Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Happy Birthday to War, Death, and Dirty Birdie

Too busy to blog lately, though I can’t claim to have been particularly productive—so what on earth have I been doing with the few precious hours we are granted on this mortal plane of existence?


How out of character for me.

Three of the four horsewomen plus our horsewoman in training (Demi-Horsewoman?) had birthdays in the first two weeks of October. Furthermore, we were all in the same country and even in the same city this year. This, of course, calls for a correspondingly large celebration and we started planning this a month ago.

Given the higher than average level of inner-nerd in our group, it was a slightly more... cerebral event than might otherwise be expected for a quadruple birthday blast. We went to a museum, where we savaged the world’s worst tour guide and nitpicked the exhibit—though our criticisms were, I feel, not unfair or unfounded. For example, the traveling exhibit that was the main draw for our visit to the museum that day originated in Germany. At two separate points in the exhibit, they displayed a blown-up newspaper article from a German newspaper, written in 1949, which detailed the discovery of a bog person by some workers at a construction site. The bodies were wrapped in a large bolt of cloth that had been so well-preserved that the blue and green plaid pattern was still discernable. The workers thought at first that someone had lost their jacket. This would have been no laughing matter or mere inconvenience in 1949 Germany, so work was halted for someone to climb down and retrieve the jacket. When the worker took hold of the cloth and started to pull it away, he revealed bones that were obviously human and yelled up to the rest of the crew that they should call for the police because “the SS murdered someone and dumped the body here”. An investigative unit was sent out and quickly determined that the remains far pre-dated the SS, a message was sent to the archaeology department of a nearby university, and the eerily well-preserved bodies of two men wrapped in a tightly woven blue and green plaid cloth were excavated. None of this was translated or otherwise alluded to in the English text beyond the remark that the mummified bodies were often found by workers digging peat in Northern Europe. Perhaps I am crazy, but a) I don’t see the point in displaying the untranslated article with no context or explanation, especially given that your audience does not speak German, and b) that seems like exactly the kind of story that would be interesting to people visiting an exhibit about an unusual phenomenon. Oh, and as you leave the exhibit hall, you are forced past a large glass display case in which merchandise from the gift shop is displayed. I don’t have a particular problem with gift shops in museums, being fully aware that they furnish a chunk of the funding necessary for the museum’s health and well-being. There is, however, a point where the offerings of a gift shop should conform to some standard of propriety and bags of coffee beans labeled “Bog People Blend—Good Enough to Wake the Dead!” are beyond that point, as was the rubber corpse doll wearing a Bog People T-Shirt and skullcap.

We ate at a local Ethiopian restaurant, where we sat on squat little stools surrounding a straw table. The restaurant was opened by a former graduate of Our Law School who apparently disliked being a lawyer enough to quit, spend months traveling in Ethiopia, and open the city’s first (and so far only) Ethiopian restaurant. The food was incredibly delicious. We each got a combination platter with four small portions of different entrees and shared with each other. Together with the spicy food and hot injera, we drank copious amounts of a highly spiced tea. Our table was in the front window with sun streaming in, and we ate and drank for nearly two hours. After stuffing ourselves to the point of nausea, we ordered strong Ethiopian coffee and cinnamon ice cream. The resulting inability to move was well worth it—though not as good as Grater’s, the cinnamon ice cream was smooth and not too sweet.

From there, it was on to the Aviary. We arrived just at feeding time and largely followed the volunteer workers pushing a cart loaded with bowls of dead mice, fruit, and seeds. It was highly amusing to see the reaction of some of the birds to the sound of the approaching cart. There were also a couple of open halls where the birds can fly freely around the tourists. The birds in these enclosures were naturally extremely acclimated to human contact. Some of them ignored us entirely and others followed people or approached them quite closely. War found her perfect love in the final hall; unfortunately, he was the wrong species. The bright green and yellow bird chirped and cooed at her, following her from one end of the enclosure to the other. She made kissing noises at him and he tried to stick his beak through the wires of the cage to “kiss her back”.

After a stop at the local Wine and Spirits store, we headed over to my place for tea, meeting Hulio. War and Death talk faster than any two people on the face of the planet and, as I have had occasion to remark quite often lately, no ability to use their Indoor Voices. Hulio was highly amused. The fun of verbally eviscerating Professor Strap and several of our classmates made the time fly and suddenly we had hardly half an hour to get back to War’s place, change into nice clothes, and walk over to the flamenco concert.

It was held in a very small performance hall attached to the local cathedral, making it a fairly intimate venue. War and I had some difficulty finding it, hidden back a way off the main road. We must have made quite the picture, all shawls and long legs, arms hooked together, sashaying up the street. The picture of two middle-aged central European women who grew up in the same small village and spend all their time together, going to the opera and eating pastries at the Kranzler rose unbidden in my mind. We arrived just as the performance was beginning and slid into seats near the front and off to the side. My entire previous exposure to flamenco came from the occasional special lesson in conjunction with my ballet classes (you know, just in case you should ever be chosen for the role of the Spanish Dancer in The Nutcracker or for a role in Carmen or something) and the Spanish exchange student who studied at my ballet school one year (she had studied flamenco for years back home in Spain and gave an exhibition at our end of the year performance). By all rights, it ought to be ridiculous: the anguished voices, the overwrought facial expressions, the stamping about, the grasping hands. But it isn’t—it’s wildly passionate and moving. I am sure that this was not a world-caliber performance. In particular, I was not incredibly impressed with the female dancer. But when you’re watching four unattractive men onstage and suddenly find yourself thinking “Wow, that guy is hot...”, there’s obviously something good happening.

The man seated next to me obviously had some form of Tourette’s and twitched violently the whole way through the first act. At several points, he mouthed words, but managed not to actually say anything out loud. I felt horrible because I know it’s not his fault, but the thing was, the constant movement and the sound of his lips smacking was incredibly irritating and distracting. Obviously, I didn’t say anything to him—if there was anything that he could have done to stop it, I’m sure he would have and I’m also certain that it’s embarrassing to him when these things happen. We ended up moving at intermission, not because of the man, but because we found four seats together along the railing in the small balcony, putting us directly above the stage. The seats were much better (and were all together instead of two here and two there), but I worry now that the poor man thought we moved because of him.

The evening ended with misadventures in the kitchen (but the end product was good, so who cares how you got there?), lots of cheap South African wine, mulled with spices and apples, and heated discussion of illegal immigration, plus presents and howling laughter. Though, I suppose if I am to be entirely accurate, the *evening* ended long before we got to the point of making bread pudding without the proper ingredients or a measuring cup at midnight. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say something like “The morning arrived with misadventures in the kitchen...”, since, though dawn had not actually arrived by the time War and I marched through the suddenly cold autumn air to her apartment and collapsed on her IKEA sheets, it wasn’t that far off.

It’s good to have a reason that lets you celebrate with abandon and not do any work for school without feeling guilty about it.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home