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.

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