Thursday, September 30, 2010

Arizona III: The Family Road Trip

As Chrissie and I plotted out our Spring Break scheme, we realized quite horrifyingly that she had never seen anything in the US west of the Mississippi River. Insistent that we would not spend our entire vacation belly-up to the bar, gaining 5 pounds drinking Guinness and eating chips, we asked my Aunt if she would take us to the Grand Canyon for a day. Granted, a good bit of soulful sojourning in the mountains and exploring the city took place over our stay, but the drive out to the Grand Canyon was our major exploratory outing.

After a harsh winter, the northern portion of Arizona found itself snuggled under a blanket of rapidly melting snow by mid-March. There's not an extremely detailed or interesting story to tell here: the desert was in bloom -- a rare treat -- and we haggled with Chrissie for 30 minutes to get her to hug a cactus. We spent the hours we didn't spend doing assorted outdoors activities picking fruit from my Aunt's orchard and stuffing our faces with organic blood oranges, navel oranges, kumquats and grapefruits. Yum!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Arizona II: Éirinn go Brách!

The St. Paddy's Day Special -- Flogging Molly LIVE at Tempe Beach Park.

Anyone who knew me in college can vouch for me when I say that I've been talking about going to see Flogging Molly live on St. Patrick's Day since my freshman year. They've always been just out of reach -- or St. Paddy's fell one or two days before Spring Break ended, and the scheduling went all to hell. I refused to give up on my dream in my Senior year of college, so I planned ahead and saved all of my Christmas money to buy two tickets: one to Phoenix, AZ, and one to the Irish Punk Rock nirvana. I'm lucky enough to have a kind-hearted Aunt in Phoenix, but more on that later. This is about black beer and whiskey.

Chrissie, Era (a friend of Chrissie's who was our self-appointed Arizona tour guide) and I made a point of completely screwing up our ticketing options, but the nice gentlemen at the box-office helped us get it all sorted. After that near-fiasco, we cheerfully made our way over to the beer stalls and let the Harp and Guinness flow! The bands opening for Flogging Molly -- Metric, The Bollox, and Keltic Cowboys -- all held their own with a bit of Irish flair. It was really weird to hear Metric playing Irish covers, back in their pre-Scott Pilgrim days, but in retrospect it added a great deal of diversity to the evening.

At $7 a glass for Guinness, I had to do a fair bit of flirting to keep the free drinks coming, but it was well worth the effort as the night wore on; I mean, I can't be expected to stand 20 minutes in the beer line for myself, yeah? We got properly sloshed, stinking of sweat, spilled drinks, and gritty Arizona sand, and we danced something that passed for a reel with our fellow concert-mates the entire night. The nice folks at Tempe Beach Park did us all a favor by keeping the under-21s penned up in a separate portion of the field, so if we all got a little carried away -- and I'm not saying that we did, but IF -- no one was seriously injured. Beer makes you immune to things like sprained ankles and open-palmed slaps. We did see a few lads vomiting in the evening heat, but I can proudly say that we two Pennsylvania Girls kept our $7 beers in-gut without a problem.

So, while the Bacchanalia (Bonus Question: what is the Irish Mythos equivalent of Bacchanalia? No, really. Stop laughing. Someone figure it out and get back to me) took us to the brink of insanity, the real star of the night was the music. We sang, we screamed, we smiled... I'm going to sum this post up with a play list, it's really the only appropriate way to resolve the grinning nostalgia flitting about in my head tonight.

Oh, and lest I forget my typical end-of-post rant: do you want to know what really bothers me about St. Patrick's Day? The kilt. Kilts are just barely Irish. Just barely. Scots can wear them year-round without censure, but the one-night-Cuchulains among us need to remember that those of us with a family tartan will know in about 20 seconds if you're faking it or not; and even I don't wear mine on St. Paddy's because it's effing North Irish. That's right, I'm from a family of filthy Loyalists. (It makes me feel better to know that my branch expatriated in the late 18th Century.)

Contrary to popular belief, not everyone is Irish on St. Paddy's day. If you frat-slatherasses want to wear the Emerald Isle's generic green tartan once a year, that's your business, but don't just slap on any-old tartan and expect to be welcomed with open arms. Wear it because you're proud, not because that was the only color of plaid available at the Good Will that week. You non-Irish hangers-on from the Ren Faire circuit need to redirect your attention to the heritage-ambiguous UtiliKilt from now on.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Arizona I: Some Thoughts on Spring Break

It seems somehow appropriate to me that this blog, which started back in 2008 with a couple of daft college students plotting the world's most epic Spring Break extravaganza, has come full-circle to my very last Spring Break post series. My darlingest Laura, the inspiration for that original road trip, is married and still hasn't been to any of the places we planned on visiting. It's not a complete tragedy, though; she and her best friend went on an amazing road trip through New England chronicled here. Anyway... I've graduated from Messiah, Ye Olde Moral Conundrum, despite doing my damnedest to get kicked to the curb. Even though I'm largely unemployed, I'm still sitting here planning my next traveling scheme -- it's good to know that some things never change. No spoilers, but it's going to be choice (even if it is a long time coming).

Spring Break 2010 falls especially close to my heart, because it was the first time my sister-from-another-mister, the indefatigable Chrissie, joined me on my sophomoric quest for the best "Never Have I Ever..." stories ever told. The fact that she went to meet a long-time pen-pal and enjoy an estrogen-fueled period of Bad Man Rehab and good music shall remain ignored; she went to spend time with me, dammit!

And let me tell you what, we had a hell of a time getting there. We both had different flight schedules on numerous airlines, I got delayed a whole day at departure, and the bastards bumped Chrissie several hours back returning to Harrisburg. In addition, I swore to my dying day that I would give Continental AirLines burning polemic herpes for being the worst all-around provider of domestic flights I've ever encountered. Go ahead, click that link. I dare you. I will never fly Continental to save $80 ever again. In a tangential bit of news, I have some pretty spectacular stories about this trip that both took place in the airport and had nothing to do with those C-word bastards; however, do to federal and international regulations, I'm going to have to insist that this particular bit of lunacy remain firmly planted in the oral tradition.

But enough about all of that. I'm feeling introspective and failing spectacularly make sense of my impending adult life. Time for a list!

5 Things that Haven't Changed Since 2008

5) David Bowie is still the most likely reason that I will one day end up living alone, divorced in England with two queens for friends and my cat Ziggy for company. What am I saying? David Bowie is the only reason for anything. Ever.

4) This is still hilarious. As a LHC side-note, I think I lost money betting that we'd turn ourselves into a black hole by now. No one tell Brice.

3) American women in college still dress like trashy Eskimos in the summer and wear those ridiculous 3/4 leggings in the winter.

2) I don't think I have any more answers to The Big Questions today than I did two years ago, and most of the answers I do have came verbatim out of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. And, as in 2008, I'm still stunningly OK with that. Douglas Adams and I are tight.

1) My flip-flops. I'm still wearing the same pair of basic-black Maurice's flip-flops I wore to Kentucky on that first road trip. Far from the sheltered shower shoes of yesteryear, these babies have been with me over three continents and what feels like several lifetimes. They are the world's most cosmopolitan piece of closed-cell foam. Talk about getting some bang for your buck...

Update: one of my poor, poor flip flops is currently stranded somewhere in East Stroudsburg, PA. If you're in East Stroud, and you see a black flip-flop so trod-upon that the stratigraphic nature of its white-striped sole is bared to the world, pick it up and save it for me.