Worst Restaurant in the World

When I went to France for the first time thirteen years ago, it was my first trip out of the country and I was excited both to see all of the magnificent sights that Paris had to offer, but also to experience and try all of the unique food that is renowned as some of the best in the world. Going in, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. Sure my dad had given gone over some of the basics of French cuisine with me, getting me well acquainted with crepes in the years leading up to the trip, and talking about escargot anytime I needed a good laugh, but past that, I wasn’t really too knowledgeable about the food aside from the fact that it is considered to be really, really good. The food in Paris lived up to it’s reputation, leaving me to walk away from every meal full and completely satisfied. It’s almost like Paris is a dream world, because you eat and eat, sometimes spending a couple hours eating multiple courses for dinner, and by the time you leave the restaurant you are completely full, unable to eat another bite, but somehow you are able to summon the energy to walk back home like you hadn’t just eaten a four course meal that was so good you didn’t have the willpower to leave any food on the plate uneaten. So yes, for the first few days in France, everything was perfect and despite having never eaten any of that stuff before, I was really taking a liking to the food, but then one fateful night, we veered right, completely swerving off the path of traditional French cuisine, and ended up in the murky swamp of Parisian Thai food.

Sometimes when you are dating someone, that person can posses a certain amount of control on your mind, using that power to get what they want, say for instance, Thai food in Paris, which is exactly how my dad and I ended up in a Thai restaurant with my dad’s friend Brian, and his girlfriend, Laurence (pronounced Looo-honce). I think to the extent which Brian is to blame is only that he was dating somebody who liked this particular restaurant, because even though he acted like it was partly his idea and that he wanted to eat there, I think he was clearly urged in that direction by Laurence via the aforementioned mind control. We walked into the restaurant which was brightly lit, bathing everything in an obnoxious hue of yellow. This is one of the few things I remember about the décor which should tell you how bad it is that I still remember that bright light vividly more than a decade later. Where going toward the light is normally a reference to heaven, this was more like walking straight into the depths of hell but instead of being tortured for all eternity, it only felt like that long.

We didn’t have to sit on pillows around a low table, but honestly that probably would have been a lot more comfortable. The table we were led to was a small one that was fairly low to the ground with two benches on either side of it, which doesn’t sound all that bed, but that’s only because I’m not finished describing it yet. The benches, that were like rectangular ottomans were bolted to the floor, completely unmovable, which wouldn’t have been so problematic had there been more space between the bench and the table. As it were, the only thing that could have slid comfortably into that microscopic space was a single sheet of printer paper, which didn’t bode well for us humans. I put my left leg over the bench and wiggled it until it found breathing room below the surface of the table, then brought my right knee up, contorting my body like I was a member in Cirque de Soleil rather than an American teenager in a French restaurant, and somehow managed to slide that into place under the table without pulling something out of socket or tearing any major ligaments, which might be the most impressive thing I’ve ever accomplished.

The menu came and it was fairly big which is usually a good thing since there is a lot to choose from and you’re more likely to find something that looks good, but this menu was in a language that was foreign to me. I don’t know if it was in French or Thai, but it definitely wasn’t in English, not that it should have been, but the point is that I couldn’t read the menu at all and my dad seemed to be nearly as clueless as me. I probably could have asked Brian or Laurence for help translating, and that is absolutely what I should have done, but playing the part of the adventurous traveler, I just decided to point at something on the menu, and hope that it was edible. I think to that point in my life I had never eaten Thai food before so I didn’t have any prior knowledge as to what I would like anyway, so asking for a translation might not have affected the outcome at all, unless there was something on the menu called chicken tenders with honey mustard. The waiter arrived with the food, and sat completely at attention, completely still, partly because I was nervously waiting to see what I had ordered, and partly because I was so tightly wedged between the bench in the table that any movement at all was completely impossible.

The plate was set on the table before me; four green bundles stared up at me, leafs wrapped around something that hopefully looked more appetizing than the first impression that I was getting. I unwrapped the leafs like little gifts, optimistically thinking that good things come in small packages. After the small piece of twine was removed and part of the leaf flopped open to the left, as if it couldn’t wait to get away from whatever was inside of it. The air rose out from within the leaf, like the last stale breath before death finally sets in, hitting me square in the face, letting me know that I made a very bad decision. For the life of me I can’t remember what was wrapped in those leaves, but I know that I didn’t eat very much of it, picking at it with my fork and taking small and invisible bites until everyone else finished eating and we were able to leave my least favorite restaurant in the world behind. As we walked back to Brian’s apartment, the Eiffel Tower lit up the night sky, flashing it’s hourly greeting, reminding me that I was in one of the greatest cities in the world, and nothing, not even a terrible meal at a Thai restaurant could change that.

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A Costly Mistake to Make When Flying

Hot black coffee on a cool, overcast morning takes me back to Paris, walking around the cobbled streets of the city enjoying everything around me, which is strange because the only time I ever remember having coffee on either of my trips there, I wasn’t  walking around the city at all, but was rather thousands of feet in the air somewhere between Amsterdam and Paris. I was on an airplane with my dad, fourteen years old, and outside of the United States of America for the first time in my life. I had survived my first flight ever, from Memphis, to Amsterdam, so was a seasoned and confident air traveler by the time this second flight rolled around, so I was more carefree, relaxed, and laid back, my stomach no longer clenched tight, and open to the possibility of filling it with whatever food and drinks the airline had to offer, which just so happened to include coffee.
 
This was the only coffee I remember having on the trip, and come to think of it, it wasn’t even black coffee. This was before I became a coffee purist, freeing my morning beverage of gallons of cream and piles of sugar, so it is strange to me why drinking black coffee on an overcast and cool morning makes me think of something that has no apparent connection whatsoever. It’s really fascinating to me, like I would love to have the kind of free time to just spend hours every day sitting around and thinking about why certain things conjure up memories of other things that seemingly aren’t related, but I’ve got a life to live and a blog to write, so I guess I’ll just go ahead and get back to it. While coffee on the plane was great, what I was really looking forward to was the food. I know, in hindsight it seems weird to me that I ever looked forward to airplane food, but having only been on one flight before, where one of the meals on the plane was breakfast, my favorite, so I hadn’t been jaded yet to the realities of airplane food.
 
The stewardess came around after the drink service was finished, offering one thing and one thing only, cheese sandwiches, which sounded absolutely perfect to me. Just bread and cheese, the title said it all, no unsavory condiments or slimy lunch meats; I couldn’t wait to get my hands on one. My dad tried to warn me, tried to tell me the truth and bring my expectations back down to a reasonable level, and whether it was the high altitude or the excitement of trying new things in a new place I do not know, but I didn’t listen to him or heed his warning. I stuck out my hand for a cheese sandwich, making the single greatest mistake, even to this day, of my entire life of air travel. I opened the wrapping and between two large pieces of crusty bread, was cheese, yes, but it certainly was not the star of the sandwich. No, that role was saved for the half jar of mayonnaise that had apparently been dumped on the bottom half of the sandwich bread, the excess of which flowed freely out the sides of the sandwich, making sure the person who had made the terrible decision to accept this “meal”, would have a sticky and smelly reminder on their hands for the remainder of the flight. I knew within seconds that I had made a mistake, and the look on my face must have given me away, because my dad, a fellow hater of mayonnaise, sympathized with me and told me that I didn’t have to eat the sandwich. He had tried to warn me about the over abundance of the most disgusting concoction on the planet, but I hadn’t listened, thinking his hatred for the stuff was clouding his judgment, causing him to exaggerate, thinking foolishly that I would be able to scrape it off onto a napkin and it would go undetectable on my taste buds. Even though he told me that it was okay, that I didn’t have to eat it, I felt guilty about it, so I nibbled at the edges of the bread, hating every bite, for as long as I could, before giving up, rewrapping the sandwich, and shoving it as far down into the seatback pocket in front of me as it would go, like if I pushed it hard enough it would return back to hell from whence it came. For all I know that sandwich is still there, thirteen years later, stinking up a plane that makes the forty minute flight between Amsterdam and Paris, making terrible memories for some other poor soul.

The Problem With Vacations

Vacations are great, and one of my favorite things in life, but with only two weeks allotted for vacation time each year, tough decisions have to be made, and I for one, am tired of it. Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful for the time that I do get, and appreciate the fact that there are people who aren’t so lucky and aren’t given any paid vacation time, I know because that used to be me, but it can get really overwhelming having to choose how to spend those two weeks of vacation. First world problems, am I right? Just give me a couple of minutes to explain, and you will understand why this is so difficult for me. I’m completely out of vacation time for the rest of the year, but I find myself already feeling the pressure of what I’m going to do with my two weeks next year, and am not sure what I’m going to do. Here’s my dilemma.
 
Just about every summer in my childhood I would go with my dad and his side of the family to my grandparents beachside condo in Orange Beach, Alabama, and aside from holding a special place in my heart because of all the good memories, it is one of my favorite places in the world. I wasn’t able to go this past summer, because somebody at my work had already requested off for the same week that the whole family was going to the beach, and although everyone was understanding about me not being able to make it, I could tell my grandmother in particular was upset by the fact that I wouldn’t be able to go. I hated that I was going to miss Orange Beach, but I assured them that I would put my vacation request in really early for next summer so that nothing would stand in my way of getting to take the weeklong trip, or so I thought.
 
While the tradition on my dad’s side of the family is to go to Orange Beach every year, with my mom we usually go somewhere that we’ve never been before, so it’s always tough when I have to miss those vacations, because I never know if I’ll ever have another opportunity to go to those places. Recently my mom started talking about vacation next summer and decided that she wanted to go on a weeklong Alaskan Cruise, so with the cruise plus the travel days, the whole trip would take the better part of a week and a half, which would mean that I wouldn’t be able to go on the trip to the beach, which I’d already said that I would go on. It’s not like I don’t want to go to the beach, I love Orange Beach, but I’ve never been on a cruise or to Alaska before, and this is my opportunity to do both, a dilemma that could maybe be solved if only I were given more vacation time, but guess what, even if I could go both to the beach and to Alaska, there would still be problems, because one of those vacations would be with my mom, and the other with my dad, and none of that time off would be spent with either of my wife’s parents, which we obviously would like to do, but even if we cast aside the Alaskan cruise, we still wouldn’t be able to go to Orange beach with my dad, and go visit both of my wife’s parents, because one lives in California and the other lives in Florida, which would need to be two separate trips, so really we’re in a lose-lose situation in terms of coming up with a fair way to split vacations with our families, because that seems to be practically impossible when only given two weeks to do so. I often hear that divorce is toughest on the kids, but if we’re being completely honest, I think divorce is way tougher on the adult children who have to make tough life choices about who to go with on vacation.
 
Even if all of that gets resolved and we find a way to spend meaningful time with all four of our parents, there question still lingers of when my wife and I could take a vacation on our own, to go somewhere we’ve always wanted to go and spend some quality alone time together. There’s just not enough vacation time for all of these different trips that I want and need to take, but after much deliberation, I’ve finally come up with what I think is an adequate solution. I’m going to quit my job and spend the rest of my days on the road, traveling around and experiencing all that life has to offer. That was a lie, which is really unfortunate because so badly I want for it to be true, but it’s just not in the cards for me right now. I guess I’ll just keep hoping that something changes in terms of my vacation time, like Donald Trump declares a federal law that everyone gets a full month off work every year. I mean he’s bound to do something good while he’s in office, right?

Things Discovered on the Road Through Arkansas

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I spent a good portion of last weekend driving through Arkansas, spending more than two hours each day, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, on the road in the natural state, my car winding through the mountains, up and down, on top of the world one minute, and cascading toward the ground the next. I get bored really easily on long car rides, whether I’m driving or not, and unfortunately last weekend was no exception, but I did at least learn some things along the way, and that’s what I would like to share with you today, so buckle your seat belts to prevent the annoyingly loud beeping reminder, and let’s get started.

Arkansas is beautiful, or at least some of it is. I guess in the back of my mind I always knew this, or heard people say this, because it is after all called the natural state, but until this past weekend I never really appreciated it. It was breathtaking when after driving up and up a winding road, the trees would clear on the side and you could see the world from up above, the quaint little town in the valley below looking like it could have been the town in a christmas movie, if only there had been snow. We passed lakes and rivers and creeks, all sparkling in the morning light, inviting us to dive into them, which would have been great if we didn’t have other places that we needed to be. We were so taken by the beauty, my wife and I, that we actually discussed, very briefly, the possibility of living there. For the record, i don’t think I would ever voluntarily move to a smaller town because I think I would get bored pretty quickly, but the views alone made it worth considering if even for only a short while.

Towns in rural Arkansas all seem to have their population printed on the sign that stands next to the highway leading through the city, and they all have crazy low numbers, like less people than my graduating class in high-school, which was only like a hundred and ten. I can’t recall ever seeing a sign while living in Memphis, Florida, or Little Rock that told the population of the city, so it struck me as kind of an odd thing to do. As mile after mile slipped by, I caught myself thinking about why these places that very few people wanted to habitats would leave their publicly advertise the low population, and I came with a couple of theories. Maybe this is a tactic to increase the population and become the next booming city that everybody wants to move to, making the land already owned by the locals skyrocket in value so they all get rich. Once a tourist rolling through town and sees the amazing views all around them, they might just start thinking about moving there to this paradise, and when they see the populations is so low, then maybe that will seal the deal, knowing that it will be nice and quiet in their neck of the woods. My second theory is the one that is probably most likely to be true; that people in these small towns are proud of where they live and are proud to be one of the few people to live there, so they see it as an honorable thing to advertise the small number of people that live there just so everyone will know they are only one out of ninety-three people that live in Ironwater, Arkansas. Think about it, people in Arkansas are already proud of things they should be embarrassed of, Mike Huckabee and the Razorbacks are two of the things that come to mind immediately, so maybe this is just another one of these things. All that really matters in life is trying to find joy as often as you can, so if the small population of your town painted on a sign gives you that, then who am I to say that it’s dumb?

I found joy driving through Arkansas, both in thinking about what reasons could possibly exist for having a small town population advertised to everyone entering the town, and in the beautiful views that stretched for miles around me, keeping things interesting as I tried to pass the time. If you’ve never been to Arkansas, I wouldn’t recommend going for a two month extended vacation or anything like that, but it would be the perfect place to go for a week or a long weekend, especially if you want to get in touch with nature. I hope to go back sometime in the near future, but instead of speeding through on my way to another destination, I will stop and truly enjoy the natural beauty that Arkansas has to offer.

Weekend Trip to Branson

IMG_4234Yesterday we got on the road about five-thirty in the morning, leaving my mom’s house in Searcy, Arkansas headed for Branson, Missouri. My brother and I both have birthdays in September, so my mom decided to give us this trip to Branson with the rest of the family. The drive was beautiful up through the mountains, the views magnificent as the world started to get light around us, and about eight, we stopped at a small town in Arkansas for breakfast. It was called Ferguson’s, a country, Cracker Barrel like place, famous for their giant cinnamon rolls. I’m not big on sweet things for breakfast, so I got two eggs over easy, with sausage and biscuits. The food was really good, the sausage patties bigger than I’ve ever had in a restaurant before, so that was pretty great, and the biscuits were soft and flaky and melted in my mouth, the buttery goodness dissolving in each bite. After eating we got back on the road again, headed for our main destination of the day, Silver Dollar City.IMG_4215

Silver Dollar City is an amusement park in Branson that I’d been to before, but not since many years ago when I was a child, so I was pretty excited to go back. We thought now that the Summer is over and kids were back in school that it wouldn’t be too crowded there. We were wrong. It was packed, so much so that we had to wait in the parking lot through several trolleys taking visitors to the entrance of the park before we finally found some empty seats. It was the second longest line we waited in the entire day. We got into the park and were swept up in the current of people and then deposited at the entrance to the first roller coaster, Thunderation. Me, my wife, and my brother Logan were the only ones who went on that ride, and it was pretty fun, albeit jerky in some places. Logan told my mom it wasn’t that bad, that there weren’t any big drops, and convinced her to ride it with him, so off they went while the rest of us stood to the side and waited to see how my mom would handle it. I was standing at the ride’s exit when the roller coaster pulled back into the stop, and my mom did not look happy. It was worse than she believed it to be, and vowed then and there to never ride another roller coaster for the rest of her life.IMG_4241

The rest of the day in the park went by quickly, with us riding as many rides as we could fit in before the park closed, my favorite being the log ride that takes you up then plummets you down into the water at breakneck speed while a huge wave of water from the impact comes up over the side of the log and gets everybody wet. We left the park at closing time, went to check into the hotel, and then went to dinner. Since it was for my and Logan’s birthday, it was left up to us to decide were we went for dinner, but since we were unfamiliar with the area and the local restaurants, we weren’t able to decide on anything, so we went across the street from the hotel to eat at The Red Barn Cafe. We walked in and the first thing that struck me was how sticky the floor was as our shoes stuck to and peeled away from the wooden floor with each step, making our entrance audibly heard. We ordered drinks and the second sign that this might not be a great experience was the fact that the waitress didn’t know who ordered what to drink, and asked us to tell her as she passed them out.

I ordered chicken fried chicken, a southern classic, which seemed like a safe bet at this restaurant that appeared to specialize in such cuisine. While we waited for the food to arrive a man who claimed to work there asked to take our pictures, so he took a full shot of the table, then one of my brother and his girlfriend, then one of me and my wife. It seemed intrusive but it didn’t take that long so we didn’t think much of it. A few minutes later he came back, presenting us with each of the pictures framed and the opportunity to purchase them for fifteen dollars each. I told him on behalf of my wife and I, that we weren’t interested in our photograph, but he insisted that we look at it and think about it, setting it on the very edge of the table, the cynic within me believing he placed it on the edge of the table so on the off chance we might knock it off, then we would have to pay for it. I moved it away from the edge. The waitress brought the food, announcing as she sat the plates down that they were out of baked potatoes, but instead of telling us this beforehand and asking what else we might have wanted, she just took the liberty of deciding for the table, and gave everyone mashed potatoes, which wasn’t a big deal for me because that’s what I ordered anyway, but it was annoying to the others who weren’t given a choice.IMG_4227

The green beans were terrible, as were the mashed potatoes, although I will say they did do a valiant effort of covering that up by dousing the potatoes in gravy to hide the fact that they were old. The waitress asked how everything was and while the rest of the table politely answered “good” I didn’t want to lie so I said “eh.” This caught her attention, so she spoke to me directly asking me if the food wasn’t good. I said it was alright, a clear over exaggeration, but she continued to press, asking “just alright?”, clearly wanting me to praise the bad food, but I stuck to my guns and said yes. She walked away. The chicken fried chicken which I had yet to try, looked good, but it did strike me as odd that there wasn’t gravy on it, the only way I’ve ever had it. As I looked around the table at the other people who had the same thing, I noticed that there was a cup of gravy on each of their plates, apparently mine had been forgotten. My grandmother let me have some of hers, and I was ready to dig in. For what it’s worth, the chicken fried chicken was good, juicy and flavorful, but it was the only thing edible on my plate. When we were done, my mom addressed the table, verbalizing what we were all thinking, that next time we come to Branson, we wouldn’t be coming back to the Red Barn Cafe. Out of ten I would rate the restaurant a one, not only because of the terrible food, but the bad service and the intrusive photographer trying to sell his cheap products to us while we were out trying to enjoy a nice family dinner.

I’m about to cross the bridge back into Memphis, the trip is over, and like most fun trips, it went by too fast. The good news is that we got season passes at Silver Dollar City yesterday and we are planning to go back later in the year, so we have that to look forward to. It was a great trip full of good memories save last night’s dinner, and I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday gift. Twenty-seven is off to a pretty good start.IMG_4235

Orange Beach to Orlando

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My wife and I left Orange Beach at five in the morning, eager to get our day of travel out of the way so we could relax at our next honeymoon destination for the next week. The first week of our honeymoon on the gulf coast of Alabama was fantastic, but when the day comes for us to leave, neither my new bride or myself like to stick around and waste the day, which is why we found ourselves on the road so early. It was a good plan, but unfortunately we didn’t plan as well the night before and didn’t end up going to bed until well after midnight, so needless to say, we were both pretty tired when we got up, bleary eyed, to hit the road a few hours later. Luckily for my wife, at that time in our relationship I didn’t really trust her to drive since my mom sent me to a defensive driving class when I was fifteen where I was shown pictures and videos of why other drivers cannot be trusted, images that still haunt me to this day, so she could sleep peacefully in the passenger seat while I manned the wheel and tried to figure out where in the world I was going. I finally found the interstate about the time it started to get light outside which meant it took me a lot longer to find than it should have, almost two hours of wasted time mindlessly circling Pensacola as the directions on my iPhone sent me contradicting directions as I got sleepier and sleepier.

By the time I merged onto the interstate I felt rejuvenated, excited to be on the road to Orlando, but a few miles later my eyelids started to droop and no matter what I did to try and wake myself up, munching sunflower seeds, cranking up the music, rolling down the windows, nothing was working and I knew I needed a break or I was one hundred percent going to fall asleep at the wheel. I woke my wife up and told her of the upcoming disaster of me crashing the car and both of us dying if I didn’t get some rest soon, so she convinced me to pull over and she would drive for a little bit while I napped in the passenger seat, a plan I didn’t trust, but not wanting to lose time by stopping at a rest stop for a nap, I eventually agreed and I pulled off at the next exit. We switched seats, and I closed my eyes, ready to get that much needed sleep. I kept my eyes closed as my wife pulled the car out onto the road, but as she increased her speed, merging back onto the interstate, there was no way that I could relax. My eyes flew open, expecting to see us careening directly into the side of an eighteen wheeler that would fall over onto our car and crush me, staining the interstate crimson with my blood for years to come, but to my surprise we were okay, at least for the moment.

I tried to trust my wife as she drove, but my feet wouldn’t cooperate, stomping down on the floorboard to no avail each time I felt she was going too fast or getting too close to another car. I was driving both my wife and myself crazy with my constant flinching and wincing, thinking about every single thing that could go wrong for every car that we passed; it was obvious that I wasn’t going to be able to relax long enough to fall asleep, so a few exits after my wife took over the driving duties, she pulled off of the interstate and into a rest area. As it turns out, it wasn’t that easy to fall asleep in the rest area either, primarily because my mind was racing, thinking about the likelihood of getting murdered while I slept in the car in a strange town. A sign stated that there was armed security at night, which did absolutely nothing for me given it was a few minutes after eight in the morning. I locked the doors and cracked the windows just a crack, because in the big scheme of things, suffocating would be just as impactful on my life as getting murdered. Somehow I fell asleep, but before an hour had passed I had already woken back up. The nap had tricked my mind into thinking that it was well rested, so before it could discover the truth I got back out on the road.

About twenty miles before we arrived in Orlando, the skies opened up and the rain started pouring down onto us so rapidly and hard that the highest setting on the windshield wipers did little in the way of helping me see the road. It’s true that I didn’t trust my wife’s driving and that I had thoughts in the back of my mind about getting murdered at the rest stop, but when I couldn’t see anything around me on that Florida interstate, I really thought there was a good chance that we were going to die. It took us more than an hour to arrive at our destination as we crawled along the interstate, bracing ourselves for impact with cars that we could not see. Miraculously we arrived unharmed and got checked in to our hotel a few hours after our original estimated time of arrival, but at least we had made it and could finally relax. At the time it was not a fun day, but now, looking back four and a half years later I can honestly say that I wouldn’t want to repeat that experience again. It was terrible.

Summer in St. Louis

When I was ten or eleven, possibly even younger than that, I went with my dad on a summer vacation trip to St. Louis. We did a lot of fun things while we were there, that I have vague recollections of, but the overwhelming takeaway from the trip wasn’t fond memories that we will forever cherish, but rather of how hot and miserable it was there. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to St. Louis, Missouri in the middle of summer, but there’s a good chance that satan himself lives there because it is quite literally hell on earth. The first stop on our trip was at Busch Stadium, the old one, to watch a Cardinals baseball game. From what I remember about the game, my favorite player, Mark McGwire, popped up a couple times and struck out the other, not once getting on base. The highlight of the afternoon was the frozen lemonade my dad bought for me at some point during the game, probably after seeing me watching the man walking through the stands with the delicious and refreshing treat rather than watching what was happening on the field below. After the game all of the kids were welcomed onto the field to run the bases, which was pretty cool, despite having to run in hundred degree temperatures with dirt being kicked up from the other runners hitting me in the face giving me flashbacks from my desert storm days.

The other things we did in St. Louis were go to the zoo and go to Six Flags, both of which turned out to be less than thrilling experiences. At least the zoo was free so we didn’t feel obligated to stay all that long and milk as much fun out of the day as we could. There’s a picture of me somewhere standing next to a metal statue of a cobra or python at the zoo, which I inexplicably felt the need to place my hand on, which of course was piping hot from the overhead sun and gave me a nice jolt of pain as I burned my hand. At Six Flags it was even worse because not only was it hot, but we were just standing in line for rides, barely moving, whereas at the zoo at least we were walking around and looking at different animals. The worst thing about six flags was waiting in line for the gigantic wooden rollercoaster. As a child I wasn’t the biggest fan of roller coasters, but I agreed to go on this one because I knew how much my dad really wanted to, but as we inched forward in line, that old familiar feeling started building up in the pit of my stomach, the mounting fear becoming more and more unbearable. I don’t know how long we stood in line but I think it was probably well over an hour, and by the time we got tot the front of the line, I just couldn’t stand it any longer and told my dad that I couldn’t go on the ride. I’m sure he was disappointed, but we made the walk of shame together, back through the crowd who I’m sure thought I was the biggest chicken in the world, but at least I was safe from the sure peril that would come from riding the roller coaster.

We did all of these different activities on different days, using my great aunt Sue and great uncle Milt’s house as our base, the place where we would return to each evening to sleep before heading out again the next day. My dad and I slept in the basement, and despite being across the Missouri border in Illinois, it too was unbearably hot, although it was made better by the presence of a seemingly unending supply of chocolate milk, which aunt Sue poured very liberally and would do so whenever the urge to drink some struck me, which was likely every fifteen or twenty minutes. I remember one day, some of their friends had a pool and said we could go over there and swim, which sounded like the best thing in the world to do on a day that was miserably hot, but when we got there, it was not as refreshing experience as we had built it up to be, the water also having been inflicted with the curse of that summer, causing it to be more like warm bath water than what we had been hoping for. All in all it was a very hot trip that frankly I’m surprised that we walked away from without having a heat stroke, but that being said, I’m glad I had the experience because the miserable stories that were once our reality, can be looked back on now and laughed about.