What I learned on my trip back to the Midwest

Well, my two-week vacation is over. There were many discoveries:

1. While the entire St. Louis area seems to be under some major construction, the city still has not come to the realization that Lambert-St. Louis International Airport is in desperate need of a facelift. It's the first thing many travelers see, people.

2. Don't let your friend put you up at a Catholic hotel if you want to: A) Talk to friends at conversational voice levels after 10:30 p.m.; B) Have your TV volume loud enough to hear while laying on the bed after 10:30 p.m.; C) Get busy without a crucifix on the wall over your bed.

3. A free-flowing fountain of alcohol is a nice addition to the table at a wedding reception.

4. Springfield has crumbled since I left. Wendy's have shut their doors, Brio started charging for salsa and chips, and of course, La Mex has died. The Saputo's baked rigatoni was still quite lovely, however.

5. Despite Nick and Abby's insistence, Little Saigon is not an acceptable replacement for Magic Kitchen. While I appreciate their loyalty and reasons for not eating at MK anymore, still no one has better crab rangoon or fried rice. I can't comment on the eggrolls, but I can't imagine ever finding those better anywhere else either.

6. "Click" is a horrible movie.

7. Really good friends plan major life events around my presence. Thanks, Kels. :)

8. Driving being required to get everywhere you need to go sucks.

9. Shel, Jen and I need to control our mixed drink consumption the two or so times a year we get to hang out together.

10. I lose things. Lost for a few days, but recovered: a watch, a bracelet and a black sweater; Gone for good: black, long-armed gloves that my mom commented looked like strippers' gloves. Hmm.

11. Everyone I know is quite eager to light food and drink aflame.

12. I was irritated about people on the East Coast trying to be healthier when I couldn't find lard here to cook with, but I changed my mind upon realizing that the level of smoke pollution in D.C.-area bars is NOTHING compared to those in Indiana. I was not prepared.

13. Even with the breakfast burrito on the menu at Indy Qdobas, Chipotle is still better.

14. My stomach no longer appreciates drinking five of seven days a week.

15. Driving sucks.

16. It does, in fact, feel like it's been almost 10 years since I graduated high school.

17. Jen's parents still have great couches at their house.

18. Despite his claims, Bruce Barker is no longer "The Piano Man." He should be called "The Playing the Guitar Too Close to the Microphone and Not Very Well Man." Also, the piano bar at the Neon Cactus was apparently only made fun by pounding seven or so beers in a very short time period prior to arriving.

19. Having two weeks off work to frolic about does not mean you will come back relaxed and refreshed. I could still use a few days at the beach. Oh yeah, it wasn't that kind of vacation.

There you have it, my last two weeks sort of summed up. To everyone I saw, it was a great time ... to all the "BB" fans, sorry that I dropped the ball. :(

Until next time ...


La Mex: I'll always have my memories ...

In a long ago blog, I wrote that my number one missed thing about Springfield was the weekly trips to La Mex with Nick. Sad that today, with only four days, 21 hours left on my "Days until lunch at La Mex" countdown, I had to remove it because it was verified that the restaurant is no more. :(

Apparently the business was sold two weeks ago (thank you to Nick for enduring an unacceptable meal at the replacement restaurant to find this out) ... right around the same time I was eating an unacceptable burrito in New York and thinking how I would at least be at La Mex in two and a half weeks. How's that for irony??

So, what will I miss? Here are just a few of the memories:

1. Lupe. He was the server extraordinaire. Yeah, we went every week, and yeah, we got the same thing every time, so maybe we made it easy ... but Lupe was the only one that could serve it up for us before we even had to ask. They let us pick the booth, and out Lupe came with the two Diet Cokes, two red salsas and one green salsa at the same moment. It was glorious. Others tried valiantly, but only Lupe succeeded perfectly.

2. Ernie. He might have made too loud, sort of weird comments to his tables, he might have butted into our "Dream Job" conversations a few too many times, he might have been a Cardinals fan ... but no matter what, he was a damn fine server and made each meal a treat wondering what he might do or say next.

3. Nick's birthday circa 2004. The fun we had is documented in his picture section, but what can't be seen is that we're sure the other side of that sombrero had a Spanish cuss word painted on it. Why I didn't have the forethought to take a picture of THAT side of the hat, I will never know. We tried to verify the next year, but the sombrero was all new. (No, we weren't drinking at the meal in '04 ... please, it was our lunch hour.)

4. The salsa. The red by itself may have been a little too bland, but add some of the green to it, and you had a wonderfully delicious salsa with a good hint of spiciness every time. Oh, and they always gave each person at the table their own bowl. That's key.

5. The chicken monterrey burrito. It was delicious. It had chicken, beans (though I enjoyed mine without), sour cream, lettuce, tomatoes and cheese all on the inside. It was grilled on the outside for that perfectly browned, crisp tortilla texture. There was no need for it to be covered in unnecessary sauce because it was already so damn tasty. Yum.

6. The music. Where else will you hear a Spanish version of the 4 Non Blondes' "What's Up" so soon after hearing about and arguing over Nick's utter disdain for the English version?

7. The last outing. That is when Richard discovered the … interesting wall decor (below right). Yes, that is exactly what it looks like. Not sure how Nick and I missed it those 60 plus other times we ate there.

So, there you have it. I conclude with a heavy heart, but thanks to RobG for confirming that the Joliet location is so far, still in business. I'm sorry to inform whoever might be involved with my next Chicago trip that we will be forced to venture out of the city to Joliet for a monterrey burrito. Trust me, I don't want to go to Joliet either, but I also never wanted to have to go to Decatur for Texas Roadhouse because Springfield didn't have one ... you just do what you have to do.


Second most ridiculous line waiting experience ever

OK ... so, I spent three hours this evening to get the grand re-opening deal at The Limited in Tysons Corner. What was a deal that is so enticing to make you waste that much time at The Limited you might wonder? Only that you could get 50% off an outfit of your choice. Yes, it was ridiculous, and I thought just how ridiculous it was every minute waiting in the line ...er, correction, lines.

Yeah, when I got to the store, there was a line to wait in that extended out of the store and down the hallway of the mall past three other stores. That one took about 50 minutes to get through and into the store (luckily I had three people to talk to on the phone during this ... even though I usually don't even like talking on the phone). At that point, the store was crammed with people, stuff strewn about everywhere and no place to move. Incredibly annoying. Especially since I don't like to work that hard to shop for anything.

The only reason I stayed in the line, or considered putting myself through the event in the first place, was that I knew that I was going to buy a pair of jeans there at some point ... I just hadn't gotten around to it yet, and with this deal I could get the pants and a shirt for basically the same price I was going to pay for just the pants. Yes, I put myself through hell to get a good bargain on something.

So, I finally struggled through to find the jeans, found a sweater and got in the line to pay. This line was endured for an hour and 20 minutes. Wow ... as I type this, I'm thinking it was even MORE ridiculous. I was growing more angry to stand in that line when it wouldn't move AT ALL for 10 minutes at a time, but when you have taken the time to drive in traffic out of D.C. to Tysons, waited in the line to get into the store, etc., etc. ... I mean, there's a certain point where you've expended so much time on something, you CAN'T back down and leave with nothing, right? And they were walking around with tasty hors d'oeuvres, so that was a small bonus.

But in the end, I was able to get a pair of jeans, a sweater and some new earrings for essentially the same cost as what the jeans would have been by themselves, so I guess that made up for it? Ugh ... I don't know at this point. Oh, and they did "throw in" a free necklace and brown canvas Limited bag that I'm sure I'll never use. Great. What I do know is that I better LOVE this pair of jeans more than any other pair of jeans I have ever owned. That is FOR SURE.

P.S. - The first most ridiculous line waiting experience (for anyone who has suffered through this longer than it should be blog) was when I stood in line for 2.5 hours in a church parking lot at 7 a.m. on a Saturday for a flu shot a couple of years ago. Yes, this time at least I have something I can enjoy.