Tuesday, July 31, 2012

So You Want to “Influence” an Election

So you want to “influence” the results of an election so that your candidate of choice is elected. First, let’s ask a rhetorical question that often goes unasked. Why? Why do you want your candidate of choice to be elected? I would presume that in almost all cases, the reason that someone wants a particular candidate to win is because of that candidate’s proposed policies. The person wanting the candidate to succeed most likely believes that candidate will do something (or, perhaps, do nothing, as the case may be) that the person believes will be good for … well, something. Maybe good for the person or good for the person’s business or good for the country or the economy or some other nebulous beneficiary.

OK. Fair enough. But I think that it’s important when we think about why someone wants to influence an election to be sure we understand the influencer’s motivation. If someone is going to work very hard, commit a crime, or expend enormous amounts of money, then there must be a really compelling reason to do so.

Now, with that in mind, let’s say that you really do want to influence an election. You think that if candidate X is elected you or something important to you will be better. So how might you influence the election? Obviously, you could work for a campaign, but that’s not the type of influence I’m talking about.

Well, if we listen to the right, one of the most dastardly ways to influence an election is voter fraud. Before getting too deep into the weeds of voter fraud itself, there is one important distinction to draw: Voter fraud that would influence an election is not the same as vote fraud in registering to vote. The act of registering, fraudulently or otherwise, has absolutely no impact on the results of the election. It doesn’t add a vote to any candidate’s column. If I go to the appropriate county office and somehow manage to register to vote under a fictitious name, not only have I committed a felony, but it’s a felony that, so far at least, has done me no good whatsoever. For my felonious behavior to matter, I still have to cast a ballot.

And therein lies the problem with the specter of vote fraud.

Unless we’re talking about something like a local township election, the number of votes necessary to win almost any election is enormous. Sure there are always a handful of elections that turn out to be very close, but those are, by far, the exception rather than the rule. So consider the real question: Just how many people are going to have to be willing to commit a felony in order to get their particular candidate elected? Or, perhaps, how many people will be willing to commit that felony frequently enough on election day for their repeated felonious conduct to have an impact? Remember that this isn’t like robbing a bank where the perceived financial benefit will be near instantaneous. To fraudulently cast a ballot means that you believe that, in the long term, the politician elected will be able to do some good for you. And that is only if the politician wins. If he loses? Well, you’ve committed the felony for no good whatsoever (almost like robbing a bank but not knowing ahead of time if the bank will have any money and, if they do, relying on them sending you a check several years down the road).

It seems to me that the difficulty in actually committing vote fraud, compounded with the very limited possibility for personal gain, explains why proponents of voter ID laws have had so little success in pointing to any real examples of in person vote fraud. It just doesn’t happen. But it makes a good bogeyman. (Note that just law week, officials in Pennsylvania stipulated to a court that there is is no known example of in person vote fraud in Pennsylvania; Indiana’s Secretary of State made the same stipulation to the Federal Court hearing the case about Indiana’s voter ID law several years ago. Note further that a Republican candidate in Arizona has recently been caught [or at least alleged] to have been voting via absentee ballot on behalf of his deceased wife for five years, a crime that voter ID laws don’t protect against.)

So let’s shift to the other type of influence: Money. While a fraudulent vote doesn’t count for very much, the influx of enormous sums of money into the political process certainly does. And note that the only people who can, on their own, make an enormous influence via money are those with lots of money to spend. People living paycheck-to-paycheck can’t afford more than a handful of dollars (if that) to help politicians. The idea of paying tens of thousands or even millions to attend black tie dinners or to support a Super PAC is simply out of reach and alien to the experience and means of all but a tiny portion of the population. Hey, I’m a big supporter of Israel, but it’s not within my means to just jet off to Israel for a weekend in order to have breakfast with a candidate for President of the US, let alone pay $60,000 for the ticket to that breakfast; I suspect that there aren’t too many Americans who can pony up that kind of cash … for that kind of access.

But do we really think that those with the money to burn would spend that money if they didn’t think that there would be some kind of return on their “investment”? I’m going to presume that at least a decent percentage of those folks didn’t get rich by accident which leads me to also presume that they are carefully considering the net benefit of making an enormous campaign contribution. Take, for example, a billionaire. Might it be worth spending a few million or even tens of millions if your expected “return” on that investment was a tax cut that might be worth even more? Of course.

Consider further the degree of harm that the unfettered application of money to a campaign can cause. First, those who can’t contribute hundreds of thousands may feel alienated from the system and may decide that their $25 contribution is of no value or that their voice won’t matter. And thus they essentially opt out of participation. Of course, that may be the goal of one side of the political spectrum. Then we have to consider the fact that the money is largely fungible and so, despite claims to the contrary, it is highly probably that money from foreign sources (perhaps even foreign governments) is, indeed, making its way into our political debate. And as to the nature of that political debate, there are now essentially no rules as to what can and can’t be said. Thus, those with money to burn can more or less get away with disseminating all sorts of misinformation if not outright lies. Furthermore, much of the money now flowing into the system and the messages paid for by that money are largely anonymous. And of course that money helps to buy candidates who may support laws that will keep that anonymity in place or who will support judges who will continue to allow the unfettered influence of money on our electoral process.

Moreover, we shouldn’t forget that, unlike vote fraud, it is the money that may help determine who the candidates are in the first place. If you can’t raise money, you’re not going to even get on many ballots or generate any sort of name recognition.

Vote fraud may be an easy scapegoat, but it’s nothing more than a bogeyman. The real danger to our electoral system is money.

And consider this: Why is it that politicians are willing to impose ID requirements upon people who want to vote but not put requirements to simply disclose identity upon those who give money? If I hand a politician a pile of cash and ask him to vote for bill X, then I’ve committed bribery; but if I hand him a pile of cash and say, “Gee, I hope you get elected so that you can vote for bill X,” then I’ve just exercised my First Amendment rights. And I’ve done it without having to show my ID.

Or query this: If you’re an individual, especially one who lives paycheck-to-paycheck or is of relatively modest means, who lobbies on your behalf? Who pays to take legislators to expensive lunches, golf outings, or trips to Aruba on your behalf? Isn’t it an odd system that we’ve designed where corporations have lobbyists but people (well, other than a very limited subset) don’t? Sorry, but that seems a bit backwards to me.

One final point on all of this: Besides spending money to buy adds or simply support candidates, there is another use for the money by those who want to influence elections: They can “buy” new laws (through organizations like ALEC) to help suppress the votes of those with whom they might disagree. For example, they might choose to spend money to support candidates who will pass laws that require those who are most likely to vote for the “other guy” to … oh, I don’t know … maybe, get photo IDs?

There is the real tragedy in all of this. Those with money to spend and who desire to have elections (and the country go their way) have created the bogeyman of vote fraud and then used their money to help pass new laws to suppress the votes of those who support their political opponents. In other words, money is being used to buy politicians, it is being used to buy laws, it is being used to suppress voting, it is being used to tell lies, spread fear, and generate hate, and it is being used to buy a government and country. We are a democratic republic that is in danger of becoming a faux-democratic oligarchy.

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Friday, July 27, 2012

Votes and Guns

I find it interesting to compare and contrast the approaches that we’ve taken with regard to two very important issues, both of which are core constitutional issues. In one case, we’ve begun enacting legislation that has a material adverse impact upon the core constitutional rights of potentially millions of people in order to prevent a crime that doesn’t seem to exist. On the other hand, we’ve refused to enact laws or take real measures designed to prevent (or reduce the impact of) real crimes that are being committed daily and have become a plague upon our society.

What am I talking about about? You know. Votes and guns.

The absolute core of our democratic republic is the notion that people elect their representatives. Take away the right to vote and you are limiting our democracy. Despite the fact that there is little or no evidence of actual in person voter fraud (of the type that would be prevented by voter ID laws), state after state has adopted laws that have the net effect of making it more difficult for large numbers of people to exercise their constitutional right to vote. We’ve enacted laws that impose burdens on the exercise of rights in order to prevent a non-existent crime.

The Constitution also protects the right to bear arms (though I still contend that the “militia clause” must have some meaning). Many people (especially the NRA) seem to read the Second Amendment to prevent any sort of restrictions upon guns or gun ownership. Sure, we require a background check (sometimes) before someone can purchase a gun. But we don’t require background checks to purchase 100-round magazines, armor piercing bullets, tear gas canisters, body armor, or any of a host of similar items. And we know, all too well, that there is an epidemic of crime being committed with guns. Real crimes with real victims, often children.

In other words, when it comes to imposing burdens upon voting, we tend to look at Constitutional rights through a very narrow lens. We don’t seem to mind that we might disenfranchise some voters if it will protect “the system” from the “threat” of a crime — even if that crime doesn’t really exist. But when it comes to the Second Amendment, we look at Constitutional rights through a very expansive lens and believe that almost anything goes and we dare not tread upon gun rights even if it is to stop a scourge of violence that kills literally thousands each year (9,146 in 2009, according to GunPolicy.org). I have no idea how many people are wounded by gunfire; nor do I have any idea the extent to which people change their behavior due to the fear of gun violence.

The history of our country has been to expand voting rights and voting access. From being very limited (landowning males only in some cases), voting rights have expanded to include most men, then blacks, then women, then those 18 and older. We’ve gotten rid of poll taxes and reading tests and other sorts of barriers to voting. Until recently. And now, many of our politicians seem set upon creating new barriers to voting. But when it comes to guns, we can’t even seem to get support for a ban on assault weapons and cop-killer bullets. We can’t get support for the notion that if you’re on the government’s “no fly list” you shouldn’t be able to buy a gun. We can’t get support for closing loopholes that allow people to buy guns at gun shows without background checks. In fact, many of our legislators are pushing for more liberal gun laws, including allowing people to carry guns in bars, stadiums, schools, and courthouses, and requiring a concealed carry license issued by one state to be recognized by other states (and isn’t it odd that the people pushing for that are largely the same who don’t want states to be forced to recognize a same-sex marriage performed in another state… but I digress…).

Over and over, we’re told that “guns don’t kill people; people do”. That may be true. But votes don’t kill people either. And yet we’re willing to restrict voting rights but not gun rights. That makes no sense to me. I simply cannot understand how fair-minded people can be willing to restrict rights to prevent a crime for which there is no evidence that it has or is being committed and, at the same time, not restrict rights to prevent crimes that are killing our fellow citizens and making our society less safe.

Votes and guns. Guns and votes. We’re making it too hard to do one; too easy to obtain the other. We’ve got our priorities seriously backward.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

More Children Die for the “Crime” of Being Israeli

While details are still sketchy, it appears that at least 3 and perhaps 7 (or even more) Israeli teenagers have been killed in a bus bombing (perhaps a suicide bombing) in a resort town in Bulgaria. My heartfelt sympathies go out to the families of those killed and wounded.

I’m sure in the next few days, as we learn more about what happened, we’re going to hear phrases like “cycle of violence” or “retaliation”. But don’t fall into that linguistic trap. Because the murder of vacationing teenagers is not the same — not even close — to casualties inflicted upon those who seek to inflict harm.

Look, I have compassion for Palestinian families who have lost loved ones in the conflict with Israel. I really do. That said, those sympathies do not extend to the families of Palestinians who have strapped explosives to their bodies and detonated them in discotheques, in pizza parlors, at Passover Seders, or on buses in order to kill Israelis (and often children). My sympathy does not extend to the families of Palestinians jailed for breaking into the home of an Israeli family and then slaughtering that family, including infants. My sympathy does not extend to those Palestinians who would use their own children as human shields or who allow rocket-wielding terrorists to take refuge in or about their homes.

And I ask again, precisely how many buses has Israel blown up? How many jetliners have Israeli terrorists hijacked or bombed? How many cruise ships have Israeli terrorists commandeered? How many Muslim community centers in places like Argentina have been blown up by Israelis? How many Olympic athletes have been taken hostage and murdered by Israelis?

There is a difference between an Israeli teenager killed in a random bombing in a pizza parlor and a Palestinian teenager killed while throwing rocks at an Israeli soldier. There is a difference between an Israeli woman killed by a bomb while attending a Passover Seder and a Palestinian killed in the act of launching a missile against a target is Israel. There is a difference between an Israeli family murdered in their beds by knife-wielding Palestinians and a Palestinian family killed when a Hamas-fabricated bomb explodes prematurely. There is a difference between an Israeli killed while vacationing in Bulgaria and a terrorist arranging an arms shipment in Dubai or a nuclear scientist helping Iran obtain nuclear weapon. A life is a life, but there is a qualitative difference between the reasons for the respective loss of life.

The point bears repeating: If the Palestinians (and Arab/Muslim states) put down their weapons and came to the negotiating table, there would be peace. If Israel puts down its weapons, there won’t be an Israel.

You know, we haven’t heard about many bus bombings in Israel in recent years. Why not? Because the security barrier built to keep terrorists based in the West Bank from infiltrating into Israel worked. Israel didn’t build the fence just to spite the Palestinians or out of a sense of superiority; it built the fence to defend its citizens from ongoing, repeated terrorist attacks emanating from the West Bank. So now that the fence is doing the job, it appears that those who hate Israelis are taking their campaign of violence outside of Israel.

What do you think that the United States (or Britain, France, or even Russia) would do if a busload of its teenagers, on holiday in some distant land, were murdered simply for being Americans (or British, French, or Russian)?

Two further points that I want to make briefly. It is worth noting that today is the 18th anniversary of the bombing of a Jewish community center in Argentina. 87 people were killed. Eventually, evidence surfaced that the bombing was orchestrated by Iran and its proxy Hezbollah.

And next week, the Olympics begin. This will be the 40th anniversary of the terrorist attack on Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, in which 11 Israelis and a West German policeman were murdered. The families of some of those slain, as well as Israel, the US, and a number of other countries, pressed the International Olympic Committee and the London Organizing Committee to include a moment of silence at the opening ceremonies of the London games. One minute. To honor athletes who were killed during the Olympics. But the IOC and the London Organizing Committee said no. One member has apparently acknowledged that the refusal to allow that moment of silence was due to pressure from the Arab and Muslim countries. Deobrah E. Lipstadt, author of History on Trial, and Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University, wrote about this refusal in Tablet Magazine. Her article, Jewish Blood Is Cheap, is worth reading. Sadly, I have to agree with her conclusion. It will be interesting to see if the world’s reaction to today’s bombing does anything other than reinforce her premise.


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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Irresponsible Rhetoric

Emotions run high in politics. I get that. Politicians sometimes try to make their points with hyperbole. I get that too. And I understand that too great a devotion to political correctness can leave unsaid things that should, in fact, be said, or keep out of the discussion issues which really do merit an open debate. However, there are some things that our elected leaders (or those seeking elected office or their respective surrogates) say that are just so far beyond the pale, so irresponsible, and so dangerous to the civic discourse upon which our political system is based, that those comments must be called out and those who make such statements be held to account.

A few months ago I wrote about a statement by Mississippi’s Governor Phil Bryant (emphasis added):

Even if you believe in abortion, the hypocrisy of the left that now tried to kill this bill, that says that I should have never signed it, the true hypocrisy is that their one mission in life is to abort children, is to kill children in the womb. And it doesn’t really matter, they don’t care if the mother’s life is in jeopardy, that if something goes wrong that a doctor can’t admit them to a local hospital, that he’s not even board certified.

I don’t mind if Gov. Bryant expresses his view that abortion is wrong. I don’t even mind if he says that those who support women’s reproductive rights and choice have a different moral understanding of the nature of life. That’s fair. But when he claims that people, like me, who support a woman’s right to choose have, as our “one mission in life” the desire to “abort children … to kill children in the womb,” then he’s gone too far. Besides the fact that his statement is objectively false, the real problem is the danger that a statement like this presents because not everyone who hears it will understand hyperbole for what it is. How many abortion clinics have been attacked? How many abortion providers have been attacked or even killed? It’s bad enough if some idiot crackpot on the Internet makes a claim like “liberals want to kill children,” but in this case, the claim comes from an elected official, and not just any elected official, but rather, the governor of a state. And if the Governor says things like this, should we be surprised if some people believe him? Should we surprised if some people act on that belief?

And the totally irresponsible use of this sort of over-the-top rhetoric that portrays someone or something with which you disagree as not just a ideological opponent, but a murderer or something less than human is getting more and more frequent. Consider, for example, the recent statements by the Republican Governor of Maine Paul LePage. First, in his July 7, 2012, radio address Gov. LePage said:

You must buy health insurance or pay the new Gestapo – the I.R.S.

Yes, you read that correctly. Gov. LePage compared the Internal Revenue Service to the Gestapo. For those who don’t remember their history of World War II:

The Geheime Staatspolizei (German for Secret State Police, abbreviated “Gestapo”) was the secret police of Nazi Germany, and its main tool of oppression and destruction, which persecuted Germans, opponents of the regime, and Jews. It later played a central role in helping carry out the Nazi’s “Final Solution.”

(From Jewish Virtual Library’s article The Gestapo [internal links omitted]; see also this article on the Gestapo, also hosted by the Jewish Virtual Library.) Should you need any more context, here is a photo of German Einsatzgruppen soldiers under the command of the Gestapo killing Jews and dumping them into a ravine at Babi Yar.

I could have used much more shocking imagery. I chose not to.

I don’t care how aggressive the IRS may be at collecting taxes, a comparison to the Gestapo is beyond wrong. It is evil.

But Gov. LePage wasn’t done.

First, when questioned by a reporter about his statement, Gov. LePage first refused to answer the question and then went on the offensive:

Reporter: Will you apologize?

LePage: To who?

Reporter: The people who are upset.

LePage: Well, who’s upset?

Reporter: The Anti-Defamation League is Upset. There’s a group of Jewish people down in southern Maine…

LePage: It was never intended to offend anyone and if someone’s offended then they ought to be God damned mad at the federal government.

Reporter: Was that an apology?

LePage: [no response; he walks out a door]

(I can’t embed this video of the interview.) But then Gov. LePage did offer a sorta, kinda, not really apology (not in person, but via a press release):

It was not my intent to insult anyone, especially the Jewish Community, or minimize the fact that millions of people were murdered.

Clearly, what has happened is that the use of the word Gestapo has clouded my message. Obamacare is forcing the American people to buy health insurance or else pay a tax. Our health care system is moving toward one that rations care and negatively impact millions of Americans.

We no longer are a free people. With every step that Obamacare moves forward, our individual freedoms are being stripped away by the Federal Government. This should anger all Americans.

To me, this is yet another example of a politician that simply doesn’t know how to apologize. Gov. LePage should have said, “my reference to the Gestapo was wrong and I apologize”. Instead, his only apology is for not making his point well enough and for minimizing the fact that millions of people were murdered. But note that he does not say anything like, “no, the IRS is not like the Gestapo”.

One would think that after this, the issue would have died down. But guess what? Gov. LePage really isn’t actually sorry and he really does believe what he said originally. Just a few days after issuing his apology, while speaking at a fundraiser for the GOP candidate for Governor of Vermont, Gov. LePage addressed his Gestapo comment again:

[T]he Maine governor said, “What I am trying to say is the Holocaust was a horrific crime against humanity and, frankly, I would never want to see that repeated. Maybe the IRS is not quite as bad — yet.”

LePage then said, “They’re headed in that direction.”

Asked if he had a sense of what the Gestapo did during the second world war, LePage said, “Yeah, they killed a lot of people.” Asked whether the IRS “was headed in the direction of killing a lot of people,” LePage answered: “Yeah.”

So the sitting Governor of Maine believes that the IRS is headed in the direction of killing a lot of people. Really? Really? Oh, and Gov. LePage also offered yet another non-apology, apology:

Well, let’s put it this way. I apologize to Jewish Americans if they feel offended. But I also apologize to Japanese Americans that were put in prison during World War II, and I also apologize to those people that were accused of being communists during McCarthyism, because that’s not the American way.

Again, the “apology” is not for saying horrible, offensive things. Nope. The apology is to Jews “if they feel offended.” And what does that have to do with Japanese internment or McCarthyism?

I have all sorts of other examples of politicians (or their surrogates) making completely unjustifiable, horrible, irresponsible comments. Just this morning, for example, Romney surrogate (and former Republican Governor of New Hampshire) John Sununu said:

I wish this president would learn to be an American.

Seriously. “Learn to be an American.” Because, of course, we know that President Obama is really a Kenyan. Or an Indonesian. And a Muslim. Or whatever.

This continued demeaning of political discourse, of casting political opponents as enemies or now, with statements by Gov. Bryant and Gov. LePage, as murderers, is a true danger to our form of government. I mean let’s not forget that in addition to attacks on abortion providers, we’ve also seen attacks on the IRS and upon government institutions. Is that the society that Gov. Bryant and Gov. LePage are advocating for? Because that’s certainly the tenor of their remarks. If Gov. LePage doesn’t like the IRS or the Affordable Care Act, he’s free to say so and to make his argument. But rhetoric like his is just another step down the slippery slope toward political violence and anarchy.

We, as a people proud of our civil society, owe it to ourselves, to one another, and most importantly to our children and their children, to work to put a stop to this sort of irresponsible, thoughtless, dangerous trend in political discourse. We have to tell politicians, we have tell everyone, that this sort of rhetoric crosses a line that we, as a society, will not accept. And then we must shame or shun those who use that sort of rhetoric so that nobody will be swayed by it or led down the dangerous path it promotes.

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Monday, July 16, 2012

Wallack Family 2012 Summer Vacation: My Twitter Travelogue

In the summer of 2010, our family took a vacation to Hilton Head Island. What started as a series of occasional tweets about our vacation turned into a sort of full-fledged comedic travelogue. We took that vacation with my in-laws and they became the subjects and inspiration for much of what the travelogue contained. Unfortunately (fortunately?) in 2011, my in-laws didn’t join us; thus, both the inspiration and means for the travelogue weren’t there. But this year my in-laws were, once again, a part of our summer vacation and boy did they give me things to tweet about!

So before getting into the travelogue, let me set the scene. For those who don’t know, we live in a suburb of Indianapolis. The drive from our home to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, should, according to Mapquest, take approximately 12¾ hours (oddly, Google Maps thinks the drive should be about a half-hour longer). We have a minivan (Honda Odyssey, if you must known). Here’s the somewhat odd part: My mother-in-law drives. She seems to prefer to drive (and she’s a terrible back seat driver). My father-in-law sits in the front passenger seat beside her. He is 90 (turns 91 in a few weeks) and suffers from dementia. Some days are good; same days … not so good. And no, my mother-in-law is not 90; she is 20 years younger than my father-in-law. Our kids (12-year-old twins) sit in the middle seats (usually watching movies on DVD players, thankfully with headphones on, though sometimes reading and every-so-often taking a brief nap). My wife and I sit in the very back of the minivan, endeavor to tune out everything else in the car and read our books. Or, in my case, work on my Twitter travelogue. Our plan was to make the drive to Hilton Head in two days, the second day hopefully being much shorter. We don’t drive straight through because my father-in-law has a difficult time. On the way home, though, the plan is to try to push through in one day, subject to how my father-in-law is feeling.

I have decided not to edit my tweets. Typos are as they were (hey, you try getting it all correct in the back of a moving car on an iPhone or when the sun is so bright you can barely seen the screen). I have, however, omitted (most of) my political tweets and most tangential conversations with others not directly related to my travelogue (though I’ve kept one or two that I thought were funny and in the same sort of snarky tone as much of the rest of the travelogue). My tweets were automatically posted to my Facebook account too, and several amusing conversations started on that platform, but I haven’t taken the time to try to include those here.

For those unfamiliar with Twitter, a user’s address (like an email address) is called a “handle” and begins with an @. My Twitter handle is @MSWallack. When you see a Twitter handle at the beginning of a message, it means that tweet was sent directly to the person identified by the handle. Throughout this travelogue, there are “conversations” between me and other people. For the most part, I haven’t tried to link up the tweets to which a later response related; the linkage should, largely, be self-evident. And oddly, a handful of tweets that I recall typing and posting didn’t show up when I went back to compile this travelogue. Maybe the Library of Congress has them.

When I interpose some clarifying material that was not part of the original travelogue, it will be in red. As for abbreviations, “MiL” means mother-in-law and “FiL” means “father-in-law”. If it isn’t obvious, “McD’s” is McDonald’s. I had to abbreviate because Twitter limits a tweet to 140 characters. I checked in frequently via Foursquare, but I’ve only included a few of those check-ins as a part of this travelogue.

If you have a question about the events that prompted a particular tweet, feel free to ask in a comment. I’ll do my best to provide some context.

Finally, an important caveat. I tried to be funny. That was the goal. I wasn’t trying to hurt anyone’s feelings (well, not really). As much as anything, the point of the travelogue was largely to keep me sane (or sane-ish). But as you’ll see, on several occasions, the tone becomes a bit darker due to my father-in-law’s condition. Part of me thought that perhaps I shouldn’t say anything or try to be funny when it came to issues related to his dementia. But then I decided that it was a better course to at least try to find humor in an otherwise depressing situation. We could cry about what dementia has done to him or we can laugh as a sort of ward against the depression. I opted for that latter course. I don’t know if I succeeded or if it worked, other than to say that my kids and, most importantly, my wife, were laughing along with me. I’d like to think that we weren’t so much laughing at my father-in-law as we were laughing at the absurdity of some of the conversations, statements, and situations brought about by the dementia.

Wednesday June 27


For those who've been eagerly anticipating it, the 2012 Wallack summer vacation travelogue starts Friday morning right here on Twitter.


For those who weren't following back in 2010, here's a recap and example of what I may have to offer:http://blog.wallack.us/2010/07/wallac ….

Friday June 29


Our 7:00am departure time has (not surprisingly) already been pushed back to 8am. The real question: Will we be on the road by 10:00? Bets?


Finish packing, load the car, and vacation begins (well, after a 13-hour drive, that is). (@ Wallack House) http://4sq.com/N1sP72


I'm a good person. Instead of throwing away a perfectly good watermelon or letting it rot while we're gone, I gave it our new neighbors.


Picking up the inlaws. We're only 45 minutes behind the adjusted schedule. Not too bad. (@ Schiller House) http://4sq.com/N2I3L0


So it only took 20 minutes to load my inlaws into the car. We loaded their luggage last night. All we had to load was my inlaws themselves.

9:09am (from @DougMasson) [Doug Masson, a Twitter and Facebook friend; lawyer from Lafayette, Indiana]

@MSWallack Road trip?! I *love* Wallack in-law road trip Tweeting!


Still in the neighborhood. Kids waited plenty long before they started arguing. Issue de jour? Who uses which headphones.


Oh, and my father-in-law has just now decided he's too old to make the drive (90) and won't make it. Wants to stay here. But not alone.


Point of clarification: The dotted white line is supposed to be centered under the car, right?


And now my mother-in-law (she drives while my wife and I sit in the back and read) has announced that she doesn't want to wear her glasses.


This is the 4th or 5th trip with my mother-in-law and a GPS. She still has no clue how the GPS works. She keeps yelling back to us for help.

9:36am (from @bmk) [Brian K, a Twitter friend]

@DougMasson @mswallack I look forward to it every year ;)


Wife's dilemma: How to tell her Facebook friends to follow my Twitter travelogue given that my mother-in-law is one of her Facebook friends.


Reading list for vacation includes @BrettBattles (Project Eden series) & @jeremyduns (Paul Dark series). You should read these authors.


MiL: What highway do we take after Cincinnati? Me: GPS will tell you; it shows directions on the screen. MiL: It does? I didn't know that.

9:54am (from @BrettBattles) [Novelist Brett Battles]

Thanks, @MSWallack!

10:08am (from @jeremyduns) [Novelist Jeremy Duns (who lives in Sweden)]

@MSWallack @BrettBattles Thanks, Michael. Hope you enjoy it. :)


Are we there yet? Just askin'…


Just learned that, along with her special laundry detergent and favorite toilet paper, my wife actually packed ice cream cones. Seriously.


Mother-in-law just announced that she packed a sponge. And she wants to know if we should stop at Walmart before we get to the island. No!!!

10:34am (from @erked) [Eric Kaun, one of my college roommates, and a true snark master]

@MSWallack Sitting in the driveway waiting to depart is just about the optimum time for such decisions, I think.


@erked No. He waited until just as we were pulling onto the highway


My mother-in-law's Cracker Barrel obsession just kicked in. Perhaps she owns stock in their bathroom department?


My mother-in-law changed lanes. My father-in-law is not pleased. She wants to take the right road. He seems to object to this strategy.

10:23am (from @Lilyian) [My wife]

@MSWallack Oh darn I forgot to bring the plates, cups, and silverware, too….


The argument over the correct lane choice continues. Note: Only about 20 miles to the interchange.


Just passed the Creation Museum. Always tempted to stop … and laugh at the people going to learn about humans & dinosaurs living together.


Bathroom break 1. My son and I drew straws to see who would go into the bathroom to check on grandpa. I lost.


My father-in-law is upset we didn't listen to him & stop at McD's instead of Burger King. Never mind that there isn't a McD's at this exit.


They are still arguing about why we didn't stop at the nonexistent McD's. He's not processing "there isn't one here" very well.


My mother-in-law is taking glee in driving right up onto other cars' bumpers … and then breaking really hard. Lots of fun in the backseat.


Wife tells MiL not to change lanes. MiL tries anyway, nearly hits someone, & swerves back. Then MiL yells at wife & wife yells at MiL. Joy!


I have been advised that I misspelled braking as breaking. That presumes I meant that MiL was slowing down, not destroying things.


Now MiL is trying to explain to FiL what a Tic Tac is. He is insisting that they are some kind of pill; he wants to know what they're for.


MiL just announced stop 2 is in 20 minutes because, you know, we've only gone 50 minutes since the last stop.


MiL also asked if anyone wants some of the sushi she brought with her. Wait, what?


Grandpa wants a milkshake. Wife wants a bathroom (again). Daughter echoes my thoughts: "Nooooo!!!!!"


Stop 2. We found a McD's! (FourSquare isn't working apparently.)

12:13pm (from @davemcnelis) [David McNelis, a member of my very extended family]

@MSWallack How long is this trip, in miles?

12:13pm (from @keithclock) [Keith Clock, Democratic Party Chair for Hamilton County, Indiana]

Love it when @MSWallack goes on a family road trip. I feel like I'm right there complaining with him.


@davemcnelis 17,219 +/- 6.


MiL has dropped the keys between the seats and can't get them out.


MiL is now busy offering people her Combos. We're trying to tactfully suggest that instead of playing with her food … we want to go!

12:31pm (from @KielEWyote) [Kiel Kinnaman, a Twitter friend, also from Carmel]

@MSWallack Who's doing the driving?


@KielEWyote That's the good news & bad news. MiL likes to drive. FiL sits in front with her. Kids in middle. Wife & I in back with books.


@keithclock No milkshakes for you, young whippersnapper. And stay off my lawn.

12:34 (from @KielEWyote)

@MSWallack Ha ha! I can now see why you’re tweeting, kills the boredom a little bit. :-)


I keep hearing people talk about this Magic Mike movie. They made a movie about me and nobody mentioned it? How rude.


MiL needs to know where FiL pit his sunglasses. He hid them where nobody would think to look: On his face, covering his eyes.


And now MiL and FiL are discussing when we should stop again.


Wife: "Mom, why are you swerving all over the road?" MiL: "Because your car is very sensitive." Driving straight hurts the car's feelings?


For those who've asked, here is the link to the book I'm reading: "Exit 9 (Project Eden #2)" by @BrettBattles.http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B006NU …


I just told my daughter that Tom Cruise & Katie Holmes are divorcing, meaning he'll be single and on the market again. Big smile. Very big.


The car says we can only go 204 more miles before we need gas. So MiL wants to stop soon to fill up.


And I just learned that, in addition to sushi, she also brought hard boiled eggs. Can you guess what the car smells like now? Yum.


Now on an extended detour to avoid a big rockslide. The lady who lives in our GPS is not pleased with us. Nor is my father-in-law.


Stop 3. Dairy Queen. Near Corbin, Kentucky. I think. And this detour is giving my father-in-law major conniptions.


Father-in-law eschews traditional method of eating a sandwich. Seems to prefer pulling ingredients out one by one & eating them separately.


We got to DQ. MiL orders a chix sandwich for FiL. Gives it to him but tells him not to eat until we're back in the car. After kids use …


… bathroom, I order lunch for them. Then MiL decides to go to bathroom. There's a line. So I tell the kids (and me) to eat. She finally


… finishes and sees us eating. So then she decides to order food, too.


Excessive snark is exhausting. Unfortunately, it doesn't burn many calories.

3:31 (from @SusanNell3) [Susan Nell, good friend who now lives in North Carolina]

@MSWallack you can burn lots of calories walking on the beach!


Father-in-law's door was open. Mother-in-law gets out to close his door. As soon as she does, he opens it again. Then refuses to close it.

4:15pm (from @barkway) [a Twitter follower]

@MSWallack aren't in-laws fun?

4:39pm (from @erked)

@MSWallack You could also encourage her to rest her eyes, one at a time, to save wear and tear from the road.


@barkway In particular, inlaws with dementia. Fun, fun, fun.

4:43pm (from @erked)

@MSWallack Where else can she get backup sponges? And what about extra ice cream cones?


Father-in-law is apparently surprised to discover there are other people in the car with him.


Father-in-law is now either humming or snoring Mozart.

4:47pm (from @erked)

@MSWallack Speaking of which, you should watch Breaking Bad with MiL. Another friend live-blogs as he watches movies with his mom. Much fun.


We took a long detour, apparently to avoid the traffic jam we're now stuck in. Excellent demonstration of navigational prowess.


My wife says, "It's obviously rush hour." Seriously? Rush hour in the middle of the Great Smoky Mountains? Who knew?


The kids are now doing slow motion head banging to grandpa's snoring rendition of Mozart.

4:53 (from @erked)

@MSWallack Not as bad as it'll smell if people start dipping into those eggs.


@erked They did. It did.

4:58pm (from @erked)

@MSWallack You mean there are 2 cars on the road instead of 1? Crazy congestion.

4:58pm (from @erked)

@MSWallack Where is your son in all this? Staying quiet? Keeping his head down?


@erked Actual dead stop for a few minutes… Sigh.

5:18pm (from @erked)

@MSWallack Well, you're stopped, you may as well pull over at the next McDonald's. Is FiL's door open or closed?


@erked Closed, but no McD's in the mountains. Just trees. Of the right height. I think.


@erked Sometimes yes. And then he'll chime in with a snide remark, as if it's his goal to get in trouble.

5:39pm (from @erked)

All I want is a nap and a video game. Or to play a video game about trying to nap while babies torment you. [@erked has a 6-month old baby]


We're driving through the mountains. My father-in-law has announced "he's finished with it" (no, I don't know what "it" is). We should stop.


So my mother-in-law offered to stop and leave him by the side of the road. Hmm. An interesting choice is thus presented.


@erked Sounds like most games on the Wii.


Hmm. It seems that my father-in-law has just discovered that we're on the way to Hilton Head and is mad at us for bringing him.


My father-in-law has now convinced himself that he is 101 instead of 90.


I'm now holding the door to FiL's toilet stall closed because he can't seem to work the lock. How soon is this "vacation" over?

6:12pm (from @KielEWyote)

@MSWallack More important question, why are you letting him drive? Ha ha!


@KielEWyote Thankfully we took his keys away a few years ago. Not an easy thing to accomplish as it means loss of freedom.


I … forgot … how … slow … people … move … in … North … Car … o … lina.

6:36pm (from @DougMasson)

I'd like Facebook more if only there were more pictures with pithy quotes.


@DougMasson Me, I'd Facebook better if it, you know, worked.


So much for that hotel. Room smelled like perfume. It would have sent my wife into anaphylactic shock. [My wife has idiopathic anaphylaxis, a rare illness that causes her to go into anaphylactic shock; strong odors are one of her triggers.]


Of course in the time it took to check in and check back out we could have driven another 738 miles. Give or take.


@DougMasson Let me try that again. I'd like Facebook better if it worked better. Yeah, that.


My FiL wants us to drive to Atlanta so he can see his daughter who is meeting us in Hilton Head tomorrow.


Sorry for the darkness in tone this afternoon. I've tried to keep it light, but things have taken a turn for the unhappy.


I am now the driver.


Actually a very nice hotel. (@ Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites)http://4sq.com/MYfPAI

8:28pm (from @erked)

@MSWallack Our first hotel away from the hospital, with Alex, was a Holiday Inn Express in Philly. Clean, spacious, great view, great memory.

8:29pm (from @erked)

@MSWallack Was he aging with the temperature?


@erked Perhaps.


How many restaurants can we go to for dinner? (@ McDonald's)http://4sq.com/MYhXZ7


I'm at Wendy's (Spartanburg, SC) http://4sq.com/LKz6Ik


Almost got to go to a 3rd restaurant after all. My son forget to give us his order for Wendy's. But the disaster was averted.


A special guest in our bed. pic.twitter.com/cRrGCbX7

9:38pm (from @SusanNell3]

@MSWallack does he have friends?

9:43pm (from @amymasson) [Doug Masson’s wife]

@MSWallack ew


Donna Summer was having a smoke in front of the hotel. Well, maybe not. But she was wearing Donna's outfit (circa 1978) and had her hair.

Saturday June 30


I walk back into our room after breakfast to find a disco.pic.twitter.com/pfXoKUZ9


Going to be a good day I can tell. We've already had one fight (son wouldn't stop when we asked him to) and we're not even in the car yet.


Last night my daughter had a toothbrush malfunction. Note the schmear of toothpaste on her nose. Such grace & elegance.pic.twitter.com/9TbZ9WQF


My daughter has just read my tweet about her toothbrush malfunction. "But Daddy, you're mocking me," she says. "Why yes I am, me dear."


So noting that my follow-up tweet contained further mocking, she asks, "Am I just easy to mock?" I responded with evil super villain laugh.


Daughter now tells me that I'm a "tweetaholic". I resemble that remark. So where does Tweetaholics (not so) Anonymous meet?


Time to pile back into the car and go. We left my mother-in-laws hard boiled eggs in the hotel.


We're sitting in the car (engine running) but not actually, you know, driving. MiL is rearranging the glove compartment.


Calm and quiet. Calm and quiet.


Wife telling MiL about storms at home and forecast for Hilton Head. Somehow MiL thinks storms at home are the forecast for Hilton Head.


Now reading "Pale Horse (Project Eden #3) by @BrettBattles. http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B008C1 …


MiL to FiL: "Here, this water is for you." FiL to MiL: "For you?" MiL: "No, for you." FiL: "You?" Abbott & Costello are driving with us.


Car behind honking. MiL oblivious. Wife wants her to move. MiL refuses. Wife wants to get away from crazies. "Get out of the car," I say.


Ooh, this is exciting! Father-in-law has decided to entertain us by reading road signs, especially those really fascinating mile markers!


A palm tree has been spotted. Much rejoicing ensues. Well, much rejoicing from MiL. Cries of "drive" from other passengers.


Did you know that in a traffic jam, protocol calls for rapid acceleration followed by hard braking? Repeatedly. Over & over. While arguing?


I think my mother-in-law changes lanes every 92 seconds or so (occasional hard braking thrown in) just to be sure none of us are too comfy.


MiL is trying to get FiL to write her grocery list. He's having trouble opening glove compartment to find paper. Or something. She's mad.

1:19pm (from @kiptew) [Kip Tew, an attorney in Indianapolis]

@MSWallack why don't you take the wheel?


Does anyone actually put gloves in a glove compartment? Why not call it a watermelon compartment or lost kitten compartment?


@kiptew Because it's way too difficult to post these sorts of snarky tweets while driving. And MiL likes to drive; is a bad backseat driver.

1:24pm (from @kiptew)

@MSWallack your tweets the last few days could have been an episode from Seinfeld..seems like u r traveling with George Costanza's parents.

1:26pm (from @amymasson)

@MSWallack I remember @DougMasson telling me about these family vacation tweets. And now I know why!


@kiptew I guess I think of this more in the Clark Griswald mode, but I'm still waiting for the girl in the red Ferrari.


In a traffic jam a few miles from the island (and our resort) and MiL wants to stop at a McD's. There may be a violent revolution.


MiL just suggested we "point out all the palm trees to the kids." Um, OK. "There's one. And another one. Look there, another one." Silence.


Seriously. Just a few miles from the resort. (@ McDonald's)http://4sq.com/Loe2mn


Son claims to be carsick. The car isn't moving.


MiL has asked the McD's employee if her sandwich has tomato at least 4 times. A repeat performance by Abbot & Costello…


MiL is convinced the McD's order won't be right. Gee, ya think? The McD's employee is probably so confused she can't recall her name.


Now McD's employee has asked MiL to confirm her order. MiL says she can't remember.


McD's wants us to pull forward while they get the food. MiL refuses. Claims McD's won't bring us our food.


McD's did forget MiL's straw. So she stopped and went in. FiL wanted to go in with her. We said no. So he locked her out.


And it was nice of McD's to give me a bit of burger in my ketchup sandwich. So now I'm wearing ketchup colored shorts. Lucky me.


Asked my wife for a French fry. "Soggy or not?" she replied. Um…


We're almost there. Really, really close. I'm just waiting for MiL to suggest a quick Walmart stop.


She did just point out a Barnes & Noble. I don't know why. I suspect the answer would scare me.


MiL announced she's proud of her special request that the resort give us a room overlooking the pool. All of the rooms overlook the pool.


I'm at Marriott Barony Beach Resort (Hilton Head Island, SC)http://4sq.com/N1fDNy


We're here! We're here! Now where are the margaritas?


Room won't be ready until 4. Me: "Let's explore and see the new stuff they've added." I'm met with silence.


Kids are playing Ping. No real Pong action going on.


I hope who ever designed these is a millionaire by now.pic.twitter.com/uConAFkL

3:11pm (from @AUeligitone) [a Twitter follower]

@MSWallack ….or flask compartment, only to use when done driving of course:-)


Note the "feels like" temperature of 108. How relaxing.pic.twitter.com/U6zrYX6m


Left the kids at the pool. Told 'em not to drown. Said it might ruin my vacation.


It's so hot that moving into the room literally set off the fire alarm. Happening repeatedly, we're told.


View from the balcony on which I plan to spend evenings with a nice cold Sauvignon Blanc. Or nine. pic.twitter.com/QGaB5bL4


Daughter's hair flip! pic.twitter.com/S6CvLk2k


And another try. pic.twitter.com/dE9SG7hs


The kids are going to the hot tub. I guess this "feels like 108" reminds them of an Indiana winter. That or they're crazy.


Wife went to get some cold drinks. Not back yet. I'm worried she melted.


Mother-in-law left for the grocery over 2 hours ago. I'm beginning to wonder if she went to the grocery or if she's making her escape.


Once the sun goes behind the trees and the temperature drops into the double digits … it's still fucking hot! But better.


So the new grill that's open until 9pm actually closes at 7:30. Nothing like making dinner plans on the basis of bad information.

10:15pm (from @erked)

@MSWallack Is there still MiL sushi available?

10:30pm (from @erked) [in reference to my Abbott & Costello tweet]

@MSWallack Third base!

Sunday July 1


MiL wants us all to use a marker to mark our plastic cups. She is quite militant about this. A revolt is already brewing.


MiL is now upset that I don't know where my wife put the baggies. Very upset. Hmm. Has she considered looking in the kitchen drawers?


MiL observes that kitchen trash can is full; she pulls it out from under the sink and puts it in the middle of the kitchen. Is this a hint?


Now reading "Free Country a/k/a Song of Treason (Paul Dark #2)" by Paul Dark. http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B00778 … [Oops. The book is by @jeremyduns]


Daughter needs her hair to look just right … before she jumps into the pool and gets it wet. Father logic not working here.


"Ding." MiL thinks it's the doorbell. Wife says, "It's my phone." MiL gets up to check the door anyway. She's surprised nobody is there.


If you're a fan of Adam Hall's Quiller novels, do yourself a favor & read the Paul Dark novels by @jeremyduns

11:36am (from @jeremyduns)

@MSWallack Many thanks for that!


@jeremyduns My pleasure. You do a great job and I'd love for your books to get the readership they/you deserve.


@jeremyduns Plus I was feeling magnanimous because Paul Dark kept me company late last night while the family bickered inside.

12:01pm (from @jeremyduns)

@MSWallack :) Thanks - and glad he offered some escape!


@jeremyduns I was sort of wondering how Dark would handle my mother-in-law and dementia-suffering father-in-law. Knives, guns, or fists?

12:04pm (from @jeremyduns)

@MSWallack I can’t possibly answer that! But have been vicariously enjoying your tweets on the topic.


My wife once literally, though accidentally, threw her camera into the ocean. I tactfully suggested she not do that with her new SLR.


Sand dollars carpeting the sea floor. (@ Atlantic ocean)http://4sq.com/KMlrdR


Daughter has a bloody nose. Suggested she go into the ocean to test whether sharks are really attracted to blood. She gives me dirty looks.


One of our usual haunts. (@ Crazy Crab) http://4sq.com/N5CqMb


Not quite sure how to describe one of the problems we had getting ready to go to dinner. Let's just say …um… it was messy. And it wasn't me.


I'm wondering if for the seafood boil the chefs just put the food in a pot and set it outside? No? Too hot?


After reading tweet about sand dollars carpeting the seafloor, wife asks if there was supposed to be a photo. Took my iPhone underwater?


Son: "I recommend swordfish." Sis-in-law: "No! Don't eat swordfish. It's endangered!" Son: "It's already dead." Irrefutable logic.


My daughter has just observed that she talks a lot. Really? I don't think any of us ever noticed.


My sister-in-law's phone. I believe she also still uses a quill pen, wood burning stove, and horse-drawn buggy. pic.twitter.com/h3MfcTJX


Daughter is losing high-stakes shuffleboard game. She declares, "I call losing winning!" Game-based statement or metaphysical observation? [In response to this tweet I picked up several new followers that all appeared to have keyed in on the word “metaphysical”, though it looks like they didn’t stick around for long, once they realized that metaphysics wasn’t the core of my Twitter feed.]


Team of sister-in-law and daughter and daughter losing 44-7. So they've stopped to talk strategy. Um. How 'bout "try to score"?


Wife just had to try to dodge moving shuffleboard pucks. The word "graceful" … well, let's look for another word.


Not sure which was worse: The heavy lady with parts hanging out where they shouldn't…or her tiny bikini bottom riding up where it shouldn't.


And a serious photo (boys, please do not look at the right side of this photo). pic.twitter.com/KCz5LpLK


Just noticed prior post seemed to imply I have two daughters. I do not. I couldn't handle it.

Monday July 2


Daughter is having repeated bloody noses. This seems to be diminishing somewhat the fun that she is having.


So relaxing, sitting by the pool, reading my book, with the lovely sound of an extremely loud leaf blower just feet from my ears. Heaven?


My so got out of the pool 37 seconds ago. His hair is already dry.


Grr. I do not have a "so". I have a son. Son. He is so-so.


I learned that it is easier to inflate a beach ball if you seal the valve on the pump. Might have been good info before pumping & pumping.


Interesting full-contact pool volleyball game going on here. Wondering if 1st casualty will be a little kid or Social Security recipient.


Wait! You mean if I don't have sunscreen on like all of me then the sun can like make my skin hurt? This too would have been good to know.


I have (mostly) avoided talking politics during this Twitter travelogue. That has caused me grief, hardship, and pain.


So regular political snark will resume post-vacation (unless I just can't help myself in the meantime).

6:58pm (from @whocares40)

@MSWallack keep up the travelogue tweets, hilarious! All husbands/fathers can relate. How's the couch?


3 books done and several days to go. Now reading "The Moscow Option (Paul Dark #3)" by Jeremy Duns.http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B00778 …


@whoecares40 Couch? My wife loves my tweets!


Wife: "What time does the grill close?" Me: "7:30. Why?" Wife: "It's 7:35." Chorus: "Damn." (Well, actually one of us used a harsher word…)


Kids tested the water canons we bought. Sister-in-law is proof they work. Well. Really well.


Kids: "Complain, complain, complain." Wife: "Can we at least see what they don't have before you start complaining?"


Daughter playing gin with sis-in-law (they call it butterbeer instead). Daughter can't fan her cards, so she plays open face. Don't look!


Sitting at the pool bar. Wife can't eat bar food. So she brought a can of chicken. How fancy! pic.twitter.com/yvyN5xmx

9:18pm (from @whoecares40)

@MSWallack hahahaha, you have a good wife!

Tuesday July 3


Will whoever is kicking my forehead - from the inside - please stop. Thank you.


Mother-in-law always looking for activities for us to do. Seems to miss that what we really want to do is … nothing.


Daughter has a zit. I'll admit it's a big zit. She's understandably upset. But in her mind it's so big it's visible from the Space Station.

10:37am (from @barkway)

@MSWallack at least it’s not yearbook photo day!


How cool is this? Ear totally plugged giving me a nasty headache with bonus dizziness! Woohoo!


Just where I want to be on vacation! (@ CVS/Pharmacy)http://4sq.com/N8zzSs


Elderly couple standing in roadway arguing, completely oblivious (or not caring) that they were completely blocking both lanes of traffic.


Just heard a CNBC analyst say "all of these banking scandals aren't installing confidence in retail investors." Gee, ya think not?


Outdoor air conditioning still not working right. Even the cloud cover generator appears to be on the fritz today.


After water weight loss, will the sun and heat burn off fat too, you know, like bacon? If so this may be a great vacation!


I'm watching what must be at least a pound of water weight drop down my chest right now.


Oh, no! The water weight I was trying to sweat off just pooled in my belly button. How will this impact the weight loss strategy?


Group of teen boys wearing their swim trunks low so we can see their underwear. Very urban. Um, guys, why underwear with swim trunks?


Told the ass't food & beverage manager they made a mistake with a particular change. She just smiled and said "OK". I heard "tough shit". [The “marketplace” at the resort sells a big mug with unlimited refills during your stay. In previous years, the mugs were bigger and had an attached straw. The new mugs don’t have straws and the regular straws that the marketplace has are too short for the mugs. This is what I explained to the assistant food & beverage manager.]


My @Klout Score has climbed from 47 to 48!http://klout.com/user/MSWallack …


Mother-in-law keeps turning the AC up to 76 or even hotter. If it's too cold in here, just step outside. Don't punish the rest of us!


I'm at Black Marlin Bayside Grill (Hilton Head Island, SC)http://4sq.com/LPVaLt


Even if swordfish weren't already endangered, they would be the way my son eats them. He could render them extinct all by himself. Quickly.


Serious question: Why does the restroom have yellow rain ponchos hanging on hooks just inside the doorway? (@ Publix) http://4sq.com/NjriJG

8:18pm (from @RainPonchos1984)

@MSWallack To catch urine!?

8:19pm (from @amymasson)

Cake made. Broccoli salad made. Margaritas made. Planning ahead makes to tomorrow much better.


For those who thought I was joking about yellow rain ponchos in the bathroom at the grocery. pic.twitter.com/tkzjCVXB


Sitting on balcony, book in hand, glass of Sauvignon Blanc beside me, fan blowing, citronella burning. Wife needs to bring my cheese plate…


My cheese plate has not yet been delivered. Grumble.


@amymasson Margaritas on 4th of July? What are you, an America-hating Mexico-loving Commie. What's that? They taste good? Oh. Never mind.

9:18pm (from @amymasson)

@MSWallack Yes.


@RainPonchos1984 Sorry. Too gross to even contemplate. Shudder. [And who knew that there was a Twitter account devoted to rain ponchos?]


Cheese plate is not coming. Wife fell asleep in dereliction of marital cheese-plate preparation duties. (See paragraph 17c of our ketubah.)


@jeremyduns So now that I have finished the excellent Paul Dark series (we're gonna have to have a wee talk about that ending), I need to …

Wednesday July 4


@jeremyduns … know when your next novel will be coming out. I'm hoping you haven't totally shifted gears to non-fiction & plagiarism! [Duns has ferreted out and written extensively about several examples of massive plagiarism.]

4:08am (from @jeremyduns)

@MSWallack :) Hope you liked it. As soon as I'm finished with my current book I'm starting work on a Paul Dark novel.


@jeremyduns Glad to hear it. The character and his story are definitely worth continuing. And yes, I liked the books very much.


@jeremyduns I'll post reviews on LibraryThing when I get back from vacation/gulag with the inlaws.


Happy birthday to we Happy birthday to we Happy birthday America Happy birthday to we.


Now reading "Alpha" by @ruckawriter. http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B005UK … 4 books read, 5 days to go!

10:54am (from @jeremyduns)

@MSWallack Thanks very much – enjoy the rest of the gulag! :)


Just finished a family pool volleyball game. Children have decided it's more fun to play like seals & hit the ball with their noses. Arf.


My parents have just returned to 100 degree Indianapolis after a cruise to Iceland and Scandinavia. Ha ha ha ha!


In a few minutes South Carolina National Guard F-16s will do a flyover. Kids don't want to see. Big bad Daddy is gonna make 'em!


If this is what global warming feels like, I'm moving to Alaska.


Is this what a shrimp feels like when you toss him on the barbie? Or a lobster in the pot? Or an opossum on a blacktop highway?

3:31pm (from @kiptew)

On our most excellent summer vacation. Yellowstone here we come..okay in a few days. I won't be as prolific as @MSWallack.


@kiptew Travel with a mother-in-law. That will give you plenty of material.


A bee and a wasp have invaded our oven. Wife (a/k/a Madame Insect Destroyer) is arming for battle.


BREAKING NEWS: Father-in-law is staging an escape. Plan appears to involve extrication via an ocean or beach route. More as story develops.


BREAKING NEWS: Special Ops forces (disguised as mother-in-law and wife) have apprehended the fugitive. All facilities now report as secure.


Hey, give me a break! After reading all these books by @BrettBattles, @jeremyduns, & @ruckawriter, I can't help but see things via SpecOps.


Family with 2-year-old. They walk fast. She is slow & goes the wrong way. Then they tease her. She cries. Family values!


MiL researching cost to rent a car & drive home early with FiL. Mixed feelings about this development. Snarky tweets harder without them.


I appear to have a few bright red patches of global warming on my shoulders, knee, and foot. Damn you, Al Gore!

6:13pm (from @kiptew)

Going thru West Branch Iowa, birthplace of Herbert Hoover, I will leave the snark alone for now


Wife has just informed family that anyone who wakes Father-in-Law will be executed. She sounded serious about this threat.


Whole family trapped in bedroom in order not to wake FiL (now code named SALMON). Permeating odor of broccoli helping calm SALMON's nerves.


Wallack family engaged in joint operations in furtherance of MISSION SANDMAN (keeping quiet for SALMON to sleep).pic.twitter.com/Ll0YCdpD


I have escaped MISSION SANDMAN. Re-tasked to OPERATION COOK THE DAMN STEAKS. Mission proceeding as planned.


@kiptew A snark-free vacation is no fun. Go for it. Let the snark fly. Give it some 4th of July independence!

8:06pm (from @marybschneider) [Mary Beth Schneider, reporter for The Indianapolis Star]

@MSWallack @kiptew totally love your vacation tweets. They make me feel like a normal person from a normal family. More or less. Sort of.


@marybschneider Thanks. I think. My wife has suggested I find a way to put the tweets into book format. Maybe I could write for a newspaper?


Decision time: Down to the beach for fireworks or stay in the room with this really yummy Pinot Noir rosé. Hmm.


Fireworks wins. Wine is chilling for when I get back… Late night with my book & wine? Sounds OK. And if wifey will make that cheese plate…


This has become a favorite family tradition: Sitting on the beach watching amateur fireworks. Lots of fun with just a wee bit of danger.


Hoping SALMON doesn't think the sound of these fireworks is really enemy artillery coming in.


For the curious, the reason we've dubbed my father-in-law "SALMON" is because he eats salmon for dinner every night. Every single night.


Group of teens on beach. 2 pretty girls, 2 good looking guys, & a 3rd girl who isn't so pretty. Clearly trying to pair off & ditch girl 3.


Has Mars swapped orbits with the moon? http://yfrog.com/o07rplzj



Gave up on wife making a cheese plate. Did it myself. Next time Miss "Afraid of Worms" sees a worm & wants help, I'll be slicing cheese.


Wife (who once threw a camera into the ocean) has a new SLR. Seems to have a problem remembering to put lens cap on. This won't end well.

Thursday July 5

12:48am (from @KielEWyote)

@MSWallack So? If she throws this one into the ocean, a lens cap isn't gonna save it. :-)


@KielEWyote I was thinking more in terms of saving it from flying broccoli spittle, grubby fingers. & other domestic attacks.


Wife is yelling at FiL. Apparently he is using a knife to add a new hole to his belt. The problem is that he's currently wearing the belt.

11:58am (from @DavidWarshauer)

@MSWallack Your vacation makes me grateful to only have the problems of mine.

12:08pm (from @WineLibrary)

Did you open up any wine or beer yesterday that was great? Share a photo or regular @ reply with us!


@DavidWarshauer Thanks?


@WineLibrary Belle Glos Pinot Noir Blanc Sonoma Coast Oeil de Perdrix Brugioni Vineyard 2011. Really interesting. Berry and tart. Yummy.


Progress? Yesterday, daughter said my pool shoes were gross. Today she wants to wear them because they're squeaky.

12:49pm (from @WineLibrary)

@MSWallack Very interesting indeed. By the way, a lot of people here at the office reading your tweets. You're on fire this last week. :)


@WineLibrary My travelogue is an (almost) annual tradition. And it helps me keep my sanity. Almost.


@WineLibrary Oh, and if you like what I'm doing I'm always willing to accept liquid compensation for my hard (dry) work!

1:07pm (from @WineLibrary)

@MSWallack Unfortunately our great state doesn't allow us to ship free wine, but we would if we could. (=


@WineLibrary A guy can always try…


After FiL's adventure with knives this morning, wife has apparently hidden all knives. Gonna be tough to cut leftover steak with spoons.


Apparent knives are now kept in our bedroom closet.


I to bock ant road me twoots ant im annored at aff teh tupos.


Wife demanded a translation for my last tweet. Ok. Here it is.

אני חוזר וקורא tweets שלי, אני כועס על כל שגיאות הקלדה על


How was I supposed to know she wanted the translation into English?

I go back and read my tweets and I'm annoyed at all the typos.


Daughter trying to decide whether to stay at pool or go up to watch today's episode of the Grandpa Comedy & Variety Hour.


Came back to the room and found grandpa's sweater in our bedroom. Hmm. Wait! Has he been searching … for the knives?!


Just learned that my Mazda RX-8 will be getting yet another new engine (under warranty) plus lots of other non-warranty repairs. Goody?


Tonight we make our annual, legally mandated pilgrimage to Salty Dog. Must. Buy. T-shirts. Must. Buy. T-shirts. Must. Buy. T-shirts. Must.

3:31pm (from @kiptew)

On our most excellent summer vacation. Yellowstone here we come..okay in a few days. I won’t be as prolific as @MSWallack.


@ruckawriter Just finished "Alpha". Fun story. I'll post a review on LibraryThing next week. A few questions: Why the decision to shift…


@ruckawriter … tenses within the storytelling? Also, loved the idea of Athena. What was the inspiration for a deaf character and how did…


@ruckawriter … you capture her thoughts about being deaf so well? Makes me want a YA spinoff about Athena for my daughter (no, not deaf).


Now reading "Satori" by @donwinslow. http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B0047Y … Prequel to Trevanian's "Shibumi", one of my all-time favorite books.


Daughter spilled red nail polish on the carpet. However, it unfortunately looks like my father-in-law found the knives and made a real mess.


Father-in-law sounds very depressed that we're going home on Saturday. He wants us to leave tomorrow. Or now.


Wife and mother-in-law now arguing about how the car's AC works. This seems important to argue about, especially while driving in traffic.


Wife talking to a friend on the phone. I keep expecting to hear a whispered plea for a rescue.


Wait at Salty Dog was 1½ - 2 hours. Not interested.


Father-in-law, who almost only eats salmon, is now acting the gourmand and telling us where we can and can't have dinner.


So far he's picked out a hotel, an insurance company, an empty building, and a few places that would send my wife to the hospital.


Wife is now being as (or more) particular than father-in-law. And not on the basis of what she can't eat.


Father-in-law's comedic lines are coming so fast and furious, I can't keep up with the tweeting.


Did I mention that he's not trying to be funny?


Father-in-law has just proclaimed Wendy's chicken sandwich better than McD's. "A lot of salad in here," he says, as he picks lettuce off


The Earl of Sandwich would not be happy with my father-in-law who has rejected the idea of eating food between pieces of bread.


It's fun posting tweets that make my wife laugh, but she can't laugh out loud or else my mother-in-law might ask "what's so funny?"


Wife and I now have the possibility to escape. How far can we get on foot?

7:36pm (from @ruckawriter)

@MSWallack Went with present for two reasons - 1, wanted to break voice from past style; 2, added immediacy that seemed to serve it well.

7:37pm (from @ruckawriter)

@MSWallack That was ALL research, man. Just having very smart, very knowledgable people who were willing and able to help and guide me.


@ruckawriter I thought as much. To me it both worked & didn't. I appreciated the immediacy, but the switches were a bit of a jolt.


@ruckawriter It's cool to see how well detailed research can pay off when a talented writer puts it to good use.


Father-in-law now sitting by the screen door wearing his sweater. Note "feels like" temperature of 96•. http://yfrog.com/ocdptnyj



I've learned that authors on Twitter are usually quick to respond to queries from readers & like to discuss their writing process. Fun.


Wife and mother-in-law still trying to clean the blood - oops, nail polish - out of the carpet. Me? I'm making myself a cheese plate.


Wife: "I'm thinking that scrubbing carpets isn't a vacation activity." maybe not. But making a cheese plate is.


"Are we there yet?"


"Are we there yet?"


"How much longer."

"A while. Read your book."

Oh, sorry. Practicing for the drive home.


Father-in-law has locked mother-in-law out of their bedroom so he can sleep. I'm not sure which side to take in this particular squabble.


Kids ran a quick SpecOps mission, sneaking into in-laws' bedroom to unlock the patio door so MiL can sneak in after FiL locks her out again.


In addition to typos, it appears that my rapid fire tweeting has some unfortunate grammatical errors, too. This depresses me greatly.

10:22pm (from @AngryBlackLady)

Paper shouldn't beat rock.


Kids have written a country ditty. Neither Miranda Lambert nor Blake Shelton (they're country stars, right?) need worry about competition.


@AngryBlackLady When my son was 5, we were playing RPS waiting for our airplane to take off. Right as the wheels lifted, instead of …


@AngryBlackLady … throwing rock, paper, or scissors, he throws a fist with his thumb pointing up. "What's that?" I asked. "Bomb!" he yells.

10:47pm (from @AngryBlackLady)

@MSWallack Hahahaha. That’s really cute!


I'm trying to think of a good reason why my wife & daughter keep their flatiron (curling iron?) on the nightstand. Midnight hair repair?


Oh, oh! Perhaps sleeping in close proximity to a flatiron reduces the severity of bedhead. Yeah, that must be it. But it's not working.


@AngryBlackLady Cute? You try explaining that to a flight attendant just a few years after 9/11!

11:11pm (from @AngryBlackLady)

@MSWallack hahahahaha

11:27pm (from @SusanNell3)

@MSWallack you need to take a vacation to NC”, says friend.

Friday July 6


Last day. But we feel like we need a vacation to recover from this "vacation". (@ Marriott Barony Beach Resort) http://4sq.com/OdF3ch


We're going to try frying some eggs on the sidewalk today. Worried it will be too hot and we'll just burn the eggs.


Also, plan is to dump some coffee beans into the pool and see what enormous bulk instant coffee tastes like.


I bought a battery powered table fan. Right now it's trying to blow on itself.


Wife & mother-in-law brought back a dozen chocolate frosted, cream-filled doughnuts. My son has claimed all of them. They're all he eats.

10:36am (from @DougMasson)

So far today, I've quoted (at least) Orwell, Dostoyevsky, Ice Cube, and Flock of Seagulls. #range


I just beat the kids in this year's volleyball challenge, 21-4, 21-2. Safe guess: No volleyball scholarships in this family.


I made a poolside cheese plate. Query: Do I share with the ketubah-breaching, non-cheese plate preparing wife?


Cool. Put a piece of cheese on a cracker at poolside and voila, instant grilled cheese!


Hey @MarriottIntl, I just wanted to thank you for running leaf blowers & hedge trimmers poolside all week long. Can't hear the pool music.


Oh, @MarriottIntl, it was also a great idea to clean the pool shortly after people started swimming and playing.


Seriously, @MarriottIntl, my wife & I shouldn't have to shout at each other just to be heard because your maintenance equipment is SO loud.


@DougMasson I think you need to broaden your repertoire a bit, don't you? I mean that's a pretty narrow range of voices.


My poolside dancing is embarrassing the family. #winning


How come music outside is '60s greatest hits but inside is Vampire Weekend?


Kids wanted pizza for lunch. We just brought some frozen pizzas out and set them in the pool deck. They were ready in about 3 minutes.


We're all trying to gather our emotional strength and sanity before the drive home with grandpa.

1:58pm (from @MariottIntl)

@MSWallack We saw your tweet; do you need assistance? If so, please DM details and your contact info. Thank you! [I suspect that they wanted me to DM (direct message) so that my complaints and our discussion would not be public.]


@MarriottIntl No I don't need assistance. I just want you to be aware of non-guest friendly practices at Barony Beach on Hilton Head.


Kids demanded a volleyball rematch but required wife play on my team. We lost 21-10. What does this say about wife's athletic skils?


After wife's really poor performance at volleyball, I think she should stick to cheese plates. Oh, wait. Never mind.


Tried to explain some simple volleyball fundamentals to wife. Like explaining the high jump to an alligator or 100 meter dash to a sloth.

2:21pm (from @MarriottIntl)

@MSWallack Thank you for the info; we will share your feedback. We appreciate you taking the time to contact us; have a good weekend!


Wife said it's so hot she feels "like a Barbie on the grill." It's hot, but she's not a tall leggy blonde. More "shrimp on the barbie".


Daughter manages to lock us all out of the bathroom. We call front desk for a key. They tell us cap of the pen by the phone works as key.

2:32pm (from @Lilyian)

@MSWallack Strategy. It’s all about the strategy….

2:34pm (from @Lilyian)

@MSWallack Exactly how did you plan to get home from vacation? Run beside my car?


@Lilyian Might be more relaxing than sitting in the car listening to the kids argue & your father try to talk your mother into an accident.


Father-in-law is asking us if he has to go to the bathroom. Not really sure how to answer.


Possible severe storms may keep us from Salty Dog. Is there a fine for visiting Hilton Head and not going to Salty Dog.


Wife and MiL arguing about whether FiL should change pants after going to the bathroom. Issue seems to be how long they will take to dry.


Father-in-law wants to tell the resort that he's a shareholder to see if they'll give us something special. He owns 1 share.


I think my father-in-law is using his lap to save half of his salad for the drive home tomorrow. He did eat a few bites.


Father-in-law moved the salmon from his plate into his sweater before eating it. And yes, he's wearing a sweater in this heat.


Wife is in Walmart … by herself. Father-in-law is not happy about this. He wants to go in and find her. Just in case.


Father-in-law is now convinced we're actually in St. Louis. It must be that huge silver arch over the island.


Kids have just informed me that there isn't a huge silver arch over the island.

6:00pm (from @DougMasson)

@MSWallack Walmart? I might be on FiL’s side on this one. peopleofwalmart.com


@DougMasson Good point. I think his concerns were more of "evil person do evil thing" variety, not that wife would start wearing a thong.


Father-in-law didn't want to get out of the car. "Too cold," he says. Note that it "feels like" 104•. http://yfrog.com/h75p0rrj


Wife now eating - and wearing - chocolate ice cream soup.


Daughter just described wife's volleyball methodology as "waving her hands around, like T-Rex hands."


Son may have left his iPod touch at the restaurant. Rescue mission or punishment lesson?


IPod Touch has been found. Considering losing son instead.

8:05pm (from @Still_H20)

@MSWallack Yes.


As I Pirate fan, I must quote President Obama: “Something very important has happened: the Pirates and the White Sox are in first place.”

8:22pm (from @erked)

@MSWallack Rescue it, but hold it hostage for several days. Erase all his music, and sync it only to your Big Country discography.


@erked No go. He found it. But only after I have him better suggestions of where to look.


Packing. Sad. Actually, given that my wife refused to make me a cheese plate, I've mostly let her pack. Besides, I've got reading to do!

9:38pm (from @KielEWyote)

@MSWallack You and cheese… so high maintenance! LOL :-)


@KielEWyote Before we got married, I told her all I really needed was for her to slice me some cheese, wash & cut some fruits & veggies.


@KielEWyote She tries to accommodate me in years that are prime numbers.

9:42pm (from @KielEWyote)

@MSWallack Ha ha! She’s a smart one!


@KielEWyote Remind me that if we ever have you over to our house for wine & cheese … no cheese for you!

9:46pm (from @KielEWyote)

@MSWallack How about I get cheese and no wine? All those years in Catholicism, I’ve had my share of wine. Ha ha!


@KielEWyote Fine. Kraft American for you. You can watch me drink a 2005 Bordeaux. Wife can't drink so she'll share your cheese.

10:35pm (from @shoupus) [Jenny Shoup, one of my law partners]

I'm at RockSugar Pan Asian Kitchen (Los Angeles, CA) http://4sq.com/Ogb9nE


Wife & mother-in-law now arguing about whether to pack MiL's unopened bottle of Canola oil. Don't you take Canola oil on vacation?


@shoupus I'm not.

Saturday, July 7


Checking out and heading home. Gonna try to make it in one day. (@ Marriott Barony Beach Resort) http://4sq.com/NLO2jw


Leaving exactly one hour late. Is this a good start or not?


Kids are watching Doctor Who. Time paradoxes appear to play havoc with daughter's brain.


Father-in-law appears to have lost something, but can't remember what. So he's gonna rummage around the car to try to find whatever it is.


Wife is not pleased that I didn't shower this morning (um, weren't we trying to hurry?). Told her I could shower at a truck stop.


Wife now says that I stink. I told her it's manly aroma that should make her want to get up and make a cheese plate.


The car is very quiet. Bad for tweeting but very, very good for collective sanity.


At a rest stop for a potty break. MiL sees a map on the wall. "Oh, what's that a map of?" Me: "South Carolina." Mil: "How interesting."


Father-in-law back to rummaging in the magic drawer (glove compartment) hoping some chocolates will magically appear.

10:36am (from @erked)

@MSWallack For vacation, I rely solely on rapeseed oil.


@erked Hey, hey. There are children in this posse.

Reply posted July 9, 6:58 am (after the end of this travelogue) @MSWallack Sorry, that was unintentionally weird and a result of my juvenile tittering over the word "rapeseed."


And now we're back to changing lanes every 84 seconds or so, with the occasional fake out or swerve thrown in for … whoa! … good measure.


Ok. This is going to take several tweets to get the full story. We stop at a Shell/Circle K for a bathroom for FiL. MiL pulls up to drop …


… him off and then she'll go park. He gets out and "drops something" but he doesn't know what. Son get out to help him. They both go in …


By the time I get in I find son has raced past FiL into the ONLY bathroom. Yes, just 1. Recall we stopped because FiL really had to go.


So while waiting, I found some deodorant (now wife is complaining I got the wrong one - it was a gas station for crying out loud!).


Eventually it was daughter's turn (after FiL and son). She saw how disgusting it was and refused. So we decided to go somewhere else.


Now remember, we're trying to hurry so we can get home in one day. Nevertheless, before we can leave MiL decides to buy a $1 lottery ticket!


But first she must interrogate the mostly asleep clerk to learn everything she can about the different litter tickets. The rest of us, well…


… WE WANT TO USE A BATHROOM! Finally she finishes and we all walk out the door … but then FiL turns and heads back to the bathroom again.


Finally, back in the car we start looking for another place with a restroom. After a few minutes, we turn around to go the other way…


As we pass the place we'd already gone, FiL points it out and says we could stop there, then gets agitated by our collective "No!"


Eventually, after going over hill & dale, we found a Burger King (none of us dared eat there) with clean enough bathrooms. Only 30+ minutes!


Remind me to check to see if her lottery ticket won.


MiL didn't ask store clerk about "litter tickets". She asked about lottery tickets. I'm not sure what a litter ticket is.


MiL has now complained that we're not helpful because we don't have immediate answers for traffic issues and get annoyed at her annoyance.

12:11 (from @Still_H20)

@MSWallack impressive u r able to live tweet this excursion.


Major traffic jam. I found us a way around lots of the traffic but not enough. And we didn't want to venture off into banjo country.


Bad accident. SB traffic stopped. Lifeline helicopter in the road. Heavy traffic on our side just for looky-loos.


@Still_H20 MiL drives. Wife and I are in the back, kids in the middle as a snark buffer.


Is South Carolina the biggest state in the country? I ask because we've been driving and driving and driving and … well you get the picture.


Stop 3 (still in South Carolina). Argh! (@ McDonald's)http://4sq.com/MR5iJs


Maybe they moved Indiana further away? Just to screw with us.

1:27pm (from @DougMasson)

@MSWallack We weren't supposed to tell. But . . . surprise! (We moved it somewhere over by Kansas.)


@DougMasson Why am I not surprised that you're responsible?


I've just been told by a wholly unreliable source that Indiana has, in fact, been moved. Somewhere near Kansas, I'm told.

1:37pm (from @DougMasson)

@MSWallack Just trying to get back to Central Time. Thought I'd hide behind Illinois and Missouri as buffer states.


After I order a drink, MiL informs us she's gonna stop at the neighboring gas station to buy water. After McD's drive-thru.


As soon as we clear the drive-thru, FiL announces he needs to use the bathroom. At McD's. Not gas station. I decide to go too.


But by the time I'm finished and done, FiL is still getting out of the car. So MiL is walking to the gas station while I watch FiL.


No. She waited until he was done. Now she's walking to the gas station. It's like she doesn't want to get home today.


And the potty break was extra long because FiL couldn't figure out how to flush the toilet. Then …


I had to show him the sink so he didn't wash in his hands in the urinal. Then I had to help him turn on the water (an automatic faucet).


Mother-in-law has been in the gas station buying a bottle of water for over 10 minutes. Buying lottery tickets again?


Can't leave McD's yet. Can't find FiL's teeth. "They're in the green bag," says wife. "No I moved them," says MiL, "but I don't know where."


Wife just broke the car window with her head. Figuratively (well mostly) of course. It did make a satisfying "thunk" sound.

1:54pm (from @barkway)

Too funny!» @MSWallack: Can’t leave McD’s yet. Can’t find FiL’s teeth. “They’re in the green (cont) tl.gd/i7doaq


After that stop, I now suspect that Indiana has been moved yet further. Maybe closer to Colorado?


Wife just texted her sister that we've been touring South Carolina, driving from bathroom to bathroom for the last 5 1/2 hours.

2:07pm (from @bmk)

@MSWallack Judging from how it feels outside, the only direction we're moving is closer to the Sun.


@bmk That certainly sounds possible. I have some global warming on my shoulder, knee, and foot.

2:12pm (from @aaronecarroll) [Aaron Carroll, doctor, educator, and co-author of Don't Swallow Your Gum!: Myths, Half-Truths, and Outright Lies About Your Body and Health and Don't Cross Your Eyes...They'll Get Stuck That Way!: And 75 Other Health Myths Debunked

@MSWallack judging by temp, Indiana has moved to the equator.


Just passed a horse trailer. Sad to know that their ride is probably more comfortable than ours. Nay nay whinny nay.


Mother-in-law now apparently trying to play some kind of game with the horses in the trailer. Swerving toward them to scare 'em, perhaps?


Finally made it to North Carolina. I'm worried that they will have added a West Carolina for us to drive through too.


Now FiL is trying to discern the purpose of today's trip. We need to remind him every 20 minutes or so that we're on the way home.


Wife is not enjoying the mixture of the (apparently nasty) deodorant I bought and leftover McD's chicken wrap.


Stop 4. (@ Citgo) http://4sq.com/NeehiJ


FiL announces he needs another bathroom break. MiL gets off the highway. Then FiL says "I didn't mean now; I meant soon." We stopped anyway.


Talked to a cop at the gas station. Hoping he would arrest me (thus saving me from this car ride).


Now that we're back in the car, mother-in-law has decided to rearrange her stuff. Just because.


Just as we get onto the highway, father-in-law starts eating prunes. We just stole them from him; hid them, too.


Son handing paper towels to us when MiL swerves so violently, they fly out of his hand. Looked weightless as they bounced off the ceiling.


My wife has just discovered that while peanut butter may mix well with chocolate, her Kindle does not.


@donwonslow In the Author's Note to "Satori" you ask how Trevanian's fans would respond. You are no "pretender to the throne". Well done. [Unfortunately, I had a type in Mr. Winslow’s Twitter handle. I noticed while preparing this compilation, so I corrected and resent the tweet.]


Now reading "Blood Oath (President's Vampire #1)" by Christopher Farnsworth. http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B003NX …


FiL has just noticed the GPS. He seems to dispute that it knows where we're going. He also worries that we don't know where we are.


MiL, while driving on the twisting roads in the big hills (I refuse to call them mountains) decides it's a good time to play with her phone.


Listening to FiL rant, we're not sure whether to laugh or cry. It's sad to see what dementia can do … but it can also offer up good comedy.


Right now he doesn't believe that we're headed home, that we had to go through mountains, that we know where we are or which way to go.


MiL already planning our next stops.


FiL now complaining that it's almost dark and not safe to keep driving. MiL made him take off his sunglasses.


Father-in-law now yelling that we're lost in the mountains. Telling his sister (on the phone) to come "up here" to get him.


Did I mention that we've been out of the big hills for half an hour or so? Road now is long, straight, and mostly flat.


We have reluctantly just passed the prunes back to the front of the car.


Didn't @DEVO have a song "Jerkin' Back 'n' Forth"? Mother-in-law must be a @DEVO fan based on her driving technique today.


We're stopping for gas. Father-in-law angry because he isn't ready to use the bathroom yet.


Stop 5. (@ Exxon Oil) http://4sq.com/MaUq4B


Father-in-law continuing to rant. Mother-in-law, in exasperation, says, "Are you nuts?" Wife & I from the back: "Yes!"


Wife just brought out a can of chicken. Eating it with a knife (sorry, no forks). And she complains about my deodorant?


If mother-in-law keeps jerkin' back 'n' forth like this, my wife will be wearing her can of chicken.


Good time to repeat a tweet from 2010 travelogue: "It' s ha rd to typ ew hen my mot her-in -low keeeeps jer king teh carr all ovur de rood."


If you're enjoying the 2012 Wallack Twitter Travelogue, here's a link to the compiled 2010 edition: http://blog.wallack.us/2010/07/wallac …


Father-in-law doesn't want to go to Lexington. Wants to go home. Lexington is on the way home.


Mother-in-law has been spelling L-E-X-I-N-G-T-O-N to father-in-law for the last 10 minutes. By now, even I'm confused.


Wife now suggesting father-in-law and daughter get a hotel room together so we don't have to hear them complain.


Mother-in-law now trying reverse psychology to get father-in-law to take a nap. Either it'll work or she'll go bonkers too.


First wife won't make me a cheese plate. Now she won't even feed me her Cheetos. Just what is the world com … OUCH!


Stop 6. (@ Wendy's) http://4sq.com/M8Fjy5


This. Wendy's. Is. Slopoooooooooooooooow. [And no, the p in the word Slopoooooooooooooooow was not intentional.]


MiL wants to drive with her sandwich in one hand, her phone in 2nd hand, helping FiL eat with 3rd hand, & drive with 4th hand. What? Wait!


Fly in car wants to be a martyr. Dive-bombing MiL. Then over to FiL causing him to spill food onto the food he'd spilled on himself earlier.


Stopping again so MiL can clean up FiL. He doesn't want to give her his food and is fighting her for it.


Stop 7. I think. I may have lost count. (@ Shell Gas Station)http://4sq.com/N9qgkD


We are now taking bets on whether we'll get home by midnight.


Father-in-law's door is open. He can't figure out how to close it. Oh, and MiL is mad at us.


Now father-in-law is back to wondering where we're going and why. Still not believing that we're going home.


Father-in-law wants dinner. Doesn't believe we just had dinner. Not like there's a mess in his lap for evidence, or anything.

7:58pm (from @amymasson)

@MSWallack So, does he have a memory problem?


@amymasson Dementia. And afternoons are the worst. I think they refer to it as "Sundowner's Syndrome".

8:00pm (from @amymasson)

@MSWallack Sounds like a hoot.


@amymasson That's one word for it. Like I tweeted earlier, both sad & comic at the same time. I's easier to find humor than to focus on bad.


MiL tailgating car in front of us. Wife: "You're too close to this car." MiL: "I know." And on we drive.


Listening to the ongoing discussion between FiL & MiL about our journey and where they will sleep tonight would make Abbot & Costello proud.


Father-in-law now claiming that we've kept secret from him the fact that other people are in the car with him. He's surprised to see us.


Wife has just suggested the invention of a "senior citizen gag". We could test it on my mother-in-law. Oh, wait. I have that wrong don't I?


Now father-in-law thinks we're driving to the airport to "ship him off" to … somewhere. It is tempting.


Once again, sorry for the dark turn this travelogue has taken, but it's a relief valve for the stress in the car. Humor instead of tears.


Father-in-law yelling that his doc said he isn't supposed to have stress. If he'd take a nap (as doc suggests) we wouldn't have stress.


Now he's raving that we're all going to go to jail because of what we're "doing to him".


Daughter talking him off the ledge by asking him about events from his past. Might be working.


Daughter did a great job asking FiL questions about his past. Seemed to calm him down and tire him out. At least a bit.


Daughter now says "we owe her" for her efforts to help grandpa. I told her I'd give her a vacation to Hilton Head.


Wife has been invited to see "Magic Mike" friends. This is fine; it's about me after all. But she better come home with a damn cheese plate!

10:29pm (from @KielEWyote)

@MSWallack Everyday you talk about cheese, you remind me more of Steve Urkel. :-) http://twitpic.com/a5626w


@KielEWyote Nah. Not just any cheese will do. And a good cheese plate should include some grapes, too. Maybe bell peppers.


@KielEWyote Funny thing is, I really don't eat that much cheese. But it's become a special treat late at night at Hilton Head (w/ wine!).


So close to home I can almost smell it. Of course we have to drop off (and unload) MiL & FiL first, so who knows when we'll really get home.


I'm thinking of sleeping in the refrigerator tonight. Pros & cons?


Home. 14.5 hours.

And there you have it: The Wallack Family 2012 Summer Vacation Travelogue! Will there be future episodes? Who knows. It doesn’t seem likely that my father-in-law will be able to travel anymore. And, as I noted, it’s hard to tweet while driving. But I’ve had a lot of fun doing these and I’m going to try to find ways to continue some kind of vacation travelogues in the future.

Oh, and if you’re a publisher interested in a humorous travelogue book… or maybe you want to make a movie or TV show? Well, my contact info is in the upper left corner of this blog! Get in touch!

Update (July 17, 2012): Corrected the dates of the first two entries (from July 27 and July 29, to June 27 and June 29).

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