Hello friends! Over this past weekend I took a long-awaited road trip from southeast Michigan to New Orleans, Louisiana, with my sister and my fiancée (for the record, they are two different people). It was a bit of a marathon trip, leaving Friday night at about 23:30, and arriving back at 7:30 on Tuesday morning, a round trip of just over 2,000 miles. It was a lot of fun, and I hope to post about my impressions of the City of New Orleans itself soon (as that is apparently what one does with a blog), but first I'm going to break with convention and let you all in on the official (and requisite) inside joke of the road trip. As is often the case with road trips, we had already stumbled upon various inside jokes which had some potential to be the Official Road Trip Inside Joke, but we just weren't sure.
Certainly,Waffle House is almost funny enough to be The Joke in and of itself, but it's so ubiquitous that it felt too old hat. Speaking of hats, the official Waffle House site is selling hats to benefit something called the Tour de Georgia. They also have a testimonials page. For Waffle House. We stopped for an early morning breakfast at a Waffle House, and it was just as ghetto as I remember it being. It turns out that they only serve one variety of waffle, and they sell exactly zero fruit toppings for said waffle. Call me crazy, but I expected a little better. Not only is the word "waffle" in their name, it's the first word in their name. Just look at that sign:If you only read one of those words, it's probably going to be "waffle." If Burger King sold only plain hamburgers, with pickles and ketchup and no cheese, I don't think they'd be doing so hot. By the way, if you ever happen to go to a Waffle House (and come on, it's gonna happen), ask to have your maple syrup heated up. We did. Much to our surprise, they didn't take the little syrup pitcher thing off of the table, but instead walked away, only to return a few seconds later with two cups. Each cup was full of warm water, with two travel packets of maple syrup floating in it. That, my friends, is Klassy with a capital K. Perhaps even funnier/scarier than Waffle House's apparent success is the existence of imitators (click for to make bigger):Waffle House, meet Omelet Shoppe. Omelet Shoppe, Waffle House.
But what am I talking about here? I was going to tell you about the Official Inside Joke of the trip. It was only a short while after passing the Omelet Shoppe that we pulled into the town of Bessemer, Alabama, looking to make a short stop for supplies, and there it was. We knew as soon as we saw it, despite having not slept the night before, that we were witnessing something special. It was Destiny that had led us to that exit, to that small town whose most distinctive features were a large iron pipe foundry, and someplace called Red's "Ok" Barbershop (we at the P.R.D.C. can neither encourage nor discourage your patronage of said establishment).
Then, it happened. My memory of that moment is both vivid and unclear. It was a sunny day. April 19th, 2008. My sister was driving. Lindsey was asleep in the back seat and I was in the passenger seat, camera in hand, aimlessly photographing the passing scenery. We were stopped at a red light, wondering aloud why a town of this size wouldn't have a Wal Mart. I turned to look out my side window and there it was, gleaming in the noontide sun. I was transfixed. I felt a rush of pure euphoria, as if the answer to every question I'd ever asked as I stared into a starlit sky were immediately answered, and that every answer led to a thousand more questions. I don't know what happened next. Before I knew it, the traffic light had changed, and we had moved on. I found myself once again on a wide thoroughfare in Bessemer, Alabama. Everything seemed the same as it had been a moment before, but somehow I knew that it wasn't, and that it never again would be. I looked down at the camera in my still-shaking hands. Somehow, without my being aware of it, I had taken a picture, a picture that contained within its four corners a glimpse into the infinite:
EVER WHATCHA NEED! EVER FREAKING WHATCHA NEED! A phrase so beautiful that language itself had to be destroyed for its creation to take place. I have spent hours since that fateful moment trying to figure out how to use that phrase in an actual sentence or conversation. It cannot be done. Ever Whatcha Need defies context. I'm going to have a t-shirt made of that, and I'll wear it everywhere, spreading hope and joy and confusion wherever I go. I'm going to make a poster board containing only that phrase, and I'll hold it up at sporting events. If they ever invent a specifically Catholic sport, I can spell it out as Ever WhaTcha Need, and they'll show it on Catholic cable television. I'm going to name my firstborn child Lambert "Ever Whatcha Need" Cous (Lambert's a good name, right?).
Ok, whew. That's all for now. Stay tuned for my upcoming post on the City of New Orleans, as well as an exciting comparison of Waffle House and the International House of Pancakes.