Monday, October 31, 2005

vacation, part 3: egrets, i've seen a few

October 19th marked the 224th anniversary of General Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown and the end of the Revolutionary War. Washington, Rochambeau, and Lafayette had marched some 17,000 men into the Virginia town and surrounded Cornwallis in the previous weeks, and there was nothing for the British general to do but wave the white flag and return home with his defeated forces.

In the subsequent years America grew into a great nation despite wars, disasters, the poetry of Rod McKuen, hippies, that bastard at Domino’s back in 1998 who wouldn’t honor my coupon, the near ruination of the Star Wars franchise by George Lucas, and the eloquence of Toby Keith being relegated to truck commercials.

The rest of the world discovered soccer and mistakenly named it “football”.

It all worked out for the best, and October 19th would’ve been the perfect day to visit Yorktown, but Mrs. Camino and I already had plans to cross the Chesapeake and explore the towns along Virginia’s eastern coast into Maryland. This is the Delmarva Peninsula, a tiny finger of land on the map that separates the Chesapeake from the Atlantic, and it costs you twelve bucks to drive the toll road that comprises its spine.

The weather was perfect that day. There is a nature reserve just to the right once you reach the peninsula from the south, and Mrs. Camino and I stopped to walk along their bird and butterfly watching trails.

I didn’t see any butterflies.

There were quite a few birds though, and many of them were much the same as we have in Middle Tennessee—with the exception of the snowy egrets, a bird that obviously does not require snow. They look very much like the blue herons one can see along the Stones River, except that they are not blue and they do not peck around in trash for sustenance.

We drove up highway 13 toward Maryland with The Thrills’ So Much for the City in the CD player. It seems to have become our standard driving around CD, as it is perfect for any occasion and works for all seasons. The same can also be said for The Allman Brothers at Fillmore East, and it quickly followed.
Open marshlands gave way to centuries old farms. Like anywhere in the south, you can see old crumbling plantation houses, hundred year-old farmhouses, shotgun shacks, new vinyl constructions, trailer parks, a Hardee’s or Starbuck’s alongside a local Mexican or seafood restaurant, and maybe a train, if you’re lucky. It seems a bit more picturesque here, as the land is flat across the peninsula and treeless through the tracts of farmland. There are rows of Victorians being remodeled along the side streets to the waterside communities, and the new construction around them is being done in a more complimentary arts and crafts style. Most communities seem to be paying attention to that sort of thing now, and it really should be a priority in a place that attracts runoff from the historical tourism, even if most folks never cross and explore the Chesapeake this far south.

I had never really paid much attention to the map, and Virginia stretched on for a lot longer than I expected it to. The restaurants began boasting of their crabcakes about an hour before we finally hit Maryland, where the thin peninsula blossoms out into a much wider stretch of land, but we were waiting on Crisfield before stopping for a late lunch of beer and the state’s signature dish.

Mrs. Camino read a book set in Crisfield once, and the town had become our only designated place to visit on an otherwise improvisational daytrip. It sits at the southwestern most tip of Delmarva Maryland. The tourist season had obviously passed, and the town was dead outside of the fishing boats coming in and out of the harbor and the construction of a block of new condos and hotels. We parked at the city pier and took a walk from there.

There were a few small diners and dive bars open, but none of them really appealed to us that much. It was getting well into the afternoon. We tied ourselves over with the last of some butter pecan peanuts we had picked up in Williamsburg and then decided to head further into Maryland.

We took county roads this time. They contained the same assortment of houses that we found along the highway, but these were much closer to the road. You could really see the peeling paint, stone foundations, recently added satellite dishes, and green plastic porch furniture from Home Depot. The whole peninsula was full of these houses, and I wondered how many hurricanes each had weathered. I wondered how many were still in the original families and what the reaction would be if I were to just pull over and ask.

But it was just an idle curiosity and not all that important, I suppose. Besides, I generally prefer making things up to interviewing folks for genuine facts. This trait is somewhere on the list of reasons why I didn’t last too long as a journalism major, but it is nowhere near the top.

We spent the rest of the afternoon heading up the Maryland coast towards the bridge to Annapolis. It seemed like a good enough place for crabcakes, and we really didn’t have time to head all the way up to Baltimore. Besides, there had been a terrorist threat on the tunnel there the day before, and the home of the Naval Academy just seemed a safer destination.

That was all that I knew about Annapolis, and part of me was picturing the actual town part of it as one big row of bars with continuous bar fights and sailors crashing through the windows. The sailor would then dust himself off, replace his Popeye hat and tilt it askew, take a drag off his cigar, push up his sleeves, and walk right back in. Some of them would just climb back through the freshly broken window, but a good, self-respecting sailor would return by the door.

There turned out to be no bar fights going in Annapolis—even despite the fact that it is home to a number of Irish pubs.

The state capitol sits on a hilltop overlooking the bay. There is a one-way circle surrounding the capital, and downtown shoots off in spokes down the hill. Each one contains its share of seafood and various ethnic restaurants, bars, clothing stores, town houses, law offices, old hotels, and other establishments residing in buildings of historic landmark status. There were trees along the sidewalk, and their deep reds and bright oranges and blended well with the red brick.

We parked along the city pier and walked up and down a few of these looking for a place to eat. There were many, and some had been in business for over two centuries, but most were a bit too steep in the crabcake department. Roirdan’s Saloon wasn’t too bad, and it looked out over the city pier, so we settled in for crabcakes and beer. Mrs. Camino tried another local brewery whose name I can’t remember, and I had a Bass Ale.

I do love me some Bass Ale.

Roirdan’s did not disappoint, but I regret that we had only an hour to see the town.

The only drawback to visiting Annapolis is that it is hard to avoid Washington traffic to get there. It was late at night when we drove back along the edges of DC, but the beltway was packed and slow moving. There was no sun by which to gauge direction and no real landmarks. Each exit held the same collection of fast food restaurants and gas stations, and I would’ve swore that we were merely going in circles. When we finally made to the interstate back into Virginia the traffic there was even thicker, and a sea of taillights looked like lava flowing downhill from the capital.

My family went to Washington for a vacation when I was in third grade, and all I remember from it are seeing rats the size of wiener dogs and the prostitute who chased my dad’s Cadillac for nearly three blocks. We were lost in the bad part of town for hours before we realized that there is no good part of town.

However, I did enjoy the Smithsonian.

What I would’ve enjoyed on the way back to Williamsburg that night was a cigarette. I didn’t bring any with me on the trip, and time around the chainsmoking Sister Camino generally quells any tobacco desire for a good week or so, but the late night and slow traffic had the body calling for some sweet nicotine.

Mrs. Camino was kind enough to run a sweep of the car for any near empty packs that may have made their way under the seat or to the back of the glove compartment and was able to locate a small cigar at the bottom of the console between our seats. It was broken, but still in the plastic wrap. She unwrapped it and lit each half, and it was as stale as expected, but it served its purpose. Mrs. Camino tried to stay neck and neck with me on her half, but she coughed quite a bit and gave up before exhausting her allotment. There was something cute about that.

“I shouldn’t have done that,” she said.
Coming Soon (more than likely): The Road Home

Friday, October 28, 2005

guest blogging gig

I will be briefly interrupting my amateur travel writing phase to take over Nashville is Talking for the Halloweekend.

It will be a bloodless coup, I hope, but there are no guarentees.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

vacation, part 2: fear and loathing in colonial williamsburg

We were halfway back to Ye Olde Giftshoppe and Visitor’s Centre when the mead began to take hold. The foppish bastard with the bell was one “Here ye” away from needing a proctologist to help him retrieve his tri-cornered hat, and I told him as much.

“Sir, I am supposed to be the town crier. This is what they pay me to do”, he said.

“I’ll give you something to cry about, you fancy little bitch,” I slurred. “And I will do so for free.”

For some reason I wanted to scribble something along those lines on the back of my napkin as we sat at the lunch counter of a wine and cheese place in the Williamsburg merchant square, a three square block collection of shops roped of for foot traffic between Colonial Williamsburg and the College of William and Mary. However, I couldn’t find a pen, and I suppose it was no big loss.

We had spent the morning walking around downtown Norfolk and then drove the forty-five minutes to Williamsburg and checked in early at the sweet condo we were to occupy for free over the next three nights. A guy who owes my dad some money has a timeshare with Fairfield Resorts, and he was presented with a decision between giving up a few of his days or trying to get around on two broken legs. It really wasn’t much of a choice.

I’m kidding…I think.

At any rate, the four legs of the Caminos had certainly gotten a workout in their exploration of Norfolk and Williamsburg, and Mrs. Camino’s suggestion of sandwiches and a few afternoon beers as we strolled the square was certainly welcomed.

The beers were local and quite cheap. The St.George Brewing Company is located in Hampton, Virginia, and they put out a decent product at a dollar-fifty a bottle. I have to say that I wasn’t too thrilled with the label, but I am probably a bit too hung up on packaging when it comes to commerce. Miller High Life is my favorite domestic beer simply because of the cowgirl on every bottle. There were no cowgirls on St. George’s ales and lagers, but the product was good.

The sandwiches weren’t too bad. I quite enjoyed what I had of Mrs. Camino’s veggie with mushrooms, melted swiss, tomatoes, sprouts, and other assorted leafy greens. I had even planned on getting one myself until the Ani DiFranco clone behind the counter leaned in to Mrs. Camino and warned her that something associated with the sandwich was prepared with chicken broth and therefore not really “vegetarian”. It seemed like a perfectly acceptable thing to tell someone when they order a veggie sandwich, but there was something of a scolding tone in the way she said it that bothered me.

I don’t care for being preached to by little white girls with dreadlocks, hairy armpits, and second hand opinions on ethical food choices who also happen to receive a paycheck each week from an establishment that serves quite a few beast based sandwiches. Behind that counter is certainly no place to cop a “meat is murder” attitude, and it will only get you a “then murder is tasty” response.

Which is why I changed my mind and ordered a corned beef on rye…with a side order of baby seal and a nice kitten and endangered butterfly gravy.

Just kidding. Kittens and butterflies may have made a formidable tandem on my high school binder, but everyone knows that their tastes are quite uncomplimentary.

Still, I loved the Williamsburg. It is rich in history, surrounded by forest, has a number of parks with decent hiking trails overlooking the marshlands, is adjacent to the James River, and contains a few pirate ghosts.

I’m sure that I don’t have to tell you the tourism value of pirate ghosts. A city either has them or it doesn’t, and a pirate ghost-hungry public will quickly be able to tell the difference.

In the early days of the colonies pirates were caught and hung along the river or the roads into town as a deterrent to other pirates. Did it work? Well, it probably served the community much better than those damned “the more you know” public service announcements that NBC runs, but it would probably take more than a swinging corpse to intimidate a worthy pirate.

I was briefly interested in pirates a few years back when I was waiting on my acceptance letter from the grad school at UNC Wilmington. There is supposedly a great deal of pirate treasure still buried along the Carolina coast and the mouth of the Cape Fear River, but I was denied and therefore never got the chance to move to Wilmington and spend my free time searching for it. I suppose we could’ve still moved there for the sole purpose of being close to the set of “Dawson’s Creek”, but it didn’t seem worthwhile it at the time.

However, I did remember this story in association with Williamsburg:

Edward Drummond changed his name to Edward Teach when he became a pirate, but you probably know him as Blackbeard. He stood six foot four, often fought with hemp and lighted matches woven into his beard, and there are stories of him doing things like choosing a random member of his crew and shooting him in the kneecaps just to keep up the level of fear among the others. He plundered ships from Bermuda to New Jersey and made his home in Bath, North Carolina, as he was friendly with Carolina’s Governor Eden. He actually lived in a house nearby Eden and would exchange some of his stolen goods for pardons from the governor. It was a good relationship.

But folks outside of the North Carolina governor’s mansion were understandably concerned about the number of pirates beginning to congregate at this safe haven. Take Governor Alexander Spotswood, for instance.

It is debatable as to whether or not Spotswood had the jurisdiction to do it, but in 1718 he dispatched a couple of ships to Okracoke with the sole purpose of returning with Blackbeard’s head, preferably detached from the rest of his tall person. Lieutenant Robert Maynard was in charge of the Virginia force, and he located and engaged Blackbeard in an interesting battle whose details are too long to go into here.

Maynard decapitated Blackbeard on November 22, 1718. He placed the head on the front of his ship and set sail for the Virginia capital, which was then located in Williamsburg. He presented it to governor Spotswood who then realized that a severed head really clashed with the colonial décor, and the head was put on display for the common citizen to gawk at.

But a severed head only lasts so long.

The skull of Blackbeard was said to have wound up in a local tavern where revelers would drink from it on special occasions. Health codes were a bit more lax in those days, and pirate skulls were quite the gimmick. They would probably be worth more that those Empire Strikes Back glasses you picked up at Burger King so many years ago, but people rarely hung on to them or kept accurate records of where they came from.

But what about the damn pirate ghosts?

Oh, yes. They say that the headless ghost of Blackbeard is sometimes seen looking for his head all along the Virginia coast, but I didn’t see it. I would’ve remembered something like that.

If you seek further information on the subject, don’t bother watching this.

I didn’t find any ghosts at Jamestown either, but they did have a nice statue of John Smith, who obviously liked to dress like a pirate ghost.

There is quite a bit of construction going on right now as they prepare for Jamestown’s four-hundredth anniversary. The colonists and Indians, however, have long since left. They no doubt grew tired of all the tourists and sought quieter lives somewhere else long ago, and I don’t blame them.

Also, I doubt that a people with a penchant for drinking from pirate skulls would last too long in a place where it was so difficult to find “vegetarian” dishes free from any association with chicken broth.
COMING SOON (probably): The Delmarva Peninsula and Annapolis

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

vacation, part 1: the irrational icedancing festival

We are listening to Into Thin Air as we drive through the mountains on the first night of vacation. I don’t know if it qualifies as travel writing, but it seems an appropriate place to hear it, sort of—even though climbing Everest has never appealed to me like traversing the Appalachian Trail. There are plenty of places to see out there that have sufficient oxygen, an environment that gets above zero, and that do not require the aid of a Sherpa to visit. Frozen mountains are indeed pretty, but they are not worth amputated extremities, brain damage, or death.

Then again, maybe they are.

I’m driving down the other side of the mountain and passing plastic white crosses at many of the sharp turns, and it occurs to me that climbing a mountain is probably a better way to go than driving off of one or having the brakes go out on the eighteen wheeler behind you. I assume that you won’t find plastic crosses on your way up Everest, and that is probably for the same reason they don’t line racetracks: one assumes the risk by virtue of attempt. Though tragic, there may be something a bit nobler in that.

Still, the frostbite would render my banjo useless.

We had thought about stopping in one of those mountain towns to sleep before going on to Norfolk. Ten or eleven hours seemed like too much to expect after leaving Murfreesboro at four, but a decent audio book generally puts me in the zone, and I had no problem making it past Greensboro and into the parking lot of a Burlington, NC, Super 8 Motel at about the time Krakauer started reading the epilogue. I was asleep within fifteen minutes.

That night I dreamed about the Irrational Icedancing Festival and was quite disappointed when the sun broke through the tacky curtains to bring me back to the Super 8. I dreamed that Mrs. Camino and I woke, showered, and then stumbled across the festival while meandering from one small Carolina town to another along the backroads. Reality was a let down, partially because it meant having to shower all over again, but more because I awoke before getting to see any of the actual icedancing. I had only made it to the concession and t-shirt stand before sunlight and the rumbling of an ancient Cadillac outside left my anticipation unfulfilled.

Is there such a thing as rational icedancing?

Mrs. Camino asked that very same question when I relayed the dream to her over our breakfast at Burlington’s own Biscuitville, and I told her then that I doubted it. I was still a bit deflated at the nonexistence of such a festival, but Buscuitville has some really kick-ass grits, and they brought some counteracting joy into my life. The biscuits were also good, but the grits surpassed expectations. The eggs and pancakes were simply okay, and the chicken tenderloin on my “eggs and chicken platter” made me think they had exhausted their own chicken supply and were supplanting it with second hand bird from the Chik-Fil-A at the mall down the block. If so, it would have been perfectly fine with me, as I have nothing but love for the chicken one comes across at Chik-Fil-A.

By the way, I ate the chicken first.

Then it was back onto the interstate and off to Hillsboro, NC. It lies just outside of Durham and contains a number of antique stores and historical bed and breakfasts. I had been through there once before and remembered it as the sort of place Mrs. Camino might want to wander through.

We arrived just as the farmer’s market was winding down in a parking lot adjacent to the town square. Most of the folding tables had already been vacated, but there were still a few people milling about. A woman was singing Billie Holiday covers with the accompaniment of electric piano, bass, and a small PA system underneath a funeral home tent. There were still a few farmers, an Amishly dressed woman with sweet potato and pumpkin pies, and another woman, perhaps a Wiccan representative or Renaissance fair runaway, in thick eyeshadow and a black cape standing behind an empty white table and greeting each passer-by with, “And how are you this day?”

A lifestyle that allows one to confidently don a cape is certainly tempting, but I know that I couldn’t give up the comfort and convenience of the word “today”.

An hour later we were rolling into Durham along the road that separates Duke University from a vast forest that it owns. Trails were cut all along it, but we had to pass them to keep on our loose schedule and make it to my sister’s place a little before sundown. Still, there was time enough to show Mrs. Camino the original home of the Durham Bulls and the very same field where the best film about minor league baseball was shot some fifteen years ago.

They say that if you go out there really late at night you can sometimes see the ghost of Kevin Costner’s career floating just behind home plate.

Still, it was no Irrational Icedancing Festival.

The closest I ever got to that was the Virginia Wine Festival. Day one of that celebration was letting out just as we made it to Norfolk, and we may have very well been the only sober people in town at that point. Though I certainly have nothing but love for adult beverages of every form and fashion, I was quickly reminded of why my days of binge drinking were few and far behind me. There was laughing, stumbling, yelling, dry humping, vomiting, arguing, singing, the gnashing of teeth, the spilling of wine, animated conversations with cell phones, scattered young professional curled into the fetal position, euphoria, depression, and a confused handful of Japanese tourists documenting it all on the latest of digital cameras, and for some it was not unlike traipsing across a sheet of ice.

I therefore cannot accurately judge Norfolk. It is certainly a beautiful city with miles of wide waterfront along the Elizabeth River, but we seemed to have caught it just after hurricane Katrina doubled back to deposit the most annoying of Mardi-Gras revelers along its shore.

This is the view of the business end of the USS Wisconsin. It just sat there in the harbor doing nothing to help the stumbling an inebriated all around it, and I think we can infer from this that George Bush hates drunk people.

Sister Camino lives in the Ghent district. She has an apartment in the basement of a building constructed over a hundred years ago to house foreign dockworkers. It has since served as a hospital and a number of other things before being renovated and divided into modern apartment. She is convinced that her part once served as the morgue, though she has no historical proof and has had no problems with the paranormal.

We ate that night at Freemason Abbey, a former church along Freemason Road that has spent nearly two decades as a steak and seafood restaurant. It is reported to be one of the most haunted places in Virginia. I didn’t get many details on the dark history or have any otherworldly experiences in my short time there, but we were certainly visited by the dual specters of high prices and poor service.

The next night was better. Sister Camino took us to Rudee's in Virginia Beach for our sixth wedding anniversary, and we feasted on a mountain of steamed crab, oysters, and shrimp. We left painfully full and covered in crab shrapnel, and that is the only way that a man in a Hawaiian shirt should leave such an establishment.
COMING SOON: Williamsburg and Jamestown (provided that I get around to writing it).

Sunday, October 23, 2005

rex in tuscaloosa

Things looked bleak in the fourth quarter. The Vols were dangerously close to the end zone as time ticked off the clock, and the sluggish Alabama offense had not given the Tide faithful much of a reason to believe that they could reciprocate a touchdown against a very stingy Tennessee defense. My heart sank, and I began to anticipate the gloating emails and phone calls from a handful of Vol fans. They would not be calling and writing to light a candle in my time of darkness. That is simply not the Volunteer way.

Still, it had been a great day so far.

I drove down early with my dad to meet some of his friends for beer and hotwings at the RV encampment before walking the mile and a half to the stadium nearly two hours before the game just to boo Philip Fulmer as he came out for pre-game drills. Heckling, much like Pabst Blue Ribbon, has long strengthened Alabama families.

Actually, PBR has probably done more to create Alabama families.

It is not unusual to pull up to any given traffic light in the state and catch the driver or passenger of the car next to you cracking open and tilting back a tall boy. It is not unusual to see this before noon. We are a jovial lot.

We got pumped up by the montage of great Alabama plays on the jumbo screen and the repeated playing of “Sweet Home Alabama” over the loudspeakers and then had the surreal experience of Alabama native Condoleezza Rice coming out for the coin toss just before kickoff. That was followed by a nail-biting and scoreless first half and a half time in which we booed the Tennessee marching band as they played “Rocky Top”.

It may seem a little tasteless, but I see nothing wrong in booing any band that knows only one song.

The second half was a repeat performance of the first until the two teams traded field goals and thus eliminated the possibility of going into a scoreless overtime. Then the Vol offense found their rhythm and began a steady matriculation down the field and appeared to be well on their way to eliminating any overtime. Mudville was on the verge of joylessness, and Tide fans everywhere began to quietly contemplate the very real possibility of another year of taunting from Volunteers.

Then it happened.

Safety Roman Harper dislodged the ball from Tennessee’s Cory Anderson just outside the goal line and thus caused the ball to cross the end zone without him. This rendered the Vol drive fruitless and gave Alabama the ball on their own twenty yard line. An energized Tide offense marched the ball to within field goal range, and I began to mentally compose the cruelest of emails for a number of Vol fans.

That is the Rex L. Camino way.

But it was not over until Jamie Christenson actually made that field goal. He did, and I watched him do it through spaces in the hands covering my face. They were my own hands, luckily, and they smelled of sweat and hotwings. When it became official I balled them into tight fists and pumped them in the air while screaming like a little bitch.

I am certainly happy for the Tide making it to 7-0, but I am most happy that Tennessee is among the seven. They could be 1-6 and I would be overjoyed—so long as that 1 was big and orange.

It is that kind of rivalry.

In honor of the Tide’s success I’ll present you with a picture of former coach Bill Curry and me taken at the 1989 football camp. I was fourteen years old and weighed some sixty pounds more than I do now. I cannot speak for Coach Curry’s current weight, but I imagine that he is still in much better shape than myself.

camino and curry (1989)
I should also point out that he is over six feet tall.
Curry is still my favorite Alabama coach not nicknamed “Bear”. He played for Bryant and then went on to a great NFL career with the Packers and Colts, and he did a hell of a job in his all too short tenure heading the Tide. He was very genuine and accessible, and he made it a point to talk to each of the kids at the photo op.

Coach Curry: What in the hell are you doing with that mask on, son?
Rex L. Camino: I’d like to be able to post this on my blog someday, coach.
Curry: Blog?
Rex: It will be the Internet’s version of pussyfooting around and playing grab-ass.
Curry: What the hell is the Internet?
Rex: Look, the future is a very complex time, coach, and we really don’t have time to go into it now. However, I will leave you with a couple of sobering words: Governor Schwarzenegger.
Curry: Son, maybe you need to put down that martini and just smile for the camera.

Friday, October 21, 2005

internet, i missed you.

We crawled back into Murfreesboro shortly after midnight. I had been behind the wheel for some ten hours and had suffered from a bit of insomnia the night before, and the hallucinations set in shortly after Knoxville.

Festus from "Gunsmoke" always makes an appearance in these situations. He is accompanied by the theme song from The Magnificent Seven and I have no idea why, but it bothers me.

"Gunsmoke" had its own theme song, didn't it?

Anyway, Mrs. Camino made sure to stay awake and keep me relatively sane. I should probably mention here that this was our sixth anniversary and that the incorrect total of five that I gave in the previous post was due to my common error of not accounting for the year 2,000. I did the math on my hands, and they were never Y2k compliant.

The Rexmobile complained very little for the near 2,500 miles we put her through over the past week. She has a few more layers of dirt and a new crack in the windshield, but she will live to ride another day.

And that day will be tomorrow, as I will be rising at some ungodly hour up to drive to Tuscaloosa for the Alabama-Tennessee game. I will certainly not be functioning at 100%, but it is my duty to cheer on the Tide and boo the Vols and their constipated baby Shih Tzu-looking coach.

But enough about that for now. I am more of a gloater than a trash talker, but my current inability to form a coherent thought makes neither a prudent option at the moment.

I had hoped to blog throughout the vacation, but promises of internet access proved to be nothing more than sad optimism coupled with a heavy dose of overzealous brochure writing. However, I'll post some vacation slides and recount what I can at some point this week.

Now I am off to pick up the pets and deal with their initial joy that will soon turn to scorn and resentment and then back to joy at feeding time.

Friday, October 14, 2005

the sisterhood of the traveling rex

We are loading the Rexmobile for a week on the open road. She is dented and scraped but eager to tear up some non-TDOT asphalt, and I am quite ready for some travel that doesn’t involve dodging bolts of lightning at some thirty thousand feet. Mrs. Camino agrees, I think. We have only flown together once, and I’m pretty sure she grew tired of the way that I kept saying our flight number over and over preceded by “the downing of”. It just sounded so plausible with that particular series of numbers for some reason, and she knew it as well as I did. It was a TV movie waiting to happen—and not of the Tony Danza variety.

This Sunday marks year five of our happy matrimony, and we thought that we would celebrate by heading east to visit my chain-smoking and poker enthusiast computer whiz of a little sister in Virginia for a couple of days and then bum around the general east coast area the rest of the week. We have a condo reserved for the first part of the week. After that, we go improvisational.

But there are drawbacks. Carl Weathers and Bukowski will have to be boarded for the week, and the way Carl is looking back from across the suitcase is breaking my heart. He knows that with luggage comes change, and changes are not often made with the consultation of dogs. Mrs. Camino will soon be leading him in to the boarder while I stay seated behind the steering wheel of a loaded Rexmobile because I might get emotional, and sad goodbyes do not make for confident dogs.

But there must be packed luggage before we can render the Rexmobile loaded, and Carl is useless in helping me decide on the tastefulness of Hawaiian shirts after Labor Day.

It is better to have Hawaiian shirts and not need them than to need Hawaiian shirts and not have them.

Benjamin Franklin said that, I think, and he was right. The man responsible for fire departments, the Franklin stove, Poor Richard’s Almanac, and the rest would have certainly appreciated a shirt sporting palm trees, hibiscus flowers, and the occasional native in a dug out canoe.

That settles that.

We’ll be on the road this afternoon and then probably stop and stay over in some creepy little mountain town to break the trip up. There should be Internet access and updates along the way, and I hope to present photographic evidence via our new digital camera upon our return.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

more undeniable truths

I only hope that you can learn from my life experiences. I'm all about the helping.

  • Few things in life are as difficult as trying to get blood out of a clownsuit. You shouldn’t even try. Save yourself some time and anguish and just buy a new one.
  • Jon Bon Jovi may have seen a million faces, but I doubt seriously that he rocked them all. I have heard the music of Mr. Bon Jovi and am more inclined to believe that a significant number of those faces were only feigning being rocked in order to spare this “cowboy” from New Jersey a little embarrassment.
  • The Bible would be much more compelling if it somehow incorporated Christopher Moore’s novel, Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal.
  • I hate to harp on airport security, but it is freakin’ impossible to commandier a freakin’ airplane with a pair of freakin’ toenail clippers. I don’t care if you’re Jean Claude freakin’ Van Damme and the freakin’ plane is being flown by Helen freakin’ Keller. It makes no freakin’ sense whatsofreakinever.
  • The Pips needed Gladys Knight more than Gladys Knight needed the Pips.
  • It sends a bad message to America’s NASCAR watching youth when drivers aren’t seen exchanging insurance information after a pile-up.
  • I openly weep each time I hear Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman” (even though it has nothing to do with football, as I recently noticed).
  • Upping number of speed traps along the Nashville interstate system is the best way to deal with a rapidly increasing crime rate. Kudos to you and your mad logic skills, Police Chief Surpfatass.
  • Katie Couric will inject at least one uninteresting fact about herself into each of her interviews on any given morning, and it will pass for journalism.
  • People on drugs do not appreciate an impromptu puppet show. They may enjoy it enthusiastically at first, but they will quickly turn on you at the first sign of puppet aggression.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

lies that help

I often tell people that I knew someone with a severe stuttering problem who understandably went through a rough childhood. One night back in the mid-eighties he called his local suicide prevention help line in a cry for help. This took place here in Nashville, and he happened to call on a night when a number of famous country stars were working the phones to raise money for the help line. Ironically, the guy got Mel Tillis on the phone. You would think that this would be a serendipitous twist of fate and that Mel Tillis could relate to my friend much better than Conway Twitty, Charlie Pride, or the cast of Hee-Haw, but Mel only worsened matters. My friend thought that even the suicide help line guy was making fun of him, and he hung up long before Mel was able to identify himself.

Luckily, this ended up pissing off my friend considerably, and it brought him out of his depression and prompted him to go out and make something of himself. He was now determined to live life to the fullest and kick ass, as it were—all the while motivated by his hatred of some anonymous bastard at the suicide help line who thought it funny to mock those with speech impediments.

At this point in the story I always allow for a dramatic pause and then say something like, “And that young man was actually me”, or, “And that guy beat the horsepiss out of me the next time I picked on him at school”. It all depends on my audience.
I always use that story to illustrate the power of tough love when I give motivational speeches at churches, schools, or the bar at O’Charley’s after a couple of Zimas. However, it is a complete fabrication. It has no doubt helped thousands of wayward youths and drunken pharmaceutical representatives, but it is still a lie, and even lies about Mel Tillis are wrong.

the foretelling of the baby horshack

Ron Palillo, the classically trained thespian best known for his portrayal of sweathog Arnold Horshack, is widely credited with having introduced fellow cast member John Travolta to Scientology on the set of “Welcome Back, Kotter”. I don’t know if that had anything to do with Tom Cruise’s conversion, but I think it would make L. Ron Hubbard quite happy if Cruise and Katie Holmes christened their offspring “Horshack Cruise” in honor of this Scientology pioneer.
Just a thought.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

undeniable truths

There is truth and there is opinion, and I generally have little use for either. However, I have managed to stumble across some undeniable facts in my thirty-one years. You will undoubtedly save yourself some time and anguish by accepting them now, but I understand that there are those who only learn the hard way.

Here is just a random sampling:

  • Walk into any Baptist church across the southeastern U.S. and you will find at least one woman who looks like Randy Newman in drag. Bless her heart.
  • The bass guitar is the most essential instrument to any musical ensemble. Screw the White Stripes.
  • Taking off my shoes to get through security at an airport is ridiculous. Forbidding scissors and matchbooks on an airplane makes no sense either. If the terrorists were trying to render us retarded, then they have certainly achieved.
  • Any television series starring Jennifer Love Hewitt will need a healthy dose of cleavage to have any hope of success.
  • Walk into any given Unitarian church and you will find a number of women who look like Suzanne Vega. Rather than blessing their hearts, we will ask for a higher power (who may or may not exist) to make a donation to NPR on their behalf.
  • It isn’t the size of the dog in the fight, but the fight in the dog that counts…unless we are talking about a gunfight. Dogs of any size are useless in gunfights. A gun is the important thing in a gunfight.
  • People who openly hate the works Faulkner are better than people who just pretend to like the works of Faulkner, but they are still bad people.
  • I am a very light smoker, but I probably would’ve given up tobacco completely by now were it not for the way all those annoying anti-smoking activists. You can’t let those bastards feel like they’ve won. It only emboldens them, and they will not be happy until we all subsist on nothing but water and raw vegetables. We will then all live long and uneventful lives, eventually finding death full decades after the warranties on most of our bodily functions have run out and we have become a burden on society.
  • A “Tallahassee cash advance” is a wonderful thing, and it would’ve made an even better title for an early eighties Burt Reynolds movie.
  • When a Nashvillian visiting Florida tells a Floridian that they are from Nashville, Floridians who have never been to Nashville will immediately picture the Country Bear Jamboree at Disney World. If you look closely enough you can almost see it in thought bubbles above their head.
  • The television program "MacGuyver" was only successful because people love to see common household items used for something other than their intended purposes.
  • Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein” is the greatest single piece of instrumental music ever composed by an albino.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

rex lives

I always feel as if I've cheated death when I walk away from an airplane, and last night was certainly no different. The cold front that brought Nashville these crispy fall temperatures is the same one that was sending lightning bolts from cloud to cloud right outside my window seat some thirty thousand feet over the swampland of northern Florida last night. I don't need to see that shit. I have done a terrible job of living like Skynyrd, and I do not deserve to die like Ronnie Van Zandt.

We were in the thick of it by the time we reached the skies over Charlotte, and there was nothing but soup out the window as we descended with little time to make the connector flight to Nashville. I had thought that the choppy skies on the way down were too much to handle, but they were nothing like the choppy skies on the way back up. A woman on the flight said to think of it like a roller coaster. I hate roller coasters.

Everyone else on the plane always seems to take it better than I do. I don't scream like a little bitch or make a scene when the turbulence hits, but I want to. Meanwhile, everyone around me is reading a book or playing cards with their kids. The young couple beside me was sleeping atop one another like cats--which was a good thing, as each of them had an accent so think you could plant a Confederate flag in it and then fly that flag at half mast when the plane plummeted to the Earth and left a small town back in North Carolina short a couple of recent high school graduates, of which there may be few. Nice folks though. Let it be known that I have much love for a good southern accent, but they do not mix well with frayed nerves.

However, it was great to find the beginnings of fall when I returned, and I am certainly happy to be alive and well and sitting here in my flannel pajamas on my birthday.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

adios interrupted yet again

The doodling of cartoon cowboys was perhaps a bit unprofessional, and I have since attempted to put down the pen and feign the paying of attention. By the way, the conference room has 158 ceiling tiles and over 500 diamond shapes on the carpet. I'm afraid that could not get an accurate account on the latter talley, as that would require the moving of the conference table, and I assume that the rest of the committee is happy with it where it is.

There is only one working computer in this otherwise respectable hotel, and it is often occupied by the staff. There is a broken one sitting beside it. I fruitlessly attempted to use it last night and accidentally voted for Pat Buchanan a couple of times. Ah, Florida.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

adios interrupted

I'm doodling cartoon cowboys when I should be taking notes because I was not built for the windowless conference room. It shares a wall with the parking garage, and not all the guests appear to be keen on mufflers, but I suppose all this free food, coffee, and San Pelligrino is nothing to complain about.

I am in Tallahassee. The wind is whipping through the mossy oak and palm fronds outside the window of the hotel lobby to my right, and I imagine that we are about to experience another good ten minute afternoon storm, but the weather is not as hot as I expected. Neither is Tallahasse as large as I remembered it from when I drove through a few years back. It is a sleepy little town to be the capital of the sunshine state, truth be told.

I am currently flanked by all manner of artists' renditions of Florida State football memorabilia. It is all available for purchase, and any of you who want a framed picture of Bobby Bowden or a melodramatic Seminole kneeling by a stagnant creek in earthy pastels should let me know now.

That is about all I can say regarding the trip without violating a confidentiality agreement--although I'm not really serving in any important capacity. My main objective at the moment is trying to creatively work alcohol into the expense account.

I should be back to Nashville in time for at least a day of the book festival. I had hoped to be able to promote my latest work, Mysery Loves Cachi: The Unauthorized Biography of Scott Baio, but his lawyers have indefinately tied its release up in court.

Adios again.

Sunday, October 02, 2005


I’m off for a week of bid’ness travel that has nothing whatsoever to do with landscaping. I will spend then next five days in a possibly windowless conference room, but it will be good to drink all the coffee I want with no worries about having to find a restroom or a spot in the bushes where I can’t be seen by Belle Meade traffic. It will be a nice change of pace, and it will certainly pay better and help erase the deficit in my bank account from Carl’s recent cleansing, but I do hate the airplane travel.

However, travel statistics reassure me that I will be back here by my 31st birthday next Saturday when I plan to spend the evening catching up on a week’s worth of taped Tony Danza shows.

But I also hate that I will probably be without Internet access for the week. I don’t expect to be able to read or post any while gone, but I will leave you something to amuse yourself with.

Traig and McGrath is the finest tandem of shut-in detectives that I’ve come across, and I’ve seen many. Just remember to pace yourself.
Also, keep in mind that Tab cola is a beautiful drink for beautiful people.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

carl weathers is no quitter

A few of you have asked me about Carl Weathers. His digestive system is back to normal, but the medicine he has had to take this past week has left him more gassy than usual. You might have even been able to smell him through computer. If so, I do apologize on his behalf.

He found the offending glove in the yard the next morning after returning from the vet and attempted to eat it again. It was his white whale, I suppose, and I admired his commitment, but I feared that it would either lead to his demise or the loss of another four hundred dollars. So it was that I threw the glove away and made him watch me do it, as I hoped that it would bring a sense of closure to the matter. It did not. He found an old pair of flip-flops in the closet and ate the leather straps off the left one.
The beast’s appetite for leather is insatiable.