Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I just drove 548 miles with an unpaid stand-up comedian, a maharajah, a mustachioed brigand and a Christian-phobe.

I just drove 548 miles with an unpaid stand-up comedian, a teenage maharajah, a mustachioed brigand and a Christian-phobic person who is trying to tour the U.S. by way of leaving his personal belongings in as many different cities as possible.

We all went out of town this Thanksgiving, to be present at the eight months belated memorial of my 101 year old grandfather and to be with my extended family for the holiday. We had to get up early and drive to Tucson on Saturday morning the 19th.

So I spent several days before, busily scurrying around and gathering items to bring with us, fussing loudly and trailing various lists in my wake: Lists of items to go in the cooler in the morning. Lists of things to do at the last minute. Lists of clothes to bring. Lists of general agenda items. Lists of which lists to refer to. That kind of thing.

My husband, Mike, sat on the couch, tired from working all day, and tried to ignore me while I thrust various bulletins at him. Then we got in a fight about how I do all the list-making work, while he just waits and throws everything in a bag and then does all the driving while I sleep fucks everything up.

And so on.

Then, on Friday night, I was so tired from making all of these lists, and choosing which scarves to pack with which socks, that we had to go out to eat. We brought my mom with us, who was going to be doing the unpaid labor of running our insane asylum for ducks house sitting for us for a couple of days, until she left for her Thanksgiving trip to Maryland.

My mom had brought prints of a photo she had taken of our kids and our canine-donkey hybrid dog that she wanted to show us, to the restaurant. Some were in color and others were in sepia tones. Obviously I have never heard anyone actually say "sepia" before, because when she said it, I told her she was saying it wrong.

Yes, that is straw. We are wanna-be farmers. That's just how we roll.

Me: "I think it's "SEH-pee-UH."

Mom: "I'm pretty sure it's "SEE-pee-UH."

Me: "That sounds like a condition. Like something potentially fatal. 'I'm afraid you have SEE-pee-UH, ma'am.' (turning) Mike..."

Mike: "What?"

Me: "Do you say "SEH-pee-UH" or "SEE-pee-UH?"

Mike: (pauses) "No."

So, we ended up sending my eldest Rowan over to my friend Jenn's table to find out how it was really pronounced, and it turned out I was wrong. Meanwhile, Mike kept telling everyone that the correct term was "chromatic".

Rowan somehow ended up with a coloring book of biblical stories to entertain him while we waited for our food. This made me nervous. I don't want to end up being known as the family of heathens whose teenager defaced sacred coloring books at the Hill Diner. Nevertheless, since I obviously am incapable of substituting good judgement for a desire to amuse myself, I found myself suggesting that he tarnish a page full of archangels.

The page had four angels on it and said "Which one of these angels is different?" One of them had no wings, so the answer was gratuitously obvious. I couldn't help thinking it would be more interesting if one of the angels had horns and fangs, for instance. Having said that, I then had to insist that no one actually disfigure any heavenly creatures.

Which is what good parenting is all about.

"Which one of these did Jesus give to people to eat, Mom?" Rowan showed me a page with a puffy loaf of bread, a weird plant that looked like it might be part sea anemone and a broadly smiling fish that looked like a cuddly stuffed animal. Meanwhile, my mother and husband lapsed into discussing theology. This is normal for them.

Mom: "I read about one guy who claimed that he believes in what he calls 'prosperity Christianity' and says the justification for this is that the wise men brought the baby Jesus gold, frankincense and myrrh and that he accepted them."

Me: (disgustedly) "He accepted them???"

Mike: (making wide, adorable eyes and holding open his arms with infant-like excitement) "Gold! Ga ga goo goo! Myrrh! Ba ba boo boo!"

The thought of a Capitalist Baby Jesus caused all of us to laugh uncontrollably and, for no apparent reason, in the middle of a crowded restaurant, for most of an hour. I can hardly wait to have another baby so I can put frankincense and myrrh on my gift registry.

Idiosyncratic behavior also characterized the next day's car trip to Tucson.

He is...the most interesting man in the world.

At the half-way point, in Socorro, Mikalh, who is six, bought a mustache he could stick on his face like a sticker and wore it all day. We forced Rowan to make a phone call about his church service project, which almost lead to a public full-bore family rift when he threatened to walk out of the restaurant before relenting. Devin, my sixth grader, turned out to have lost the biography he was supposed to be reading at the restaurant we ate at.

Rowan's tombstone will probably just say: "What?"
We kept driving.

"Let's tell jokes!", said the newly mustachioed Mikalh. "What is a vampire's favorite food?"

"What?" said everyone.

"BROCCOLI!!" he announced happily.


"I think it'd at least be...red meat," Rowan offered delicately.

"BROCCOLI!" Mikalh insisted, becoming increasingly angry. An argument ensued and was quelled. The jokes continued.

Mikalh: "What is the finger's greatest enemy?"

Everyone: "What?"

Mikalh: "The GALAXY!"


Me: "WHY?"

Mikalh: "BECAUSE he doesn't like it."

And so on.

By the time, we hit Tucson, everyone was weak with hunger and desperate to find a place to eat. The kids were enlisted to do a visual scan for suitable restaurants. The guidelines were that we needed to ID places likely to have lots of vegetables available, and options other than pasta and cheese.

Devin, nervously contemplating the Fast Food Inquisition.
At some point, we drove past a Church's Fried Chicken, and Devin declared his disapproval with a voice full of dread.

Devin: "We can't eat THERE. I went there with the Smythes and it's a CHRISTIAN restaurant."

Me: "What do you MEAN by that?"

Devin: "They close on Sundays. And they asked us if we wanted the Christian chicken."

Me: "How can you even tell if a chicken is Christian?"

Mike: "It's simple. The chicken has accepted Jesus Christ as its lord and savior."

Me: "Or is it like a choice they offer: 'Do you want the Original Recipe, Christian, or Extra Christian Chicken?'"

Devin: "I'm not kidding, Mom."

Rowan: "I see an Italian restaurant!"

Me: "Too much pasta and cheese."

Devin: "What's wrong with pasta and cheese?"

Me: "Mike and I can't eat dairy or flour, still."

Mikalh:  (confidentially) "Milk makes me FART."

We ended up at a Teppanyaki grill, which was really good, and, through pure force of will, I made Rowan order a real Japanese dish instead of the fucking chicken fingers. The chef expertly tossed cooked shrimp into my boys' open mouths, and everyone had great fun. We even had enough vegetables. (Mike and I each have to eat twelve ounces of vegetables at lunch and dinner. Don't ask.)

Devin: "Mom, why didn't the guy toss you any shrimp? He tossed some to the other grown-ups over there."

Me: (sighing) "Because I'm uptight and he can just tell. He can tell, even though I'm wearing double pony tails and a tee shirt that says "Little Miss Sunshine", that it would be a bad idea to throw shrimp at me."

And then I got depressed.

But, after the landlord was done being mad at us for arriving so late, and Mike had come back from racing off  and leaving his Teppanyaki meal getting cold to go and get the key, we were happy because our rental was beautiful. And the week had just begun.


  1. Good god. A biblical coloring book. But it makes for a good tale, lol!

    1. I was sort of surprised that they had made one AND put it in a restaurant. Seemed like it was asking to be defaced by a teenager, but I expect the fact that I think that just proves what is wrong with me.

  2. I think I had a bad case of sepia back in '95.

  3. This is just perfect. All of it. Laughing so hard and sad that I didn't have more of it to read.

    1. Thanks. My family gives me a lot of good material. Sometimes I have to carry a notepad around when I'm with them.

  4. "...since I obviously am incapable of substituting good judgement for a desire to amuse myself..." Oh, me, too. Me, too. ;)

    1. ...at least we have both found an art form (?) that makes good use of this apparent defect.


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