Vacation Odyssey V: The (long long long long) Road Home

ImageWhen we left Cape Cod, we drove to Northampton, Massachusetts, to visit one of my oldest, dearest friends. We stay in touch via email, but we hadn’t seen each other in years. She had never met the Tyrant! What? Everyone should meet the Tyrant, and watch her dance inappropriately to that new Robin Thicke song, which is my new go-to tune for feeling all BOO-yah. Have you seen the video? Wowser. It makes me feel warm and cozy inside, and not the kind of warm and cozy that I get from holding a baby goat.

Okay, funny story. There’s an awesome line in that song: You the hottest bitch in this place. You know it? But on the radio, you hear: You the hottest chick in this place. Lame-o.

EXCEPT. That tiny little word change reminds me of my freshman year in college when I first went to Bridget’s, the bar just off campus. As I walked in and presented my fake I.D., a freakishly tall black man with enormous muscles stopped me and said, “You are the coolest chick in this here bar.”

“Thank you,” I said. I’m Southern, after all. “Who are you?”

“My name is Mansel Carter, and you are the coolest chick in this here bar,” he said. He pronounced his name like this:  Maaan. Zell.

“What makes me so cool?” I asked.

“Well,” he said. “It could be your cool red hair. Or your cool jean jacket. But you are the coolest chick in this here bar.”

So I gave him my phone number. Southern and easy.

Mansel Carter, I learned, was a defensive end on Notre Dame’s football team. We became phone buddies. Mostly he called me in the middle of the night and we talked about nothing in particular; two years later, he graduated. End of story. Except that now, coincidentally, we live near each other, and I think about him every time Robin Thicke sings, “You’re the hottest chick in this place.” (If you’re reading this, Mansel — Hey, man! How’s life? What’s your take on the whole Manti Te’o thing?)

All right, so we drove to Northampton to visit my friend and her family. They kept the dog overnight so we could stay in a hotel with actual air conditioning, and the next morning my friend received a phone call from her sister-in-law. “Hey,” said the sister-in-law. “Did I just see your husband chasing Buddy the Wonder Dog down the street?”

TOTES HILARE! I HAVE FANS IN MASSACHUSETTS! Note: only funny because Buddy wasn’t slaughtered by oncoming traffic.

We LOVE visiting these friends because they never waver from a lifestyle that reflects their convictions. The husband, a playwright, teaches theater at a local college and periodically organizes theatrical productions. He and his wife, V, my friend, have two sons. The youngest has Down Syndrome, and V works for an organization that serves as a support system for parents of children with disabilities. Also, the husband makes killer guacamole and lets me bring gin into the house even though he doesn’t drink.

Full disclosure: all of above rambling has been a fruitless attempt to forget the infernal slog commonly known as The Trip Home. The 17-hour trip took us 24 hours thanks in part to inexplicable midnight traffic in Richmond, Virginia, that led to the altered mental status of all three kids. Let’s just say I was instructed by more than one child to PLEASE STOP USING THOSE WORDS, MOMMY!

A few other highlights:

Car rides give Buddy the Wonder Dog terrible gas.

Most electronic devices ran out of power by Hour 4.

Our gluten-free, dairy-free son ate enough pancakes and ice cream to fill up his backpack, had his backpack not been full of Starburst, gummi bears, Cheetos, two stuffed bears, a stuffed dog, and a dirty blanket.

I offered 14 times to take over driving, but Hot Firefighter Husband did not ask me to drive until I couldn’t keep my eyes open, at which point I drove for 45 minutes before running off the road and scaring Husband into taking over again.

The Tyrant thinks wiping other people’s pee and related fluids off public toilet seats is a very grown-up thing to do. Related note: There is a market for a Clean Service Stations of America app.

Black Sharpie, when used to decorate gray leather seats, settles into a putrid brown color when exposed to the sun.

Alex Rodriguez was suspended from baseball, which I know because NPR ran the same story about it three times between 5 am and 8 am Monday morning. Ask me how I know that. I dare you.

And this: the kids themselves have begun saving up money for next year’s trip. So they can fly.

Next up: the Final Chapter, and what I learned from this year’s odyssey.





5 responses to Vacation Odyssey V: The (long long long long) Road Home

  1. Elinor says:

    Tricia — I love your writing!
    And I should no longer be surprised, but we have more in common. I also have a Mansell Carter story. One night Sophomore year, on my ND visit before leaving for Ireland, a bunch of us were leaving the F Line cafeteria. The football team was lined up for training table. I was trailing behind, and suddenly there was a gigantic human barrier in front of me. I had to look up (unusual for me) and, in fact, I had to crane my neck (even more unusual). I heard a deep voice say, “Do you believe in love at first sight?” Being the virginal ND girl, I just blushed and stammered, “Uh, no.” (All the other football players around, by the way, were laughing their asses off.) Then he said, “Well, do you believe in love at second sight?” I said, desperately wishing for this embarrassing episode to be over, “I guess so…” He responded, “Well TURN YOUR HEAD AWAY AND LOOK AGAIN QUICK!!!” (Howls of laughter ensued… ok, I laughed too…how could I not?) Then he introduced himself “My name is ManZELL Carter…what’s your name?” I answered (too frazzled to think of a pseudonym), “Elinor”. Mansell responded, “You know what? I’m going to call you LEGS cuz you have the longest legs I’ve ever SEEN on a girl!” (More laughter from the gallery.) The next day, I’m walking across the quad and I hear from about 100 yards away, “Hey LEGS! WHAT’S HAPPENIN’?????!!!!” Hilarious. Charming guy. I have to give him props for the “Turn your head away and look again quick” line…pretty good for a college guy!

    • tricia says:

      ELINOR! HOW DID I NOT KNOW THAT AWESOME STORY? That’s one for the archives! Thinking of you….hope you and hubby are edging yourselves back into the perfect health you deserve. Much love.

  2. Elinor says:

    We are doing well — Paul had a very strong echocardiogram yesterday, so we are very happy. Lots of love right back atcha!

  3. Pat Spears says:

    You rock!! I once had a small 12 member herd of pygmy goats. They were truly wonderful little critters.

    • tricia says:

      I’d love to have some goats around here. Lucky you. xo

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