Annapalooza

When Cheeseheads Travel South April 24, 2017

The road trip seemed like a good idea at the time.

“It’s only the panhandle…it’s not like we’re driving to Miami,” I reasoned. “Besides, all the flights are astronomically expensive during spring break.”

About twelve hours into the trip we ended up cursing ourselves for being such cheap-asses. On the other hand, it only took me about five hours to realize that even Sirius XM plays the same damn songs over and over again. (The top 50 songs from 1983 again, Alan Hunter?) And while we are certainly nostalgic, eventually we grew tired of Nina Blackwood’s “I just swallowed broken glass” voice and ended up on the ONEderland station. There we were promptly treated to the WKRP in Cincinnati theme song. Baby, if you ever wondered…wondered how long it would take for my husband to get tired of me singing that song? I’d say twenty minutes. Twenty minutes tops.

Thankfully the long trip was broken up a bit by a stop in Nashville. We jumped on a trolley tour and endured all the historical narration and the American Pickers store until we could hop off and zoom in on what really mattered. That’s right, I’m talking about hot chicken. We waited an hour and twenty minutes for Hattie B’s famous hot chicken, and yes, it was worth it. Waiting was not easy, especially since we were surrounded by about a bazillion twenty-something hipster dudes. Ladies, quit hooting and hollering on those pedal-bars and come and eat some chicken for God’s sake! A person can only listen to so many dive bar adventures and references to PBR.

After a late afternoon nap (because eating hot chicken and mac and cheese makes one very tired), we headed back out to Broadway, home to much honkin’ as well as much tonkin’. When I heard a band playing some very good Chuck Berry, we decided to make our way inside. After securing our beverages and a place up front, things took a bit of a turn for me. The band stopped the Chuck Berry and suddenly started playing Country. No Western, just Country. Had it been Kenny or Dolly or Loretta or Johnny or any of the Statlers I would have been fine, but this was new country. As in the music I have to tolerate before Monday Night Football begins. But apparently EVERYONE (including my husband – oh, the horror…) knew all the words to every song, leaving me to awkwardly clutch my Michelob Ultra and mumble over and over, “All I know is Way down yonder on the Chattahoochee.”[1] I felt like I had been transported to some sort of parallel pop culture universe where I was completely out of the loop… kind of like when I lived overseas in 1994 and then came home to find everyone drinking Zima. That is, it made me deeply concerned for human kind’s sense of judgment and overall taste level.

But I digress.

The next day we hit the back roads of Alabama. This is where we came across my favorite name for a restaurant ever, the “It Don’t Matter Family Restaurant” in Highland Heights. Unfortunately it was closed, but my disappointment was short-lived as we came to a convenience (?) store whose sign read: Hot dogs, wine, chainsaws and jewelry all in one stop.

I’m not really sure what more a person could ask for, but judging by all the rusty items sitting out front, an updated tetanus shot would be a good guess. And now I know what the Oily Bohunk’s dad’s new business venture is. (Besides video game arcades, laundry, cigarette machines, and trucking. Oh, and the little bit of dabbling in personal loans and politics.)[2]

Stay tuned for next time when the Cheeseheads continue their Southern adventure…

 

[1] How do I know even this much? Because years ago some commercial for NOW That’s Country! was played constantly, and some blond guy with a mustache and cut-off t-shirt kept singing that line in the commercial. I now know that guy’s name was Alan Jackson.

[2] Kudos if you caught my reference to Sixteen Candles. You can sit with us. On Wednesdays we wear pink. (I’ve never seen a footnote to a footnote, but if there were such a thing, there would be a footnote here referencing Mean Girls. I really must stop living my life through movie quotes, but why stop now?)

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Last Day Abroad July 6, 2016

Filed under: Humor,Life Lessons,Travel — aniederkorn @ 10:41 pm
Tags: , , ,

The year was 1994. I had just finished a semester abroad in Toledo, Spain, followed by about three weeks traveling around Europe on the cheap. My experience was a combination of culture shock, anxiety, enlightenment, and just plain fun. My Spanish was the best it had ever been, and I ate a ton of wonderful Mediterranean food but never gained a pound. (Probably a combination of my twenty-year-old metabolism and the unprocessed, healthy diet). However, by the time late May rolled around I was more than ready to head home.

Let’s start by saying I wasn’t one of those students who came back from abroad and had to make sure everyone around them knew how “worldly” they were. I wasn’t wearing a long peasant dress and constantly working references about Spain into normal conversation just to get attention. Okay so maybe I did think, “Wow, you have no idea how sheltered you are” when I ran into a few people, but for the most part I just felt so lucky that I lived in the United States and could come back to such a wonderful country. I had missed my family and friends so much; with email in its infancy, I had to rely on good old-fashioned letters during my entire stay. I saved every one. I also came to miss the little mundane everyday activities we all took for granted. For example, when I had composed a list of things I wanted to do over the summer, one of them was actually “go grocery shopping”. (Ironic since I now absolutely hate grocery shopping unless it’s Trader Joe’s or Costco.)

Now the second thing you need to know is that I had grown up in a family that was exposed to other cultures quite often. Even though I lived in a small town, my dad was a member of the local Rotary Club that would host exchange students every year. It was common for our family to host students for a weekend here or there; when I was in high school we hosted a Japanese girl for a semester. The whole experience with Rotary was based on kindness, fellowship, and generosity. My family was not compensated for hosting these students; we willingly took them in, took them places, and bought them Christmas gifts as if they were part of the family. That was just the way it was, so I somewhat expected the same kind of treatment when I studied overseas years later. I was so wrong.

So here we are back in Toledo, Spain.My last day abroad. I got up around 5:30 a.m. in order to catch a ride with a neighbor to the bus station. That’s right; my host family had already said their goodbyes the night before and were not actually taking me to the airport about an hour away. This was definitely not the send-off I had expected, but I knew that my host family was being paid to have me in their home. Despite this, I still felt hurt that our friendship was not worth a trip to the airport.

So instead there was Carlos, clearly annoyed he had to bring me to the bus station on his way to work. I struggled to get my suitcases down all the stairs to the waiting bus. Once in Madrid, I managed to find a taxi to the airport, relieved that I was almost there. Until we actually got to the airport, that is. The taxi driver did some calculations on a piece of paper, careful to include my 2 suitcases and the carry-on, then announced that I owed him $120.

Uh…¿disculpe?

I was cranky already and now this guy is trying to rip me off? I didn’t even have $120 on me. And here we had such a nice conversation in Spanish on the ride here…MIERDA.  He tried to play nice and offered to help me with my bags as I went to find an ATM (and a police officer, which I never did find. They were probably on strike. Every other day someone was on strike in that damn country.)

Once I was robbed by the taxi driver I got into the long check-in line. As I was waiting, a chipper lady from the airline approached me and told me that the flight was oversold and she was looking for volunteers for a later flight. Since my family was driving 5-6 hours to O’Hare to meet me, this was out of the question. I smiled at her through gritted teeth and told her no while shaking my head wildly. My crazy eyes seemed to tell her: Leave. Now. 

I checked in, found my gate and settled into a chair, now more than ever just wanting to get home to my land of Taco Bell and peanut butter. But alas my hell was not over. Soon after I sat down, a forty-something Spanish man decided to lie across the chairs directly across from me. He closed his eyes and seemed to be hunkering down for a pre-flight nap. But first, he had to take care of a little business. And by business, I mean sticking his hand down his pants and scratching like he had pants full of poison oak topped with mosquito bites, then sprinkled with an allergic reaction. He was not adjusting any balls, he was not playing with himself…he was just SCRATCHING.

I looked around the gate. Uh…yeah, is anyone else seeing this? Why isn’t anyone else looking disgusted? What is wrong with you people? This guy is rubbing himself so much his balls have turned into one huge human scratch-off ticket.

I closed my eyes and dreamed about kissing the ground when I landed in D.C.

Try not to be ethnocentric. Try not to be ethnocentric. Try not to ethnocentric.

Hell, all bets were off at that point. I can still appreciate other cultures and celebrate their differences while thinking my country is the best, right? Everyone should think their own country is the best! (I can’t speak for those countries that are so corrupt and full of terrorism that people need to leave – of course in that case then yes get the hell out.) But I’m not going to apologize for loving my country. U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

Happy belated Independence Day, everyone! And may your days abroad be safe, merry and scratch-free.

 

 

 

 

Things They Don’t Teach You in Spanish Class December 28, 2014

The Time: March, 1994

The Place: Madrid, Spain

The Scene: A Pharmacy

One of the cool things about studying abroad is that you get extra time for travel. Spring break was no exception; instead of the normal week, I think we got two. And somehow I ended up traveling with Colleen, who happened to have a brother and sister-in-law living in Germany. The plan was to visit them and then hit Paris on the way back home.

Of course things started out with a little glitch: Colleen had a yeast infection, and she needed the Spanish version of Monistat ASAP.

Yeah, I know what you’re thinking: Anne, are you sure this “friend” was not you? It was really you, wasn’t it? And let me be clear: NO. IT WAS NOT ME. I’m sure this all sounds like the perfect cover, but I assure you I had not even experienced a yeast infection at that point in my life. And if you must know, I didn’t even have a period for that entire semester abroad, so clearly everything down there was pretty much shut down anyway. But that’s a whole other story.

So we managed to find a pharmacy (apothecary?) because in 1994 Madrid you didn’t exactly find a Walgreens on every corner. This was no corner of happy and healthy. At the most, it was a corner of inconvenience and limited selection. One couldn’t just browse the aisles and pick out a favorite brand of anything; everything was locked up behind a cupboard or on a shelf behind the pharmacist. Toothpaste may as well have been a pack of cigarettes in this joint. You actually had to speak with the pharmacist and tell him what you wanted.

Sadly, my friend realized she did not know how to say “yeast infection” in Spanish. Somehow that one got left off the vocab lists we memorized each week. The best she could tell the elderly male – of course – pharmacist was that she had an “infección vaginal”. Apparently that was not specific enough for this guy, who just continued to give her a confused look. Because we all know there are a whole lot of things that could wrong with your coslopus, am I right, Chelsea Handler? And again – it was 1994 people! In Spain years that was 1974. Unless you had a really good pocket dictionary, you were out of luck. Mobile phones with internet and cool translation apps were still things of a Jetson-like future.

But suddenly, I knew just how to save the day.

“іPan!” I blurted, yelling out the Spanish word for bread. “іEs como pan! Es como pan!” (It’s like bread! It’s like bread!)

Ah brilliant, Anne. You realize you just started shouting “bread infection” at a pharmacist?

But it worked. The old guy suddenly knew exactly what Colleen (not I) needed, and unlocked the huge apothecary case behind him to hand over the goods.

Her vagina was saved, all because of me.

I later found out that “vaginal yeast infection” in Spanish was called “infección vaginal por hongos levaduriformes.” Roughly translated, I believe that means “vaginal infection caused by random attacking mushrooms.”

I think I will just stick to bread infection.

 

Why I Took a Solo Vacation February 25, 2014

The conversation would go like this:

 

“I can’t wait to get out of this cold weather; I’m going to Fort Lauderdale for an entire week!”

 

“Great!” They would say. “Who are you going with?”

 

“No one,” I would reply. “I’m going by myself.”

 

(Big look of surprise, pity or confusion), “Oh…really? Why?”

 

And so I’d tell them. For one thing it’s just hard to find someone to travel with. My husband works in education so he did not have that week off, and my own work schedule looked pretty busy during his spring break.  Some friends could not spare the time or money or both. Some people had vacations already planned. And other people…although I love them dearly, probably did not have the same travel tastes as I did. I would be happy shopping, eating and lying on the beach, whereas others need more adventure.

 

After explaining this, I’d get one of three reactions. The first group undoubtedly walked away thinking I was a loser with no friends. The second group thought I was brave and cool, but they would never do such a thing themselves. But then the third group (and these were my favorite people) just got it.

 

“Yeah…” they would say while nodding. “Yeah…that is GENIUS. Tell me more.”

 

The truth is, if I absolutely HAD to bring someone with me, I’m sure I could have found someone…but after a while I kind of called off my search on purpose. Because the more I thought about it, the more I craved time all to myself.

 

I completely understand that many people would hate this idea, but not me. For as long as I can remember, I’ve known this about myself. I could spend hours and hours alone in my bedroom playing with my Barbies or reading books. My kindergarten report card said “Anne should spend less time playing by herself and more time with other children.”

 

When I think about that report card today, I think, “So where’s the problem?”

 

When I finally did leave on vacation, the questioning continued, starting with the rental car guy.

 

“Do you have family here?”

 

“No.”

 

“Are you meeting friends here?”

 

“No.”

 

“Are you here for work?”

 

“No.”

 

He just could not get past the idea that I would be on vacation by myself. And no, I don’t want to pay twenty-five bucks for a toll pass I will never use, so lay off already.

 

(On a side note, I ALMOST scored $557 worth of travel vouchers from Southwest when they asked for volunteers to take the next flight 3 hours later. If they only needed one person, I was in! If they needed two, then they would take this other pair who also volunteered. Yeah, they ended up needing two. So, so close. It went to a dad and son who separated from the wife and two other kids. Probably because they were all Screamy McFidgety. And I should know. I ended up sitting in front of them on the damn plane.)

 

But getting back to my vacation. Let’s face it: Some of us just need time to ourselves to do what we want, when we want. The idea of having an entire week by myself sounded downright heavenly. The solo TV viewing alone was worth it. No rednecks or shows about people trying to rustle up snakes/raccoons/fish/opossums/rare coins/one-night-stands/publicity. For one week it would be strictly E!, Bravo and my Netflix queue.

 

And then there was the sleeping. If I wanted to take a nap from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m., get up, eat some chips, rally, then watch a “Rich Kids of Beverly Hills” marathon until 2 a.m., I could do this. (If you haven’t already guessed, this happened. A lot.) But yet I disturbed no one because I was blissfully alone.

 

But there’s more! I had the bathroom to myself. I shopped at my own pace and only went into stores that I wanted to visit. I didn’t care what anyone else was hungry for. What mattered was that I was hungry for Chick-Fil-A, damnit, and hell yeah I would drive 30 minutes to get it. (This too may have happened. P.S. Will someone please open a Chick-Fil-A near me, already?)

 

Did I miss my family? Of course I did. I do admit I was most lonesome at dinner when I’d have to eat alone. I kept thinking that people in large groups would notice me, take pity on me and then ask me to join them, but they never did. But I got through it, often reading a book or eavesdropping on my fellow diners while sipping some wine.

 

And so now after 2.5 books, five magazines, seven Glee episodes, two movies, and countless blissful hours of sleep …I am refreshed.

 

 

Hot Times in Palm Springs June 21, 2013

It’s the first day of summer! That means vacation time! In honor of this special day, I would like to share one of my most memorable summer vacation stories.

 

The time: Summer, circa 2003

 

The place: Palm Springs

 

The vibe: Hotter than shit

 

The participants: Me and my kick-ass mom

 

The (approximate) conversation, as we are checking into the “bungalow” at our hotel:

 

Mom: Oh, how quaint. We’re in the “Lana Turner” suite!

 

Me: Yeah, this place supposedly has a lot of Old Hollywood history.

 

Mom: Hmmm. That’s kind of odd. There’s a framed photo of Edward Scissorhands  on the wall.

 

Me: Great. That should lull me into some sweet nightmares tonight.

 

Mom: There’s also a picture of Sarah Jessica Parker.

 

Me: And Princess Diana.

 

Mom: (now in the bathroom) And here’s a male ballet dancer.

 

Me: Interesting choice of photography for a hotel room.

 

Mom and Me: Hmmm.

 

We then go about our business of sunbathing, eating, shopping and generally sweating for the next few days until we check out.

 

Mom: Oh. My. God.

 

Me: What?

 

Mom: Look at that sign. Didn’t we see that when we checked in? (Sign: Home of Palm Springs’ first gay and lesbian condo community.)

 

Me: Apparently not. So that explains the pictures in our room.

 

Mom: How?

 

Me: Those are all gay icons. The gays love their SJP.

 

Mom: So this entire week the staff here probably thought that I was your older lesbian lover?

 

Me: I’m afraid so, Mom.

 

Mom: Now THAT is funny.

 

I Spent Christmas in Vegas January 4, 2013

Yes, the holidays were a bit unconventional this year. After spending a weekend celebrating Christmas with my family, my husband and I jumped on a plane for Vegas on Christmas Eve. Not only was the price right (a $25/night resort hotel room!) but I could hit the after-Christmas sales while my husband hit the poker tables. If I was lucky maybe he would slip me a twenty for some extra dance lessons with Johnny Castle.

Now I must preface this by saying that I love Vegas…so overall the trip was a success, and I would do it again. The decorations at The Venetian and The Bellagio were particularly wonderful, plus the food, shopping, entertainment, etc. kept us busy.

But who am I kidding; you don’t want to read about that. You want the juicy Vegas stories. Now I am too old and too married to wake up with a tiger in my room, and most of my Vegas “sinning” involves overeating and overshopping, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t taste some local flavor.

Okay but first, church. (Just bear with me here, please.)

Things started out a bit rocky when I attempted to attend midnight mass. I decided that since we were in Sin City, it couldn’t hurt to earn some extra credit. So we attended services at a huge cathedral complete with the Bishop of the Las Vegas Diocese presiding. If anyone has seen extra sinniness, it’s this guy.

Now if you know anything about Catholic mass, you know that Christmas celebrations are usually around 90 minutes. But when the bishop is involved, there’s a whole lot more pomp and circumstance and even costume changes (i.e. Bishop Beanie vs. Bishop Mitre, for example). Tack on another fifteen minutes for incense swinging alone. It took 45 minutes before we got to the Gospel, and I was ready to pass out. Apparently a day of dehydrating flights and a stuffy, packed seat in the balcony do not mix. Faced with the possibility of falling unconscious into the mothball-laden fur coat in front of me, I chose to leave early for some fresh air and water. Not a good start.

Thankfully, things picked up the next day. After rehydrating and getting a good night’s rest, my husband and I hit the strip for a 3-mile run. The sights and decorations on the strip were enough to distract me from my heavy breathing, plus the “adult literature distributors” were not out yet, eliminating a huge obstacle. Usually there are about fifteen in a row, so that would have been tricky. Good for my mileage (and my Spanish usage), but tricky.

Now onto Fremont Street.

The first Fremont Street performer we encountered was a bikini-clad man dancing to Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Even though I am from a small town in Wisconsin, this was not shocking to me. After all, I love me my drag queens. The Drag Queen Bingo episode of Sex and the City alone made me want to move to Manhattan immediately. Those gals are bee-yoo-tiful and can teach me a thing or two about concealer. However, this was no RuPaul. Instead, he looked exactly like the super creepy serial killer transvestite from The Silence of the Lambs. I was relieved that the fur shrug he wore was actually a real garment and not a little dog named Precious. He had nice legs though, I’ll give him that.

After swiftly making it past Buffalo Bill, we decide to spend our $10 meal credit at the swanky café at Binions. I was about to bite into my BBQ beef when in wheels Mr. Gangrene, proudly displaying his infected and smelly foot for all the diners to see. He was soon removed due to several complaints from patrons. He obviously had some mental problems and probably a good case of diabetes, so I felt sorry for him. On the other hand, I could not feel sorry for another man I encountered.

I’m talking about The Flosser.

As in “I just had a meal of corn-on-the-cob, popcorn and Butterfingers, and this may take a while, so I am going to get all of this gunk out of my mouth by flossing in the middle of the street.”

The real kicker was, he wasn’t by himself. And it’s not like he was with some other disgusting slobs or a strange band of dental hygiene enthusiasts. He was with his wife and two kids, and they just stood there while Dad took care of business, as if it was the most normal thing in the world. And by all accounts they looked like a normal, non-Honey Boo Boo type of family. Who apparently thinks it’s okay to chuck food particles from your mouth onto the street.

Lastly, what would vacation be without a little embarrassment?

Now if you know me, you know that I hate being the center of attention…unless my hair is perfect and I’m wearing a really hot outfit, then it’s okay. Thank goodness for the pretty dress, otherwise a stunt person would have been nice during my wedding. I don’t want to be that person pulled on stage for a private dance at the Chippendales show. I don’t want the stand-up comedian talking to me; I am an audience member, and I prefer to stay invisible, thank you very much. I did not fork out 20 bucks to become part of your act; I paid so you could entertain me.

So imagine my horror when suddenly my husband becomes part of the pre-show entertainment at Cirque du Soleil’s Mystere. Since I was sitting next to him, the huge auditorium spotlight also shone on me, so in my book this still counts as personal mortification.

I knew we were doomed when the French “street performer” took one look at my husband (from 10 rows down) and said, “Ah, zere he ees! My friend!” and then promptly booked it up to us. My husband must have some sort of audience participation appeal; he was also chosen to be the “enemy spy” on board at the Star Wars ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. (And by the way, he loves seeing stand-up comedians and would probably also love talking to one during a gig. It figures.)

Well I will not ruin the surprise for you in case you ever see Mystere, but let’s just say it involved lots and lots of popcorn and the entire audience laughing at my husband. All I could do was sit there and say, “Wow. I am really embarrassed for you.”

As for the rest of the week…I am just sorry we had to leave before we could see MC Hammer and Tone Loc perform together at the Riviera. That would have been sweet.

 

 

 

Things I Learned in Georgia July 29, 2012

Filed under: Humor,Pop Culture,Travel — aniederkorn @ 9:44 pm

I recently took a family road trip down to Walt Disney World.  At first I was going to write about some of our travel adventures while on that long journey, but then I discovered that the most interesting things all happened to us in Georgia.  Who woulda thunk?

For example:

#1:  So you want to open up a barbeque joint, you’re really vain and you can’t think of a name for your restaurant.  No problem.  The guy who owns this place figured it all out.

I Now Declare this “Keith-A-Que!!”

#2:  In rural Georgia, signs on gas station bulletin boards are very intriguing.

Sign One:  “K&S Cow Catching – We will catch, haul and work cows.”

What does “work” cows mean?  You give them an orange vest and a shovel and put them in a ditch?  What? What does this mean?! 

#3:  Apparently every traveling family headed to Disney World stops just south of Atlanta, because there were no rooms to be found.  I must have called a good twenty places, and that was not counting the places where we stopped.  I asked a hotel clerk if something special was going on in the area.  She said, “No, it’s like this every weekend.” After no luck with Northern Florida either, we said screw it and just kept driving to our hotel at Disney World.  Note for next time:  Book that hotel in Valdosta, Georgia, ahead of time.  Or just fly. 

#4:  “The World of Coca-Cola” attraction in downtown Atlanta really sucks, especially after going to someplace as awesome as Disney World.  However, the reason I hated it was because it’s rather cult-like.  Plus they tried to associate Coca-Cola with fitness, which told me something just isn’t jibing here.  The whole spectacle was a cross between Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and The Duff Beer Tour: totally non-apologetic in its commercialism…plus a super creepy mascot. 

What’s Creepier? Me, or…

The Duff Beer Mascot?