Saturday, October 29, 2011

Prison Break

The last Thursday of every month is supposed to be my 'break', or my day off, which means that we use the day to go on homeschooler field trips (some break, huh?). This time we traveled to Moundsville, WV to see the Grave Creek Mound (a hill made by native americans that once had a few skeletons buried in it) and the retired WV State Penitentiary, directly across the street.

First, we visited the Mound. Our delightfully androgynous tour guide (whose name is withheld not only out of politeness, but because it has escaped me)

had us walk in the cold rain and wind to the top of the Mound on the uneven, slippery stone path that spirals around the outside of the Mound.
There were several people behind me, and 3/4 of the way up, I had to step aside to suck wind reflect on the beauty of the autumn mist and let the others pass.
Once I had sufficiently stared at the colors of the wind, I continued up the path, and a realization hit me. "Man, I have got to stop walking up hills in front of people!"

At the top of the Mound was the traditional phallic monument so often found where men have "discovered" something everyone else already knew was there.

After a slideshow and pinch-pot making, we were released for lunch in the prison's education building.

As soon as lunch was over, our tour guide, a good-natured middle aged man whose name also escapes me, was gathering everyone in the prison courtyard, out on the rain. Not wanting to carry my purse, our lunch tote, and the coffee mugs through the prison, I ran back to the van to stash those items. Running through the rain made me have to pee, so I ducked back into the education building to use the restroom. When I came back out, the crowd of kids and adults was gone. There were three possible doors they could have gone into, so I approached the newest-looking one with a handicap ramp. In front of that door, the sidewalk was dry. No large crowd of wet sneakers had gone in that door. I walked over to the second door, and it too was dry. The third door was the creepy old prison door and it did have a few wet footprints in front of it, so I opened it. Holding the door open with my shoe, I saw there were some footprints on the old tile floor inside, but not many. I gave it a shot and went through the door. The door shut with a heavy clang, and I was in a dark lobby.

I listened for the sound of a couple dozen rowdy kids tromping through echoing hallways, but heard nothing.

My phone had enough signal for a text, but not a call. I texted Melinda "Where are you guys? This place is creepy!" and got no response.

I found myself walking along dark halls lighted only by the windows of the rooms I passed.

Sometimes it was so dark I used my camera flash to see what was ahead of me.

After many twists and turns, I heard voices up above. I felt tremendous relief and hurried toward the sounds. I came upon a female tour guide with a handful of adults.
I was confused. The guide stopped her presentation and looked at me with her eyebrows up.
"I'm looking for my tour. They are a lot of kids, and a few adults."
"They probably finished already."
"No, they just started. I ran to put stuff in my van, and when I came back, they were gone."
"Ma'am, they probably already wrapped up and went home."
"No... (deep breath)... they just started. A lot of kids. They came in here... somewhere."
"They aren't here. But it's okay; you can just join our tour."
"That's okay, I can keep looking."
"Ma'am, I can't let you just wander around the prison. It's ten acres. You can get lost. There are places even I have never been in, here."
"Thanks, but I need to find my group."
"Ma'am, there are no other tours.... Just follow us and we'll go into the- "
I ran out of the room toward (I hoped) the way I'd come in. I listened hard for the sound of kids in the building, but all I heard was "Ma'am? Ma'am! You can't just wander the premises..." growing fainter down the hall.

I texted Melinda again, "Where the hell ARE you guys?!"
she responded, "We're on the tour! Where are you?!"
I turned down a hall and instead of more cracked plaster, I was greeted by newer painted walls. Hopeful, I kept going, and followed any path that had new-ish paint.

It was not many more minutes before I came through a set of double doors, and saw my group (yes, my group!) approaching from the other side.
Melinda: "Where WERE you?"
"I got lost! And this place is really creepy!"
Later, I looked through my photos and saw a couple creepier-than-most images. If it's late at night, and you're sitting in a dark room alone, it's easier to spot the orbs and shadow people.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Things They Don't Have in San Diego

Every scrap of garbage is recycled, right down to gum wrappers. No Taco Bell wrappers, no water bottles, no soda cans... all along the sidewalks, gutters, parking lots, all you see is clean.

Buildings are huge canvases, but oddly enough, with the exception of intentional murals, they remain "street art" free. I found one example of graffiti, on the side of a parking garage, but I like it too much to call it vandalism.

Dog Poo.
San Diego allows each resident to own up to six dogs, and many try to meet this quota. However, all residents are hyper-aware of where their dogs 'go' and clean it up. Their motto: "Your dog doesn't know any better, but you do."

Fast Food.
With all the fast food places designed to look like regular buildings, it's hard to find the golden arches. I found it was just simpler to eat at the little place around the corner. You'll get fresh, local produce in a restaurant owned by actual people.

No need to look down when walking. Men do not spit on the sidewalks, they do not roll down their car windows, they do not lean out their truck doors to expectorate where you walk. WV men, take note.

None! No squirrels, pigeons, raccoons, dogs, cats, skunks, possums, deer, seagulls, seals.... I don't know if these animals are smart enough to look both ways, or if drivers here are watching the roads instead of spitting out the windows... All I know is we walked and drove all over San Diego for an entire week and I never saw one flattened critter.

I think maybe all the cats are strictly indoors, or they just don't have them here. No stray cats in alleys, no feral cats by the dumpsters.... hey, come to think of it... no dumpsters.

Lords of Dogtown

San Diego- Where Citizens Are Legally Required to Own a Dog

When you move to San Diego, you are encouraged to bring your own dog. If you do not have a dog, one is provided to you at the airport. In Hawaii, they put a lei around your neck; in San Diego, you get a dog. You do not get a choice of breed; they will choose this for you. Even if you are homeless, you will be expected to have a dog. In the event you are a homeless dog owner, passersby will be more likely to feed your dog than to feed you.
Dogs in San Diego do not poo. This is true! There are dogs everywhere, and I walked all over San Diego for a week and saw only one piece of dog poo on the sidewalk. Dogs just do not poo in San Diego. Ever.
Signs on the fronts of stores and office buildings read, "No pets permitted with the exception of service animals". I've come to the conclusion that either dogs are not considered pets, or... everyone in San Diego has a service dog? Because there are dogs in gift shops, department stores, ice cream shops, museums, grocery stores, on the trains, in restaurants... they are like Visa: Everywhere you want to be.
All businesses have bowls of purified drinking water at their entrances, for thirsty shopping dogs. Shopping all day takes a lot out of a dog, you know. You can tell a lot about a town by what's on every corner. In San Diego, there are Dog Washes, Starbucks, and Liquor stores on every corner. (In the more uppity areas, the Liquor stores are called "Wine and Gift Shoppes"; same thing, but they offer wine tasting on the weekends.)
We visited the beach, to put our toes in warm sand (and icy water!), and saw the signs alerting everyone that dogs were absolutely forbidden on the beach...
But dogs can't read...
and their owners don't care.

Next time I come, maybe I'll get my dream dog: an American Mastiff puppy.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Where In The World Is Carmen

San Diego

Disclaimer: I don't recall all the names of these places. Think of it as an album of "Ooooh, pretty!" rather than an educational tour of San Diego.

Flying over the World's Biggest Catbox (WBC).

Geometrical farms planted in the WBC.

Huichol and Tepehuano "yarn painting", pictures made with colored thread.

After a short nap in our roomy Jetta, we walked around The Cove.

"Please step back from the seals!" the Seal Lady pleads into her megaphone.
"You have no authority here!" shrieks a local woman.
"How rude!" I thought to myself. But then I realized that if I lived here, and could not be the Seal Lady, I would probably heckle the Seal Lady, just for something to do.

Armed with only my sunglasses case, we walked to the Pier. Along the way, a seagull poo'ed on my shoulder and my boob! Since I'd left my purse in the car, I had no tissues. I had wipees in the van, but that was in WV. Without even looking, I knew there was one piece of paper in my sunglasses case, but I refused to use it. I needed to scrape the poo off. Frantically, I looked around for something, anything I might use. There were no leaves, no rocks, no seashells in sight. I could feel the poo soaking into my shirt and touching my skin. In a moment of desperation, I opened my sunglasses case and removed my HP7 movie ticket and used it to scrape seagull poo off my shirt. I could hear Dumbledore rolling in his grave.

Looking back to shore, mourning the loss of my ticket.

Obviously, the beauty of the sunset was sullied by my poo experience.