Lula Belle’s

I promised, and I must now deliver.

The tale you are about to hear is true, and the truth, perhaps, is not stranger than fiction– but it certainly serves as vivid inspiration.

 

Thus brings me to the tale of Lula Belle’s.

It was a sunny, windy as heck day in a small town in northern Wyoming. As I often do, I headed that morning into the main part of town to check out what antique treasures or hidden-gem coffee shops I could find.

I parked on a random block in town and quickly googled to see what was around. Since it was so windy, I was about to drive to my next destination. I turned the key and… My car wouldn’t start.

Dead battery. I knew it. The battery had been dying slowly since a month before. I have roadside assistance, but since I was in the middle of nowhere, I thought I should ask around for a jump before I called and had to wait hours for the pros to show up.

I got out and walked up to the store I was parked in front of, a “farmer’s market” store selling jam, honey, and baked goods. Inside, a woman wearing a flannel asked what I needed. “Do you have jumper cables?” I asked. “Or know anyone who does? My battery’s dead.”

“Oh, I left my cables in the Jeep and my husband drove it today. Did you already try Lula Belle’s?”

I gave her what I’m sure was a blank stare, because she started to explain.

“Lula Belle’s, it’s down at the end of the street. There’s always, you know, mechanic type guys in there. Old guys with all kinds of tools in their trucks. Someone will definitely have cables. They’d love to help you out.”

“Oh, okay,” I said. “Where is it?”

She led me outside and pointed down the street. “It’s a diner, last building at the end of the street there.”

I thanked her and went on my way. The wind was blasting but I was going to find a nice old mechanic guy to jump my car, and maybe this diner would have a great breakfast-for-lunch and endless coffee refills. As I walked, though, I passed a boarded-up building, plastic covers on the upper windows flapping in the wind. The train tracks ahead of me held empty cars, standing still. There wasn’t much at this end of the street.

Then I saw Lula Belle’s.

It was a tiny building at the end of the street, on a miniature block all its own, right next to the train tracks. I stepped up to its front entry and got a whiff of nicotine. I stepped into the entryway, which was a glass enclosure just big enough for me, a dry-looking plant, and a bucket full of gravel that I presumed, from the smell, was for putting out cigarette butts.

I pushed open the front door and immediately every eye was on me.

I stood in front of a tiny, wood-paneled room crowded with people sitting at little square tables. Almost everyone in the place was old, and smoking. The air was thick, to say the least. An old woman squinted at me suspiciously and exhaled a gray stream in my general direction.

I walked up to the formica counter. A girl stood behind it, and I hoped that she worked there as we both made hesitant eye contact.

“Hey,” I said. “Um, my car battery died, and I was just wondering if you knew anyone with jumper cables who could help me out?”

The girl said, “Hmm,” and I watched her peel back the plastic wrap on a tray of buns that were so coated in whatever sticky brown substance (don’t think of lung tar don’t think of lung tar) that she had to pry them apart with a spatula. “I’ll go in back and ask. Maybe the owner has some.” She went into the kitchen and left me standing in front of the counter, trying not to look directly at anyone. I stared instead at the murky cowboy pictures and cracked mirror on the wall.

Had I stepped back in time? It felt like it. Smoking indoors was banned in Ohio before I was even a teen. Even in Denver, where smoking in general is more common, it’s always relegated to sidewalks and patios. And at one table, a woman peered over her coffee at a map, an actual paper map, that she had unfolded and spread out.

And then there were the old people.

Here’s the thing: I like old people. Old people like me. I’ve enjoyed the company of my much-elders since I was a kid befriending ladies in church. Old people have taught me how to play chess, paint with watercolors, and tell the weirdest jokes. Most of the old people I know, honestly, are the inspiration for many of my life goals. So it never made sense to me when I would see people dress as “old” for Halloween. I always thought, what, is it like a fear of mortality? A fear of the fact that one day you’ll be wrinkly and probably need a cane? So what? What’s so scary about old people?

Well. Suddenly I understood. These old people were scary. None of them spoke. They ate silently, sitting across from each other, forks in bricks of scrambled eggs. Or else they just  drank coffee and smoked, staring straight ahead, glancing at me. And they looked quite… gray.

Maybe I hadn’t stepped back in time, but into a parallel world, or a movie set. But this was no Little House on the Prairie or even Fistful of Dollars. This was No Country For Old Men vibes, noir, ominous, creepy sunlight slanting into the frame, the stranger comes to town and it turns out everyone is the living dead… That kind of movie.

A few people came out of the kitchen: first the counter girl, then the scrawny dishwasher guy, then the owner woman and lastly, her husband, frowning. “Where’s your car at?” he asked me.

“Oh, thank you,” I said. He walked to the door and I followed. “It’s right down the street.”

We went outside and he looked down the street as I pointed. “Yeah, see, it’s the blue one down there. It just needs a jump.”

“I don’t have cables. Loaned ’em to my cousin and he never gave ’em back. Nobody else has any, either. Checked my truck.”

“Oh… Well… Thanks so much for checking,” I said, as I inched away from the building.

“You could ask across the street.” He pointed to a crew of people who seemed to be disassembling an abandoned building. “I don’t know those guys, but maybe they got something.”

“Okay. Yeah maybe I’ll do that. Thanks!”

There was no way I was asking anyone else. I fast-walked back to my car and called roadside assistance. They got there in half an hour.

Turns out I could have called first and probably saved myself some time and trouble. But I would have missed out on quite the experience.

~Pen

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When you go, can I go with you?

[Note: This was written a few days ago, but I didn’t get a chance to add the pictures until today. We’re currently home and enjoying our Memorial Day weekend in Denver.]

Today is the last day of another surrounding-state sojourn.
Our first stop was North Platte, Nebraska. To be honest, I was mostly going along on this trip because I didn’t want to be stuck in Denver alone for two weeks again, not because I thought I’d find Nebraska all that cool. I was wrong, though! North Platte was a good time, thanks mostly to the good weather that allowed me to enjoy their various parks. (Most of them were in some way named after Buffalo Bill Cody… Apparently he lived in North Platte at one point.) Green grass, blue sky, riverbanks, fields… The Midwest makes me happy. I spent one afternoon driving around just to enjoy the scenery, and another one sitting at a picnic table, barefoot and reading in the sun. Driving into Nebraska, the sign welcoming you over the state line reads: Nebraska …The Good Life. That pretty much sums it up.

Our next and longest stay was Rapid City, South Dakota. On our way down there we made a stop to check out the Badlands. I kind of wish I had been more into taking pictures, but we’d planned to go back (and then didn’t end up doing it; we hiked in the Black Hills instead).
Before I went on this trip, a friend at work told me, “The Badlands are cool. They’re not, like, beautiful– they’re interesting.” Umm, I think we have different concepts of beauty. The Badlands are otherworldy. Parts of it felt like a fantastical castle-city. Other parts were stunning because of how far you could see, the huge openness. Plus we saw mountain goats (including baby ones!), prairie dogs, a buffalo, and an appropriately ominous gathering of buzzards.

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Dusk in the Badlands

Rapid City itself is more of a small but busy town, kind of touristy because of its proximity to Mount Rushmore. There were some more “local” spots, like the super chill coffee house I basically lived at (they recognized me after the second day). But honestly, when you’re traveling through random towns, you come to appreciate the comforts of tourism. Like the fact that there’s more places to eat than just fast food (or this place called Runza?? Like, there are at least three of them on every main street in Nebraska. What is this place? Why the obsession?). Plus, I had a lot of fun with Patrick taking silly pictures with all the statues of presidents they have on the corners of Rapid City’s downtown.

We spent the weekend checking out Mount Rushmore. Well, actually, we first hit up a beer tasting festival in town.

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We tried going to Mount Rushmore later (after a long nap…) but it was too foggy to see the mountain, so we spent some time in the forest instead. The strong scent of pine permeated everything… Sooo good.

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The next day was sunny and warm, perfect to finally see the monument. Patrick got lots of compliments on his shorts, and some guys high-fived him as they passed us on the trail. Mount Rushmore was kind of more impressive than I’d imagined, and I’m glad I got the chance to see it.

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I thought it was funny seeing everyone take the same picture…

But the Black Hills were my favorite part. They’re so expansive and beautiful, and it restored me to be out in real woods. Hearing frogs, seeing birds and animal tracks, climbing on rocks and fallen logs. I’m a little jealous of Rapid City residents who get to live in the lap of those hills.

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Hiking trail in Black Elk Wilderness area

Now, for the past few days, we’ve been in Scottsbluff, Nebraska… On our way here we stopped at a gas station where I locked the keys in the car and we had to get help from some locals (and found out the gas station clerk girl was a fellow Denverite, just in NE for the summer). I’ve been kind of under the weather, so this last bit has been mostly me lingering too long in this coffee shop and reading My Antonia (a friend lent it to me, saying I should read it on this trip since it’s set in Nebraska. I just finished it last night).

Patrick has some more traveling to do this summer, and I’ve decided to go along. We’re also planning a just-for-fun trip together. For me, traveling makes me want to travel more– and whether we visit a national monument, a different city, or a small town, it’s always worth going.

Sun City

So this is getting into my second week in El Paso, Texas. And THIS PLACE FREAKIN RULES. First of all, everything is pretty. The sun, the palm and cypress trees, the washed-out colors. Secondly, this city is huge and looks even bigger because you can see right into Juarez from the highway. (And the highway– it’s raised up so you can sweep fast over the city and feel like you’re on Coruscant.)

The only downside is that I’m apparently allergic to the desert (thanks, mountain juniper), so my eyes were red and burning for the first week. I think it might finally be subsiding, though. If I’ve finally found the magic combination of allergy medicine, I’m going to start looking for a tiny house on the outskirts of town, with a little metal fence around the yard and a tall, skinny cypress tree beside it. Seriously, though. If I don’t end up coming back here or somewhere near to visit frequently in the future, be warned: I am not actually me, I am a clone of myself and I am probably plotting destruction.

I really loved the drive down here, too. It was a little over nine hours from Denver; I drove most of the way, but the time seemed to go quickly. Instead of passing cow field after cow field, there were mountains and open spaces and forgotten towns. We also took historic Route 66 for a little while.

 

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Sunset desert in New Mexico

I’ve been spending my time here working on stuff for a writing workshop I’m taking online through my Denver writers’ group by day, and trying to improve my billiards skills by night. Also, Patrick and I went to a scenic view place one evening to climb on rocks and look out at the huge metro area.

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Our first scenic lookout spot
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Nighttime city

We spent Saturday afternoon half walking half sliding hiking down a mountain.

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Patrick kept putting the camera on rocks and setting the timer

Also, there’s bonus hype because Pope Francis is going to visit Juarez in a couple of weeks (right after we leave, actually) and, if that wasn’t already close enough, people say he might briefly visit El Paso too.

Although I’d say a brief visit won’t be enough– I’m glad I have several more days to enjoy being here.

 

Here comes the feeling you thought you’d forgotten

It’s summer? I feel like one day I woke up and all the leaves were popped out and the sun was shining and my brain just made the adjustment like, “Okay, so that happened.” And now it’s so freakishly normal to resume my favorite lifestyle– the one where I never wear shoes anywhere, only carry them around to places in a half-attempt at being civilized. This summer is weird, though, because I have already been to the beach approximately five times. Despite living here all my life, I’ve rarely been to the beach at all because my dad hates germs and the city.

But now already I’ve gone on a few trips to Edgewater with Oliver to sit on rocks, eat ice cream, and watch sailboats, all as the sun sinks into the lake and we discuss such idyllic topics as trial-by-combat. Also we had a picnic there, which involved a box of wings which we devoured like mad hyenas. And Huntington twice, where we climbed a shale cliff, walked all over, climbed onto a broken chimney that was sunk in the water, waded in a creek, found a ton of beach glass, sort of got a tan, and played volleyball. (I actually hit the ball a few times. Such sporting, wow.) Also while we were there the dogwood trees were shedding their cotton like snow and it was glorious.

The nature on that beach restored me somehow. I think it’s not just the way everything looks, though there is so much there that’s lovely and interesting. But it’s the fact that I could touch everything, all the rocks, the water,the sand, the grass, feel the breeze and the sun, for hours and hours, all day long. I felt like I absorbed everything through my skin. Maybe it’s not the salt water that heals you. Maybe it’s just the beach.

And amazing books. I just read one such book called Annihilation, and then I told the entire plot to Oliver on a car ride, and then to Bug, except Bug got excessive hand motions and me shouting, “NNNOPE! NOPE!” to explain major points. When Eliza got back from work and I was still at their house, Bug mentioned that I had been telling her about a book… Eliza asked, “Oh, what is it?”
Me: *flails and falls to the ground* “AAAAUUUGGGGGHHHHHH”
Eliza: “OK, I don’t actually need to know.”

So, actually a lot more than just beach-combing and book-reading has been going on, but I don’t even know what else to say specifically. Except for one thing that was specifically not mentioned, which is: I got a car today. (!) (?) (!!!!)

It is a Pontiac Grand Am as white as porcelain. It has woofer speakers that make people give me a sideways stare at stop lights. It is almost as old as Poncho. It has shiny chrome wheels and it doesn’t smell like something died inside of it (Yay, bonus). But that’s all I can say about it for now. I’ve only had it for a day, and besides that I am tired of talking cars for the time being. It is exciting, though. And I never thought I’d actually be excited about getting a car.

Car

Oh yeah, that reminds me– I have developed a serious love for gifs. Among other things… It’s like I just discovered the internet. It used to be just a few websites to me, and now it’s a whole big thing and greatly amusing.

Anyway, I guess that’s all for now. But I’m sure there will be no shortage of new adventures to tell in the near future.

Re-loo, Re-loo

Guys. I KNOW it has been approximately 800 years since I’ve posted anything here, but I am going to ignore that fact and instead of telling you what I’ve been doing lately, I present one of my Projects With Bug. This particular one occurred last week when the weather decided to not be kill-yourself freezing and was only face-numbingly cold. It was the first day of spring, actually! First we went to a little place called Coe Lake and walked all the way around it through wind and woods. Bug, who has more knowledge of the place than I, set out for the most interesting trees for posing in.

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Then it was on to deeper parts of the woods, along the way noting  a seagull skull, which prompted Bug to ask why the likelihood of finding dead things goes up whenever I’m around…  My theory is that there are just a lot of dead things in the woods, and if you are always peering intensely at the ground– as I do, in my search for feathers, antlers, cool sticks et cetera– you are going to see some.(Except, despite my recent, obsessive best efforts, I haven’t been able to find a single shed antler… *claws the walls* WILL OUTSIDE PLEASE BE CLEMENT I NEED TO LOOK MORE)

Anyway, we found a bunch of cool fallen trees and climbed on them.

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Then we ventured onward into town, and around to the criscross bridges hidden behind some of the buildings.

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On our way out of there, Bug found another interesting tree, but had some trouble climbing into it…

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She eventually succeeded.

Also, we both became simultaneously taken with the brick wall across the street. Bug understands me, man.

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The last bit of our tour involved the stone steps where we avoided the stares of college kids and chilled out under the pines.

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On our way back, we plotted out some hopes for future, hopefully warm-weather adventures… Islands of ruins and broken glass and geodes, days around the lake, and of course, ever more time spent tromping through field and forest. I. Cannot. Wait.

Kansas

As Eliza and I drove into Kansas City, Eliza had to put “the lady” on. Which is to say, she had Siri navigating.
So as we’re jamming to some music (more like performing… Eliza did a striking impression of Mother Gothel, that’s all there is to say), suddenly we’re interrupted by
“Recalculating.”
Eliza: “What are you recalculating? You know, I’ve had it up to here with you.”
“Updated.”
Eliza: “Yeah, you just figure out what you’re doing.” *eye roll* Then she turns to me. “She has almost gotten me lost a few times.”
“Recalculating”
Eliza: “Lady, if you lie to me again, I’ll kill you forever!” *heavy sigh* “I hate her. Seriously.”
“Updated”
Me: “You keep referring to the disembodied voice as ‘her’, like there’s a third person in the car with us. Have you, um, gone a little crazy driving all this way by yourself all semester?”
Eliza: “You know what, that’s it… She’s gone. You be the navigator. You read me the list.”
So I was the navigator. Later, Eliza was saying over the phone to the rest of her family how good at it I was… aaaaand everyone else who has ever had me as a navigator laughs hysterically. Or else they’re wondering why I can be helpful for Eliza but terribly inept otherwise. 

Yep, I’ve been hanging out with Eliza for the past few days… In Kansas! Well, since we went to Kansas City today, also Missouri. My first all-alone plane trip went very well. I actually looked out the window most of the time, just listening to my music (to drown out the whirring of the plane, which I hated because I hate ceaseless white noise) and enjoying the clouds. And the weirdness of seeing other planes far across the way, tiny and black and going very, very fast.

Speaking of things going very fast, the time here with Eliza has flown by… She took me all around campus and the neighboring town, where we explored a lot, and took some pictures….

I loved the houses around Atchison. All very 1800s, and all unique and interesting.
I loved the houses around Atchison. All very 1800s, and all unique and interesting.

 

Eliza sitting in the peaceful orchard behind the abbey
Eliza sitting in the peaceful orchard behind the abbey

 

Looking over the Missouri  River... (See that factory in the distance? Yep. Story idea.)
Looking over the Missouri River… (See that factory in the distance? Yep. Story idea.)

 

Cool old car. 'Nuff said.
Cool old car. ‘Nuff said.

Then there was Kansas City’s art museum, spending time sitting in front of a giant Caravaggio painting of St. John the Baptist, and wandering through Impressionists. “Aren’t you glad you girls don’t have to wear dresses like that anymore?” some guy asked us there. Of course we told him we actually weren’t glad of that, thank you very much. I mean, I actually wouldn’t want to wear that all the time, but if I got to flounce around on a beach looking that glamorous I would do it, just for a day.

We also watched several movies, all of which were new to me… Northanger Abbey, which spawned “the taco”:
Eliza: *sigh* “I just love Mr. Tilney… You know what, I need a guy who’s like, a mix of Mr. Tilney, Mr Knightley, Captain America, Eomer, Hawkeye, and— and a little bit of Kirk.”
Me: “Woah. Woah. Slow down, this is like a taco of guys that you’re making. And Kirk is like the hot sauce, you can’t put too much.”
So then of course they all got assigned ingredients…
We also watched All About Eve, which had fabulous quotes, and then Roman Holiday, which made us want to run out and cut our hair. Last night, to finish off, we watched Star Trek: Insurrection, because Data.

Now we’re sitting in the dorm listening to the Beatles and occasionally grooving (Or in Eliza’s case, attempting to groove… although she taught me a hilarious new dance move which she apparently learned from Francis) and writing this blog and writing letters in the Sunday afternoon sunlight…

I suppose that’s all for now. Off to have some tea and spend my last couple of hours with my gracious hostess and very very dear friend.

the snow’s coming down, I’m watching it fall

It’s snowing!!!!! YAAAAAYYYYY!!!!!

I was so excited when I woke up this morning and saw the flakes sliding past my window. I stood up on my bed and announced “It’s snowing!” to the world. Or, um, myself. Whatever.

Well, I’ve been sick with a cold for the past few days. (But poor Mom had the flu…) Of course that didn’t stop me from my volunteering job! This time I worked with a med student named Erin who was very nice, and also formed an… interesting… view of me.
Her: “So, are you a med student too?”
Me: “No. Well, I’m not really any kind of student.”
Her: “So what do you do when you’re not volunteering?”
Me: “I work at the library and I write.”
Her: “Oh, that’s really cool. So, did you go to school for English?”
Me: (stifled laughter) “Erm. No.”
Her: “You just started writing out of high school, then?”
Me: (thinking: holy cow, she thinks I’m in college or out of college…) “It’s kind of something I’ve always done, so yeah, even before high school. Yep.”
Later I overheard her telling someone I was a librarian(!) and, well, it was kind of a nice fairyland that I was experiencing there, where everyone pretty much assumed I was an adult. I didn’t confirm or deny. As Mom would say, “That would be true, and also, not a lie!”
It was also very fun giving her book-present suggestions. (Mom said, “Now look what you’ve done, she’ll give that to someone and say it was recommended by a librarian!” To which I replied, “It’s a classic, okay!?!”) (Because yeah, you guessed it: I recommended Alice.)

Hey, I know, let’s jump around in chronological order so that I can tell you about all the fun things that happened recently!

Like the…. JARS OF CLAY Christmas concert! They played Christmas music! They played “Closer”!!!! Aaaaaand we were the only ones dancing? (By we I mean: the DHFs, me, and Poncho the Awesomesauce, of course.)
DHFs: “I mean, how could you not dance to that?”
Me: “I think they drank the poison cool-aid, you guys. They were dead as doornails. Bumps on a log.”
Francis: “I don’t think the band could see us dancing way back there.”
Me: “Of course they could see us. We were the only things moving in the whole place!”
Oh, and did I mention that we all had to sing “The Twelve Days of Minecraft” (thank you, Youtube parodies, for killing my sanity) on the way there to cheer Poncho up? (“Fiiiiive gol-den blocks!”) It took PoorBill half the song to figure out that it was a Minecraft thing… Yeeeeeah.
The next morning (we slept over), we all discussed how apparently no one understands “The Long Fall Back to Earth” album even though it perfectly sums up a CHUNK OF MY SOUL.

And… The Hobbit! (I said this in a singsongy voice.) (In my head.) I had a more detailed critique,  but my main thoughts were:
Hi, Mr. Thornton.
The singing is lovely.
I want some dwarf friends.
Bilbo is awesome.
The end.
Oh, and Dodge came. :)

Speaking of movies, I finally watched “A Hard Day’s Night” yesterday while resting from my sickness. I had meant to watch Captain America, but my DVD was damaged (it looked all burned and weird. I blame HYDRA). So I found A Hard Day’s Night online and watched it, and wow, it was weird. It kind of reminded me of Alice in Wonderland (possibly the movie versions more than the actual book, due to disjointed-ness) because it was so nonsensical.

I also went last-minute Christmas shopping (mostly for craft supplies, as I made most of the presents this year, but also for some hard-to-find items) with Eliza and Bug. (I just realized that I do basically everything with Eliza and Bug.) (And they’re going to comment like, “What do you mean you just realized? This has been going on for years!”) Now I am almost done with all of my Christmas presents, even though I’m now going at a somewhat breakneck pace and will probably be finishing some on Christmas Eve. (Bug knitted through The Hobbit in order to finish a present! Now that is some dedication!) Or The Second Day of Christmas. Ironically, the ones I started the earliest are going to be the last done. My life in a nutshell, people. But oh well, they’re fun to make.

Then I shall commence with wrapping. Well, I have already commenced somewhat. I am really excited to wrap everyone’s differently and with much more creativity than in previous years. And we also have to finish decorating and tidying the house… Excitement! Anticipation!

(O come, O come, Emma-a-anuel…)

Yours from beautiful snow-land,
Pen

PS: As I wrote this, Mom and Poncho were wrapping presents at the table where I am working… Poncho said in a creepy robot voice, “I want to be the wrap-inator.”

Things that Begin with the Letter B (part two)

Part 2: I actually forget what started with B at this part. Best friends? Black Friday? Brain cell loss? 

So then, it was Wednesday. Which meant… ELIZA WAS HOME!!!!

Actually, it meant I was at work for most of the day, stuck there with the knowledge that Eliza was within walking distance (erm, if I reeeeeallly liked walking, that is). Everyone was saying “Happy Thanksgiving” to each other, and I wanted to say back, “Happy day before Thanksgiving, a.k.a. the day I will finally see my friend in real life, a.k.a. ISN’T LIFE BEAUTIFUL DON’T YOU JUST WANT TO HOP IN CIRCLES!” But I restrained myself. Be proud of me. (I did do that thing where you jump and click your heels as I went out the door, though.) I jumped in the car and said to Mom, “Go, go, GO!”
Mom: …calmly clips a coupon. “Hang on. I’m almost done.”
Me: “Gah!”
Then I finally got to the DHF’s house, and knocked at the door. That’s when I heard a thud and PoorBill talking loudly and slowly, and I looked through the window to see the DHFs carrying a couch down the stairs. Bug let me in through the back, and then Eliza came from putting the couch down (I guess they were making good use of having their Krypton Girl home) and we “mauled” each other as Poncho would say. This involved me being squeezed so hard I thought I was going to have a bruised rib.

Well, the DHFs were/are in a state of home-interior transition, so we were all put to work holding pictures up to the wall for approval, handing screws to PoorBill, etc. I also did a lot of jumping around. Just saying. Bug and I went crazy, re-enacted Star Wars and invented “crab attack”, which we decided is the part of Star Wars that you didn’t see, and which we spontaneously broke out into for the rest of the time I was there. At some point all of the excitement died down and– just kidding, I don’t think that ever happened.

And the next day was… Thanksgiving!

So, we got up and made some apple pie. We (well, actually Eliza) had made sweet potato pie (I know, I know! It shouldn’t even be mentioned to people who don’t have a piece in front of them, that was very cruel of me) the night before. Everything was tra-la-la; we were expecting Grandma Vegas to show up in the afternoon, followed soon after by the rest of my family. But then I got the call. (dun dun dun)
It was Mom. Poncho, apparently, had strep. Also Dodge had a similar ailment. So it would just be Grandma and Grandpa Vegas and my dad who would be joining us. They arrived with turkey and other food, and as we waited for the stuffing to finish cooking, Eliza had a little chat with Grandpa.
Grandpa: “So, I hear you’re dating. That’s not good.”
Eliza assured him that her “beau” (as I call him… I am still trying to think of a good blog– or real life!–nickname for him) is a good fellow.
Grandpa: “No, all boys are bad! I know. I was that age once and–”
Grandma: “Ah-ah, don’t even go there.”
Grandpa: “Well, I’m just saying.” Then he made sure to ask all the right questions. Including, “Is he Irish?”
Eliza: “No, I don’t think so. He does have Italian, though.”
Grandpa: “Hardheads! I know all about that. My wife’s Italian.”
Grandma: “Yeah, and I’m right here.”
And, the ultimate question from Grandpa: “What kind of car does he drive?”
You have to understand that this is the question in Grandpa’s mind. As a retired Chevy worker, he won’t even let foreign cars park in his driveway. (I don’t know if Fords are allowed. Maybe only if you let him say “F-O-R-D: Fix Or Repair Daily” every time you come over.)
Eliza: “I don’t know.”
Grandpa: “You don’t know!?!”
His closing advice was “Think with your head, not with your heart.” (But I’m not so sure he ever listened to it himself…)

We ended up having quite a lovely Thanksgiving, even though this has been The Year of Holiday Catastrophes (the Mother’s Day Dog Disaster, the drama surrounding Halloween… I’m thinking of getting my family a bomb shelter for Christmas at this point.) Oh, and after my family left (and I stayed behind, hehe), the C’s came over! Which was wildly fun, and involved mad hairdos and an improvised play. Then it was time for Black Friday.

Which was really still Thursday in my opinion.

I mean, I know it started at midnight, but this entire thing felt like one neverending day. Anyway, we went to Kohl’s. Waiting in line outside, we talked, and did weird voices, and Eliza and Bug started singing something that I can’t even spell onomatopoetically (nor can I spell ‘onomatopeotically’ itself, don’t judge) and dancing. Then the line moved! Then we got in! Then we ran upstairs and went straight to the shoes area, where Bug snatched a pair of boots, tried them on, and decided yes, all in under four seconds. I stood with one foot on the box and pretended to be Napoleon (or someone like that) while Bug looked for more shoes. Then we went on to the rest of the upstairs, and then downstairs, and then all in squiggly lines. We tried on a few items (yes, we did, despite it being against Mom’s “Black Friday Rules”), and then stood in line for what did not feel like such a long time, and then we were out of there. My big purchases?
A pair of tights. Also a shirt.
Wow!

We went home and fell asleep for five hours, and then we got up early to go to a resale shop and Goodwill. (I know, wow again! We also wished that we could pop into a couple of used-book stores. All during Black Friday I kept yelling, “BLACK FRIDAY: SHEETS!! YAAAAHHH!” Or “SOCKS!! YAAAAHHHH!” or whatever else we ended up getting.) After that, we all took a nap in the sunshine upstairs.

Oh, and then I had to go to work.
Yeeeeahhh.

Having Eliza back, and hanging out and talking (oftentimes about Little Dorrit, which has risen way, way above and beyond obsession status, believe me– Bug and I have decided that it’s eaten our brains, and we have resigned ourselves to the fact that we’ll probably spend the rest of our young lives talking about it) (so much so that I could not even wrap up this post without mentioning it. Jeez Louise.) and being crazy and being together… it was just so good.

Whew. That was a long post.
Yours,
Pen

then how shall I begin?

So, the train thing was a dud.

Mom and I feel bad because every time we take Bug somewhere, it turns out to be a fail. (“You have Fail Mail,” Poncho kept saying on Sunday. I don’t really know what that means, but that’s Poncho for you.) There is only one place that cannot– must not!– end up a failure. I wanted to take Bug to PJ MacIntyre’s, aka home of the best homemade potato chips and shepherd’s pie ever. Maybe taking Bug just causes the unexpected to happen… Not neccessarily something bad unexpected, just something we never saw coming. (Like meeting the Mythological Rory, perhaps?) It’s physics, people.

On Monday, Bug, Poncho, and I jumped through a glorious pile of leaves! Poor Bill (who was sick– so we really did all say “Poor Bill!”) had raked them out of the front, but instead of putting them on the curb, he saved them in the backyard for us. I think he deserves hearty applause for that. The sky was perfectly blue and the leaves were bright, flaming yellow and the day was seventy degrees and we had a fab time somersaulting through, burying each other, and getting leaves permanently tangled in our hair.

Also, I have been preparing for All Saints’ Day… On Monday I started making a saint collage, which is a project I have not attempted since a very young age (and back then I became grouchy at it). Yesterday, I finally picked a saint to dress as. I can’t tell you who, seeing as it’s top secret, but I can say that I made this as my costume’s most important feature:

Yup. It’s a gold tooth on a chain.

Thank you, polymer clay and gold paint.

Wait a minute… Two posts in a row that include a picture?!?! What!?!?
Oh, what the heck.
More!

In Kentucky, looking downhill.
(Unless you’re Bug. Then you’re just looking cool.)
This picture looks like a movie still to me. An artsy coming-of-age film about… um, artsy kids coming of age? (Aaaand I’m sticking to writing novels.)
Fast forward: we’re at the beach and– Oh hey look, a random seagull!
The three of us getting splashed by the tide. Sigh!

 

 

Oh, and I must tell you who took these lovely snaps: Francis! Well, maybe Eliza took the seagull one. All I know is, it wasn’t me. I like to pretend that the reason I don’t take pictures is because I “live in the moment”, but it’s actually because I suck at taking pictures of anything other than moss and bark.

 And gold teeth, apparently.

If music be the food of love, what’s the food of facepalms?

Right now, I’m at Bethesda House, all alone.
And I am hungry.

I checked the cabinets for snacks. Generally, they are stocked with food, but it is generally unappealing to me. Except this time, there was…. Raisin Bran!

I ran to the fridge to see if there was milk. There was! I dumped a ton of cereal ionto a bowl and poured the milk on top. Picked up the spoon. Glanced at the milk carton.

July 25.

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!

So, I emptied the bowl, tossed out the carton of milk– and then, to spare anyone else from the emotional roller coaster I went through, I selflessly consumed the last of the Raisin Bran.

(It would have been better with milk.)

Well, well, well. Today was the last day of having-dance-every-day-for-a-week, and I am feeling the burn. I am also feeling a huge bruise/scrape on my left knee. Oh, was that a dance injury, you ask? Why, what an interesting question. It was not, in fact. In fact, it was…

Mom and I ran into Giant Evil yesterday at eight o’clock in the morning to get ice cream for her students. As we were checking out, she said, “Oh, Pen, I really need some breakfast. The bakery’s right over there, go get me something.”

We were almost done checking out, so I ran. Down the aisle! Around the produce booth and– OOF! I slipped and fell flat on the ground, landing in a sprawling position remeniscient of a bug on a windshield. (And yes, I actually said “oof.” Lord help me.)

Me: “Ow. Crap.” (as I hop to my feet)
Ten Employees: “Are you OK???”
Me: “Yeah! I’m fine!” as I ran off, waving to them over my shoulder.

Then, I didn’t realize that you could just take a muffin, and then I didn’t realize that when you take a muffin you’re supposed to put it in a bag or something. Yep, I just ran right back through the store holding a muffin out in front of me. I waved to the employees again. They clung to the produce booths, bracing for impact.

For your information, I did not fall again. Hmph.

My knee was scraped, but it didn’t turn dark purple and swell up and start to hurt until a few hours later.

Mom: “We should sue!”
Me: “Psh, I’m fine!”

Francis: “You should sue!”
Me: “Haha, right.”

Dad: “We should sue!”
Me: “Hmmmm….”

And one more thing…

Eliza left for Kansas this morning.
Thanksgiving is just around the corner…. Right?

~Pen