Big Country Little Car Tour, Day 8
Where to begin, my friends? The hotel is as good a place as any, because The Atrium is The Weird. It's not bad; it's not gross; it's just weird. I could tell, and locals confirmed, that The Atrium had a heyday, but that said heyday was back when MTV still played videos. I only saw two other guests, each on a different day, and a whole section was abandoned. Renovations on it had been begun at one point, then forgotten about, power tools akimbo in various empty rooms like toys left in the driveway. In the hallway I took to the outside stairs, a used coffee filter lay slung over on its side in the middle of the floor for nearly a whole day.
I upgraded to a suite on AB Chao's orders, and the suite itself had the same feeling — the "Can You Find What's Missing?" puzzle in Highlights. In-suite coffee machine with Wolfgang Puck coffee packets; no mugs. Gorgeous secretary-style desk; no desk chair, no chair anywhere in the suite that fits it. Fancy shower with three control knobs; door opens in instead of out, water is either freezing or scalding. One window in the whole suite; it looks out on the…hallway. The hallway overlooks the eponymous atrium, in theory, but in practice, I had a view of a column, and the column had a view of me in my pajamas, grumbling at the blinky WiFi and drinking coffee from a snifter. It's as if they put a Girl Scout camp in a palace.
I didn't spend much time in the room anyway. I had to get a pedicure pronto, because the weather had finally gotten sandally and, thanks to two straight months in the same pair of snow boots, my feet had gotten cloven-hoofy. Then, after the fine folks at A Nails called in a blacksmith for a consult and got me fixed up with a nice trampy red polish, I went to AB's, and we went on to the hospital to see Mad Chao.
Mad Chao had landed in the medical hoosegow with a kidney infection, you see, so we went by to wait impatiently for the doctor to come and tell her whether she could go home, and to make a dent in the shit-ton of candy that had accumulated around Mad Chao. We waited. We teased AB's mom. We waited. We picked all the orange-cream taffies out of the bag. (By "we," I mean "I." I regret nothing.) The Chairman watched I Carly, and when we teased the Chairman about it, he turned the volume up to drown us out. Mad Chao texted her friends and occasionally pretended to find us amusing, which was mighty kind of her. At last, Dr. Groucho arrived, and we greeted him with a hearty round of applause.
Perhaps it was our fault, then, what happened next. What happened next: crazeballs. I should say right up front that Dr. Groucho seemed very nice, and perfectly competent. I should also mention that I should not even have witnessed what happened next, probably, but Dr. Groucho didn't say that non-family should leave the room, and by the time we realized where Dr. Groucho's monologue was going, and that it would 1) take an hour to get there and 2) leave everyone in the room wrung out from the effort of avoiding eye contact with one another, it was too late.Actually, it wasn't too late for me; I was the closest to the door and could probably have made a break for it, but Pamie had flown in for one day just to see Mad Chao, with a leg brace on, no less, and she was trapped at the back of the room, and I couldn't leave her there. Or fireman's-carry her out of there, or join her in crawling towards the hallway like Marines under fire with bags of Gummi bears in our teeth. (Enh, we could have done that last thing, but then we would have had to make eye contact, which: nope!)
What Dr. Groucho meant to do: explain how one gets a kidney infection, and how one can avoid them, and the UTIs that cause them, in the future. What he in fact did: said the word "vagina" 146 times (I counted) (…I didn't count) (…because I lost count) (also got distracted by shooting pains from biting my cheek), and also the phrase "cotton-crotch panties"; recommended drops of buttermilk applied directly to the vagina in lieu of eating yogurt, as a preventive measure; explained that European bottled water is too salty, which is why he prefers Dasani; took a lengthy sidebar on how his office assistants came to work for him; and told a story about how an antibiotic gave him tendon problems, so after years of giving prostate exams with his right hand, he had to train himself to do it with his left hand. Dr. Groucho illustrated that last bit with his hands aloft and each index finger wiggling descriptively, like so:
My fingers would need to triple their diameter for you to get the full effect, but you don't want the full effect, trust me. Buttermilk in the jay, for God's sake. What, it's 1891 now? He's going to tell us to use spiderwebs as a contraceptive, in the style of 18th-century French courtesans? (Don't ask how I know that. Just another reason to hate spiders.) And he sprang it on us, too. He started out talking about taking a few drops of buttermilk, and we all thought that he would surely say to put them on oatmeal, or in a latte, something like that. But very much no. "And just put it right up there," is how I believe Dr. Groucho wound up that train wreck of thought.
He went on at length about the dangers of taking baths, everything in the bath goes up the junction, on and on it went. Of course, all the "adults" in the room sprained their necks trying not to look at each other. Mad Chao: unconcerned. Chewed gum, texted, failed to burst into flames of shame as I would have at her age. Sarah and Pamie: busily thought up exceptions to Dr. Groucho's "if you wouldn't put it in your mouth, don't put it in your vagina" rule. (Pamie's: "I wouldn't put a tampon in my mouth. Come on." Sarah's: "RAISINS!…Wait.")
Dr. Groucho left, bless his heart, we all fell out, and then the "adults" went home and dined on a bottle of wine each, and that went really well at 6:30 the next morning when the loudest bird in Monroe sidled into my brain stem and observed, "…CHIRP!!!1!", so I went back to The Campground At Versailles for a few more hours of windowless sleep.
Coming up: Bike rides, Arkansas, and Jesus tweens.
Tags: AB Chao Big Country Little Car Tour Chairman Chao friends Highlights Magazine for Children Mad Chao Pamie shut up buttermilk shut up raisins travel