Essays · PG

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

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Danielle, sorry you’re barely in any pictures, but thanks for taking so many great ones.

This final section of the tale is rated PG, but mostly because it’s sad. 

3/24/16: So Sorry, It’s Over

Welcome, to the final section of the tale, started so long ago. In these few months, I have written more than 22,000 words on the $pring Break of the KIDDOS of Destiny, and I am sure this last chapter will add 3,000 or more to the count. In this long-winded way, I have managed to write a novella, which I will probably compile and sell in the near future. I may only sell one copy (and that one to my mom), but I have thoroughly enjoyed this little experience, and hope you have as well. With those introductions, welcome to the dessert portion of this modern Odyssey. You’ve earned it. Also, Jon, don’t you dare compare me to Twilight just because I decided to split the last part into two parts. Seven is just a better number than eight.

8 O’clock was never that late in Middle School or high school. In fact, if I slept until 8 o’clock on an average weekday in high school, I would be rather concerned with my health. I might search “Excessive Sleeping” on WebMD and find that I have an alien parasite in my brain, and then be worried about that for the rest of the day. Once I got to college, however, I found that the time of 8 O’clock was different than it had been in the past. Some part of the natural world must have changed on my car ride from Franklin to Jackson, because 8 o’clock is now earlier than it used to be. Despite this fact, the KIDDOS rose on their last day together at 8 o’clock, ready to explore the town of Franklin, and head back to Jackson.

We rose to the smell of fresh homemade waffles, because my mother is essentially an angel. She woke up early on a weekday to make us a fantastic breakfast, when she could have just placed a note on the fridge saying “There’s milk and cereal in the house next door, and I’ve placed a crowbar and ski masks in the garage. Best of luck, your Mother.” Luckily, my mother no longer condones the breaking and entering of neighbor’s houses to eat cereal, and made us some of the best waffles that have ever been created.

Ever since the fall of man, things have been corrupted in this world. People suck, animals suck (especially cats), and everything just plain sucks. Thanks Adam and Eve. Somehow, my mother managed to bypass this corruption and made perfect waffles. Oh, and they were gluten-free so Melissa could eat them. Melissa asked me three or four times at breakfast if they were actually gluten free, because they tasted so good. If she hadn’t already used up her food tears on the previous night’s pizza, then I think she would have cried on the waffles, which might have made them too salty.

After this glorious breaking of the fast, I wanted to show Shea, Danielle, and Melissa one of the better coffee houses in Franklin, “The Frothy Monkey.” I took Jon there along with Ryan Sinni (another Union student, who was at Jon’s church earlier during $pring Break) over Thanksgiving Break, and it’s one of the best places to talk in downtown Franklin. One of my funnier friends, Sam Lavender, works at the Franklin Frothy, and whenever I try and order a black coffee, he tells whoever is ringing me up that I actually want a flat white. This is actually always true, I’m just typically trying to avoid cost or calories, but I nearly always get a flat white at Frothy. Thank you Sam.

It being nice weather (in Franklin, that means no tornadoes visible), the KIDDOS sat on the deck outside, and discussed several serious subjects, among them: homeschooling, “Christian” music and movies, and the morality of adoption. “Whoa,” you’re thinking, “when Clark said ‘several serious subjects,’ I applauded his use of alliteration, but assumed he was setting up a joke.” While my writings may be mainly concerned with entertaining and amusing the reader, there occasionally comes a time when I take a more serious route, in this case to pursue the truth. This story is nonfiction, so I’ll do my best to give an accurate display of actual events, minus all the bits about extra-terrestrials due to my agreement with the CIA.

The most interesting of these “mildly heated” discussions was the one on “Christian” movies and music. The main topic of debate was the horrific quality of the average “Christian” movie or piece of music. “Christian” movies have especially gotten a bad rap, thanks to the contributions of the Kendrick brothers and the “God’s Not Dead” movies. Much to the detriment of Hollywood, the Kendrick brothers were told their whole life that they could be whatever they wanted to be when they grew up. I’d imagine that they have a bunch of those “Good Try!” soccer trophies from pee-wee soccer decorating the halls of their mansions. They probably show them off to their kids, saying “Look, I tried!” I am afraid Yoda had it right when he said “Do or do not, there is no try.” The Kendrick brothers, if you haven’t guessed, did not. I haven’t seen all of their movies, but I’ve seen two of the five, and the quality astounded me. “Fireproof” was their third movie, so one might think that they would have started figuring out this whole “movie making thing.” Sadly, the plot, acting, sound quality, directing and filming would prove you wrong. “But wait a second,” you say, “Can’t a movie still be good if all the actors are mediocre, the plot is generic, the sound and film quality are comparable to a middle school film project, and the movie appears as if it might have been directed by the same guy who directed Birdemic? Oh, wait. Those are basically all of the parts of a movie.” Hey that was pretty good! Normally I have to answer your silly questions, but that time you thought about it for yourself and figured it out! Yes, sadly, when every part of a movie is terrible, there is very little hope for the movie as a whole.

The problem with this is what happens when you think about “Christian” movies. Your mind immediately goes to the Kendrick brothers movies or the God’s Not Dead series. In fact, if you google “Christian Movies,” some of the Rotten Tomatoes ratings are:

God’s Not Dead 15%

War Room 33%

Passion of the Christ 49%

Fireproof 40%

Time Changer 22%

Facing the giants 13%

Courageous 30%

I’m in Love with a Church Girl 6%

Grace Unplugged 50%

Son of God 21%

There were several movies in the search results that weren’t even rated on Rotten Tomatoes, and the majority of those weren’t even liked by audience members. When not one film in a “genre” even comes close to a “fresh rating,” then there might be a problem. There is a lower standard for these “Christian” movies, and that is a serious problem. This same lower standard can be seen in Christian books (just google Christian fiction) and in lots of Christian music (see: the exact same chord progression and style on every Christian radio station.) Christians have accepted a lower standard, and creative Christians (I use the term creative as loosely as possible) stoop to even lower standards. What happened to Lewis, Tolkien, and Chesterton? What happened to Bach, John Tavener, and Fanny Crosby? They all died, and no one has stepped up to fill their shoes. Sure, there are still some wonderful non-fiction writers who are also Christians, but fiction, music, and movies have all slowly spiraled downwards quality-wise. We need more people like Sufjan Stevens and Tim Powers, geniuses who are all too rare, and Christians need to stop lowering their standards and stop supporting mediocre art. I’ll probably write a longer essay about this topic at some point, but that’s enough for what is supposed to be a comedic sort of literary biopic. A biolit, if you will.

After our lengthy discussion with a side of caffeine (the discussion covering far more than the above paragraphs), the KIDDOS headed to McKay’s bookstore in Nashville for one last moment of splurging before leaving Middle Tennessee for Jackson.

Middle Tennessee, especially Brentwood and Franklin, are a little bit creepy. If you’ve ever seen Hot Fuzz (or read any science fiction) then you’re probably familiar with the cliché of a dystopia disguised as a utopia. Everything looks great on the outside, but once you get to know the place, everyone is killing everyone else and one lone figure is in a sinister dictatorial position controlling everyone like a spider puppet master in the center of his web.

“Please,” you say, “you expect me to believe that Franklin is run by one crazy guy? Help me understand.” I personally have not met this guy, but I have heard rumors. Am I talking nonsense? Being an English major, I can say some weird things. Forced sentences often flow from my keyboard to the paper. To write is to suffer. “Write!” screams my inner drive, but sometimes it’s more difficult than others. This is my struggle. *Cough* Acrostic *Cough.*

As has been mentioned many times, Shea gave up book-buying for lent. I sure hope this helped him in some deep spiritual way, because he was really wishing he hadn’t done that for the entire trip. I gave up Imgur and Reddit, and haven’t really gone back to them. Shea has gone back to book-buying, so the question “Does Shea need an intervention?” should be considered very seriously. I think it’s a little bit of an addiction for him. After all, there’s no way he has read all of his books, so it’s in the act of transferring hard-earned cash for stacks of paper that Shea really finds joy. What? No, don’t make this about me! Yeah, I bought like $125 worth of books over the trip, but I’m not the one you should be worried about. Leave me alone. Intent on keeping his promise intact, Shea groaned as the KIDDOS stepped into McKay’s, one of the most wonderful places on the planet Earth.

If you wanted to find a lot of people in a smallish place, you might go to a sweat shop. If you wanted to find a bunch of hate in a small place, you might visit Westboro Baptist. If, however, you wanted to find a bunch of books in a small place, then the best place for you would be McKay’s in Nashville. It is a mall of books, most of them ludicrously cheap, containing nearly everything you would want to read. Books about dragons, spaceships, and in vitro fertilization (and probably a couple that contain all three of these) litter the hundreds of bookshelves, marked with small white adhesives that declare their worth. If books aren’t your thing, first, THERE’S THE DOOR, but second, the entire second floor is dedicated to CDs, DVDs, and Board Games. If the Turing test ever fails humanity, then we could probably use McKay’s as a backup. We simply place the subject in McKay’s, and if they enjoy themselves, then they are a human. If they don’t, then they’re a computer. Easy.

I’m kinda sad right now, as we’re nearing the end of this story. I’ve got maybe 1,500 more words to write about this wonderful week with friends, and then I’ll be done. I’ve been writing this since March, and so much has happened since then. Writing this series has been one of the main things I do during my free time, and it’s nearing the end. I’ll have to pour myself into something different next, and I’m feeling a Zombie serial. There aren’t enough of those, right? Don’t worry, it’ll be better than most.

After an hour and a half or so, I made the executive order to “Blow this popsicle stand” and spent a ludicrous amount of money buying a ludicrous amount of books. As I walked to the car holding my books, I got the upper body workout that I had missed the entire previous week, struggling to keep my plastic bag of literature from scraping upon the asphalt. The rest of the KIDDOS arrived shortly, carrying their books (or CDs in Shea’s case,) and the car was soon on the way to Jackson.

This last two-hour car ride seemed to fly by, especially compared with the full day of driving we’d had the day before. Hold on, the guitar solo in “The Sound” by The 1975 is playing, so give me a second. Alright, now that I got my daily dose of air guitar out, I can keep writing. In an astonishing turn of events, Danielle did not bring up the words “I need to pee” for an hour and a half of the drive. Several times, Jon and I looked in the back seat just to see if she was still alive. Luckily, every time we looked back there, she was. It was as we approached a sign reading “Jackson 35” (or something very much like that) when I heard a faint voice whisper: “I have to pee.” At first, I thought it was just the voices taking a different approach, but it became clear that Danielle had to pee, really, really, really bad. If you’ve seen the film Alien, then you will most likely remember the scene where the alien bursts out of John Hurt’s chest, killing him in a horrific manner and scarring moviegoers for good. If this scene was compared to the car ride to Jackson, the Xenomorph would be Danielle’s urge to pee, and the chest would be Danielle’s will to not pee in my car. Melissa, being a darling and also just wanting to get to Jackson ASAP offered Danielle an apple pie if she could hold it until we got to Jackson. Danielle, if you haven’t read any of the previous chapters of this saga, have never met Danielle, and just scrolled through this story choosing this sentence to start with, has a strong affinity for all things southern. While her love for southern things (including apple pie) was and is incredibly strong, her need to pee was also quite strong. This contest between two feelings was akin to a fist-fight between Jason Bourne vs. Batman. It was quite intense, but I think we all knew that Jason Bourne (Danielle’s love of southern things) was going to win in the end. Indeed, as we approached the outer limits of Jackson, Danielle screamed with commitment several times, and grabbed the back of my seat like a pregnant woman giving birth.

Once we were in Jackson, we all agreed to eat one last meal together, and so headed to Burrito Meal, assuring Danielle that she could pee once we got there, and she would also earn an apple pie. Imagine our surprise (and Danielle’s horror) when we arrived at Burrito Meal, only to find it very closed. Not just normal closed, but permanently closed. I vaguely recall a sign stating that another Burrito Meal would open up soon in Jackson, but none of the KIDDOS, least of all Danielle, really wanted to wait for the next one to open up. Jackson is a town with an abundance of mexican restaurants, so the KIDDOS got into the car, drove about a hundred yards, and stopped at a place called El Mezcal: Tienda y Restaurante, which, if you can’t read any Spanish, was not only a grocery store, but also functioned as a small restaurant.

Danielle was the first one in, and made a beeline for the bathroom, smiling in victory. She had made it. The rest of the KIDDOS looked around the Mexican grocery for a few minutes, and then went into the restaurant, ready to break bread, or rather, tortillas for the last time this trip. The menu was entirely in Spanish, but luckily for the KIDDOS, I had gotten a ‘B’ in a community college class Beginning Spanish class, and Melissa was basically fluent. Come to think of it, Melissa was probably a lot more helpful than I was when it came to reading the menu. I just recognized “fish” and “chicken” on the menu, and was very proud of myself.

The food was excellent, and although I don’t recall what I got, I’ll be returning to this place as soon as I can. I was just excited to be back in Jackson, my home town for at least four years of my life. While we consumed our food and assorted beverages, we watched a Spanish soap opera, in which I’m pretty sure the same guy died and came back to life at least twice. Biblical resurrections had nothing on this guy.

After the meal, we drove back to campus and I helped everyone unload their things. Campus was considerably more silent than it was when we had left, so either everyone was on Spring Break (no dollar sign in that for the average person) or a plague had happened, and we were some of the only survivors. Sam Edgren, one of my ARAs confirmed that it was the former of the two possibilities, and I sighed. Maybe some day I’d get to survive an apocalyptic-scale extinction event, but that day was not this one.

After helping everyone move back in, I grabbed a few items from my car and went up to my room to store them until after break. I also planned to play video games for about six hours, but my dreams were shattered as I opened the door and found that Michael had taken the Xbox One home for the break. I looked sullenly at Michael’s door, wondering if I could break in and write “Clark was here” on his pillow, in exchange for him ruining my dreams, but realized that might not be the best way to get back at him. I still haven’t gotten him back yet, but I’ve got three more years. Watch your back Michael, or I might draw something on it.

I walked back to my car, feeling an odd quiet cling in the air, like the silence before a storm. You know when you take a shirt out of the dryer and put it on immediately? The air felt sort of like that magnetic pull which occurs right before static electricity travels from your cat sweater to your chest. It was a palpable tension, as if something big was going to happen. Perhaps later that day it rained in Jackson. My theory is that there was actually a battle between pixies and gnomes happening in secret underground caverns beneath the Heritage parking lot, and I was just magical enough to feel some of the tension in that fight.

As I drove home, I blasted Blink-182 for the first time in a week. Blink-182 is wonderful driving music, and in my state of mild sleep deprivation, driving music was exactly what I needed. I found a half-eaten bag of Takis from earlier in the trip, and munched on those all the way home. I think that’s what the American dream is really about: eating crappy foods while listening to crappy punk rock and driving down crappy roads in your crappy car. It’s a crappy dream, but it’s a good one.

I got home shortly and had a great rest of my Spring Break. Unfortunately for you, this series isn’t about my Spring Break, but is about the KIDDDOS’ $pring Break. Once I turned the key towards me and stepped out of my car, apart from Danielle, Melissa, Jon, and Shea for the first time in a week, the KIDDO’S $pring Break was over. It was a wonderful $pring Break, and it will undoubtedly be a goal for future $pring Breaks.

From the dining hall of Cobrewhahaheeheehoho to Sexy Kroger, Maryland, Washington D.C. and Nashville, the Kiddos had Veni Vidi Vicid the heck out of $pring Break. It was a good $pring Break. A damn good one.

For a pictorial account of the trip, see Shea’s Facebook.

Finis

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