The Sound of Laughter

When my mom and I go on a trip together, we never cease to enjoy ourselves. Or, rather, enjoy one another. We are the Shannon and Tracy Tweed of Iowa. That is not to say that we are both blonde Canadians who act and/or pose for Playboy. We are—by no means—blonde, Canadian, famous, or three years apart in age. We certainly do not look alike. To be exacter, we, as Shannon’s son Nick Simmons says, “bring out the dumb in each other.” It is true; my mother is the person I laugh with the most. Of course, if she says something “dumb,” I begin to laugh. She laughs at the fact that I am laughing, and we both erupt in joyful tears that we can’t seem to dry fast enough. We smother ourselves with amusement; literally choke from each other’s hilarity.

Monday was one of those days. We had driven into town for a bit of “shopping”. For us—people to whom the appearance of an extra ten dollar bill is viewed as the work of God—“shopping” consists of going into a variety of stores and doing a variety of things, which can include, but is not limited to: spraying perfume; massaging ten different scents on each arm; trying on clothes (but putting them back so the personnel don’t have to); strutting up and down aisles in teetering, “Weebles-Wobble-But-They-Don’t-Fall-Down” stilettos; modeling ugly purses; snapping thongs at each other; trying on sunglasses whose sparkles resemble that of a cross-breed between Elton John and Willy Wonka; trying on additional clothes; and attempting to illogically price-scan toasters. But never buying anything.

To us, shopping We are shopping; not buying. Shopping literally means “to look for merchandise to buy”. Well, we are looking. In our searching, however, we do not find anything we want to buy. We have no need for a toaster, for example, and mom can’t wear heels. I do not wish to own a tea-length dress that reshapes my B-cup breasts into concave dimples. Therefore, when mom and I “shop,” we look at inanimate objects and attempt to insult them.

For instance, about two years ago, mom and I were walking through what was most likely a JCPenny. We passed by a display of scarves, all in a variety of colors. Not being a fan of scarves myself, I flipped my hand through them as we passed. “Ah, look,” I sighed. “Fashionable asphyxiation.”

Mom thought this was hilarious, of course, as did the woman behind us. She burst into laughter and announced to us, “You know, I’ve never liked scarves, either. Too hot and too tight around the neck.”

We had similar comments while shopping on Monday. In Bath and Body Works, for instance, we tried several new “summer” scents, none of which seemed appealing. I reminded mom that I already had enough scents at home, and that I didn’t need Bittersweet Feet or Vanilla Elephant Trunk or whatever the heck the new titles are. Despite that fact, we both rubbed a bit of one on the backs of our hands. I smelled my hand and shrugged. It didn’t smell bad, but it didn’t smell good, either. A little more vanilla and a little less feet would have been an improvement. Mom, however, wrinkled her nose upon sniffing her wrist. “Pew!” she vigorously waved her hand in the air as if the miniature breeze she was creating would waft the smell off her skin. “I smell like a new couch!”

In the shoe store across the way, we spent nearly forty-five minutes trying on shoes that we chose not to buy. After arguing with an uncomfortable pair of kitten heels, mom eased her foot into a soft, “fur”-lined slipper. “Oooooooh,” she sighed, as if sinking into a hot bubble bath. “Ooooooh.”

“Yes?” I drew the word out curiously.

“This feels so nice. It’s like being on the inside of a cat.”

I did a double-take. “What?” I started laughing.

“Well, not the inside, I guess. The inside would be slimy. I don’t want to stick my foot in that.”

The most fun, however, occurred in Dillards. Disappointed by the lack of interesting objects in the shoe section, the accessory department, and the junior’s section, we strolled through the rest of the store. On our way out, we passed through the women’s plus-size section.

Unfortunately, as we all know, the fabrics that are often used in clothes for plus-size women are bold, inconceivable, and down-right ugly. There are many a fabric that I would consider appropriate for the couch of my now deceased grandmother. My mother—a plus-size woman herself—acknowledges this, and is very vocal about it.

“Look at this!” she exclaimed, pulling at a shapeless amoeba of blue fabric. “A potato sack!”

“A denim potato sack,” I corrected.

“Hey, look! This one even comes with a belt!” she flipped through the rack, pulling out another dress and showing me.

“Ah, yes,” I said. I cleared my throat and imitated what I thought the voice of an advertisement for Christopher & Banks would sound like. “Cinch this loosely woven twine around your waist to add shape to your denim potato sack!”

Mom placed the dress back on the rack, laughing. The saleswoman across the aisle glared at us.

“Oh, good Lord, what is this?” my mom pointed to another summer dress, a halter. The mostly white dress was laden with lime-green flowers and petals. “Ugh,” she proclaimed.

I assumed “the voice” again. “Yes, trick your friends into thinking you are a flower bed!”

As we worked our way down the remainder of the section, mom came across a most hideous shirt. At first glance, it looked as if a small child had projectile-vomited a perfect halo of applesauce and green food coloring onto the shirt. However, upon closer inspection, we realized that the shirt was actually a Christmas tee, and that the ring of baby sick was actually a wreath. It was different. It was abstract. It was ugly.

Mom spoke first. “Well....that’”


We both erupted in laughter again. Mom bent over, the shirt still in her hand. “I’m quick!” I told her. Mom continued to laugh, so I broke out into song. “Hello darkness my old friend...”

At the sound of my voice, we simultaneously picked up our air guitars and gently strummed, looking to the ceiling as if Garfunkel himself, god of imaginary folk guitars, would descend upon us in the department store. Mom couldn’t stop giggling.

“The sound....of laughter,” I sang.

However, our chuckling was nothing compared to what we found at the end of the section, the area where the makeup and perfume counters stand. The counter nearest me was diagonally in front of me, to the right. Even further to the right was an additional counter, one at which a man squatted and—to my understanding—examined the prices of perfume. I had been looking at a bejeweled tank on the table at which I stood, but I stopped mid-sentence when I spotted this middle-aged man.

He appeared to be in his forties or fifties. He might have weighed thirty pounds more than he did in high school. He had a nicely trimmed mustache to match his graying hair. He wasn’t a bad looking guy; normal. He donned jean shorts and a t-shirt. He squatted low, looking into the glass case. His shorts were riding low, and I would have seen his plumber’s butt if it hadn’t have been for the several inches of navy-blue and white striped woman’s thong he was wearing.

I drew mom’s attention to him, and her eyes widened. She snorted, and we quickly began to walk away as he stood up.

“Sssssh,” I said quietly, a finger to my lips. We pretended to be interested in a sales rack of ivory sweaters near the door. After the man wandered back into the mall, I waited a few more seconds before saying, “He’s gone.”

We lost it. We had been giggling and laughing and joking all day, yet our antics were nothing compared to a seemingly ordinary man donning a nautical-themed woman’s thong. Like Shannon and Tracy, we laughed until we cried. We stood in the aisle, next to the swimming suits, laughing so hard that the women in Customer Service peeked their heads out from their post. We hyperventilated, quieted, would burst into a second and third and fourth round of laughter.

“What do you think he was doing?” mom asked.

“Well, he didn’t buy anything,” I said. “He’s just like us. He was shopping.”

Asheville to Louisville

This will be the final installment of my Spring Break break-down.

The latter portion of the seventh day and the early part of the eighth day included a visit to some family friends of mine in Kentucky. It was wonderful to see them again, and I know they appreciated the time we took to visit them.

Though I will not be posting photos of our visit to Louisville, I will share with you a few of the photos I took along the way. We drove through Great Smoky Mountain National Park, in which carsickness plagued me. Soon after, my blood sugar dropped. This resulted in a nap in the car. I awoke in the middle of Pigeon Forge, wondering why the heck we were driving past a clutter of billboards and hideously carved animals and mindless backdrops and flashing signs advertising camel rides.

Oh, the disillusion of low blood sugars.

Our main detour, however, was to Cumberland Falls, in Kentucky.

Our navigation system: superior to the ever-evil GPS system.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

This picture is very much edited--it honestly was not as pretty as it is here.

a hollow tree at Cumberland Falls

the overlook to the upper falls

the staircase that led to the lower falls (no one was allowed there at the time)

Newberry to Asheville

The only thing that we had planned for Day Six was a visit to the Thomas Wolfe house in Asheville, North Carolina. However, on our way there, I spotted a sign for Connemara, the once-home of Carl Sandburg. Though not on the itinerary, we had time to stop at the homestead.

Located in Flat Rock, North Carolina, Connemara is very well kept by the National Park Service. The house is actually in pristine condition, and all of the objects in it are original--it as if the family simply left for a walk, and are to be expected back at any time. It was amazing (though, admittedly, still not my favorite). The existence of what is left of Mrs. Sandburg's goat farm was also fun. We spent quite a while in the field, petting goats and trying to photograph their eyes.

We succeeded in petting them, but failed in photographing them. We concluded that goats were stupid and moved on, as we would be late to the Thomas Wolfe house if we stayed any longer. (Indeed, we caught the very last tour when we arrived in Asheville.)

There was a quarter of a mile hike to the house. There are additional trails behind the property that lead into the mountains.

Carl Sandburg home

the parlor--Sandburg had over 17,000 books when they moved to Flat Rock

dining room

the room in which Sandburg wrote

This cat was "guarding" the goat barn. His name was Tiger. His tag said so.

goat barn at Connemara

Thomas Wolfe home (his mother used the 29-room labyrinth as a boarding house)

The only room in the Thomas Wolfe house that is not original is the dining room. It suffered severe damage during an arsonist attack.

one of the upstairs bedrooms

original bricks outside the home

the "Cat Walk" in downtown Asheville

In order to take this photo, I had to wait until the owner closed for the evening. I had a sick fascinating with the severed, plastic heads.

Savannah to Newberry

A. has recently suggested that I formally title our spring break adventure the "Southern Historic Authors Road Trip" or SHART. While that may be an appropriate suggestion for him, I would tend to disagree. I'm not sure I want associate my travels to Rowan Oak and Andalusia with accidental defecation.

Interesting concept, though, the acronym. Unfortunately, I am unable to think of any of my own at the moment, as it is 1:00 in the morning. The only one coming to my mind is DART, which could stand for "Dead Authors Road Trip." However, this acronym does not include "adventure," "epic," "journey," "south," or even "historic." I tried to work out a combination of words that spelled RADISH, but that didn't work out too well, either. I will have to think of an acronym. Of course, I'll have to have A.'s approval. I think some teammate may be involved here.

Anyway, this posting shares a bit about day five, which was supposed to be our "beach day". Unfortunately, the weather was--CLICHE--"not on our side". It was only 58 degrees outside...and it was raining. I actually waded into the Atlantic Ocean (for my feet had only previously touched the Pacific and Indian Oceans) in my winter coat and pants. Very cold, it was. All the same, I enjoyed the experience at Folly Beach (located in South Carolina). It would be a quaint place to revisit someday. In fact, while there, A. suggested that we make a road trip someday and dedicate it to visiting famous beaches up and down the Atlantic Coast.

What do you say, dear? Beaches first? Or Route 66? How about Highway 1 on the Pacific Coast? Or the entirety of Interstate 80? (Which would be difficult, considering we live in the middle of the country.) Or, there is Old US-80, which goes from Savannah to San Diego. Or San Diego to Savannah, depending on where you start. Then again, do we really want to visit Savannah again anytime soon? Or, here's an idea...follow the Oregon or Mormon Trails. Heck, the Mormon Trail is three miles south of my house...

Folly Beach, South Carolina

Folly Beach had the fattest pigeons either of us had ever seen.

side view of the pier

faucet on the pier

A friend commented that these looked like dinosaur tracks.

discarded crab legs on the pathway to the Morris Island Lighthouse

It was raining gently by the time we reached the lighthouse.

the couple in this photo asked us to take a picture of them

Some things just make me smile, and phallic-shaped leaves happens to be one of them.

Also, I forgot to mention our hats and "neck gear." I will not be posting a picture of said bodily decorations, for fear of further embarrassment. Anyway, I will tell you this: my mother mailed both A. and I packages for St. Patrick's Day. Each package consisted of a felt top hat--striped and/or sparkly--and respective "neck gear". I had a necklace, for instance, while A. had a sparkly, over-sized, green bow tie.

Yes, we wore them to the beach. Funnily enough, we also dressed alike that day, both donning brown pants and green shirts. We were amusing-looking goofs, a decades-younger version of an older couple who walks at dawn in matching track suits.

Milledgeville to Savannah

NOTE: For some reason, I am unable to add any additional photos to this post. I had a few other pictures of Andalusia, but am unable to upload them. As such, the only photo I will share of the house is the first photo below, because I have lost my patience with Blogger.

Day Four was very busy as well. The day started off with a lovely visit to Andalusia, a place at which both A. and I could have spent more time at (in addition to the two-and-half hours we spent there). After Andalusia, we went to Savannah, which was packed full of St. Patrick's Day events...and St. Patrick's Day tourists. We had great difficultly finding a place to park the car, but had an enjoyable enough time wandering about the historical district. At the time, we unknowingly strolled through Chippewa Square, the square in which the "bench scenes" of
Forrest Gump were filmed.

We had some difficulty finding a place to stay for the night, and were forced to drive a bit out of the city. When we went back into the city for a haunted pub crawl that evening (which was overrated and overpriced, in my opinion), we again had to pay for our parking.

To make matters worse, I argued with the GPS in locating our hotel and directed us to the
wrong Ramada Inn. When we finally reached our actual hotel and settled in for the night, we were exhausted and frustrated with the city of Savannah. Granted, it was beautiful, but it was a bit too crazy for the time that we visited.

a view of Andalusia from the pond

The childhood home of Flannery O'Connor, located in Savannah. Though we were not able to go inside for a tour, we did take pictures of the building itself.

Savannah has a thing for red doors. Also, I will add that the reflection of the steeple in the window? That is the cathedral at which Flannery O'Connor attended mass. It is also seen below.

I told you: red doors.

the cathedral at which Flannery O'Connor attended mass

fish drainpipe

Chippewa Square

a light fixture in the second bar we frequented during the haunted pub crawl

The bathroom in Sweet Melissa's, a small establishment that serves food until 4:00 in the morning.
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