I only buy bras at Victoria’s Secret if I have a coupon. That’s the stipulation, otherwise it’s just too extravagant for my income level. Luckily, VS sends me coupons…entirely too often.
Last night upon a shopping excursion, I was disappointed to find that not only did Victoria’s Secret stop selling my favorite bra, but that they were reverting all bras back to the styles of the 1940’s. “You don’t understand,” I began to explain to the sales girl. “I wear a lot of v-necks – 80% of my wardrobe is black, low cut tops!” She smiled understandingly and then directed me to a medieval boulder holder that lacked even the slightest padding. Jazz videos played on TV’s hanging from the ceiling and intended, I suppose, to enthuse us toward the styles of the past. I was less than thrilled.
I found Chip, and steered him from the store. The waves were restless, crashing hungrily on the dark rocky outcroppings along the coast that evening. As we walked I lamented to him about my experience in the shop. He listened, nodding, keeping any opinions he may have had inside; much more likely they simply weren’t there at all. I trailed off in my Bra Tale of Woe, noticing a man in long dark robes – a wizard, actually – teetering perilously on the black rocks.
“There’s something out there, something coming! Get some lights on the water!” he shouted, right before falling in. Chip rushed to take off his coat and dive in after the poor man. As I climbed down the rocks to pull them both onto land, my attention was caught by the ominous black shapes moving toward the shore.
There could be no doubt: ORCS!
I dragged my wizard-tugging friend out of the water, scrambling over rocks and lurching toward home. “We must get off the road, out of the town!” I gasped, and off we ran. What happened to the water logged man, I’m not sure.
Photo Credit Blogspot
Once settled into the living room of my Aunt’s house, where we were staying, I nervously watched our cats play on the carpet. Too shaken due to the approach of Orcs to watch television, I told Chip we should turn off all the lights, not draw attention to the house on the edge of the sea, and let the Orcs pass along with their thirst for blood. The living room was cozy, but featured a large wall of windows without dressings. It was quiet, warm, and horrifying, sitting there in the dark and feeling so exposed. I don’t know how many hours we sat waiting, fearing. I heard a thud, and suddenly the worst smell filled the room. We attempted to turn on the lights, but the electricity was faltering and the lamps could only muster the dimmest of glow. Against my better judgement, I chose to activate the flashlight app on my phone, just for a moment to check the cats. As I did so, I saw movement out of the corner of my eye and dove to the floor, hiding the light beneath me. While the cats were alright, we were not. Just outside the window was a gang of orcs – and on the floor in front of me the dead body of a neighbor.
“RUN!” I whispered to Chip, and sprinted toward the kitchen. “To the stairs, we’ll head up!”
My aunt’s house was built into a hill, so while the front door was on the main floor and exited out, if we could exit out back on the attic level, four stories up, we could reach the back field and escape. I grabbed the banister and wheeled around it, hurling myself up the stairs, my left hand searching behind me to keep a feel for Chip’s presence. I slowed as I reached the top realizing that other neighbors had sought refuge in the same place…and had booby trapped the second floor hall. There wasn’t time to stand in the open. Without giving our position away, I delicately made my way down the corridor, attempting to not make any Orc sounds while not making any sound at all. I reached the back bedroom and immediately looked around for a human leader of some sort, combing the room for the man courageous enough to protect his family and remain rather than fleeing, as I was attempting to do. There were children clinging to their crying mother. She must have been imploring her husband to leave with them.
Photo credit Blogspot
I turned to Chip, “Take the children through the hidden door. I will be there in a minute to direct you out.” I wanted to know what was going on outside. As Chip got the others out, I approached the man who had constructed the traps, I noticed he was shaking. He was a little shorter than I was, or was slightly cowering, in his late 40’s, fair-haired. He seemed the man who had always worked the vague office position, settling in his cubicle nicely, but not decorating it either, like a piece of furniture that could use a computer. Even still, he was the man who stayed, the one who tried.
“What’s happened?” I asked calmly, quietly, attempting not to spook him.
“Th-they came in the night. I took my family and the neighbors who answered and got them in here – they’re in the attic – WE’VE GOT TO GET THEM TO THE FIELD!” The words tumbled from his mouth like each was trying to escape before the other. His voice also got louder, something we couldn’t afford. I could hear the Orcs now in the house on the main floor. I looked past the man’s shoulder and saw who I assumed to be his son, maybe fifteen years old, slowly, nervously, rise from the back corner. I placed my hand on the man’s arm.
“You’ve set up some nice traps out there. I don’t know if it would do for you to stay-“
“I can slow them down!” he charged loudly, cutting me off.
“Okay,” I pressed softly. “Do what you feel is best. I’m going to gather the people in the attic-“
“YES! Please get them out -“
“Yes, I’m going to get the women and children out.” I said calmly, forcefully, as though trying to move my levelness to him. “Do you want me to take your son?”
The man turned slowly, his breaking heart evident on his face as he did so.
“Y-yes,” he choked.
“Okay.” I motioned for the boy to follow me, pausing at the hidden attic door to allow emotions to be conveyed between the two. After a moment’s wait I stepped through the entry stating “Come” over my shoulder. I moved into the area, searching for faces as I did so. Numerous children, all younger than the man’s son. Five or Six women. Chip, darkness. Quiet sobbing. I heard the door slide shut and knew the boy had left his father. Noises began from outside. The panic that spread on the faces of the hidden was immediate.
“We are not at the top floor yet,” I stated firmly, controlled. “We have to go up two flights. It is after dawn, and they are coming.” Attempting to move everyone out to the hidden stair before the children had time to whimper their fear, I directed everyone toward the stairs in the corner of the room. Daylight was beginning to creep through cracks in the wood. In the odd design of the home there was no third floor from this tiny area, merely two flights to a forth floor attic. Built as if aware of the impending Orc threat, the third floor was what appeared to be the only attic, and only accessible from the obvious attic entry from a drop down ladder in the ceiling of the second floor hall. I assumed the orcs would search there and, while I also assumed they would eventually find the hidden door, I hoped their shear stupidity combined with the unnamed man’s heroism would buy us sometime.
Photo credit Tumblr
Once we scaled the steps to the small fourth floor attic room, I moved the children away from the door, huddling with the women toward the back to help keep them quiet. The teenaged son stayed defiantly at the door, as if ready to pounce on whatever came through. I allowed him his courage, knowing it would be both pointless and hurtful to him to attempt otherwise. Chip stood against the eave. And I watched.
There we stayed for who knows how long. I did my best to convey calm while I listened closely to the sounds of the house, attempting to decipher anything close, measuring the distance of each noise. The sun was up by the time the sounds shrank enough that I dared move. Much to the dismay of Chip, I wouldn’t allow an exit onto the field until I knew we either had to escape or that the orcs were truly on the losing side within the house; I didn’t know what awaited us on the exterior of the house and I wasn’t willing to take any chances until I was sure. I sat there, arms crossed, slightly leaned toward the door, silent, intent.
Eventually, the shouts and bangs quieted down. I turned hearing a train in the distance. Now. Now was the time to move. We needed to get as many people as possible away from the area and that train was our chance. I moved toward the pitched roof interior and slid my hand over the wood, looking for the break I knew was there. Finding the hidden handle, I tugged, popping out a three foot by two foot piece of what would other wise look like attic roof. I stuck my head out the opening and could see a few other humans gathered on the field, anxious, but waiting. Without hesitation I motioned everyone out of the attic. I remained there alone for a moment, listening to the lessened, but still aggressive clamor coming from the other parts of the house.
I wish I could say that I found my courage. That I went back through the door leading to the stairs, charging down the hidden flights, to find the man who remained and hauled him to safety.
I didn’t. I stared at the door, swallowed, and left.
Photo credit Mind Touch
There were no screams outside. My eyes, wincing in the sun, found the women gathering the children, comforting them, while searching for their other relations. Dozens of people were beginning to converge on the field from all directions, but slowly, as if exhausted, not scared. My eyes scanned and finally rested on Chip. He was observing a group of musicians who had not only escaped, but had done so with their instruments. They were setting up to play, as if desperate for normalcy after the horrors of the previous night. Chip’s face was blank.
I took out my phone and looked up a train schedule for the area. It was all well and good that we seemed relatively okay for the moment. Reinforcements for the Orcs would be coming, however, and if a military force didn’t show up soon any safety we felt now would be shattered.
8pm. I sighed, knowing that train would be too late, though I hadn’t stopped to check the current time in my haste. 11:34am. Definitely too late. It seemed impossible that the morning was almost over, that the sun was not only out, but high in the sky.
I turned to the right to see my friends Nell and Fiona jogging toward me. “Thank God!” We embraced. They began to recant to me their own tale of surviving the night, my look expressionless as I tried to take everything in. They were so animated in comparison to my own fatigued, stoney face.
“What’s next?” I murmured staring down the outlying road.
“That’s what we were going to ask YOU!” stated Nell. “Have you heard anything?”
“No….but last I checked the Orcs didn’t drive a caravan of white shuttle buses.”
The girls turned to follow my line of site. Coming down the road and circling the field was a dozen or so small white shuttle buses.
Photo credit Bus Sales
“LET’S GO!” the girls screamed and ran toward the closest one. I didn’t budge, instead taking a moment to watch the scattering people that had grown to a crowd in the hundreds, searching for Chip, rather than dissolving into the mayhem. I was positive I would see him boarding a shuttle on the opposite side of the field near the musicians. Only I didn’t.
“Kate! KAAAATE! COME ON!” shouted Nell through the shuttle window.
Military men were now walking the grass, barking at people to get on the shuttles and move out “ASAP”. Where was Chip? Hesitating I began to move toward the bus, still ever hunting for some sign of Chip, listening for a shout, anything. But there was nothing.
Fiona half pulled half dragged me onto the bus, my face never leaving the field. I was fumbling with my phone waiting for his call to say he was fine. I could hear Fiona and Nell assuring me that they were certain he was alright, but it was kindness and not assurance that made them say such things, as if they were trying to smother the doubt in their throat. I stared out the window as the bus began to move. Mostly everyone was on a vehicle at that point and field was almost deserted save for the remaining military personal. I began to text Chip, glancing incessantly out the window. Where was he? Why wasn’t he contacting me?
Chip. Shuttle bus. Chip. Chip. Please. Shuttle bus. Chip. My texts repeating, begging more than asking.
We circled the field on the exit. As we did so I noticed a young orc, maybe a teen at most, who was obviously suffering from hypertrichosis. The hair on his face had been dyed neon green, I assumed as fear tactic imposed by the other orcs. He looked right back at me, both sad and humiliated, as military scientists descended on him for study. I had enough strength within to allow my heart to ache for the orc boy, even in the attack of the night before, even with my missing friend, because that’s what makes us human. Empathy.
I looked at the phone in my hands. Silent. Still no message from him. I looked up as the buses began to cross a bridge to the mainland – and noticed they were separated into two lines, each going in opposite directions.
“Wait!” I shouted. “WAIT! Where are the buses going? Will we meet at night?!” I was blindly trying to dial Chip while searching anyone for answers on the bus.
“Ma’am, please calm down. We need to get everyone as far away as possible. All will be revealed at a later time.”
The phone was ringing. Ringing. Ringing…Voicemail.
Photo credit BBC
That’s when I woke up. I saw the outline of Chip, his back toward me asleep. It was all I could do to keep from hitting him awake and berating him for ignoring my calls. You can bet he got an earful when he woke up.
Also, I’ve been texting him all morning: “Chip! Cell phone! SHUTTLE BUS!”
And each time he’s sent me a reply. Thank goodness.
What, oh what, does one do with a turkey fryer once Thanksgiving is past $60 worth of oil?
Well, if you’re part of my group of friends, you set out to discover what can and can’t be fried.
The Frying Rig.
For safety’s sake, my friends took a direct page from Alton Brown’s book and setup their fryer outside, away from the house, spending about $5 to have the fry basket on a pulley, and wrapping the hose in tinfoil so that in the event of a spill, the hot oil won’t melt through the propane hose.
The weather was cool, the colors bright, every one felt good in the throws of Austin Autumn.
While some planning had to go into what we fried (wet batter that could drip and therefore be more likely to cause burnt bits that would blacken the oil), we started ambitiously with hot wings followed by Brussel sprouts, both fried at 350F degrees. The hot wings were tossed in regular buffalo sauce and Texas Pete Sweet & Fiery, a new favorite of mine. The Brussel sprouts took less than 3 minutes and were amazing both simply salted and sprinkled with Uchiko’s recipe.
Following our bounty of protein and veggie tables, we moved to a pallet cleansing batch of fried baguette crust, cut into strips, dipped into Nutella and served with banana slices. This was particularly satisfying.
Not everything was a success, however. We did attempt a batch of fried cheese curds, that came out more like puffs of hollow crispy shells. They also coated the basket in goo, and we had to break from frying to scrub everything and make sure the oil wasn’t going to burn do to particles.
I had mixed up a batch of green chile biscuit dough, rolled into balls, and stuffed each ball with a small cube of cheese and two drops of chile oil. These were tasty, but needed more seasoning than I mixed into the dough. A good start on something, though, and they were even better the next day, making me think they may need to be a breakfast treat!
Up next were the corn dogs and, while I only got one bite, they were easily my favorite of the afternoon. And it goes without saying that they disappeared the fastest, loved by adults, kids, and X-1.
X knows where the good stuff is…
But the day wasn’t just about getting together to eat unnecessary calories. We learned, we taught each other, we enjoyed the sunshine. The was quality time…
“Quality” time of the future.
We taught Nicco how to use the horn on her Batmobile and how to make deep “Tooooooot” train sounds with an empty bottle. We chatted and allowed the kids to exhaust us, using the adults and trees as jungle gyms.
And what would an afternoon be without dessert, a dessert that appreciates Autumn’s bounty of apples, of course?! The amazing Tania whipped up two different kinds of fried apple pie, one in pie crust, and one in a simple biscuit dough, as recommended by Paula Deen. We were somewhat surprised to find that Deen’s dough was far lighter and more substantial (and far less greasy) than the simple pie dough! Both were dipped in a fantastic caramel sauce from Austin’s own Foreign & Domestic.
It was an afternoon of ease, experimentation, humor, good company, beautiful weather, and joy. It was a second Thanksgiving Day, it was perfect for a Sunday in Autumn. One final note: we did eventually get the cheese curds to come out better…though not all together perfect. When Sarah wanted to get a few more, her husband, not standing too far from the curds said “Well, kick the dog, drop the baby, and get over here!” rather than leave the table himself, because they were disappearing all too fast. (Yes, of course he was kidding! But it’s a funny picture non-the-less.)
A few weeks back I made this big stink about writing more frequently and yet since that time I have wound up writing less than ever.
I haven’t cooked anything new.
I’m still in the office a million hours a week.
And now I’ve taken on a second job, albeit a small one at one night a week, as a Quiz Master.
So, I’m writing today, dammit.
I’m trying to find meaning and balance in my life. I say “meaning”, maybe that’s a bit harsh. I am an adult now, which is easy to claim on the basis of age, but much harder to grasp in terms of…everything else. I have no children because they are expensive. Also, they smell, but I could probably get over that. I do not feel settled in my career because when you’re a child there is only the want to be. To be an astronaut, a veterinarian, a doctor, a teacher, a lion wrangler, something definitive, something viewed as great, and you’re blissfully unaware in youth of the lesser positions, such office administration, personal assisting, the horrible world that is retail, etc. You think everything is fair, that you work 8:30am to 5pm, at which point you’re allowed to have a life and holidays off. And for working those hours you earn enough cash to afford said life, a vacation once a year, medical bills, the surprise of a car breaking down. The world has changed, however. And I am cranky for it.
Where am I going with this? I don’t know. Maybe the world hasn’t changed.
Adulthood – Something I’ve sparred with more than once on here. It’s hard to view one’s self as a true adult as I base my idea of an adult on my parents, who I viewed most while a child in the 1980’s. Also, at its core my life is one of learning, of being excited for art, history, the beauty, destruction, and evolution of our past. This blurs the lines of being an adult personally because one is supposed to let go of the loves you have as a child as you grow into maturity. As a child I loved learning, I loved museums. And I will not let go of those.
Speaking of cores, we all have an inner voice within us. If we didn’t we wouldn’t be able to read silently. Boom. Inner voice. As we grow, mature, and learn this inner voices matures with us, is us, defines our rationals and decision making processes. Every once in a while, however, my inner voice isn’t me.
That sounds bizarre and creepy. Scratch that.
What I mean to say is that every once in a while my inner child speaks for my inner voice.
This morning I read an article about a new “Alien Horned” dinosaur discovered in Canada recently. It’s called an “Alien” based on it’s scientific name (Xenoceratops), Xeno of course being latin for Alien. Yeah, no, stop thinking Scientology. I mean, their use of Xenu isn’t exactly wrong, but it’s also not real. Dinosaurs were real (unless of course that offends you, but if it does then you probably wouldn’t be reading my blog).
The point is the new dino didn’t look all that different. He’s instantly recognizable as a close relation to the Triceratops.
Ole’ Xeno himself. (Photo Credit Yahoo News)
So, I see the headline of a new dinosaur discovery and I can’t click fast enough out of childlike wonder and excitement, only for my eyes to rest on a rather familiar-though-slightly-different face. And my inner child’s inner voice takes over and says to me:
“That’s not new. That’s the dinosaur I’d ride like a horse if I lived back then.”
And that’s my first thought on this matter. Not “My, a new relation of a classic. How interesting!”, not “A new discovery! How delightful!”, not “Oh, joy, something new! The World as we know it is astounding!” Nope.
My first thought is that this is boring, because I would ride a triceratops and all of his or her kin like wild ponies of the Cretaceous Period.
WHY is that my first thought looking at poor Xeno Horn over here? First of all, no I wouldn’t have. In the improbable event of finding myself stuck back a few dozens of millions of years ago in the Earth’s beginnings, I would not be saddling up great monsters. Trampled to death? Maybe. Stung by a giant, horrifying insect of yore and left for dead? Most likely. Tour around on a Xenoceratops? Absolutely not. Not only did my inner child hop a ride on a Jules Verne or H.G. Wells premise, but I also came up with the girliest, most childish thought:
Big beast. I ride. He my friend. I call him “Friendy”.
I say “girliest” because though I spent much of my youth working on farms just so I could ride horses, I would have much rather had a dinosaur or pterosaur as a trusty stead; ponies were just practice. This was me at my girliest.
I love history, I respect history, I learn from history. Apparently, however, I will not grow out of my periodic inner child no matter how immature she may forever be.
I don’t think I mind this, though. It’s that childishness that keeps me enthusiastic over the interesting things I love, and I find that joy to be easily contagious to those around me. Maybe it will even make me a good parent, if ever I decide to embark on that experience. I know it certainly made my father a good dad, albeit a pretty corny one.
When I was a child, I believed being an adult meant that I would have a career, I could buy candy when ever I wanted, and I would be awesome. I had a picture in my head of having a lovely home, only seen in glances, as I always pictured myself running out the door to work, but looking pretty professionally cool as I did so. That’s how I viewed my parents as a kid: loving, but always on their way to work. And they did it because they wanted to give my brother and I as good a life as they could; I just didn’t realize how hard it was for them. In my mind, you grew up, you had a job you liked, you then earned enough money from working so much that you had a nice home, and I would be physically fit because I had been forced to be on a diet since as far back as I can remember.
But that’s not what this whole “Adult” thing is about. I have to make decisions and live with those decisions, which is suddenly a very heavy thing to do. The odds of the average person being in a career that they love is slim to non-existent. Buying a house is filled with as many smiles as heartbreak. And you can’t eat candy all the time, because you hit twenty-four years of age and your body goes to shit – even more so than it was before. So, as an adult, I spend most of my time figuring out how to become an educational coordinator from the professional choices I’ve made, fixing my house or throwing money at past repairs we’ve made, working out, paying bills, and cuddling my loved ones when I get a second here or there. This all accumulates to cause me to over think my life. Daily.
I have a real draw toward beauty in natural surroundings. I can be alone for months if I look out and see beauty that makes my heart swell. But I’m adult now. So, I can’t just pick up and leave to admire another part of the country, getting a job where ever I land, because I need to be on a career path. And I’m an adult now, so suddenly where I choose to live means that the schools have to be decent, because I want to have a child one day, and I want that child to have a fighting chance. And I’m an adult now, which means I’m fortunate enough to share my life with another adult who supports me. And in turn, I support him, which means that out of respect for him, I have to be sure he is onboard for my insanity. And all of this comes down to accepting that I can’t leave Austin.
I struggle with living in Austin. Sure, it’s cool. And from certain parts of town, it’s even pretty. Find a list of Best Places to Live and somewhere amongst Portland, Seattle, and AnyWhere, North Carolina will be my little city upon the river they call a lake. Be young here, start a company here, retire here (try telling that to my folks). But, in a way, it’s also like living on an island in a sea of crazy. If you can focus on just your island, let yourself go, you’ll have fun, it’s chill, just flow with it. But remember that scene in Labyrinth, when Sarah is being wooed at the dance? Then Agnes is in her bedroom, giving her toys, and lipstick. But slowly Sarah comes to, remembers what’s important, and it’s just not fun any more, and she has to claw her way out. It’s a scene that makes me nauseous every time I see it. But, then, I’ve never been very good at the whole “relax” thing.
When I lived in Arizona, I was awed by the beauty outside my door every day, and when I wanted a change of scenery I drove an hour up north to Flagstaff, or an hour south to Phoenix. The politics and the schools there weren’t great there either, so I have to learn to let that go. But I loved the earth there. I loved the smell, the wind, the change in temperate zones, like it’s an area where the world is smiling. So why not just move there? Well, because I’m adult now and right when you have all the freedom in the world is right about when making changes seems impossible.
I moved here and got a job. Then I bought a home. Then I made a couple of friends. Then I made a few more. And these aren’t just “buddies”. These are people that I’m still surprised to have only known for a few years, because I could’ve sworn they were family. We support each other emotionally. We share and learn and play together. Sometimes we have Sunday dinner together the way we did as children with our blood relations. We give honest advice to each other, spend holidays within the warmth of each others’ homes, and, as many of us are far from our families, we have created the support of a clan within each other. It’s not a replacement, but it’s very tangible, and not something I ever expected at this time in my life. There are a number of things we still have to figure out in our lives, the two biggest ones being should we have a child (where? When?! HOW?!) and what the fuck are we doing with our lives? But one thing is for certain, it doesn’t look like we can leave Austin.
So, in that vein, I’m going to start really chronicling our Austin escapades, I’m going to remind myself as often as possible why exactly I live here, and learn, as best I can, to chill the fuck out and live in the present rather than the unforeseen future. If any of you have figured out how to do this please don’t hesitate to tell me how. I will continue with recipes and I will pick back up the pace on the Pop Bytes. I’ll nerd out more often on here. And we’ll make the best of what we’ve got.
Because that’s all you can do as an adult and these are the decisions we can live with.
I’m horrible to watch Antiques Roadshow with. I find myself shouting at the screen a la Indian Jones, “That belongs in a museum!”
And this really is the core of my being: I am excited by old things, find them amazing, fascinating, want them to be accessible to all, and want to get others excited about these objects as well. To learn is to better one’s self and I’d love to write and educate, to spread enthusiasm for something in my daily career.
There are 2 things I want to do with my life. To the average person, they’re very mundane. But to me, however, they’re the equivalent of becoming a rock star.
I want to:
1. Write lesson plans in accordance to state regulations for historical societies and museums in order to entice local schools to take field trips to such establishments.
2. Work and write for Cook’s Country/America’s Test Kitchen, working as an Ethno-Foodologist or, even better, a Food Archeologist.
When I was in junior high and high school I would skip class about once a month or so. None of my friends would ever want to join me and my parents were always very supportive of these escapades. You’d think I had egghead friends and that’s why they wouldn’t skip, or that I had hippy dippy parents that would allow me to be so flagrant about my education, but neither was the case. Well, my mom could kinda be hippy dippy, but that’s a different story. When I decided to skip school I would get a ride to the train station and take Metro North to Grand Central Station. Exciting, right? Who wouldn’t want to skip school to hang out in The City all day?! I would then walk up Park Ave. to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Or I would head west across the park to the American Museum of Natural History (or what’s know as the Museum of Mother Fucking Awesomeness by its fans) and I would spend hours and hours reading in silence, smiling over beauty…with the periodic stop off at the Central Park Zoo to finish the trip. I did this over and over and over again. In high school I was fairly popular, I was certainly no prude, and the most epic parties were normally hosted by my brother or I. But when it came to what I really wanted, it was historical solitude. I would have shared that time with others, allowing them to tag along, but who cared for those things but me?
Photo Credit Jessica Hische
I’m extremely fortunate in the sense that I’ve been to the museums of NYC so frequently that I can’t even count the days spent in their ancient and loving embrace. Dozens of times? Definitely. Hundreds? Very possible. I’ve moved away from that area a couple of times since graduating high school and being unable to take advantage of those museums is always the number one issue that I have when living more than a train ride away. I guess I miss my family, too, but I really miss those museums. In fact, when I visit my family, a jaunt to a museum in NYC is always one of the first afternoons planned. I am not so ego maniacal to ever think I could work at the Museum of Natural History or the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In order to do something like that I would have had to make all the right moves, and absolutely no mistakes, in the professional decisions of my life. The employees and curators of those establishments are my heros, my Steven Tylers and Brad Pitts. Unfortunately, it seems I’ve done the opposite of not making professional blunders thus far in my life. I’ve created quite the resume and educational experience with not one, but two degrees under my belt. They’re just as far from the museum and/or food path as humanly possible. Awesome.
The first time in memory of going to a museum, I was about three years old and with my parents and brother. We headed out to the Museum of Natural History. My brother and I never really got along very well, and on trips like this we were more simply in the same place at the same time rather than actually experiencing something together. We walked passed the dinosaur skeleton in the entry hall and made our way around the mammoths and the naked, hairy neanderthals with the droopy boobs. This was prior to the Rose Center, otherwise we would have probably made a bee line for the giant glass box of Space. The favorite at this time, however, was the Great Hall. The Great Hall is massive, primarily so it can fit the life-sized model of a blue whale. It’s romantically lit, and by that I mean, that it’s somewhat dark, like the depths of the ocean. It consists of two levels with marine life exhibits lining the walls and a large open area in the center, from which one can admire the whale.
Photo credit Linden78. That bitch’ll crush yo’ ass.
I say “admire”.
There are two things I remember from this day, one of my earliest trips to the AMNH:
1. Being horrified in the Great Hall by this massive whale that was going to crush and/or eat me at any moment while…2. George Michael’s Careless Whisper played over the loud speaker. I mean, yeah, technically it was a Wham! song, but, c’mon, it was all George Michael and that damned whale. My mother said she heard “teeny, tiny pounding feet” and turned to see me flying toward her staring over my shoulder at the whale, horrified. And what self respecting toddler wouldn’t be? Even at that young age I knew anything from above could crush you below, both literally and figuratively.
It’s a hazy memory, but it’s very real, and it didn’t just end with that day.
I then proceded to carry around a fear of being in an ocean for years. Playing in the surf = good. Playing far enough out where water could go over your head and therefore allow you to be crushed from above by a whale = bad. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I could picture myself getting out of a boat and into open waters. I wasn’t afraid of whales, so much as being in water with them. I grew up along the north eastern seaboard, so going whale watching was a common activity. I respected their beauty and their power. And their ability to crush me in real life in the ocean or as a giant model in a museum.
Soul inhibited experience or no, I knew to differentiate my fear from what actually caused it and not where the experience occurred. Loosely translated: I didn’t blame the museum for this silly fear that followed me around for a couple of decades.
And to this day I want to be apart of some historical and educational organization that learns from and loves the past, whale or no.
This isn’t a story about being scared to love. This is quite the opposite.
On a bit of a whim last summer my husband and I decided to join a couple of friends on a trip to New Orleans. I made Will, the planner, promise that the hotel would be nice and clean, and everything else I couldn’t give a damn about. I had decided to visit my folks alone for few days before the trip and flew into to NOLA after my husband and friends had been there for a couple of days. It was raining when I arrived and, as Austin was experiencing a record drought, it was the first time I had seen a drizzle in months.
As I moved through the airport I smiled at the gas lamps and live musicians. I was used to stray guitarists and full bands within airports from living in Austin, but the internal gas lamps had the exact romantic affect on me that they were supposed to incur. I was tired from traveling, but ready to be out and about in a new place.
Will and I are not people who waste time; we dropped off my things at the airport and immediately went right back out to explore. I find the best way to become intimate with a strange city is to walk it’s streets. We wandered through rich areas and poor areas, as well as the French Quarter. Our hotel was a single block from Du Monde’s and I’d stay there again in a heartbeat, even knowing the amount of children that died within its walls.
We walked down cobblestone, by 200 year old homes and areas that had been ravaged by Katrina. Eventually, we found ourselves in a cemetery, all white marble and above the earth. If it’s one thing New Orleans knows well, it’s that buried bodies float. Many of the tombs were beautiful, a handful ornate, a few were vandalized, and some forgotten. I’m not particularly melancholy, but the cemeteries of Louisiana embody a sullen beauty that New England doesn’t quite get to. Spanish moss and bright stone rather than dark earth and old rock.
We passed through Bourbon Street without incident; I appreciate the architecture and I love a good drink, but I can do without wading through puddles of vomit at 10am. We went to the aquarium and even the zoo. There were hat shops, and usual tourist crap vendors, flowers for sale, and plenty of sidewalk performers and artists. Most of all, though, you could smell how old the city was. I felt her past through each cell of my body and the more I explored the more she sunk into my bones. She had been beaten, diseased, dishonored, and raped, and still New Orleans holds her head high, unembarrassed and rather proud by what has made her.
After a couple of days, we decided to take an evening historical tour of New Orleans’ alleys within the French Quarter. The second stop on our night adventure was our own hotel, where we were informed that dozens of school children burned to death in the areas that were now the rooms we had been sleeping in. We learned about paying a man to duel for you on church grounds and of nuns who smothered hundreds of babies to keep their orphanages from becoming overrun with the unwanted. We listened to tales of Civil War atrocities, of slaves burning themselves rather than being torn from their families. We already knew about Delphine DeLaurie and her bizarre bloodlust, but we were surprised to hear that Nicolas Cage eventually purchased her home…and then had to sell fast when his own money ran out. Needless to say, we went back to our hotel in the evening with a shiver down out spines.
But as I leaned on the hotel balcony late that night, I wasn’t bothered by the remnants of the man who hung himself in the floor below me or the children who had burned around me. I felt the cool air, smelled the river, and tried to stare into the apartment across the way, loved so much by it’s residents that they didn’t bother with window dressings. I thought of what it would be to live in such a place. A city flooded and reflooded, burned and buried. Diseased and destroyed. And so very, very beautiful and beloved. It was a city who made those who cared for it even stronger.
For the first time in my life my body and mind ached to be apart of a place I barely knew.
We weren’t in New Orleans long, and we left feeling incomplete. We drove the trip from Nola to Austin, weaving in and out of plantation areas and stark highway. I’ve enjoyed previous vacations, missed the romance or a pretty sunset, remembered an incredible restaurant or a neat day trip. New Orleans was different. We left New Orleans feeling different.
And I’ve been unable to stop thinking about her since.