Wednesday, July 13, 2011

National Jerkfaces' Vacation

Like many of you, as a child my family would embark on the time-honored tradition of "the family vacation." There was singing "100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" and those fun games like "Eye Spy" and everything went swimmingly and we look back on the photographs from those times--the ones where everyone is grinning from ear to ear--and laugh and recall the joyous moments that truly make up a family vacation.

What a load of horseshit.

 The Great Camping Migration of 1981. Sadly, the RV we're standing in front of like a bunch of orphans wasn't ours. But all that crap behind us was.

From the time I was very young, my parents would take my older Brother Jerkface and I camping. Sure, we did other stuff but it was mostly camping. My parents said it was because they were tight on money and couldn't take us to Disney World but I have my suspicions that they didn't want my sibling and I around the more civilized youngsters, opting instead to let us run amok in the woods, because the deer wouldn't care if we beat the crap out of each other or told fart jokes or something. Part of me also wonders if they weren't trying to pull a Hansel and Gretel on us and leave our wild asses in the woods.

Regardless, like good parents, they would load up the car, squish their two young children into the backseat and take off into the wilderness, usually leaving something important behind, like a hammer. Or the tent. Honestly? While I do remember all those camping trips as being fun and exciting, I also recall them being absolute shitshows, where everything would go wrong -- whether it was forgetting incredibly necessary items, or the car breaking down, or swarms of stinging insects -- the shit just always hit the fan. Hard.

More or less how I remember camping as a kid. I think it rained every single time we went out.

The second we pulled out of our neighborhood, my brother and I would become these little evil Tasmanian Devil-esque terrorists in the backseat. I think it's some kind of evolutionary defense. You suddenly realize you're going to be stuck back there FOREVER and your little-kid brain just completely fizzes out and you lose it. Or Brother J. and I are just assholes. Don't forget - when I was growing up, there were no video screens/entertainment centers or iPods or... really much of anything in the car. You had an FM/AM radio and, if you were really lucky (we weren't) a walkman. We were left to entertain ourselves, which mainly involved pinching the shit out of each of other.

Fuck "100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall." I recall hours of "she/he's touching me!!!" or "STOP STARING AT ME, MOOOOOOOM, HE'S STARING AT ME!!!" or any other variation of the complete obnoxious asshattery that only occurs when you strap two children into the backseat of the car for hours upon hours. This would go on until my father would finally pull over the car and scream incoherently at us, his face purple.

Once in awhile Mommy (not a)Jerkface would try a new tactic to stop us from killing each other or giving Daddy (not a)Jerkface a rage-induced coronary. For awhile they used to pile all the gear between my brother and I, like a Berlin Wall made of sleeping bags and coolers full of potato salad. We would tear down this wall before we hit the next state and the vicious cycle of endless taunting, goading and fighting would begin all over again.

 I'm the smaller boy who looks like I'm about to have a demonic seizure. Also, my next post is going to be about how my mother dressed me like a boy when I was a kid and is surprised that I'm not exactly lady-like now.

One year, M(na)J gave each of us a roll of quarters and told us that each time we were shitheads (well, she didn't use that word) she would take a quarter away. We were only in Pennsylvania when Brother Jerkface balled that roll of quarters in his fist, punched me in the arm as hard as he could and calmly handed over the whole roll to our mother.

I think we were fourteen and eleven at the time.

The only saving grace for my parents was my motion-induced narcolepsy, which would render me completely unconscious for hours on end, or until my brother would become bored of staring out the windows and decide to torture me again.

 If I had a superpower, this would be it. Millions of people have NOT been viciously murdered because I can fall asleep while riding public transportation. You're welcome.

Eventually, the family vacations stopped when we became teenagers and started getting busy with our own lives. Secretly, I think everyone was a little relieved. 

About ten years went by without us taking a vacation together -- both my brother and I had moved out and gone to college by that point -- when my parents suddenly decided they wanted to take one last vacation together. So we went to Florida. I was twenty-five and my brother was twenty-eight.

I'll spare you the major details, but I will say my folks wised up and made Brother Jerkface and I drive and fly separately from them. Which was probably a good thing because we got into a fight at the airport on the way home and Brother Jerkface snatched my boarding pass and ID right out of my hands and threatened to leave me in Florida. Apparently I can be really annoying. Who knew?

Oh? It bothers you when I do this? Well, if that's the case, I'll just keep doing it over and over and over again...

In the end, we all had a grand time and I'm pretty sure when we all got to our homes, we dumped our bags on the ground and thought, "That was... nice. Thank fucking god I don't ever have to do that again."

Don't get me wrong, I don't dislike my family. I love them very much and we get along famously (well, mostly). There is just something about the 24/7 forced interaction between family members on a vacation that can turn anyone into an axe-wielding killer. It's really nothing personal. In some ways, I think that's the charm of vacationing with your family: it proves that you love them because you haven't smothered them in their sleep.

To be honest, I haven't really given much thought to the whole "family vacation" thing in awhile. I don't even really vacation with ML (since he's always on traveling with the band), much less my family. Instead, I vacation with all of you. WIN!!!

But that's about to change. A couple of days ago, M(na)J called me up and mentioned that the family (my parents, Brother Jerkface and his wife, The Good Jen) are planning to go up to visit my grandmother and other various people I'm related to in Michigan.

Five days. Four nights. Family. Michigan. Oh-holy-fucking-shit-on-a-shingle.

That was pretty much the only thing I could process, until M(na)J also stated that she thought it was a good idea if we rented a van and all drove together.

Then my head fucking exploded and I think I did that nervous, incredulous laugh thingy--the one I do when I'm either really drunk or feel threatened in some way [or both] -and told her I wasn't sure I would be able to make it.

 One way or another I may end up in a van like this...

But I will. Even if it means spending twelve goddamned hours in a car with ML, my parents and the Good Couple, I know I'm going to do it. It's not going to be pretty and M(na)J still hasn't responded to my email where I asked if her if it was cool if I bring a flask in the van but... I'll do it.

Because they are family, after all.


  1. My little Sis & I almost killed each other in the car on multiple ocassions. Here here!

    We didn't vacation per se. My parents drove us up (1.5 hours) to Disneyland and we'd stay in a Motel 8...and quite a few times we went camping down in Mexico (when it was safe.) My Dad was and still is a surfer, so camping in Mexico on the beach was how we rolled.

    Loved seeing those old pics JJ, and I too looked like a boy.

    xo J

  2. PS JJ- You sure know how to tell a story. You are such a phenomenal writer. I was just telling DG that every single sentence you write is descriptive & often funny... It's always been that way with you. Hope you know how talented you are.

  3. Wow! Memories!

    And this is THE ONLY good thing that happens when both of your parents are gone. No more spending your vacations and holidays traveling with them, or traveling to visit them. As long as they are still alive, you keep doing it because you can't handle the guilt trip that comes with doing your own thing.

    Still, I'd like to remind you all that they won't be around forever, so just suck it up and try to enjoy them while you can! If you try really hard to appreciate them [instead of trying really hard to annoy them] you may even have a good time. Or maybe you can just take pleasure in at least making them happy for a bit.

    And definitely bring the flask!

  4. This post gave me flashbacks family camping trips. I'm from the Pac. Northwest, so we did it all, mountains, plains, ocean. My brother would drop "seapickles" and then dare my sister to catch them.
    Oh and million mile road trips. Three mouthy brats squished into the back of my dad's economy coupe. Sweet baby cheese-its I need a Xanax to delve into that blackhole of suck.

  5. Reading your vacation stories makes me so glad that my 3 sisters are 10-15 years older than me! Two were married and out of the house before I think I was in school.

    I've always said that the best vacations you have are the ones with your pretend family.

  6. My father always wanted to stop and walk through every old cemetery we would see on the road and I remember one time a giant dog came running after us in the graveyard and we all had to run for our lives.
    When we all piled in the car we saw that my father had his belt in his hand which made us all like, "what the fuck??? were you going to whip it to death?"
    But anyway...the worst vacations make the best memories, imho.

  7. My sisters are 15 and 18 years older than me so no holiday family road trips for me! I wish i had a brother or sister to punch me in the car, JJ you are pretty lucky!!

  8. Great post! All nostalgic and shit. Makes me remember the time we drove down to Cedar Point in our Geo.

    Me, my older "step" brother, my younger bro, and my youngest baby bro with my mommypants and "step" dad. In a Geo. My baby bro rode the whole way on my mom's lap while step pops drank Natty Light. One in his hand, one between his legs, and a cooler between the seats. How we didn't get pulled over, or how we didn't die is beyond me. Needless to say, the "father figure" has been kicked to the curb a long time ago, but those memories will last a lifetime.

    And holy fucking duck dammit...That Annyong pic made me cringe like a nun walking through a Twitarded convention. The most annoying part about that pic is the epic spelling disaster!

  9. I am an only child. I realise this was not by choice, but by fate - but that didn't stop me HATING my parents when we went on holiday. The back seat by yourself? BORING!

    Hence I am now an absolute pro at reading in a moving vehicle - none of this 'I feel sick' business. I was also an absolute pro at pretending to 'sleep' so that I could eavesdrop on my parents' conversations in the front seat. Fairly sure (99%) they saw thru that great plan!

    I now travel a lot for work, almost exclusively by myself, and practically despise anyone who wants to speak to me on a plane. Like the dairy farmer I sat next to yesterday. Do I look like I wanna talk about the weather for an hour, buddy?

  10. What city are you venturing to in Michigan? I'd be happy to help you find an alcohol induced peace of mind.

    I think it's a law that it has to rain while you are camping. The crappier your tent, the harder the rain. mother nature is a nasty bitch.

  11. Aaaah the happy memories of punching, pinching, slapping and screaming in the back seat... Goodtimes. I also used to be able to read while travelling which I think saved us all. My sister is not a reader, so she would get bored and try to gently persuade me (read slap) to play something with her. ("I'm boooooored. Niiiiiiiikki plaaaaaaaay with me" *poke, poke, poke, SLAP* on repeat ad nauseum. And she's the eldest) But as I got older I couldn't read anymore because I developed the most horrendous motion sickness, which still plagues me to this day and is also the reason I can't watch 3-D movies (I'm sure you're all going to sleep much better now you now THAT about me).

    Fortunately as my motion sickness got worse, so did my sister's motion narcolepsy, so there's that.

    BTW JJ, can I just say that I think you missed your calling. There MUST be an opeing for a Professor of Cussology somewhere!

  12. I also was wondering where you were heading in Michigan. We might be able to give you our wisdom for sneaking away ;-)

  13. Oh, the memories of being stuffed into a station wagon and driving through 11 states in 11 days (the larger states in the west, no less). Dad screaming at us to shut up, my mom pointing out the cows and horses on the road, my sister throwing up every 100 miles or so. Oh, fun times. I still cringe at the thought of a family vacation, although we did make it to Florida once with the kids. Luckily, they had DVD players and they watched Pirates of the Caribbean at least 15 times through the entire drive. And yes, they still poked each other but no one threw up - Gravol (not available in the US) is a savior of car trips.
    Thanks for the memories.

  14. Whenever we drove from Washington State to Montana or Wyoming the parents would put my little bro & I back in the bed of the pick up truck under the canopy. Good thing it was always summertime going over the passes. I don't think they could even hear us back there. LOL! Of course that's illegal NOW.

  15. Ah! the days of station wagons, roll-up windows, rear-windows that let all the car fumes in the back, seat-belts that were used to strangle siblings with...nope, we didn't use them for the intended purpose...crackly, dashboard speaker only radios, little ash trays in the backseat arm rests filled with wadded gum, nobody wanting to sit on the "hump" I can't even remember the vacation part in hot and humid NJ or upstate NY (sometimes PA)...just the road trip...thanks for the memories JJ! It's this generation that grew up to invent the SUV....and ya wonder why they sold a bazillion of them! We were all traumatized in our youth!

  16. @Twired Jen - Awww, thanks, bb. You have no idea how mushy that makes me feel.

    @LindsayRae - I can't believe you're the only one who noticed! I actually had to look at it a couple of times before I realized it was wrong. Annnnd that's why I kept it. You know, to be extra "annyong"

    I'm pretty sure most of you remember just how awful it was to sit in the backseat of a car for a painfully long time, regardless of whether you had a sibling trying to give you wet willies for four hours straight or not. Gotta love it!

  17. The Snarky Clan used to drive to Maine every summer - ditto on the station wagons, arm-punching, bickering, all that good stuff! But c'mon - you could only play mad-libs or those invisible ink game books for so many miles before all hell would break loose in the back seat of the station wagon!

    p.s. i am SO glad the we never went camping - my dad probably would have enjoyed it, but I am sure Mama Snarky would have said NO WAY (and I am with her - more of a "glamper" myself).

  18. Ah yes, the joys of family vacations. Long road trips. Camping. I'm sure my brother and I were little devils in the back seat. (He's touching me!)

    Two summers ago I drove my parents round trip Seattle to S. Dakota and now I know what they put up with from me and my brother 'cause they were just as bad. At least they both weren't in the back seat, and their hearing isn't great so they missed 75% of the barbed comments. But honest to god, there were times when I wanted to leave either or both at the side of the road.

    I've decided as an adult, road trips are much better done with good friends.

    @JJ - I think the flask is a good idea. But only if you can hold your pee.

  19. It's nice to know that my two girls are totally normal as they fight in the car all the time.

    My brothers and I used to play 'family' in the car. My oldest brother was called Friedrich (inspired by Sound of Music) and he was our special child. He would smash his face in the car window and drool profusely and scream at cars passing by. Back in the good ole days there were no carseats or those creatively cockblocking seatbelt laws, so we had free reign of the whole back end of the station wagon....there was fort building, finger gesturing, inappropriate sign waving, farting, napping, and wrestling. I think my parents had ear plugs in. Crazy.

  20. You want to know the funniest part of this post....the fact that I am reading it just hours before my fam is leaving on, yes, you guessed it a 'family vacation'. Not just any vacation, but a family reunion organized by my FIL which will include a 5.5 hour drive with my hubs, 5 yo son, 5 yo niece & my brother in law. Can you sense my overwhelming excitement & joy??? Me neither.

  21. @Kintail - Now that I'm an adult, I kind of want to strangle my parents when I'm in the car with them. My father refuses to listen to anyone's direction and then will become completely irate when we get lost. It's... fun.

    @Norcaltwitard - Have fun!! Don't kill anyone.

  22. @jj - I made it home alive & so did everyone else. Although, I have to say following your advice got a million times harder when my MIL showed up. js.


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