Monday, May 25, 2009

The inevitable Vacation Blog

Thursday May 21
I left work with as little drama as possible, however Sallie’s inherited my horrible allergies whereas I’ve sort of grown out of the worst of mine.

This highway looks so much like the hundreds of highways I’ve burned 80 mph on before. There are two lanes, where a semi-truck seemingly is always blocking both lanes, and the same green blurs of trees are the scenery on either side. Sallie had a bad day and we listen to the Foo Fighters and Hole in between life complaints eventually stopping at a Subway to get dinner. Life seems so much better on a full stomach.

Our destination, Paducah Kentucky, seems to take no time after driving back and forth from Myrtle Beach to St. Louis. I could’ve made it to Memphis. Paducah has the welcoming stench of dead fish as we drive over the Ohio River. The Ohio River into Louisville never smelled this bad.

Friday May 22, 2009

After a quick complimentary breakfast of biscuits and gravy and orange juice we get on the road around 8. We drive for a good 8 hours only stopping for our second helping of Subway (which was the worst ever)

We stop for groceries. It official, I universally hate every Wal Mart.

A sign, Big Creek Cabin rentals are only 2 miles away. We drive up a gravel road. This might as well be a car graveyard. Every decade and make is represented. The earth is reclaiming the hunks of metal and plastic. Like a treasure, you would have to dig to find the vehicals.

We weren’t briefed on the crazy mountain road we were forced to take. There is a detour. We’re taking hairpin turns whilst driving up a 30 degree angle. At one point I swear we are upside down. How’s this even possible. To make things more treacherous we pass several large cars on this thin road. They have nothing to worry about. They know the road and aren’t on the cliff side of it. One mistake and we go rolling for hours.

The cabin is literally in the middle of nowhere. It’s a three bedroom, two bathroom, well manicured place. Can’t beat the $135 a weekend price tag on this rental. I notice that things are really quiet. This could prove to be a problem for sleeping. I might have to have Sallie get drunk and yell profanities outside my bedroom window at bar time so I can fall asleep.

My head is still sunburned from paintball and peeling. It itches. My allergies are also making a comeback. This old friend hadn’t affected me yet this year, but the mountain air is doing it. My eyes swell up. To ease my pain, I drink beer and enter the hot tub.

By the time I go to bed my eyes have swollen shut. I have to swear to Sallie that I’m not drunk. I go to bed.

Saturday May 23 2009

I hear everyone wake up. I know I’m up, but I can’t see anything. My eyes are swollen shut and still goopy. I lay in bed for another 45 minutes, conscious, but hardly awake.

Eventually I pry my eyes open, grab a hot cup of coffee. I’m surprised at how good Scnhucks brand coffee tastes. I make a mental note to check out the 5lb, $5 can over the $10, 1lb bag I normally get.

We embark on a journey right over a mountain and into Gaitlinburg, Tennessee. I didn’t realize there was a popular mountain getaway in Tennessee. Thousands of people wander up and down the strip perusing swords and air brushed art from the shops. Essentially it looks like the exact strip from Myrtle Beach. Does one company come in and create these tourist strips? And why is it always a strip? Wouldn’t it make more sense to create a small grid instead of forcing overweight vacationing tourists to walk from one side to the other?

We drive through Gaitlinburg after about 35 minutes of sitting in traffic and drive up the mountain. We randomly pick a “quiet walkway” to hike through the woods. We see two overweight people wandering off the trail covered in sweat, so we expect a good walk. We ascend a particularly steep hill, looking to get a good view point, instead we wander into something out of the Blair Witch Project.

There was a cemetery staring at us once we came over the top. Most the tombstones were more than 100 years old and in surprisingly good shape. We pondered how the bodies were dragged up here or if there were bodies at all. Then we stumbled across a six year old girl named “Sara Jane.” It was like some sort of dark omen. Instead of running as fast as we could out of the mountaintop cemetery, Sallie snapped a few pictures.

We attempted a few side paths, but they all ended quickly. We jumped back in the car and drove further up the mountain, eventually coming to a visitors center entrance to the Appalachian Trail, 5,000 feet up. Biker’s and disgusting overweight Americans hung out at the visitor’s center, not daring to hit the trail, merely feeling accomplished getting to this point in their car.

We hit the trail, constantly ascending the mountain for a good mile and a half. I’d never exerted myself at these altitudes, so mixed with my allergy ridden lungs, I was having a mildly difficult time. We stopped to have lunch on a rock, where I realized I forgot to pack something. I took scraps from everyone else and eventually assembled enough calories for a “meal.”

The views were amazing, we exchanged various “difficult times” stories including the recent paintball trip and leave the mountain back through Gaitlinburg, stopping at a local winery where a grape that grows nowhere else, grows in the mountain. We then do, by far, the most “old person” thing I’ve ever done. We went to a store specializing in preserves, jams, and jellys.

The drive home was interesting. John’s GPS system brought us through the most dangerous, one lane, mountain road… ever. I did the opposite of relax on this vacation. Instead my body tensed up every hairpin turn, everytime a car came from the other direction, everytime I could see the hundred foot fall off the side of my car. We did this for an hour. By the time we got back to the cabin, I needed a beer. Everyone needed a drink. The boys polished off three cases of beer. Girls several bottles of wine. We tried to cram 6 people in a 2 person hot tub.

I passed out within moments of getting into bed.

Sunday May 25, 2009

Lay around most the morning catching up on some writing. We take off for white water rafting shortly after breakfast.

Again, that mountain pass road tenses every little muscle in my body. I hate this. Even though I do though, I still want to move to Colorado.

We hit the freezing river with our guide Bob. He’s a retired teacher/economist/river enthusiast. He seems to be the only person that isn’t a native to the mountain.

The river is built on several class 3 and 4 rapids. The most I’d ever done was class 1 and 2 with Allyn and Becca in Salt Lake City.

We all took turns riding what Bob called “The Bull.” Essentially, you sat in the front of the raft and watched the rapid swallow you. The river took an hour and a half, but felt like 30 minutes.

While waiting for our pictures to pop up, a storm moved in and we had to drive the treacherous mountain pass while it rained down on us.

John, Gabe, and I lounged around the cabin for most the rest of the day. I mean Con Air came on TV. We couldn’t pass that up right?

Monday May 26, 2009

The long drive home.

I’m tired of driving.

We got an oil change two weeks ago and are only 600 miles shy of needing a new one.

I also forgot it’s Memorial Day weekend which means that the police force is out. I’m completely convinced that southern Illinois is nothing but one giant speed trap. I counted 26 police cars on the 150 mile stretch we drove, 19 of which pulled people over.

We are finally home and have to return to work tomorrow. I’m not ready for it, but at least the next weekend is only 4 days away. Everyone leave me alone that weekend. It’s mine. I will contact you if I want you in it. Thank you.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Finally a vacation

Tomorrow night, Sallie and I will be leaving St. Louis as soon as I'm out of work at 7 and driving to Peducah Kentucky. Then Friday, we will be driving to stay the weekend in a cabin in the Smokie mountains in Tennessee.

I don't know what phone reception will be like or if we'll have access to the internet, so just in case you guys need to try to get a hold of us we're staying here:

I think the cabin is in Gabe Gross name. If we do have reception than its not a big deal.

We will be doing the following activities:
Sitting in a hot tub
Drinking at the winery
White water rafting

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Is that poop? Nah it can't be

Last week we were getting torrential downpours almost every day of the week. Normally our basement floods a bit, but its never a big deal. I've set our things to the highest point in the basement so as not to get them ruined.

We noticed on Saturday the puddle was getting much larger than normal and seemed to be pooling in a storage room we don't have access to. Sallie called the landlords to warn them and they said, "Not a big deal. there's nothing in there that water will ruin."

Fair enough. They say they will come by eventually and take care of it as long as we don't need them there immediately. No problem right?

So we go paint balling Sunday and come home tired. I force myself to do laundry and notice that the puddle has gotten bigger and now smells. I figure this is due to the fact that the sun came our for a bit and probably made the water a bit moldy.

I run that load of laundry and go upstairs for the next few hours. I go downstairs to change out the laundry again and notice the puddle has become even large.

Again, I think nothing of it and go upstairs. A movie passes and I go downstairs yet again to change out the laundry. "What is that smell? Its sort of familiar."

I drop the laundry off and notice that the deepest part of the puddle has a foamy layer on top. Upon closer inspection I notice that the "mold" isn't mold, but is paper. Toilet paper to be exact.

"Oh, what's that next to the toiler paper?"

At this point, I don't know in my mind what I expected to be paired with toilet paper, but I definitely didn't expect the obvious. It went something like this.

"Maybe I'll get closer. Is that... ew... f-ing gross... ewww... thats poop... oh god, OH GOD! There's poop and toiler paper floating in pee."

I ran upstairs feeling completely unclean. I showered for 35 minutes. By now it was 10 oclock at night and the landlord was already coming over in the morning so we didn't do anything.

I woke up the next day to find one of the landlords looking extremely pissed and carrying window air conditioning units out to the dumpster. I avoided eye contact (even though it wasn't my fault I felt guilty) and went to work.

Sallie picked up a scrub brush, bottle of bleach, and rubber gloves reaching to my elbows. The landlords did a good job of cleaning up the mess, but we still had to throw up any of our stuff that was floating in possibly our entire buildings urine. We ended up throwing out a lot out and finding a few turds and tampons hiding behind boxes the landlords must've missed. All in all, it was gross.

My only complaint about living in St. Louis thus far is the sewer system. Since most of them were put into place 150 years ago, most of them work like they were built 150 years ago.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Wearing sweatpants and a blue Kurt Cobain shirt wasn't the best fatigues to bring to war, but it didn't matter. The whistle blew and I saw paintballs flying toward me from three different directions. Narrowly escaping doing an action hero roll, my clothing was covered in mud and I fit in.

We charged toward the middle of the field, screams of pain from falling comrades. Franklin tries to beeline for the fortress, but the enemy has anticipated the move. Bill and Joel sent paintballs smacking against trees and cover. Franklin doesn't fall until only feet from the cover he was going toward. The enemy took the fort.

Kyle screams to lay down cover fire, so I blind fired over my cover toward the enemy hoping to keep them hidden. A ball exploded on my hopper spraying paint into my goggle. Kyle never did make his move, but I was left with the wound.

Matt and I fired round after round at each other. Our cover was maybe 45 feet apart. It was obvious that both of us were shooting through the blurred vision of ruined goggles. James arrived behind me as backup. Matt and James fired on each other, through and over my cover. The balls mostly shattered in the tree limbs and against the plywood cover I had found solace. For a moment I felt like the 101st Airborne in Bastongne in 1944. Limited supplies, wounded, getting shelled from both sides. (Of course this is nowhere near as heroic as the 101st Airborne) The paint rained on me, speckling me with brilliant orange colors, and I couldn't help but laugh. Matt and I shot each other at the exact same moment. It wouldn't be my last wound.

Later, we were assaulting the castle. Small view holes spat ammunition down the field where our cover was. It was hopeless, we were assaulting up a hill onto a heavily armed fortress. While three of them shot from inside the safety of the walls, two of their more mobile players flanked left and right. I took the guy on the right, spraying each other like two powerful wizards dueling with magic. We should've hit each other a dozen times, but because of the sheer adrenaline rush and will to survive we both had the balls merely whizzed by ears or ricocheted off of the metal barrels, creating audible dinks. For this moment, I was locked in combat with one person. The rest of the field disappeared.

Then in a moment of weakness I looked down to confirm my ammo count. SMACK! The sharp, pinpoint precision of a paintball broke the skin on top of my cranium. I stumbled backwards. It took several seconds and a second paintball striking my feet for me to throw my gun into the air and scream "I'm out." Dazed and wandering back to the "cemetery" I saw Joel running up the field toward Sallie. The last of our team surviving. She didn't have a chance. He came around her cover, grabbed her barrel, and said "you're out."

Long after my trigger finger stopped shaking, I'm now sitting in my underwear, eating half a strawberry pie, preparing for the soreness that has taken over. Tomorrow will be when be when the real pain sets in.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Shortest Trip Ever to Columbia

Friday was not the greatest of days. Many people at my work were walked out after being laid off. Not only was that sad, but since they worked the morning shift they put in tickets and with the best possible customer service, promised to help user's with their issues. At 3pm when everyone else on the tech desk was leaving, I was left there to clean up the pieces of these tickets that were supposedly being worked.

Supposedly there's going to be another round of cuts. I still don't think I'm in danger, but it might be getting close to that danger zone. Most of the people not doing a great job have already been cut. Next tier is the people that do alright at their jobs.

Friday night Sallie and I took off to Columbia to help Lacy move. We got to Columbia and met our crew at Flatbranch and had dinner and a few beers. It was a great time. I forgot how much I miss that town and atmosphere. Even though you're infinitely more busy at school, you still feel less busy somehow. I guess because things are more flexible. You don't feel like going to class, no problem. Can't go to work, someone is always willing to cover.

Sallie and I walked around campus before we headed back to Lacy's house. It's weird, only a year and a half ago that was our school. The quad was torn up for the J-school construction. Brady commons was under construction for an expansion the students supposedly voted for. Dorms were being added in more or less every corner of the campus. It wasn't the most beautiful campus to say goodbye to.

Well, more or less everything is at least up. Things look beautiful again. I'm glad that my hiked tuition went to good... no scratch that... cosmetic use.

I loved seeing all the college kids again. Yes, I felt old as hell. Everyone on campus looked 5-10 years younger than me. (Even though most are only about 4) Some girls playfully (and drunkenly) splashed around in the fountain in dresses. Guys were playing softball in the dark on the quad. All the foreigners were at the library on Friday night, reading and learning. The campus, no matter how many years pass, remains frozen in the same state. I miss it. Energy fills you veins. Ideals, opinions, and freedom pulsate from your heart. The man, layoffs,debt, the economy has no place on campus. It is a different world.

The thing is though, once you leave the safety of the campus, you can't afford to go back. Student loans, credit cards, mortgages, family, real jobs keep you from passing through the portal to that realm. The scariest thing is, soon I won't have anyone to stay with in Columbia. One by one my friends are graduating. Somehow having a hotel room just isn't the same as crashing on your buddies floor.

I'll miss it...

We moved Lacy today. The whole ordeal only took maybe 45 minutes. In the shuffle Lacy was getting rid of things we quickly grabbed. I finally got a turntable, receiver, and about 40 or so albums. (Time will tell if any will play, they all looked a bit warped) Now I just have to get an amp and some speakers. I'm already concocting in my mind how I'm going to make this a surround sound situation for my tv too.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Heaven Tonight

Everything seems to be falling apart nowadays and I can't seem to think of a way out of it. I've always had opinions, ideas, reasons, or at least I never thought it was this far gone.

It might be because I read the news now more than ever, but at any given point in the day there are murders, rapes, mass killings, political agendas, and poverty. Why is it? How have we been able to get so far past normal and happiness as a society?

Is this about winning? Are we so determined to get ahead over everyone, to prove that we're right, to prove that we have a reason to live that we're willing to give up our humanity?

Then there's the problems on more of a personal level. The broken souls of the world try to beat themselves into submissions. They morph into these scared lonely shadows of who they really are. Don't let the world beat your ass down. Don't give into those bastards that want to hurt you. How can you make people see their true potential or greatness when you know the world around them will try to knock them down tomorrow?

I try to combat this coldness of a world not worthy of a name with a smile every now and then. I listen to other people. I offer advice and help with even the most seemingly minute situation.

I went for an extended run tonight and had a nice mix of 90s depression music and I noticed something that seem to slip by before.

The Toadies, Hole, Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, and Pearl Jam all wrote songs about being stuck in hell. They were addicts, forgotten, poor, and misunderstood, but no matter how far in hell they felt they were, their lyrics almost always reflected on heaven.

To them though, heaven was always this almost attainable plain of existence held up by the thin and fragile sky. The stars poked through as if mocking Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain, "Ha, we already made it here." No matter how horrible things might have seemed for them though, they didn't talk about heaven like it wasn't within reach, they talked about it as if their dream was right on their finger tips and they were scared that if they let it out of sight, even for a moment, they might not ever be that close again.

This is enough to drive a person mad. To have a dream right there, but not quite have it in their palms. If they walked away and recuperated, they might be able to come at it from another angle, but there's always that thought of, "what if this is it?"

I think I always found comfort in the musician's struggle. Something about knowing that they still thought there was hope helped me. If I thought I was on the bottom, I'd throw on "Celebrity Skin" or "Hell Below/Stars Above," and the container I was at the "bottom" of all of a sudden seemed a lot deeper. Somehow just knowing that things could be worse, gave me comfort.

Here's a suggestion for a 90s playlist when you're feeling down. Set this up on your MP3 player and by the end of it, you'll not only feel empowered, but you'll feel like you're not alone.

1. Hole- Hit So Hard
2. Hole- Reasons to be Beautiful
3. Nirvana- Something in the Way
4. Nirvana- Pennyroyal Tea
5. Nirvana- Where Did You Sleep Last Night? (The live in New York version)
6. Toadies- Dollskin
7. Toadies- Hell Below/Stars Above (This one is for Nick)
8. Smashing Pumpkins- Try, Try, Try
9. Smashing Pumpkins- Perfect
10. Pearl Jam- Better Man
11. Pearl Jam- Black
12. Bush- Swallowed
13. Silverchair- Miss You Love
14. K's Choice- Not an Addict
15. Weezer- Butterfly
16. Nada Surf- Popular