Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Dietary Suggestions and More Lines

One thing I joked with Clara about this weekend was the strong shift to a primarily liquid-based diet. I have noted this unconscious shift numerous times when I have gone to the check-out counter at the grocery store or 7-11. As I look down at my collected purchases, they are usually around 50% liquid. I doubt this can be healthy; I guess we'll see how things turn out when the weather gets cooler. I am writing this mainly for my own good since I returned home for dinner last night to find a refrigerator filled with beverages and was hard pressed to come up for a recipe that involved Strawberry soy milk, aloe kefir, Pocara Sweat [Taiwan's Gatorade], and chilled pu'er tea.
Earlier this morning, I went to the MTC's class "orientation." I put orientation in quotes because the majority of the "orientation" was spent watching a promotional video for the center. Overall, it was fairly creepy to hear a sterilized voice talk about the general program offerings and the multi-cultural atmosphere created by the center while sitting amidst it. The main reason anyone comes to this event is to get his her class schedule. In true Taiwanese form, this involved a number of arbitrarily divided lines with no markings that forced you to go to other lines once you had finished standing in theirs. Arriving at the front of the line, I was gleefully informed that I had no schedule and needed to go to another office on a lower floor to stand in another line. Reaching this front this line, I told the woman behind the desk the nature of my problem and she gave me a puzzled look before starting to go through the box of every single application for the quarter. After fifteen minutes, she was defeated and asked me to go through the last 800 or so applications to see if mine was there.... As luck would have it, it wasn't! Thus, I was ushered to another office with new and different lines. Eventually, I got a new form to fill out and return to the previous office. As I handed the sheet over the desk, I was directed back upstairs to retake the spirit-crushing placement test. Though I was nonplussed by this, I was delighted to know that this test was not the same one that I had taken before which can best be described as the GRE for Chinese linguistics majors. Finishing the test, I hopped back into another line and finally handed over the sheet whereupon I was told to sit and wait for a while. Thankfully, prior to the orientation I had obtained a recently discarded copy of the Journal of Asian Studies, without it, I may have gnawwed my hand off out of boredom. In the end, I got my class schedule, which was wrong the first time but I really wasn't counting at this point, and got my books for class. So, a process that should have taken ten or fifteen minutes tops ended up being a three-hour bureaucratic marathon. After a year of this I think I'll be able to takle any line.

Monday, August 29, 2005

A Whirl-wind Tour of Taibei's Medical Facilities

Yesterday, in a somewhat forward-thinking mode I went to the Taiwan Adventist Hospital [Lonely Planet Approved] to get a Japanese encephalitis vaccination. This is a particularly nasty one that is usually described with phrases like "Only a third die, the majority of the rest are left to live out their lives in a vegitative state." Neither Ariel nor myself had gotten this in the states because the series of shots is ludicrously exspensive and a physician had informed us that it would be fairly easy to obtain here...... right. So upon arriving at the hospital, I was informed that I should come back the next morning although it was only 10:30. Flash forward to this morning where I fill out a variety of forms, am ushered through an interesting, almost conveyor-belt like quick examination in a variety of rooms before I am plopped in front of a doctor who rapidly informs me that the hospital has none of the vaccine. [Damn you lonely planet] He goes on to explain that since the government sponsors the vaccination of all Taiwanese children, there are very few places that offer the adult vaccination. Thereupon, he quickly pulled out a address card for Taiwan's equivilent of the CDC. After scribbling a totally illegible map on the back (he is a doctor after all), I rush out towards the CDC. Within mere seconds of ariving at the Vaccination counter, I am informed that they too lack the vaccination and am then encouraged to go to Taiwan Adventist Hospital..... After informing them that I had already been to said place, they called in a few more co-workers to help me find a place that actually had it. I have to hand in to the workers there, either they didn't have much going on that day or were genuinely interested in helping me; whatever the case was, they bent over backwards for me. After about twenty minutes of calling there was a eureka moment and I was sent to the National Taiwan University Hospital, one of the largest hospitals in Taiwan. One of the most maddening things about a system of socialized medicine is if you are unfamiliar with it. This is easily compounded by linguistic misunderstandings. I was out of my element and really felt it. After wandering aimlessly through the various departments, I finally found the one I was looking for. Thereupon, there was another set of documents to fill out and I was assigned a variety of different numbers, 36 first, then 15, then 4466. I eventually decided it was best to let them shepard me around. After 1/2 I was taken into an examination area for a succint evaluation. With this completed, I was handed another few sheets of paper with various numbers on them and given a number of quick directions that I promptly forgot. The gist of the matter was that I need to go actually get the vaccine from some area, then bring it to the injection room. As I wandered around, I finally saw a help desk that was flashing one of the various numbers that was amidst the stacks of paper. Rushing up to it, I was deflected to another counter to pay for the vaccine. So in short form [this is for me as much as it is for everyone else]:
Go the second floor to the family medicine clinic, register and get a number, get examined, go to the cashier and buy whatever they want to sell me, go to the medicine counter to get the package, return to the family clinic but go to the injection room, leave with a smile.
Yeah, that's about it, and I have to go again in two weeks.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Diannao wenti and an Act of Self-Defense

Alright, I promise there will be pictures soon. I have mananged to crash one library computer too many so I can't give a definate timeframe. If I were Taiwanese, I would say ten minutes because that seems to be the guess-timated length of time for every general distance. When I ask people how long it takes to get to some places or do some activity, they typically respond quickly with "ten minutes." I am not really sure whether this is actual time or relative time however, I have been assured that I can get to nearly anyplace from any other place in ten minutes. Am I suspect? Yes, but there's nothing I can do about it. In the more finite realms of existence, Clara [my Chinese Literature compatriot] and I spent the afternoon meandering around Taibei. Agreeing to meet at a Starbucks [yes, the evil empire], I arrived first and saddled up to the counter for a familiar cup of coffee and the pleasent muzak that proliferates every Cafe-like area in Taiwan. After a little while, I found myself humming along to an incredibly familiar tune that I couldn't place for the life of me. It was only with an elaborate muzaky piano flourish that I realized that it was a cover of Radiohead's "Paranoid Android", hardly muzak fodder. Before I could really process this gross misapproriation, the music smoothly transitioned to some generic Tony Bennett cover that totally pacified my concerns.... Anyway, Clara and I wandered around catching up on old times sharing funny stories and observations of Taiwanese culture. The one that still mortified us was heiren yagao, which roughly translates as "black man toothpaste" and comes with a incredibly deragotory picture. We are still baffled as to how this ever became a comprehensive marketing campaign. Aside from that, we went to a number of outdoor markets, ending up at the Shilin night market which is really a sight. Being the largest night market in Taibei, anything and everything is offered in a jumble of hodge-podge stands. [Like always, pictures forthcoming] Mildly overwhelmed by everything, we didn't buy anything and merely settled for a quick meal of choudoufu (stinky tofu). Though it lives up to its name it is very tasty. After the meal we wandered around the alleys for a little while then headed back towards the MRT. As we waited by a stoplight, a group of Taiwanese youth pointing in our direction and giggling. Even being here a little while, I am fairly use to this but wanted to see how they would respond if I brought some attention to their action. When I politely asked them what was the matter in Chinese, there were a few looks of disbelief and mild mortification. Bravely, one of them said in very clear english "Oh.... hi, I am..." [sorry, I forgot his name]. When I asked them what they were pointing, one finally pointed towards my chest and asked if that was mao. [mao is fur or body hair] When I said that it was and that it was like wearing a jacket, they were stunned. Thankfully, the light turned green and our two groups headed in seperate directions both laughing. I guess genetics are still fodder for conversation.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

This is How You Repay Me?

Before I went to my landlord's house to sign the papers for the apartment, I took a leisurely stroll through the Chiang Kai-shek memorial [pictures will follow, I am not ready to mess around with installing programs on a library computer running windows 95 with a Chinese interface]. Like any major memorial, it is striking in its grandeur. After a massive courtyard that is flanked with the National Theater and National concert hall all surround with gardens, you reach the massive hall made of white marble. After climbing 50-60 feet, you are greated with an enourmous statue of the man seated that may easily dwarf Lincoln. Right as I got to the top of the stairs they were changing the guard in a highly choreographed manner similar to the tomb of the unknown soldier. In sum, the structure is fairly awe-inspiring. This impression, however, is greatly lessened by further inspection of the exhibits underneath the main structure. As I entered the exhibition area, I was greeted by the tinny refrain of an eeirly familiar Collective Soul song blaring from a boom box haphazardly hidden in a nearby potted plant. After this initial shock I turned to see that there was a post office and a bank right within the entrance of the hall. Being thus, many people were coming and going about their daily business without an iota of recognition for the memorial. The exibitions themselves also have an incredibly strange feeling to them; while the majority of collected items have a great deal of relevence and respect for the man there is one section that still baffles me. Upon walking into the second room of the main exhibition area I was greeted with a recreation of Chiang's office with none other than Chiang sitting at his desk grinning back at me. I understand the initentions of the exhibit but the cheap wax sculpture model is more comical than anything else. It really threw me for a loop [pictures forthcoming].

Sorry, I was accosted yesterday by the combination of a precocious Taiwanese child that wanted to play video games and quite possibly the most disgusting person I have ever met [he is an American]. Long story short, he informed me that he had been here for twenty-one years, the past seven on a highly restricted visa due to a "misunderstanding" where the police were forced to break his arm... He informed me that I had missed the good times in Taipei, the good times being the ones where thirteen year olds walked the streets... Yeah, I had the compulsive need to scour my entire body with crystal Drano after our brief encounter.

Jumping back in the past, I got an apartment; it's not much and I only have a one month lease currently, so if there are any enterprising chaps or gals in Taipei that are interested in living in the third section of southern Chongqing road, shoot me an email. Think of the ammenities: large living area, kitchen, bathroom, roof-top access for party people, and easy access to industrial grade cooking supplies [I'm not kidding, I have to walk by scores of refurbished deepfriers before I get to my apartment]. Interested? Call now, please. I really don't want to have to move anytime soon.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Don't Mess with Grannie

One wonderful thing about cross-generational interactions is that they are terribly predictable. Thus, since I am younger and more inexperienced, thus my words and actions are apt to be politely disregarded [usually for the best]; this is especially true in interactions with a battle-hardened granny. In a weird mixture of tough love and selfless assistance, she has opened a great many doors for me. Yesterday, I arrived at my potential landlord's house slightly before she did. The day before I had interacted with this gentleman's wife, so the appearance of an incredibly embittered, chain-smoking, Taiwanese man wearing nothing but his briefs and using the eyes of death on me was not exactly what I had expected. After a few confusing moments, I was invited to sit down in his living room and wait for his wife. In a few minutes she arrived and helped break the awkward silence that was over the room. As we were talking, "grannie" arrived and within a few minutes we were in a taxi over to the apartment. I was pleasantly surprised by what was being offered. While it is by no means ideal [i.e. it needs a bit/lot of cleaning], it is convenient, large and affordable. What's nice about the apartment is that it is technically two floors. The apartment with three rooms, a living room, kitchen and two balconies are on one floor while the roof top has a larger covering and can be turned into a lounge. At this point, the landlord informed me that one of their former teachers [American] who lived there had brought his class onto the roof to study. While I thought this was a nice idea at first, she then informed me that this same teacher then married one of his students.... before I had a chance to process this first bit of information she encouraged me to teach English like her former tenants. I'm really not sure what to make of her insinuations if anything. For better or worse, I may become the proud renter of a former bachelor pad.... Anyway, grannie and I then went to the library to sign me up for a library card and give me an extensive tour of the retiree center. I'm still unsure how the latter will help me in the next couple of months, but it was comfortable. Eventually, I returned home promising to help teach her how to use her computer the following day.
One of my favorite things about Taibei, is the easy of access provide by the MRT [subway]. With amazing effciency you can travel to a number of places across the city. One of my least favorite things about Taibei is the bus system which must pride itself of stymie foreigners. When I asked "grannie" if there were any useful maps of the system she laughed at me and said "I tell you, you listen." Unfortunately, I do not have access to a scanner but I would really like to provide a stellar example of her mapping abilities. When I say stellar, I mean it only in the most convoluted sense. In chicken scratch that makes me look like Llyod Reynolds, I was provided with a partial representation of 7 or 8 bus lines that I am sure will baffle archaeologists one day. When I told her that I was still a little unclear on it, she said "I'll tell you one, two, three times. No more!" This was rapidly followed by the warning that this was here policy for all things... comforting. I'll see how long she sticks to this.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Peaks and Valleys

After barely getting my bearings in the city (yet still impressing Ariel and her compratiots with my wafer-thin geographical knowledge), I went to register at the Mandarin Training Center. In what must be a universal phenomena, it was as Byzantine as any other registration process I have ever been through. After traversing various different lines and the same battery of questions at every corner, I was told to wander around aimlessly for the next two and a half hours before the placement test. Flash forward to the test.... or linguistic shaming, I'm not really sure. The test seemed to be less of an attempt to gauge an individual's linguistic abilities and more of a reminder that, for all my earlier study, I am still terribly inadequate at the most fundamental aspects of linguistic applications. Alas, after finishing only two-thirds of the test in the allotted time, I was comforted to know that a number of other new students who had studied at other universities during the previous year were equally pitiful. Thus, I set out with the resolve to feel accomplished in some fashion, so I headed downtown to open a bank account. After losing my way a few times, I finally made it to the Bank of Taiwan only to be informed that I need a foreign ID number. In my planning I had noted my need for this but, as expected, promptly forgot it. Dejected, I walked out of the bank towards the nearest police station when an old woman grabbed my arm and said "You're lost!" After the initial shock subsided she offered some help in finding the police station. As we walked she told me that she was 77 and had lived in the US for thirty years. It turned out that her father was a Qing official and that she had fought against the communists before coming to Taiwan in 1949. She proudly pulled out her KMT membership card and joked that she still gets to hand out with all the sailors. Yes, she is a saucy old woman, but a godsend. Upon arriving at the police station, I thanked her for her assistance and assured her that I would figure things out. Totally disregarding this, she said "bahh" and dragged me to the front of the police station where I was helped with a surprising amount of expediency. Upon getting the ID number she said that we needed to hurry to get to the bank to open an account before 4 o'clock. Rushing to the bank she helped me navigate the system and I am richly-endowed with a bank account of $1000 NTD (31 US). I was at a loss for how to thank her when she informed me that a friend of hers that used to run an english-language school had an apartment for rent. Knowing better than to ask questions at this point, we hurried towards a bus and within minutes were having Naidoubing bars (milk-bean ice cream bars) with her. After pleasant conversation in mixture of English and Chinese, we agreed to meet for lunch the next day and check out the apartment. In her truly proactive fashion, my newfound "grandma" [she insists upon it] said, "Let's go check out the apartment. Tomorrow, don't tell them we did this." Thus, we headed out apartment shopping in the late evening. The sight of a 77 year old Taiwanese woman and a 22 year old American wandering around back alleys muttering in a pidgin of english and chinese must have been a sight. Long story short, I think I may have been adopted but it may turn out to be a good thing.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

A Jump into the Future

Okay, the series of worms that struck servers effectively killed two posts I was writing so I will ignore them entirely. Thus, I have made it to Taipei. After a mere nineteen or so hours in transit, three and a half crappy meals, and four showings of "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" I arrived with my limited knowledge of the city and my overall purpose here. Miraculously, I made it through customs on my one-way ticket and no real explaination for the lack of a date of departure other than "Wo hai bu zhidao..." (I still don't know). Regardless, I got in and managed to navigate the public transportation system without any major mishaps. Upon arriving at the appropriate train station, I called the hostel to inform them of my presense [the hostel is merely a converted apartment so it doesn't have a front desk, greeter, cloud of Dunhill smoke outside of it, etc.] For my added enjoyment, I found out that the number I had been given was directed to the cell phone of an individual currently in transit towards Britain. After a few other calls, I managed to contact a friend of the hostel's owner who was looking after the place for a few days.... no, I'm not kidding. So after a mere hour or so of standing and waiting by a street corner in the Shida area with all of my luggage, I was finally guided to the apartment. After dumping my luggage then briefly surveying the neighborhood, I collapsed onto the top of what just might be the most precarious bunkbed in the world.
Like clockwork, I awoke a five in the morning the next day to begin my fresh start in a new country. My first two days here have been wonderfully humbling and mildly disheartening. After four years of Reed, plenty of classical Chinese and a summer of translating obscure travelogues I have found that my vocabulary is not particularly suited to everyday life. Though I am constantly surrounded by characters that I am familiar with, I typically register 40-60% of them. While this puts me vastly ahead in the scheme of things, I have to say that my earliest interactions have been far from nuanced or refined. Thus, I will continue to blunder along for the time being, revelling in the security of being noticeably foreign.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Home on the Range

Returning home is oftentimes like going to an unfinished museum. Despite being familiar with the setting, one still gets the nagging feeling that traditional conceptions of time are not applicable to its interior. Though there has been a great deal of change in the house over the past couple of years, there are a few areas that are doggedly static. Like most good college students, I informed my family prior to my flight to Portland not to touch anything because I would go through it when I had returned...... While I did do some inventoring, it was cosmetic and half-hearted at best. It's scary to think that I genuinely considered my calculus notes from high school an important item for preservation. But I digress. Thus, the overall feeling that permeates my former living space is a schizophrentic reflection of personal identity. It's simultaneously eeirely comfortable and awkward; either way, it's home.

In true blogging form, I will now condense Ariel's time here into a few succinct sentences. We arrived, read a little, cooked from time to time, visited some cultural artifices, went to a live taping of "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me", packed, and hauled boxes. While the majority of the aforementioned activities probably don't need to be described in any detail, the taping had an element that is worth putting to writing, even if it is at the expense of a C-list celebrity. If you're not familiar with the show, I highly recommend it as a wonderful addendum to the news. In fact, swear off reading the news for a little while and use it as a supplement.... Well, maybe that's a little too far but whatever. Anyway, one of the three panelists during this week's show was Richard Roeper [yes, Siskel's stand-in]. At one point during the taping, there was an oblique reference to an editorial that he had recently written which he was unwilling to discuss in any detail. Naturally, as soon as we returned home and we had to look it up. I was refreshed by the fact that a nationally syndicated critic had the lack of foresight to put his biases so clearly into writing. In this brief segment of the editorial, Roeper implicitly admits to being a sexist, having a low opinion of the general population of Chicago, and being uncomfortable with body issues. What's even funnier about this situation is his attempt to defend the article amidst the, well-deserved, beating he was taking from the public. Anyway, I was relieved to know that people are still willing to hold others [yes, even those that might appear in the lower left-hand corner of Celebrity Squares one day] accoutable for their words.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

If You Visit It, They Will Come

With our heart's still filled with the grandeur that is Carhenge, we pulled into South Sioux City to spend the night in the company of Ariel's aunt. Despite driving to the wrong state in the process of looking for her house, everything else went fairly smoothly. After our pleasant evening in the Cat Room, we were refreshed and ready for the final leg of our trek. Following the 20 we headed east. Sadly to say, the majority of the drive through Iowa was uneventful. It was such that upon arriving in Correctionville, we felt compelled to pull over an take pictures of the welcome sign. Beyond that, however, the drive in Iowa was fairly blase. We even gave up playing zip due to the lack of zippable objects. Maybe it was the stress of the drive or the depression we had both sunk into upon leaving Carhenge that was going to taint the Iowa leg of the journey. We needed some kind of goal to motivate us. Though the prospect of getting to Lake Forest was important, we needed something in the interim. Then it came to us in a tiny dot on the map, the Field of Dreams movie site. What could be better than rounding the bases where James Earl Jones had proclaimed in one his most quasi-philosophical roles that "...the one constant is baseball." Truly, what could better cap off a trip through America's heartland than a visit to a field that taught us all how baseball could help order our entire existence and strengthen our relationships with others . Well... there were a few problems. One, Ariel had never seen the movie. Despite my firm belief that every American had at one time or another gotten misty-eyed at the final scene of Kevin Costner playing catch with his dad, she merely shook her head and shrugged. Due to this extraordinary circumstance I felt compelled to fill in the gap with the precious little time we had before arriving there. This action led the the second and third problems. Two, I had not seen the movie in over a decade and my ability to describe the film as more than "that movie where the guy builds a baseball field amidst his corn because a creepy voice tells him to" was severely compromised. Three, my attempts to explain the movie in further detail made me painfully aware of how formulated and saccharine the lines are. Ignoring this re-evaluation of this we headed towards the field to encounter yet another stumbling block. Unbeknownst to us, on the day of our visit the field of dreams serving as the backdrop for ESPN's fifty states in fifty days promotion. Consequently there were mobs of people running around the field, camera crews from ESPN, local news crews covering the fact that the ESPN crews were there, etc. Needless to say, it was a bit too zoo-like for us. After a brief walk around the area we once again navigated the overflowing parking lot and got back on the road. It wasn't all for naught, I did get Ariel to watch the movie and there wasn't too much noticeable cringing at the choice lines. Anyway, the final leg of the drive was uneventful [i.e. I have no pictures] and we blazed through western Illinois to the comforts of home for a delightful change of pace.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Words Fail to Capture its Majesty

Monday, August 08, 2005

A Midwestern Mecca

Crawling out from the half-dozen layers that desperately sought to hold us down, we groggily began to pack and prepare for the drive. Within thirty minutes we had packed, showered, sent out a few emails, and swilled the cups of black sludge improperly labeled "Coffee" that had apparently been left "For our Convenience." Soon we were back on the eighty going against the sun and, like clockwork, Ariel hunched over and caught some more sleep. This may have been our longest day of driving but I can't really remember. All that I really knew about the day was we were going to see Carhenge. Strange, definitely. Tacky, surprisingly not. Confusing, only if you think about it too much. A reason to drive two hundred miles out of your way, absolutely. It is very difficult to describe Carhenge in words other than "It's a recreation of Stonehenge, just with cars." Unfortunately, that description doesn't really do it justice, I hope the pictures will. Anyway, for me personally, the most interesting thing about Carhenge is that it was made on the guy's property during a family reunion. Yes, this visionary had his relatives come together in a time of family bonding and remebrence, to construct a recreation of Stonehenge with automobiles. I wish I knew how he pitched the idea to them in the first place. I imagine that he said something like, "Oh volleyball is fun but you know what would be really interesting...." or "Sure, bring your potato salad and don't forget to rent the crane." Thus in my mind, this family reunion was either a great act of bonding or a sadistic exercise for the visionary. Whatever the case may be, it is something that shouldn't be missed during one's vacation to northern Nebraska....

The human zoo sans art

An essential component of any journey is in seeking the fullest working and practical knowledge for one's given situation; thus Ariel and I tried to maximize our brief stay at a Holiday Inn by utilizing every possible perk. As I turned to the Gideon bible lodged snugly in the dresser, Ariel engaged in an epic battle with the "free" internet. With a surprisingly little amount of cursing, Ariel was able to check her email to find the welcome news that her ticket to Taiwan that was due to arrive at my family's house, had been returned to its sender. [This delightful fluke was from the combination of an overly careful postman and a former neighbor with the same last name] While Ariel began to address this issue as best she could, I conveniently went to the "Gym." After being on the road for so long I was anxious to stretch my legs some and the "Gym" proved to be more interesting than I could have imagined it to be. My liberal use of parentheses at this point is intentional. The "Gym" is a small glass-enclosed room adjacent to the pool that has a clear window that looks directly to the main thoroughfare of the hotel. The effect of this design is that, should you be strange or foolish enough to want to use this facility, you become a spectacle for people passing by. The room is obviously there for show so that once you are actually in it, you suddenly pique the interest of countless individuals. As I ran there, hampster-like, I had the sneaky suspicion that the people on the other side of the glass were saying things like "Look, a yuppie in his natural habitat," or "Isn't it funny how they can run on those things all day?" Needless to say, it was a little unsettling.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Nouveau Ancestor Worship

One of the most dangerous things about being in a vehicle is the ability to, at whim, alter one's course. It also gives one the time to pause and say, "Oh, what's another two hundred miles in the scheme of things." Although I can't argue with this idea too strongly, I still have my reservations about it. In short, Ariel really wanted to see Steamboat Springs and I was not quite as taken by the idea. Anyway, after a brief sojourn to Little America, Wyoming's Eden, we jogged south a hundred or so miles towards Steamboat. [A side note, if you haven't read Rob Swigart's Little America grab a copy and cancel all of your social engagements for the afternoon] As the mighty Toyota wheezed towards the outskirts small mountain town, Ariel provided some wonderful, if comical at times, nostalgic commentary. About ten miles outside of the town she pointed down a small road and said, "Oh, that's where I saw The Last Unicorn." My response of, "Oh.." Probably was not the best but it was something. After a few more oohs and aahs, I drove through the downtown area and was offered numerous insights into the town circa 1993. The first stop was a brief trip to fish creek falls, once a refuge for itinerant Californians working in the logging industry, now it belongs to the state park. Upon a five minute hike on the "strenuous" trail, we went down by the falls and enjoyed the scenery. Though the setting was wonderful we still had some more to see plus a long drive ahead of us. After traversing the numerous winding paths on the hillside, we finally pulled into the correct cul-de-sac of Ariel's former home. With perfect timing Ariel blurted out, "It's so small! " Though her memories were marked with the endless fields of sage brush on the hill, the combination of time and development greatly diminished the apparent size. After a few rounds that could be interpreted as casing the house, we headed downtown to lunch and then began the perilous climb over the mountains. Okay, perilous is not the right word but does address our shared fears of all of our belonging spilling out onto the road. Long story short, despite my repeated apprehensions about the side trip, Ariel got to see her old home and we both had the opportunity to drive on the 14 in Colorado which
may be one of the nicest drives in the country.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Return to Eden

While Bliss was a let down (as I am sure it is bound to be), Eden lived up to its name a little more. Maybe it was the combination of good company, the perfect weather at dusk, a cold Polygamy Porter in my hand, and the fact that I was no longer marinating in the packed cabin of the truck but everything seemed fairly ideal. The following few days were a nice mixture of hiking, reading, cooking, and spoiling a black lab. Though our lives became fairly sedentary (due to the weather and our choice activities), it was a nice change of pace from the mania of packing and the continual self-affirmations that one day I will purge myself of worldly attachments. For better or worse, our time in Eden with Robert came to an end and we saddled up once again to engage in the contemporary form of ancestor worship, a trip back to Ariel's childhood home.