Moving In, Moving On

Yesterday I got the keys to my new apartment, and promptly got severely nauseous. While there’s a stomach bug going around, I think it has more to do with the concept of permanency than any genuine illness.  I’ve always had a dislike of putting down ties; there’s no tragic backstory to explain my distaste toward commitment. I just don’t like pending obligations (or yard work).

While an apartment with a year-long lease barely seems to be commitment at all, for me, it’s pretty big. I’ve spent a lot of my life running around with my belongings in a cardboard box, and purchasing Real Furniture literally weighs me down. It’s exciting, sure, but it means that for a while: here I am.

My list of places, unabridged: Continue reading

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Would you like fries with your vengeful ghost?

While driving to the store today, I saw a family in a graveyard by the Baptist Church.

They were in lawn chairs and grilling.

Now, it’s difficult to shock me, and my list of things I’d consider “gauche” is pretty short.  However, enjoying an Oscar Meyer wiener and playing frisbee amidst the mausoleums is one of them, particularly when there’s a perfectly nice, green park about five miles down the road that isn’t fertilized by the decomposing body of someone’s grandmother.  Isn’t that the perfect setup to a horror movie? Some hapless family has a picnic in a cemetery and the angry spirits of the restless dead rise up to smite them?

I’m trying to think whether or not I’ve ever done anything remotely as insensitive in a graveyard. Surprisingly, no. I’ve done ghost walks, of course, but they were all sanctioned by official historical society people.  I’ve done etchings off a farmer’s 1774 tombstone in a tiny little country cemetery in Tennessee, but I was quiet and respectful and didn’t drop a burger patty on holy ground.  There’s a difference, I think, between visiting a graveyard to tour it, and visiting a graveyard because you can work your Green Egg.  There’s a matter of respect.

I held my breath for the super-historical cemetery I walked past every day in Fredericksburg, Virginia. There’s an old Southern superstition to hold your breath as you pass by a cemetery lest the ghosts jump into you. I’m not sure what would happen if a ghost were to jump into you, but according to the tone of Southern tradition, bad things would follow. It probably wouldn’t be as awesome as anything Whoopi Goldberg could manage, just saying.

So it’s very strange to me to see people just… grilling away. I hope they had a good time and didn’t disrupt too many spirits.  That cemetery is only a mile from my house, and I’ve seen Night of the Living Dead way too many times (“There coming to get you, Whitney!”).

And related to nothing, the tips of my brunette hair are now dyed blonde, and I can cross off one of the things on my list.

Leash Laws: Into the Wild in Alabama

One of the most obvious differences between life in Orlando and Northern Alabama is the wildlife. It’s not that Orlando was an asphalt wasteland devoid of life that wasn’t in a Mickey costume. I saw lots of wildlife. I saw it dead on the highway all the time, a menagerie of squished armadillos, various cranes that had taken a wrong turn at Tampa, and assorted flattened groundhogs. It was somewhat troubling that I’d never seen any of these creatures alive, but if you’ve ever driven in Florida for any length of time, you know that the odds of survival are against you as soon as you put a toe on the interstate.

My neighborhood in Alabama is brimming with creatures – and few of them are dead! We have the typical kamikaze squirrels, but we also have possums, raccoons, coyotes, deer, rabbits, and foxes. Our house is pressed tight against the woods, and the contents of the wild often spill out onto our property. The tall, green trees look nothing like the stunted palms of Central Florida. When I close my eyes and breathe, I smell sap, honeysuckle, and undergrowth – not the exhaust, dust, and waffle cones of the Magic Kingdom parking lot.

One other note about animals in Alabama? There are no leash laws.

This seems a minor point at first. If you’ve never lived in a place without leash laws, you just assume that everyone keeps their dogs and cats or whatever in a fenced yard. This is optimistic, but it’s not the least bit truthful. Dogs roam in packs over my neighborhood, and while they’re (currently) all friendly, it can be a little overwhelming if you’re not expecting to have five other canine joggers with you as you do your evening run. When I was little, a less-kind dog pack roamed, and selling raffle tickets to the neighbors became something of a life-or-death situation as I torpedoed from the safe zone of a front porch to another, hoping to avoid the snap of canine jaws. It’s something to think about before you let Chester the Cat outside. And don’t get me started on the exotic birds.

Exotic birds? you ask. In Alabama? Well, yes. One of my neighbors collected them. Peacocks, emus, and guinea fowl. When he died, they roamed around the neighborhood for years; it wasn’t unusual to look out the window and see a peacock staring back at you, willing you to throw a piece of bread outside. When I learned to drive, emus chased the Volkswagen, pecking at the tires and flapping their useless wings. And guinea fowl? Are the stupidest creatures alive. They run straight into the car every time (I may or may not be lingering under the guilt of having hit a few in my earlier days).

There was also a beautiful parrot who was sometimes allowed to fly around the neighborhood. His owners assured us that he was totally fine and always flew home. He had the uncomfortable habit of looking in and squawking “touchdown!” whenever an actress on television took off her top.

So no, I didn’t have any of that in Orlando. I kind of missed it.