Monday, 3 May 2010

Sitting on the Front Porch, on a Lazy Southern Afternoon...

So, I'm sitting on David's mom's front porch in Birmingham, looking out over a golf course to the leafy hill beyond. It's absolutely bucketing down rain, the humidity is about 900%, and there is thunder in the distance. Perfect Southern Sunday afternoon.

David and I got to Birmingham two nights ago - drove down from Pigeon Forge, about 250 miles. We'd backtracked in seasons, driving from South Carolina to Tennessee, but mid-spring has definitely been pushed forward a few weeks with the drive down to Alabama. It's super-green, unbelieavably muggy, and there is a massive storm working its way east - apparently it just dumped 20 inches of rain on Mississippi and Tennessee. Cool!

Anyway, we got here sort of mid-evening on Friday, after having a lunch stop along the Tennessee River in Chattanooga. First thing we did was to go with David's mom to this old Southern queen's house, where he was busy auctioning off antiques of various sorts. The house was absolutely jampacked full of antique furniture, and the homeowner (mid 50s or 60, native New Orleans screaming queen) had a voice that would have done Scarlett O'Hara proud. The house itself was maybe 100 or so years old. Odd thing was, we were standing around in a hallway, and I heard and then felt this sort of whooshing noise go around and behind my neck, causing all the hairs on my neck to stand up. A few seconds later, the front door, which we had left open (it was a still, warm early evening and he said to just leave the door open), slams shut. Homeowner says, 'oh, that's just the ghost of the guy that was murdered here 50 years ago'. Interesting that was just after I felt something go behind my neck (that was not wind). Hmm. David's mom insists her house is haunted as well, and both of them say her previous house was. Actually, I always wondered if the place I lived in San Francisco was haunted - I'd frequently get the sense that something was in the room with me. Who knows. Anyway, you know it's a proper Southern trip when you feel a ghost...

Yesterday we got up fairly late, then headed down to Oak Mountain State Park, about 15 or 20 miles south of here, to spend the afternoon hiking. Alabama is beautiful and green, but it's also in the Deep South, and it's been a wet spring, apparently. The temperature was probably only about 85, but the humidity was somewhere in the quadruple digits, and the gnats and flies were out in force. Thank God for DEET! I've been trying to get David to know what poison ivy looks like, as both he and his mom seem to just wander through it with alarming frequency. She insists that if you wash yourself with bleach afterwards, it will make sure you don't actually get poison ivy. I wonder if that is just because all your skin falls off? Anyway, we spent the afternoon hiking in the woods. I nerded over the various new kinds of trees. David's mom was way out ahead on some sort of power hike, and David was taking pictures of everything. I very nearly wet my pants when, at the very same instant I stepped on a pine cone, he said "Oh my God!", stopped dead in his tracks, and pointed out the rattlesnake coiled up right next to the pathway, right by where I was standing. Fortunately, pinecone was not snake, and snake was quite happy to just watch us and remain coiled. Good times.

We went out for steak last night. I ordered "steer butt", which was probably the best steak I've ever had in my life. I don't think I'm going to be able to buy steak at the supermarket for a while - esp in England, where the steak usually sucks.

Ooh, cool - the light is taking on a sort of greenish tinge, the rain is getting heavier, and there is more thunder. How I miss this sort of thing from Minnesota. British weather is just boring.

We had another late morning this morning, then headed off for some more hiking. We'd made it about a mile out when the heavens opened, and we headed back as quickly as possible towards the car. That was the first time I've ever been on a trail in the woods with an umbrella (in a thunderstorm, nonetheless) - it was just too warm and muggy to want any extra layers on. We had a lovely picnic lunch under the picnic shelter, then headed to Home Depot to pick up a bunch of scrap lumber and some pallets to put down in the garage so that David's stuff (which will come down from Connecticut) can sit off the ground.

And here I am back on the porch, wondering how long it's going to pour buckets, as I want to run (and don't particularly want to be struck by lightning). American trips are very good for eating all the yummy things I don't get to have in England - they are not so good for staying thin and svelte. Oh well.

Oh - fast forward to late middle age? Not sure - very scary... And lots more lightning - I'm very happy sitting on the porch watching all of it!

Addendum... I went for an evening run up over the (rather large) hill behind the house. There are views of the lights of Birmingham, spread out below, and pretty swanky houses as well. The skies opened once, soaking me completely, but it was a warm rain (I love warm rain!), so it was no big deal. Another thunderstorm is moving into the area now, and it's pouring out again.

London could definitely be improved by some very large thunderstorms... Sigh.