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In Which Stanley Visits Maryland and Doesn’t Get Crabs November 21, 2011

Posted 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…

Pennsylvania

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.

I like to tune in just in case Phil gets a chance to bite someone.  Now that would be responsible broadcasting and I would hate to miss it.

Maryland

4:40 p.m.  The rain has finally stopped and we are beginning to see blue sky in the distance.

West Virginia

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.”**

Virginia

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.

*Remember Connecticut?

**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.

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