Saturday, October 30, 2010

Trunk or Tail?

A few years ago, a friend of mine came back from Thailand with a very important question.

If you could have either a trunk (like an elephant's trunk) or a tail (like a monkey's tail), which would you choose?

We debated about this for weeks.  I was firmly in the "trunk" camp, and after seeing an elephant trunk up close this week, I'm even more convinced that having a trunk would be AWESOME.

Let me tell you why:

  • More muscles in the elephant trunk than in the entire human body.
  • Showering -- you could control the water pressure AND the height of the showerhead, two things that constantly annoy me in showers
  • Vacuuming made easy
  • Drinking made easy
  • Throwing people across the room made easy.  No more need to learn tricks like putting your car keys through your fingers or poking attackers in the eye.  Trunks are powerful, yo.
  • Reaching things up high
  • Some people argue that when it comes to kissing/love life, a trunk would only get in the way.  But I say it could also make things more interesting.  In any case, there are at least as many advantages as disadvantages in this area.
  • It's like having an extra hand.
  • I have never seen a tail on any animal as cool as a trunk on an elephant.
  • Trunks can do everything tails can do PLUS snort things up inside.
I mean, just look at these trunks.  Trunk all the way, baby.

Friday, October 29, 2010

48 hours

During the last 48 hours, I have:
  • Seen a lion
  • Had a strange woman ask for a bite of my candy bar as I walked down the street
  • Seen a stack of sheep heads on a street corner
  • Been offered marijuana twice

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Going solo

A person is a person through other persons.  –Desmond Tutu

Traveling alone is sort of a love-hate thing for me. 

For example, today I loved taking my time making decisions and going up to Table Mountain when I was ready.  I loved not having to make conversation with anyone on the drive there or discuss whether we were going to wait in the 60-minute gondola line to ride to the top or not. 

But I hated not having anyone next to me I could poke and say, “Hey!  The floor of the cable car is rotating!” or “Look!  You can see Cape Point from here!” or of course, “Take a picture of me pretending to fall off the edge of the cliff!”

Instead, I asked a couple of strangers to take a few pictures and then perched myself on top of a large rock looking out over the mountain dropping into the ocean.  I had just settled in to eat my dark chocolate seed bar (it was amazing) when two guys clambered up next to me and actually asked me in  to move so they could take have their picture taken where I was sitting.  Dude, seriously?  There are approximately one million rocks all together right here with almost exactly the same view, and you want my rock?  Can’t you see I’m sitting here far away from other people eating my lunch and having a moment?

Later, as I walked in the Company’s Gardens, a gangly man with one eye and a limp (and alcohol on his breath) pointed out the South African white house and a couple other sites to me.  I tried to shake him, but he kept walking with me and to be fair, he actually showed me some interesting things, like old apartheid benches with “non-whites only” still painted on them and the way into Desmond Tutu’s church.  But I was relieved when I finally gave him a handful of change and we said goodbye.
I spent the day warily keeping people outside my bubble, enjoying the sights but also enjoying being inside my own head.  But by the time I sat down to dinner at a restaurant called Fork, I felt a little lonely.  In Shall We Dance, one of the characters says in effect, “We have relationships in order to have someone to witness our lives.”  And when I travel alone, I acutely feel the lack of a witness.  If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear the sound, did it make a sound at all?  If I eat a fantastic asparagus and parmesan stick and no one is there to witness it, did I really eat it?  I thought of trying to replicate the meal later in my own kitchen just so that I could share with someone else how tasty it was. 

I glanced over at a window and noticed my own reflection, looking like a ghost sitting at an empty table.  And I felt like a ghost, like someone who breezed through this city today without leaving a mark, someone who was almost here – but with no one to witness it, was I really here at all?

Halfway through the meal, a new server started waiting on me.  She laughed when I told her that I almost licked the plate clean and her eyes got round as she described which desserts were “to die for.”  She brought me the strawberry and lemon curd pavlova along with tea made from fresh mint leaves.  It was divine.  I told her if I lived in Cape Town I would eat there every single day, and she laughed with real delight and said, “Yes!  I know what you mean!”  And for a moment someone witnessed my life.  I realized I didn’t want to be in a bubble, I didn’t want to be a ghost, I wanted to witness life, to participate in it, to leave a mark.

I left an overly generous tip with a note: “Thanks for the great service, and for your smile and laugh.  Best wishes.”