Date: Fri, 28 Apr
1995 13:44:24 -0400
This is the first in the series describing the famous Spring Break trip of Bradley O. Grissom and Marcia E. Franzen, seen from Marcia's point of view.
Upon landing at the Lexington airport, I noticed how green everything was and how beautiful the sun was that day. As soon as I walked into the terminal, there was Brad. No mistake, he looks like Torkel. He seemed unsure of himself but friendly. We went directly to the racetrack, where, as Brad has already reported, he bet money on a horse and lost. I knew I was in the South when I went to the restroom. There was an attendant, a black woman dressed in a maids uniform, handing out the paper towels to dry your hands. She was smiling and being very polite the whole time. I had a hard time keeping a straight face and was actually taken aback by this. I was the only one I noticed who even said thanks. Are we in the 1990's or the 1890's?
Time to eat a little lunch. We ate at a very quaint Irish pub. While chomping on our lunch, two young and fairly good-looking women appeared. Brad knew them and introduced me. One was a medical student at the university with whom he discussed his bloodwork and the other an exotic dancer. Brad even said he had seen her dance. Hmmm...
A small driving tour around Lexington before going to his house. When we arrived at Brad's, I was greeted by a small black poodle, named Sambo and two of the most Southern people I've ever met - Brad's parents. They were so friendly and gracious. Brad's father called me Miss Marcia (as did Brad, sometimes) and grilled me about what I eat for breakfast so he could have it ready the next day. Brad's mother was just so matter-of-fact and straightforward.
Unfortunately, Brad has a friend who is from Erie and just so happens that this guy, Tim, graduated from the same high school class as my mother. We decided to go out to dinner and Tim followed along. He was one of the most annoying humans I've ever met. He chatted about Erie and all sorts of stuff and was just a generally irritating person, kinda like a fly that keeps buzzing around. It was OK, though. You gotta take the good with the bad.
That night after writing a little email to Torkel, I started a tradition that lasted the whole trip. I wrote Brad a note, describing my thoughts of the day and it developed into a nice way of getting things out. He always woke up before me and responded.
Day 2: Trying to get a hold of Giggles (congrats on your win, BTW) and John Hannum. John lives in an "interesting" neighborhood with thugs hanging around his place. Brad took me to lunch at a very fancy place and I really enjoyed it. The Oklahoma City bombing news droned in the background and seemed to weigh upon me and I sat and wondered why. Finally contact with Giggles! We met him at Marikka's Bier Stube, one of Brad's _former_ hang-outs (right, Brad?). Over 400 kinds of beer. Feeling nostalgic, I drank a Swedish beer, a bottle of Jenlain (how much did you guys in NY pay for it? It was $5 in Lex!) and then just at random, I picked a beer from Holland called Trappe Enkel. Very good. Gilbert was not what I had expected, but isn't that always the way? Very country club type of guy. I thought he was smart and could talk over my head any day, especially about di-whatever it was called. We agreed to meet for dinner.
In the mean time, we found Hannum, who joined us for dinner, and went home to change before dinner. At the restaurant Gilbert talked mostly about his paper, I said little (must have had something to do with all the beer) and Brad had to go outside to smoke. The restaurant was pricy and the food not very impressive. They tried to pass off noodles colored orange as saffron noodles. Home again and try to sleep because we were headed out early the next day. I always sleep pathetically horrible in unfamiliar places. Next....the trip down to Amory, MS!
Date: Fri, 28 Apr
1995 14:23:01 -0400
I remember being paricularly crabby this morning. I think it was lack of sleep. This morning I presented Brad with a 5 pound bag of Necco wafers, as munchies for the road. He seemed very pleased. Poor Brad did not buy ear plugs so he had to listen to me serenade him to the music I had with me. I believe that morning was Bette Midler's Greatest Hits. I tried to talk to him but he seemed in his own world and I felt like I was talking to myself. Despite the many vows to myself during the trip to keep quiet, I somehow managed to keep on babbling. Lunch in Nashville at a BBQ place, decorated with pigs. Anne would have like it. The food was good and the beer cold. By this time, Brad had broken his fast and was drinking with me. I still kept him in check, I promise!! Brad noticed a billboard for Jack Daniels beer, so before continuing our journey, he bought a 6 pack.
We got on the Natchez Trace parkway. I'd never heard of it before. It is a two lane highway, connecting Nashville and Natchez (do I have that right Brad?). Lots of historical stuff along the way and the speed limit is 50 m/h. It was so beautiful! I loved it! The nature, so well preserved and it was so quiet. Brad forgot to get gas so we had to get off in the middle of nowhere (Fly was the name of the town) and find a gas station. Took a little more looking than we thought but we made it! Our first stop on the Trace was at a waterfall. As we walked along the trail to the bottom, Brad kept exclaiming that he couldn't keep up with me and that I'd have to wait for him. I slowed down and let him go ahead of me. The waterfall was breathtaking. It came over a lip of rocks so that one could walk around it and the basin at its base was shallow. Well, that was too much temptation for me...at first I just stuck my hands in and splashed my face and went back to talk to Brad who was watching me. I couldn't resist temptation. I walked slowly back to the waterfall, shed my sandals and stood under it. It was so refreshing and wonderful! The water was not very cold and the flow pounded against my body. That kind of stuff is what makes me feel content and plaesed with the world. I stood there until I was soaked to the skin. Brad said nothing. I told him I wished he had joined me but he just mumbled a no. Now completely soaked, I pulled my robe out of the car and used it as a blanket to sit in the sun and dry off and eat lunch. Brad wouldn't sit in the grass with me. He leaned against a fence. I thought he was being a bit strange but whatever....I put my robe on, changed shorts and shed my t-shirt.
We continued down the Trace and I tried to chat with Brad. He was non-responsive, which was starting to infuriate me so I shut up for a while. At our next stop, at some Indian mounds, I confronted Brad with some stuff about myself. We had an excellent talk, me sitting on top of the picnic table and him sitting on the bench of it. As we got up to leave, he helped me down and gave me a big hug. All was forgotten and we moved on down the Trace. I learned that Brad is the kind of person who sits in silent contemplation much of the time and his silence is not any type of disinterest.
Finally, we arrive in Amory, Mississippi at his sister's place. We were greeted by 15 dogs, none of which wanted to be pet or hugged. That was depressing. I love animals! Kay was the one who had met Torkel so she and I had a good time talking about the "evil twins." Ate at Pizza Hut and turned in for the night! Next...my experience in a small Southern town and visiting Elvis' birthplace.
Date: Fri, 28 Apr
1995 19:44:59 -0400
It is now Satuday and we are in Amory, MS, where they are having their annual railroad festival. Unfortunately, most of it was rained out by the magnificent thunderstorm the night before. It woke me up and I wanted to wake Brad up and make him watch the lightning with me but I wasn't sure how he'd react, so I didn't. I love to watch thunderstorms - the wind, rain and lightning. It is the same type of feeling as the waterfall. I am awakened by the noise of Brad and Kay chatting and Bill Clinton's voice on the TV, talking to the children of America. Kay has a beautiful one-story house but noise traveled so well. Kay also had an evil house dog, a chihuahua named Tinker. That was one vicious mean thing!
Bradley and I get ready to make the excursion to Tupelo, to Elvis' birthplace. Joy. I did it as a favor to some friends who wanted pictures and postcards. I can't stand Elvis. Along the road, I noticed that Mississippi seemed to be underwater! There was no drainage system and water was everywhere, creating a red sea. The road kill was armadilloes, although Brad says they don't live that far north. Right. Elvis' birthplace was uneventful. I was gracious and took pictures but it was kinda silly. Brad made me promise that if Torkel and I go south again, that we will renew our vows at the chapel there. We'll see. If Brad heard our vows, he may think twice about that. We also visited Brad's 95 year old gramma in Tupelo.
What to do this evening? Amory is dry and the festival was not very festive. I got the idea to eat dinner and take in a movie in Tupelo. Bradley ordered a beer at dinner that I had strictly forbid him to order. He and Kay didn't realize how upset I really was. In the Blazer or Bronco (Kay's), we listened to the radio on the way to Tupelo. Hence, Brad's comments on Crocodile Rock and Dancing Queen. Two of my favorite songs. I think by the end of the day, Kay knew more about me than Brad. She just asked away. The movie - "Kiss of Death." It was ok but the ending was weak. I cried when they wouldn't let the main character see his daughter. Brad didn't notice but Kay did. The next morning it was off again to Pascagoula, MS to visit his niece and New Orleans.
Date: Fri, 28 Apr
1995 21:43:17 -0400
The road to the Gulf Coast was boring and I wouldn't sleep. I was exhausted since I hadn't slept much since this before this trip began. I can't sleep well in unfamiliar places and in front of people I don't know. So I sit and watch the soil go from red clay to gray to red again. First we take a side trip to Starkville and spend a half hour or so at Natalie's. We are greeted by Bernard and Natalie. Of course there was the reading of email and the calling of Torkel, who said a few words to Natalie and then we were off again!
We arrive in Moss Point, MS, the town next to Pascagoula and call Melanie and Bill for directions (Brad's niece and husband). He comes to lead us there. Bill is a high school football coach and a very good looking one at that. The spat Brad is referring to is quite silly. I was out wading in the lakes that the rain had created and asked Brad if he wanted to join me. He said no of course so I said jokingly, "Bradley, you have forgotten how to live." He responded with a ill-toned sentence, something about knowing how to live and that is one thing he knew, it was how to live. I took great offense to his tone and thought, "Ha. This coming from a nearly 47 year old alcoholic who lives for beer, cigarettes and the net." So I didn't speak to him for the rest of the night.
It was decided that we'd eat dinner at one of the casinos along the Gulf Coast. Dinner was at a 50's style restaurant and I had chicken friend steak, biscuits and gravy, along with a thick chocolate shake. I could feel my cholesterol level rise on the spot. It is a shame how the coastline is filled with casinos. It must have been pretty before. We stop and have coffee and beignets at a place that has been there since 1736 (?). The service was horrible but the coffee and beignets good.
I called Torkel as soon as we got back and bawled in his ear about how Brad was mean and so forth. When I look back, I see how tired I was and how ridiculous it was. That night I tumbled into bed early and slept the best night of sleep in ages. In my daily letter, I didn't explain what made me mad, he had to ask.
Pascagoula smells bad. Melanie said it was the paper plant. I don't know what it was but it was sure foul.
Date: Fri, 28 Apr
1995 22:04:52 -0400
We're on our way, singing to ABBA (me, not Brad!). At the Applebee's in Slidell, LA, Brad and I talk about the spat and I apologize for being such an ass. New Orleans, in a sentence, was ho hum. Sorry if I offend anyone. It was too touristy. I know it has a special atmosphere and I soaked it up. I really liked that. I respect the wonderful culture but it seemed to me to be a mixture of Paris and Nice, France. I enjoyed the day anyway, don't get me wrong! Brad and I walked around the French Quarter and the markets and I saw a basket I fell in love with but decided to come back. I knew it was not a matter of if I would buy the basket but of how long it would take me to give in and buy it. We met Richard Scheidt at the statue in Jackson Square. While we sat in the grass relaxing and waiting (yes! I actually got Brad to sit in the grass. I was so pleased!), a man approached us for a light and the time. Boy, he was strung out on something!
Richard was an excellent tour guide. He knew all the folklore and what parts of it that were utter bullshit and he said it, too. We went to a bar and had a Dixie, the local beer. Yuck. We downed more but not Dixie. It was decided we'd eat dinner together, along with Richard's mate Susan. We went to their apartment in the Quarter and I got to meet Earl the iguana. If the picture turns out, it will be a gif for sure! Brad wouldn't even get near Earl but I thought he was great and wanted to hold him more but Earl discovered a patch of sunlight that he wanted to bask in. It seems like the only animal that hasn't rejected me on this trip is Brad's parent's dog and of course Bernard. <Sigh.>
Dinner at Masperos. Brad and I ate muffaletas (?), a New Orleans specialty. It is a big hamburgertype bun with lots of cold cuts and a green olive sauce type stuff on it. Excellent! Brad was drinking too much beer for my taste. It seemed as if his beer consumption increase as the trip went on. I, unfortunately, was keeping up with him, and as he said, drinking out of his sometimes, so I was not protesting as much as I should. Coffee and beignets at Cafe Du Monde. The coffee was terrific! Black and so strong! I've never had coffee so good in the US. We talked more with Richard and Susan and then bid our farewells and headed to our homebase in Pascagoula.
P.S. I bought the basket.
Date: Fri, 28 Apr
1995 22:38:25 -0400
Only thing on the road of interest was that Brad bought me some boiled peanuts. What a treat! Brad didn't like them. Memphis....Just as we arrive, Brad's muffler begins to sound terrible. We come to the Peabody, the fanciest hotel I've ever seen with the world's loudest muffler. Brad looked like he was ready to die of embarrassment. I just laughed. We arrived about an hour before the ducks were to "go to bed." We sat at the bar and Brad suddenly looks at me and asked me if we shouldn't stay here, seeing as we have no accomodations in Memphis. I thought he was crazy. See, Brad paid my way and I feel really guilty about it and plan on paying him back so the thought of staying here made me cringe. But it was decided. Here we shall stay, at this 4 star pompous place. The ducks went to bed and we checked in. To save a little money, we shared a room (seperate beds!). Brad was a complete gentleman the whole time.
We both showered and got ready to head out to visit a high school girlfriend of Brad's, who just happened to be throwing a reception for a flutist. Wow. What a pompous affair. Patricia, his friend, was a sweet and intelligent woman. She graciously showed us around Rhodes college where she teaches and when the time to say goodbye, it became painfully obvious to me that Brad still carried a torch for this woman. She's married, Bradley!
We went to soak up some atmosphere and beer on Beale St. We both soaked up too much of the latter and a shot of Maker's Mark. Brad and I had a very interesting conversation about the Swedish language and life. In our drunken stupor, we made it to the hotel and Brad fell asleep. That night, I slept very little. Total insomnia. Brad allowed me to get room service for breakfast and when I awoke, Brad was gone and the room service guy was there. A big tray with a whole thing of coffee and real cream. It was impressive. Brad had said he was going to fix the car but instead ended up in the lobby drinking coffee. I wonder now if beer was involved.
Anyway, we watched the ducks one last time and checked out. Found a place to fix the muffler. It was gonna take a while. We went back to the hotel lobby where we must have been a sight to see. Bradley, hunched over his nerd notebook, writing furiously. Me, with a big nose ring in, plugged into my discman lipsynching to the Mamas and the Papas, eating boiled peanuts, hunched over a cocktail napkin, writing a letter on it to Torkel, both of us shamelessly drinking beer at noon. Decided to eat lunch, more beer, and then check on the car. It was ready and away we go.....
Date: Fri, 28 Apr
1995 22:54:56 -0400
Uneventful, about the last leg of the trip. not much talking or music playing. The only thing of interest was when we went to a truck stop and it was ALL truckers and the kept ALL staring at me. At first when I said something to Brad, he just said I was imagining things, until we got up to leave. I walked out first and Brad behind me. When we got to the car Brad said something about the truckers' heads snapping around to look at me. It made me feel disgusting and dirty.
The closer we got to Lexington, the quieter the both of us became. I mentioned something about reflecting upon the trip as it came to an end and Brad agreed and said he had been contemplating it, too. Home to Brad's parents. Email from Torkel and Brad disappeared to go to sleep. I wrote Brad my final letter and went to bed. The next morning, there were no letters from Torkel or Brad, putting me in a decidedly pissy mood. Brad has never really responded to my final letter. Hmmm....
The goodbyes were said to Brad's parents and the packing completed. It was raining and it matched my mood exactly. I was on the phone with Torkel, crying about the end of the trip and Brad accused me of moping. That just made me feel even more depressed. Brad and I went to eat BBQ for our last meal together. I was pretty depressed and sad about the end of the trip and drank too much at lunch. I haven't had so much to drink in my life as I did on this trip. I'm beginning to think people out there wonder if I'm a lush! Brad helped me make an important decision in my life at that BBQ place. I'm quitting counseling for good. It doesn't help me.
Brad said goodbye to me at the curbside check-in. While there were no visible tears, I was crying inside. A little kiss and hug and he was off and now I'm back here.
Date: Fri, 28 Apr
1995 22:59:55 -0400
The trip was a success and I believe I made a really good friend in Brad. We are already talking about a Stockholm trip, other than CultureBake '98. I can't wait to show him around Sweden! Brad is a true Southern gentleman and I enjoyed teasing him about it.
As for the twin theory - Torkel and Brad are too much alike to ignore it. Both with there looks, way of speaking, and alcohol troubles (Torkel's past, Bradley's present) and other little things that just make up a personality. The only major difference is Brad is organized and Torkel is not!