Saturday, June 25, 2005

Houston We Had A Problem

Ok, here’s a travel tip for one and all…if you are supposed to catch a plane at 7:45 and your friend is picking you up to leave for the airport at 6:00 it is usually a bad idea to decide to start watering all the flowers in your backyard at 5:55.

This is an even worse idea when you aren’t 100% finished packing for the trip…

Thus began Eric and my vacation this year, a little journey I like to call “Houston, We Have A Problem.”

In any case, after I finally realized that Eric was pounding on the front door with all his might, I quickly let him in, threw the rest of my stuff in my suitcase, and we got started for the airport a mere 37 minutes behind schedule.

And, interestingly enough, after we found out our flight was delayed and we settled in for a long night of vodka-drinking and card playing, it only took about 37 minutes for the first offended bystander to move away from us.

Undaunted, we pressed on.

Then, when we finally got on the plane, I spent approximately 37 minutes explaining to Eric all the different way death by plane could occur.

Undaunted, he drank on.

In any case, once we were safely on the ground in Houston, we stayed with our friends Brett and Rhoda and their adorable cow, Esau. Interestingly, they kept referring to Esau as a dog but since we all know dogs must be able to be carried under one arm or stuffed in your purse, I can only conclude this near 100 pound beast must have been a cow. A friendly, really cute, well-trained cow but a cow none-the-less.

We had a great time with all of them…although some of you may pity Brett since he spent an unbelievable amount of time driving Eric and I around Houston. He even agreed to take us an hour away to the National Museum of Funeral History.

And believe it or not, there wasn’t a huge crowd at this museum…we didn’t have to stand in line or anything! We got right in and were immediately to peruse the GIFT SHOP which featured items like “Death Salsa” and “Chocolate Coffins” and T-Shirts that read “Any day above ground is a good day.”

You know, it’s a little challenging to discover a place that I find too tacky for words but this place definitely qualified…although that didn’t stop us from hysterically giggling as we pointed out typing in the different displays and taking a few photos of questionable taste.

NASA was the next stop in our little journey (from death to the moon in one day!) but we decided that we needed some liquid refreshment before going any further so we tried to find any place that sold vodka.

This, unbelievably, was a much more difficult task than one might imagine.

Eric and I kept pointing out little gas stations etc to Brett (I’m sure THAT wasn’t annoying at all) but none of them carried package liquor. You could buy individual cold cans of beer but no vodka, what’s that about? Even the skeevy little gas station in the hood that we stopped at only had beer.

It’s interesting to note that I didn’t even realize we were in the hood until I offered to walk from the gas station to the grocery store down the street and Brett suggested it would be safer to get in the car. Apparently any place with an unlicensed portable taco stand outside is a little “sketchy.”

The “safe” place we stopped at next had bars on the window…I have a feeling I wouldn’t survive long on my own in Houston.

In any case, once properly fortified, we headed on to NASA. The first thing we did there was take a tour of the astronaut training facility…actually, the first thing we did was get in line to take a tour. A line which was moving slower than a turtle on valium because everyone had to stop and have their picture taking before going on one of the tours. According to the signs, this was for security reasons.

Which made me decide that if the only thing standing between me and a terrorist attack is a cheesy picture of Eric, Brett and I in front of an even cheesier space background, I should pack up some survival gear and head for Montana because this country is DOOMED.

Then, they sold these security photos at the end of the tour for twenty bucks apiece…wouldn’t a terrorist just BUY his photo back if he wanted to be undetected?

Anyway, it is also interesting to note that Eric had an absolute fit about the wastefulness of this yet was the first to say “Hey, aren‘t we going to buy that?” at the end of the tour.

As far as the tour itself, there were three options: Red, White, or Blue. The Red and Blue lines were insanely long and required an hour to hour and a half wait. The White tour was ready for immediate boarding.

Probably because I could have done the White tour with my parents’ Suburban and a VCR--a little fact that I pointed out six or seven times while on the white tour (of course we weren’t waiting in some hour long line, we were on VACATION!).

The White Tour would probably have been more interesting during the week when they were actually training astronauts at the astronaut training facility. As it was we got to see a bunch of empty rooms and an empty swimming pool that was forty feet deep…which, of course, inspired me to try to incite the other tour members to join in a rousing game of Marco Polo.

Sadly, I had no takers.

Nor was I allowed to see, try-out, or sneak my way into an anti-gravity chamber.

The disappointment is still overwhelming.In any case, we also tried out a space shuttle landing simulator (Eric ended up going so far off course the machine told him he was in a place no man had ever been before. This, from the man giving me airplane advice!), went to the zoo, playing cards, hung out with Brett and Rhoda and generally had a great time. However, this is getting pretty long so I will just end by saying, we had a great time, we’re glad to be back, and we’re still concerned about the security standards in the US.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Not so Neighborly

You know, I have been so caught up in the trials and tribulations of my darling students this year, I had almost forgotten the sublime joy to be found in witnessing a little redneck squabble.
Luckily, though, a fine specimen of the redneck tribe has moved into the house behind mine and, I feel confident, will be providing much entertainment in the months to come.

My first evidence of this was this morning’s comedic episode.

I was out in my backyard, putting up a special anti-squirrel birdfeeder (a trickier task than I realized when I first began) when I heard the unmistakable rumblings of an imminent brawl.
“F*** this!” The woman screamed. “F*** this, and f*** you, and give me back my f***ing Visa. I know you f***ing stole it from my f***ing purse, you hear me, you f***ing thief?”

Since I live a few doors down and I had no trouble distinguishing every beautiful word, I’m pretty sure the f***ing thief heard her loud and clear. Unfortunately, I couldn’t hear his reply but I’m pretty sure it was equally as insulting since about thirty seconds later, a large amount of male clothing was flung out of the back door into the yard.

Clothing that, at the time of this writing, is still decorating their pitiful excuse for a lawn.

The clothing was followed by a furious man who stomped out the door and stormed over to his car (a decidedly un-redneck looking vehicle that I made a mental note to avoid in the future.)

In any case, as the guy was storming out, the woman came skipping around from the front of the house.

Yes, skipping.

Skipping and chanting “You’re not leaving without me!” in a little girl voice that was disturbing on a lot of levels.

If you are thinking that it sounds like the woman had been perhaps been imbibing an alcoholic beverage or two, I would have to say that you are one hundred percent correct. While I am never one to judge (ha ha), I would like to point out the following things that I found disturbing:

A. It was NINE-THIRTY in the morning. I mean, seriously! Who, other than a RAGING ALCOHOLIC is so drunk at NINE-THIRTY that they skip around the yard? (I considered leaning over my fence and sharing this little tidbit but my expertise at Conflict Mediation led me to believe it might have been counter-productive.)

B. The woman outweighs me by an easy fifty pounds yet had no trouble skipping around in Daisy Duke shorts that I couldn’t have gotten on my left leg. In addition, she was wearing a tank top that would have been snug on my five-year-old niece.

For those of you who remember the horrible years that I lived in Cincinnati, let me assure you, the sight was frighteningly reminiscent of the obese alcoholic who set my apartment building on fire and had to be dragged out bare-ass naked.

Anyway, the woman continued skipping around, blocking the man’s exit, at which point he threatened to call the police.

Which, of course, started the oh-so entertaining back and forth repartee that consisted of “You can’t call the police, I’m calling the police! No, I am! No, I am!”

I considered yelling “If you don’t shut up, I’M CALLING THE POLICE, YOU RIDICULOUS REDNECKS!” but again decided it would be counter-productive. After all, I didn’t want to give the two of them a common enemy upon whom to vent their drunken rage.

As the neighborhood expert in Conflict Mediation I, of course, also considered popping over the fence and offering my services but before I could react, the drunken woman pushed the old man out of the way, flung herself in the car, and locked him out.

Ahhh, sweet victory.

I honestly have no idea how long she stayed in the car because as soon as the man started beating on the window in a rage, my ridiculous animal woke up and his finely honed guard dog skills kicked in, which caused him to start barking at the top of his tiny little lungs.
This, of course, threw both the drunks a little off. The man actually jumped a foot and began looking all around for some vicious killer dog.

At which point, I was completely overcome by a bout of hysterical laughter. And since I doubted the rednecks were in the mood to appreciate humor at their own expense, I grabbed my little mongrel and fled to the house.

So, as I said, I don’t know who finally won the Battle of the Buick. All I know for sure is that the car is gone, the clothes are still in the yard, and this is probably not the last I’ll hear from these fabulous new neighbors.