This is the fifth part of a serial travelogue entitled How I Spent My Summer Vacation, starring Artificially Sweetened (AS), Cupcake, and me, The Nittany Turkey.
I told the girls they could sleep as late as they wanted. That meant no later than 10 AM. There was a lot of flexibility in the schedule, as the plan for the day was to hang around the PSU campus for a while and then drive to Tam Manor, the home of Toejam and Judytam, about three hours away, in time for dinner.
We were getting this motel stuff down to a science. By this time, we could gather our stuff and check out with great dispatch and with only a modest amount of grumbling at each other about extraneous issues like my driving, like Cupcake’s penchant for like saying “like”, and like AS’s need for coffee. This morning was a good one. The only grumbling was mine, when AS demanded that we stop by the lobby’s little sundry shop because she needed a toothbrush. I told her to wait until we got to a drug store instead of paying for an overpriced hotel toothbrush. Greased only by that grousing, we piled into the minivan and worked our way downtown.
I found a nice place to park near the corner of East College Avenue and Garner Street, putting a couple of hours worth of change into the meter. AS needed some drugstore items, so we crossed the street to McLanahan’s, which is an all-purpose student store. She began to look at Penn State souvenirs and logo items. I knew what that meant—she was in full shopping mode.
To bide my time, I sauntered over to the pharmaceutical aisles to pick up the toothbrush that she needed. I have pledged to remain silent about how her original toothbrush was rendered unusable and I will keep that promise. After I picked up the toothbrush I couldn’t remember what else AS wanted, so I went to find her but couldn’t. I ran into Cupcake and asked her where AS was. “Way in the back,” she said. I found her back there working her way through Penn State garments and when I managed to wrest her away from the sale racks, she told me that it was Q-tips that she needed. That gave me a two-minute mission that saved me from two minutes of excruciating waiting while AS looked at hundreds of items she would not buy. I returned to see how she was. She was still working her way around the store, looking at each garment. I talked with Cupcake for a while. She was bored, too. I took the stuff to the check-out and paid, just for something to do. Still no AS. I finally had to get rather insistent.
“There are other stores, you know. The Student Book Store has good stuff, ” I said, hopefully.
“Just a few more minutes!” contested AS. I knew that stubborn face. It was going to require some heavy artillery from me to get her the hell out of there.
“We ought to grab some lunch,” I told her. “There’s a great lunch place a couple of blocks from here. They have good coffee, too.”
Her head lifted. “Food? Coffee?” she grunted, and then, sarcastically, “Oh, and beer, of course.”
“Yeah. Let’s go.”
Whew! It worked. Of course, I knew that we would have to finish the shopping after lunch, but I would get a break and a beer. For our lunch spot I had chosen The Deli, another of Andy Z’s restaurants that serves a nice lunch.
We grabbed Cupcake and sallied forth.
“I still think ‘State College’ is a dumb name for a city,” said Cupcake.
The lunch was uneventful except for the entertainment provided by a group of about eight women who appeared to be PSU staff types having a lunch out during laid back summer semester. When they finished their lunch and paid their individual bills, they hung around for a while to talk. One of them, a black woman in dreadlocks who looked younger than the rest, was mindlessly playing with a spoon while engaging in this postprandial chat. At first, she was rubbing it on her arm. Then, she started beating her bicep with it. Then, she was polishing it on her shirt. Finally, while still talking, she started to press the concave business end of the spoon against the tip of her nose and held it there while she talked. She wasn’t clowning around. It was probably something that her friends had seen before, because they seemed comfortable with it. However, I was going nuts trying to be inconspicuous about getting a good picture of it. She continued to interact animatedly with the others, laughing and smiling, all the while holding the damn spoon against her nose. I never did get a very good picture, as her back was facing me. However, if I had gone for the right angle, my cover would have been blown.
After lunch, we went to the Student Book Store for some more of the S-word. I decided that if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. I began to look for some Penn State clothing. That was good entertainment for about 10 or 15 minutes. I wound up with a shirt and a pair of shorts. I went looking for AS and found her in deep-shop mode. She had a handful of stuff, which she gave me to hold onto while she went downstairs to look for books. The Cupcake went down with her. I alleviated my boredom by paying for our combined purchases. I went downstairs, finding Cupcake first. She was contemplating some geometry study aids, so she could refine her “surrounding mountains are, like, taller than Mt. Mitchell” theorem. I found AS a couple aisles over. She was looking at a book about aging. Who the hell wants to contemplate that? She settled for a book about stress in animals. Then, she had to go to the bathroom. I told her where it was after escorting her up the stairs.
Cupcake ascended the stairs bearing her selected geometry aids.
“Where’s Mom?” she asked.
“In the crapper,” I said, pointing up to the store’s public facilities.
Cupcake rolled her eyes.
“She’s got reading material, so who knows how long she’ll be there,” I warned.
Another eye roll and a double-speed hair twirl.
I haven’t told you about the hair twirl. Cupcake does this thing with her hair—seems like almost constantly. It’s pretty much the same idea as the spoon thing the girl at the next table did at lunch, an almost constant habit. She twirls a bundle of hair around her finger for a while, then brushes the end of the strands of hair against her upper lip. She can do it either left or right handed, while talking, eating lunch, or whatever. I don’t know, she might even do it in her sleep. I suppose it’s less annoying than biting her nails or chewing gum would be. It didn’t take me long to get used to it.
Eventually, AS found us and asked me where her other stuff was. I told her I paid for it. She thanked me and went to check out with her book, while Cupcake and I waited outside. There was a really nice, brand new red Ferrari California parked right in front of the store. I wanted Cupcake to pose next to it so I could take a picture, but she demurred.
“You stand next to it and I’ll take a picture of you!”, exhorted the Cupcake.
“No!” I said, knowing that the second I put my hand on the polished metal, some huge guy would appear out of nowhere, wanting to kick my ass up and down College Avenue for touching his shiny red automotive penis augmentation.
“See? You wouldn’t do it, so don’t expect me to.” Hair twirl.
AS emerged and I asked her if she had everything she needed. She said yes. We began walking toward our minivan. We stopped abruptly, as AS did a double take while glancing at the next shop’s window. [Read more…]