Recent Splats according to Miz Yank

Road tripping to Allentown: another entry from the “I’ve gone further for less” file

Today’s post will be short because I’m taking my niece and nephew, aka the Roommates, on a road trip to Allentown, Pennsylvania.

“What’s in Allentown?” you ask. A Mack Truck museum, a fish hatchery, and a whole bunch of my relatives. We don’t intend to visit any of them, however. We’re headed up there to buy bacon-scented shirts.

Right now some of you are shaking your heads, but c’mon, don’t act like you wouldn’t jump at the chance to drive 200 miles one-way just to purchase a garment that smells like breakfast meat. Sure, maybe you could buy it on line, but that’s not the point. Ownership of a pre-funked shirt is a privilege, not a right, and you have to earn it. And boy are we earning it.

We hadn’t even heard about bacon shirts until two weeks ago, when my Aunt Elaine, who lives near Allentown, happened to mention them during dinner before the Tony Bennett/Lady Gaga concert. (Only before a Lady Gaga concert would the topic of meat clothing arise naturally.) The shirts, she told us, are the trademark of the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, a AAA baseball team that’s renowned for showing its fans a good time. We had to go.

The question of when resolved itself in short order when the kids’ schedules opened up for this weekend. As I talked to Emily and Timothy about the trip, I mentioned the game was at night, so we might as well stay at a hotel.

“Could it have room service?” Emily asked. Timothy nodded, in a rare show of respect for his sister’s questioning skills.

Room service? For a bacon shirt-focused overnighter? If my siblings and I had posed a question like that to my father when we were kids, he’d have had a two-part response, where part one was, “Are you sh*ting me?” and part two was, “Hell no.”

So I said, “Of course.”

Due to our last-minute planning and the Pigs’ popularity, I couldn’t even buy three tickets in the same section on the team website. I had to go to StubHub. That’s right: I paid a premium to be able to walk into a sporting venue and buy a smelly shirt. I look forward to paying $6 for a bottle of water.

And since our route to the Iron Pigs takes us right past Dorney Park, a decent-sized amusement park, I decided we might as well go whole hog (har!) and squeeze in a few hours of roller-coastering while we’re at it.

Don’t tell me I don’t know how to bring home the bacon.

The official team logo, courtesy of trendingtoplists.com (http://www.trendingtoplists.com/top-10-minor-league-baseball-team-nicknames)

 

 

 

 

On International Lefthanders Day, a love note to my Southpaw sisters

[Day 13 in a month of daily blogging with my pal and partner in crime, Philippa Hughes.]

Today is International Lefthanders Day, which I have chosen to celebrate by writing about two of my favorite lefties: my sisters Suzi and Lynne. (By the way, yesterday was National Middle Child Day, which I didn’t hear about until last night. Figures. We middle kids are used to delayed recognition.)

Yesterday’s post about Mom mentioned in passing that Suzi is one of those annoying firstborns who does nearly everything perfectly. On reading it, Suzi thought I overstated her abilities, but for once, I wasn’t exaggerating. If you don’t believe me, take a look at this cake she made.

Suzi cake pic

Do you have any idea what it was like to grow up behind the likes of someone who produces that? On a regular basis? To make matters worse, Suzi is so blasted nice you end up liking her in spite of yourself. On top of that, as I’ve seen time and again over the course of my life, and particularly when I was trying to figure out how to exit a dangerous marriage in 2011, Suzi knows what it means to be a big sister.

My sister Lynne also had a perfectionistic side. When we were kids, it manifested in a form of extreme neatness. She claimed it as a virtue, but I would’ve called “OCD” if only I’d heard of the term back then. Lynne kept her clothes in perfect order in the closet and her dresser, and she always knew if Suzi or I breached the perimeter of either location, even if we never took anything. (I suspect Lynne dusted for prints.)

I, on the other hand, did not keep my clothes, or any other tangible items, in perfect order at any time, anywhere. This might not have mattered had Lynne and I not shared a room for over a decade. In terms of rigidity and orderliness, Lynne’s side of the room resembled Germany, whereas mine look like Rome at rush hour. This and our very sibling-ness made us natural enemies. Like Snoopy and the Red Baron, fighting was our default –we did it well, often, and comically –but on those rare occasions when we got along, the two of us were tight. Lynne went to college in 1987, and she was sentenced to live in a triple. Right about then our bond began to increase, perhaps because I started to look pretty good, as roommates go. Not only have the two of us grown closer since, but Lynne actually invited me to live with her in 2011 while I was getting divorced. Clearly she’s no slouch in the big sister department, either.

I view the closeness my sisters and I enjoy as a daily gift, and Suzi and Lynne rank high on my list of preferred company. Time together can be hard to come by, now that we have jobs, husbands, kids and podcasts, so we usually treasure it when it happens.

The last time the three of us spent a stretch of time together was in February, right after my father’s cousin, Chuckie, passed away. Dad and his cousins were tight, so my sisters and I knew Dad would take this loss particularly hard, and we wanted to be there for him. Being there for him, in this case, meant driving to West Pittston, PA, a mid-week trip of 250 miles for me and Lynne and 350 for Suzi. We called each other to coordinate, and that’s when the typical Yankosky logistical circus began.

My parents, who are retired and had the time to spend the night in West Pittston, figured they would drive up by themselves. Suzi and I, who could take the day off but couldn’t spend the night, thought we could meet near my office and drive up and back in the same day together. Lynne said she might or might not be able to get away, but if she could, she didn’t know exactly when, and it would only be for the day, so maybe she would just drive up and back in the same day all by herself. When my parents got wind of Lynne’s plan, they offered to change their plans and do something even crazier in what they saw as an effort to get Lynne out of her own way.

Right about then, just as I was ready to take that gift of daily closeness and drop-kick it into a dumpster, Suzi hit everyone over the head with the big billy club o’ sanity. She convinced Mom and Dad to go up on their own and spent the night, and she and I came up with a plan for Lynne to join us as we drove up and back on the same day.

The three of us did not relish the idea of a 10-hour drive interrupted only by a funereal pit stop, yet against all odds, we had an absolute blast in the car together. We talked, we laughed, we sang, and without even thinking about it, we reveled in each other’s company. The three of us had not had an opportunity to spend time like that in many, many years. I’d have preferred to have spent it on a beach rather than trapped inside Lynne’s Mazda, but hey, you take it where you can get it. And it did all three of us a world of good.

So happy Lefthanders Day, you two. For a couple of Southpaws, you’re all right.

 

 

 

The road can be long and treacherous…especially with these two behind the wheel

One of the best things about having a blog dedicated to things that don’t go quite as planned is that I get a lot of really great stories from readers. Even better, sometimes those who tell me their stories are willing to let me share them with you.

Today is one of those times, and this splat comes courtesy of my friend Debbie. In the spirit of full disclosure, Debbie also happens to be my brother’s mother-in-law.  She and her family are top-notch people and I feel fortunate to know them, though, unlike my brother, I wasn’t willing to take a drastic step like marriage just to maintain the association.

But back to the story.  Debbie and her husband, Chuck, live in Charlotte, North Carolina, and enjoy the occasional road trip. On hearing that Fleetwood Mac was going on tour after a sixteen-year hiatus and had scheduled a stop in Columbus, Ohio, Chuck and Debbie decided it was time to pack their bags, load up on Yoohoo! and Cheetos, and hop in the car. Where better to see a rusty band than the Rust Belt?

Debbie reported that Fleetwood Mac, whose youngest original member is in his 60s, put on such a great show that it was worth the contact high she got from mothball fumes.  Had the story ended when the concert did, everything would have been fine. But Chuck and Debbie still had to get home, and that’s where it gets interesting.

The weather was fine as Chuck drove his 2010 Toyota Corolla on Interstate 77 while Debbie relaxed in the passenger seat. As so often happens when you’re cruising down the interstate on a weekday, somewhere near Charleston, West Virginia, Chuck hit some roadwork. And when I say “hit,” I mean his side mirror ran smack into a construction object.  This encounter left the mirror dangling from the door like the world’s ugliest wind chime.

At this point in the story, all of the long-time married people out there are smirking. They understand that Debbie now occupies such high automotive moral ground that Chuck will never reach her unless she backs her car into their kitchen. While he’s eating breakfast.  With the President.

Here’s the Pumpkin Magnet, in all its one-mirror glory. The mirror now hangs on not by a thread but by duct tape.

Getting back to the story, my friends soon stopped and switched drivers (wonder why?). Because the trusty Corolla was down a mirror, Chuck was forced to assume the role of Chief Lane Change Advisor.

The pair proceeded uneventfully for a time, perhaps because Debbie never left the right-hand lane. That may also be the reason why she and Chuck soon found themselves stationed directly behind a pick-up truck which, along with the trailer hitched to it, was fully loaded with pumpkins.  Debbie knows an opportunity to live out an action movie cliche when she sees one, and she wasn’t about to squander it.

Right on cue, pumpkins started flying out of the truck and straight into Chuck and Debbie’s path.  Debbie tried to dodge them, a difficult task further complicated by the absence of the driver’s side mirror. (I pictured Debbie swerving wildly while Chuck randomly shouted “CAR!” and “PUMPKIN!” as if playing the vehicular version of “duck, duck, goose.”)

It just a matter of time before a pumpkin missile found its mark and crashed right onto their roof. Debbie kept going (probably because the director hadn’t yelled “CUT!”) and eventually piloted the Corolla back onto a produce-free route.

Debbie laughed about the whole episode but she knows she and Chuck were lucky, not just because they emerged unscathed but also because they weren’t driving her car, which is a convertible and would have wound up with a bonus sunroof.

The best part of the whole story? Just after Chuck and Debbie got home, Fleetwood Mac announced another tour date in…Charlotte.

Thanks to Debbie for sharing her splat, and thanks to all of you for joining me as I participate for the third consecutive year in National Blog Posting Month! I will be writing and posting something every single day for the month of November, guaranteed, or I’ll give you a full refund. It’s always fun (for you), always unpredictable, and always totally worth it (for me). So strap in, enjoy the ride, and watch out for those pumpkins!

 

When the lifeline calls you

My plans for a relaxing weekend at the beach got off to a rough start as I headed down I-95 South.  As a result of a closure in Fredericksburg, traffic was moving as well as a cantaloupe through a garden hose.

A traffic report informed me that a twelve-mile backup awaited, so I bailed out in Garrisonville and stopped at a McDonald’s.  It had all the ingredients necessary for human survival: Food, water, restrooms and free wi-fi.

I decided to make the best possible use of my time.  I sat outside, wrote a blog and posted it on Facebook while contemplating my options.

News reports predicted the highway would be closed for another couple of hours.  My last trip to Virginia Beach for my niece’s cheer finals took 6.5 hours instead of the regulation 3.5.  I doubted my constitution could withstand another long-distance crawl so soon after the last one, even if the Jon Benet contingent wasn’t awaiting at the other end of the trip.

I was on the verge of turning around and going back home when I got a call from my friend Lori, who lives in Fredericksburg. I figured she’d seen my Facebook post and was calling to offer sympathy.

“Hey there,” I said.

“Dude,” she said.  I’ve always found it comforting when she greets me that way.  “I saw your post and I’m calling to bust you outta there and get you back on the road.”  According to the traffic reports I’d heard, alternate roads like Route 1 were almost as jammed as 95.  Since Lori’s last name isn’t Sikorsky, I asked how she planned to pull that off.

“Back roads,” she said.  I remained skeptical but the prospect of having another option in my hip pocket held some appeal.

“Let me get a pen and I’ll jot down the directions.”

“Well that’s just it. I’m not 100% positive about the road names so I was thinking I’d talk you through it.”

Which she did for the next twenty minutes, patiently enduring dropped calls every time I reached the bottom of a hill and inane questions like, “I just passed a sign that says ‘End of State Maintenance.’ Does this route involve gravel?”

In short, Lori was just like OnStar, if OnStar got interrupted every couple of minutes by a hungry child and the HVAC repairman who happened to be at the house installing a new air conditioning unit at the same time. (I’m betting OnStar wouldn’t have had the savvy to negotiate a steep discount for cash payment like she did, either.)

In less than half an hour I’d traveled a sanity-restoring thirteen miles at speed and gotten back on the highway at a point well past the closure. Not only that, but I was reminded of the difference between a good friend and a great one.

A good friend who hears you’re traveling a major artery that’s blocked might call to commiserate.  A great one performs a lifesaving quadruple bypass.

 

To misquote the Zac Brown band, I had my toes near the water, a*& in the sand…all thanks to a great friend.