Essays · PG

$pring Break 2k16: The Kiddos of Destiny take D.C. Part 7: Part 1: The Beginning of The End

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This picture isn’t even from this day, but it’s a great picture, so get over it.

This Section of the story is rated PG, and is far cleaner than OJ, regardless of how that trial ended. 

A Wonderful Wednesday (That Adjective only describes the End of the Day)

Originally, I intended to make the $pring Break series eight parts, but it is now July, and I have decided that it’s best to just finish it already. This story has been stretching out much like World War II, and I just need to Enola Gay this thing and finish it. It’s going to be a long entry, but if you stick with it, I promise it will be worth it. Grab a box of kleenex and a glass of water, because it’s going to be sad. You’ll need the kleenex to wipe your eyes, and the glass of water to replenish your tear ducts. Ready?

I believe it was Robert Plant who once said “Good times, bad times, you know I’ve had my share.” Yes, Robert, some times are better than others. Here is an incomplete list of good times: 11:30 AM, 4:19 PM, 7:30 PM and 10 PM. Here is an incomplete list of bad times: 4:30 AM. Out of those five times I just listed, would you like to take a guess at which time the KIDDOS woke up on this fateful Wednesday? Hint: It’s one of the bad times that I listed. Yes, it may be difficult to believe, but the KIDDOS really did groggily come to consciousness at 4:30 AM on this stupid dumb morning in order to make it to Franklin (woot) by dinner time. As I rolled off my bed, I understood for a brief moment what Lazarus probably felt like the minute after he was brought back to life.

I grabbed one change of clothes, and threw everything else into my bag which I then carried to the car. Leonidas was being a total tool and refused to carry anything, preferring to sleep some more. Kids these days are so entitled.

One good thing about waking up before God ever intended is the incredible serenity that blankets the outside world. No one is awake that early, and the world is silent. As I stood outside my car in the pale orange glow of the street light, I couldn’t hear anything outside of my breathing, and a faint breeze whispering down the streets of residential Maryland. Peace is a rare commodity in the 21st century, and 4:45 in the morning is one of the few places one can harvest it.

I took a quick shower and walked in to the kitchen, finding the other KIDDOS drinking coffee and saying goodbye to the Hall parents, who had dragged themselves out of bed for some reason. They said they wanted to wish us safe travels, but I don’t think any sane person could wake up that early just to say goodbye to some people they just met a few days ago and their one and only son. I never did confirm through DNA testing that either of the supposed “Hall parents” were actually related to Jon, so it is entirely possible that they wanted to install some horrid tracking device onto one of us, using the guise of a friendly hug to accomplish their deed. But who knows, maybe genuinely good people do exist, and they just wanted to wish us safe travels.

Everyone finished up their coffee, and Jon and myself each grabbed a cup to go, intent on driving for the majority of the morning if not the day. In World War II, both the Allied and the Axis forces used Amphetamines and Methamphetamines to stay alert on the battlefield. The Germans called some of the pills Panzerschokolade, which translates to “Tank Chocolate” because they took these pills to stay awake in tanks. While Jon and I didn’t have any amphetamines or methamphetamines (those days are long gone), we did have our Envoycoffee, which is English for Car coffee. It wasn’t even great coffee, and its sole purpose was to keep us awake and alert. Really, the only difference between Panzerschokolade and Envoycoffee is the vehicle rode in whilst consuming the drug. What I’m trying to say is that Jon and I did drugs together.

We all piled into the car like so many bags of sentient oranges, and we waved goodbye to the Hall parents who had given us a wonderful place to stay on our very first college $pring Break. Yes, that means there will probably be more $pring Breaks, but whether they will be written about or not is yet to be determined.

Jon was the first driver, knowing the Maryland/DC area quite well, and I would drive for the last leg of the trip. Considering it’s July, I have forgotten whether or not Shea drove on the way home. He probably did, but I think it was for less time than on the way to DC. Regardless, while Jon drove, I stayed very vigilant in the co-driver’s seat, known in the common tongue as “Shotgun.” One by one, Shea, Danielle, and Melissa all fell pray to sleep, dropping off one by one over the first hour of driving. I confess that after a busy week with minimal sleep, I was also very tired. Not sleepy, but tired. My eyes hurt a little bit, so I closed them for a minute at a time. I really wasn’t nodding off, my eyes just felt 809 times more comfortable shut.

After a brief incident involving rumble strips, Jon and I were suddenly very much awake, and decided it was in everyone’s best interests if we ate some food. Luckily we had a stash of Grenade Bars in the trunk, so Jon and I ate a few of those and felt far better about our chances of staying awake for the rest of the trip. Grenade Bars, in case you have never heard of them, are also known as Nature Valley Oats ’n’ Honey bars. They explode literally everywhere when you bite them, which has earned them the nickname of Grenade Bars. Despite having cleaned out my car many times since $pring Break, I will always be able to go out to the car and find a crumb of those freaking things. When entropy has leveled all of matter, and the universe is at a constant temperature, the only thing remaining will be crumbs from Nature Valley bars. God will have created a brand new heaven and earth, but those stupid crumbs will still exist in the old universe.

The rest of the trip was fairly normal. We would drive for thirty to forty minutes, stop so Danielle could use the restroom, and then drive for another thirty to forty minutes until Danielle had to use the restroom again. I believe that over the course of our 11 hour drive (not including stops) that we stopped about 12 or 13 times. That is not an exaggeration. After seven or eight times, Danielle started getting creative with the reasons she needed to stop.

“I would really love a Sweet Tea from Hardee’s” she said, noticing a sign for the next exit. Sweet Tea from Hardee’s is like getting Seafood in Kansas. It’s just a bad idea. Danielle actually did get a sweet tea, which led to a stop way before the scheduled forty minute marker.

In the late afternoon, we stopped at a waterfall to bask in its sublimity. I don’t know whether the waterfall itself was sublime, or whether it just made me feel that way, but either way, it was a good experience. I believe it was Cummins Falls in Cookeville, but I could be completely wrong, and it doesn’t really matter which waterfall it was anyway.

We stepped out of the car, stretching our legs in the wonderful Tennessee weather that exists only during the Spring and Fall, where it feels like the air has no temperature, and a mild breeze caresses you from the north. I made up that point about the breeze coming from the north, but it does feel great, and it happens very rarely. All five of the Kiddos skipped merrily down the trail to let our gaze fall upon the waterfalls, and although no one else knew it, we skipped to the beat of “Please Take Me Home” by Blink-182. Once you start skipping, everyone just joins in with the same skip. It’s like mind control.

The first three waterfalls were all really magnificent, consisting of dihydrogen monoxide pouring down slopes of various hard mineral surfaces. I really don’t know how else to describe them, so just go to Cummins park yourself and see them. At each of the waterfalls, we all said “Wow!” and Shea (the person who most wanted to see the falls) said “Just wait until you see the last one!” We were all pretty excited for the last waterfall after all of Shea’s promises, so imagine how we felt when we saw that the path was boarded up due to “Structural Integrity of the Lookout.” A similar feeling of betrayal might be had if your parents told you that Santa didn’t exist, and then Santa came out of nowhere, killed your parents, ate your favorite potato chips, and then vanished, never to return again. Wouldn’t that be terrible?

After a secret huddle with Jon, Melissa and Danielle, we decided not to chuck Shea over the edge of the embankment, mostly due to how much we would miss him. We all walked back down the same path we came from, and right before we were going to head up to the car, Leonidas jumped out of my pocket and decided that he wanted to sunbathe on the rocks next to the river. You might think that tigers can’t tan, but you’d be wrong. There are nude tiger beaches in Russia where you have to be at a certain level of tan in order to get in. I don’t think Leonidas has ever been to one of those beaches, but if I ever catch him there, I will literally skin him.

Following Leonidas, the KIDDOS all explored the river bed beneath one of the waterfalls. There was quite a bit of slippery moss on the bed of the river, so I kept my camera rolling, hoping that someone would fall, and I would have it on video. Jiminy Cricket once told me that if you wish upon a star, you might get your wish. I don’t remember looking at the sun and wishing for someone to fall, but maybe I did, because Danielle managed to inadvertently sit down in the river after a couple minutes, and I got it on camera. Stay tuned for Clarkumentary and you’ll be able to witness it yourself.

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After splashing in the water for a brief period of time, the KIDDOS decided to finish the trek to middle class suburbia, and we hiked back to the car. At the trailhead, a park ranger was showing some middle school children a snake, and I had to restrain Leonidas. “Ricardo! You (expletive deleted) piece of (expletive deleted)!” screamed Leonidas as I dragged him by the scruff of his neck away from the snake. Apparently they have some weird history dating back to their childhoods in the USSR. Since it was mostly in Russian, all I could make out was “The Grassy Knoll” and something about “Oswald” but I dunno what they were blabbering about.

When we got back to the car, Everyone who needed to change clothes did so, and Jon and I swinged (swang? swung?) on a playground, and I won’t lie, it was probably my favorite part of the day. If you ever feel old, brittle, and approaching that inevitable end which is back to the dust from whence you came, go swing in a playground. The fountain of youth may be a closely guarded secret held from the general public by the CIA, but swings are the next best thing. If you want to get to the fountain of life though, I may have a way in, so let me know.

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Happiness in a Picture

The rest of the drive went by fairly quickly, and I didn’t even crash once. We arrived at the Hubbard residence around 5PM, and were greeted by my brothers, who were doing their best to convince my friends that I was the only sane member of the family. Luckily the other KIDDOS already knew I was insane, so this did not work. Once we got somewhat situated in the house, my little brothers invited Jon, Shea, and myself to play basketball outside.

This paragraph is called: “The male KIDDOS get schooled by schoolchildren.” When I agreed to play basketball, I didn’t really think it was going to be a serious game. I thought I’d be playing a friendly competition with my brothers and a couple of friends, and the game would merely serve as something to do whilst talking. I was terribly mistaken, however, as my brothers were very serious. My whole life, people have stopped me and asked “How tall are you?” The follow-up question is always “Do you play basketball?” My answer has always been no, and will always be no. I am fine at grabbing rebounds and pretty decent at defense, but I can not shoot to save my life, and am even worse at dribbling. The thing about “Horse” is that it consists entirely of shooting and occasionally dribbling, the two parts of basketball that I am not good at. If you’ve heard of the Bay of Pigs, it was kind of like that. A few people who didn’t really know what they were doing were sent in to disrupt things, but the home team clearly had the advantage. My brothers knew how to make all the “behind the backboard” shots, all the long distance “from the backyarders” and all of the “Off the roofers” while Jon, Shea, and I have had very little practice with this particular set up. This was like if the U.S. had actually decided to invade Vietnam instead of doing the smart thing and staying out of it. Man, that would have been a disaster. After multiple rounds of “Horse” and “Knockout,” the KIDDOS conceded to Josiah (10), Samuel (13) and Isaac (16) as the superior athletes, and ventured inside to shower (separately).

This whole time, Danielle and Melissa had been talking to my mom, undoubtedly loading up on great blackmail from my pre-college years. I am thankful that they did not find any photo albums from my childhood, as that could lead to many scandals should I ever run for office. There are far too many pictures of me in pumpkin patches. 

My father brought us pizza from Mellow Mushroom, including a gluten-free one for Melissa and my madre. Melissa cried a little bit when she ate the pizza, not having had pizza in a long time.  She was probably also remembering the end of “Old Yeller.” Due to time constraints and commitments to other friends (don’t worry, you’ll meet them shortly) the KIDDOS had to suck down the pizza like some weird vacuum that eats pizza and run to the car.

The itinerary was as follows: See one of Melissa’s friends, DO EXCITING ADVENTURES, See my friends, AND DO EVEN MORE EXCITING ADVENTURES. We wanted plenty of exciting adventures, so the schedule was fairly flexible on things of this manner. It might have been about twenty minutes into our ride up to Nashville that we realized three things: “The Watson” held five people, the KIDDOS were five people, and we were picking more than zero people up. Now I don’t know how you guys fared in Pre-algebra, but five plus any whole number is more than five. Assuming that Melissa’s friend was indeed a whole person, then a predicament might arise soon. Luckily, one of my many life mottos is “We’ll burn that bridge when we come to it,” so I ignored this looming potential problem in favor of listening to some Nashville radio.

There are many stereotypes that people hold about Nashville, and some of them are true. “Nashville is the capital of Tennessee” say some tourists, expecting this fact to be true. Well, that might have been a bad example, because it is true, but many stereotypes aren’t true. For example, not everyone wears cowboy boots. It’s mostly posers and tools that sport the shoe of the ranchers in Nashville, and there are only a few spots where that sort of “Wild West Vibe” resides anymore. A couple streets at the most, certainly not the whole city. Along those same lines, people expect Nashville to be all about country music. You know, that one genre that has been infested by a-hole millionaires wanting to make a cheap buck by playing the same chord progressions that thousands before them have played while they sing lyrics that are largely meaningless to their rich privileged sensibilities? Yeah, that one. As is always the case, reality is more complex than the soundbite that most people compress information to be. Nashville is a music scene, but it isn’t just country music. So much music comes out of the Nashville area, and, as a local, it seems that more indie music comes out of the Nashville area than actual country music. In addition, the biggest Christian record label group is located in Nashville, making it a hub for Christian music. Nashville’s music scene is incredibly varied, which makes the radio absolutely incredible. “Oh, I get where he was going” you say, finally realizing the purpose of this paragraph after several long-winded sentences. Yes, I just spent an entire paragraph dealing with the danger of stereotypes to tell you just how great Nashville radio is and why it is that way. Anyways, we listened to 98.3 Alternative, which is a wonderful station, and blows all Jackson radio stations out of the water.

I first met Jordyn Purvins when she piled into the backseat of “The Watson.” I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone else by having them ride illegally in the backseat of my car, but there’s a first time for everything. Side note: It is disgustingly ironic how overused the phrase “there’s a first time for everything” is. Jordyn was pretty cool, and she showed us a neat coffee shop in Nashville that none of us had ever been to. We had to park in the street, so of course, I had to parallel park.

This paragraph is called “Clark’s One and Only Parallel Parking Job” and it’s pretty short, because I nailed it the first time. I even closed my eyes while I did it.

Like every other nice coffee shop in downtown Nashville, the place was strewn with garage doors, roughhewn tables, and mismatched chairs, so I honestly couldn’t tell you what the name of the shop was. Go explore Nashville and write your own witty short story on your day in Nashville. What are you going to do after you’re done reading this section of the KIDDOS story? Re-read it? I know it might be terrifying to you, but I’m not going to be here for much longer. I can’t hold your hand through every step of life, so it might be time to “Nirvana Baby Cover It” and jump into the deep end. Swim, baby, swim.

After we shared a $6 latte (no, really) Jordyn needed to head back to Vanderbilt for a meeting. Just like the KIDDOS, Jordyn knows how to keep busy. Also, Jordyn, if you ever read this, sorry you’re not a bigger part of this story. I didn’t get to know you that well, and it is in no way a slight towards you that you didn’t appear more in this narration. You seem like an overall decent human, and the fact that you and Melissa are friends further cements this fact into my mind. Maybe next $pring Break you can hang with us for longer, and I’ll write about how you saved us from a rabid Koala baby on our 2017 $pring Break trip. Update: For no reason, I remembered that the coffee shop had something to do with dogs, googled it, and found out it was called Fido’s. You should still go an explore local Nashville coffee spots though.

After we dropped Jordyn off, the next stop was Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams in Nashville, where several of my friends awaited us. Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams is essentially the Apple of Ice Cream shops: It’s really great for what it is, the prices are incredibly steep, the line is out the door, and the employees are all rather smug about how much about their product they know. The main reason we chose to meet at Jeni’s was the fact that Lucas Eytchison, one of my oldest friends, worked there at the time, serving ice cream to the masses. If you want to picture Lucas, imagine a guy who can pull off earrings and look even more masculine. Yeah, you probably can’t do that, because you haven’t met Lucas. What a gem of a human. Due to an immense amount of luck or fate or predestination or whatever you would like to call it, Lucas went on break shortly after we got there, so he got to sit with us and visit.

But Lucas was not the only friend present at this gathering of the gems. Next up is Michael Tant, who along with myself comprises a fifth of a social group known as “The Fatsillians.” That story is rather long to tell here, so just ask me about it in person some time. Michael is what would happen if you took an evil genius, and turned the evil aspect into something more for the benefit of the people. Maybe like a utilitarian genius or something. That might be even more terrifying than an evil genius.

Julianne Jones and her wonderful boyfriend Josh Stewart were next to show up, and since I had never met Josh before this, I hugged him before I even looked at anyone else. That is one of the many great things about me. I’ll usually try and hug the person I know least in a group. If it makes them uncomfortable, then maybe they have some growing up to do. Josh fully embraced the hug though (Hahaha I’m a genius), so that means he is a great person. My friendship with Julianne is quite interesting, as we almost never see each other, but I consider her one of my better friends. Perhaps in an alternate universe we are co-owners of a successful pastry shop, where each day, the pastries are themed after a different celebrity. Maybe our successful business in that parallel universe kind of bleeds over to this universe, and makes us think we are better friends than our proximity says. Who knows, really.

I read “Wrinkle in Time” by Madeleine L’Engle many times as a child, and while it influenced me in more ways than I probably know, I vividly remember one specific scene where the main character tries to explain sight to a creature that has never seen anything. That idea of explaining something new to someone who has never experienced it has stuck with me ever since my first reading of that book, and I must now refer to it in my own work. I don’t really think I can give an accurate description of Ella McKelvey using just words, and have any substantial image of her appear in your head. Really, any and all humans are too complex for me to describe, but occasionally I’ll type out a few sentences that embodies them pretty well, and I’ll feel pretty good about it. Maybe I could do the same thing with Ella, but I don’t really want to. She’s amazing, and that’s about all I’m going to say. Anyways, she was also at Jeni’s.

Weston Enlow was one of my friends who couldn’t make it to this “Meeting of the Friends,” having work or something. He probably had a decent excuse, but I don’t remember what it was. He might have been walking his tamagotchi for all I know, and I will not stand between a man and his tamagotchi. My friendship with Wes goes a long way back, beginning shortly after Wes joined Boy Scouts. We have survived a high adventure canoe trip, countless backpacking excursions, multiple weeks of summer camp, and much much more together. It was sad that we couldn’t survive the ice cream parlor together as well, but “Tamagotchis before old friends” is one of the mottos that both Wes and I adhere to.

Bringing two of my groups of friends together was very much like having your drunk uncle set off a firework on the Fourth of July. It could go very well, and everyone just oohs and awes in the beauty of it all, but it could also have ended in sides being taken, fists being thrown, and brand new flavors of ice cream like “Michael Sorbet” or “Melissa and Danielle Swirl” being formed. Luckily, good ol’ uncle Steven had just enough beers to make him invincible, but not enough to make him stupid, and the fireworks went off perfectly, my two groups of friends formed in different times and places getting along quite well.

After older friends and newer friends had thoroughly bonded (mostly by making fun of me), Lucas had to go back on the clock, and Michael needed to leave. Julianne and Josh followed suit, and soon it was just the Kiddos, Ella, and myself. By this point in the day, I had probably only had six or seven cups of coffee, so we all decided to go to Café Coco in downtown Nashville for more beverages.

Ella and I had been to Cafe Coco before, and managed to find it on an Open Mic night. I previously wrote about this experience, so I won’t reiterate on that point, but we were very hopeful that it might be another open mic night. As we pulled into the parking lot (with 80% of the KIDDOS piled in the back seat), we were delighted to see a sign declaring that Wednesdays were open mic nights. The excitement we felt rivaled that of Emperor Palpatine’s in Revenge of the Sith, when Anakin finally goes over to the dark side. We had waited in anticipation for so long (20ish minutes) and our dream had come true! Unfortunately, once we got inside, despair rose up in us as the final act of the night packed up their guitar and exited the premises. If you want another Emperor Palpatine reference, this was almost like when Darth Vader just chucks the Emperor over the railing into the core of the Second Death Star. To be honest, I almost picked up Jon and defenestrated him, but decided against it. Too many legal fees.

Despite the lack of people who were told “You can be whatever you want” as a child and actually believed they could sing, the KIDDOS decided to stay and talk for a little while. Cafe Coco has some really great house made sodas, including one called “Slurm.” Any drink based off of Futurama is good enough for me, and a couple of the other KIDDOS had drinks as well.

Nostalgia is a weird feeling. Sitting there, drinking a soda with a few wonderful friends in a Nashville coffee shop, I was hit with a wave of nostalgia for high school. In all honesty, high school was the worst time of my life, but it was peppered with moments similar to this, taking a break from the hell of school with a few friends, and talking about anything but pre-calculus or Advanced Biology. The same thing doesn’t really happen in college, as the coffee shops are just places to drink coffee while you work, or procrastinate when you should be doing schoolwork. Real breaks don’t happen that often, and this was the first one I’d had in a long time, including the $pring Break trip so far.  Sundays were put in place for a reason, and it’s a shame how rarely I can take advantage of them.

As with all good things, this hang out could only last for so long, and eventually we all decided to go to sleep, and explore more in the morning. We parted ways with Ella, and I drove the sleeping KIDDOS back to Franklin. We went to sleep around 12 (a record early for the trip so far) and vowed to explore more of Franklin and Nashville on the morrow.

This is the end of Part 1 of Part 7, so pop your knuckles, take a nap, grab an energy bar, and get ready for the final episode of the KIDDOS’ journey, coming very soon. “Wait a second,” you ask, “Isn’t splitting the seventh part of this series in two the equivalent of just making eight parts?” Well, to that I say, um. You may have a point there. 

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