Act III, scene ii
Jen arrived at my house on Saturday morning at 10am. We pointed her car in a vaguely northern direction and pinned the throttle. For the next thirteen hours, hilarity ensued, such as kitten forgetting to pack a razor, and Jen not having her ATM card and not being able to find a bank. Jen made me listen to lots of David Bowie and I tortured myself by listening to Rocky Horror soundtracks.
We drove for thirteen hours and arrived in Brookhaven, PA, sometime around 2am. We stayed at her grandmothers house, even though her grandmother is in Atlanta. Her uncle was there, however.
So. The next morning we woke up at an obscene hour of daylight (11am) and did some touristy things. We ventured to the Franklin Mint.. I was astonished by the wide variety of stuff that people will actually pay large amounts of money for and collect for some reason. There were more thimbles and cameo plates and tiny tiny spoons than I can count. I think my grandmother must get all her weird knicknacks from places like this. There was also a Star Trek room complete with sound effects (which can be heard permeating throughout the entire building), but half the lights were broken and some of the starships' strings were tangled up such that the ships were askew at some crazy angles, though I suppose the case could be made that since they're meant to be flying through space, it doesn't matter which way they are oriented. There was also the Fabrege room. I stole several eggs worth over seventy thousand dollars a piece and hid them in my pants for black-market sale at an inflated price.
After this, we went to another museum, the name of which temporarily escapes me. This museum exhibits the work of one particular family of painters, whose name also escapes me at the moment. Apparently three of the five children of this family became very well-known and respected painters, and it is here that much of their work is exhibited. I was floored by some of these works - a few were strongly reminiscent of landscapes culled directly from a Gibson novel. There were also a number of politically-oriented pieces (some involving the Watergate affair), and one of these painters was commissioned to illustrate Treasure Island, so much of those paintings were also exhibited. I'd have to say one of the most fascinating ones depicted two men in a snowy forest shaking hands over a dead body. Not having read Treasure Island, there were many interesting speculations as to just what the hell those men were doing and what insidious deal they had just consummated.
After this, we went to go see Bryan. Well, that was the plan, anyway. First we got lost on the 202, and then I couldn't figure out what building to go to, nor which side of the lobby Bryan was in, nor how to operate the door, nor how to ring him from the lobby and demand some bloody help.
Eventually Bryan sauntered down from on high to find us, and discovered us standing on the opposite side of the lobby we should have been, trying to go into the next building over.
My initial impression of Bryan is that he is a beady-eyed, shifty, cold-blooded motherfucker.
Steve was there as well - I had not been aware that Steve was still in KoP - and when you meet Steve, the first word you think of is "goofball". He's just got that kind of look. And he has an unhealthy obsession with bowel movements.
We went back to Bryan's apartment which he calls "Pi Pad" because he thinks that's funny even though it isn't. I wish I'd had a digital camera to properly convey the empty desolation and vacancy of this place. Bryan has no furniture whatsoever. I went into the living room - quite a large room, actually - and it's utterly bare. The only notable features were the pallets of Coke and Mt Dew stacked in a tower on the far wall, and the "HELLO KITTEN" that Steve had etched into the carpet by some unknown means. But yes. No tables. No chairs. No posters or pictures or paintings on the wall. Nothing, do you hear me?
What he does have is carpet fuzz. Lots and lots of carpet fuzz. The carpet fuzz congeals into large clumps and I noticed it slowly amassing itself in the living room into a large mutant carpet-fuzz creature demanding to be called "Galroth, Supreme Overlord of Darkness On High."
We deliberated for a bit about where to go eat. Bryan and Steve were stupid and had just eaten, even though they knew we were coming over. Bryan and Steve are morons. But I was hungry, so I wanted food. I need not mention that Jen was hungry, as Jen is always hungry. The girl eats all the time and still weighs nothing.
Anyway, we finally decided on Dick Clark's American Bandstand Bar & Grill. Or, rather, the rest of us decided this, but Bryan seemed uncertain. He kept naming places to go after we had already established that we were going to AB.
Steve drove us there, and Steve drives like an ass. I have since revoked Steve's driving privileges.
Bryan maintains that the place is lame, and it is a bit odd, but I wouldn't say it sucked per se. It actually reminded me a bit of Jackrabbit Slim's - a reference which totally escaped everybody in the room. Jen has never seen Pulp Fiction in it's entirety, so I didn't expect her to catch it, but Bryan and Steve didn't either. Whatever. I had a beer and some chicken thingers. The chicken thingers have almonds in them for some reason. I wanted ranch dressing but I had neglected to convey this desire to the waitress and I wasn't about to inconvenience her by asking for some - that's strictly against my code of ethics - and I got yelled at by Steve and Bryan until I sort of relented, and Bryan flagged the waitress down and said something like "Can you bring this man some ranch dressing" because he didn't want to hear me whine about it.
I got my wrist stuck in a balloon.
After dinner Bryan insisted upon giving Jen and myself a "tour" of KoP. I say "tour" because there's absolutely nothing in this city. Well, there's a Pizza Hut. And that's it. In twenty minutes of driving around, the only location of any note was a Pizza Hut. I almost feel sorry for Bryan. Almost.
After this - during which Steve made stupid jokes about fecal matter and we collectively drove Bryan nuts with AYB foolishness - I made Bryan back up his promise to let me watch The Last Starfighter. I hadn't seen that movie since I was eleven, and it still rules. I think Jen thinks I'm insane for liking that movie, but whatever. That movie owns. I think Bryan fell asleep during the movie.
I locked Steve out of the apartment for a good ten minutes.
Let me explain something about this movie. Not the movie itself, but rather, the way Bryan watches it (or any other movie). You see, he doesn't actually have a TV. No, he plays DVDs on his computer. And he doesn't actually have, you know, chairs or anything. He was kind enough to drag his mattress in from his bedroom (the only feature in his bedroom is a futon with a mattress) and let us sit on that. Bryan needs someone to tell him that having furniture is a good thing.
Anyway, after the movie we sat about and made light conversation. This could have been any day in #mirrorshades. In fact, the only significant difference was not the fact that we were in meatspace, but that Jen was there. My comparison of myself to Randy Waterhouse was not that far off, but Jen insists she wasn't too scared.. just a bit unsure of how to react to a group of geeks sitting around and laughing their asses off at the fact that Bryan has a Playstation in his closet.
Steve says I have a very evil laugh.
Steve and Bryan took a lot of dumb pictures at sharp angles. I managed to look stupid in every one of them, although I am getting a lot of emails making very positive comments about Jen. I told you she was gorgeous.
Bryan's photography really sucks.
Bryan expressed his concern about moments when we sort of "went idle".. I must say that I did not notice this. My usual style of social interaction does not dictate that I must fill every moment with mindless chatter - though perhaps I should and I'm just too inept to care. In either event, I did not find anything unusual about the fact that the conversation would grind to a halt now and then. Tom once showed me a statistic wherein the average conversation has those pauses every two or three minutes. Tom and I have managed to go upwards of thirty-seven minutes without a significant break, but that's another story.
Shortly thereafter Jen and I took our leave. I think Steve threw something at us on our way out, but I can't imagine he would find anything to throw other than carpet fuzz.
Overall, I'd say that Bryan is pretty much what I expected he'd be. Except a bit taller. I've got several friends whom I have known forever but have since moved far away. I will often go years at a time without seeing them, but when I do, it's not strange at all. To me, this is what encountering Bryan was like - it wasn't at all like "meeting" him for the first time, not after I've spent five years yelling at him in various digital mediums.
The next day, Jen and I went to Connecticut. We had to go through New Jersey to get there.
Now, Jen - like everyone else I talk to about NJ - did not believe me when I described the horror and wanton roaming death that is New Jersey. Nobody ever believes me until they see it for themselves - most people say "Oh, but Wildwood is nice". Yes. Wildwood is nice. The rest of the entire fucking state is a bottomless pit of filth and garbage.
Jen was quickly converted to my point of view. Especially during the Jersey Turnpike.
Now, I've got to address all residents of New Jersey here: Why the hemmoraghing FUCK do you people tolerate these goddamn tolls? There are places in Jersey where you can stand at one tollbooth and see the next one from there. It's insane and I honestly don't understand where the state gets off charging ten dollars for the "privilege" of driving on that disgusting road. And since we are paying you'd think they could make the trip a pleasant one.. but of course they don't. Traffic is horrendous, the scenery is revolting, and the entire turnpike appears to have been paved with a backhoe.
The only reason those tolls are there is because New Jersey can get away with it, because you mindless sheep keep paying.
Don't you people understand that all it would take to make the tolls go away is to stop paying them? A popular uprising. A mass revolt. If enough people refused to pay, it would quickly become more trouble than it would be worth to prosecute - and that's assuming they can even catch everyone, which they couldn't. For chrissake people, stop paying the goddamn tolls and make your voices heard.
Anyway. Jen and I went to East Haven and spent the night in a little motel, and the next morning we gradually made our way back to Philadelphia by stopping along 95 at every town along the way. Connecticut is a beautiful little state, especially places like West Haven, with piers and beaches. I had forgotten just how much I like beaches. And seagulls. I miss those too. We spent a while putzing about the beach in West Haven and making stupid footprints and finding shells and stuff.
I didn't want to leave. But eventually we did, stopping here and there, and getting back to Brookhaven.
The next day, we ventured to Wildwood - the only nice part of NJ, and spent the day on the boardwalk. It was oppressively hot, and we bought bottles of water and walked a few miles along the boardwalk guzzling the water like it was going out of style. The boardwalk - which I have never been to - was a sight I think everyone should see at some point. A vast cross-section of demographics are on sight there, from old geezers to little kids. There's games and hundreds of little restaurant thingers selling everything from ice cream to funnel cakes to pizza and Chinese food.
When it got a bit cooler, Jen bought some pizza and a postcard, and we sat on a bench facing the ocean, eating pizza, watching people fly kites (kites are everywhere in this place) and Jen wrote on her postcard about the ubiquitous 1950s retro-kitsch motels in the area, which she adored, being of the "I Love Lucy" mindset that she is. I must say that even I was suckered in by some of these places - they have that 1950s chrome-and-brushed-concrete look about them with all sorts of neon that were the style of the era; very much the "looking to the future" type of architecture complete with the pointless chrome flanges that look like they're supposed to somehow collect and radiate enthusiasm for the Space Age.
By the time we made our way back, it was dark, so we bought some ice cream and made the quarter-mile walk along the sand to the beach itself, chilling out on one of the lifeguard stands. A helicopter kept making ultra low passes overhead, almost close enough to touch, and strafed us with highpower spotlights again and again.
Eventually we went back to the car, turned the AC to maximum, and went back to Brookhaven, paying another forty-seven million dollars and sixty-three cents in tolls. Some of the tollbooths require that you sign your soul over to them, or make you promise to sacrifice your first-born child to the state of New Jersey.
The next day, we pointed the car southbound and went back to Atlanta.
All in all, I had a blast. I had only a few objectives on this mission:
I didn't actually get to hit him with a stick - I think I used a rolled-up poster or something. But I did in fact strike him with something.
.Hit Bryan with a stick.
.Have a fun vacation with Jen.
.Have a fun vacation without driving Jen utterly and completely mad.
Those, then, are the facts. Any lessons I've learned from this experience will no doubt have to wait for another time.
I am back in Atlanta now - utterly destitute and broke, tired, hungry - and overall, pretty content.