Wednesday, December 26, 2007

a very 'what're you ugly betty' christmas ...

we stole out of town in the late hours of christmas eve. a trunk filled with unwrapped gifts and the nauseating hunger of two people who sometimes forget that after this meal, eventually there needs to be another, and that even a place that celebrates demonic intestinal wizardry -- like white castle -- closes for christmas.

"i'm a little hungry," i say. my dinner of an amy's matar paneer and about 12 hersey's cherry chocolate kisses has evaporated.
"me, too," chuck agrees.

we whiz past blue signs: taco bell, burger king, subway, shell stations, bps, marathons ... and each sign increases the ratio of empty space in my stomach. it's like elementary school when i would eat the contents of my sack lunch on the bus on the way to school -- chips, oatmeal cream pie, white bread with sandwish spread, capri sun -- and then four hours later, spend my time in the cafeteria making anemic, emaciated faces at my classmates' baggies filled with oreos and doritos.

"now i'm super hungry," i say.
"me, too," chuck agrees.

we spend 20 minutes deconstructing white castle's menu:

"i think i could probably, at most, eat five jalapino cheese burgers," i say.
"yeah. that's about what i could do, too," chuck says.
"although ... i could go for an order of cheese sticks. or chicken rings," i muse.

toby's is closed. white castle is closed. what follows is a stretch of highway void of truck stops. what ever happened to truck stops? sassy waitresses wearing blue eyeshadow, agreeable to a whack on the fannie, and their clientele of chain smoking coffee drinkers?

"i want an omellette," i whine.
"i want a sliced turkey sandwich," chuck dreams.

***

we off-ramp in st. paul and head to mickey's diner. the streets of our capital are empty, per usual. this is always confusing to me. i've hit traffic jams at 3 a.m. in minneapolis; in st. paul i've cross major streets at midday without even bothering to look both ways. and at 2 a.m., the desolation is even more obvious. i make u-turns with the understanding that if no one sees me abusing traffic laws, then i didn't do it. damn i love st. paul.

the diner is moderately busy: a few men at the counter; a woman alone, singing christmas songs, dancing, a strand of gold ribbon tied in her hair; two men squeezed into a booth, stoned, pupils like cartoonish bowling balls; two college girls -- one from st. ben's, the other from nebraska, sharing french fries and catching up.

the man who is sharing my booth bench is a real leg shaker. jittery. a bobber. i'm bouncing by proxy, my words vibrating, i'm convinced this man could rock this trolley car off its foundation. send us rolling through these empty streets. i hate him.

i order a ham and cheese omellette and hash browns.

st. ben's is rattling off the accomplishments of the past semester. it is a litany of "hooking up," text messages, nights spent at st. john's and house parties. "oh! then what happened ... did i tell you about the guy from st. cloud?" she asks. her friend, who seemingly has a boyfriend back in lincoln, shakes her head. and another story.

i can't get enough. i want to scooch over and join their table.
"whatever," st. ben's says. "i'm sure that if you didn't have a boyfriend, you'd have this much fun, too."

"i feel like i'm watching 'the hills'" chuck says.
he's right. from him, this is not a compliment. to me, this is the ultimate form of entertainment.

leaving, the woman with ribbon in her hair cackles drunkenly as i walk past.
"what're you, ugly betty?" she slurs. "you might be actually cute if you weren't wearing that hat."
i laugh heartily.
meanwhile, our waitress doesn't seem to care that we've skipped out on half of our bill. when i return to fix the situation, she seems pretty ho hum about the whole almost-shoplifting that has just occured. she is laughing with another waitress, turns to me and blows a gusty wind of booze in my direction.

ah. i see.

***

we arrive at my parents house in rochester at about 4 a.m. chuck settles into the den on a pull out couch. i'm assigned couch space in the living room, far, far away from any sort of out-of-wedlock spooning and blanket sharing.

this isn't really that big of a deal. so what if i haven't not shared a blanket with chuck since like march. on the other hand, i actually remember when my parents were my age. this makes me feel old enough for the comfort of a version of a bad, rather than a stiff and decorative piece of furniture where my feet dangle freakishly over the arm.

i am an ogre.

***

we wake and open presents.





i find a new area of trivia strength: encyclopedia brown cases. if you, for instance, say "the case of the happy nephew," without even reading the story i can tell you that leroy "encyclopedia" brown solves the mystery when the man's nephew runs across the hood of the car, proving that the man did not just return from anywhere because if he were telling the truth THE HOOD WOULD HAVE BEEN TOO HOT!

give me another one.

my neice wins the christmas loot competition. i wish i'd thought to put some of her gifts on my list. she segues easily from educational reading to a robot dog to "i spy" books. she's more entertaining than a battlestar galactica marathon.

***

chuck and i are charged with grilling shrimp. we hunker over the grill in the laundry room, trying to turn these mini, veiny parenthetical urchins into something edible. making sure they are thoroughly cooked is very important to me.

we invent a reality tv show called: hey, who's watching the shrimp.

on this week's episode of "hey, who's watching the shrimp," the cast of allie mcbeal is in charge of grilling.

"i'm not watching the shrimp," calista flockhart complains. "it makes me feel fat."
"i just gained 3 pounds smelling the marinade," courtney thorne smith adds with her finger down her throat.



we eat crab legs, shrimp, potatos, salad, rolls. my family has taken to calling me "ugly betty." i find my high school letter jacket in the basement. there are gloves, a quarter and a granola bar in the pocket. the lining has been autographed by one of the more successful lourdes girls basketball state championship teams. the signatures are smudged.

i grab the coat for the road, suspecting there will be a reason to wear this at some point.



***

traffic is a bitch. at some point near cannon falls, minnesota, my speedometer indicates that i am traveling at a speed less than 0 mph. we continue to roll slowly from there, through st. paul and beyond forrest lake. finally near pine city i am able to drive the speed limit. almost.

this entire trip back takes approximately 6 hours, requiring bold chex mix, bottled water and gas station coffee.

***

we are barely into duluth city limits when we veer toward superior, where liquor stores know no holiday. we purchase captain morgan, coke zero, a leinie's lodge. a digiorno's pizza from the ghetto spur.

we play wii: mario and sonic at the olympic games until my wrist feels the exhaustion of a thousand homecoming queens in a thanksgiving parade. around 2 a.m. we begin a game of monopoly. we tie, agreeing that while he has more money, i will eventually win at 8 a.m. if we continue this game.

we close the night with back-to-back episodes of scooby doo where are you and the pizza.

8 comments:

Miss Kate said...

That pictures in front of Lourdes is perfect. LOVE.

Kristabella said...

First, some people don't love The Hills? I didn't know these people existed.

Second, sounds like an excellent holiday. Anything that ends with Scooby Doo has to be good. Even though, at age 30, I still get fooled every time by that show.

Those meddling kids!

Lollie said...

Love the laundry room shrimp on the barbie hijinks. And the best line in this post was definitely "until my wrist feels the exhaustion of a thousand homecoming queens in a thanksgiving parade."

Whiskeymarie said...

Finding food on a holiday is a feat in and of itself. We ended up spending $42 on a "champagne brunch" at the Radisson on xmas day because nothing else was open and we were hungry.
They were really busy and we drank cheap champagne out of the flat, old-school champagne glasses at 10:30 in the morning while we ate bad waffles and greasy omlettes.
But the rotating view was great. Downtown Duluth was almost totally deserted and it was gray and snowy.

amy a. said...

i should have hitched a ride with you. my minivan broke down in cannon falls on christmas day. i had a lot of cute guys ask me if i needed help though. in the end i was rescued by my family. my dad told me lourdes is moving and the old site is becoming a parking lot? what up?

christina said...

kate: some lourdes purist drove past during that photo shoot and actually played some sort of honking alarm thing. i like to imagine it was a guidance councilor.

wm: based on saturday night's trip to quinlan's, i think it is safe to assume that duluth was evacuated for the holiday.

amy: doh! we probably passed you, too. that sucks. and i've heard talk of the lourdes thing. but i didn't know it was going to be a PARKING LOT! what the WHAT?!

L Sass said...

The amazing trainwrecky part of The Hills for me is that I totally had those asinine conversations when I was ~22.

Sometimes I worry that, since I'm only 26 now, that I haven't improved that much.

christina said...

l sass -- been there, done that, too. in fact, the entire conversation the woman at mickey's was having sounded eerily similar to things i would tell friends years ago.

and this is why i wanted to pull her aside and say: listen. if he doesn't return your text messages and only hangs out with you at parties, he is not interested in being your boyfriend. so you can stop musing "so i have no idea what is going on now" because what is going on is exactly what is going on. no interest in texting, enjoys making out when drunk.

i'm not sure why this was so hard to figure out at age 22.