a 10:00 departure would be more to his liking, and promply rolled back over in bed.
“Yes,” I replied, “as as much as Bruce would love to see you and I heading towards the airport right now, whatta’ya say you go run an eraser over your face and we go climb in the car?”
“But I’m going to miss iCarly at 9:00!” cried Stanley.
“Uh huh. Guess who’s missing Project Runway this weekend?”
“Let’s go!” hollered Bruce from somewhere within the house.
“Just get on the bus, Gus.”
7:00 a.m. Gone! Goodbye to 29 Highcrest Drive. See you in eight months after the the snow and sleet have pummelled you like Ali did to Liston at the “Thrilla in Manila” back in the ’70’s. I’ll be in flip-flops and shorts beginning this coming Monday while most people n New England begin tearing apart their closets looking for their fur-lined flap hats.
7:05 a.m. First pit stop, Dunkin’ Donuts. That didn’t take long. I believe this set a bad precedent for Stanley as he thinks that perhaps this is going to be standard procedure. Oh, nay nay. Stanley would like a large black coffee, but settles instead for a hot apple cider and flat bread sandwich, the irony of which seems completely lost on the counter girl. Soon we are back in the car, buckled up for safety, and our journey begins.
“Make a new plan, Stan.”
8:15 a.m. We’re making good time, being Saturday and all, but it has begun to mist. Trying to bring a little bit of state trivia into the trip, I decide to chat it up a bit. As we spend the next hour and 15 minutes driving south and fending off the highly renowned Massachusetts driving force, I attempt to explain to Stanley the monumental collapse of the Boston Red Sox during the month of September.
By the time we are passing through the charming city of Worcester, Stanley is zoned out and doing origami with his Dunkin’ Donuts napkin, and the volume of Bruce’s talk radio keeps growing louder. At this point, we are so close to the Connecticut border I give up on my effort. I don’t even bother to mention Paul Revere, the Big Dig, or the New England Patriots. I’m thinking that perhaps I should have opened my discussion with Chinatown and the Combat Zone.
“You want table or boof?”
9:30 a.m. Of course it started to rain harder; we’re on a road trip. Not much to say about this state except a lot of my ex-husband’s relatives lived in a city called Meriden. They were nice people, but the city was kind of a dump, so I’m happy that I don’t have to visit there any longer.
About the only other place in Connecticut that I have ever spent any time at would be Foxwoods Resort and Casino. Now this casino is quite lovely, but please be forewarned that one goes there with one purpose in mind: gambling. When Aunt Bunny and her girlfriends were there, we were offered free alcoholic drinks so that our common sense would be affected, making us want to spend tons of money on slot machines, blackjack and craps. This free booze scheme actually worked on 3 out of 4 of us.
Now I’m not saying that gambling is a bad thing, because you can sometimes make money while betting. However in checking last years records, Foxwoods Casino paid out one billion dollars and raked in 27 billion dollars. This is what we call “lousy odds.” Sort of like if Mommy drove you to Groveton and dropped you off and told you to walk home all by yourself. Odds are pretty good you wouldn’t make it. If I have confused anyone with odds, etc., you should check with your parents because odds are very good that they themselves purchase scratch tickets and play meat bingo at the Elk’s club. Oh, and don’t worry about being driven far away and being abandoned. I’ve got money that says it’ll probably never happen to you.
“Run, you number seven dog, run!”
11:00 a.m. We enter New York State and immediately drive past the Reader’s Digest Headquarters Building. Very impressive and very big. Stately, almost. When I was a kid, I used to look forward to having the new issue arrive at the house, where it was to remain in the bathroom so that everyone could receive their fair amount of time to peruse it. At first glance, this seems to be a very fair policy, but when one considers that four daughters and two parents had to share one batrhroom, the actual working of this plan was terribly flawed.
The first few weeks of every month, there was an increase in yelling and tap-dancing outside of the locked bathroom door due to unnecessary lingering on the toilet. As chance would have it, all four of us turned out to be excellent dancers, but, I will quickly mention, that we are also plagued by hemorrhoids. I do not believe that childbirth gave me or any of my sisters hemorrhoids. Actually, one of them never had kids! In fact there was a time…wait, where was I? Anyhoo, I used to love the magazine with its three page stories and all the jokes. I have not picked up an issue in many years. I may just may go back to reading this publication since I find that I have developed the attention span of a gnat. Were was I?
I told you all about the RDHB, but I failed to tell you that it is located in the town of Chappaqua. This is where former President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary Rodham Clinton reside. Hillary is currently our Secretary of State, which means she is never home because she is always overseas trying to keep the peace between countries that have been shooting at each other, mostly over land and religion, ever since time began.
The US has been sending ambassadors to try and help out ever since someone started taking notes or began watching cable television. You would have to ask Anderson Cooper. Or better yet, wait until tenth grade because it will be a required subject. You’re going to hear much more about Bill Clinton in ninth grade civics class as well, but once again, I don’t really want to delve into that.
Stanley thought it would be great to swing by announced. Let’s see, Hillary is more than likely gone and Bill is home alone? I think not. Pretty soon we are crossing the Tappan Zee Bridge and heading towards Joisey.
“Remember me to Harold Square.”
12:00 p.m. Did I mention that it’s still raining? You know how we refer to New Hampshire as the Granite State? Well, New Jersey is called the Garden State. Certainly not due to the route we are on, or the New Jersey Turnpike, and least of all the city of Parsippany, where Bunny was forced to spend two weeks while training with FedEx many years ago. It is a tiny little state, but evidently quite fertile, because it manages to produce a ton of fruit and vegetables that we enjoy while waiting for the 12 feet of snow to leave our fields.
One very exciting thing about New Jersey is that it is illegal to pump your own gasoline. So what, you say? I can have my gas pumped right here in Laconia if I want. That is correct, but you will also pay right through the nose for it. But here in New Jersey? It’s cheap! No more rain, snow, sleet or hail. No more below zero wind that blows up your skirt so bad you curse yourself for not wearing a snowmobile suit to work that day. No more 97 degree days where you wish you could pump gas wearing only your underpants, but you know you would be arrested on indecent exposure charges. Trust me, kids, it’s always good to sit in your car. Unless, of course, there is a runaway propane truck barreling down on you, then you might want to think about leaving your vehicle.
It was so easy to delicately slide my credit card out of the window and quickly withdraw my hand back inside. “Oh my goodness, was that a raindrop that just hit my hand? Please step back, Mr. Gas Station Attendant Guy, so that I can quickly roll up my window so that my hair does not frizz!” I love this feature! Just not enough to make me move here. Free gas and lights wouldn’t get me to move to New Jersey.
I’m just saying.
Clinton, New Jersey
1:00 p.m. Only six hours into the trip and everybody seems to be getting a bit touchy. I use that word loosely. Empty bellies are starting to grumble. Stanley has his face pressed against the wet window. I have a sore hip from braking, even though I’m riding in the passenger seat and Bruce has announced that he’s tired of Sirius radio. Yes, that Sirius, the one with 200 stations. Yup, it’s time for lunch and a book on tape.
Drastic measures are in order and I need to dig deep, but I have no other choice: Cracker Barrel.
The home of the 20,000 calorie serving of anything. The gift shop with so much potpourri that a migraine will instantly hit you the minute you step foot onto the front porch. It’s a place where a quick lunch can drag to over an hour. Where I’m always told to find a “really great” unabridged 14 hour murder mystery in the space of five minutes, when there are at least 200 books to choose from The place where I inhaled my lunch in order to find that exciting book, only to be told later, three miles down the road, “Oh, I read that one.”
But not this year. Nope. Nada. I ate; I read the jacket covers and found the perfect book. I also lost track of Stanley in the immense candy section. Melissa and Jesse who work there were kind enough to help me finally nab him in the Halloween candy section. There was a chase that ended only after Stanley had wound his way through the Christmas candy section, the Olde Time candy section, the lollipop section, the chocolate candy section,the miniature candy section, and was getting ready to bolt for the candied nut section when he was finally brought down.
“I LOVE this place!” said Stanley. “Will we be eating lunch at Cracker Barrel again tomorrow?”
“Only if I slip into a coma just before noon,” I said. “Besides, tomorrow we have to eat at Shoney’s. It’s Uncle Bruce’s favorite, so I suggest you try and get a good night’s sleep and rest up.”
“I don’t understand.”
“You will tomorrow. Any chance Emma made you a helmet?”
To be continued…
Well, Something’s Flowing Around Here November 11, 2011Posted by J. in Genius.
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Turns out I might be better at this word-spewing thing that I previously thought. I’m on day 11 of NaNoWriMo and I’m more than 20K words into the story. I’m a full day ahead of schedule, which is good because it gives me a little breathing room for days like tomorrow when I’m going to be at a craft fair all day and knitting and shilling instead of writing.
I like doing craft fairs, but it’s not going to be a good year for me. Part of it is that I just don’t have the inventory on my table. Again, with the custom orders taking up all my time. My usual modus operandi of cranking out stuff, dropping it into a box, and selling the hell out of it at a later date. Not so much these days.
But before I forget, THE BRAIN HAT WENT NATIONAL.
I made it for the lovely and effervescent April Winchell of Regretsy. She posted one night that she saw a picture of a hat like that and wanted one for her upcoming trip to Finland. So, I made it and sent it to her. And she talked about it a bit on her little website. (The password to get in is “cf4l”.) And she linked to my shop, which is where I’ve been fielding requests for brain hats all week. I had to put it in my shop announcement that I’m not making any more for the time being, and then respond to the 30 or so people asking for one of their own.
I’m not a sweatshop. Never will be.
I’ve taken a few more non-brain special orders and I’m officially booked for Christmas gift giving.
So tomorrow’s fair day will likely be less about sales and more about having time to do nothing but knit, with no computer in front of me to lure me into writing more of my lil’ novel thingy. Of course right now I’m finding myself ready, willing, and able to keep going right now, but I really have to start loading the car to go set up.
I wonder if Jane Austen had to deal with this kind of shit.
I’ll Take “Things I Said I’d Never Do Again” for $400, Alex November 3, 2011Posted by J. in Genius.
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I decided to give NaNoWriMo another go this year. And this year I’m going to do it totally legit. Too legit to quit. That’s me. Word. Or in the case of NaNo, 50,000 words in novel form by the end of November. I may just be a leetle bit crazy.
I’m off to a commanding start so far. Last year I did a bunch of short stories and blog posts and stuff. Lots of writing about different things because I already have two half-written novels in the works and didn’t really need to add a third. Plus, just writing and not editing as I go along isn’t how I work, but I figure what the hell. I’ll do it this way and see what happens. I need the boost to my creativity. I’ve been down, and sad, and find it’s not particularly conducive to my creative juices.
I feel bad that I don’t even have much in the way of knitting content to show you. Everything I’ve been making lately has been special orders, and I don’t get jazzed about them because there’s so little creating involved in it. But I’ve got a pair of mittens on the needles that I like so much I might keep them, and I am ridiculously proud of this brain I made.
Here’s to brains, using them to their full capacity, and writing the best damn novel EVAH.