Travels With Lance

[Continuing our series on the origins of Lance+Jeff! You can see our other entries here, here, and here!]

It was never a conscious choice of ours, to travel so much, but looking back to compile these posts, it’s pretty clear that going on adventures is a fundamental element of our relationship.

Our first trip together was actually the start of a rapid-fire succession of mini-trips, about five months after we began dating.  We went to New York for the day to catch the original off-Broadway production of future Tony- and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical Next to Normal, starring Lance’s fave stage actress of all-time, Alice Ripley.

[Sidebar: Lance’s obsession with Alice Ripley started in a Tower Records.  “I just saw her name on the back of a CD and I KNEW I had a connection with her!!” he describes. Stalker, much?]


Since this was supposed to be Alice’s big Broadway comeback show (“It’s a RETURN!” says Lance) after an unsuccessful detour to Hollywood and rock music, Lance was terribly excited…and nervous, since the show was still working through some kinks in this limited off-Broadway run.  At that point, it was doubtful that it would even transfer to Broadway…and then what would happen to Alice??

So, after we saw the show that weekend, we decided to bus it back to New York to see it again…twice…the following week.

It was obviously windy that day. This is why Lance no longer has his Milo Ventimagina hair.

New York, twice in one month (not the only time we’ve done that)–a test for any couple.  But wait, there’s more!

Some four days after this second NYC trip, we flew to Chicago!  Lance was checking out grad school programs at the time, and both of us have a mad metropolitan crush on the Windy City.


Since that chilly March in 2008, we’ve travelled a bunch. Probably too much.

There was Universal Studios Orlando in May 2008…

Yes, those are cargo shorts. 2008 was the darkest timeline.

DC in January of 2009 (for Next to Normal’s off-off Broadway re-tooling run):


…then Atlantic City…


…Finally back to NYC to see Next to Normal play on Broadway, just a few months before Alice won her Tony for the role (and will be forever remembered for her Tony acceptance speech.)


…Then to Las Vegas…


…And back to Chicago in October 2009…


…And then to Hawaii in April 2010, where our Lance+Jeff story will continue tomorrow:


Our first trip to Hawaii also marks quite a significant event in the long slog of our relationship (I bet you can’t guess what it is!!!1!), a turning point for our relationship, but also for our travels.  Ever since this trip, we’ve gone even more travel-crazy, going back to NYC multiple times, back to Vegas two more times, then to New Orleans, Dollywood (x2), Disney World (x2), Tokyo…and I think there was even a trip to Lincoln, Nebraska in there somewhere…not to mention our trips home to Michigan…

Why does it work for us? That’s hard to say.  If you don’t like the bussle and anxiety of travel, this might not be for you. Thankfully, both of us like travelling and like spending a lot of time together, though we have, over time, established guidelines and agreements so that we don’t kill each other.

This isn’t to say that we’re the world’s most-traveled couple. Obviously not! Nevertheless, our desire to hop on a plane together, to hold hands as the wheels slip free of the runway, and go off exploring somewhere…that’s in the chemistry of our relationship.

What To Do When Your Partner Leaves You Alone With A Neutered Dog

Friends, it’s true: Lance is leaving me.

…for a long-weekend of giggling, falling asleep at early hours, and the Tournament of Kings dinner show in Las Vegas with his BFF of 20 years (OMG so old!), Romina.

Should I feel jealous that he’s travelling without me?  Or worried about suspicious activity? (Like, will Lance pass out from a protein-overdose at the MGM Grand Buffet after eating too many ribs??)

Well, I’m not.  If I know my boy, he’ll be more disgusted by the vast majority of other gays and their sleeveless, too-snug tees to find anybody attractive.  He’ll probably make this face if anybody comes on to him:

Or, he and Romina won’t make it out of the hotel room after ordering room service and turning on a TLC reality show marathon.

But still, that leaves me (and really, isn’t it all about me?) alone with two furry friends, one of whom is about to go through reverse-puberty, for four days.  How could I possibly force myself to get out of bed, separated from my love as I’ll be, and find things to occupy my time for that long??

Here’s a little secret, folks: while I will undoubtedly miss my Boo Berry, there is a certain air of freedom that comes with having the house to yourself for a little while, and I plan to bathe myself in that sweet, glorious freedom.

“How does this manifest itself?” you may ask.

I’m not going to be throwing any parties or procuring any illicit drugs or any such thing.  What I will be doing is enjoying a few of my favorite things without Lance making this face over my shoulder:


See, there are some things I love that Lance just cannot stand, and I, highly sensitive to judgment, would rather leave my beloved hobbies and favorite pieces of entertainment away from his critical stink eye.  That way, not only does he not have to be subjected to my things, but I can enjoy them in peace, without fear of negative comment or quiet distain (or, at least, my perception that these are happening.  Nope, not an important qualifier there at all.)

The last time Lance was away for the weekend, I watched all of The West Wing Season 4 in 36 hours! Go me!

Here are some of the things I may be partaking in this weekend while Lance is away:

  • The Lord of the Rings Extended Edition Blu-rays (I’ve owned these for a year and have never watched them! For shame!)
  • Perusing my local Barnes & Noble with no particular plan or intention of buying anything. I love the simply, calming act of just broswing in a bookstore. It’s very cathartic!
  • Making myself a pizza that does not include chicken, bacon, and barbecue sauce. Not that this isn’t great, but Lance’s preferences for pizza toppings is limited.  Maybe I’ll even fry my crust! Additionally, I will not eat chicken fingers for any meal.
  • I’ll be able to listen to a podcast of NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour without Lance doing an irritating imitation of Trey Graham’s voice.
  • Watching Back to the Future Parts II and III. Lance inexplicably didn’t care for the first one, so he’s not going back to that well any time soon.
  • Watching my season sets of Rome (I’ve owned these since 2007 and have never watched them!)
  • Watching some of my fave movies, like The Squid and the WhaleKill Bill, and Before Sunrise/Before Sunset
  • Watching…

…hrm.  I guess my list is mostly things that have my sitting around on my butt, in the dark, while I stuff my face with Chex Mix.

…This isn’t pathetic at all. Nope, no way, nosirree.  While, sure, I may be cutting myself off from the world to enjoy these things…and yes,  my skin tone is already the color of a pane of glass…and sure, I may just eat Hot Pockets instead of being ambitious enough to roll out some pizza dough…but, but…

OH GOD, HONEY, DON’T GO!  Who is going to drive me to the grocery store? (I hate driving!) Who’s going to wash the towels? (I hate doing laundry!) Who’s going to light the candles to make our apartment smell nice? (I hate candles but appreciate the ambience they provide!)


A Crisis of Fragrance

Last night, Lance was standing near his cologne station (see large image below), nervously fretting, eyes darting back and forth.  No, he wasn’t tweaking; he was plagued with indecision.  He turned to me and said, “Honey, I’m having a crisis of fragrance.”  He is going to Las Vegas on Saturday and didn’t know what scented body products to take with him.

[Before I go on, I should stress that I really wanted Lance to write this post, as it’s a long time coming.  Please feel free to harass him on Twitter (@lancegriffith) and encourage him to write more posts for this blog!]

And these are just the body products–I haven’t even gotten to the candles!

Now, this sort of internal struggle is is not unusual for Lance.  Scent is very important to him. While I have a weak sense of smell, Lance’s nose is like that of a bloodhound: highly trained and super-sensitive.  He actually can pull out the “notes” of a fragrance; he’d be great at wine tastings if he could even stand to be near the smell of fermented grapes (y’know, one bad experience in college accidentally drinking a whole bottle of wine and all that…).  This trait, coupled with his penchant for extreme couponing (where do you think my love of airline/hotel points got its inspiration from?), has left our home overflowing with Bath & Body Works products: body lotions, shower gels, body sprays, foaming soaps, eau de toilette, ..and yes, even shimmer mist.

Some people don’t understand this appreciation for smells, for Lance’s skillful Scentology.  They chuckle whenever he tells the story of the time he bought 90+ candles during a Bath & Body Works semi-annual sale.  The cashiers at Bath & Body Works know him by name, and he’s careful about revisiting an individual location too often, especially during spurts of high returns (B&BW has a very generous return policy).

However, people should not scoff–this Scentology is an art, and people routinely compliment Lance on the immersive experience he provides.  Heck, he’s basically Scent Imagineer (hint hint, Disney!).  I’ve told him he needs to scam a bunch of rich old ladies into hiring him to scent-decorate (scentorate?) their homes for a nice fat fee.

Lance is very particular about balanced and seasonably appropriate scents.  You’d best not be burning a Cranberry Woods three-wick in July (that’s strictly a Fall/Winter scent), and all active scents in each room must compliment each other (you’re not going to have a Pineapple Mango Wallflower going at the same time as a Green Grass candle, are you, you heathen?!).

This Scentology isn’t necessarily a passion, but it is a hobby that borders on obsession.  How many Bath & Body Works have we been to in the last two weeks trying to track down the Bonfile Maplewood fall release candle?  How many times have we driven across state lines to go to a larger store with a bigger inventory?  How many hours have I spent waiting outside of a Bath & Body Works??

At some points, it’s also borderlined on hoarding (how long have you had that Buttered Mashed Potato candle, hon?).  Our television cabinet is full of Wallflower bulbs, and the candle collection not only has its own shelving unit, but a separate cabinet as well.  There are  currently 22 different shower gel scents “in rotation” in our bathroom.  My dad, on one of his first visits to our apartment, looked under the sink in the bathroom and later asked me why we had so much shampoo.  No, Dad, that’s Bath & Body Works’ fall line of shower soaps.

I don’t begrudge Lance his complex, obsessive need to buy scented products (“Jungle Kiss is being discontinued?! Hurry–to the outlet!”), re-buying them every year in the new packaging even if he already owns three of the same scent.  Heck, why would I discourage him? Do you know how much money I’ve saved over the years in body wash??

I’m confident Lance will figure out what scents are best appropriate for his girls’ weekend in Vegas.  If not, he’ll just do what he always does during indecisive packing: fill up half of my luggage with his overflow stuff.

WanderLance and Jeff: No Compromise

(In retrospect, I guess I was asking for it.)

One of the more challenging parts of navigating the shared life of a relationship is when there is a disagreement over vacations.  Do you like “sit around and do nothing” vacations? Or do you like “immerse yourself in local culture by touring the food market” vacations? How do you come to some of agreement that isn’t really just a half-assed compromise that leaves both sides miserable?

The first time I realized that Lance and I don’t see eye-to-eye on vacations was when we went to Las Vegas for the first time.

“Oooh, ooh, I can’t wait to see the Hoover Dam!” I squealed. “And maybe maybe we can take a bus tour to the Grand Canyon!!!”

Lance got that look on his face, and shut it down. “Betch, please. I’m going to the pool.”

Y’see, Lance just doesn’t like what he calls “busy” vacations.  He likes to get his pina colada slushee in a giant plastic mug and lay out in the sun for hours at a time.  There will be no “touring,” for heaven’s sake.

I begrudgingly agreed to tag along to the pool, not wanting to force Lance to do anything he didn’t care to do, and surprise!, we didn’t make it to the Hoover Dam on that trip.

The following year, we were in Hawaii, a trip I never thought I’d make. I mean, I had to go to Pearl Harbor, right? How many more opportunities would I ever have to see it?

Our conversation about visiting the hallowed ground where thousands died in service to our country went a lil’ something like this:

Lance had absolutely negative desire to spend 45 minutes on the bus (each way) to look at some rusty metal and oil slicks.  The “do lots of stuff” vacations never appeal to him, which boggles my mind, since those were the only kind of vacations I did growing up.  You’ve got seven days to pack in as much stuff as possible….annnnd, go!

Unlike the Hoover Dam, though, I knew I couldn’t go to Oahu and not see Pearl Harbor.  That just wasn’t going to happen, regardless of whether or not Lance wanted to come with me.

We actually had a pretty serious conversation about how it’s okay to do things separately on vacation, even if you’re on the other side of the world.  It was a strange discussion to have, since, you know, we are in a relationship (now marriage) and we should do everything together, especially on a trip, right? Well, no. We decided that neither of us would try to restrict what the other wanted to do; if we were uninterested, we would just go do something else.

This works well, too, with how we decide vacation destinations.  There’s no compromises in this department: Lance gets to choose a big vacation one year, then I do the next, and so on.  That’s why we’ve been to Hawaii twice (my choice once, and then Lance’s).  That’s why we’re going to Japan this fall (my choice), and probably Hawaii again next year (Lance’s choice; notice a trend?).  While we’re on these trips, we can decide to do things together or individually, whatever each person wants to do.  This set-up more often than not keeps the peace!

With Disney World (my choice, though this gets into the whole vacation sub-category of “long weekend” trips which we tend not to count in our decision rotation), Lance confirmed my fears that he is happy to go, just not that OMIGODM-I-C-K-E-Y-M-O-U-S-EMICKEYMOUSE! excited as I am. (The interaction captured in the first cartoon was said without thinking, during an argument about dog boarding, of all things.)  At first, I was, yeah, a little sad and kind of hurt, but I had to remind myself that he has a right to his opinion; hell, it’s not like I’ve kept secret my lack of enthusiasm toward Las Vegas, one of Lance’s favorite places.

If Lance doesn’t want to do something in Disney World, we have that understanding that says, “Okay, well, you can go do whatever you want while I do this.”  Nobody should be kept back from doing what they want to do.  If I want to ride Peter Pan’s Flight, nothing’s gonna stop me, gosh darnit!

…Though, now that I think about it, I’ve still never made it to the Hoover Dam.