Monday, August 11, 2008

The Rest Of It

I love road trips. I don't even have to go anywhere. I love driving around the Ozarks on Sundays, for instance. I love poking around gas stations looking for weird gifts and buying nasty candy and nastier coffee. I love scanning the radio for creepy or crazy call-in shows.

I discovered that I also like it when D. drives and I read aloud. On this trip to The Middle I read from David Sedaris's latest book When You Are Engulfed in Flames (predictably hysterical). In my previous life when I taught middle school, I used to love reading to my students. Every afternoon, at the very end of the day, we'd all sit down and I would read a chapter or so from my personal favorite YA (young adult, duh) books: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Wolves of Willhoughby Chase, From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and The Dark is Rising series. I think it's really good for kids to sit still for 15 minutes a day and just listen....

But anyway, our mini-vacation last weekend was a blur. Guess what though - Iowa is beautiful! Rolling hills, American Gothic-style houses, lots of corn, big open blue skies....really lovely. Too bad all we saw was from the seat of a Toyota speeding along the god-awful I-35 interstate. Seriously, that highway is the worst. Did you also know that Iowa has luxurious rest stops? We're talkin' wireless internet, copious free maps and information booklets...and bathroom stalls almost suited to speed-changing from road trip clothes to rehearsal dinner semi-fancy duds, Superman-style (more on that later). That particular rest stop was advertised from miles away as the "modern rest stop." "What's at this rest stop then?" D. asked as we zoomed past a glorified oxbow-shaped paved pull-off and a sign promising - or warning- that for the modern rest stop we'd have to drive 4o miles, "A porta potty? A hole in the ground?"

I wish I could follow D. around with a little recorder because he says the funniest things all the time. We were in a crowded bar after the wedding reception when "Billie Jean" came on...."They should re-write this for John Edwards" he said drolly. Awesome! I was fiddling with the radio and "Tell It To My Heart" by Taylor Dayne came on. "I bet you like Taylor Dayne, don't you?" I asked, idly harrassing him the way I sometimes do. Then he just naturally and casually replied, "I saw her on The Late Show once and bought her CD" as though it were the most normal and inconsequential thing in the world. This man is full of complexities y'all. Former (?) heavy rocker, superfan of Thelonious Monk and Chopin, and....closet Taylor Dayne fan. Who knew?

Too bad I can't remember all the times and circumstances in which he's cracked me up. I haven't been whipping out my Little Notebook Of Observations and Overheard Funny Bits near as often as I should.

Oh well. On to the pictures.

Here's the aforementioned lowflow shower head. Is that sentence missing some hyphens? Because I'd be happy to add one or two. I do love the hyphen.

"In case you didn't get the PREVIOUS HUNDRED TIMES WE'VE MENTIONED IT, we are a GREEN HOTEL. Got it?"

Aveda: code for "pretentiously earth-conscious." I like their minty lipsticks so much, though, that I had to buy two different shades at the salon where we had our wedding hair done (more on that later too).

The one lone painting in our room in Kansas City. Who am I kidding? That thing is as much a painting as I am a painter. The lone trendy green print.

Non-dairy creamer, right? So what's that say at the very bottom in bold print? Call me crazy, but how could it possibly be described as non-dairy? Food science scares me. Those two words shouldn't go together (no offense, Fuji - you know I love you!).

Friday we woke up early-ish with big plans and a full agenda to tackle. I wanted to accomplish three things in Kansas City: 1.) buy silver heels to wear in the wedding. I know Stacey loves how Arkansas I am, but I didn't think she'd want me to literally walk barefoot down the aisle. 2.) Go to the Nelson-Atkins Museum. I took my class there, in my previous life when I taught middle school, and have long dreamt of going back to poke around on my own schedule, and 3.) visit old friends of my family. The husband is recovering from a scary surgery that saved his life and I really wanted to see how he was doing. He has always been one of the crazier of my parents' old, crazy hippy friends who tells, by far, some of the most entertaining stories. They all seem to start with "So I was driving down to Mexico...." and end god-only-knows where.

I found beautiful, sexy silver shoes right away. My beautiful, sexy boyfriend bought them for me! They're the kind that look so pretty when you look down at your feet and conveniently cover up the THROBBING BLISTERS that inevitably form from wearing beautiful, sexy 3-inch heels. Then it was time to get our culture on and stare at some art. I love this museum! It's huge and varied and, best of all, FREE! I remembered to take the camera but I'm a dumbass and failed to take notes (ahem) so I don't know who did these pieces, but I love them. If you're smart about this sort of thing and can identify the artist, please let me know. Click on the pics to make them bigger.

I love the food-like warmth of this painting. It looks vaguely like a woodland creature covered in radishes or cocktail olives. Whatever. It makes me feel hungry and cuddly.

Outsider art is sometimes, let's face it, embarrassingly crappy. But when it's good it's more likely to be creepy or unsettling in some way. Like an eyeless preacher with his midsection opened up to reveal a shrine.

Angles of the ceiling when looking up in the contemporary art wing.

I loved the small but amazing cubist and dada room. This painting reminds me of the cover of a record album my parents had when I was little. I am going to make myself crazy trying to remember which album it was....

Dancing plastic lobster display! Yes, of course!

I DO remember that this painting is supposed to be of St. George. You know...who killed the dragon? "He's" the one on the left. However, I refuse to believe that it's a guy there on the left. There's just no way. I know paintings were different back then and stuff, but I just can't accept that. I prefer this instead as a painting of Joan of Arc being tough (Joan Jett of Arc - I smell a fantastic Halloween costume idea!). Look how strong and elegant she is! And it appears she's not afraid to stand up to the papal dude next to her.

At the museum store, where I wanted to buy Stacey and Nick's (I'm so prepared for this wedding - can't you tell?) gift, D. told me about his idea to give gift certificates for marital counseling as wedding gifts. He's wicked. But exactly the right kind of hilarious. Wouldn't that be perfect for the couple with an advanced sense of humor?

So then it was on to visit the convalescing friend of the family. We got to talking and I wasn't paying attention to the clock. I dragged myself away because we (err, D.) still had to make the drive to Des Moines. I was thinking of the invitation in my purse for the rehearsal dinner at 6:30. Mmmm....dinner. Only as we wound our way across Kansas City in search of the interstate did it occur to me that the rehearsal dinner usually comes AFTER the wedding rehearsal. The rehearsal that was scheduled to begin in 2 & 1/2 hours. Add to that the fact I'd somehow gotten it into my head that Des Moines was a 2 & 1/2 hour drive from Kansas City. D. whipped out his stupid iPhone and quickly proved me wrong, wrong, wrong....more like 3 hours. That brings us to changing into my pretty dress and his handsome suit in the bathroom of a (modern) rest stop along I-35. You haven't lived until you've emerged from your chrysalis of a bathroom stall to ask a total stranger to zip you up.

So yes, we missed the wedding rehearsal. I mean, I MISSED IT. But (you know me) I got to the dinner right in time. Wine and fancy pizza. Perfect.

Saturday morning all us wedding party ladies went to get our hair done. The last time my hair was professionally done in order to participate in a wedding was probably one of the most traumatic hair experiences of my adult life (all I can say is "cascading hair ribbons") so I was a little anxious. But it turned out pretty! Shellacked within an inch of it's already over-processed life, but very pretty!

Here's Stacey, looking so calm and gorgeous! How does she do it???

It was pretty fun(ny) to walk around for a few hours in flip flops and shorts with a totally glam updo and professional make-up application.

I didn't have time that day to remind D. that he was supposed to take pictures of the wedding and reception. So this is the only one I have of Stacey in her dress. I also think this was before we figured out that she forgot to put on her floofy petticoat. LAND SAKES! How could we forget something so crucial? All I can say, I guess, is that wedding preparation is akin to being pregnant, and one can get really spacey and dumb when pregnant. I'm not saying Stacey was spacey and dumb - far from it! - I'm saying I WAS/AM. Stacey amazed me with her poise and mad organizational skillz. She looked so freaking beautiful, too.

This is likewise the only picture of the bridesmaid dresses. And of Lisa touching up her makeup. I was so worried I'd look like a fat mermaid in that dress...but it was floaty and elegant and so flattering. Just like everything else about the wedding.

The reception was in an old Mason temple. This is the ornate and gorgeous ceiling. If walls could talk! What the hell did the masons exactly do anyway???? I may have some serious insomniac internet research ahead of me.

There was a lot of dancing.
The vacation pictures abruptly stop there. And I didn't have it in me to get the camera out again until tonight. So you'll have to take my word for it on the glorious tackiness of the Ameristar casino in Kansas City where we stopped on our way home. Ameristar! I think that sounds more like a credit card name than a casino (fitting, no? Both are designed to trick you out of every penny to your name). I'm too chicken to play any tables...but D. is quite the skilled Blackjack player. He was up....then down...then down further.....but he came back triumphantly and so I made him stop right there.

We got home very late Sunday night where we were greeted by the most excited dog ever.

I am so glad I also took off work Monday because I got to be extraordinarily and deliciously lazy ALL DAY LONG.

After restaurant meals exclusively for that many days, I was dying for a home-cooked meal. Does anyone else miss their own cooking when they're traveling? I couldn't wait to make something exactly the way I thought it should this dish. I don't know the name of it, but it's Mexican. The recipe was passed down from a Mexican acquaintafriend (does this term make sense?) to another friend of mine who taught me to make it.

First you sautée onions until they're on the verge of caramelizing. Oh...wait....first you make brown rice. Then the onions...

Meanwhile you ask your sassy teenage daughter to shut up and peel some carrots, already. And don't let her stop at 3 or 4....have her peel at least 5, enough to fill a mid-sized mixing bowl.

While she's complaining about the back-breaking work of peeling carrots, you roast poblano peppers under the broiler setting in your oven (or over a flame of a gas stove....or on the grill...whatever) and slice some queso fresco cheese.

When the brown rice has about 20 minutes left, you layer the nearly-caramelized onions, then carrot slices, and finally the poblanos that have been peeled and de-seeded and then stuffed with the cheese slices and pour some chicken or veggie broth over it all and let it simmer and bubble and cook all the flavors together. If you did everything right, it should be a harmonious combination of sweet, smoky, savory, spicy, salty, and YUMMMMMMM.

Then, hours later, the only thing that will top off such a meal is a tasty dessert of toasted coconut and almonds.....

...served over vanilla ice cream with Hershey's syrup on top.

I don't think I have anything else to say. Hard to believe, I know. Wow.


jessica said...

We have to schedule a trip together and soon, one that we plan for ourselves and not other people!!

Stephanie said...

Road trips rock! When can we go??!!

The lobster art reminds me of Ben Strawn's style, kind of. And except for the Salvador Dali, (gee, it sure looks like a Salvador Dali) I don't know who did any of the pieces here... but I LOVE your impressions and comments about them. It's awesome that the NAMA is free. I'd like to go back and really take it in, since the last time I went I was supervising a group of middle schoolers too (!)

That bit about marital counseling as a wedding present... cracked me up! So stinkin' true, and Funny.

Love reading your travel adventure recaps - it's the educational, like learning about super modern rest stops on I-35. Who knew.

And homecooking after a vacation: absolutely the best.

Alannah said...

Jessica - I had such a blast on our Texas road trip of 2004...the one where we stayed off the interstates as much as possible - so fun! Let's go to the Smoky Mountains next time!

Stephanie - I've got to see Ben Strawn's work in person...I've only seen photos. I'm afraid, though, that I will fall so deeply in love that I will forgo groceries for a month in order to buy something of his. And no, that's not a Dali painting. My feeble brain seems to think it may have been done by a woman?

AMY said...

Your trip sounds like so much fun. I love road trips, too. I do appreciate the Midwest for the rest stops. In Illinois, a rest stop is called an Oasis, and it really is an oasis from the interstate!

Fuji says he doesn't approve of nondairy creamer, either.

Take a road trip to visit the lovely Land o' Lincoln!!!