Frank’s Social Experiment

It had been 11 months, 2 weeks, and 4 days since Frank had had a meaningful interaction with another human being. It wasn’t a Robinson Crusoe situation – isolation enforced by violent shipwreck. No, this was a 21st century isolation, one brought about and enabled by self-checkouts at stores, online bill payments, and (whew!) no medical emergencies to speak of. Frank had been stung by a wasp in his 11 months of isolation – and right on the knuckle of his thumb – but fortunately, despite his thumb swelling up to the size of a marshmallow, a Benedril lozenge had helped alleviate the reaction, and precluded a trip to a doctor.

Frank had received permission to work from home over a year ago, and so had begun his life of seclusion. From then on, his work life consisted of Slack channels and group chats and text messages. But no phone calls – his manager had attempted to call him once, but Frank simply let it ring, waited for a voicemail, and then sent a text in response. Sorry Ms. BlahBlahBlah for missing your call. I can take care of that paperwork this evening. Thanks, Frank.

And for the most part, it was working – work for 8 hours (sometimes 8 hours and 15 minutes if he had a deadline to meet), sign out of his work computer, head to the kitchen for a snack, then to the living room, switch on the TV, lean back on the couch, sink his unclipped toenails down into the fuzzy brown carpet, and begin a new TV show marathon. TV shows were his social life now. When he watched How I Met Your Mother, Frank’s friends for a few short weeks became Ted, Marshall, Lily, and Barney. He started thinking about what the different characters would like, as if they were real people. Barney would approve of the way I wrote this email, Frank would think to himself after authoring a particularly snarky email.

Occasionally, Frank would get unaccountable feelings of…mental hungriness. It was not loneliness, he told himself. When he felt this way, he would go and turn on Parks & Recreation and watch his favorite episodes. It took the edge off, and the feeling would quickly pass. At other times, he thought about how nice it would be to have a girlfriend. Someone like Lily, crossed with Pam from The Office, crossed with some of April Ludgate’s mischievousness.

One day, in a fit of mental hungriness (NOT loneliness), Frank signed up for an online dating profile. Within a couple days, he received a message from a lady named Jill Epwerd. Scrolling through her profile, he discovered she had similar interests to his own. She liked cats, she liked TV shows, she was a software developer and was even a Doctor Who fan! But then Frank reached the bottom of her profile: “…love working out and finding new meals that fit my vegan lifestyle.”

Frank recoiled noticeably from his computer screen. This Jill was no good. She was not the one. Why had he even decided to open the account in the first place? Wasn’t it obvious only extroverts who liked people and exercise would use dating sites? 10 minutes later, Frank had deleted his dating profile and was once again ensconced between cushions on his couch, petting his purring cat Olaf and watching Parks & Recreation (While not pertinent to the story, you will be happy to know that Jill recovered quite admirably from Frank ignoring her message and went on to become quite happily married to a wedding photographer).

But then, one evening, something terrible happened. As Frank was settling down on his couch for a typical evening binge (this time of Persons of Interest), a white streak caught the corner of his eye. Thinking for a moment that his cat Olaf was under him on the couch but unable to keep himself from sitting down at this point, Frank kicked one knee out awkwardly, missed the couch entirely, and landed in a gangly heap on the floor with a CRACK.

“Ow,” said Frank, calmly. A stabbing pain was now shooting through his left leg. “Ow,” he said again. Beginning to move now, leaning on the couch to stand up once again. “OW,” Frank said now, louder and more certainly. He knew that something was badly, badly wrong.


Car Films in Review

There is something appealing about car movies – the thrill of a chase, the growl of an engine, or the elegance of a turn. In that spirit, here is a list (by no means exhaustive) of car movies I have enjoyed.



The film that helped to enshrine the 1968 Ford Mustang as an iconic car in cinema history, I was surprised at how good this film was on its own merits, apart from its famed car chase (starring Steve McQueen!). A slow, brooding sort of film that elects to show more than tell, Bullitt follows detective Frank Bullitt, a police lieutenant tasked to protect a witness for a weekend. Everything unravels from there in what feels like a lighter-than-most noire piece. 4.5/5

Gone in 60 Seconds


Something about Nicholas Cage movies tends to bring a grin to my face – there’s a goofy, charming undercurrent to many of his movies that I’ve yet to get burnt out on. In this heist film, Nicholas Cage plays Randall Raines, a top-notch car thief who is pulled back into the world of car heists to help a family member. 4/5

Speed Racer


A glitzy, glamorous film based on the anime series of the same name, this movie has a apropos cartoonish-ness to it. Weaving backstory into inventive and seamless montages, Speed Racer tells the story of Speed, a talented driver who dreams of following in the footsteps of his older brother and becoming a legendary racer. Though not a film heavy on plot or character–and occasionally getting bogged down with exposition–Speed Racer manages to wring a lot of fun out of the movie’s many races. 3.5/5

Baby Driver


The most recent of the films presented here, this was one of my favorite films of 2017. Combining great car chases with good characterization and a stylish soundtrack, Baby Driver checks all the right boxes for my movie tastes. Baby is a semi-reluctant getaway car driver, and Debra is a waitress at a restaurant. Nothing can keep these two souls apart, except maybe Baby’s career path as a getaway driver. The film centers around the question: can Baby get away from his life as a criminal to live a normal life? With car chases aplenty, this film never drags. 5/5

While there are a bunch of other great car movies I’ve yet to watch, this list gets you up to speed on my latest favorites. From Bullitt to Baby Driver, these films span a variety of genres (though mostly crime-related I suppose?) but have one thing in common: adrenaline-pumping car chases!

George & The Werewolf

George climbed higher towards the apex of the mesa. Stopping at a bend in the rocky upwards path, he sat down stiffly on a nearby rock, and, shaded from the sun by a brambly tree, took a long gulp of water from his flask. Then, reaching down, he tightened the laces on his left shoe, hoping to reduce the chance of further blistering on his heel.

Sitting back again, George surveyed the landscape. From his perch halfway up the steep face of the mesa, he could see rocky mountains on all sides, towering to lazy peaks above his head—he was scaling the baby peak of the bunch, the child surrounded by its bigger siblings. But, George thought, It holds a secret its older brothers do not. Rising, George shouldered his pack once again, and resumed his slow climb. Keeping out of the sunlight was impossible on this climb, though he had a large hat, khaki pants, and a long-sleeved shirt on to protect his skin from roasting.

But it was hot. Sweat evaporated at the arid, high elevation, and a pin-pricking needle-like sensation was the only indication that he was expending sweat to cool himself. He needed to reach the top soon—it would be unbearable come nightfall, and also cold. In addition, George did not know what creatures might come out at night. He had seen deer tracks earlier on his climb, but no deer were foolish enough to venture this high. More recently, he had seen a set of bootprints appear—and only a day or two old. This baffled him, and he felt an anxiety at the uncertainty. Who might this other person be?

George’s guide had not made it—after the first week, when the sun-browned native had become weakened and quickly sickened, George had stopped and set up camp and cared for the man—soaking a rag in cool water and laying it to the man’s forehead. But it was not enough—the man had died. And now George was alone. There was no point but to continue; so after improvising a burial for the loyal guide, George had continued on. But a dread had been slowly building in his heart—what had begun as a grand adventure, here at the end, had become almost dreamlike—and dark.

The sun was lowering, until it finally was only partly peeking over the mountaintops, catching its last glimpse of George, bidding him good night. For his part, George found a secluded crevice beneath an overhang of rock and set up a simple camp for the night—a wood fire assembled from a bone-dry tree he hacked to pieces with a hatchet.

As George arranged the logs for the fire, he thought of how hardy this tree must have been to withstand the harshness of the wild. He even felt a strange sympathy for the tree as it began to crackle and burn. The tree, clinging so fiercely to life, sending its roots deep, around and between and across the rock, finding a way to subsist on the scant light and water it received.

Being alone made George strangely introspective. It was worrisome, slightly, how much thought he was giving a simple tree. He reiterated the truth to himself, for the sake of his sanity: he needed a fire to cook his food, provide warmth, and potentially ward off the creatures of the night, and the tree was the closest available source of fuel; so he had to use it. That was all.

The meal was simple—a dry biscuit, heated slightly, as well as warm soup from a can. He was trying to conserve his supplies, in case his quest took longer than expected. Finishing his meal, he unrolled his sleeping bag and climbed inside. It was going to be a chilly night—not cold, but uncomfortably chilly. A strong breeze blew fitfully along the side of the mesa, threatening at times to snuff out George’s fire. However, George placed a few larger rocks around the windward side of his fire, and it flickered more brightly, then crawled back into his bag.

George’s sleep was wakeful and dark. About midnight, he was startled awake by a guttural howl. Rolling instinctively towards his bag, he pulled out his revolver and squinted out from his crevice in the rocks—he knew the sound well. It was a werewolf.

To be continued by Joseph…

This is part 1 in a 4-part series.

The Last Station

I had arrived, and amid the jungle of other passengers, I could see the station block. Everyone was rising to fetch their bags from the overhead compartments, standing in hunched groups while waiting for others to exit.

For my own part, I had nothing more than a small suitcase–a slate-blue, threadbare affair that had served me well throughout all my travels. Pulling it gently down from the overhead compartment, I rested it on the yellow seat and stood waiting.

As soon as the door opened, the passengers began heading steadily for the door. A lady holding her son by the hand brushed by me, and the boy bumped into one of the seats, dropping a scarf he had half-stuffed into his backpack.

“Ma’am! Excuse me, ma’am,” I said, picking up the scarf and holding it out. “Your boy dropped this.”

Turning, the woman’s careworn face broke into a quick smile. “Thank you!” Turning to her boy, “Burt, you need to be more careful!” They turned and hurried on.

A younger man with reddish hair and a green puffer vest chuckled at the exchange as he walked ahead of me towards the exit. “That’s good karma,” he said. “Something good will happen to you today.”

I shook my head with a grin, “Karma won’t help me now I’m afraid. But, I think you’re right about today.” The puffer-vested man shrugged, stepped off the platform, and hopped off to whatever his destination was.

I arrived at the exit, and looked out at the station. The station landing was breathtaking, a tile-work tapestry of patterns and pictures. Glossy squares made up a sky-blue ocean that spread out on the station floor. Sea monsters peeked out from below, and ships flying full sail cut through the white-tipped waves.

It was a lovely scene, but it was also time to continue. I felt that same familiar flutter I always feel upon venturing home to dear friends and family–the excitement of reunion mixed with the uncertainty and shyness of meeting familiar faces that aren’t quite the same as the time before. But it was all very exciting, so I stepped out onto the waves.

Suddenly, I heard a chorus of familiar voices yelling all sorts of different things at once. “Hurray! You made it! You’re finally here!”

Inspired by Bonhoeffer’s poem “Stations on the Road to Freedom” and biographer Eric Metaxas’s statement:

Bonhoeffer thought of death as the last station on the road to freedom.


Thomas was a gullible boy, as his mom had always said. Something about the time Thomas had traded his brand-new scooter for a beat-up wooden sword a friend was peddling. It was a great sword, mind you, perfect for playfighting and re-enacting.

But unfortunately, being gullible wasn’t something that could always be helped.

Thomas was also easily frightened–his overactive imagination could come up with numerous worst-case scenarios in any given situation–sometimes, sitting in church, he would imagine what he might do if someone came in the front door with a gun and tried to take everyone hostage. Thomas’s plan involved surreptitiously rolling out the side door and sprinting to a house next door to phone the police. Another contingency plan involved hiding behind a row of chairs until the coast was clear for escape. Brave Thomas planned to rush the intruder, but Real Thomas wasn’t sure that was the best idea. It was good to have a plan, though.

Thomas was all about plans.

As he slowly woke up on Saturday morning, he rolled over in bed and rubbed his eyes. The covers were all twisted around his body. Normally, an alarm would go off, but since it was Saturday, he had gotten to sleep in. It was still dark, although a bit of light was glowing around the window blinds, so it must have been about 6:30. Thomas’s eyes fluttered shut, and he dozed.

He gradually became aware of his vision again–the sleeping image became a real one, and his brain began processing the image of his room. He had been dozing with his eyes open. His eyes widened as he saw a shape curled up on the desk at the foot of his bed. What could that be?

It’s a snake!, Thomas thought, and a big one. How had it gotten in his room? It didn’t make sense – maybe through an air vent. He remembered listening to a mystery novel involving a poisonous speckled snake that murdered a person by slithering through an air vent and dispatching its sleeping prey.

It could definitely happen. Thomas could make out the silhouette of the snake’s rings lying in lazy rolls on the surface of the desk, its vaguely triangular head raised and alert. What was it doing?

Just resting, probably. But if Thomas moved, it might strike without warning. So Thomas had to think. He didn’t have a contingency plan for this. He could pull his quilt over his body, like a matador, then make a mad dash for the door. But if the snake moved for Thomas’s ankles, he’d still be dead.

Those snakes could be vicious – he shuddered to think about what a bite might do to him–cause him to lose all nervous response and shake uncontrollably.

Just then, Thomas remembered – he had left his hoodie on the desk. That’s all it was, at least probably. Summoning his courage, he reached over to the blinds and opened them. Sure enough–just his hoodie.

He jumped out of bed and swiped the hoodie off the desk–he had been meaning to hang it up anyway. No more snakes were going to get him. In case this happens again, he thought, I need a better plan.

The End.

Recipe: Adventure



  • 1 or more people
  • An idea
  • Equipment & preparation to taste


  • At least 2, and produces lots of leftover stories


  1. Recruit fellow adventurers. Find a person or persons to accompany you—adventures can be done quite well solo, but having a friend decreases chances of failure and increases chances of fun.
  2. Find a golden fleece. This step is fairly open-ended—you need to establish a good goal, preferably one that is at least slightly challenging, yet still achievable. This goal could be as simple as, “make a chocolate eclair cake” or as complex as “climb Mount Everest.”
  3. Gather equipment. For an adventure to be successful, there usually needs to be at least a small preparation time—spontaneous adventures are a wonderful idea but can occasionally lead to low-quality output, which is why we are providing the full recipe here. Prepare for your adventure by gathering all the required equipment—if cooking, then the ingredients; if mountain climbing, then the proper equipment for that.
  4. Train/practice for the adventure.  This is an optional step—if the adventure is baking, then proceed to the next step. If the adventure is climbing Mount Everest, a period of training will be necessary. Establish a routine that will prepare you and your party for the strenuousness of the climb up Everest. This has the added benefit of increasing your overall skill in addition to increasing your chances of survival on the climb. Note: this step may produce enjoyable mini-adventures as an added bonus.
  5. Begin the adventure. It’s important to have completed the preceding steps in order to make the adventure less stressful and more enjoyable. Even so, the unforeseen often happens, and even the best-laid plans can fall apart. Commit yourself to having fun, and the adventure is sure to be a success. Be sure to take lots of selfies so that you can make all your followers on social media jealous when they see them.
  6. When you are finished, store the leftovers in picture albums and stories.  It can also be helpful to self-assess after an adventure and recall what went well and what could have gone better. This will aid in preparations for the next time you decide to 


cook up an adventure.

Dora the Explorer

The time is 6:30 AM, and I am covered in the morning dew–my daily ritual is beginning. I’m splayed out in the parking lot of the Pleasant Glen apartment complex, just lying there as water collects on my skin.

My owner and her family come out to meet me, and my face lights up at the sight of them. Doors unlock, slam.

“Get your seatbelt fastened! We’re already late,” says my owner—Jane.

My name is Dora, and I am a Ford Explorer. It was Jane’s daughter that called me Dora first, and it’s the name I identify with the most. I’ve been called a lot of other names as well, but I won’t repeat those–what happens in the car stays in the car.

Jane turns the key in the ignition, and I sputter before turning on. Headlights on, a swipe of the windshield. A systems check. Get those seatbelts on, kiddos–I flash the seatbelt light furiously until they click their belts.

Uh-oh: the front right tire has low pressure.

Jane needs to be alerted, so I light up the low pressure light on the instrument panel.

“Ah, shoot,” says Jane. Good, she noticed. “Joey, get out and kick the tires to see if any of them look low.”

Joey hops out and looks around. He kicks my tires, one by one, circling around. Getting back inside, he says, “The one in the front on my side looked a little low, but the rest were fine.”

“Well, it should be enough to get y’all to school then,” says Jane. She shifts to reverse, and I begin to back up. I don’t think this is a good idea, but I always obey what Jane says to do–it’s one of my best characteristics.

Jane signals me to go forward, and I pull away at a good clip. Jane always wants me to go faster than I want to–ignoring most speed limits, but it’s a forgivable trait for me. At least she uses her turn signals.

Barrelling down the highway, I see it’s going to be a beautiful day–58 degrees, and I notice my MPG’s are up to 22, which is a good streak–Jane gave me high-octane fuel when she refueled me last time, so that has helped. The road is slick, but my tires have little wear, so I enjoy the traction.

Everything is good except the front right tire–I’m concerned about that one. Suddenly, I hear a bang, and I lurch involuntarily to the right. Jane stifles an exclamation of dismay and slows down, heading towards the shoulder of the road. It irritates me, because (like I said before), I’m a very obedient vehicle. But this time, I couldn’t help it. I come to a complete stop.

“Do we have a flat tire, Mommy?” says Tricia from the back seat.

“We do, honey,” says Jane. “Now be quiet while Joey and I get out the spare.”

It’s a long process, and I can’t do anything to help, so I just sit back and take a moment to rest while Jane and Joey take care of the problem. Soon, they’ve attached the new tire. It feels weird, foreign, like putting a new shoe on just one foot–at least, that’s what I imagine it would feel like, if I was a person. It’s smaller too.

I just hope that Jane remembers that she’s not supposed to go as fast on a spare tire–it can be bad.

With the punctured tire in the trunk, we take off once again–20-35-45-60, then even higher. Nope, Jane definitely did not consult the user guide. I can sort of sympathize, but sometimes I wished Jane followed the rules more–things tend to go better.

We arrive at school, and Joey and Tricia hop out.

“Have a good day, you two,” says Jane. “I’ll pick y’all up at 2:30, just like normal.”

It’s just another successful expedition completed–a morning in the life of a car.

Wonder Woman: A Review & Reflection

This is both a review and a reflection on Wonder Woman. Warning: mild spoilers ahead!

Breaking through German lines and through several other barriers to become a highly successful superhero movie, Wonder Woman has been a hit for several reasons–an interesting main character, humor, heart, and thoughtfulness.

Beginning on the idyllic island of Themiscyra, we learn about the youth and training of Princess Diana (played by Gal Gadot). Against her mother’s wishes, Diana trains to be a warrior, which comes in handy when British spy Steve (played by Chris Pine) crashes on the island and brings boatloads of Germans in hot pursuit.

This film succeeds largely due to the likeability of Diana–as many prior films have shown, having a beautiful or “cool” leading character isn’t enough–the main character needs to also be interesting and likeable. Diana is all that, equal parts exotic, sincere, and comedic (her encounters with the “world of men” are played for comedic effect quite well, reminding me of Thor).

Her childlike belief throughout most of the film that killing the god of war, Ares, will bring a stop to World War I provides one of the primary themes of the film–the nature of mankind. Are they basically good, corrupted by outside forces, or is that corruption part of their natures?

This is a million-dollar question and one that Wonder Woman is out to answer. Initially insisting that Ares is to blame for corrupting men’s hearts, Diana believes that once she destroys Ares, the war will cease.

When this doesn’t seem to happen near the film’s climax, Diana becomes disillusioned. Steve comes alongside, insisting that they still have a chance to put an end to the war. Diana responds, “My mother was right. She said that men do not deserve you.”

Steve’s responds, “It’s not about deserve. It’s about what you believe.” This line, though not using biblical terminology, is speaking of grace–grace is something that’s not necessarily deserved but is instead given based on the character of the giver–it’s about what the giver believes, what sort of person they are.

It’s a beautiful moment.

Of course, the writers do their best to ruin it by later having Diana declare, “I believe in love,” but the moment is still powerful and interesting. I don’t know the beliefs of Patty Jenkins or any of the film’s creators, but I think it’s interesting that a discussion of human nature made it into the film and that it came out looking almost…Christian.

The only real sore point for me was the implied sex between Diana and Steve, destroying the purity and principle of two otherwise good characters in an anachronistic infusion of modern values. While as a whole I prefer Wonder Woman to Captain America: The First Avenger, I can’t help but wish for Cap’s old-fashioned virtue in his romance with Peggy Carter and feel that the film would have benefited from such an approach.

Planning their infiltration mission by night, Steve and his compatriots have a drink, clinking their bottles together and saying. “May we get what we want, may we get what we need, but may we never get what we deserve.” Watching the film a second time, this scene took on greater significance, foreshadowing the thematic revelations later in the film. It is a humorous line of course, but it reflects the fact that all the characters (Diana excepted) are wrestling with the fact that they have done bad things and feel some sort of guilt for it.

If DC films continue this vein of thoughtfulness, I think I may be headed back to the theater in the future, for Justice League, and more.


We came from all over–America, Sri Lanka, China, India, and more. Big schools, little schools, public schools, private schools, home schools. Some came loaded down with scholarships while other found a job and a loan to get them through. Some came with good study habits developed from a rigorous high school, while others arrived with an academic nonchalance.

Some washed out after a year or two. Others moved back home, found a job and started working full-time. Some buckled down and struggled through, overcoming their natural limitations through discipline and hard work, while others coasted through school without changing dramatically. Some are headed for greatness–a high-paying job, a happy marriage, fame, anything the world can give, while others are headed for trials–a series of dead-end jobs and forsaken dreams before one day, maybe, they’ll find what they’re seeking.

All these lines of people’s lives, running in different directions. But for a brief moment, the lines intersected, and we had this shared experience that we called college, an experience that brought us together. And at that locus, for a split-second, we were the same.

Winter Storm Warning

We had been out hiking for most of the day, and it seemed like the snow kept falling harder. Starting in the morning, we had set out on a hike up the east side of Mt. Elden, a mountain settled slightly northeast of Flagstaff, Arizona. The trail was called Fatman’s Loop and led up the mountain in a circuitous fashion. Rocks, shrubs, and trees dotted the upward slope as we hiked.

At one point the trail thinned out, and we began to notice a large number of deer droppings in our path. After walking a few minutes more, we realized that we had lost ourselves on a deer trail. The trail eventually looped back, however, and we found ourselves again on the main trail. Wasted time, but we weren’t lost.

Google’s weather forecast had been calling for a winter storm to pass through Flagstaff starting at 11am that Monday–predicting 8-10 inches of snow over the next day. On Sunday afternoon, concerned that our tent-camping expedition might not be able to handle such a large amount of snow, we walked by the KOA office to get some wisdom.

“Yeah, the weather people keep saying there’s gonna be less and less snow,” said the man at the desk. “It’s probably not gonna be too bad.”

I said I heard there were going to eight to ten inches. “Yeah, from looking at the radar, I wouldn’t expect it to be that bad,” the man said. “You should be fine.”

Because of this assurance, we had decided to stay one more day in Flagstaff, for one more hike.


Reaching a rocky outcropping, I pulled out my phone and snapped a photo. It was beautiful, misty, quiet. I was insistent that we hike as far as we could, so when we reached the Elden Lookout trailhead, we took that turn and continued up. With snow falling steadily but lightly, we had to watch our steps. “Three points of contact!” Sammy said matter-of-factly.

Pulling my phone out again, I discovered it was dead. Freezing temperatures played games with my phone battery–it had been fully charged only an hour or two before. I had forgotten to keep my phone in my pocket and had instead put it in my backpack. When pressed against my leg in my pocket, the phone tended to last longer, bolstered by the warmth of my body. Surrounded by cold, it quickly died.

“Sammy, your phone still has battery?” I asked.

“Yeah, for sure,” said Sammy. We decided that if his phone died too, we would turn around–our hike wasn’t especially dangerous, but we didn’t want to take any chances.

We stopped and ate lunch–PB&J’s and chips–and then kept climbing. The mountain reminded my nerd-mind of the Fellowship attempting to cross the Misty Mountains in The Fellowship of the Ring. It was snowy, and the rocks were snowy, and there was ice in places. The only thing missing was “a fell voice on the wind.”

We decided to turn around.

Getting down, I discovered, was trickier than I expected. Sammy slipped a couple times on the rocks as we descended. “Careful,” I would say each time, before slipping myself and sitting down hard with a thud. My self-righteousness vanished, and we continued down, carefully, one step at a time.

Reaching our car at the base of the trail, we climbed in and headed for town. It was snowing more heavily now from a cloudy, bright sky. We stopped at the Flagstaff post office and mailed off some postcards to family, then headed for a nearby coffee shop.

It was a small, cozy establishment–the White Dove–and just what we needed. I pulled out the book I was reading (a book by Kevin DeYoung on the Heidelberg Catechism) and read for a bit while sipping coffee and letting my phone charge. We were both thankful for the warmth–something we hadn’t had much of recently. It was a welcome reprieve from being almost constantly in weather hovering around freezing.

Eventually, we decided it was time to head back to camp. The car had been covered in a fine layer of snow, so we had to dust off the windshield before driving back.

At the camp, we walked to the main office first, and I shot a video journal entry with my phone on the way–we had been keeping a video log of our trip, and with all the snow falling and a winter storm warning, I figured it was a good opportunity for an update.

When we returned to our tent, it had collapsed. The weight of the snow had twisted it down into a pile. Shaking the snow off, we set it upright once again.

In an orderly fashion, we got out the campstove and made dinner–instant mac & cheese combined with a couple cans of chili–voila, chil-mac! When it was ready, we wolfed it down. Then, after washing the pot, cleaning up, and stowing our cooking gear back in the car, we got in our tent.

“What the–” said Sammy, feeling around the inside edge of the tent where he kept his towel and some clothes. “Everythings soaked.” His pillow was soaked too.

Throughout the day, the snow had melted and crept in around the edges of the tarp we laid down. The moment was sobering for us–we were prepared for a cold night, but we hadn’t counted on the moisture. At least our sleeping bags were waterproof.

“Here, Sammy,” I said. “Let’s move our sleeping bags and other stuff towards the center of the tent. That way if more snow leaks in during the night nothing else will get wet.” After more discussion, that’s what we did. There wasn’t anything to be done about Sammy’s soaked pillow, but we were at least a little more comfortable.

Sammy looked up the weather forecast for Utah–our next stop. It was supposed to be clear and warm(er) there. We talked excitedly about how we were going to get up in the morning, load up, and drive out of Flagstaff. From hearing us talk, you’d think Utah was the Promised Land–the thought of getting away from all the bad weather made Utah sound positively idyllic. Utah had better be nicer, or we’ll just go home, I thought to myself.

As we lay there, snow falling, a dull light from a nearby lightpost illuminating the skin of the tent, I could see snow piling up above me. It got heavier, and as the minutes ticked by the two supports of the tent began to twist. Sammy and I took turns reaching up and giving the tent a shake to dislodge the snow. It was a game for me, watching the snow pile up and guessing the point at which the tent would start to collapse.

The snow we knocked down collected at the sides of the tent and caused the sides of the tent next to our sleeping bags to lean in on us–a cold, wet kiss if I swung my head the wrong way. I pushed through the tent on my side, scooting the snow back and creating a little box.

The game of keeping the snow away continued most of the night. I woke once to see the tent frame slowly twist, then twist some more. I popped out of my bag just in time to keep it from falling on us. The commotion woke Sammy, and I explained in guttural, half-awake tones what had happened as I rolled over and attempted to sleep some more.

The morning came quickly, and we were up with the dawn. After a brief discussion, we decided to go find the laundromat and dry out some of our gear. I checked my phone and saw a message from my mom–a picture of the king cake she had made and the words “Happy Mardi Gras.” It was Mardi Gras–I’d completely forgotten!

Unzipping the tent door, we were greeted by a lovely site–the world a giant open-faced ice cream sandwich. Over 10 inches of snow lay on the ground–maybe more.

Hopping over to the laundromat, I matched my steps to Sammy’s footprints to keep from collecting snow on my boots–like one of those Tusken raiders from Star Wars. We used all of Sammy’s quarters to dry a few loads. Then, after a breakfast of oatmeal, we set about getting past the next hurdle: driving out. A KOA employee with a front-end loader equipped with a snowplow had been out that morning clearing the main paths of the campground, but there was still a large pileup of snow directly behind my car, between it and the main path. We went to the main office and asked if we could borrow a snowshovel, so the office sent a man to help us. Walking back to our car, we passed the front-end loader making its rounds. The driver opened the cab and stuck his head out.

“Y’all are from Louisiana,” he said loudly. “You should be home celebrating Mardi Gras right now!”

We laughed, and I told him about the picture of the king cake my mom sent earlier that morning.

“You’re crazy!” he said.


Back at the car, the man with the snowshovel took one look at the pileup and decided to call for backup, so soon we had the front-end loader swipe our area, clearing most of the snow.

“Just start backing up,” the man with the snowshovel said. “And if you get going, don’t stop.”

After a first attempt that ended in snowy wheelspin, I pulled forward, and backed up once again, keeping pressure on the pedal. The car burst free onto the path, and we were clear.

Getting on the interstate and heading west, we were delighted to see the weather clear up and become beautiful once again.