Thursday, July 20, 2006

Airline Humour....

I meant to post this last week. When my plane touched down in Houston from Atlanta lastweek, the airline steward went through the usual rigmerole of thanking us passangers from flying with them and then tagged this on at the end:
"We hope that next time you wish to rcket through the skies in a pressurised metal tube, we hope you'll choose us!"

Mormon Smiling Contest

Yesterday Dazza and I went to temple square in downtown Salt Lake City. For those who are not aware this is centre of the Mormon church - or 'the Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints' as they generally preferred to be called. The square consists of several buildings including the tabarnacle where their famous choir sings, a conference center, office buildings, a chapel and most crucially The Temple. The Temple is a grey building built over forty years by the Mormon's who came and settled Salt Lake City in the 1840s. They are extremely proud of how long it took them to build it and how 'beautiful' it is but I have to admit that it didn't strike me as particularly special - probably years of living beside an English cathedral (Wells) has tainted my ability to appreciate Mormons architecture. When I get to Miami and set up our computer and figure out the whole photos and posting them online thing you can judge for yourselves.

They give tours of the square led by their 'sister' missionaries from all over the world (young women that they call sisters - I don't know if they are 'nuns' or not). Our guides were Ahn from South Korea and Adhadhe from Ghana . They were lovely, sweet, gentle, kind and never ever stopped smiling!! They told us about how happy they are to know that God is their father and that Jesus Christ is the center of the universe. They told us the story of the seagulls: when the Mormon pioneers first came to Salt Lake they planted their first crop but that year there was a swarm of black locusts that descended eating everything; at first they tried to fight off the insects but to no avail; so they turned to prayer and prayed and prayed and then a miracle happened; a flock of seagulls appeared and ate the locusts leaving the Mormons with a small but viable harvest. They told us how the seagull is the state bird of Utah and that they have a beautiful fountain with gold seagulls atop to honour their miracle. They told us that they believe that a group of prophets left the holy land in 600BC and came to America and wrote of their prophecies on gold tablets and hid them in America until Joshua Smith came and found them through a vision from an angel and translated them from an unknown ancient Egyptian language into English and compiled 'The Book of Mormon'. They told us that they believe in the living prophet and believe that the current one (the man who is head of the church) talks directly from God. They told us all this and did so still smiling and smiling. They sang us two songs and their voices were sweet and the envy of every girl guide troop the world over. And they smiled.

They were so nice that they deflected all questions. They were so nice how could you possibly wish to deflate their bubble of niceness by suggesting problems or queries about what they believed. So we found ourselves smiling and nodding and smiling again. My ambitions of getting answers to why they think it is ok to try by whatever means necessary to 'cure' homosexuals, or why God would have no prophets after biblical times until an immigrant in northern New York state in 1832 and thereafter have a direct succession of fifteen prophets or why they don't believe in evolution or where is the evidence for a people emigrating to the Americas 600BC? - all those questions were rendered mute in the face of those smiles. I suppose I naively thought that I may find that they would want to engage in discussion - at least try to convert me. But instead their means of conversion is much more subtle. Their message is become a Mormon and you too can smile like us, can have the power of smile.

I left with my cheeks aching and my brain dazed. Dazza and I both agreed that we felt violated by niceness. None of our questions had been answered and we didn't feel that we knew much more about the Latter Day Saints. So we went to their book store (a trip in itself - with books with titles like "What I Wish I'd Known Before I Became a Missionary" and "So I Married a Mormon") and bought a copy of 'The Book of Mormon'. As I get more answers I will have more to write and ponder. The most profound thing I learnt however is the powerful deadly precision of a smile. Perhaps the Israelis and Hezbollah could take a leaf out of the sisters book of Mormon magic and just smile with avengance.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Update - gut instinct restored

Yesterday I wrote an email to Monica about the apartment and how it affected us. We thought that would be the end of it and we'd achieve that holy grail of (usually american) psychology "closure". Well, I received an email back from her today and turns out the 'new roommate' was a ruse. The true situation is that her parents are in dire financial straites and Monica needs to sell her apartment in order to help them out. She made up the other roommate excuse because she couldn't face telling us the truth.

I feel terrible for her but yet I am also pleased that my gut instinct has been restored. I was mostly upset that a person whom I thought to be full of sincerity and integrity would up and dump us having led us on. I am pleased to know that she is not that kind of person and my first instinct was correct. I wrote back and hopefully we can meet up when we get to Miami and still be friends. I am just glad that I took the time to email her and find out the full story. I am also glad that being genuine and honest people doesn't mean that Dazza and I are doomed to be screwed over by others. In fact hopefully this very aspect will mean that we can still gain a great friend - watch this space.

Lebanon Crisis

I feel terrible. I have just read an account of what is happening in Lebanon right now in the Guardian. It is an account by a young woman who is an artist forced to witness all her hopes and dreams come crumbling down. I have also found a blog that is also a must read:

This conflict is complex but there is one basic reality that is coming out of it: innocent people are dying, are injured, are living in fear. Israel is bombing the infrastructure of a country. They are targeting trucks - how is humanitarian aid going to be able to help without trucks? With Bush at the helm I am fearful for the outcome and it breaks my heart to read of the reality for the poor people in Lebanon. When will people realise that violence is not the best method - violence complicates matters, it violates lives, it harms those who have no part in the mess that created it.
The sun may be shining today in Utah but I have a heavy heart.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Salt Lake City

I am now in Salt Lake City for the next couple of weeks while Dazza finishes the end of his training. There are the most beautiful mountains on either side of the valley. Last night we went up to Park City which is a small town in the mountains reminiscient of Aspen but not quite that rich - yet!! We had ribs at a local restaurant and wandered about. This morning we went hiking for the first time (for me not Dazza) and saw a MOOSE!!! - that's the big hairy kind with antlers not the scottish small rodent kind that I co-habited with in Edinburgh for 5 years!! It was a magnificent animal and quite happily munched on some flowers as Dazza and I ummed and awed. The views up in the mountains are stunning and if it weren't for all the ski parifinelia then you'd feel wonderfully in touch with nature.

The most bizarre happening was on the way down. We met a long crocodile of young girls being frog-marched up the mountain by a blonde woman dressed as snow white!!! I kid you not. We felt so sorry for all these prepubescent girls being tortured by camp leaders who think nothing of dressing as though they work at disney world and stomping up mountains in Utah.

So, a lot has happened since I last wittered on this site. I had a fantastic time helping my friend Kristen move from Houston to Nashville with the added bonus of having her sister Sara along for the ride too. It took us 18 and a half hours to get to Nashville and I think such craziness deserves a post of its own - watch this space!!

Then I went to Miami to meet Dazza to look for apartments. This turned out to be much more of a saga than first anticipated.

We had set up a plethera of realtors to meet, apartments to see and also a girl to meet to see if sharing would be a good answer to the thorny issue of how expensive everything is in Miami. The first day, Thursday, we saw a bunch of yuechy yuechy beside D's work, we saw this girl, Monica's not quite finished 2 bedroom apartment and a few places in south beach. We didn't really want to be in south beach because of the commute to work for D but the cost for having a non-yuechy place near his work in Pinecrest was proving very difficult. So ... it was coming down to south beach or if this girl Monica was nice then a room share near D's work.
Monica hadn't been able to meet us to see the apartment that morning so her Mom did it instead. So we met her that night. She is a pretty girl with long dark hair and eyes. She has just graduated from Columbia with a comparitive lit degree and is currently working for one of the democratic hopefuls for Florida governor. She is lively and intelligent and talks a mile a minute. We hit it off immediately and thought our prayers had been answered. Dazza felt exactly the same - I was somewhat surprised as he'd not been keen on sharing again as its been 6 years since we last had a roommate. So we called Monica and said we'd like to take it. Great she said and arranged to meet the next day, Friday, in the evening to discuss furniture and moving arrangements.
So we had a great day on Friday driving around Miami getting to know the place. Both of us have jaws that are kind of dragging on the ground at the realization that we will be living with palm trees!! Anyway, that evening at 5 we went back to our hotel (doubletree in coconut grove - awesome by the way found on priceline for $100 a night) to get a snack before meeting Monica.
The phone goes..... its Monica. She tells Dazza that she's decided to go with someone else for the apartment. They apparently could pay more and after discussing it with her parents and she had to think of herself blah blah blah... We were gutted!! Here we thought we would have a great new friend and have our apartment stuff sorted all in a one-er. But instead we had to scramble to find places to look at on a Friday night in Miami ....aaaaaAAAAAAAAArrrrrrrrrrrrrrghhhhhhh!!!

We got on craigslist (thank god for craigslist) and set up 4 places to see that night. The first was a studio in South Beach. It was on the pricey side but the photos looked great. We were not disappointed. It is only a year old and has stainless steel kitchen and a washer and dryer in the apartment. It is small but not too small and feels safe. We took it. So we will be in the north of south beach in prime position to watch all the craziness - the movie stars, the body builders, the tanning obsessives, the transvestites, the tourists, the multitude of bright colours everywhere. Although the apartment situation with Monica was a terrible thing to happen, I think we will enjoy south beach much more (her apartment was in dadeland across from the biggest mall I think I've ever seen.....!!!).

So now we just have to decide how much of our stuff to take and how much to leave in Indianapolis. Until that time though we have two weeks to hang out with mormons (we are going to visit the temple), climb more mountains, and chill out before the craziness of moving and realty hits.

(PS apologies for typos and just my weird and wonderful spellings - just in case anyone wanted proof that I am actually dyslexic or as I prefer to term it dephlumphlic - but this library computer won't let me do spell check!!!)

Friday, July 07, 2006

What A Privilege

Time ticks by at the speed of a giant sloth. I feel like I'm in a kind of stupor. I'm in another universe where the trees and grass all abide, loyally, by the laws of geometry. I have an erie feeling that I don't really exist and am merely playing a role in a very large film set.

The houses all sit obediently in perfect rows and the sun sits smugly in its sparkling blue sky. The only sounds are the occasional bird and the perfect laughter of the perfect life of the perfect families.

Nothing disturbs here. No one steps into the dangerous territory of being 'different'. The only difference allowed is of the colour of the skin of the nice people who serve the perfect people. This is of course allowable because people who serve don't really exist. They are only extras on the movie set and will not have their names on the credits.

An time ticks slowly by, quietly so as not to disturb anyone. So no one notices that everyday is like the last and each season like the same season the year before. Everyone smiles as they sleepwalk, slowly, imperceptible through their wonderful, perfect lives. What a privilege.
Suburbia, USA

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Atlanta Botanical Gardens

If you ever visit Atlanta it is well worth taking the time to go the Botanical Gardens. Not only was the orchid house filled with some stunning specimens but they have some really amazing fantastical sculptures. A couple really grabbed our fancy. One was a rather naughty fountain of three women where the water was shooting out of their reclining mouths AND breasts!!! They other much cleaner one was giant skull which was so big you could sit inside it. All the sculptures are made from colorful pieces of glass, beads, stones and mirrors constructed in a mosiac fashion. All the figures are very portly and cheerful. There were totem poles, lions, whales, snakes - a veritable garden of eden in technicolor.
Then to polish off the day, last night Darren and I went with some new friends - Louise and Jared - to movie on the green. There were 17 thousand people gathered to watch 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' (the original version). It is totally free event in a large park in Midtown. There were people from all walks of life, all there to enjoy the evening. There was the added bonus of everyone cheering at the good bits (like when Charlie gets the golden ticket) and singing along with the favourite tunes - ompahlumpah being by far the favourite!! We had a great time and would recommend it - the picnic was good too!!