1. Something that makes it difficult to think or pay attention
2. Something that amuses or entertains you so that you do not think about problems
Disclaimer: For those of you expecting my normal blog, about my lack of a refrigerator for a month, filled with grocery store visits and recipes-that’s not what this week is about. Nary a meal was made out of this kitchen in the last seven days. But, I will still talk about food. I promise.
Back to distraction.
Distraction for days 11-17 came in the form of a visit from one of my oldest and best friends from New Jersey, Brooke. Brooke and I both had the same job as a high school senior (though not at the same time): working at Mail Boxes Etc. You know that job, senior year, where your parents get a new car and give you their old one and say that you have to get a job to pay for the gas, but you really just figure out how to get your dad to borrow your car when you’re dangerously close to being out of gas so he will fill it up for you anyway and you can spend your money on important things like CDs, clothes and make-up? Yeah that kind of job; the one that taught you everything, but you didn’t realize it until later?
Brooke was a year behind me in school, and in a high school of less than 700 students total, everyone knows who everyone is (and what car they drive) so we knew each other’s names, but little else. After my senior year, I blissfully flew off to Clemson, South Carolina, where I had dreams of warm weather, spacing out my classes to suntan on the great lawn, pep rallies and football games and finally getting out of the safe, happy (and unrealistic) bubble that was my New Jersey home town.
I’d lived in the same town my entire life; in the same house, on the same street, with the same kids. I’d never known anything else. What I did know is that I was shy (until I got to know you and then forget it, you couldn’t get me to shut up). I was a good student, who despised doing actual homework and would rather be singing or acting, or writing a play, or a musical…or a book that was going to get turned into a movie someday. I was pre-law and after graduation, planned to go to Seton Hall law school. I was going to be a defense lawyer and write crime novels while doing double duty as novelist and eventual Supreme Court Justice. That, my friends, is a goal.
South Carolina may as well have been Kuwait.
There was school, 11 miles of cows, the Piggly Wiggly (that’s a grocery store for us Yankees), 20 miles of more cows and finally: a Walmart.
As far as I could tell, people were still fighting the civil war. With some exception, northerners hung out with northerners; southerners with southerners. Race was a real issue, as opposed to where I came from, where the biggest difference between people was whether you put up a tree or a menorah in December. People stopped you on the way to class to talk to you. People you didn’t know. Are you talking to me? Are YOU, talkin’ to ME?
One of my very sweet, southern friends pulled me away from talking to a guy who happened to be black at a party because “we don’t do that”. In debate class, one guy actually argued that slavery was okay because his great, great (however many greats) grandfather had been nice to his slaves. I asked him how he knew? Was he there? Did he possess a time machine that had taken him back to witness this? Were there first hand diaries of said slaves that he was ready to produce to back up this “fact”? (PS, I was not too shabby at debate class). Clemson was a beautiful school, but this south, was not for me. I don’t even like country music! What was I thinking?!
I truly believe everything happens for a reason and that every experience, “good” or “bad” can have a profound affect on your life. I ended my freshman year of college with some amazing friends, some great stories, a new found sense of identity, and for the first time; a voice.
I decided to come back next year, that this was maybe just the way school was supposed to be? I went home, back to “normalcy” and to half a dozen friends, who had also had a similar experience to me. The places we thought were perfect to us as wide-eyed seniors, were now imperfect. They were all surmising what they liked and didn’t; what they needed and did not need. It was then I learned a very important lesson: NO ONE is in charge of your happiness except for you.
My amazingly cool parents were very supportive, whatever I wanted to do, they were behind it, as long as I continued with school, wherever that may be. So, a month after driving the 17 hours down to pick me up, they drove me back the 17 hours to pick up my stuff from storage (which I’d left down there in a shared storage unit with my friends). As we packed my stuff in the car, my dad looked at me and laughed and said “are you sure, because I’m not doing this again.” I was scared and uncertain about my future, but I was sure that this was the right decision. Now I think, what that heck was so important that we had to drive back there for? Clothes, my TV/VCR combo? My Dan Majerle poster?
I eventually decided that warm weather (minus the deep south) was where I needed to be, which is how I ended up at Arizona State University. Sometimes you don’t know why you make the decisions you make, sometimes you can’t explain or justify your reasons. Like somethings is guiding you, and you just move towards it. The minute I stepped foot in Arizona, I knew.
What does this have to do with my lack of a refrigerator? Nothing. But it’s a good lead in to why Brooke was here this week.
Brooke, on the other hand, got my job her senior year and also decided to go to Clemson (what are the chances?) When I came home for Christmas break, I was like, 1- who is this girl, 2- I bet she doesn’t need to use a ladder to restock stuff on the top shelf, and 3- should I warn her that South Carolina sucks? I tried my best not to let my experience be hers and we became instant friends. Brooke went off to Clemson and loved it (despite working with me everyday as I had made the decision not to go back). When I look back now, I realize HAD we gone to college together-neither of us would have graduated…ever. We have that much fun together.
Fast forward, somewhere close to fifteen years later. Brooke was visiting me around Halloween this year, when she stepped off the plane, saw the 2016 National Championship sign, saw me and maaaaaybe said hello before she said “Excuse me?! The National Championship game is HERE in January and you didn’t tell me?!” Nice to see you too! For anyone who knows me; Brooke’s obsession with college football mirrors my obsession with the Yankees. It is life. By the night she’d gone back to Jersey, airline tickets were purchased for game week. An undefeated Clemson team beat Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, which created a dream scenario: Clemson IN the National Championship game. It was like God had said “what would Brooke’s perfect weekend be?” and snapped his fingers (or whatever God does to make stuff happen) and so it was.
Which brings us (finally!) to this past week. Who needs a refrigerator when you have every minute of the next 120 hours planned with football weekend preparedness?
Have I mentioned how much I love Jersey bagels? My mom had sent me a package with my Christmas presents that had been too big to carry back on the plane. When I’d pitifully asked her the night before she sent it, if she’d added any bagels to it, she said no. I should know by now that my sweet, little, perfect mother would not let me down. My package arrived on Thursday with half a dozen bagels in it. They smelled like gluten amazingness. I was overjoyed.
Brooke’s flight landed at 11:30 PM. I paced Terminal 2, trying to get some extra Fitbit steps in. I thought about starting the Clemson cheer (which you are taught even before stepping foot on campus as a freshman) and then thought no, let’s find Tiger Rag (their fight song) on YouTube and have it playing when she comes out. I’m a pretty great friend. I should have made a sign.
After making our way back to my house, Liz produced another four NJ bagels from her bag! With my Jersey bagel count now up to 10 (for all of you math whizzes), I went to bed a happy girl, dreaming of everything-bagel wonderfulness.
Friday morning started with a few conference calls (you can never totally take a vacation sometimes, but that’s ok!) and a walk to Safeway to get some egg salad for the bagels. Evidently Brooke doesn’t do peanut butter, honey or coconut oil on her bagels. Have you tried coconut oil on warm bagels!? You should. It’s like sweet, sweet butter.
At the store (for those of you following the blog regularly, this is the “crazy Safeway” around the corner of my house) there was a lady (I’m not going to say she was crazy, because one of my 2016 goals is to make less judgements) was waiting for her prescription and arguing that her case worker was a “stupid idiot who never called her back”. I think she said stupid idiot at least ten times. Loudly. We procured some single servings of cream cheese for 99 cents each (after being bummed there was no pre-made egg salad at the deli) and walked back to my house just in time for me to take my last conference call before vacation officially began.
After going to my lady to get mani-pedis (with alternating fingers in Clemson purple and orange) we headed to Ingo’s Tasty Food in Arcadia, a place I’d been wanting to try. Brooke is not a spice girl (but if she was, she’d be sporty). I don’t think I really could handle much spicy food when I first got to Arizona fifteen years ago. Now, I love it. So I never notice that most restaurants we have usually have a bit of a kick to their sauces. We’ll call this spicy sauce experience #1 of the weekend. Try that place out if you get a chance, it’s amazing. We dropped off two bagels at work to my fellow Jersey girl; far be it from me to deny another Jersey transplant her own bagel happiness when my bagel cup runneth over.
For what would be the first of many light rail trips downtown that weekend, we headed into Phoenix proper amid a bevy of beefed up security (good for you, Phoenix) that included security guards at each light rail station and random dog sniffing at certain stops. Good thing I’d left my eighteen kilos of cocaine at home. Kidding! Could one person carry eighteen kilos on them? What is the right measure for cocaine, anyway? Pounds? Kilos? Who knows. Who cares. I’m sure they were sniffing for bombs.
We had apps at Copper Blues, overlooking the ice skating rink.Yes! We have an ice skating rink downtown during Christmas. Phoenix is the coolest. Trust me. We went to the Suns game and watched them lose to The Heat. Good thing the Suns’ colors are also orange and purple because our wardrobe, and our fingernails, were ready.
The parking lot outside of the Suns arena (which I refuse to call whatever the newest sponsor’s name is, it will always be America West to me) had been transformed into a giant National College Football party zone: stage, ESPN broadcasts, national champion gear sales, you name it. 80% of the people walking around were Clemson fans; we were in good company, except they had prepared for 80% Alabama fans to show up, and the amount and choice of merchandise reflected that. We decided to wait until tomorrow to get our swag.
Saturday morning started off early, with a bit of my usual routine: yoga. While waiting at a stoplight in Scottsdale, a police motorcycle stopped traffic right as the light turned green. I expected him to turn in front of us, but he got off the bike and asked three directions to stop. Brooke, whose brother had played college ball and had been to her fair share of bowl games, started screaming “oh my god, it’s the motorcade!” We readied our cameras, not sure if
Clemson or Bama would be gracing us with their presence. Have I mentioned that we’ve been pretty blessed with lots of things just working out and falling into place? This was no exception. The Clemson team busses drove by as we screamed. I thought Brooke was going to jump out of the car and do a cheer in the middle of the intersection. It was good we were going to yoga, we needed some external force to calm us down.
After yoga and a little breakfast out with the yoga crew, we decided to stop by the Hyatt on the way home, as I had a sneaking suspicion from a picture the team had posted the night before of where they were staying.
Do not, I repeat, do NOT test my resort knowledge! I am level: expert.
We drove up to the Hyatt Gainey Ranch and were greeted by the giant life-size 2016 National Championship Logo. The Clemson hotel had been found! After posing eighteen ways in, on and around the logo, we went inside to find it transformed into a Clemson oasis.
While Brooke checked out the merch at the little pop up store they’d created in the lobby, I snuck over to the concierge to ask if the restaurant had any open reservations for lunch. They did! We went home, showered and got dressed up. We hoped that perhaps the team would get back from practice while we were eating, but no such luck. After enjoying a southwest lunch, which included guacamole with jalapeños (Brooke food-heat event #2) we snuck into the pool area (if I told you how, I’d have to kill you) purchased powerball tickets (hey, we were feeling lucky!) and then headed back home to feed the doggie and head back downtown again, for another fun night among fellow college football fans. Ask for ranch as a side in Phoenix at a hip, urban restaurant. Nine times out of ten, it will be chipotle ranch. (Brooke food-heat event #3).
The light rail at night is an interesting place. I never feel unsafe, but just like the subway, sometimes you get some…um…interesting people. After dealing the night before with a drunk guy who kept asking this kid if he was autistic (I would have smacked him if I was that kid’s mother) we were prepared for anything. What we found that night was the cutest older couple from South Carolina who shared with us a little tradition that we were unaware of.
Whenever Clemson plays in a bowl game, the fans go and get $2 bills out of the bank and either stamp or draw an orange tiger paw on the bill. Then they spend it locally throughout their visit in the hosting city, so that even after they leave, they leave an effect on the community. How cool. They gave us each a Clemson-marked $2 bill to use and spread the love.
Did I mention the 5K? We signed up for a 5K that was a part of the festivities and when we awoke on Sunday morning, we wondered what the heck we were thinking?! But we got back on the light rail, headed downtown and finished the 5K with a little more walking than running. We went to breakfast downtown at Lola, another great little Phoenix gem (because the line at Matt’s Big Breakfast was, of course, way too long). After a good shower and a tiny nap, we headed back on the light rail and back downtown for the Clemson Pep rally, after stopping along the way at Pizza People Pub for the best mac and cheese ever (and ranch, that was, you guessed it: Brooke food-heat event #4). By the time she leaves, I thought, she’ll be eating jalapeños whole…maybe not. Mmmmm mac and cheese. 2016 is about not judging, remember? Did I mention the 5K?
Clemson Pep Rally, pictures with the Orange Bowl trophy, the Heisman Trophy (we had to do the pose, you know we did), the Lego version of the National Championship trophy, John Mellencamp performing on stage (good god, just sing Jack and Diane already!!) and it was time to head back home and get a good night’s sleep before Monday’s festivities.
We started the day off with banana pecan pancakes at Fast Eddie’s, a great little diner-type restaurant in my hood. We then went to a UPS store to print out our parking pass in color. UPS purchased Mail Boxes Etc. right after we graduated from college, and this store was stuck in 1999. It was like coming home for Brooke and I. While fighting the urge to restock the paper in the copiers, we paid, using a Clemson $2 bill.
Tailgating without a fridge can be a challenge. There was no prep, no ability to chill things ahead of time, but we adapted. We ended up getting a package of hot dogs. Have I mentioned that Brooke and I make friends easily? We figured a few extra hot dogs wouldn’t be a big deal. I had plenty of mustard and ketchup packets at home. Score! We got some chips and pre-made onion dip, which I knew wouldn’t be as good as the one I usually make, but figured, we’d deal. We also settled on a dip whose ingredients do not need to be refrigerated prior to cooking.
Chili con queso dip
1 small log of velveta (anything that comes in a measure of “log” must be good)
1 can of no bean chili (eww, beans)
1 can of rottelle or any jar of salsa you like (preferable one that’s not made in New York City)
Heat together until all the velveta melts and enjoy with Tostitos.
We planned on making this in a disposable pan on the propane grill we’d borrowed from a friend at work. Doesn’t that sound good? I bet it was, except we never made it, nor did we eat the hot dogs. We had found the perfect spot to tailgate, next to, between and all around Clemson fans. I forgot how much southerners say “y’all” when speaking to only one person and “do what?” when they haven’t heard what you’ve said. I’m 5 foot nothing. Literally. Everyone is taller than me. Trying to hold conversations in the middle of loud music, crowds and drunk people when you’re a foot shorter than everyone else gets you a lot of “do what”s.
We had a blast and food became an afterthought. We “borrowed” a flag from our new friends across the way (don’t worry, we gave it back…eventually) and Brooke waived it around while we started and joined an uncountable amount of “C-L-E-M-S-O-N. T-I-G-E-Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr-S! Fight, Tigers. Fight, Tigers. Fight, fight, fight!” cheers. (That’s the cheer you learn before you step foot on campus, now you know it too. Oh, and there’s hand motions). Brooke jokes that every Clemson grad knows how to spell at least two words when they graduate: Clemson and Tigers.
We stood behind Tim Tebow on the ESPN broadcast and cheered. I wanted to yell out “I love you, Tim Tebow!!” but that would have been a lie. I do not love him.
We stood there and looked pretty on several local South Carolina news broadcasts; cheered and chanted and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. And then Clemson lost…I’ll give you a moment to mourn.
After a fun day of horseback riding the next day (I want a pony!) and kicking butt at trivia with my friends (that’s right, we came in first place…boom…) I dropped Brooke off at the airport on Wednesday and went home to relax. You know when you need a vacation from a vacation? Yeah.
I was enjoying my afternoon, until a call came through from Georgia. Frigidaire calling about my new refrigerator. For a brief moment, I thought oh my gosh, I’m getting my fridge early! Cold, refrigerated cartons of almond milk danced in my head like synchronized swimmers to an operatic melody. And then I came back to reality. “I’m sorry, I zoned out for a second, did you say FEBRUARY? As in, the month after January?!” Guess what, my illustrious new refrigerator is NOT going to be here on January 25th, as expected.
Now, it’s Feb 20th.
Yup. Another FN month.
He offered me $100 “for my trouble”. Hahahahahahahahaahahahahahaha. “You make me laugh” I actually said. He had to be kidding. Did someone put him up to this as a joke? After asking if he was authorized to give me a comparable refrigerator or more money (he wasn’t) I said thank you and asked to speak to a manager. “Oh, there’s no managers here right now”. Of course not. “Have one call me tomorrow, someone who is authorized to make decisions”. I hung up and burst out laughing. I mean, at this point, what good does getting upset do? Nothing. Maybe God wants me to keep writing my blog for another month? Maybe my future husband-grocery store “meet-cute” over the grapefruit is supposed to happen on a random day in February? Time will tell.
“Two things define you: Your patience when you have nothing and your attitude when you have everything.” – Unknown