Exodus to the Heartland...part two

I am never surprised by "Déjà vu." In fact, I have raised "déjà vu" to an art form. I am one of those people who goes to the same Cajun restaurant over and over.....orders the same pepper boiled spicy shrimp over and over....listens to the same version of "Red Top" on the same King Pleasure CD over and over....and visits the same vacation spot over and over. I guess this explains that year in Jamaica. Some folks might call that being in a "rut," but I have damn good taste in "ruts". Under the loosy-goosy bohemian rhythm of my lifestyle, there is an infrastructure of redundancy.

And so, when none of Ann Harris' other friends and family could manage her return trip Manhattan, I seized the chance to revisit the Heartland. The Angels From God were less enthusiastic this time around. "Ridey, ridey in the car, yes, but to freakin' INDIANA?? Are ya sittin' on your brains again?" Nadia rolled up her eyes in her head and gave me one of her "you must be kidding" snotty looks as she retreated to her closet in protest. I cautioned the Angels From God, as my Grandmother, Irma, used to caution me, "Be careful what you wish for ....you might get it......twice."

The arrangements were going to be edgy this time around. I had acquired a new rescue dog....Shayla....aka "The Menace." The new pack member was a surly girl, with a perpetual snarl. Shayla offended the Angels From God on a subliminal level. She invaded their spaces and growled her heart out.....and they wouldn't give her the satisfaction of an argument.

Toot draws upon her already taxed reserves of self-restraint as Shayla challenges for a treasured balcony roost.

After about a week, Shayla began to lighten up, and the AFGs started speaking to me again. By the time we were ready to leave for the Heartland, I was confident that Shayla was a "good girl." Ann was skeptical, even though she had followed Shayla's progress via daily telephone updates. (Her exact words might have been, "ticking time bomb.") Sometimes, Ann can be a big worry wart.

Part One: The Approach

Unburdened by Ann injecting common sense into the game plan, my drive down had great potential. I planned to leave Boston on Thursday at 4:00pm, after "General Hospital." I had deliberately slept until noon on Thursday so that I could drive overnight and rest during the day at my favorite Super 8 Motel in Somerset, Pennsylvania. That would allow for Friday soaps, and I could leave for Indiana after "General Hospital." I am not sure at what point in my life "General Hospital" became essential.....I believe it was during the first year of my transition from advertising bigwig to entrepreneurship. Well....it's too late to apologize for it now. An addiction is an addiction, and as long as it doesn't have calories, it's ok by me.

on the road again...

I discovered the first snafu in my plan as I found myself snailcrawling through Providence rush hour traffic at 5:00 pm. Hard to believe that many people are in the entire state. Yet....the fatal flaw to my plan revealed itself later that night in North Central New Jersey. It appears that New Jersey quality of life diminishes considerably after 11:00 pm. (Although "The Sopranos" would have you believe otherwise). The state goes into hibernation, and a person can't pee or eat anywhere. I was forced to bed down at the "Middle of Nowhere" Super 8 Motel outside of Allentown. Undaunted by the "No Pets Allowed" sign on the front door, I cut a deal with the desk clerk. He charged me double and "looked the other way." For once in her life, Nadia kept her big mouth shut, so we slipped in and out unnoticed. I made a mental note to tell Ann with a smug tone, "There was absolutely NO barking."

After a great sleep, and a hot shower, I discovered the first problem of the day. I had forgotten dog food. And, more importantly, I had forgotten the can of California Natural that I needed to slip Shayla her antibiotics. I was starting to miss Ann already. I don't believe she has ever forgotten anything.

No dog food!! Nadi sniffs out breakfast on the road.

Well, lack of dog food seemed like as good an excuse as any for a McDonald's pitstop, so we stopped for breakfast. I devised an impromptu plan for dispensing the Egg McMuffins to the AFG's while making sure that Shayla got her pill. I should learn never to plan anything on a caffeine deficiency. When I came out of McDonald's with "the goods," I opened the trunk, unwrapped the sandwiches and broke them into bite size pieces, arranging the pieces in four equitable piles....one pile coded with a red piece of antibiotic capsule slightly visible. My thought was to take the dogs out of the car and make them sit-stay for their breakfast.

What happened, was.....as I was collecting leashes, I had three leashes in my hand, as usual. Apparently I had a mental lapse, because I was supposed to have four leashes, since the headcount was now four, not three. During the collective pack pee, Nadia realized that she was loose and made a break for it. She was running circles in the parking lot.....ignoring my bloodcurdling shrieks.....and ignoring the helpful capture attempts from a kind passersby. The entire parking lot witnessed $1,200 of obedience training at work. Suddenly, the scent of warm Egg McMuffins caught her attention, and she shot up on her back legs .....possessed.....dancing in circles....trying to identify its direction. That Nadia is a quick study, and like an arrow, she aimed herself toward the car trunk. In one flying leap she landed on the Egg McMuffin buffet. Outraged, Nikita and Toot joined her in the trunk, and if there was anything about to be wrong with Toot, I believe that antibiotic nipped it in the bud.

The drive was peaceful until we reached the middle of Ohio. I believe the trouble started when I loaded the CD magazine with 6 hours of hard rock, ranging from Motley Crue to Metallica. There was something about this monotonous stretch of Route 70 that needed some perking up. In retaliation for my musical choices, I am convinced that the Angels From God arranged for a torrential thunderstorm complete with catastrophic lightening bolts sizzling left and right.

sometimes Nadia questions her mom's sanity...

It would be my luck to be struck by lightening while doing a good deed for a friend. It was raining so hard that I couldn't see the car in front of me.....the worst weather in which I have ever driven. After about 10 minutes of white knuckle driving, it seemed that my right shoulder was cold and clammy. Toot was in her spot on the armrest, leaning against my arm, and, when I turned to investigate, I realized that the sunroof was still open. There were three very drenched and very pissed off Angels From God glaring at me. Honestly, there are times when these dogs will bark incessantly at absolutely nothing, so you would think they could muster up a woof or two to remind me to shut the sunroof. Now, I was starting to miss Perry Winkle, who can always be counted upon in these matters.

Eventually, I arrived at Ann's childhood home in one piece after a twenty hour drive that should have taken twelve hours. The Angels From God created such a frenzy when we parked in the driveway, I could barely get out of the car. They had no idea where they were, but they were glad as hell that we were finally there. And then, Nikita greeted Mrs. Harris warmly by lifting his leg on her sofa. Ann greeted me warmly with a glass of chardonnay, pizza, and a taped copy of the afternoon soaps.

Part Two: The Return

seven Eskies!!!

Ann's Mom, bless her heart, cannot quite understand why we have so many dogs. In addition to Bridget, Mrs. Harris's Eskie, and two thirds of Ann's pack, Perry and Greta -- my four cents....the Angels From God and Shayla, brought our total up to seven. One big, white free-for-all. The cat made a beeline for Oblivion and was not seen during our visit.

I was a little concerned about overwhelming Mrs. Harris with so many "well-behaved and obedient" Eskies. Her Eskie, Bridget, is an older girl who is relatively calm and, dare I say, well-behaved. Fortunately, Mrs. Harris's "grandkids", Perry and Greta had paved the way for the arrival of the Angels From God. Greta has made a habit out of torpedoing into "Grandma's" lap, awakening her out of a sound snooze in the barcolounger. Ann has overheard her mom chastising Greta Garbo, "Just once, Greta, I wish you would ASK, 'may I come up Grandma?'"

Bridget, amazed at the sight of so many Eskies, was nevertheless, the perfect hostess. Below...Greta and Grandma.

Shayla found a wonderful home. Read her adoption story to find out what a lucky girl she is.

And it was on that note, that we arrived with Shayla, the Menace. On the way from Boston, Shayla finally shut up after about 15 hours on the road. Now, she had Greta Garbo and Perry Winkle to argue with, and she regressed into her snappy, snarly self. Mrs. Harris shook her head and said, "I don't know what you are going to do with that one." "You will never find a home for her." I could see from Ann's furrowed brow that she was envisioning the worst possible back-seat catastrophe during the ride home. "Pollyanna," she isn't.

Shayla did her best to disturb the peace in the back-seat, but there isn't too much that can dampen Perry and Greta's Rhett Butler/Scarlett O'Hara romance. And, of course, there was Greta's signature blend of car sickness to take the edge off of the volatile dynamic. After a while Shayla got tired of complaining and fell asleep. We did not hear from her until Nadia instigated a "jail break" during which Ann snatched up all the loose leashes to avert a mass mutiny. Shayla took a bite out of Ann's hand, but she quickly said she was sorry, and nudged Ann's throbbing hand for a headscratch.

Denise wrestles with jailbreak ringleader...

After a spirited debate as to where we should spend the night, we settled on my suggestion of the Super 8 Motel in Somerset, Pennsylvania. After all, we already knew the layout, and were sure we could pull off the six dog switcheroo. Luckily, we arrived early evening, and were able to take in some of the sights of Somerset. Up one street, down the next....and we pretty much had it covered. So, we checked in, and then Ann went in search of sustenance.

Ann is possibly the most efficient and well-organized individual I have ever known. However, on this particular trip, she packed only one bottle of chardonnay. This must be the Weight Watchers concept of "portion control" at work. Well, the problem with drinking chardonnay out of Super 8 plastic tumblers is that the bottle doesn't last as long. So, there went Ann in search of liquor at 7:10 pm on a Saturday night, in Somerset, Pennsylvania.

Perry and Greta relax after a long day of sleeping in the car.

When Ann returned quite some time later, she had not accomplished her mission. After three treks on foot across the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the Queen of Tenacity struck out. The frustration on her face was apparent as she spewed rather vile rhetoric about the town of Somerset closing down at 7:00 pm on a Saturday night. So, we were left to satiate our appetites with the fourth rate Chinese food from the only game in town. The sad fact is that we knew the menu from our last stay.

Fortunately the effects of our first bottle of wine lasted long enough for us to stage the recreation of Toot dancing for the "Dueling Dancing Divas" AFG Chronicle, although, Toot was distracted by the nosy, big-mouthed, barking onlookers, and she was not at her best. At first, Ann was put off by the idea of re-creating situations to photograph for the website, (integrity-obsessed....that's Ann). She chastised me for not being more diligent at photographing incidents as they occur. Well, I can't dance with Toot and hold the camera at the same time. Everybody is into multi-tasking these days.

We retired early and awakened, crack of dawn, for the final leg of our trip. I knew my job....to keep Perry Winkle quiet while Ann packed up the car. As I steeled myself for this task, Ann finally provided the secret to success. "You have to hold him," she instructed. Hold a wiggling, kicking, barking Eskie....and, before coffee, too.

So, I threaded my arm through the leashes of the five other dogs, put Perry in the full nelson wrestling maneuver, and rolled on top of him on the bed. He was still barking. So, I wrapped my hand around his muzzle and the barking transformed to a squealing "WOOOO WOOOO WOOOO," which was OK, because it did not resemble dog barking. Camouflage. In the meantime, the Angels From God and Greta Garbo jumped up on the bed to improve on a bad situation, and I could feel wet noses in my hair and neck. Shayla retreated under the chair at the desk.

I breathed a sigh of relief as Ann re-entered the room and announced that we were ready to hit the road. I was relatively pleased with my ability to minimize the noise level, and I waited for Ann to pay me the proper compliment. At that moment, I released the tangled leashes of six dogs who jumped off the bed to greet Ann. Shayla's leash had gotten twisted around the chair leg that she was hiding under, and so she was pulled into the pack chaos with chair in tow. My compliment never came because Ann and I were busy trying to extricate the chair from the tangled dog leashes, and then silence six hysterical dogs and usher them out the door before the police arrived. As we bungled into the car, we spied an interested party monitoring our departure from the window of the room next to ours.

We plodded along on the last leg of our drive, stopping along the way at various roadside souvenir shops....and at each stop, the dogs lost a little more of their precious little patience. At one point, Nadia moaned, "Is shopping really necessary?" and whined in Ann's ear during my purchase of a Pennsylvania Dutch wind chimes.

As we entered New Jersey, it seemed that our luck had run out. The gear shift on the car went kaput, as the mechanical covering had been dislodged and was blocking the shift movement. Ann suggested that this problem might have been caused from Nikita using the gearshift as a pillow. Of course, it is ALWAYS my dogs that screw up. Well it was, indeed, Nikita, who had stepped on the gearshift console and stuck his big foot down the shaft and dislodged the covering. I broke a nail fixing the damn thing.

And so, we wheeled into Manhattan, behind schedule, but glad to be there. Although, we spent more time in the Holland tunnel than on the rest of the trip altogether. Ann unpacked the car and we said our goodbyes. As I was preparing to drive away, she said, "Denise, I don't know what to say.... I owe you, BIG." Well, I had two words for her....."Bubble Wrap." Out of all my friends, it was Ann who showed up with the wine to help me bubble wrap my pain-in-the-ass art collection as I moved from New York to Boston. If it were not for Ann, that art collection would be at the bottom of the Hudson River.


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