Wednesday, August 10, 2005

road trippin, part two

and now, i bring you the continuing saga of the Great Road Trip of 2005:

saturday, 7/23
what'd we do for breakfast? I forget. but checked out of the sheraton, went over to see wilma real quick to let our ice paks hibernate in her freezer til monday morning (when we'd have to return to tucson to get lori). then we made the trek up to phoenix to visit my side of the family. arrived around 12 and called, as planned, when we got close to see if they wanted to go to outhouse steakback for lunch.

but naturally it couldn't be as simple as that. no, my mom started crying because they didn't have enough money to go to lunch and she was embarrassed. plus they were having trouble in general because my sister/brother-in-law's (katie/jake) check hadn't arrived yet (my parents share an apartment with them) and were having to cover all the expenses. of course she couldn't say that at first, she just hinted that there was trouble with katie and that she thought katie didn't want to come to lunch.

sidebar: my sister and my parents can create drama, confusion and conflicting versions of the truth like no one I know.

so when she said that there was 'trouble' and 'did I want katie to come', I said 'if katie coming means that people are going to have trouble behaving, then no, I don't want her to come. if you don't think there will be a problem, then yes, please tell her to come.' I know that may sound harsh but it's just a defense mechanism against further family angst.

anyway, whenever my family comes to visit or we visit them, we always try to treat them to whatever we're doing - movies, meals, whatever. because even though we're faaaaar from rich, we gots a lot more dough than they do because they (the four of them) are perpetually broke. the reasoning for that is another therapy session, but suffice to say that we expect to treat them. budget for it. so when my mom started crying, I said that I understood why she was upset, but not to worry about it because we'd cover it. she replied as expected with a statement about not expecting that, and of course I responded with, 'I know, it's ok.'

and so off we went to lunch, altho naturally outhouse steakback was closed so we ended up at a mimi's café a few blocks away. after that call with my mom, min and I were both pretty anxious about how lunch would go, but it was really good. min sat near my parents and i forget what insights she found. but for me, talking to katie and jake, i found out more about their trucking misadventures. apparently they did not quit their job, but are actively looking for other trucking jobs because they've realized that the company they're with is not as above board as they thought. and i respect them for trying to be responsible (it's a lot more than i'm used to hearing).

after lunch we went back to their apartment. they moved into it in january i believe, so it was the first time i'd seen it and…my god. it was packed to the gills with all their stuff. not to the ceiling, although in some places it was very close. but it spread out so that a narrow path between boxes, furniture and just STUFF was the only way to navigate from room to room. the place was tinyish, but each couple had their own bedroom/bathroom. as a bonus, in the last 2 weeks, katie & jake's bathroom has sported the occasional scorpion. that's right! zing! apparently this is grounds for breaking your lease in arizona, if the management doesn't take care of it (which he's refusing to) so hopefully they'll all be moving somewhere bigger and better soon. needless to say, this revelation made me paranoid during every visit to their place.

we chilled for a few hours, then after much debate, went to go see the fantastic 4 which was really a lot better than i expected. really good special fx and the story - not so bad. not gonna win any oscars but it was a good way to stay cool and you know, get out of Scorpion Apartment. after the movie…hmm. we probably had dinner somewhere, but i'm blanking on it.

afterwards min and i went back to our hotel, the hilton phoenix airport, which is apparently very new. it was nice but had horribly long hallways and of course we were most of the way down. good thing we were only staying for one night. we watched tv for a little while and ordered a very yummy and cheap quesadilla from room service, then crashed.

sunday, 7/24
woke up early (730) so min could go visit her niece wendy. another very long story that i don't want to tell today, but wendy is a sweet girl who because of a minor lapse in judgment involving alcohol, is in prison for vehicular manslaughter. consider this a very brief PSA to not drink and drive.

anyway, i was supposed to call my family and meet them for breakfast, but i remembered that they like to sleep in. so i lounged around a few hours then went over to their place. after another debating session that went on entirely too long, we went to mcgrath's.

mcgrath's will always hold a special place in my heart because i went to the original and original spinoff back in salem, oregon LIKE A BANDIT. the spinoff was in lancaster mall and being a teenager, naturally i was at the mall a lot. but i was also downtown a lot, where the original is, and that one was the best. breakfast, lunch, dinner, they had it all. super yummy and not too pricey. i've been to 3 or 4 mcgrath's since (other places in oregon, arizona), but unfortunately, none of those were as good as the original. they were fine -- better than denny's or anything like that! -- but not the same. oh well.

we had a very extended lunch, chatting away. dad asked me a lot about The Place Where I Work and the Big Project i've had this year because he still trolls for stamps (the philatelic kind) at The Place Where I Work's parent company website. while this may sound innocuous, it really bothered me because my dad has an addiction to stamps. the buying, selling, collection and obsession with stamps, especially from the far east. this addiction, in addition to some other lovely personality traits, led my parents down a path of financial devastation from which they will probably never fully recover. they lost their house, cars (still have one barely functioning car) and many other possessions. my dad almost lost my mom (she left him a few times but always returned) and i lost a lot of respect for both of them (mostly my dad).

that said, i'm also really good at denial. so i answered his questions and tried not to think about WHY he was asking. supposedly he's not buying stamps anymore, he just looks at them and catalogues information about them in his billions of stamp catalogs. which seems to me like an alcoholic spending all his time with his face pressed against the glass of a liquor store, but whatever. i try to stay out of it.

min came to mcgrath's after she was done visiting wendy. min was also lucky enough to hear the tail end of the aforementioned work-stamp conversation and gave me some annoyed looks. yeah, i know.

afterwards we went back to the apartment and hung out a little but then thought hey! let's go see another movie. isn't that the best way to kill time with people you feel emotionally unsettled with who also have an extremely cramped apartment? i know we all thought so. so we agreed to go see batman begins which, except for a couple of too-long philosophy-of-war monologues and blurry fight scenes, was actually pretty good. but before the movie, both my dad, and katie & jake wanted to take naps. and they did! but min, my mom and i went to the outlet mall right next to the theater and snagged min a bunch of really cheap but nice clothing.

the movie didn't get out til about 10pm so after that we just said our goodbyes and jetted down to tucson. on the way down, i got to find out some juicy tidbits about min's family, as related to the funeral proceedings. my favorites include the fact that pam (matt's mom), a longtime drug user who just finished her last rehab stint a month or so ago: a) was caught doing drugs at the viewing, b) those drugs were supplied by a longtime friend of pam and matt's - a woman whose son matt was friends with, but that son died at age 13 (so probably about 4-5 years ago if they were the same age) after his similar death-by-cop experience, c) pam didn't need any $ for the funeral at ALL. her we're-separated-but-still-living-together husband, rick, paid for it, and despite this, d) pam apparently gave her/min's brother louis shit for not sending her more $ than he did.

needless to say, things like this made the trip to tucson just fly by! we checked into the lovely 4 pts sheraton around midnight and promptly zonked out.

monday 7/25
woke up around 9am. wanna have breakfast at the good egg again? i sure do! and let's meet up with all the family except lori so we can avoid extra drama. i hear she doesn't have to check out of the hotel until 1pm, sweet! but wait, who's this calling on the phone, as we sit here, waiting for our large party to be seated at a table? and proclaiming how she has to be picked up right now (1015) because her hotel's checkout time is 1030?

you guessed it - my favorite sister-in-law. but min just called her back and said we couldn't pick her up until 1pm and pretty much left it at that. woo! go honey!

we had a very nice breakfast with everyone else (about 10 of us total), chatted quite a bit about not much in particular. but so much that it was almost 12 by the time we finished, and 1230 by the time we got over near lori so we just went ahead and picked her up early. good thing because it took about a half hour to pack her stuff back into the car between her trips back and forth to the room, plus complaining to the manager again about some random problem with her room, bill, or whatever.

by this time lori was pretty grumpy but we cheered her up by going to the aforementioned fabric store. sas fabrics i believe. their deal is a lot of the fabric is by the pound instead of by the yard. plus, they had craploads of fabrics. wow. so we helped deplete their supply, quite admirably i might add, and then started down the Road Entirely Too Traveled.

but before we got on i-10, we stopped for ice cream at the coldstone creamery. yum yum!

ok anyway, on the way to california, min and i swapped stories about MY side of the family. min had heard from my parents that they wanted katie & jake to get their own place and to stay with the trucking company. that k&j were driving them batty in some way (probably in part because they hadn't really lived up to the original agreement to support my parents, who are living just on my dad's disability checks).

however, k&j told me that mom & dad had prayed and god told them that they should quit the trucking company and get local trucking jobs. katie also told me that yeah they were looking for another place, but for all of them because of the scorpions (bleh). but katie also said that they didn't want to do that right away so that they could keep bringing in trucking $. you know, being financially responsible (about time).

i'm sure there's more juicy gossip i don't remember right now, because it's taken me too goddamn long to finish this post (work insanity). but really the whole visit just served to remind me Why I Stay Out Of My Family's Business. oh and Why Feigning Obliviousness Is A Great Way To Deal With Conflicting 'Truths'.

we had a pretty quiet ride back to california, really. except, that is, for every time we had to burst out with "bump!" or "curve!" for lori so she wouldn't wheeze and whimper after every time we encountered such items and she hadn't noticed they were impending.

stopped at many a truck stop. truck stops are one of my favorite parts of road trips. i don't know why. i don't know if it's the odd conglomeration of options (showers, arcades, icees, down-home country cooking, dvd rentals and miniaturized appliances) or the fact that being there just means that i'm on the road. and i love that road, man!

at one truck stop we picked up an audio book that looked interesting. don't ask me to tell you the name of it - WE ALREADY SOLD IT. but it was a mildly interesting thriller. the worst part was the narrator, who had this god-awful southern drawl. it was so bad we almost called it quits after a few seconds! but it softened a bit, and thankfully there were some other characters without the twang attack.

the best/worst part was the straight sex scene around disc 3. it started up and i said, 'if this goes on too long, i want to fast forward.' min said, 'well…' yea, we lasted about 30 seconds. so we fastforward a few chapters. still heaving. skipped some more. she's feeling his… FASTFORWARD!! then, i swear to god, the lead female goes to get chicken breasts from the freezer. i said, 'what kind of crazy straight sex ritual is this?' so we rewinded just a bit… no, she was just makin her man supper afterwards. twerp.

we rolled into badass rialto, calif around 11pm and discovered the inexplicable joy of yet another best western. though dark outside, its 3 stories+pool looked nice and new. min goes to check us in and upon return we find out that the room lori so carefully coordinated ahead of time (scent free, first floor, handicapped, etc) is not available. we have a 2nd floor room.

i'm fine with that. min's fine with that. but of course lori is not, so she goes back to intimidate the hotel employee, who could clearly care less, into giving her what she wants. this is a great way to end a full day of interstate driving, in case you wondered. when you're tired, can't wait to go to bed, you should try just hanging out by the car for 20 minutes or so and watching all the other hotel guests getting impatient at the increasingly long checkin line. however, this was an opportune time to point out to min that the short flight of stairs lori would have to climb is nothing compared to the 2 miles she has to walk each time she works at the farm in fremont (which she does 1-3 times a week). but i digress.

finally lori returns. turns out all the rooms on the first floor are smoking. trippy! our room is still on the 2nd floor and way down the hallway, but turns out there's an elevator! also no more handicapped rooms left so too bad for you and your faux needs. min gets to the room first and turns on the air. i arrive second and min says, 'don't show lori the AC' and points up to the vent near the ceiling. i've seen worse, but it was pretty dirty and surprisingly old looking. there wasn't really a lot we could do about it, but thankfully lori didn't notice (or didn't say anything, anyway).

no, lori got herself bringing all her shiite up, then busy going to the jacuzzi to ease her back. sure, fine, go. inbetween lori's trips, min pointed out how stained the carpet was. at first i didn't see it but then…i didn't want to take my shoes off. so except for the vent, stained carpet, cracks in the bathroom linoleum, the lamest ppv ever, and mirror placed behind the tv so you couldn't use it - that best western was great!

tuesday 7/26
i can't wait to get home. we got up around 9, packed up, and started looking for a place to have breakfast. stupid mcdonalds stopped their bagel sandwiches! so we tried burger king, i got some egg thing i thought i could tolerate on my upset stomach. sigh. finally we get on the road.

again, today was really pretty quiet overall i think. we remained mildly entertained by our audio book. no more weird chicken sex, thank god.

mid-afternoon we rolled into gilroy and stopped at mimi's café again, but just to pick up the receipt book that lori had accidentally left there on our first visit. oh and get muffins to go, heh. an hour or so later, we dropped lori off at her fabulous semi-permanent residence: the quality inn, sunnyvale. then we scurried home to unpack and see our critters. poor pearl, she's always a bit frazzled when we're gone for more than a day or two. but we just try to spoil her with extra love. she seems to take that ok.

that's it. now back to my usual not-so-much-drama-and-i'm-okay-with-that life. i do have things to report on since that trip (that i haven't posted, in attempt to wrap this novella up), like this, but i think we all deserve a break for now. :-p