Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"Notes on a Midwestern Vacation - Day One"

I know these stories are more compelling when they arrive concurrent with the events, but, though I took copious notes, I could not bring myself to post stuff while I was away. Indiana makes you lazy. Let me be careful here. I’m not saying Indiana people themselves are lazy. If I’m any example, the lassitude seems only to affect the people who are from somewhere else. I felt like a visiting slug.

Try a little time travel. Pretend it’s two weeks ago, and it’s all happening now. That’s what I’m doing. And I’m having a wonderful time.

Are you ready, Time Travelers? Okay. Here we go.
I like reading the local papers. Get a sense of what people in the area consider newsworthy.

On our first day there, The Michigan City News-Dispatch carried this story on its front page:

A local man had disappeared from his apartment, leaving behind all his possessions, one of which was a vicious pit bull. Shot through one of the apartment’s screened-in windows was a picture of the abandoned animal, displaying murderous eyes and potentially skin-puncturing, pointy teeth.

The landlord had called “Animal Control” to have the pit bull taken away. “Animal Control” claimed they were unauthorized to do that, because the tenant had not been officially evicted. The landlord counter-claimed that “Animal Control” was refusing to do their job, because they were terrfied of the pit bull.

Front-page news in Michiana.

A real, scary dog.
A “must” on our Midwestern vacations is an obligatory visit to the nearby Lighthouse Outlet Mall, where dozens of brand-name outlets sell piles of merchandise nobody wanted in the real stores at marginally lower prices.

It’s always the same routine. First, my family makes me buy a couple of things I don’t need – this time it was a shirt that looked very much like a number of shirts I already have at home, and a pair of desert boots; I hadn’t worn desert boots since I was ten. This is not my family thoughtfully encouraging me to buy stuff. This is my family inoculating me against complaining about their going out and splurging on way, way more stuff.

“You bought stuff too!”

Case dismissed.

After my useless purchases are taken care of, I am deposited at the Lighthouse’s looks-just-like-a-lighthouse “Hospitality Center”, left there so my family’s fun won’t be spoiled by my continually complaining, “Do you really need that?”

I surrender myself to “Hospitality Center” incarceration, while my wife and her daughter… I believe I actually saw them skipping away.

The first thing I notice in the “Hospitality Center” is a black Naugahyde Massage Chair. A little girl wearing red glasses is currently sitting in it. I identify with little girls with glasses. They remind me of myself when I was two. Except I was a boy. And I wore thick bifocals set in wire-rimmed frames that made people call me “Professor.”

I turn to the little girl wearing red glasses and go immediately into mock-whiney “playful mode.”

“You’re so lucky. You get the Massage Chair. And I have to sit on a bench with no back.”

The little girl with red glasses replies,

“There’s another one right there.”

I have a problem with peripheral vision. I swivel my head two feet to the left. Sitting there is an unoccupied second Massage Chair.

“Oh, good.” I reply, and I drop down onto it. The little girl wearing red glasses shakes her head in an incredulous manner I have long ago become accustomed to, and when her mother emerges from the Ladies Room, she departs.

I am now alone. A sign printed on the Massage Chair reads, “Three minutes for a dollar.” I slide a dollar bill into the slot. The Massage Chair immediately comes to life, and begins powerfully kneading my shoulders and lower back. The treatment feels surprisingly professional, as if the chair had spent time studying massaging techniques in Sweden.

My three minutes come too quickly to an end. I remain seated in the no longer pulsating but still comfortable Massage Chair, and I take out my book. With my family at large with money, I anticipate an extended wait.

My book is absorbing, the Massage Chair, an enveloping pleasure. The only irritation is this recorded announcement that keeps repeating as if on a loop every ten seconds. I am unable to make out what the female announcer saying. I imagine it’s a promotion for one of the outlet mall’s stores, but I cannot decipher which one it was. I had recently contracted an ear infection, so I couldn’t hear very well. On top of that, I have old ears.

The repeated announcement became increasingly annoying. I intensely wished it would stop. It was seriously aggravating my wait.

About an hour or so later, I finally realized what the announcement was saying. It was repeating the same three words, again and again. The three words were these:

“Please insert money.”

It was coming from the Massage Chair.

It turned out that the cause of the annoying, repeated announcement…

Had been me.

I got up from the Massage Chair.

The announcement immediately stopped.

Okay, I probably should have solved that mystery in less than an hour. But I’m telling you, I could not hear well. Plus, the very nice Indiana woman working behind the counter at the “Hospitality Center”, who had endured the same mind-numbing announcement, and knew, since she worked there, that it was emanating from the Massage Chair, never suggested to me,

“Would you please get up?”

Sometimes, you can take hospitality a little too far. Sometimes, you just need to open your mouth.

I spent the rest of my waiting time sitting on the bench with no back, uncomfortable but grateful for the blessed absence of

“Please insert money.”
After lunch, we returned to the cabin, and I slipped into the bedroom to take a nap. When I woke up, I discovered that, during the short time I’d been asleep, Anna, using fabric Dr. M had purchased the summer before, had upholstered a footstool.

There’s only one word for it.

That night, we saw the movie Grownups, featuring five talented comedians slogging through substandard material. I can imagine the lunchtime conversations on the set.

“Is anything in this movie actually funny?”

“They’re paying us millions of dollars to be in it. I think that’s hilarious.”
Night noises at bedtime. Imagine the sound of hundreds of people simultaneously chewing on rubber bands. Described that way, it doesn’t sound very soothing. But it sang us straight to sleep, Anna is the bedroom, Dr. M and I on the screened-in sleeping porch.


A natural concert on Chickadee Trail.

It’s one of the reasons we bother.

1 comment:

Gary said...

Please insert money. That's the theme wherever we go. That you could tune it out should be rewarded w/something other than an eviction. Reminded me: My lady and I used to go to Newport, OR every year (because we both agreed that that is where she wanted to go). They too have an outlet mall. At least once during our stay, we had to appear at said mall. I merely had to go along and similar to your duty, I had to stay in one place till reclaimed by the owner. I do not miss going to Newport (or any mall) but I surely do miss my lady.

Anywhere you can get a massage for 33-cents/hour is great! Next time, get a 40 or 50 singles (and watch Mrs. P's eyebrows go up)!

RE: Grown Ups...anyone who gives Adam Sandler any money to do anything other than vanish, has a mental disorder. Rob Schneider is only slightly better, I guess I'd tip him if he promised to leave w/Sandler. And Chris Rock, a man with real talent, what's he doing with those hacks? Is he afraid he's too successful and wants to bevel the edges off his image? Stevens and Spade? They must have been paid minimum wage, which is way more than they're worth, too.

Hope someone has rescued that pit bull by now, otherwise, he might be real irritated.

I look forward to more travel related logues, sir!