Monday, August 29, 2005

I Tease Because I Care

Optimism had it where the start of my second year would be exponentially smoother and more successful than my first time around the horn. Reality, however, had the two pitted more closely together, and I suppose that’s probably just about right. We all grow and learn at slow paces. Truth be told, two of my three classes this semester have gotten themselves off to a wonderful start. The remaining one would even test the patience of Mother Theresa, so I can’t get too down on myself there. I feel pretty good, and I’ve been able to use some quizzes and worksheets I created last year, but somehow I’m still busier than a single mother. It’s all rather curious, don’t you agree?

My day starts with a preparatory period, where I’m given an hour and twenty minutes to grade papers, make photocopies, and indulge in heaping mounds of cheesecake provided by the student council in the teacher’s lounge (This, by the way, is the reason why no matter how often I eat properly at home and exercise, I am unable to lose even an ounce of body girth. I’m not saying I’m Kirstie-Alley-fat, but I can’t seem to get myself to 170 pounds. It’s as if the Gods of Delicatessen Desserts will it so). I had this preparatory block at the END of the day last year, which was wonderful because I was able to grade and plan everything after all of the classes were over. It was as if the day ended an hour and twenty minutes sooner. But this new way makes me feel sad like raindrops and lost kitties. It’s like I’m just needlessly at school way too early. Granted, I’d get a lot done no matter what part of the day my prep was, but it’s a psychological thing. It’s like doing all the hard problems on a test first so you can get them out of the way. From there you cruise… Take a moment to digest my analogy. I’ll be down here.

Down HERE! See, I complain about my prep being at the start of the day, but that’s NOTHING compared to what I endure second block. Before I get going on this one, understand that I’m bitching about the first half of my day because it is not particularly pleasurable. Actually, this part is distinctly unenjoyable, but I’d like to adamantly reassure you all that I do still love teaching very much, as you are sure to read about when I beam about my last two classes of the day. That disclaimer out of the way, allow me to explain to you all about English for Life.

This class exists as a required senior English course for students with pretty specific records of poor behavior and lousy attendance. I inherited this class when I took the Olympia job last summer because no one else wanted it. Colleagues talk about it now like it’s some mutant form of a black plague that slowly deteriorates both male and female genitalia and eventually results in fire. Last year’s experience with this class was a complete nightmare. The kids never shut up, and half of them are absent more often than Clay Aiken at a heterosexual convention. I knew this year’s class was going to be bad as well when a teacher in department told me she had most of this year’s class in English 3 the year previous, and they made her question whether or not she was enrolled in the proper profession. I’m telling you, these kids are enough to make you go sterile. They don’t listen, the loathe authority, and some of them could care less whether or not they graduate. The amazing this is that one of the special ed teachers who worked with a number of last year’s English for Life students said that they all loved the class and thought I was a great teacher. Figures, right? It’s a perfect example of how sometimes there are just way more long-term rewards to educating than short-term ones. I’m four days into this new class, and I’ve already torn out enough hair to be mistaken for Patrick Stewart, but if these kids really are going to get something out of the class (as last year’s students did), I guess it’s worth putting up with all of the severely painful headaches. The Good Lord knows I’m going to have at least a baker’s dozen. Daily. Some things are bigger than noggin pain.

My English 2 sophomores are a conglomerate of great new kids and some of my old favorites from last year. I had previously taught at least half the class before this year, and many of those had requested me as a teacher, so it ended up being a pretty good chemistry of kids. It’s an American Literature class with a non-existent curriculum (that’s right, I’m expected to make it up as I go along! Ha!), but so far so good! I’m trying to cover some things that will really interest them, and they seem to be responsive so far. Sophomores and freshmen are infinitesimally better than upperclassmen, as they are more open to listening and obeying. As young’ns, they still maintain a small (very, very small) amount of respect for adults (of which I now consider myself one), and that definitely works to my advantage. The other nice thing is that younger students are still trying to act more like kids than pseudo-adults. They don’t mind acting a little silly here and there, where seniors are much Too Cool for such things. Blah… the younger goombas are just more fun. Personal opinion. You’re welcome to disagree, but if you do I’ll hate you forever and potentially cause you physical harm.

Last block of the day are my freshmen, and I’ve got a feeling that this could be the brightest class of 14 year-olds I’ve had so far. We discussed a short story today for 45 minutes without getting off topic even once! I know for a fact that’s a record for me personally, and it may be a Mclean County record as well. I don’t know for sure. I’ll have check county records. I’ll be in touch. In all seriousness, these students are impressing the pants off of me (which is highly inappropriate—administration frowns upon pantslessness) with their wit and ability to debate and discuss. If God is as good as everyone keeps telling me, he’ll allow these students to resume this impressive pace so I can end my days a whole helluva lot better than I start them. I need a class like that as a beautiful gold bookend, ya know? The bookend on the other side is rotting wood.

Okay, maybe I exaggerate a little, and perhaps I’m overly cynical and joking about how my days go, but the certainty in all of this is that I’m still doing well with the teaching thing. I enjoy what I do, and sometimes I’m surprised that I get paid for doing what I do. I’m a lucky guy to be able to hop out of bed gleefully in the morning because I’m excited about heading to work. It’s definitely better than working at a sweat shop or random factory (The Graham Cracker Factory? Perhaps the Plastic Scissor Handle Factory? I’m just brainstorming here). As much as I tease my profession, I thoroughly enjoy it. As I tell my students: “I tease because I care.”

That pretty much sums it up.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Midwest Road Fest, Days 4 & 5 (The Conclusion)

Day 4:
Despite the house being a non-air-conditioned structure, we all slept pretty soundly at the home of Ed’s friends due to a perfect drop in temperature overnight and lots and lots of fans. Actually, this drop in temperature set us up for the most beautiful day of the entire trip. It ended up being around 82 degrees with none of the disgusting humidity that had been haunting the Midwest for the previous two weeks. We were fixed some eggs and waffles, which we ate happily, and got the car loaded up to head for Mansfield, Ohio, home of our next two attractions. Mansfield was a little bit of a back-track for us (especially since we were so close to Cleveland already), but the extra driving was cheaper than getting a hotel in Cleveland. Besides, an extra 3 hours in the car was nothing in the whole scheme of things. So we didn’t complain too much. On with Day 4!

Ohio State Reformatory, Mansfield, Ohio

Our first destination for the day was going to be the Ohio State Reformatory, which is the humungous prison where The Shawshank Redemption and parts of Air Force One were filmed. The building usually offers tours, but they’re at the most random times, and they aren’t offered on Saturdays. So, we thought were going to be out of luck in regards to actually seeing the inside of the place, but as it turns out, we got very, very lucky…

There was a Volkswagen and Porsche car show being held out on the front lawn of the Reformatory, and because of the event, the building was open for tours! We had some time to burn until the next one though, and there was another attraction in Mansfield that we wanted to catch, so we hustled over to the next thing so we could fully experience it before our tour of the prison, which was so unbelievably, extremely cool-looking from the outside.

The Living Bible Museum, Mansfield, Ohio

I think I can safely say that this was the most unentertaining, lackluster stop on our entire trip. We walked into what seemed like a modern-style church and were helped by a woman who was old enough to be in Jesus’s yearbook. She put us into the room that offered the self-guided tour, “The Reformation of Christianity.” Already this sounds lame. See, the Living Bible Museum offers a variety of tours that employs life-sized wax sculptures to tell the stories of the Bible. Since we were in a hurry, we took the first available one, which just so happened to be the most tedious, and the antics that ensued were enough to drive a senior citizen comatose.

The highlights of this attraction were the pimping out of John Wesley (founder of the Wesleyan church, something of mild significance to us as Illinois Wesleyan students and alumni), and scaring the urine out of Ed in the darkened tour room. They only highlighted one scene at a time, and at one point, Ed was growing bored with the currently lightened scene, so he looked ahead to a rather frightening was sculpture that awaited in the shadows. Ed said, “Man, this one looks creepy,” and feigned a startled expression, at which point I grabbed his sides and growled heavily. Ed went in to panicky convulsions and probably peed a little. We all had a good laugh, agreed that this was the dumbest thing ever, and went to use the bathroom before heading back to the Reformatory, only to be greeted by a younger, male worker of the facility, who seemed to be occupying the bathroom permanently, even if only to tend to the psychological needs of the customers. We had a rousing chat with the fellow, but were still in a hurry, so we charged back to the prison for our tour, which MORE than made up for the crappy nature of The Living Bible Museum.

The Ohio State Reformatory, Mansfield, Ohio (again)

Walking into this building was one of the creepiest experiences of my life. I’m not sure I can even describe the ambience of the place, but it was definitely eerie. Old paint was flaking off of every inch of the entire building, including doors, ceilings, cell bars… EVERYTHING! It was one of the most massively huge structures I’ve ever been, and everything is just so open. We spent a short while in the front part of the prison and the opening foyer that led into the east and west cell blocks. Our tour guide was awesome, as he had not only information about the building, but also prisoner stories and tales about deaths and murders that happened right where we had been standing.

Obviously, the building isn’t in use anymore, but you could only imagine what things would’ve been like if you’d have served time there. We got glimpses into the cells, solitary confinement, and the warden’s quarters, part of which was used in The Shawshank Redemption (I had to get a little piece of this cinematic action). It would take me an hour to say everything I wanted to about this place, so I won’t go into too much detail. However, I will say this: seeing that place close up makes you REALLY not want to do anything that cause you to spend even a single day in prison. Screw that. This place was probably my favorite stop on the entire five-day trip. It was cool, had novelty value as a filming location, and it was scary and historic as well. There’s so much to factor in to this place’s extremity, for it truly was So Extreme.

Jacob’s Field, Cleveland, Ohio

We drove back to Cleveland for an afternoon Indian’s game versus the Seattle Mariners. Parking for the game cost us three dollars. THREE DOLLARS!!! What Chicago sporting event has EVER allowed you to park your mode of transit for less than two months’ rent? I was amazed by that (however, this particular house of automobiles would cause us some trouble later on… more on this to come). We walked about two blocks to Jacob’s Field, which took about 5 minutes, then once inside we headed for our seats, which took about a month of Sundays. Our seats were six dollars, so you get what you pay for I guess, but damn that was a journey!

Jacob’s Field has absolutely zero personality. You can see Gund Arena (where the Cavs play) right across the street, and the scoreboard was pretty high tech, but there are no other defining characteristics in the whole place. I’d say the stadium was about 2/3 full, and the fans who were actually there definitely showed enthusiasm (even I went bedecked in a Cleveland jersey), but we just couldn’t really get into the game too much, despite the fact that it was probably the most beautiful day of the summer. The eateries were alright, but I think the food service provider there mass hires troubled teens from local Section 8 housing projects. I felt like I had walked into a bad episode of Cita’s World, where the already racist BET character got even MORE ignorant just in time to serve my food. I was embarrassed FOR those people. We left in the 7th inning. At least I can mark that particular park off of my checklist, right? I think I’ll just stay a White Sox fan.

World’s Largest Rubber Stamp, Cleveland, Ohio

Not much to say about this other than it’s the world’s largest rubber stamp. I remember seeing it when planning the trip, but we hadn’t made arrangements to stop by and see it. It was on the way to our next destination, so we thought, “what the hell?” and took a picture with it anyway. It is a big sucker though, ain’t it?

Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland, Ohio

Kyle and I always wanted to come here and check the place out. It was designed by IM Pei (same guy who designed the pyramids for the Louvre. The guy likes his triangles, what can I say?), and with all those windows you’d think it’d be hot in there. But it wasn’t, really. They boast six levels of musicky goodness, but the majority of what’s there to see is on the first floor, which was absolutely spectacular.

We saw everything from Jimi Hendrix’s original lyric notebook to one of Robert Johnson’s guitars. There was a separate room for Ray Charles, full of tons of memorabilia, including a few pairs of his sunglasses. One of the coolest parts was the section with all the mannequins bearing famous musician’s most famous articles of clothing. There was so much to take in while we were there that it was almost a sensory overload, but it was definitely a little piece of music history, and anybody whose ever liked Elvis, the Beatles, or the Rolling Stones just definitely go and check it out.

Sadly, they didn’t allow cameras inside the exhibit areas, so there is a lack of photographs for this particular attraction. We did get a couple of snapshots in the entrance though. I wish we could’ve gotten more!

The Holiday Inn, Elyria, Ohio

We made the trek back to our parking garage, only to find that damn thing had CLOSED about fifteen minutes prior to our return. There were a few other Indians fans with the same problem who were trying to find a solution. We got into our cars and drove down to the entrance and pretty just pushed the stupid blocker bar thingies up to get out. What was humorous is that there were two strapping lads trying their damndest to get the bar to lift, when along comes Ed, who basically pushes the whole structure up with about two of the muscles in his smallest finger (and no, I’m not referring to his “area,” you sick bastards). He walked away feeling like the Incredible Hulk, and made fun of the two guys who couldn’t lift if. Kyle whooped his trademark jeer as we pulled away: “Don’t’ forget your purses!”…

Our $50 Priceline weekend Holiday Inn awaited us 30 minutes away, and we got there with no problems, happy to see the deal we earned by hours of online hotel searching the night previous. We grabbed some Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner (about our fifth consecutive bad idea in regards to cuisine), and hit the hay, hoping and praying to God that the 60% chance of thunderstorms being forecasted for the next day at Cedar Point were false. I’ll admit, there was a moment in which we weren’t sure if we’d get our opportunity to ride the world’s fastest and tallest roller coaster. We implored, and we slumbered, waiting…

Day 5:
We woke up to a sky full of clouds, and a sky full of even darker clouds in the direction of Sandusky, where the sacred Point of Cedar lie. We drove around to like three grocery stores in Elyria before heading up north to try and find the discounted Cedar Point tickets before finally finding the right one. We agreed that the seven dollar discount was probably worth the twenty minutes spent. Of course, it would be moot if the rain came crashing down (as it was still forecasted to do) in Sandusky. However, this was a risk we were willing to take.

Cedar Point Theme Park, Sandusky, Ohio

When we got to Sandusky, it was sprinkling a little bit, but it wasn’t too bad. It seemed like the potential for rain scared away a lot of likely roller coaster riders. So at least that was a good thing. We lulled into the park right as it opened (more or less), and headed straight for the coaster that Ed said was the best one he had ever ridden in his entire life: Millennium Force. It wasn’t the fastest and tallest; that one’s called the Top Thrill Dragster, but as this particular ride can not function if there is even a drop of precipitation, it was not in use at that particular time. Millennium Force, however, looked more than impending.

The wait wasn’t too bad (only 30 minutes), but by the time we got to the front of the line, the rain had picked up considerably. Now, Cedar Point isn’t like Six Flags, where the rides get shut down if there’s any kind of rain. No, they run ‘em until there’s lightening and/or high winds. THAT’S what I’m talking about! At least, that was my state of mind BEFORE riding the Force in downpour. The only way to put it is through my younger brother’s words: “The rain feels like… NAILS!” And my GOD did it ever. However, piercing precipitation aside, Ed was right in it’s being the coolest coaster of all time.

As we waited in wet lines for the other rides, I did notice that the general visitor of Cedar Point was approximately 75-85% less trashy than inhabitants of Great America in Gurnee. You know the type: morbidly obese women wearing tea cozies for shirts, men with mullets and hairy chests, slutty children wearing tattered second-hand name brand clothes suitable only for wiping ones mouth or nuclear warhead testing. Big thumbs up to the residents of Sandusky and those out-of-towners visiting the park that day. You all were high class in my book. My book, however, is not of a high standard, so take that for it’s worth.

As it turns out, there was a window of about an hour where there was no rain, so the Top Thrill Dragster opened up for the first time all day. We were in the right place at the right time, and hopped into line with virtually no wait once the ride officially opened. The ride itself is not long at all, as it lasts about 20 seconds at the most, but the feeling you get when you go from zero to 120mph in like a SECOND is incomparable. If it were longer, it would’ve beaten Force as the coolest coaster of all time, but as it stands it finished in a very close second. After that, there was little reason to stay, so we took ourselves and our damped Midwest Road Fest t-shirts back to our car and began our 8-hour drive back home.

To Ed and Kyle: Congratulations on a trip well-traveled. We shall have to conquer three new states next summer! I have no reservations in labeling the Midwest Road Fest an extremely successful Road Trip. And for the record, the whole five-day excursion cost about 300 bucks. Not bad, eh?

Monday, August 01, 2005

Midwest Road Fest, Day 3

Day 3:
Our evening on the southern outskirts of Indianapolis was fun, even though Kyle was awaken at 2:00 in the morning by stomach cramps so violent that a movie about them would be rated R, and after packing up our clothing and foodstuffs, we hopped onto I-74 en route to Cincinnati to visit Kyle’s and my cousin, Nikki. The interesting thing is that Kyle and I hadn’t seen this particular cousin since we were about 5 and 7 years old, so we were both pretty interested in “meeting” her, her husband Charles, and her brand new baby girl Kaitlyn. We had about a 2-hour drive and a time change once we got into Ohio, so we hit the road pretty early. On we go!

Tree in Clock Tower, Greensburg, Indiana

Our first stop of the day was actually an impromptu visit off of I-74 east early on Friday morning. We passed a sign for “Beautiful Downtown Greensburg” that pictured a clock tower with a tree growing of it. I remembered seeing this when planning out the road trip, but for one reason or another, I forgot to include it. There’s not much to say about it other than it’s a tree growing out of a clock tower, but the real story was the “Get’r Done” sticker we saw on the gas station window. It brought us to the realization that we really were in the heart of Whitetrashville, and that if we stayed in Greensburg much longer, we’d end up on the Board of Trustees, which was obviously not something any of us had much aspiration to achieve.

Nikki & Charles, Cincinnati, Ohio

It’s amazing how much more interesting the drive is in Ohio than Indiana and Illinois. In the latter states, the ground is completely flat and adorned exclusively with corn. Ohio is much hillier with more trees and fields. I’ve got to say that I’d much rather drive through there than the Illiana area, but I’m digressing. In Cincinnati, we pulled into the wonderfully quaint home of Nikki and Charles. It was the perfect home for a young couple with a baby. As they grow older and Nikki starts producing babies by the baker’s dozens, they’ll want something bigger, but as the kid count stays in single digits, their current place of residence is perfect.

We sat around and chatted for a little while, touring the house, meeting the dogs, and playing with the baby, but as it was growing close to lunch time, we asked Charles to direct us to a restaurant with some local color. He immediately suggested Skyline Chili, a Cincinnati exclusive, and since it sounded so delicious we compliantly followed the Elder family to this local eatery. Kyle got spaghetti noodles covered in Chili and about four pounds of cheese, while Ed and I indulged in chili cheese dogs. Our meals were delicious, but on the cusp of an evening at the 8Lucky Buffet, any meal causing further intestinal discomfort was probably a bad idea. We, of course, realized this in retrospect, but as the chili wasn’t actually poisonous (as was the Chinese food of the previous evening), we emitted what was necessary from our bodies, as only three males in a tiny car are able to do, and prepared ourselves for our next destination.

Author’s Note: I understand that there has been a lot of detail as to the amount of pooting that took place over the course of this trip, but as I am trying to give you all the most accurate trip recap as possible, I find it necessary to omit no details, no matter how unpleasant. We’re all grown people, right? Okay fine, I’ll keep the fart stories to a minimum from here on out…

Jungle Jim’s Grocery Store, Fairfield, Ohio

Since Charles had taken the day off for our visit, and we were pretty much done with lunch by 12:30, he and Nikki (and the baby) decided to join us on our venture to Jungle Jim’s themed grocery store, which is a few miles northwest of Cincy and a very short distance from Nikki and Charles’s old place. They knew their way around the store and served as more than affable tour guides, and in a place as huge as this, tour guides were almost necessary!

The store itself is jungle themed on the exterior, but the inside is full of crazy novelty exhibits and strange departmental oddities. For example, the liquor department was one of the most extensive I’ve ever seen. We found some of the most oddly-named alcohols we had ever seen (example: Old Leghumper Beer and Fat Bastard wine). We snapped a shot of the three of us with Charles in front of The Cold Beer Cave, which was awesome. We also located all sorts of disgusting meet products, such as boar’s head and chicken’s feet. There were all kinds of novelty sections, including a seafood area with live fish and shark meat, and an isle devoted entirely to hot sauces (affectionately nick-named “The Inferno”). Overall, the place was incredible, and we probably could’ve spent an entire day just in this one store, but it was time for us to bid adieu to the Elder family and continue our quest through Ohio.

Chateau de la Roche (The Rock Castle), Loveland, Ohio

And so begins the story of an old World War I veteran who was pronounced dead in a wartime hospital, only to be brought back to life by an early experiment with adrenaline. He moved back to the states, fell in love with a woman who spurned him at the altar, and settled in the Ohio backwoods to build a stone castle with his bare hands.

Actually, the original reason for building the castle was to have a giant clubhouse for his “Knights of the Golden Trail,” a boys group he started to help young men do woodsy things with an old guy (I guess… Believe me, we have many theories as to his adoration for the youthful male). The story is kind of weird, but the castle itself was one of the coolest stops on the entire trip. It took the old man his entire life to finish building the thing, and the final results are amazing. There was a dungeon, castle towers, and a beautiful garden out back. We spent some time joking around in the dungeon, wondering what Michael Jacksonesque activities had been undertaken down there (Kyle’s Off-Color Comment of the Day: “Now, if you want to be a REAL Knight of the Golden Trail…”), and we got a more than complete view of the rest of the building before leaving. Off all the things we visited on this trip, I’d definitely file this one under the “Definitely Recommend” section.

The Santa Maria, Columbus, Ohio

We were in a hurry to make it to Columbus because the last boat tour ended at 5:00. Kyle put the peddle to the floor, and we pulled into our parking spot at about 4:58 and ran down to the river where the boat was docked. All of our hustle was for naught, as the one remaining female employee was lifting the bridge to Chris Columbus’s replicated vessel. We spent a short period of time mourning our missed opportunity, but soon realized that there wasn’t much to see inside anyway, and the worker chick took a picture of us in front of the boat as Kyle mumbled under his breath that this was an inadequate replacement for a boat tour. The boat was pretty cool, and we got a few shots of it just so we could try and convince somebody that it actually WAS the real Santa Maria. Seriously, it is. Columbus was even there, and he told us so.

The First Wendy’s, Columbus, Ohio

Kyle and Ed treat food at Wendy’s like it’s going to turn their bowels into solid gold. I enjoy the place, but the other guys would have made love to Wendy herself had she been there to present herself. We ordered our food and popped squats in a booth so we could take in all of the Wendy’s memorabilia around us. There was the dress that young Wendy posed in to create the logo, a costume for the Wendy mascot (which we affectionately called “Hot Wendy”), and a giant portrait of the young girl who inspired the design for Hot Wendy (who we affectionately called “Mungo”). There was even a small part of the restaurant that saved the decor and furnishings of the original store. It was quite 1970 (translation: "brownish"), but still pretty cool. The food, of course, was rather tasty, and after taking a few posed camera shots inside the restaurant, we hopped back in the car for the third of our triumvirate of Columbus attractions.

The Book Loft, Columbus, Ohio

Hands down, this was the most remarkable book store in which I have ever stepped foot. It’s located in Columbus’s beautiful historic German Village, and it really reminded me of Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley. Inside, the store is partitioned into 32 separate rooms, each of which represents a different genre of book, and all of which is packed completely full of books. Again, this was an attraction where we could’ve spent an entire day (at least I could have, but as a nerdy 23-year old English teacher, what does one expect?). We stayed for a good hour, but eventually had to leave. Kyle and I finally found where Ed had been hiding the entire time, and we hit the road for the day’s final attraction.

Giant Ears of Corn, Dublin, Ohio

Overall, Columbus was the most beautiful area of the entire trip. The city itself was pretty large, but was essentially immaculate, and the suburban areas were some of the most beautiful I’d ever seen. Dublin is actually a north ‘burb of Columbus, and the three of us were all in shock as to how beautiful the area was. The grass was so green that it made Green jealous, the trees were full and lush, and the roads and buildings all looked like they had been built or renovated in the last five years. It was all in just beautiful condition. If I was forced to stay in any one town for our road trip for the rest of my life, I think I’d choose Dublin. I’m not kidding; it was BEAUTIFUL!

The giant ears of corn were definitely… different. They just sit out in a field on the edge of town. There’s 109 of them, and each one is a six-foot tall concrete statue. There’s not much more to say about them then that. I think they were built as a memorial to one of the area’s prominent farmers, but don’t quote me on that. Ed spent some time romping through the field, and we all happily seized the chance for some terrific pictures. At this point in the day (which was a long and entertaining one), the sun was starting to hang low in the sky, and we had plans to stay with a friend of Ed’s that night in Cleveland Heights, which was two hours away. So, we wasted little time and hurried back onto the road to end our wonderful first day in Ohio.

Ed’s Friend’s Place, Cleveland Heights, Ohio

We ended up at the house of one of Ed’s medical school friends pretty late in the evening, but that didn’t stop us from having more fun. We were actually supposed to stay there for that night and the night following, but the couple inhabiting the house had plans to visit Pittsburg the following evening, leaving us to scramble for a hotel near Sandusky Ohio for the following night. After a helluva lot of internet searching and phone calling, we found a hotel through Priceline for only $50 (the previous winner was $120—it was a weekend, and we were looking for lodging near one of the country’s largest theme parks). We were set for a Holiday Inn about 30 miles south of Cedar Point, so we put away the stressfulness and enjoyed the rest of our evening with our new pals. Exhausted, we all slept like babies that night.