25X: Planes, Trains and Automobiles

It’s 8:00AM as I’m writing this. Do you know where your favorite Lance+Jeff contributors are?

Nope, not Japan. Or Hawaii. Or even New York City (just an expensive hop, skip, and jump away from us normally). Nope, y’all, we’re currently in Gatlinburg, Tennessee to find our Christmas spirit; Dolly Parton is our guide.

A lot of us will travel for the holidays: some to see family, some to vacation, some to visit the model tour bus in front of Dolly Parton’s museum, Chasing Rainbows (I think that’s also the name of Liberace’s museum…too soon?). Travel, for many, is synonymous with the holidays, and if you can find a way to enjoy “the journey,” maybe singing along at the top of your lungs to really cheesy Christmas songs, then it can actually be a fun, memorable component of your holiday.

A few years ago now, Lance and I were on our way back to Michigan to visit my family for Christmas. When I was a kid, my immediate family lived in Maryland while most of my extended family called the Great Lakes state home, so I was familiar with this drive and knew how grueling it could be. But let me tell you, having the back of our Honda Fit (good riddance) stuffed to the brim with Christmas presents, so full you couldn’t open a door without something falling out, all the while sipping Salted Caramel Mochas and listening to Kenny and Dolly sing “A Christmas To Remember”…that was a good time. It felt a little magical, like we were two dentists bringing in tow a sleigh full of misfit toys.

Now, normally I’m all about packing up a bag and having a bit of an adventure, sometimes (::cough cough::all the time::cough::) to a fault–sorry, bank account. That’s why we flew down to Disney World for like 38 hours last weekend, and why we’re here now for Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas (we’ll save the musings regarding Lance’s Mecca-like religious experiences at Dolly’s theme park for another post.)

And it’s not like I usually mind long car rides. But something about yesterday’s drive just had me in such a foul mood (except for the gas prices, which are under $3.00 a gallon here in Tennessee! Now I know why Connie Britton wanted to film Nashville on location!). We left at least an hour later than planned, then hit lots of inexplicable traffic, tacking on an another hour or so to the trip. I couldn’t sleep in the car because no matter how low you keep the volume on the stereo, our Fiesta’s so small that your head is always near a speaker.

Then Lance had us route through Johnson City, Tennessee on the way to our hotel in Gatlinburg, The Mall at Johnson City being home to a Bath & Body Works test-scent store. A test-scent store, as you might gather, is where the company sells products before they may be released nationwide, taking stock of what does and doesn’t sell before mass producing it. This means Lance could get his well-moisturized hands on some candles that would normally not be released until next year, if they were going nationwide at all.

I’m all about “the hunt,” so to speak: devoting an illogically large amount of time to procure something you most likely don’t need. I do this a lot with couponing, re-buying things multiple times in an effort to get the best deal (though I’m sure an argument could be made that the amount of time and money wasted on this make it totally not worth it.) But at the end of what at that point was an 11-hour ride, all the while being constantly stuck behind people on I-81 that considered the speed limit a wild, dangerous proposition, the last thing I wanted to do was stop at a mall.

Then Lance plugged the hotel’s information into the GPS to see the time to the hotel from the mall.

“When’s it say we’ll get in?” I asked.

“Umm. Never mind.”

I reached for the GPS. “What’s it say??” I began to panic.

“9:30,” Lance whispered.

“9:30???” I yelped, a mix of shock and outrage. That meant another two hours in the car, after we were done at the mall.

The mall would end up being about an hour out of our way. With that realization, I lost it, becoming filled with irrational, boiling irritation. I wanted to cry and scream at the same time. Let’s appreciate the journey and not just the destination? That concept was so far lost from me.

So I sat in the passenger’s seat after stopping at the mall (had to stock up on Tiki Beach three-wicks!!), stewing with some unnecessary, indescribable mix of emotions: anger, irritation, sleepiness. I was DONE with this effing car ride.

Then we pulled off the highway and into Sevierville, Dolly Parton’s hometown and just two towns over from our hotel. That’s when I saw this:

The whole road, for miles, was framed with these gorgeous, enormous Christmas light displays. None of this blow-up lawn Santa shit here–these we’re beautiful, complex-but-simple for the fact that they were all made from lights.

It was something that just took my breath away a little. Something so simple, yet tapping into the part of my instinctual brain which finds comfort with light in the darkness.

In those moments, as we were passing by these wonderful displays, I didn’t think about the drive at all.


Legends of the Fall


Friends, it’s fall! Fall is here! Hip hip!  So long, summer, you horrible, humid beast! (Keep in mind that it’s currently, like 110% humidity in Philly and 85 degrees. It’s all psychosomatic.)

There isn’t a time of year Lance and I love more than this increasingly crisp stretch of reds and oranges and yellows, of sweaters and fingerless gloves, hot cider and college football (okay, maybe that’s just me) leading up to Christmas, than fall.  It’s our element.  Maybe it’s because our birthdays are both soon approaching (hint hint) and we’re therefore just biologically predisposed to this time of year.

Even eclipsing our birthdays (wink wink nudge nudge) is our anticipation of fall products, the very items that evoke a sense memory every time you sip or sniff (because, I mean, what’s tradition without buying consumer goods? Yay capitalism!):

  • Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte. Duh, this one is pretty obvious, and although they released them toward the tail-end of August this year, we both had to wait until today, the first unofficial day of fall, to get one.  Much like the Gingerbread Latte around Christmastime, the PSL is an amazingly rich fall explosion in your mouth.  I’m a cheapsake, though, so I’ll spend the $6 once to get one, then resort to the spice-less pumpkin latte at Dunkin’ Donuts for half the price for the remainder of the season.
  • Cider and donuts from the orchard. Getting them from the grocery store is not the same!  That’s why you must spend the extra $5 in gas to get to the orchard and then pay whatever upcharge applied by the orchard.
  • Sweetzels Spiced Wafers.  Though these are available year-round in the Northeast (at least), they become omnipresent starting in August. I love chucking one or two of these into my mouth at once and sucking the ginger flavoring out of them until the wafer dissolves from a rock-hard cookie to a mushy mess. Evocative!
  • Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake at the Cheesecake Factory.  The Cheesecake Factory is kind of a gigantic mess, a cacophony of menu items served in a weird, pastel Egyptian/stencil-paint theme.  Nevertheless, the food is solid and this cheesecake is bangin’.  It’s only offered from mid-October on (and I missed it last year since we were in Hawaii and Hawaiian Cheesecake Factory doesn’t believe in pumpkins!!!) and I will move mountains to gorge myself with it this year.
  • Bath and Body Works’ bajillion fall candles.  Don’t ask me to justify the difference between the Autumn and Autumn Day scents, but I do admit there is a difference.   One probably has notes of “cider” and “cool breeze through the orchard,” while the other is mixed with “the sound of leaves crunching underfoot.”
  • Little Debbie Fall Party Cakes.  Actually, not only the Party Cakes, but anything fall-themed, regardless of how loose the theming or how awful the actual product, is something I will probably enjoy.

This is understandably the time of the year when Lance and I both gain about 10 pounds each through pie/dessert coffee consumption. But that’s okay, since it’s also the time of year when you move away from shorts and tees and into more forgiving sweaters and hoodies.

Vancouver, Where Dreams Come True-ver (Part 3)

For Part 1, go past the washroom and then click here!

For Part 2, spend $18 on a six-pack of beer, sit back, relax, and click here!

Part of the outdoor exhibit at the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia. I’ll get to this in a sec…

Day 5: I was slow to get out of the hotel on this day, for three reasons: one, the homesickness described in Part 2, and the gargantuan amount of work-related e-mails to address (this was a work-trip, after all!), and the fact that it was raining. BOO!  Who the heck would ever plan for it to rain in the Pacific Northwest?  Certainly not I, who didn’t even pack an umbrella!


Bath and Blubber Works


Howdy, y’all.  It’s Lance here.  Yes, that Lance.  I’m the donut-eating, Ruby Tuesday-loving, rolling-my-eyes-at-Jeff Lance.  That’s me.

I decided I can no longer sit on the sidelines (sports? what’s those?) and allow Jeff to continue his own ramblings – I must add some of my own.

[You will notice, too, that I have supplied you, my kind reader, with more of my soon-to-be-infamous artwork.  Please note: the artwork you see is real.  I am really that bad.]

When I got home from work today, and after saying hello to Kitty and calling her some kind of ridiculous, non-sensical name (today was Booby-Boobstery, I believe), I flipped through the Details magazine we got in the mail.  Great.  More ads of nearly naked, perfect looking people.  I hate them and hope they choke on a donut.

Anyway…on page 68 I stop cold.  It is a list of 8 OBESOGENS.  Yes, you read that correctly.  OBESOGENS.  As in carcinogens, but OBESOGENS.  Okay, Details, you have my undivided attention.  Here’s the list:

  • New Car Smell (!)
  • Antibacterial Hand soap (!!!!!!)
  • Show Curtains (!!!!)
  • Teflon Cookware (!!)
  • Personal Care Products (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
  • Plastic Bottles (!)
  • Cash Register Receipts (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
  • Pizza Boxes (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

I’m sorry, WHAT?  PERSONAL CARE PRODUCTS ARE MAKING ME FAT?  Yep, according to a study (yes, another study), there are chemicals in scented body products – colognes, shower gels, deodorants, lotions, shampoos – that cause obesity.  Grrrreat.  Do you have any idea how many personal care products I use a day?  Too many to freakin’ count, and THEY’RE MAKING ME FAT?

In the period of about 5 minutes (it was a short article but, hey, I’m a slow reader – don’t judge me) Details magazine ruined my life.  Each and everyone one of those things is something I either enjoy, love, or takeitawayfrommeandiwillcutyou.  I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve been driving home in my new car, drinking diet Mountain Dew from a plastic bottle, after having just held a receipt from my purchase of both antibacterial hand soap and scented shower gel I plan to use behind my shower curtain, on my way home to make dinner in a teflon pan, only to burn it and order a pizza [box].

So all that time I spend going to the gym (and, conversely, the time I spend feeling guilty for not going to the gym) is pointless because just about everything is making me fat?

Sigh.  My life is over.  I need a Ruby Relaxer.  

And a donut.