Monday, December 31, 2012

Asheville, NC: Top-secret Surprise Holiday Trip Part I

I was the recipient of a special top-secret surprise holiday trip this year, planned and orchestrated by Eric. And, as I posted on my Facebook wall when we returned from said special top-secret holiday trip, “There was food.  Much food.   Delicious food that was gluten free.   And art.   Art everywhere.”

Eric planned the trip about three months ago.  I was told the dates of the trip so that I could ask off from work, what the projected weather forecast for our destination was, and what clothing I might want to wear (some walking, possibly some hiking, definitely some eating).  The only other information that I received was clues, one clue every week for the six weeks before the trip, clues that included unmarked maps, anagrams and riddles.  And, as to be expected, I was completely unable to figure out where we were going because the clue-sharing was too much like game-playing (which everyone knows makes my  1) palms sweat, 2) elbows to break out into hives, and/or 3) brain to think that my body is in a fight or flight situation and I have to leave the room or else start biting people).  Yep, Eric’s secret trip location remained a secret (despite all of my trickery to fool Eric into slipping up) until we were about ten miles away from our hotel, that hotel being in the picturesque city of Asheville, NC.

20 December 2012
When we arrived, hungry in the pouring rain (essentially it had rained the entire trip from outside our door in Gadsden to the door of the hotel in Asheville) we opted to check in quickly and find some food in the famed foodie town.  Being late afternoon, most small local dining spots had not reopened yet from lunch, so we opted for a meal at one of our favorite-anywhere restaurants, Mellow Mushroom.  We split a Greek salad which consisted of Romaine and iceberg lettuce, shredded carrots, red cabbage, onions, cucumbers, green peppers, mushrooms, feta cheese, Kalamata olives, Roma tomatoes, pepperoncini and banana peppers covered in the Mellow Mushroom’s signature Esperanza dressing which tastes very much like a bright Caesar dressing.  For entrees, I chose the gluten free Philosopher’s Pie (grilled steak, Portobello mushrooms, artichoke hearts, Kalamata olives, provolone, feta and mozzarella cheese) while Eric ordered a gluten-filled calzone.   There was enough leftover food to snack on for days, so we took the remains back to the hotel and did just that.  I’ve never been opposed to eating pizza for breakfast…

Philosopher's Pie at Mellow Mushroom, Asheville, NC.

Calzone at Mellow Mushroom, Asheville, NC.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Christmas Angel

What I'm about to share is pretty darn nostalgic, but I feel like it is a good and proper time of the year to embrace nostalgia.  This is a piece that I wrote for a senior journalism assignment that I had in high school (Smoke Neck Tech!  Go Panthers!), so, that would make this story about twenty-five years old.

The Christmas Angel

As far back as I can remember, whenever we would decorate our Christmas tree, a little angel would appear on the top.  The angel was dressed all in white with a halo and beautiful gold wings.  My sister and I never knew how the angel got there, but every Christmas we would try to watch and see if it would appear.  But no matter how long we would watch, the angel would never arrive until our backs were turned.  Mom and Dad always told us that God sent the angel to us from Heaven, and in our childish trust, we believed.

One summer while I was looking in my mother's hope chest for some old pictures, I ran across a piece of brown cloth with something wrapped in it.  My curiosity got the best of me, so I unwrapped it.  Lying there in my hands was the angel.  My angel.  Our angel.  The angel that Mom and Dad had said that God sent to us.  I felt tricked and deceived.  Mom and Dad have been putting the angel on the tree while we hadn't been watching.

I was so hurt.  I felt like running up to Mom and confronting her with the horrible truth.  But then I started thinking about how happy Mom and Dad looked at Christmas whenever Vicki and I squealed in delight about how the angel had come.  Yes, it had been magic for us, but it had been magic for them, too.  I started crying.

I didn't have the heart to tell my parents that I knew about the angel.  I wrapped the angel up and put it back into its hiding place.  It was my secret now.

The angel still comes each year at Christmas time.  Even though I know the truth, it still means a lot to me.
It took me at least another ten years after I wrote this assignment before I finally fessed up to Mom and Dad about having found the angel.  And even after my confession, the angel continued to make its mysterious appearance on top of the tree while no one was looking.  I hope that it always does.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Crystal Springs Community Every Other Year Sometimes Spur of the Moment Christmas Parade

Seeing the recent Gadsden Times article entitled Webster’s Chapel Redneck Christmas parade Saturday reminded me of another Gadsden Times holiday article from 2004, World's Shortest Christmas Parade kicks off Christmas in Crystal Springs.  I remember reading the piece while I was home from Denver for the holidays.  It made me shake my head at the hilarity and the familiarity of the behavior, and it reminded me of just one more reason why I love Alabama so much...we have an abundance of characters.  They may be crazy characters, but they are all ours.

The 2004 "Crystal Springs community Every Other Year Sometimes Spur of the Moment Christmas Parade" consisted of three laps around the Crystal Springs One-Stop gas station and boasted farm tractors, lawn mowers, four wheelers, some crowd-pleasing animals, and over two-hundred folks looking to share the holiday spirit.  It was a year of technology (the first time that a generator was used to allow for Christmas lights on a float...Christmas lights that Carl Owen took down "'for the first time in twelve years so that [he] could finish decorating [his] float.'").  It was a year of larceny (the float of the same Carl Owen carried a snowman that was evidently stolen from the yard of competitor Tammy Parris).  It was a year of bribery ("'it's not unusual for judges to take bribes and not deliver -- that's why they're the first to leave after the parade.'")

Things threatened to not crank and stuff caught on fire.  But no one was hurt.