Thursday, January 26, 2012

a wintertime recess story.

Like most elementary school children, the highlight of my day was recess. Rain or shine, I was ready to bolt out of my seat as soon as the bell rang so I could get one of the good swings. We had a decent playground: there was a tornado slide, a roller slide, tire swings, see-saws, a jungle gym, and a sandbox. We had tether ball and four-square, and there was even a basketball court towards the edge of the playground. It was pretty sweet.

If you’ve ever lived in the Midwest, you know that most of the school year is spent underneath a covering of snow. In South Dakota, the snow generally starts in late October and stubbornly hangs around until early April. Therefore, you learn at a young age to just deal with the cold and the snow. If you can’t, then you’re going to lose out on six months of recess fun. Even if it WAS deathly cold, no one wanted to be that kid.

Once in a great while, the school officials would deem it too cold for us to have recess outside. That meant indoor recess, which was just about as much fun as it sounds. Indoor recess was in one of the two gyms, and the only real option for entertainment was the big box of tangled jump ropes. Some children opted to just run laps around the gym. My friends and I generally claimed a corner and created wishlists from the newest Scholastic Book Order.

Most of the time, though, our recesses were outdoors. The very best winter recesses were the ones right after the parking lot had been plowed. That meant one thing: the snow pile. The snow pile was exactly what it sounds like: a huge pile of snow. The snowplows would just heap all the parking lot snow into a mountain of rock-hard snowy-icy stuff. When the recess bell rang on the day after a snowstorm, it was a mad race to get out the door and to claim a good spot on the snowpile. The fastest kid up the snowpile got to sit at the top, which essentially made you king of the playground. Everyone who didn’t make it to the peak would stake claims on various spots down the hill. Some would create little forts on the side of the snow mountain while others would begin tunneling. Others would smooth out strips from the very top to the very bottom to create icy snow-slides of death. The possibilities were endless on the snowpile.

Ah, but woe to the child who left their snowpants at home on that first glorious day of the snowpile! Our principal at the time was a hellbeast, and you did NOT want to be on the receiving end of her wrath, believe you me. This particular principal would not let allow child go out to play in the snow unless they fulfilled her winter apparel checklist: snowpants, snowboots, hat/earwarmer, gloves/mittens, and big poofy winter coat. Her rules were iron-clad. If your glove had so much as a hole in the finger, the principal nixed your time in the snow. Maybe she was just trying to protect our tiny hands from frostbite, but I’m pretty sure she did because she liked to see us suffer.

You’re probably wondering what the big deal is about not getting to run amok on the snowpile. If it’s -5˚, who wouldn’t want to be inside reading a book instead? Honestly, if that had been the way of it, I probably would’ve intentionally left my snowboots sitting at home if it meant I got to stay inside during the more frigid winter days. But, my friends, it wasn’t that easy. If I left my snowpants at home one day, it wasn’t just that I didn’t get to play in the snow with my friends. All of us shameful winter clothes-less children would not, in fact, stay indoors for recess. We were required to endure the shame that was known as The Wall.

Our elementary school was situated on a hill that overlooked the playground, and you’d have to scamper down a long flight of steps in order to hit the pavement and be on your way to the snowpile. However, if you didn’t have all your winter attire, you would be forced to stand by the walls of the building and watch all your friends have a great time without you. Yes: punishment for forgetting an item of winter clothing was that the teachers would freeze you into submission. At The Wall, you couldn’t even run around or do jumping jacks to keep yourself warm. The Wall was patrolled by one of the principal’s minions, and she was more than happy to tell us to hold still and be quiet. When you had the misfortune of standing by The Wall, talking was even discouraged. If the monitor decided that you were being too unruly, you had to put your nose to the brick wall. You couldn’t even watch what was happening on the playground; you just had to stand there, shivering, and curse yourself for forgetting your mittens that day.

I didn’t forget my outdoor gear more than once per season thanks to this system of emotional torture. But even if you had enough foresight to remember all your garb, there was still the issue of getting all on and still making it outside in time for all the good places on the snowhill. I was so jealous of my friend Allison, who was the proud owner of a bright red snowsuit. 
Unlike poor Randy here, Allison didn't
have any trouble putting her arms down.
I was stuck with the more time-consuming separates: first the coverall-type snowpants, then the winter jacket. Meanwhile, Allison was already out the door because her all-in-one snowsuit saved her some precious time. As time went on, I developed some kind of system for getting my snow clothes on in the fastest way possible. I probably had my snowpants standing up so I could leap into them, just like a fireman. Maybe.

Yes, recess was easily the most important part of the day, especially in the winter. I once turned down the option to retake a failed math test because it would mean I’d have to stay inside for recess. This may not sound like a big deal to you, but I was a little nerd, and that was the only test I have ever failed (true story). I was in second grade, and my teacher offered to let me retake the test over recess that day. I politely declined: it was one of the first days of the snowhill, after all, and I couldn’t risk losing the best claim on the snow mountain.

As I got older, my recesses started disappearing. We went from three recesses in kindergarten to one lone recess in sixth grade. By the time we had reached the end of elementary school, though, recess had lost its charm. The playground was overrun with small, screaming children; recess was much more fun when YOU were the small, screaming child. When junior high hit, recess was no more. Not too many of us minded. We were too cool for recess, after all.

High school, of course, had no recess. In college, if you planned your classes carefully, you could create your own recess! When I was a freshman, I actually switched psychology classes so I could hang out with my floormates and watch Full House on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons.
Intro to Psychology was no match
for John Stamos.
Now that I have joined the working world, I think we could use recesses again. Sure, there are coffee breaks and lunch breaks, but no one encourages us to run around outside and get some fresh air. After all, our parking lot has just been plowed, and there’s a big snowpile outside with my name on it. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

let's talk about June bugs.

When I was twelve, my parents started building a new house, and I was a total brat about it. I loved our old house, which was undeniably too small for a family of five. It didn’t matter to me that I’d have a giant room and that our house would have more than one bathroom (we didn’t count the terrifying basement bathroom). I had a terrible attitude about this new house, but that’s not what this story is about.

We moved into our new house in May 2000, right before the end of school. We started moving things in on a Saturday, and I remember that nothing was more important than getting the new big screen TV hooked up in the basement (we watched All in the Family to make sure that everything was working).

Our extended family and friends came over on Sunday to help us do the lion’s share of the moving. We worked all day and successfully got everything transferred from the old house to the new. My room was a mass of boxes, but it was nice to be done with the heavy lifting. Because I had kept my complaining to a minimum, my parents said I could invite my friend Sarah over to help me start putting my room together.

Sarah arrived, and we immediately settled in my room to talk about whatever it is that thirteen-year-olds talk about. We made macaroni and cheese for dinner: Sarah’s and my specialty dish (and still one of the few things I know how to cook) and got to eat IN MY ROOM (there had been a strict “no food out of the kitchen” rule in our old house that my parents seemed to be willing to bend in the new house). Mom and Dad had even let us take the family laptop up to my room, which was a huge deal: though we had no internet access up there, it meant that we didn’t have to share Encarta with anyone. It was a wild time.

As we worked to unpack my boxes, it got warmer and warmer in my room. May in South Dakota can get humid, and our central air hadn’t been hooked up yet. I turned on the ceiling fan and opened all my windows, not thinking anything of the fact that my windows had no screens in them. This will be important later.

It was a school night, so it wasn’t too long before my mom yelled up the stairs and told me it was time to take Sarah home. Sarah and I pranced downstairs and headed towards the car. I suddenly realized that I’d left the light on in my room, so, ever the energy-conscious youngster, I raced back up the stairs to turn off my ceiling light.

I was met with a dreadful sight. It looked as though my room was actually moving. Large, brown insects swarmed around the ceiling lamp, and a horrific buzzing filled the air: my room had been overrun by June bugs. 
Having never encountered a June bug invasion of such magnitude before, I was unsure of how to proceed. I considered shrieking and fleeing the house, but I decided that wasn’t the best course of action. For the time being, I simply turned off my light and closed the door to my room.

I scurried down the stairs and hesitantly told Mom that I had a problem. She looked at me like the idiot I was and said, “Why didn’t you close the windows? More bugs can get in!” I thought that the June bugs presently in my room would want to leave now that the light was off, but Mom informed me that it wouldn’t be that simple. I offered to go back and shut the screenless windows, but Mom decided we should just take poor Sarah home and deal with the aftermath after the two of us had returned.

When Mom and I got back, it was time to face the horror. Bless her heart, my mom took pity on my soul and offered to help me catch the June bugs. But what to do with them? I was given explicit instructions not to step on them/smush them/damage them in any way because June bug juice smells. Plus, it would stain the brand new carpet. Way to break in the new house. The solution was to get the empty peanut cans that we had in the garage. Why did we have empty peanut cans in the garage? They were being used for my dad’s nail/nut/bolt storage, but we had bigger plans for them. We were going to catch the June bugs and place them inside the can until we could toss them back outside. I remember those peanut cans so clearly: they were Girl Scout peanut cans from my sister’s and my brief tenure with the organization. They were taller than your average peanut can and had this friendly little picture of a jungle scene printed on it.

Since I was the moron who had created this whole mess, it was only fair that I do the dirty work. I would pick up the June bugs, and Mom would hold the peanut can. I did my best not to freak out; the giant insects and their awful buzzing noise were more than unpleasant. I put on a winter glove so I wouldn’t have to touch the little beasts, and we went about our work. Mom and I were like an assembly line of June bug removal: I would pick one up, and she’d open and close the peanut lid in a flash. Things were going fairly smoothly until one of the June bugs decided that it didn’t want to be put in the can. When I tried to set it down, it flew up at my face. Being the weenie that I am, I screamed and accidentally knocked the peanut can out of Mom’s hands. All of the June bugs we’d been so diligently collecting began to scatter. Luckily, they were a little dazed from the lack of oxygen in the peanut can, so it didn’t take much to recapture them.

After what felt like hours, Mom and I were convinced that we’d successfully located every June bug that had made its way into my room. There was no buzzing; no little creatures were scuttling across the floor. Sweet, sweet success.

That is, until I went to bed. It was a school night, after all, so I had to try and get SOME sleep. I turned out the lights, double-checked to make sure the windows were shut, and crawled into bed. But then… buzzing. Have you ever read Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart”? This was the Tell-Tale Buzz. I leapt out of bed and turned the lights on. I had a disturbing feeling about where this buzzing was coming from. I whipped off my sheets, and sure enough: a June bug in my bed. I’m fairly sure I died a little that night.

For the next several hours, I’d try and try to go to sleep. Every time I’d get into bed, there would be a brief silence… and more buzzing. I’d get up, search and destroy, and go back to bed, only to be taunted by more buzzing shortly thereafter. It was impossible to figure out where the infernal noise was coming from. After all, my room was still full of partially-unpacked boxes, and those hideous insects could’ve been hiding anywhere. My night had turned into an unmitigated disaster.

Finally, I had located what I hoped to be all the June bugs that were hiding in my room. Even if I hadn’t, I was ready to wave the white flag. Those pests were elusive, and I had done my very best. At long last, I could lie in my bed and not hear something buzzing from deep within my closet.

So that’s how upwards of twenty June bugs made their way into my brand new room. A valuable lesson was learned: DO NOT leave windows without screens open, especially in May and especially with the lights on. Almost twelve years later, I certainly haven’t made that mistake twice. Even so, whenever I hear the tell-tale buzzing of a June bug’s wings, my skin crawls. And you’d better believe it was a long time before I could fall asleep without thoroughly checking my bed sheets from any creepy crawly surprises.
Sweet dreams!

Friday, January 20, 2012

adventures in New Orleans: the Dad edition.

So you’ve already heard about the time my mom visited me in New Orleans. But I was lucky enough to have BOTH of my parents travel to the Crescent City to see me: here’s the story of my dad in New Orleans!

It was December 2009, and my internship at the New Orleans Museum of Art was drawing to a close. That meant that it was time to start packing up my shed and make the loooong drive back to the Midwest. My parents both told me (on several occasions) what a dumb idea that was: why would I come back to the Midwest in the dead of winter when I could stay in New Orleans, land of delicious food and warm weather? Yes, that would’ve been a lovely idea, I admit: I especially wish I’d followed my parents’ advice when winter rolls around and I’m STILL in the Midwest. Just think: I could be basking in 70˚ weather when instead, I’m chipping ice off my windshield every morning while I slowly get frostbite. But at that particular time, I had another internship set up in Minneapolis, and I really missed my family and friends. I was ready to come home.

Dad, ever the adventurer, offered to fly down to New Orleans and drive home with me. I immediately accepted: I had driven the nearly 1300 miles by myself when I was on my way down there, and let me tell you, it was brutal. I was elated to have some company.

Dad arrived in New Orleans three days before we were scheduled to begin the drive home, and I went to pick him up at the airport. I looked for him outside the pickup area, and I saw a guy in a Minnesota Twins coat: that had to be my dad. Dad always wears his Twins coat when he travels because it’s a great conversation starter: Dad’s had people approach him about his coat all over the country, and they’re either from Minnesota or South Dakota. So when I saw the Twins coat, I figured I had found Dad. But that guy had a beard, so I kept driving. Just a minute later, I got a phone call: it was Dad, wondering where I had gone. Turns out the bearded guy WAS Dad! Now, my father briefly had a beard in the mid-1980s, and it was pretty goofy (even HE knew it). As long as I’d known him, Dad hadn’t had a beard and had no plans to grow one. So when he showed up in New Orleans with a full beard, I drove right past him. Thank goodness for that Twins coat; I might not have found him the second time around!

Once I located my bearded father, we got about the important business of dinner. Mom had told Dad about the wonders of the Voodoo BBQ, so that’s where we had supper. Dad does not appreciate seafood like Mom does, so we got ribs instead. They were heavenly. The Voodoo BBQ can do no wrong.

The night was still incredibly young, so I thought my dad should see Bourbon Street. We did not get streetcar passes, so it was up to me to navigate the city streets. That was no problem: the problem was finding parking in the French Quarter. You had to pay very close attention to your street signs: some allowed parking only during certain times; others only during certain months. Some parking places had no time limit, while others stated that you needed to be sure to move your car within two hours. On many streets, there was no parking at all. If, by some miracle, you did happen to find a place to park, it was another challenge altogether to remember where it was.

We eventually did find parking, but I swear, immediately after we stepped out of the car, it started pouring rain. Dad and I had several blocks to go before we reached shelter of any kind, so we spent some time huddled underneath awnings to try and stay dry (which only kind of worked). 
See my sweatshirt? It's normally light grey.
Our ultimate destination was Café du Monde, home of the famous beignet. I had been talking them up to Dad during my entire stay in New Orleans, and he was more than ready to sample them. Dad has always had a much healthier appreciation for desserts than Mom, and he loved the beignets just as much (if not more) than I did.
See how sad he is that they're gone?
When Mom was in New Orleans, we stayed at a cute little inn called the Prytania Park Hotel. I loved it, but it wasn’t exactly up my dad’s alley. So instead, I got us a room at the ever-classy Super 8 in Metairie (a suburb of New Orleans). We figured since our time in New Orleans was limited, we didn’t have to be terribly picky about our accommodations. This will be important later.

The next day was Dad’s first full day in New Orleans, so the sight-seeing officially began. We decided to go on the Hurricane Katrina tour: a downer, yes, but incredibly educational. We got on a bus and drove around the places most devastated by the hurricane. The driver showed us houses with watermarks twelve feet high, and we saw where the levees failed. We drove through the Lower Ninth Ward, which was the area of New Orleans hardest hit by the hurricane. 
This statue shows how high the water got in the Lower Ninth Ward.
Even before Katrina, the Lower Ninth Ward wasn’t in great shape, and the hurricane did nothing to help. This part of New Orleans was one of the places hit the hardest by the storm, and four years after the hurricane, the Lower Ninth Ward looked like it was in awfully poor shape. A great deal of Louisiana has recovered from Katrina, yes, but there’s still plenty of work to do. On the bright side, the tour guide did take us by some areas of the Lower Ninth Ward that are being rebuilt by people like Brad Pitt, so there’s certainly an effort being made.
We also drove by this super-creepy abandoned amusement
park, so scratch the brief happy feeling we got from Brad Pitt.
After our depressing yet informative bus tour, Dad and I decided to lighten our spirits by touring more of the French Quarter. The weather was better that day, so we got to see and do quite a bit more. We walked down by the riverfront, and Dad got scammed by his very first homeless guy.

By that point, I’d had my fair share of experiences with homeless people, especially in Denver (which is a story for another time). Even in New Orleans, I had learned to more or less ignore every drunk, smelly guy (it was always a guy) who approached me looking for money. I felt like a jerk at first, but honestly, I myself had no money to spare at that particular time in my life. Besides, it was just safer for a young, fairly small, decent looking blonde girl all by herself to just ignore creepy men who try to initiate conversation.

My dad, though, had no such reservations. When a toothless man approached and asked if he could make a bet, I was fully prepared to keep on walking. Dad, being friendlier and braver, took the bait. The guy said, “I bet you ten bucks that I can tell you where you got your shoes.” Dad was confident that the man would never guess where Dad got his Sketchers, so Dad accepted the bet. “You got them on your feet!” the man said triumphantly. Dad rolled his eyes and handed the guy ten dollars. We were about to go on our merry way when this guy (who Dad was realizing was a mistake to talk to in the first place) tried to shine up Dad’s shoes. He squirted this weird white stuff on Dad’s shoes, and THEN told Dad that he expected to be paid for the service. Dad was certainly annoyed by this point, and he gave the shoe-shining gentleman a little talking-to about how he’d already given him ten dollars. Besides, Sketcher sneakers don’t need “shining,” so Dad had no intention of paying for such a service. This guy then went into a sob story about how he has five kids and no job and boo hoo hoo. Dad finally gave him five more bucks just to get him to leave.

We spent the rest of our day in the French Quarter, avoiding other such characters. Dad and I had supper at the Clover Grill, which was a little diner a little ways off the beaten trail. I had eaten there when I had gone to New Orleans with the jazz band, and it was incredible. Greasy perfection, I tell you. One of their specialties was the Hubcap Burger, which is a burger fried underneath a hubcap (an American-made hubcap, of course). That was Dad’s entrée of choice, while I ordered an omelette. The eggs for the omelette were whipped up with a malt machine, and it was the fluffiest omelette I’ve ever had.

After poking our heads in a few more French Quarter establishments, we finally tracked down the car and headed back to Metairie. By this time, Dad had decided it was time for dessert. We headed to a place I had wanted to try for my entire stay in New Orleans: Copeland’s Cheesecake Bistro. Their menu boasted dozens of different types of cheesecake; everything you could ever imagine. Dad the dessert connoisseur was pleased. I don’t remember what kind of cheesecake he got (vanilla caramel, maybe?), but mine was Oreo White Chocolate, and it was everything one could ever hope for in a cheesecake. 
Oh, how I miss New Orleans.
When we ordered our cheesecake, we each ordered a glass of milk to go with it (as any good Midwesterner would). The waitress looked at us like we were crazy – especially after we each needed a SECOND glass of milk. They must not get that request too often.

The next day was Dad’s and my last full day in New Orleans, so we really had to make it count. The sun was shining, and it was a beautiful December day. We went right back to the French Quarter for lunch at the Central Grocery. Mom had told Dad all about the muffuletta sandwiches, and he wanted to try one of his own. Mine was just as delicious as it had been the first time around.
The face of a satisfied customer.
After lunch, we spent some time in Jackson Square and witnessed a musician territory squabble. Dad, a trumpet player, was delighted to hear someone playing “When the Saints Go Marching In” on a trumpet. We stood on the opposite sidewalk and listened for a minute or two, but then we noticed a guitar player approaching the trumpet player. The guitar player began to yell at the trumpet player, telling the trumpet player that this was HIS territory. The trumpet player apologized and walked a few blocks down. Dad hadn’t had his fill of live New Orleans trumpet playing, so we followed the trumpet player to hear a little more music. The trumpet player managed a few notes before the very same angry guitar player came back and told the trumpet player that he wasn’t far enough away. The poor trumpet player moved down a few more blocks, and he was finally able to finish “When the Saints Go Marching In.” When the song was finished, Dad approached the trumpet player, tossed a few dollars in his trumpet case, and told him he’d rather hear a trumpet than a guitar any day!

For our last big New Orleans activity, Dad and I decided to go on a riverboat tour on the Steamboat Natchez. It was a great choice. We sat on the top deck and basked in the December sunshine, and we had a wonderful view of shore. 
This is what we look like on a steamboat.
The tour lasted about two hours, and the tour guide provided us with all sorts of neat facts. We traveled a few miles down the Mississippi River, passing commercial barges and Navy ships. 
Anchors aweigh!
We even went underneath the twin span bridges that connect the West Bank and the East Bank. Dad and I agreed that the steamboat was easily the highlight of the trip.
Self portrait with the steamboat? Nice try.
Evening came way too fast, and it was soon time to head back to my shed and finish packing up my belongings. Before we left the French Quarter, Dad said, “So… what was the place with the beignets? Is that on our way out?” I was more than happy to have one final serving of beignets and café au lait (half coffee, half milk, and a sprinkling of chicory). Those beignets are no less than divine, and I cannot WAIT to have them again.

After loading up the car and bidding farewell to my landlady, we headed back to the Super 8. As I was getting ready for bed, I noticed something scurry across the floor. Dad saw it, too, and we waited for it to come out again so we could see what it was. The mystery creature reappeared, and we saw that it was a cockroach. Dad and I tried to catch it, but it eventually ran behind the TV and stayed there. So now there’s a cockroach in the room somewhere. Do we get a different room, or do we stay? Dad and I decided that since it was late and it was our last night, we could just deal with it.

The next morning, we checked out of our hotel. Dad gently made it known to the desk clerk that we’d had a cockroach issue the night before. The Super 8 woman apologized profusely and gave us a $30 discount per night – times three nights, that's ninety bucks just for a cockroach. Note to self: always mention cockroaches.

We were all packed up and ready to go, so it was time to embark on the journey home. 
Our first stop was in Memphis, approximately six hours into our journey. Why did we stop in Memphis? To go to Graceland, of course! I had considered stopping at Graceland on my way to New Orleans, but things like that are never as fun by yourself. I was glad to have Dad with me, and for the entire hour before we arrived in Memphis, we listened to Elvis. We arrived with just a couple of hours before closing time, so we took the shortened version of the tour (which meant skipping Elvis’s airplane and car collection). The tour was fascinating; Graceland was nowhere near the mansion I had imagined it to be. Everything was still decorated as Elvis had left it; I’m sure it was beautiful in the 1970s, but it looked fairly ridiculous in 2009. 
Case in point: Elvis's living room.
We saw the separate building Elvis had built to house his awards and his pantsuits. It was certainly a worthwhile stop, especially now that I can say that I stood in the place where Elvis once did. Cool, huh?
Hellooooo Graceland!
The rest of the trip was smooth sailing (except for when we arrived in St Louis and wanted to see the arch, but we made a wrong turn and ended up in Illinois instead). To pass the time, we played an old family favorite: the license plate game. In this game, you work together to try and find as many state license plates as you can. I wish I could remember how many we found; I’d like to say it was close to 35. Dad and I spent a lot of time listening to music, and it was on this trip that I discovered Dad’s appreciation of Queen and his limited patience for Christmas music. Somewhere in Missouri, my car reached 100,000 miles. As far as road trips go, though quite lengthy (22 hours of driving time, to be exact), this was a good one. We arrived in South Dakota on our second day of driving. Even though we had traded 65˚ and sunny for -20˚ and snowy, it was good to be home.

Moral of the story: I’m incredibly lucky to have two parents who are willing to travel to New Orleans and back to see me. I had a great time with both of them, and I got to do so many things that I would’ve have done without them. I would take a New Orleans vacation with my parents anytime; they’re the kind of people who are willing to try just about anything and go just about anywhere. If I do have the good fortune to make it back to New Orleans someday, I hope that I have as much fun as I did with my parents. Not many people hold their parents as the golden standard of fun vacations, but I certainly do.

So if you ever have the chance to go to New Orleans, you should absolutely take it. New Orleans has something for everyone, and I can guarantee you’ll love every minute: especially if you have great travel buddies like I did.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

a Saturday Night Live story.

My high school put on an all-school play every fall. And every fall, I didn’t even consider participating: they tended to be incredibly trite. During my senior year, though, everything changed… (here is a dramatic theatrical pause) when the school did Saturday Night Live.

As a teenager, I had spent a significant portion of my time watching SNL reruns on A&E or whatever channel happened to be airing them at the time. My favorite episodes were from the early-to-mid 90s, when Chris Farley, Mike Meyers, Dana Carvey, and Adam Sandler ruled the show. So when I heard a rumor that the 2004 all-school play would be Saturday Night Live, I HAD to be a part of it.

The play was going to be made up of a number of skits, just like the show itself. And here’s the most beautiful part: you got to choose your own skits. If you wanted to be in a particular skit, all you had to do was present your idea to the director. If she deemed the skit appropriate enough for the play, you were responsible for casting any additional characters. I was overjoyed: not only could I reenact some of the greatest SNL skits of all time, but I could cast my friends in them, too!

Each person could only submit so many skits for consideration, so I had to narrow down the huge number of possibilities to the skits most likely to be appreciated by the Arlington crowd. My ultimate choices? Wayne’s World and Landshark.
Exsqueeze me? Baking powder?
I chose Wayne’s World because – seriously – what character could be more fun to embody than Wayne? Besides, Wayne’s World is something that the people of Arlington could definitely appreciate, whether they’d seen the SNL skit or not. The next step was to cast Wayne’s faithful companion Garth. There was no question: it had to be my friend Tiffany. Together, we would make the best Wayne and Garth that Arlington had ever seen. After hearing of the stellar casting, the director asked me to plan for not one, but THREE Wayne’s World skits, which I was more than happy to do.

I chose to include Landshark because it’s always been one of my favorite skits. Yes, it’s silly and ridiculous, but honestly, what SNL skit isn’t? I also presumed that a solid percentage of our audience would remember watching the early episodes of SNL. Most of the other skits were from the early 90s and beyond, so I thought the fledgling years of the show deserved some recognition. Besides, it had been a life goal of mine to dress up as a shark that walks on land and pretends to have candygrams. (“Life goal” may be an exaggeration. “As soon as I found out about this play goal” would be more like it.)

After our skit ideas were approved, we needed to find scripts for them. I lucked out with Wayne’s World; finding transcripts of the original sketches was a breeze. There were no Landshark scripts to be had, but they weren’t that hard to write up: knock on door. Landshark pretends to be the plumber. Girl doesn’t fall for it. Landshark pretends to have a candygram. Girl falls for it. Door opens, Landshark eats the girl. Comedic gold!

We began rehearsals, and everyone was convinced that this would be the best Arlington all-school play of all time. Ever. I wish I could remember what all of the other sketches were (I know somebody was Roseanne Roseannadanna), but I was too busy perfecting my early 90s wannabe rocker with a public access television show persona.

Costuming was another hurdle to jump, of course. We were more or less on our own, and we accepted the challenge. Tiff’s and my Wayne’s World costumes were fairly simple, but they were dead-on. We both had ripped-up jeans and t-shirts, and Tiff’s mom made me a special hat that read “Wayne’s World.” I borrowed my friend Nick’s electric guitar, and Tiff had drumsticks from the band room. The only real challenge was the hair. Luckily for us, the all-school play took place in the fall, so the stores were well-stocked with Halloween wigs. Tiff’s wig was some blonde shiny thing that she trimmed up, and mine was some sort of Cher wig that we hacked into a mullet. We looked great.
My Landshark costume was nowhere near the perfection of Wayne’s World. I wasn’t going to create an entire shark costume, so I settled for drawing a profile of a shark head that would emerge from the door and “eat” its victim. It was low-budget perfection.

However, every great play has its obstacles. We were closing in on opening night when a handful of cast members dropped out, taking a few skits with them. The play would run short unless a few brave actors stepped up to fill the space. I was one of volunteers: I wanted to be the Church Lady.

Now, Arlington had its own fair share of Church Ladies, and if you remember the skits, most of them were about the evils of sex. I chose the only semi-innocuous Church Lady skit I could find: she goes to the church potluck and denounces the red Jello for being food of Satan. As long as I got to say “Isn’t that special?” and do the Superior Dance, I was satisfied.

The play was an absolute blast. Everything went smoothly (except for the time I lost my microphone when Tiff and I were doing the drunk driving PSA sketch), and people loved us: especially the “Aerosmith Comes to Wayne’s World” scene. The crowd just loved seeing Tiff and me enact the old Wayne’s World classic: “we’re not worthy! We’re not worthy!” We tried to work in every Wayne’s World catchphrase possible: from “party time! Excellent!” to “schwing,” we covered a lot of ground. (Yes, I know “schwing” probably wasn’t appropriate, but Tiff and I made it work. In our play, “schwing” meant “awesome,” and was not used in conjunction with Heather Locklear like it was in the real show. That could’ve gotten weird.)

Landshark and the Church Lady were hits, as well, but Wayne’s World was the clear favorite. I’d had the best time being Wayne, and I was definitely sorry to see it end. I was almost sorry to throw away my mullet wig… almost.

I had been in school plays before, and I would be in one more play after SNL. However, I have never had as much fun in a school play as I did during the short run of Saturday Night Live. Sure, it helped that we were performing old familiar skits that had been proven to be funny once before, but what really made it great was the incredible freedom that we were given. If you wanted to be in a skit, YOU made it happen.

Thinking back, I would’ve loved to do more skits. If I could do it over, my next skit would undeniably be Matt Foley: Chris Farley’s motivational speaker who lives in a van down by the river. 
Ah, but hindsight tends to be 20/20, doesn’t it? I’m still incredibly happy with the SNL play as it was, and it brings back many happy memories of my friends, my high school, and how easy it was to have such absurd fun. So, in the immortal words of Wayne: party on!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

adventures in New Orleans: the Mom edition.

Remember how I went to New Orleans for three months in 2009? I told you the horror story of my creepy Craigslist landlord, but I never told you anything good about my stay in New Orleans. The good far and above outweighed the bad; it’s just that my creepy landlord story is always the starting point. But now, it’s time to talk about the good.

Around the middle of November, I was sort of figuring out life in New Orleans. My internship was running along smoothly, and my two part-time retail jobs (mostly) kept food on the (non-existent) table. Ok, so I was poor and incredibly busy, but I was in New Orleans, which totally made up for it.

At the same time, I was a little lonesome. I was more than a thousand miles away from my family and friends. I had made some new friends in New Orleans, yes, but I still missed everyone back home. I’d had a less than wonderful Halloween that year (I sat in my shed/house and watched the Halloween episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer), and if you remember, Halloween is my favorite holiday. The disappointing Halloween made me lonelier than ever, and I was beginning to pine for the Midwest.

So when my mom called and asked how I’d feel about her visiting me for a few days near the end of November, I said, “YES, PLEASE!” before she’d even finished the offer. Mom would arrive on a Saturday and leave on Thanksgiving Day (as a retail employee, there was no way I could get out of working on Black Friday). The plan was set, and I eagerly began counting down the days until Mom arrived in the Big Easy.

As I mentioned before, my living quarters in New Orleans were a spiffed-up shed in someone’s backyard. I slept on an air mattress, my closet was one of those stand-up rack things, and my kitchen consisted of a microwave and a mini-fridge. Clearly, this was an unfit place to host one’s mother for a six-day vacation. So Mom sent me scouting for the perfect hotel. We wanted one in a decent neighborhood within walking distance of the streetcar line, but we didn’t want the exorbitant prices of the French Quarter.

Mom did some internet research, and she sent me to check out a place called the Prytania Park Hotel. Since I lived nearby, we thought it would be a good idea for me to check out the neighborhood and the Prytania to ensure that we weren’t staying at a roach motel in the New Orleans ghetto. Thankfully, it was just the opposite. The Prytania is a quaint little hotel right off of St Charles Avenue, which is famous for its ornate mansions. There was a streetcar line just two blocks away, which meant that we could just ride that everywhere and not have to worry about the treacherous parking in the French Quarter. The Prytania even had a little courtyard, and I was sold.

The day of Mom’s arrival finally approached, and we checked into our charming hotel. But what to do first? “Eating something delicious” was on the top of Mom’s to-do list. New Orleans is famous for its seafood, and my mom LOVES seafood. From our hotel, we could see a place called the Voodoo BBQ, which looked quite promising. We walked right over and ordered barbecue shrimp (which is not shrimp in barbecue sauce, but shrimp in a delicious buttery, garlicky, white wine sauce) and corn pudding, and it was heaven on a plate. Mom’s trip was off to a strong start.

Fall is festival season for New Orleans: summer is too hot, so when fall rolls around, they really celebrate. There’s some kind of festival nearly every weekend, and they’re usually food-themed. Mom and I hadn’t really thought about the festivals, but my landlady had told us about a festival happening that Sunday called the Po’boy Preservation Festival. A po’boy is a New Orleans submarine-type sandwich that is made on French bread and usually contains some kind of seafood. We decided to hop on the streetcar and go to the festival.

And what a great decision that was. As soon as we stepped off the streetcar, the aroma of food wafted into our nostrils. The street was filled with food booths, and there were so many tempting choices. Mom knew immediately what she wanted: char grilled oysters. We had come upon a giant open grill covered with halved oysters, and Mom wanted those oysters. 
I, on the other hand, was skeptical. The closest I had ever come to an oyster was the time Mom had me open up a can of smoked oysters, and they smelled like canned death. Mom assured me these oysters were different, so I hesitantly agreed to share an order with her. My mom was totally, completely, 100% right. 
This is the face of pure joy.
These oysters had been grilled to perfection and basted with butter, garlic, and lemon. I had died and gone to seafood heaven. We tried a few other things at the Po’boy Festival: stuffed shrimp, a shrimp po’boy… but nothing managed to even come close to those oysters.

Our second stop was the museum where I was interning. They had a display there of original Disney animation studio drawings from a number of movies, including Snow White and Beauty and the Beast. Mom is a tried-and-true Disney fan, so we went to see the exhibit. It was doubly fun for me, since I got to show Mom around “my” museum. 
She even let me take her picture by the sign.
It’s not too often that unpaid interns can feel important, but when you get to walk around and say, “See the label for this piece? I wrote that paragraph!” you do feel a little special… especially when you have someone who will at least pretend to be impressed!

For supper that evening, we ate at Landry’s, which is a floating seafood restaurant. It’s situated on gigantic Lake Pontchartrain, and you get there via a little floating walkway. Mom had not had her fill of oysters for the day, so that’s what we got. They were not quite as good as the char-grilled oysters, but it’s almost unfair to compare them. In any case, we got to eat at a floating restaurant, which was a first for both of us.

Later that evening, I took Mom to the pinnacle of the New Orleans experience: Bourbon Street. 
Mom loves Bourbon Street!
We rode the streetcar right into the heart of the French Quarter, and we just strolled along, taking in all the sights, sounds, and (less pleasant) smells. Mom got to see the kitschy little shops with all their ridiculous wares. I tried to convince Mom to bring home a dried alligator head for my brother, but she was a tough sell.
Though my brother never got his gator
head, Mom did make friends with this guy.
Our final stop of Mom’s first full day in New Orleans was Café du Monde: home of the beignet. A beignet is a fried French donut covered in powdered sugar, and they are divine. Mom, who has never been a big dessert eater, thought they were just ok. 
She put on a happy face anyway.
For her, nothing compared to the Po’boy Preservation Festival oysters.

The next day, we headed back to the French Quarter. It was a lot different in the daylight, and Mom wanted to see some of the little antique stores and the architecture. We went to Jackson Square and wandered through St Louis Cathedral, and we walked down by the Mississippi River. Mom and I went to the French Market, and we just took in the charm. We went on a cemetery tour and saw the tomb of Marie LaVeau, the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans. 
Not creepy at all.
Fun cemetery fact: Marie LaVeau’s grave is the second most visited grave in the United States, right behind Elvis and right before JFK. Legend has it if you draw three Xs on her grave and leave her an offering, Marie LaVeau will grant you a wish. Mom and I didn’t try it, mostly because our tour guide told us that you can get arrested for defacing the tombstone. Sounds like a good enough reason to leave it alone.

Mom and I each had a three-day streetcar pass, and that included as many rides as our little hearts desired. When we were done with the French Quarter that day, we hopped on the St Charles streetcar that would take us back to the hotel. We decided, though, that we could just as well ride the streetcar and see where it went. We rode through the Garden District, which was even beautiful at night. After a while, though, the neighborhoods got less and less pleasant. Suddenly, the streetcar stopped and it was announced that we were at the end of the line. Mom and I really hoped that we weren’t about to get thrown off: it looked pretty scary out there. Luckily, the conductor just flipped the seat backs so they were facing the opposite direction, and we took off back the way we came. Mom later told one of her coworkers that we had ridden the streetcar all the way to where it ended. Her coworker, who had spent quite a bit of time in New Orleans, told her that he can’t believe we did that – it gets dangerous towards the end of the line!

We spent Mom’s third full New Orleans day riding the ferry across the Mississippi River to a little island known as Algiers.
It was breezy. Can you tell?
The island is right across the river from the French Quarter, but it seems like it is worlds apart. The streets were quiet, and there were hardly any tourists around. Mom and I went on the Jazz Walk, which sounded a lot more interesting than it actually was. The Jazz Walk started with a statue of Louis Armstrong and consisted of lampposts containing facts about obscure jazz musicians. 
Yes, I have heard of Jelly Roll Morton. But how are we
near-sighted folks supposed to read the lamppost facts?!
We followed the Jazz Walk until we reached a giant green, yellow, and purple building announcing itself to be Mardi Gras World. Just like the rest of the island, there seemed to be no one around. Mom and I crept around the building, and we stumbled across something rather unsettling: piles and piles of disintegrating Mardi Gras float pieces. 
I'm pretty sure this is where nightmares go to die.
We left Algiers shortly afterwards, which was probably just as well.

For lunch that day, Mom wanted a muffuletta sandwich. A muffuletta is a round sandwich made with a bunch of different deli meats and a vinegary olive salad. According to Mom’s New Orleans savvy coworker, the Central Grocery originated the sandwich and was therefore the best place to get one. The Central Grocery is a little grocery store where you can buy everything from fancy European cheese to pickled octopus. You line up at the counter to get your sandwich, and then there’s another little counter where you can sit down and it eat. Those sandwiches were delicious (even though I picked the olive salad off mine).
See how much I love my pseudo muffuletta?
Mom and I were progressing quickly through her “New Orleans Food Bucket List.”

After lunch, we spent more time walking around the French Quarter. This time, we were looking for some of the supposedly haunted houses: the LaLaurie Mansion and the Sultan’s Palace. The LaLaurie mansion is supposedly haunted by the slaves that were tortured by Madam LaLaurie in the 1830s, and the mansion was actually owned by Nicholas Cage at one point. The legend of the Sultan’s Palace is allegedly haunted by the spirit of a sultan and his harem who were murdered by the sultan’s brother. 
I was half expecting a see-through Turkish sultan
go strolling along the balcony.
What a sultan was doing in New Orleans, I have no idea. We could not go inside the mansions, but that was fine: we got the creeps just from standing on the sidewalk across from them.

After we spent time looking at the mansions on St Charles Avenue (some of the most expensive real estate in the country), Mom decided that she wanted the Voodoo BBQ for supper: really, their barbecue shrimp was to die for. After supper, though, we had run out of plans. Since we had spent our entire day on our feet, Mom and I decided we wanted to do something that involved sitting for that evening. We ventured out to the New Orleans suburbs to the five-dollar AMC theatre. There was a time when every movie at AMC during the week was $5, no matter if it was a 4 o’clock show or a 9 o’clock show. Ahh, the good old days.

Wednesday was to be Mom’s final full day in New Orleans, so we had to do something great. Up until that point, I had been the one suggesting activities. Before Mom arrived, I had seen plenty of things I wanted to do (like the cemetery tour), but no one with which do to them. We had been doing all sorts of things from MY list, and Mom seemed to be enjoying herself. When I asked her what SHE really wanted to do, she usually turned the reigns over to me and informed me that she’d let me know if one of my ideas sounded really lousy. On her last full day, though, Mom decided that she really wanted to see Oak Alley Plantation.

 Oak Alley was built in 1839, and it’s a gorgeous antebellum mansion that sits along the Mississippi River. Oak Alley is about an hour from New Orleans, and the drive itself was half the fun. We traveled through sugar cane fields and swamps: nothing you see in South Dakota. What really makes Oak Alley special, though, are its oak trees. There are twenty or so nearly two hundred year old oak trees that line the pathway to the plantation, and they are curved to form an arc over the top of the pathway: hence the name Oak Alley. We got a tour of the mansion and a tour of the grounds, and it really was incredible. It was like stepping in a time machine back to the old South.
Who doesn't love a good plantation?
When we got back to New Orleans, it was suppertime. Mom and I decided to sample a restaurant called Copeland’s, which was actually famous for their desserts. We ended up splitting appetizers for supper and bread pudding (a good Southern dish!) for dessert. I loved the bread pudding: it was warm and fluffy with a white chocolate/raspberry bourbon sauce. Mom, who would generally prefer another serving of vegetables over dessert, was not as thrilled as I was. To end the night, we went to another $5 movie (new movies were never that cheap, even in South Dakota). We’d had a great day.

The next day was Thanksgiving Day: the day of Mom’s departure. She didn’t leave until the early afternoon, so we had a bit of time to accomplish a little bit more sight-seeing. We walked down Magazine Street, which is famous for its little shops and cafes. We found an abandoned church that had a “for sale” sign in the window. We stumbled across a little Norwegian church, which was kind of surprising to see in Louisiana. For our Thanksgiving dinner, we had breakfast sandwiches at a streetcar-turned-restaurant. You may think it’s odd to have breakfast sandwiches for Thanksgiving, but Mom and I were perfectly happy. Neither of us likes turkey, anyway.

All too soon, it was time to take Mom to the airport. I had to work that evening at the craft store, so it was about time for me to get my uniform on and go sell glittery flowers and scrapbooking scissors. Mom found her plane with no problems and made it home with no problems, which is always a good way to end a trip.

I had such a fantastic time in New Orleans with my mom, and if you asked her, I believe she’d say the same thing. Permit me a moment of sentimentality here, but it really is great to have a mom who is also your friend.

Stay tuned for adventures in New Orleans: the Dad edition!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

adventures in Brookings: the WalMart edition.

I went to school in a very small town. The population hovered around 1000, and everyone knew everyone else and everything that everybody was up to. (“Did you hear Bill got a new tractor?” “Oh yeah, she’s a beaut! But did you hear about Larry’s new shed?”)

I did not actually live in said small town; we lived in the country about 15 miles away. From where my parents’ house sits, the nearest McDonalds is 30 miles away. Same goes for shopping malls, Pizza Huts, and basically all of civilization.

The 30-mile-away mecca is called Brookings, and it was the go-to location for anything and everything. When I went to college and told people where I grew up, they often asked what I did for fun. The answer? I went to Brookings.

Not by myself, of course. We usually gathered a carload of friends and hit Highway 14 all the way to the big city. My friends and I took turns driving: we might ride in Meagan’s blue Taurus one day and in my 1987 Park Avenue the next. During my final two years of high school, I’d say I went to Brookings at least twice a week. Oh, to have a disposable income again.

Now, Brookings is no metropolis. Compared to my hometown of Arlington, though, it’s enormous. Brookings clocks in at just a shade under 20,000 people, and there are way WAY more options for entertainment than in Arlington. In Arlington, your only choices were the bowling alley and the city park. But in Brookings, the possibilities were endless.

There were a number of places in Brookings that my friends and I frequented, and I’ll cover them all in due time. For now, though, I’m going to talk about our number one high school destination: WalMart.

I know what you’re thinking: WALMART?! Yes, I know it sounds less than thrilling. But going to WalMart was a big trip for any of us. When you have to travel 30 miles to get there, it always seems like a bigger deal than it actually is. Additionally, if you wanted to go shopping in Arlington, you were limited to the gas station and the grocery store (and if you came at the right time, the hardware store and antique shop on main street might be open). Compared to what we had in Arlington, WalMart seemed like the greatest place on earth.

Sure, we went to WalMart to kill time. We usually came to Brookings to go to a movie at the Cinema Five, but there was always a gap of an hour or so to fill. After we ate dinner, what else was there to do but go to WalMart?

Once in a great while, it was actually necessary to go to WalMart. Maybe someone needed toothpaste, or someone’s mom had asked us to pick up some paper towels while we were there. 
You could shop for Calla, as well.
Most of the time, though, our trips were purpose-free. That’s when we had the most fun.

Looking back, I realize how insufferable the WalMart employees must’ve thought we were. Brookings is still a fairly small town, and we came into WalMart often enough that the employees were sure to recognize us. I’m sure they rolled their eyes and figured that as long as we weren’t shoplifting, they might as well leave us alone.

Back in our high school WalMart heyday, the only WalMart we had just your regular run-of-the-mill WalMart. The Super WalMart would open up during my senior year, and we had our fair share of fun there, but most of our adventures took place in the old non-super WalMart. One of the fixtures in this old WalMart was an employee named Terry.

Do you remember the old SNL skit about Pat? 
No one knew if Pat was a man or a woman, and no one ever will. Terry was Brookings’ very own Pat, complete with the ambiguous name. My friends and I were borderline obsessed with Terry. Every time we went to WalMart, the first task was to figure out whether or not Terry was working.

The really strange thing about Terry was that, depending on the day, Terry could look like either a man or a woman. Terry had long black hair that he/she always wore in a ponytail: nothing too unusual about that. However, you’d come in one day and Terry would be wearing a baggy t-shirt and camo pants (Terry loved camo pants). But you could come in the very next day, and Terry would be wearing eyeshadow and a pink sweater. Terry has curled bangs today: what does that mean? But wait, today it looks like Terry has a mustache. Terry was an enigma.
See that ponytailed head right behind Bob's
We spent the better part of a year trying to figure Terry out. But suddenly, POOF: Terry was nowhere to be found. When we hadn’t seen Terry in two weeks, someone (I think it was Bob) got up the courage to ask one of the WalMart employees what had happened to Terry. Bob was given the very helpful “Terry doesn’t work here anymore.” We came up with a few theories of our own: Terry had saved up all of his/her WalMart paychecks and was finally able to move to California. Terry had joined the military (camo pants, remember?). Terry had eloped with his/her significant other (named Pat, of course). We never found out, but we always hoped that Terry was happy.

Our WalMart trips weren’t based solely on Terry-spotting, though. We invented a whole series of WalMart-based games, as well. You may be wondering how we enough time on our hands so that we could actually develop games. Honestly, I have no idea. We were all getting good grades, we were involved in a ton of extracurricular activities, and we were hard at work on college applications. I guess we just knew how to prioritize (or something).

Anyway, it’s not the WalMart games involved a whole lot of planning. The first game was a scavenger hunt of sorts. My friends and I would start at the entrance of the store and give each other ten minutes to meet back by the registers. The goal? Find the goofiest thing possible. Whoever returned with the silliest item available for purchase in WalMart won. What did they win? Bragging rights: but bragging rights were worth a lot in my circle of friends! No matter who won, the items we found around the store were guaranteed to be fantastic. From decorated toilet seat lids to tiny potted cacti, WalMart had it all. Every now and again, we’d find something so hilarious that it begged to be purchased. Bob and I once bought a bizarre little baby doll and named it Shaneequa Fabio.

We did really well on the scavenger hunt that day.
Our best game (and probably most obnoxious) was called WalMart Hide-and-Seek. It was exactly what it sounds like. WalMart Hide-and-Seek was different than traditional hide-and-seek in that you’re a hider and a seeker at the very same time. During WalMart Hide-and-Seek, you were constantly on the move. You would peek around corners and scoot quickly across open spaces to avoid being located. If you spotted someone before they spotted you, you would yell their name, and they would be caught. You and your prisoner of war would then join forces and continue scouting for everyone else. In order to win WalMart Hide-and-Seek, you would have to capture all of your friends. We usually played with four or five people, so even if it was one person versus the four (a “captain” and three captured friends), if the lone wolf found the group of four first, the solo player would win. That’s the thing with WalMart Hide-and-Seek: the tides could turn without a moment’s notice, and it was adrenaline-fueled harmless fun.

In all our years at WalMart, not once were we asked to behave ourselves. Maybe we weren’t actually as disruptive as I remember us being, or maybe we were a good source of entertainment for the employees. All of our antics were best accomplished with the store was more or less abandoned, like at 8 o’clock on a Tuesday night. I can’t imagine that the employees had anything better to do, so maybe they actually enjoyed our visits. But probably not.

The one and only time an employee ever got visibly irritated with us was during May 2006. I was home for the summer after my first year of college, and Bob had graduated from high school that very day. After the celebrations were over, Bob and I drove to WalMart for old times’ sake. We were being our same crazy selves: this time, we spent a good portion of our visit taking pictures in the giant silk flower section. For some reason, we had a pink watering can shaped like an elephant. 

Bob set it down in the flower aisle, and we dipped next door to the vase aisle in order to create some lovely flower arrangements (that we were actually going to buy, believe it or not). We were fully intending to come right back for the pink elephant watering can… when it came flying over the tops of the shelves and landed at our feet. Bob and I looked at each other, then looked at the watering can. We slowly stuck our heads around the corner to see who the culprit was. We saw no one, leading us to believe that WalMart hires ninjas.

When I went to college in Morris, Minnesota, I was faced with a similar situation: our only option was Pamida (BLECH), and WalMart was 45 miles away. The city of choice this time was Alexandria, Minnesota. Alexandria had way more to offer than Brookings did: after all, Alexandria had a Target. My roommates and I would use our (extremely rare) free evenings to take trips to Alexandria, and our main destinations tended to be Perkins and Target. Nevertheless, we did stop by WalMart every now and again.
Nobody does $.88 candy like WalMart.
After I graduated from college, I spent time in Denver, New Orleans, Minneapolis, and have landed (for now) in Sioux Falls. They are all much bigger cities than Brookings, and I didn’t frequent the WalMarts. However, there’s something about that Brookings WalMart that is ingrained in me. Every time I drive by it, even though I have ready access to two Super WalMarts in Sioux Falls, I think, “Should I stop? What do I need? I’m right here, after all.” Old habits die hard.
We still can't pass up the five dollar movie bin.
So the Brookings WalMart will always hold a special place in my heart. But don’t let this post fool you: there’s much more to Brookings than just the WalMart. Stay tuned for the next edition of Adventures in Brookings!