Al Went Home for the Holidays

and all I got was this lousy guest entry

Y’all, I was in the car for 12 hours yesterday. Creeping across the Southeast in the rain, ice, sleet and snow, just like the US Postal Service, except I’m fairly certain no postman, even on his longest route would ever dream of putting on a performance such I did in the driver’s seat.

I am a car-dancer. I admit it. Hell, I’m a car-Diana-Ross. I sing and sing and sing and flail around like a drag queen, imagining myself alternately as Gwen Stefani, Whitney Houston, Maria Callas, Marvin Gaye and all the members of the B-52s and REM, combined. (I seriously do a mean Tina Turner circa the Ike years also, but that is a story for a different day.) Twelve hours down I-20 yesterday, from Birmingham to Dallas, with more than 200 cds in the car…well…people, it was a rolling sideshow.

First of all, I realized on this trip that my attention span has diminished to the point that I cannot even listen to most albums for more than two or three songs. And my brain is just flying around. Flying. I blame the Internet. So, what happens is, I’m going along, drinking my 50th Diet Coke, answering the phone, choosing a new cd, and flipping back and forth between the current selection and the radio. (Because, I love the radio, folks. I love it. I have never been one of the cool kids who spurn the AM/FM for tapes and cds. Every new town, I have to go through all the stations and see what freaky things they have going on. I have to search out the local public radio station and pass judgment on their classical selections. I like to listen to the farm report in Chunky, Mississippi and laugh along with the high school sports call-in shows in Bossier Parish, Louisiana. By the way, do not stop for gas in Chunky. Just a tip. They clearly do not like “outsiders” driving up in their citified autoMObiles, invading the local “fillin’ station” and buying up all the Cheetos. This leads me to an extra side note about traveling and eating. Driving along, cramming the face with the puffed cheese snack product might sound like a fun time, but is, in fact, just nasty. It is. You know, the orange fingers and whatnot. I know, they’re delicious, but they’re gross. Thus is the dichotomy of the cheeto, y’all. I know. I love them, too.)

And, in the midst of all this activity, here’s my head:

Whatever happened to Brenda Lee after she rocked around the Christmas tree?

I bet Pam didn’t take the giblet bag out of the turkey.

The Mighty Mississippi!

I seriously hate Creed, like maybe more than I’ve ever hated any band.

Ooo! I can’t wait for New Year’s Eve! Man, I love San Antonio.

Nice “JESUS” sticker on your car, trash. Love the quote marks.

Red m & m’s have such a weird taste…I think they DO cause cancer.

Vegas is going to be so fun.

I’ll never be able to make dressing as good as Mother’s.

I love this song! “Negative nine is so fine…ba-by!”

Where am I going to be living next Christmas?

Wait…DAMMIT! Why am I going West?! “JESUS!”

The drive was difficult. I’ve made it several times before and it normally only takes around nine hours. I had my cell phone, and was in high communication most of the time, with my parents giving me the constant weather updates they were getting off the Weather Channel. No matter that I was driving in the actual weather they were talking about.

Al, it says there’s ice all over Shreveport. You need to be careful.

I’m in Shreveport, Mother. There’s no ice.

The TV says there is.

Well, I’m here and there isn’t. I’m here right now.

But, there’s ice in Shreveport.

No. I’m driving. Right now. In the city of Shreveport. Where, unto you I say this day, there is no ice. Fear not, the road is dry. You would find me, wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a ditch if there was ice. But there isn’t. Go now and spread the gospel.

The bad weather came later than casino-filled, tacky-ass Shreveport. And, I was hating everybody in the whole world last night when I got in range of my house and, 30 miles outside of Dallas, the roads were suddenly covered with ice. I very nearly had to pull off and stay the night at this hotel in Terrell, Texas that has an adjoining adult book store. While I was delighted with the prospect of the stories I might be able to tell the next morning, I couldn’t bring myself to give up when I was that close to home. I pushed ahead, slipping and sliding down the highway, looking at all the sad cars that had careened into the medians and guard-rails.

Cute “Single” Boy Chris has to be given the maddest of all here props for supplying me with the Aretha Franklin box set which got me through the last leg of my journey. Without it, I could not have made it the last ten miles into Dallas County, which took two hours. But, when I couldn’t sing anymore and was exhausted from all the hand waving and neck snapping and hip shaking, I finally gave the music a rest and listened to the BBC World Report for the last hour or so. I love the football scores portion of “the sport.” “Windinghamsham-on-Bramley gave a torrid second half to the Loxleymarsh King’s club, triumphing 3-1.” No idea what they’re talking about, but I enjoy it.

And really, except for the scary driving conditions in that one spot, I enjoyed the trip. I might go so far as to say it was one of my favorite parts of my vacation. Now, please. Don’t get upset. I love my family and honestly, there is NO place like MY home for the holidays – the craziness is at a maximum, and it is always entertaining – but, I like being in the car like that, on the road, singing and dancing and talking to myself. I know it sounds loony, but I bet some of you do it, too. And, I deserved a little fun after the crappy pre-Christmas time I spent working and getting ready to go home.

My office held a SUPER LAME holiday party. A pot-luck luncheon in a ratty conference room in the main hospital building where I work in communications. I was so offended by the notion that they would ask us to do this, and pay for it, in the middle of a work day instead of giving us even the most modest party, I refused to bake for it. I bought a cheese log. (Can I take a moment and say how much I hate the phrase “cheese log,” which is not even better than the alternative “cheese ball?” Disgusting. You know it is.) Nothing says “I don’t care” like a cheese log, I say.

And, they asked me to sing. I knew they would. Every year. What’s more ridiculous than hanging out in an office building, busting out some a capella “Silent Night” for your bosses and co-workers? Nothing. (Well, I did once sing at a Chik-Fil-A, but that was an organized thing.) I felt like a trained seal. But, I couldn’t say no, could I? No. Because that would be rude. Not quite as rude as them asking me to do it, but I did try to maintain my dignity and hoped they were observant enough to recognize my cheese log as a silent protest.

What’s the deal with the shirking of the holiday responsibilities on the part of the corporation, anyway? Doesn’t anyone give their employees a big party anymore? Or even a little catered shin-dig to which you could bring a date and end up staging some egg-nog inspired, indecent act on the copy machine? Not that I would do such a thing, mind you. I’m just saying I would appreciate the option. I can’t help but be a bit jealous of the folks living the good life of wine and cheese-that-doesn’t-come-in-a-log.

My boss, Napoleon, told me today that a radio station we do business with has offered our department tickets to this huge New Year’s Eve thing at a big Dallas hotel and we are “highly encouraged to go.” Whatever. As if I’m going to wander around a ballroom, networking all night? I think not. I’m going to San Antonio. I plan to spend that evening free from the bonds of The Man, warm in the embrace of someone lucky, joyfully watching fireworks, and happy as a clam. It’s a five hour drive down there from here. I hope I don’t wear myself out.

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