Wednesday, June 29, 2011


In case you all have been checking back, eagerly awaiting news about the internship, I have news.

No news!

I didn't hear from him yesterday so last night I emailed him saying I had hoped to hear from him, had he made a decision, I am so excited about the internship! He emailed me back saying there had been "delays" and the intern schedule is not finalized and nothing has been decided yet. He will let me know in a day or so.

Yesterday was awful because I don't wait very well, so I was checking my email every 10 minutes and looking at the clock and just not doing well. I feel better now, though, because "a day or so" is vague and doesn't have me looking for a certain moment. Whereas "I should let you know by Tuesday" makes me crazy waiting all day Tuesday.

Now I'm just annoyed because I want to be able to make the rest of my plans and I have to stall a few more days. I did, however, just email someone about a sublet in New Orleans. It's just for July and August but--if I don't get the internship--that would give me a place to stay and enough time to figure out if I like the city and find a job and a more permanent place to stay. If I get the internship, it'll be a nice place to stay until I find a more long term place to stay.

If I get the internship, I have to find a part time job that will work around the zoo schedule. The curator said they can be flexible with the schedule if I need to get a job, so that's nice. And that job will just be the highest paying and/or most  flexible part time job I can find. If I don't get the internship, then I need to find a full time job with animals. And apply to volunteer at the zoo to keep the exotic animal experience that I need.

It's only been a week but I'm already sick of the "If I get it..." scenarios. I just want to know.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Car

I have a love-hate relationship with my car. Mostly, I hate it. But it's carried me all this way, it's done better than I expected, and I feel more wholly responsible for this car. But it's red, and it's tiny, and it has horrendous decals, and it's not a pickup truck. It gets great gas mileage, even with all of my belongings weighing it down. It moves just a little more quickly than my truck (but not a whole lot).

It did okay over the summer, but when winter came around it needed new tires because the ones it had were bald. I went to replace the front two tires, because the car is front wheel drive so those should be changed first, and was told that the tires weren't even the right size for my car, and the two back tires didn't even match. That was a moment of severe hate towards my car.

Then my car picked up this really cute habit of stalling on hills. I would come to a stop at the top of a hill--very common in Ithaca--and when it was time to go again, the car would sputter and die. And a hill is obviously the best place for this to happen. When it rained I took the very, very long way home so I could avoid traffic and the steeper inclines. Another moment of severe hatred towards my car. Several times over. That caused me to get really nervous every time I was on a hill.

This cough that my car came down with has gotten worse. It doesn't die on flat ground, but it does cough a little when I need to get going. It doesn't like to accelerate around a turn. It doesn't like to move much at all, really. On the advice of several people (plus the internet) I decided to give my fuel filter a change because that can lead to sputtering and slower acceleration. It's one of the cheapest things to fix first, so it's not a bad place to start.

And today is the day that I changed my fuel filter. I did not get my fuel filter changed; I changed my fuel filter.

I went to AutoZone and had them look up which filter I needed. I bought the "quick disconnect" parts (more on those later). I bought a wrench set to get the one bolt off that would likely need to come off (it didn't really). The man helping me gave me a look and asked why I knew what those quick disconnect parts even were.

I got back and depressurized my fuel line. I shimmied under my car and started to disconnect the tubes. I covered my hands in gasoline (but don't worry, I wore my protective sunglasses to keep my eyes clean). I'm staying with family of family right now, and the man of this family came out to see how I was doing and this was also the point at which things stopped being so easy. For no particular reason. These "quick" disconnect tools are little plastic rings that are supposed to slide along the tube and into the fuel filter to release the little clips inside holding the tube in the fuel filter. They are supposed to slide right in. I wrangled the clip onto the tube and tried to slide it in. Tried to shove it in. Tried--while squeezed under my car, which is very low to the ground and not jacked up because I don't have a jack nor do I know how to safely use one--to leverage myself enough to put at least a good portion of my body weight into that tiny piece of plastic to wedge it into the fuel filter.

So the man of this family (his name is Les) says "I have a jack, let's see if more room makes it easier for you." And he jacks my car up for me. It's a little easier, but I'm still making no progress. So he decides to give it a try. 15 minutes of pushing, wrenching, etc., right as we're about to give up, the fuel filter finally comes off. There was no "sliding" and nothing "quick" about that part of the process. The old filter is off. The new filter snaps on and I reconnect the rest of the tubes. New fuel filter installed! I start my car up, re-pressurize the fuel system, check for leaks (none!) and let the car run a minute.

And that, my friends, is how one replaces a fuel filter.

I am so proud of myself. I smell like gasoline. I've washed my hands three times and they're still dirty, but I did something to my car. Something most people pay to have done. What a moment!

I haven't driven my car yet, so I don't know if this will help anything. But even if it doesn't, the fuel filter should be replaced every 50,000 miles or so, and I'm at 60,000 right now and I'm sure it wasn't done before I bought the car.

I still dislike a lot of things about that car. And if this doesn't change the sputtering, I'm still going to hate it pretty regularly. But when it comes time to sell it sometime in the future, I know I'm going to look at it and think about that tiny little fuel filter that's only there because I put it there. It wasn't very hard to do, it doesn't take special skills, but knowing that I did instead of paying someone else to do it is a really awesome feeling.

Also knowing that I sort of impressed the guy that works at AutoZone is a nice feeling, too. He had to check the size of my engine and when he saw my plates were from New York he asked if I was coming or going. I told him I was coming, and probably going to New Orleans. He asked "You drove all the way? By yourself?" (By the way, I think it's funny when people ask "By yourself?" when they're in sight of my car because the passenger seat is just as full as the backseat so it's obvious no one could ever fit in that car with me). I said yeah. He said "Whoa. You're brave." That was a nice feeling, too.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

This Isn't Original

Well, I wrote about how my interview went somewhere else, not realizing that I hadn't updated here very excitedly the moment I got off the phone.

I should hear about whether or not I get the internship on Tuesday. I'm trying not to get my hopes up.

But my hopes are up. Like, way up.

I know my interview went better than my last phone interview for an internship (the otter internship I interviewed for in April or so, you probably didn't hear about it). I think part of that has to do with the fact that it was a man and not a group of three women, because women make me a little nervous, as do groups. He also asked different questions, that seemed more zoo-related and less general-job related. I know I answered a few of his questions exactly right.

"What's the best part about being a zoo keeper?"
"Developing a relationship with an animal, learning it's quirks and what it likes. Developing communication even though you can't communicate. That's awesome."

"What's the worst part about being a zoo keeper?"
"Well, there's the nasty, sweaty, dirty long days which can kind of suck. But really, it's the rough moments. You develop a relationship with an animal but there can come a moment where you've done everything you can do and there's nothing else you can do and the animal has to be euthanized. That's awful."

"You hit it on the head. That is absolutely the worst part about the job. And developing a relationship with an animal is great, but you can't have one without the other."

That's the answer. And I know it. Because even without that relationship, I've seen the keepers I interned next to go through it. And even without a relationship, it's a life. And it hurts to see medicine fail. It really does.

He asked me how I felt about animals in captivity. (Answer: thousands of mixed feelings.) He asked me how I felt about PETA (They make me cringe because radicals give people actually working for animal welfare a bad name). He asked me what my favorite animal was, and why (Snow leopards, for a lot of reasons). He asked why I want to work with big cats (Because they are amazing and there is something about them when you look into their eyes). Why I want to move to New Orleans (It's a beautiful city, with a fascinating history and a fascinating literary history [I'm sure he didn't know what to think about that part of my answer]). What I thought were the most important qualities in a zoo keeper. #1: Dedication. And I know that was a correct answer (Along with patience).

So I really hope I get it. For a lot of reasons. For a thousand reasons. I want more experience so I can be closer to getting a job. I want to move to New Orleans. I want to be in a zoo every day. I want to be doing something rewarding. I want to be within 2 feet of a tiger. And an elephant. I do.

Meanwhile, I'm apartment shopping. I'm planning my travels. Maybe planning a trip home. Need to read a book or three. Figuring out how and what to cook on a campfire. A little bit about how to build a campfire and what the rules are.

I have wanted for so long to be able to embrace the moment and accept things happening as they happen. I'm not all the way there yet, probably won't ever be, but I feel so much better about everything right now. My future is the most unsure it's ever been and I'm still so content. I'm happy. It's a great feeling. Not in a jubilant, jumping up and down kind of way, but in a quiet, serene, peaceful way. It's a nice happy. I like it.

I'm also excited to get cragislist furniture that I can sand down and repaint and go all DIY on.

Unrelated, I made bananas muffins today. I like how quickly I can whip something up in the kitchen, even when it's not my kitchen. But it makes me want my own kitchen so I can go crazy. And I'll make friends with new neighbors with cupcakes. I have a strategy all ready to go.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Dreaming of Cookies

I'll be honest, I've spent most of today sitting around. The first half of the day was spent planning the next leg of the road trip, which you (should have) already read about. And compulsively checking my email for that interview scheduling.

The second half of the day was spent looking at other blogs because I'm becoming more aware that blogging is a community, and there are other people writing about things I find interesting. (And if I can draw them in, maybe they'll think I'm interesting, too.)

I stumbled upon blogs written by people who love baking! It probably should've occurred to me a long time ago that these blogs existed, but I just never thought to look that closely. But now! So many people baking! Cakes, cookies, brownies! And decorating them! Decorating really fascinates me because I haven't really ever tried it too much. I'm not the biggest fan of frosting and that stands in the way of most decorating strategies. I'm starting to learn, though, that the truth is that I just really don't like canned frosting. Or the frosting used on some grocery store cakes. Which is stiff and thick and leaves and weird film in your mouth. Uck.

Anyway! I want to start decorating. Especially cakes. I would love to cover a cake in fondant and make little fondant flowers to cover it in. That sounds like a great way to spend a day. And there are so many decorating tools! And I want all of them!

Which leads me to one of those dreams people have--everyone has to have one of these--of something you would love to do in a far away type of way, because it's largely impractical and more work than it would be worth, really, but sounds nice in your head. Mine: having a bookstore/bakery. So I could bake and experiment and have customers to feed so it wouldn't be a waste of money that left me with a surplus of baked goods with nowhere to go. And I could surround myself with books and talk to people about books, too. Doesn't that sound really cozy? I think so.

By the way, if someone you know ever says they just finished baking 8 dozen cookies and then offers you some, do not refuse those cookies with the excuse that you're on a diet. Life is too short to refuse cookies and that person really would just like to feel good passing out some happiness. Take the cookies. Feed them to squirrels once you get them home if you don't want them.

I also found a list of 50 delicious, interesting cakes today and really want to make just about all of them. I can't wait to have a kitchen again. Super duper cannot wait.

Now, unrelated. I've been in an empty house for most of the day and I'm dog-sitting a mopey dog. He's been sleeping under the front window all day, waiting for his people to come home. He only recently decided that they won't be back for the night and has decided to come hang out with me. He's asleep under the couch, snoring. Just woke up to stare at the door. Not that it was unlikely, but I love this family's dog. He is such a sweet dog. He's a little older, greying around the face, but he is so well-mannered and good-natured. And he loves attention which makes it fun to pet him. He's very tired and just got up to go to his bed but the door is closed. Poor guy.

Well. This was a long post, in addition to my previous pretty long post earlier today. So there's lots of reading for you! It's my bedtime, though. I can stay up late when there's something to do, and I can stay up really late when there's something I need to do early in the morning, but I get tired pretty early when I have nothing to do. Strange.


I'm working on my plan for the next part of my road trip and I am so, so excited because this part of the trip--which was completely unplanned until a few days ago--has so many really cool features.

I'm going to Mobile, AL from where I am now, then to Biloxi, MS, but mostly because these places are on the way to where I really want to go. After that, I'll be heading up to Jackson, MS (there's a zoo there) and then I'll be taking the Natchez Trace Parkway up to Tupelo, MS. It's an 8,000 year old path and commercial vehicles aren't allowed to drive on it. It's part of the national park system, so I'm pretty sure it will be awesome. ( in case you're interested) There's a swamp on the way and I'm totally going to stop and walk through it.

Then, from Tupelo I will go to Oxford, MS. Where William Faulkner lived the last 30 years of his life!!!! Beyond excited! It's also where Ole Miss is, and their center for the study of southern culture, which I might check out since even though I'm not sure I'll ever do it, I'd like to find out more about their Master's program in Southern Studies. There's also a supposedly awesome independent bookstore that focuses on Southern writers. I. AM. SO. EXCITED.

From Oxford--if I can pull myself away--I will go to Memphis, TN to eat my weight in barbecue. THEN! (this just keeps being amazing!) I will followed the Mississippi River back down to New Orleans. I thought I was going to have to use my map and do this the old school way but it turns out that there is actually a guide that directs you along the roads to take you down the Mississippi. Mississippi River Experience! On my way down, I'll stop in Vicksburg, Natchez, and Baton Rouge, and probably Vacherie to go to Oak Alley Plantation since that place is so freaking picture perfect.

I can't wait, I can't wait, I can't wait.

I got an email about an internship at the Audubon Zoo, the curator telling me when he would be free to talk on the phone. I responded with when would work for me, asking him to tell me what would work best for him. No response for two days! SIR! EMAIL ME BACK! I've been checking my email compulsively. I want this internship so bad! It's with tigers, lions, and elephants! What a really cool experience! And in New Orleans. And it's August-November, so I would be done before Christmas and could come home. If I don't get it, though, I still think I'm going to try to move to New Orleans and start volunteering at the zoo since I need experience and that will at least be a start.

I keep thinking about the AZA conference in September and haven't made a decision about whether or not I'm going to go. I really want to and I think the networking potential would just be enormous, but it's expensive and in Atlanta which could be expensive to get to. I don't know.

Anyway! I'm excited. So very excited right now.

I hit post and then went to check my email and I got a response! Interview tomorrow at 4! Hooray!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Next Leg

I'm thinking of getting on the road again soon, which has me looking at maps and tourist guides and websites and hotels and festivals and national parks and everything else I can possibly to think to look at so that I can make this drive great.

But I keep looking at all the things I've missed. I didn't stop in Chattanooga, because I figured I'd got through it again when I got back to Knoxville--a place I now don't know if I'll ever return to. I really wanted to go to Chattanooga, but I knew it would take a day or two there and I wanted to get to Atlanta right quick. I still haven't seen Charleston and I've only spent two hours in Savannah and those are cities I would really love to spend time in, but they are so far away from New Orleans. I feel like when I'm unemployed and in my car, everything is close. But once I get an apartment somewhere, then leaving it is a trip, it's a vacation, it's not the same.

I could drive up to Charleston and then across to Chattanooga and then onto Memphis and then down into Mississippi to Oxford and Jackson, but I'd miss the Natchez trail and the Gulf Coast. I really have no idea.

But! That's why I'm working on figuring it out. So that I can see what path will get me the most places.

I'm also trying to figure out where in the world I'm going to be on the 4th of July. It'd be neat to be in a small town with it's own small town festivities, but it's fun to know that just about every town will have festivities so no matter where I am, I should be able to catch some fireworks.

I got some planning to do, for sure.

Monday, June 20, 2011

It's Been Awhile

I stopped updating because there wasn't much to update about. Still isn't a whole lot, but I thought I'd give one anyway.

I haven't heard anything else from that job in Nashville yet, but I'm going to send out an email tonight.

Tonight or tomorrow I'm going to write cover letters for a few internships in New Orleans.

Over the last couple of days I haven't been up to much. I went to see my cousin, who lives about an hour away from where I'm staying right now. We went bowling and saw a movie, then we stayed the night there so we could all go to Busch Gardens in the morning.

Busch Gardens is amazing! Really awesome roller coasters mixed with pretty nice animal exhibits was my perfect place to have fun. They had a new cheetah exhibit to go with their new roller coaster, the Cheetah Hunt. I love cheetahs! They're my second favorite, next to snow leopards. They also have a baby cheetah (4 months old) that lives with a puppy (5 months old). They wanted to raise the cheetah with something else because otherwise they get lonely and aren't socialized well, but there were no other cheetah kittens around when he was born. Now the two will be together for the rest of their lives because you can't separate them once they've formed a bond like that. They were pretty adorable, but I didn't have my phone or my camera so there are no pictures to prove it.

They had tigers that were so awesome and they were up and active at the end of the day and I spent a lot of time pressed against the glass watching them. I love critters. I love them so much. I had a good time looking at everything they had, and they have a pretty good collection.

One of the roller coasters is the tallest one in Florida and when you get to the top of the first drop, which is a 90 degree fall, they hold you there on the edge for 4 seconds. We were in the front row. Yeeesshhh. But it was a lot of fun. I love roller coasters. We went on that one 3 times.

I also bought my first piece of artwork ever. It's one of those things where they have the animal walk through paint and then walk on canvas. It's one of those things that a lot of people would think is a little bit ridiculous (or a lot ridiculous) but I love it so much. It's something a cheetah touched! When I look at it I just get more excited. I love thinking about it. And there's dirt in the paint from the pads of the cheetahs paws. It's so freaking cool. And I can't wait to get a home to hang it up in.

I love it so much!

Not many other highlights or updates. It was nice to spend some time with my cousin and his wife and their little boy.

And it'll be nice to get a few applications out tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Meaning of Life

Here it is (the long version, of course):

About a month ago I responded to two adds on craigslist for part-time jobs in Nashville, figuring if I got them both it would be a perfect harmony of work. One was at a dog bakery (bakery for dogs, not baking of dogs) and the other was an animal keeper position working with exotic felines at an undisclosed facility. I emailed both, heard back from neither. Both had been old postings so I figured they'd been filled.

Today, I hear back from the exotic feline keeper posting! It has been some time since I sent my email so they emailed me to ask if I was still interested in the position. It was very hard for me to not respond "YES ABSOLUTELY I'LL BE THERE TOMORROW!!!!!!!!!!!" and instead to respond in a semi-professional manner. It's part time and it pays minimum wage.

I would have to get a second job. It's in Nashville. A city I've never been to and don't know if I like. I would probably be living pretty close to the edge, as far as making ends meet every month.

But I don't care.

Because 20-30 hours a week I would be working with exotic felines. I'll come home sweaty and smelling like cat urine. I might come home just to change into another uniform and go back to work.

But I don't care.

This is the kind of job I'll make it work for. This is the kind of job that's worth being miserable for because everyday I was at work I would be so happy I could cry. That kind of happy makes it a lot easier to not cry when you're miserable.

I don't have this job yet. I don't have an interview yet. But I have contact. I have someone asking me if I'm interested. But this feeling right here, this lets me know that for the right thing, for the thing I want, it's worth it. That's a good feeling. Every other doubt and fear slips out of my mind because what I really want to do is, in fact, what I really want to do.

I'm trying not to get my hopes up about the job yet, but I'm glad that it gave me a sign that my heart is in this and it'll be worth it when it finally happens.


I am in Lakeland, FL, which is about 45 minutes outside of Tampa. I'm going to be here for a little while, figuring out my next step. Which of course I've already started doing.

The next cities I'm looking at for residency are Biloxi, MS, New Orleans, LA and Memphis, TN. I think my next driving stint will be along the Gulf and then up the Mississippi. I think. It's a sketchy plan so far, but I've started looking at jobs in New Orleans and Memphis and will probably send out resumes to a couple in each and then hope to arrange a phone interview or two before I make up my mind. But I'd like to be living somewhere by July (not the first, just the month in general) so I've got to get moving on it.

Meanwhile, I've been reading. What a surprise! Have you ever started a book and made the decision to read it twice before you've even gotten very far? I started The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin a day or so ago and it's perfect for me to read right now. She sets goals up for herself each month, in different categories, to try to improve her quality of life by doing things that make her happier. But not just in the moment happy, quality of life happy. I'm reading through it pretty quick right now, because it's good and an easy read, but I know I want to read through it again to really see what she's doing and what's going on.

She's also a writer. Which I suppose should seem obvious since she wrote a book, but there is a difference in being a career writer and writing in a book or two in addition to your real job. I like reading about her choice to leave her law career to really become a writer.

I've said I want to write. And I do. But I don't know how. Poetry is hard to get published since so few people read it, and poetry contests almost all have entry fees.

I wouldn't know how to approach a book. I want to. But I don't know how. What on earth would I write about? What would the story look like? I have the desire to write but nothing to say.

I'm looking into creative writing workshops, even though I don't know where I would go with that either.

Good writers seem to have so much wisdom. I want that. I want to think I have enough of that to write something important. People write about what they know, but what do I know? So very little.

I think I'm going to start practicing. Just to get my voice back and going and hopefully that will take me somewhere.

Monday, June 13, 2011


Yesterday was fun but I didn't take a lot of pictures because my camera died on me.

I went to the Atlanta History Center, which was really nice, and toured their Civil War exhibit and their Atlanta exhibit. They also have some historic homes on the grounds and I wandered through those as well. Pretty cool, but no photography allowed in the grand mansion. A museum is just sort of a museum so there isn't really much to say, but I did like this particular museum a lot in relation to some of the ones I've been to so far.

I did learn a few things, though. There are no Civil War-era buildings in Atlanta. The city was hit pretty hard by General Sherman and what wasn't destroyed didn't survive the growth of the city anyway. And none of the battlefields have been preserved because by the time they got around to thinking about it the land was too expensive for the government to buy. Progress makes me sad. Being at Gettysburg and thinking "It happened right here. Soldiers touched these same rocks." is really awesome. But then, at the same time, there's something to be said for being on a residential street that seems so peaceful and thinking "This was once completely destroyed by war, but look at what was able to grow back." It's a different feeling, and it's not without meaning.

After that I went with the family I'm staying with to Stone Mountain park which is about 30-40 minutes northeast of Atlanta. I wanted to go there originally but was going to bypass it since it was in the opposite direction of all the things I wanted to do here. Stone Mountain is the "Mt. Rushmore of the South." It's a huge granite "mountain" and carved into the side of it are Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson all on their horses with their hats over their hearts. It's lovely.

We hiked to the top of the mountain which gives incredible views of the surrounding area.

We hiked back down and drove the car around to the front of the mountain where the carving is and where a big lawn is. Every night they have a laser light show with fireworks on the side of the mountain. Part of it is a tribute to Atlanta, part of it is a tribute to the South, and the end is a tribute to the United States. They had a Civil War segment, too, which was pretty cool. How many places in the country are there Civil War themed laser light shows? I love it here!

Here are the pictures from yesterday:

 Not quite the top, but close. By the power lines is the Atlanta skyline. If you click on the picture you can see it bigger and better.
 It's so steep here that there is a railing to hold on to.
 Highest point.
 And the view from there.
That's the carving! Davis front, Lee in the middle, Jackson in the back.
 Baby warthogs!
 Lemurs! And in this picture you can see their fangs. Did you know lemurs have fangs?! Neither did I until today.
 He started to fall asleep like that.
 They were so cute!
 Baby panda!!! In case you didn't know, baby pandas are a really big deal.

A white peacock! I thought he was very pretty, I'd never seen a white one before.

In case you hadn't gathered from the rest of the pictures, I went to the zoo today. Atlanta has got a pretty awesome zoo. It's laid out a little funny and the map isn't super accurate, but the exhibits are good and it's in a nice park. I had a good time there. And my AZA membership got me 50% off admission! It's doing pretty good paying for itself. I also got a snow leopard Christmas ornament in the gift shop. I plan to have an animal themed tree. At first I thought "this is ridiculous, it's not even very Christmas-y" and then I remembered the cheetah ornament I bought last year and I decided I was already getting myself into it so I might as well keep going.

After the zoo I just explored for a little bit, then went and got ice cream and read a book for a few hours. Went and found dinner. A place called EVOS that is just burgers and fries, but they're grass-fed burgers and baked fries so it's a slightly healthier burger and fries, but the cost isn't any different and everything tasted really good. That was a good, random fined. I saw a Panda Express in a shopping center so I turned in but then I saw a sign that said healthy, fresh fast food and thought I should at least check it out before I committed to fried Chinese food.

I'm leaving for Tampa in the morning. Going to be a long day. It's an 8 hour drive and I'm going to try to leave early so I can get there at a decent time, but we'll see how that goes. Good thing I'm tired right now, hopefully I'll get to bed early so I can be up by 7 and on the road by 8, in Tampa a little after 4. That's the plan!

Time to pack up so I can read and then get into bed early.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Secret

You know what I really want to do?

Find a small, tiny little home. With one or two rooms. Not one or two bedrooms, one or two rooms. In the middle of nowhere. With or without electricity, as long as I have some source of light after dark. I want to cook using only my cast iron skillet, and maybe a teapot. I want to be in the middle of nowhere, with a dog. I want to read. And I want to learn how to write.

That's my dream.

The Aquarium

My first day in Atlanta what I really really wanted to do the most, more than anything, was go to the aquarium. It's supposed to be on of the best aquariums in the world. I'm not usually an aquarium person but I really had to see this place.

It was amazing. It's laid out well and the exhibits are great. It was just awesome. I took, lucky for you, tons of pictures. But mostly of the same thing. They have one tank, which I think is the world's largest tank, that has whale sharks! The biggest fish in the world! They had to fly them over from Asia and that in itself was a massive endeavor.

I'm just going to put in the pictures, mostly without captions, I think.

 Albino alligator! Isn't he creepy looking?

 Hammerhead! But also a whale shark in the bottom left.
 Manta rays!
 Whale shark!

 Little seahorse! I had one wiggling around right in front of me but there was no flash allowed at the seahorses because they're sensitive to light so I could only get a good picture of the ones staying still.
 This was the warm water fishes, and it's all this darkness and you turn a corner and it's a spectacular amount of light coming through the water and all of the most brightly colored fishes. It was brilliant. (By the way, did you know you use "fish" as a plural when they're of the same species but "fishes" as a plural when it's multiple species. Your fun fact for the day.)
 Pemberton, standing with Coca Cola in his hand outside the World of Coca Cola. I went there, too.
Plethora of vending machines! I think they're really neat.

Okay, so another fun fact or two. The coke museum is in the same plaza as the aquarium and the aquarium is built on land donated by Coca Cola, which I think is really great because it's prime real estate in downtown.

The World of Coca Cola is full of the story of coke and how it came to be what it is today, a mini-bottling plant which works very slowly so it's possible to see what's happening, a popular culture exhibit and best of all! a tasting room. They have Coca Cola products from all over the world to try, arranged by country. Mostly it's Fantas and fruit sodas, but there are a few other kinds, too. I have to say, most of them are pretty nasty. A lot of them are sickening sweet. One, called Beverly, was just horrid. Then they have this brand new soda machines that are so so cool! They have touch screens and you pick your base flavor and then you pick what you want added to it. They had one at the place I had lunch at so I'd already experienced it a little bit. I got a raspberry coke at lunch and then cherry vanilla at the tasting area. Then at the very end, they gave everyone an 8oz commemorative glass bottle celebrating 125 years of Coca Cola. You're then shuttled through the gift shop to get out and it's amazing the variety of things you can get with their logo on it.

Afterwards I ran a few errands around the city and ended up in a neighborhood my guide book says was full of shops and restaurants and hung out there for most of the rest of the day.

Atlanta is such a nice city.

I am very, very tired. I think I'm finally coming down my caffeine/sugar high from the tasting room.

Good, good day.

Friday, June 10, 2011


I left Knoxville late this morning and made the drive to Atlanta.

I think I like Atlanta more than Knoxville. First impression is better anyway. I got a little used to Knoxville by the time I left it, since I get oriented in new places pretty quickly, and getting that sense of where things are makes me feel settled a little, but I don't know. I like Knoxville, but I don't know if it's the place for me. When I went to New Orleans last year it took me 2 hours into the first day to fall in love with it and from there my love for the city just grew. That's what I want it to be like when I pick a place to live now. The cost of living in New Orleans is pretty high, but I think I'm going to look again and look for some jobs and see if I have any luck.

If I haven't figured out what to do or where to go by the end of my time in Tampa, I think I'm going to do a drive through the Deep South to get a look at some places there. And I'm going to look on my way down through Georgia because on the way through near the coast I liked it an awful lot. We'll see. I'm back to square one, I think.

I've been thinking, again, some more, like always. And I have myself more confused than ever before. I know what I would really like to do, but I don't know if I would really like to live on those wages, living month to month and not having room in my budget to make me feel safe and comfortable. I did that in college for 3 years and it's stressful and unpleasant. I think a job I really loved would make it worth it, but I don't know if a mediocre job would. If I'm working two jobs to make ends meet, I want one of those jobs to be the thing I really really want to do. Not cleaning kennels at a vet clinic. If I'm running my savings out, I want it to be for a really awesome internship. If I went to the Himalayas to save snow leopards all I'd want is shelter and food, I wouldn't care about anything else because I'd be doing the coolest thing in the world. But if I'm miserable at my job, I at least want to be able to go to the bookstore once a week without thinking about how it's going to mess up my finances for a whole month.

So I don't know where to go, what to do, what to settle on. I hate the idea of just barely coming out on top every month and I hate the idea of giving up the idea of what I want to do just to make a little more money. I don't know where the compromise is.

That's what I have to figure out. On top of the whole where-in-the-world-do-I-want-to-live thing.

So there's all of that. Tomorrow I think I might go to the aquarium. They have a whale shark!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Roughin It

So tonight I'm camping. And currently updating from the wonder that is my iPhone. I woke up this morning frustrated by the idea of staying in Knoxville another day just on case there was an interview with another dog shelter. There isn't. Anyway, I also awoke thinking that all I wanted to do for the day was sit in a park and read a book.

I've been talking about camping this whole time but every night when it gets close to the time I would have to we out to do it I just feel tired and lazy and would rather go someplace where a bed has been prepared for me. But since I wanted to be outside all day anyway it made sense to set up a campsite early and just stay for the night. And that is what I did.

Of course, it rained for the first time since I've been here today. And rained quite a bit. And of course my tent leaked in no less than 3 places. But sitting in my tent reading and listening to the rain was still a good time.

I had planned on staying at a campground 10 minutes from town so I figured I would just drive in for dinner. That campground was actually more of an RV park and I didn't think I would fit in there. So I decided to move on and look for someplace else. Now I'm about 30 minutes out of town and don't want to drive all the way into town for dinner. So I had a mango for dinner. I cut it up using my handy dandy Cornell ID tag which is a sharp enough to double as a box cutter.

Also important to note is that my phone won't let me scroll to where I want and type so I can't see what I'm typing and I'm using my phone. Excuse nonsense phrases.

I decided to reorganize my car a little bit. Towards the end of the packing experience I just started throwing thins in and over the course of my journey things have gotten pretty jumbled. I made some changes in where things were and made some progress, I think, at getting everything stacked neatly instead of thrown in. And some things I need to get to are in better spots now and things I won't need for awhile are more hidden away. It looks better, anyway, and befell like I did something useful today.

I think I'm getting camping neighbors. Maybe they'll share some food.

What else!

I have no idea what I want anymore. None at all. Going down to Tampa, tomorrow probably, to stay while I figure it out. I also might rethink Knoxville. I like it, but I don't love it. Who knows. This is why I need to keep thinking. And applying for jobs. I don't like not having a plan. It makes me uneasy.

One of the reasons I thought this trip would be good for me is because I always plan everything out and want to learn how to just go with it better. But I had a scheduled itinerary for the whole trip down and two days into Knoxville without a plan and I was going crazy. Now that I know I'm going somewhere else I feel better, but I've got a plan in my head already. So it's not really working. But I think I should still try. I want to explore the deep south some. We'll see.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

At It Again

The job interview went well, but the job only pay $7.25 an hour, which isn't really enough to live off of once I start having to pay my loans back in 6 months. It's also likely to leave me in a pretty crappy apartment which isn't really my ideal situation since I've done the crappy apartment thing enough already. But I do need a job, so the woman said to give her a call back in a week and that if I find another job that pays better, to take it, and if I want to add on some part time hours at their clinic, I can. But if I decide to work there, she's very interested in having me.

There's a job at shelter, too, and I'm going to call them today. I doubt they'll pay more than this job but of the two, I'd rather work at a shelter than a clinic. So I could do full time at the shelter and part time at the clinic.

Thinking about working 60 hours a week is a little scary, but it would be enough to put me in a comfortable budget so I wouldn't have to be freaking out all the time. But if I'm going to making minimum wage and working 60 hours a week, I want it to be doing the thing I really want to do, not these kennel cleaning jobs that aren't really going to get me anywhere. And that's part of why this is so frustrating.

I also just applied for a dog trainer job in Florida. And there's a job at the Memphis Zoo I'm going to apply to and there are some internships, too. Internships are unpaid and that sucks, but I could get a part time job and sublet an apartment and probably not be in a terrible position. Well, maybe terrible, but not life-threatening.

I need to update my zoo resume with my AZA membership!

I passed some seedy little zoos on my way down and I wish they were easier to find. Good zoos are all united and post their jobs on the AZA website, but the seedy zoos don't have an organization. But I just found a website that has links to a lot of zoos in every state, so maybe I'll find someone.

Anyway, I'm stressed out and kind of discouraged, which happens. I need a place to stay that's cheaper than a motel but I don't know if I want to stay in Knoxville yet. There's no reason to stay and there's no reason to leave. I don't like this. I don't like not having a place to go or a place to stay. I'm kind of jealous of everyone who's at home relaxing and taking time to figure things out this summer.

But after a good talk with a good friend, I somehow feel better. Just knowing there are other people going through crazy things. I'm applying to more jobs and more jobs and more jobs. Trying to find small zoos that don't really want much. A job opening in Baton Rouge that has been open for awhile seems like a good one.

Important note: this blog post has occurred over the course of the entire day.

I ended up in the B&N for most of the day, then went to the library to print some stuff out.

My to-do for tonight is to figure out some things.

I think I'm going to go down to Tampa to say with my aunt for awhile. I thought I knew what I wanted to do but I've realized I have no idea so while I'm trying to figure it out I'm going to go somewhere where I don't have to pay rent. On the way down, I think I will stop in Chattanooga (maybe) and Atlanta (definitely). A little bit more of a road trip. I'm going to get my oil changed tomorrow, hopefully. And when I'm down in Tampa I'm going to get my car's cough checked out. Apply for more jobs and see what ends up working out. I just don't like figuring it out wasting money like this. And spending a good chunk of every day trying to figure out where to sleep that night.

Tomorrow I'm also going to look at downtown Knoxville because I haven't been yet. I've stayed around it but haven't gone in.

So that's the plan. Vague as it may be.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Job Searchin'

I'm in Knoxville and trying to figure out what to do next. I can't tell if I like it here, but I don't know what the sign would be. I had looked up apartments before I came here and picked one complex that looked like it would suit me particularly well. It turns out it's 1.3 miles from the only Barnes & Noble in Knoxville. That could be the sign I need. There's a job in Alcoa--approximately 23 minutes from this B&N--that's working at a no kill shelter. But I have to call them and I hate calling people.

I want to go driving around and look at different neighborhoods and see if I like any places more than any others but I'm so sick of being in my car that I really don't want to.

I can't decide what to do. I don't know how long I should give it before I like it or don't. I don't really know where to stay while I make that decision because I'm at the point where I can't afford to pay to stay anywhere anymore. It's such a drain on money and it makes me so uncomfortable every time I pay for a room.

And then I think about getting an apartment and how absurd it's going to be to be in an apartment with no furniture.

This was really a pretty silly idea. Which I'm more and more aware of. But I knew that when I chose to do it. I knew I wanted to go somewhere new to see what it was like. I knew I wanted some kind of a challenge. But now I'm tired and I want a bed. I didn't sleep much last night and even with coffee right now I feel like I could just sleep for a few hours. I'm thinking about finding a park and napping in the grass.

WELL! What an odd change of events!

While typing this up, I got a phone call from a vet clinic in the area. I sent in my resume not a half hour before and then my phone started ringing with an area code that I recognized as being from the area. I answered the phone and the woman said she had looked over my resume and was impressed and would like to talk to me about the job. So I have an interview for tomorrow morning!

Now! I don't want a job. I want an income, but I don't want a job. I want everything out of my car and I don't want to worry about depleting my savings but I don't want to be settled yet. I know, I know, this doesn't really seem to mesh with what I just said about wanting a bed and being exhausted. But the truth is, I'm having fun during the day, I'm just tired every night and hate having to find a place to stay.

I'd somehow planned on being homeless and jobless longer than this. Now I have so many mixed feelings! But I can always move later. And try to get a start date in 2 weeks. Options! Suddenly I feel weirdly better about life. I've been applying for jobs for 6 months and then one resume gets a response 30 minutes later. Crazy. I might buy a book to celebrate.


It's important to to note that I am absolutely exhausted right now, but I want to do this while I have internet for the night since I don't know how tomorrow is going to go. But the exhaustion is a disclaimer for whatever is typed wrong or said wrong or is just generally wrong.

I woke up early this morning so that I could get to Pamplin Historical Park--which appears to be something like colonial Williamsburg but for the Civil War, not really sure though--right when it opened at 9. Off I went! I got there a little after 9 only to find the gates closed. Because it's closed on Sundays. Well, great! I had even checked the hours the night before but I lose track of days so it didn't click that I would be going on a Sunday. So that was a nice 40 minute drive in the opposite direction I needed to go.

Off I went to Appomattox!

That went a little bit better. Except for when the park ranger told me to turn right into the parking lot and I immediately turned left because I don't do the whole right-left thing well. So she watched me do a u-turn and get back into the parking lot.

 McLean house where Lee surrendered to Grant. Fun fact: McLean lived in Manassas during first Manassas and decided to move away so he could escape the war.
 This is a reproduction of the table Lee sat at during the negotiation of surrender. The real one is in Chicago? Or something.
 This was Grant's table. The real one is in another museum, too. There were original pieces, though. I asked. Unfortunately they had little to do with the event except as spectators, so I'm not posting the pictures I excitedly took of the rest of the furniture.
 This was nearby, and letters have been taken off and they said "to 118,000 men under Grant," I think.
 In the Confederate cemetery. They found a Union solider nearby when they were gathering the Confederates and they buried him in the same cemetery, right next to everyone else. There were 18 or 19 buried here, most unknown.

After Appomattox it was time to go to Lexington to see where Lee and Stonewall were buried. Lee is buried in Lee Chapel on the campus of Washington and Lee University. There was no photography allowed in the chapel or in the museum so you will be without those images. But it was a really pretty chapel, painted all white with black accents. At the back was the Lee memorial, which is him carved in marble, lying down. In the basement of the chapel is where he is actually buried, in the wall with his family and descendants. Also in the basement is his office, which has been virtually untouched since he died. It's exactly as he left it. With some papers having been taken out in order to be preserved. Then, in the center of the museum, there is a marble slab that marks the spot he was originally buried in the floor of the chapel. Except then, the basement of the chapel was a library.

The museum talked about Lee as president of the university and his relation to George Washington. Lee's biggest rule at the university was that every student be a gentleman. How perfectly southern!

Outside of the chapel, Lee's horse, Traveller, is buried. Traveller died after Lee and attended the procession at the funeral.
 People leave coins for Traveller. I left the change in my purse after I took this picture.
 The outside of Lee Chapel.
This is where Stonewall Jackson and family are buried. He was originally buried in another part of this cemetery but was moved when the built this memorial. It must suck to be famous because your remains move around like whoa.

The last photo was taken at about 4:45 and I decided I would make the 5 hour drive to Knoxville and save a night of hotel spending. Full tank of gas and off I went!

An hour into the drive and I got caught in traffic. In the mountains. You know those signs that say "Traffic Advisory When Flashing, Tune to AM station"? Well, that had been flashing, but they flash a lot and there's rarely anything spectacular about it. But when it got to the point where I turned off my car because we weren't moving, I wanted to know. But! My radio wasn't working. Every once in awhile the display will go nuts and then the buttons won't do anything, so I couldn't change the station. I tried downloading a radio app for my phone, but that didn't work.

I got out of my car, saw a cat in the car in front of me, got back in my car and then the radio was working! Sort of. I still couldn't see what station I was on but it was letting me change stations so I found it. It just said there was an accident up ahead and both lanes were closed. Hooray! Everyone was out of their cars and walking around and after an hour traffic started flowing again. No sign of an accident anywhere when I drove by. I believe I was lied to.

Then 4 hours of driving left.


Most driving in a single day I've done so far.

Any other stories?

Oh, I drove through mountains again today, windy, twisty, roller-coaster roads and I really thought my poor little car was just going to give up and leave me stuck. We made it through, though! So proud. The mountains here are different but so so pretty.

Alrighty! Super tired! Off to sleep. Have to wake up early enough to eat continental breakfast. Might go back to sleep after until checkout. Errggh I have no idea where to stay until I get a place or decide if I like it here. I certainly can't afford motels much longer.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Easy Day

I arrived in Richmond last night and went to the Civil War museum. I did more Richmond stuff today and some non-Civil War stuff to give it a little bit of a break. I'm staying here one more night--thanks to a very generous hostess giving me a bed--which is a nice change of pace from all the driving.

First, pictures from yesterday.

This is Chatham house, which I mentioned yesterday. This is the back of the house.

 These are the gardens in the backyard, which unfortunately did not come through in the photos as well as I would've liked. But rest assured, it was gorgeous.
 From the front yard you could see the river. This is the river the Union soldiers crossed to get at the Confederates who were stationed up on Marye's Heights over yonder. They waited here for something like 12 days for their pontoons to arrive so they could cross. Fredericksburg was not a success for the Yanks.
 Pretty mossy statue peeking through the trees.
 This is at Chancellorsville. These pictures are sort of out of order but oh well. This was on one side of the monument and it says "Let us pass over the river and rest under the shade of the trees." These were Stonewall Jackson's last words. He was in a sort of delirium when he said it, but it seems like an awfully beautiful set of last words.
This is the formal monument placed at Chancellorsville near the site where he was mortally wounded. This is actually the backside of the monument. It was placed so that the front would face the highway and passersby would see it, but when the highway started having motor vehicle traffic instead of horse traffic I think they decided it was unsafe to have people approaching it from the other side. You can see some grey through the trees and that's the highway. Anyway! This was placed by soldiers after the war to commemorate him.
 This boulder was an informal monument placed here by someone to mark the place where Jackson was wounded.
 This sign was placed at the actual place where he was shot, so where I was standing and taking this picture is where it happened. Isn't this exciting?
 This is where he died. He was shot at Chancellorsville in the arm, ambulanced quite a ways away to this place to recover. His arm was amputated and he seemed to be doing fine until pneumonia took hold and did him in. It's likely he had pneumonia before the wound and amputation but the wound distracted from the pneumonia symptoms and his immune system was likely weakened by the whole ordeal so nothing could be done by the time they realized what was happening.
 This is the building he died in. There once was a house behind it but it was torn down by the railroad company. The railroad company also decided to preserve this building because Jackson died there. It was just an outbuilding to the house.
 This is the ACTUAL bed Jackson died in. Everything in this room is original to the room when he died in it.
 Including this clock. Which has been ticking on the mantel ever since.

Now to move into today which actually has very few pictures because the places I went did not allow photography. I slept in and then made my way over to the Museum of the Confederacy and the White House of the Confederacy. The tour of the white house was interesting, in large part because it's neat to see a period house and how it was laid out. After the fall of the Confederacy the house was turned into a school and the original furniture was sold off. The city almost tore it down to build a new school but a historical society saved it and then went about getting as much of the original furniture back as possible. Pretty neat to look at.

The Museum of the Confederacy was really well done, I thought. The layout made sense and was easy to follow and they had a good collection with good explanations of the flow of the war. I don't know why I didn't like the Civil War museum as much, because I know it's new and sort of what a good museum is supposed to be, but somehow this older one did a better job for me.

After those two things, I went to the Hollywood Cemetery. Which took a ridiculous amount of time and turning around because I had left my GPS on walking directions so it kept trying to get me to go the wrong way down one-ways. I didn't realize why until later in the day when I was trying to map a longer distance and it told me it would take 6 hours to get there. Anyway, I got there and got lost almost right away because it was so much larger than I had expected and I couldn't see how anyone would ever manage to find a specific grave.

I happened along the family plot of Jefferson Davis, which was all decked out in memorial decorations from various historical societies.
 I took it from far away, I guess, but there is a statue of Davis in the middle and his wife and children are buried around him. So is a more distant relative that died in 1991.

I was going to give up and leave the cemetery because I couldn't find what I was looking for (I did accidentally find James Monroe, though) so I started winding my way out. I stopped in a parking spot at the entrance to GPS my next destination when I saw a stone map of the cemetery. I got out of my car to look and see what I missed when a groundskeeper of some sort asked if I wanted a map, he had one left. I took it and went back in to see the Confederate section of the cemetery. Which is, oddly, on the opposite side of where Davis is.
 This says "Fate denied them victory but gave them a glorious immortality." Which I liked.
 "Gettysburg Dead."
The granite pyramid built to honor all of the Confederate dead surrounding it. 

 "Memoria in aeterna"

Then I decided to do some non-Civil War activities. I went to Maymont park and wandered around for a bit. It's big and pretty with lots of flowers.

And some waterfalls.

I started to get really hungry and I decided to eat not at McDonalds so I stayed in the city and found a district that is just one long road of shops and restaurants. I walked along it for awhile and then found a barbecue place and went inside and got a table for one. I ordered a pulled pork sandwich and then started trying all 5 of the barbecue sauces on the table. The man working in the kitchen, who may be a manager or an owner or something, saw me and came over to tell me the I should put one of two sauces on my sandwich because they go best with pork. We started talking and he asked if I ate there often and I said I'd never been to Richmond before, he asked if I was a tourist and since I sort of hate that word I said no, just passing through. Briefly explained that I was thinking of moving to Knoxville but was fresh out of college with no job or apartment so didn't really know for sure where I would end up. He said he was from Tennessee and he said Knoxville is a good place and it isn't as hot as some other places and that it would be a good place to start. He said I was brave and then walked back to the kitchen.

I eat really quickly and don't really breathe or chew my food. I also hadn't eaten for 5 1/2 hours which is a long, long time for me to go without eating. I finished my sandwich in seconds. Then I saw him walking back over to my table and he says "You went through that pretty fast. This is from me." And he put a whole sandwich worth of pork on my plate! For FREE! I ate that pretty quick, too, but tried to slow down so I didn't continue looking like a ravenous monster. When I was done, he said it was nice to meet me and wished me luck.

People can be so nice! And I have the best luck when it comes to free food.

Even though I was really full at that point, I still had ice cream on my mind so I went down the street to get some of that before heading out of the city for the night. I stopped at Barnes & Noble on the way in, too, just because it's my happy place.

Starting off early tomorrow morning and hope to be in Lexington by tomorrow night. Then Knoxville the day after!

Oh, going through my files (i.e. piles of possessions) I found these quite relevant, un-cited quotes I coped down at some point. I think they're all from the same person.

"We either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves strong. The amount of work is the same."

"All paths lead nowhere, so it is important to choose a path that has heart."

"It is important to do what you don't know how to do. It is important to see your skills as keeping you from learning what is deepest and mysterious. If you know how to focus, unfocus. If your tendency is to make sense out of chaos, start chaos."