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A while ago my friend from cowboy-ski-pole country, Kelly, came for a visit. We saw some sights, relaxed, and ate a lot of cheese. Toward the end of the visit, she expressed an interest in eating a different type of cheese– fondue.
“Do you like fondue?” she asked me.
“Well, I’ve only had it once, but it’s a bubbling hot-pot of cheese with bread on the side, so it’s really everything that I love.”
We did some web-based research and found out that Providence is very lacking in the fondue restaurant department. There was one in Boston that sounded promising, but expensive; and there was a “Melting Pot” in Framingham, MA, which is a bout 45 minutes away. Even though the brakes on my car were making horrifying noises– we drove to our cheese because it’s important.
When we arrived, I must admit, I was impressed with the decor. Sure the outside looked like a car dealership, but the inside was quite cozy, all booths with lots of privacy. There were lots of families with hyperactive 10-year-olds, and petulant pre-teens, but the hostess led us away from all of that to a cozy booth for two.
Our server, a nice younger guy, chatty, but not too chatty, and knowledgeable of wine, came out, lit our tabletop burner, and we ordered our first vat of cheese. We finished it quickly, and ordered another (cause why not). As we were ordering the second, out server asked us, “How did you two meet?”
“Well,” Kelly said, “we went to college together, sort of, and we also worked together, although we really didn’t like each other at first…”
“And the rest is history.” he finished.
“Well, no, not really…” I started.
“I’m from Montana!” Kelly blurted out, cutting me off. “I’m just visiting.”
I looked at her in complete confusion, but the server rolled with it by asking if she skied.
Once he’d gone, I looked at her still with complete confusion, and she responded with, “he thinks we’re a couple, and I would like to sleep with him, I can’t have him thinking I’m gay. Do you think we could work something out so I can sleep with him?”
A week later, I was recounting this incident to another friend on the phone.
“Yeah, I guess that makes sense,” she said, “fondue restaurants are kind of romantic with the food sharing and the fact that it’s kind of expensive. Didn’t you know that? Why did you go there?”
“Because Kelly wanted fondue, and I haven’t had it since we were in Switzerland 7 years ago, and that was the least romantic meal ever. Don’t you remember, we sat at a rustic picnic table in a building that looked like a ski chalet? Also, Kelly said she always goes there with her mom, and there were tons of families there.”
“Yeah, but it’s totally a date place, at least Kelly’s hot.”
At least Kelly is hot.
I’ve gotten a powerful response to my previous blog about Woonsocket, so I decided to make it a two-fer. Mostly because I’ve been there now! Yay!! Despite all of you doubting Thomasinas, I ventured to this Woonsocket– and found it lovely.
Two friends from the prairie came to visit recently: Heidi and her husband Zac Echola (who wants his name out on the internet as much as possible). I had to pick them up in Shirley, MA and on the drive back to Providence, Zac Echola asked if there was anything we could stop and do along the way. I thought for a bit, then remembered The Museum of Work and Culture in Historic Woonsocket.
“What is that?” Zac Echola asked.
“I believe it’s a museum dedicated to the Québécois who moved here and worked in the mills.”
“Let’s go!” Zac Echola cheered, and his wife rolled her eyes.
So we found the museum, went in, and waited at the desk for approximately three minutes before an old, old man shuffled out of the office and realized we were there.
“It’s only $5 today because there’s a bridal shower going on in the Union Hall.”
“Are any of you students?”
“Yes,” we told him, “We all are.”
“Student rate is $5,” he paused, “but that doesn’t matter to you cause that’s what you’re paying anyway.” He pulled out a map and a fine point crayola marker– purple. “You’ll start here at the farm house, and if you push this button here,” he drew a dot on the map, “you can hear Jessie and Simone’s conversation about leaving Canada and coming to the New World. Then you go here and push this button here,” another dot, “to watch the movie. After that you go here, and then you can go upstairs. Now usually you’d watch the TV in the Union Hall, but there’s a bridal shower in there today, so I moved the TV upstairs and put out four chairs,” he drew four little marks and a box to represent the television, “here. Then you go here, and there are devices to listen here, here, here, don’t use this one, the sound is so low you just can’t hear anything, and here.” He handed us the newly marked map, “Good luck to you.”
So we went into the farmhouse and listen to Simone and Jessie’s good cop/bad cop routine about coming to America:
Simone: “America is a magical land full of opportunity.”
Jessie: “But we’ll lose out culture and our religion.”
Simone: “In America we can work in the mills and make life better for our parents.”
Jessie: “I don’t want to leave our homeland.” etc.
The exchange lasted a good three minutes, and I couldn’t help thinking: Girls, you are going to go with your parents regardless of your personal feelings about it, so quit wasting my time. Thankfully, it wasn’t translated into Québécois as well, though that may have been more interesting. After Simone had pretty much sold everyone on how glamorous life in America is, we watched a brief documentary about how much it sucks to work in a mill. Nuts to you, Simone.
In the children’s portion of the museum, we had a bobbin sorting contest (Heidi won), I punched in on an old-fashioned time clock (Heidi tried to convince me that it was an antique and I wasn’t supposed to touch it– why would they have sample punchcards there then, hmmm??), and the movable displays sprang to life without our having to push buttons (which after Simone kept us all standing in the farm house for way too long, we decided we were just going to skip from now on), and scared the crap out of us.
On the second floor, I flipped through old yearbooks in the schoolhouse, played the piano in the parlor of the triple-decker (we skipped watching the TV that the old man had lugged upstairs for us, but cheered when we saw the four chairs, just like he had told us), and found the listening device that just doesn’t work (although, someone did attempt to fix it with duct tape– my kind of people).
Then it started to snow on Magical Woonsocket. So we watched it come down, and noticed an outdoor skating rink just across the square, which we didn’t go to, but instead, had a conversation about how outdoor skating rinks are pretty awesome.
We rounded out the day with a walk (in the snow) down the sidewalks in Downtown Historic Woonsocket. Zac Echola marveled at the sheer number of signs advertising “hot weiners”, and bargained poorly for a used CD. Here is a reenactment of the bargaining:
Zac Echola: “I want to buy this CD. This is awesome, Heidi, give me money.
Heidi: “I don’t have any cash.”
Zac Echola: “Andria, do you have any cash I can borrow.” I didn’t put a question mark at the end of this question because Zac Echola doesn’t use question marks.
Me: “I have some cash, but I’m not contributing more than $2 for that stupid thing.”
Zac Echola: “I wouldn’t pay more than $2 for this anyway– I’m going to bargain.” Zac Echola walked determinedly over to the purveyor of the pawn shop, “How much for this CD, my good man.”
Good man: “$2.”
Zac Echola: (brief pause) “Sold.”
Zac Echola then walked back to where his wife and I were openly mocking him and said, “I think he heard us.”
Now to give credit to all of the glorious comments I got on Fascinated by this Woonsocket:
Q: How many lightbulbs can you screw in Rhode Island?
A: One! There’s only Woonsocket.
— haha, very funny, Jenna
–too late, Lex, and I’m going back. You can come with me.
Just blog surfing here…I live in Woonsocket. There really is nothing spectacular about it. We don’t even have a bookstore. The Starbucks just recently closed. If you like bargains I’d suggest going to the CVS Warehouse Store Mark Stevens (hours are 10-6 now). If you knit I’d suggest checking out Yarnia.
— I did check out Yarnia. It was a bit out of my price range, but I laughed at the name for the rest of the day. Actually, I’m chuckling about it right now. I will check out the CVS warehouse, because I love bargains, and any town that can close a Starbucks is a-ok in my book.
I was born in Woonsocket, R.I. 58 years ago. My mom and dad owned a grocery store on Manville Road.I went to Mt. St Francis which is now a nursing home.I am half French Canadian. The last time I visited there just to see what things were like was about 15 years ago. My mom had 12 brothers and sisters so I am sure I still have relatives there though we are not in contact. Her maiden name was LeMay. When I lived there it was a textile mill town. I would like to visit again someday.
— Very interesting family history Joan. From my limited time in Woonsocket, I can tell you that it still looks like a mill town, but has adapted with the times. I recommend that you do visit again someday, as it is lovely.
I am bummed that the Starbucks closed. I used to stop on my way to work in Cumberland.
On a positive note, I just discovered a really great restaurant in Woonsocket called Vintage.
–sorry about the Starbucks, Alf, I too appreciate a road coffee on my way to work. Also, thanks for the restaurant recommendation.
There you have it, I have my next trip to Woonsocket all planned: Shopping for bargains, maybe going back to Yarnia, driving down Manville road to see if Joan’s parent’s grocery store is still there, and dinner at Vintage. Maybe I’ll go early enough that I can have lunch as well, since I’ve heard that fish ‘n” chips place across from the Museum of Work and Culture is pretty renowned.
I am a Woonsocketeer.
There’s a city in Rhode Island called Woonsocket that I’ve been intrigued by since before I moved here. Initially it was because it sounds Dr. Seussian, now it’s because people are telling me not to go there. My landlady works there, as does her boyfriend, and I mentioned to both of them (at different times) that I had never been. Both scoffed identically and said, “there’s really no reason to go to Woonsocket unless you have to.”
Then, at job #2, boss lady mentioned she had had to go to Woonsocket recently. A co-worker asked “Did you drive fast your car?” This intrigued me, so I probably made an interrogative noise like “bah?” I was told that Woonsocket has a large French-Canadian population who talk funny– kind of Dr. Seussian.
Of course this heightened the intrigue.
Every time I say to someone “I’ve never been to Woonsocket.” They say something along the lines of “Don’t go.” Now it seems forbidden, and the brat in me wants to make a special trip there just to spite people. “Yeah, I spent a day in Woonsocket– and it was amazing!” Then there’s the other side of me that worries, maybe Woonsocket really is not worth visiting, and if I do go, I’ll end up hating it as much as I hate Warwick (man, I hate Warwick). Is it better to keep it magical in my head, or to just get over it?
After doing some web-based research, I found that there is another Woonsocket in America. It’s in South Dakota, and named after the Woonsocket in Rhode Island (cause, seriously) so I grew up about 6.5 hours from Woonsocket and never even knew it! Oh man. It seems that all the signs are saying I must go, but I’m so torn.
Saturday was the opening night for the exhibit of Carl Van Vechten’s photographs of the Harlem Renaissance, at job #1. It was also my first opening ever at this job. The place was packed with fancy people swilling champagne and munching on canapes. Apparently, one of the Grande Dames of Newport society put in an appearance as well– what a coup!
Rich people wear ridiculous clothes. There were a lot of ascots, and fancy dresses, faire isle sweaters, a tracksuit, and running shorts with leggings underneath. My favorite was a quasi-military ensemble that reminded me of something Michael Jackson would have worn around the time HIStory came out. There may have been some monocles as well, but it was just all so much to take in… I was swilling champagne from a plastic cup behind the circulation desk and trying to look smart even though I had nothing to do. I still haven’t actually seen the exhibit, since I was there in an official capacity and the gallery was packed with bodies.
The highlight of the opening, for me, was right before I left, when I spoke to my boss briefly. Obviously, the following re-creation is not verbatim– we did a lot more gushing and patting ourselves on the back for a job well done.
Me: “I need to get going, but your speech was excellent. This is all so impressive.”
Boss: “Oh, you have to leave? Thank you so much for staying. You know, this is the best turnout we’ve ever had for an opening.”
Me: “Really? Yes, I do need to get back to Providence, I have RENT tonight.”
Boss: “RENT? oh that’s right”
Me: “I’m going from Harlem to AIDS in under an hour.”
Boss: “That’s really going from bad to worse, isn’t it? Have fun.”
And I did have fun, surprisingly. I admit, I was very apprehensive about seeing this play (musical? musicale? show?). I’d watched the movie, and of course, seen Team America: World Police, so I knew what to expect, kind of. I was expecting it to be slightly cheesy and odd, and irritating in a way that only musicals can manage. I planned on scoffing and squirming uncomfortably, but feeling well-rounded for making the attempt. Instead, I can honestly say, I loved it. I loved seeing RENT. And when Angel died, I got a little choked up.
Why do I not have an amazing voice that makes people applaud until their hands bruise? Not fair.
Of course, there was some dumb superfan sitting behind me singing along to practically all of the songs. That pulled me out of the story, as I pictured the home life of a person who would do something like that.
I’m sure she auditioned for all the musicals her high school staged, but never quite made the cut, because her singing voice is weak– at best. I’m sure she has never seen RENT on Broadway, but just watched the movie over and over in her parents basement, singing along, wishing she had AIDS so she could feel ways about things. It’s odd to listen to someone who is not in the production sing to a packed auditorium. She must have known she could be heard, and you’d think the people she came with would have told her to shut up. I don’t go to a lot of musicals, so maybe this is standard and people don’t mind paying $60 to listen to some virgin butcher well-written and catchy tunes. I mind; I mind big-time.
I think growing up in a land-locked state made me obsessed with all things nautical. When I was very little, my friend Erin and I found an empty beer bottle by the side of the road when we were riding our bikes one day. We had the idea to leave a note in it, that would be found by someone else years from then, probably in a different country. So, in our neatest printing, we wrote what we thought must be an intelligent, well-constructed letter sure to impress anyone who found it. Because we were in a land-locked state, and we knew that throwing it in the Red River would never get the bottle to India (or somewhere else exotic), we buried it in the ground, hoping it would burrow its way to China. Of course that didn’t happen, but in the week before someone from school found it, and asked if we did it, we imagined all sorts of amazing scenarios.
When my parents were visiting for Thanksgiving, we spend an afternoon at Plimouth Plantation. We’ve always been a family very interested in historical re-enacting, so this was just the most logical thing for us to do. Leaving Plimouth, and trying to get back on I-95 to go back home, we came to one of those charming New England forks-in-the-road that is actually five roads, poorly marked, and you’re choosing your path at 55 m.p.h. We chose wrong, and ended up going way out of our way by Cape Cod–New Bedford–Fall River. It was scenic, though, and had I not been completely sick of driving, I would have enjoyed it more.
As we were driving through New Bedford, we saw a sign for the New Bedford Whaling Museum, and my dad started freaking out. “The New Bedford Whaling Museum, that would be great. We’ve just gotta go to the New Bedford Whaling Museum.”
My mother and I ignored him because he tends to get very excited about things when they’re right in front of him, and then forget then later. I’d exhausted my patience trying to secure things to entertain him with that he had previously expressed interest in, so I was waiting out anything else he mentioned to see if it stuck before committing.
This one did though. “I’d really like to see that New Bedford Whaling Museum,” he said the next day over Tim Horton’s (just kidding, this was Thanksgiving Day, Tim Horton’s was closed—thank god). Since he’d remembered the Whaling Museum two days in a row, I said that yes, we could go if we had time.
Sadly, we did not have time on that trip, but it got me thinking. A few weeks later, I had a Saturday off and thought I might cast about for some culture. I googled the Whaling Museum and found that on January 3rd they have a 24-hour Moby Dick Marathon. At 8 bells in the forenoon watch (12pm), people start reading Moby Dick, and they don’t stop for 24 more hours. Traditional whaling fare is served (cider, coffee, clam chowder… no hardtack), and the whole thing is free. Amazingly, I found some friends interested in going to this thing with me, and it was so much more than I expected. There were readings in Danish, Portuguese, Japanese, French (we caught the Japanese reader, and I must say, she didn’t seem as into it as some. The coordinators practically prodded her up to the podium, but once there, she read quickly, of course I didn’t understand a word of it). For chapter 41, we adjourned to the theater for a performance-style reading followed by a rousing round of sea chanties accompanied by a concertina.
People of all ages were there, and two boys probably 10 and 12 got up and read, and didn’t even giggle when then said sperm whale. I have to say, though, the most astounding thing was sitting and listening to Melville’s words describing the sheer enormity of the whale, while sitting under a giant whale skeleton mounted to the ceiling– filling the entire ceiling. The audaciousness of men to go out in puny boats and hunt these prehistoric monsters, and the madness of Captain Ahab to think that he deserved to kill a giant creature who let him live—it’s mind-boggling.
The people singing the chanties, and doing the re-enactment were so into it, and so proud of themselves and of New Bedford, it was a really heady experience. Like I’ve said before, I’m always really surprised and amazed by people who are so proud of where they come from, especially since this is so different than what I grew up with (the whaling, not the pride). Sadly, we didn’t have time to see the actual museum, but we’ll do that later.
We’re already planning to go next year, and read as well. Hopefully, they’ll have the promised grog too, I was pretty disappointed that it wasn’t offered, and more than a little irritated when the woman I asked about it looked at me like I came to the Moby Dick Marathon to get wasted or something. I now have bumper sticker that reads “Call me Ishmael”, and no idea what to do with it, but my obsession is growing.
Years ago I visited the Roman baths in Bath, England and upon entering was presented with a large, awkward piece of plastic that looked like a quasi-futuristic telephone in a bad sci-fi movie.
“You’re all set.” The aloof, but still unfailingly polite in the way only the British can be, woman told me.
I puzzled over what in the world this thing was until I realized that it was talking to me. I pressed the thing to my ear and realized that the soothing voice was going to give me the tour of the baths. We all quickly realized that these “acoustiguides” gave a person entirely too much information resulting in the lot of us standing around awkwardly trying to find a point on the wall to stare at while not being underfoot of the other tourists. We rejected the idea of acoustiguides and wandered around with absolutely no idea what we were looking at.
My parents came to stay with me recently, and I was charged with the overwhelming task of finding ten days’ worth of family-friendly entertainment for them. I decided that touring the Newport Mansions was a good way to eat up an afternoon. We started at “The Breakers”, the Vanderbilt family’s summer home. It was big, and I didn’t see Anderson Cooper anywhere.
Then we went to Marble House. We walked in and the smiling lady ripped my ticket, then another woman hung a heavy, black, piece of electronic equipment around my neck.
“100 should get you started.”
I had been acoustiguided.
I quickly rallied, and once we were in the first room of the “tour”, a room that looked like Versailles, only much smaller, but with the same amount of stuff, I grabbed my mother, “You don’t want to listen to these things do you? These things are terrible. Let’s just walk through without them.”
She glanced over at my father, now fully absorbed in staring at an ornate fireplace that was hemorrhaging gold cherubs, “I think your father likes it.”
I tapped him on the shoulder, and he spun around with a dazed look on his face. After awkwardly fumbling for the pause button, he finally said, “what?”
“Do you really want to use these things, or should we just go through without them and read the placards?”
“No, this is really interesting. I want to do this.”
I glanced back at mom, who just shrugged. “Okay, but don’t listen to the extra stuff at all, just the basics.”
H acquiesced and then struggled to turn the acoustiguide back on. Finally, I reached over and the play/pause button for him.
Admittedly, this acoustiguided tour was much better than the one at Bath. I learned that whatshername Vanderbilt had chosen an Italian marble because it has golden tones in it and looks warmer. Frankly, if warmth is a concern, I’d say don’t build a house out of marble—but it’s too late for that. The dining room chairs were huge, and completely plated in gold, which made them so heavy, that the Vanderbilts couldn’t move them themselves, and the room was decorated with “scenes from the hunt” i.e. wild boars and stags, all in gold, and all completely creepy. There is nothing more disgustingly fascinating to me than extreme wealth.
Honestly, the one thing I can really appreciate about the acoustiguided tour, is once my tour of a room is over, moving to the back and just watching everyone else. The silence is almost eerie, and it’s like watching someone rock out to music only they can hear. Certain rooms had very ornate ceilings so I’d stand back and watch people’s heads swivel around and pause on significant decorations.
My newfound acceptance of acoustiguides was tested when we got upstairs. We saw the separate bedrooms that Mr. and Mrs. Vanderbilt occupied, heard an actress read from Mrs. Vanderbilt’s memoires addressing her divorce, and wandered into the trophy room bursting with sailing memorabilia. Mom and I wandered into the daughter, Consuelo’s room, taking in the austerity, and in my case, wondering why the hell this woman named her daughter Consuelo.
After leaving poor Consuelo’s room, we waited for Wayne to meet up with us. He didn’t show up. I ducked back into Consuelo’s room, but he wasn’t there. Finally we noticed that he was still in the trophy room, staring gape-mouthed at a giant painting.
“You’re doing extracurricular listening.” I accused.
He turned toward me looking sheepish, which quickly turned to indignation. He fumbled again for the pause button on his acoustiguide, finally, again, just letting me do it.
“Wayne, we agreed that we were going to stick with the basic tour.”
He pointed at the painting, “But, this is really an interesting story.”
“But we’re standing in a stairwell waiting for you.”
“Oh.” he said as if this had not occurred to him, “I’ll hurry then.”
I don’t know what I’ll do next time I encounter an acoustiguide. My biggest gripe with them is that it just seems so much like cheating. Either give me a guided tour, or give me placards that I can read myself.
There is very little going on in my life right now (actually that’s not entirely true, but anyway), this is taking up a lot of my mental energy. Sink in bathroom was draining slowly. Used Drano max, which has always worked in the past—nothing. Used Drano max again, clearly this is a job too big for Drano.
So I slapped on my rubber gloves and got out my bucket fully prepared to fish some unsightly hair clog out of the pipe. The pipe was pristine and clear. So I decided to tell landlord about the issue and have a professional look at it—a professional with tools. This was 2 Fridays ago, Friday the 11th. By the time I asked the landlord to call the plumber, this problem has been compounding for about a month.
Plumber comes over, Tuesday, as I’m making my PB&J to take to work, and assesses the problem. He stops me in the middle of my jelly application to tell me that, “The problem is the sdfhjkhfsk, and I’ll have to cut into the asldfglsdhf down in the garage to get my snake in there. It’s much more of a job than we initially thought it would be, so I’ll have to discuss it with Rick first.”
I just blinked at him and said, “okay.”
“So, I’ll probably do it tomorrow or Thursday, when do you work those days?”
I told him that I work/ have somewhere to be at 1pm both those days. I almost went into detail, foolishy, about where I had to be that wasn’t work, but I realized that that is none of his business.
“Cause I’ll probably be over here around this time… (8:30am)”
“It’s kind of early…”
8:30am is not early. The sun comes up at 6:00 and wakes me up every damn day! While I appreciate the fact that he must seem to think I’m some kind of “party animal”, or “person who parties all night and sleeps all day when she doesn’t have to get up and work at 9am”, that’s really not the case. Those of you who know me know that I am not cool. Those of you who really know me, may also know that I cannot sleep well in the summer because it’s so light out all of the time, and so hot. Although I rarely use the time spent not sleeping to be productive, I usually sulk around complaining about the heat. Anyway, getting up early… not really an issue.
“Seriously, I don’t care, just talk to Rick.”
“It’s not that bad…”
By this point, I was getting fucking pissed, but I smiled in what I hoped was a vaguely condescending way and repeated, “Just talk to Rick.”
By Friday, plumber had not stopped back, but I assumed he would because he almost said he would. Went to a concert (SLOOOOOOOAN) in Minneapolis with brother and friend LeAnn, and came home in the wee hours to find that plumber had not come back, and now the sink that was “not that bad”, had stopped draining completely. So LeAnn basically flew in from Denver to see me (and Sloan), and had to wash her hands and brush her teeth in the kitchen. Not cool. Maybe if we actually left the apartment, it wouldn’t have been such an inconvenience, but we don’t do that. Again reinforcing the fact that I am not cool (I don’t know why I’m so emphatic about that today)
Why is plumber so reluctant to do his job? Is it me? Since my mother told me for years that I should be a plumber, I’ve always felt a bit of a kinship with them. So, I’m talking this slight very personally. I wouldn’t want to cut into the hdkfjkgkhk and snake my drain either, which is why I got a Masters of English rather than plumber degree. I empathize with him, but more than that, I want my sink to drain.
Talked to landlord, who said he would call plumber again. No plumber. Called landlord again to see if plumber gave him a date and time when I could expect him. Landlord said, “he still hasn’t been there?”
Finally, plumber came when I was at work yesterday, in the afternoontime (apparently to let me sleep in), and now my sink drains like a dream. I’m a little miffed that I wasn’t there because I was really looking forward to his apologizing to me, and me saying “I don’t want excuses, I want results!!” But alas that didn’t happen.
What did happen is that plumber cut into the jasdjfkhkd, and left the pieces lying in my driveway, so I nearly ran over then when I got home last night. There are about 7 garbage cans right outside of the garage, and he just chucked these pieces of rusted pipe into the driveway. I’m fairly convinced he did it to hurt me.
Every now and then I get a crazy, almost manic need to go on vacation. I can rarely afford to actually go on vacation, so I try to satiate myself by watching travel documentaries. It doesn’t really help. Also it’s rather difficult to get travel documentaries that are actually watchable. A lot of them don’t want to actually tell you anything about the places you’re “visiting”, choosing instead to just shoot wide panoramic shots of old buildings– or else they star Rick Steve.
So I turned to historical documentaries, which I also think is a sure sign that I miss being in school. My brain has started to feel mushy, and even though I’ve been reading as much as I can, I haven’t read too many “smart” books. As Heidi very aptly put it, I read a lot of pink/yellow books i.e. “chick lit”. I’ve gotten away from that more recently, but still feel like I’m not learning enough. Anyway, I checked out “Russia- Land of the Tsars” from library. Presented by The History Channel and narrated by Edward Hermann this is sure to be a well-made and informative documentary. And it is.
I was happily watching and learning one night after work when I realized that I already know a lot of this stuff about Peter the Great; I’ve already seen this. How big a geek am I that I’ve already watched a four-part documentary about the history of Russia? No matter, it’s still very well-made and entertaining and I intend to finish it– again.
I was working at coffee shop a couple evenings ago when this guy came in. He was wearing a pin-striped suit and seemed inordinately pleased with himself. Typical smarmy salesman/business major type who just turn my stomach. I hated him or sight, naturally, and happily noticed that even though his suit was obviously new, it didn’t really fit him well. He waltzed up to the counter and I asked what I could get for him. “What kind of really good house wine do you have?”
I was slightly taken aback, but quickly recovered and told him to go order his wine in the wine bar area rather than in the coffee shop. Later I saw that he was sitting with a slightly lumpy girl in pink having a conversation that seemed a little like a job interview, and also a little like her being forced to listen to him blather on about whatever fascinating things were on his mind. Being the nosy sort, and being that they were sitting on a place where I could easily eavesdrop, I lent them my ears just in time to hear him say, “One of the most amazing sights I’ve had the privilege to see in my lifetime is St. Paul’s Cathedral. When I saw that dome, my breath was literally taken away.”
Oooh, I do like St’ Paul’s Cathedral, I thought, Anglophile that I am. In fact, I recently watched a documentary about the evolution and urban planning of London that included a section on the still impressive engineering prowess Christopher Wren employed in constructing that very dome.
Then he said: “Of course, when I say St. Paul’s Cathedral, I mean the cathedral in St. Paul Minnesota.”
Is this something that people do? Randomly assign names to things that aren’t called by those names rather than the things that are? Also, I want to know if his St. Paul’s Cathedral is actually the Basilica, or just another cathedral in St. Paul. I’ll freely admit that I am not that familiar with the religious architecture of the Twin Cities, but if anyone can recommend a good documentary about it, I’ll certainly watch it.
I am not a jock. It is painfully obvious that I am not a jock, and that’s something that I’m actually pretty happy with. Usually when I tell someone that I run, the response is, “Really? You? Huh,” and I prefer it that way. I’ve never been a sedentary person; I used to get up at 5:30am when I was in high school and do step aerobics, but my activity level has always been my dirty little secret. I want people to believe that I can eat whatever I want and not get fat. I want to be viewed as “lucky” rather than “dedicated.” It makes no sense.
My father decided that he and I needed to go down to Florida and run in the Walt Disney World Marathon. He runs marathons and has for 20 years. He is crazy. I ran a 5k last spring. I agreed to do the ½ marathon because I wanted a free trip to Florida.
We were required to be in the staging area by 4:30am. Wayne decided that traffic was going to be a nightmare, so we had to leave the hotel at 2:30am.
“You should really eat something, Annie.” he insisted.
“Wayne, it’s 2:30am, I can’t physically eat at this hour.” Unless I’ve been up all night drinking, but I kept that part to myself.
He kept talking about my time, how long it would take me to finish. “What do you think your time, will be Annie?”
“I don’t know Wayne, I’ve never run more than 5.5 miles in my life. I just hope I don’t collapse before the finish line.”
“Well, I think you’ll do it in 2:20, yup, 2:20.”
That’s 2 hours and 20 minutes. For a free vacation, I signed up to run for more than 2 hours. I barely go to movies that are more than 2 hours.
At the staging area I choked down a free sample of an energy bar, and a vitamin water, met a couple people from Kansas who offered me a pretzels and asked what I thought my time would be, then got in line for one of the 10 million porta-potties. Okay, it was more like 100, but whatever.
At the starting line, people were stretching out in that way that shows they mean business using poles and trees and making faces like they were encouraging their muscles to loosen up “Come on quads, I need you guys.” There were banana peels everywhere, which struck me as very unsafe. An insanely chipper woman was yelling over the P.A. about the tradition of the Walt Disney World Marathon, and this year’s theme “Imagine.” Seriously, imagine. Was last year’s theme “Imagination? Imagineer?” Disney really does make itself into a cliché.
The starting gun went off for Wave A, the runners who are actually going to run the whole race, and everybody cheered. Wave B, the less hardcore group including myself, moseyed toward the starting line and waited for out starting gun. Wave A got fireworks, we just got a loud horn sound, Wave C, the walkers, which started 20 minutes after Wave B, probably just got the perky lady yelling “Ready, set go!” I jammed my earbuds in, and turned my Ipod on. First song of the race: Crazy, by Gnarls Barkley. I just looked around and thought, I will remember when I lost my mind. Why do people pay money and fly across the country for the privilege of running on Florida’s highway system? Then I realized that no one around me was actually running. The crowd of people was so dense that there was no room to actually run. So I took my pristine running shoes that had never been outside before and ran the first 4 miles of the race in the ditch.
Around mile 5, something seemed to shift in my brain. I was running beside a huge group of strangers and I felt completely isolated. The songs on my running mix seemed to take on a new poignancy. I had to skip Faithless’s I Can’t get no Sleep, because it just made me tired. I ran through Cinderella’s castle to Cypress Hill telling me that “in the drug game if someone jerk you, you can shoot ’em and kill ’em.”
Mile 7, and I wanted to die. My guts felt like liquid, my hips ached, and the arches of my feet twinged with every step. I’d had more disgusting yellow Powerade than I thought possible. Someone at a refreshment station gave me some kind of energy goo that was apple pie flavored, but actually tasted like a foot. But I ate it (or slurped it, or whatever you do with something you can’t chew), because I was starting to get light-headed. I started walking, even though I heard my dad in my head telling me “Whatever you do, don’t walk. Once you start walking, you won’t stop.” I walked for 2 miles, slowly.
A little after mile 9, I started trying to psyche myself up. “Just get through it, you’re almost done, etc.” All the little lies we tell ourselves when we’re faced with something truly daunting and unpleasant. Then some girl passed me. That was nothing new, lots of people had passed me by this point. She had her racing number pinned to her back when most people had theirs on their front. I stared at it dazedly for a bit and then realized that this bitch was from Wave C. That wave started 20 minutes after mine and she just passed me.
Just as that thought registered my Ipod flipped to Me Against the Music, and all I thought was “Fuck this, I am not getting passed by a Wave Cer.” Suddenly, just like Britney, my hips were moving at a rapid pace, and I was, in fact, feeling it burn. Thankfully it hurt less than before, or else I was going numb. I left the hateful Wave Cer in my wake, and ran the rest of the stupid race.
The race finished in EPCOT where we looped around the big spiky golf ball and wound up back in the parking lot where we started. Once we got into the park I started frantically skipping through songs trying to find the perfect music to finish to, finally settling on Unwritten, by Natasha Bedingfield. I passed mile 13 and saw the finish line .1 miles away. There were bleachers full of people cheering and screaming. I passed another 10 people who apparently were going to jog to the finish line (again, fuck that people were watching), and passed under the big arch. A medic ran up to me as I was lamenting that I had timed my song out poorly (I wanted it to finish as I did, but alas) and asked if I was okay. She seemed really concerned and I briefly though about making something up to get some free medical attention, but instead I just smiled and said, “No, I’m great.”
For my efforts I got a ridiculous medal shaped like Donald Duck, a t-shirt, a couple orange wedges, and a horrific case of the runs. I spent the rest of the day in bed wanting to die, and when I finally managed to get up and try to eat some food, the first thing my dad asked me was, “So Annie, what do you think your time was?”
My official time was 2:39:50. My personal goal, once I changed my goal from just wanting to finish, was 2:40. I’ll get 2:20 on the next one.