Happy Birthday Honey or Why Didn’t She Kill Me and How I Almost Got Us Killed; A Story in Seven Parts

Part 7

An Ending And Almost Many Endings

Finally!

I’m as ready for this recounting to be over as anyone who has been following the story. Let me tell you the story of how I almost died. And almost killed my wife. And our car. And possibly a few other people. And then drove well under the limit for about twenty miles so that any witnesses would pass me and put many miles between us.

We vacated our hotel room and found the outside ambience to be quite pleasant and we took comfort in that. We were hobbits (by this I mean we were “off home”) and if we had to go back home, me to my horrible job and her to having to live with me after coming home from my horrible job, at least we could drive home under partially cloudy skies with a beautiful breeze and no rainy looking stuff on the horizon.

We encountered something much worse than weather. Our gps. Apparently it had no idea there was construction going on and every time we turned off to follow the detours it would become huffy and demand that we turn left through those orange and white barrier things they set up to prevent you turning left. Then it would recalculate and order us to U-turn or perform some other illegal traffic maneuver. If you’ve ever used a gps you’ll likely understand. It just goes to reinforce my opinion that we’ve become too dependent upon technology, but I won’t preach about that.

When we finally got out onto a highway we remembered we just shut the thing off and drove. It was a repeat of the trip out with the radio and talking and pointing out things we’d missed on the initial trip. We stopped again in the town in which we’d encountered the country roughers from the first trip post. There was an intriguing sign we’d seen for a place called Hidden Hollow and we had determined to stop on the way back. So we did. And it was all we expected. A hollow not visible from the roadway, hence the name, with a gazebo and a statue carved from a standing tree stump and winding paths that led around these things and back into a wooded area that ended in a small pool that disappeared, or perhaps exuded from, underneath a large outcropping of rock. There were several fry visible in the water and a blue dragonfly seemed to be leading us to the end of the path. It would fly ahead of us, alight upon a branch and then take off again as we got closer. Just a bit of nature that happened to coincide with our approach, surely, but in the serene surroundings it felt like a bit more than it was. The photo attached is one my wife took and I’ve long held the belief that she should sell postcards. If you agree please let me know. I know this is a lot to ask, you not knowing of more than a single piece of her work, but if you at least like this one it’ll make her day to know about it.

We stayed for fifteen minutes or so, just long enough to break up any blood clots that may have been forming during our long sit in the car, then got back in the car and were once again hobbits. The gps tried to put us on a toll road and in the midst of our trying to avoid that we somehow missed a turn and ended up taking a very very back way home. At one point we were at a stop sign and the gps said slight left onto whatever road we needed to be on. I didn’t see that the slight left was across the highway. I also didn’t see the “DO NOT ENTER” and “ONE WAY” signs. The things were fifty feet down the highway! Not right at the intersection! I didn’t see the other roadway across from it! I turned the wrong way down a one way only 65 mph highway! And didn’t notice it until my wife began screaming and pounding the dashboard. I suddenly saw the signs, which by then were quite visible, and pulled off into the median. I considered just driving through it, but that’s illegal, so I just waited out the traffic and did a U-turn and performed the actions described in the first paragraph. I was paranoid the rest of the way home that the Highway Patrol was tracking me from town to town. I perspired from my arm pits the rest of the trip and again almost killed my wife with the foul odor of stress sweat.

Thankfully we made it home, alive and well-ish and our dogs were quite happy and so far we’ve lived happily ever after.

I bid you Adieu…and a don’t.

Adieu…let me know if you like my wife’s picture.

A don’t…tell the Highway Patrol that it was me.

Happy Birthday Honey or Why Didn’t She Kill Me and How I Almost Got Us Killed; A Story in Seven Parts

Part 5

The One Activity

If you’ve read the last few posts under this title, you’ll know that I recently took my wife on a birthday weekend away. You’ll also know that I planned, and antagonized my wife about, a secret activity. The One Activity. The reason I chose Wichita KS in the first place.

Now let’s get on with wondering why my wife didn’t kill me. If you’ve been following the story, prepare for fulfillment! After we left the haberdashery type establishment we decided that since upon the morrow we’d be off home, we should go ahead and participate in The One Activity. Initially I planned to complete it after dark, but we knew that darkness had recently been falling rather late. Also, if we’d sat in our hotel room to wait out the daylight we would have ended up engaged in some basic cable syndicated drollery and our joints would’ve been to weary to engage on any sort of trek by the time the sun had finally descended below the horizon. So I surreptitiously googled our destination and we made our way through the alien urban terrain. A few moments later we were sitting in a deserted parking lot and I was assuring her that there was nothing to be afraid of. It didn’t take long to build up our courage. I think we both realized that we wanted to be in our room lost in some basic cable syndicated drollery and the sooner we got out of the car, the sooner that would happen.

As we neared the edge of the parking lot we found that two paths diverged before us. An upper path cut along the edge of a steep embankment. To the left, a concrete staircase descended down to the waterfront of some river whose name I never bothered to learn. Being idiots, we chose the lower path. We passed a few joggers and some folks glued to their cell phones. It felt as though we had walked quite a while and I was too wrapped up in worrying that we had overlooked our destination or that it simply didn’t exist when suddenly we rounded a slight curve. The sidewalk forked off to the right into a bit of a non-aquatic bay at the back of which I saw a metal grate set into the embankment that stood well above my head. Suspecting this to be the place, I advanced to the grate and looked inside. Sure enough, a bit of what we sought was visible with a properly craned neck. I clapped my hands in excitement and then presented the idea that we traverse the steep hillock to get a top-down view. My wife looked more perturbed than enthused, but we climbed up anyway and looked down upon the thing we had come to see.

I’ll digress for a moment to state that marriage is a scary thing. Even if you know someone very well, pledging the remainder of your days to them is always a gamble and you can never be sure that your spouse is the right one for you or vice versa. I’ll say this in closing. When your wife finds out that you’ve dragged her three and one half hours (an approximation dependent upon traffic and road work) away from home with the sole intent of showing her a goblin in a sewer grate as a special birthday activity and she doesn’t throw your decapitated body into the sewer with the thing, you’ve likely found the right person to share your life with.

I bid you Adieu…and a don’t.

Adieu…make time in your life for the bizarre.

A don’t…let me forget to inform you that after dark, green lights illuminate the sculpture and emanate from the grate in a fashion that I cannot describe since I haven’t seen it in the darkness.

Happy Birthday Honey or Why Didn’t She Kill Me and How I Almost Got Us Killed; A Story in Seven Parts

Part 4

Well, That Was Fun and Unexpected

If you haven’t read the first three posts in this storyline, allow me to briefly recap. I planned a birthday trip for my wife to Wichita KS. There was a secret activity, just for her (but kinda for me too) that I saved for the end and kept her in a state of anxiety about, purposely. Now you might begin to understand why part of the title is Why Didn’t She Kill Me? The posts I’ve done so far, including this one, have been a chronicle of our adventures leading up to the moment she decided to let me live.

After our eventful trip to the zoo we headed back to the hotel for a bit of relaxing and to refrigerate the leftover Cajun food we had for lunch. Two quick facts here. 1: There shouldn’t have been leftovers. The food was amazing! 2: There will be a post dedicated just to the food we ate. We are foodies and ate at several non-chain and/or localized chain places. Every one was amazing. Now, after preserving our food and relaxing for a few minutes we wonked out (see part one for a definition of wonking. It’s a driving term.) And headed to the beautiful and historic downtown area in the midst of which rose the Museum of World Treasures. Three floors of amazing artifacts. They had roman coins and mummies! Fossils and skeletons! Geodes and crystals and books and Hollywood paraphernalia! They had a balcony where you could dress as a monarch and be photographed between two suits of armor! There were displays for several major recent wars, including a walkthrough replica of a WWII trench.  They had a gift shop, of course, and although we didn’t buy anything we were quite tempted by several items. My wife would probably like for me to touch on the parking fiasco. She loves to remind me that I tried to drive into a foot-traffic-only plaza in search of a parking space. In my defense I was a wide open space, paved in brick as is the roadway in that part of town, and there was no signage indicating that vehicles were prohibited. In light of these facts I don’t feel obliged to mention the incident at all.

After traversing the winding halls of the museum we crossed the street to a place we had noticed on the drive over. It was a small haberdashery sort of a place that was strewn about with all manner of delightful knick-knacks and scrapbooking detritus called Mrs. O’Leary’s something or other. I regret that I can’t remember the entire name of the place because of its charming ambience and friendly proprietors. We purchased a small pleasantry for our dog sitter and, as we were paying, became acquainted with Dan. Dan looked like a Labrador, at least in part. He might have been a mix. He was black but graying and when I first tried to pet him he ran from me. As we were preparing to leave, and his owner nearly successfully gave him to us, Dan sauntered over to me and wrapped his neck around my leg. He didn’t have a freakish neck or anything like that. He just sidled up to my legs in the front and then bent his neck so that his head was on the outside of my thigh. I petted him for a moment and then had to pry myself away from him so that we could leave. It was the first dog-hug I’ve ever received and I enjoyed it greatly.

I bid you Adieu…and A don’t.

Adieu…stay tuned for the next post in which the secret activity, the one that didn’t get me killed, will be revealed.

A don’t…ever turn down a dog hug.

Happy Birthday Honey or Why Didn’t She Kill Me and How I Almost Killed Us; A Story In Seven Parts

Part 2

Cowtown

Cowtown, as you might not expect, had no cows. What it did have was a suspicious lady in the parking lot who watched my wife and I as we hid our laptop and bags in the compartment behind the third row seats of our van. This ties back to the last post. If our room had been ready when we arrived our valuables would’ve been safely deposited under the hotel room bed.  Look at that! Continuity and story arcs!

I kept an eye on the suspicious lady as we walked toward the Cowtown entrance. As soon as we walked away from the van, she turned away either to text her accomplice or because she was simply people watching and the people she was watching were leaving. There were signs along the sidewalks indicating that electronic surveillance was in use. This calmed me some. If our car was broken into and our valuables stolen at least there would be grainy footage of the perpetrator. At least we would know that the laptop hadn’t gotten sick of being used for my attempts at writing and marketing my book and scurried away across the world wide web to someplace where it could wait in peace to do whatever it is laptops dream of doing should there ever be a successful robot uprising.

Random thought and possible future post: Has anyone ever explored the idea of computers that have been infected with viruses being electronic zombies? How would they attack and how would the other computers survive if humans were not involved? One day, I’ll attempt to answer these questions.

The Cowtown visitors center is a large building. Most of it seems to be a conference or gathering room. A smaller room is used as a gift shop and, as we always do when we travel, my wife and I each picked a magnet and a trinket apiece for the kids. The lady at the register was very friendly and funny and suggested a few more activities. Seems like she and we are a hive mind because the activities she recommended were already on our itinerary. She also told us where we might be likely to find ghosts and we stepped back out into the heat to explore the antique houses and businesses of Cowtown.

All of the buildings were authentic and had been donated and moved to the location where they had been set up to resemble a cattle-drive era old west town. There were several houses ranging from little cabins to more well-to-do “mansions” of the era. All were furnished with authentic period pieces. As much as we hoped for something mildly paranormal, the only thing that happened was that my wife’s camera wouldn’t photograph a certain corner of one of the houses. My camera worked fine in said corner. We explored the hotel, Marshal’s office where, if I read the plaque right, Wyatt Earp had once worked. There were several businesses. A bank, a pharmacy, a clothing store and a printers. There’s even an old masonic lodge and a funeral parlor. When we got hot we headed to the saloon and had a cold sarsaparilla to support the illusion that we were in the period. We didn’t stay for the 3:30 shootout. No sense in my wife and I becoming permanent residents because we dropped dead of heat stroke waiting to watch people in chaps and spurs shooting cap guns at each other. If it had been cooler we would’ve stayed.

We were startled by the carpenter when we stepped into his shop. The other buildings we’d visited had been empty except the saloon, which we’d been warned would be staffed. We talked to him for a few minutes and then called it a day, returning to the hotel under the assumption that our room might well be ready. It was.

I bid you Adieu…and A don’t

Adieu…visit Cowtown if you meet the criteria of being in Wichita Kansas and interested in such things. They offer a military discount and friendly staff.

A don’t…forget to check back for part 3 in which we will discuss some very indecent simian individuals

Happy Birthday Honey or Why Didn’t She Kill Me and How I Almost Killed Us: A Story in Seven Parts

Part 1

Leave-takings and highway-side humor

It can be a dangerous thing to drive on the freeways. I don’t mean dangerous in the mortal sense. In that sense it can be dangerous to do just about anything. I refer to the danger of missing out on random experiences and chance encounters.

Allow me to back up before I begin. I recently planned a birthday trip for my wife, the caveats being it would be a place neither of us had been before, one activity would remain a secret and we would never, ever drive on a freeway.

I’m rather happy we took the poet’s advice, however, our paths diverged between corn fields and cattle ranches rather than forking in the woods.

Our drive began peacefully. There was singing along with the radio and idle conversation. We pointed out houses we liked or buildings that looked haunted. We slowed to a crawl as the highway ran through the main streets of small towns and sped back up again as single pump stations and one floor town halls receded in the rearview mirror. This became a cycle; nearly hypnotic. It was the third town we slowed down for that broke our trance and caused us to nearly laugh ourselves off the road. We passed a cinder block building fronting the road. It was painted white and, although I noticed no professional signage, it appeared to be a garage of some kind. Nothing funny about that, but as we drove by we saw, spray painted on the pillar between the roll up doors, the words “no public restroom” and under that “no peepee”. We laughed until we cried; a possible mortal danger to be encountered on any driving surface, I suppose. My wife found it funny for her own reasons, I didn’t ask because we were laughing together and that is all that mattered to me. I laughed because I wondered what on Earth could’ve happened to cause someone to hastily spray paint a “no peepee” warning on his place of business? Why not make a presentable, polite sign of some sort? And what sort of person patronizes a place that has this commandment hastily spray painted upon its façade? I surmise it cannot have been a single occurrence. If someone once urinates upon your building would you not simply run the offender off and grab some bleach? It certainly wouldn’t occur to me that this might become such a problem that I’d need a quick warning to curb further offenses. I say he must’ve often stepped out for a breath of fresh air to find some transient making use of his front door’s lack of facilities.

Shortly after this we stopped for gas and, after watching some folks fuel up their farm truck, I dubbed them country roughers. I did this not to poke fun at them. Farmers are respectable folk and much needed for our infrastructure to maintain itself. Farming is dirty work, though, and they looked as if they’d been doing much of it so, since the opposite of city is country, and we were out in the country, and since the opposite of slick is rough and therefore the opposite of slicker, rougher I called them country roughers. I think the statement I made to my wife was something along the lines of  “We just fueled up the van next to a couple of country roughers.” We had another good laugh and as it was dying to breathless fits of ab-burning giggles I submitted to her that I considered she and I to be a couple of suburban semi-smoothers. We hadn’t the ab strength left to laugh again. Maybe it just wasn’t funny.

We saw some windmills and other such. Old barns and horses and before we really realized it we were pulling in to the construction riddled limits of the city we’d come to visit.  They have a frontage road the likes of which I’ve never encountered before. The gps said to make a sharp left onto Kellogg road. There were two left turn lanes and I suppose I should’ve understood the physics involved in the assumption that the inside lane would’ve equaled a sharper left turn. In my defense, I’m not a physicist and my brain was coming down from several laughter induced endorphin dumps and so we had to turn into a gas station and then make a not-so-sharp right turn to get to our hotel. We realized then that the frontage road had, as my wife called them, “wonky” built-in U-turns so that the traffic lights could be avoided. On our many ventures from our room into the city she would advise me when to “wonk” left.

And of course, our room wasn’t ready quite yet. So we wonked out and ended up in Cowtown.

This completes part one.

I bid you Adieu…and A don’t

Adieu…take the slower route when you can. Maybe it won’t always be worth it, but when it is the memories you make can be priceless.

A don’t…stop to urinate upon the holdings of some poor entrepreneur. It’s not only rude, but in many municipalities, also illegal.

Backyard Wonders

My family and I moved into a new house almost a year ago.  The house itself is sufficient, if rather small.  But the backyard…it is huge and full of wonders! There are two small ponds in the back.  Cement man-made ones.  When we first looked at the place it was early August and the surface of one was covered in lily pads while the other had very tall and unusual flowers in it.  They had very large blossoms with bizarre seed pods in the center.  A bit of research revealed that they are lotuses.  I found this very exciting because of how exotic they are and, more nerdily, because it made me think of Dean Jones in The Lovebug and the Lotus Special he apparently crashed in a race.  I worried that perhaps the winter had killed them off, but about two weeks ago they started poking up through the lily pads and have since blossomed!  They are a beautiful flower and have an interesting scent that is not quite licorice but is highly reminiscent of it.

I find myself walking through the yard randomly just looking at things.  It isn’t because I’m senile.  Not as far as I know anyway, but there are always just strange things to notice.  For one, I’ve noticed that my apple and pear trees haven’t produced a single fruit yet.  Last year when looking at the house there were apples and pears everywhere. It has been a very hot, dry summer so maybe that is why.  Disappointing, but interesting.

Sometimes my backyard wanderings are unexpected.  I see something that leads me to something else.  I read an article about Tolkien and how no one would take walks with him because he would spend several minutes silently staring at every flower and tree he came across.  I fear I have the same problem.  I don’t fear the problem itself, I enjoy staring at trees and flowers, but I fear that others might think I’m crazy.  I suppose I shouldn’t care.  Anyway, during my absent-minded wandering, with my wife watching from the kitchen window googling the best convalescent homes even though I’m only 34, I noticed two cocoons.   I’m absolutely fascinated by them.

Soon I’ll post something about whatever comes out of the cocoons.  If I’m lucky enough to see them, that is.

Until then I bid you Adieu…and A don’t.

Adieu…stop and smell the roses, even though the sound of it is quite cliché.

A don’t…let anyone stop you from enjoying the nature around you with their judgmental stares.  Anyone who judges a nature lover for loving nature is too caught up in the electronic world and needs to Anti-Hollywood.

Nerd Level: Deep Freeze!

It isn’t hard for me to be a nerd about things.  As a child I used to stand and watch the washing machine fill up.  The wrinkles in the clothes that stood above the waterline would slowly saturate from beneath.  I would watch the fabric suck up the water so that by the time the water washed over the crest of the wrinkle, the wrinkle had already been wet for some time.  Now that you know this about me, it shouldn’t surprise you that I’m extremely excited about the deep freeze we just bought.  If you’re familiar with Doctor Who, perhaps you’ll understand why I’ve taken to calling it Grandma’s Tardis.  No, it isn’t bigger on the inside.  At least, not in the sense that it has more room than the outside indicates that it should.  But it can contain more exciting things than you would think it could just by looking at the outside.  Both of my grandmas had deep freezes.  We never did.  Well…not until today, that is.  My father’s mother always had blueberries in hers.  After all the hugging and hellos it was straight to the freezer where my brothers and I would each grab a Ziploc bag full and start thawing them in our mouths.  My mother’s mother kept strawberries in hers and visits to her house followed basically the same pattern.  In addition to the expected goodness there were always other surprises in Grandma’s Tardis.  Sometimes it was frozen yogurt.  Sometimes, when we spent the weekend, a large hunk of beef would come from the freezer and go into the fridge until glorious Sunday when it would be transferred to the crock pot so that we could salivate uncontrollably until supper time.

I want my children to come to love the deep freeze in the same way that I do.  I want to make some little cryo-nerds.  I’m going to cram that thing full of homemade spaghetti and pizza sauce made with tomatoes from our backyard garden.  Squash and zucchini succotash. Strawberries from my son’s little patch.  Of course, that depends on a five year old having the self restraint to not eat every berry when it shows the least hint of redness.  So…probably no strawberries.  But lots of other things.  I want opening a deep freeze in my house to be like the nazis’ (notice my lack of capitalization) opening of the Ark of the Covenant on Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.  Except without all the death and burning.  Just the light emanating from around the lid and then blasting to the heavens once it is open.  Wonder and curiosity about what amazing flavors might be pulled out of the steaming, frost filled little box that shouldn’t be able to contain as much nostalgia as it does. Or, in deference to my man (now woman) Doctor Who, Grandma’s Tardis contains more wonders than The Doctor’s Tardis could ever transport you to in all of time and space.

I bid you Adieu…and A don’t.

Adieu…appreciate the little things in life.  Even if those little things are large metal boxes with compressors and Freon and suck up the electricity preserving homegrown and sometimes store-bought goodness.

A don’t…forget to close the lid.  I’d hate for all your memories to thaw and spoil and be thrown away along with all the money you’d have to pay for electricity.