Re-launched, but still slightly under construction. :-)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Reasons Why My Sister Rocks, Part Halloween




Thursday, October 27, 2011

Halloween costumes are out of control

I am rarely truly outraged.

(We interrupt this post for a message from Stacey's subconscious: Oh, snap, y'all! Bigmouth is about to go off on something. Here's a hint: It's gonna take a while. You know she's gonna have to have three examples for everything, and a hundred smart-ass comments. So let me sum it up for you. Stacey did not appreciate the hoochie costumes for sale on Halloween. Y'all go on about your regular business now - unless you have nothing better to do than read her stark-raving-mad open letter to the Internets.)

Where was I? Oh, yes.

I am rarely truly outraged.

Politics don't rile me. Religion only mildly annoys me. If those things don't make me mad, I'm probably okay.

But I was really pissed about Halloween this year. When shopping for costumes, I watched girls no older than 12 years old prance by in skirts that barely covered their lady parts, paired with knee-high socks and heels. Really, parents?

Are you freaking kidding me? (although I kind of covet Hootchie No. 2's boots)

I get it, moms and dads. I, too, am neither crafty nor able to sew. So I have to look for something "off the rack," so to speak. You take what's available, or you lock your children in a closet for the day.

Last year, Emmie wanted to be Lady Gaga. This year, she definitely knew she wanted to be the pink Power Ranger. But both years when we went to look at costumes - online, at Party City, Target, Wal-Mart, Spirit Halloween, and stores at the mall - I was mortified. Every female character from pop culture, history and literature has been turned into a gutter-trolling whore.

Cleopatra now wears a midriff-baring miniskirt. Amelia Earhart has ditched the chinos and bomber jacket, and now sports a low-cut top and impractical miniskirt. Even Hermione Granger, cerebral student witch, has ditched her academic robes for a robe more suited for the bedroom.

What really got me were the offerings for girls ages 5-12. Alice, the virginal Victorian tween lost in Wonderland, now renamed Chalice, carrier of sexually transmitted diseases. Cookie Monster, a blue Sesame Street puppet whose only previous "action" was relegated solely to a puppeteer's hand up his butt, now gives away her cookies to anyone. And there was some kind of medieval/shepherd thing that I called "Little Ho Peep."

This is not okay, people!

"What's the big deal?" You might ask. Didn't you argue against sexualizing young children?

Yes. But it's not as though the boys' costumes featured ab-showing, butt enhancing cutouts in clothes the lengths of which wouldn't pass even the most lenient of school dress codes. They were normal, child-like costumes featuring a lot of superhero leotards. Only the girls' costumes had, apparently, been designed by whatever the female equivalent of NAMBLA is.

"But is it fair to compare boys' and girls' costumes? Boys and girls are inherently different. Isn't that like comparing apples and oranges?"

Yeah, they're different, but they're not completely different species. We're not comparing meerkats to monkeys. Girls like to be superheros, too, for example. But why does Wonder Woman need a mini skirt that allows drive-by gynecological exams? She doesn't. She needs cargo pants or stretchy spandex for her back flips and a tool belt for her awesome gadgets, like the lasso of truth. (Barring that, this is a way more entertaining interpretation of her costume)

Fine for adults - but this is a child.
American women have fought for more than a century to be considered equals of men, and we're not going to lose that fight by dressing up as whores one night a year. In fact, younger feminists often embrace the idea that sexuality can be used as a weapon in that fight. On a side note, costumes have a long tradition in the boudoir - and, hey, what married folks do is between them.

We're not talking about college students going to a tasteless pimps-and-hos party, or married adults engaging in fantasies. We're talking about prepubescent children being shown that, on a night when the clothes make the person, that person is mostly naked.

Perfect! All it's missing is a bodyguard carrying an Uzi.

Last year we cobbled together a costume from parts. Emmie wanted to go as Lady Gaga in her "Bad Romance" video. Not the naked part with the weird spinal protrusions; the dancing parts. So we bought white tights, a white leotard, white boots, and a hair bow. We were going to make the spiky headdress out of poster board, except mommy sucks at that stuff. So, Emmie essentially wore a ballet uniform with some crazy (but sheer) makeup that she put on herself in the car. This year, she wants to go as the pink Power Ranger. She's completely covered, but feels like a total badass. And she is! Because she won't have to worry about flashing her hoo-ha while kicking a bad guy in the face.

Bring it on, suckas!

Last year, as "Little Gaga," she was ecstatic about herself, singing the song's "rah-rah-ah-ah-ah" refrain all night long and running from house to house. She didn't even notice that the street was filled with under-aged Vegas showgirls. She only noticed how much candy was in her plastic pink pumpkin head.

So maybe I'm overreacting. Hey, it wouldn't be the first time. And, like I argued before, adults are the ones who sexualize children. Children don't do it to themselves. For all I know, the bootie-short tutus so prevalent in tween costumes are there just for swishiness. I always liked a swishy skirt, myself.

But until Emmie turns 18, she'll be barred from clothing like that. Not only does it give off the wrong impression to other people, but the possibility of her internalizing those impressions is equally harmful. So I'll try to guide her towards more creative costume ideas, like an iPod commercial. Or she can take some stuffed animals and go as Chuck Testa.

Of course, I always joke that the usual concerns for parents of tweens and teens won't matter, because the second she hits puberty I'll shuttle her off to a convent.

But I'll still worry. I've seen too many pregnant nun costumes not to.




This is also not okay. But that's a post for another day.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Improve upon Han Solo? Blasphemy!

It's like cowboys, in space!
Susy: "I can't believe you've never seen 'Firefly.' You have to watch it. Then you'll be furious at Fox for cancelling it, too."

Me: "What's it about?"

Susy: "It's like Han Solo."

Allison: "But better."

Me: "What? How dare you!"

Trey: "But the writing is better than George Lucas."

Susy: "Watch it. Then you can be angry with Fox for cancelling it... and the jokes are good!"

Allison: "Clever."

Trey: "Smart."

Me: "Clever and smart? That doesn't sound like Fox."

Trey: "Yeah, that's probably why it got cancelled."

But not like these cowboys in space.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Six Flags gets scary for Halloween


Every October, we visit Six Flags over Georgia for their annual Fright Fest. The park gets decked out for the holiday, and character actors provide extras like trick-or-treating, spooky story time and musical performances. I remember being chased around the candy store by a creepy actor when I was in middle school, and every year I take my daughter for some pre-Halloween horrors.

Side note: I don't know why being immersed in a world of monsters and murderers is considered a fun thing for kids, but they love it, so... I'll just try not to over-think it.

We got our tickets free online (hooray for Coke Rewards), skipped the Flash Passes, packed a cooler and met some family at the site.

Parking, by the way, was 15-freaking-dollars-what-the-hell-people!

Cobwebs and gnarly branches stretched over the landscape, building facades and ride terminals. Theme music like "Superstitious" by Stevie Wonder and "I Put a Spell on You" by Screamin' Jay Hawkins played on rotation from the loudspeakers. The park train had been turned into a haunted attraction. The Dodge City Bumper Cars were enclosed and filled with smoke machines and lasers. The old-timey Hanson Cars track was lined with large-scale story boards containing a Halloween story for children. Seven-year-old Jackson and 6-year-old Emerson - were excited, "oooh"-ing and pointing at everything they saw. Thirteen-year-old Jacob was appropriately cool, but also pleased.

The park is not crowded at this time of year. Once school starts back and Little League is in full competition, people just can't schedule the time - so lines were short and frustrations were low. We jumped onto the Log Jamboree immediately, and then the Monster Manson. Hey, we had little kids with us. We started light.

We moved on to the kids' area, Bugs Bunny World, where we rode the Wile E. Coyote Canyon Blaster, a surprisingly fast and furious mini-roller coaster.

The Batman coaster was closed down for repairs, something that disappointed us all - and later in the day, the newer Dare Devil Dive also closed. So we hopped over to the haunted carousel; Up, Up and Away, the hot air balloon ride; and the Rockin' Tugboat. Let me tell you something important: That tugboat looks like a little kids' ride, and it doesn't do much in comparison to the roller coasters I adore. But that effer boat is the only ride in the park that can make me throw up. I never, ever ride it. We lost Jackson and his grandmother to the aftereffects, and left them with my iPod while they recovered.

Then we hopped it over to the Scream Machine - because we were doing things in no flippin' order, whatsoever.

The Great American Scream Machine, a wooden coaster. When it opened in 1973, it was the tallest wooden roller coaster in the world, and riders were given a "Red Badge of Courage" button for riding the coaster.
This is where we ran into trouble.

"I'M NOT GOEEND TA RIDE IT!" Emerson screamed.

Sigh...

Y'all. I realize that we should be sensitive to our children's feelings. We should not push them further than they can handle. But I do not do dramatics. And I know my child. She's a daredevil, and she would like it. Screeching is just the way she expresses nervousness. Or... anything, really.

Long story short, she rode that dang thing with my arms wrapped tightly around her, assuring her at every turn.

Afterwards, she jumped up and down with glee: "DAT WAS AWESOOOOOME!" she shrieked.

Score!

We moved on to the Dahlonega Mine Train (inexplicably long line, with a lady I think might have been a hooker), the Dodge City Bumper Cars (dead spot in the middle, so we didn't actually get to go anywhere), the Hanson Cars (Emerson is not getting her license until she's 35), then back to the Log Jamboree. Speaking of water rides, Thunder River and Splash Mountain are not open in October. Boo, Six Flags!

Then we took a break. Depending on where you are in the park, where you're parked and how many people are leaving at the same time, it can take between 20 and 45 minutes to get back to your car. Leaving as the park closes, parked at the back of the lot and insist on waiting for a tram? You'll probably die while waiting to get to your car. People will assume your corpse is part of the holiday decor and they won't realize what happened until they clean up in November. It will make the national news.

But at 3 p.m., parked close and willing to walk? No time at all.

We raided sandwiches, chips, cookies, and bottles of water from the cooler and made a picnic on the ground behind the car. My little Hyundai hatchback was nicely sheltered by the two obnoxiously oversized, matching Suburbans on either side of us. We even had room to lie down and enjoy the clouds go by overhead. Thanks, fossil fuel wasters! We nourished, hydrated and chilled for about 45 minutes, then went back inside.

As the day goes on, the park gets more crowded. The lines were longer, but there were things we all still wanted to ride. In checking out rides and finding them closed (Batman, Thunder River, Dare Devil, Splash Mountain) or embroiled in ridiculously long lines, we saw that the Ninja only had about a three-minute wait. Emerson was just tall enough to ride.

Yay! What 6-year-old girl would be afraid of this, right? The Ninja was originally built for Conko's Party Pier in New Jersey, where it was known as Kamikaze. It was relocated to Six Flags Over Georgia in 1992 and was the tallest roller coaster in the park at that time.

Oddly, this did not actually make her happy. Her shrieks could be heard for miles. No, these were not the kind of shrieks that your child issues when legitimately scared or hurt. This is just her normal speaking voice when she gets slightly nervous. Little Miss Drama Queen takes everything to 11.

"Do I have to ride it?!" she shrieked. I nodded.

"Nooooooooo!!!"

"Let's just go ride the Wheelie," Jacob suggested.

For some reason I'll never figure out, the Wheelie is a very popular ride. We waited in line for 30 minutes, the longest wait we had all day. Emerson alternated between excitement at riding the Wheelie and pouting at the thought of riding the Ninja.

"But I don' wanna ride anyfing what goes upside-down," she explained.
I pointed to the Wheelie. "You mean like that?"
She frowned and kicked the pole in front of her.

This went on for a while, until all I had to do was look at her and nod in a faux-menacing way. Then she would throw her body around like it was made of Jell-O. It was kind of hilarious, actually. But I decided to put a stop to the stubborn pretend hysterics with psychology. And Mom said I'd never use my college minor. Of course I will, Mom - to torture my own child.

"You know what? Maybe we shouldn't ride the Wheelie," I said. "If you don't want to go upside-down, this isn't a good idea."

"Noooooo!"

"Well, then, you might as well ride the Ninja."

I hate to tell you how easy it was to manipulate her into insisting that we ride the Ninja. But it was like a scene from Bugs Bunny:

Me: "Yes!"
Her: "No!"
Me: "Yes!"
Her: "No!"
Me: "No!"
Her: "Yes! NinJA! NinJA! NinJA!"

Bottom line, she got on the roller coaster without further problems. We strapped in, and the ride started. Everything was fine. Really...

...until a quarter of the way of the very first hill, when she started kicking wildly.

"WE'RE GONNA DIIIIIIIIEEEEEEE!" she screamed. "WE'RE GONNA DIIIIIIIIEEEE!"

Holy. Crapturds.

I began looking for a way off the coaster... but there was nothing I could do. I couldn't even hold her hand, because the overhead restraints are like iron maidens. I settled for folding her legs in mine.

"Emmie, honey, it's only three minutes and it's very safe. Deep breaths, baby. Take deep breaths. Remember our yoga?"

No bueno. She was too far gone. As we crested the hill and began our descent, she screamed one long keening note.

I am the worst mother in the world.

At the bottom, she went suddenly silent.

"Oh. My. God. My child has fainted," I thought. "She is unconscious, and they will call an ambulance, and they will revive her with smelling salts, and give her an IV of saline to hydrate her. She will tell them how I manipulated her into riding this stupid, effer roller coaster. Then they will take her away and put her in foster care and I won't see her again until she shows up on my doorstep, pregnant, at 16 years old."

Just as I was resigning myself to kidnapping her from her foster parents and spending the rest of my life traversing the globe on the lam... the most glorious sound I've ever heard. "Haaa! Ha hahahahahaaaaa!"

She was laughing! She was NOT lolling unconscious in her restraints! She was laughing, and she laughed all the way to the end of the ride!

"DAT WAS AWESOME!" she screamed again as we got off the roller coaster. She flew into a fierce hug with her monster mother, and kissed me on the cheek.

"Fanks, mom! You show me dat my fears of dis roller coaster were wrong!" she laughed, and skipped towards the exit. "I rided a big-girl roller coaster! I'm seven years old, now!"

She was ecstatic. And, apparently, a year older. I stumbled behind her, bewildered. Excuse me, Universe, but - what? Are you supposed to reward crappy parenting?!

Oh, well. No harm, no foul.

We had declared it her turn to pick a ride if she rode the Ninja, and she did. So it was her call.

"Pick something fun, Emmie," Jacob pleaded.

I don't think the Convoy Grande, a children's ride that moves at a speed best described as "glacial," is what he had in mind. But that was her choice. Even more unfortunate for Jacob, they wouldn't let me on the ride with Emerson so my good-sport nephew went with her.

In a race between this convoy and a turtle, it would be a photo finish.
This tall, masculine teenager gangling off the sides of this low-speed parade of toddler-sized Tonka trucks was about the funniest thing I've seen in a long time.

"Go, Speed Racer!" I shouted as he chugged by.
"Shut up!" he hollered, with a grin that has slain a dozen middle-school girls.

They went around a couple more times while I laughed until I choked.

"Slow down, Lightning McQueen! Too fast!" I yelled.
I'd repeat what he said, but he was speaking in sign language... sort of.

We let Emmie run around the children's area some more, riding the Fiesta Wheel, Little Aviator, Santa Maria and Tweety's Tree House. She ran from character to character, collecting candy - that Jacob and I very thoughtfully ate for her. Because we were being helpers.

Night was falling. Sweet! That's when the monster actors are out in full force. Zombies. Swamp things. Vampires. Random furry crazy-toothed animals. This was the best part!

Except, no. Nope, nope, nope. Two lame-o zombies, both protected by park personnel, is all we saw.

Where were these dudes? I want to hang out with them!
No matter. We'd had ridden everything Emerson was tall enough to get on, and Jacob had taken care of the larger stuff - Goliath, the Georgia Scorcher - before we even met up with him. Plus, it was pitch dark and we had been there for 10 hours.

We skipped the line for the trams and walked to our car, playing keep-away from each other with the candy bag... what there was left of it. Emerson was asleep before we hit the expressway, and Jacob and I laughed all the way home.

Like all of our visits in October, this trip to Six Flags was complaint-free. We'll be back next year.

If you go (in October):

Bring: sunscreen, a jacket for later in the day, $15 for parking, $10 per person for the Haunted House, good walking shoes, a small backpack to carry snacks and water bottles.

Leave: grumpiness, fear, tiredness.




Friday, October 21, 2011

Things I Will Do After the Rapture/Apocalypse - International Edition

Today is The Rapture, according to National Crazypants Association President Harold Camping. He had declared the rapture was coming back in May, but he has moved it to today. There was a conflict with his sanity knitting circle meetings, or something.

Whenever the Rapture comes - if ever? - let's face it: I'll probably still be stuck here on earth with some really fun but spiritually bankrupt people. So I'm revisiting the things I would like to do after the second coming. Here's the international wish list. You can also read the list for Augusta, Ga., and the list for the United States. In the meantime, I'm off to stock up on supplies. Does anyone know how long penicillin will keep?

And, hey, left-behinds, don't pout. There are advantages to being one of the not-chosen - no TSA pat-down, for one.

Get it? Because they're flying? To heaven? ... oh, nevermind.


Score a goal at Bell Centre in Montreal. Pour a bottle of maple syrup over my teammates' heads in celebration.

Fight a jaguar in the Yucatan.

Crying will not save you, feline!

Burn down all the tobacco fields in Cuba. I don't care if it is The Rapture. Smoking is just stupid.

Select my choice of lovely home decor items from the Louvre.

Go off-roading in the Popemobile; he won't need it anymore, right?

Crown myself Queen of England. First order of business: Market and export the fine delicacies of the country, like mushy peas and spotted dick. Hey, it's the apocalypse. People are hungry.

Play dominoes with Stonehenge.

Dancing Druids sold separately.
Sing karaoke in the Coliseum. Are you not entertained?!

Turn Trevi Fountain into a chocolate fountain. Adds instant class to any post-apocalyptic gathering!

Take a giant bubble bath in Reykjavik's Blue Lagoon.

Host a black tie ball at Chile's Humboldt Penguin National Reserve.

Make a Christmas tree out of one of the temples at Angor Wat. Wait... will we have Christmas after the rapture? Jesus, don't take Santa!

Kick down the columns in the Parthenon, screaming "This... is Sparta!" Even though it's in Athens... whatever.



Finally, I'm going to keep a keen eye on anyone named Nicolae Carpathia. Every book or movie about the rapture gives the Antichrist approximately the same name. You'd think he'd change it, but I guess if his cover is already blown, there's no way to refill Pandora's box.

Well, I hope you've enjoyed this list. Feel free to share you own ideas. And have a nice Tribulation!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

How I almost died for my birthday

I went on my first whitewater rafting trip when I was 12. I've loved it since then, but I've always wanted to try whitewater kayaking. Around Augusta, there's really not much one can do about that. So I've only kayaked flat water.

Another reason not to kayak the Savannah River.

But for my birthday, my awesome sister took me to kayak the Nantahala River in Bryson City, N.C.

Who can be stressed out in the middle of this beauty? Not me!

The Nantahala stays about 50-degrees all year long, so we geared up in wetsuits, splash jackets and PFCs. Notice I didn't put the word "helmets" in that gear list. Foreshadowing.

I'm a good rafter. I'm a stable canoer. But kayaking is still pretty new to me. Skill sets are similar, but there are differences - the most important one being that rafts give you slightly more leeway.

In a raft, you bounce down the rapids with 1,000 units of air to protect you. Kayaking in duckies, you're much lower to the water and have only 20 units of air between you and the rapids. Also, in a raft there are other people to help you read the river and correct your course. If you get flustered and mis-stroke, they'll balance you out. In a kayak, your mistakes have an immediate impact on your safety. There's another way to look at that: In a raft, your actions impact the safety and enjoyment of up to five other people; in a kayak, you're the only one who suffers. So, there are pros and cons to either sport.

I wasn't thinking about any of that when we carried our kayaks to the riverbank. I was thinking one thing: "LET'S GO!"

But the second we put in, I realized something: I paddle like a damn rafter. I mean that I pull harder on one side and lean slightly to one side. So I spent five minutes drifting in large, crooked circles until I got the hang of it. My sister, wisely, did not laugh at me.

But I was raring to go, and we didn't have a lot of space to practice. On the Nantahala, you have less than 100 yards to get acclimated before hitting the first rapid, Patton's Run. It's Class II-III, but there have been two drownings at this rapid. We ran it river right, as recommended, and it was splashy and sweet.



Just below Patton's Run is Tumble Dry and then there is just enough room for a raft to get stuck between two rocks at the aptly named rapid Raft Trap. A raft that pins here must be deflated to be removed. No bueno, folks. No one wants to have to get back out after only 20 minutes on the water.

Then there's Isle of Dumping, Pop 'n Run and Pyramid Rock. After that, Delebar's Rock, Quarry Rapid and Root Canal.

By this point, I had noticed what a superior kayaker my sister is. Granted, she had done this same run before with a friend's father, who also is an experienced kayaker and an excellent guide. But she also has an elegant, conservative stroke. She's fast and nimble. From behind, it looks like she barely dips her paddles into the water.

Not me. "HULK SMASH WATER!" is the best way to describe my method. I was getting through fine, but I was also kicking my own ass. She talked me through some pointers about using my core as opposed to my shoulders, and reminded me that how I lean impacts the way the kayak moves. Again, different from rafting. So, basically, I'd been steering the boat one way with my arms, and another with my butt. Oops.

We ran through the wave at Whirlpool, then hit Ledges, Little SOB, Blowing Springs, Surfing Rapid, 4 Eddy Rapid (where the concrete bridge crosses the river) and Devil Kitchen Caves. Y'all! We made this river our biznitch! I pulled some crazy hip swivel at the end of one rapid that was all kinds of awesome.

"That looked so professional!" Kelli exclaimed. I was proud of myself, and kind of hoping she would notice, because I am a giant puppy dog on the water. Rawrf! *PantPantPant* Snausages!
 
About seven miles into the eight-mile run (hell, yeah, eight miles; this is a four-hour upper body workout, people) there is a sign on the left. It's right beside the tracks for the Blue Ridge Railway.


"Huh," I thought. "Weird to have a bump on the railroad tracks. And why did they hang that sign over the river?"

KABLOOSH!

Oh.

That's why.

And into the water I went. We were at a spot called, appropriately, The Bump. That sign was there because you can't see it from upstream. Non-morons see the sign and take caution. Idiots like me look for a train catching air. Plus, I went river left when I should have gone right, and basically I messed it all up.

My boat came down on my head, my paddle hit me in the face, my helmetless head smacked against a rock and I went right into the dreaded hole.

The hole was shallow enough that I could stand up - but there's a whole (see what I did right there?) reason why they tell you not to do that if you fall out of your boat. So what's the first thing I do?

I try to stand up. And the river smacked me back down again.

Of course.

Luckily, I managed to kick out of the hole and grab the side of my boat. My paddle banged against my face again.

So what's the next thing I do? Turn over on my stomach to try to see where I'm going. Rocks began pounding my legs. Waves splashed into my face and made it impossible for me to catch my breath. In a brief moment of panic, I tried to call for my sister to help me.

"Kell-" garblegarble *cough*

Well. Now that I've swallowed half the river, I'm nicely hydrated and ready for more exercise.

The next rock to my shin knocked some sense into me, and I flipped over on my back, into the proper whitewater swimmer's position - just in time to come out of the rapids. Excellent timing, ya moron.

I caught my breath, plopped my paddle into the boat, and started backstroking towards the side. Kelli dragged me the last five feet, and I hauled my stupid ass over to the concrete landing.

Kayaking: UR DOIN' IT WRONG.

But, people, I still have some pride left because I saved my glasses. AND THE JAWS OF NERDS EVERYWHERE JUST HIT THEIR DESKTOPS.

That's right. Even though I left the athletic strap (hee!) at home, and I got half-drowned and beaten by rocks, I refused to lose my glasses. You may all tremble before my superiority, nerdlings.

Kelli and I sat on the concrete while I laughed at myself and explained what happened.

It looked a lot like this.

"I would have freaked out. You were so calm!" she exclaimed.

She couldn't see my hands shaking. In fact, my whole body was shaking. And it wasn't just from the 50-degree water. It was straight-up fear. It was a scary, painful and freezing-cold experience, but I wouldn't take it back. I haven't gotten knocked out of a boat since I was about 15. I was getting cocky and careless. I needed that surprise beating for perspective.

** However, I'd like to take a second for a shout-out to the 10-15 male kayakers in and beside the river who saw me go in, watched me struggle, observed as I paddled to the side of the river with all my gear, and did absolutely nothing. I'm not saying they lack chivalry. I'm saying we're all supposed to look out for each other on the river. Thanks, turds. **

The last time Kelli ran the Nantahala, she got dumped out of her boat on Nantahala Falls (aka Lesser Wesser), kind of like this:



So she was a-okay with skipping the last section of the run, if I was too scared to go on.

"We can stop here," she said, as we warmed our numb hands and feet in the sun. "They'll come and get our boats."

Nantahala Falls is a Class III/IV. It's the longest and fastest rapid on the run. The "Big Finish." If we stopped then, we'd just walk a quarter-mile to the outpost. They'd come get our boats, while we changed into warm, dry clothes and ate delicious sammiches. It sounded pretty damn good.

Then my brain played this: 



Stupid brain. If I didn't run it, I'd be angry with myself forever.

"Screw that. I'm doing it," I said.

So when I felt less shaky, we hopped back in our boats and left the take-out spot. Once you do that here, there's no going back. You immediately hit the wavetrains that snake down the middle of the river, and it narrows into a swift channel that drives you over the falls.

Unless, that is, you paddle away from the take-out spot, into the current, and immediately get stuck on a rock with a resounding skrronnnnnk! Then you see that as a sign that the universe does not want you to go down that waterfall!

"I got it!" Kelli called, as I rocked back and forth, trying to dislodge the boat. I looked up, and she was driving straight at me.

"Surely she's not going to run into me," I thought.

BLAM! The pointy end of her ducky drove into my left arm at 20 miles an hour.

Sigh...

Why do I stupidly question things that are right in front of my face?

"I'm sorry! I was trying to push your boat off the rock!" she exclaimed, while I said some not-family-friendly words.

I could see the swift, deep channel to the left. I pushed harder to get out of the stupid shallows and the boat drifted free.

"Yay!" we cheered. Then... skrronnnnnk! Another rock. I just couldn't get it right today. I dislodged, paddled twice, and skrronnnnnk! Another rock.

I got mad. Dangit! If you're planning on killing me, Nantahala River, could you just do it quickly in the falls? Stop dragging it out, okay? Let's get this straight: I'm going down those falls if I have to drag every rock in the river with me.

Then the current pulled me free and yanked my boat into a section that looked not entirely unlike Six Flags' Thunder River. Great. This, I thought, is how I am supposed to die.

Instead, this is how much we killed it:



Kelli slid down after me, smooth as silk, and we pulled into the gravel take-out area 50 yards down. I was shaking so hard that I could barely get out of the boat. My arms hurt, my hands and feet were numb, my legs were bruised, a scratch ran down the right side of my face, my head hurt and I was tired, hungry and cold.

I've never felt better.

I'm not getting any younger. And some people who shall remain nameless freaked out about me going on this trip. Those people think it's too late to take up kayaking. This was, after all, birthday number $29.95 (but I'm on sale).

Well, those folks can bite me. This was the best birthday gift I've ever had. Thanks, Kelli!

I have a goal. In five years, I'd like to do the Olympic run on the Ocoee River, and not get killed. I've said that before, but I'm going to keep saying it. I hope you will all hold me to it.

As soon as Emerson's old enough, I'll be taking her with us. It's fun, it's safe if you're not stupid like me, and it's an exhilarating workout.

Just watch out for that bump.

If you go:

Bring: Neoprene gloves, water shoes (or you can rent booties), a bathing suit. Pretty much everything else is supplied by the outpost. We almost always use Nantahala Outdoor Center. Also bring: a change of clothes and shoes, maybe a towel, and sunscreen never hurts.

Leave: Fear and whining.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Things I Will Do After the Rapture/Apocalypse - National Edition

So it seems that Harold Camping, who declared the rapture was coming back in May, has moved it to Oct. 21. Let's face it: I'll probably still be stuck here on earth with some really fun but spiritually bankrupt people. So I'm revisiting the things I would like to do after the second coming. Here's the national wish list. You can read the Augusta, Ga., wish list, too. I'll follow up with national and international editions. In the meantime, I'm off to stock up on supplies. Does anyone know how long penicillin will keep?

A side note: Some of you have been kind - and delusional - enough to insist that I will not be left behind after the rapture. As evidence to the contrary, I feel I should let you know that this series of posts is going in my blog's "Family Travel" section.

Live for a while in each of these: an oceanfront mansion in Malibu, a penthouse on Central Park West, a houseboat in Puget Sound, a lagoon-access beach shack in the Keys, a glass-enclosed A-frame in Tahoe, a teepee on the plains, a Winnebago on the road, a river-adjacent cabin in Ocoee, Tenn.

Declare myself CEO of Apple, Inc. Snatch up their working prototypes. Fire myself for corporate espionage. Go all “Jerry Maguire” on my way out.

Drive an Amtrak train to New Orleans. No reason. I just always wanted to drive a train. And driving one into New Orleans seems apropos.

Learn how to play an instrument. Travel the country rocking the stages at: The Grand Ole’ Opry, Crocodile CafĂ©, The Fillmore, Red Rocks, Stubb’s, Bowery Ballroom, 40 Watt Club, The EARL, Tipitina’s.

Pick a president’s nose at Mount Rushmore.

Okay, so this might be slightly more involved than I anticipated...

Put a manhole cover on the top of Old Faithful, and see how far it shoots into the air.

Stop for a bite to eat at the Donner camp. (That was supposed to be funny, but... ew, nevermind.)

Run in a touchdown at Lambeau Field.

Parking issues will be greatly ameliorated.
Actually, why don't we get rid of some folks right now?

Bust into classified documents to figure out if there really was a moon landing, aliens at Roswell and a single shooter on the grassy knoll. Also the recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken because it pisses me off. It’s just chicken. How is it so good?

Shush myself in the Library of Congress.

Ring the Liberty Bell.

Find a clown and kill it.

Elect myself President. Declare war on Pangaea.

Invent a holiday: The National Day of Awesome is the day where no one is allowed to do anything mundane. Everything must be done on the Scale of Awesome.

Wear a new pair of socks every day.

Find a couple of old boyfriends (who will definitely also not be raptured) and hire a big heathen dude to follow them around and knock things out of their hands. You wanted some post-rapture ice cream? Smack! Picking up a book? I don’t think so. Oh, did you drop your keys? Again? It will never stop being funny.

Sit in the Lincoln Memorial’s lap.

Steal the Wright Brother’s plane from the Smithsonian and take it for a spin. Heck, steal the space shuttle and take it for a spin (note to self: actually read instruction manual this time, not like when you bought your Hyundai and couldn’t figure out how to work the stereo).

Paint KISS makeup on the statue of Strom Thurmond in Edgefield, S.C.

Find out what’s in the Alamo’s basement. And who is buried in Grant’s tomb.

See how many times I can ride The Hulk at Universal Studios Orlando before I throw up.

Blow up every Hard Rock Cafe, Planet Hollywood and Margaritaville theme restaurant I come across.

Ride through Concord, Mass., with a single lantern shouting “Jesus is coming! Jesus is coming!”

Burn every available copy of the “Left Behind” series. ‘Cause now that’s just mean.

Would you like me to read the part where heathens can suck it?
Do you have any ideas for an international edition of this list? Send them along and I'll post them in two days (with attribution, of course)!




Friday, October 14, 2011

Things I Will Do After the Rapture/Apocalypse - Local Edition

So it seems that Harold Camping, who declared the rapture was coming back in May, has moved it to Oct. 21. Let's face it: I'll probably still be stuck here on earth with some really fun but spiritually bankrupt people. So I'm revisiting the things I would like to do after the second coming. Here's the local wish list. I'll follow up with national and international editions. In the meantime, I'm off to stock up on supplies. Does anyone know how long penicillin will keep?

Ahhh! Where is everybody?!

After the rapture, these are my plans, in no particular order:

Say, "Wow, was I ever wrong."

Go-kart the Greeneway.

Host a sock hop at the Sno-Cap Drive-in. Win ALL the dance prizes.

Show "The Life of Brian" at the Big Mo.

Steal a tank from Fort Gordon and use it to drive over abandoned cars at Wal-Mart.

Move into Port Royal's penthouse. Skip the elevators and rappel down the side of the building each morning.

Help myself to whatever I darn well please at Takosushi, Bistro 491, Manuel's, and Cheers! Wine & Beverage. Leave a generous tip anyway.

Play the Augusta National - with a pitching machine. Cool off in Ike's Pond after a hard day on the course. Make myself a bouquet of azaleas.

Drive my tank over the guardhouse in Westlake. Avail myself of the neighborhood's amenities.

Windsor Jewelers - you are mine!

Play with all the goodies at Learning Express Toys.

Raid the studios of Philip Morseberger, Tom Nakashima, Leonard Zimmerman, Kathy Girdler-Englar, Troy Campbell, Raul Pacheco, and Shishir Chokshi. I'm leaving out some folks, but - trust me - I'll be in ur studio, stealin ur artworks.

Submit ALL the entries to The Metro Spirit's Whine Line.

Gavel myself down at the Augusta Commission meetings.

Lace Regency Mall with C4 and blow that mutha up.


Always look on the bright side of life!

Friday, October 07, 2011

I'm not on her Christmas list, I guess...

I was in the lady's bathroom, washing my hands, when a woman stepped up to the sink next to me. We made eye contact and she smiled. Oh no! That means I have to say something friendly! Ummm...

"I tell ya, working at this place rubs off. I wash my hands like a doctor now, isn't that weird? Ha ha!" I said. She gave me a strange look, dried her hands and left.

"Well, poo on her," I thought. And then I realized...

She probably IS a doctor.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Magic beans

One of the kids in Emmie's class has a severe peanut allergy, and as a courtesy, I stopped sending PB&Js in Emmie's lunch. We've been using almond butter, but at the store yesterday I noticed that a brand of soy butter, Wow! Butter, was $1.25 cheaper.


"Hey, Emmie, do you want to stick with almond butter, or try this new stuff?" I held up the jar.

"What do it tastess like?"

"I dunno. Says like peanut butter."

"Maybe it tastess like WOW!" she says, and throws up some jazz hands. She's a born smartass.

We take it home to try, and while it doesn't taste exactly like peanut butter, it passes for almond butter, and that's close enough for her.

"Hey, Emmie, you know that stuff isn't actually made from peanuts."

She stops eating and looks at me with a smirk.

"Is it made out of WOW?" Smartass!

"No, it's made out of... BEANS!"

She is so surprised that she actually drops her plate.

"WHAT? But it doesn't tastess like beans..."

"Well, they're soybeans. They can kind of be made to taste like anything, apparently."

She gasps. "Are dose MAGIC beans?"

"No, I don't think-"

"MAMA!" She grabs my arm. "We gotta get dose beans!"


Monday, October 03, 2011

The politics of first graders

"MAMAAAAAA!"

When you hear your child scream like that, you come running.

Emerson was fine. But she was staring at the computer screen, horrified.

"Dis lady! She juss shooted a woof!"

Emerson had been watching videos of Annoying Orange. Let's just say there was a good reason I wasn't in the room. "Annoying" doesn't even begin to describe this crap. But somehow a video clip from "Sarah Palin's Alaska" came up in the suggestions sidebar, and she clicked it. Now she's really upset.

"She was flying ober da woofs, and she just shoot dem! Why did she do dat?!"

(Disclaimer: I can't find the video she watched, and I have no idea why it was in the Annoying Orange sidebar.)

I don't really have an explanation for her. I would like to give her a reasonable story about predators in the wild and how overpopulation reduces the food supply and makes them more aggressive and dangerous to humans. I would like to explain to her that even in our own refrigerator is a trove of meats from animals who have died - and never even saw the wild.

But this was wealthy former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, a known incompetent, flying far from human settlement over the tundra in a helicopter, certainly not meeting the wolves on a level playing field, firing from the air and taking down wolves regardless of gender or the presence of offspring... and on a hunting trip that may have cost more than $40,000, an amount that could have stocked the freezers of hundreds of her fellow Alaskans.

Sigh... politics. There should be a prescription to cure that particular affliction.

"Yeah, that's Sarah Palin, former governor of Alaska. She lives in a state with a lot of wild natural areas and dangerous animals, and hunting is an important source of food for a lot of people," I explain. "Plus, she's running for president and that's a television show that she hoped would help get her elected."

Emmie stares at me with her mouth wide open.

"Dat lady gonna be da president?!"

"Well, I don't think so, but I think she plans on running in the next election."

"But... she's coocoo-crazy! We gonna hab a crazy president?!"

I don't think she understands the electoral process.

"Well, just because she says she wants to be president, doesn't mean she gets to be. She has to get the most votes," I say. Sort of. Electoral College. Whatever. I digress. "Honestly, I don't think she'll win, honey. Anyway, I'm certainly not voting for her."

"Good!" Emmie said. "Cause I don't want dat lady to be president. Who would wanna shoot a woof?"

... Caribou?