Three Things: Sketches From the Field

I.  I was putting samples away when I heard the bark. I turned around to see a large dog resembling a pit bull.  He was barking furiously at me. I froze.  I had been told stray dogs were around this property, but I hadn’t seen one until now.  The neighbors adjacent to the property kept their dogs chained up. The dogs barked all day, with sad, frantic barks that made my coworker and I think they were abused.  As the dog growled menacingly at me, I wondered if he was from the property next door and had somehow escaped.

When I was in high school, my dad and I were completing one of our early morning runs when a pack of dogs started running after us.  My dad had dropped his voice to a growl and said forcefully, “GET OUT OF HERE.”  The dogs scattered.  “You can’t show fear,” he had said afterward.  “They sense it.”

As the dog barked at me, I thought about that encounter and considered my options – would I have enough time to jump in the truck if he decided to charge at me?  Channeling my dad with all my might, I straightened my shoulders, dropped my voice, and shouted, “GET OUT OF HERE.”

The dog continued barking, so a whole lot of good that did.

I tried again, but even I could sense the weakness in my voice.  Finally, mustering my strength, I lowered my voice to a low register and bellowed, “GET OUT OF HERE.”

The dog stopped barking and looked at me.  Then it retreated with its tail between its legs.

Not gonna lie – that kind of made me feel like a badass.

II.  I went inside the gas station to purchase ice.  It was shady-looking on the outside, with bars hanging ominously on the windows.  Inside, the red decorations did nothing to brighten up the place.  Greasy food sat unappealingly on the counter, waiting to make the person to eat it miserable. “Oh God, don’t ever eat there,” my coworker had warned me. “No, no, no, no, no.”

As I purchased the ice, the cashier looked at me, and pointed at my sweatshirt, which bore the name of my alma mater.  “Is it okay that you’re missing school today?” she asked with apparent concern.

I couldn’t help smiling.  I told her that I’m no longer in school, adding, “I’m 27.”  “Oh my gosh,” she said, surprised.  “You look so young!”

When I’m out in the field, I don’t wear any makeup, so I do look much younger.  The older I get, the more I crave this mistaken youth.  I will be 28 in the summer; I know this isn’t old. I know this.  But I look at my face and see trace signs of laugh lines and crinkles around my eyes, despite the anti-aging creams I use. If I purchase alcohol, getting carded is no longer a guarantee.  Stubborn strands of white are starting to appear amongst my dark hair. I was at my alma mater a couple of weeks ago and when I visited the library, I couldn’t get over just how young everyone looked. Then I realized that these students had been in elementary school when I had started college ten years ago.

So if someone thinks I’m still in college?  I’ll take it.

III.  If you get along with the person you’re working with, you’ll talk. A lot.  You really get to know your coworker during these trips.  Only once did I have a terrible working experience, where silences punctuated our bickering. But most of the time, I really enjoy the time I spend with a coworker out in the field.  You will hear travel stories, confessionals, salacious bits of gossip about coworkers.

Eventually, the job will tire you and conversation lulls.  This is the perfect time for self-reflection, especially since you usually are out in the middle of an empty field. I can’t say that it’s always the most scenic-looking field.  But there might be a cow or horse keeping you company, and you find yourself staring at the empty expanse of land in front of you.  The sun might be sitting prettily in the sky, and you realize you are grateful to be out here, in the middle of nowhere, reviewing what you’ve done with your life to get yourself here, right now, in the middle of this field.

The field, if you haven’t guessed, is the perfect setting to think deep thoughts – when you aren’t working, of course.

As I sat on my bucket, waiting to take my samples, I allowed myself to be lost in my thoughts.  Like many people, I wear multiple hats and I try my best to balance the multiple roles I juggle in life.  I strive to be a good daughter, an awesome sister, a loving girlfriend, a loyal friend, a hardworking employee, a dedicated runner, an interesting writer, a competent musician.  No matter how hard I try, I can’t occupy these roles with perfection all at once.  I struggle to find harmony between my roles to make everyone happy, and I cannot.  It bothers me when I can’t.

But it all goes back to Radiohead – “If you can try the best you can, the best you can is good enough.”

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I Am Unimpressed With Gambling

Last week, my coworker and I decided to celebrate the end of a field job by going to a casino in Lake Charles.  I’ve never pegged myself as a gambling type, but it seemed like a fun experience.  Plus, I’m not gonna lie, y’all – I get ridiculously excited every time I get to cross a state border.  If you could still be in the same state after driving for 8 hours, you’d get excited about crossing state borders too.

We crossed the Sabine River and entered Louisiana; I kept my squee to myself.  It was dark, so I couldn’t see too much scenery except the shadows of the trees.  We reached Lake Charles in no time and went inside one of the casinos.  “So…this is it,” my coworker said, then hurriedly continued, “It’s not Vegas or anything.”

That was obvious. Granted, we were going on a weekday night, which could explain the relative dearth of people in the lobbies.  When we walked into a buffet, it was clear the demographic was an average 30 years older than we were.

We walked around the casino for a bit. I saw an alarming number of Gambling Addicts Anonymous signs with a toll-free number you can use to call for help. I felt like these signs were the equivalent to talking to an alcoholic about going AA over a round of drinks, or putting “HEY MAYBE YOU SHOULDN’T SMOKE BECAUSE IT’S BAD FOR YOU” warnings on cigarette cartons, but okay.

There were some Mardi Gras outfits on display.  My coworker recommended that I pose in one, resulting in one of the most awkward poses you will see me do:

After eating our meal, we walked into one of rooms.  My coworker loves card games and immediately went to the Blackjack table.  I watched her for awhile.  She’s very good at it and won $30.  “Jen, I need to quit while I’m ahead,” she said after happily collecting her chips.  “Want to try?”

I’d told myself I was only going to spend a maximum of $20, so I put that on the table. After losing $15, I got up and decided to try the slot machines.  The slot machines were alright. I liked them more than the card games, and I won a couple of dollars.  But eventually, I started winning less money.  I couldn’t stop myself from thinking, “This is pretty stupid,” after awhile. All I was doing was pulling a lever.

Maybe gambling would be more fun in a better atmosphere, like I’m assuming one that Vegas has.  This particular casino had a very seedy look to it, and its clientele seemed despondent.  I felt like my relatively youthful innocence was out of place around the jaded vibe.  I couldn’t help feeling sad as I looked the depressed faces of people who looked like they had given up.

Despite my quibbles, I still enjoyed the experience. I didn’t spend more than my $20, I won like $6, and can say I spent the evening in another state. It’s just not something I see myself really enjoying much in the future…though I would like to see Vegas.

Misadventures in the Field – Stuck Trucks and Dubious Characters

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a misadventure, so here is one I have been promising  you all for a couple of weeks.

It was the last day of a field job. Besides the rain suspiciously appearing only when we were sampling, it had been a decent day – we were getting a lot of work done and were ahead of schedule.  “Yay,” I thought happily.  “We should be out of here at noon and back in town by three or four. I can make my running group tonight.  We’re doing so well today! YAY HAPPY THOUGHTS YAY.”

And that was my downfall.  It is the Law of Field Work – as soon as you think you’re ahead of schedule or nearly finished with the work, something dire will happen.

The rain became torrential.  We struggled to finish our samples and ran into the truck.  I was soaked and shivering.  Since we were stuck in the middle of a field, we wanted to get out if it as quickly as possible before it became too muddy.  I drove us away from our spot, unknowingly turning into a muddy area.  “Jen, watch out!” my coworker said. I braked.  “No, don’t stop!” she said frantically. I tried turning the wheel to change direction.  “No, don’t turn the wheel!” she cried.  “Just go!”

I put my foot on the accelerator, but it was no use.  We were stuck.

My coworker, who has more experience of being stuck in mud, got behind the wheel and tried everything she could.  We put cardboard and plastic underneath the tires.  I removed mud from the treads to gain more traction.  We even tried pushing the car.

We were hopelessly stuck.

Resigned, I called a wrecking service.  Since we were in a small town, the wrecker wasn’t sure he’d have the capability to haul us out.  So I called a wrecker about 30 minutes away.  He promised us he’d be out in an hour.

The rain had stopped by now, and the sun leaped over the clouds; the universe clearly was taunting us.  My coworker, who initially had been silently frustrated with me, began cheering up.  She told me she’d seen and done a lot worse in the field, and started telling me horror stories of times she’d gotten her truck stuck in mud.  I feel like getting your truck stuck in mud is clearly a rite of passage for work in the field.

I bet you all thought that this entry would end with, “And then the wrecker came to tow us out, and we all lived happily ever after,” but no.  Getting the truck stuck in the mud is only the beginning of this story.

While we were waiting for the tow truck to arrive, we tried to get as much work done as we could without having a truck.  Carrying some of our sampling equipment, we walked out of the site to sample at an adjacent one.  As we locked the gate, we noticed two men sitting in a truck, staring at us.

The men flagged us down and asked questions about our work.  My coworker answered them politely, and we continued on our way. After our work was completed, we walked back towards the gate.  “Hey,” one of the creepy men said to me. “I like your hat. Where did you get it?” (In the field, I wear this sun hat that my coworker teasingly refers to as a “granny hat.”  Clearly, these men have very low standards.) “Uh…Walmart,” I said, quickening my pace.  One of the other men asked my coworker more questions about our work and then started hitting on her.  Creeped out, we went back into the property and closed the gate behind us.

While we were dealing with America’s Most Wanted, we had been struggling to get a tow truck on the property.  The place I’d called kept pushing back their arrival time.  Frustrated and hungry, I canceled the work and called a local place, who promised they’d arrive in 20 minutes.  After a snafu with the directions (we were in the middle of nowhere, after all), the local wrecker came to the property.  I’ll call him Al.

As soon as Al came on the property, one of the creepy men who had been hitting on my coworker started walking over to us.  My coworker and I shot either other worried glances.  “That guy owes me money,” Al said, narrowing his eyes.  “He’s been hassling us,” my coworker said in a hushed voice.  “Can you stick around and make sure he leaves us alone?”  “That is not a problem,” Al said.

“Hey man,” Creepy Dude said, approaching us.  “I got a truck. I’ll haul these girls out.”  “Naw man, that’s cool,” Al said dismissively. “I got it.  You just get on back home.”  “Nah man, really,” Creepy Dude persisted, “I got a truck. I can get them out.  Just let me help you.”  “Man, no,” Al said.  “These girls called me.  I got it. Just get on home.”  This exchange went on for another minute or two until Creepy Dude said sullenly, “Can I talk to you in private?”   My coworker and I hung back, afraid we were about to witness a showdown.  “Either he’s mentally ill, or he’s on something,” I whispered, watching his mannerisms.

Al finally managed to get rid of Creepy Dude.  “He’s trying to help y’all out so his debt to me is cleared,” he said.  “I don’t work that way.” We thanked Al for helping us out.  “Not a problem,” he said.  “This man is not good people.  He is a crackhead and a drunk.”  Oh, okay then.

Al told us that his wrecker was too big to haul us out and might get stuck.  “We’d need a tractor to haul me out then, and we don’t want that to happen,” he said.  He mentioned a friend of his having a truck that could get us out, but said that invoicing would be a bit of an issue.  “Ricardo doesn’t do government paperwork, if you know what I mean,” he said.

My coworker and I shot each other another nervous glance.

Just then, a huge wrecker from the first towing company I’d called showed up.  Even though I had canceled their service, they showed up anyway.  We gave them the go-ahead and they drove their wrecker cautiously on the property.

Creepy Dude, who clearly missed any subtle social cues, followed us on the property with his truck.  “I could have gotten y’all out of there for free,” he told us from his truck.  I turned away, wanting him to leave.  He finally did.

Five hours later, our truck was freed from the mud, not after some good-natured ribbing from the boys hauling us out (“How did you girls find the only muddy spot in the field to get stuck in?”)  Filled with relief, we waved goodbye to them and continued with our work.  It ended up being a long day, but as we drove home, we couldn’t help laughing at our adventures.

I don’t know how it happened, but word somehow spread around the car rental place of our misadventures.  As I rented a truck this weekend for another field job, the employee said, “Hey, were you part of the crew that got a truck stuck in mud?”

Sigh.

On a slightly unrelated note, I’d had this song stuck in my head the entire field job.  I had heard it the first time I had been to this site a year ago, so I always associate this song with working on that site (mental flavor).  On my way home, I heard it on the radio!

A nice little bit of serendipity for my troubles.

Marathon Day

When I was not quite 11, I competed in track and field for a summer.  My specialty was the 1600 meter (2 mile) race.  My most triumphant race was the semi-regional qualifiers; there were three other girls in that race, and I beat them all.  The second place winner was at least a lap behind me.  But the memory that sticks out to this day is my running to the finish line.  As I kicked it in, I remember spectators suddenly rising to their feet and cheering me on.  Even as a child, I was struck by how awesome it was to have total strangers cheer for me. I felt like an Olympic runner.

That run was over sixteen years ago, and I still remember that wonderful feeling.  But if you ever want to feel what it’s like to have strangers cheering you on as you run, enter any half marathon or marathon race. You’d be amazed at the volunteers sacrificing half their day to cheer and motivate you. It would be tough to run the race without them.

Yesterday was my very first marathon.  I had wanted to run a marathon since I was 11, but then never did.  Entering this marathon was a very big deal for me.  Without going into details in a public blog, it’s safe to say that for a long time, I set limits on myself.  I didn’t think I had it in me to run a marathon, among other things.  But the past couple of years have really been full of self-discovery, and I realized that I could run one if I set my mind to it.

So how did it go?  It was tough.  It was difficult.  But it was extraordinary.

My morning started early.  I checked out of my hotel at 4:30 and drove to Tap’s, who was running the half-marathon. We picked up a friend of his and drove down to the stadium to take a shuttle to the race site.  It was a little hairy getting down there, since there was so much traffic. The last shuttle stopped at 6, and we got on one at 5:57.

Once we were at the site, we made our way through crowds of people.  At 7, I said goodbye to my friends and lined up in my corral.  I listened to music on my ipod to motivate myself. I was nervous – I mean, I knew I could physically run it.  But I had no idea of what would lie ahead, or what finishing a marathon would feel like.

Right before the race started, the loudspeakers started playing “Eye of the Tiger,” which I thought was hilarious and awesome.

At 7:30, the elites started running, and then corrals were let through after every minute or so.  My corral was 19.  When we crossed the finish line, I had a huge grin on my face. There was no turning back now.

On long runs, it always takes me awhile to warm up.  I purposely took the first couple of miles slowly, because I have a bad habit of starting fast and losing steam at the end.  My left quad was giving me a little pain, which made me wonder if my walking tour of NYC or jumping up and down for three hours at Philly’s Well Fargo Center was a bad idea.  But I also knew that a lot of marathon running is mental – if I told myself that my legs were still tired from these activities, then that’s how I was going to feel.

I took a Gu packet for nutrition, took it easy, and did not let myself think I was tired.  It worked, because by mile 7 or 8, I was cruising. I felt really strong.  At mile 11, the course split into two – half-marathoners went to the left, marathoners went to the right.  I felt a little emotional at that part.  It really hit me – I was running a marathon.

Shortly after the split, I ran into two of my friends from my training group.  I was really happy to see them. I ran with them a little bit but decided to keep going at my pace.  When I ran the half with my dad in February, I knew that I was going to stick with him the whole race, so I wasn’t concerned about my time.  But when you run by yourself, you have to run your own race.  My goal was to break the 5 hour mark.  I was expecting 4:45, but I really wanted 4:20 – 4:30.  I said goodbye to my friends and continued running.  I hit the half mark around 2:10, which was putting me on track for a 4:20 finish.  I felt really happy with my progress, but knew better than to get too excited – a lot could happen in the second half, including hitting the dreaded wall.

I was still feeling great at mile 15, but around mile 16 or 17, things started changing.  I was running slower.  It was also getting hot and humid outside.  The day before, a lot of people had been freaking out about the weather.  “What’s the big deal?” I had said.  “We trained in the hottest summer on record. I’d rather run in the heat than cold.”  I was severely regretting this stance now.

A lot of people were walking.  Previously, I had not stopped at all, even at water stops – I would just sip my water while jogging.  Now, I stopped at the water stops to walk and sip my drink. I would continue running again, and every once in awhile, I would stop for a quick 15-30 second walk break.  I didn’t walk any longer than that because I did not want to walk this marathon – I wanted to run it.  I passed up one of my group’s coaches, who was doing the same thing. I figured that if I was passing up an experienced marathoner who was taking walk breaks, then it was perfectly acceptable for me to take brief ones too.

The last ten miles were tough.  I went in and out of feeling decent and feeling crappy.  My legs were threatening to cramp.  Lots of people were walking, which is not exactly the most encouraging thing to be seeing.  Some were even off on the side of the road, overcome with the heat.  I had saved the Foo Fighters for when times got tough, and that’s all I listened to for the last ten miles.

By mile 20, I told myself, “You only have an hour left! Keep going!” By mile 22, I was hurting.  My running had turned into a survival shuffle.  The last six miles are really a blur when I try to think about them.  My dad had always told me that after mile 21 or 22, it feels like the mile markers are doubled in length.  That is so true.  I went back and forth between thinking, “WHERE IS THE MILE MARKER?” and “WHERE IS THE GODDAMN WATER STOP?”

Around mile 23, someone was handing out water bottles.  I thanked him then and I thank him now – that water saved me.  Thank you, whoever you are, for handing those out.

At mile 24, I was too exhausted to feel happy that I had 2 more miles.  2 miles is 2 miles. The 25 mile marker was missing altogether.  You cannot imagine how severely depressing this was. I kept looking at my watch and thinking, Oh my God, am I running that slowly?  If mile 24 is this long, do I even want to finish to 26?

As I was shuffling along, I saw the stadium that marked the finish line.  This was my first clue that maybe I was on mile 25 after all. Then I heard someone yelling, “JEN!!!” I turned around and saw three people from one of my running groups. I waved to them excitedly then asked, “Where is the finish line?” “Right around the corner!” they yelled.  This filled me with the motivation I needed. I waved to them and kept running.

I was about a half mile from the finish line, and it felt like eternity.  I was shuffling along when I heard someone say, “Jen!” I turned around, and there was my friend Amy from yet another one of my running groups.  I was happy to see her.  Then I asked, “Where’s the finish line?” “I hope soon,” she said, “because I’m dying here.” “Yeah, me too,” I said.

We turned a corner.  Throngs of people were along the sidelines, cheering us on.  I saw the hill ahead of us, which I knew signified the finish.  Then I saw the “Mile 26” marker.  “Oh SHIT!” I said happily, then felt a little guilty because there was a small child in front of me.  I started smiling.  Then I started running faster. I learned from my dad to kick it in at the end, to give all you have for the finish.  I was exhausted but like a horse drawn to water, I knew that the finish line was close.

And then, it was just how I imagined it would be.  “Bridge Burning” was playing, and as I rounded the corner, the final chorus was playing, just like I had imagined.  People were cheering and yelling.  I had a huge smile on my face. I sped up to the finish line and threw my arms up in the air, doing the rock and roll symbol with my hands.

Whenever I had imagined finishing my marathon, I always thought I’d start crying from the sheer emotion and accomplishment – I had heard of other people crying at the end of their marathons, and even thinking about it before the race would get me teary.  But I was just too fucking happy to be finished to cry.  I was also in denial that I was really finished. I kept looking around to make sure I didn’t miss the real finish line.  Then someone put a medal around my neck, and it felt real.

I looked at my time – 4:33.  It was my dream goal time.  I felt happy and proud.  What I didn’t realize then is that this was actually a decent time, for both my first marathon and for the weather conditions.  I finished in the 24.5% percentile for overall female, 22% percentile for my division, and 30% percentile overall, which kind of blows my mind.

If you want to know what you feel like physically after a marathon – PAIN.  My leg muscles were cramping, and I moved very, very slowly to find my family.  They had come to watch me finish, but the text message alerts they were receiving stopped updating them at mile 20.  They were worried because they weren’t sure how I was doing – a lot can happen in those six miles, especially since people were being taken out in stretchers (and, very sadly, someone actually died after completing the half-marathon).  But all that mattered to me is seeing them there and giving them a hug after the finish.

And for those of you all who want to see my shirt:

Please ignore my horrible hair.  It’s funny, because I’m not pointing at my medal. My mom freaked when she saw my shirt and was all, “LET ME TAKE A PIC SO I CAN TWEET THIS TO DAVE!”

Today I feel sore but happy.  I’m kind of in disbelief that it even happened.  I learned a lot about myself these past six months during the training process, but the biggest thing I learned is that I absolutely adore long-distance running, and that as long as I can run, I will be a marathoner. My next one will be in February.

Holy shit, I’m a marathoner. I still can’t believe it.

Have You Missed Me, Lovelies?

Hello my dears.  It has been quite a week.

On Sunday, I flew to Philly to hang out with my cousins and uncle.  My cousin Amanda took the week off to spend with me.  After our week together, she calls me her second sister. She is the sister I have never had.  I already miss her to pieces.

During our week, we visited some awesome small little towns and got some really cool gifts for the family.  I visited three states total: Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey.  For people who do not live in Texas, this may not be a big deal.  Since the closest state border to me is at least 6 hours away, I get kind of excited about being able to walk across a bridge and be in an entirely new state.

And yes, I was able to take a train to my beloved NYC and spent an entire 12 hours there.  I think we walked an equivalent of ten miles. For anyone who has a working knowledge of NYC, we walked from Penn Station to Battery Park, Battery Park to the Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn, and back over from Brooklyn to Manhattan.

We capped off our week by seeing a concert.  Maybe you have heard of them?  The Foo Fighters?  It was general admission, which means I GOT TO SEE DAVE PRETTY MUCH THE ENTIRE TIME.  HOLY SHIT.  I still haven’t quite processed that I saw him yet, even though my ears are still ringing and my voice is hoarse.

Yeah, I ordered the tickets back in July, but spared you all the “OH CRAP I’M SEEING DAVE IN X WEEKS” because I love you guys.

I still fucking hate flying.

I still want to recap my trip from last year, so I promise I will do a shorter recap of the trip I completed in 2011 sometime before I reach menopause.

I hope you all have had a great week.  I sure did.  And I still have a marathon to run Sunday, wow.

Epic East Coast Trip Part 2: Amish Country and Philly

So I realized recently that maybe I should blog about the rest of my East Coast trip.

“Woman,” you may say, “that trip was a year ago.  Why even bother blogging about it?”  But it was such an amazing trip, and I have pictures and stories from it that I would love to share.  It was a year ago, and it was such an adventure for me.  I only blogged about one part, which was the flight to Philly. You can read it here, but I can sum it up for you in a couple of sentences – I went on a flight for the first time in 17 years.  Did I mention that I have a huge fear of flying?  Ensue accidentally annoying my fellow passengers, attempting not to go into the fetal position when landing, and lots of worried glances at flight attendants every time the plane did something I found suspicious, i.e. every thirty seconds.

As to why I never finished blogging the rest of my trip – I may or may not have been distracted after my return by trying to get with someone who was just leading me on, which led to my being more interested in blogging Jeff Buckley/Nick Drake/Ryan Adams songs and thinly veiled entries about sadness and frustration rather than pictures of my trip.

I will split the rest of my trip into three parts – Philly, Washington D.C., and New York City.

I spent Friday in Pennsylvania with my family.  My uncle, aunt, cousin Amanda, and I all bundled into my uncle’s car, and he took us on a tour of the countryside.

I’ve lived in Texas for sixteen years at this point, so I had completely forgotten what it looks like to see color changes in the leaves.  In Texas, leaves go from green to dead.  I was amazed at the beautiful colors on the leaves, and took about fifty pictures of tree landscapes.

My uncle took us to see the Amish/Mennonite country.  I was fascinated that the horse/buggies would be sharing the road with cars.  We stopped at a Mennonite-owned eatery called the Village Farm Market in Blue Ball.  I ordered a chicken sandwich and some snickerdoodle cookies.  I cannot fully stress how amazing these items tasted. I just cannot.  My cousin and I were amazed.  I think that was seriously the best food I had on my trip.  Everything was fresh and homemade, and the taste was just phenomenal.  If you are ever in Amish Country, you must stop here. You will not be disappointed.

Later that afternoon, my family took me into downtown Philly.  My cousin had a loft downtown, so it was a perfect time to explore the City.  We covered a surprising amount of landmarks in a short time.  The line for the Freedom Bell was too long for me to consider standing in it, so I walked by a window, saw it, and was content. I  saw Betsey Ross’ house and walked in the oldest neighborhood in America.  My family and I took pictures by the Love Park Fountain.  Amanda and I went into a Masonic Temple, intrigued by its inherent secrecy, but the rest of the building had closed to visitors.  I surreptitiously tried to snap a picture, but it came out blurry.

We also stopped by Reading Terminal Market.  I walked inside of it, amazed at all the little shops and markets.  This is when I was first reminded that East Coasters do not have the patience of Texans.  My aunt and I were discussing what we wanted to eat.  The cashier finally snapped, “You guys going to decide what you want or just stand there?”

And of course – I ran up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art just like Rocky.  What do you expect?  I was actually a little disappointed because it seemed a lot more difficult to climb in the movies.  I didn’t find it all that difficult.  We still threw our hands in the air at the end in victory, and took pictures next to the Rocky Statue.  My cousin Kenny humped the statue’s leg, which was pretty entertaining.

What was also really entertaining about this trip is this was two days before Halloween, so we were able to see some interesting costumes.  We walked behind a couple heading to a party.  The man was dressed like Jack Nicholson from The Shining.

Later that night, we went to a nice restaurant called Marmont, where I had crab cakes and shish kebabs.  It was so tasty.

I loved Philadelphia.  I thought it was a beautiful city and really enjoyed the historical attractions.

After our long but exciting day, we sleepily headed home.  Tomorrow was going to be a long day – we were headed to Washington D.C.!

I promise I’ll try to post the rest of my trip this week, and not like, next year.

Until then, enjoy some photos.  This is me in the photos, I was still blonde back then.

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This Is a Weird Gas Station, Y’all

I went back to the Gas Station of Frustration and Despair today out of pure desperation; my truck was running low on fuel, and rather than drive aimlessly looking for a gas station, I decided my best bet would be to go to the one down the road.  Though the gas station was still crowded, I was able to get an empty pump without a problem.

There was a rather uppity woman at the pump next to mine, refueling her truck while chattering loudly on her cell phone about her relationship problems.  It would be so nice if they could just talk about things for CLOSURE, YOU KNOW?  I leaned against my rental truck, trying to ignore her.

As I waited, I heard a loud-pitched, mewing sound.  Turning around, I saw a woman walking through the parking lot, an adorable calico kitten in each arm.  She approached the uppity woman.  “Do you want a kitten?” she asked brightly.

The uppity woman recoiled as if she’d just been offered meth.  “I don’t need any of those,” she snapped, getting into her car and hurriedly driving away.

The woman approached me next, holding out a kitten.  “Do you want one?” she asked.  I smiled and said no thank you.  The woman, undeterred, continued offering kittens to each of the gas station customers.  Each customer declined her offer politely.

The woman returned to her car, still cradling the kittens.  I watched, amused, as the car sped away.