>>> The Rollercoaster of Drama
By staff writer Simonne Cullen

August 27, 2006

If you're wondering what's between Chicago and Denver, I'll let you in on a little secret: it's corn. Corn, corn, and more corn. Why supermarkets even charge ten cents for an ear is a mystery to me. There's so much corn they should be handing it out for free to make room. What happened in the Midwest anyway? Did the pioneers decide to rope off the states on their way to Oregon and designate them as “corn and football production” only? Because I drove through there and didn't see anything but corn and corn-fed beefcakes. There wasn’t even a single billboard for an adult book store.

So the journey into Pacific time zone was rough. Thirty hour drive. Four day journey. A brief stop in Vegas, but we'll get to that later. If you've never driven through the Rockies before, it's an experience you'll never forget. It's breathtakingly beautiful, and the threat of driving over a cliff truly takes your breath away. Midwesterners are used to flying down the highways, where everything is flat and even, but if you live in one of the other 30 states that have hills and are used to driving in mountains, do me a favor: don't fucking honk and flick off the out of state plates for driving at a mighty speed of 45 mph. We're already freaking out at the “Runaway Truck Ramp” signs and cringing at the “Falling Rock” warnings. We don't need your abuse as you zip by us at 75 mph and 3,000 feet elevation.

“I’ve found that the easiest way to determine which team a guy’s playing for is to see if he has a copy of Maxim in his room.”

You encounter a lot of different things on a road trip. On our way through the country we stopped at a casino just outside Vegas (I'm not going to name the casino out of pure fear that the owners will hunt me down and kill me), and I swear this must be the casino where gamblers go to die. It was an emergency bathroom pit stop we thought would be harmless, until we walked into a horrible stench of cigarette smoke, cheap booze, and death. At first it all appeared to be coming from an old man sitting at the quarter slots with a glass of booze in his right hand, a cigarette in his mouth, his hand on the slot lever, and an air tank at his side, but then we realized he wasn't the only one. The place was littered with old people, all engaged in the same mindless activities. At one point I wondered whether it was really a casino, or if it was just a place where really rich families send their parents instead of a home. I mean, what old person wouldn’t want to smoke, drink and gamble away the rest of their life?

By the grace of God we made it to California. The first thing in the new apartment that caught my eye was the “Emergency Survival Bucket.” What a great way to meet friends: “Hey neighbor, if there's ever an earthquake, feel free to come over and use our toilet bucket or drink some water out of NASA-sealed plastic bags. It'll be a great time.”

One of my roommates is from San Diego, and she knows all about earthquakes. Every time something rumbles at night I ask her, “Leslie, was that an earthquake?” She's like, “No Simonne, that was a car backfiring.” Finally, she got so annoyed with how quickly I jump to the earthquake conclusion, that she told me, “Simonne, you'll know it's an earthquake because you will be dead.” Well, at least I won't have to shit in the bucket.

So all of orientation week has been filled with dancing, singing, and watching men prance around in tights. Women are in tights too, but when I see men in tights I giggle. Now that I'm in musical theater it's become a question of who's straight and who's gay. And while it ultimately doesn’t matter what you're sexual preference is, it’s helpful to know what my options are. The token “hot straight guy” lives right across the hall from me, and everyone is already stalking him out. Girls are ironing shirts for him, offering to run through lines with him, inviting him to take part in their first born… you know, the usual.

Sometimes I really get confused with the guys here. The other day I walked up to what I thought was a straight guy and asked to borrow a hammer. He said, “I don't have a hammer, but you can use this utility knife.” Uh, thanks… are you implying I should use this to saw my way through the nail? I’ve found that the easiest way to determine which team a guy’s playing for is to see if he has a copy of Maxim in his room. If not, he’s definitely pitching and catching.

Dance placement class is hilarious. Some people are super advanced while others consider themselves “actors who move.” I can hold my own in the theater, but dancing, well, the officiators were like, “Girl in the back with her limbs flailing around like she’s having an epileptic seizure… please stop what you're doing immediately before you hurt one of the good dancers.”

Finally, here are a few things I've learned about California so far:

1. The movie Speed is completely and utterly a figment of the writer's imagination. There's no way in California traffic that that bomb could have even been activated—unless it was cruising at a rapid 10 mph.

2. Every girl is trying really hard to look like Nicole Richie. I don’t think anyone owns a pair of normal-sized sunglasses anymore.

3. I am obsessed with the fact that our survival bucket doubles as a toilet.