They Don’t Want Me to Go on Vacation

Somebody doesn’t want me to go on vacation, and while I don’t know exactly who that somebody is, I have a strong feeling that it’s a ghost or some other paranormal being. The first vacation I took at my new job, back in late June of this year, got off to a terrible start wherein when I went to my car after finally leaving work for the last time before my vacation, I found my car dead, so I was forced to start my vacation sitting in my hot car in the pouring rain while I waited for Geico roadside assistance to get to me and start my car. Okay, so that one was definitely my fault since I’m the one who left the headlights on when I went into work earlier in the day, but normally when I leave the lights on, my car beeps an annoying reminder to turn them off, but on that day, I don’t remember hearing that terrible sound, maybe because a ghost happened to be covering my ears at just the right moment.
 
So while that one might be a little to out there for you to wrap your mind around, even though it could easily be within the realm of possibility, what happened yesterday, will be a lot easier for you “non-believers” or “skeptics” to get on board with. Before you judge me and think that I’m crazy, that I’ve completely lost my grip on reality, just take a listen to what happened to me as I was getting ready to leave work yesterday. I’m taking a vacation next week, the first week of the new year, because it only makes sense to blow a week of vacation as soon as the new year rolls around and my vacation time resets, right? Well whether it makes sense or I just lack self control when it comes to waiting to use up my vacation time, it doesn’t matter, because the point isn’t about that, it’s about the fact that yesterday was the last day before my vacation, and something in the universe apparently had a problem with it.
 
Starting when I get back from my vacation in January, I’m going to be sequestered in the bank drive thru for the quarter, so before we left yesterday, me, and my coworker currently serving drive-thru duty switched places, which meant me moving everything from my desk, papers, pens, stapler, tape, rubber bands, paper clips, deposit and withdrawal slips, rolled coins, and personal items, to the back of the room, the cold dark corner where the drive-thru is located. I had a master plan that would make the whole transition easier, because if there’s anything I excel at in life, it’s making things easier on myself. I placed my little plastic garbage can on top of my rolling chair, and proceeded to fill it with all my supplies, where I would eventually roll it to the back and lock the entire bin in the cabinet, and worry about rearranging and organizing everything when I got back to work in more than a week. Everything was going fine until I put the last of the rolled coins in the garbage can, because upon doing so, the whole bin tipped off of my chair and fell several feet to the floor, causing all of the contents within it to spill out, including a lot of rolled coins, that burst open upon impact and scattered in every direction. Something in the universe wanted me to stay, to spend the next forty-five minutes re-rolling all of the quarters that were no longer tightly rolled in ten dollar increments, but I wasn’t going to let the evil spirit win. I tossed everything back in the trash bin, loose coins and all, then rolled it to the back and locked it securely in the cabinet where it will stay until I return to work a week from Tuesday. I’ll deal with the headache then.

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Weekend Getaway: Up and At ’em

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5:09 am- I wake up. My body doesn’t seem to care that my alarm clock is set for 5:30, just like how on weekdays, no matter when my alarm is set for work, or how late I stay up, I always manage to wake up, to my dismay, earlier than I need to. I normally wouldn’t get up this early on a Saturday, or any day for that matter, but I’ve got a full day ahead of me, making the early start imperative. My wife and I are going to Branson, Missouri, traveling the five plus hours from Memphis to meet my mom, grandmother, youngest brother, and his girlfriend to spend the day at Silver Dollar City. After spending fifteen or so years not going to Branson, this will be my second time going since September, and I’m pretty excited about it. It might seem like a long way to drive only to make that same five hour and eighteen minute drive the next morning, but I think it will be worth it. We’re getting on the road early enough that we’ll arrive in Branson before noon, so it won’t seem like we’ll be spending most of our day driving, plus, once we get there we’ll be at an amusement park, which is obviously more fun than anything I would be doing at home, so between a day of fun and excitement, or a day sitting on the couch watching college football bowl games that I don’t have any interest in, the choice cannot be any easier to make.

The rides and everything will be great, they were last time, but the park closed at six, and although we had a lot of fun, we weren’t nearly ready to go yet, and tonight we won’t have to. Once six o’clock rolls around tonight, the fun will just be getting started, because Silver Dollar City, much like many other parks this time of year, has a christmas lights displayed throughout, meaning the park will stay open until nine. I’ve been to six flags, universal studios, and even disney world a couple of times, but I can’t think of a single time that I rode amusement park rides after dark. That’s what makes the fair so much fun. I’m not huge on fair rides, but there’s just something comforting and exciting about the atmosphere of being at the fair, surrounded by all those lit up rides at night, so I’m very much looking forward to experiencing that in Branson, only with christmas lights, which are like, a billion times better than boring, regular lights.

I’m going to go ahead and wrap this thing up because we’re about to get on the road, and I don’t know if you’ve ever tried it, but it’s kind of difficult to drive and type at the same time, not that I can’t do it, but it’s just an unnecessary distraction that I don’t need to have in the early hours of the morning. Make sure to come back tomorrow and I’ll tell you all about Branson and Silver Dollar City. Until then, be well.

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?

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.

Ginny Lane: Terrible Tacos

IMG_3785Repeat after me; go with what you know. It seems pretty simple enough, but it’s something I tend to forget, especially when eating at restaurants that I’ve been to before. If I eat somewhere and have something that is great, I my mind does this crazy thing where it decides that everything else there must be just as good, despite this rarely ever being the case no matter how many times I disappoint myself, which unfortunately happens to me quite a bit, most likely because i’m an idiot that doesn’t learn his lesson. Last month, when I was on a family vacation in Gulf Shores, Alabama, I made this critical mistake at a restaurant I loved, and it turned out just as terrible as the rest of the times I did this. Here’s the story.

Ginny Lane happens to be one of my favorite restaurants on the Gulf Coast, so while we were down there for a week it was imperative that we go eat there, so one afternoon, my wife and I went. They gave me a menu, which is where the problems started, so I guess I can safely blame them for everything, because up until that moment, I knew exactly what I was going to eat. I’ve been to many restaurants in that area, and I can tell you with all sincerity that Ginny Lane has the absolute fried shrimp that I’ve ever eaten on the Gulf Coast, which is saying something as you can’t toss a seashell in any direction without hitting a seafood restaurant. The whole drive to the restaurant I was thinking about the shrimp, but once the menu was placed before me, I began to look at some of the other options, thinking that blackened fish tacos would be fantastic. They were not.

The food arrived pretty quickly, and I immediately regretted my decision when I saw that the three tacos were in one of those three slotted metallic devices that are intended to keep the tacos upright. Surely I’m not the only person who hates these right? They’re great until you take a bite of the taco then you run into the problem of needing to set it down but the bitten tortilla never fits cleanly back into it’s slot, and contents of the taco inevitably spill out onto the taco holder. It’s a disaster, but determined not to let that bother me, I began my meal. For me there is no better seafood than blackened fish that is freshly caught, but unfortunately this particular restaurant sinfully overcooked it, giving it an almost chewy texture. The other huge downside that there was way more lettuce and tomatoes on the taco than the really small portion of fish, which didn’t really matter since the fish wasn’t that good to begin with. My wife ordered the same thing, and she was just as displeased with her tacos as I was, so suffice it to say, it was a pretty terrible meal. Hopefully I’ll learn my lesson moving forward and stick to ordering things that I know are great.

The Gunfight in Jackson Hole

Jackson HoleIt was about just after six o’clock on a warm summer evening in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and I was standing nervously behind a rack of sweatshirts in a local gift shop on the main town square. I was seventeen at the time, too old for such antics, but my fears that have plagued me for most of my life had me behaving like someone of a much younger age. It was a family vacation, a two week long road trip that would take us through various points of interest on our way to Yellowstone National Park, and though this was only the second or third day of the trip, I had already abandoned the family, extricating myself from activities that they, like most people found enjoyable and entertaining, but I did not.

It’s a long standing tradition in Jackson Hole to have a staged gunfight on the square every evening in the summer, an even so popular that masses of tourists gather around each evening to experience the wonder of the old west, an era that I’m grateful that I did not have to live through. At the first mention of gunfight, my eyes began darting around looking for a way out. I wanted to be normal, to enjoy the theatrics and the loud pops of gunfire that Americans have come to equate with patriotism and the great country in which we live, but I could not. A couple of actors walked out on the square as I stood by, shifting my weight from one foot to the other, nervously anticipating the loud noise that was now inevitable and getting closer by the second. It doesn’t matter that I know the noise is coming, in fact I think it makes it even worse, knowing when something bad is about to happen and have no power to stop it, like a very non masculine psychic.

The first blast came from a pistol in the form of a loud POP, and it was worse than I ever could have imagined. Whether the noise was amplified by the surrounding Grand Teton mountains or it was something done cosmetically to the guns in order to bring wonder to the crowd I do not know, but it was abundantly clear that I had to get out of there, which is why I took shelter in the nearest place I could find, the gift shop. In retrospect I probably should have ventured further away from the square, but I mistakenly assumed that being inside a building, any building would at least dull the sound of the ensuing gunfight at least a little bit, but unfortunately I was wrong. The gunfire was so loud inside the gift shop that I began to wonder how people up here survived the cold Wyoming winters with walls so paper thin. I don’t remember how long the show went on, but I’m sure it felt much longer to me than it actually was as I tried inconspicuously to cover my ears, the almost adult afraid of something that children and their families were taking in with smiles and laughter just a few feet away. I wish I could say that was a turning point for me, that I was humiliated so much by my fear of a harmless noise that I stepped from that gift shop a new man, someone who went on to enjoy live reenactments with guns and even fourth of July fireworks shows, but that would be a lie. If anything I’m worse than before, every earth shaking boom or pop sending me further and further away from the person I would like to be.

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Vacation is Over

This morning I woke up at 3 a.m. and didn’t go back to sleep. Before that I woke at 1:30 and before that at 12. In a normal night I wake up maybe once, but the universe seems to conspire against me when it knows I plan to wake up early to drive long distances as I do today, and shows no mercy towards my tired body. We left Fort Morgan, the vacation was over and I had to drive home, which is the worst part of the vacation as I’m sure it is with most people. We left the beach house a few minutes after four, and a few minutes into the trip I was already tired, but soldiered on pretending like everything was okay. My wife saw through the act, asking me numerous times if I needed to stop for coffee, which I did, along with a couple more hours of sleep, but I couldn’t let everyone down, so I drove on. After about three and a half hours I stopped for gas, and let my brother drive, which made me so nervous I wasn’t able to sleep at all.

Four hours in we stopped for breakfast at Hardee’s, a place I’d been envisioning in my mind for days. I got two biscuits, one with pork chops and gravy and the other a steak biscuit. My wife, Leticia took over, and I ate my breakfast like a ravenous squirrel as we continued dos the road. I wasn’t too worried about Leticia’s driving, but for some reason I was unable to fall asleep, a problem that I encounter on airplanes and now in cars apparently. We arrived in Memphis shortly after 11, and I unpacked the car, my suitcases, shopping bags full of new shoes and anything else resembling a great vacation. My brother went home, but how his car didn’t get towed from the apartment complex that I live in I will never know. It took two trips, up and down the stairs and now everything we brought back is sitting in my bedroom, waiting to be unpacked. Maybe I’ll deal with all of that tomorrow, because right now I’m exhausted, and the thought of putting t-shirts on hangers in my closet and shorts in my drawer seems way too tough to handle.

I will miss the beach, I always do, but I guess the fun we had outweighs the trouble I have unpacking. Memphis isn’t so terrible. There are great restaurants to eat at and fun things to do, the only downside being that these things are no longer accompanied by a week at the beach. My wife asked me early in the trip if I thought I could live full time in the beach house, and I originally told her no, thinking that I needed to live in a town with a lot more culture, but now that I’m here, it’s hard to not want to live that life. Maybe one day I’ll have enough money to live that life, carefree on the beach, but until then, I’m content to keep doing what i do, working too much with the hope that perhaps I will get another vacation like this in the future. Please excuse me, I think it’s time for me to go and take a nap.