A Quantification of the Day Before, the Day After, and New Year’s Eve

Number of Theme Parks visited: 3
Total theme park hours clocked: 31.5
Total different number of rides ridden: 21
Total number of actual rides: 33

Oldest ride ridden: technically, Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, which debuted on July 18, 1955 as the 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride.

Most ridden ride: Apocalypse, Six Flags (6 rides)
Most rides in one day: Apocalypse, Six Flags (5 rides on one day)
Longest wait in line: X2 (90 minutes on day 1), Six Flags
Longest ride: It’s a Small World Holiday, Disneyland

Best ride scenery & design: Tower of Terror, Disney’s California Adventure
Best surprisingly good ride: StarTours, Disneyland
Most interesting attraction: Innoventions, Disneyland
Best ride new to us: Apocalypse
Best overall roller coaster: X2

Biggest shock: Superman, Six Flags–we didn’t realize it was running backwards until we got on and it started moving!

Worst rollercoaster: Riddler’s Revenge, Six Flags
Biggest disappointment: Green Lantern, Six Flags
Most NC-17: Goliath, Six Flags; it moves so fast the wind almost took my t-shirt off
Scariest/not on purpose: Colossus (1978), which feels like it’s falling apart
Most childish ride: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Best food: French Market, Disneyland
Worst food: Katy’s Kettle, Six Flags
Best treat: Funnel cake, Six Flags

Number of people recognized: 1 (I saw someone from my gym in Tucson)
Number of celebrity sightings 1 (tentative–maybe Bill Paxton)

Notes toward an Autobiography

I have developed a new obsessive-compulsive behavior. Before I can read a magazine, I go through and remove all the blow-in subscription cards. After that, I go from cover to cover and tear out any advertising (or advertorial) printed on stock heavier than the rest of the magazine, typically cologne/perfume samples and tobacco ads (I’m looking at you, Marc Jacobs).

Then I may read the magazine.

* * * * *

I have traveled over 6,000 miles since August 15. Only 2,200 of those miles were by aircraft. The rest were by car. I love driving. I love to travel by car. Air travel makes me stressed out and cranky. I dislike being close to people I don’t know, and I have a secret fear that I will be strip-searched by TSA, or, at the very least, that the metal detector will go off even though I have dutifully removed everything from my person that may contain a metal. Driving for travel is like being Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman: you say who, you say when, you say how much.

* * * * *

Whenever I do fly, I’m as neurotic as when I read a magazine. I have three primary fears in life: being hungry, being cold, and being bored. Being on an airplane exacerbates all of those concerns.

Here is a list of the non-negotiable things I have to carry with me into the cabin:

a neck pillow
a zip-up sweatshirt (in case I get cold)
a bottle of water
some kind of nutrition bar
a bag of candy of some kind, or a salty treat
my iPod
my Nintendo DS
at least two books, but usually three (in case one is boring or poorly written, and also to cater to my unpredictable reading tastes).
(in some cases, I substitute a magazine like Spin for one of the books)
my laptop

Partly this is because I’ve rarely flown on flights shorter than 3 hours (see driving, above), and these items are often used in conjunction with each other. For instance, the iPod goes on at 10,000 feet. (I find it an especially useful form of stranger repellent.) Then I sleep or play games or read.

I do not talk to other passengers, and I never, ever, disclose that I am a writer. It’s just too risky.

I always sit by a window. And before I get on the plane, I like to have tomato juice.

* * * * *

On one of my recent flights, the man next to me made the stations of the cross while we took off.

* * * * *

I have only once really believed I might be about to die while flying. It was, I think, on one of my flights to Phoenix/back. Right after we lifted off and were making our ascent, the plane arced and pointed down. I mean, down. I didn’t hear that weird plane-diving whistle sound, but the other passengers and I all leaned forward involuntarily. We flew at that angle for about ten seconds.

They were the longest ten seconds of my life.

When the plane flattened out and began to climb again, I looked over at my seat neighbor, who, like me, had been staring out the window, as if that could help. “Holy shit,” I said. Her eyes, round and wide like jet engines, said the same.

* * * * *

In an unrelated story, my niece is, at this very minute, at school, dressed as Lady Gaga for Spirit Week. I had no part in cultivating this action, but believe me when I say it delights me to no end.

How did she do Gaga? A long, blond wig and a dress made out of dollar bills.

Note to self: Halloween.

Cue the dueling banjos

2010-09-03_14-33-49_609.jpg

Our GPS device is like HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

First, you should know that she gives directions in a British accent. I’m totally serious. She sounds a little bit like Helen Mirren, if Helen Mirren were giving you driving directions while being AutoTuned. Her crisp diction and cold demeanor keep our driving focus on the task at hand, not, say, gossiping, as we might if she had a Southern accent, or craving Polish sausage, if she were from the Upper Midwest.

I’ve recounted the story of how we set her compass toward Kings Dominion outside Richmond and, trusting fully in her navigational skills, followed her instructions without deviation. And we were surprised, then, to hear her announce “Arriving at destination–on right–” as we pulled up next to a small brick McMansion in rural Virginia.

On our trip back from Atlanta, she decided we’d seen enough of the interstate for one one-month period (and granted, we’d driven about 3,000 miles of them). While I slept, she convinced Beau to take an offramp onto a U.S. Highway that started out freeway-like but ended up as a divided highway with stoplights running through the tiny towns between Lynchburg and DC.

It didn’t seem to take us any longer than the interstate would have, and the scenery was pretty enough. Virginia’s stretch of I-95 is a punishing corridor of nothing, broken only by the too-infrequent rest area or tobacco industry headquarters. For a while, we were grateful for her sly transgression and went along with it. I even searched on my phone to see if we’d be fortunate enough to get within ten miles of a Pei Wei, but no luck.

As we drove the winding roads, we passed few cars. It seemed like we were one of the few people using Labor Day as a travel day. But I was still slightly unnerved. I called my sister-in-law and told her we were in Deliverance territory. She told us to run if we heard anyone fire up a banjo. I assured her running was our default response to hearing banjos in any context.

At one point, we passed a minivan. A gray-haired gentlemen sat behind the wheel, remarkable only for the Day-Glo yellow sign he held up in his door window. On it, he’d written, “OBAMA means everything free but self-respect.”

“What does that even mean?” I asked Beau. Beau didn’t know. I looked back at the driver. He refused to look over at me, and so his face remained in stern profile, unblinking, the sign unwavering. I kept hoping he’d flip it over and complete the thought, the way composition students are taught to back up their claims with evidence, but he didn’t move. And then our little fuel-efficient Scion (a four-banger!) overtook his Goliath of a minivan and the man and his sign vanished in our rear view.

It’s times like those when I’m grateful for having the Psychotic Helen Mirren-brand GPS in puckered up against my windshield. Look at all the strange I get to witness just by getting behind the wheel! Who knows where we’ll end up next time? Milwaukee, Montauk, Monaco…only Helen Mirren knows for sure.

Decatur Book Festival

Reading at Java Monkey in Decatur

Beau and I got back late yesterday afternoon from our long, lovely holiday weekend in Decatur, where I was fortunate enough to be a part of the Decatur Book Festival. My visit was sponsored by the Atlanta Queer Literary Festival, a fabulous event in its own right. AQLF is having a fundraiser on Sept 10 in anticipation of this year’s event, to be held October 13-26. You should go!

Our drive down to Decatur was fairly boring. Let me tell you: Virginia’s freeway is basically a corridor of trees and nothing else. An asphalt lobotomy. We thought North Carolina was very pretty and marveled over the sudden proliferation of adult superstores, fireworks vendors, and NASCAR bumper stickers we saw immediately upon entering South Carolina.

The Decatur Book Festival is amazingly well run and really well-attended. I listened to David Groff (and Collin Kelley and Franklin Abbot and Cleo Creech and Megan Volpert, among others) read from the Persistent Voices anthology in the morning, and then gave my own reading immediately after. A big group of us went to lunch and had an amazing meal and lively discussion at Leon’s Full Service, and then I wandered around to book fair while Beau got his hairs did at a local salon. After an afternoon nap, we hit up the Author’s Reception for a bit and then hung out with some fancy friends who’d driven into town for the events.

Reading at Outwrite Books in Atlanta

On Sunday, I joined David Groff and Rigoberto González at Outwrite Books, where I had two firsts occur:

a) I read under a spinning disco ball
b) I read while one of the audience members perused a dirty magazine in the back row

It was pretty awesome.

And that afternoon I joined Collin Kelly’s contingent at Java Monkey for a marathon reading that featured the lovely Lisa Allender, Dustin Brookshire, Cleo Creech, and Mike Dockins, among several other talented writers. Afterward, we grabbed another delicious meal, and then Beau and I moseyed back to the hotel for some R&R before our 10 hour drive on Monday morning.

We both love Decatur. The people are so nice and friendly and happy. All the food we had was amazing, and we got to have a bunch of really delicious beers at the Brick Store Pub. Atlanta stole our hearts this trip.

Beau has been speaking with a Southern accent ever since. Y’all.

Boomerang

All said and done, I put 2484 miles on the ol’ Scion. Yeesh–halfway to another oil change. Lame!

This weekend, Beau and I are driving down to Atlanta for the Decatur Book Festival, where I’m giving a reading. I’ll also be appearing with Rigoberto Gonz├íles and David Groff at Outwrite Books and at Java Monkey with a slew of great writers on Sunday (noon and 4 pm, respectively).

Beau and I love road trips.

Once we almost drove off the road because we had been playing Mad-Libs in the car and we ended up laughing so hard at our creative responses to the prompts.

Since then, we try not to make our Mad-Libs very funny.

We have driven across the United States together twice (and laughed the whole way, or sang. I sing a lot in the car). We have also been from Phoenix to LA about a thousand times (sometimes in the middle of the night!), DC to Detroit, and DC to NY. We would go more places, but we don’t have a lot of free time in tandem with each other.

But it looks like we have long weekends off together this fall, so….I hope my Scion is ready to MOVE!

Have Scion, Will Travel

I’m smack in the middle of a long roadtrip. This week I’m visiting family in Detroit and in a few days I’ll be back in DC.

So far, I’ve put 1700 miles on my car. That’s almost as far as it was when I moved from Phoenix to DC.

Beau and I drove overnight from DC to my parents’ place in Wisconsin, about 18 hours of driving. We had to time it right so we could hop on a ferry to take us there, so it meant leaving at 2:30 in the afternoon and getting there at 6 am.

We were there for almost a week (swimming, taking nature walks, and I even got to give a little reading to a big crowd!) and then drove to Milwaukee to visit old friends (Brewers game, tailgaiting, local bar, brunch, art museum, frozen custard), and then Beau flew off on his own while I made the trek to Detroit.

It’s times like these when I think maybe I should have been a trucker. I love driving. I love road trips. Fortunately, so does Beau, and he’s a good passenger.

Arden’s with us too, so she had her first lake experience (she was not a fan) and for the past few days has been riding shotgun with me.

The Big Snapple

Some of you know my longstanding feeling about New York City.

It wasn’t kind.

That’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed visiting there. In fact, I’ve probably enjoyed it too much. My last significant visit for vacation, I was in my mid-twenties. It was me, a financial aid check, and every bar in Manhattan. Not to mention the shopping. I bought shoes, bags, a cheap fake watch and sunglasses in Chinatown. Whatever I couldn’t wear, I drank. And whatever I didn’t drink, I ate. It was a five-day loop of that, of waking up around noon, fuzzy-headed and warmed by the July sun spilling in through the windows of my friend’s Brooklyn flat. It was strange men in bars. It was spontaneous trips to Pommes Frites, to walk by The Cock and hear scandalous stories of its backroom (but not going in).

In fact, the happiest thing this side of love happened to me in New York: I was name-checked–loudly–by Reb Livingston as I exited the Prada store on 5th Avenue. It was like a dream. Except in the dream I have a black AmEx and a poolboy named Brody Jenner.

Possibly I loved New York too much and knew if I lived there, I wouldn’t be living long.

But that’s not all of it. Tall cities are dark, depressing. Oppressive. I hate the streets like long corridors with oversized walls. The smells. Oh, the smells. If the air doesn’t smell like something edible, it smells like things that used to be edible, or were eaten and then, you know, returned to the earth, so to speak. Not to mention there’s a higher than normal incidence of body odor among people within Manhattan itself. I don’t know if there’s any correlation.

On previous trips to Manhattan, I felt like everyone around me was thin, smoking a cigarette I wasn’t able to smoke myself, and wearing black. It was like the entire city was populated by semioticians! Many of the people I met were either artists or bankers. I remember meeting a young woman–let’s call her Amanda–who mixed drinks at a bar that only had red lighting in it. It was like having a martini in a Soviet propaganda ad. She had a boyfriend, she said, but sometimes liked to make out with girls. I don’t know why that’s such a strong memory. She was blond; her hair was the color of blood in the light.

This time, here’s what I noticed:
> Manhattan men are having a fashion crisis
> It really does smell like I remembered
> It’s really fun

Beau and I hit the Guggenheim and I loved the exhibits. The permanent collection, with its Renoirs and Gauguins and Degas…es, was a treat, but my favorite exhibition was the Kazimir Malevich, a Russian Suprematist, whose cubist/abstract paintings were like Mondrian on psychotropic mushrooms. The current exhibition, Haunted, featured some really intriguing pieces too. Some were a miss for me. But it was such a great space in which to view art.

We bustled over to meet a friend of Beau’s for coffee. At her salon, while we waited, I had my first real honest-to-god non-literary real famous person sighting: Sigourney Weaver. I did a good job of not staring, although perhaps it was obvious I was trying desperately not to stare. Still–and not that you care or it matters–she is a normal looking person and she was very warm and kind with the staff at the salon. I like a nice famous person. I also like supermegapowerbitches too (Blair Waldorf), but only when they’ve earned it. I didn’t see one of those.

After a nice coffee break, we dove into The Strand, which was crawling with people. The only thing I wanted? A t-shirt to replace the one I spilled food on. They didn’t have my size. They DID have a big sign by one of the shirts with Dan Humphrey on it that said AS SEEN ON GOSSIP GIRL, which made it sting even more.

We walked about 800 blocks back to our hotel and then changed to go see American Idiot, the musical based on the Green Day album of the same name. We were really early. I won’t lie. We were wearing the same thing we wore to the Lammys. (Reduce, reuse, rewear!) Just about everyone else going to the show looked like Jesse James: jeans, West Coast Choppers t-shirts. Some people went fancy with a long-sleeved polo shirt and a pair of Wranglers. The show itself was great. I knew most of the music really well. The set is astounding–it goes up and up and up. At the top of a fire escape that goes almost the entire height of the stage, a lone violinist sat playing her music. I felt for her. Being up that high would have made me dizzy and nauseated.

The choreography was what I’d call “masculine,” meaning it was minimal and mostly punching and stomping. Some performances were great, some…seemed like they couldn’t sing very well. As you know, I’ve often said musical theatre is neither musical nor theatre, but I make exceptions when the source material is non-traditional (American Idiot, Mamma Mia! or transgressive in some way (Spring Awakening, Jesus Christ Superstar).

Afterwards, we sauntered back to the hotel, fell asleep, and then woke up early to get on our BoltBus back to DC. A quick trip! But, possibly the best kind.