The unending swan song that is The Simpsons (48 years and running strong) left me wary of glomming on to another animated series. I was skeptical of and disappointed in everything else: American Dad, Family Guy, the simultaneously under- and over-medicated psychotropic nightmare that is Adult Swim.
Sweet, merciful Merman, I was in from the word "Gene."
And it was in Yakima, WA, that I came across the unthinkable: an honest-to-god, brick-and-mortar Bob's Burgers restaurant.
Ok, so it was basically a Chili's. I ate an unimaginative salad at the bar and avoided conversations with men. In other words: nothing new.
But it was the closest I've ever come to actually being in a cartoon, so I was happy.
As a child, I watched approximately 80,000 hours of cartoons. Looney Tunes. Merry Melodies. Hanna-Barbera. All of it.
I do not regret a single minute. By dint of my tireless cartoon-watching, I learned about classical music, racism, war-era Hollywood, baby boomers, cross-dressing, how to make silly sounds and voices, the existence of animation, and Rube Goldberg machines.
It also made seeing a real Bob's Burgers and eating at a tiny Mexican food place called De Tom and Jerry exponentially more thrilling.
One of my awesome Yakima hosts, a long-lost friend from Atlanta who'd migrated out west a few years before, drove me out there and we enthusiastically ate al fresco in the parking lot.
Back in the real world, life continued with its cartoonish mishaps and I learned valuable lessons in Washington state:
It's totally fine to not assume at first sight that a woman is pregnant, despite slightly obvious physical indicators. Or not point it out until she mentions it. Or not even notice until she mentions it.
When called out on being an idiot for not even noticing your friend's pregnancy, it's fine -- but probably not best -- to say, "I thought you just got fat."
If you find out that your friend/host is definitely having a baby, go to Target and buy a crap-load of mundane baby stuff they don't feel like thinking about yet. You'll be a grassroots genius-hero of legendary proportion.
Target has really cool bibs. I went with a neon green rubber number.
There's still more to learn. More to see. Much of this trip has been the blurring of reality and imagination. How you picture places to be. How they really are.
At times, I feel like 3-D Homer, wandering around new places and keenly aware of how out of my element I am.