Every time I come home I experience a myriad of emotions. It's like riding the Beast at King's Island.
After driving Cameron's truck in the rain with worn out windshield wiper blades for over six and a half hours on a trip that usually takes less than six hours, we arrived in Louisville at around 9:30 P.M. EST on Christmas evening. I called my mother's house and Christopher answered the phone. He passed me to Tina and then she passed me to my mother who I quickly explained that we didn't really have plans for the week, yet, but we did for Christmas night.
We continued through Louisville to New Albany to my Dad's house. We needed to go see him then because he was going to French Lick the next day and I wasn't sure when I'd be able to see him later in the week. As soon as we arrived, I had to take the dogs for a walk. I ended up standing in the rain for at least 20 minutes waiting for Billie to go. And, every time she'd get close to going something would distract her and we'd have to start all over again. A kid on a bike. Somebody walking by. An old maid coming out of her house with her dog -- I think demonstrating to me that she was watching me. I wanted to yell at her, "Thanks, cow. Congratulations. You, too, have a dog. And, no, I'm not casing your crappy house and am not interested in you. Go back in the house, clown." But, instead, I fussed at my baby girl, who then became more uncomfortable than she already was. Shame on me.
We eventually walked back to Daddy's house and visited for a couple of hours. We ate turkey and dressing, cheesecake and pickled-okra rollups. Those were fantastic. They're just like the rollups with ham, cream cheese and baby dill pickles but with pickled okra instead. We made plans to join him and his girlfriend for dinner Thursday (tonight) at Tumbleweed.
We left and got to Thom's new house in Jeffersonville at around 11:30. After catching up with Thom's roommate Reese, we got to bed sometime around 4:00 A.M.
Later Tuesday morning, I got up around 9:00 A.M. Reese had already taken the dogs outside and fed them, no doubt because Doris was whining at him while he tried to sleep. I spent a good part of the morning researching Louisville ad agencies. Typically, there are places with great clients and reputations to go along with it. And, there are others with sucky clients that seem like good places to work. My mother, stepfather and little brother have all worked in agencies around town. Doe. PriceWebber. Paul Schultz.
Cameron and I left the house around 11 A.M. to run some errands. Pep Boys for new wiper blades. The Home Depot for some gift cards. The liquor store. Another stop for a gift card. Around 6:30 we picked Thom up at the airport. He had finished several days flying and was arriving from Detroit. After we dropped him at his house we drove to Tina's for the evening. My youngest sister's house is always a beehive of activity. My nephews, Matt and Andrew, are members of a Christian rock band. They were practicing with their mates in the basement. Of course, I would be expected to say that they're really good -- but they are. My niece, Kayla, is growing so quickly. Or, perhaps that it seems that way because so much time passes between the times I see her. This is one of the reasons that I've been longing to return to Louisville. I missed out on the boys growing up and although I'm more involved with Kayla, I'm missing her, too.
We met Dan's brother who was visiting from outside Nashville. It was my first time meeting him and his two kids. He seemed perplexed, not fully understanding Cameron's and my relationship, but I'm sure that will be clarified for him sometime later.
Tina made a fantastic pork tenderloin. Because we had discussed how she might do it differently than she usually does while Cameron and I were navigating I-65 at a high rate of speed, I forgot to ask her how she ended up doing it. She explained that she usually roasts them in a bag, but thought she wouldn't this time. It was so tender, I'll bet she did. We talked for a bit. Ate dinner. Shared stories, photographs and Christmas gifts. We got to meet her new boxer, Daisy, and see Pebbles, her Bichon Frise. Sweet babies. Kayla showed me that she'd redecorated her room. We eventually left Tina's around 11:00 and headed back to Thom's. He had asked us not to stay out past midnight so that we could see him before turning in. He was only off work for one day during our visit. He's been one of my closest friends since sixth grade and we usually stay with him when we come home. If you knew Thom you would know that the new house is all he's talked about since we picked him up. I understand his excitement and am happy for him. But I don't have short-term memory loss. I usually only have to hear something once or twice before I'll remember it. Everything he's told me I've heard 4 or 5 times. Sometimes more. But, that's Thom and things wouldn't be right if they were different.
The next morning, after asking if my laptop was permanently attached to my body, Thom called Norma at Renslow's Bargain Barn to ask if we could get a special opening on a day she's normally closed. She agreed. So, after the battery ran down on my MacBook I took a shower and we left for White Castle. YIPPIE!
According to my mother, White Castle is the first restaurant I ever ate in. I was in a stroller and was given a cup of pickles in a paper condiment cup while she and my Aunt Barbara ate their small, hot, square burgers. That location was at Eastern Parkway and Bardstown Road in Louisville. (If you look at this excuse for a blog with any regularity I've probably told this story before). Unfortunately it was razed to make way for a lovely Valvoline Instant Oil Change a few years after I moved to Memphis. This trip would have us stopping at the Highway 62 location in Jeffersonville for 6 White Castles (with mustard, ketchup, pickles and onion), crinkle-cut fries and a large Big Red, each, for Cameron and me. Thom ordered four fish with cheese. A block away, we discovered only one fish in the bag and no straws. A U-turn and a few more minutes in the drive-thru lane, we had Thom's fish, two straws and were on our way to Vienna to see Norma and rummage through her store.
We visited with Norma for a little bit and scrounged around. I found a turquoise melamine tray with "cruising the Mississippi" on a banner that crossed the tray diagonally with small illustrations of St. Louis on both ends and a black metal tole tray with painted dogwoods I plan to put on the chest of drawers in the guest room. Lastly, I picked up a 12-sided mason jar with spring closure that matches the taller one we have at home to keep angel hair pasta in. This one will be perfect for shell or elbow macaroni. Thom was disappointed in finding only an old Taylor wall thermometer.
He went to take a nap while Cameron and I watched "A Prairie Home Companion" when we got back to his place. Before the movie started, we discussed what we might do for dinner. In case you can't tell, I have this thing for restaurants in which grew up eating. Among the few that haven't closed or been replaced with lesser institutions like Valvoline Instant Oil Change, we try to rotate our choices each time we visit -- except with White Castle -- it's an every visit stop. Kingfish for panfried oysters, Tumbleweed for anything good in TexMex, Moby Dick for good, fast seafood and fried okra. Kaelin's or the Bristol Bar & Grille every once in a while for a great burger. And in the case of the latter, artichoke fritters with remoulade sauce, California club salads with Harry's famous dressing, and Bristol burgers on English muffins with bleu cheese and grilled onions with burgundy sauce.
When it comes to pizza though, growing up, it was always Pizza King on Eastern Boulevard in Clarksville. Housed in a former drive-through convenience mart or drive-thru dry cleaner -- I think convenience mart and Thom thinks dry cleaner -- an oddly shaped building with angled wing-like awnings over an "A" shaped frame with sliding glass doors on either side, plate glass on the front and brick box in the back. It was barely large enough for two people to stand at the counter at the same time. But the pizza was incredible. Thin crusted, the sausage pizza was loaded with an even layer of rosemary-rich Italian sausage that had been properly broken up into a fine grain -- not like the sausage rocks that Pizza Hut and Papa John's use. It was cut into squares instead of wedges, and instead of boxes, the pizzas arrived on a cardboard disk inside a paper bag that had been folded in such a way to "tent" the pizza and keep it warm.
When I got a little older and moved to Louisville, it wasn't long before I learned about Impellezeri's -- home of the 35 lb. pizza. This became my pizza place until Mrs. Impellezeri died a few years back and the restaurant closed. So, now that Impellizeri's was gone and the Pizza King we'd always driven 20 minutes for as children was replaced with a car wash, I was on a quest for another of the original locations. A new location in a relatively new strip mall on Charlestown Road in New Albany has trains that deliver beverages to your table if you're sitting in a booth. But I was looking for a no-frills version like the one I remembered. It would be the sort of place with wooden disks attached to the wall to indicate the size of the 10, 14 or 16 inch-pizzas they offer. I found it a mile or so from Thom's house on Highway 62, again, in Jeffersonville. The pizza comes in a box now, but thankfully, the familiar "King" was on the lid and it carried the sausage pizza I remembered so well from my early childhood in the late sixties.
After devouring too much pizza, we watched "Confidence". It was a mobster/grifter/cheater type movie starring one of my favorite actors, Ed Burns. So handsome. The film seemed to drag along in places, but it was engaging enough. I've never seen Dustin Hoffman look so disgusting. His gums were green. He was gross and perfectly suited to his disgusting character. We got to bed around 1 A.M.
Today, we went to Bernie's Bargain Barn, which while it's name is similar to Renslow's, it's nothing like it. Where Renslow's is two barns where finding something is like finding buried treasure, Bernie's is a huge, clean, well-organized place. Although I found some great things at Bernie's I prefer the atmosphere of Renslow's. Plus, Norma is at Renslow's -- she'd make anyplace worth visiting.
Later, we met my mother and stepfather (who I sometimes refer to as "bonus" father) and sister for a few frames of bowling on the dryest lanes I've encountered in recent history, Blackiston Lanes. Talk about bad, my scores were consistently 40 to 60 pins below my average. But it was fun. It was the second time my mother has met Cameron. And, they actually appeared to be having a good time talking to each other. I have been waiting for this day for 14 years. And rather that go into all that now, I'm just glad it happened today.
After our goodbyes, I came back to Terrace Heights to shower and prepare to meet my father and his new (at least to me) girlfriend, Michelle at Tumbleweed for dinner. Cameron had eaten too much at the bowling lanes, and was tired, so he stayed behind. I really liked Michelle. We discovered during conversation that we not only knew many of the same people, but that we'd both worked at some of the same places many years ago.
I'll elaborate on the last two or three paragraphs later, but now it's 10:33, Eastern, my back hurts and I'm tired. I'm going to research the new bridges that are going to be built from Indiana to Kentucky over the Ohio River. Then, I'm taking my girls upstairs, kissing Cameron goodnight and I'm going to get more that 4 or 5 hours' sleep tonight.
Pleasant dreams and here's to a great fifth day of Christmas.