Thursday, May 26, 2016

Chicago: A Photographic Recap

So before we get started here, I'd like to give some credit to my lovely photographers. Without them my posts would have been a lot more bland and you would have seen a lot less. Thanks to them, I got to share with you some of my favorite moments and I think it livened up this blog hugely. Huge thank-you's to...

Elise, for not being afraid to tell me I needed more pictures with people in them and providing great people-y shots.

Renee, for taking pictures of literally everything and letting me paw through them in the dead of night because "guys, I can't find the foot picture from the tower" (major kudos to Elise and Renee for knowing what in the heck I was talking about) and also hugely amazing editing skills.

SongWeaver, for doing the selfie thing with me and remembering eensy teensy details and donating snaps of the in-between moments that I didn't catch, and also for always being around and not letting me be alone.

I think that's all of my picture-donaters. Most of the pictures you'll see below are from them, but I don't remember who sent what on all of them (sorry, chicas. You are loved.). Some of them you might have seen before, but I'm sharing my favorites again anyway because I like to look at them. 

Okay, enough chatter. On with the show!!!

 Renee sent me this one and holy cow, is that not tremendous editing? I love it. This is a shot from the skytower, looking out over whichever lake it was we saw. I love the blend of the city and the lake- it's super super cool and inspiring.

This is almost exactly the same picture, the only difference is the editing. To me this looks more smoky and mysterious, like a ghost-metropolis just begging to be written about.

I literally love this one so much simply because every time I see it, I think the two people are getting engaged. They weren't- I just snapped the picture at a deceptive moment, but it's still sweet. Navy Pier is such a romantic place in the evening.

You've seen this one before, just my best friend kissing my turtle buddy, but I love it. I was going to just sneak a candid-camera shot of her sleeping with him (that sounds bad, it wasn't, I promise- Elise, I can almost hear you laughing from here so just shhh, I'm blogging), but she caught me and turned it into one of the cutest pictures I caught all trip. 

Because this was literally all they did in the bus besides sing about "es caliente, so no mas ropas," it seemed like. Sweet dreams, girlpeeps.

Aaaand here we have...Renee, hugging a ship-steering-wheel-thingy? I wasn't around for this one but Renee looks so tiny compared to the thingy that I just had to share. She rocks the shortness.

Again, I wasn't around for this one but it's trademark girlpeeps so obviously it's going up. Happy faces, amigas! And yes, their hair is all the same. We planned that. Or they planned it. Whatever. More on the hair later.

And this. THIS. I have no idea how I ended up with this but it's from the Chicago Symphonic Hall- it's the whole conglomerate choir and woooow what a picture. This blows my mind. I sang up there. I did that. Wow.

The National Shrine of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini- I didn't think I'd be able to show this to you but somebody sent in a picture of it so here you go! It was absolutely massive in there- and look at the windows! I loved the windows. 

This one I remember- it's courtesy of Elise, 'because you mentioned the Trump building.' Okay but what even is the Trump building? Does he live there? It's huge and it looks really cool and just driving past it sent Mancub and SW into a tizzy, but what is it??

This is just a great shot of the Navy Pier. It was so big- I didn't even know there was a Ferris wheel until I saw the picture. Isn't it cool?

More of Becca and Elise and Renee! This is in the waiting parlor/ballroom at the concert. 

Unfortunately, this is the only shareable shot of the Bean that I have. The others are full of familiar faces (like fifty of them) and I don't have time or willpower to track down everyone and ask permission to post their face on the Wide, Wild Web.

SW and I before the concert, in the hotel because she just suddenly said, "Hey, Scotty, we have to take a picture." And we did. And I'm grateful, because otherwise I wouldn't have any pictures of us before the concert, which isn't something I would have thought I'd have wanted but I think I'd regret not having one.

I don't even know where to begin with this. Just looking at it cracks me up. When I submit his application to the insane asylum, I'm sending this photo as proof. And I'll stand in the courtroom and present it as Exhibit A, and then I'll sit down and say, "No further argument, Your Honor," and the judge will just sit there and go, "Wow." (dramatic pause)

 "And the verdict is?" the bailiff will ask. 

"Guilty on all counts of insanity," the judge will stammer. 

"Sentence?" comes the bailiff.

"Execution! Off with his head!"

And I will giggle in my head, because there's no giggling in a courtroom but I won and finally the world sees that he's criminally insane. 

Okay. That was a little intense. Even for me. Sorry, Mancub. Think of it like the "Just You Wait, 'Enry 'Iggins, Just You Wait" scene from My Fair Lady. 

Here I present to you the sign at the door- isn't it fancy? I love it. The programs looked almost just like that too, only smaller. So professional!

I'm not sure what or where this is, but it's some pretty stinking cool architecture if you ask me. If you want to know what it is, I recommend chasing down Elise or Renee (this probably came from one of them) and asking about it. Also ask for their autograph, because they're awesome.

This is while walking to the skytower- you can see it, it's that tall spiky white thing. Do you see why I loved walking in Chicago so much?

Oh, and did I mention we went to the Roman Coliseum? We totally did. It was a lot smaller than I thought...and the Museum of Science and Industry had it all locked up in a little glass box. Apparently the Romans played with Legos too??? ;)

And then... the Saint Louis Arch was a couple displays away from the Coliseum and apparently my geography is worse than I thought. All this time I thought the Coliseum was in Rome and the Arch was in Saint Louis, and it turns out they're both in Chicago. Whaaat??

Another of my favorites. Pardon my face. I was okay standing on glass 103 stories above the ground, but when they said to lay down I thought I'd really rather just die. Photo credits to Mancub, our semi-unofficial photographer. And kudos to Elise and Renee for being brave enough to actually smile when he said to and not just chomp on their lips while staring blankly into the sky, which was entirely too close and too blue. Y'all are gutsy and that's all I've got to say about that. 

On our way out of Chicago and back to Nowhere. It looks a lot less ominous and huge from the Interstate.

Call me crazy, but I absolutely loved our fire-escape view from the hotel. It's just magical- I could write a thousand stories based on this one shot. Renee edited it and honestly she didn't add magic; she just enhanced it and she did really well.

I don't even know why I love this so much. It's just feet. But it makes me so happy. I wish we'd gotten SW in there, but it's still a really cool pic. It's us- it's Mancub and Elise and Renee and me (and yes, that is proper grammar, to say 'me' in there, just trust me on this one) and it makes me happy. I have friends, you guys, I have friends and they're good and nice and they like me and I like them and we do things together. 

I like together.

Together is good.

And there you have our little clan of seven- our BraidSquad, because Renee did braids in everybody's hair on the way into Chicago.

Yes. I'm watching you count braids, and you're coming up with twelve, and that's not good because twelve divided by two equals six and I said there were seven of us.

Easy explanation: it's like at weddings. There's always one guest who isn't in a single picture (if you watch Sherlock you probably remember this). No matter what. He's just not there. You never see him. Who is he? The invisible man? The stalker?


He's the photographer. 

Our semi-unofficial photographer is Number Seven, the one you don't see. Fortunately, he wasn't running around stabbing people with little tiny skewers (if you watch Sherlock, that will make sense. Otherwise...I'm sorry. Don't be too creeped out.).

The photographer was also the only BraidSquad member who didn't have braids in, for obvious reasons of A) dudes in braids is just a baaaad idea, and B) not enough hair to braid. 

But there were seven of us- and I got to be one of the seven. I think I usually got counted as 5. Thanks to Elise and Mancub for counting us and keeping track of us and not losing me. Thanks to Renee for being a safe place and cheering us up and always being real. Thanks to SW for not letting me be alone or cry too hard for too long. 

And thanks to you, for reading and joining us while we took Chicago by storm.

This concludes Scotty's Adventures With The Seven: Chicago.

Hitting publish in 5...4...3...2..



Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Taking Chicago By Storm: The Final Stretch

Chicago 2016 was drawing rapidly to a close and my heart was torn. These people had become my family- I'd made connections and become a part of their lives for a moment. I'd built relationships stronger, forged new ones, bonded with people and learned to appreciate company more than I had before. I'd learned the importance of knowing what you can and can't handle. Of leaning on other people and not being afraid to be weak. Of doing things just for the heck of it. Of laughing and being happy and real. 

Of being little and letting people see that you're not strong enough and need help.

I sat sideways in that seatbelt-less bus and stretched my legs and stared out the window and listened to the low hum of voices running under Hairspray on the speakers. Swiveling my head I could see them- my people, my semi-family, the ones I'd depended on for anything I couldn't do alone for almost a week. 

Es caliente, so no mas ropas, my brain chanted, and I shut my eyes, remembering the drive up when I was so scared and uncomfortable and uncertain. The museum played in my head, stumbling and wobbling around and listening to Mancub and SW discuss this and that. The hotel, trying to sleep while SW cuddled, or Renee and Elise singing Cruella DeVille while waiting for room checks. Walking here and there and everywhere and not getting lost because there were people there who took care of me. 

Being taken care of. Not having to be alone. Not being abandoned.

That's what I remembered most.

And I sat on the bus and I was alone.

Because we were going home, and I wasn't Scotty of The Seven anymore. I was just Scotty. The sometimes-high schooler. The one that missed everything. The clueless one. The loner who didn't speak and just sort of hovered on the edge.

I wasn't part of them anymore. They all had their own lives and their own stories and I envied them for that because their stories all mixed together like spaghetti and I just wasn't there.

So we would go home, and again I would be alone and hover in the background and everything would go back to the way it was.

And I didn't want that. I wanted anything but that. I wanted to be home, with Squirt and Momma and Dad and Ninja, but I didn't want to be alone again. 

For four days, I had people. Elise and Mancub were always protecting and looking after and making sure we were all present and safe (when they weren't murdering each other, anyway). Renee was always including and cheering and being comfortable. SW was always listening and encouraging and rubbing tired shoulders and reminding me that I was part of this group because they wanted me and people weren't all evil. They were all there, all the time, and they cared. We were a family because we were all sort of alone without our families so we built our own. And it worked. It was a little dysfunctional and way more moody than any family I've ever seen, but it worked. "It was little and broken, but it was good." It was people, all of us caring about all of us (most of the time...) and including everyone and knowing everyone and looking out for everyone.

It was good to have people.

It is not good for man to be alone (or woman).

We need people. I need people (ouch). And the thought of losing that family atmosphere of being around my people for four days straight terrified me. I didn't want to be Fifth-Wheel Scotty anymore.

So I sat on the bus and listened to Hairspray and felt lonelier than I had when we left Nowhere, because it hurts a lot more to lose something after you know you love it.

Raindrops splatted on the windshield and voices murmured about snow and Kimball and Interstate 80 and shhhhh, we're trying to listen. SW snuggled Richie and we rolled closer to Nowhere and closer to Alone. Elise and Renee chatted and giggled and reminisced and Mancub howled about somebody's spilt Dr. Pepper.

I was going home.

Part of me was oh so ready. I don't think on the same level as high schoolers. It's a homeschool thing. Stick me in a room of toddlers and I can babysit the crap out of them. Put me in a room full of adults and it's the most natural thing in the world for me- I can converse and socialize no problem and I'm comfortable.

Squish me on a bus full of fifty of my peers and I have absolutely no idea what to do. I don't know what to talk about or how to act or what to say or anything. So I go into childish armadillo mode and act like I'm four years old and absolutely stupid. Being post-high school in every subject in eighth grade didn't score me any points in the socializing-with-peers department, for sure.

So I was ready to be around people that I could converse with and be myself around.

But I wasn't ready to be alone again either. Most of the time I spend out and about is spent in the high school, with other high-schoolers. And I'd established a place in their pride, I'd made a spot for myself among them that I was about to lose because I'm not in touch with them.

So part of me wanted to stay in Chicago for weeks and weeks and weeks and just be part of their lion's pride and have a place. I wanted to walk to the Sears Tower every morning at nine and take a picture out of every window. I wanted to walk with them. I wanted to walk to Chipotle and eat burritos for lunch with them. I wanted to browse a museum and laugh about being absolutely smashed with them. I wanted to dash up and down the pier and sing about my long list of ex-lovers with them.

Because yeah, I have people. I have grown-up people.

But sometimes it's okay to need people your own age, I think. To need interaction with your peers. Because that's what pushes me the most. That's what challenges me to be who I really am. That's how I grow into myself.

At about six-thirty we pulled into York, which I'm sure is a nice town but I've never been there. I think it's biggish. Not compared to Omaha or Lincoln probably, but compared to Nowhere I think it's kinda big. They have a Wendy's.

We were threatening mutiny if we ate Wendy's again.

They also have a Runza.

We stopped there because fooooood. 

And they have salad. I like the Southwestern because it's a little spicy and I like to pretend I like spicy foods, but they also have a newer one- Chicken Bacon Ranch or something like that, and I like Ranch and chicken and bacon so I figured hey, live a little. Try a new salad (wow, really livin' dangerously there, Scotty.).

Again I ordered last because it was becoming the comfortable thing to do (also I was having a minor panic attack because apparently life was scary or something). If you order last you get decide where you sit and who you sit with and if you want to sit alone then go for it.


Runza was smaller than Wendy's.

There were no empty tables.

And I didn't want to be alone. I didn't want to invite myself to a table, either- I wanted to be wanted. I wanted someone to not want me to be alone.

Everyone was busy. Talking and interacting and doing what I couldn't do because I couldn't get out of my own head.

And the workers weren't quite as on-the-ball, either. Their system worked okay for small groups, but when we unloaded fifty-four people on their tiny restaurant I'm pretty sure the waitress's blood froze completely solid. I'd have been scared too, for the record. I freeze up when I need to think fast. Works real well, let me tell you.

But I'm not telling you about that. I'm telling you about the food and the eating and the being alone.

It took them forever to get everything sorted out and start handing out food, and then they had a really wacky way of doing it. Say we ordered eight medium fries, they'd bring out a tray of eight medium fries and you just grabbed what was yours, rather than keeping all the orders together. It was kind of complicated and ominous for a while, especially with raindrops splatting outside and purple clouds billowing on the horizon. Plus, we were in York- York, at the opposite end of the state, at six thirty and we were supposed to be home by ten thirty. Four hours. 

My aunt lives in Kearney, which is between York and Nowhere but considerably closer to York, and whenever we drive down to see her it takes us five hours.

We were so not gonna be home at ten thirty.

And I needed to sit and think about this- or rather, think about how late it would be getting home because the best I could figure we still had eight hours to go AT LEAST and that put us in Nowhere at about four thirty Monday morning. 

Which meant another night on the bus. 

Which I didn't altogether hate because it was pretty fun all in all, but I didn't feel like getting yelled at for not falling asleep on the bus again. But see it didn't feel safe. There were people on that bus that I still didn't know. There were possibly mean people who would do mean things like Sharpie on my face or worse than that and I didn't want to think about worse than that, so in order to avoid the Worse Things, it made sense to just stay awake so no problems would arise. Nobody would mess with me if I was awake.

I was having an almost-full scale meltdown when Mancub and SW waved me over. Specifically, SW waved me over because she knows my panic faces and apparently I didn't look calm. I sat and they talked and I wanted desperately to converse and be a part of it because this was my last chance but I couldn't because if I opened my mouth horrible things would come out. Like about how freaking lonely I was and how much I didn't want to go home and be alone again, or like how incredible it was to have friends and be a part of things and how wonderful it was that they were my friends. Or how distressed I was about sleeping on the bus because Bad Things might happen and I had to stay awake but no one would understand that.

So I sat, quietly, and listened to them talk and that was better because then I just sort of fed off of their calm and their chill became my chill and I was okay.

Okay. But still lonely, because I couldn't get out of my head and the little voice in there kept saying, "they don't really want you here; they just felt bad because you're like the stray puppy that nobody wants or knows what to do with so they took you in for now. you annoy them. you're too dramatic and selfish. get over yourself. walk away. stop bothering them." (and yes, the voices in my head have terrible capitalization skills. It's part of what makes them so terrible)

So I sat, and they talked, and then I started rambling and panicking about Worse Things happening and then Mancub was yelling at me for being afraid and self-conscious and careful and that was worse and I didn't know how to respond. Somewhere along the line we piled back on the bus but I was numb and I don't really remember that part. We finished Finding Nemo (wait, we watched that? Apparently. I don't know.) and then it was Jurassic Park and all of a sudden Mancub was leaning on the back of my seat and talking over me to SW and she was shushing and arguing and he was too close and getting agitated and his voice rose and sounded violent and I kept laughing because he and SW were. And for a while we were okay and it was the three of us against the dinosaurs or something, and he said he'd tell me when to close my eyes- like I was a baby not quite brave enough to handle humans being devoured by dinosaurs, and that wasn't too far wrong. 

But it was us. We were back, like a revival and I had people again and we chattered back and forth because I was okay again and it was safe. It was pouring rain outside but it was safe inside and I wished we could stay that way for always, safe and together and not fighting.

Somewhere along the line he drifted off to Somewhere Else and it was just SW and I, and then she fell asleep and then everyone was sleeping almost, except me, and there was peace and quiet until- hey, gas station and we're two hours from home so everybody go pee real quick and then we'll be home. We passed around a baggie to tip the drivers, who deserved so much more than they got because they rocked it, and SW slept the whole time and Mancub was back on the floor and it was almost just like on the way out of town, except that I wasn't stuck under a seat and I was on way less of an emotional high.

There was something about the route we took- we drove out of the storm, and it was pretty dry when we got to Nowhere, but my mom messaged me and said to text Daddy when we got to Kimball, I think it was. And I asked what if we don't go through Kimball because I'm terrible with directions and what if I miss a cue and have to sleep at the school or something terrible (because apparently I couldn't wake up my parents, and I sure couldn't just hitch a ride with SW or even walk the mile to my house from Nowhere High, right, okay I was tired, sorry). So then it was 'text when you get to Bridgeport,' I think. One of those blippy little towns. Somewhere.

And it was eleven thirty and wow, our drivers must have timewarped us or something because no way could we be here now, and then I was falling asleep and 'can't fall asleep, you'll fall out of your seat and that would hurt and you'd probably kill yourself, you klutz' so I jerked myself awake and watched the road for a while, and then Nowhere's lights were peeping at me over each hill.


We pulled into the school parking lot at close to midnight, and I've seen few sights as sweet as my Daddy and Squirt waiting for me in the Trail Blazer as soon as I stumbled off the bus.

I wish I'd said good-byes, or bothered to talk to somebody or say something or act friendly, but I didn't. I picked up my stuff from our drivers, hugged Mr Q (who knows my parents and looked after me the whole trip), and booked it for the truck. Daddy and I piled my things in the back- and then home.


Home, to my pink roses and lilies and Seuss the stuffed Moose and my own pillows and my igloo pile of blankets, and my home with my people and my momma and my daddy and my sister, and that was what I wanted at midnight on April 17th (18th? However that works.) and I don't care who knows it. 

Chicago was an experience I'll never forget, and I wouldn't trade one second of it. I established some relationships I'll never outgrow, and I laughed with people I never thought I'd speak to, and I roomed with three of my best friends in the whole wide world. I learned a lot about how much I can handle emotionally and how people work up close. I saw a German sub and stood 103 stories above the ground and stared down at little tiny ant-people driving little tiny matchbox cars and I saw where Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini died and I stood onstage in the Chicago  Symphonic Hall and sang at the top of my lungs for all the world to hear. Those are all the facts and the things we did that I might never be able to do again.

But I won't remember the submarine or the Symphonic Hall when I'm ninety-five. I won't remember standing on top of the world and taking pictures of my feet over Chicago. I won't remember the shrine or the Bean or arguing politics on our way there. 

I'll remember the emotions, because that's how my mind works.

And most of the emotions on this trip were some of the best of my life thus far. We stormed Chicago and I loved every second of it. But I'm so, so glad to be home. Back to the routine and my people and the alone time. I still think it would rock to go on tour with those my peeps, but for now, I've got my sights set on an Associates Degree from our community college by the time I graduate high school. Touring with SW and Elise and Renee and Tink and Holly and Mancub and Pumba and everyone is definitely on my bucket list, however. Maybe next I'll post my bucket list. Who knows? Anything can happen. 

In closing, here's one of my favorite snaps from the trip. Peace out, Chicago. 

So that's two. Sorry. This really only scratches the surface of my 'favorites.' I'm planning a Chicago: In Pictures post soon to get all the shots I haven't shown you and some that I maybe already have but love enough to share again. Stay tuned, peeps.

Hitting post in 5...4...3...2...



Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Taking Chicago By Storm: Day 4.0

Almost done, guys. I know I said I probably wouldn't write today, but heck, I got time. I have to be at the concert in like 90 minutes. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with blogging in between doodling on cutoffs (thanks for the inspiration, SW) and laundry and makeup and supper. I can multitask.

Just don't ask me to walk and talk at the same time.

My multitasking skills are sadly limited.

But we're not talking about that today, or this post would be called Multitasking Mishaps. Go ahead and check. It's not.

Sunday morning we were up and ready to go at seven. It was a short stroll down to the Corner Bakery for breakfast, which was obviously my new staple of yogurt and granola. This time I threw in a latte for good measure- decaf, of course. I didn't feel like falling out of my seat every other town and listening to Elise scold me all the way home. But I wanted coffee, because it's cool and I like pretending to be cool.

See? Coffee. I'm a big girl and I drink coffee. I drank it all the time when I was little, until my non-coffee-drinking grandmother arrived on the scene and taught me that tea is waaaay better than coffee. Now I don't usually like it unless it's whiter than my legs (and I wear jeans practically 24/7 so I'm blindingly white and absolutely okay with that) (funny thing is I didn't wear jeans at all in Chicago) (and I'm wearing capris today; not sure how that happened) (and I am SO triple-parentheses-ing right now because yes, I am that cool).

Whew. Rabbit trail much? Sorry about that.

Anyway. SW and I were a little behind the breakfast crowd so it was less packed when we arrived, which was loooovely. We got seats at the bar by the window and watched traffic for a while because I don't make sense until about ten and SW barely forms sentences at seven in the morning (reason number 4,861 how come we're best friends). It was pleasantly quiet, the low hum of other voices just barely sneaking into my train of thought as taxis and buses and cars hustled by and pedestrians meandered past, sipping coffee or arranging shopping bags (apparently in Chicago shopping is an all-day endeavor and you should get started at seven thirty in the morning. what even.).

Mancub was later than we were and bobbed past our window considerably after we'd been seated. He sat with us, but conversation didn't pick up. He claims he needs a pot of coffee every morning or he commits multiple homicides, and based on his level of I'm-not-really-functioning-just-walking-and-breathing, I assumed the pot had yet to be consumed and therefore he was not a force I wanted to reckon with.

So there we sat. SW on my left, Mancub on my right.


Crowds thinned inside and out as everyday people dispersed to their jobs and members of our tribe headed back to the hotel to triple-check rooms for possibly missing toothbrushes and floss and phone chargers. SW and I cleared our things and probably mumbled adieu to Mancub, or she probably did, but my antisocial level skyrockets before ten. I have a handful of people that I love being around no matter what, but the majority of students on the trip were not in that handful. Also, what are you supposed to say to someone that might unleash a lethal attack on you just because they didn't have enough coffee yet? "I'm sorry, sir, please don't kill me?" "I'm sorry for your loss?" "I didn't do it?" "Have a nice day?"  Like actually. I had a considerably amount of stuff on my mind (I always do) and death wasn't one of those things.

Okay. I thought I traveled lightly. I was even impressed when I was able to get everything back in my duffel bag the night before we left (no, I don't have luggage, don't need it, backpacks work fine, thanks, and my pack has more than enough room for my things).

But squeezing down the elevator with the duffel and the Rory Bag and probably a book in my hand, along with the standard three or four other people and their luggage...

I didn't travel lightly enough, apparently.

It was pretty full. But we lived, and no one got irreparably squished, so it's all good.

Our wonderful drivers had pulled the bus up outside and were helping us load things into the little hidey-holes underneath. How cool is that- a bus with storage underneath? I love it! You can squeeze all kinds of stuff under there and there's still room for all of the people!

Okay. Nerd moment over.

By 'helping us load' I mean that they were basically doing all the work, taking suitcases (or duffels) and shoving them into storage compartments. We climbed onto the bus and found our typical seats, which weren't assigned but it seems that high-schoolers are creatures of habit and we all pretty much sat in the same spots. For SW and Renee and Elise and I, that was the second row on each side.

We counted off, waited for our last few stragglers to get on, and then WHOOSH! We were off.

Bye, Chicago.

It was kind of a weird feeling, leaving a huge city that had been a great experience and realizing that I quite probably wouldn't be coming back. Not to mention the adventure was coming to a close, and by ten pm I would be back with my parents and sleeping in my own bed and doing laundry and cooking and doing family stuff again. Four days seemed like an eternity, like we were really cool famous people on tour and this was just what we did and none of us knew any different.

I didn't cry when we left. I didn't really think about it. I mean, everyone else pretty much zonked out as soon as our wheels started rolling, so it was just myself and the drivers and Music Man, and they didn't talk to me, so I was left alone with my thoughts.

And my camera.

I have pictures. Not interesting ones, and not good ones, but there's people in them and Elise said I need more pictures with people. So have some people.
 Here we have SW, kissing my stuffed turtle buddy named Richie, whose name she never could remember. Ralph? Rod? Ricky?

No. Richie. Like Richard the Lionheart or something.

 There you see Elise and Renee. Well, you see Elise. Renee is somewhere under the chevron lump; at least, I think she is. I mean, last I knew Elise wasn't cannibalistic (it's frowned upon in our culture; one of the few things that everyone actually has the guts to call wrong, and I'm just gonna leave that there) and other than being eaten alive I'm not sure what could happen to Renee in the first half hour of a sixteen-hour drive.
 Mancub. In the aisle. Again. Maybe he was lonely or just like annoying Renee and Elise. I don't know. Maybe aisles are to him like corners are to me, safe places of refuge. I had to crop everyone else out because he's one of very few people who gave permission for me to plaster their faces all over the interworld. Everybody say, "hi, Mancub."
 This is from later on, closer to home. We landed in some rain, which was lovely but I prefer snow. Snow is awesome. Don't shoot me, Ninja. You got your rain, you pluviophile you. Now we can have snow.
 This is...a lake. I guess. I don't know which lake. It might be a river. I don't know. It's a body of water, and I took a picture of it. Because water is cool, apparently. I'm sure this water was very cool. So cool as to be called cold, even. But I digress. Below is a picture of the 1240 mile marker in Iowa, or Illinois or somewhere awesome like that. I don't remember which state. One of the ones we drove through.
The Marker of an Unknown State.

And that's all the pictures I'm posting for now. All the other ones are full of faces I can't share. And we were bouncing a lot (I think the bus needs new shock absorbers, or maybe it's just the fact that we were in a bus with 50+ seats.) so my slightly-less-than-average photo-taking-skills turned into "hey-I'm-two-years-old-and-I-stole-Mommy's-phone" skills.

Sleep is cool. I like sleep. Most of the people I know like me much better when I sleep. 

But really, guys?

Are you that tired?

Most of them stayed awake long enough to thoroughly panic about the fact that I-80 was closed from Kimball to Cheyenne because of snowfall, and then they were out. All of them. For like forever.

Which I mean, wasn't that bad actually, because I got to sit and ponder and stare out the window and write stories in my head, but still. It was like 8:30 Chicago time. Up and at 'em!

8:30 Chicago time is seven thirty in Nowhere. 

7:30 in Nowhere on a Sunday morning means I'm at praise team practice with Ninja, probably play-fighting about something dumb while we practice or punching him in the chest or shrieking and chasing him around the church while he laughs and makes off with my purple pens.

Except on April 17th, apparently. On April 17th at seven thirty AM I was sitting in a bus full of people who might as well have been dead, for all the company they were.

I was also texting my mom, and my sister. 

And Ninja. We hadn't talked much during the trip, you know, because he has a full-time job and I was running all over the place all the time, so it was really nice to catch up while everyone else snoozed.

So there I sat, on a bus, with 54ish people, ninety percent of whom were asleep, and I took pictures and listened to faint snores and talked to Ninja and daydreamed.

And it was pretty okay. It still bugged me that I was missing church, but the trade-off wasn't horrible. I could have gotten some good writing in if I'd had the presence of mind to bring a notebook, but naturally I wasn't thinking about that. 

They slept through all of Illinois and straight into Iowa, where we stopped outside of some city at a rest area to stretch our legs. Music Man also handed out granola bars, which put him pretty high on my list of favorite people (not that he was all that low to begin with; he's legit my favorite teacher). Give me food and you're automatically elevated to best friend. I'm an easy bribe where food is concerned.

Renee and I took a stroll around the rest area and spotted some grey squirrels, which apparently only live in Iowa. They're pretty cute- they look skinnier than the squirrels in Nowhere. They're very glossy and playful- but our squirrels are playful too. Renee couldn't seem to stop talking about the squirrels. Mancub was less than interested. But that's typical for him. Typical for most of the guys I know, now that I think about it.

Anyway. Short break to stretch, then back on the bus. We headed on into Davenport (pretty sure that's the name of the city, but there's a lot of big cities in Iowa so I could be wrong) and stopped at Wendy's for lunch.

One thing you might not have thought about as I'm narrating all this is the food situation. Between fifty-four people, especially when fifty-one of them are high school students...there's pretty much always at least one person complaining of hunger. That's just how it goes.

But then there's the issue of feeding all of us. Mom and Squirt and I can run through a drive-through (okay, fine, we drive) in about fifteen minutes. Or we can go inside and it'll take us about half an hour, mostly because fast food places are pretty much not even close to fast these days.

There's a big difference between three people and fifty-five people.

What could be a half-hour stop turns into a ninety-minute stop really fast. And when we pull into the parking lot I'm pretty sure every employee in the building has a mini panic attack. But most places we ate at handled everything surprisingly well, and Wendy's was no exception. Not to mention they had salad. 

My dad has this thing about holding doors. He always holds doors for my mom and sister and I. It's just what he does, and if you want to be getting on his good side you best be holding my doors (a process I'm still teaching Ninja, who's very long on helping me be as independent as he can). Sometimes I catch myself holding doors for other people, just because it's what I've watched him do for so long.

Holding the door for fifty people takes a really long time.

But it's doable. Anything is doable. *sings* Anything can happen if you let it

I was one of the last in line, which is okay because I wasn't squished somewhere in the middle of the line. I ordered my salad, picked it up, and headed for the lobby.

Enter fifth-wheeling act.

There's five of us- Renee, Elise, SW, Becca, and me.

Four seats to a table meant my peeps were occupied.

*shrugs* I can just sit by myself and read.

Didn't bring a book in.

Good going, Scotty.

Either way, there was a lovely empty table by a window kind of away from the masses, so then I could people-watch and chat with Ninja and my mom and eat my salad and sort of hermit, as best as one can hermit while on a sixteen hour bus trip.

I settled in and slathered dressing on my lettuce and leaned into the corner to watch. There wasn't a lot to see or hear; the sounds all blurred together and people eating is less adorable than people sleeping so watching them really wasn't interesting. Besides, it gets weird when people are awake. 

The thing about fast food salads is the lettuce. It tastes great, looks great, and it's not going to melt your insides, but they can't seem to chop it all evenly. So you end up with a three-foot strip of lettuce and a six-inch fork, and that doesn't really work. When eating fast food salad, therefore, I am quite okay sitting alone. It can be messy and I don't cope well with messy.

But that didn't change the lonely factor. I love being alone most of the time- it recharges me and peps me up so I'm more friendly the next time I have to interact with people.

Being alone and being lonely are two different things. I didn't mind sitting alone, and I knew that if I pulled up a chair, Elise and Renee and SW and Becca would be more than okay with me joining them. 

The issue was with the little voices in my head telling me I didn't belong and I would just be interrupting. I've gotten a bit better recently at just jumping in and including myself, but Sunday wasn't one of my more socially competent days. Being alone was okay, it was the listening to other people laughing and talking and not being a part of that that wasn't so okay.

But I had Ninja. For a little while, before he wandered away from his phone to do some semi-grown-up thing that semi-grown-ups do. About that time my mom was getting out of church and heading to Sunday School, so we talked for a bit in between. She hates Wendy's, I don't, we spatted playfully for a bit about whether or not Wendy's could be good. I was just happy they had salad.

Clack. "Hi. We decided to come join you."

I glanced up from my lettuce and recognized two sweet juniors I met last year in Mary Poppins, we'll call them Tink and Holly.

And Mancub.

Tables of four again, so we all fit fine. Tink across from me, Mancub on her left and Holly next to me. I like them, they're nice people, and I was certainly all right with the interaction.

It was the why that I couldn't figure out. 

I'm just me. I'm like Mr Incredible or something (only nowhere close to that muscular; Ninja takes care of the muscle department for both of us)- "I work alone" and all that. At least I was then. I'm working on being less like that now, but still. As far as school people go, I'm pretty much off on my own for seventy percent of the time I spend around them. I like being close to them, just not necessarily joining in and socializing. I typically find a quiet spot away from the chatter and read or something. It's just what I do. And it doesn't seem to bother a lot of people beyond Becca because she's the exact opposite of me and can't figure out why anyone would ever want to be alone.

So having not just one, but three (three! three!) people randomly move their whole setup over to my table to sit with me was something relatively new. People were okay if I joined them, but they didn't join me. Sometimes they'd wave me over or save me a spot, but I always came to them.

And then there's Tink, showing up out of nowhere and plunking her things down across from me, declaring, "Hey, we decided to come join you. You were all alone."

Faith in humanity restored.

I'm such a needy kid. It bugs me sometimes. Literally all you have to do is say, "hey, can I sit with you" or just show up and chat and I'm beyond happy. Kind of pitiful.

No matter. Having three extra people didn't even really up my need to socialize- they talked around me pretty well. Mancub and Tink talked track, and the thing I picked up out of that conversation is that the reason Mancub is such a toothpick is because he runs so much and just runs all the protein right off him.

I kind of love conversations like that- where I can jump in and ask questions or give input if I have it but I'm not pushed into talking. Then I don't have to fumble and mumble around with words so much.

We talked about school too, I think, and I probably put in my two cents about taking all my Gen. Ed classes over the next two years and graduating with my AA from the community college, because college is my obsession at the moment and if you say "school" or "graduate" or "college" you're liable to send me off on my whole spiel about what in the world I'm doing with my life.

Then we had a little bit of Inappropriate Phrases Which Scotty Will Never Ever Use and Does Not Need To Know 101, courtesy of Mancub. I'm not going to repeat that conversation; all you need to know is that sometimes my thick skull is a blessing, especially when lovely people who can't quite answer the "Why does Scotty need to know this?" question decide to take me on as a full-time culture student. 

Off to the bus we went and loaded up again in the bright Iowa sunshine. Now most people were thoroughly awake and the bus was a lot louder. Due to high schoolers being easily bored, Music Man put in a DVD- an older film, something like Ferris Bueller's Day Off or whatever. I frowned for a second, ready to turn to SW and ask for the scoop when someone hollered my name. "Hey, Scotty!"

I turned a little and answered, "Yeah?"

D'arwin met my eyes. "I don't think you're gonna like this one. Don't watch it."

"Wasn't planning on it, but thanks," I replied, kind of cheered by the fact that hey, he thought to warn me and not just throw me to the wolves. 

Yet again, friends are cool. I think I'll keep them.

We toodled off down the Interstate while Ferris Bueller took a day off, and don't ask me about the movie because I honestly don't know what happened. I just know my ears were assaulted with an astonishing amount of crude language and humor. I watched the landscape go on...and on...and on...and guys, Iowa is a really big state.

Between Ferris Bueller and Hairspray, we made it to Lincoln/Omaha around five PM, but I'll fill you in on that later. For now, adieu, lovely readers, and have a great evening.

Clicking publish in 5...4...3...2...



Monday, May 9, 2016

Taking Chicago By Storm: Navy Pier

Ahhh. Back to Chicago, finally. Mostly by request of SW. If you're newer around here and aren't up to speed on the Chicago Adventures, scroll waaaaayyyy down through all of the nonsense I've been blogging about lately until you get to Taking Chicago By Storm: Day 1.0. Or I might make a label for TCBS, in which case scroll down to the bottom of this post and click on the little thingy that says Taking Chicago By Storm or TCBS or some such paraphernalia like that. For those of you that are all caught up with the craziness, stick around because we're almost to the end. Almost.

Saturday night was our last real event in Chicago, so we made it a good one. After the concert at the Symphony Hall, we walked back to the hotel and chilled for a little while, until like 5:30, if I remember right.

One thing you might have picked up on me lately amid all the slush and babblings is that I am really, really, really emotional.

Off-the-wall emotional. Sometimes I wonder how I'm not in a psych ward. Other times I wonder how I still have girlpeeps and lovelies that stick around and don't kill me. I mean, my emotions drive me up the wall- I can't imagine being on the outside of that. But that's neither here nor there, not to mention beside the point (thanks, Gilligan), so let's be moving right along. The point is that I'm super duper crazy emotional.

And the more tired I am, the more emotional I get.

The more I'm around people, the more emotional I get.

The busier I am, the more emotional I get.

The hungrier I am, the more emotional I get.

Everything makes me emotional. Maybe it's just a teen thing and I'll grow out of it (hey, I can hope, right?). Maybe it's just the way my little brain works. I honestly don't know. I know that after the concert, I was tired and tired of being around people and hungry and we'd been running sort of nonstop and the busier I am the more my brain runs and then my brain just would. not. shut. up.

So my mind is running in circles and I'm overthinking everything and stressing out and I can't make it stop. I need it to stop. I need to stop thinking and obsessing and running too hard.

Sometimes my brain goes on these little rants where it spews basically every lie I've ever remotely considered believing into my head at once, one after the other, on repeat. And I was tired enough and emotionally drained enough that it took me about 0.00001 seconds to start believing everything. "They don't really like you. They have their own lives. You're annoying. Just go away. You're so self-centered and selfish, just stop. They don't need you. You're a pain in their rear so just stop talking. You don't have anything good to say."

On and on and on and on.

I don't think I cried. I don't really remember. I remember being super panicky and obsessive. I'm sure SW was there and I'm equally sure she understood.

The hard thing is listening to best friends telling you you're not annoying or undesirable while in your head you're hearing "they're trying to make you feel better, of course they have to say that." Those are two super conflicting statements and my brain is really, really loud when I'm falling apart.

I think everyone was a little stressed and annoyed and tired and ready to be home by then also, so there were a lot of sore nerves floating around the hotel. Some sharp words, too (some of which were probably mine). Stress levels were through the roof. I guess there's only so much time you can spend nonstop around the same people before reaching the crisis point, and three days maxed us out.

The time between the concert and supper was a blessing from God, however, and by the time we met in the lobby I was more in control and less freaked out. Now instead of being on the verge of tears I was just insecure, because even my girlpeeps had a whole world outside of me, that I wasn't a part of, and that thought spiraled around like crazy and left me feeling a little shaken and definitely fifth-wheel-ish. Or seventh-wheel, given that we mostly traveled in clans of seven and I've never seen a vehicle with seven wheels. Eight, maybe. I don't know how many wheels were on the charter bus. A lot. But I digress again.

We counted off in the lobby and started walking to an absolutely adorable little pizza place that the Music Man had found for supper. I just sort of trailed along behind Renee and Elise and SW and Becca because I don't know why, I was being moody and irrational (some days that's the norm, I guess). Mancub was talking to them about some nonsense or other and I'm not sure how I don't know what the topic of conversation was because Mancub and Becca talk louder than 80% of the people I know. Apparently I was off in my head or something. Not that that ever happens.... (note sarcasm)

Mancub dropped back for a second. "Are you going to do the (insert something I can't remember the name of, but it probably sounded deadly)?"

"The what?" I wasn't long on conversation at the moment.

"The (reinsert deadly thing). Roller coaster. At Navy Pier."

Why are you talking to me? Out loud I answered, "I don't do roller coasters. Never been on one."

That's not 100% true. Several years ago, Squirt and I did a little teeny tiny one at the county fair.  We didn't want to sit by any of the other kids because we didn't know them, so we sat at the very very back.

Not my brightest idea.

I hated it. Absolutely hated it. From then on I've kind of avoided anything that might be that terrifying. And it was just a little kiddie kind too, so technically it didn't count.

"Oh. It's like you sit in the thing and they pull you way back and shoot you forward." Or something like that. I think the deadly word we were looking for was slingshot or something. I don't remember how he described it, just that I really, really didn't want to walk by myself anymore because I was tired of fifth-wheeling and if he kept talking about whatever this thing was, I wouldn't be alone.

"Sounds like something I would curl up into a tiny ball and scream through," I replied.

"Uh, no. You're all strapped in. It's just you and one other person, it's small. You can do small right?"

Hello. This is the girl that sits in corners because they feel safe. Small is my thing. I can do small. "Depends on the other person I guess. I don't really freak out because of situations, I freak out because of the people. If I'm with somebody I feel safe around, then I'm usually okay. Otherwise it's death to the world and all that."

"Probably me or _____." (insert name of person I don't remember because at this point I was barely keeping up with the conversation as it was)

"Hmm. I don't know. Doesn't sound totally horrible yet. Also I don't get motion-sickness."

"Oh good, that was my next question. If you did that would be the end of that." He laughed.

Next question? Is this some sort of interrogation or something? "My sister used to, in the car, on long trips. But that hasn't been for a while." Like I said, I wasn't really up with the conversing thing. I remember laughing. I laughed a lot around SW and Mancub. I mean, for most of the time we spent together I was slap-happy-drunk, so I laughed at everything, but whatever. It counts. I laughed.

It wasn't too far to the restaurant (which was fortunately bigger than the hole-in-the-wall hot dog place, because there wasn't a Mediterranean place next door so we were stuck with all the people), probably only like eight minutes. Maybe ten. I don't know. We walked. Mancub talked. I tried to keep up and not commit to anything that sounded deadly.

I also don't know what the pizza place was called. I think it was some really big long word that looked cool but was foreign or something. Albuquerque or something. But not actually Albuquerque. Just something cool like that. There was probably a 'q' in there somewhere.

There was also beer. We didn't drink any of that because we were all underage except the two drivers and the Music Man and our accompanist. I don't know where I was going with that. I'm tired.



That was fun.


Kind of no. Not fun. Because stress, and arguments, and stubbornness.

Elise and Mancub are equally stubborn, which I find adorable most of the time. I might write more about that later. In another post. Because I'm already rambling so this post might be like eight years long. Sorry in advance.


Right. Mancub, Elise, arguing.

Four to a table. We've got Renee, Elise, and SW, plus me. I think. Now I'm not sure we had Renee. We might have had one of the lovely seniors, but if we did then I have absolutely no idea where Renee was and that's a wee bit scary. We're going to go with her being at our table.

Extra chairs are also a thing.

Loners are another thing.

Extra chairs + lonely people = Mancub pulling a chair up to the end of our table.

Which equals Elise and Mancub going into a ridiculously drawn-out argument about whether or not he could stay. Her stubbornness matched his pretty much equally and I think if she'd been strong enough she'd have thrown him all the way into Iowa.

As it was, he stayed. And I doodled nervously on a napkin while they argued because what could I say or do to help things? And I had calligraphy markers in the Rory Bag (see Floss Fiasco for more information on that), plus there were words flying around in my head and I needed to spill some of them on paper.

I need to start carrying real paper, because once you've calligraphy-ed all over your napkin it's pretty much useless. And I have an obsession about clean, so napkins are sort of up there on my list of priorities. A useless napkin pleaseth Scotty not.

I think I found a spare. Or swiped from somebody.

I doodled that thing from Tolkien- the one that's like 

All that is gold does not glitter;
Not all who wander are lost.
The old that is strong does not wither;
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring.
Renewed shall be blade that was broken;
The crownless again shall be King.
~J. R. R. Tolkien

I love that piece. It's so lyrical and thought-provoking, and so much of it lines up with Scripture. I'm not a huge reader of Tolkien (I read the Hobbit, and that's the end of my list...must get my hands on more) so I don't know the context of it, but hey, "the crownless again shall be King," that sounds Biblical. And there's the bit about the ashes- I've heard Christians described as an army rising from the ashes. You know. I just love seeing Christ in things.

I'm sure I wrote other things, but that's the one I remember because at the time I couldn't remember all of it so I tried to distract Elise and Mancub from their argument by asking if anybody remembered how it went. SW ended up looking it up, I think. 

And then food!!

I like pizza. I like food in general. Not a huge shrimp-girl, and I'm not into beef a whole lot either, but I'll eat just about anything I can get my hands on. I literally graze all day, just eating whatever whenever. Not a great habit...but I don't like being hungry. I'm actually making supper right now- a pot of chili because it's Monday and chili is what I make. It's easy and quick and I like it. Throw all the stuff in the pot and stir. Easy-peasy, nice and squeezy. I'm avoiding the thought that summer is coming and eventually it won't be soup season. But I digress.

The food was great, I don't have pictures, and they were sneaky about the meat. SW's vegetarian and they buried some pepperoni or something underneath a big pile of cheese, thus tricking her into thinking it was cheese pizza until she got back to the table. I think Mancub finished it for her. I hope he did. That would be sweet. (sorry, guys, weird things happening in my head lately. I know. I'm going to stop now.)

There was salad too, which I also don't have a picture of. But I ate it, because pretty much the whole trip all I wanted was healthy food (go figure, am I even real? who knows. Momma's into health food. Maybe it's rubbing off.) and salad was my best friend. One of many. I have friends!

Mancub stayed, by the way. But he looked sad.

Or just maybe mopey. I don't know. He stopped smiling, which happens like next to never to my knowledge, and it was a little distressing. 

Becca came over and just randomly slid her head down my shoulder and laid in my lap, which was possibly the weirdest thing that she did all trip (except a couple things that will not be mentioned here for the sake of privacy), and then he laughed again. Whether at her antics or my panic or just the overall situation, I don't know, and I don't care. I pushed her off me (reason number 8,531 why doing 20 pushups a night is a great idea) and from then on things were pretty much okay. Ish. I mean, Elise was still frustrated and Mancub was still argumentative and defensive but as far as I could control things were pretty normal. Elise and Mancub are just very very alike in some ways and they get on each other's nerves constantly. 

Well now that I'm thinking about it a little more I'm not sure they're really super alike. 

They're both stubborn.

They both tend to parent everyone around them.

They're similarly built except Mancub looks short for his age and Elise looks tall.

That might be where the similarities end.

I don't know. It's funny to watch them interact.

I'm just gonna stop with that now before one of them (or both of them, but I doubt they could agree on it) comes after me. I have a blog post to write. Don't really have time to work 'being murdered' in there. 


Anyway. We hung out at the restaurant a little bit after we ate, and then loaded into the bus and headed towards Lake Michigan (or Superior, or Alice, whichever. The one by Chicago.) and the Navy Pier. It was getting a mite chilly so I was glad we took the bus. 

The pier was really pretty with a great view of Chicago- hey look, I have pictures of that!

I think the top picture is from Renee or Elise- I know it's not mine. I'm just not sure who sent it to me...must get more organized, Scotty. The bottom two are looking back at Chicago from about halfway down the pier, which is a lot longer than I expected! SW and I walked from one end to the other and it was easily a fifteen-minute jaunt. 

When we first arrived, Music Man gave us directions to the IMAX theater where we would meet at nine, and then he pretty much unleashed us on the pier. Mancub disappeared off to who-knows-where while Elise and Renee hustled off to shop, which left SW and I in the midst of the crowds of unknown people, and I panicked. Everyone was so sure and so confident, and comfortable, and they knew what they were doing and who they were doing it with and then there was me. Just sort of standing, uncertain and absolutely unconfident and not comfortable.

Safe, yes. SW was right there with me.

Comfortable? I should have been. SW makes me okay.

But I wasn't. We meandered around a couple of shops and picked up some souvenirs for Elf (some of which are still on my nightstand...oops) and I obsessed silently over not knowing and not being able to just suck up the uncertainty and deal with it.

All in all the pier was a very cool experience that I don't regret. I wish I'd been a little less negative emotionally and mentally, but there's not a lot I can do about that now. 

SW and I decided to head for the end of the pier and see the lake, which felt like an ocean because you. can't. see. the. other. side. It's huuuuuge. Remember my post about being little? Yeah. Standing on the end of the pier looking out over the water into what seemed like eternity reminded me just how little I am...again. Apparently God was making a point.

They had an outdoor loudspeaker system all over the pier, blaring various popular, secular songs- the kind that even I know the melody to just because they're being played in every shop or restaurant these days. It's kind of weird, knowing the words to a song you're not allowed to intentionally listen to.

As we were walking, I was constantly checking my watch because it was a quarter past eight and the end was a long ways off and we had to be back at the city-side of the pier at nine and I'm obsessive about being on time. SW nudged me once and took off running, and of course I followed. We dashed through the thinning evening crowds of couples walking and selfie-taking and shopping, past warmly-lit buildings on the left and dark, ominous water on the right. Jacket tied around my waist, dark pink summer dress whirling around my legs as the breeze rolled in from the lake (okay, okay, so it really is windy always there. Fine.) and sent happy shivers up my arms. Running wildly down the wide walkway on SW's heels brought a grin to my face and relaxed the muscles in the back of my neck as I realized how ridiculous we might have seemed, two teenage girls racing down the Navy Pier at 8:30 PM for no apparent reason.

And I was okay with that. Ridiculous felt good.

Ridiculous felt comfortable and safe and all things that it never had before.

Over the speakers some contemporary artist sang out about the list of boys she'd broken up with and SW started to sing along.

Got a long list of ex-lovers,
They'll tell you I'm insane.
But I've got a blank space, baby,
And I'll write your name.

I caught the melody and joined in, feeling more ridiculous and heathen than ever. We stopped near a boat rental place and SW climbed over the low rails (honestly, if they want to keep people away from the water, they need bigger fences, but that kind of ruins the look) while I fretted from the other side. In a few brief hops she landed on the lowest ledge and peeled off shoes and socks. "Are you sure it's okay?" I called.

She grinned up at me, which didn't tell me much.

At eight thirty-five I called her up so we could finish walking, but she did a fair bit of foot-splashing and thinking and looking like a water princess. I should so have taken pictures.

But I was a little preoccupied with the credit card I'd just found on the bench close by. "SW? We have to go find security and return this. Somebody's probably very worried."

"Nah," she answered. "Probably not."

"What do you mean? They lost a credit card!" I was thoroughly perplexed.

"Maybe they left it on purpose," she hinted.

My stomach lurched. "Why?"

"Insurance," SW replied briefly, adjusting her shoelaces and shouldering her backpack. I tucked my one little sack close against my chest as her suggestion sank in. Faith in humanity utterly shaken, I followed her to the end of the sidewalk and leaned against the rails for a few moments, watching the stars wink and the water dance.

At 8:45 we took off running back to the other end, hopping over long (empty!) wooden chairs and flying along low ledges and steps. Again I smiled, because this was good. For a while I didn't feel like a fifth-wheeler, for a while everything spun the right direction.

Then it was back inside into the mall-like area with all the people and I locked down again. We met up with everyone at the IMAX and headed into the theater, where Music Man had arranged for us to see The Jungle Book in 3D at 9:30.

I tried taking pictures inside the theater, but it was super dark and my camera didn't get anything except blackness, so I won't post them here. I sat between one of the drivers and a senior we'll call Trent, who of course I'd never spoken to before. We didn't talk. I was completely all right with that.

Probably my favorite part of the whole movie thing was the 3D glasses.

That sounds weird. Let me explain.

I have wanky eyes. For a while, one eye was a little farsighted and the other was really nearsighted (now I'm just all nearsighted). I wear big rectangle-ish cat eye glasses, which I love because they're cool looking and without them I can't see the Music Man at the front of the choir room. In our family we don't go to the movies a whole lot, and the last three-dimensional I went to was Beauty and The Beast when it came to our mall. I'd only had glasses for a few months at that point, and the little specs they gave out to make the 3D look 3D didn't fit over the glasses I had then (which were smaller than what I wear now). It was kind of uncomfortable and frustrating, trying to wear two pairs of glasses at the same time, especially when the one didn't fit over the other. I ended up watching most of the movie without the movie-specs just because they bugged me.

These were no such story. They fit over my cat-eyes with no problem at all, except when I got startled and jumped because, I don't know, a tiger was jumping out of the screen into my lap or something, and then the other glasses slipped down my nose a tad. But for the most part, they worked really well and I was a super happy camper. So yeah, the glasses were my favorite part. The music was also really well done and very moving. I think a bunch of people slept through most of it though....Becca said she only woke up during the scary parts, which would be kind of sad. It wasn't super scary except for the 3D effects, like when Mowgli would fall it would feel like we were falling, or when the animals fought it looked like they were going to burst through the screen and devour us.

Well, and the snake. I should give the snake honorable mention, just because Mancub was apparently terrified of the snake. Remember how that one snake lures Mowgli close and then starts being all boa-constrictor-y while distracting him with thinking about his past? Yeah. They did that really well, and Mancub flipped out. He talked about that snake all the way back to the hotel. I mean, yeah it was freaky because if you weren't watching closely you wouldn't know the snake was going to kill him, and then when Balu jumped in and saved Mowgli things got a little intense, but hey, snakes are always evil, right? Clear back to Eden. Mancub declares that he could feel it slithering around the theater.

The voice-acting was also really cool and there were some parts that were hilarious, which evened out the snake and the tiger. It was mostly a green-screen movie, with the only human actor being Mowgli (which cracks me up because the big thing was that they'd come out with a Jungle Book that wasn't animated, and then it pretty much was.) but everything was very well done and looked real.

After the movie we had a bit of a wait for the bus because of...traffic or something. I don't know as I ever heard what the wait was about. I was tired and lonely and fifth-wheeling again, and there was a lot of stress floating around so I just sort of stood off by myself and missed my mommy. It was close to midnight when we got back to the hotel and let me tell you, Chicago is cool at night. Not necessarily chilly, just fascinating. The crowds thin a lot but there's still people coming and going everywhere and there's that sort of numb sense of watching but not being a part of, like in a movie about a big city or something. Like I'm watching the movie and the people around me singing "Daemon, daemon, daemon," at the top of their lungs are the orchestra making up theme music in Latin on the spot. The world just keeps on spinning and mine sort of pauses to watch it for a second.

Back at the hotel, we did room checks and packed and tumbled into bed for the last night. Chicago 2016 was coming to a close and while I was ready to be home, I'd strengthened some friendships and made some new ones and going home meant not being a part of their world anymore and being a loner again. We were a crazy bunch of kids, and writing this I'm realizing that there will never be a group like that again. Maybe similar, but not the same. The next choir trip is being planned already- to NY in 2018, when SW and Mancub and Elise and Renee and Becca and I will all be seniors, and yes, I'm excited, but I know that it won't be just like Chicago was (for one thing, it'll be New York next time around) and the people will be different- some of us maybe drastically different. I've got one thing to say for now: hanging with these my peeps for five days nonstop taught me a lot and I got pretty close to a lot of them, and I'd hate to watch those bonds dissolve because I'm not around as much or I'm insecure or antisocial. Friends are good. Not perfect, because they're humans, after all, but they're good. I need people. I am a people, and people need people. We need relationships and time together to build those. Some days it's stressful or hard and I can't always see the need behind it, but it's always worth it.

Stay tuned for TCBS: The Final Chapter, coming to you later this week! I have a choir concert tomorrow night and Wednesdays are crazy, so the soonest I'll have another post up will probably be...Thursday or Friday. If I take too long, hound me.

Clicking publish in 5...4...3...2...