There was a time, once, when we were in high school, before we smoked Marlboros and drank dirty Arnold Palmers (Sweet Tea vodka and lemonade? Brilliant) and were therefore obligated to invent bizarre practices to keep ourselves amused. These included but were not limited to: How Much Food Can You Sneak Into the Movie Theater (my record as of this summer - two 32 ounce drinks, a box of Junior Mints, and a fucking sandwich), How About We Go to the Movie in Our Pajamas, How About Let's Stay Home and Watch Horror Movies Until Dawn, or, my personal favorite, The Midnight Safari.
The Midnight Safari is this: Karli and I drive around in the dark and try to find animals, which, in Tulsa, is easier than you think. Cats usually dominated the list, but one thrilling night we also saw a possum, an armadillo, and a coyote that I mistook for a very small zebra - your standard Oklahoman wildlife. Below are five other instances where animals were pretty exciting, excluding the animals in our house who are always exciting:
1. My brother Matthew opened the front porch door to find half a dozen raccoons on the porch, apparently having a caucus of some kind. I told him I had summoned them and I think he may have believed me.
2. While cruising around downtown to show Rob how fancy downtown Tulsa is, we saw a camel - not in the wild, really, because there was a man holding the camel's reins, who then asked if we wanted to have a ride on the camel. We didn't.
3. Driving down 21st street, over by the poshiest shopping center in the Tulsa area, we saw a whole parade of elephants who were in town for the circus.
4. Karli and I once drove past a giraffe out in the wilds of Eastern Oklahoma while on a miniature road trip that was really just a long drive for good burgers. In retrospect I may have dreamt the giraffe part but I really hope not.
5. Bunny, the cottontail my mother rescued from the greedy clutches of our idiot dog, who miraculously survived on kitten formula and grass from our yard and who was so small you could only pet him with a single fingertip. We took him to a wildlife rehabilitation place out in the boonies, where they had a whole family of skunks, a baby bobcat, and raccoons sleeping in tiny raccoon hammocks.
Meanwhile, at Hamilton, there were deer, like the one that smashed into a dorm window one night, and the chipmunks that sometimes scampered inside as well, and the most terrifying tremendous sighting of all, the Night of the Sasquatch on Minor Field which was truthfully the most frightening thing I have ever seen. Even if it wasn't Sasquatch, it was still lumbering, two-legged, and headed for the woods, so we bolted back to the safety of our dormitories, horrified and suddenly very sober.
But Wilmington? Wilmington wins, critterwise.
Last night, after a day spent entirely in jammies, baking cookies, watching Miyazaki, and basically waiting for the holiday weekend to end so our phones could feasibly ring again with the eternally-anticipated job offer, Rob and I went out in search of a lake. I could (and maybe will?) write an entire dissertation on how Living In the World resembles Being Abroad, and there could be an entire chapter on how to keep oneself sane and active: Lesson One - Look at A Map, Find A Body of Water, and Go To It. I don't know what we expected, but this giant, meandering, swampy behemoth in the middle of downtown Wilmington was one brilliant surprise.
So we parked, after driving the whole circumference of the thing which stretched from 3rd Street to 13th and kept on going, and got out, and ambled, and there were little pagodas and half-submerged trees and stumpy little root teeth sticking up from the grass, and the trees were so very tall, moss-hung, and it was dusky out, murky and so sue me, magical. Bridges spanned the water at random intersections, and we crossed one, leaning over and counting the turtles that were bobbing around just under the surface, when suddenly, a chain-smoking clearly Carolina couple suddenly asked, "Y'all see that gator?"
Yes. An alligator. And we could just see it, just barely, a motionless bump in the water. And as it was getting dark and I am easily rattled, I learned that I am actually terrified of alligators, which was only exacerbated when we went over to a nearby floating deck where the sign clearly warned: BEWARE OF ALLIGATORS. So as we walked back to the car in the drizzle and the dark, I kept imagining an alligator waddling at incredible speeds to open its giant jaws and snap snap, my legs for dinner.
But this did not happen.
We also finally relaxed long enough to go to the beach - as we are both still unemployed and the weather's getting wetter, Rob and I spend far too long in our apartment, grazing on the contents of the fridge and dirtying dishes, reading like we have book reports due tomorrow, which is weirdly stressful. But this weekend we went out, camping chairs and tote bag in tow, and sat out on the sand for the whole of the day.
At one point, Rob went splashing into the surf and I stayed behind because the water was violent, swollen, scary to me - after 18 years in Oklahoma, 4 in Adirondack country, and half a year in landlocked Austria, I haven't really had much experience with being in the ocean - and as he was swimming or leaping or whatever you call being-in-the-ocean-without-drowning, a whole host of pelicans flew overhead. Up close, pelicans are pretty awful with their wobbly gullets and deranged eyes and incredible size, but in flight, pelicans are nothing less than amazing - they fly low, in small groups, and seeing them skimming the waves for some reason really knocks it home that I am not home at all, but living on the coast, doing this crazy thing, far far from all I've known.
So Rob is cavorting around trying to keep his trunks on in the pull of the tide, I'm burying my toes in the sand, and there are forty pelicans swooping around the sky, and suddenly they just fall - an abrupt 90 degree plummet as if they'd suddenly forgotten they had wings and were, in fact, birds, and then this enormous splash as they hit the water beak-first. Then they'd bob right back up again, sated, and float around before taking off only to fall again. It went on for half an hour at least, this falling and splashing and everyone on the beach was mesmerized by these big ugly birds just dive-bombing into the water, so many all at once, like a sudden assault of pelicans versus fish with the ocean definitely winning.
Alligators and pelicans, oh my?