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January 12

Internet out. Bored out of my mind. Actually clean my room to pretty much tip-top shape.

January 23

We try the 1st of Daniel's home brewed beers. Real crisp, with kind of a fruity undercurrent - great stuff

January 29

Daniel's 30th, @ Mom & Dad's. Wine Drinking Mike stops by late. Brandy angry about something or other. Daniel was trying to stay sober, but he & Dad both end up pretty wasted. I only have one beer, until it's 2am, & I drink two glasses of wine, go crash in easy chair. Dad & I are the last 2 standing.

January 30

Dewane & Mona arrive in town. Much later, I'm up at Ten O'clock Charlie's with Carly and it's almost closing time when Brandy, Nicole, Bruce & that whole mob roll in unexpected. The funny thing is that no matter where I go around town, this seems to happen. I maybe come here once a year, tops. One night it was like 2am and I was hungry but we had nothing to eat at the house, so I was forced to hit Walmart. This was seriously the first time I had entered that building in 2 years. I'm appraoching the checkout line, and here come Brandy & Nicole, strolling up the aisle there. Of course everyone is cracking up about this development. But you get the feeling they hit every establishment in town for 15 minutes a night, every night. 

As for this night, when we come back from the bar, there is again no food to be found at the end of it. I'm reduced to munching on a bag of raw spinach discovered in the fridge.

January 31

Today Daniel's still hungover from his birthday, & cancels our recording session. But Matt shows anyway, around 4. We watch a Rodrigo y Gabriella live video. As a joke I throw on that old velour sweater as we're heading over to Mom & Dad's for a card game. It used to belong to Matt's mom. Then Ryan Fry took it, then he left it at my house.

            "Hey! I want that sweater back!" Matt says.

            "No way. It's mine now."

            "Well can we at least share it? Can I have it 6 months out of the year?"

            "We'll set up a time share on this sweater," I suggest.

            On the way, we stop for beer & Matt buys chewing tobacco as a lark, he and Daniel are chewing it. I end up walking with $90 at the card game, top dog for tonight. Joey's B's idiotic friend the Bill Murray lookalike is here for some reason and we almost get into a fight yet again. On the plus side (apart from the money won) there are a lot of nice looking girls here for a change. I'm pretty much the only sober person here and wind up driving a bunch of people home.

February 8

The parents and I take a little ride up to Love Valley. It's this little old Western type village just north of Statesville, which I've never been to before. You're not allowed to drive here and have to park at the edge of town. "I wish I could travel all the time," Mom sighs, "No interstates. Just little places with a little bit of history." We dip into this one saloon for a beer, play some tunes on the jukebox. They've got this wooden balcony on the backside which you can walk out on, with a great picturesque view of the fields and woods beyond town. Mom and I both have camcorders and are shooting video for much of the trip.

February 15

Daytona party at Jim's. Mom & Dad win all the $ on the “squares” betting game, whatever you call it.

March 1

Reading/writing by candlelight. It's been a flat weekend, but I needed a flat weekend, & don't mind. The internet's been out a day & a half, though, & now the power's out. It's snowing. Thankfully there is wine, & an mp3 player, & such ancient contraptions as books & candles. 

March 7

I leave the house around 9am. Something about the shortcut discovered in Sept has made this trip seem a breeze. Lunch at an actual Arthur Treacher's (been at least 20 yrs) in Southern Ohio, in the back of a gas station along 33. Great (fish, chicken & fries) but rocks my gut.

            I hit Grandview library first, to check email. Talk to Damon, drive over to Miles's - he's just pulling up w/ his new girlfriend, Kim. She's a short fat red headed white girl, but really nice. Miles has two double deuces of Heineken, gives me one. Then I take off. Up to Damon's, he plays me a song we sort-of-collaborated on, FGWPF, then we head up to Mansfield. Watch Frank play at the new bar where Todd's Place used to be - classier, but mostly the same vibe. Drummer sings a lot, great voice, but girls don't dance. Larry on bass. Frank says, "I want you to come up this summer with your typewriter & stay with me for a weekend." I tell him I'm all for it. A surprising # of good looking girls, including this Sarah Palin lookalike - we talk to her and her friend for a minute. Jimmy Hammonds shows up - sings Dreams with the band. 

            We don't stay long before driving across town to the Den. Bump into Ben Davis as we're walking in, then Chelsea Jackson at the bar. Most of the night spent talking to these two. Craig Smith's wife is here and leads a Coyote Ugly dance on the bar w/ 2 other girls at the end of the night. Brady's band plays & does well (he's on bass, Scott McKinley gtr/vocals, Jeff Reeder's son on drums, some other guitarist). Craig's wife gives me $1 in "hush money," not to tell him about the Coyote Ugly type antics. I think the statute of limitations might have expired on that by now, however.

Our former assistant principal at the high school is here drinking by himself, too. I don't realize this at first, however, which leads to a hilarious incident that I probably shouldn't explain in too great of detail here. But anyway, Damon's off to the side talking to Chelsea and Ben and some others, and I overhear him mention that guy's name. I start cracking up and turn around, then shout very loudly over to them about a certain prank perpetuated against Mr. Assistant Principal back in high school. Damon pulls me aside and whispers, "he's right here!" and points over to this figure in a coat and ballcap, hunched over his drink. I didn't recognize him. But yeah, that's why his name came up. 

Somehow they don't throw us out of the Den until 4:30am. At which point we drive over to Denny's for breakfast. 

March 8

Today is Maddie’s 8th birthday. Jill gives both girls their birthday presents 1st thing this morning, they were too impatient. While Jill is putting together this play kitchenette, Emma looks at the picture on the box & puts all the accessories in the same spot for real. Jill has one cake with 8 candles on the right & 3 on the left, the girls blow them out in tandem. We have ice cream with the cake.

            Then it's up to Chuck E. Cheese. Jill & I have agreed to pay half each for this & the cake etc. The place is a complete madhouse. We order some pizza, then split up with about 200 tokens - Jill takes Madison, I take Emma. Except Emma has little interest in doing much anything that involves the tokens. She's too small to climb up these distantly spaced steps up to this labyrinth of slides & tunnels, so she crawls up the slide instead & runs around inside there for an eternity. After that, & much meandering around, she finds a smaller slide over in this one corner & runs an endless loop on it. We bump into Jill & Madison occasionally in their own travels.

            Eventually, we have spent so much time here without making a dent in these tokens, that we finally combine forces and all of us use about ¾ of the tokens playing that bulldozer game (you shoot a token into their midst, the bulldozers push it into the pile, hopefully more than that are jarred loose & knocked over the edge). Madison & I take our tickets to the counter to redeem them for prizes, as Jill takes Emma out to the car. I feel so bad for the people stuck working the ticket redemption counter because this job must truly suck. Out at the car, and Jill's in a hurry to leave because she accidentally scraped the car beside her opening up the door.

            "So…you got anything to mix that Jack Daniel's with or what!? " I gasp, in refence to a bottle sitting atop her fridge. Jill laughs her head off.

            She stops at Anderson's to get a few things - lunchmeat, etc. I sit in the car with the girls. Madison has this gun that shoots a Styrofoam rocket, and I'm putting jewels onto this foam crown for Emma (bounty from Chuck E. Cheese).

             Jill, Madison & I play Monopoly, and us adults enjoy some Jack Daniel's, while Emma is sleeping. It gets to be around 9 & we think Emma might sleep through the night. We only manage one game of Monopoly, and Maddie wins, fittingly enough, on her birthday.

March 9


I wake up 1st thing & start frying bacon. Emma's next, she comes directly downstairs to me, smiles, cheers, "Daddy!" The smell of bacon wakes Jill up. Jill complains that, "my arms hurt, for some reason,” which I’m sure has to be Chuck E. Cheese related. She'd gotten up at 7 with Madison, then went back to sleep again.

My video camera is acting up for some reason, as it will be this entire trip, only working sporadically. But Maddie's at school and Jill has to go to the doctor, which means I get to hang out here with Emma all day. She alternates from watching cartoons for long stretches, to going off & playing by herself in the other room, to getting me to go down in the basement and "play ball" - what this involves is her being the "leader" & throwing this ball around, as I'm forced to crawl on all 4s & pretend I'm a dog, chase it.

            Jill returns for lunch, then leaves again for a parent-teacher conference. I have to watch for the bus, which deposits Madison in front of the house at about 2:45. Jill's home for good shortly thereafter.

            While Jill's at the parent-teacher conference, I'm outside with the girls: Madison's got her purple helmet on, riding her purple bike (training wheels attached, still, in this horseshoe of the sidewalk, around the cul-de-sac & back to in front of the house, looking both ways, then across street. Emma mostly sits in and/or plays around her car parked at the end of the driveway. 

            When Jill came home for lunch, she had brought groceries, & a brand new Scrabble. I win the 1st game by a slight margin. For the 2nd game, instead of my name, I write "Almighty Master of the Universe," at the top of the next score-keeping sheet. Of course Jill narrowly wins this one. For the 3rd & final game of the night, our names are thus "Fluke Winner" & "Usual Ruler of the Universe." I win this one by a relative blowout, & we call it quits.

March 10

Jill marvels that Emma keeps waking up, every morning, and coming downstairs to see me right away. "She never does that!" Jill says. I am the last to bed (always after 2am) & 1st to get up (usually around 8am), or should I say, stay up: Jill puts Madison on bus, goes back to bed.

 It's in the afternoon, & Jill has taken Madison shopping at Justice - one of her presents has been a gift card there. Mom also sent $20 (along with a journal set with key for Madison; cell phone, sunglasses & purse etc play set for Emma) to each girl along with card & game to me to bring, and I also gave the girls $20 each. So Maddie’s using her gift card and money there, while Emma and I stay at the house, hanging out.

            She asks if she can go outside, so we do. Her thing right now for some reason is getting in her car, going down to the end of the driveway, & leaving it there. She'll get back in from time to time, & spin around, or move incrementally, but it pretty much just stays there.

            Next she finds this small gardening shovel in the garage, & starts digging up dirt from beside the driveway, carrying it over to the middle of the driveway, then dumping it. Back & forth. But she apparently tires of this, asks me to do the shoveling. She then retrieves her car, brings it back up to the top of the driveway. Now the routine is I shovel, hand it to her as she sits in her car, & she dumps it out right there on the spot. Finally, she dashes over to rustle up this sidewalk chalk, which she places in the hole I've dug.

            "That's firewood," she says.

            Earlier, I had given Madison all the change I had in my pocket after she took it upon herself to wipe down the back of my (dirty) car with a wet cloth. This pocket change is of passing interest to her only, is left on the patio table. Now Emma plays with the coins for a moment before deciding she wants to go back inside. By now we've been outside an hour.

            Just one problem - we are locked out of the house!

            I call Jill & leave a message but she doesn't answer. Emma, however, takes the news that we are locked out without missing a beat. We're out front for awhile watching the neighbors try to teach their mentally challenged son to ride his bike without training wheels. Emma mingles with the other kids hanging out, then we head back around behind the house. "Let's watch the clouds," Emma suggests & lies on her back on the concrete patio, urges me to do the same. "When it gets dark we'll be able to see the stars," I tell her.

            "When it gets dark we can see the stars?" she says, suddenly excited.


            Then Jill shows up, finally. I'd already told her I wouldn't be staying here tonight - I've got to spend some time with the rest of my peoples around town here. At one point before I leave, Emma tells me, "I hope you are having a great time at our house tonight!"


March 13

 I get Madison up for school at 7 & make sure she gets on the bus, as I'd promised Jill I would. She wakes up late feeling hungover as hell & lies on the couch, while Emma runs around the house. I have plans to meet up with Norman & Shauna for lunch, & take off, even though I feel bad for Jill. She says Emma mostly just plays by herself, everything will be fine.

March 14

Emma's 3rd birthday! I'm pretty sure this is the morning I brought Jill breakfast in bed, but she didn't feel like eating it.

Mom joined Facebook today, but doesn't quite have a handle on how to use it yet. In the place where you're supposed to type your "status," i.e what you're up to right now, instead she writes a message intended for her friend Joann: 


March 17

Hilarious poker game that I initially have to be cajoled into joining. I've just walked in the door from work and Daniel tells me about these heavily improvised plans. I groan and rub my forehead, mutter, "man, I don't have the energy..."
    But then I crash out for awhile and wake up, can hear them playing in the kitchen (Daniel, Matt, Nick). It's about 8pm. I take a shower and then join them at the table. For some weird reason they decided to bust out the fold out green felt poker table top doohickey, which doesn't really fit, it's slightly smaller than the kitchen table. So there's this weird lip around the edge right in front of us, where people naturally reflexively tend to keep their cards, meaning you often can't tell who is or isn't in the hand. And yet we continue to leave this felt top in place.
    They're doing Irish Car Bombs, but I'm sticking to beer. This is after all a Tuesday. Brandy shows up, then Pete, Linda...we are up until 3am.

    I almost forgot to mention that at some point, Matt and I decide to fire up the stereo in the living room, and are snickering as we throw in The Pod by Ween. We are debating just how long this can possibly play before somebody starts complaining. Incredibly enough, however, we manage to blast this without commentary for almost the entire album. There are only a couple of songs remaining before Daniel pipes up and says he's changing it, asks if anybody has a request.
    "Anything that was...not this, I would be cool with," Pete jokes.

March 18

Dad K takes me out on the town for my b-day. We meet Jim & Roy at this new place, Hideaway (where Lew's used to be, but revamped & rearranged, much nicer - hardwood floors, even, pool tables, plenty of room). The barmaids are pretty hot; the clientele is half older people, half younger. Dad says the barmaids were all "trying to find out about" me, but I'm not sure about that. We have a few here, one at Daniel's bar, then one over at G's Lounge - I've never been here, but it's packed & karaoke night to boot. Or maybe that's why it was packed. Mass singalong with Don't Stop Believing.     

March 25

Out to lunch with Dad, at Bellacino's in Cornelius. We have a large jalapeno & pepperoni pizza - it was a mistake that they were selling cheap. Rainy day.

March 28

I'm thinking I will just spend a nice quiet Saturday here alone for a change. I get some writing done in the early afternoon, and record some drums. Then collapse in bed - it's 5pm, therefore I am unable to keep my eyes open. But then I awake with a start about an hour later. My sleeping mind is jarred by the thought that I have something urgent that needs to be done.
        But subconsciously, I must have actually heard a noise - I sit up, then jump out of skin to see Dad K standing in my doorway. He says he rang the doorbell, and even called out "anyone home?" when entering, but I didn't register any of that. Anyway, he says the reason for the visit is that he has some quality beer to drop off for me. Oh yeah, and he also has this idea about maybe taking me out for drinks tonight.
        We have a couple here, and then I'm finally awake enough to agree. So the two of us head up to Daniel's bar. I have the sneaking suspicion this dude doesn't get out much, and isn't quite sure how to act when he does. He becomes mister congeniality here, making friends with seemingly every person in the place. Daniel tells me later in fact that he was about to cut Dad off, but it was closing time anyway (they close early here).
        I drive us back to their house, figure I might as well just crash here tonight. Then it's about 1am and we're hanging out in the garage when Jill calls. I wasn't going to answer it, but Dad insists that I do. Except then for some reason he immediately fires up the Harley, and begins revving it.
        Reception is nil in their bomb shelter of a garage, so I had to step outside anyway. This also cuts the motorcycle noise somewhat, but only somewhat. The neighbor's beagle is howling at the top of its lungs, and Mom wakes up, drifts outside to tell him he's an idiot and to shut off the motorcycle. Afterwards he drifts out approximately every 5 minutes to either shout background conversation to Jill or else try to coach me into getting off the phone. Somehow despite all this we wind up talking for about an hour.

March 29

Crazy morning - Brandy angry about something and chucks her breakfast plate across kitchen, it explodes; Linda reported Daniel's car as stolen & it's towed away.

But we rebound with a perfectly lovely cookout at our house: Vince, Nick, Nicole, Brandy, Ron, Beverly, of course Daniel & myself represent the attendees. Mom & Dad show up much, much later. Awesome unexpected weather and tons of food.

March 31

Jill calls to tell me her latest plan, to bring the girls down here in June. Emma & Madison were so excited they were trying on bathing suits tonight, & Emma slept in hers.

April 17

Zelda attacks Beverly's dog. My 3 day weekend begins. Awesome weather. Daniel invites a bunch of people over to play pool - as usual, hardly any of this is my doing: Nick, Roy & his girlfriend, Mom & Dad, Brandy, Nicole, some fat blonde chick who's the owner of Fat Boys' sister, Pete, Ron, Beverly. That pretty much sums it up. Beverly decides she can't live without weed, has Nicole run her back to house. People in the garage arguing about The Doors, whether or not Pete "gets" them? Ron keeps bugging me to play piano, but I don't feel like it. Then he's bugging Daniel to jam, but Daniel's playing video golf with Nick. "I don't mean to offend you, but I really don't feel like it," Daniel tells him. He's a nice guy so you do kind of feel bad shooting him down. Then Ron just wants to play piano himself, but I can't find the power cord to my keyboard. Mom likens this crew to a bunch of gypsies wandering from house to house, & that's pretty accurate. I get bored with this madness fairly early, hide in office with a bottle of wine & play poker instead. No one bothers me.


April 19

Daniel notices his Carolina Panthers cooler full of beer is missing. I suddenly recall lying in bed, & hearing the sound (swishing ice) of a cooler being carried out the front door. Daniel gets into an argument with Brandy on the phone, then when she shows up here, about there being no way any of her friends would take that cooler. He insists she call around - the 1st person she does is Nicole, who reminds Brandy that she took it! Brandy was so wasted she didn't remember taking the cooler herself. "And she's the one who drove!" Daniel says, marveling at this twist.

April 26

Mom's in my store for the 1st time ever, everyone important in the deli has to take this Serv-Safe test across town. I have lunch with her, Stacie, Muneera & Don in the cafĂ©. 

April 27

Date with Samantha. She's okay. 

April 30

Daniel's at work, but Brandy & Nicole are here with Addison & some other toddler I've never seen before. He was quite annoying - kind of talks like that one baby on South Park. 

May 1

 Zelda just had 4 kittens a few weeks ago, then a few days ago Brandy brings home 4 more even smaller stray kittens! She heard them meowing in a parking lot somewhere. These new kittens chatter incessantly - as in, even though they'll accept milk from Zelda, they seem to recognize this is not their mom & meow CONSTANTLY. Plus Brandy recently asked me to not let Moopus in anymore because he pees everywhere…and yet he still finds his way in here somehow, very mysteriously, and I know I certainly haven't let him in.

In the early afternoon, Daniel and I play chess out on the back patio: 3-3 & one draw, the last game. Not bad considering all the distractions - Daniel's watching Addison & her cousin, & they interrupt literally about once per minute asking if they can have candy, play in yard, freaking out about a mosquito, fighting, crying, etc.

Later, I'm playing cards online. Wine Drinking Mike calls - or Daniel calls him - & since Daniel's wasted & I haven't had anything to drink, I'm elected to go pick him up. I play down to heads up at this sit n' go, & then this freeroll tournament starts, & I have Daniel take over both.

People drive like idiots on Shinnville Rd. I'm doing exactly the speed limit - 45 - & would prefer to do less, because I'm not sure exactly where his house is, but there's some numbskull right on my tail, & another on his, & he's flipping his brights off & on despite the hairpin turns. I see the house but have no time to stop, have to put on my signal & turn around in some random driveway.

Mike has a backpack with cribbage, a book on Jung, & half a 1.5L bottle of red wine. Daniel won the sit n' go for me, & has gotten me off to a good start in the tournament. I play cards on the living room computer, they play cribbage. We watch a Hawks-Heat playoff game, they have me Google the rules of cribbage to settle disputes.

Nick shows up, then Brandy & Nicole roll in. I'm actually exhausted around midnight despite drinking only one beer, and try to go to bed. But despite having headphones on, listening to music in bed, there's mad shouting over the pool game in the garage and this is basically a lost cause. 


May 25

            Over to Mom & Dad’s after work to hang out with them & Pat. A few beers in the garage, it’s raining out and there’s a TV on with some race that is suspended for hours before they call it. I’m tired, don’t stay but a few hours. 

June 4

Up late playing a few tournaments, packing for trip.                                                                  

June 5

Daniel and I leave for Ohio at about 6:45am. Make it to C-bus in decent time. Stop at North Market after texting Dan Bandman, then he meets us over at Barley’s for a beer - Daniel and I have burgers. From here, having contacted no one whatsoever to tell them I'm coming, and being here in the middle of a week day, it’s hard to find anybody home - stop by Miles’s, Maria’s, and Jamie’s, but no one’s around. Call Jill, then Daniel and I sit on her back patio drinking for about a half hour. I’d stopped to get beer, he has a bottle of rum and some 7-Up to mix it with. Jill gets home at 4 with the girls.

June 6

We drive up to Mansfield for Robin's graduation ceremony at Temple Christian. Later, a party at their house. Then Daniel and I cruise back down to Columbus to crash at Jill's.

June 7

On the road to North Carolina in two vehicles. Making great time - barely 3 hours - to Charleston, then everything goes haywire. Ridiculous wait at Subway, then sitting in our cars in Long John Silver’s parking lot to eat, we waste almost an hour. 

Just south of Beckley, Jill somehow manages to drill a deer. It's the middle of the afternoon and over 100 degrees out, which seems like a strange time for a deer to be on the move. I hear the BOOM and think she blew out a tire or something, can see them pulling over behind me. Daniel is sleeping and wakes up to ask me what the deal is when I pull over. 

Madison and Emma are shell shocked to the extent they just sit with their mouths open for basically the rest of the ride home, not saying anything. But for some reason, the seat belts won't latch now, some safety feature triggered by the crash. So we decide I will drive her car home, as they all move to my ride and Daniel takes over driving that. 

Dealing with this eats up another good 45 minutes. We roll into Mooresville at 7, exhausted.

 June 8

            Day of recuperation. Dewane and Mona have been in town since Saturday, as they plan on driving down to South Carolina to look at property for a potential move. We all go out to the Brick House for dinner. Dad, Dewane and I have a quick cocktail at the bar - vanilla vodka and Bailey’s - under the pretense of still waiting to pay for our bill, while the girls are all chilling outside.

            I have some video of before and after our dinner excursion. After dark, while the other adults are chatting on the back patio, I chase Emma outside around with my camera. Maddie is bored with all of us and prefers watching one of her shows:

June 9

            Jill and I take the girls to Lazy 5 Ranch. They're terrified of the emus, which they refer to as either "ostriches" (Maddie) or "oskriches" (Emma). These creatures are kind of frightening, though, with their deceptive speed and crazy orange eyes. We bought a bucket of the animal feed but it's soon everywhere because Jill freaks out and throws it up in the air during an early emu encounter. Emma's bawling her eyes out right at the gate, but after a couple other brief emu encounters, everything went smoothly.

June 10

            Mom is off and spends the day with the girls. Dewane and Mona swing back through, after their trip down to South Carolina, and stay the night at Mom & Dad's.

June 11

             Rainy day. Matt comes down with his stepdad, who is staying with them.

June 12

            Lyle and Gene get into town now. I take Jill and the girls to 10 O’Clock Charlie’s for dinner. This was her idea - she had found a coupon somewhere. But they do have surprisingly great food for a dingy bar. After that, we take the kids over to look at Lake Norman some. 

Then back to my parents' house. Maddie has been sleeping on an air mattress out in the pool room, Emma with us in the spare room bed.

    Daniel got rid of the cats today - from 11 down to 1. He took Zelda, Blue, and all the kittens for a nice long ride into the country, dropped them off in front of some random farm. Only upon returning to the house did he realize that Moopus had climbed out of the box and was still hiding in his car. So we are still stuck with that wily little mongrel.

June 13

     The four of us leave for Myrtle Beach, after Dad and I run to pick up Jill’s car. Hilarities abound: at the southern edge of Concord, it’s Madison shouting “a construction site! And it’s in use!” with considerable enthusiasm. This hilarious coin shop in Albemarle which looks like & is about the size of one of those utility sheds you see by the side of a railroad track. The girls extremely excited by this dude made up to look like SpongeBob in front of this store in Wadesboro. “I see why they call this the dirty south,” Jill had said at some juncture here. 

Somewhere near where we cross into South Carolina, Madison thinks the terrain looks familiar and asks “were we here yesterday?” Jill giggles and says no. Unlike last time, making the correct turn in Cheraw onto route 9. They’re updating the state route signs here, snazzy blue and white ones with tiny image of South Carolina at top instead of generic black and white ones predominantly still in use. At Bennettsville, there’s a stretch of road widening underway, orange barrels on both sides, and a wrecking ball with two trailers hanging from chains way up above instead of the usual ball. “Holy moly posi-tony!” Emma squeaks, pacifier in mouth, apparently a line from some movie or cartoon. Hassles with getting the kids to agree on anything to eat, finally a Burger King in one semi-normal town we pass through. Getting stuck behind long lines of morons who drive 5-10 MPH below speed limit, and then two or four vehicles behind them who refuse to pass. Thus, behind this entourage of idiocy, and it takes us 5 ½ hours to get to the beach somehow. Dillon is pretty much the only town between the South Carolina border and the beach that is even remotely civilized. Ghost town Nichols with the giant trees in the yards appears literally abandoned - IGA grocery store, Napa Auto Parts, every other shop on the main drag boarded up. Still, no sign of burned out buildings everywhere like last trip, and overall the state doesn’t look as poor as before, somehow.

 After getting our room, we decide to eat at this somewhat fancy restaurant down below. As we wait in this lawn behind the place, until our table's ready, the kids have what looks like a very serious discussion while sitting on these rocks:

-Jill and I have chicken with bearnaise sauce at the seafood place, which has asparagus & crabmeat on top. She isn’t sure she’ll like it, but it’s very good. Actually neither of us know what bearnaise sauce is, but it turns out to be quite tasty. We also manage to cram some time in at the beach, although Emma is mostly interested in digging sand.

 Later, there's this priceless conversation:

“Would you give me a second, Madison! I haven’t had a chance to even sit down except for dinner since we got here!” Jill says.

“I saw you sitting on the beach,” Madison notes, “you sat down there.”

“She’s such a smartass,” Jill gripes to me. Except she isn’t - it’s more this dutiful insistence on pointing things out. 


June 14

         Another classic day. We get up around 8 and attack the beach - Madison and I head down first, and are in the water, crashing into waves as we did last night. Jill and Emma join us. Emma still shows more interest in digging around in the sand, though she does come up to the water’s edge, scurries when the waves come in. “The water keeps moving!” she says. 

Then over to the pools, which here means a kiddie pool with spraying water and a submarine to crawl around in; a shallower (4ft max) adult pool, and a hot tub outside; an indoor adult pool (5ft max), a lazy river, another kiddie zone with spraying water and this bucket that fills up and dumps (kiddie pool water always colder for some reason), one hot tub and one extremely hot tub; another pool directly behind our Jamaica Inn section of the hotel (8ft max) and a normal plain kiddie pool with the much more customary hot water; and another outdoor pool beyond the indoor, which we never venture to (nor the Jamaica Inn one, though closest). There’s also a water slide, though this has been closed the entirety of our stay. Finally, just as we’re leaving, it does open, and Madison is able to go down it just once.

Mayhem as the three girls take a shower together, then Emma falls and cracks her head getting out, then Madison does the same.

I carry stuff out to car in a few trips, then pull it over from gravel lot to tiny one (all handicapped spots) in front of the inn. We really love the setup here - and it’s only $94 a night, too, even though we only booked it Thursday, by far the cheapest we could find. 

The trip back is quicker, despite heading over to Charlotte instead of home, and making a somewhat lengthy stop at this Wal-Mart in Dillon. We had pulled into this Radio Shack in the heart of town, but they are closed on Sunday - Jill needs a new adapter for the DVD player, which Emma broke on the way down. We stop for gas, and this just so happens to be, by sheer coincidence, the one Jill was trying to remember, having seen a sign for $30 cigarette cartons on the way down. Then we spot a Wal-Mart behind the store, in an odd location (you couldn’t see it from the street, and there’s no other way back to it). On the way down I’d done donuts in a parking lot while Jill ran into a grocery store for swimming diapers; this time I merely drive around the lot. Then she gets back out and said there’s some bizarre state law about not being able to buy this item until 1:30 in the afternoon on Sundays - they had the clothing aisles blocked off, too. It’s 1:18 but we take off, figuring we can pick up the item in Charlotte. 

We also have this highly serious discussion, at some point:

     "Emma wants to tell you something," Jill says.

    "What's that?" I ask, with a chuckle. But Emma is hesitating to speak.

    "Tell him, Emma!" Jill encourages.

    "Princesses are real!" Emma says, after this slight delay, "there really are princesses in the world."

    "There are?" I laugh.

    "Yeah. There really are," she says.

Kids are hungry, we pull off for McDonald’s at the podunk Loris exit, which is lined around the building with cars. I don’t want anything, pull over as Jill runs in for their food, but she brings me back a coffee, and then it turns out the extremely chaotic and slipshod staff had given us everything we ordered in addition to someone else’s food. 

“This is the price they pay for their incompetence,” I joke. Plus, we are already up the highway before even realizing their error. 

“I would stop, but....we’re in kind of hurry...,” Jill says, as we’ve already gotten rolling.

Everything we’ve encountered in South Carolina (aside from Myrtle Beach) has been half baked and idiotic. Which also makes me less charitable, too. Shortly after entering NC we hit 74, which will take us into Charlotte. The girls have been a little cranky, for whatever reason, but fall asleep now for almost an hour. It is a long drive, though, and coming back from the beach is certainly less exciting than driving there. 

At this Radio Shack on the outskirts of Charlotte, Jill takes in the DVD adaptor & the employee sees that all it's missing is a spring, gives her one for free. From here, we hit my workplace's summer picnic type party, at this park in Charlotte. There are a ton of kids here, so Emma and Maddie have no problem staying entertained. Nobody thought to bring any music, so they ask me, and I just happen to have my little digital mp3 player in the car. I start playing some jams, all the songs on random, but fortunately not too loudly - I walk by once and it's playing One In A Million by Guns N' Roses. Probably not the best tune for mixed company. Fortunately I'm the only person within earshot and hit the skip button. 

One of the ladies from work is also painting faces, under our pavilion. Here's a blurry shot of Emma getting her face painted with a pretty little butterfly:

June 15

Jill and the girls drive back to Ohio. This morning, before they leave, Emma walks out to where Dad and Lyle are hanging out, holding two pieces of clothing she plans to wear for the drive.

"This is my outfit," she tells them.

"I like the outfit you have on," Dad says.

"This isn't an outfit!" she protests. Then, indicating the clothes she's holding up, insists, "this is an outfit!"

As for me, this is my 1st night home in a week & and a half. 

July 3

Fourth of July party at Joey B's. The turnout is great, and there's even a live band playing in the alley behind his house, city of Mooresville fireworks to follow. But really the highlight is our host's Statue of Liberty impersonation:

Let freedom ring, indeed. 

July 18

I'd spent the night at Carly's house and barely got any sleep. So of course my phone has to start blowing up at what seems an insanely early hour. First it's Dad at 8:30, calling to tell me Steve Owens is in town. Which is awesome! I just happen to be not the most inspired person in the world this morning.

“Did Daniel leave already?” he asks.

“I don’t know.”

“Are you...not at the house?”


Then at 9 Mom calls from work, also to tell me Steve Owens is in town, though she also asks conversationally, “did you get into anything last night?”

“No, not really.”

It must have been a wild night pretty much everywhere. It turns out that Steve actually got into town last night, and they stayed up drinking over there themselves. But they didn't think to tell me about it until this morning. Meanwhile, as I come home and walk into our own house, Nick is lying on our couch, still awake from last night. 

After crashing out for a while, I head over to my parents' house. Steve asks me a couple of times what the "hot spots" are around here, but I tell him I'm not sure about that and we end up not going anywhere. Mom goes to bed early, while us three guys sit around watching The Good Shephard. I keep dozing off, but conclude at the end, "that was pretty good," which causes both of them to start cracking up.

July 19

Today the 3 of us do manage to go golfing, however, at the Mooresville public course. I went home late last night, after waking up from the movie, then drove back over there this morning. There are aspects of all our games that I’m tremendously impressed by, other parts that suck. Actually any time I play with Dad, he makes a few suggestions which have a tremendous impact on my game that day. Even if these lessons are completely lost after that. 
Dad's a pretty amazing golfer, really, considering how little he plays. Steve I can tell would be if he played more often, too. As for me, I drive phenomenally well, but the rest of my game is atrocious. Like today I am blasting the crap out of the ball, long and straight, on countless different holes. Even Steve says, "Whoa!" in marveling at one of my drives, on this downhill one near the end. But putting is a whole different story. Steve keeps ending up in the rough, that's his problem, but then he is always recovering nicely. Dad’s a great instructor yet is just as inconsistent himself in actually pulling things off, though still noticeably better than we are. He ends up about 3 ahead of Steve and I think 7 ahead of me.

July 24

Productive night musically and a hilarious one socially. Matt makes it down this time, & in the space of a couple hours he and Daniel and I record a bunch of stuff, much of it good. Afterwards, the three of us drive into town and hit the Hideaway. As is often the case, we end up with a slightly bigger mob back at the house later.
    Roy's here at the bar, & I also bump into this Christina chick I met down here clear back in 1996. This is actually the second time we've crossed paths since I moved down here. She wrote me a couple of love letters when I was living in Columbus and even stopped by my house up there once. I think she looks even better now - kind of reminds me of that main actress from the first two Final Destination movies - but I'm not sure what to think about this prospect.
    I'm the designated driver and am drinking water. We play some pool and I fare slightly better, which isn't saying much. Upon returning to the crib, Pete appears to be trying to get with Cindy; Matt is definitely attempting to hook up with Nicole; and Daniel has his standard 4am-on-a-Friday-night argument with Brandy, during which there's talk of throwing her out of the house.

July 25

My parents leave for beach, I'm housesitting again. Dad tells me I better do something about Don (this idiot who works in Mom's department) or he's going to walk in there & get in Don's face. 
    Before they leave, we're standing in their kitchen and he also says, "well, here, I know we've been doing a lot for Daniel lately, so take this," and slides a $50 bill my way.
    "I don't care about that," I say.
    "I know you don't. But take it, and go do something this weekend. Get yourself something, take your girl out to dinner, whatever."

August 1

I'm reduced to crushing coffee beans on kitchen table w/ hammer, because Daniel said grinder was broken.

August 2

Accidentally run my wallet and a flash drive through the washing machine (flash drive still works!) 

August 13

I win $846 on a $33 buy-in.

August 22

4am-ish: I wake up to the smell of Daniel cooking bacon. That evening - I win $600 in a poker tournament.

September 1

Talking to Emma while driving out the Renaissance Festival, to interview for this part time weekend job. "I love you very much!" she tells me in her hilariously high pitched voice.

"I love you too! I love you more than anyone in the whole world!" I tell her.

September 6

Daniel & I over to Mom & Dad's around 4. Dad's in front yard roto-tilling gravel pit to accommodate the 2nd RV. It's 86 degrees out, he has a towel draped around neck & is sweating profusely.

            "He's such a lunatic," Daniel says, witnessing this scene.

September 9

I arrive at Jill’s house in the wee hours of night. All 3 of the girls are not feeling well. Emma’s in bed with Jill, Madison’s going through some phase of sleeping on the floor and is doing so tonight. I made good time getting here, just 6 ½ hours to Columbus and another half hour to Jill’s house. 

On the way home from work, I had stopped at the Davidson store - Mom had some presents in her car for Emma and Maddie. Also a completely unexpected card with some sweet sentiments and a $100 bill for me (to hit the casino on my way home Sunday!) which is pretty awesome. 

I'm looking forward to these days. Every time I would think about Emma on the way here I would get a little choked up, and also when talking to her on the phone around 8:30, and again when kissing her on the cheek as I watch her sleep. I don’t know why - obviously I always miss her, but not like this, and I didn’t realize I missed her this much until I started this way. 

Along the way I make one stop at the Princeton Walmart for dinner from their deli (picked so I could break the $100, really) and another for coffee at Ravenswood, and that was it. Rode 33 in, of course.

My butt is sore. I stopped for a 6pk (Great Lakes Burning River) at UDF around the corner from here. A baseball game on, collecting my thoughts. Emma’s cute little potty cover is sitting on the bathroom floor.  

September 10

all day playing w/ Emma; I got Madison on the bus at 7:23ish (Jill works early); no coffee; Cheesecake Factory for dinner, Village Bookstore next - the kids spend their loot. Dave & Buster's closed.

September 11

same morning rituals - Madison on/off (2:30ish) school bus etc except taking Emma to see Jill at work in the middle of the day, then dollar store, then over to visit Clif and I finally score some coffee. Then I'm out with some of the old gang much later.
    Emma quote, earlier, when Use Somebody by Kings Of Leon comes on the radio: "You got Mommy music? I didn't know you had Mommy music!" 

September 12

And now a Madison quote: "Mom, I've got microphone ear again, everything's twice as loud as it should be."

September 17

Aunt Jackie's in town. I have lunch at the Statesville Cracker Barrel with Mom, Dad, Jackie, Tracy. Checking out, I look down and find $40 in cash that someone had dropped. Nobody had been in line ahead of me and nobody's around, so I pocket it. 

This must be my lucky day all around. I've been suspended at work for going off on Jeannie (and to a lesser extent, arguing with Don) even though this was an exceptionally mild altercation. So with free time at my disposal, I drive down to Bailey's in Matthews to enter the latest World Tavern Poker tournament, and take down my first ever win. This is just my 2nd time playing here, and 3rd since returning to the WTP scene after some extended time off.

The time away must have helped. Also, I think I have finally found my ideal hangout spot. Would I have ever guessed it would be a bar in Matthews? Probably not. But they have $2 drafts here, even Fat Tire. I love this place. Also the guy who runs the poker league here tells me they have about 50 regulars who put up $200 apiece at the start of every season. Whoever finishes with the most points gets a ticket to the Main Event in Vegas. So I'm definitely thinking about doing this when a fresh season starts.

October 4

Cropwalk. I only managed to raise $1 in donations this year, from Carly. It takes a little more than an hour (about 4 miles I think). We start at the Grady Cole Center (Kings & 7th), then left into downtown proper, up to Davidson Street, up that about half off the way to NoDa, then right, zigzag back to 10th & under 277 & retrace out first block.

Black lady with Aunt Jemima hat on porch shouts, "look at you beautiful people! I love beautiful people!"

October 29

Dad has been hanging out at the RV dealership since 9 o’clock in the morning, until I pick him up at 3:30. Only he could keep himself entertained at a place like this for so long - dropped the motor home off to have work done on it. Says he lounged around inside it, watching movies (Rounders, etc), talked to the guys working there, and so on. Why he didn’t arrange any ride out of here beforehand I’m not sure. Anyway, it’s in Concord, so I leave work around 3 to go get him. 

November 20

1st date with Erin! We meet for dinner at Joel's. She gets here about 5 minutes before me, and is standing outside with her glasses on, some kind of white hoodie or sweater, has a warm, happy smile for me. We put our name on the list, have to sit outside in the cold waiting. Then they completely forget about us out there, have to resubmit our name. But it's cool in a way because we get to talk more.

Erin’s telling me about wanting to skip her grandma’s funeral. Inside, she takes off her glasses, and I notice she has pretty blue eyes. She confesses later she thought the way I fidgeted with my chop sticks was cute. I’m telling her about the Flat Stanley project I’m undertaking on Madison’s behalf. She tells me about her Disney pin obsession, and something about the way she closes her eyes and nods and laughs is extremely charming.

Walking to our cars afterwards, I warn her that when she sees mine, this will be a dealbreaker. She says later that when we kiss by her car, and I put my hand on the back of her head, that’s when she knew she really liked me.

November 25

Erin is game for going out again, and suggests we meet at Brixx in the Birkdale shopping center at exit 25. Actually she asked me out again the night after our first date, but I couldn't do it. Again I am 5 or 10 minutes late, again she is standing outside. She looks even better tonight. Curled & darkened her hair, no glasses this time. We kiss and head indoors. She has about 2 sips of some beer that is similar to Blue Moon, orange slice and all, and a penne chicken pasta dish for dinner. I try Highland Oatmeal Stout for the 1st time, am mighty impressed. Buffalo Chicken Pizza, also amazing. We walk around some and grab a coffee at Starbucks. 

December 11

Erin has this plan for driving to see the Christmas lights at this town called McAdenville. I've never even heard of this but it winds up being pretty amazing. Basically every house in the entire village is lit up to the extreme, it's their yearly tradition. And also free to drive through, though the traffic is pretty fierce. Erin is railing against the LED blue lights, however, which she considers an abomination.

Erin's driving, this is my first time riding in her PT Cruiser. She has a nickname for it, which is Mark Harmon's character on some TV show, I forget. As for the GPS unit, this has a female voice and is referred to as Gertrude. We're cracking up because Gertrude occasionally tells us to keep to the straight. Also that our current route is followed by a remain on the current road. Just like I'm laughing at a new word Erin makes up on the spot at one point, saying, "that's my smartnicity," when she figures out one of Gertrude's nonsensical instructions.

We have dinner at Ru San's in Charlotte. She has salmon roll with caviar (the latter she has never tried before, but likes now) and a Gone With The Wind roll - this is a tic-tac-toe looking grid inside one big seaweed wrap. I devour my two plates as well, but though the presentation is amazing here, I think Joel's is better, really. Like there's some breaded asparagus coming out like horns from my one order, looks cool, but I can't even recall much of what I had. Although you could tell the tuna & salmon were good quality. Kamikaze to drink, but not the usual cocktail of that name: here it's a sake with lime juice & tabasco. A little weird (Erin tries mine & agrees), but I drink it anyway. Then help her finish the Hanna apple sake she ordered, which is very good.

December 12

Erin is leaving my house when Brandy (she and Daniel and Sherry apparently rolled in around 4am), with towel wrapped around head, comes out from the shower and shouts, "what are you doing!?" She could only see Erin from behind, and thought it was her aunt. So this is their grand introduction to one another. Brandy is cracking up and apologizing for the rest of the day, makes me espresso.

Daniel borrows my car because he left his truck at work. I'm playing two online poker tournaments at once and can't take him. Today's Mom's 55th birthday and we're supposed to all meet at Texas Steakhouse later, but she calls to say they're too tired and cancels.

December 13

Work Xmas party. Erin looks great in this shiny red dress. We meet my parents at their house and all four ride down to Charlotte together. 

December 22

Playing poker at Bailey's and finish 10th. Then stop at the store on the way home, extremely late, and buy stuff to make portobello mushroom sandwiches for the potluck at work tomorrow.


December 23

I came home dead tired, around 8, after a bunch of Xmas shopping, and instantly fall asleep. Then wake up in a semi panic around 12:30am because these presents absolutely have to be wrapped tonight. So up till about 5am wrapping them, listening to a Christmas music station in my room, also burning a couple of mix CDs for various people.

December 24

I crash for a couple hours, wake up surprisingly alert and head into work. It's been a wild week. Then after clocking out, it's time to hit the streets again, because I still have more shopping to do! Gloomy afternoon. I stop at the downtown Target to do some last minute Xmas shopping - toys for the girls mostly, though also looking for the movie The Ref for my parents, which I find, and the movie Splash for Madison, which I do not - it's about a mermaid named Madison, after all, so I thought this might be of interest to her. Then it's up to Ikea to buy gift cards for Mom and Brandy. 

Finally make it to Mom & Dad’s house. They’re in the garage with Daniel, watching this Neil Young concert video from a few years back. Mom and Daniel head in the house for some reason, Dad and I crack open beers. I let out a long relieved exhale as we toast.

“We made it,” I note, and shake my head.

“I know. It’s crazy, isn’t it?”

Brandy and Addison eventually show up for our little holiday shindig here. One of my mix CDs is a Christmas themed one for my parents, but their CD player isn’t working, so we screw around with the jukebox, taking out these two Alabama greatest hits discs that no one listens to. I joke that we should make belt buckles out of them, and Dad and I are laughing hysterically over the thought of it. But the burned CD won’t play in the juke for some reason, either. And to top it off, he smacks the back of his head on the jukebox's raised hood, while standing back up, and sits over at the bar holding it for quite some time, looking pensive.

As far as gifts go, Daniel gets me Matusow’s autobiography, Check-Raising the Devil. On a similar note, I’d gotten him Gus Hansen’s latest poker tactics book, Every Hand Revealed. Mom & Dad get me this coffee mug with a bunch of famous dead authors. I’m looking at the faces, and make a comment about Emily Dickinson, that she never published anything in her lifetime, they only found this stuff after she was dead. Daniel and most surprisingly Dad are both aware of this and on top of that have additional information to bestow - you just never know about people, what random tidbits are floating around in their heads. Mom & Dad also got Brandy a gift card of some sort, and toys for Addison.



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