The Benefits of Higher Education?


It is with some small sense of amusement that I have followed Daughter’s travels this year through her blog posts (when she remembers and when convenient).  Of course, many of those miles were covered with Yours Truly.

And it’s always good to obtain another perspective on my admittedly skewed sense of reality, I figure.

Though I have to admit the time together has been enjoyable for the most part, I have detected some troubling details along the way which give me pause concerning Daughter’s Real World Coping Tools (DRWCTs).

Case in point:  During our epic Road Trip Return to California from the barren and humorless east coast, Daughter asked me on day (in a fit of utter boredom) to quiz her on random history facts and figures.

Why?  I have no idea.

But I learned to quickly retreat from querying subjects such as “the importance and effects of the Treaty of Versailles,” because the challenge was met with either:  1)  A completely blank stare, or 2)  A completely unrelated counter-question, such as, “Does this have something to do with French Cooking?”, or 3)  The request for a hint, such as, “What letter does the answer start with?”, or 4) The request for a longer hint, such as, “What are the first two words of the answer?”

Soon I regressed to asking for basic items like the year we declared our independence from Great Britain and what century did the Civil War take place.

She was mostly coherent if I kept it at a high level.

However, the whole drill soon became very annoying to me, and made me begin to question the value of the education she was receiving at her exclusive and expensive Lesbian Cult College.

So I chose to stop the intellectual enterprise and focus on determining the location of the next foo-foo coffee shop, via iPhone app, no less.

That was then (two months ago), this is now.

Daughter recently borrowed my truck for yet another road trip, this time with a collection of her friends, all invited to a chum’s wedding somewhere hundreds of miles north of us.

As parents, all we asked for was an occasional text letting us know that the group was safe and sound and had arrived at their destination (San Francisco) in close to one piece.

I believe that over the four-day adventure, we received a total of one transmission.

I calculate that as a 25% success rate.

But all’s well that ends well, right?  Eventually the merry band of sisters returned home in one piece and, apparently, a good time was had by all.

In Sacramento.

Not San Francisco.

Daughter claimed she was confused and wasn’t quite sure how she mixed up the two destinations.

But I know, and my conclusion is based on many miles and many hours together not talking about History, and Geography, and English Literature.

You see, both cities start with the letter S.

Anyone could make that mistake, I know.

But I now wonder how often Daughter really knows what’s going on and where she’s headed.

For instance, right now she’s supposed to be at the gym.  I surmise she’s either really at the gym, or at the go-kart track (no!), gelato shop, or any other place with a name that starts with the letter G.

I just hope it’s somewhere in the general vicinity of this city, but you never know.

Kids.  Don’t you just love ‘em?

- Dad

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Reflections: Backpacking, Day 4

This is the last post of the backpacking series because, well, as far as I can remember, things pretty much ended the fourth day because we went home after unless I have amnesia or the memory of a goldfish – both of which are distinct possibilities, but I digress.

Day 4.

I woke up after crying myself to sleep the night before because my knee was twice its normal size and I had hypothesized the worst because after many years of brushing off injuries and pain during my spotty college athletic career, I’ve realized that intense pain usually means something is horribly, horribly wrong. However, when I woke up that morning, I could bend my knee which was a big step compared to the day before.

My friend and I traipsed through the campground and then went to the town center to rent some kayaks and wetsuits. I was mistaken for a 16-year-old when we signed the contract for the kayaks, however.

*Employee looks at my friend*: “Are you over 18?”

Friend: “Yep.”

Employee: “Great, please sign here.”

*Employee looks at me*

*I go to sign the contract*

*Employee brusquely takes away contract*

Employee: “Okay, let’s have your guardian sign this.”

Now, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt here and recognize that my no-makeup-side-braid-hoodie-with-the-hood-up-and-windbreaker-with-the-hood-up look was very 12-year-old-esque. This didn’t stop me from being offended at the time though.


After proving my oldness, we slipped into our wets- hahaha. No, there was no “slipping” going on when we put our wetsuits on. The wetsuit was probably at least one size too small so I had to redistribute my fat by sucking in and then very strategically stuff myself into the wetsuit like a sausage in sausage casing. Oh it fit, alright. Sure, I was being chocked by the neck section of the wetsuit but on the bright side, the tightness of the suit acted as a kind of human-sized brace for my knee. Despite this, limping was (and is still!) my main mode of locomotion.

Finally, after I figured out how to bend my body in the wetsuit and get into the kayak without getting choked into unconsciousness, my friend and I paddled out and saw many sights almost worth mentioning: garibaldi fish, leopard sharks, a dead seal, a live seal, and many birds.

The leopard sharks in particular were fun to see. We paddled above them and each took a turn out of the kayak in the water with the snorkel gear to swim above them. However, one of my phobias is open ocean water where the depth is of an undetermined measurement and I can’t see the bottom. And my friend wasn’t too happy about being alone outside of the kayak in the open water either. Really, we snorkeled for thirty seconds each and then declared that the sharks had scattered so we needed to get back in the kayak. But I totally tell people I snorkeled with sharks because that sounds cooler than what actually happened.

I’m very interested in skewed realities, you see. Something my parents are quick to point out. Not that I have parents. This “Dad” that keeps writing blog posts just fills my psychological need for a father figure so my brain has created this curmudgeonly creature as a coping mechanism.

Just kidding, my dad is a real person. His two front teeth, however. Hm. Their realness is debatable.


- Daughter

Reflections: Backpacking, Day 3

Ah yes, where was I?

Day 3.

I woke up and immediately felt that there was something wrong. The fibers of my being tingled with the anticipation of horror. And I would not be disappointed. Well, I was disappointed but not for lack of horror. As I rubbed my eyes in the wee hours of the morning, I caught errant food wrappers blowing in the wind. Hm, those food wrappers look very familiar. 

I walked out of my friend’s tent that I had been sleeping in (from the night before when I was too terrified of the bison and the Three Horsemen of the Apocalypse traipsing through camp) and saw that my backpack appeared askew and suspiciously empty.

It took a few seconds of basic deductive skills but then I realized what had happened and ran to my backpack to confirm my suspicions.

Yep. All of my food: gone.

THOSE DAMN FOXES. I had thought they were so adorable and cute the day before but now I wanted to make nice little fox muffs out of them.

I don’t know if I have mentioned this before but I am a high-maintenance eater through a poor grab-bag of genetics that happened when I was conceived – THANKS MOM AND DAD. I am allergic to gluten and dairy and thus, mostly subsist on dairy-free and gluten-free items made by hippies. It also tends to double as bird food. And, as was the case during this backpacking trip, fox food. The point is, my special diet (or “funny diet” as my friend puts it) is expensive. I lost twenty dollars worth of food in one go. My wallet just made a sad face when I typed that out.

The foxes ate well, I can assure you. They went into my bag with their muddy little paws and just ran off with the entire bag of food. Yeah, I hear all you backpacking experts yelling at me, “ROOOOOKIE MISTAKE!! AHAHAHA YOU DESERVED IT, DUMMY.”

Well, at the other campsite, I tied my food away from where I was sleeping in a tree. In my sleepless delirium and bison-induced terror, I had forgotten to put my food into a safe area. Or, as we all saw that morning, into the FOOD LOCKERS on the other side of the campsite. Ah, well. Because I would starve otherwise, I had to make the entire camping group trek to the airport again so I could get a few things to tide me over. The whole time I was swearing about those stupid foxes and their stupid scavenging ways.

Then, a little later, I remembered how cute foxes are and got less mad. They were just doing their job of being sneaky little foxes and my gluten-free food probably fed a newborn fox. So, good job me!!!!! I fed foxes. I hope they got poisoned and die.

JUST KIDDING. I love animals. They’re probably fine, guys. Let’s get back to who was truly affected here: ME.

We made it to the airport restaurant at which point I ate something that tripped one of my allergy wires and immediately felt ill. Unfortunately, on the trail, there is no room for whining so I ate 45132434 TUMS and carried on. Plus, I knew I could come back and whine on my blog.

Finally, we arrived at our final campsite after 32 ish miles of mountain hiking and I set up my tent. My knee had ballooned to three times its normal size and I had to have my friend act as my crutch. Other people on the island seemed concerned that I was limping around like an injured prey animal but I waved them off. Secretly, I was crying inside because I was in so much pain. I couldn’t bend my knee so I got some help putting up my tent and went inside to rest. I decided that my food would only be safe if I slept with it in my pillow. WRONG. I should have just gone back to my wisdom of Day 1 and tied it in a tree.

During the night, a single fox came up to the tent. I was asleep and then I heard slow, shuffling feet coming close to me. I opened my eyes and saw a small shape outside of  my tent and immediately grabbed my flashlight; it was a stupid fox!! And when I shined my flashlight at it, it looked at me like, “LOLWUT?” I had to hiss at it to make it go away. (I’m not sure why that was my instinctive anti-fox noise, it just came out.) However, a few minutes later, it was back and this time I yelled at it and it scampered off. Then, I set my flashlight up so it would partly illuminate the area outside my tent. I thought this would be a deterrent. And it was! For foxes, anyway.

Not more than twenty or so minutes of drifting into a light sleep, I heard a mewing noise. My ears pricked up because any cat-like sound attracts my attention. I shined my flashlight and a deer was just walking through the campsite and looked as if it were on its way to my tent. So I shooed it away. DAMN, NATURE, GET AWAY.

Have I mentioned how nice it is to be in a place where the wildest animal I have to deal with is my father?

- Daughter

Road Trip Diaries: Homeward Bound, Part VI

Dad’s Version  of the Events:

Day Five:  The Final Frontier.

These have been the Voyages of the Crew Cab Pickup, Frontier.

It’s five-day mission:  To explore strange, new roads; to seek out new family members and their new idiosyncracies; to boldly go where Daughter and I have never gone before . . . .  Whooooosh!!!

That “whoosh” was not the sound of the warp drive engaging.  Rather, it was the Mistral-like trade winds that buffeted us in the face every mile of the way since we left Dallas early Sunday morning.

And today was different, in that the hot, humid Texas heat was replaced by the searing, dry New Mexico and Arizona heat.  Why do people live in such places?  I’ll never know.

All I can say is Thank God for modern air conditioning and cruise control, which meant for us that our daily distance was more a function of our bladders and bleary-eyed fatigue than any sort of truck-dependent mechanical factors.  For the past couple of days, I reminisced to myself about the long-distance drives of my youth, in a Chevy Vega, no less.  You see, I had plenty of time to think to myself, since Daughter was usually good for one solid driving stint per day, with the balance of her other time spent napping, staring at her iPhone, and standing Tarp Watch.

But back to the Days of Yore, it was no air conditioning, no cruise control, no problem.  In my foolish, youthful long-distance driving zeal, I even used to roll up the passenger window during those incredibly hot and long summer journeys, thinking what I lost in perspiration was more than made up by improved aerodynamics.

What a bunch of crap that notion was!  No way, man.  It would have been better to have driven naked with all the windows down compared to what I actually put myself through otherwise.  However, I find those past experiences a useful context to judge how easy it is for me now.  Instead of worrying if I’ll blow an engine or have a flat, I’m more concerned about how far off the Interstate the next Starbucks happens to be.

It’s really sickening, when I think about it, but I will leave the pain and denial in my life to my gardening adventures (that damn clover!), while I prefer my driving to be comfortable and relatively stress free.

Never one to leave well enough alone, though, I induced stress on this latest trip by initiating a series of questions (historical) and transportational (practical) to gauge both Daughter’s general level of awareness and as well as her basic competencies in both areas.  Of course, best of all, it also offered me the chance to impart generational wisdom.

The results were mixed.  On the one hand, Daughter is a very intelligent and sensitive young woman, who has much to offer to the world which, one day, will award her a Pulitzer Prize.  On the other hand, she has a hard time figuring out miles per gallon and doesn’t react very well to the question/phrases, “Well, what would you do if I weren’t here?” and “That’s just an observation; not a criticism.”

In the end, we made it home safely today; we’re still talking to each other, though I don’t understand a lot of what she says; we still enjoy each other’s company (most of the time); and we both have an inherent dislike for Left Lane Bandits and Other Morons of the Open Road (of which there are plenty, and increasing daily, it seems).

Years from now, when my great, great grandchildren ask me about this trip and the most important lesson learned, I will slowly wipe away the spittle from my lower lip, adjust my diaper, and look deeply into the eyes of whichever kid I can focus on and grumble, “Never use yarn to tie down a tarp in a pickup truck bed.  It really sucks and doesn’t work for shi very well.”

Thanks, Daughter.  Now I have something to look forward to!

- Dad


Daughter’s Version of Events: 

We made great time today because Dad fell asleep for a long stretch of the trip and after a quick risk assessment, I took liberties with the speed limit. The speed limit on a two-lane interstate is mostly a guide anyway, n’est-ce pas? As usual, semi-truck drivers and people who must have been in and out of R.E.M. sleep behind the wheel were great dangers on the road. But, to be fair, I’m also a hazard to myself because I get very competitive with semi-trucks who try to pass. They put on that blinker and it signals me to speed up while waggling my finger angrily at the driver. Usually, this is enough to discourage the driver from careening into my lane. It gives me a sick sense of pleasure depriving trucks the ability to cross into my lane in front of me. Maybe this is because I inherited the jerk gene. I hear it gets passed down through the Y chromosome only…

Today, other drivers were not a huge issue. I had bigger problems to worry about, like the giant dust devils that appeared out of nowhere and swept across the road without warning. Dad was asleep when one decided to cross the road right into the truck and I was temporarily thrown around a bit. Luckily, the truck was weighed down my pounds and pounds of my belongings so there was no way I was going anywhere. I was briefly terrified which helped to keep me awake. Maybe I should just watch horror films while I drive. I would be distracted, sure, but I’d be awake!

We also passed a lot of border patrol stops today and my father tested out some new material he must have been working on:

“Okay, Daughter, try not to look too Mexican. Think about being white.”


Graci- I mean, thank you!!”

When we finally got home (the last hour was torture), I immediately forced my younger sister into indentured servitude and had her carry boxes from the truck. It turns out she is stronger than me. She’s only 11 but she has the bicep strength of an adult Slovakian wrestler.

My room is currently full of unpacked boxes and I am full of the promise of new tomorrows!! No, wait, I’m just full from dinner.

- Daughter

Road Trip Diaries: Homeward Bound, Part V

Dad’s Version of Events:

Dante’s Inferno had nothing on us today.

I have seen The Apocalypse, and its name is Southwestern Texas. We awoke this morning to a cool breeze in Dallas, which lulled me into thinking the heat and humidity we drove into yesterday had broken.

Cruelly, that was not the case.

Not only did it turn out to be as miserably hot again today as it was on Saturday, a gale force wind worthy of The Perfect Storm reared its ugly head – in our faces. All day.

It was intimidating.

But let me return to the heat. How hot was it? I noticed several cars driving in the opposite direction (with the wind) with those heat-reflecting shields partially deployed in their windshields.

I imagined the associated conversation thusly:

“Good, God, the sun is burning my eyes through the windshield. Dear, please grab that aluminum foil heat reflector thing and pop it up on your side, would you?”

“Isn’t that going to affect your view? I mean, don’t you need to see out the front of the car?”

“Nah, it’s the passenger side. Not much happens over there and, besides, you’ll warn me if something’s about to explode or run into us.”

Yep. Something like that.

And I’ve never, ever seen people deploy their shield while driving. Parked; of course. Driving? Come on.

I am happy to reveal that I did not witness such behavior on our side of the Interstate but, then again, Daughter’s crap sh belongings pretty much obscured my vision anywhere to the back or side of us.

And the wind. My God, the wind!

Big rigs were weaving all over the place. Dust devils danced through the landscape around us. And occasionally a gust threatened to blow open one of our doors.

Well, not really on that last point, but it sure seemed like it, at times.

Prior to this leg of the journey, my trusty pickup was averaging almost 22 mpg. But today it plummeted to 17.5 mpg. Ladies and Gentlemen, that’s a head wind.

Out in the middle of nowhere, between the garden spots of Odessa and El Paso, there were actually two bicyclists laboring along the shoulder of the Interstate. They were clearly in the middle of some masochistic bike “adventure,” since they were festooned with sleeping bags and panniers. As we sped by them, I estimated they were tootling along at about 1.73 mph, with 24 miles to the next town of any significance. I thought it was illegal to bicycle on an Interstate Highway, so if there are any law enforcement officials reading this post, please note the location of these two cyclists.

Even though it’s been about six hours since we passed them, I figure they are still out there and have maybe managed to cover all of two miles in that time.

I’m telling you it was windy.

There were two essential highlights today. The first involved passing through an immigration checkpoint. When we realized what lay ahead of us on the road, it sparked a flurry of inappropriate comments from me to Daughter, such as:

“Be sure to turn the Spanish language radio station off when we roll the window down.”

“Remember to say ‘thank you’ instead of ‘gracias’ to the Border Patrol officer.”

Things like that.

The second highlight and, perhaps, the Tenth Festivus Miracle of the year was that Daughter was almost bright-eyed and bushy tailed for much of the drive, until she “hit the wall” later in the day and asked me why I wasn’t tired.

(Note to self: When traveling with Daughter, plan on a minimum of three coffee breaks before noon if there is any expectation of consciousness from her after 3:00 p.m.)

And tomorrow? If Allah and the Dust Devils are willing, we should roll up in front of our Home Sweet Home at some point in the afternoon, assuming:

1) We leave the hotel before 9:30 a.m.

2) The Tarpaulin Gods accept our sacrifice of Hampton Inn Shampoo and Conditioner.

3) We don’t get pulled over for an expired State of California license plate.

4) There are enough foo-foo coffee joints between New Mexico and California to keep us both focused and jazzed.

If all those things come true, we have a chance. If not, well, Hope Springs Eternal and Tomorrow is Another Day.

Or is that Tomorrow Never Dies?

I get it confused sometimes if I haven’t had any coffee.

- Dad


Daughter’s Version of Events:

Miles and miles of.. nothing.

Miles and miles of… nothing.

I got up early for reeealsies today: 7am. Essentially the crack of dawn in my world. But I got up. My dad was probably pleasantly surprised that he didn’t have to drag me out of bed. Oh wait, nevermind. That’s never happened because I am the one always awake first on this road trip.

We made our way to Starbucks in the morning before hitting the road as per usual. I prefer local coffee places but my father has developed a taste for large corporate coffee with no personality. He loves to make fun of me for getting a soy latte which he terms “foo-foo” but I’m not the one who is constantly asking, “So, where’s the nearest Starbucks?” He is an addict.

I don’t love the coffee there but it’s drinkable and sometimes delicious if I use the powers of my imaaaagination. I like to call it Starbutts because it’s just immature enough to annoy my father. I don’t think I’ve actually said it out loud to him and to be honest, he probably wouldn’t notice if I did because he can’t hear most of the things I say.

Anyway, today I may or may not have angered the barista at Starbutts by asking if my drink was coming because it took longer than usual. I mentally berated myself because I was being the customer I always hated when I was working there. Sorry, hapless barista! I was just grumpy because the sun was waaaaay too close to the horizon for my liking.

After successfully acquiring coffee (I pray it was free of spit), we got back on the road and I fell asleep almost immediately. But then my turn behind the wheel came all too soon. It was incredibly windy so my usual multi-tasking was a no-no. I put my DJing, Starbucks-finding, and e-mail-checking to the side in order to keep the truck from blowing off the road. My Dad doesn’t know how to use my iPhone so I had to find Starbucks on my phone only at stoplights or slower portions of the road. Safety first!!!

Speaking of safety, my dad has avoided sleeping when I’ve driven the past four days because he doesn’t trust me or something. However, I happen to be a fantastic driver. I am the Danica Patrick of this road trip. And my dad is… he’s like the Ricky Bobby.

Well, anyway, today he stole my FaceTent(tm) and actually slept. Because of this, I had to rely on myself for two hours’ of entertainment. I sang songs with questionable content and  used the opportunity of him sleeping to push the speed limit a bit. Not a lot but enough to feel like I was James Bond or something. Going three miles over the speed limit is definitely equivalent to how James Bond feels.

Dad, stealing my idea.

Dad, stealing my idea.

As the day wore on, I got more and more tired. My eyes started to dry up and when I went to rub them, I accidentally got sunscreen in them. So, they ended up being dry and also burned with the intensity of one thousand suns (ironic considering it was, you know, sunscreen that caused this). I decided the best way to resolve my temporary blindness was to pour bottled water directly into my eyes while in the car. Surprisingly, it sort of worked and I was able to both see and blink without excruciating pain – success!!!

Not that there was much to see...

Not that there was much to see…

Tomorrow is hopefully the last day of driving. 9 or 10 hours of driving left! My dad is already asking if there’s a Starbutts around here.

- Daughter

Road Trip Diaries: Homeward Bound, Part IV

Dad’s Version of the Events:

Fab Fam Time in Dallas today — the southernmost tip of the Great Plains, which has been converted into an endless landscape of concrete, heat, humidity, and cookie cutter McMansions.  We declared a Unilateral Pajama Day, which seemed relevant, since I have been beset by restless slumber since the onset of the trip, and it really would be more appropriate for me to wear bed clothes since I’m half asleep most of the time.

The first attack of the Sleepless Nights occurred at Daughter’s apartment before we left.  In her admirable zeal to pack and be ready to rock and roll down the road, Daughter’s remaining unpacked bed linen was seemingly sourced from a local Salvation Army Drop Box.  That is to say, the pillow case on which I rested was made of near-burlap, and the covers had seen better days in the 1950s, from whence they came.

Subliminally or no, they put me in a restless stupor, which led to a funk, which led to an almost sleepless night — broken only by short naps where I dreamed I was in a concentration camp.

Fast forward to the wonderful abode of my lovely Spouse’s Sister, where we parked last night.  We all love spending time together, but there are hidden secrets which lurk throughout her picture perfect home.  For my part, I was looking forward to a quiet night catching up on some zzzz’s so that I could face the balance of the journey relatively refreshed and in sound state of mind.

Unfortunately, my attempts at slumber were interrupted on a continual basis after the lights went out.  The culprits?  A family of squirrels that was busy setting up a wi-fi transponder in the walls of my bedroom.  They were running cables and wires for most of the night, and I swear they took a smoke break around 3:00 a.m.

Clearly they were Union Squirrels.

Still, we all had a great time together there, when not bothered by rodents (Are squirrels rodents?), while Daughter napped and ate and napped.  For me, I managed to play some golf with Granddad  — well, he really played, while I rode in the cart, hit some balls, and gave the appearance of playing.  I did find four golf balls during the round, however, so I consider it a success.

We ended the day at Family Stop Number Two — my Bro’s house — with a Texas-size cookout and a house full of people I didn’t know, but who smiled a lot and reminded me, again, how dismal and sarcastic I really am.

We have truly been treated like royalty by our family here.  Well, the kind of faux-royalty present in some minor dukedoms and municipalities, but royalty nonetheless, and we are very appreciative and thankful.

Almost thankful enough to extend our stay, but, no.  We must attend and depart for our own Home.

So, kind of refreshed and somewhat rested (not really), we have committed to an early start in the morning on Sunday, and we are going to try to make San Diego in two days’ time, Allah Willing and if foo-foo coffee is available.

Time will tell if we can manage to stay on schedule, but the road beckons.  And don’t forget the Tarp Zombie Wars.  Sis-in-Law made a major Bungie Cord Investment, and we will put the new apparatus to the test in Southwestern Texas.

Yee-haw!  I have high hopes!

- Dad


Daughter’s Version of the Events: 

It felt good to stay off the roads today again for the sake of spending time with family. Well, I actually don’t know what I spent more time with today, my family or my pillow. I slept a lot. That reminds me, I should really look into Narcoleptics Anonymous. But then again, maybe not. I should probably just use that time to sleep some more.

Not the car.

Not the car.

What I realized seeing my cousins and other family today is that I’m really, really white compared to everyone else. (But also that I love my family! Of course.) You would never know that I’m second generation Persian. I look like any standard-issue European something-or-other. Spending all of winter inside because of East Coast Weather didn’t help matters; I have turned mostly transparent. It would be funny except I have realized the make-up powder brand I use does not make a “snow” color so I have had to make do. I now just rub flour into my face and call it a day. (And if I add a little yeast: PRESTO, bread.(?) I am not a baker, I don’t know.)

Also not the car.

Also not the car.

Anyway, I woke up today at ten and then lazed around. I made some toast and “researched” classes for next fall. Looks like I’m going to be taking art classes! I guess my school is only going to give me my degree after I complete the college requirement of finger painting. Only then am I educated.

After such hard work, I was naturally tired. So I napped to rest up before we took a thirty minute trip down to Southlake, TX. (I didn’t drive, but believe me, navigating for my father is an energy-expending task.)

We left in the evening and  as much as I wanted to withhold information while I navigated the roads, I knew that would be disastrous for both of us. (When I say ‘navigating’ you should know that I mean ‘reading MapQuest directions’). You would think that printing out directions instead of relying on my undependable phone and blindly following the print map would help cut down on arguing but we found a way to work in a disagreement nonetheless:





I was smug about being right about directions. Until we missed a turn. Even so, we got to my aunt and uncle’s house and I got to catch up with family I hadn’t seen and some family I hadn’t even met. The most entertaining family member is probably my aunt who is very Southern; the South seeps into just about everything she says*:

“Bless her heart, she is never going to find a man with that hair.”

“Butter my butt and call me a biscuit!”

“Y’all, it’s time for a hoedown! Grab the pitchforks and dancing partners!”

- Daughter

* My aunt didn’t actually say any of these things. I just like to think she did.

Road Trip Diaries: Homeward Bound, Part III

Daughter’s Version of the Events (and the only version because Dad has gone to bed):

How being in the car makes me feel.

This morning, I got up before my Dad who seems to have absorbed the Southern pace of living: slow as molasses. Slower than Paula Deen trying to finish a marathon. Slower than a Southerner “driving.” Slower than a Southerner saying anything. I’m technically originally from the South so I’m allowed to make fun of it. When you are born in a Southern state, you get a set of rules along with your birth certificate that grants you permission to make fun of the South. And then, the barn hands hospital workers hand you a stick of butter and you deep fry the stork that brought you into the world.

But I digress.

Today, we left Little Rock, Arkansas behind. Of course, the trip started with trouble. The tarp covering all of my belongings was flapping around like an angry goose so we had to stop and adjust. The first time, I insisted that my Dad tie the tarp down tighter but he said, “No, let’s just go.” Well, lo and behold, not more than thirty seconds later on the interstate we were on the verge of losing the tarp again. Part of the problem is that the string my dad picked up is approximately the same thickness as dental floss. It turns out that dental floss is a less than perfect tie-down material.

My dad added another string, screwed around with the tarp, and then decided that his efforts were good enough. I was not convinced and took matters into my own hands, tying knots to secure more things as my dad sat inside the cab, leisurely sipping coffee.

After a shorter length of driving (5 hours) we made it to my aunt’s house in Texas. However, my father tested my patience by withholding navigational information purely to irritate me. I think he thinks he is somehow preparing me for the “real world” by refusing to communicate directions.

Me: “Did we miss the turn?”

Dad: “I don’t know, what would you do if I weren’t here?”

Me: “Well, that isn’t the case, so did we?”

Dad: “Yeah, and now we have to turn around.”

Me: “What? Are you serious?”

Dad: “No, you’re fine. The turn is not for a while.”

Despite the arguments about directions, we got to Texas in one piece. How I leave Texas, however, is another matter.

I went Razor scootering with my cousin who enjoyed the fact that he could bike a million times faster than I could scooter. Unfortunately, I did not wear shoes and when I went careening downhill and applied the brakes with my foot, the metal immediately heated to a molten lava level temperature and burned my foot. And then, after I realized I would be unable to use the brakes with my bare feet, I settled for using my foot to periodically hit the ground while I rolled downhill. So then I got road burn in addition to a metal-induced burn.

My grandparents came to join us for a home-cooked dinner of Chipotle and we spent time catching up while shoveling vaguely Mexican food into our gaping maws. My grandmother’s first words to me were, “Oh, you’ve gained weight!” Ah, yes. Grandparents.

After dinner, I played badminton with my grandpa and cousin until I messed up one too many times and sat myself down. At which point, my dad picked up a dead snake and chased me around with it while I screamed. Naturally.

Can’t choose your family.

- Daughter


They Didn’t Teach Me This in Driver’s Ed.

I was out in Philly, driving around, pretending I knew where I was going. The usual. However, this time, things went terribly wrong and I almost died. Not to be dramatic or anything.

Here I am, in my truck, trying to figure out how to get to a grocery store parking lot that I could see but failed to actually find an entrance. It was one of those optical illusion parking lots. Or a mirage. Or a mirage of an optical illusion. Regardless of what it was, I could not get to it.

My roommate suggested I follow the cop driving in front of us, surely the cops knew their way around! Indeed they did. I followed them down to an underground police station parking lot. Internally panicking, I executed a three-point turn and  screeched drove quietly away.

Upon exiting the parking garage, I took a right as per my roommate’s suggestion. I thought to myself as I drove along the road: My, this road is awful narrow… they should do something about that. 

Of course, it was a one-way street and I was driving the wrong way down it. Luckily, there were no other cars except for a car that was about to turn down the street. That is, until they saw me whereupon they honked and made unhappy faces. There was also probably swearing.

In driver’s ed, they teach you defensive driving techniques. I was told to always assume everybody else on the road is an idiot. But what if the idiot is you? How can you defend yourself  against yourself? That, my friends, should be added to the driver’s education curriculum.

- Daughter



How to Recover from Embarrassment

First of all, recovery from embarrassment is impossible. You will live with the shadow of shame following you through every triumph and every defeat. In fact, embarrassment and shame will be your only companions as you slowly walk toward your death.

But, never fear! There are ways to cope.

I shall start by digging through the dumpster of my memories to scrounge up one of the most embarrassing things I have ever done, lest the fresh embarrassment from this past weekend not be enough self-inflicted torture. What happened this past weekend? That will forever remain a mystery. (‘Forever’ = until enough time passes so that the story becomes funny instead of just cringe-inducing.)

Happily, I have an embarrassing story that has been aging like a fine wine. It has been stewing for years in my memory and now, we can all chow down on this hearty… stew… of hilarious wonders. It is embarrassing but I no longer feel a desperate urge to spontaneously combust when I tell it. I’ll set the scene for you: I was a young child, but 18 years of this world. I could parrot back monologues from Hamlet, sure, but real life skills were lacking. Public transportation was totally inaccessible to me intellectually, truly an enigma. An enigma that almost took my arm off.

I was on my way home and had to take the train to the airport. I wrote down the train schedule four times. I got to the train hours earlier than I needed to. I got to the right platform, HURRAH!!! I silently congratulated myself. I was almost a real person.

Then, a train came and the conductor yelled something but I didn’t hear or try to listen in my excitement. I jumped on the train, only to have the door immediately shut on my arm, from which I could not extricate myself. My body was inside the car but my arm, still clutching my suitcase, was hopelessly flailing on the other side of the door. At this point, I panic. I do a crazy dance trying to will myself to become something – anything – else besides the flesh and bone trapped between the train doors.

Now, this particular performance would not be so spectacular if it weren’t for the fact that the platform was overflowing with people whose attention I held captive with my antics. The conductor eventually figured out what was going on and opened the doors at which point he told me loudly, “I SAID THIS WAS THE LAST STOP, NO PASSENGERS!”

I hurried off, my imaginary tail between my legs. The crowd of witnesses just stared in shock at the stupidity that had occurred before them. I actually overheard another passenger say, “I would feel bad… but she’s just sooo stupid.” Ah, that stung. Thank you, kind stranger!! You are truly a god among men. 

Yes, I almost died because I was so anxiety-ridden I became deaf. I almost lost my arm, guys. TO A TRAIN.


Here are my tips for dealing with embarrassment:

1) Become a Hermit: Who needs people? All they do is make you feel embarrassed and ashamed. Unacceptable.

2) Cry: A real cry. A hurricane of tears that no emergency response team can even fathom cleaning up.

3) Fetal Position: Attempt the fetal position and stay like that for three days, preferably in a closet à la Harry Potter.

4) Just Stop: Don’t do the embarrassing thing ever again.


Feel free to share your embarrassing stories in the comments to make me feel better about myself!

- Daughter

Yep. I’m on the Road Again, without Willie Nelson, of course . . . .


Jeepers. I love living in California.

Well, if you haven’t guessed by now, I’m on yet another stinking crappy waste of time business trip.  These evolutions make the Father/Daughter (or is it Daughter/Father?) road trip from just two weeks ago seem like skipping down the Yellow Brick Road.  Except that Daughter in no way resembles Judy Garland, and I feel like the (rusty) Tin Man, look like the Scarecrow, and kind of talk like the Cowardly Lion (only when conversing with my wife, that is).

Right now, I could really, really use a FaceTent ™.  It would not only insulate me from the daily challenges I’m facing, it might also bring about World Peace — if everyone wore one, then we couldn’t see each other and hurt anyone.  Of course, I realize a number of other issues are involved, but still.

Having said that, I have been reading Daughter’s recent posts with mild amusement, some bemusement, and a growing sense that I have somehow contributed to the creation of a New Millennial Ne’er-Do-Well who is destined to thumb her nose at the world in perpetuity until she:  finds a no-kidding real paying job, finishes college, and figures out that, although the world can be viewed through the prism of Comedy Central, it is far better to do so through old episodes of The Office.

Maybe I’m the one with the problem.

I guess my greatest fear is three months from now the Epic Father/Daughter journey will be re-traced in reverse, because if any other family member drives home with her, it will cost me three times as much in gas money (I know first hand how my family drives), five times the amount in hotel bills (“This looks like a really great place to stop, even though we’ve only been driving for two hours.”), and an untold amount in roadside trinkets and foo-foo coffee drinks that I shudder to even begin to tally.

Yeah.  I think I’m headed back to the East Coast in May.

But before I go, I have to remind myself from whence I came:  California.

We love it in California, even though we aren’t natives.  If nothing else, living on the West Coast is a constant source of amusement; almost like Daughter.

Take, for instance, the photo above of a sign posted prominently in the baggage area of one of our major airports.  You would think the bald heads, incense, and tambourines would tip people off that the “information booth” is not municipally sanctioned.

Nope.  We all need a sign.

I have a wonderful photo of Baby Daughter in her Mother’s arms at a desert rest stop somewhere in California from about twenty years ago.  That would make it “pre-bad haircut Daughter” if you’re maintaining a scorecard.  I can remember a very similar sign posted at that stop and, at the time, just thought it was funny.

Big mistake.

I laughingly mentioned it to a friend of mine a few weeks later — he was a SoCal native — and he took great offense that I pointed it out as something funny.  “Only in California,” I said.

I was a lot more insensitive in those days.  Just ask Daughter.  No.  Even better.  Just ask my wife.  To be frank, I used to be so bad I’m not quite sure how I managed any sort of human interaction, much less getting married and helping to create what we call “a family,” but that’s a story for another day.

I guess the only problem I have with the airport sign, and it’s not a big deal, is that, from my own experience, I would never classify anything that’s been thrust in my face/hand provided as “literature.” Poorly written — yes.  Badly worded — yes.  Irrational — usually.  Drafted in a dope smoking, alcohol-induced haze — maybe not.  But never literature.

I am firmly in favor of our ability to exercise our Constitutionally protected rights; especially free speech.  It can be rather humorous, after all.

But if we’re going to pass out literature, let’s really pass out literature.  Rather than avoiding these tables (doesn’t everyone, or is it just me?), airport passers-by would be ten deep if those First Amendment handouts included Jane Eyre, or Moby Dick (well, maybe not that one), Heart of Darkness, Atlas Shrugged, Fahrenheit 451, and The Sun Also Rises.

Wouldn’t that be great?  I think so, but I’m an English Major, so it really doesn’t count for much.

Alternatively, if the point was to increase the general angst that permeates most airports these days, the Table Folks could hand out Sudoku puzzles, or copies of The TSA Miracle Weight Loss Diet.  Dealing with either would probably not be ideal, but would pass the time, up until the point I got a massive Frustration Headache — from giving up on Sudoku or trying to figure out how a 4,000 calorie/day food intake qualified as a diet (joking here, people — I love Sudoku and the TSA).

So, in one version of a better world, I can envision a table handing out classics, and close by another is selling FaceTents ™ — thereby making Daughter a millionaire, and a third, somewhat more distant table devoid of anything specific.  It’s just a table, and stenciled in spray paint is the phrase “Serenity Now.”

Or, maybe it’s got a sign on it that says, “FaceTents ™ are for sale on that other table over there.”

Either way, it seems to me a better world.

- Dad

It’s Not Over ‘til It’s Over

Though I may have prematurely (last night) declared a “Pajama Day” today, both Daughter and I slept in a little bit longer since we weren’t staring another Road Warrior-inspired drive in the face.  Instead, it was a day to unload, unpack, and attempt to organize, and not necessarily in that order.

For my part, I cleared out of the truck the remaining detritus from the trip as best I could.  How many Starbucks Splash Sticks can one console hold?  Daughter doesn’t realize it yet, but these things are going to keep reappearing for months.  The sticks are everywhere, but I trust when my truck returns home sometime in May, Daughter promised me it will be immaculate – maybe I imagined that last part.

I also had a growing sense this morning that my buddy, Zak, and his Ghost Adventures crew would not be interested in their first-ever lockdown inside a pickup truck cab, since all the mysteriously missing items from the past few days have very magically reappeared.

To wit, I now have a very complete and functional Bluetooth earpiece and, by my count, the fifth Festivus Miracle of the year occurred when I also discovered the microscopic pin that holds my watchband together.  It just goes to show that you should never, ever skip the traditional Airing of Grievances during December.  Makes all the difference in the world.

And since part of my goal was to remove the essential “me” elements from the vehicle, I grabbed two sleeves of golf balls (what are these doing here, and when was the last time I actually played?), a nice ink pen, and two sunvisor CD holders.  Yes, the CDs were hidden under the passenger seat, but why risk Daughter’s reputation if one of her friends discovers that “ABBA Gold” disk or the “Steve Miller Band Greatest Hits” (who’s Steve Miller?).  There are also some “weird” mix compilations my Son made several years ago when he figured out how to use a CD burner.  I don’t even know what those contain.

Clearly all of this is not a problem for me, but I could see Daughter becoming socially scarred very easily should any of these be discovered by the wrong people.

Let’s not even begin to compare iPod playlists.   Even more embarrassment.  Trust me.

So Daughter gave me a big thank you hug this morning for sharing the trip with her, but I told her I was a bit surprised that she indicated on the blog it was over yesterday.  Well, for her, maybe it was, but for me, I’m flying home in the morning, so the saga continues – at least in my mind.

I thought it might be useful to wind up the road portion of the diary with my Top Ten Road Trip with Daughter Lessons Learned:

10)  There is no such thing as an early start – unless “early” means sometime after 10:00 a.m.

9)  Piling up crap in the back seat, which completely blocks rear view mirror visibility, is permissible if you have side mirrors and a semi-conscious passenger.

8)  A FaceTent ™ is a handy travel accessory, but its use should be avoided by the driver while driving, if at all possible.

7)  It is possible to become lost, even though you are simultaneously referencing an iPhone, Tom-Tom, and AAA TripTik.  In these cases, it is helpful to say in a loud voice to your Navigator (Daughter), “I know you don’t know what to do.  That’s not helpful and, no, I can’t look at your iPhone right now.”

6)  No matter how bad or long the previous day was, a foo-foo cup of coffee first thing recalibrates everyone into imagining the day ahead will be better than before, even though you know it won’t.

5)  Always, always believe the AAA Travel Planning Lady when she says, “I’ve looked at the ten-day forecast, and you won’t have any problems at all with weather along the way.”

4)  Hearing impairment radically cuts down on road noise, meaningful conversational interaction, and the ability to hear anything at all emanating from an iPhone.  It also dramatically increases Daughter annoyance.

3)  Though considered an ancient communication device by some, a BlackBerry can be used in emergencies to signal search aircraft by reflecting the sun.  Along the same lines, it is also useful for randomly blinding the driver (“No, I’m not high-fiving you.  You’re doing it again, Dad.”).

2)  The Human Bladder is the most important yet least understood tool in the Driver’s Arsenal.

1)  Remember to bring a Truck Driver Voodoo Doll (trademark).  Though not recommended, it is possible to stick pins, text, email, talk on the phone, and drink coffee simultaneously while driving.  But do not try this at home – only in moving vehicles.

- Dad

Road Trip Diaries: A Father-Daughter Epic, Part IV

Before I start this blog post, I want to have a moment of silence to show respect for those we lost during this road trip. They have been with me for many years, close friends I’d even call them. But they have been wounded and killed in this great battle fought on the interstates of America. Rest in peace, we will always remember you, dear cuticles. Seriously, though. My cuticles are dead and dying. This is the winter of their discontent… literally. They are terrible and bleedy. Lotion does not assuage them nor kind words. I have given up trying to heal them and instead, I try not to look at them. Or I sit on my hands.

Mmm, I love the smell of industry in the morning!

Mmm, I love the smell of industry in the morning!

We actually got back on the road today  and palled around with some semi truck drivers! If “palled around” means playing a game of tag with huge tons of metal and the semi is always “it”. STOP TRYING TO TAG US, TRUCK DRIVERS.  There was one semi in particular that really, really irritated me. So much so that I changed nationalities and transformed into an Italian. I did a lot of exasperated hand gesturing. I could be wrong, but I think this means I’m fluent in Italian.

I laugh at you, truckers in traffic. You deserve that misery.

I laugh at you, truckers in traffic. You deserve that misery.

After a successfully-completed quest to get coffee (bad things always happen when we try and find coffee, maybe we should consider switching to tea?), I hit a curb while turning because I can’t see out the right side of the truck and some coffee splashed out of my dad’s cup. No Big Deal, right? WRONG. Obviously, my dad has NEVER EVER so much as run over an errant piece of rubber on the road because he was so disgusted with me. How dare I accidentally run over a curb? HOW DARE I WASTE HIS TIME OFF-ROADING FOR MY OWN AMUSEMENT. He actually asked me: “Have you ever driven a car before?”  And then, later, a semi was drifting into my lane so I moved over and went on the rumble strip for three seconds. Not long, but long enough for my dad to yell at me, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” And I said, “THIS SEMI IS ON TOP OF ME, BRO.” Except I didn’t call him ‘bro’ because that’s weird. Good times. This is what father-daughter bonding is all about.



The most exciting thing that happened today is when we got lost in Tennessee. Despite having a GPS, an iPhone, Google Maps, and old-fashioned paper maps, we got lost because there was an unexpected detour. We apparently drove on a road that didn’t exist in our world, it existed in some other dimension. The same dimension where all your missing socks go  and where I have friends. It was like the Bermuda Triangle of roads. I’m pretty sure I saw a chupacabra out there. My poor iPhone was heating up from its attempt to locate us, but its efforts were in vain. We weren’t in this world, or if we were, we had ripped a hole in the fabric of spacetime because… physics.

We made it back to our dimension, all parts intact but I have a feeling of deju vu… nope, wait, it was just a burp.

- Daughter


And on the fourth day, God created semi-tractor truck drivers.  But I digress.

Yesterday was an unscheduled rest day, which presupposes one actually rests when given the opportunity.  When I awoke and took stock of the thick blanket of snow outside, it wasn’t hard to quickly make the decision to hang tight for a day with our wonderful relatives in their immaculate mansion.  Please note that, in comparison to our house, most other homes seem like castles to us – but theirs really is.  It is wonderful.

One quick check on Daughter simply confirmed my decision – she was dead to the world.  Two days in cramped confinement with a parent sucks the life out of children, evidently.

So, Daughter made an unconscious, slumbering assessment to replicate what is known back in our household as a “Pajama Day.”

It goes like this.  In the spirit of calling “shotgun,” declaring “Pajama Day” is governed by approximately the same rules.  Yep, all you have to do is say, “Pajama Day,” and, thereby, you eliminate the requirement to become fully attired and fully humanly functional for however long you want.  Technically, Pajama Day could become “days” or even a week, in extreme circumstances.

Also, male members are not allowed to play, even though we completely and thoroughly understand the rules.  Though hurtful, I am all right with the exception.

I knew we were in trouble this morning, however, because Daughter did not sleep well and was more tired than she had been before our rest day.  Makes no sense, I know, but it’s nothing a foo-foo coffee usually can’t set right.

Unfortunately, Daughter’s fatigue manifested itself in many uncharacteristic ways.  During her first driving stint, she inexplicably had no idea how she turned on the windshield wipers, but also couldn’t figure how to turn them off, as well.  Not long after she ran over a curb exiting a gas station.

Her defense?

“I can’t see anything out of the right side of the truck, and stop yelling at me.”

Only one of us had her voice raised by the way, and it sure would have been nice to know you’ve been blind on the right side of the vehicle the past two days, Daughter.

And even though she deployed her now trademarked FaceTent early on, she had little to no patience for the truck drivers hogging the interstate highways.

Daughter using FaceTent (tm)

Daughter using FaceTent ™

I have to admit, a little warning sign went off in my own pea brain when the landscape northeast of Dallas became littered with hundreds of the following road signs:  “Left Lane is for Passing Only.

Let’s think about that, shall we?  If you have to post directions to the multitudes about staying out of the left lane, there clearly must be a problem somewhere.

There was.  And is.

We were blocked, hindered, slowed, and just plain annoyed by the numerous Left Lane Truck Bandits today.  I’m sure they are all really nice people, but, geez, folks, let’s get with the program.

As you might have suspected, Zen-me wrestled with the situation for a few miles, but I eventually made my peace and counted my blessings.

For Daughter, however, it was a continuing struggle, no doubt fueled by her lack of rest during our “Rest Day.”

If we consider the eleven stages of Driving Consciousness, she never made it by Number Four:  Annoyance.

Even if she had, we always have tomorrow.  And if we don’t have tomorrow, there’s still me.

- Dad


Road Trip Diaries: A Father-Daughter Epic, Part III

Instagram filters out the ugly.

Instagram filters out the ugly.

My dad and I didn’t get on the road today because of the weather gods’ sadistic ways so just pretend you’re at a fancy orchestra concert and it’s the intermission. This way, you can pretend you’re consuming more edifying material and also, it’s fun to imaaaagine. Reading Rainbow taught me that.

This morning, my alarm went off at some ungodly time and I immediately turned it off because, hey, if my dad wants me awake, he can wake me up himself. The next time I woke up, it was 10 am. I was confused and disoriented because I was expecting to wake up in the passenger seat of the truck and not still in a bed, swaddled like Baby Jesus. My aunt informed me that the weather conditions were too dangerous to drive. I looked outside and saw for myself, and, yes, an ivory blanket of snow had covered the land. White powder was everywhere. Must be what the inside of Charlie Sheen’s house looks like (ugh, that joke is so 2011, sorry). Anywho, snow = rest day. Cue me rolling around on the carpet in utter bliss because I could laze around the whole day like a human-cat hybrid. (And did I ever. At one point, I laid in a dark room because of the novelty of it not being a car.)

We were snowed in but luckily, we’re staying with family so we can abuse their hospitality by rummaging through their pantries and annoying their cat.



The cat, Bobbi, is adorable because he’s got a bit of the chub going on and a salt-and-pepper coat that’s very George Clooney. He also has a permanent head tilt from some health problems (sadface) so he walks around with a chronically quizzical expression. It’s very sad but sickeningly adorable and cute too. I essentially followed him around all day, mirroring his head-tilt and trying to pet him. He tolerated my presence but mostly walked away, playing hard-to-get.

All in all, today was a nice rest but tomorrow, we go on, ready to conquer not only the roads but also our fears and weaknesses. Maybe. As long as we have our Starbucks first.

- Daughter

Road Trip Diaries: A Father-Daughter Epic, Part II


I did not want to be awake for this sunrise, but here I am.

Morale was low today.  I woke up to complete darkness and weather in the 20’s. The only positive take-away from the morning was  my hair – which is usually hay-like in texture – suddenly transformed into a blanket of velvet. Thanks, soft water!  This new softness was kind of a big deal and I sat for a while petting my hair (first sign of insanity?).

Knowing that I would have to have something other than the softness of my hair to sustain me, I made my way to the lobby where food was rumored to be kept.  The continental breakfast area was only an island and a counter but it seemed a great labyrinth to me. I finally understand how that one ancient Greek guy felt in the labyrinth with the Minotaur guy… I, too, know that fear of being lost and not knowing whether to expect a pancake or a half-bull, half-man creature around the corner. It might be because I’m an idiot but I’m pretty sure it was because I was still asleep and my eyes just happened to be open. I was conscious enough to know that food was in the vicinity but exact locations and things like “choosing what to eat” eluded me. After stumbling around for a while, we left with coffee from a small, environmentally-friendly, and independent coffee shop Starbucks in hand and got back on the road.

Once in the confines of the car, I wrapped my head in a to-go blanket burrito of sadness. Having no actual blankets in the car, I improvised with jackets and created a small tent-like structure around my head to block out the light so I could sleep. Unfortunately, we were driving toward the sunrise so my blanket burrito acted as a lamp shade instead of a blackout shade. My attempt to be the Benjamin Franklin of sleeping-pod inventions was valiant but futile. I’m sure SkyMall has a  portable, one-person FaceTent ™, and if not, I’m going to work on the patent right when I get to school (and then drop out of school because FaceTent ™ is a million dollar idea). Anyway, sleeping was a no-go beyond ten minutes of drifting off and then waking up when a limb fell asleep faster than my brain could. I settled for staring out the window and naming the cows we passed.

Into the void we go!

Into the void we go!

Yesterday, my dad and I were optimistic and bursting with enthusiasm for the Southwestern American landscape. Today, we are hardened road warriors. The scenery has been abysmal with pockets of that weird, dilapidated beauty, like Steve Buscemi’s face (?). We drove through a lot of oil fields and I really, really wanted to say to my dad, “Wow, this sure is no country for old men…” but 1 ) I don’t know if he’d get the reference, 2) he probably wouldn’t hear it until I repeated it 4 times and then it wouldn’t be funny, and 3) I haven’t even seen that movie so I don’t know if it’s part of the Fair Use Policy for jokes.

Yep, encompasses everything we saw today.

Yep, encompasses everything we saw today.

We did have our first tense driving moment on our quest to find coffee today. My dad is completely useless when it comes to doing anything on my iPhone so he forced me to search for directions on my phone while I was driving on the interstate. He became impatient when I couldn’t find the right address and I said, “It’s a little hard to get directions when I’m also driving, Dad.” And he just nodded in agreement… or he didn’t hear me. Or he was just pretending not to hear me, you never know with this guy.

My dad ignoring me.

My dad ignoring me.

Directions to coffee were successfully procured after several “hold the wheel”s, but I was still confused and attempted to get off on two incorrect exits  and corrected at the last moment. Then, Dad passive-aggressively grabbed the hand-hold insinuating that he needed the extra stability to not go flying around the cab because I’m behind the wheel. It didn’t help matters when I completely missed the right exit. Eventually, we ended the wild goose chase in the middle of Abilene, TX and got the stupid coffee. Twenty minutes of arguing and yelling at, “Make a right, no, A RI- YES, NOW,” I’m sipping a latte and treasuring it for all the trouble it took to get it. Mmmmm, the taste of frustration. My favorite. 


The police, putting on a nice light show!

Also, my dad did not learn how to text without blinding me. STILL. It took at least 50 times of asking him to stop reflecting the sun into my corneal region, AND THIS IS THE SECOND DAY. I wanted to take his phone and throw it out the window but I restrained myself and instead said, “Dad. Dad. Dad. Dad. DAD. DAD. YOU’RE BLINDING ME AGAIN.”

- Daughter




When Daughter isn’t mumbling to me about directions, the southwestern part of the United States speaks to me.  I have always loved driving through this part of the country, because it is so wide open and sparsely populated.  I imagine, even today, I could load up my horse and head ninety degrees off the highway in any direction, and never see another human for weeks.


But then I figure the satellite reception is pretty crappy in the foothills, so I never really act on this notion.  Probably the closest I will come will be a week at a dude ranch a decade from now, where I will pretend to drive cattle and will practice taking down bad guys with my Red Rider bb gun.


Yes.  I’m looking forward to that.


But back to reality and today’s drive segment.


The exoticars of Southern California gave way many miles ago to a multitude of Border Patrol Suburbans and Jeeps.  We were stopped at one checkpoint today and asked if we were American Citizens.


“Yes!” We chimed and drove merrilly away.  It was all the agent could do to stay warm behind his barrier, with a light snow falling and thte wind chill in the teens.  It’s a thankless job, made worse by those green uniforms they wear.  I think a little touch of Downton Abbey might make a difference and raise spirits.


Probably not.


Though Daughter made a game of it yesterday and pulled her share of the driving duties, she bailed a bit today and took the first sleeping shift out of El Paso — which turned into the second sleeping shift a couple hours later.


Then she started complaining about her butt hurting.  And then it went downhill further with the release of effluent gases.


For context, the girls in our family are incapable of doing anything untoward, including admitting to the existence of bodily functions that every other human has to deal with.  To make matters worse, their first course of defense regarding same is to deny they did anything at all.


When that fails, and it always does, they start to laugh and then blame the whole thing on me.


It’s a pattern that’s repeated over and over again, with anything that’s even marginally amiss in our household.


Basically, anything and everything that goes wrong, is slightly suspicious, or doesn’t smell right (literally or figuratively), is all my fault.


Zen-me accepts that.


Moving on, then, I did come up with two really great ideas on the trip today.


The first was borne out of annoying Daughter.  Apparently every time I texted someone, I inadvertantly aimmed the blackberry screen reflection in Daughter’s eyes (while she was driving — I didn’t have the problem while I was texting and driving).  I thought I had the problem licked (I simply tilted it at a different angle – duh!), and sometime in the afternoon I said something that I believed Daughter found witty and wanted to high-five me about.


As I was trying to reverse high-five (or high-five a thousand angels guiding our way), I heard:


“Dad.  You’re shining that thing in my eyes again.”


No wonder I was having a hard time hitting her hand.  She was blocking the sun again.


So, Idea Number One:  Non-reflective blackberry screen filter.  I’m thinking that one has already been done, but I can’t confirm and certainly don’t use it.


The second (and better) idea originated with the number of miles we’ve been driving.  I’ve always wondered how the travel times would compare in historical context.


Idea Number Two:  iPhone app that converts miles travelled into time necessary to traverse same in a selected epoch of interest.  For example, we drove seven hundred and fifty miles yesterday.  How long would that same trip have taken in 1850, or 1450?


I thought it was pretty cool, and had merit.  Daughter dismissed it out of hand.


Well, I know one thing.  I’ve got an awful lot of texting to do tomorrow, while I’m not driving.


- Dad

Road Trip Diaries: A Father-Daughter Epic, Part I

I definitely did not take this while driving, NEVER!!

I definitely did not take this while driving, NEVER!!

I woke up this morning 45 minutes past the set time we were supposed to leave and immediately panicked. DID DAD DIE OR SOMETHING? My dad is a punctual sort of man, while I am chronically late to everything so I assumed the worst. I walked into my parents’ room and lo-and-behold, my father is asleep and wrapped in blankets like a burrito of sadness. He briefly awoke when I came in the room because my dog got excited and snagged his tail on some plastic bags creating loud, cymbal-like noises every time he wagged it. For my dog – and I’m sure other dogs – a human in a standing position in the morning = food and walks. He sees me as a means to an end and feigns interest in my existence until he gets what he wants. Then he goes back to completely ignoring me and busies himself with chewing out the innards of his squeaky toys, probably imagining each one as my face.

I digress. I was so tired when I woke up this morning that it felt wrong and against nature to get up (more so than usual). I felt like a baby bear that had been woken up out of hibernation three months early. Starbucks staved off the caffeine-induced headache but not the familiar delirium that comes with lack of sleep.

I had to force my sister to say goodbye to me and even when she begrudgingly hugged me, she passive-aggressively brought up the time I got sick at college and used air quotes when she said, “sick”. I’ve apparently been rubbing off on her. Anyway, after forcing my sibling to show affection to me and saying goodbye to mom, we headed off.

The road trip has been uneventful for the most part. My dad temporarily blinded me from the glare on his phone but after saying loudly, “THAT IS SHINING RIGHT AT MY CORNEA, DAD” five times in a row, he figured out a good angle that allowed him to text and allowed me to drive without killing everybody.

Currently, my dad is drawing blood to see his blood sugar levels… while also driving. I’m not sure if this is safe, in fact, this seems like a not-great idea. This is worst than TEXTING and driving. This is drawing blood. AKA BIOHAZARDS ARE NOW FLOATING IN AND AROUND THE CAR. I don’t want to get some blood-borne disease from you, Dad. Put it away.

Oh good, he’s done now.

What else, oh well, he told me I was driving too slowly because I was driving the speed limit. He also criticized me for getting upset when a car cut in front of us,  but I think that’s a bit hypocritical.

Other things that happened:

Me: “Dad, are you texting right now?”

Dad: “I could read a novel right now, we’re out in the middle of nowhere. In fact, I have done that. In a car without a radio. And I’m not texting, I’m writing an e-mail.”

…*times passes*….

Dad: “Hold the wheel, I need these eye drops now.”

- Daughter




So I had Daughter believing we were targeting a 0430 departure this morning, using the theory that, in so doing, we might actually leave by 0630.  It was a solid deception plan while it lasted, but I made sure last night she knew we were going to shoot for 0700 instead.

I figured she was sufficiently scared with the earlier time that the later time would be a piece of cake, as it were.

Unfortunately, Dandy Dog had other ideas last night, as did my stomach.

I knew I shouldn’t have done it, but I gave the Dog the remnants of the ham bone from our delayed New Year’s Meal (lest you think we tend to keep food that long).  What can I say, his Mom was gone on extended errands in the afternoon yesterday, and he looked somewhat depressed.  Plus, I wouldn’t see him for a week, and I wanted to plant a “Positive Vibe Dad Seed” with him since he will probably completely forget me after seven days’ absence.

Well, the piper had to be paid, and he came to call on me at about 2:00 a.m., when Dandy Dog woke me up with a reaching thump that translated means, “Dude, you’ve got about 23 seconds to open the back door or, I swear to God, all hell is going to break loose from my tail end.  Understand?  All hell.  Need I say more?”

Dandy actually roused both Mom and me, because I soon as I was awake, whatever was bothering him was affecting me, as well.

Without revealing TMI, while Dandy was doing his thing in the yard, I . . . . (let’s just leave it at that).

The end result of all this middle of the night activity was a Crack O’ the Dawn departure at 0915 this morning.  And this, after some debate about just blowing it off for today and attempting to begin anew tomorrow.

Nah.  Let’s get some coffee and hit the road.

Within fifteen minutes of turning east on the mighty interstate, I had already seen a Ferrari and Pantera, and a couple of other classics motoring along.  Nothing like SoCal roads mid-Sunday mornings.

And as the highway penetrated ever more deeply up into the desolate but beautiful Southwestern vistas, I strongly felt the urge to break out in a chorus of “This Land is Your Land.”

I didn’t, of course.

Rather, I punched up ESPN on the good ole blackberry and followed the NFL playoffs live, while driving, and emailing, and talking on the phone.  The only thing missing was drinking and eating simultaneously.

I exaggerate.  Never, ever text and drive.  But don’t eat and drink if you do.  Now that could be dangerous.

I’m not sure if Daughter expected erudite and witty conversation today, but I was more concerned about managing the possibility of making it to our intended destination (El Paso), while ensuring neither one of us became too irritated or tired.

I probably helped with the irritation part because I’m not wearing my hearing aids, which means I understand about every fourth word spoken, which necessitates frequent repetition.

Maybe that’s why Mom had a smile today when she said good-bye to me?  As my eleven year old would say, “Hmmmm. . . .”

Unfortunately, much like Dandy Dog, I have been intestine-aly negotiating whatever is coursing through my system today, which means we have to stop every two hours (as opposed to stopping on the side of the road in emergencies – been there, done that.  Can you say, “nature pee”?).

“Daughter, aren’t you hungry or tired?”

“No, Dad.  I’m fine.”

“We’re stopping anyway.  We need gas.”


“Yes.  Again.”

Maybe tomorrow will be better.  I’m sure it will be.  After all, I’m foregoing Downton Freaking Abbey tonight to be with Daughter.

Now, that’s love!

- Dad

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