We drove out to the Very Clever Grandparents’ House in the Woods a few weeks ago, in a valiant effort to cram in one last bit of summer before school started and we all went back to work. On the drive out, we were passed on the left by a nice-looking woman with long blonde hair who was simultaneously driving a Lexus and eating a banana. I decided that this, surely, was an omen, a sign from the Road Gods auguring a good trip, safe roads, and potassium.
The number one thing that Number One Son wanted to do at the House in the Woods was go to the Lost River Grill, about which I’ve already written. He has made up his mind that at the Lost River Grill, you can get the World’s Best Cheesepuck. (I’ve had to apologize to any number of waiters and waitresses about that; he got it from me, and I’ve been unable to dissuade him from the idea that most people say “Cheeseburger.”) He maintains that the Lost River’s Cheesepuck is better than Johnny Rockets, BGR, and McDonald’s combined.
Sometimes the only thing between a good time and a great time is a decent cheeseburger. Without much fuss or ado, the girls all went to the lake for a nice long swim, and the Father of the BUMD (FOBUMD) and I took Number One Son to the Grill – our dinner plans were marinating at the house, but lunch was up for grabs. Number One Son decided that, last time he’d been there, he’d ordered his Cheesepuck “medium” and that this time, he was really thinking of ordering it “large.”
After I finished choking on my beer, I had to break it to him that they were all the same size, and that the designation was in how he liked the meat cooked. He stuck with medium, and the Very Clever Grandpa and I stuck with beer.
Once back to the house, we saw deer, birds, and spiders, but we didn’t see any gnats. They saw me, though, and they told all their friends. “Look, the fat one’s coming out of the house again! Quick, tell Bob and all five thousand kids!” The gnats were such a topic of consternation and conversation that when FOBUMD, who follows baseball and lives in DC, mentioned that the Nats had won a game, the Reigning Queen of Pink turned around and said, “I guess they beat the Mosquitoes!” Sounds about right, actually.
The life and times of the insect population was, in fact, a major topic. Listening to the cicadas singing their hearts out in the screen porch; The Very Clever Grandmother wondered if they were talking to each other, and if so what they were saying.
So I told her, because I am The Cicada Whisperer. I can translate those chirps, no problem. They’re all saying, “Fuck me! Fuck me! Fuck me!” Trust me on this – Hey Hey is the number one topic in the insect world, with food running a close second, and not becoming food a distant third. It’s a lot like prime time television.
The ride back home recalled the returns from the summer’s earlier road trips, in particular driving back from the Jersey Shore. The local signs and scenes through rural West Virginia and Maryland made me wonder about the contrast between that drive and the hike through the rural wastes of New Jersey. Coming home from down the shore, we drove through miles of farmland and scrub pines, where the only signs for miles around were advertising Italian restaurants and Gentlemen’s Clubs. Now, the entire area for about 80 miles around looks to have a population of maybe 100 people, tops. Outside of the Eyetalian Kountry Kitchen (“Good Vittles!”), the “We’re Rockin It” Gentleman’s club, the “Sensations” Gentleman’s club, and the world’s oldest Texaco (they have a pump marked “Leaded” that I hope was just for show), there was the First National Bank of Elmer, and not a whole lot else. How many Italian restaurants and gents clubs can these places support? At some point, it becomes a statistical certainty that you’re going to see your sister, daughter, cousin, or wife dancing on one of those poles after serving you tonight’s lasagna special.
So what’s so different about the rural parts of WVa and Maryland? More hills? Fewer Italians? Is there a pole-dancing shortage out there? Are parts of the country just a little closer to the insect population, with the number one interests being Hey Hey and food?
As we arrived home, my ruminations on this road sign dichotomy came to an end, as did the summer – and in much the same fashion: “Oh my god, we’re here already? How did we get here so fast?” Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a Lexus go by as we pulled up, and I knew the banana had only been the start. It was a good trip, even if it did go by with the speed of summer.