Thursday, October 29, 2009

Adventures in the East: Part 2

Getting into New York City was exhausting, but getting out of it was nigh unto impossible. The next leg of our trip was a flight to Washington D.C. The plane was going to leave around 2 pm. First they changed the departure gate four times. Then they cancelled the flight altogether. Meanwhile, Roo's boarding pass wouldn't print, the desk agent took his and accidentally gave him someone else's back. Then we had to catch a taxi with three strangers to get to La Guardia for a flight leaving in 30 minutes. Once we got there, our new boarding passes refused to print. Then we took a shuttle to the furthest nether-regions of the airport. The best part was when a backhoe pulled out in front of our shuttle and reduced our speed to 5 mph until we reached the terminal. Then Roo got held up in security. But we finally got on our plane right before takeoff!

We were really lucky to get to stay with JJ and Jen and their four cats. Here is me and Cuomo, the king of the cats. I loved him.

Roo and I both believe that it's who you're with on a vacation that really makes it great (or not so great.) Luckily, we got to spend the week playing cards, watching Harry Potter, and eating cupcakes with JJ (Roo's brother) and Jen. Plus, Spencer (Roo's other brother) and Kristen and their ultra intelligent children drove down from Rochester to sightsee with us--we had J, Sam, and Knox to explain to us what E Plurbis Unim meant, why the Classical architecture and symbolism of the city was so pertinent to our American ideals, and what they were going to be for Halloween--so we pretty much had a guaranteed awesome trip.

Here's what we saw:

Probably my favorite museum was the Holocaust Memorial Museum. The subject is really important to me, and the museum was fantastically done! It was tragic and hopeful at the same time. The building itself was such an amazing, symbol-filled work of art. Below is what the architect had in mind when he designed it:

"Everywhere there are dualities and options. The west wall of the Hall of Witness is made of black granite, the east wall of white marble — the former ominous, the latter hopeful. The play of light and shadow, along with contrasting wide and narrow spaces, arouses contradictory notions of accessibility and confinement.

The entire Hall is defined by unpredictability and uncertainty. Altogether, the interior suggests a departure from the norm, informing visitors that they are in a profoundly different place. It is an environment that stimulates memory and sets an emotional stage for the Museum's exhibitions.
Exposed beams, arched brick entryways, boarded windows, metal railings, steel gates, fences, bridges, barriers, and screens — all "impound" the visitor, and are disturbing signals of separation.
The fissure underscores a sense of imbalance, distortion, and rupture — characteristics of the civilization in which the Holocaust took place."

This room was full of pictures of the faces and lives of a small but thriving Jewish community that was completely wiped out by the end of the war.This was a plain, reverent room with rows of lit candles and Old Testament scriptures on the walls. It was very lovely and peaceful.
I could not stop thinking about who had worn these shoes. When was the last time they had taken them off? I found this especially moving.
A perfect Isaiah quote.

Did I mention that a storm of permanent, non-stop, freezing rain decided to visit D.C. too? It was bitterly cold and wet, and I had gotten a nasty cold, so walking around all day outside was really a sort of crucible of wills for me. But I still loved the city!

We took a tour of the Capitol in the rain:

We took a tour of Mount Vernon, George Washington's estate in the rain:

Saw the very impressive and beautiful Lincoln Memorial in the rain:
Walked the deceptively lengthy distance of the reflecting pool in the rain:
Went to the WWII Memorial in the rain:
Wore head scarves like Russian peasant women while posing with the Washington Monument in the rain:
The one day it didn't rain we got to spend with Spencer and Kristin sightseeing. This is the National Gallery of Art:

We were pretty tired most of the time. So when we weren't browsing artifacts or looking for good street vendor food, we took advantage of any comfortable chairs to sit down for a minute.

This is in the archives where we saw the Constitution and Declaration of Independence.

We both decided we loved D.C. in spite of the rain. It was interesting, impressive, and we didn't see any racoon-sized rats in the Metro.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Adventures in the East - Part 1

A few months ago, we decided to plan a grand trip to visit New York and Washington, D.C. A few months later, when we realized we couldn't afford it, it was already too late--we'd booked the tickets. So we thus committed to have a stellar, albeit expensive, trip.

We left Friday night--or should I say Saturday morning--on the red-eye Delta flight to New York City. Though getting to tell people, "I'm on the red-eye to New York City" seems like it would make you feel especially cosmopolitan and adventurous, the act of actually being on the red-eye to New York City mostly makes you feel like a miserable wretch. After take off, you settle in, determined to get a good, solid night's rest--this is when you find that your seat reclines at an angle of exactly .03 degrees and that plastic-wrapped napkin they gave you is actually your complimentary blanket which you cleverly roll into a makeshift pillow, desperately hoping it can somehow make it possible to sleep while sitting Mary-Poppins-straight. 3.5 hours later, we disembarked in a coma-like stupor and made our way to the hotel --we were two sleep-deprived white people lugging suitcases through the New York subway at 5:30 am. It was awesome.

Our hotel was a couple blocks from Times Square--named for the good times you have when you're in it...

This was my second trip to New York and Roo's first. I love the city. This is beautiful to me:

We wandered around both days we were there, and we found ourselves at the New York Public Library. This place was like a temple to me. Old stone and elaborately carved wood and books.

This is the ceiling. Most libraries I've been to have gross flourescent lighting, like they're actually trying to make people feel bored in there--I feel like New York's library ceiling should be the standard for all libraries.
Of course we had to try some New York pizza. It was good and cheap. This is just after we went to The Strand--probably the most awesome bookstore I've ever been to--book browsing usually makes one hungry for pizza.

We rode the Staten Island Ferry to get a good view of the skyline..and New Jersey.

Roo seems unimpressed by Wall Street.

One of the main reasons for our trip was to see The Lord of the Rings Symphony. Once someone was like, 'what's the coolest thing that we could ever do in the world?' and then he was like, 'I know, lets show Lord of the Rings on a huge screen and have a symphony play the score and a choir sing along too. And Howard Shore should be there. And lets do it at Radio City Music Hall.' And that person was right, this is really the coolest thing to do in the whole world! It was fantastic! The part where Frodo pulls Sam out of the water and saves him from drowning makes you cry even more when the music is live...
This is the view from our back row seats.

Meals mainly consisted of pretzels and hot dogs.
This cool band made Central Park feel like New Orleans Square at Disneyland. We sat down and I watched the joggers pass by and smile, a young dad helped his baby daughter dance along to the music, a busy-looking businessman dropped a couple bucks into the guitar case and went on his busy way. I love Central Park.

Here is the view from our hotel room on the 24th floor. You just don't have that many floors where I come from, so this kind of elevation is a novelty worthy of a picture.
How perfect.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Guns and Beer

There are two reasons to go to Idaho: for the guns and the beer.

Here is Roo with a gun:

And Dad Phillips with a gun:
And Annie with a gun:
This is not actually me. I never tie hankerchiefs around my neck. And I could never kill whatever varmit that is dangling from her grip. In fact, I don't even like guns. About a year ago, we had been living in Taylorsville long enough for Roo to realize that he ought to arm himself. Gradually he convinced me that we ought to own a gun, so I gave my hesitant consent. He bought a handgun. A black, serious looking thing. We, the gun and I, are leery of each other. I prefer it to stay locked in its tight safe. When Roo took me shooting the first time at an indoor shooting range, the pounding jerk of the bullet being thrust from the chamber was emotionally jarring for me, having seen too many war movies and read about too many mass graves. Roo fitted me with goggles and ear plugs and showed me how to handle the gun. But when I shot it, it wanted to jump out of my small grip, and I wanted to let it go. Since then, I have politely declined shooting it. The good thing about Idaho is that A) Dad Phillips is there with his gun and his willingness to go shooting with Roo, and B) there are lots of dirt piles and old milk jugs to shoot at. I'll take a shot or two, then sit back and watch. Guns scare me, just like they scare Lando, here, who found the most secluded place to hide and pant and wait it out:

So I guess I don't go to Idaho for the guns. But the beer...

Roo's parents live across the street from a small brewery. Once we had finished shooting our guns, we came back to find the whole street closed off and set up for Oktoberfest hosted by the brewery. Roo's parents thought the festivities looked like fun--and when I say festivities, I mean everything that didn't involve drinking beer, since we don't drink. Oktoberfest in Pocatello consists of country music, red plastic cups of beer, and hot dogs. So we non-drinkers spent the evening milling about listening to the country music and eating the hot dogs. I watched Natalee meticulously picking the blackened crust off her hot dog and muttering to herself, probably out of frustration and embarrassment at having to spend the evening at a drinking festival with her family.

So I guess I didn't really go to Idaho for the beer either...

But the one thing I know I did go for was the view:

This is the amazing dream home Roo's parents are building on the foothills in Inkom. The house is amazing, open and panoramic, full of what will one day be excellent nooks for reading and watching the sun go down across the valley.

While I played fetch with Lando in the family room, I looked out the window and wondered if we will ever build a dream home. I thought about what I would see from the windows of my own dream home.

I think this is the view I would choose:

Or this:

What about you? What is the view from your dream home?