Tuesday, October 09, 2007

2007 Trip: Loneliness

Since I got on the plane without my traveling companion I had difficulty shaking off the loneliness I was feeling during the first part of my trip. I had been looking forward to traveling with someone to share things with. The first few nights in my room, I wondered everything from "Shouldn't I just forget about everything and go home?" to "What is karmically wrong with me that I get left alone at the fucking airport gate just before a much anticipated vacation?"

I was feeling down much of the time in D.C. After leaving the U.S. Botanic Garden, I walked to the Air and Space Museum, surely one of the greatest museums in the world, and had to leave after 15 minutes. The last time I was in D.C., I spent a precious few 4o minutes in Air and Space due to the severe time constraints. I had to leave, though. My traveling companion would have loved this museum. In fact, we would have spent at least two days there. Instead, I only managed to get a picture of the actual Spirit of St. Louis before leaving:

Even now, seeing this picture makes me wince.

That night back at the hotel I sat and wondered once again what the hell I was going to do. I had no plans for the next couple of days. I felt I should throw in the towel and just give up. As I indulged myself in channel surfing (a real novelty for me since I don't own a TV), I decided since I was already in Washington, D.C. I had to challenge myself to make the best of it. This was a good decision, but it didn't take away the empty feeling. I had to come up with another way to deal with this feeling. That night I couldn't think of anything, but as I was nodding off an idea popped into my head. I'll show you want I mean in the next post.

2007 Trip: Conservatory - Orchid Room

The Conservatory had a room just for orchids. It was cooler than other parts of the Conservatory and was wet and drippy like a cool forest. Orchids were everywhere. On the ground, on the trees branches above my head, along a wet wall and hanging in various places.

Many of the orchids were big and showy like this one.

I like this one's spidery shape.

Getting close up pictures of these flowers was difficult. My new camera does not have a real manual focus so many of my photos from this day came out blurry. It's difficult to take a good picture of an orchid without getting as close as possible since the shapes and details of these flowers are so striking.

This is not a vanilla orchid, by the way.

While I lingered in the the room, a docent with a group came in. I listened to her talk about the orchids. She pointed out the vanilla planifolia orchid, a small unassuming climbing vine orchid in the trees above us. She explained how we get vanilla beans for our vanilla flavoring from this plant. I had no idea. I knew vanilla beans came from a plant, but did not know it was an orchid. Very interesting. I couldn't get a picture of it because I couldn't see where she was pointing.

You can see in these pictures how shady and drippy it is in this room. They have the misters going on pretty regularly in here.

Some orchids are otherworldy, like this one. I love the strips and spots.

I've been told that certain orchids like it here in SF due to the cool, foggy climate. I may yet get a couple to see how I do with them here.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

2007 Trip: Conservatory

After my hop-on-hop-off bus tour, I spent some time in the Conservatory at the U.S. Botanic Garden. The Conservatory is lovely, even if it isn't that large. They have a wonderful collection of plants.

Palm Trees.

Conservatories are fun places. They have a romantic feeling to them like you're only just beginning to find your best life among the beautiful flowers, plants, trees, humidity and water. Reminds of me a glassed in Garden of Eden. We humans were made to love plants.

Glorious, eh? I made sure I took a picture of the sign so I would remember the name later.

Something about the light today made everything sheer and glowy.

I couldn't get over the color on this flower. Scarlet, Orange, Sunset, Velvet are words that come to mind.

This is some kind of pine tree, if I recall. I was taken by the directions the leaves are going in. Reminds of how hair flows.

This is really strange, but before my trip I had a dream I was looking at this flower. The flower petals are shaped like overlapping leaves instead of being in a circular shape like a rose. In my dream I was looking at this flower very closely and taking in the yellow color. The place and the light in my dream is exactly the same as it is here. I don't know the name of this plant; there was no sign.

This fern was located in the Garden Primeval section of the Conservatory. I had such a difficult time getting a focused shot, but I loved how the light was coming through at that moment.

They had a nice room of succulents and cacti.

Sometimes I think about picking some kind of plant and allowing it to grow into an obsession. Some of the men I've been attracted to have had such an obsession including rare succulents that look like they came from another planet, odd looking orchids and carnivorous plants.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Desire to Share

"I re-learned something today, Mr. Gryphon."

"And what is that, Miss Turtle?"

I don't reply at first. Mr. Gryphon and I are inspecting the newly finished subterranean maze in the new living quarters of my imaginary library. This maze is only a little larger than the one that was in the basement of Mr. Gryphon's former mansion. Like the old maze there are doors lining the wide hallways. At each intersection there's a "you are here" map. As we walk through I note the odd titles on the doors: Area 51, Sherwood Forest, Minas Tirith and Europa (moon). Here and there are wooshing sounds because the doors and their contents are always changing.

I stop and study a door that has just appeared. It says The Sinking of the Titanic. "We can take a look if you want, Miss Turtle." He indicates the door knob.

"No, I'm not up for floundering around in freezing water right now. Perhaps later. Anyway, today I re-learned that even if you make great strides towards something, such as conquering your insecurities, that doesn't keep you from feeling lonely."

Mr. Gryphon looks at his feet and then at me "I'm here," he says softly. I look at his lovely golden feathers and reach for his hand. It is large, furry and reassuring. We stand there in the hallway just looking at each other.

"Yes, you are here and I'm grateful for it, but you know what I mean. I would like a human male who cares about me to share these things with."

"Hm. I know that's what you want, but know this, Miss Turtle, even when you find that man I will still be here even when you stop talking to me. I will still follow you everywhere like I do now."

"I will never stop talking to you," I say. We move on down the hallway, the sound of the wooshing doors in the background. "You know, even with my greatest accomplishment, I don't think that will keep me from feeling lonely sometimes."

"Many people who have someone feel lonely from time to time," says Mr. Gryphon.

We reach an intersection of the maze. The "you are here" is indicated with a bulls-eye. In front of us is a door that says Beatles Debut on the Ed Sullivan Show. I look at Mr. Gryphon with a smile.

"I think I want to be in that audience, screaming with the rest, Mr. Gryphon." He reaches for the door knob and opens the door. The sound of the screaming audience is overwhelming. I walk through and am dressed like one of the girls with those cat-eye glasses and a plaid dress. We are in Ed Sullivan's television studio. I'm shocked by the color since the only time I've ever seen it is in black and white. I move along on the aisles and find my seat. I scream and feel the electricity in the air. The room is exploding with anticipation. In a few minutes, Ed Sullivan will come out and announce the American debut of the Beatles. Mr. Gryphon has moved off to the stage near the camera man. Even he seems excited. I imagine the Beatles standing behind that curtain and scream some more. A young girl next to me faints. I don't feel so lonely anymore, but the desire to share all this, even this make believe fantasy, remains.

2007 Trip: Monuments

When I got to Washington, D.C., I decided to follow the itinerary because I didn't know what else to do. For the first full day, Friday 9/22/07, I walked from the hotel which was located about two blocks from the National Gallery on the Mall towards Union Station so I could take my hop-on-hop-off bus tour. It became immediately apparent that I'd brought the wrong sandals so when I got to Union Station I bought a pair of those ugly sneaker sandals. I wore them for the entire trip. They are wonderful.

The weather in DC was in the upper 80s and something like 90% humidity. Miss Turtle is not used to such sweltering heat. To give you an idea of the contrast, it was about 63 degrees today here in SF with 74% humidity. When we have humidity here, it's usually fog or mist related. It feels a half a world from the kind of humidity in DC. I was sweating bullets by the time I got to the train station.

While at the train station, I canceled the Boston leg of the my trip and booked a first class train ticket to NYC for later in the week, then I got on the tour bus. Here's a picture of the Library of Congress.

I didn't take as many pictures as you might have thought on this trip. My camera is pretty heavy and I got tired of hefting in around. On that same Friday, I took a night tour of the DC monuments. The tour kicked my ass, but it was GREAT! I highly recommend it to anyone.

Our Nation's Capital, of course.

Night shot.

These bus tours are fun. I used to think they were really cheesy, but I took one when we went to London and it was really valuable. They give you the lay of the land, tell you lots of history and trivia of the area, allow you to see parts of the city you won't have time to see later and get you oriented. It rained a little while I was sitting on top of the bus. Everyone else went downstairs, but since I was prepared with my umbrella I stayed where I was. The rain was warm and had a sweet, gentle quality.

The monuments in DC at night are so beautiful. The night was warm and friendly and there were lots of people around, lots of other bus tours all doing the same thing.

The Lincoln Memorial is overwhelming. Sure, we've all seen pictures of it, but when you are standing a few feet a way from where Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his "I have a dream" speech, it was all I could do to keep myself from crying.

Korean Vets Memorial.

All of the monuments I saw were beautiful and moving, but none of them hit me like the Korean Vets Memorial. A bunch of life size bronze men are trudging through the difficult terrain, weighed down by their gear. They look all around, watching for enemy fire. Their faces are gaunt and exhausted. Their faces are beautiful. I tried in vain to get a face shot, but it was too dark.

I overheard a woman saying she's been to this memorial while it's been raining and that makes it even more realistic. She said she couldn't stop crying that night.

The last time I was here, I had time to see only one memorial so I picked the Vietnam Vets Memorial. It's amazing and so sad. Since the Wall is black and it was nighttime, I elected to not try to see that one this time around. Instead, I spent the rest of the time sitting on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial looking out at the Washington Monument and enjoying all the people and the beautiful night.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

2007 Trip: Standing On the Edge of the Eastern Seaboard

We'd planned this trip for about three months. I was looking forward to it because, Godammit, I needed a vacation. My manager put it best, "You find yourself on the edge of mental illness and then you go on vacation. When you get back you're all nice and happy and recharged."

My traveling companion and I drove to the airport (SFO). We checked our bags, ate lunch and then made our way to the gate. Our itinerary was supposed to be as follows: 5 days in Washington DC, 2.5 days in NYC and 2.5 days in Boston. All arrangements had been made at least three months in advance.

We got to the gate and my traveling companion turned to me and said "I think you're going to have to go alone." I turned to him and laughed, and he said "Yes, you're going to have to go alone. I'm not getting on the plane." Then he walked away. Really walked away. As in walked away and walked out of the airport without me.

At this point in the post, it would be an appropriate time to write "WTF???!!!!" but I can't stand the term "WTF??!!" I mean, if you're going to take the trouble to write three capital letters and some question marks/explanation points you might as well do it right:

WHAT THE FUCK????!!!!!

Folks, just do it up right from now on. Don't bother with the three initials. It makes you look like you're trying to go back to your fabled years of mid-adolescence (unless you really are there).

Keep in mind that we were standing in line, holding our tickets and getting ready to board the plane with everybody else. I went to use the ladies room. I was hoping I would come back and he would be back at the gate looking for me, but that did not occur.

I made a single phone call and not knowing what else to do, got on the plane.

Who is this person, my former traveling companion? I'd rather not say, but I will tell you he was not one of useless assholes I've been dating lately. Why did he walk away like that? Turns out he's so claustrophobic on planes that he just couldn't get on board. Why didn't he tell me this earlier? Difficult to say, but I venture to guess that he really thought it was going to be fine, but realized at the last possible minute that he just couldn't do it.

We all have our limitations and phobias and I can't fault him for that.

On the plane, I sat there feeling freaked out. There's no other accurate way to put it. The guy in the same row with me asked if I was all right. I told him no and explained what had just happened only a few minutes earlier. We talked about it and he confessed that he'd never heard of anything like that. The plane was delayed on the runway for a hour because of an electrical problem and I knew my traveling companion had made the right decision. He would have gone nuts.

While sitting there I thought of all the things I could do. I could completely change my trip around. I had almost two weeks off from work and I could go anywhere. After mulling over the possibilities, I decided I would get to DC, collect my luggage, cancel everything and then catch a flight to Rome, Italy. Feeling a bit bright about my new idea, I happily thought about seeing the Vatican, the Coliseum, Florence and Venice. Then I realized I didn't have my passport and knew I wasn't going anywhere outside the U.S. Shit. While waiting to take off, I pictured myself in standing on the edge of the Eastern Seaboard looking out across the Atlantic towards the country shaped like a boot.

Since we were so delayed, I had to run though the George Bush Houston Airport to catch my connecting flight. I almost didn't make it. I can't stand running through airports. The only time worse than that was when I had to sprint through Chicago O'Hare.

I settled myself in my seat on the Houston runway. The surreal aspects of my situation came even sharper into focus. "What the fuck am I going to do?" I said out loud. I decided to take it one step at a time. For now, the next step was to get to Washington DC.

When we planned the trip, my former traveling companion and I had planned the trip around things we both like to do (see museums, aquariums, etc.) and this is a fine way to spend a vacation. The problem I was having was if I had known I was going to have almost two weeks off from work and traveling alone, I would have planned a very different vacation. I would have definitely gone to Italy to see the big three (Rome, Florence and Venice) and I might have even planned a stop to Paris.

I have plenty of experience traveling alone, but I've never traveled alone for this long. I wasn't sure what I was going to do next.