An Open Letter to the State of Missouri

Dear State of Missouri,

Because my extended family lives in Kansas and I live in Tennessee, I am routinely forced to drive through your state.  I have always loathed this drive because  your roads are poorly designed, heavily-trafficked and generally awful. This year, though, you outdid yourself. The plan you had to control the masses driving through your state on I-70 was sheer diabolical genius. Stationing highway patrolmen every 8 miles in the median was a fabulous way to utterly fuck up traffic. The speed limit in your state is 70 miles per hour, but I doubt I made it much over 55 all the way through because every time the very heavy stream of traffic would approach the actual speed limit en masse, your highway patrol cars in the median would be spotted and my fellow drivers would panic and slam on the brakes, creating a chain reaction fuck up that would only clear up 8 miles further down the road. This hellish cycle repeated every 8 miles in an endless Groundhog-day-style loop. Instead of the three and a half hours it typically takes to drive from Saint Louis to Kansas City, you held me an unwilling captive for six long hours.

I was presented with some “fun facts” about Missouri at one of their rest stops which presumably exist to give you hope that you may someday get out of Missouri. Tourist bureau, you might want to edit your tourist information:

  1. Missouri is known as the “Show Me State”. Yes, show me how to get the hell out of this state as fast as possible.
  2. The ‘Show Me State’ expression may have begun in 1899 when Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver stated, “I’m from Missouri and you’ve got to show me.” You’ve got to show me how to get out of this state.
  3. The first successful parachute jump to be made from a moving airplane was made by Captain Berry at St. Louis, in 1912. Even flying over the state leaves you suicidal.
  4. The most destructive tornado on record occurred in Annapolis. In 3 hours, it tore through the town on March 18, 1925 leaving a 980-foot wide trail of demolished buildings, uprooted trees, and overturned cars. It left 823 people dead and almost 3,000 injured. Nature abhors Missouri.
  5. Josephine Baker was born in Missouri. And promptly ran screaming to Paris to get out of Missouri.
  6. The first Capitol in Jefferson City burned in 1837 and a second structure completed in 1840 burned when the dome was struck by lightning on February 5, 1911. I think someone is trying to tell you something.
  7. Creve Coeur’s name means broken heart in French, comes from nearby Creve Coeur Lake. Legend has it that an Indian princess fell in love with a French fur trapper, but the love was not returned. According to the story, she then leapt from a ledge overlooking Creve Coeur Lake; the lake then formed itself into a broken heart. Because she was trapped for eternity in Missouri.
  8. The most powerful earthquake to strike the United States occurred in 1811, centered in New Madrid, Missouri. The quake shook more than one million square miles, and was felt as far as 1,000 miles away. Hello, Missouri, the planet wants you to go away.
  9. Anheuser-Busch brewery in St. Louis, Missouri is the largest beer producing plant in the nation. If you lived in Missouri, you’d need buckets of beer to tolerate it, too.
 I never thought I’d be so happy to see this sign:

75 mph speed limit and 100% less annoying.

Suck it Missouri. Kansas is a much better state, Gov. Brownback lunacy notwithstanding.

A note to our esteemed friends at the Fish and Wildlife: mountain lions are alive and well here

Earlier this year, our friends at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared eastern mountain lions extinct.  Across Tennessee, we all laughed. Here in heavily populated middle Tennessee in the suburbs of Nashville, we all know someone who knows someone who has seen a mountain lion. Some of us have seen them ourselves.  This poor dog came in to rescue with Big Fluffy Dog Rescue after a very clear mountain lion attack and she took the worst of it defending her flock:

Athena after her tangle with a mountain lion

Still, after all the sightings and all the evidence (puncture and slash marks on Athena, tracks, etc), the Fish and Wildlife people said there are no mountain lions here.  I wonder how they will explain this:

Oversized house cat hit on Hwy 109 near Gallatin TN on Tuesday, October 11

I think we’re going to need more catnip.

Note: Athena was attacked in 2008. She’s fine now and living large as a house pet. The picture needs proper attribution as I did not take it, but I am not sure who did. Suffice it to say, it’s not me, but the original can be found here.

Why Eric Northman would make an awesome lawyer, with pictures

I am shallow and require mindless entertainment on occasion, which is why I adore True Blood. For sheer pretty scenery (I never thought I had a thing for Nordic blondes, but I have generously made an exception for Alexander Skarsgard), it’s hard to beat. Man prettiness plus cartoon violence = perfect Sunday night.  Last night I realized that Eric Northman is actually a lawyer at heart.  He broods, he is always rescuing someone, he owes allegiance to someone above him (King of Mississippi or managing partner – there’s very little difference) and he will rip someone’s heart out and drink their blood. Awesome.

So for our Sunday night recap (Soul of Fire episode for our more devoted friends), in pictures:

Eric is seriously pissed off. Probably how I look when someone files a stupid motion.

This is an excellent lawyer look. If I could grow fangs, I would totally do it.

Sookie is screaming (as usual) just like every whining client.

Clients are a problem. Mine rarely get trapped in a circle of literal fire, but Eric has a problem with this one. Clients ALWAYS expect their lawyer to rescue them. Of course, he will rescue her:

Best line of the night: "You'll have to go through me to get to her." Eric: "OK."

Ripping the heart of your client’s enemy out is a total lawyer thing. I greatly admired it, but Eric goes one step past awesome into the lawyer hall of fame:

Using your now-deceased enemy's heart as a sippy cup is epicly awesome. Well done, Eric Northman.

It appears of course that this was largely wasted as managing partner/King of Mississippi Bill only killed the evil witch and did not dispense with her spirit who is going to just fuck everything up next Sunday night, but that’s just like actually being a lawyer. You do all the hard work and someone higher than you on the ladder just goes and fucks all your good work up. Eric Northman, go to law school. You would be an outstanding lawyer. Sure, you’ll have to stick to night court, but still.

The Grim Reaper Report: National Park deaths

I have noticed an uptick in people who find this blog with searches for people who die in various national parks or as dinner for a shark or grizzly bear. Y’all are clearly a morbid, bloodthirsty bunch. This morning, these searches found this blog:

Searching for dead people

As a public service, for those of you with morbid curiosity wasting time looking for information on people who have died in National Parks and how, here’s where you need to go:

Yellowstone deaths

This bear in Yellowstone did not eat us as we stayed a long way away. If you surprise a bear with cubs, you can expect to be dispatched to the hereafter. Note the grainy picture which denotes long distance away from danger.

 

Yosemite deaths

3 people just died here. We didn't, but we stayed behind the rails.

Zion National Park deaths

This is why people die on Angel's Landing. It's 1200 feet off to one side and 900 on the other. I'm not insane enough to climb this, but Troy was. He's alive.

Grand Canyon deaths

Death Valley National Park deaths

Mount Ranier National Park deaths

Great Smoky Mountain National Park deaths/statistics

People die in Great Smoky Mountain National Park every year. Mostly because they are stupid. Waterfalls are dangerous.

 

Acadia National Park

Joshua Tree National Park

Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument

Channel Islands National Park

Biscayne National Park

The water at Biscayne National Park is crystal clear. You can drown here or be eaten by a shark. According to Troy, who has to my knowledge, never set a toe in the ocean.

Big Bend National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

I did not drown, fall off a waterfall or get eaten by a mountain lion in Rocky Mountain National Park

Grand Teton National Park

Troy hiked all 19+ miles of this trail in Grand Teton without dying

Badlands National Park (click on the compendium for details by year)

The Badlands are named that way for a reason. Troy survived it. Because he's not an idiot and took water and knew where he was. Also because I was not there for him to argue with about which way to go.

Canyonlands National Park

Just past the arch is a drop of over 1500 feet. Don't go to the edge and pose.

Haleakala National Park

Crater Lake National Park

Sequoia National Park

Kings Canyon National Park

Denali National Park

Sadly, there’s no statistics kept on who had it coming. Darwinism may be at work in many of the deaths.

For those of you even more determined to track down who met their fate in the form of being dinner for a wild animal, here you go:

Mountain lion attacks

Black bear attacks

These baby bears are adorable. Mom is pissed off. We stayed a respectful distance away.

Grizzly bear attacks

Polar bear attacks

Shark attacks

Killer bee attacks

Snake bite deaths

You’re welcome.

Yosemite Bingo: Passenger Fun

Traveling is frequently very annoying. Traffic, crowds, weather issues – they can all totally screw up an otherwise pleasant trip. It is my lot in life to ride shotgun as I am never the one driving and I suffer extensively as the perpetual passenger. Troy complains that I am way too aggressive behind the wheel (doubtful) and that he is the sensible one (this from the man who would scream at someone holding a rocket launcher for cutting him off). Apparently, I must have been drunk* when Troy and I married because I missed the part in the vows to always let Troy drive. But I digress.

For those moments when life sucks in the passenger’s seat, I invented National Park bingo. Playing is easy. Print your card and observe.  Mark off the spaces as you see the items in question. When you get an entire row, casually lean over and then yell loudly in your husband’s ear “Bingo!”  When playing solo, you win when your husband nearly drives off the road so you can lecture him about his lack of driving acumen.

Your bingo card:

 

 

All of these things can be found at Yosemite National Park

Happy hunting.

* It was Vegas. And also, I was drunk.

 

 

Real men of genius: Yosemite dancing man

Yosemite is pretty awesome for people watching as you have this odd amalgamation of Europeans who seriously hike, Japanese tourists who seriously take pictures, old people on tours, American families on summer vacation and so on. You do get to meet some odd characters. Today, I salute you, Mr. Yosemite Dancing Man. It takes gigantic balls or a complete lack of shame to dance at your own personal rave without any music for the rest of us to hear at a very busy bus stop. Sure, the bus was packed and all, but you didn’t let a lack of room or the terror of little old ladies who were afraid you might fling your sweat in their direction stop your awesome groove, you just kept right on dancing next to the driver. I’m not sure what awesome drugs you were taking to rave out like that on a random Thursday afternoon, but your excellent dance moves earn you a huge shout out. Rave on my friend, rave on.

Something new to add to my list of things that suck: cicadas

Troy and I were married on Friday the 13th thirteen years ago this coming June 13.  I had forgotten that the year we were married coincided with the arrival of the 13 year cicada invasion which is probably some sort of omen. May started out kind of cold here and the cicada invasion was on hold which was perfectly fine by me. I hate flying bugs. I especially hate mass legions of flying bugs. I knew trouble had started when I spotted the first one:

Loud, obnoxious and gross. Look at those beady red eyes.

One is bad enough. Millions of them are intolerable. It is hard to describe the sound so I have thoughtfully recorded it here:

Seriously, this sound will haunt me for years.  It’s like a million rattle snakes hanging in trees shaking their rattles simultaneously. This afternoon, I went to wash the kamikaze cicada debris off my car at the local car wash. Bad idea. I was attacked by dozens of the damned things. One flew down my cleavage. The outrage. As I gingerly tried to locate and remove the buzzing insect from underneath my sweaty left breast, I noticed I had attracted the attention of a few fellow car washers. In my mind, I bravely stared them down and flung the carcass of the dead insect at their feet. In reality, I probably stuffed my not quite as perky as it once was boob back into the sports bra and hid behind the car wash vacuum cleaners. What the hell were they staring at anyway? It’s not like I was picking the underwear out of my ass or something.

I have the luck of the Cherokee because it’s damned sure not the Irish

At just before 5 a.m. this morning, as I lay sleepless in my bed listening to two puppies scream at the unfairness of being crated, I watched a lightning storm move in. Watching lightning snake across the night sky is actually kind of cool as the patterns are endless and if I was still young enough to be able to manage chemical joy, this would be prime time to drop acid. Sadly, the days of treating my body like an amusement park are long past. At 4:57 a.m. the night sky turned neon blue and the fan I had running to dull the puppy noise ceased working. There went the sub-station and with it, the power and my beloved air conditioning.  At 4:58 a.m., the hail started to hit the house and I decided to get up. The trees were twisting violently in the wind and I could hear the sounds of wood breaking. I debated heading for the basement, but by the time I was ready to go, the wind let up.  As quickly as it came, the storm passed by. I pretended to go back to sleep, but sometimes, you’re  just kind of fucked and you might as well get up.

With the rising of the sun, I stepped outside with two very bad puppies and took stock of the back yard. Some limbs down, lots of leaves everywhere. I took the puppies inside. Still no power. Getting dressed without being able to see is kind of a trick. I settled on a white t-shirt, leggings and Tevas. Sure, that seems a bit dressed down for a law office and I pretty much look homeless, but fuck it. I packed up the laptop, grabbed the cell phone and told Troy I was heading to work. I opened the front door and was greeted with this scene:

Underneath the tree is my car.

Down the street, it looks like this:

My neighbor's house is on fire

I should be more upset for my neighbor, but there’s a tree on my car y’all:

Note that this large limb fell directly on my car when it had bare ground all the way around it.

Why is it that  my car had to get hit? Had I pulled up five more feet or parked back five feet, the tree would have missed. This is either supremely bad luck or the just reward for my hubris. Sure, I’m really sad that my neighbor’s car and house down the street are smashed, but my paint is scratched.

It sucks to be these people.

I have no power and won’t for some time. Sweating at night is in my future which I loathe. The refrigerator is full of things that are going to go bad. There’s a chocolate silk pie in there. I put it in the cooler with some ice. Troy put his six pack of Heineken in the cooler. Men have fucked up priorities. You can always swill liquor warm, but a chocolate silk pie melting is a tragedy.

Road Trip to Miami, Part Deux

Picking up where I left off, I arrived to rescue my sister from the hospital in Miami. Finding her proved problematic – who knew how many Jackson Memorial branches are in Miami? The GPS was not helpful as I ended up in a parking lot in Little Haiti which is, I assure you, not where I wanted to be. If you are in Little Haiti and driving a Honda CR-V with Tennessee plates and have red hair and pale skin, you will be noticed in an uncomfortable ‘I’m a suburban white girl from out of town and I am lost’ kind of way.

I finally found Susan who was ranting and raving about some Domenican nurse and a dead guy. I really did not ask questions as she was not wearing a bra (or probably underwear), looked like Medusa after a four-day bender and she was cursing in a language which might have been English, but I’m still not sure. I was not happy about having to drive to Miami, so I had already decided that if I was coming down to Miami, I was going back to the Everglades National Park to hike the Snake Bight trail which I did not get to do in December. That meant Susan was going to go with me.

Susan smelled like a wookie and her hair was terrifying so I was deciding where I could dunk her as she looked like a homeless person. The swamp seemed possible, but having some experience being dunked in swamp water, I am reasonably confident she would have smelled worse afterwards. I knew that the Flamingo marina had $3 showers for campers and I could dump her off for a shower while I hiked the trail. It was a great plan. First, though, we had to fill her prescriptions. I headed for Homestead where I knew there would be a pharmacy on the way to Everglades National Park. I did not know the prescription was for Dilaudid, but I digress.

Troy and I went to the Everglades in December at the start of the dry season. The water was much higher then and three months later, the water levels were drying up. Before Christmas it looked like this:

Anhinga trail at Christmas 2010 with stacks o' alligators

At the end of the dry season, the same place looked like this:

Anhinga trail, same place, three months later into the dry season

I was pretty stoked as I thought the trail I wanted to do would be dry and bug-free. That was a mistake. First, I had to get Susan to take a shower. I told her she was scaring small children and I loaned her some underwear and a sports bra because I am kind like that. I paid the $3 shower fee and told her I’d be back in an hour.  I told her to stand on the side of the marina and watch for manatees because they hang out there. She never saw a manatee but I did once I left:

I saw manatees while Susan was in the shower

The Snake Bight trail leads from the main road to Flamingo to Florida Bay. It’s a little shy of a mile and three quarters one way. When I arrived, it was absolutely deserted and I was the only person on the trail.

Snake Bight trail, Everglades National Park

My theory that lack of water = no bugs was a major miscalculation. I have never seen so many flying bugs in my life. And they all wanted to bite me. Still, I persevered and walked very fast with the idea that I could somehow out pace them. Not possible. I walked this trail like it was the Bataan Death March because I drove to Miami in one shot dammit and I was going to do this trail. I could hear nothing but my breathing and the sounds of things rustling in the leaves off the trail. I did not investigate. I saw a giant water moccasin high tail it across the trail in front of me and I stepped up my speed. The longer I was alone on the trail the more I imagined some extra from Deliverance jumping out in front of me. I walked faster. About a quarter mile from the end I started to hear something odd. Like the squealing of piglets. I convinced myself my Deliverance fantasies were working overtime. I walked even faster until I was basically at a slow jog. The squealing got louder until it was clear I was not imagining the sound of pigs. There were pigs. Somewhere in the deep recesses of my brain, I recalled that the Everglades have lots of wild hogs and they are not friendly. The end of the trail was close – I could hear the ocean. I could also hear piglets. Somehow, despite years of stubborn determination to finish stupid quests in the face of overwhelming evidence that quitting was the best option, I decided to turn around. In short, I walked in a bug-infested swamp with lots of snakes in hot, humid weather at top speed only to stop short one-tenth of a mile from the end. Dammit.

I picked up a slightly cleaner and less smelly Susan who laughed maniacally when I told her I did not get to see the end of the trail because of wild hogs. We drove to Homestead to pick up her prescription of Dilaudid (note: Susan had been hospitalized for acute pancreatitis). We hit the southern end of Miami on a Friday night at 5 p.m. Genius. And to make my joy complete, the air conditioning in my car chose that particular moment in time to cease working.   Susan popped a Dilaudid for the road as we had a 470 mile drive to the beach house in Carillon.

Here’s a tip for someone who might be making a seriously long drive late in the day with someone taking Dilaudid: make them take enough so that they pass out. As the sun set, and I was able to roll up the windows and not broil in the car, Susan began to shout random things out to me in a truly-alarmed tone which caused me to automatically slam on the brakes. Some examples:

  • Look out for the basketball player sleeping on the road!
  • Oh my God, it’s a dead panther!
  • Don’t hit the dolphin!
Susan was hallucinating which is very unhelpful to someone trying to concentrate on seeing the road after two days of continuous driving. We rolled into Panama City about 2 a.m. and Susan shouted “Oh my God, don’t hit the people on the scooters!” I nearly paid no attention, but there was in fact, a horde of scooters loaded with drunk college students on the highway with no lights. Moral of the story: Sometimes, even stoned people have valid things to say. I did get 24 hours at my mother-in-law’s beach house which is not a bad thing. The view:

Carillon Beach, a martini and 9 hours of blissful, uninterrupted sleep = relaxation

Feuding in the holler

Important developments in recent Tennessee jurisprudence

For your enjoyment. FYI, I never get cases like this.

P.S. We have returned to our travels. Posts to follow.