after i'd shoved a bunch down her throat, and let her go, my sister tried to get her to eat some by choice. it didn't work.
ed: 10 minutes later; success! thank you kate for the advice!
i had the chance to see the place where my father and his close relatives spent summer, now a swanky bed & breakfast. and jessamyn and i went and explored a local library dedicated by a distant relative, which was full of old pictures of family i had never heard of, but was apparently distantly related to. it is also the only library i have ever seen with a ping-pong table in the middle of it. the ladies of the town there hung out at night and dished about politics. they had sweet, and fond, memories of my uncle Johnny.
Vermont is where i escape to when i feel the need to get out of the city. i am thrilled my sister has settled there, as it given me a green haven to withdraw to when i am tired of sirens and lights and people. she is the country mouse to my city mouse.
but i do vividly remember when i was a little kid at a carnival with my mom and my sister. they had some little shooting gallery booth, where my sister and i were messing around. my mom comes along and takes down every target in the booth. she was a crack shot.
it was that moment when i first realized that my parents had lives i knew nothing about.
we also wanted some sort of tasty desert, but were feeling a little lazy about making one. so, in a step that i almost never do, we bought some cake mix and some frosting, and made cupcakes. we amused ourselves for almost an hour with my embarrassingly large collection of cake decorating supplies by making some quite colorful and artistic cupcakes.
we then ate so much that we both felt sick.
my final thought of the night, as i was cleaning up the kitchen, was to wonder if maybe i should save the chicken carcass to lob up at the pigeons. they appear to have made it through the storm just fine.
damn you pigeons.
although if one of the squirrels dies from eating Kathryn's plants, i am going to lob the damn thing up there.
we got some pretty cool chapbooks and printing projects from some small local presses, as well as a linotype of our names! i had a really nice time smelling the smells of printing, touching the furniture and type and composing sticks, and just...being there.
we saw a press just recently retired from use - it was the last handset press to be used for newspaper publication. truly the end of an era, i suppose.
and then: the sheep shearing. we missed the actual shearing, but were able to watch a sheep herding demonstration. amazing - sheep really are herd animals; they just stuck together like glue and ran like hell from the dogs. they all had cheery little bells on that tinkled when they moved. speaking of tinking, when they peed, the third grader inside of us forced out snickers and pointing. jesus - time to grow up, kathryn!
mostly, it was really cool to see working dogs...well, working. we could've stood there for hours watching them herd.
"My one wish for you during your visit to Dollywood is that the wonder of the Great Smoky Mountains will touch your heart " -- dolly parton
we attempted to go on the old wooden roller coaster, but it was closed. interestingly, though dollywood is host to at least three huge roller coasters, we never saw one. they are *that* well hidden. our one concession to the rides was a trip on the carousel. i saddled up a pony, and scoutie climbed up on a goat, and we whirled around to the tinkling calliope music. i am pretty sure that we were the only adults on the ride who didn't have kids with them.
after about 3 hours, we hit our wall. we were over-stimulated, over-heated, and just plain tired. we said a fond farewell to dollywood and headed back to our hotel. after a quick rest we decided to drive over to Galtinburg. it's a fifteen minute drive from pigeon forge, and apparently it's where all the locals go for fun. it's a weird place. gatlinburg was settled in the early 1800's by a collection of a few english, but mostly the irish and the scottish. it has attempted to remain true to it's heritage. but, like anything in close proximity to Dollywood, it's main goal these days is to pander to the tourists. so while it attempts to look like a sleepy little hamlet nestled in the mountains, it instead looks like something out of an OberLand disneyworld theme park. or perhaps the leftovers of one. it is a long scarring strip mall full of the detritus other strip malls wouldn't take. a plethora of airbrushed t-shirt stores, candy shoppes, and bizarre mini-golf playlands. don't get me wrong -- Gatlinburg had it's charm. but overall the place was strange and sad and yes... right over there!.... those damn time share people were at it again!
at this point, scoutie and i couldn't take it any more. pigeon forge is a dizzying place, as is gatlinburg. the main roads are disorienting and sort of fuck with your head. i was familiar with the ploys of vegas -- no clocks and no clear exits and surrounded by a place that was larger than life -- it's whole *plan* is to keep you inside and confused and dumping money. the small towns in tennessee did the same thing. it was hard to tell where you were, let alone where you had been. the same motels would appear on the landscape block after block. the *exact* same motels. our little beloved microtel? there was another right down the street! so rather than brave the strip again, we got some spectacular take-out barbecue across the street and just crashed in our room, writing postcards, talking with Josh at the desk, and watching yet more Law & Order. Our mission was done. we had made it to dollywood. and damn, were we tired.
c and i planted everything in the afternoon. i'm so pleased! less than a week later, one of my siberian irises is about to bloom; the heuchera has small blooms, and my two viola varieties are also popping little buds. the most comforting thing, though, is that i can see new growth tips on almost all of the plants - which means they are settling in and will hopefully be growing well.
i'll try and post pictures tomorrow - there are some parties to hit up and boys to chat up tonight. boo-ya!!!!
and then there we were at the front gates with a little plaque informing us that the dollywood 20th anniversary sign was a "kodak picture place." these helpful little signs were placed all over the park in order to avoid any confusion. later i learned that this year is not actually dollywood's 20th year - it's only the 19th year, they just wanted to start getting ready early. do-whuh?!?
we approached the ticket window and purchased our tickets (thanks, paul and bluegreen!) for a grand total of $87. when the cashier gave kate her change, she gave her back 12 real dollars and one "dolly dollar." kate inquired about the dolly dollar and the woman told her that it could be used anywhere in dollywood, just like real money! kate refused the dolly dollar, saying she'd prefer the real money instead. yeah, that's right - pigeon forge tried to scam us again. oh dolly...! if only you knew what sort of atrocities were being committed in your name!
dollywood is actually a really neat place. like any amusement park, the people-watching is awesome, but it had some things that really set it apart:
- the nifty way it melds in with its environment (at no time could we see all of dollywood, even inside of it. which is a pretty cool trick for a huge amusement park)
- the whole thing is ridiculously handicap accessible
- a lot more than just rides - there were people working iron and blowing glass and a wicked cool refuge for injured bald eagles
perhaps the thing that makes dollywood the weirdest amusement park ever is how *wholesome* it is. hell, there is even a chapel where they hold sunday services.
this sure is god's country.
we gave them two hours of our time, and they gave us $100. easy. and yes, we are just crazy enough that we did it. first thing this morning, scoutie and i went and looked at a lovely time-share. it paid for our dollywood tickets and a little left over for parking and a snack.
but i digress.
since the welcome center didn't pan out for cheap hotels, we went cruising the strip. pigeon forge is like the worlds largest motel strip mall. every 20 feet, there's another one. and they all advertise rates of around $20 per night. which is, of course, just another great pigeon forge scam. there might actually be cheap-o rooms, but they are probably all booked up until the next millennium. we wound up choosing the Microtel, and are we happy we did! our now-best-friend Josh, the cute dude at the front desk gave us a good deal and a smile.
and, most importantly, this place has wifi! the Microtel is all suites, so for the first time this trip i can't watch scoutie sleep. we have a counter and a fridge between us, with a tv that swivels in either direction. we got food delivered and watched a little Law & Order and went to bed. where, we found we both couldn't sleep. like little kids on christmas eve we were just too damn excited!
this morning we woke up early, *again* skipped the coffee, and went over to meet up with the folks at BlueGreen Vacations. for two hours paul vandeboncouer (which, if i am translating correctly, might just mean "from the good heart") did his damnedest to convince us that vacations were just throwing your money out the window, and that over the next twenty years i was going to waste -- WASTE -- $24,000 on vacations. paul clearly didn't realize that scoutie and i travel in the cheapo fashion that we do. but why would he? as far as he was concerned, i was a well paid director of administration at a fundraising company. and that scoutie was an ice cream store manager. we both made gobs of imaginary money. and lest you feel too bad for paul that he was wasting his time on us -- the lying wasn't even our idea. it was the plan of the lady at the information center. it was her plan. everybody is pulling scam around here, including us.
left suffolk as fast as humanly possible, after a less-than-relaxing night at the rodeway inn. we didn’t even stop for coffee before leaving. the road out of suffok brought us through franklin, va, which smelled even worse than suffolk.
when we crossed out of virginia into north carolina, we cheered. north carolina welcomed us with a sign and the best rest stop yet (although there was also this weird sign about people approaching us for money... apparently the panhandlers in NC are a mobile and enterprising bunch).
12:30am - durham, north carolina
oh durham, how i love you. durham is a beautiful little city, lots of greenery and super friendly people. we parked the car and wandered a bit, asking about wifi. we were sent to the edges of the duke university campus, where we settled in for a bit at madhatter's cafe. initially their connection was down but i coaxed a nice man into climbing into the ceiling for us to reset the router. then i realized it was actually a user-error - me being on the wrong network. oops. i am a doofus. kate and i were wearing matching red sox t-shirts, rolled up jeans, reef-like flip-flops and sunglasses on our heads. we got a lot of funny looks from the north carolinians, many of whom probably thought we were some real live massachussetts lesbians. but the t-shirts started a lively conversation with precious, a bronx-born yankees fan who served us delicious coffee, cookies and sandwiches. thanks precious! you're the best (because hey, it's not your fault you're a new yorker... ;)
from the madhatter we posted a bit and then their connection went down (for real this time!), so we gassed up and headed toward tennessee. mid-north carolina proved to be pretty boring. then we hit them - the great smoky mountains. for all you doubting thomas' who asked, "dollywood? tennessee? why?" lemme tell you... the smoky mountains are stunning. just breathtaking. the road over/through the smokies of NC was both thrilling and terrifying - thrilling because i felt like i was in a car commercial on one of those really fun windy roads they always show. terrifying because I40 is apparently a huge trucking route, and we were surrounded by massive tracter trailers on windy roads and steep inclines. unfortunately, we don't have any good pics to share because we forgot to clean off the windshield in durham and the windshield was a bug graveyard. proof - here's the pic kate tried to take of the 'welcome to tennessee' sign.
yup, that's right - we made it to tennessee yesterday at around 8pm!!! quite the accomplishment, i think. the driving was epic, totalling about 500 miles yesterday alone. right now, we're at about 1200 total miles. we got into pigeon forge, TN around 8:30pm. and then the adventure really began.
really this week has been quiet at the casa - i watched law and order in scoutie and masie's apartment last night while i played with kitties. or, kitty: boo. whiskey and trixie have no use for me, but the pilling/drops went very smoothly. boo loves, whisky and trixie hate.
and i had a meatball sub. and washed the dishes.
the super 8 motel in pittston, pennsylvania treated us just fine, thank you very much. we headed out early, drove through this long tunnel in the side of a mountain in the poconos region of PA, and resumed counting roadkill. as we skirted philly, it occurred to me how sad it is that big corporations make every town look the same (after passing a mall identical to one in revere - petsmart, target, old navy). which led to our deep thought for the day:
"the globalization of american has left us with no regional identification" - concisely worded soundbite courtesy of kate
1:00pm-ish - through pennsylvania and onto delaware
delaware has the honor of being the only state that did not welcome us. i mean, i know it's small, but come on. the upper part of DE was pretty budget, but the beach region near the butt-end was just lovely. we passed through a town called little heaven, rife with churches. the nondenominational church's billboard had these words of wisdom - "beware of paranoia." ooo-kay. rehobeth beach tried to suck $5 out of us to park on the state beach - no sir. instead we parked illegally and cut across what may well have been someone's yard to see the beach - i'd show you a picture, but kate thought she left the camera in the car. turned out she had it with her but couldn't find it in her miniscule bag. maybe it briefly turned invisible, i don't know.
from the beach region of delaware down through a lovely little state park/island, we crossed over to maryland. maryland sure showed up delaware - not only did they welcome us to their state, but each town individually welcomed us, too! two thumbs up, maryland. we rolled into ocean city, maryland around 3pm. ocean city is a fabulous town with a ridiculously long boardwalk, a ton of resort hotels, and oodles of miscellaneous rides and attractions (the rides were not operational yet - too soon in the season, i guess). we parked the car and hit a bar on the boardwalk for lunch, scarfing down the most delicious crab cakes i have ever eaten. then we wandered along the boardwalk, watching people and musing at the proliferation of old time photo places.
we were lucky enough to catch the sermon on the mount (two sand sculptures of jesus with relevant quotes from john, matthew and the psalms... luckily i was able to place each quote in context for kate - thank you professor wollman. really. thanks.).
we blew out of town around 5ish to hit assateague island, aka the island of the wild ponies. apparently some spanish settlers left some ponies here back in the 1600's or something, i'm not clear on the details, all i know is that we drove around looking for wild ponies and finally found some. cute, huh? we were warned many times not to touch or interact with the ponies. there was even some guy wearing a flourescent vest that said "pony patrol" - he looked old but tough, so we left the ponies alone. between ocean city and assateague island, maryland's a super great state.
then we continued down the del-mar-va peninsula and crossed over to virginia. the peninsula looked a lot smaller on the map. in reality, it's about 70 miles of driving in VA alone, all of which is boring and slow (55 mph speed limit). finally we hit the chesapeake bay bridge tunnel - 3 bridges and 2 tunnels covering 17 miles. whoa. totally terrifying. it made me really anxious to know that if i had to pee, there was no where to stop. so of course, i really had to pee. and we had to pay $12!!!!!! wtf?!?!?!? it is really beautiful, though, especially at sunset. the chesapeake bay area gets a big 2 thumbs up.
from the virginia beach area, we pushed on through to suffolk, VA, where we got a room at the rodeway inn. it wasn't in the AAA guidebook and now we know why. suffolk is a cesspool. and it smelled funny.
we got a good start out of somerville and hit the road around 2:00 pm. after quick stops to buy some snacks and get some gas, we hit the road armed with more triple-A guidebooks then we knew what to do with. most of the first part of our journey was a little uneventful. somewhere around CT i remarked to scoutie that we had seen surprisingly little to no roadkill. apparently this was the wrong thing to say. within five minutes we drove past a newly dead deer, and from then on it was nothing but dead animals everywhere we went. we've been keeping a list, and will share the full dead-animal count upon our return. but i will say that so far the dead animals are beating the live animals 2:1.
our plan for the night was to make it into Scranton, which i am happy to say we did. we even decided to push it a little further, and wound up in Pittston, PA. pittston miight be the saddest place in the world. it hovers around the interchange of a few highways and seems to be there for no reason but to welcome weary travelers. although at first it wasn't too welcoming. we went to the oh-so-shabby Kinghts Inn first. i am pretty sure they thought we were lesbians. amazingly hostile, and we decided it might be in our best interest not to sleep there. so we hustled across the street to the Super 8. a better shabby motel can not be found! they were friendly, clean, and the beds were bouncy. we had a back terrace (okay, sort of a vacant lot behind the hotel) where we could watch the sun go down. dinner was a mad-dash across the six lane highway to the Perkins Friendly Restaurant. good basic food, then back to bed.
okay, we have a confession to make. we timed this whole first leg around wanting to be in bed and watching tv in time for the Law & Order: Criminal Intent and the Crossing Jordan's season finales. and DAMNIT it was worth it!
four states in our first day. not too shabby!
even boo gave me a weird look, and wouldn't come near me for a few minutes like i wasn't trusted. but then we snuggled.
the cats seem to sense that something's afoot. thank you kathryn for taking care of the wee ones for us (and alex for staying here and kendra for stopping by)! we'll make you a delicious dinner when we return :)
i've been feeling pretty damn domestic lately - a friend came over last night while i baked a strawberry rhubarb pie. which reminds me: the next time we have a warm evening, i am barbecuing come hell or high water.
- Scoutie and I both came down with strep throat over the weekend. This makes it her third time this year, and my second. When I was a kid, I was a strep carrier. Without getting sick myself I apparently managed to give it to my sister over and over and over again. Let me just say, having recently gone through the misery -- I AM VERY SORRY JESSAMYN!
- I have been working back at HLS. My title this week is "scribe", and they refer to me as such. Technically I am helping disabled students take tests. They dictate, I type. And type. And type. Six hours a day, all I do is type. Yesterday I realized the bitter irony that the scribe is actually more disabled than a lot of the disabled students. I would feel great if I helped some kid with no arms go on to be a lawyer. But there is something inherently ignoble about a gimpy scribe typing for a kid who's just too lazy to type their own paper.
- Trixie attempted to go over the wall today. Actually, she got over the wall. She managed to squeeze her fat butt through the railing to get onto the tiny ledge on the edge of my porch. Where she quickly realized that she was screwed and couldn't get back. Scoutie managed to save her. I view it all as a cry for help.
- And finally an update on the pigeon wars. So far, they seem to be winning. While Scoutie and I are unwilling to admit defeat, I will admit that I am not quite as bloodthirsty as I should be. They seem to have nested. And while I feel just fine declaring war on some adult pigeons, apparenty I draw the line at baby pigeon killing. Meanwhile, they seem to have no qualms about attacking with a vengeance. One flew into the window recently, I believe in an attempt to draw first blood.
**does a little happy dance**
My injury for the day: I somehow got my finger impaled on a stapled, and couldn't get it out. I just sat there and yelped like a small dog for about three minutes until I could finally break free. Oh, and scoutie also nailed me in the mouth with the Fish Hook Maneuver. I really wish I had never taught her that one!
(tune = dreidel song)
as job asked, how long will you torment me and break me in pieces with words? answer: T minus 3.5 hours. then i will forget you and your rampant homophobia and misogyney.
okay, back to studying. just for the record: i don't feeeeeel gooooood, i'm okay, and i'm sorry.
Whiskey has herpes, which is a source of much amusement and bad jokes around here. It means that twice a day we grab her, force a foul tasting pill down her throat, and put in some eye drops. It keeps her mostly healthy and gives us a lot of exercise chasing her around the house.
Since moving into the casa she has gone from being a pretty white cat to a very dingy used-to-be white cat. She also does something which breaks off her whiskers. For the life of us, we can't figure out what.
Boo Radley is the oldest kitty in the house. I have had him for eight years, which puts him in the crotchety old man category. He's very pair-bonded with me, and whenever I am home is frequently no further than three feet from me. He is my own little Daemon.
Since I speak about the cats often, here is the run down on Boo -- he's missing most of his teeth, which have all been removed by the vet. He is left with one front fang and a couple of molars, which gives him a snaggle-toothed look. He gets urinary crystals, which means he gets special food and also spends an amazing amount of time licking his genitals. He also vomits a lot.
We went and watched Ali play a little soccer yesterday. No ref showed up so it was just a "friendly game". Didn't matter to us. We mostly stood behind the goal and heckled him when the ball was at the other end of the field. Which, I admit, wasn't often.
Really I am just testing how to in-line a photo.
Why Dollywood, you ask? Are you some kind of closet country-western fanatic?
Why not Dollywood, we answer! Admit it, some little part of you has always wanted to go, since the time you were a little girl (or boy) playing dress up and putting socks in your mothers bra to pretend you had knockers.
Expected Return: Assuming the car doesn't die, Scoutie doesn't kill me, we don't get arrested, and I don't break sometime, we'll be back somewhere around May 21st