Wednesday, August 14, 2002
Cleveland Heights, OH

Morning time at Thad's parents' house. I'm sitting at their breakfast nook, slowly drinking a cup of coffee and thinking about how nice that shower that I just took was.

Last night was our night off (at least the one that we were counting on), and we decided to use the evening before to jaunt from Waterbury to here. The drive wasn't that terrible, although Pennsylvania isn't something that you cross just for fun. The majority of the ride was Matt, Jill and Abby in the car while Thad and I followed in the van. Mile after mile after mile, hurtling through darkness, getting passed by trucks, and (in the van, anyway) loud music that I was screaming along to as one way to stay awake.

One bit of small advice for those of you forced to take long drives: bring along a jump rope. I would skip rope about 100 times at each bathroom break, and it would keep my energy up without putting my adrenaline into artificial overdrive.

Got to pass near Youngstown, home of the embattled Jim Trafficant. Mr. T, for those of you who haven't been following his story, is the second member of Congress since the Civil War to have been expelled. Just this year he was found guilty of improper use of government funds, including forcing his staff members to work on his farm. He and his Congressional district have cried foul, claiming that his maverick ways (he refers to the IRS as the "Internal Rectal Service" on the House floor) and unorthodox style (including the phrase "beam me up" in each of his speeches) have made him the target of a government conspiracy. Thad follows this with a mix of bemusement and chagrin, fearing that the rest of the country will view NE Ohio as some sort of backwoods. If Ohio re-elects Trafficant to Congress in the next election (he claims that he's going to run as an independent from jail), Thad's fears will be justified.

We got here at 10:30 yesterday and all crashed pretty soon after. Thad's folks came home from work in the afternoon, and once his brother and sister in law showed up with their two youngsters, we all BBQ'd. Home cooked food was a nice treat, better than my dinner the night before of the Big Daddy Breakfast Special and a thick vanilla milkshake. Once dinner was over, we retired to the living room, where Abby proceeded to embarrass us by showing the whole family video footage from the tour so far. Everyone's telling Thad's nephew "maybe you can grow up to be a headbanger like your Uncle Thad." Thad's dad, mom and brother each bought a t-shirt, which just made the whole family scene even funnier. Thad exacted his revenge by teaching his nephew how to say "What you talkin' about Willis?" which the sugared up kid proceeded to say about 50 times.

Ended the evening with Thad's Dad serving up the after dinner drinks. My advice to you, gentle reader, is this: stay away from grappa. It tastes awful. Not in the way that Madagascar rum tastes awful (which is sort of a "I'm drinking a vinyl stripping agent" awful) but more in a "this rancid rotten nut smell is staying in my nose" sort of awful. Just thinking about it is making me shiver.

Oh geez, I almost forgot. Yesterday was Jim Traficant day at the Mahoning Valley Scrappers (the area's minor league team) baseball game. Anyone who either dressed up as Jim Traficant (with a mop of a toupee to match) or claimed that they were the son of a truck driver (as Jim did) got in for free. About 100 people did so, including the government's STAR WITNESS AGAINST TRAFICANT! The guy had the nerve to dress up as the fella that he put behind bars, just so that he could get in for free. Wow.

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