Next stop on Pam Tour 2005: Monroe, Louisiana.

Gonna go visit this family and this one.

Many weeks ago we hatched the plan: surprise the Meat of Cheese (AKA Bitter Chris… or, post nuptials, just Chris) with a visit from pamie and stee. Welcome in our new year with old friends and auld lang blahblahblah. AB added: “If y’all don’t mind celebrating your anniversary with us, Funroe, and crawfish.”

Had me at “crawfish,” pretty lady.

Headed down to Monroe-town
Woke up in Shelby County…

[I just wrote me a Damn Millionaires song.]

I had a bad feeling when we checked into our flight the night before departure, when we weren’t issued seats for our flight from Memphis to Monroe. The bad feeling continued at LAX the next afternoon, when the Northwest people said, “Um, yeah. You’ll get your seats in Memphis. You know… it’s the government who makes us overbook the flights.”

Eee. Not a good sign.

And see, poor AB and Al have been going crazy trying to keep this a secret from Chris. I called as we were driving from Berkeley to LA on Thursday. “Hold on, Mother,” AB said. “I have to go into the other room to talk to you.”

At some point AB put Al on the phone, who then called me “Mother,” when Chris walked by. I launched into a lengthy impression of Al’s mother as AB tried to hold it together.

I got an email from AB: “We have stopped drinking because we’re terrified we’re going to RUIN IT. Hurry up and GET HERE.”

So you can imagine our disappointment and severe frustration when we were just one hour from Monroe, waiting to get on the tiny, scary plane out of Memphis, when we were told there were no seats for us. Not one. And we knew there were seats because we were counting passengers, and the other family waiting on seats were counting passengers (and offering cash for a ticket), and they weren’t letting us on due to some weight regulation. Way to give a girl a complex, Northwest.

I called AB and broke the bad news: we’d be spending the night in Memphis, flying to Monroe the following morning. True to form, she threw a small fit and then went to a party.

While waiting for our meal and airport vouchers, I tried to buy some stamps. The machine ate my money and then said, “See Post Office for refund.” The Memphis Airport isn’t too good on specifics.

Turns out Northwest Airlines does this all the time. In fact, right now they’re announcing that every flight that’s boarding this hour is overbooked. I think if you went and bought a flight to Monroe or Lafayette right now, you could just collect free round-trip tickets, bumping yourself over and over, every day for years.

We ushered in our first anniversary at a Holiday Inn in Memphis. They gave us eight dollars each in food vouchers. You try eating at a hotel restaurant with eight bucks. We paid a shuttle driver to take us to the closest convenience store so we could at least brush our teeth and drink a beer.

“If y’all had gotten stranded here earlier, y’all could’ve gone to Graceland. Just ten minutes away. But y’all saw the most important thing in Memphis. Y’all saw ‘Wade.’ Wade’s the man. Wade the driver, he’s the man. Y’all can go to Monroe, and they’ll ask, ‘How was Memphis?’ and y’all can say, ‘We saw The Man.'”

The room had free wireless. We sent AB an email:

whatchoo doin?
nuttin’ chillin at the holiday inn
who you with?
six high school marching bands and all of their friends.
whatchoo gon’ do?
listen them shoutin’ outside of our crib
bought some beer and doritos — let the pay per view spin.

Due to an email from my sister, we ended up spending about an hour playing these games, starting with this one. In case for one second you thought we weren’t total nerds. In fact, that’s the email we got back from AB, who had apparently lost all sympathy for us. “NERDS!”

So here we are, back at the Northwest terminal — stee with his Sudoku, and I with my laptop — just two hours from seeing our sweet friends. Maybe we’ll still surprise the MOC, after all.

We started and ended our year with these people, and I can say all the nicest stuff possible about them, but really I’m going so I can give Madeleine a hug. And I really want to see stee’s face when we go to the drive-thru daiquiri shack. And I mentioned the crawfish, right? Also, AB can no longer complain that I haven’t been to Monroe.

Hunh. Last week, right now, I was in Monroe, CT with Cool Chris, and now I’m headed to Monroe, LA to see Bitter Chris. In New York I saw another Chris, who I know from Austin. I’ve seen a Darcie, a Marcy, a Marcella and a Marianne. In addition to a number of Jeffs, I saw Josh, Jami, Jessica, Jessie, John, Jackson and Josie (and a Bosie). A Paula and a Pamela. Two Sarahs (and was practically next door to Sara). Nada, Nan, Dan, Devin and Andi. (Ben and Chad can celebrate their individuality.) I’m on my way to see AB, Master V and the MOC. See Al in LA. That’s not everybody, but I think I’m playing Sudoku with the names of my friends and family, and I’m starting to drive myself crazy, like the night we couldn’t stop coming up with names that are also verbs (Josh, Sue, Mark, Peter, etc.)

Have a safe New Year’s Eve, everybody. See you in 2006.

And stee? Happy anniversary, baby. I love you. It was when you put up with a full hour of my Meatwad impression last night that I knew you’d stick by me through everything. Besides, I like a man who knows how to find his way out of Bismarck.