Go Fly a Kite

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I used to like kites until the day one tried to kill me. At this point, you’re imagining a Ben Franklin experiment involving a thunderstorm and a key, but it was nothing so glamorous or so foolhardy. I was simply trying to buy a loaf of stale bread.

I had been living in Indonesia for more than two years, and I knew that the only place in town to sell bread was a tiny store on the outskirts of town. I was out of flour to bake my own, and the purchase of more meant a trip up the coast along a winding road that hugged a cliff. It was only 50 miles, but by the time you dodged goats, cows, chickens and people who sat their fannies on the actual asphalt of the highway, you had two hours invested in the venture. So until that monthly trek rolled around again on the calendar, I had to content myself with bread that did a marvelous imitation of bleached cardboard. I had just such a loaf of this striking wheat rendition in my motorcycle basket as I whizzed along through the village at the speed of baked beans.

The other thing you should know is that not only is sitting on the highway after dusk all the rave, but flying kites before dusk is also one of the more popular hobbies in a small fishing town. It falls somewhere between cleaning your day’s catch and beating a ridiculously large spider to death with a machete. If you’re between the ages of 7-14, then it’s pretty much all you do unless it’s raining.

So on this ordinary day, Wonderless Bread in custody, I was puttering along when I noticed a young lad not far ahead, standing beside the road holding a kite string. I immediately scanned the sky for the kite. Not because I wanted to ooh and aah over it, but because its location was mission critical to my journey home. Kids flew those blasted things in the road all the time, something about parents not wanting their cherubs to get swallowed up by lurking pythons in the rice paddies, and if you weren’t careful, you could run through one of those lines with your scooter. So I swiveled my head back and forth trying to find that kite. I shouldn’t have bothered because the string found my face instead. Did I mention that they use twine for kite string? I’m not sure what test it is, but I think you could land Moby Dick with it and he’d feel like a guppy.

A picture of real, honest-to-goodness, Indonesian twine

A picture of real, honest-to-goodness, Indonesian twine

So I’m still riding my scooter as twine slices across my face. You’d think survival skills would kick in at this point and I’d hit the brake, but there’s something about searing pain and panic that short-circuits my brain. I clawed frantically at the demon burrowing with the vigor of a groundhog on crack until the twine won its game of tug-of-war and pinned me right there in the middle of the street. Ever been snatched backwards off a bike doing 25mph? It makes one grouchy to say the least.

So I lay there in the street, staring at the sky and hoping that Jesus was going to appear and just take me on home to glory, but my scooter, a real go-getter by nature, went another 20 feet before falling on its sword out of respect to its felled rider. By this time a crowd of thirty or so people had gathered. No one offered to help me get up or even checked to see if I could. The kite owner was so overwrought by my near demise that he stood calmly aside, slowly wrapping up his kite twine, no doubt checking it for blood stains that could impede future flights. This is the only time in my life that I’ve ever considered throwing something at a teenager. Like my scooter.

One man finally broke the code of silence and picked up my bike and rolled it over to me. At this point I knew my bones were still intact, but my pride lay shattered in pieces that even an atom couldn’t see.

I drove home more slowly than usual. I stood in front of one of the few mirrors in my house and surveyed the burn marks across my face and throat. I have to say, it’s one of the most painful sandwiches I’ve ever made.

Why Build Less When You Can Biltmore?

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Just another one of my options for places to rent

Just another one of my options for places to rent

“So did you ladies see the bear?” The grey-headed shuttle driver peered at us in his overhead mirror.

“Bear?” I said. “We could have seen bears?”

“You just came down from parking lot A6, didn’t you?” I nodded. “Well, half the security guys are headed that way because of a bear sighting.”

I looked at Mom. “I wonder how much the tickets cost that included the bears?”

“Whatever they cost,” she said, settling her purse in her lap, “I’m glad we didn’t get those.”

After touring such opulent establishments in France last year such as Chenonceau and Villandry, I knew that no trip to Asheville would be complete without a perusal of the Biltmore Estate.

The shuttle twisted and turned as it made its way to the grand house, and all the while the driver spouted interesting details about the history of the estate. “Forty-three bathrooms, ladies. That’s how many are in the house, but you can’t use a single one of them. You’ll have to make the trek back outside if you need facilities.”

No bears and now no bathrooms? What kind of scam were they running in this joint? Fifty bucks couldn’t even get you a decent potty break? And how cruel to show someone indoor plumbing and then tell her to hoof it back down four flights of stairs. Thank goodness we didn’t have a toddler with us. They have a bladder the size of a pistachio and it’s extremely vulnerable to the power of suggestion.

The inside of the home was lavishly decorated, but at times the lighting made it hard to see certain pieces. This was of little consequence to me; but for Mom, whose love of antiques has burrowed so deeply into the marrow of her bones that she bleeds mahogany wood stain, the visual handicap was borderline criminal. She stood over one piece in particular, squinting at the intricate wood design, murmuring, “I wish I’d brought a flashlight.”

Of course, the afternoon was filled with adrenaline surges as Mom, in eager anticipation of the antiques around the next bend, tried to fall down a small flight of stairs. Twice. So between lunging, yelping, and losing a few years off my life, I walked around the mansion with my eyes peeled wide for a number of reasons. Ooh, look, an indoor bowling alley. Ooh, look, an indoor pool. Ooh, look, Mom’s about to crack her thigh bone and need an ambulance.

gardens

Once outside, the gardens were just as impressive as the house, and for the 6,000th time, I wished I could grow something other than mildew on a shower curtain. But we all have our skills, and mine seems to be keeping septuagenarians out of trouble. Or at least the ER.

gardens 2

© 2014 – Traci Carver

Roads: They’re All the Rage

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Let the games begin!

Let the games begin!

I hate driving. I didn’t always, but now that I’m older and driving is simply the process that must be endured in order to transfer your body to a new destination, I view climbing behind the wheel as a task akin to a booster shot: let’s just get it over with. So while my trip with Mom to Asheville was fun because of the location, navigating from point A to point B was another matter entirely.

First of all, there are the roads surrounding that delightful town. Three different interstates converge to form the perfect storm with corkscrew on-ramps that spit you out into the flow of traffic doing 35 miles an hour. The first thing you notice once you’ve straightened the steering wheel is the succession of three semi’s bearing down on you doing 70, and suddenly you understand all the fuss about high performance cars capable of going 0-60 in three seconds.

Once you’ve cheated death and exited the freeway, your next test of womanhood is to steer with one hand, follow that blue dot on your navigation system with the other, and keep a calm demeanor so your passenger doesn’t realize you’re about one car length away from a stomach ulcer. I was doing a decent job of this until Mr. I’m Local and You Tourists Really Get on my Nerves got behind me on the four lane.

My first crime against humanity was to drive the speed limit. This really torqued the fellow following so closely that one glance in the rear view mirror told me that he had broccoli for lunch. He decided to extend his fury through his horn just as I was trying the decipher the road name on a tiny green sign the size of a lasagna noodle (uncooked). Then, as if I hadn’t already qualified for a capital punishment sentence, I looked over my shoulder, turned on my blinker, and then moved into the right lane since there wasn’t another car coming for eight miles. This aggressive act of vehicular maneuvering incited another series of rash horn trumpetings.

At this point, I started an internal tirade: Hey, buddy! What’s your deal? Are you illiterate or just choosing to ignore my Florida license plate? Is it just possible that the plate gives you a clue that I may not be familiar with the area? That I may be chauffeuring my mom around to another cleverly hidden antique store? That your bullying horn antics make me want to say something unladylike because you’re jumping on my last nerve?! HUH?!!

Mom threw a glance over her shoulder. “Boy, he sure has his Fruit of the Loom’s in a twist about something. I’m glad you’re so calm when you drive. I’d be a nervous wreck. Oh, look!” She swiveled her head and tapped the window with her pointer finger. “Village Antiques!”

© 2014 – Traci Carver