Contradictory to all of my issues, I’ve always loved to travel. I absolutely adore the simple act of going to a new place. I love nature, I love museums, I love natural beauty, and very little gives me as much of a simple thrill as to simply be somewhere I’ve never been, to smell the air, and to feel new ground beneath my feet. I don’t even care much to do things when I arrive at the destination. Sure, I’ll go to a historical site, or a museum. A tourist spot or two. If I’m near wilderness I’ll take a hike. Mostly, however, I’m content simply to be there, reading a book. I do the same basic things there as I do at home. For me, it’s enough simply to be somewhere else. As a child, I traveled rather extensively with my family. We went to Montana, to Disney World, to Maine and San Francisco, to South Carolina and to the many, many states between here and our various destinations. We went on yearly trips, to places all over the country. In addition, we went up north (That’s the upper peninsula of Michigan, for those who don’t know our terminology. Or as I call it, the mutated flipper hand that goes with our mitten-shaped state.) every fall, and it was consistently my favorite place. Though as an adult – and as my issues have progressed to the crippling point that they’re currently in – it has become nerve wracking and terrifying for me, travelling is still one of my favorite things to do. Hell, I even love just riding around at random in a car at night with my friends, just seeing places I haven’t seen.
Needless to say, these days, it can be incredibly difficult for me to do. It’s been a very, very long time since I’ve been on a plane, and the concept now horrifies me – not so much due to the inherent fear surrounding the concept of hurtling through the sky in a method of transportation invented during the lifetime of people I have met, or due to fear of terrorism, but because there are a whole lot of people in a very small space. I would have to sit next to a stranger. I hate crowds, hate hate hate hate hate crowds, more than almost anything in the world, and an airplane is essentially a mobile crowd in the sky. Similarly, I hate busses. Trains and subways, oddly enough, I enjoy. I suspect that the novelty of the situation overpowers my compulsions and fears, so I don’t know if that would keep up as time passed. Even now, I have to wear gloves and sit upon my gloved hands. This leaves me effectively limited to car travel. I can’t drive. So mostly, I just stay in.
So you can imagine my pleasure and concern when Jess asked me to go with her to her cousin’s wedding in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Of course I jumped at the chance, and of course I was paranoid beyond all reason that it would be an utter disaster. What followed was easily one of the better trips I’ve taken, thanks mostly to Jess. First, however, there was a small issue: finding some nice clothes to wear.
For those of you who don’t know me personally, let me explain. I tend to dress somewhere between “90s grunge kid” and “shabby homeless ex-professor”. A lot of ripped jeans, beaten up button down shirts, and so very much flannel. That isn’t to say that I don’t LIKE to dress nicely. Quite the opposite, in fact. I find that I’m very comfortable in a jacket and tie. The primary issue is monetary. I love suits and nice clothes, but don’t have the money for them.
Typically, I get around this by wearing a suit jacket I’ve had for a few years and just sort of matching as best I can. It tends to work just fine. However, I’ve recently lost a great deal of weight. The jacket now looks so large that it’s actively hilarious. This led to a scramble to find clothing to wear. I wound up settling on a grey sweater/shirt and tie combo. I just realized how odd it is that I spent two whole paragraphs going on about my clothes. This weird digression into my wardrobe has been funded by viewers like you.
Anyway, style chosen, I went about my usual business of making several mixes for the trip and packing far too much stuff for a three day journey that more than half of would be spent in a car. As prepared as I was ever going to be, I got in Jess’s car and got going. We immediately hit our first snag: Jess got hopelessly lost, and the GPS seemed to be conspiring against us. It took us over an hour to even get going outside my general area.I was in extremely high spirits though. This entire trip was honestly a wonderful proof that given the right circumstances and medication, I can push myself well beyond my limitations and enjoy a fairly functional life. Only two or three years ago, being even slightly behind schedule would have made me angry and paranoid, lashing out indiscriminately. Instead, I laughed it off and relaxed, listening to the music with a smile on my face.
Finally, we found our way through the wonderful area of Michigan where city turns to suburb turns to town turns to corn all in about the space of a minute and a half – which is quite an experience, I might add – and got going onto the highway. The trip would take us down through Indiana, across into Illinois, up through Chicago, and finally into Wisconsin itself. The only area in all of this trip that I have spent any length of time in is Chicago itself, a city that I am wholeheartedly in love with. I was absolutely relishing the concept of spending some time in Wisconsin. As we passed from Michigan to Indiana, I noticed something.
For those of you who live in Indiana, or are from Indiana, or even just LIKE Indiana, I am terribly sorry. Admittedly, I only saw a very small portion of it, all of which was next to a highway, but the difference between the two states was immediate, and to my eyes hilarious. The second we crossed state lines, the lush, beautiful trees of Michigan, only just beginning to change to their brilliant autumn orange, gave way to stark, white dead ones. The wonderfully green grass was replaced by dirt and rocks. To be frank, it was like the difference between the Pridelands in “The Lion King” before and after the reign of Scar.
We spent very little time in the wasteland, as we quickly crossed into Illinois. There, in the vicinity of Chicago, I saw something that I’ve never seen before. Littered around the interstate, there are a number of wonderful places called Oases. An Oasis is apparently a sort of rest stop built on a gigantic overpass that stretches across the highway. You can effectively get lunch and hang out for a bit on an overpass, watching cars go by beneath you. This is something I’ve never experienced before. I have vague memories of something similar when I was VERY young, but I can’t speak as to the authenticity of it, so I don’t count it. In any case, I was hit with a sense of delight and childlike wonder, and insisted that we stop at at least one of them. I took advantage of the situation to use the bathroom, where I couldn’t shake the distinct impression that I was doing so directly on the cars below, even though obviously that’s an absurdity.
We traveled onward, and eventually came to our destination, and small motel in Kenosha. Now, under most circumstances, the idea of staying anywhere less than a high quality hotel is deeply disturbing to me. I don’t like sleeping places other than my own bed. I don’t feel safe or comfortable in them, especially if I have no way to take a bath. Doing so is greatly soothing for me, and part of my nightly ritual. When I can’t take a bath, I have a tendency to sleep very poorly. Motels are not known for their clean bathrooms or roomy tubs. In addition, horror stories from all around the world (As well as a few less than pleasant experiences of my own…) have made the concept of staying in a less than perfect place deeply unsettling to me. In this case, I was so happy simply to be traveling again – and almost entirely for free – that I didn’t object in the slightest. The worst case scenario would simply have been a couple of sleepless nights, and I’ve suffered far worse than that. Much to my surprise, however, the motel was for the most part quite pleasant. A free wifi connection and clean sheets made me feel fairly at home. I slept through the night just fine. The first major issue arose the next morning, when I had to use the shower before we left for the wedding.
I was unable to touch the shower curtain. It was made of the same sort of rubbery plastic that they make rain slickers out of, and the very concept of even brushing against it, especially once it became wet, was appalling. I used a washcloth to draw it closed, but unfortunately, the shower was so enclosed, that to pull the curtain inside would have ensured that I was inadvertently touching it at every turn. I imagined a scenario in which I would keep bumping the curtain, and then turning frantically to scrub the part of my body that had made the unfortunate connection, only to strike it with another part, in an endless cycle that would leave my flesh pruned and scrubbed painfully raw. In an attempt to avoid this, I simply showered with the curtain shut, but not in the tub.
Those of you with even a rudimentary understanding of how water works, which I apparently lack, have beaten me to the results. You see, the water from the shower struck the curtain, and where otherwise there may have been a fine mist that simply got the bathroom wet, there instead condensed a whole hell of a lot of water, which ran down the curtain, effectively flooding the place. It was a fairly easy fix, of course. Towels are incredibly useful. However, it put me on edge mere moments before I had to go to a Hispanic Catholic wedding for people I’d never met before. I took an Ativan (my emergency anti-anxiety drug), took a few deep breaths, and we went on our way.
The church was small and beautiful, and the ceremony was incredibly simple and equally beautiful. However, I was a little loopy from the Ativan. My anxiety was gone, but I was a little… out of sorts, shall we say? Here’s a brief list of thoughts that entered my head during the ceremony:
- Is the priest wearing crocs?
- Is… is that Robert Downey Jr?
- Nahhh. There is no way he’s wearing crocs. Priests wear like… priest shoes, right?
- Man, Jesus looks sad.
- Did he fall asleep? I think the priest is asleep!
- This is the WORST violinist I have ever heard.
- Oh my god the priest IS wearing crocs!
Something that absolutely shocked me was that when the priest and the musicians asked everyone to sing along with the hymns there was an epic and resounding… nothing. Not one person did. I’ve never not heard anything like it. Rimshot.
In any case, the wedding was absolutely beautiful. The reception was where things got interesting. As I mentioned earlier, it was a Hispanic Catholic wedding. A large portion of the ceremony, some of the toasts and speeches, had been in Spanish. Other than that, there wasn’t really any nods to the fact. We arrived at the reception, grabbed a couple beers, and sat back, making ourselves comfortable. That’s when the Mariachi band suddenly appeared, playing exactly the song you think they were. Seriously. Whatever song pops into your head when you hear the word “Mariachi”, they were playing that song. It was incredible.
After I got past the automatic need to laugh, I actually greatly enjoyed them. They were very talented, and once they got the couple Mariachi songs that everyone knows out of the way, they played a lot of music I’d never heard before, and it was all quite good. We returned to the motel, and I slept just as well the second night as I had the first.
I woke fairly early the next day to get ready to head back. We popped by Mars’ Cheese Castle, where we spent quite a while perusing various cheeses. We popped by a restaurant, spent a few minutes with Jess’ parents, and got on the road by about 1 o’clock. It’s a five hour drive, but we made it back in about nine. We got lost, and wound up in Chicago itself, much to my joy, but traffic kept us there for at least an hour and a half. It was just one of those trips where a thousand little things conspire to make you run just a little bit late. This worked out in our favor, though. By the time we returned to Michigan, we were starving, so we stopped off in Kalamazoo, where we discovered Bilbo’s. Bilbo’s is a The Hobbit themed pizza place, and it was absolutely delicious.
A brief list of other highlights that I would love to talk about but don’t have the time:
- I ate cake other than yellow cake with chocolate frosting for the first time in years, and I liked it!
- I ordered my own food, alone, at McDonald’s TWICE. Regular readers will know why that’s a huge deal.
- We had to stop and use the bathroom in Gary Indiana, and it was AWFUL. The interior of the urine-soaked bathroom I was using smelled better than the air outside. God, Indiana, when are you going to get your life together?
- I drank the best freaking root beer I have ever had in my entire life.
At the end of it all, I got home with a smile on my face. It was wonderful to be able to take a bath and correctly complete my night-time ritual. Above all else, though, it was a wonderful weekend. I pushed myself. I went very far outside my wheelhouse and my usual limits, and it paid off. I broke through a lot of barriers. It’s not that I wasn’t afraid, or wasn’t anxious. It’s that for the first time in a very long time, I was ready to push. All thanks to Jess, one of the best friends I have ever had. During the entirety of the weekend, she was supportive, understanding, and helped me keep my head on straight. Her excellent and surprisingly soothing ukulele playing didn’t hurt either. This wonderful weekend served as a very important reminder to me that sometimes, when you push your limits, it can pay off. It’s all a matter of finding that balance of stability that makes it feel worth it to take the risk, and I’m getting closer every day.