Sunday, July 04, 2010

July 4th, 2010

My uncle Ali and I loaded into my mom's car and went hunting for cell signals. His brother-in-law claims you have to head fifteen miles back toward civilization in order to make a phone call, but Ali claimed there was a much closer sweet spot, just up the hill a ways.

So he drove up the bumpy dirt road, holding one cellphone up to check the bars, and another to actually make the call with. We drove quite a bit searching, all the while my uncle telling me about his problems of late and a couple of opportunities for wealth that slipped through his fingers. He talked a lot, perhaps just needing a non-judgmental ear to vent to. His teenage son refused to go on this little camping trip, and Ali was worried about what kind of dickens he'd be up to with the house (and the city of Las Vegas) all to himself.

I've always liked my uncle Ali, mostly because he is such a relatable, screwed up dude. My mom and aunt complain about his language and lack of manners, and that makes me like him more, for some reason. His life is tough right now, without a job, and myriad family problems. He'd like to move away from Vegas and try things again, but it looks like that's not going to happen any time soon. He eyed one of those big motorhome rigs on the side of the road, and I asked him if it wasn't romantic to him to buy something like that and just go where he wants when he wants for as long as he wants.

It's romantic to me. I've been single for so long, it's hard to imagine a world where I couldn't just get in a car and drive if the spirit moved me. I'm not really one of those people to just not go to work, though. I remember calling in sick when I wasn't sick all of, maybe twice, in the three years I worked at my job in L.A.. Part of that was that I honestly looked forward to going to work on Monday, of having responsibilities, seeing pretty faces, and palling around with my coworkers. I'd like to have a job like that again.

One of these days, I think I will just get in a car and drive. I sometimes do that on Sunday afternoons, but it's not the same here as it was in L.A.. There, I sometimes drove (or rode my bike in my fitter days) down to the beach to look at the waves or put my feet in the water or be accosted by the homeless.

Someday, Jennifer, someday.

Oh, so Ali and I did find our cellphone service. It was only 2.3 miles from the cabin (we kept track), and so we'd find the spot again, he and I built a big pile of rocks on the side of the road, and put a picture of Gary Coleman there hoping people would assume it's a shrine* and leave it alone. Hopefully, a year from now, it'll still be easy to find the spot.

So, there was little sleep to be had last night. There’s just so many people here and so little insulation between walls and floor that every creak, grunt, movement, and snore reverberated throughout the whole cabin. My nephew absolutely wouldn’t go to sleep, and while the twenty-something adults played cards downstairs, we could hear the boy talking and singing to himself above us. Finally, I went up to ask if he needed a drink or something, and he craftily volunteered to hug me goodnight . . . refusing to let go afterward. So I brought him downstairs and his parents laid him down, but he just laid there, entertaining himself for the next hour, even though it was one in the morning by now.

My uncle had built a fire in the fireplace, and it started getting really hot in the cabin, to the point where we opened the windows to cool things down. After a while, we finished playing cards and I fell asleep. But as soon as the loudest of the children awoke the next morning, there was no sleep for anyone. And to my horror, it was SNOWING outside. It had started as rain, became sleet, and then, as in a nightmare, we had icy wet globules falling down. Dude, snow on Independence Day is like a white Christmas in Sydney.

A large meal was planned. I enjoy barbecuing, so I cooked chicken and hamburgers outside, where I could see my breath. Because it’s summer, I hadn’t brought any long pants, so I ended up changing back into my pajama bottoms, like an unattractive co-ed on a Saturday afternoon. Even then, it was a little cold, but I had the grill to warm me.

Later in the day, the sun came out again, and it was strange to see steam rising from the ground where the sunlight hit. Because of the weather, we spent pretty much the whole day indoors. My Uncle Ali says that vacations are for three things: eating, sleeping, and taking a dump, and that you rotate through those three activities until your vacation is through.

I did some reading and playing of card games with my sister and her husband, and my cousins. After a while, my brother-in-law suggested we play a friendly little game of poker, using Skittles and brown candies as chips. It changed the feel of the game, knowing there were tangible stakes, and it made it easy to see who was winning and losing by the amount of candy in front of them.

My evil cousin Ryan lost first, but bought back in (using real money). Eventually, even though I had little clue how to play poker when we began (it was Texas Hold ‘em, and I haven’t seen CASINO ROYALE in way too long), the final two players ended up being my sister and me. We had tons of brown candies, Skittles, and candy bars between us, and rather than play out till there was an actual winner, we just bet it all on one last hand. I had a King and a Three, and my sister had a King and a Nine. So, she won the whole pot. Because we had been handling the Skittles for hours, we decided no one could eat them, though I know some of the little kids found that to be ludicrous.

We also played Phase Ten, and a game I’d never heard of called California Speed (I was trounced on that one even by the sixteen year old), until my poor pregnant sister was too uncomfortable to play anymore. Then I went to bed and suffered through the medieval torture that was a dilapidated bunkbed. It was hard on my back, on my neck, and alternately too hot and too cold. Also, every time I moved to try and get a better position, it squeaked and gibbered like the unsheeted dead.

I didn’t expect a sort of Spanish Inquisition.


*Okay, the Coleman part was a joke. Where would I get a picture of him?

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