Monday, August 17, 2009

Day Twenty - Boone, North Carolina

The contrast between life in New York and that in Boone really is almost immeasurable when I look at pictures of both parts of the trip. In New York the camera worked overtime keeping up with my snap-happy fingers, framing and committing to memory almost any sight of note. It was, looking back with 20/20 vision here, a race to keep up with the city itself. In Boone there was no race track, never mind a race in and of itself which is why when I look back at the twentieth day spent in the United States, I have but a handful of pictures. It’s not that we didn’t do very much, well actually it is, but it is the type of things done that I suppose didn’t really merit a picture but rather were best committed to my own memory so that when such menial things were done at home I would remember how these things felt when done so many thousands of miles away. Throwing a Frisbee in North Carolina isn’t all that different to throwing a Frisbee in Cork or Kerry but I did think about this while engaging in some frantic throwing and the odd dive that dyed my shorts a shade of green over the cream and grey excuse it had for a pattern. The Frisbee is the same, the throw is the same, the wind is the same annoying one that makes a fool out of you by pushing the disc toward you before then, just as you have committed to a hyperbolic lunge/dive, pulls it back and lands it three feet opposite to where you’re knee fell to the ground from 4 feet up. Fecking wind. Even the scenery was similar, lovely as it was, for let’s face facts here, Ireland is not known as the Emerald Isle for the colour of some of its seaweed. The difference was in the distance.

Yet again the day had started off in a lazy fashion, no one really got up early which suited me for you already know how I feel about getting up. In fact you already know the painfully slow workings of my mind in the morning and my solidarity with people of the same mentality. Another difference between Boone and the earlier parts of the trip was the amount of sport-type activites which we engaged in. The day before we had gone hiking and squeezed in a trip to the Mast General Store which is, apparently, one of Boone’s more famous gifts to the world, or at least to the US (which according to a recent survery IS the world). With the hiking all of us tagged along so we had a full Honda Civic on the go (5 seats for 5 people) but today wasn’t in anyway planned. I’m not saying the hiking was but the sentiment for it had been laid down the previous day, the Frisbeeing was completely off the cuff though. Allison stayed in the apartment and Jessica was……..actually where was Jessica? It was only when we were leaving the apartment, Frisbee in tow, that it dawned on me that Jessica was clearly not around. If I had been paying attention to conversation the previous night I would have known she wouldn’t be but clearly I had heard and not listened, a phrase I am borrowing for this from my own mother whom I so frequently “didn’t listen” to when younger and, taking a wild guess here, also at present. She was going out to a festival with her Dad, something I had been told about before that conversation the previous night but which I had confined to the back of my memory because I was too entwined with the view of the Blue Ridge Mountains out of the car window as we passed the fair site where she was going with her Dad. It was a Scottish festival and her roots go all the way back to that bonnie land so she was going to the festival this Saturday with her father, it all made sense now. I also remembered that she had said that we could meet her father that morning if we were awake. I was asleep. The kind of asleep where you are in the bed, blanket warmed from sleeping there all night, blanket on top of you, pillows under your head and thoughts of “ah, no pressure to get up, this is much too comfy yet”. Refer to my explanation about how my mind works at this early hour of the morning in order to fully fit in with this line of thought…read it twice if you are one of those early risers who just loves the mornings and thinks everyone else will if you rub into their faces just how awake and happy you are at 7am. Twice for you. As I was lying there I could hear Jessica’s father come in the door and felt that I should really get out of bed and introduce myself for I guessed that the chances of him bursting into the bedroom to do likewise would be slim at best. I moved in the bed a little wondering how long he would stay and I could hear that he was mispronouncing Donal’s name. Donal was yet again to be “Don-Al” not “Dough-Nal”. You’d understand it more if Donal had actually written out his name and handed it to Jessica’s father by way of introduction but he didn’t, he said it out and all that had to happen was a repeat of what Donal had actually spoke. If I found it strange, which I did, I can only imagine how Don-Al felt – this was the second person of any note who had managed to get it all wrong. Poor fella was all alone in facing this onslaught on his name too, although I could hear Jessica chirp in with a correction but I was thinking that this could get particularly awkward and maybe if I was there it might not be so difficult. There was no way I could make the shower without passing the living area and thus having to stop and chat…there was no way I could make it really. The blanket was lovely and warm anyway and he’d be leaving soon too. Logic told me this would be a first and last impression for Jessica’s father (when would I ever see him again?!) and weren’t Americans very demanding when it comes to first impressions? Surely my hair, tossed and coming out in all directions wouldn’t be a nice sight. The excuses rolled on until I heard the door close and a small bit of guilt crept in. The thought of some nice morning coffee, with the vanilla flavour (both natural and artificial) got rid of that. I should have gotten up though.

Suzanne, Donal and I drove down to the university playing fields which seemed to be much like UCC’s Farm (not for animals despite the name, for sports…although Gaelic football is played there so perhaps there is a connection with animals). Suzanne explained that the car park we were leaving the car, and my camera in, is where you have to park as a first year student due to parking restrictions on the main campus at the other side of the town. A bus, the Appal Cart, would bring you to the college for free. Not that I really looked into it, although I probably should have, the Appal Cart actually was a town wide bus service and was free. Imagine the number 2 being free into Patrick’s Street (and yes it does go there but only after 7pm)? The sun was shining, it was a lovely day as we stepped from the car and walked down towards the fields. There didn’t seem to be any particular layout to it but we walked, crossed a small river with an ornate and roofed bridge and set out to throw the disc around the place, and hopefully catch it too. As we walked across the cut grass I thought that a football would be a much better idea, we could kick it around, run, pass, curl it around. There was a girl around, friend or not, so obviously you’d have to look as macho as possible and I reckoned a football would allow the machismo to be better showed. Still the Frisbee throwing was fun, I hadn’t done it in quite while and the surroundings were perfect for it. There was a relatively steep hill on one side, the car park over some fields on the other…actually we were in a bit of a bowl as there was hills on all sides really, some closer than others and this made it into quite a picturesque place. Perhaps the hills were also a reason for the lack of any real breeze and with the sun taking its toll I took off my shirt so that I wouldn’t have to wear a virtual damp sponge. I could also get a bit of a tan as well I thought because I didn’t want to be labelled with the usual “farmers tan” tag that a lot of Irish people receive when they come back from holidays. Thinking about that now perhaps it’s just an item of begrudgery because you have been on holidays and they haven’t and for that, they (whoever “they” are) must find some fault with you. Best to be one step ahead of those people. Actually it’s best to ignore them really but…

Anyway we threw the Frisbee around and the wind did indeed sometimes make a lot of fun out of all of us, except for Suzanne it seemed, for Donal and I were both having to run and try to catch or slap our hands together expecting there to a disc in between when what was actually happening was the Gods of Frisbee were having a laugh at watching the disc fall to the ground a few feet ahead of the clapping hands. This necessitated some diving, or at least I thought it did. There was a few reasons behind this line of thinking, one being that if I couldn’t play football then I should at least be allowed to dive around a little and also it felt good to jump through the air and cool down for about half second before landing when it became apparent that I now had double the sweat on my brow than when I started out. It was good fun all the same but eventually we began to ask each other the time, always an indicator of an activity going stale. It’s funny how it’s done really, no one wants to push anyone else to stop but at the same time a signal is being sent to people. When the time came we all stopped and sat on the grass after asking each other were we hungry, which was a valid question seeing as we hadn’t eaten since breakfast and was also useful at calming any remaining embers of enthusiasm for throwing the Frisbee. Sitting on the grass with no top on was a little strange for the grass was almost spiky and not soft like it is at home. I suppose with less rain grass is like this, it’s normally soaked back home so the mud bath you inevitably end of sitting in at some point is bound to be soft. Suzanne then started to use a blade of grass to emit a shrieking sound much like a bird call. It was brilliant, a great party piece if there had been a party on at the time but even still I wanted to know how it was done. And this was my downfall of course for I couldn’t do it. I tried and I tried and when Donal managed to do it I had to try harder but it wasn’t happening. I was sitting there wrapping grass ornately around my thumb trying to do a shrieking noise. Eventually I managed to get it, a few times as well just to prove that it wasn’t a fluke but all the same it wasn’t easy and after a few goes I decided to leave it go…quit while you’re ahead and all of that.

Despite having grass very near our mouths we remained quite hungry as you can imagine and we made our way to a peculiar place called Cook Out. I had heard Suzanne talk about this place before in conjunction with bbq-ed food and other such tasty delights and was quite looking forward to see what fare they had on offer. The only problem was that there was really no way to see what fare was indeed on offer. You see the principle behind Cook Out, as indicated by the name really, is that they cook the food and you take it out. Cook Out. Actually sorry that doesn’t make sense, it only does when you think of this place as providing the cooking service for the BBQ you want to have In the garden but for which you couldn’t be bothered heating the coals up for. Handy really, but then it takes the fun out of the BBQ too, especially if it is a gas one from which you can compete with your friends in a “how high can the flame go” contest by smacking oily meat on the grill and watching the flame go high. We queued up for our food seeing that orders were being taken at a booth and the food being taken from that same booth. Donal went first after quickly examining the menu and then I went myself after spending a bit of time going through all of the forty variations they have of milkshakes. Forty! I think I settled for the Oreo chocolate chip although with that many flavours on offer I am sure that I could have asked for an oxtail flavoured milkshake. Think about that when you feel like binging on food. George W Bush always had a way of leaning on his podium as he spoke with one arm and I did the same myself at this booth, the guy on the inside noting my Cork accent, as I leant and ordered my meal. Suzanne went next and after we paid we headed back to the apartment. Everything was set out nice and tidily on what looked like disposable versions of the TV dinner trays you’d normally see in 1950s TV shows. I must say, this detracted somewhat from the feeling of eating BBQ outdoors; the fact that we were eating this indoors was also a probable factor too. Cook Out was an interesting little place though, set in a very motor-centric area of Boone where there were essentially no footpaths! If you wanted Cook Out without a car you’d need to cross a 4 lane road first, a busy four lane road.

In a way then Cook Out boiled down what America is synonymous for, the car and personal transport over public transport and walking and the link between the car and food. This link has been there since the 1950s but in Cook Out you didn’t even have the option of sitting in, you had to take the food away with you (although I would have liked to have seen what would have happened if I had sat outside the one story building and eaten there in the little car park). There was a drive-thru option of course, there’s a drive-thru option for everything over there including dry-cleaning , but there was also the other non-drive thru booth in case you felt like parking the car ten feet away and taking a leisurely stroll to the order window. I thought it nice of them to give some people at least an introduction to walking.

The food itself was actually quite good and the milkshake was well worth whatever I paid for it which really wasn’t much I don’t think. Maybe the Frisbee made up for the fat intake…it must have, especially when coupled with that ten foot walk to the order booth.

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