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Home » Stories, True and Otherwise

Big Country Little Car Tour, Day 8

Submitted by on April 2, 2010 – 7:20 PM32 Comments

madsonicWhere 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.




  • Liz says:

    I just… I just… RAISINS!


  • Stephanie says:

    All of the lack of eye contact in the world would not have kept me from laughing.

  • Elizabeth says:

    My mother makes this Cinnamon Raisin Buttermilk Coffee Cake that I don’t think I can eat anymore.

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    Yeah, sorry to ruin pancakes for everyone.

  • Carly says:

    I am laughing so hard that I am crying. I’m sorry you all had to have that experience, but it made for an excellent story.

  • Louisa says:

    I always feel like I should kind of know who you’re talking about, even just to know if they’re friends or family. Or cats. Is there a primer somewhere?

  • Lamoshe says:

    @Liz: Ditto.

    I am now in TEARS. And, snorting. Don’t know how all your heads didn’t explode simultaneously. Too funny.

  • Liz says:

    Ha. That’s hilarious, but you were SPARED. One of my crusty old mentors during my medical residency would, every time we had a patient with a UTI, give the same damn spiel on the role of anal sex in causing UTIs. (Basically, you don’t want to have anal sex and then go to the vagina without a little clean-up first. Yes, seems obvious, but it’s news to a lot of people).

    Buttermilk, though. Hadn’t heard that one before.

  • attica says:

    And how long before somebody names their band ‘Buttermilk in the Jay?’

  • Amanda says:

    I was wondering where “shut up buttermilk” was going. Wish I hadn’t.

  • cayenne says:

    And Fonzie was his hero, right? Yoicks.

  • Jennifer says:

    Oh dear. . . in that situation I would have had no choice but to beeline into the bathroom, turn the sink on full, start the shower and repeatedly flush the toilet just to drown out the hysteria. It would have been every one for themselves as I stepped over the poor friend in a leg brace in my quest to get out of there!

  • MizShrew says:

    Oh, my. Let me state first that this was beautifully told. Second, my absolute sympathies and get-well wishes to Mad Chao because, I have been in her position. I’ve had the kidney infection, the hospital visits (not a long stay but multiple visits/tests instead) the lecture about the causes of what my Dr. euphemistically called “honeymoon cystitis.” Oy freaking vey. I did not get an Rx for buttermilk, thankfully. I did get a scrip for a crazy-ass antibiotic that made me dizzy and feverish, however, thus a second trip to the hospital. Good times. Anyway. I hope that Mad Chao is on the mend, and for everyone else… um talk therapy might help? Sad to think that you’ll never be able to look at a buttermilk biscuit properly again.

  • Laura Beth says:

    Eeek – I went to high school with the guy who manages the Atrium (his parents own it). In some ways, I’m not surprised that it’s in the shape it’s in. Also, I live in the same town as AB Chao!! I totally did not know that.

    I am still laughing at “RAISINS!!”

  • Grace says:

    That was an awesome post, I’m laughing so hard I have tears in my eyes!

  • Rachel says:

    Um. Oh dear. Wow.
    Dear Dr. Groucho:



  • Toni says:

    So, I learned this new “word” this week, and think it applies.


    That is all.

  • Jaybird says:

    SNORT. Funniest post since “Hit the Gas”, first of all, and funniest comments since Tomato-Stealing Jack. And the photo needs to go on a T-shirt, with “Buttermilk in the JAY!” as a caption. My seven-year-old is reading this aloud as I type it, which: Hee. See, Dr. Groucho could have filtered all that, or had y’all vacate, but then you wouldn’t have had that story or that photo. So everything worked out for the best, the horrifying, gross, mortifying best.

  • Shonda says:

    And no one, not a one of y’all got church giggles?

  • Jen S says:

    Something tells me Dr. Groucho was coming off a 24 hour shift, thus eliminating the pesky need for “filtering” his comments. Either that or he’s seen one too many morons come through the ER with things that shouldn’t be inserted into either end–inserted into either end.

    (My dad’s a doc, and the stories he tells…)

    Mmmmm. Eggnog.

  • dimestore lipstick says:

    I’d have to as Dr. Groucho “Make up your mind what you want, doc–buttermilk in the jay, or if you wouldn’t put it in your mouth, don’t put it in your vagina”?

  • Sarah D. Bunting says:

    @dimestore: The thing is, this was his solution if Mad didn’t like to DRINK buttermilk. He likes to have a glass now and then, but if you don’t like drinking it, you can…do that other thing. So it all kind of falls apart.

    Not as quickly and definitively as “RAISINS!”, but still.

  • Heidi says:

    Too true about baths — it was a lesson we learned after a MRSA infection on the heiney — baths spread everything around — and also, the ladies don’t think so much about the end destination, if you will, when they load the bath with all manner of chemicals. Epsom salts only, and maybe a little isopropyl.

    So much for the new Camp Chao bano — it best have an AWESOME shower.

    PS — good to know on buttermilk, because yogurt is messy. ;D

    PPS — Get well soon, Mad!

  • PallasJay says:

    Sometimes I wish my mind didn’t go to the practical place. All I can think is that I can’t use up a whole container of buttermilk even if I’m making both pancakes and biscuits, let alone solely on Jay application, so would the powder work just as well for this? Ick.

  • Mary says:

    I don’t know how everyone kept from laughing in the room — I couldn’t contain myself just reading it!

  • Kristina says:

    Poor Mad. Also, go Mad – she sounds hella awesome, if she’s taking “buttermilk in the jay” advice from doctors with that kind of aplomb.

    I bet that doctor is a hit at parties.

  • RJ says:

    At least he didn’t tell you about his hemmeroids (sp?), his prostate issues, his wife’s yeast infection, or buying underwear.

    All of which I have been subjected to by non-medical, non-family, at non-normal times.

  • La BellaDonna says:

    Jen S: Okay, no fair. Now you have to spill! You don’t have to identify the bodies, but share some of the stories!

    It could be, uh, _good medical advice_! Of the “Do not do this!” kind!

  • Audrey says:

    Right after I read this yesterday, one of my 14-year-old students explained to me how she was having “the best day ever” and she was going to top it off with a bubble bath that night. And all I could think was, oh no! That’s going to go straight up the junction! I could barely keep from giggling, but luckily I managed, since I have NO idea how I could have explained that away. I’m pretty sure she noticed a weird look on my face, though.

    Thanks for the laugh. It made my day.

  • Tempest says:

    First, all the best to Mad Chao.
    Second, I was laughing out loud so much that Mr. Thunder, who was seated across from me, nearly begged me to read parts of it to him. When I got to “if you wouldn’t put it in your mouth, don’t put it in your vagina,” he nearly fell off his seat. I can see the wheels spinning in his brain from all the way over here! HEE!

    Thanks for a great story!

  • Erin K. says:


    Pamie (Pamela) Ribon and A.B. Chao wrote recaps for Sars’ former web site, Television Without Pity. Vince is A.B.’s husband, and Mad is her teenage daughter. They are all hilarious and talented beyond reason.

    I don’t know if there’s a primer, but you can find out more about them in the Tomato Nation archives,, and the almost-defunct or their flickr and twitter accounts. And now I feel like a cyber-stalker. I think I’ll just turn off my computer and go talk to some human beings in real life.

    Thanks for the funny story, Sars.


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