or what i did on my vacation

Well, I’m back. I hope everyone is doing well. The holidays are supposed to make you feel all warm and fuzzy, but I’m just thinking about Al and his family, and am filled with even more thoughts about how thankful I am to have my family with me.

I awoke this morning to the sound of both a crash and a splash. I ran to the bathroom and found a very wet and frightened Cal jumping out of the tub. The drain isn’t working so well, so Cal got to bathe in Eric’s bath water. As I chased Cal with a towel to keep him from catching cold I thought to myself, “Well, my vacation is definitely over.”

Curiously enough, my Wednesday morning began very similarly. Tuesday night I had cleaned the tub and I guess I used too much of something because as Eric stepped in for his shower he slipped and pulled the shower curtain rod down with him. I suppose we let the entire apartment complex know that we had to get up at five in the morning. The rest of the morning was spent on an airplane. It was one of the nicest flights I’ve ever taken. Eric and I were seated in the emergency lane, which left us with lots of leg room. The flights seemed short and we weren’t exhausted or uncomfortable. We arrived on time and without any problems. Consequently, they lost Eric’s luggage. We got it back late that evening.

There was much Cranium playing after that, and Eric’s mother and I make the ultimate team.

Every evening is spent with Eric’s friends from high school, and I love them dearly. I always get this feeling when I go back to Pittsburgh that I’m visiting my second family, and I think it’s really strange that I’ve really only been there like four times or something, but each time I’m welcomed like I’ve been away at college. It’s great.

Thanksgiving was really nice. Charlotte (Eric’s mom) had over lots of company. One of which was a friend of Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers, to those of you who weren’t allowed to watch the show (like I wasn’t) because he’s kind of creepy). If you didn’t look at the person talking at the end of the table it sounded like we were having Thanksgiving with Mr. Rogers. “That’s a real nice turkey, there. Did you see who passed the stuffing? I’d like some of that. It’s good to share. It sure is.” Another couple was from India, and it was the woman’s first Thanksgiving. All was going according to tradition until Dee asked Eric’s brother Kevin if he got any new tattoos. Eric and I knew he had. Charlotte didn’t. Dee asked to see, and Kevin pulled his shirt up to expose his new gargoyle tattoo on his shoulder. Jokingly, they asked Kevin’s girlfriend if she had gotten one as well. She yanked up her shirt to show her shamrock on the small of her back. During the gasps and murmurs and the “I can’t believe you did that”‘s, Eric stands up and says to the Indian couple, “This isn’t a traditional Thanksgiving thing, you guys. We don’t normally eat turkey and then start taking our clothes off. I’m really sorry.” They did look a bit uncomfortable, as if we were going to ask them to start showing us any scars they might have or something. I say, “What’s Thanksgiving without an uncomfortable moment?”

More Cranium. Eric’s team cheated. You can’t let Mr. Rogers lose, man.

Thursday night, back at the bar. A large table of friends sharing stories. I learned about the donkey punch. Don’t try that on your loved ones, please. What the hell?

I had my first car bomb. Ever hear of it? I hadn’t. It’s half a glass of Guinness and a shot glass of Jameson and Bailey’s. You drop the shot glass into the pint glass and gulp the whole drink down. I was trying to be cool sharing the drink with Jimmy, who’s picture is listed next to “cool” in the Dictionary, and in my attempts to not be a dork and in trying to overcome my fears of choking on beer I heartily dropped my shot glass into the pint glass and Guinness splashed up into my eye. “Drink before it curdles!” everyone was shouting at me. So, I squinted like a pirate and tried to gulp down the drink. I got about halfway when I started freaking out that the shot glass was going to fly up and smack me on the lip. Then the beer in my eye started really burning, I tried to gulp and inhale at the same time and I ended up coughing all over the place while Cool Jimmy finished my drink.

I suck.

Friday morning– Texas/A&M game. Friday evening– Penguins game. Jagr got a hat trick in the first period. Barrasso had a shutout game. 5-0. Couldn’t ask for more fun. More drinking. Late night in the basement recreating Eric’s high school glory days using pieces of cigarette boxes and beer cans.

Saturday– drove (and drove and drove) to Fallingwater. Absolutely wonderful. I’m thinking about putting it on my wish list for my summer home. We took it easy Saturday night because Sunday was the day for–

The Steelers game. Jimmy had to go out of town so he sold us his legacied season tickets to the game against the Bengals. (“We’ll win, right Eric? I mean, aren’t the Bengals the worst team in the league right now?” “Shh. We keep losing at home.”) Eric walked me out to our seats. Now, I’m not a football fan or a jock or anything, but when I saw our seats, I had a few tears come to my eyes. Third row. Twelfth yard line. I could see Jerome Bettis wiggle his head around right in front of me. A football almost landed in our laps.

We lost. I don’t care. It was my first football game. I had a blast.

Sunday night everyone had planned on taking me to Karaoke because Eric was talking me up. I was nervous about having to sing in front of Eric’s friends since forever and not being any good or end up looking like an idiot. This was mostly due to the fact that none of them liked Karaoke, but just wanted to see me sing. I could have just put a quarter in the jukebox at their bar, but instead we all met at this Karaoke place around the corner. It was busy. I didn’t realize how busy until I sang “Hopelessly Devoted” as a warm-up and put in “You Make Me Feel (Like a Natural Woman)” in for my second. It took two hours to get to my second song. Most people had left. Jimmy and Becky were like, “No, dammit, we’re gonna hear you sing.” Finally, towards the end of the night, I got my turn.

I don’t think Pittsburgh had ever seen my kind of Karaoke. You must understand that when we go with the Monks we’re the only people there and we’re a bunch of comedians. Singing ability comes second to stage performance. This place had singers who were there to really sing. So when I was rolling on the floor kissing Eric’s hand people were a bit shocked. They were walking over to Eric during my song to congratulate him on having me for a girlfriend. Eric says I made a good story for that bar for years to come. “Someone needs to audition for ‘Saturday Night Live,’” the DJ said as I put the microphone back. “I’m trying!” I wanted to shout, but I decided to keep quiet. Karaoke for strangers was much more different then sitting at the Karaoke Kove. At least Jimmy and Becky weren’t disappointed.

I left Pittsburgh with the tears that I always shed when I leave that town. I miss the people. I miss them terribly when I leave and I never know when I’ll see them again. Sometimes they come and visit one at a time, and in fact Kevin and his girlfriend Anne will be here for New Year’s, but it isn’t the same as seeing them all together enjoying each other’s company. That’s the best part of Pittsburgh for me.

I’m glad to be home, though. I’m done with traveling for a while. Well, until Christmas, anyway.

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