[Our excellent summer vacation]

— BOOK: Sample Chapter —

In May 2010 my life partner, Norma, suggested that she and I “reconnect” on a vacation. We immediately thought of driving to the Gulf Coast to see the BP oil spill devastation. And Norma always wanted to see New Orleans. So it was a win-win-lose situation. Bob Barker, the dog, lost — he had to stay home. (Two out of three ain’t bad.)

What follows are some tedious details and a few highlights of our search for Gulf Coast oil spill damage — and the sociopolitical significance of the tedious details. For reader clarity, I chose my high school note-taking format.

7/7/10/Wed. (Day 1):

on way home from dropping Bob off at grandmother’s, we were getting excited about trip / one thing led to another — AND, we also decided to leave early / instead of starting for Nashville on Thursday morning as planned, we got bright idea to leave Wednesday night — I just had to finish packing / finally hit the road at 11:30 p.m. / limped into Nashville 12 hours later after needing to stop and sleep for half-hour — just 15 miles outside of town / spousal reconnection underway

7/8/10/Thur. (Day 2):

slept all afternoon at Nashville Hampton Inn, compliments of Norma’s hotel points / had dinner at famous John A’s (“stars sometimes drop in”) Restaurant / good times / saw the quietest country lounge band in history / had deep discussion regarding cultural significance of a country lounge band / bonus: cerebral reconnection

7/9/10/Fri. — early aft. (Day 3):

cruised downtown Nashville (Broadway, between 4th and 6th Avenues) on foot / visited famous Ernest Tubbs’ (“stars sometimes drop in”) Record Store / decided NOT to pay $40 for a Hank Williams Sr. DVD documentary / saw Elvis on the street — about 13 times / heard “authentic” Nashville country band perform Brown-Eyed Girl (no joke) at well-known Legends (“stars sometimes drop in”) Bar / guess this song is not just for mind-numbing repetition by mediocre northern bar bands anymore

7/9/10/Fri. — late aft. (Day 3):

visited The Hermitage, Andrew Jackson’s “Crawford Ranch” / used by President Jackson as his getaway home and, ultimately, retirement home / another prominent mid-1800s American white guy icon who owned slaves / apparently “treated them well” but never once considered freeing them / yeah, men like him were citizens of their time, but so were a lot of other people who changed history and did the right thing / Jackson had a mansion on 1,120 acres and held hundreds of innocent slave-labor prisoners for decades / but he “treated them well”

7/10/10/Sat. — aft. (Day 4):

met up with niece and her new husband / great people / family is so important / thanks, Natalie and Mike, for tracking us down and driving up (over?) to Nashville for lunch / spousal reconnection proceeding nicely

7/10/10/Sat. — eve. (Day 4):

attended Grand Ole Opry / during ride to Ryman Auditorium, shuttle driver tells musician joke I never heard before: “Daddy, I want to be a guitar player when I grow up.” “Well, Son, you better decide. You can’t do both.” / I chuckle nervously — it’s a little too close to home / Minnie Pearl impersonator introduces Opry by setting new world record for screaming out 2nd syllable of “HOW—DEEEEEEE” / Ricky Skaggs is headliner — looks a little older than you would think / currently, Opry has been relocated back to the Ryman while newer Opry house recovers from flood / Air Force One is technically whichever plane the president is on, and Grand Ole Opry is wherever Minnie Pearl is introducing Little Jimmy Dickens and friends

7/11/10/Sun. (Day 5):

met up with another niece and her new other half / more great people — more great family / thanks, Pam and Harrison, for tracking us down and driving up (over?) to Nashville for breakfast / after checking out of Hampton Inn, we drove to Memphis / saw Elvis on the street — about 31 times / he’s doing fine / except we thought he died

7/12/10/Mon. — morn. (Day 6):

went to Graceland, paid $30 a head — plus $4 more to see inside of Lisa Marie (that’s Elvis’ private plane) / only $69 if you want to cut to front of all lines / really / in effort to make mansion tour more realistic, they’ve now opened up the formerly off-limits 2nd floor / famous upstairs bathroom has Elvis impersonator on the floor, unconscious, with pants down around his ankles / “He’s fallen, and he can’t get up!” [HISTORICAL REMINDER: one of Elvis’ purported medical causes of death was cardiac arrest while “straining at stool”] / OK, for that horribly tasteless joke, I accept my expedited descent into the netherworld-renown HELL-ton Hotel / I’ll be partying ‘til it’s 19-999999999999999999999999999999999 / Graceland was great — but why do they have to play so much Elvis music?

7/12/10/Mon. — aft. (Day 6):

went to Civil Rights Museum in Memphis / no picture-taking allowed inside / extremely solemn visit / strong reminder of how far we still have to go / consider this: like James Meredith, Ida B. Wells, and Jackie Robinson, another African-American has broken another long-standing racial barrier only to suffer continued ethnic abuse once having arrived / sadly, BREAKING the barrier is just the beginning of American consciousness-raising / like Meredith, Wells, and Robinson before him, President Barack Obama must exhibit superhuman restraint and abuse-tolerance — in addition to stellar abilities — to succeed where Caucasians need only be good at what they do

7/13/10/Tue. (Day 7):

arrived and hung out at hotel in LaPlace, La., 25 miles west of New Orleans / there is shortage of rooms around N.O. proper due to temporary influx of oil spill cleanup workers and media people / long drive in rush hour and two wrong turns create temporary pause in spousal reconnection

7/14/10/Wed. (Day 8):

toured downtown New Orleans and French Quarter / drove by Louisiana Superdome and tried to picture the scene inside, following Katrina / drove up and down Bourbon Street / no place to park free / too hot (104 degrees) to walk around much anyway / finally parked at a downtown lot, $10 for 2 hrs. / went to Harrah’s Casino and donated $50 / shopped a little at the Riverwalk Marketplace / lost the car / found the car — minutes before it could have been towed / argued about who should have remembered where car was parked / reviewed reasons for taking this vacation together / had authentic New Orleans Chile’s cuisine for dinner / on a serious note, remembered my late brother who left us way too soon: “Happy Birthday, Jerry” / again, family is so important / reminded ourselves of the admonition: tell them (and treat them like) you love them, while they’re here — because any one of them could leave this earth tomorrow / Norma and I told each other / reconnected heavily back at the hotel

7/15/10/Thur. (Day 9):

heard on news that BP finally capped their oil leak today / drove 105 miles to Venice, La., near southernmost tip of the state / could not find any conspicuous signs of oil spill damage / speculated that most of the onshore mess has been cleaned up since April explosion-disaster / or, being the deep thinkers we are, immediately suspected it could all be a hoax thrust upon nation by Obama to vilify oil companies / you know he changed the Constitution to socialist-fascism / he also secretly wears Five Pillars of Islam underwear and The Joker makeup — we’ve seen the pictures! / why does he hate America, so? / according to many tea party members, Obama is a socialist AND a fascist — a sociopolitical hermaphrodite / unlike tea party sign makers, however, Obama can spell and write / subjects followed by verbs / complete sentences, even without a teleprompter / show-off! / met with Anne Thompson, NBC News’ chief environmental affairs correspondent (— writer’s embellishment) / Anne had to cut lunch short to do her MSNBC oil spill report / met with Rachel Maddow, Keith Olbermann, and Glenn Beck (just to stay “fair and balanced”) (— further writer’s embellishment) / we all agree Venice appears to be connecting point between Mexican Gulf oil rigs and mainland / lots of helicopter companies / maybe for transporting oil rig workers? / that or transporting our rights offshore / anyway, having a great vacation

7/16/10/Fri. (Day 10):

arrived late afternoon to tour Miss. Gulf Coast: Long Beach, Gulfport, Biloxi, etc. / rained cats-dogs / saw traces of oil in isolated spots on beaches / saw hundreds of beach cleanup workers milling around the miles of beach, doing almost nothing / one worker told us they were there as a “BP presence” / later, after sundown, under large temporary industrial work lights, saw more workers on same beaches — doing almost nothing / saw dozens of lease busses carrying workers to and from beaches — to do almost nothing / very strange / met with Miss. Gov. Haley Barbour about oil spill (— more writer’s embellishment) / ended up talking about why this guy can’t hold a job: he’s been a lawyer, lobbyist, U.S. Senate candidate, RNC chairman, governor, Law and Order cast member — no, wait, that’s the other old guy / C’mon, Haley, make a commitment and settle down / and why are you helping the president to perpetuate this oil spill disaster myth? / congratulated ourselves on our excellent good cop-bad cop interviewing skills / spousal reconnection in full swing

7/17/10/Sat. (Day 11):

did a surprise tour of Miss. Gulf Coast to see if BP had hidden the evidence of oil spill damage during our visit yesterday / clean as a whistle / we now trust their every word / Mr. President, take your boot heel off BP’s neck / they can’t breathe (the fumes) / BP says damage is minimal / If Steve King, Alan King, Rush Limbaugh, Rush, Rand Paul, RuPaul, Sharron Angle, Michele Bachmann, Randy Bachman, Glenn Beck, Beck, and Sean Hannity all believe BP, why isn’t that good enough for you pompous critical thinkers? / who voted you in as the voice of reason? — that’s beside the point / just remember: “SCIENTIFIC METHOD” has many of the same letters as “SOCIALISM” / who do you think you are: Ronald Reagan? / “trust, but verify”? / hey, he probably “wants his life back,” too / next thing you know, you’ll be copying ol’ Ronnie by announcing that “preservation of our environment is not a liberal or conservative challenge, it’s common sense” (Reagan’s State of the Union Address; 1/25/1984.) / “Mr. Obama, tear down this wall!” (of reason and social conscience)

7/18/10/Sun. (Day 12):

today is our 28th wedding anniversary (seems like only 27) / had wonderful 2-hour breakfast with friends Bill and Debbie in Gulfport, Miss., on our way out of town / friends, also, are so important / finally found our holy grail: Bill gave us a sample of oil spill tar ball he collected from the Gulf beach, a few weeks after Deepwater Horizon explosion / Mr. President, we’re so sorry we ever doubted you — apparently there really was an oil spill / and congrats on your recent progress with unemployment benefits extension bill and financial regulatory bill / like health care and many of your numerous other legislative and executive successes, we would have liked stronger measures / but we also know you pulled out the best you could under the circumstances (i.e., legions of uninformed, selfish demagogues focused only on your failure) / faced with constant Republican refudiation (sic), you’re still consistently moving the country in the right direction — toward the people / back to my vacation log: stayed our last night on the road in Nashville Marriott / for 18 hours we lived like the other half / hip, hip, hooray for Norma’s hard-earned hotel points (recognition and appreciation go a long way toward reconnection)

7/19/10/Mon. (Day 13):

home / spousal reconnection: complete ■