Hey, look – today you actually get a few photos!
The second day in Bossier City was mostly designated to be the day of The Grand Sort. Several suitcases of personal items, documents, household items, and other bits and pieces had been stored at SJ’s parent’s while she was in the UK, and this was the day we decided that we needed to go through them to work out what needed to be kept, what could be brought back to the UK with us, what should be left in the US when we left, what could go – either to Goodwill or into the trash – and what we needed to bring with us on the road trip.
The Grand Sort took a good 4 or 5 hours, involving much juggling of things between a variety of suitcases and bags, and some hard and careful decisions. Eventually we managed to get it mostly done, so that by around 2pm we were able to head out.
Nannie had arranged a birthday dinner for SJ for the evening of the 27th (as her birthday would actually happen part-way through the road trip), and we had to go and arrange vital things like an appropriate ice cream cake from Cold Stone Creamery. So, off to the Louisiana Boardwalk we went.
I adore ice cream cake, and miss it very much. I’ve tried to make it, but couldn’t get it right, and rarely have the freezer space to give it a go. Maybe one day … in the mean time, I’ve decreed that Cold Stone Creamery ice cream cake is a must absolutely every time we go to the US, whether there’s an occasion or not!
The boardwalk is essentially an outdoor mall, a bunch of retail stores collected together in a pedestrianised area with attached parking and outdoor piped musak. We went into a few stores – notably Bass Pro, as they sell my favourite kind of socks, and I badly needed new ones, and I needed a decent travel mug to go with the Airpot. I do wonder what the response of some of our English friends would be to Bass Pro. The clothing, footwear, and camping gear probably wouldn’t faze any of them… but then the wide selection of firearms, the hunting gear, the fishing equipment you could bludgeon one shark to death with while reeling in another, and all the rest might make them double-take ever so slightly.
With other errands done, we went into the GIGANTIC WALL OF NOISE. I mean Cold Stone Creamery, I think. It was so loud in there that it was hard to tell, and only the presence of delicious, delicious iced confectioneries really gave it away. After leaving the store so that we could hear ourselves think enough to calculate how large a cake we would need, we braved the Physical Embodiment of Din Upon This Puny World once more to order a cake with a message iced onto it. And because it’s required by law or something, we got some ice cream to eat as we sat in the relative silence out by the river for a while. At least I think it was relative silence; I think my ears had shut down in self-defence at this point.
As it turned out, we could have ordered the cake online, being in the future and all, but between frantic packing, travelling, and illness that wasn’t going to happen. And we wouldn’t have had the tasty ice cream by the river, either, and that would not have been appropriate at all.
After we left the boardwalk we crossed the Texas Street Bridge and just drove around for a while, eventually ending up back over the Red River in Bossier City. We decided to go for a gawp and a giggle at the silly McMansions in Plantation Trace and other subdivisions that have sprung up around it. The buildings in those areas are so weirdly designed, all over-large sloping roofs and peculiar floor layouts and structures with odd sides and nowhere near enough yard space for their size. I got the impression of someone getting their kid to mess around in a CAD program overlaying chunks of building in strange ways…
Heading south we saw in the distance a Great Monstrosity and blemish upon the undeserving land: the new Parkway High School, a new construction that looks more like a prison than a school. Barricaded from the road, hulking in the distance like an expensive, artificial hulking thing, we looked at it with some disgust, and not a little irritation. SJ turned us around and we headed back up to the Parkway she attended, the real Parkway High School, now housing Elm Grove Middle School. To add insult to injury, we pulled up in the parking lot to find that the old Parkway Panthers logo on the boys’ gym had been covered by air conditioning ductwork! To make matters worse, someone had painted “Elm Grove Eagles” at about chest-height further down the wall in abysmal block-lettering that any decent graffiti artist would be embarrassed to stand near. But still, we got out to talk as SJ looked around at some of the band marks on the parking lot – where the marching band used to practice – and did a little marching to see how well her muscles remembered it, reminiscing about the times spent there.
Marching band … such fond memories I have from it. I was so disappointed to learn they don’t have it here. Then I heard about a military tattoo, and got all excited, and dragged Chris down to Birmingham to see one … only to see one of the most boring things I’ve ever come across. They were in an arena (you know, like what popular singers give concerts in). They took the entire floorspace, and simply marched back and forth in straight lines, arranged in simple rectangular blocks of individuals. Blegh. I’ve resigned myself to not seeing marching band performances unless we’re in the US. For any readers confused about why that’s not marching band, this is what I mean by marching band (you can skip to 0:58, when they actually start marching):
Also, here’s a brilliantly-executed vintage show, from Bossier High School, 1960.
Oh, and – my muscles pretty well nailed a standard 8-to-5 (8 steps in 5 yards). Huzzah. I think we had about 1,000 hours of marching practice over the four years, back in my day (an intensive month of 12-hour days just before school started, plus practice throughout the 4-month football season). So in case you wondered, that’s what it takes to ingrain good muscle memory.
We headed back to Cold Stone Creamery for the cake – on which they’d actually managed to spell SJ’s name correctly! – and then on to Ralph & Kacoo’s for SJ’s Birthday Dinner The First.
Remarkably, we got there before the rest of the family, and got there early. Something was obviously wrong with the world! (I’m always late; I’ll be late to my own funeral. It’s just the way of things. It felt very peculiar to be early.) Nannie had arranged for a private room off the main restaurant, and we sat there waiting for the others to arrive. Before long Nannie came in, and then other members of the family arrived in groups of two or three so that eventually most of SJ’s local family were there. Over the meal we were told how SJ’s Uncle the Cyborg and his son had debugged a problem with her Uncle’s cochlear implant. Apparently the implant inside the ear connects to a plate just under his skin, and the pickup and other gubbins sit on the outside (so there’s none of that nasty and easily infected transdermal cabling). There had been a problem in the external hardware, but they’d traced what was wrong on their own – even using the troubleshooting guide, no less – to the utter shock of the audiologist, who proclaimed them her favourite people ever for doing it.
After the entrées had been consumed, SJ opened cards. After a while her cake was brought forth, so I began to get it ready. We’d been unable to find number candles to put on it, so the correct number of individual candles had to be added and individually lit – thankfully SJ’s mother packs at least two lighters, and helped me get all the candles lit, but I still came pretty close to setting my own thumb on fire (which, admittedly, would probably have made it easier to light the remaining candles…).
After we sung the Happy Birthday song and SJ blew out her candles, it was decided that I should be the one to cut and serve the cake. This is a task I have had before, but would have been much, much easier if they had provided an appropriately useful tool for the job rather than a flimsy plastic-handled knife (I, inevitably, managed to break it).
Before too long people began drifting off, as by this point it was getting towards the bedtime for many of SJ’s family (many of whom get up at quite terrifyingly early times in the morning). We needed to go out that evening to pick up more water and Bolthouse Farms Vanilla Chai, so after we’d dropped stuff off at Nannie’s, we headed out again.
As we passed over the Shreveport-Barksdale bridge, there was a section where the streetlights on the bridge were off. While driving through that stretch we noticed that at least one of the car headlights was coming and going, and there was a short period where we may not have had any headlights at all. Just on the other side of the bridge there is a brightly-lit McDonald’s by the side of the road, so we pulled in there so that we could check fuses and see if we could work out what might be wrong. This was Wednesday, and we were due to start on the road trip on Friday: having wonky headlights could have thrown a serious spanner in the works for the journey, and we were both pretty stressed and worried at this point. We couldn’t see anything obvious, and the headlights seemed to be working fine while sat in the parking lot, so we decided to leave exhaustive checking for the morning – in daylight, warmer temperatures, and not on a random parking lot. Thursday had been set aside for working on cleaning and checking the car anyway, so we went into Walmart to buy the things we needed (Walmart’s the only place we can reliably find that Bolthouse Farms drink), and headed back to get ourselves ready for bed.