8.6 – Memorial Day Weekend Dinner

Suddenly I was back in the traffic jam at the modern day Valley Forge.

“Dammit,” I said, “back in Alone Reality.”

Everything moved slowly.  Eventually The ShortCut took me to Road-76 Pennsylvania, and it was also full of traffic desperate to get to their Memorial Day Weekend plans.

Memorial Day Weekend is a holiday weekend about how you’re supposta be remembering past American Reality Wars, but you actually just go outside and have a barbeque with your family.

Even I hadta get back to The Smaller Nest where Mom and Dad were having their own traditional barbeque.  The Road ended up taking a long time, and I got sleepy, and my hangover came back, and my butt hurt, and I’d even heard The Mix so many times by then it had stopped giving me The Chills very often.  I was so Road-Weary all I could think was please just have at least something from The Great List of Food there when I get back.

When I finally pulled into the driveway I hadta go up and ring the doorbell cuz I still didn’t have a key. Dad answered.

“You’re just in time!” he said.  “The food’s all ready.”

Then he led me to the back porch, where there was a sizzling grill with meat smells and an umbrella table filled with platters of creamy mashed potatoes, fresh green beans, sweet rolls, a pitcher of homemade lemonade, and even a whole just outta the oven StrawberryRhubarb Pie.

“Oh my Gods!” I said,  “This whole barbeque is full of food from The Great List of Food.”

“Did you see what was on the grill?” Dad said.

Then he opened it up, and my nose hadn’t tricked me, it really was the grilled pink meat of a big salmon.

“Is this some kind of mirage?” I said.  “What bout Spiritual Growth and toxins?”

“It’s all alright,” Mom said. “It’s all organic so it has less toxins.”

“And the toxins it does have we can overlook because it’s a holiday,” Dad said.

It was great.  I didn’t feel any TimeFuck swirls, and even The Buddhawg wasn’t biting me for some reason.

“Where’s the dog?” I said.

Mom pointed, and he was just laying there on the porch quietly with a little pant-mouth smile.  Then he noticed me watching and got up and sweetly licked my hand.

“What’s going on here?” I said.

“Oh, he must be getting used to you now,” Mom said.

Then we sat down and started eating, and it was just as good as I thought.  My mouth didn’t want it to stop going in, and there was more than enough to fill my plate twice.  It was like I’d just TimeTraveled back to some perfect year from the very center of my childhood.  Eventually tho Dad did remind me I was on The Great Trip.

“So,” he said, “I hear you’ve been doing a lot of driving lately.”

“Driving?…” I said, but then looked down at my Bluebird sticker still right on the front of my jacket.  “Oh yeah.”

Then I told him all about it, like which exact Roads I’d taken, and where the worst traffic jams were, and how long it took to get from one city to another, and how many miles per gallon of gasoline Wings was getting.

“Wow!” he said, “you’ve really come along way. I remember when you wouldn’t even get on the tricycle.”

“He’s just like you now,” Mom said to him.  “All those vacations when we used to drive as long as you could without stopping.”

“Well, you can rest up here tonight before your big drive West again.”

“Actually I have to go out tonight,” I said.

“Tsst,” Mom said, “Why?”

“Reality Travel.”

It was hard enough explaining Reality Travel to Mom, but whenever I brought it up with Dad he always seemed to argue with me about it.

“Where are you Traveling to now?” he asked.

“TheGeneral&TheAdmiral,” I said.

“I didn’t know you were still friends with them.”

“I’m not.”

“Then why go?”

“Because I have to.”

“So Reality Travel means you have to spend time and energy on people you don’t care to be around?”

“Sometimes it does.”

“How will that make you feel?”

“I’ll feel great if I can MeToo them.”

“So you still need their Acceptance?”

“Look, Dad, I don’t know all the Self Growth Terminology, but according to Reality Travel not MeTooing could mean War, and that’s the worst thing that could happen.”

“What does War mean? The Pain of not being Accepted by them?”

“No, War means War.  Realities getting destroyed forever by guns and bombs.  By MeTooing them tonight, I’ll actually be saving The World.”

“Oh, so it has nothing to do with still feeling Wounded by their past Criticism?”

“Nope.”

“Or getting devastated by Criticism of any kind because you believe other’s opinions of you, and your self-esteem depends on it?”

“I know you’re trying to Self Growth me, Dad. But I don’t need it. I’m Grown enough.”

“Is it really Grown to feel terrible about yourself over something as small as someone not liking the same song as you?”

“You’re not getting it.”

“All I can speak from is my own experience. I’ve discovered thru my Self Growth that I have Wounds from long ago that make me Fearful of other’s Disapproval.  I became a doctor because I wanted Approval.  I built a big house because I wanted Approval.  I held back my Authentic Self because I wanted Approval.  But it’s only made me suffer.  Now I’m trying to Heal my Wounds, let go of the need for Approval, and learn to Follow My Heart.  I believe if you truly Follow Your Heart it doesn’t matter if anyone else MeToos you or not.”

“Well, me, The Professor and every other Reality Traveler believe that MeToos are everything.  And we’re not supposta stop until we MeToo every Reality in The World.”

“Supposed to? Who says?”

“The Gods!  I know you don’t think they’re real, but they are.  I’ve been to The Other World and seen them, and I’m even in Love with one.  She’ll probably even be coming here right now to prove it to you.”

We waited a few minutes, but The Goddess of Faith didn’t show up.

“Sometimes,” Dad said, “what we think is a Higher Power is really just a part of ourselves…”

“You don’t understand at all!” I interrupted.

Then I got up and grabbed a slice of pie.

“I’m going to my room to eat this and play Stuffed Animal War!” I said.

“We put all the stuffed animals in the basement,” Mom said.

“Then I’m going down there!”

3.12 – The Mall

The next morning Mom woke me up on the couch.

“It’s time to go to The Mall,” she said.

“Nooo,” I said.

It was too early, and I wanted to keep sleeping.

“Come on,” she said. “We need to get your pants.”

“But I have pants.”

“We need to get your dress pants for the wedding tho, remember?”

“I don’t wanna go to a wedding.”

“But you’ve already come all this way for your friends in Philadelphia.”

“I don’t know anyone there.”

“Yes, you do, sleepyhead.”

Then she opened the blinds, and the sun shined too hard on me.

“Nyaargh!” I said.

But it was too bright to go back to sleep. I hadta get up and get ready and go to The Mall even tho I didn’t even remember why.

“Do you want to drive?” Mom said.

“Of course not,” I said.

Then we took her car, and I got in the backseat.

On the way The Radio was playing a song with sitars and chanting. I’d never heard it before.

“Is this some kind of New Hit?” I said.

“No,” she said. “This is my Self Growth Music. It’s good, listen.”

I trusted Mom the most on songs and tried to like it. But it was in a language I didn’t know, and there were no electric guitars or high, powerful vocals. There were no choruses or verses or bridges or solos, it was just the same noises repeating over and over.

“It’s not very high or powerful,” I said.

“Its vibrations are high and powerful tho,” she said.

“Oh.”

By the end of the drive I decided there was no way it could ever be on The Great List of Old Songs. But more importantly my ears were getting full of TimeFuck Tingles. They hurt, and they were growing, and I knew it would be really bad if they spread to the center of my head.

Soon the massive concrete square that was The Mall arose before us.  We pulled into the equally massive parking lot, and Mom turned the music off.

We went into The Department Store where all the clothes were.  There was a men’s section with my clothes, but no one else was there with their Mom.

She immediately started looked thru the racks of dress pants trying to find the right size.

“Hmm,” she said. “I don’t think they have anything small enough to fit you.”

She picked up a pair of pants and held them up to my waist.

“These might be alright,” she said, “but you’ll need to go to the fitting room to find out.”

“Do I have to?” I said.

I was tired and my head was still funny from Mom’s new music. I just didn’t have the energy to take off my pants and put on new pants and then take those pants off and then put my old pants back on.

“You don’t want them so long you’re stepping on them with your shoes. They’ll fray at the bottom.”

“I don’t think I care.”

“If you stay for another day we could get them hemmed.”

“Aren’t I just going to stay here for every day forever?”

She didn’t hear me tho. Then she got the pants, but she still wouldn’t let us leave The Department Store.

“What are we doing now?” I said.

“You still need to get a dress shirt and shoes and socks and a belt.”

“Oh.”

Then we had to look thru more racks. We went over to the shirts, and she held a blue button-down one up to my chest.

“I think you’re a small,” she said. “You’re probably still a small.”

“Alright,” I said, “just get it so we can go.”

She got it, but she soon got distracted by other racks that didn’t even have the things she said I needed on it.

“Ooh,” she said, “look at this t-shirt. What’s that on it? A crocodile?”

“I hate crocodiles,” I said.

I was so tired and bored, I didn’t want to stand anymore. I sat down cross-legged on the floor and held my head in my hands while Mom kept shopping. It was taking forever. Sometimes pretty teenage girls would walk by and look at me weird, and it would make me feel bad.

“Mom,” I said, “can we go now?”

“But we haven’t got your shoes yet,” she said.

“I feel sick tho. I’m too sick to be at The Mall.”

“Tsst, I bet it’s all that Dr. Pepper you drank.”

“We need to go home so I can take something that makes me better.”

“Alright, I have some Self Growth remedies that will cure you.”

“I don’t care. We just hafta leave here.”

When we got back in the car The Self Growth music was playing again. The Tingles were now in my stomach, too, and I felt like throwing them up.

“Can you play The Real Radio instead?” I said.

“You mean like The Hits Station?”

“Yes!”

“Oh, I don’t ever listen to that kind of music anymore.”

“Not even Journey or Mariah Carey?”

“No, I guess I’ve Grown past that.”

Suddenly my whole body got filled with a gigantic dose of TimeFuck. Had I remembered I was a Reality Traveler I might have made a last minute sacrifice to The Goddess of Faith, but I did not. The spinning went faster and faster until all my senses shut off, and I didn’t even know where I was anymore.

“My city is gone,” I managed to say right before everything turned black.

3.4 – The Smaller Nest

Me and my Mom and Dad and Brother usta live in a big house called The Big Nest. It was like a soft, but tightly strewn, perimeter of bramble that could secure and protect a fragile egg or baby bird too young to fly. It was so big, cuz Dad was a moneymaking Doctor, and everything inside it was big, too, like a big kitchen, big toys, and a big TV.

I moved away after I got The Calling, and whenever I came back Mom and Dad would always be talking about a strange new concept called Self Growth.

Self Growth is about your Self not being big enough as it is, so you have to do things to make it grow, like stretching, breathing, running, chanting, eating health food, and acquiring knickknacks from the far off and exciting Realities of Asia and/or Native America. Once your Self has gotten to a certain size you won’t need other things in your life to be as big.

At one point both my parents’ Selves had Grown enough that they didn’t even need The Big Nest anymore, and so they moved into a new Smaller Nest. Every time I went there it never felt quite right.

I got there this time early in the night. I went up to the front door and hadta ring the doorbell cuz I didn’t have a key. Inside I could hear unfamiliar high and powerful noises. When the door opened a small creature leapt out at me.

“This is the new puppy!” Mom said. “We named him Buddhawg after The Self Growth Guru, The Buddha.”

The Buddha was a Wiseman Traveler who MeToo’d via The Great MeToo – All Realities Will End.

“Oh,” I said.

Our old dog Dogritos had just died. We had named her after Doritos.

Doritos are a triangular snack chip about having a bold nacho cheese flavor.

I didn’t even know they’d replaced her with a new dog until that moment. It made me feel a TimeFuck tingle in my head.

The Buddhawg was very adorable tho. His shaggy black hair came down over his eyes, and you could only see a little nose and mouth, and you just wanted to smush his face in with Love.

 “Aww,” I said.

But when I bent down to pet him, he snapped at my hand, and I could feel little sharp teeth.

“Buddhawg, No!” Mom said and scooped him up.  “He’s still a little wild.”

Then she had to take him inside and put him in a little metal cage so he couldn’t attack me anymore.

As usual everything seemed off in The Smaller Nest. The walls and windows and carpets and furniture were all in the wrong places, and they were the wrong sizes and colors. It even had the wrong smell. I hadta shake my head to get all the TimeFuck Tingles out of it.

“Are you alright?” Mom asked.

“Yeah,” I said.

“Did you stop to rest at all?”

“No.”

“How did you stay awake?”

“Dr. Pepper.”

“Tsst, that stuff is toxic!”

“But I love it.”

“It’s making your Self Shrink.”

“I don’t feel like I’m shrinking.”

“It does it slowly and secretly until your Self is so small you don’t have one anymore.”

“But you usta buy it for us all the time.”

“We didn’t know better back then. But every Self Growth book and workshop and seminar says Dr. Pepper is bad.”

The Tingles wouldn’t go away, and they made me hafta sit down.

“So who’s wedding are you going to?” Mom said.

“Huh?” I said.

Besides the Tingles, my mind was also suddenly having trouble remembering things.

“You said on the phone you’re going to Philadelphia for a wedding,” she said.

“Oh yeah, that must be Wolf&Lamb’s I guess.”

“Do you have something to wear for it?”

“What I’m wearing now.”

I was in my Traveler Uniform, which I wore every day I Traveled – blue bandana, blue jean jacket, plain white t-shirt, blue jeans, and black tennis shoes.

“What about pants?” she said. “You can’t just wear jeans to a wedding.”

“I can’t?”

“Everyone else there will be wearing dress clothes.”

I hadn’t thought of that, but she was making sense. If I looked too different I could Stick Out Like a Sore Thumb and become a magnet for MeNotzies.

“What do I do?” I said. “It’s too late to change my Wedding Uniform now.”

“It’s alright,” Mom said. “We can go to The Mall early tomorrow and get a pair of khakis. I think there’s a sale.”

“But I hate shopping at The Mall. Maybe I don’t even wanna go to a Wedding.”

After I said that I realized that my head wasn’t right at all, and a TimeWarp must’ve been taking over. I tried to play “I’m Like a Bird,” in my head, but I couldn’t really remember how the melody went.

“Oh Gods,” I said, “I gotta get something from the car.”

Then I went to grab The Mix at once.

2.8 – Mom Call

After being in mostly Alone Reality for several hours I started to get Lonely.

Loneliness is a condition about not being MeToo’d by anyone for too long.

I didn’t really feel like going on some crazy sidetrack to find a New Reality yet. I felt I needed to ease my way into it first, by reaching out to old familiar Realities by way of technology, so as soon as the sun came up I called Mom.

“I’m on my way to OIC(R) Suburbs,” I said.

“What?” Mom said. “When did you decide this?”

“Today.”

“Are you flying?”

“Yes, in a car.”

“That’s a long drive. Are you stopping to rest on the way?”

“No, my driving endurance is so good I don’t have to.”

“Where are you now?”

“Somewhere in the center of America.”

“Why are you doing this?”

“Important Reality Travel mission to Philadelphia Wedding.”

“Tsst, Reality Travel.”

Mom never really got Reality Travel.  It made me hafta pause and look out at early morning sunbeams over an Iowa cornfield.

“You’re going to stop if you get tired, right?” she asked.

“I won’t need to stop. I’m telling you my driving endurance is incredibly good.”

“When do you think you’ll get here?”

“Don’t know. Depends on how many Detours and Sidetracks and Adventures to exciting New Realities I have along the way.”

“Well, don’t be too late.”

“I’ll get there whenever I get there. That’s how Reality Travel works.”

“Tsst, I don’t understand.”

“Alright, I really gotta get going now. I’m very busy out here.”

“Alright, bye.”

“Bye.”

Then the call was over and there was nothing to do but go back to Alone Reality and think…

2.7 – Track #16 of The Great Trip Mix – Mariah Carey’s “Anytime You Need a Friend”

Whenever someone on The Radio was good enough, Mom would buy their albums so she could play them at the house whenever she wanted.  One time she brought home an especially good one.

“This is Mariah Carey,” Mom told me. “She has the highest, most powerful female voice in all of music.”

I agreed Mariah Carey was much higher and at times as powerful as the mighty Steve Perry, especially on “Any Time You Need a Friend.”

“Any Time You Need a Friend,” is a song about not being lonely. Mariah promises that whenever you’re about to get lonely you can call her, and she’ll come over and hang out with you and be your friend.

At first Mariah Carey’s holding back in the song, using a voice of normal highness and power to gently lure you in. But then at the chorus these gospel-style backup singers come in, and Mariah Carey rises over the top of them with a sudden boom of highness and power. The song rises in intensity until another little holding back part at the bridge, but when the chorus comes back Mariah Carey unleashes her full strength. She sings the “I” of “I will be here,” so high any other singer would crack their voice. And she sings the “Don’t” of “Don’t worry,” with a ferocious animal power-growl. Then she gets on a roll, singing things like “Don’t you ever be lonely,” and “It’s alright,” and “ahhh-ahhh-ahhh” and then out of nowhere she goes up like two octaves higher to belt out a long run in the super high and rare whistle register.  It’s like she’s trying to destroy Alone Reality with nothing but her voice. Even as the song fades out Mariah Carey is still going full power and you wonder if she just kept singing like that for the rest of the day. After listening to the song you’re certain you’ll never be alone again. I had The Chills the whole time I was growing up, cuz Mom played it all the time.