Saturday, October 25, 2014

Steamboat Adventures, Part 1

Raquelle: Here I am, to write up a stupendously scintillating narrative of our recent excursion to the Festival of Riverboats in Louisville, KY. (If you don't know what that is, it's where a bunch of nifty old steamboats have, like, a steamboat reunion and bring potato salad and sit around in lawnchairs in the river and reminisce. Hey, Belle of Cappuccino, you 'member that time we run into a tree snag down in Tucson and like to sunk to death before they plugged up the hole with tobacco barrels?)

Heather: There aren't any riverboat routes in Tucson.

Raquelle: How do YOU know? *looks belligerent*

Heather: Cuz it’s in a DESERT, moron.

Raquelle: Anyhow, about two hundred Civil War reenactors from all over the country attended the event in period dress. That included US and Grandma and Gramps. Grandma and Gramps have been married sixty years this summer and we wanted the trip to be a celebratory vacation for them. Here's a sneak peek of us below, and yes we DO look dashing, don't we? Thanks for mentioning it.

Now, before I go on, I feel the need to insert some sort of dust jacket blurb to Peak Your Interest. It needs some sort of breathtaking plot summary and a bunch of inane leading questions. Let's see:

Raquelle was a striking brunette [that part sounds good, I'll keep that] with a thirst for adventure and ribbon ruching. The steamboats were handsome and dashing, but underneath their glossy veneer lurked A Past. When Raquelle and the steamboats met, it was love at first sight--or was it? Will Raquelle find the thrill her heart yearns for? [We don't exactly know what that thrill is, but it sounds good.] Will Raquelle get to play a calliope? Will Raquelle's cat go on a hunger strike while she's gone? Will the Bad Plumbing Luck that the Sheens can't shake off follow them to Louisville? Will a bird poop on Raquelle's head like one did a Stan Clardy Civil War concert a few years ago? Will Heather figure out that Raquelle is talking exclusively about herself and ignoring everyone else in this blog? Will you REGRET failing to spend $4.95 on this cheesy Penguin Classic cruddy paperback version of Raquelle's adventures? 

There, that sounds pretty perky. I oughtta publish myself on Kindle. I am just. that. good.

Heather: Don’t quit your day job.

Raquelle: Our steamboat adventures actually began about six months before in the sewing room. There, by dint of working night and day and often into the wee hours of the morning, the Sheen ladies churned out 8.5 new dresses, trimmed a hat and three bonnets (mine has a BIRD'S NEST ON IT), made I-don't-remember-how-many-headpieces, trimmed and made a pouche pompadour purse, finished a mantle, made a gazillion shoe rosettes, and I don't remember what else. Raquelle (that's me, in case you've forgotten) was the Dress Mastermind. Most of the new dresses were designed and/or overseen by my bossy fingers. Heather was the Rosette Mastermind and cranked out rosettes and cockades galore. Mom was the Floral and Millinery Mastermind and made all of the headpieces and corsages and almost everything else pertaining to millinery. Dad, being a wise and patient man, stayed out of the whole schmazz and only popped in to periodically compliment the process and recite carefully, "That Looks Nice, Dear."

And Wednesday-Cat obligingly kept us company and purred and curled up in the middle of the dresses in progress whenever possible. 

I know you don't really care about all that, but since I just invested six months of free time into all that sewing, you are going to hear about it whether you want to or not. In fact, I think it all bears repeating. We made 8.5 new dresses, trimmed a hat and three bonnets---

Heather: I know, I know and your bonnet has a BIRD'S NEST ON IT--

Raquelle: Yes, that's right!!! See? Lookee lookee!

Raquelle: And we made I don't-remember-how-many headpieces and--

Heather: Here's a sock. Want a sock?

Raquelle: Why would I want a sock? I have socks.

Heather: For your mouth, I mean. I think your teeth are getting cold, flapping your jaws like that.

Raquelle: Don't insult ME, peasant. I made your evening dress undersleeves, you know.

Heather: I made your shoe rosettes.

Raquelle: I made your red jacket.

Wednesday-Cat: BARF. I made a MESS. How 'bout THAT?

:Raquelle departs to clean up hairball barf:

Heather: One thing you can always count on around here is that a cat will barf at the Critical Moment.

Raquelle: *bounces back in* By the way, let me just crow for a half a sec. We did NOT bring a sewing machine with us to the event. (Some people we know DID. I'm not mentioning names, but I could, so bribe me with chocolate if you don't want it broadcasted publicly. *smirk*) Nor were we sewing the day we left. We finished up EVERYTHING by 11:00 p.m. the night before. I believe this puts us into some sort of elite category. *preens*

We Sheens believe in being Vastly Organized, so we Made Great Plans for how to streamline the event. Heather organized an impressive pile of paperwork and maps into a categorized accordion file. Raquelle printed daily checklists for use on the trip to make sure we brought everything with us on the boat each day. Mom outdid herself organizing outfits and accessories into their appropriate hangup bags. And Dad made the all-important run to KFC the day before to load us up with enough fried chicken to feed six people dinner for several days. We only forgot to check one thing............. wasn't, like, a really BIG thing..............

.................I mean, not exactly............................

...........we forgot to check the geographical location of the Central Time Zone meridian. We were sure that Louisville was an hour earlier than home.

It isn't.

However, we were blissfully unaware of this as Dad scientifically packed the van to the gills. If you've ever traveled with us before (we don't recommend it), you'll know we bring tons of STUFF. This time was no exception. I don't know how many hang-up bags we brought, but we brought at least 25 outfits (really), besides assorted cloaks and wraps. Plus accessories, such as hats, bonnets, walking sticks, parasols, hoops, kits, cats, sacks, wives, HOW many were going to St. Ives???? Plus Heather's cockades and displays. Plus enough food to feed an army. Plus.............why am I telling you all this? It's boring. Never mind.

Heather: It really is boring. And you're never going to finish this blog if you keep prattling like that.

Raquelle: Anyhow, all of that stuff had to be packed JUST SO, so when Heather foolishly tried to retrieve her lunch from the cooler in the back of the van (because I forgot to pack her lunch with everyone else's in the FRONT of the van), she underestimated the precision of the system and foolishly opened the back door without any sort of protective hazmat gear. What a corkbrain. Immediately, as though summoned from afar, the glass vase we'd intended to put Grandma and Gramps' anniversary flowers in, cheerfully popped out of the corner it was wedged into and splintered into a thousand pieces on the ground. Physics at work, right there.


We all LOOKED at each other expressively. I mean, except for me. I was studiously trying to avoid being noticed, since it was my fault for forgetting about Heather's lunch in the first place. *cough*

It was okay, though. We had to gas the van anyway, so we simply picked a gas station next to a Walmart and got a replacement vase. No Sheen vacation is complete without stopping at a Walmart for SOMETHING, so we all felt better that we'd gotten that obligatory stop out of the way right off the bat.

The drive was uneventful. I was on the whole rather thankful that my half-state of exhaustion, induced by late nights and a tiresome cold, made me sleep most of the trip, because I DESPISE driving through the mountains. I have never learned to appreciate the thrill of whizzing down a precipice with a semi on one side and a concrete wall on the other.

Heather: Get a grip. It’s called GREAT SCENERY! Enjoy it!

Somewhere in North Carolina, I think

Raquelle: Yeah, whatever.

We arrived at The Brown Hotel about twenty minutes before Grandma and Gramps. The Brown was built in 1923 and is Very Grand and Very Charming. The only real amenity it lacks is a big, free Hampton-Inn style parking lot. Our oversize van doesn't fit in parking garages, so we opted for the valet parking option. This, coupled with the arduous process of unloading the van, made us form an immediate and close alliance with the patient bellhops, who outdid themselves to be helpful during our stay. We recommend them.

Heather: They never once expressed their (undoubted) stunned amazement at the volume of STUFF we had. However, we still felt the need to explain ourselves and assured them that all that STUFF was for SIX people, not FOUR. “Oh, no big deal,” they said. Which was very polite and inaccurate of them.

Raquelle: We quickly set up a vase of yellow flowers in Grandma and Gramps' room, plus an anniversary goody basket to s'prise them when they arrived.

Then Mom and I started putting away the chaotically-strewn hang-up bags that were making the rooms resemble a poorly managed government-funded construction project. Suddenly, panic struck. We could NOT find Gramps' two 1860s suits. Since they had been made especially for this occasion and formed the bulk of his wardrobe for the weekend, to not have them would be Disastrous In The Extreme. Mom and I began to spaz and paw frantically through all the bags, our stress level climbing faster than the national debt (which grows at $10 million per minute, if you believe Yahoo! Finance. I don't, I think it's more like $15 million). Finally I realized that the suits had fallen off their hangers and were hiding in the bottom of a bag. Ohthankgoodnesstheretheyaremusteatchocolate!!!!!
Crisis averted!!!

Grandma and Gramps arrived next and we gave hugs and said howdys. It was about this time that we made the discovery that, um, Louisville is on Eastern time. Instead of having an extra hour to leisurely unpack, eat supper, and set up Heather's cockade table display at the Meet-and-Greet that evening, we very much time. Heather and I raced downstairs and rapidly set up her table display.

Heather talks about cockades with interested visitors

Browsing visitors soon arrived and Heather had a steady stream of traffic all evening, admiring her original cockades and exploring all the goodies she had for sale. I stood around and tried to answer questions and Look Like A Big Wig.

Heather keeps me fairly up-to-date on all things cockade-related, so it wasn't too hard to Look Knowledegable. She says she wants to hire me, but all the tasks she wants to hire me for are all the things she doesn't want to do. Coincidentally, I don't want to do them either. Besides, she never listens to my advice. I keep trying to get her to start a line of edible cockades with Hershey chocolate bars in the middle and she's like, nope, can't find documentation for that. Hmph. Stickler. So I stick to teaching music lessons.

Heather: That’s cuz your music students HAVE to listen to you. :smirk:

Raquelle: Precisely.

That evening the event hostess, Karen Duffy, called everyone together in the hotel ballroom and gave us an overview of what would happen that weekend and imparted to us some 1860s etiquette tips. I like learning about 1860s etiquette. My favorite Victorian etiquette book is the one with a list of slang no-nos that polite people do NOT say. For instance, did you know it is considered vulgar and unpolished to tell someone that you're depressed by describing yourself as "wamble cropped?" Uh huh, be glad I warned you. It's a social gaffe we're all apt to make.

By the time the Meet-and-Greet wound down, we were all tired. Grandma and Gramps were tired because they had had a two-day drive, besides having just moved to a new town and new house about a week beforehand. I was tired because I had a cold. But, like, I don't know why anybody else was tired. We decided to go to bed before we all got wacky.

So we all went to bed, which I know you don't care about, and eagerly awaited the adventures on the morrow! Stay tuned!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Remember all those inane questions for the dust jacket blurb? You know you want the answers, so make sure you read the next installment. You never know what you might find out..................