Saturday, December 27, 2008

Southern California, part 2

OK, so when I said "tomorrow" on that last post, I was taking for granted that you people understand that time is relative. So... yeah, that's what I meant.

Yeah, that's the ticket.

Actually, I've been in negotiations with the wife to figure out what I should and shouldn't say about various parts of this trip (hey, I have to live with the woman - you don't! Don't judge me!!)

So, Luke had his little ceremony with 455 of his newest, closest friends, and we picked up his bag and loaded it in the trunk. Then, we did the one thing that is closest to a marine's heart - we went for a meal.

Specifically, we went to a little Italian place near the base which I won't name, for reasons that might just become apparent.

We went in, and were greeted by a relatively attractive Turkish woman who turned out to be our waitress (OK, technically, I thought she was relatively attractive; Luke, who'd been stuck in close quarters for twelve weeks with 76 other guys, thought she was gorgeous). Our waitress, upon hearing we were celebrating my son's release from Boot Camp, asked us if we wanted to celebrate with a bottle of wine. We settled on a modestly-priced bottle of red, which she promptly served us. Without checking ID's on anyone. We didn't feel that we should embarrass her when she poured a glass for my other, 18-year-old son, Christopher. (Admittedly, he's well over six feet and remarkably hairy, but still...)

We then wandered around the San Diego wharfs for a while, checking out some old sailing ships in the San Diego Maritime Museum, including the HMS Surprise, which was abused for the movie Master and Commander.

Then we did something remarkably foolish. We drove from San Diego to my sister's apartment in North Hollywood. On the freeway. During rush hour. This should have taken about 2 hours. It took five.

In my defense, I didn't know any way to get there that didn't take the freeway. Plus, living in Albuquerque, it's been a while since I was in a real traffic jam. On top of which, I'm a congenital idiot.

My sister lives in LA with a man who I like a lot, but we didn't get to see him this trip because she'd just sent him to New York for his health and general welfare (apparently, LA wasn't agreeing with him).

But we saw Lilli, and the next day headed back to Albuquerque. We took a more southerly route getting back, to avoid Flagstaff, where they were anticipating snow. (My wife lived in Flagstaff - she knows their snow.)

We used pretty much the same system as we did on the way up. I took over a little earlier, because Annette, for various reasons, didn't get as much sleep as she'd hoped. Luke and I (and then Luke and Chris) crashed in the back seat, leaning on Luke's duffel bag, which was too big to fit in the trunk.

On the way, we kept seeing billboards for "The Thing!" in Dragoon, Arizona. We saw these billboards roughly once every five miles, for about two to three hundred miles, as soon as we crossed into Arizona. (And, to be entirely honest, we had no idea that "the Thing!" was in Dragoon, since that thriving metropolis is about 4 miles further off the road. But "the Thing!" was right off the highway, at a good location to stretch our legs, and we pulled over.

It was an otherwise normal truckstop, with all the usual money-making opportunities: a cafe, with (if I remember right, a Dairy Queen attached), gas, T-shirts, 900 different types of souvenirs, and "the Thing!" (They wouldn't tell you what it was, and neither will I. Hey, the American entrepreneurial spirit lives on, right?)

So, anyway, the entry fee into "the Thing!" was a whole dollar (seventy-five cents for kids). And as I was stretching my legs, Chris asked if we were going in. So I handed him a dollar and said "Tell me about it when you're done."

And then a miracle happened. You see, I'm the father, right? I make the decisions. What I say goes; it's a law of nature. It's how things have been for millions of years. (Or six thousand years, if you're a fundamentalist Christian...)

So I stop looking at the t-shirts and ceramic outhouses, and wander into the men's room, wondering if the Dairy Queen dipped cones are any better than I remember (and what I remember is dark brown paraffin over cold sweetened lard). And as I came out, wiping my hands on my pants (yeah, I sometimes wash my hands - I just don't always dry them well), my son wanders over, to tell me that everybody was waiting for me. So that we could all go into "the Thing!!"

Somewhere along the line, I'd lost control of things. I had been under the impression that I wasn't going to be wasting any time on this roadside "attraction," and that I was only wasting a buck on my son's unending curiosity. But my sons and my wife had apparently started making decisions without me, and we were apparently all going in together. (This was made much more palatable by my older son, the newly-minted marine, who was willing to pay for everybody else to go in.)

The only other memorable part of this trip, really, involved something that occurred a few seconds later, when we were standing by the counter waiting to go in. You see, I noticed that the cutoff for the children's entrance was age 18. So when my older son told the lady that we needed four tickets to get in, I piped up with "That's three adults, and one child."

That statement threw the lady behind the counter for a moment. She looked at us, and I motioned to my youngest and said "He's only 18." Which led her to ask to see some kind of ID.

Yes, that's right. You can look at this incident in one of two ways. Either we charged her a quarter to see his ID, or (my preferred version) Chris was carded to get into a cheap roadside attraction, but not to get a glass of wine.

Take it however you want.

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