The McTrip from Hell

The following is another excerpt from my yet unpublished memoir, “Muckville: Farm Policy, Media and the Strange Oddities of Semi-Rural Life.”

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The McTrip from Hell

In late February of 2010 I had a 3 day trip down to Washington, D.C. and Capitol Hill. Because of an approaching blizzard I canceled my meetings for the final day and I switched from a 4 p.m. train to the 9 a.m. Acela, so as to maybe beat the snow and get home ahead of the blizzard. So far so good. About halfway home, just outside of Philadelphia we came to an abrupt stop. Yes, we stopped. This was a first for me, after taking the Amtrak train back and forth over the last three years or so.

After 10 minutes we started moving … backwards. The conductor then announced that someone was hit, a “trespasser” was the term she used, on the tracks. Not by us but by a southbound train. So we had to go back to a junction and switch tracks. And then eventually we would go forward again. But first we sat a half hour or so … and it started to snow heavily … tick tock, tick tock.

The conductors on our train were not exactly forthcoming with information so I called Eve on my cell and asked her to find out what the hell was going on. Eve called Amtrak and found out not one but two dummies were hit by the southbound train. Two young girls, 10th  graders or so, who decided to skip out of school and walk on the train tracks to get to wherever they were skipping to. He said to Eve “we can’t travel anywhere near the speed we’d like to because of stuff like this that happens.”

Hmm … one wonders how often “stuff like this” does happen? He told Eve there are now five  or six trains, not sure if he meant all were northbounds, were sitting and waiting until the tracks are cleared by law enforcement. Because now it was a crime scene, thanks to the two young “Darwin Award” winners, though I wasn’t sure at that point if they had died or not. I know that sounds cruel, but why would anyone walk on train tracks for a very active, commuter train line?

After close to an hour we were finally on the move forward. We were on restricted speed for 3 miles then we finally made it to the Philadelphia station. I asked Eve if the two girls had died and she said “what do you think?”

Finally, a couple of hours late, I made it to Penn Station in NYC. I then hopped on a connecting train to the new facility at Secaucus Junction. But, thanks to the delays, I missed all of the early Metro North trains from Secaucus Junction to my stop in Harriman, New York. So I called my parents and told them I would be getting there late, probably close to 6:00pm. My parents agreed earlier to pick me up, because Eve had to stay home and watch the boys. My dad said to me when I called him to tell him when I thought I would get to Harriman, “it’s a blizzard, you know.” I replied, “I know, take my Eddie Bauer Ford Explorer, it’s got 4 wheel drive.”

When my train finally arrived in Harriman it was a full blown blizzard. The roads were heavily covered with snow. I had gotten on a 9:00 a.m. train and now it was 5:30 p.m. and snowing like crazy.

In normal conditions, at least a 30 minute drive from home. But, this wasn’t normal driving conditions. I’m not talking about the snow, I’m talking about my ride with my parents.

My parents were all set on eating at Wendy’s on the way home.  White out conditions, a foot and a half of snow with more falling but we must stop. Well, when we pulled into the Wendy’s in Chester, it was closed. My mom said “how strange.” I replied, “what are you, Nanook of the North? It’s insane to expect them to be open.” My mom said in reply, “I suppose.” But then she stretches her neck and exclaims,  “Hey McDonald’s down the road looks open.” And off to McDonald’s we went.

Did I mention it was a blizzard?

Yes, we must stop and eat at the McDonald’s in Chester. We are the only lunatics there and they are closing once we leave. As we stop at the napkin and condiment island my dad says, in his best conspiratorial voice, “you know these cups for ketchup are smaller here than at Wendy’s” “I did not know that” I replied We sit and eat as quickly as possible, though my dad isn’t eating quick enough for my mom’s liking. “Look at him” she snarls, “eating one French fry at a time. HURRY UP!” she demands. I thought she was going to throw one of her French fries at him. Then she said to me “wait till he starts picking his teeth with his straw.” My dad got the hint from mom and quickened the pace and soon we were crawling on the back roads to home. If I died on the way home at least I would have had one last dining McExperience.

This entire fiasco was chronicled, live, on Facebook. As I posted after we left McDonald’s:

“UPDATE: we are sitting stuck on the Florida-Chester road. I’m stuck with two lunatics. We have no idea why traffic isn’t moving but at least we ate our f*#+ing Happy Meal at McDonalds. You cannot make this sh#t up.”

I then looked at the dash and I saw we had less than a quarter tank of gas. The possibility now loomed we could run out of gas on the way home. I posted on Facebook: “I will be impaling myself with my straw if we don’t start moving soon.”

After about 20 minutes we were finally on the move. But the bad news, my parents started fighting. Or, my mom was fighting and my dad was taking a verbal walloping. I wish I could share it all but it was far too much material for me to chronicle. I literally couldn’t keep up. And it must have been 150 degrees in the truck. I wanted to bail out or be put out of my misery.

Once we were about two to three miles from home I texted Eve to have the bourbon ready.

At about 9:00 p.m. I finally arrived home, 12 hours after I had left Washington, DC. Truly a trip from Hell.

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A Wedding Anniversary to Remember!

The following is an excerpt from my yet unpublished memoir, “Muckville: Farm Policy, Media and the Strange Oddities of Semi-Rural Life.” September 23rd is Eve and I’s 23rd wedding anniversary and this little vignette is about one of our favorite past anniversaries … enjoy!

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Happy Anniversary 2007

Eve and I were married in September of 1990. Being married in September meant that if we ever moved back to the farm our anniversary would always come in the midst of one of the busiest and most hectic times of the year for me. So, no “get-aways” or mini vacations for our anniversary, it would always be limited to a dinner out together, after work. In 2007 we went out to a local restaurant, Limoncello at Orange Inn in Goshen for a romantic dinner. My parents, who live next door, would usually watch Caleb and Jonah and they said they would again. It was a wonderful dinner and since it was our anniversary they gave us each a shot of limoncello liquor, which came after a few glasses of wine during dinner. At this point Eve and I are feeling good, Eve really good (since I was driving), if you know what I mean. So she’s feeling all romantic and fancy and would like this special moment to continue a little longer, if you know what I mean.

On the way home she called my parents on her cell phone to see if they wouldn’t mind watching our sons for a little longer. My dad answers the phone and Eve tells him we are on our way home and she gently asks if they wouldn’t mind watching the boys a little longer. Guess what … HE DOESN’T KNOW WHAT SHE MEANT! He says, “I don’t think so, Gracie doesn’t feel that well and we’re tired, so you better pick up the boys.” Click. Eve growls, a soft growl She isn’t happy. And then a chain of expletives uttered forth from her mouth. It was potentially a wonderful moment temporarily dashed. So, we picked up the boys and later that night we picked up where my parents left us off, if you know what I mean.

The next morning we’re grading onions and my mom and dad are picking rots and I’m operating the barn forklift, like I usually do.  At the grading table are a couple of our Mexican farmworkers, a husband and wife who have a moderate grasp of English. Well, my parents wave me over to the grading table (which I really hate, because I jump off that forklift enough during the day as it is) and my dad starts to gripe at me. He says: “Uh, that was a bit much there, don’t you think? We watch your boys for the dinner and you want us to watch them longer (by the way, we called them at 7pm, not midnight). That’s a bit much.”

I’m stewing but I just nod and walk away. About a half hour later they call me back and my dad gets into it again. He says: “you know, your mother and I were just talking and we can’t believe you asked us to watch them longer. We were tired and your mother didn’t feel well. That’s a bit much, won’t you agree.” At this point the farmworkers are starting to snicker. But I said nothing and went back to the forklift.

They then called me over for a third time and once again my dad starts saying “that’s a bit much you know” and adds “and you mother wants to tell you too.” At which point I exploded “WE WANTED TO HAVE SEX! SEX! WE WANTED TO HAVE SEX ON OUR ANNIVERSARY WITH NO BOYS IN THE HOUSE. SORRY FOR THE REQUEST!”

Lydia and Geraldo the Mexican farmworkers who understood fully what was going on, including what Eve and I wanted to do the previous night, at this point burst out laughing. They clearly figured out what we wanted…. if you know what I mean. Then my mom and dad started to laugh and my dad sheepishly said: “Oh, okay.” He finally knew what we meant!

WHAT THE HELL IS THAT SMELL?

So, Joey and I are out on a field of onions down Indiana Road going thru the fields doing some cultivating on our AC-G’s with a Buddingh Basket Weeder (http://www.buddinghweeder.com) and I called my dad to pick us up at noon or so.

I see him come down Indiana and stop at the bridge in front of the field. I park the tractor about 25 feet away and I am hit with an overpowering smell of skunk!

Me: “What the hell happened?”
Dad: “I caught a skunk, a baby skunk in a trap by the house … I let it out, put some cardboard over it … it didn’t spray me.”
Me: “You stink … I can smell you 30 feet away … it had to have had sprayed you.”
Dad: “It didn’t … I don’t know.”

At this point Joey pulls up with his tractor. I yell to him that my dad stinks. He yells back “No kidding, I can smell him from here … what the hell did you do?”

He repeats what he told me. Joey takes his shirt and covers it over his face. I have my head sticking out the window. Joey climbs into the back of the jeep from my side and cries for dad to open his window. he can’t … it’s broken.

Me: “Oh my God … this is terrible.”
Dad: “Ahh .. you eventually get used to it.”
Joey: “No you don’t. This is awful.”
Dad: “Maybe it sprayed on the ground and I sort of stepped in it. It could be on my shoes. I don’t know.”
Joey: “Gracie is going to love you. You better stay out of the house. And change your clothes.”
Me: “Pour gas on your shoes.”
Joey: “No, pour diesel fuel. That will take it out.”
Me: “I can’t breathe. I’m going to gag. This is horrible. Don’t touch anything in this truck.”
Dad: “You get used to it.”

As we drove past the Quaker Creek Store (http://www.quakercreekstore.com) my dad says with a smile “hey, you can smell the lunch special at Quaker Creek.” I replied with “Are you crazy? I just smell skunk.”

After I got home I called my mom and asked her if she could smell him.

Mom: “Yes! Are you nuts. He left his clothes outside.”
Me: “What was it on?”
Mom: (laughing) “He thinks now his pants were sprayed.

Just another day on the farm.

Get her some damn bread ….

Within a 1 hour time span my mom left 3 messages on the barn answering machine and talked to my dad live …. telling him there is no bread in the house and he needs to get some pdq!

Dad (on phone with mom): “You mean there isn’t even 2 slices for a sandwich at lunch?”

Mom: “NO! Get some bread!”

I think he has since gotten her some bread!