Monday, November 13, 2006

Santorum! Kum Esse!

This past weekend I decided to venture into the wilds of Pennsylvania--totally unchartered territory for me, which is odd considering its proximity to my upstate homeland and the Germanic heritage I share with many Pennsylvanians. I have driven through Pennsylvania before of course--I have fond memories of visiting an establishment in Hazelton called "Mr. Donut," and many not-so-fond memories of near white-out driving conditions experienced both in my youth and during my collegiate life in upstate New York.

This trip was totally different though. First of all, it was a spur-of-the-moment, "the girls are hitting the road" kind of trip that promised wacky hijinks and Hunter S. Thompson comparisons...both of which kind of happened and kind of didn't.

We started the trip in the fine city of Bethlehem, PA. Bethlehem has a cruddy reputation which, based on my admittedly limited experience, is maybe undeserved. One of my favorite people in the whole world is a Bethlehem native, and I have enjoyed many years of tales of growing up there...some of which involved intriguing characters named "Lip-Lip" (who met a tragic end) and local haunts like Stahley's, which offers beer for a buckfiddy.

So, things were immediately exciting in Bethlehem, as we ventured out of our lodgings to be confronted almost immediately by...a skunk! I'm not kidding either--this dude was like a full-on unafraid urban-style skunk, hanging out right next to the Perkin's family restaurant! After escaping his stinky attentions, we crossed over a bridge into historic Bethlehem, where I saw a creature running up a lightpole. Thinking it was a chipmunk, I commented on its cuteness, which prompted one of my fellow travelers to run up to the beast to investigate. After a couple of seconds of cross-species staredown, the human side of the equation yelled, "Fly! Fly!" at the creature, which sparked a solid round of mocking from the rest of us.

The next day, however, said human looked the creature up in a local bookshop, consulting a rather dry looking book entitled Animals of Pennsylvania or something boring like that. After a heated discussion--which attracted the attention of a local dude who was almost like a movie caricature of a Pennsylvania Dutch farmer--we decided that the creature had actually been:

A flying squirrel! (Photo lifted from Wikipedia.) I have never heard of such a thing--say nothing of seeing one--so it seemed the weekend was going to be full of all kinds of exoticism.

And, yes, it sort of was. After scouting the town and noting picturesque attractions like the following:

We hit up the Bethlehem after dark scene, which featured lots of 1950s-style film noir-esque streets:

And legions of Lehigh College students, some of whom tried to lure us onto their roof to drink beer with them. We weren't having it though, as we knew that the next day brought a trip to Hershey, PA, with stops along the way at various flea markets (where two Pyrex bowls were purchased) and thrift stores (where an apron was). We also saw one of the most incredible sunsets ever, which I dangerously snapped through the front windshield while simultanously driving the car:

(If you look carefully there, you'll see that the restaurant on the right is delightfully named "Kum Esse!")

Hershey was totally cheesy, as one would expect, and featured lots of singing cows, Willie Wonka-esque factory tours, and a marching band competition that imported thousands of adolescents into the town to march around in the rain.

After a quick trip back through Doylestown and New Hope--which were both disappointingly bereft of flying squirrels and skunks--we returned to the Budget rental car office where the trip had started...and the nice people there accidentally undercharged us by almost $200 for the cost of the car. That, and the fact that I saw hundreds of discarded and dejected "Santorum for Senate" signs (enjoy your early retirement Prick, I mean "Rick"!), made this voyage through a much-maligned red state a total victory tour. Rock it in '07 Pennsylvania!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Mein Vater ist supertoll!

Recently, trying to promote a little Vater-Tochter bonding, I decided that I was going to attempt to write my pops an e-mail auf Deutsch. My skillz ain't that great, so this was a chore, and I cringed to think of poor Karl-Heinz (ja, er heißt Karl-Heinz. Natürlich!) struggling through my terrible grammar and shaking his Germanic head in despair.

Days passed. Then today I opened my e-mail inbox and found this:

My father, earnest and hardworking German that he is, printed out my e-mail, corrected it, scanned it, and sent it back to me as a pdf file!

On a somewhat related note, this is awesome: