If someone had asked me (and no one did), 'Would you brave Fire, Flood, and Family to get your Dudeness back'. I'd have instantly said 'Yes' without a second thought. Now if you stretch the 'Fire' thing to include bad-tempered redheads, that's exactly what I did. The 'Flood' part you can see in the pic on the left. and that makes the 'Family' part the most dangerous of them all.
First there was my son Tim, who picked me up at the airport and nearly got lost twice on the way out. If not for the timely interventions of his room-mate Megan, we'd be circling the 'Ace of Clubs' shaped MCI (Mid Continent International) even still. Then he introduces me to his psychotic house cat 'Unit-two' (don't ask, I did and was still confused after they'd explained it twice) who was initially nice, but turned into Linda Blair when I tried to pick her up. Then there was his insidious plot to get me to return by introducing me to the Free State Grill's addictive concoction called 'Cheddar Ale Soup'. Something that should only be doled out by prescription and followed up by a 12 step rehab program. It's that good. On the way out of town the next day we stopped so Tim could renew his car registration. As anyone that has lived in Kansas knows, each letter is assigned a month of the year to renew, and June is the 'H' month. The 30th being the final day that procrastinator 'H's could register without a penalty. So naturally, that was the day my son renewed.
We spent some time talking to my mother when we reached the Homeland, and after Tim left I helped mom and dad get ready for the Farmer's Market. (Good Stuff: Enchilada Lady, mom thinks it's a little pricey, but I think they're really good) then agreed to run an errand with my mom. That errand, naturally enough ended with... You guessed it, registering her vehicles and also trying to do the same for Beth. (I'm sensing a genetic pattern here) Beth wins the Procrastinator of the Year award. She had 10 minutes to spare before fine,imprisonment and legal shame, because she hadn't signed something and I had to zip off to bring her down to the Courthouse from work.
Despite the fact that my family seems to enjoy sleeping on rocks (who ever heard of a stiff futon? and their mattresses were harder) I was looking forward to several days with them until they were to wend their way to the Northern Reaches (Minneapolis) to spend the 4th with PJ. I was prepared to enjoy it that is, until I ran into something that became a recurring theme. People wanting me to make DECISIONS! I tried to explain to everyone, (Tim, Mom, Dad, Beth, Chris, Shirley, Deb, et al) I wasn't there to disrupt anyone's life, I was there for a few days of vacation before I picked up Dude, and the only plan I had was to see as many people as possible, take a bunch of pictures, and be at the Airport Sunday morning in time for my flight. I didn't want to decide where anyone was going to eat, be, or do. It was a difficult battle, but I think I emerged victorious and annoyed some people in the bargain, so it was a win-win.
Points Deducted: No one either told, or reminded, me that Atchison is where the Verizon 'Can you hear me now?' Dude went to die. Absolutely no signal anywhere in the county. Every time I lamented this fact to anyone within earshot all I got was a knowing chuckle and a nod of the head and a look of 'Where you been boy, you don't know that?'. Luckily for me, BC had Verizon put up a temporary tower for some Catholic Teen conference. So as long as I was willing to put up with overly polite Catholic teens, I could at least check my messages and make a couple of calls before Campus Security got too curious, or the mosquitoes became too voracious. Monks must have thick skins, 'cause those things were vicious! I'm not kidding, when the sun went down, they came out with bibs on. So I would drag myself up to BC 3 or 4 times a day and even though Dave only witnessed the procedure for one day, he'd chime, "You have two new messages, please enter your password to retrieve your messages", and basically give me a hard time until he could get back to Brendan's XBox.
Soon it became the time both to be awaited and feared, rescuing the Dude from the clutches of the Evil Mad-Woman, or just picking up Dave from his mom (same thing). I was waiting in the parking lot of a QT when I heard "There he is!!!" and looked up to see my son dragging his mother by one hand down the sidewalk to get over to me. After the traditional unpleasantness that's inevitable whenever she and I are within the same state, Dude was deposited in the car, and we were ready to go. Dave babbling at the speed of sound (is that possible?) about 'Time to go to the airport.' 'Got to get to Pittsburgh.' and, of course, 'Time to go to the GameStop!!'. I don't even know if they have GameStops in Kansas! Dave's enthusiasm about going home was dimmed a bit when he found out that Brendan has several gaming systems hooked up. He was especially fond of the XBox 360 in the living room, and I had to check his bag when we left to make sure he wasn't trying to smuggle it out.Bonus Points: My son Joe's kids were up for a visit at the same time, so I got to spend some time with them. We were all out on the front porch playing imagination games when their mom called out through the front door, "Are you being good?" To which (naturally) they all said, " Yes!" and I added, "Well, as good as Hoffman kids know how to be." Which was no more than the truth, and pretty funny besides. (picture from left to right: Dude, Evelyn, Berlin, and Little Joe)
This is just a sketch (possibly first installment) of what happened in the 5 days I was wandering Mein Vaterland. If I'd gone into more detail or tried to cover everything I'd be responsible for many keyboard impressions on foreheads. (caused by people falling asleep at their computers.) Might go into more detail later, but I kinda feel sorry for Raine, 'cause she had to hear the whole thing. And I was right there to shake her awake. Poor woman.