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Mr. Bowditch Carried On without Me

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One thing I didn't see in Salem, Massachusetts (I started an entry about going to Salem but haven't finished it because it's depressing) because I didn't know it was there but would have visited had I known about it is the Nathaniel Bowditch House.

Who, you are probably asking, is Nathaniel Bowditch?

Where I've Been Lately

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Sixteen months ago, I included a map of the states I'd visited, and it looked like this:


But as of last week, the map of states I've visited looks like this:



create your own personalized map of the USA

That's right--I've done some traveling, and added three more states to the list of those I've visited, bringing the total to 41. A year ago I went to Alaska on a cruise with my family; and I spent most of the first half of July in Massachusetts, which I had never visited before, and made a day trip to Connecticut, which was another state I'd never seen.

There will be more about my trip in the future, but I wanted to explain why my posts have been uncharacteristically brief.

The Big Blue Bathtub

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During my recent visit to Toronto (the one that afforded the opportunity to meet Dale), I stayed at a really lovely b&b near High Park. The hostess had agreed to give me a room with a private bathroom, and when I arrived, she said she had two rooms available, one with a shower and one with a bathtub, and asked if I had a preference for baths or showers. I said, "Actually, I prefer baths," because I do. So she showed me to a room that included this, immediately to your left upon entirely the main room:

bluetub3.jpg
It was huge! It dominated the room. If you liked bathing with an audience, it could be cool, because there were two ways you could be seen: someone could just lie in bed and watch you take a bath, or someone could stand in the hall and have quite a good view.

bluetub1.jpg

That door you see a bit of to the left is the door out into the hall. There were no locks on the doors, and the latches weren't entirely tight--the door sometimes blew open if another door in the house was shut forcibly. So I had to prop a chair against the door to ensure that it wouldn't blow open while I was sitting in the tub.

If I ever stay there again--and it really was a lovely place, so I wouldn't rule that out--I'll take the room with the shower.

Where I've Been Lately

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In "Dead Man's Party," episode 2 of Season 3 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, we get this exchange between Buffy and Xander about where, exactly, Buffy might have gone after running away from Sunnydale:

X: So where were you? Did you go to Belgium?

B: Why would I go to Belgium?

X: I think the relevant question is, why wouldn’t you? Belgium!

So, I haven't been away from Sunnydale (aka the blogosphere) quite as long as Buffy was absent from Sunnydale that summer, but I did go to Belgium, as I sometimes do. In particular, I went here, the Chateau du Lac at Genval, for a wedding. If you live in Belgium and are wondering where to have your reception, let me heartily recommend Chateau du Lac.

I could now spend some time apologizing for being such a crappy, undisciplined blogger, but I've done that in almost everything I've posted lately, so I think I'll just provide some pictures instead, but I'm going to make you click on the "continue reading" button to see them.

I hope to post more soon.

As They Say about Acid

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Yeah, I'm back.

I got home Wednesday night. The journey home was, as they say about acid from time to time, a bad trip. Flight patterns were screwed up at the Salt Lake airport for some reason no one ever bothered explaining to me so although we boarded on time and shut the door on time and pulled away from the gate on time, we then sat on the tarmac for 55 minutes (the captain specified that it was 55 minutes) waiting for our turn to take off, waiting and waiting and then waiting some more as if waiting were a perfectly normal thing to do in an airplane. Fortunately I have a gift, a very fortunate gift indeed, and even a strange one, in light of the fact that in a bed I am prone to insomnia, and my gift is this: I always fall asleep on planes. I am so disposed to falling asleep on planes that I get sleepy just waiting to board one. So I slept while we waited for our plane to take off, even though I had slept a lot the night before and it was only ten a.m., too early really to be sleepy.

I Wasn't Even Wasted

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I've never been the kind of person to sit around a hotel room. I'm perfectly happy to sit around private homes, even in really amazing cities--it's not like I have to see all the sights when I go someplace, and of course one thing I want to see when I visit friends is the friends themselves. But even in the least remarkable of cities, if I'm staying at a hotel, I want to spend as little time there as possible. I'm not sure why.... Perhaps it's because hotel rooms somehow strike me as boring, impersonal, and a tad claustrophobic. Go figure.... The same goes for a cruise ship stateroom.

My unwillingness to sit in my room watching television meant I had to find stuff to do on the cruise. It helped that meals lasted a very long time: it took two full hours for all eleven people at our table to finish all five courses at dinner. It helped that I am fond of walking and enjoyed strolling around and around the promenade deck. (Though I admit I realized just how solitary my tendencies truly are when I found it a bit irritating to encounter anyone else who was also strolling around and around the same promenade.) It helped that my sister Lisa twice competed in a trivia contest and won both times, so we all turned out to support her. It helped that my siblings wanted to attend disco night.

Butchart Gardens

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Victoria, British Columbia is pretty damn close to Seattle--near the southern tip of Vancouver Island, at the mouth of Puget South--and thus was our last stop. We docked at 6 p.m. Friday night and had to be back on board by 11:30 p.m. because we were sailing at midnight, for a 7 a.m. arrival in Seattle. It's an odd time to arrive someplace and many tourist attractions were closed, but one that was open was Butchart Gardens, which my mother was all gaga to see. I tend to like fancy gardens and botanical museums myself, so I wasn't at all disappointed when she bought me and everyone else in our family a ticket to the place.

She insisted it was a world famous garden, and the fact that I had somehow managed never to hear of it seemed to little reason to contradict her. Getting there involved a 40-minute bus ride with an annoyingly chatty bus driver, but it was worth it. In fact, Butchart Gardens are amazing.

I should acknowledge what some of you are no doubt thinking: OK, cruises might be fun, but they're not the most environmentally responsible way to vacation. Cruise ships used to routinely dump crap into the ocean (they're supposed to follow rules about it now) but they also used to do things even stupider and more wantonly destructive, all in the name of entertaining tourists.

One day we visited Hubbard Glacier in Yakutak (pronounced "Yak Attack") Bay. As we approached, we were allowed to go up to the front of the bow so we could lean over the railings and stare right at this massive chunk of ice. It's a damn impressive sight: 76 miles long and six miles wide at the point where it meets the ocean, and every so often it will calve off icebergs the size of a ten-story building. If you saw the chunk fall off, you'd shout, "Oh! Look!" as you pointed; if you didn't, you'd look where someone was pointing and say, "Oh, crap." You actually had to WATCH the glacier and WAIT if you wanted to see it DO anything.

And apparently that patience which is now necessary used to be considered an avoidable inconvenience. While hanging out on the bow, I talked to a guy who was on his third Alaskan cruise. He said that the first two times he went, someone would bombard whatever glacier they were visiting with sonar so that it would calve more often and more dramatically. But then someone else pointed out that since 95% of the world's glaciers are receding on their own, it probably wasn't wise to help them, and the practice was abandoned.

A few days ago, Chris posted an entry about the fact that being crappy residents of this planet should motivate us to STOP being crappy residents instead of rushing about space looking for a new home to move to after we've completely trashed this one. (Not that he's opposed to space exploration--he says that about a dozen times and people still seemed to miss it.) But he went so far as to compare humanity to a cockroach infestation, and both his basic point and that comparison pissed a lot of people off. Personally I thought the post was both funny and apt, and the fact that we would speed up the dissolution of the polar ice caps just because its cool to watch, is one more reason I think that.

Where or When I Was

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Early this morning I had what is for me a very rare experience: I awoke with absolutely no idea where or when I was. At first I thought, "Am I nine? Is this my parents' house?" And then I thought, "Am I in our summer cabin on the mountain? Is that why everything is so dark and simultaneously familiar and a little bit out of the ordinary?" But the ceiling was more than two feet from my face and I couldn't see any exposed two-by-fours (I got to sleep in the loft, which I loved, because it was solitary and strange and I had to climb a ladder to get to it) so I knew that wasn't the case. Next I had to figure out that I wasn't in a college dorm or a hostel in Europe. (The one period of my life I never thought to imagine I was revisiting was anything having to do with my mission or Asia.) I then asked myself, "Do I still live in Iowa?" And I actually worded it like that, with the still, which meant I was figuring out that if my consciousness had me still living in Iowa, it wasn't doing its job properly. Then I thought, "Am I on a boat? Because I was on a boat, pretty recently." And then it all came back, that I'd been traveling but was home now, waking up for the first time in a good while in my little house in the rust belt.

The thing is, I felt no distress or discomfort while I was figuring all this out. I was too asleep to discern immediately where I was, but I was awake enough to feel my mind working, and I was distanced enough from both sleep and wakefulness to stand back and simply watch my mind figure out this situation, and that was kind of fun. I felt fortunate as I cycled through various periods of my life and realized that there had been all these places in the world where I'd slept safely and awakened in the morning to go do interesting things. And I was especially comforted to discover that I was in my own bed in my own house and that I wouldn't have to get up in a few hours and get off a boat or on a plane, and that made it really easy to go back to sleep.

I Love Captain Olav

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As I mentioned yesterday, not every aspect of the my cruise was ideal, but over all, it was pretty darn great. My mom (who made all the arrangements) went with the Holland America Line, known for having nice ships and good service, if also for being somewhat venerable and staid. It was a good decision, we all thought--here's a review of the line and the ship, in case you're contemplating a cruise yourself. We sailed on the Oosterdam, a new and spiffy ship--it really was quite extraordinarily lovely, but the one of the best things about the ship was its captain, Olav van der Waard.

There were a couple of opportunities to meet him, but I never bothered, and I still don't feel I needed to meet him. I was content to let him do his job, and he did it very well. It never occurred to me that in this day of sonar navigation and great big engines, a captain really had that much to do, but I was wrong, and Captain Olav, I soon realized, was really good at his job.

From May to September, there are cruise ships sailing all up and down the Alaska coast. A couple of times we were in port with three or four other cruise ships. But the thing is, Captain Olav always got there first, and snagged the best parking space (or rather, its nautical equivalent). When we cruised up to look at Hubbard Glacier, Captain Olav not only got there first, but got really, really close. We always arrived early; we always left on time, and the journey itself was lovely.

By the way, in case you wondered, I'm feeling better: the puking has long since stopped, though I'm still a little queasy. My friends think it might not have been stomach flu but food poisoning, since I started feeling ill immediately after a meal of fish tacos heavily flavored with cumin. Yesterday I couldn't even say those words without retching, and I don't think I'll ever be able to eat cumin or fish tacos again, but at least the clear liquids and simple carbohydrates I put in my stomach yesterday stayed there.

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