Tuesday, August 31, 2010

trippin' part 7: last day in Baltimore

well it's been building up inside of me
for, oh I don't know how long
I don't know why,
but I keep thinking something's bound to go wrong
but she looks in my eyes
and makes me realize
when she says
Don't Worry Baby
Everything will turn out alright

- The Beach Boys

So I kind of decided that this Beach Boys song was sort of a theme song for this trip. haha, I know I'm a dork. But the day before we left, I was sitting on the floor frantically folding laundry and this song came on the random shuffle on my ipod (hey and don't even judge me for having Beach Boys on my ipod. nope, just don't). Anyway - I was completely stressed out over many many things related to the trip to the point where I was almost physically shaking. I was just trying desperately to keep myself together in some shape or form. And these lyrics were, well, somewhat fitting.

And then the first day in Baltimore as Zac and I were wandering around the harbour, this song came on suddenly, blasting from the sound system of one of the boats docked there. I tried to take that as a sign. Or something like that. ;) It was funny to me.

I was trying really hard to convince myself that everything was going to be ok.
And well, everything did indeed work out. Amazingly.
Sometimes I guess I just need someone (maybe the Beach Boys) singing to me "don't worry, baby - everything will turn out alright . . . ."
So anyway, the last day we were there we walked around the Little Italy area some more. And we ate at Cafe Gia's for the second time. Really really good stuff.

And I guess I should also mention that I started feeling sick on this morning (and I have continued to have sporadic stomach pain ever since, actually. But I guess that's another story). It could have had something to do, perhaps, with the 6 entire crabs I had eaten the night before. Just maybe my body wasn't accustomed to feasting on so much . . . crab. It could have also been that I was nervous and kind of sad about coming back home. I mean, I missed my kids quite a lot. But I really would have been ok if they could have come out to where I was, instead of me having to come back here. Oh well. Anyway - so Zac and I also spent a good amount of time browsing Barnes and Noble with me moaning and clutching my stomach, while we waited until it was time to go to the airport. Good times.

Luckily, by the time we boarded the plane I was feeling considerably better (another example of things going better than expected).

And then . . . we were on the way home.

Just one more post to go, folks! You've held on remarkably well. Thanks for reading and following along :)

Monday, August 30, 2010

trippin' part 6: being barbaric and lovin' every minute of it (well, sort of)

"There is perhaps a direct relation between the cooking method and the eating etiquette. Most dishes take time, labor, and constant juggling of different tasks to create the perfect palate teaser. Contrast this with cooking crab where the best way to cook it is to simply boil or steam it. The effort is minimal. However, when it comes to eating, other dishes are a simple affair.

Eating crabs on the other hand will make you look like a barbarian. It is a very messy affair. For how do you relish something that is served with its shell, legs, and claws intact?"

- taken from some website with instructions on cooking crabs

I insisted on taking Zac here for crab. I like crab a lot and being on the Chesapeake Bay, I just couldn't resist the opportunity for fresh local crab. Yummmm. Zac, however, had never eaten anything beyond a crabcake. Until now.

You know you're in for an experience when you sit out on a picnic table on a pavilion by the water, table covered in brown paper with no more plates or utensils given you than a wooden mallet and a knife.

And a plastic bucket next to you for your trash.

We ordered a dozen steamed spiced crabs, dumped out in a pile onto our table. Tasty, tasty. :)

Zac didn't quite know what to make of it, though. (He also wasn't quite as thrilled about the hush puppies as I was either.) But I loved it.

(you might be able to tell from Zac's expression in the above pic that he found the whole thing revolting and somewhat nauseating. Or maybe you can't. But I sure could. hahaha.)

But I think it's kind of fun to have such a messy intimate eating experience with someone. It's definitely not something you want to do with someone you're not comfortable with. And I like having to work a little for a tasty reward. I just like it.

So I loved every minute of it. And it tasted sooooo good.

And I am so thankful to be loved by a man willing to subject himself to barbaric disgusting crab-feasting, even when he had no desire in the world to do so, just to indulge and appease me. All to make me happy. And I was . . . very happy. Thanks, Zac. :)

(In return, just so you know, I have promised him Chinese for his birthday. My absolute least favorite food. I'm not sure it will quite make up for it, but I will try.)

And then we walked back to the hotel along the waterfront, where this gorgeous huge moon was rising up over the water.

It was beautiful.

And I was happy.
So yay for crab! :)

trippin' part 5: me and the aquarium

If there is magic on this planet
it is contained in water

- Loren Eiseley

This trip was a lot about me - and 'me, myself and I' doing all my favorite things and being by myself doing it. Have you noticed? Yeah. I'm really not used to doing things like this. But man . . . I gotta tell ya . . . it was really nice. :) Zac was in work-mode most of the time. Either in the conference meetings, thinking about the meetings, talking about the meetings, or hanging out with coworkers who were also there for the meetings. And me? I was on my own for most of the time.

It made me laugh when his coworkers sometimes asked me if I was bored by this. HA! Even if I had nowhere to go, and nothing to do (which was nothing further from the truth), there is no way I could ever be bored when I've brought my books, journal, laptop and have a swimming pool nearby. Seriously.

But put me within walking distance of the National Aquarium of Baltimore ?!? (and driving distance to my home, of course) and I am in paradise.

(the aquarium is in the pointy glass roofs in the upper left of this pic, by the red #4, as seen from the pool balcony of our hotel)

I have just a slight obssession with dolphins, you see (for those that don't already know). I have collected dolphin figurines since I was about 12. And I used to have dreams all the time about swimming with dolphins. One of the many things I thought I might want to be when I grew up was a dolphin trainer/researcher. And when my family bought a membership to the Aquarium when I was in high school, I was just about in heaven. I love this place.
And so, of course, being in Baltimore and right by the aquarium, of course of course of course I had to go.

I saw lots of interesting fish, rays, anenomes, octopus, sharks, sea turtles and jelly fish.
But. The dolphins. Yes. Dolphins!!!

I probably spent at least a couple hrs in front of the big observation window, taking pictures every time they got close. Crowds of people would come and go, come and go. And I would stay and sit by myself and happily watch.

They also had a pretty cool dolphin show - although it was tricky trying to get a photo of them jumping out of the water.

But then I went back to the big window again. And watched some more.

And that afternoon I went back to my hotel and took a wonderful long nap - and dreamt again about swimming with dolphins. Which is the best. dream. ever. :)

(me on a different day when I had Zac take my picture outside)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

trippin' part 4: me and Chatham

How hard it is to escape from places. However carefully one goes they hold you - you leave little bits of yourself fluttering on the fences - like rags and shreds of your very life.

~Katherine Mansfield

One of the places that I knew I had to see was Chatham Manor. I don't remember the first time I went there, but it quickly became one of my very favorite places. I know we brought my grandparents there when they visited when I was in 8th grade. And during high school, I went to at least a few outdoor string quartet concerts on the lawn there. I remember chasing fireflies with some friends as dusk fell. I remember taking my sisters there before we moved.

But perhaps mostly it was a place I often visited in my mind. It was my "special place" - a sanctuary where I could retreat and feel safe and at peace. And so when I was stressed or sad, I would often imagine I was there. I would imagine bringing my books and my journal and sitting among these gardens for hours or days at a time.

I also frequently imagined having my bridal pictures or engagement pictures taken there someday. And then after I was married far away in Utah, I still dreamed of going back and having pictures taken there in my wedding dress anyhow. Just because I wanted to. But I never did. And now, sadly, I would never fit into that dress ever again even in my fondest dreams. But anyway.

I just think there is a different feeling in places with long histories. This manor was built around 1768. Civil War soldiers were tended by Clara Barton on its lawn. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and others were frequent visitors. There is even a love story of the ghost of a young girl who haunts its grounds, because she was supposed to meet her lover and elope from there, but was intercepted and sent back to England to marry a "more suitable" beau.
I think the atmosphere somehow feels weightier or more substantial or something with the many layers of stories that have taken place there. I like being in places that have seen a lot of time pass. I like to see trees that have stood for hundreds of years. It is amazing to me.

Anyway - that's another self-timer pic of me (above) sitting on the steps at the back of the manor, looking over the river into Fredericksburg (below).

There wasn't even anyone else there, except for 2 guys with dogs who almost walked across the grass as I was taking this pic, and then they quickly went away. And I was glad. It was quiet and peaceful, just as I remembered and just as I needed it to be.

So it was really nice to be there again.

It had been about 13 yrs since I had last been in these parts of Virginia and been able to visit any of these places.
So anyway - I had a really great time seeing some of my own important places, and visiting with some important people to me. I have to also mention that I never once got stuck in traffic, contrary to my brother's firm belief that I would (haha). :) And I never got lost, amazingly (even getting back up to the airport without an exact idea of how to get there). And I even got to see the Washington DC LDS Temple lit up coming up around the beltway at night, which made me smile.
Zac then met me at the airport car rental place and we took the light rail back to hotel together(choosing to skip the scary metro stop and just walk further from the light rail stop instead). We got back about midnight so it had been quite a long day. But it was worth it. Absolutely worth it. :)

trippin' part 3: people, places and things

There are places I remember
All my life,
though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places had their moments
With lovers and friends
I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life
I've loved them all

- The Beatles

(note: I forgot to mention that I saved about $100 on the car rental by renting it from the airport rather than downtown - that's why all the trouble of the public transportation was still worth it. And yes, I felt rather brave and adventurous. I haven't navigated a big city train and/or subway system since my mission in Germany 14 yrs ago - and I wasn't very good at it then either (and got lost a lot). So, to do all of this successfully all on my own did feel pretty good, actually. I know it's not a big deal at all to city-folk who do this sort of thing every day. But to me, it was sort of a big deal. So yay for me. :))

So, after Prince William park, I headed further south on 95 and got off at my "home" exit (as seen here. Zac was somewhat concerned to find out that I was taking photos while driving - but hey, it just had to be done).

And this is the entrance to the neighborhood I grew up in.

At this point, I decided I was hungry and I decided what I wanted was a Dr. Watson sandwich from Spanky's in downtown Fredericksburg. Might as well, right? So I headed down Rt 1, figuring I'd come back down to Stafford to see my house and stuff later.

On the way, I passed by my middle school which now houses the school district offices. The gym was still there and looked pretty much like I remembered it. I don't know what happened to me exactly, but I was overwhelmed with memories walking around there. This gym was where I went to my first "dances" and danced with a boy for the first time. It's where I remember flirting with my first crush as we waited there before school, or trying to flirt, or agonizing over flirting, or something. wow. Middle school was awful. hahaha.

And it's interesting to me because it's not only that I have memories in these places, but I have seriously had so many dreams set in these places over the years. Seeing them brings back a rush of feelings and events both real and dreamed, and my mind is just a whirl of emotion. It just felt crazy and I was almost brought to tears. Yikes (I know, I'm just a freak). And maybe it's partly related to my journal-rereading, too. Some of this stuff is fresher in my mind recently than it has been for many years. Interesting.

I also went by my elementary school. This is the tree where my friends and I would meet at recess. I remember it being a pretty big tree back then too. Of course, I was little. But I was happy to see that our tree was still there.A view down good old Route 1, otherwise known as the Washington-Rochambeau Route (and yes, another pic taken while driving). I actually have recurring dreams about going down this road. I don't know why. And sometimes I'm trying to get down this road on roller-skates or other non-conventional means of transportation, but this particular road plays into my dreams frequently, for some reason.

Anyway, I found my way to Fredericksburg and walked around where I thought Spanky's should be. I walked up and down the street, becoming sort of confused and disoriented when I couldn't find it. I finally walked into the Visitor's Center to ask what had happened to Spanky's. Turns out it was shut down a few years ago. This was another almost traumatic moment for me. Not only was a great, quirky restaurant gone and I wasn't going to get the sandwich I was craving, but now I didn't know where to eat.

I ended up at Sammy T's just down the street (photo from their website) and I ate at a table alone reading my Madeleine L'Engle book, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I do have some memories of eating here with friends (and Janna) after some high school play or something. And for some reason Janna was talking about how drinking water with lemon is good for her singing voice. haha - the random tidbits we remember. :)

And this is a pic of the Rappahanock River from where I had parked. So many memories - from canoeing with Alyssa, to having cracker and cheese picnics on it's banks with Amy, swimming with Kia and just driving across it for most of my life . . . this river is special to me. :)

And (skipping around a bit chronologically of where I went and when), speaking of important places, of course, this is the house where I lived from the time I was about 2 until I was 22 (the house is a different color now, but the lions on the driveway were always there). I rang the doorbell and the man looked at me quizzically, asking, "may I help you?"

I almost got a little choked up as I tried to quickly explain that I had grown up in this house and hadn't been back for many years and could I please look around the backyard for a minute? He was nice about it and said "yes, of course, feel free" - but I could tell he still thought I was a nut. That's ok, though.

And so this is the backyard.

Anyway - I guess some people don't really understand why I am so attached to some people, places and things from "my past". I really don't know myself. But I know that I am. And I have been coming to terms with the fact that it is really ok for me to feel this way, even if no one else understands it. I am very sentimental and nostalgic and I like to hold onto my memories, in whatever forms I can. There are some places that will always mean a lot to me, for many many reasons. And I will treasure them for always. And they will haunt my dreams, perhaps, for years to come. And I will remember them forever.

Anyway, also that evening I was able to meet up with my sister Melissa and her fiance Chris and we went out to dinner at La Madeleine a french country restaurant which was very tasty. I don't know how I didn't take any pictures, but I didn't. Anyway it was very fun to see them. :)

And speaking of people, there were many people I wished I could have visited but couldn't (some places, too, that I didn't get to). So I am sorry about that (to my friends who are still in the area). It was important to me to visit some of these places alone this time - to recollect, and reminisce, and just to have time by myself in my own spaces. This particular visit was just for me. But I promise if I ever get back there again, with a little more time, and less urgent need to satisfy my own nostalgic longing, then we'll have to plan a big reunion of sorts. Promise. :)

(and one more important place gets its own post coming up next . . .)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

trippin' part 2: me and the forest

Going to the woods is going home.
- John Muir

Somehow I made my reservation for the car rental without considering the 2 hr difference in time zones. So when I reserved the car for 7 am, wanting to squeeze out every possible moment I could from it, I had forgotten that that would be feeling an awful lot like 5 am, Utah time. Oh.
So I got up at 6 am (Eastern Time, 4 am Utah time) and Zac walked me over to the metro subway station before he headed back to run and go to his conference. I took the metro a few stops and got out to transfer to the above ground Light Rail train. Had to ask for directions twice and walk down the street and around the corner in a rather run-down scary-looking part of Baltimore (ever gone to Lexington Market area?! well. don't.) Anyway - I then rode the light rail about 30 min to the airport station. Took the shuttle over to the car rental place. And got my car. I think I eventually stopped shaking. haha.
And then I drove at long last across the border of MD and VA and was finally on the familiar roadway of I-95. Ah, sweet 95. I also began to get really rather drowsy. I had gotten up at the equivalent of 4 am, after all. I had some vague plans and places I wanted to go, but nothing really set in stone, so when I saw the exit sign for Prince William Park, I spontaneously decided to exit.
This park is where I remember taking my very first Elementary School field trip (I also have a very specific memory of being yelled at by my teacher for getting too close to an electrical tower fence, which mortified me). And probably other school field trips as well. After I could drive, I would take my little sisters there sometimes during the summer to hike around. It was just a nice place to be.
So I thought I would take a look around. And maybe take a nap.

The parking lot was quiet and empty. So I paid my admission fee at the Ranger Station and then slept for awhile in the car surrounded by beautiful woods. Then after I woke up, I had some fun taking pictures of myself with the self-timer on my camera. yippee. :)

And I was tempted by this trail leading off into the forest and couldn't resist.

And I went for a wonderful hike. Didn't see another single living soul the entire time.

just a whole bunch of really fascinating mushrooms

and an adorable box turtle munching on a mushroom right on the edge of the trail. :)

The path led to this bridge and then looped around and went back. The weather was remarkably gorgeous and cool and I just felt so good to be all alone, just doing whatever I wanted to do in some of my favorite places on earth.

Sort of amazing.

trippin' part 1: Hello, Baltimore

"Hey, I've got nothing to do today but smile."
- Simon and Garfunkel

(Note: Be prepared to be overwhelmed with many posts because I have a lot coming.)

So. It was actually very difficult for me to get ready and leave on this trip with Zac. To say I was stressed is a huge understatement. But we arrived at last (after an interesting lifetime-first experience taking a taxi from the airport). And we greeted this lovely view from the 21st floor of the Marriott Waterfront Hotel in Baltimore and I began to feel somewhat better. Water and trees are immediately soothing to me. Hallelujah.
On Monday, Zac didn't have meetings until the afternoon so we did a little exploring around the Inner Harbour area. And I embarrassed him by taking, and making him take, cheesy touristy photos of each other at every opportunity. I am not ashamed of this.

(that's me on the bench - gazing contentedly at the harbour inlet. ahhhhh, such sweet serenity)

And then that evening, we went paddleboating on the inlet. Yay! Such fun!

I think I smiled the entire time. And I could have just floated along and fallen asleep on our little boat and been completely happy. Have I mentioned I really like water?? yeah. I do.

And then, as dusk fell, little baby crabs started climbing out of the water and up the sides of the wooden piers. Awesome, I say. I think I squealed. :) And I had a poor unsuspecting mother call over her son who had reached down and grabbed a crab so I could take a picture of it. An awful, blurry picture. But picture-proof nonetheless. See? A real live crab! So, there it is.

It was such a strange experience being without my kids, by the way. I took all sorts of pictures of things I just wanted to show them. And I kept having to suppress an impulse to explain to other parents we passed that I had 4 kids of my own! It was weird.

Anyway. The next day was my big adventure day driving down to VA! stay tuned . . . :)
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