A Trip Down Memory Lane

Eight years ago, I took my first trip to the British Isles. It was a graduation gift from my parents (More like a graduation incentive–my mom begged me to finally graduate and going on an-all-expenses-paid trip was my motivation. You can bet your ass I made school my bitch after hearing I’d be sent across the pond after receiving my Bachelor’s).

The fact that my parents literally wrote me a $5000 check (that I had to pry out of my dad’s hands) to have the trip of a lifetime is something I can never adequately thank them enough for. It was a life-altering experience that I relive in my heart time and time again.

Now, forty five years after my mother went to England, herself, for the first time, she gets to go again. We get to go together.

I’m fully expecting a lot of laughs, maybe some tears, and for sure, some annoyances, but I only wish for this trip to be an experience we recall fondly for years to come.

In honor of my last trip, and in excitement and anticipation for the one coming up, I’m sharing some of my favorite pictures from The British Isles 2010.

Be aware that I’m not a photographer in the least, and my photos were taken with a $100 pink Samsung digital camera.

Some will be terrible. A few will be blurry. More than a couple will have random people or strange angles. None have filters. I also took these from my Facebook, so they’ll be terrible quality. But, aren’t semi-terrible photos all part of the fun?

Buckle your seatbelts, baby! Here we go!

Hands down, the coolest plane picture I’ve ever taken. I think this is the southern-most tip of Greenland.

A view of London from the window (that didn’t have a screen) of our hotel room. We stayed in Earl’s Court, which is a gorgeous district in Kensington.

Our hotel in London. It was definitely not a Marriott, but it was perfection.

Our London neighborhood. Those row houses, though.

I still crave Nando’s, and who knew you needed sunscreen in England??

This Maida Vale pub just screamed England to me. It was here we found out what Russel Brand meant when he sang, “Will you come for my bangers, my beans and mash”. Or, maybe he means something else.

I distinctly remember this was the moment I almost pooped my pants. I also recall thinking, “This is how we die.”

We took the train from Birmingham to Coventry, because driving was a big “NOPE” (I eventually got brave and became one of the most proficient American drivers the British Isles has ever had the good fortune to host). This is Coventry Cathedral. It was hauntingly beautiful.

Did ya’ll know Lady Godiva is one of my ancestors? It’s true. I was so excited to visit her statue, but, sadly…

…it’s not quite as grand as Primark.

Wait, y’all have dollar stores too, but everything is a pound (which is like a dollar, but not)? Mind blown.

British motorway rest stops are like freaking palaces!

The Conwy Castle ruins in Wales was my favorite castle. We were there, exploring, for hours.

The flowers growing out of the castle walls were almost too quaint.

I mean, just look at this!

Who knew one could find palm trees in Britain? Llandudno was exquisite.

I.did.not.want.to.leave.

WTF? I ate one. That’ll show them.

This was our one splurge stay. This is the Radisson Blu in Dublin. The grounds were my favorite part. This is where we discovered that Ireland’s air conditioning is not like “our” air conditioning. Hot.as.balls.

Kilkenny was quaint af. We wanted to stay at this hotel. It was way out of our budget, so the Pembroke Hotel was the lucky winner of hosting us for our barf-tastic wild Irish night.

TOO MUCH PRETTY

Y’all think this person likes Elvis?

It’s almost just as romantic as Italy. Except they were laying on the concrete in a pretty sketchy part of town outside an apartment building. Young love.

But, someone left kegs there. I found this way funnier than it really was.

Blarney Castle was awesome. I didn’t kiss the Blarney Stone, because Rick Steves said I’d get the herp if I did.

Eeeeeeeeeeeee

Seriously, I felt like I was on another planet while walking the grounds at Blarney Castle. It was otherworldly GORGEOUS.

The drive to Dingle Town, while poop-your-pants-scary was stunningly beautiful at the same time. It was a conflicting feeling.

Dingle Town! I couldn’t even with the adorableness!

I’ve never seen so much green.

Galway was a lively city full of sounds, smells and so many people. The energy was palpable.

Galway also has weird af people who put their gum on a public railing, that is literally right next people playing Scrabble, to eat their chips. She then just left it there.

Kinlay Hostel in Galway was our first dorm-style hostel and the entire night I was literally sweating profusely from the fear that people would come into our room and I’d have to share a room with…STRANGERS. No one came. THANK GOD.

Some ruins and a rainbow effect. No big

Some more ruins and some dark, foreboding clouds. This is like travel picture porn to me.

Ever been to Newgrange? They are prehistoric mounds that are older than the pyramids. Anyone else use the Egyptian pyramids as a gauge for how old something is?

A super narrow alley in Edinburgh we named “Stab Alley”. Not exactly sure why.

Edinburgh was my favorite. I have this one in black and white on my wall. Love.

Edinburgh Castle was too much. Too.much.

The views from the castle are AMAZING AF. Scotland is just the absolute best.

You never know who you’ll find on the streets of Edinburgh.

Loch Ness, my love. TOO BEAUTIFUL. Too.freaking.beautiful.

This path cutting through these delicate wildflowers led to the banks of Loch Ness. It was MAGICAL.

No words needed. Those are words, but, you know what I mean.

I could have stayed on the banks of this river in Inverness FOREVER.

This was taken somewhere between Inverness and Edinburgh. I didn’t realize Scotland was so green.

This was taken from Oxford Castle. Oh, England. You hurt my heart. You’re just too beautiful

Here I am in the haunted Oxford Castle. What haunts me to this day is how I thought I was fat. I wish I were as fat as I was when I thought I was fat, cuz, honey, now I’m fat.

The winding streets of Oxford. I felt studious and smart af in Oxford.

Oh my (said in a George Takei voice).

The River Thames. Le sigh.

The River Hotel was, bar none, the most *interesting* hotels we stayed at. There was the case of the stubborn pube (it was sitting there, on the bathroom floor waiting for us when we checked in and still there after the bathroom was “cleaned”). Then there was the fact every surface in the room had, at least, an inch of dust. Of course, I can’t forget the old lady receptionist who was meaner than a dog shitting tacks. And, of course that we were put in the Annexe, where all of the Americans and other unfavorables get a room. What a trip.

I was speechless the entire time we toured Westminster Abbey. If walls could talk.

When I first saw Big Ben, I knew I was finally in London (This is confusing as my pictures go in order, and I, obviously, was already in London. We started and ended in London. My second set of Big Ben pictures was much better than the ones I took three weeks prior, when I was still a London newbie).

Rick Steves told us not to waste our money on the London Eye, so we didn’t. I’m still not sure if I’m mad at Rick or not.

The only picture I got of the London Bridge.

I think this is Covent Garden. What I do know is we ate at a tiny Italian restaurant in this neighborhood. I had Chicken Carbonara. I never forget food.

One of my London “must dos” was to see a play at Shakespeare’s Globe Theater. That was before a full day of walking. Also, before we realized that why our tickets were so cheap was because our “seats” were in the pit and we had to stand for all three hours of the play. Spoiler alert: we didn’t stay for the whole play.

Now I’m so excited for my trip and ya’ll are probably bored after looking through some random’s pictures.

So, tell me, what’s your favorite “take away” from a trip? Is it a souvenir, new knowledge, pictures, or something else? Tell me in the comments!

The Incidents

The First One

It was totally a gag gift. I swear. The second I got it home, after digging it out from the deepest depths of my purse, I threw it under my bed to never be seen again. I swear.

I’ll just come right out and be frank.

It was a massive pink dildo. It was huge. It was highly detailed, complete with a ginormous pink, wrinkly ball sack.

It was fucking terrifying.

My friend thought it’d be funny to put batteries in it so it’d be raring to go. When turned on, the pink bastard shook my brain three feet away.

So, that terrifying hot pink freak of nature lived under my bed, with the dust bunnies, a random sock, and strangely, a frying pan (so, that’s where it went).

If you ever care to know more about the events that led to what happens next in my story, head over to We Were Stupid AF.

I was at work the day I got that fateful call. I was working at a used online book company. It was, hands down, the easiest job I’ve ever had. The eight or so of us data entry temps all sat in the same room, at our respective computers. It was mindless work, so all we had to do was sit, enter ISBNs and listen to each other’s gossip.

It was nearing the lunch hour when I got a call from my friend on my work phone.

“We are getting kicked out, dude. You better leave work, because we have until 5 PM to be out.”

“Come again?” I asked, shocked.

“It’s serious, my mom’s here and everything. If we don’t leave by 5, they will call the cops!”

My goody-goody ass didn’t like the sound of that.

“Shit. I’ll have to ask to leave! OMG.OMG.OMG,” I said, trying to whisper my hysteria.

“You better! My mom and I are going to start on our room.”

Seven sets of ears were trained on my conversation. Their eyes were glued to their screens, their fingers flew across the keys, but they were keenly aware of every word I spoke.

Suddenly, my blood went cold.

Her mom. Moving out. Our room. The Pink Dildo.

Her mom is going to see my pink dildo and then I’ll promptly die.

“So, yeah, if you could leave work NOW, that’d be great.”

“Wait. Wait! So, umm. Remember my “Liberated From the Cheating Bastard Party” we had?” I whispered.

“Yes, why does that matter, right NOW?”

“Well, the thing is, I got a thing. You didn’t know about it, because Mary* thought you’d be a prude about it,” I mumbled.

“I hate Mary.”

“I know, I know. Well, there’s something under my bed.” I tried to sign over the phone.

The ears listening in on my private dildo conversation were now complete with judging, edge-of-your-seat eyes.

“OH, MY FUCKING GOD! What is it?!”

“Just please get it and hide it somewhere before your mom sees it,” I breathed.

“WHAT is it?”

“It’s a…dildo,” I murmured.

*click*

My friend was endlessly saving me, preventing me from dire fates, and always felt the need to be my second mother, because I was constantly being a dumbass.

The Dildo Incident almost did her in. She did, however, get to it before her mother (she wore gardening gloves to fling it into a box with my high school yearbooks and a long-dead philodendron.)


The Second One

For some inane reason, I kept the terrifying pink monstrosity for years. I reasoned that all independent, adventurous women needed to own a dildo of their own, even if all it did was live in the back of a closet under a pair of mangy late 90s era Steve Madden sandals.

Circa 2005, my boyfriend at the time and I moved into our first place together. His mom planned to visit as soon as we were all settled.

Now, let me just tell you a little thing:

Before she got to know me, I’m fairly certain she thought I was the (she)devil incarnate.

They were a ranching family from a small cow town. However, after the first year of college, her primed-to-be-a-Wrangler-wearing-Honky-Tonk son came home with black eyeliner, black hair, black band tees, and obviously, a black soul.

Not long after this, he brought home a girl with a lip ring and tattoos. She also happened to be an older woman. That girl was me.

She was pretty convinced I was corrupting her son, but she learned pretty quickly that he had plans to corrupt himself and I was just along for the ride.

So, back to her visit. We had a lovely day out lunching and shopping. When time came to get settled in for bed, she expressed her worry that she’d be a bit chilly with just the one blanket we had provided for her.

We both offered to get her another, but because she’s the kind of independent woman who never needs assistance from someone else (even when she seriously does), she insisted she could get one if we told her where.

We pointed her in the right direction and just when it was dawning on me that something didn’t feel right about the whole thing and flashing, red lights were going off inside my head, we heard it.

A sound like nothing I’ve ever heard before rang out. It sounded like the combination between a screech one might make when attempting to dodge a ball to the head that you know is coming no matter what you do and the long, low, pitiful moan of a dying soul.

Immediately after the most terrifying sound I’ve yet to ever hear in all my life, a thud. Then, a steady, whirring, vibrating that you could feel in your brain.

Finally, silence, as we all three contemplated the meaning of life.

The rest of her time visiting, she didn’t look at us once. Not once.

I guess that’s a pretty tame reaction, because usually the response from one who has been hit over the head** by a flying dildo from the heavens, belonging to a corrupt girlfriend of your only child, is usually so much worse (so, that’s where it went).

*Not her real name

**Years later, she was able to speak of the incident. That’s how I know it hit her square in the forehead.

All images courtesy of imgflip.

Fatty McCupcakes has been nominated in the Funniest Blogger category for the Annual Bloggers Bash Awards. If this gave you a chuckle, I’d really appreciate the love! You can vote HERE! Thank you, and as Leslie Knope would say, “I love you and I like you.”

From Gaerwen to Blackpool: At Least We Didn’t End Up In the Black Pudding

We left off last time just barely arriving in Blackpool in one piece.

Despite having finally found Blackpool after what felt like 83 years of driving, it was now up to my car sick and useless-with-a-map travel companion to find our B&B.

We knew nothing about the B&B other than it had an available room with two twin beds and it was somewhere in Blackpool. Oh, and I guess we had an address. Duh.

We had no idea if it was near the shore or some other distinguishing landmark that might have served useful when explaining our dilemma to the 20th petrol station attendant we’d spoken to that day.

When we knew we’d be way past check-in time, we used our trusty Samsung Vodafone to get a hold of the woman managing the B&B to assure her we would be arriving, we just weren’t sure in what century.

She was super friendly and assured us she’d “keep the light on”. She even went so far as to ask where we were and tried to guide us that way.

“Oh, you’re by a brick building with white trim? Erm…”

“It’s by a fish and chips take away? Well…”

“What’s the street name? Egg Road? Dearie, I don’t think that’s a road…”

(It was Haig Road.)

After tons of miscommunication and a very poor explanation of our surroundings on our part, she eventually gave up and merrily predicted we’d be arriving in no time.

In no time, we still had no idea where the fuck we were.

When I recall this moment on my trip, I always wonder how we drove around Blackpool for a solid hour like complete imbeciles.

I guess the only real reason is that I have zero sense of direction. When I was in college, I’d leave one of the buildings, just blindly going in whatever direction felt right. My friend would have to run after me and steer me in the correct direction. Even after a year of being at the university, I had basically no idea where I was going every single day.

It comes naturally, as my dad is the same way. Except worse. So much worse. After a prime rib dinner at one of the downtown casinos one night when I was around ten, my dad and I left in his truck and lost the rest of the family convoy. Two hours later, we made it home, but not before circling the city three times and almost driving across the state line. My mom almost called search and rescue.

I’m not sure what my friend’s excuse was other than he must have been sniffing glue or picking boogers when they learned about maps in the 3rd grade, because somehow he was worse than me at directional intelligence, and that is saying a lot.

Perhaps the most stressful aspect of all of this was the fact that we were inconveniencing some poor woman. Had we made arrangements at a hostel, we’d likely have just accepted defeat and slept in the car.

After our 10th orbit in one particular roundabout that we were sure had to let out on the street we were looking for if only we went round enough times, we noticed a police car parked further up one of the streets.

In utter desperation (and I was getting really, really cranky at this point), I decided we should go ask for directions.

“You can’t just drive up behind a police car and get out. It’s like the opposite of what’s supposed to happen. They pull up behind you and they get out to walk up to your car, so…,” replied super-helpful-friend.

“SAYS THE PERSON WHO CAN’T READ A MAP, WON’T ASK FOR DIRECTIONS AND HAS NO OTHER SOLUTIONS.”

I wanted to pummel him.

So, of course, since he was incapable of going into to the last 12 petrol stations to ask for directions, because he’d “for sure barf” if he did, I had to walk up to the police car after pulling up behind them like a total creep.

Turns out, they were very friendly (and pretty amused) and willing to take us in the correct direction as far as the edge of their beat. I totally didn’t feel like a moron asking for police assistance in finding our B&B. Not at all.

After the policemen got us going in the right direction, we very quickly found our B&B. It’s amazing what going in the correct cardinal direction will do for you.

The B&B was completely not what I had imagined. All of the B&Bs I’ve ever seen and stayed in have been older houses, with the rooms converted to accommodate for guests. This place looked exactly like the hotel in Fawlty Towers. I.shit.you.not.

The woman who we had gotten to know so well over the phone welcomed us in her robe, slippers, and, if I am remembering right, she even had rollers in.

She was really excited to see us.

She greeted us like long-lost, beloved family members. I think her overly-excited behavior had everything to do with the fact that she could now finally go to sleep.

I don’t even remember checking in. It was all a whirlwind of, “You both must be exhausted! Here, let me take that. Oh, it’s no bother! We’ll be going up the lift, if that’s all right. Well, not me, but you two. And your luggage.”

All I recall from check-in is her excitedly stuffing us and our four pieces of luggage into the smallest elevator in existence*.

We could barely utter, “Are you sure this is going to work?” before she used her entire body to push the rest of my fat still bulging out as the door tried to close.

Once the door was shut, we couldn’t move at all. I’m not even exaggerating when I say every square inch was taken up by our bodies and luggage. I had an elbow in my back, a suitcase handle in the neck, and a carry on bag somehow balancing on my head.

I risked decapitation by American Tourister to turn my head to get sight of my friend. He looked thrilled, his face smashed into my bright pink floral Vera Bradley carry on.

We were only going up two flights, but the ride TOOK FOREVER. Not only was this rickety contraption barely the size of a fucking refrigerator box, it moved about a millimeter a minute, and it sounded like it was dying a very painful and dramatic death the entire ride.

“WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING RIGHT NOW?” I wanted to scream.

An hour later, the elevator stopped, the door slowly creaked open, and a cascade of bags, arms, legs, and a random shoe fell out of the elevator.

We stumbled, stunned and exhausted to our room.

After a few dazed moments, I asked, “WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?”

“Dude, I think this place is creepy as fuck, and she’s totally going to grind us up in her special human-sized meat grinder. We are going be served as black pudding tomorrow for breakfast, ” my friend asserted**.

Normally, I would have totally bought into the fear and would have been like, “OMG NO WAY HOW DO YOU KNOW ARE WE GONNA DIE?” but I was too tired to care that the place was a little off.

I told him he was ridiculous and rude and that was that.

Because we couldn’t even remember the last time we had eaten, we ventured out onto the boardwalk to find anything open at the ungodly hour it was.

I can’t even accurately describe Blackpool, other than to say it was exactly like my experience on the shore in New Jersey (other than the British accents). I’m sure it’s a lovely place, but I really have no idea.

The first open take away restaurant we found, we ordered, ate, and miraculously found our way back to the B&B in our exhausted stupor in short order.

My friend was so out of it, he thought he’d finally found his Irish goddess in all places- a dingy Blackpool fish and chip shop.

On our way up to the room, my friend noted that no one else was about in the B&B and for sure we were her only victims for the night. Or, the others had already been taken.

For once in my life (because I’m always the one who is sure a place is haunted and full of murderers), I was the rational one.

I told him he was crazy and that no one was around BECAUSE IT WAS ONE IN THE MORNING. I then promptly went to sleep while he stayed up, watching out for Norma Bates.

In the morning, after a full night’s rest (for me), all was right again. We saw the other guests (definitely none were murdered in their sleep) during our delicious full English breakfast in the dining room (just like the one in Fawlty Towers). But, we didn’t eat any of the black pudding. Just in case.

Instead of doing any sightseeing along the boardwalk, we decided to see the Irish Sea before heading off to Scotland.

We had no idea what these booger things were, but my friend had a pretty good guess.

For the end of June, it was really, really cold.

*How I didn’t feel it necessary to photograph said elevator is a total mystery.

**She was adorable. Don’t listen to him.

A Christmas (Ghost) Story

Normally, Christmas isn’t a time for swapping ghost stories (unless you’re a stingy, cantankerous Scrooge who needs a visit from Christmas past), but this time of year always makes me think of my old Elko apartment.

If you know me personally, you likely know that I’m the highest form of wimp possible. If something has a slight bit of danger (I find leaving my cellphone charger plugged in without my cellphone one of the biggest dangers of the modern world) associated with it, I’ll opt out in a nanosecond.

Back when my parents first started leaving me home alone (I believe I was eleven), I would lock myself in the bathroom with our dog if I heard the heat kick on.

At the ripe old age of 34, I cannot sleep if my bedroom door isn’t locked at night. And, when the boyfriend comes in, I ask if he locked the door. Every.night. I ask this every night. He’s almost certainly is planning my murder.

So, obviously, I’m the best person to live in a house that’s haunted.

Can you see where this is going? Yeah, it ain’t gonna be pretty.

The apartment an ex boyfriend, we shall call him Carl, and I shared was on the “tree streets” in the heart of Elko. They’re called the “tree streets”, because they’re named after trees-oak, maple, etc. Our street was called Court. I’m no expert on trees, but I’m fairly certain that’s not a type of tree. Either way, I’m still 99% sure we lived in the coveted “tree streets” area.

It was a delightful part of town-full of gorgeous old homes, mature trees (obviously there were trees), and a serenely idyllic feel.

We had been on the apartment hunt for quite some time, as we were way past wearing out our welcome at his mother’s house (not to mention, we had graduated college, which was one of the conditions of living rent-free).

After a particularly exasperating day of turning up nothing that would suit us, home-wise, we happened upon a quaint white stone and green-trimmed row of apartment buildings. The way they were built, each duo were separated by a door that led into a shared storage and laundry room.

They were old. Like, built-in-the-20s-or-30s-old. But, they well cared for. They were also expertly updated to maintain the vintage charm and uniqueness they possessed.

This was after I’d added some of my own charm to the home.

When I peeked into the kitchen, through a window, and saw the awesome vintage metal cabinets, I had to live there. Later, I’d find the apartment held all sorts of vintage charm, like skeleton key locks and tiny, useless closets.

(It’s kind of ridiculous that I love vintage charm, but I’m terrified of vintage, lingering houseguests.)

When my ex found out he knew the landlord personally, we were a shoe-in and were new apartment dwellers by the end of the day.

The day we started moving in was a dark and gray November day. The living room walls were made up entirely of wood paneling, and the only reason I didn’t detest them intensely was because they were made of real wood and not the fake trailer home paneling one thinks of when they hear those feared words.

Wood paneling. The fucking horror.

Because the living room looked like it was straight out of an episode of Poirot, and the dark, low-lying clouds made for a very dark atmosphere, it was necessary to have lights on during the day.

This is where the story actually gets somewhat interesting (sorry for that incredibly long-winded preamble).

After many a box and armful of clothes, still on hangers (I’m a boss at packing for a move) were moved in, the ex and I decided to go take care of the power and cable.

I distinctly remember saying something like, “Let’s actually turn all of the lights off when we’re not in a room. We are paying the power bill now.” (We were total assholes.)

So, I know we turned all of the lights off. I know we did.

Yet, upon returning, the lights were mysteriously all on.

Because my paranoia was no secret, when I said, “Uh. Didn’t we turn all of the lights off before we left?”, the boyfriend responded by saying we’d discussed doing that, but we didn’t actually get around to turning them all off.

He was dead wrong.

But, even I knew that if he admitted to the fact we did turn the lights off, my ass would have had my cheap World Market Chinese paper lanterns hung back up at his mom’s house quicker than you can say, “Oh, hell no!”

This event, on the very day we moved in, set the tone for the rest of my time there. I think someone wasn’t thrilled with us moving in.

I was never comfortable in this apartment. The vibe was all wrong.

What made things even worse was Carl worked from 6:30 at night until 2:30 in the morning. Five nights a week I was alone.

After we had moved everything in and made it our own, I took pictures of our decor to share on Facebook. Every single picture had myriad orbs. I know orbs are vastly contested, but coupled with the feeling I had there, I know those sonsabitches were orbs.

One of the things that made me feel the most uncomfortable was doing the dishes. The living spaces were not open plan at all. In fact, the doorway from the front room into the living room had a door (as in one that you can close, not just a doorway-I thought I needed to clarify). At the sink, my back was to the rest of the house. I hated the fact that I had no view of the other rooms as I was doing the dishes. I constantly felt the need to glance behind me.

Other than an overall eerie feeling, not a whole lot happened to me.

I never saw anything, but I felt something. It was unmistakable.

The only other major occurrence that happened to me was on an evening before a holiday, so I was gladly staying up until Carl came home. I was watching TV (it was some TLC special on medical oddities and quite fascinating. I have no idea how I even remember this). Out of nowhere, I heard a terrific crash. It was horribly loud and made me jump right out of my skin. It sounded like it came from the laundry room.

Our laundry room was accessible by a door from the living room that led into the entryway and stairs for the upstairs apartment, so naturally I had every kind of lock installed on the door, because laundry monsters are very real.

Logically, I knew that with the door guarded like Fort Knox with its 18 different locks, whatever was in the laundry room was likely not getting in, yet I was frozen in fear.

I called Carl, and since you can get anywhere in Elko in five minutes, it was no time before he was bravely, albeit annoyingly searching the premises.

I forgot to mention that the landlord had a workshop that he used quite frequently that was accessible through the laundry room. There was no back entrance, so the only way in was the main door for the upstairs apartment. However, that door was always locked as our neighbor preferred to use his back entrance.

Carl searched all over the workshop and laundry room. Not a thing was broken, toppled over, or misplaced. When our neighbor, who was out of town during this strange occurrence, got home, we asked him if anything was amiss in his apartment.

Nothing.

I think the very notion that nothing appeared to make the terrible crash freaks me out even more. It’s also entirely possible that something did make the noise, but Carl hid it from me, because he knew how I’d react.

The creepiest thing to ever happen I didn’t find out about until I was long moved out of that apartment and back in Reno.

The winter we lived on Court street was a very cold and snowy one.

The pogonip was in full force. Our view from the apartment was pretty satisfying.

My wreath made it look not haunted at all.

I took the train to Reno to celebrate Christmas with my family. My mom, so I didn’t have to ride the train back with all of my gifts and in order to see the apartment, drove me home.

We had a fabulous girl night full of chick flicks, the best Blind Onion pizza on earth, and so much laughing. My mom insisted on sleeping in the living room on her deluxe, raised air mattress. That was one of the only nights I truly rested easy, knowing my mom was in the next room.

Well, at least one of us rested easy.

Early, in the dead of morning, my mom was awakened by the sensation of someone sitting on the end of her bed, as the motion when that happens on an air mattress is unmistakable. She figured it was Carl coming home and not realizing he was sitting on her air mattress and not the couch.

She got up to investigate and saw that Carl was in bed, snoring and farting away. He’d been home for some time, as it was hours past the time he normally arrived home.

It was then that my mom was dead certain someone or something visited her that early morning.

This post is in dedication to my astute mother who had the foresight to know her fragile daughter would not have had the mental fortitude to handle the news of a mystery guest (resident) sitting on beds in the creepiest part of the early morning. She also knew, if she shared her experience, she’d again have a daughter as a permanent area rug on her bedroom floor for the rest of her nights.

I made it six months in the apartment on Court Street. The reason I moved out is a scary story, indeed, but not one involving ghosts. I’ll have to save that story for another time.

Even as I write this now, I have the chills. I keep rolling over in bed, making sure I’m the only one in the room.

Feeling in the Christmas spirit now? Maybe after some spirits, of the liquid variety (not the paranormal) it’ll feel a little more like Christmas!

One of the last photos taken in the apartment. All of the orb pictures are gone from Facebook and have been banished to an external hard drive. Sorry to disappoint.

The Cabin

I think of it often. My heart never forgets its pull. In my dreams, it’s just as it always was when I was young. Its imprint on my memory, it’s image like a photograph, burned into my heart. When my eyes close, I see it. There sits a humble cabin on a quiet bay of a picturesque mountain lake. 

Every summer of my childhood was spent in heaven, paradise, our own personal Elysium. Every month, week, and day leading up to the summer was spent in heart-aching-anticipation of this special place. 

From my earliest memories, I recall the cabin on Coeur d’Alene Lake and it’s profound magic. 

The cabin is many things, but mostly it’s…

800 miles of sticky skin on sticky skin, drooling cousins, hot air whipping in through the windows, and knowing it all will not be in vain. 

A dark-haired, pig-tailed girl and a toe-headed boy eagerly sharing they are “going to Idaho” to anyone they meet along the way in Idaho who inquires. 

Friends. Foes. Ballers. Cousins.

The lazy susan that just maybe will reveal Lucky Charms on its next go-round instead of Raisin Bran.

Soft sunlight peppered through the curtains, the sound of familiar voices, the smell of coffee and toast, the feeling of an unburdened soul.

Bud’s Big Burgers and the time someone tagged, “Bud’s Big Boogers” on the side of the building. 

The smell of our family’s past in the musty throw pillows and dusty books. 

The taste of milk in vintage Harvest Yellow plastic tumblers and powdered Nesquik sprinkled on Darigold vanilla ice cream.

That particular bend in the road as you’re  coming from town where the temperature drops ten degrees and you know you’re truly at the lake.

Grandma’s tomato soup with elbow macaroni and the best dried garden herbs from The Herb Lady. 

The crystal clear waters that cleanse the soul and clear the mind.

The summer when Return of the Mack was popular and Mom thought Mark Morrison was singing, “We’re Tearing Up the Moon”. 

Check out this video on YouTube:

It totally sounds like that, Mom. (No, it doesn’t.) 

The sound of a car door on the landing, followed by Uncle Gary’s unmistakable voice, and the exciting knowledge that he’ll either have ingredients for an exotic dish, a new lake floaty, or, even better, a new crazy story. 

Captain Gary

Water-logged, pruney, sun-drenched skin and a satisfying tiredness that only comes after a day on the lake. 

Grandma’s favorite-Julio Iglesias, or Lee Greenwood’s Mornin’ Ride (that we only recently discovered is not about an early morning horse ride) blaring in the car, as we hug the curves around the lake, toward the cabin. 

Check out this video on YouTube:

I envisioned an innocent horse ride through a dewy meadow. My brother always thought of a virtuous truck ride in the early morn. When we discovered the true meaning, my mom was appalled and my Grandma never chose to believe it was about a ride in the hay, and by hay, I mean bed. 

The smell and presence of Grandpa in the old board games stacked in the closet, the ancient, but clean linens, and the worn gold-colored armchair. 

Pool Noodle Ballet in the deep and how that’s the only kind of ballet Mom and I will ever be good at. 

Fireworks, reflecting on the water, damp life jackets, and the sound of gentle waves lapping against the boat. 

Finally entering the Idaho farmland from the desolate desert drive and feeling the pull of the cabin and the lake in your bones.

The time Uncle Gary lost his teeth in the lake and offered up $20 to whoever found them. That was me. 

The tiny Jewel Box Gem Shop in Harrison and the treasures you could find there.

“The Hootie”*, its unpleasant smell, and the time my brother almost lit it on fire, used the Brita water pitcher to put it out, and then dropped the pitcher down the hole.

Isn’t she cute?

Butt to butt in the tiny kitchen, the smell of bleach water, and calling dibs on being the dish dryer. 

The annual Great Carlin Bay Swim: 42 people belonging to one family, 672 floaties, and a whole lotta racket, echoing off the water of the bay. 

The scary night when we almost became a bear’s midnight snack, my heroic grandma and how she scared the garbage-can-digging-by-the-window-creeping bear (It was a dog).

Night swims that sometimes turn into skinny dipping, and the time the neighbors came home and turned on all of their 8,000 lights. Mom and Aunt Dana are still pruney in places. 

The sound of a faraway boat, speeding down the channel. The creaking of Grandma’s hanging Rattan chair, and her melodious humming as she stares, her blue eyes a perfect reflection of the water. 


There are so many more things that make the cabin what it is and was to every member of my family. I don’t know why I was suddenly inspired to write a post about my summers spent on Coeur d’Alene Lake. Maybe it’s because I haven’t been in many years and I feel the pull of it in my bones and I crave a swim in its cleansing waters. That must be it. 
*”The Hootie” is our very fancy outhouse. It comes complete with its own deck, curtained-window, built-in magazine rack, and a very intricate ventilation system that Uncle Gary jerry-rigged together after a particularly hot and smelly summer.
 

We Were Stupid AF

“Um. Dude. You might want to leave work…”

“Uh…why?”

“Well, we have to be out of the apartment by five tonight, or they’ll be calling the police to escort us out…”

At some point in everyone’s lives they’ve had a stupid-af-era. If you’ve never had one of those, you’re the exception, not the rule. Count yourself lucky, too, because you probably have minimal debt, own an appliance larger than a blender, and you know what an annuity is, and you likely have one.

So, none of the above is me. I’ve had my stupid-af-era, and to be quite honest, I’m not sure I ever left said time in my life.

Back when I moved out of my parents’ for the first time, I lived with two of my best friends.

We were all almost 21, and so idiotic it was a wonder anyone was brave enough to give us our own apartment.

We apartment hunted for a long time, wanting a cheap apartment in a not cheap neighborhood. Finally, we had to settle on a two bed, one bath. Best Friend #1 and I had to share a room, but it was worth not being woken up by my dad banging on my door, looking for the crusted-over bowls hiding under my bed.

Living on our own was better than I had ever dreamed it would be. On the first night, I overflowed the toilet. The second night, our secondhand dryer broke. On the third night, we spilled Sour Apple Pucker on the carpet. Really, we should have stopped while we were ahead. Yet, every moment was magic, because independence was a beautiful thing.

It was simply glorious being footloose and anal-retentive-parent-free.

We stayed up till all hours, drinking Bartles & Jaymes Wine Coolers and watching Santa Clause 2.

No one (Mom) ever yelled at me for hogging up the phone line so I could change my AIM away message twenty times in one day.

If all we wanted in the fridge was a jar of questionable pickles and eight varieties of Boones Farm, so be it.

We were independent ladies, forging our way in the world.

Along with the wild 8-and-up card game nights, we also had nights when we fought.

My two best friends, while being my good friends, didn’t exactly love each other.

One was too over-bearing and motherly. The other left her thongs, crotch up, in the bathroom.

Some nights, we’d throw keyboards, curling irons, or said thongs at each other.

Other nights, we’d drown each other out with loud mariachi music.

During the six months that we lived in the apartment, we never once got a complaint from a neighbor. I’m not really sure how that was even possible. Maybe our downstairs neighbors were as loud and obnoxious as us? Or, they were stone-deaf.

This gorgeous chaos soon came to a head after Best Friend #2 brought home a cat, which was against our lease agreement (it also didn’t help that the little fucker’s favorite thing to do was hide under the couch or behind the bedskirt and then attach itself to our flesh when we least expected it).

Best Friend #1 and I were a lot of annoying, juvenile things, and one of those things was we were big rule followers (I guess that didn’t apply to underage drinking, though). As soon as we could, we returned the cat to the humane society.

Obviously, hijaking someone’s cat and taking it back to the cat store doesn’t sit well with some people (most people).

This single act started an epic war between three extremely petty, passive-aggressive bimbos.

Because living at the apartment was becoming awkward as fuck, Best Friend #1 went back home and I sought refuge at the new boyfriend’s house.

When the portion of the power bill owed by Best Friend #2 wasn’t paid, we snuck into the apartment and removed every single lightbulb. Our not-quite-fully-developed brains figured this was the obvious solution to an issue that could have been handled by simple communication.

Best Friend (or Enemy, at this point) #2, went to management and told them all about our drama.

Turns out, shady apartment managers don’t like dealing with dumb college girl drama.

They didn’t even want to hear it and told us we all had to be moved out before 5 PM that same day.

After quite a few years under my belt, and some serious renting experience, I realize now that what they did was likely illegal.

Well, after the phone call from Best Friend #1, suggesting I maybe come home to completely vacate in less than 5 hours, I called my mom.

(Shamefully, I’m pretty certain that every gray hair and wrinkle on my mother’s body is thanks to my brother and I.)

Her response was: “Well, that’s just fabulous. You better call every Goddamn person you know to help you. You also better call your father, because I’m not. Good luck with that and goodbye.”

At some point during the Great Pack Up, Best Friend #1’s mom was on her hands and knees, in the kitchen, frantically throwing kitchen items into a box while simultaneously yelling about how disgusting we were.

My brother was vacuuming for the first time in his life, going over and over every square inch of carpet like his life depended on it.

My aunt was asking what she thought we should do about the moldy towels in our 6-months-broken dryer.

My mom was yelling orders at all of our family and friends, and even some random people she caught walking down the street.

My cousins were hauling loose items like lamps, throw pillows and towels to our cars, while cursing us under their breath.

Best Friend # 1 and I were throwing belongings into boxes, not caring whose crap it was. I think there’s still some random storage shed somewhere with our priceless Anne Geddes art and plastic blow up lounge chairs.

And, Best Friend #2? What was she doing? At precisely T-Minus two hours, she was still crying in her room.

After attempts by my mom and Best Friend #1’s mom, my dad had to finally pound on her door and threaten her with his dad voice. Eventually, she appeared with 85 garbage bags, filled to the brim with her stuff, ready to be hauled out.

Somehow, we all (Mom, Dad, Brother, Best Friend #1’s mom, dad, and brother, Best Friend #2, a handful of friends, my cousins, and random passerby) managed to leave the place looking spotless (not even a random hanger or a half-used roll of TP was left) with only two minutes to spare.

I learned a lot of lessons from my first time living on my own. Namely, don’t live with friends and don’t leave bitchy notes for your roommates that read, “I love waking up to your bowel movements everyday. Can you please run the fan and courtesy flush? Also, the phone bill is due. K thanks.”

I’m still learning.

I just learned the other day that disposals aren’t made to mash up large quantities of food. They are just for those odd bits. Who woulda thunk?

Also, don’t prop up your feet that have been in your sweaty shoes all day on the coffee table within five feet of someone. Especially when they’re eating.

So, even though I’m doing slightly better than I was when I first lived on my own, somedays, I think I’m still firmly planted in the stupid-af-era. And, some days, I change the batteries in the smoke detector all on my own.

These days, Best Friend #1 is winning at life. She owns her own home and seems to always be jetting off on some trip. The bitch.

Best Friend #2 is married with two beautiful children. I don’t think she owns a cat.


For some reason, this is the only picture I could find of our first apartment. Notice the message board, where super friendly (bitchy) messages were written. I have no idea who the half-naked guy is, but a poster of a wet/greased up/sweaty guy in the kitchen is always a good idea. Also, WTF is happening with my “bangs”?

Fatty McCupcakes has been nominated in the Funniest Blogger category for the Annual Bloggers Bash Awards. If this gave you a chuckle, I’d really appreciate the love! You can vote HERE! Thank you, and as Leslie Knope would say, “I love you and I like you.”

Autumn-Loving and Basic AF

Whenever summer starts to loosen its death grip on the weather, and crisper mornings start to require a little more clothing, I feel my heart become lighter, brighter. 

Surely, we all know, since I’m Fatty McCupcakes, that part of why I love autumn so much is because it means no more exposed chub. Hands down, autumn and winter fashion is my favorite, not only because more of my body is covered, but because I love what I get to cover my body in-cardigans galore, plaid scarves, and every type of boot imaginable.

Pumpkin-flavored-everything starts to be available, and my inner, wannabe-baker starts to stockpile sprinkles, sugar skull cupcake liners, and bags of baking sugar. And, sometimes, I actually get around to baking something delicious. 

Warm, rich stews appear in the dinner rotation, and suddenly, homemade hot apple cider sounds like a good idea. 

I start to purchase huge bags of candy for trick or treaters (no, these never get busted into before Halloween), and I start creating my next, too-involved Halloween costume for school.

So, essentially, I’m just like every other basic, white bitch, dusting off her Uggs. 

And, so-fucking-what? 

If it’s basic to love a season so much that you go hog wild on doing positively everything that makes said season fun as shit, then label me Basic AF, with a capital Chambray and Chevron. 

I don’t even care. 

But, if you love autumn and all that comes with it with every fiber of your being like I do, it’s likely due to something deeper than PSLs and artsy wet leaf Instagram shots. 

You probably had loving, involved parents  who pointed out the changing leaves and talked to you about why the seasons change. 

You likely had a family who took you to pumpkin patches to pick the *perfect* pumpkin to carve. And then you went home to make hot apple cider. 

Maybe your mom took you on Sunday drives in the rain, so that you could witness, first hand, the changing season in all its resplendent glory.

So, it’s settled. I’m a basic, but Canva-graphic-deep, autumn-obsessed bitch. 

I’ve said in earlier posts that when the seasons change, I think of Elko. I don’t know what it is about that place. Especially since I positively hated living there the better part of the first year. 

Still, after so many years, when autumn arrives, it reminds me of the beauty that is Elko. 


Ready for the deep, artsy wet-leaf-Canva-graphic part? 

Here’s what really sings in my heart when autumn rolls in with the dry leaves and fireplace smell: 

Muddy roads and slanted rain on dusty windows.
The smell of rich earth, wet leaves. An old heater. Burning wood. 

Heavy, low-lying clouds, blanketing brown sagebrushed hills. Wet, dark, slate.

The blue-tinged sunshine. Crisp blue skies. Orange, brown, red. 

The taste of cinnamon and cloves. Pumpkin. Yeast. 
Enveloping darkness and lighted windows projecting warmth and a story. 

This is autumn. 

This is autumn, bitch. 


Travel Tuesday- The Point Reyes National Seashore 

I was inspired by An Historian’s post on the Aran Islands, and by my continual wanderlust to write about my recent trip to the Point Reyes National Seashore in California. 

Now, it’s not Ireland or anywhere near as exotic as Croatia (read The Wandering Flamingo’s post about her holiday on Šipan Island), but if you’re on the west coast of the United States, and anywhere near San Francisco, it’s a must-do! 

My good friend, Holly and I had originally wanted to drive a piece of the Oregon Coast during our summer vacation girls’ getaway. When we realized that our busy schedules and dwindling teacher bank accounts wouldn’t support such a venture, we looked into checking out the redwoods. I’ve been through the Redwood National Park a couple of times, but not Holly. But, again, we were faced with time constraints. 

Before packing it in, and putting off our trip for another time (Don’t do this, ya’ll. Time is fleeting, and you never know if you’ll get around to seeing everything you want to in one lifetime), Holly suggested we head just north of the Bay Area to the Point Reyes National Seashore. 

Being in Reno means quick access to the San Francisco Bay Area. On a good day, with minimal traffic, one can find themselves perusing the funky shops in Chinatown in 3.5 hours. 

Finding our way to the Point Reyes National Seashore took about the same amount of time, and bonus: no crazy city traffic and hobo street sprinters.

Our first stop along the national seashore was the famous shipwreck in Inverness, California. (I loved being in Inverness *again*!) Often described as “Instagrammable”, it was a fun place to stop and take pictures we, of course, posted on Insta. 

Everything looks better after filters. Amiright?

The strange shipwreck was cool to see, but what was most beautiful was the drastic drop in temperature. It was so nice to leave the 100-degree temperatures behind, even if the humidity gave me an insta-perm. 

The first major stop we made was to the Point Reyes Lighthouse. If you plan on checking out the lighthouse, make sure you visit the National Park Service website for operating hours, as the lighthouse is closed after 4 PM Monday through Friday. Also, if the wind is too strong, the steps leading to the lighthouse will be closed.


It’s important to be aware that the climb to and from the lighthouse is incredibly challenging. Not only will you be climbing the equivalence of 30 floors, the wind is intense. On more than one occasion I felt like I could easily be carried off the cliff by the wind.

Read more about my epic climb in my Trail Fails post. 


Be prepared with extra water, walking shoes, wet wipes and a full tank of gas, as amenities are lacking. Speaking of amenities, the bathrooms are not fabulous and there is no running water to wash your hands. 

All that said, the views of the shoreline, surrounding landscape, and ocean are breathtaking. 



After nearly being blown clear off the coast at the lighthouse, we continued along the seashore. As we drove winding roads that cut through tall fields of grasses being whipped around by the relentless wind, the contrast between the wheat-colored grass and the ever-changing aegean and teal blue water was striking. 


I don’t know why, but this view evoked an Eastern European or Middle Eastern feeling in me. I’ve never been to either, so…I dunno?
 

After a brisk hike along an expanse of the seashore that seemed entirely untouched, we continued on to another location that was eerily desolate. 



Maybe it was because it was late in the afternoon, or it was due to the fact that there was no one else around, but the Marconi radio facilities building felt so incredibly creepy to me. I think, maybe, it was also the long, tree-canopied lane that leads to the decades-old building. I envisioned myself alone in that building, at night, watching as my untimely demise came slowly, but assuredly down the road. 

*shudders*


On the second day of our girl getaway we hung out in some huge trees:


Ate a picnic lunch on Stinson Beach:

 


And, got a killer view of San Francisco from reeeeeally far away:


I’ve seen the otherworldly Scottish Highlands, the impossible green that is Ireland, and the patchwork perfection that is the English countryside, but the Point Reyes National Seashore is another kind of beautiful. 
Really, there is no comparing one beautiful place with another. There are so many kinds of beautiful, that no matter how hard you try, you’ll never see them all in one lifetime. 

Point Reyes is a rugged kind of beautiful, and despite the tourists, remains, somehow, wild and untouched. 

Have you ever been somewhere that reminded you of someplace else, even if you’ve never been to that someplace else? Ever been to a beautiful place that feels undiscovered and wild? Let me know in the comments! 

The Mattole River Resort

You might remember that before we started this crazy little road trip down memory lane I suggested you bring along a spare tire, a life vest and rat poison. 

Have you been wondering where rat poison* was going to come in? No? You didn’t read that part? You just skimmed. OK. Well, we’re going to need it today. I guess you will just be eaten alive by monster rats. Sorry not sorry. 

(Actually, I am sorry, because I love you all, and I wouldn’t want to lose anyone of you in such a terrifying way.)

So, as we have all learned, my mom was an ace at finding great motel deals. 

These budget hovels saved money so that we were able to afford the expensive treatment for scabies that we’d need when we got home.

One of the absolute best, or rather, most memorable trips we took was to the Mattole River Resort.

Straight out of the California Chainsaw Massacre, this “resort” is situated along the Mattole River in Nothern California.

For those of you not familiar with Northern California, it’s good to be aware that it’s absolutely filled to the brim with hippie hill people. 

I don’t want to offend any potential hippie readers I might have. I’m a huge supporter of the notion, “You do you, boo”. So, I’m not hating on hippies, per se.

I’m just accurately painting the scene, people. I’m just setting the stage.

So, after a long day of winding roads, weird little backroad towns, and uncomfortable back seat living, we finally made it to our “resort”.

(I have to mention that before we made it to the resort, we stopped at a convenience store. The whole drive there it got foggier and foggier every mile we drove. If that wasn’t creepy enough, my mom said there were two men sitting out in the front of the store who were straight out of Deliverance. She said we don’t remember this part of the trip, because they wouldn’t let us get out of the car!)

Mind you, when one hears “resort”, especially one who watched their Dirty Dancing VHS on repeat, they think rustic, but posh, nicely furnished and expertly appointed “glamping” cabins. 

We all should have known better, for it was my mom (and aunt-I can’t leave her contribution out of this) who booked the place using her discount travel bible.

Again, Grandma is not having any of our shit.

The Mattole River Resort was far from being a resort. 

I remember little snippets from our stay at the Mattole Cult Compound. I think that I blanked out some of the memories to save myself from developing multiple personalities. 

I recall that, as we were bringing our belongings in from the car, doubt set in. The cabins were filthy. Positively disgusting. 

The woman running the place had promised enough beds, because there was a hide-a-bed in the couch. 

When we pulled it out, one of the necessary legs was missing, and instead of a mint on the pillow, there were mouse turds. 

Mouse turds, ya’ll.

In the bed.

When my mom and grandma were looking for another set of sheets, a blanket, hell, even a tarp at this point, they opened a closet to find an unexpected surprise. 

They had no clue what it was, but it was behemoth and a nest of some sort. My mom said they just shut the door and didn’t open it again the rest of the stay. 

I don’t even remember sleeping at this place. As in, I don’t recall being in a bed, covered with a blanket, nothing. I probably slept standing up or in the car. I don’t know how I didn’t just straight run away from my family at this point. 

Apparently, we stayed two or three nights. The first night we arrived it was late, so it’s understandable why we stayed. I’m not quite sure why my mom and aunt subjected us to this horror-story-waiting-to-happen for more nights than were necessary. 

My mom said it was because there was nowhere else to stay for a bajillion miles in all directions. We’d booked our stay, driven hundreds of miles, and it was going to be fun, damnit. 

My mom said, as beautiful as the surrounding landscape was, the Mattole River Resort was, “…horrible in every way.”

Three people who didn’t quite mind the Mattole River Resort were my two cousins and brother.

The daughter of the owner (who, my mom swears, couldn’t have been more than ten years old) took them down to the river and introduced them to pot for the first time.

My brother and two cousins recall that trip being pretty groovy, man.

Every picture from this trip is blurry. Our minds were probably negatively affected by all of the mouse poop. Also, in looking at how young my brother was, I’m wondering if only my cousin was involved in the Mary Jane incident?

As for me, I’m fairly certain my weird neurosis about germs, vermin, and motels with anything less than a four star rating is directly related to our typical Smith** Family stay at the Mattole River Resort. 

I hope my Family Vacations From Hell series has been enjoyable and at least mildly amusing. I hope my stories bring back funny and warm memories from your own past. 

Because I’m a satire writer, everything I write has some sass and asshole to it. These posts were no different. 

It’s important for me to point out, however, that as much as these true accounts sound horrifyingly hilarious, they are some of my most beloved memories.

Had my parents been like every other Dick and June, my memories wouldn’t be nearly as wonderfully ridiculous. 

This series is dedicated to my parents, because thanks to their annoyingly thrifty ways, my brother and I were afforded a childhood filled with amazing trips and experiences. Not only did we go somewhere exciting (or slightly terrifying) every spring break, we spent every summer at our family’s lake cabin, AKA Heaven on Earth. On top of that, they sent us both to Washington, D.C. on a school trip our 8th grade year, and it was my parents who funded the most rewarding experience to date-my trip to the U.K. and Ireland. 

Mom and Dad, you do you, boo. You’re perfectly imperfect just the way you are, sleazebag motels and all. Love you both. 

*Apparently, the cabin was only infested with mice and not rats. That makes it so much better.

**Not our real family name.

My Brother’s “13th Birthday” 

When we turn 13 in our family, tradition dictates that you get to have a big birthday celebration- one you won’t ever forget. This momentous occasion may or may not include naked hippies.
The year my brother turned 13, my mom planned a trip to the bay. San Francisco is only 3.5 hours away from us, and we grew up visiting the eclectic Crazy Street People City quite a lot.

You must know that my mom is quite thrifty. Before Expedia or Trivago were even a wild idea, my mom obsessively scoured the discount travel brochures and books. Part of what made all of our travel adventures so memorable is due largely in part to my mom’s awesome motel finds in her travel books (I’m saving her best find for the last post in this series).

My mom rocked the early 90s so hard.

My mom swore she found the hidden gem of all hidden gems in the heart of the city.

So, Mom, Dad, Brother, Grandma, and I packed into the car and schlepped over the hill.

The motel was a gem, alright. It was not only located in the center of the city, but it was smack dab in the middle of the worst neighborhood, on the worst street and it was the worst motel on said street. 

Because we are budget travelers through and through, we all slept in the same room-Grams and me in one bed, Dad and Brother in the other. My mom ordered a cot from the front desk, and slept with it right up against the door, because she was concerned the homeless man peeing right outside our room might try to come in to use an actual toilet.  

Throughout the night, we were serenaded with the sounds of men moaning, shrill female laughter, and the sound of a cat dying… or mating. And, it all sounded like it was right outside our window. 

It was sketchy with a capital how-did-we-not-get-bed-bugs. 

In the morning, on our way to see Alcatraz, there was a woman going absolutely bat-shit-crazy on top of a guy’s car. Like, she was on all fours on the hood, screaming and pounding her fists into his windowshield. The poor guy looked like he had no idea what to do as he was just sitting in the driver’s seat with his mouth agape. 

I would have just turned on my windshield wipers to try to wipe her off. 

Ain’t nobody got time for that. 

My Grandma was thinking, “Who are these crazy fuckers, and why did they bring me along for the Worst Side of San Francisco Tour?”

That same trip, we almost met our demise at the rest stop on top of the summit. 

The entire weekend was stormy and rainy. As we headed back home, the rain was immense. We felt like Noah’s ark as we parted the waters on the highway home. 

As we crested the summit over Donner Pass, it began to snow. Tradition dictates that we always stop at the rest stop on the top of the mountain. 

Forget that it was dark, snowing, and the rest stop was seemingly empty, no, we had to stop-it was TRADITION (someone probably really had to go: MOM). 

The vibe at the rest stop was bad. In hindsight, we should have just driven the hour more until home. 

My mom walked my brother and me into the main area, out of the snow. From there, we went our separate ways to the restrooms.

As my mom was waiting, she noticed two shady-looking men in the shadows. What normal, pure of heart and mind kind of person just lurks around an empty, freezing rest stop in the middle of nowhere, late at night? 

She said later that a ferocious chill went down her spine. Something just wasn’t right.

At this point, another vehicle pulls up, and my dad gets out of the car to retrieve something from the trunk.

As the lights from the car pulling up shine into the rest stop doorway, my mom glances over at the two men. From across the room, they give each other a “Not-this-one” look and they subtly shake their heads. 

They then disappear. 

She’s still convinced to this day that those two men were waiting around to do something bad. She thinks that they noticed that there were two other people in our car and then, when the other car pulled up, they figured whatever they had planned would not work on us. 
We all majorly had the creepies the whole way home. The entire car was silent as we counted our blessings/reevaluated our direction in life/cursed whoever’s idea it was to stop at the rest stop (MOM’s).

That, kids, is why you don’t go into rest stops-especially at night! Shady people try to do shady things at rest stops. Always find yourself a Starbucks restroom. Or a tree. Anything is better than an “empty” rest stop in the dark of night.

When we finally arrived home, exhausted, but grateful to all be in one piece, my brother says, “Next year, on my 13th birthday, can we just stay at home and do our usual thing?”

MY MOM FORGOT HOW OLD HER ONLY SON WAS. 

My mom felt pretty ridiculous having to admit that she miscalculated and thought he was turning 13, and thus, why he got such a big, super special Birthday. 

I think the next year for his birthday we did just what he wanted, and we were all pretty grateful.