March 10, 2014

On House of Cards, Kevin Spacey and Netflix

I know; I know. Long time no see. I've been busy editing, writing, dealing with literary agents, and dealing with freelance clients. I still plan to create a new blog, so I've kind of avoided this one, but I wanted to take a moment to write something for myself instead of everyone else, so here goes:

------------------------------------------------------

To sum what I'm sure will be a long and wordy post up: House of Cards, Kevin Spacey, and Netflix are amazing. 

A few weeks ago, a freelance client asked me to write an article about House of Cards. I didn't really know much about it for no other reason than I just don't have much time to watch TV (also, this is why you don't believe everything you see on the Internet, because some of it is written by some idiot like me who knows nothing about it). I have a ton of things going on right now, and I can't just run to the TV every night at 9:00 or whatever, and while the invention of the DVR has helped, I still can't remember what to record. There is also the problem that almost every show on TV these days is crap. Anyway, when I'm home, my TV is on news, sports, or my Dean Martin, Ralph Stanley, and Sting Pandora stations all day. 

So, throughout the next day, before I wrote the article, I heard several political types talking about the show - Republicans, Democrats, and most liberal and conservative amongst us. I figured it couldn't be too bad if everyone loved it.

Long story short, it's been about two weeks since I started it, and I've got 1 of 26 episodes left. I'm afraid to watch that last episode, because I don't want it to be over.  I know I probably won't get to see more for another year, and that is devastating.  Here are five reasons: 

1. Kevin Spacey.  When American Beauty came out in theaters, I was in high school, around the same age as the girls in the film, and I found it completely creepy. With the exception of The Shipping News, one of my favorite movies (miniseries?) of all time, I haven't been able to watch Spacey in anything else because his performance in American Beauty was so hauntingly real. I suppose that's why he won so many awards for it? There are few actors that can pull that off.   

The irony here is that his character in "House of Cards" is far more terrible than the guy in "American Beauty," yet I found myself drawn to him, rooting for him, and feeling sorry for him. Maybe I've grown up, maybe the show is designed to make you feel that way, maybe Spacey is just that damn good, or maybe I'm just really weird. Maybe it's all of the above?

Either way, I'm lifting my ban on all things Spacey. I plan to watch Beyond the Sea as soon as I find a moment (the man's singing voice is rich and buttery and as good as his brilliant acting skills), and I'm kind of anxious to see this film he made about some of his theater work, NOW. I could go on about this one, but I need to get to my next points. 


2. The other actors.  I was not familiar with several members of the House of Cards cast until I started watching, but I'm so glad I know who they are now and hope to see more of them in the future. Really, everyone has wowed me. Michael Kelly, who plays Doug Stamper, stands out. He's also from the Atlanta area and proud of it; it's always nice to have someone represent. Corey Stoll, who plays Peter Russo, was also amazing. I was vaguely familiar with Constance Zimmer before the show, but she can count me as a fan now.

3. The plot. When Nashville started last year, I couldn't get enough of it. It was the one show I did try to make it home to watch each week, and every week I was left wanting more. I know there have been some behind-the-scenes writing and producing issues there, and I guess that has bled into the finished product, because I find myself bored with it these days. Either the same thing happens again and again or nothing happens at all.

When I watch a show, I want one of two things: to laugh until I nearly wet myself or to get so caught up in it that I can't stop thinking about the characters. House of Cards has a ton of subtle humor, but it's the poster child for the latter. There is never a dull episode, and each one ends with a major cliffhanger. Seriously, I feel like I need a cigarette after I watch, and I don't even smoke.

4. The subject matter. Anyone who knows me in real life knows I'm a political junkie. My life used to revolve around that sort of thing. I've tried to tone it down in recent years for a couple of reasons. One being that it was necessary for my professional life (at least publicly anyway), two being that it was necessary in order not to develop high blood pressure.  I get the same thrill up my leg watching the show as I do watching a heated presidential debate or a Rand Paul filibuster.  If you love the political process, you'll love this without a doubt.

5. Netflix.  Last but not least, I have been a Netflix fan since it became a thing. My only complaint has ever been that there should be more to choose from to watch instantly, but that's a story for another day. However, when I learned they would be releasing seasons at a time of their own shows, I was a bit incredulous. I guess I'm kind of old-school in my thinking regarding media, but just as I've come to terms with the fact that news spreads quicker on Twitter and Facebook than it does anywhere else, I've come to terms with the fact that this way of putting together a show is amazing.  (I still refuse to read books on screens, though. There's something to be said for paper books.) 

Really, what's not to love about it? You can watch it on your own time without feeling obligated. You can sit and do it in a weekend or you can watch a couple of episodes each week. There are no commercials and best of all, no rules hampering the creative process.  You can say fuck, you can fuck, you can take your clothes off and dance a jig...you can do whatever you want without the gubment telling you some prude in the middle of nowhere is going to have a heart attack so you can't do it.  I know, some of you still frown upon that sort of thing, but with House of Cards it's not gratuitous in order to appeal to a certain fragment of the population. The so-called "naughty" things are done in such a way that really adds to the story and the atmosphere or so I think so.

It's like making TV with no boundaries (or, at least, less of them), and while I'm not in the business of making TV, I've got to think it's the best way to do it. That freedom comes across to the viewers, too, whether they realize it or not.

In conclusion, Mr. Spacey, Netflix, and House of Cards writers, you have all earned yourselves a new fan and broadened my horizons. Well done, folks. Well done.

October 19, 2013

Ellijay is number one...according to Southern Living

I know I post a lot about Charleston being The Greatest City in the World, but aside from Charleston and Atlanta, there's another little southern city I love: Ellijay, Georgia.


My grandparents owned a vacation home up there on top of a mountain when I was little, and I have some very fond memories of the place. My grandfather sold it when my grandmother died, but I still visit often, and I still have family there. It's one of my favorite little getaways, and I could even see myself living there one day. It's only about 1 1/2 hours away. I even used the town layout while planning the town where my novel takes place. 

Anyway, I just read today that Southern Living named Ellijay the best place in the South to see fall foliage. While I was excited to see my other other favorite place in the world get some recognition, I do worry that it'll become too big, commercial, touristy one day. It has already grown so much since the days when my grandparents had the house there, but it still seems like such a small town after spending a lifetime in the Athens and Atlanta areas.

That said, if you're ever there, check it out. Make sure you stop by the Panorama Apple House to get some goodies!

October 16, 2013

Adventures in babysitting


Growing up, babysitting was a major part of my life. I kept my little cousins and my best friend's little cousins, and eventually, I started getting real jobs through people at my church. Most of the kids are in middle school, high school, and even college now (sigh), and aside from the random request from a friend or family member, my babysitting days ended nearly a decade ago.

Well, my mom's good friend and neighbor and my old landlord from the Unabomber Cabin found out she would need to have surgery recently, and since she usually keeps her two granddaughters while their parents work, she asked if I could fill in here and there while she recovers. I wanted to be neighborly, and besides, I owe her more than a few favors, so I agreed.

So far, I haven't been too helpful because I've been crazy busy with freelance jobs and the whole trying to get a book published process, but yesterday, she managed to snag me for a whole 11 1/2 hours.

And what ensued was the kind of day my worse nightmares are made of.

Okay, maybe it wasn't quite that bad, but it honestly made me rethink my youth when I was more interested in what family I was going to babysit for on Friday night rather than what hot guys were going to ask me out.  (Also, the latter rarely happened, so whatever.)

Seriously, I think I've just reached an age where I don't want to deal with other people's children. I am still anxiously awaiting the day when I get to have my own, mind you, but I make special effort to run errands during school hours these days. I was watching Parenthood the other night, and I found myself siding with the evil family who made Crosby and Jasmine leave the restaurant because their baby was crying. And you know how I love me some yard sales, but if I pull up to one and there are a bunch of rugrats running around in the front yard, I'll hop right back into the car, no matter how cute that picture would look on my kitchen wall. Anyway, here's a brief recap of my day:

7:25 a.m.  I arrive, and their mom is making soup for them for lunch. Actually, she is making soup for us for lunch, but I didn't have the heart to tell her that I had a chicken gyro stashed away in the bag I'd just brought in and set in the floor (it also contained my laptop and a book - ha ha ha) after she'd gone to all of the trouble. I don't think they eat meat, and my plan was so sneak the gyro whenever the kids were busy with something else, hopefully a nap.

7:26 a.m. Alert to the scent of my delicious chicken gyro, their cat starts clawing and meowing loudly at my bag. I quietly kick the cat away and raise my voice quite loudly to drown out the meowing as I tell the mom just how much I love nondescript vegetarian soup.

7:31 a.m. Mom is on her way out the door. Children are asleep. I'm looking for a good place to set up my laptop so I can get some things done before they wake...oh no, is that the pitter patter of little feet? 

7:33 a.m. I try to convince the 2-year-old that life is not going to end because her mom just left to go to work, and in the meantime, could she please quiet down, because she's going to wake her big sister and also, move to another seat, because that's where I was going to set up my laptop.

8:04 a.m. The 4-year-old wakes up. I ask her if she wants oatmeal for breakfast. She carries on about how delicious it is and how it's her favorite, so I heat up the stuff her mom already made and set it on the table.  "I don't want that oatmeal; I want the kind on the counter," she says crossing her arms, poking out her lip, and pointing at a container of dried oats.  "It's the same thing," I say politely. "Your mom just made it ahead of time."

8:06 a.m.  The aforementioned cat knocks the uneaten bowl of oatmeal off the kitchen table. The are no paper towels here, so I must figure out a way to clean it up with one of the two kitchen towels I can find. 

8:30 a.m.  "Peanut butter!" cries the little one out of the blue.  "Yes, peanut butter," the 4-year-old says.  I promptly fix them each a spoonful of peanut butter to make up for the lack of oatmeal that was consumed earlier.  They seem content. The older one turns on the TV to play a video game, and the youngest one is happy to watch. I set up my laptop and explain to them that this is My Seat for the rest of the day, and they are not to come near it or touch the computer. Or talk to me or look at me. (Just kidding...)

8:40 a.m.  I look up from my Facebook page, laughing at a witty political post, and the 2-year-old is spreading peanut butter on a window. Dammit. There goes the other kitchen towel.

8:45 a.m. As I'm scraping peanut butter off the window, I look up to see 2-year-old rapidly pressing buttons on my laptop with her little peanut butter-coated fingers. "Don't touch that," I say for the 30th time.  I give up. I will work later.

8:46 a.m.  In an effort to wear them out, I concoct a very active game of "Simon Says." Once I realize 4-year-old doesn't quite get the whole "I didn't say Simon Says" part of it, I just start rattling off things to do like "run to your bedroom door and back" and "crawl like a baby around the kitchen table."  This lasts for about 10 minutes, but the results (two little girls who are so tired they fall asleep and stay that way for hours) are not what I'd hope for, and I spend the next few hours trying to find ways to entertain them, despite the fact that 4-year-old is insistent upon playing some awful video game called "Fat Princess" the entire time.

9:48 a.m. 4-year-old has been sitting in a chair in the living room for quite a while, but suddenly, she gets up and moves to the floor. She glances over at me the way someone who just put a bottle of nail polish in her purse at Walgreens glances at the cashier, but I think nothing of it. 

10:03 a.m. "Wet," the little one cries.  "You're wet I ask?" and check her pull-up.  "No, wet!" she screams urgently and points to the chair where the older one had been sitting before she got up and sat on the floor. I put my hand down and feel that the chair is indeed wet.  Apparently, she was so comfy playing video games that she failed to get up to go the potty not once, but twice. At this point, I'm contemplating loading them in the car and heading to the store to buy some paper towels. I mean, are car-seats really that necessary?

11:10 a.m.  "Do you need to go potty?" I ask the 4-year-old for the hundredth time since the Great Wet Chair Incident of 2013. She has now rolled her father's desk chair to the television, where she is still playing this horrid video game that looks like it was made in 1993 and is an insult to women everywhere. "Can we please stop talking about the potty?" she asks through gritted teeth.

11:12 a.m. 4-year-old runs to the bathroom, 2-year-old trailing behind her. I didn't go after them as quickly as I should have, but the next thing I hear is "Sarah, [insert 2-year-old's name] is putting her hands up her butt."  Indeed she was.  Not only that, but 4-year-old apparently had an upset stomach. Thank God that didn't happen in the desk chair.  

12:01 p.m. Lunchtime! I fill two little bowls with the aforementioned soup, and place banana halves on two small plates. The goal is to get them fed, go through another quick round of Super-Active Simon Says, and get them down for some quiet time so I can eat my delicious gyro and get some work done.  But for some reason the soup won't cool off. So, I let them color in the meantime.  "Don't give your sister any markers," I say to the 4-year-old, "she's only allowed to have crayons." I scoot the box of markers far away from the 2-year-old's reach. 

12:05 p.m. I turn around to put the soup and bananas on the table, and there are uncapped markers everywhere.  "She drew on me," 4-year-old is saying as she shows me that her entire forearm is now dark purple. Even worse, 2-year-old's teeth and lips are blue, and her fingernails are black. "How did she get markers?" I ask calmly, knowing that the child never got up out of her seat so someone had to hand them to her. 4-year-old shrugs and asks for more paper.

12:20 p.m. "Why aren't you girls eating?" I ask after I've cleaned up the leftover soup and put away a few toys. "I'm not hungry," the 4-year-old says, and given her recent bathroom activities, I don't push it. I spoon out some soup for the 2-year-old and feed it to her, and she promptly chews it and spits it out all over my shirt. "This yuck," she says. Knowing a break in the day is coming, I don't flinch. "Let's try a bite without onion chunks in it," I say, just giving her broth. After all, I didn't start eating onions myself until I was 29, so how am I supposed to expect this 2-year-old to do it? As soon as the spoon was out of her mouth, I was splattered again. "Fine, this yuck," I agree and take the bowl away.

12:22 p.m. "I need more paper," the 4-year-old reminds me. "This one has banana on it, " she says.  "Why do you have banana on your paper," I ask, knowing she never actually tried to eat the banana.  "Because I colored the paper with it," she says.  Sure enough, there is mashed up banana all over the paper, table, and child. "Lunchtime is over," I declare, as I start slamming rogue lids onto markers.

12:30 p.m. By this point, 2-year-old is whiny and rubbing her eyes and throwing fits in the floor. I know she's exhausted, so I clean her up, change her pull-up, and put her in her bed. The minute I lay her down, her body goes rigid.  "Noooooooooooooooooooooooo," she wails. "No bed!"  Suddenly, she's kicking the mattress so hard it sounds like I'm in a war zone.  I don't have the energy to argue or comfort. I leave the room as she starts calling out for her sister to "help her."

12:35 p.m.  The 2-year-old is still crying. "Does she cry like this when your mom makes her lay down?" I ask the 4-year-old.  "No," she replies, "she actually likes my mom."  Touche. 

12:40 p.m.  "Sarah, I saved the princess!"  "That's great," I tell the 4-year-old, "but I'm going to need you to keep your voice down, because your sister is trying to go to sleep, and I need to get some work done. If you want to sit up and play video games, that's fine, but it's gotta be quiet time," I call from behind the counter where I have ducked down to finally eat my delicious chicken gyro and down my Diet Coke. 

12:42 p.m.  "Sarah, I saved the princess!"  "That's great," I tell the 4-year-old, "but I'm going to need you to keep your voice down, because your sister is trying to go to sleep, and I need to get some work done. If you want to sit up and play video games, that's fine, but it's gotta be quiet time," I call from behind the counter where I have ducked down to finally eat my delicious chicken gyro and down my Diet Coke. 

12:43 p.m. "Sarah, I saved the princess!"  "That's great," I tell the 4-year-old, "but I'm going to need you to keep your voice down, because your sister is trying to go to sleep, and I need to get some work done. If you want to sit up and play video games, that's fine, but it's gotta be quiet time," I call from behind the counter where I have ducked down to finally eat my delicious chicken gyro and down my Diet Coke. 

12:45 p.m. "Sarah, I saved the princess!"  "That's great," I tell the 4-year-old, though this time I'm hiding behind the kitchen counter with a mouth full of chicken gyro, "but I'm going to need you to keep your voice down, because your sister is trying to go to sleep, and I need to get some work done. If you want to sit up and play video games, that's fine, but it's gotta be quiet time," I call from behind the counter where I have ducked down to finally eat my delicious chicken gyro and down my Diet Coke. This keeps up for about an hour.

1:43 p.m.  The 2-year-old, who finally fell asleep around 1:10, comes waddling into the living room with a big beaming smile on her face, as if we're supposed to be thrilled to see her.  That was no nap! Naps are supposed to last at least an hour, usually two, I think to myself, but she's in a good mood finally, so I don't want to ruin it. By now, the sun is out, and I can't bear the thoughts of hearing the theme song to that stupid princess game loop one more time.  "Put on some shoes, girls. We're going outside." I ignore the cries of "No, I have to save the princess again," and put shoes on them anyway.  

2:00 p.m. The 4-year-old wants to play tag, and I'm all for it. Generally, I try to avoid things that involve, ya know, running, but if this is going to wear them out, then who am I to be lazy? I am actually having an okay time, getting some exercise, and wondering why we didn't do this before lunch when suddenly something comes flying around the house at me. It's squawking and moving fast, its beak aimed at my knees, and I realize it's a rooster. I may have mentioned before that chickens freak me out unless they're chopped into nuggets or fried up and placed between two buns. I insist we head to the swing. Yes, I said swing, singular. I spent the next hour or two ( at least, that's what it felt like) giving each girl 5-minute intervals on the swing, singular.

2:37 p.m. We head in, hot and sweaty, despite the cool weather, and eaten up by mosquitoes. I just know we've been out there for nearly 2 hours, but it's only been 37 minutes?  Their dad is not supposed to be home until around 7. I have 4 1/2 more hours of this crap.

2:39 p.m.  "I want some oatmeal," the 4-year-old says, so I go back to the already-made oatmeal that their mom left and start to spoon it into her bowl. She can have this for lunch. I don't care. "Not that kind, that kind," she says and points to the dry oats on the counter again. "I'm not making new oatmeal. Your mom made this for you this morning, and it's the same thing!"  "I don't want it," she insists.

3:02 p.m. 4-year-old is back to her princess game (I know, I'm terrible, but it kept her out of my hair), and I realize the 2-year-old has been quiet in the kitchen for an unusual amount of time. I mean, I've nearly finished proofreading an entire article and catching up on a handful of emails without interruption. I saunter over and discover that she has discovered the markers again. But that's not what bothers me. It's the smell coming from her pull-up that nearly sends me running, screaming from the house. No wonder she wanted some privacy.  I tell her to sit still and search high and low for wipes. Apparently, all of the baby wipes have gone the way of the paper towels.

3:07 p.m. I've called 4-year-old back into the bedroom to ask her to help me find wipes. "Here they are, silly," she says and hands me a stack of baby washcloths. Just as I'm wondering if there are any paper towels left from my gyro that I can wet down and use, 2-year-old comes walking into the room, her legs spread wide like she's John Wayne or something, and a look of horror on her face. "I'm going to change you, hang on," I say.  "Messy," she says and shakes her head. I look at her legs. Indeed she was. Don't believe the myth that pull-ups are every bit as strong as diapers. 

3:08 p.m. I put 2-year-old in the shower, clothing and all. I turn on the water, not realizing the shower part is already on, and water flies everywhere. The bathroom is soaked and 2-year-old is screaming, "Wet clothes, wet clothes," and dancing around as if she's on fire.

3:15 p.m. It takes a while, but she's starting to get clean. I start looking looking around for where I might find a towel, but there is no special place for them.  I scream for the 4-year-old several times, but she does not respond. In the past, she's had a tendency to sneak out of the house, and I wonder if I'm going to spend the rest of the afternoon combing the woods. After the tenth time, she walks to the bathroom nonchalantly, her hand over her mouth and points at the towel hanging over the shower curtain as if I am the biggest idiot on the Earth. 

3:17 p.m. 2-year-old is wrapped in a towel, standing in the hallway awaiting her next instruction, and free of any poop (or marker - added bonus!). I'm walking down the hall towards the girls' bedroom to look for some clean clothing, but I am captivated by the trail of small white things that seem to lead back into the living room, around the princess game-playing chair, and towards the kitchen counter.  "Why are there oats all over the floor?" I scream. "I don't know," the 4-year-old says, despite the dried oats that are stuck to her face.  I guess she really did want that oatmeal off the counter.

3:18 p.m.  "Clean it up!" I scream. "Clean it up or there will be no more princess game!" The 2-year-old starts cleaning.  "No, no, your sister is going to clean this up all by herself."  I think they both cleaned it up, but by this point my blood pressure was so high that I couldn't see straight, so who knows what happened? I just know that I walked that house with a fine tooth comb looking for dry oats until every single one of them had been picked up off the floor.

3:30 p.m. The rest of the afternoon was kind of a blur. I insisted on a few more games of Super-Active Simon Says and spent the rest of the time hiding in a corner with my laptop, sending everyone I know cryptic emails about wanting to go home. I'm pretty sure most of my friends think I was being held hostage in Afghanistan or something.    

6:00 p.m.  I knew dad would be home between 6:30 and 7:00 p.m., so I decided I'd sit outside and wait for him. Of course, after some contemplation, I decided to let the kids come too. Evil pecking rooster be damned, we played tag and did more 5-minute internals on the swing, singular.

6:55 p.m.  Dad drives up, and I had no idea my little car could go that fast.

September 24, 2013

The Americana Post

Two posts in 24 hours...what has gotten into me? I'm actually still in the process of making some huge changes here, including getting my own domain name and all of that fun stuff, but I'm also in the middle of 5,000 other projects so bear with me.

First of all, my novel is complete. 100% (though I have to struggle with not rewriting a chapter every other week). Trying to do something with it is a new, yet grueling process.

I may or may not have mentioned that the book is about a girl and her friends who decide to put on a huge bluegrass festival. I wanted it to be a modern day twist on some good music from the past. You wouldn't believe how much bluegrass has influenced our current pop culture and how many fans there are out there who are under 60 and do not live in a cabin deep in the woods in the mountains somewhere (though that's totally cool, too). There's a lot of other stuff going on there in the story, but that's the premise. Ever since I started writing it, I pretty much eat, sleep, and breath bluegrass. That's not a bad thing at all. But I've been itching to write about it elsewhere, so I though I'd share a few of my recent findings.  

Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby 

If you're looking for some good music that does not involve "twerking" or anything else of that nature, you need to check out Ricky Skaggs's and Bruce Hornsby's new album, Cluck Ol' Hen, immediately. Mr. Skaggs himself actually suggested I download it, so who am I to let him down?  Actually, as soon as I checked out the samples, I knew it was something I had to own. From "Little Maggie" to "That's Just the Way It Is," it's got some fresh, live versions of classic tunes. I love live albums that are better than studio albums, and this one falls heavily into that category.

The Back Porch of America and the Bluegrass Situation 

I know I've mentioned the Bluegrass Situation here before (I think so, anyway), but until I saw something on Twitter a few weeks ago, I never really took the time to look at the website. I honestly had no idea that it was a wealth of awesomeness. I think I joked on Twitter the other day that it was my heart wrapped into a website, and it is. It's everything bluegrass and Americana that one could ask for - videos, album reviews, concert news, etc. My favorite thing, by far, has been this Back Porch of America series. From the website:

In the new series Back Porch of America, host Matt Kinman takes us down uncharted roads to forgotten corners of the country, where slivers of authentic American life still happen every day but are quickly disappearing.

I won't say anything else, other than I have a strange urge to go buy some chairs now. I'll just let the videos speak for themselves.

View Part1 here: Back Porch of America: Mark Newberry, Part 1
View Part 2 here:  Back Porch of America: Mark Newberry, Part 2


Rumpke Mountain Boys

In addition to bluegrass, I've been on Bob Dylan/Tom Petty/Paul Simon kick lately, all for different reasons. My favorite Dylan song is "Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts." A few days ago, someone told me they'd never heard it, so I took to YouTube. I never found what I was looking for, but I did find this cover by the Rumpke Mountain Boys. They do it justice, let me tell ya, and that is how I ended up listening to more of their stuff. I'm not too deep into it yet, but I like what I've heard so far. Check out the Dylan cover below, and check out the Rumpke Mountain Boys website here.

September 23, 2013

What do Jen Lancaster and this bottle of Nair have in common?

You are probably wondering what New York Times best-selling author Jen Lancaster and this ordinary bottle of Nair do have in common. The answer is that I was exposed to both of them for the first time in over a year last Thursday evening.

(Okay, that's not exactly true. I did use the Nair in June before my trip to Tom Petty's (ex-wife's) beach house. But given the state of my hairy legs last week, I probably wouldn't have had to do much to convince you otherwise. Hey, it's been a weird summer. Don't judge me.)

Anyway, my gay cousin and I found out at the last minute that our favorite author was coming back to town, and we knew we had to go. You may or may not remember that last year, when all of my birthday plans got tossed down the toilet, we made an attempt to go meet her, but we were running late, missed half of the event, and neither of us was in a place financially to buy a shiny new hardcover book to get autographed. We had fun, but we knew we had to try again.

So, this year, when she announced her  tour for her new book, The Tao of Martha, we were disappointed to find out she would not be coming to a bookstore near us. I think the closest stop was Charlotte, NC, and we were tucked away in Tom Petty's (ex-wife's) beach house that week. We did, however, go to the local Barnes & Noble on the day the book was released, but that little trip only resulted in us telling off the nerdy info guy because he didn't know who Jen Lancaster was, me killing my car battery because I left the lights on, and some little old lady thinking we were trying to rob her. I mean, they didn't even have the book in stock!

Well, last Thursday, we set out, determined to finally meet our literary hero. If I'm being honest, I was not in a good mood that day, and I looked like shit. Seriously, the humidity was doing a number on my hair, and my eyeliner seemed determined to cover every part of my face but my eyes. My all-black clothing was covered in Gabby hair (who is walking now, btw, but more on that later), because I couldn't find the outfit I planned to wear. I did Nair my legs, though, so 2 points for that (don't think I haven't been riding that accomplishment ever since). Anyway, as I'm heading out the door to pick up Gay Cousin, my dad calls with a grave warning.

"You're going into the city tonight? Be aware; traffic is a mess."

He was right. I turned on the news, and some jackass decided to rob a local mall and lead the police on a wild goose chase that ended in an accident that was blocking the path between us and finally meeting Jen Lancaster. The event started at 7 p.m. which is exactly 10 minutes before we finally got out of suburbia and onto the expressway.

I managed to make it to Buckhead by a little before 7:30 p.m. while Gay Cousin put voodoo hexes on Mall Thief, but the parking lot at Barnes & Noble was so packed that we couldn't find a spot. We literally circled the place half a dozen times before we found this little nook that was probably not really a parking space, but I didn't care if I got a ticket or someone took out the back end of my car, because we were going to see Jen Lancaster, dammit. 

So, here's the deal: Jen, if I may call her that, was not the only author there. Laurie Notaro (love her) and Quinn Cummings (was not familiar with her until that night) were also in attendance. We hoped and prayed and crossed every body part hoping they'd save Lancaster (I can't call her "Jen." I mean, do the British call the Queen "Liz?") for last. We rushed around the store and looked for the crowd, and when we finally heard women cackling in the children's department, we trotted over. (At first, we thought no one had showed since it was kind of a last-minute thing, and we had concocted this whole plan to invite the authors to have Mexican food with us nearby, but then we realized that it was more likely that we had misread the announcement and were there on the wrong night, because Jen Lancaster is coming to town. People are going to show.)

The first thing we hear is Quinn Cummings saying something like, "In show business, they tell you not to follow kids and animals. On book tours, you don't follow Jen and Laurie." 

Seriously? We missed the fun reading and talking part? Again? For what it's worth, Quinn Cummings was hilarious, though, and all 3 of them talked for a bit afterwards (Laurie Notaro is even funnier than her books if that's possible). 

And then the massive crowds of women started lining up, and we took off around the store to find a copy of JL's new book (can I call her "JL," at least?). I felt bad not buying a copy of each author's book, but honestly, before we went inside, Gay Cousin and I were counting out how much spending money we had between us to see if we'd have enough left for dinner. We had decided that if indeed no one had showed, and these lovely ladies took us up on our offer for Mexican food, we'd have to politely tell them they were going to have to pay for their own food. (FWIW, I'm in the midst of a major career move that has taken away from me freelancing a little and am hoping to buy a house soon, and he just started a new job and was in the midst of making a major purchase. We're not last year-broke anymore.) 

We waited. And we waited. And we watched crazy women run away from the table of authors crying and squealing like they'd met the 40-year-old equivalent of Justice Beaver, and I almost headed out to the car, because I did not want to be one of those ladies. But we finally made it, the next to the last people in line, and it was glorious.

A few hundred paragraphs ago, I mentioned that I was in a bad mood for a number of reasons I won't bore you with. And I was. I had already told Gay Cousin that he was to do all of the talking, because I just couldn't force myself to be personable that day.

That was something I didn't have to worry about at all. Ms. Lancaster told him that she liked his outfit, and that was all it took for them to take to each other like butter to bread. (Mmmm, bread.) (I'm trying not to eat many carbs.) (If you ever want to get on Gay Cousin's good side, tell him you like his outfit, though you get bonus points if you are Jen Lancaster.)

They chatted for a bit, and to her credit, she tried to chat with me. She asked me if we'd met before to which I muttered something about writing about her on my blog. (Yes, I actually said that out loud. I told one of the most interesting writers in the world that I had written about her on my blog that reads like a tenth grader's diary and is read by, like, my aunt and my two best friends. I didn't know what else to say! I wasn't prepared! I had told the GC he was going to do all the talking, and I was just going to stand there in the background. I wasn't prepared for her to actually open her mouth and say words at me, too. It was such a lame, cliche thing that I can't even properly make a joke about it. I'm pretty sure I moaned about what a moron I am for the entire trip home. I don't want to be that girl. I may as well have said, "I also sent a query letter to your agent a few days ago, but could you ask her to delete it, because I had no idea what I was doing at the time and have since written a better one." This was worse than my fear that I'd turn into one of the teary, babbling broads who squealed and skipped their way out of the store.) 

Anyway, our trip to fancy Atlanta Mexican restaurant turned into a stop by Taco Bell on the way home for a number of reasons. I'm pretty sure the entire car ride home was just a loop of Gay Cousin saying, "Jen Lancaster liked my outfit" and me saying, "Did I really say 'I write about you on my blog?'"

But, after a year of trying, we finally met Jen Lancaster. And I lost about 5 pounds of leg hair. So, there's that.  




P.S. If you're looking for some excellent reading material, Jen Lancaster's book, The Tao of Martha is wonderful. I've only read a few chapters, so far, but I love it already.  You can buy it on Amazon at that link above.

Laurie Notaro's book, The Potty Mouth at the Table, and Quinn Cummings's book, The Year of Learning Dangerously, are on my Amazon Wishlist for now, but given how hilarious those ladies are, I can promise you the books are must-purchase.

 

September 13, 2013

This Week in Garage Sale Finds

I'm going to try to start doing this regularly, so bear with me. I get excited when I find new old things, and I must share it with the world.

First up, this picture. I call it "farmhouse chic."  It doesn't really match any of my other stuff, so I'm not sure what I'll do with it. Oh hell, nothing I buy matches any of my decor. Who am I kidding?  Anyway, it's much bigger than it looks, so I think $7 was a good deal, don't you?


Speaking of farmhouse chic, I've been into chickens lately for some reason. Chickens in real life scare the bejeezus out of me (unless they are fried and placed neatly on a bun with a few pickles). Pictures of chickens on things delight me. I think my new-found love of pictures of chickens on things is based on this lamp from Tom Petty's (ex-wife's) beach house, but I digress. Anyway, I bought this cute sign last week that I didn't get a picture of, but I bought this little thingy this week. Maybe my new kitchen will have a farmhouse chic/chicken thing going on.


From my future kitchen to my future library (because there will be one in my next home, dammit), if I see a book that looks even remotely interesting and it's .25, you can bet I'm gonna get it. One of these is on my Amazon Wishlist; the others were just random choices.


My mother told me this looked like something her grandparents would have owned, but I don't care. Sure, it needs cleaning up, but that is my heart on a tray. No idea what I'll do with it. I'm thinking it'll go on the eccentric back porch I'm planning.



Speaking of my heart, this picture of the capitol in Atlanta is a bit old, dirty, and needs a little TLC, but I fell in love with it when I saw it.



I know I've mentioned my affinity for Christmas decor. The UGA snowman was a must, obviously, and the little hula girl will be a great addition to my beach-themed tree. I just liked the little slate sign beneath them, and it was a quarter, so why not?




Finally, my tacky find of the week: a tie between these wooden sailors (or are they pirates?) and this ceramic dolphin piggy bank from Florida.  I paid a dime for each one. No idea what I'm going to do with these either, but if you like them, wait a year or two, and you will probably find them in a garage sale at my house for a quarter, because that's how I roll.


I also bought a little glass juicer, a little turquoise bowl, and these old maps. I have some crafty plans for these old maps, but I'm not due to do any inspirational crafty projects that I'll quit about halfway through for about six more months, so they'll just stay packed up for now.


August 30, 2013

Garage Sale Finds

My mom and I hit a few local garage sales today. We've been doing it all summer, and I've scored a ton of great stuff (that went straight into storage, because I am still homeless *sigh*), but today's finds were some of my favorites. The person who was having this particular sale and I obviously had similar tastes. I didn't get nearly as much as I wanted, but I did only spend $7 on what I did get.  

For example, I got this clock for only $2. It needs a new motor, but the cheapest I could find it online is $350, so I'd say that was a good deal. It will look great leaning against my storage building wall hanging over my fireplace. It's bigger than it appears in the picture - well over 3 feet tall.  (Ignore the background. I had to move some things around to get a good picture.) 


The first thing I saw when I walked up was this Milkbone tin. I had to have it. I love tins, I love dogs, and I love that it looks old-fashioned. I figured it'd cost more than it did, but it was only 50 cents. It's also bigger than it appears, and in case you are wondering, it has something on top of it which I will reveal in a sec. 

Did I say I loved tins?  This place had lots of them, and I had to be careful to limit myself even though they were cheap.  I bought these 4 for 75 cents, plus the basket they are in for $2. As you can see, I had to crop Gabby out of the picture.    


I got a few other things that I didn't take pictures of - a shelf, a few little Christmas things - but this little guy in all of his ugly glory is probably the best thing I got.  I've yet to figure out what he's supposed to be, why there are trees on the bottom above the painted waves of water, or what I will do with him, but he will earn a spot in my house somewhere. 



I think I did pretty good for $7. If they weren't all packed up, I'd post some of my other goodies. I've bought tons of glass bottles and candles this summer (my other weaknesses), some Christmas stuff (I love to go all out at Christmas and have themes for each room), and some dishes and things like that.  I also bought a ton of old Southern books at an estate sale. Lots of cookbooks, gardening books, etc. from Southern Living, the Atlanta Junior League, and well, you get the idea. 


August 04, 2013

One year later...



Relaxing at Tom Petty's.
I was talking to my mom this morning, and she said, "Do you know what today is?"

"August 3rd?" I responded.

"The one-year anniversary," she said.

I knew immediately what she was talking about. I glanced at the clock and noted that it was exactly one year to the hour that I was listening to my vet give me a somewhat grim prognosis regarding Gabby's future.

For those of you just joining me, my best friend of 10 years was hit by a train last year, and the fact that she is alive is a miracle within itself. I still remember it all like it was yesterday, yet it also seems like it's been a decade. The months following the accident wore on me, as she had to have 24/7 care, but I honestly believe it made me a much stronger person. I'm not as impatient or combative as I used to be. I also appreciate that dog - and life - more than I ever have.  
Relaxing on the beach.

If I had to sum the the rest of the 9 months of the last year up in one word, I'd probably choose the word "water." As I've noted, Gabby loves to swim. Every time we go to the park, she heads for the creek or the lake. When no one was looking she was quick to run to my family's pool whenever we were visiting my parents'. I'd always wanted to take her to the ocean, but the opportunity never really presented itself. One year go today, I promised myself that if she lived, I'd do just that.

Of course, I took her to Charleston in November, but that trip was not a good one for many reasons, one of which being the waves were too much for her, thanks to a tropical storm.

Swimming in Tom Petty's pool.
I wouldn't have the opportunity to take her to the ocean again until this past June. I was getting ready to head out for my family vacation, and while my dogs normally stay with my parents, I decided that I didn't want to leave Gabby. For starters, my mom can't pick her up, and she has to be lifted up stairs most of the time, and this put a major damper on the whole going outside thing. She also has some other issues that it's really best if I tend to them, so we all decided that I would take her.

My aunt and my mom kept telling me I would not have a good time, but to be honest, I couldn't tell you when I've had a better time on a family vacation. My cousin kept assuring them that I'd have a better time because I always miss her, and I guess he knows me best.

Relaxing by the pool.
We drove down to Florida in my car, stopping a few times along the way so she could roll in the grass at rest stops and get burgers at fast food joints, and when we arrived, we went straight for the pool. My cousin and I compared luggage for my dog and her two-year-old. I had so much fun that week. I kept Gabby in my bedroom, and she behaved most of the time, but we made daily trips to the beach where she loved the sand and had a better time in the ocean than she did in Charleston. We spent hours laying around the pool, swimming and sunbathing.  I felt content to have her with me, and I have a feeling she's going to be traveling with me a lot more in the future.


By the way, my grandfather saw how much she enjoyed the water and offered to let her swim in our pool, so now she's allowed after all these years of sneaking in. 

What she does best on the beach.
So, in the last year, Gabby has been to the ocean in two states, swam in Tom Petty's pool, and she's now allowed to swim at home. She still doesn't quite walk right, but she has taken a few normal steps, and I see tiny signs of improvement weekly. I have to carry her up steps and lift her onto furniture. Even if she never walks again, I'm okay with that. I see people cringe when they watch her move, and I imagine it looks painful to an outsider, but all I can think is that I am just happy she's alive.

My former self would have balked at the idea of having to invest so much time and energy into another living being. That's one reason I don't have kids yet. But now it's second nature, and I wouldn't have it any other way. She doesn't like to be away from me, and if I'm being honest, I don't like being away from her for too long either.

One of my favorite authors once said that she writes so she can stay home with her dog. I kind of get that.

(I think this post fulfilled my hokey, sentimental post quota for the year. You're welcome.)  


June 26, 2013

On Vacations, Jen Lancaster, Tom Petty, and a New Blog

(NOTE: This tediously long post will probably have pictures to break up the monotony soon. They're just not on my laptop, and I am far too lazy to get up out of bed and add them. 

So, I'm just gonna throw a bunch of things into one post here.  It's probably more for me than it is for you, but aren't most of my posts like that?  

Vacations

I went on the second of my summer (well, technically, spring) vacations a couple of weeks ago. This time it was the annual family trip to the beach. Essentially, my grandfather rents a place for a week or so, and anyone in the family who wants to tags along. These days, it is usually just the grandchildren and my dad's sister.

And Gabby.  I didn't want to burden my parents with my handicapped dog, so I decided to take her along. Everyone worried that I'd be miserable, but to be honest, it was one of the most fun family trips I've taken in recent memory. Usually, by the end of the week I'm clamoring to get home, but this week I didn't want it to end.

Gabby and I drove down on a Saturday morning in my car. Have I mentioned that my AC is not working correctly? Yeah, that was a fun six-hour drive. Anyway, we stayed at the same amazing house that we rented last year (and the year before, though I was in Charleston playing journalism girl then, so I didn't go), and we went straight to the pool that first night to take care of the sweat. I had to do some work to meet some deadlines over the weekend, so there is not much to say about that. 

Jen Lancaster

My gay cousin was there, and as I've posted before, we love us some Jen Lancaster books. We manage to work a Jen Lancaster reference into almost every conversation. So, we knew we'd be there when her latest book, The Tao of Martha, hit stores. There is a Barnes & Noble nearby, so we planned to take the time to drive to said Barnes & Noble to get said book. We have literally been planning this excursion for months.

Tuesday rolls around, and we get in my car, and we drive to Barnes & Noble. I'm scanning the tables in front, he's scanning the shelves of new non-fiction, and both of us are coming up empty-handed. We checked the humor section, the bio section, even the literature section, and the book is missing in action. How does a major chain book retailer not have copies of a New York Times best-selling author on the shelf on the day the book makes its debut?

Finally, gay cousin hits the info desk, and nerdy info guy says, "The book's not out yet." I proceeded to let him know that he was wrong wrong wrong and that we have been planning this excursion for months based solely on our knowledge that the book came out that day and that he better find me a copy of that book so I can read it by the pool or there will be hell to pay. After ducking behind the counter to avoid my wrath, he then decided that it was out, but they didn't have it in yet. After months of carefully planning this moment, I was a little disappointed, but, hey, I was in a Barnes & Noble. It's not like there were not 1,000 other things there to catch my eye. We decided to browse for a bit, and we were probably in there a couple of  hours perusing the shelves which is important to remember when I tell you this next part.

As you probably know by now, my car does not make a noise when you leave the lights on. This has caused me quite a few headaches over the years. So, once we maxed out our spending limits and spent a few minutes playing, "Should I get this one or that one, close your eyes and pick one," I put a few books back and head to the register. We check out, head to the car, and we're talking about where to eat lunch when I flip the lock so my cousin can get into the passenger side and nothing happens. I try it again. Nada. I reach over to manually unlock the door and try to figure out why my automatic locks do not work.

That's when I thought back to the drive to the aforementioned Barnes & Noble and my strict instructions for my gay cousin. "Do not let me get out of the car without turning my lights off," I told him. I remember I said it just as we were just driving out of the little Florida neighborhood that looked like where The Golden Girls might live (we may or may not have gone out of the way to visit this neighborhood based on this reasoning), and it was just after I was saying, "Can't you imagine Blanche out on the lawn chasing Dr. Harry Weston?" and right before it started to rain pretty hard and I decided to adhere to the law and turn on my lights.

We called my youngest cousin (gay cousin's brother), and he was kind enough to drive out to jump me off. I stood in the parking space next to my car and begged people not to park there in the meantime. When he finally arrived, we realized that no amount of maneuvering would fix the fact that our batteries were on the two opposite sides of the cars and the jumper cables wouldn't reach, so I went inside to find out who drove the little Honda that was parked directly in front of me. With my fingers crossed I had the cashier to page the driver over the intercom. Within seconds this tiny, stooped-over Jewish woman who looked to be about 80 came gliding over.

"It's me; I drive the Honda. Did someone hit it?" she asked.

"No, m'am, my battery is dead, and I need you to..."

"No, I'm sorry, but I cannot help you. My car is so old that I cannot use it to help you jump your car off," she said stubbornly.

"No, my cousin is actually here to help; I just need you to move so he can reach my battery."

"Are you sure nobody hit my car? You know, I saw that your lights were on when you came inside here. I even went back out to make sure it wasn't my car."

Thanks for alerting me, lady.  "Really, if you could just move your car, it would be a big help."

When she finally realized what was going on, she walked to her car, and I promised to save her an empty spot that was even closer to the door. I stood in it, waiting for her to move (I had plenty of practice doing this by now), but that woman took off like we were a bunch of hoodlums trying to pull something over on her. We did get the car started again, though, and I did not turn on my lights for the remainder of the trip.

Tom Petty

On Wednesday, I was laying on a float in the pool not reading Jen Lancaster. I'd been told one hundred times that a maintenance guy was coming to fix something, so I'd been avoiding the area altogether, but I finally gave in, and boy am I glad I did. Little did I know he would bestow some knowledge on me that would change my life forever.

Okay, maybe it wasn't quite that dramatic, but it was exciting.

As I've mentioned, this is not the first year we've rented this house. Everyone liked it because everyone fits, and there is so much space and privacy, and it's just a good place that gives you a good feeling. I know that's pretty lame, but I have no idea else how to describe it. I love the bedroom I stay in, because it looks right out over the ocean, and it has its own private balcony that leads to the pool. We've also always speculated about the owners of the home. The house has a cozy, eccentric style that I love, but it's not your usual Florida beach house fare. I mean, there is a mirror ball in the living room, along with pictures of Elvis, Steve Martin, and Lucille Ball.

Anyway, I'm in the pool when the maintenance guy comes and assures me that I do not need to get out while he works. In the meantime, we're chatting and waiting on my aunt to come down and bring him something. He's telling me that the owner is about to have the backyard redone, and I'm asking him how old the house is, because it seemed like the thing to ask to avoid being rude, and next thing I know he keeps saying "Tom Petty."

After a moment, I zone out, because I'm thinking there must be hundreds of dudes named Tom Petty in this country. After all, I know many people name "Tom" and many people name "Petty." Put them together and what do you have?  Then I'm wondering if he means the Tom Petty. I mean, I'm not sure what this has to do with the house, but this is  Florida, land of the blue-haired people and the crazies, and this guy reminds me a bit of the hardened, sunburned characters that Jimmy Buffett is always singing about. Maybe he just relates random points in history to correlating random points in the life histories of his favorite rock stars and doesn't realize how crazy it makes him sound.

So, as soon as he's out of sight, I whip out the iPhone an start Googling. I end up on a bio for the Tom Petty, and I'm realizing that Gypsies in the Palace over there knows what the heck he is talking about. 

I am actually staying in the Tom Petty's (ex-wife's) house.

(Sidenote: Apparently, he lost it to his ex-wife in a divorce a few years ago, but once upon a time, Tom Petty slept in the same house that I was sleeping in, and that's all that matters.)

I'm not one to get starstruck, but there are a few people that do it for me, and Tom Petty is one of them. I mean, I listen to a few of his songs every night before I go to bed. Seriously, he's right there on my bedtime playlist along with Sting, Fleetwood Mac, Bob Seger (and maybe ToTo...shut up).

The man sang "Learning to Fly" and voiced "Lucky" on King of the Hill. What is there not to love?

I wanted to jump up out of the pool and run screaming through the house, but I figured it was best if Tom Petty's (ex-wife's) maintenance guy didn't think I was nuts. He might have more interesting stories if I play it cool. I mean, what if Bob Dylan wrote one of my favorite songs right here on this deck, and what if Stevie Nicks stood in that gazebo and sang "Rhiannon" for a small crowd and what if Roy Orbison sat on that bench and enjoyed an adult beverage and, well, that was pretty much my thought process for the whole entire rest of the trip. 

My aunt came downstairs just as I was picturing myself hanging out with, like, every rock star that ever lived (because that's so what happens when you rent a beach house from one's ex-wife), and I tried my best to whisper loudly to her what the maintenance guy had told me. It took mouthing "Guess whose house this is?" about 38 times for her to understand what I was saying. Within half an hour she, my gay cousin, and I were sitting at the dining room table eating lunch and speculating as to whether Tom Petty had ever eaten off the forks we were using or sat in the chairs we were sitting in.

Honestly, I can't remember much else about the trip. I worked a good bit of the time, and really didn't leave the house much after the Barnes & Noble trip other than to go out to dinner. That house is like a little miniature paradise in itself, and I was fine with hanging out there and spending a few days doing very little.

So that's that.


New Blog 

If you're still with me, I just want to say that my gay cousin and I were talking a few weeks ago, and I have almost decided that I will be starting a new blog sometime later in the summer. If I do, that means this one will be disappearing from the internet (or disappearing as much as a thing can from the internet).

The new blog will be more of a Southern lifestyle thing and a little less politics, sports, or the random crap that I feel the need to ramble on and on about. Over the last year or so, particularly in the last six months, I've been making some changes in my life. I'm much more conscious about what I eat (most of the time), where it comes from, and who grew it. I'm traveling and exploring more, and I'm not sure if anyone would want to read about these things, but I'd like to try to document them.  Like Saturday, I'm heading to this farmer's market, and if I had the new blog, I'd feature it and what I decided to cook up with the things I buy there. That sounds so boring and pretentious, but I promise you it won't be!  I want to keep my personality but switch my focus, I guess. 

(And yes, I cook now. Who would have thought? Don't worry, though, I still watch football and play video games and stuff.) 

I've had this blog for nearly a decade, and it's served so many purposes, but the best thing about it is that I've been able to document my life, and I don't want to lose that. So, I'm still toying with the idea. And given the amount of freelance work I've been getting lately and the fact that I'm in the final stages of my book, I may find that I don't have time to do it anytime soon. I'll keep you posted, but do not be surprised if this thing disappears in the future.  

April 30, 2013

On Ghosts, Fort Sumter, and Ed Helms

Happy Birthday to Me

If anyone still reads this thing on the reg (and let's face it, this is, like, my fourth update in 2013, so I kind of doubt it), you know that I made approximately 10,847 plans for my birthday last year, ranging from going to Los Angeles to see the LA Bluegrass Situation to seeing one of my favorite comedians perform in Atlanta...and every single one of them fell through for one reason or another.

This year, I couldn't let that happen. My birthday is in about a week, and while life could be better, I decided to stop everything and treat myself to a 100 percent stress-free trip to the Greatest City in the World.  Charleston. And while it wasn't 100 percent stress-free - I didn't even get out of town before realizing I had a flat tire, for example - I did actually get there and had a pretty good time

The GC and Me Head to the Greatest City in the World  

One of my favorite houses in Charleston.
I decided to take my gay cousin along, as he worked as my assistant when I had to spend some time there in 2011 for work, and he loves the place just as much as I do.Our grandfather was nice enough to loan us one of his cars, so I wouldn't have to worry about getting a new tire until I got back. Unfortunately, the radio in that particular car does not work. The first hour of the trip was fine; we made up songs about our family, and grabbed some food in Conyers. The next four hours were, well, let's just say that driving through backwoods South Carolina towns on a Saturday night in a large SUV that is hard to handle with your gay cousin sitting next to you singing along with his iPod's show tunes playlist at the top of his lungs would have been far more productive in the war against terror than waterboarding, but I digress.
The GC strolling through an old cemetery on Meeting Street. 


We arrived at our hotel in Mt. Pleasant late Saturday night. Let met just say that the Residence Inn by Marriott is not the most glamorous place, but the rooms are like cute little apartments. I wish I would have discovered it when I was there working for long periods of time.

Exploring Edisto Island 

The choppy waves at Edisto Beach.
Sunday was fairly uneventful. I got up early and worked on a few articles I needed to finish up, and we didn't leave the room until well around 1 p.m. We stopped by a little bagel shop for lunch, and then we drove out to Edisto Island. I took my mom there in November, and she found the place totally creepy, and because my gay cousin and I love to scare ourselves silly, we decided it would be the perfect place to spend a day. After driving around the island and stopping at an adorable little produce stand to buy some goodies, we walked around on the beach. That didn't last long. The water was cold and choppy, and the hurricane-like winds were blowing the sand so hard against our legs that it stung. That doesn't bother me so much, but my delicate cousin wasn't having it.

Instead of walking along the beach, we decided we'd check out the hiking trails. We decided to take the one that was nearly two miles long as it promised some great Indian mound at the end. While the maritime forest was pretty, hiking four miles in flip-flops was not the best idea I've ever had. I ended up with blisters on my feet, and the Indian mound was less than spectacular, but at least we got some exercise, I suppose.
The maritime forest on Edisto Island; no alligators :-(

After that, we went back to Poe's Tavern to eat up all the calories we burned walking and back to the hotel where we spent a great deal of time talking and reading about the Boston marathon bombing suspects.

Yes, folks, this is how I spend my vacations.

The Best Day on the Battery 

Monday was a little more exciting as we spent the day in Charleston proper. We headed downtown and parked along the battery. My cousin opted to sit in the park and read, while I watched two dolphins frolic in the water. After hanging out for about an hour, we decided to walk down Meeting Street and gaze at the amazing architecture the city is known for. We were only a few houses in when we noticed a sign advertising tours of one of the larger homes. After debating if we really wanted to pay the money just to go inside that house and deciding hell yes, we did, we spent about an hour walking around the garden and then listening to an adorable tour guide gives us the lowdown on the place. After that, we continued our tour, stopping to admire the houses, talk to the
The mansion we toured.
residents, and tour old cemeteries and churches.

For lunch we ate at the Brown Dog Deli on Broad Street. Wow is all I can say about that. I am very much a burger and chicken nuggets and whatever you can put ketchup on kind of girl, but my cousin challenged me to order something I wouldn't normally get. Let me just say, if you ever go there, the chipotle chicken pita is to die for!

After a really late lunch, we decided to make our way back to the car and headed back to the hotel. Somewhere along the way, we decided that it would be relaxing to spend the rest of the evening at our favorite spot on the beach in Isle of Palms, but the bugs had other ideas. Seriously, if there is a bug that bites within, like, a two-mile radius, it will find me and eat me up. Unfortunately, about a million of them descended on us at once, so we skipped out of there pretty quickly. Instead of relaxing on the beach, we hung out on Sullivan's Island for a bit. The highlight of that trip was seeing Jenny Sanford getting her workout on. We grabbed some take-out from Poe's (notice a theme here?), headed back to the hotel, and ate and watched TV for a while.
One of the fountains in the Calhoun house garden. 

The Ghosts  

For whatever reason, my gay cousin decided we should head back to the battery around 11 p.m. He was determined to play ghost hunters or something, and who am I to turn down the opportunity to be scared to death in the Greatest City in the World? For the most part, the place was empty. I watched the water for a while before joining him in the park where he asked me to recall what I knew about the pirate hanging that took place in the big trees that line the park. For some reason I kept thinking it was slaves, not pirates, so I took out my rusty trusty iPhone to find the real story. This is when things got a bit spooky.

Love the houses with the red, black, and white/cream.
I'm sitting on a bench, and he's standing in front of me, and I'm reading the story about the dead pirates that were left hanging in the trees that are surrounding us for several days, and all of the sudden we hear this really loud crack right behind me. Aside from a couple laying in the grass off to our right doing God knows what and some other forlorn-looking dude who seemed to be contemplating jumping into the Cooper River, we were alone, so I have no idea what that was. A few seconds later, we heard another crack just above us; it wasn't quite as loud, and given the pile of white goo that landed by my cousin's shoe, it was totally explainable.

After that, I decided I was not going to sit around and wait for pirate ghosts and/or battery birds to attack,
No ghosts, but how creepy is this busted grave on Edisto ?
so we moved out from under the trees, and I looked up more about what areas of town are supposedly haunted. We found that some inn on south Battery Street was the site of a suicide many years ago, so naturally we had to walk to it. There were still a few people stumbling back to their cars from the bars and restaurants, so we were not totally alone, but it was still a bit strange to be out there in the middle of the night. We got to the inn, and it did not seem particularly creepy, so we decided to go back to Meeting Street and walk around the block. Aside from a cat following us around, I didn't find that walk particularly ghostly either. However, shortly after we made a right on Atlantic, I began to hear footsteps behind me. I walk slow, and my tall, lanky cousin walks fast. When we walk together we always end up with some distance between us unless I jog or he purposely slows down. He was a good house or two ahead of me at this point, so I stopped, and the footsteps stopped. I turned around and saw no one, so I sped up. I was not about to be mugged or raped right in the middle of the Greatest City in the World

The park and battery are not so creepy in the daytime.
We turned down Church Street, and I was not particularly creeped out by it, but my cousin claims he was. He'd read some kind of ghost story about that area, but we couldn't find the exact spot that was allegedly haunted. By the time we got back to the battery area, we were both tired, a bit spooked, and ready to leave. When we got home, I decided to take a nice warm bath, and when I got out, I found my cousin sitting on his bed reading some book about Charleston ghost stories. He says, "You know that area where Meeting meets Atlantic? Some people supposedly died there..." and he proceeds to tell me some ghost story about the exact area where I heard the footsteps. Nifty.

No Fort Sumter for You 

Tuesday was our last day in the Greatest City in the World. We checked out of the hotel and took one last drive through downtown. We stopped at a local produce place to buy some goodies for our grandfather, and then we headed to West Ashley to our favorite little bakery. If you ever go to Charleston, look up Amelia Claire's. Her key lime cupcakes are to die for. Her everything is to die for!

We had a few hours left before we'd planned to head back to Atlanta, and I really wanted to go to Fort Sumter. Here's the thing: I've been to Charleston a million times now, and I have never been to Fort Sumter. Seriously.  I mean, I love me some Civil War history, and the fact that I've never been is something that bothers me to no end. However, my gay cousin was not feeling it, and we knew it'd be pretty time-consuming (he had to be up early the next day for work), so we opted to go to Charlestown Landing instead.

Dammit, Fort Sumter. You and I will cross paths one day, and it will be magical, I'm sure.

No alligators, but these otters were adorbs!
When we got to Charlestown Landing, it was a bit later than I expected, but I really wanted to see the little zoo there, and my cousin only wanted to see the old plantation home, so we agreed to only walk to those things and see the rest of it another time. We had just stepped foot outside after buying our tickets, and I began to feel terribly nauseous. I sat down on a bench, hoping it was something fleeting, but it only seemed to get worse. I hauled ass back to the building where you buy tickets, and got a Coke and just sat for a while near the bathroom. I have no idea what was wrong with me - maybe all the fast food we consumed during those days was catching up with me - but it got later and later, and I never really felt all that much better, so we agreed to do a quick tour of the little zoo and get out of there.

I felt bad, because I really wanted to see it all, but we agreed to go back next time. Honestly, the zoo wasn't
Can you spot the animal that was not part of the exhibit?
even that thrilling. Some of the animals seemed miserable, and I was mostly hoping to see alligators, which there weren't any.. I did, however, get chased down by a raccoon who I thought was part of an exhibit. Turns out, he was just visiting. He climbed out of the fence and followed me for a bit, and I just knew I was going to get rabies and die right there.

Poor Armadillo 

We stopped by Chick-fil-A on the way out of town and found out the hard way that leaving town at 6 p.m. was a bad idea. We didn't get home until well after midnight, and I managed to kill a poor little armadillo on I-20. I go to great lengths to avoid hitting animals on roads, but there were huge trucks on either side of me, and I'm going 80 mph, so it was either us or him. Sorry little guy. Or girl.

Ed Helms 

You may be wondering how Ed Helms fits into all of this, and well, he doesn't. Not really. I just thought I'd point out that he did some bluegrassy type stuff in L.A. last weekend. I happened to catch it on Twitter, but by the time I did, tickets were already sold out, and I already had plans anyway. This exact same thing kind of happened last year around my birthday, too. I would love to see him perform someday, but in the meantime, I'll simply have to bask in my Charleston afterglow.

Seriously, I don't call it the Greatest City in the World for nothing. I cannot express enough how much I love
No pics of Ed Helms, but how can you not love this place?
the place. I love that there is always something going on. I love the history. I love the beauty. I love the diversity of the people. I love that it's like a Jimmy Buffett song meets all that is wonderful about the South or as my gay cousin calls it, "the place where magnolia tress and palm tress coexist." I hate being away from things - it's lonely and boring - but in Charleston, no matter where you are, you feel like you're right in the center of everything. Does that make sense?

But where was I?

Speaking of Helms, I just happened to run across this last night: apparently, he has created and stars in a show that Yahoo is releasing called Tiny Commando. I don't fully understand the whole Yahoo thing, but I might if I read the article again when I'm not completed exhausted. Sounds kind of cool, though, and I can't wait to see what the future holds for him now that The Office is over. Check it out, homies.

And thanks for hanging in there while I played diary and recounted my mini-vacay.