Yet Another Journal

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» Friday, March 20, 2020
What's Closed and What's Not (Atomicon, Part 2)

In the middle of the night, James grumbled "It's too quiet." And not enough air circulating, either. Needless to say, we didn't sleep very well. Sadly, this is normal when we go away. The one perfect bed and sleep situation we had was in 2013 on vacation, and we were both so sick with headcolds we couldn't enjoy it.

So about 8:30 we sleepily shuffled to the new breakfast arrangement they had. Usually it's a breakfast bar, where you can take eggs and sausage, make a waffle, get juice and milk, pick out a fruit or cereal, make oatmeal or grits and toast, get butter, jelly, sugar, coffee, and tea. Today they had the back of the bar blocked off and a hotel employee handed you a pre-wrapped biscuit or sausage biscuit, the cereal, fruit bars, and milk. You got juice yourself out of the dispenser, and there were packets of oatmeal and grits out front with jelly and butter and disposable eatingware. We took it back into the common room to eat, although most of the others had gone out to breakfast (a little family-run place down the road, Wendell's, is a favorite; I think some others went to Hofer's, which is a bakery and restaurant).

Overlooking the Chattahoochee River.
The temps were going to hike up into the 80s today, so we decided to take our walk into Helen right after breakfast. Initially it was cool, with a nice breeze, but we were soon warmed up with moving. There is a back way on a small service road parallel to the main road, and we strolled along that, watching the birds (lots of robins, the occasional azure flash of a bluebird) and the leafing trees, including a lovely willow in the back parking lot of the hotel. The wind was in our face on the walk in, but as soon as we crossed the river, it was at our backs.

Even for a Friday it was very quiet. Cars were going by only in ones and twos. I had called to make sure The Olive Tree was open, so our first stop was the pseudo-castle building with the olive oil/vinegar store, the Christmas shop, etc. to refill our bottle of peach-flavored white balsamic vinegar. We couldn't get our own samples as is usual, and I sprayed the door handle with straight rubbing alcohol, but otherwise we had a nice chat with the proprietor. James also got a smaller bottle of chipolte-infused oil to use when making burritos and other spicy dishes. We also peeked in the quilt shop (O-so-pretty, but I can't even justify a hand-made king-size quilt for only $95), but the Christmas shop wasn't open, so we went on, briefly stopping at the glassblower's shop to see if they had any autumn leaf suncatchers (ours are dreadfully faded from the western sun), but they had only Christmas and Hallowe'en.

We strolled past the rest of the shops and then turned around and walked the remainder of the stores on the other side. The T-shirt shop was closed, but Hansel and Gretel chocolates were open. James made it up the steep ramp into the store, and I bought my yearly treat of dark chocolate almond bark. Again, I was feeling bad for these folks; there was no one else in the shop but us—how are they going to survive with no tourists to visit?—so I also bought some dark-chocolate enrobed orange creams, quite missing the orange creams from Sweenor's Chocolates in Garden City. They let us go out the side door instead of going down that steep ramp, which was much appreciated!

Daisy the bookstore cat.
We took our time coming back, then decided we would go "down the road apiece" to Cleveland. James wanted some cash, then we would stop at the bookstore (the Mt. Yonah Book Exchange) and finally have lunch at Wendell's, which we understood would be take-out from the reports of those who'd gone to breakfast. So we trucked (literally) back to Cleveland and did a withdrawal at the Regions bank, then did the bookstore. The owner was sitting outside, with a black-and-white cat mooching around near the door. He came inside, which did not please Daisy, the resident bookstore cat. (Many people say their cats have green eyes, but they are usually a yellowy-green. Daisy has real green eyes, a pale leaf green, and she's gorgeous and knows it; she even posed for me.) Oddly, this year I could not find a book I liked, but James got three, including the big picture book about the first World War that he didn't buy last year. (This was published in 1916 and has been so well-loved the binding is broken.)

When we got down to Wendell's it was 12:30, but they were already closed. So we went back by Wendy's to get James a drink, me a milk, and a medium French fry. The fries were a side to my leftover pad Thai, and James had a real fusion meal: his leftover Thai, a burrito, and the other half of the fries!

Spent the rest of the afternoon talking and paging through Facebook where the virtual convention "Concellation" topped 21,000 members. Tried to read, but it's hard to do that when so many interesting conversations are going on around you. Of course we talked about coronavirus reports a lot.

A group of people were going to Bodensee (one of the two big German restaurants in the area), but they are expensive, so we chose instead to go with the gang that went to Glenda's, a small country restaurant in Cleveland. To keep the table sizes down, we went in two shifts. Again, very sobering going to Glenda's, as there's usually a line out the door, but only three or four other people were there when we arrived just before six.

I was disappointed in my meal. The chicken there is only fried; if I wanted it grilled it would have taken almost a half hour. So I got popcorn shrimp, which I'd had on a previous visit. It was awful, with no shrimp taste at all, and the corn on the cob was tasteless. When the best thing in the dish is the mashed potatoes and the roll, you have a problem. Ken also had the popcorn shrimp and liked them, but I think he got a fresh batch and I got the end of the run. Should have had the pork chop, or the chopped steak like James did.

(Aubrey went with the Bodensee group and she reported to us that they sprayed everyone's hands when they walked into the restaurant, and then sat everyone one table apart, no more than ten to a table.)

Stormclouds over Helen.
Because I was still a little hungry, James stopped at the Zaxby's across the street and got me five wings, but they ended up in the fridge in our room while we snacked on cookies and grapes and tangerines and Fritos in the common room. Before we settled down there, though, I had to run outside and get some photographs of the clouds, which were building up and spoiling for some rain (it rained very little). The wind had picked up, too, and it was really quite pretty, although everyone kept telling me I should go inside!

We played Timeline for a while, and then I really wanted to play Uno or another card game, but got persuaded to play a strategy game instead, Forbidden Island, with Oreta, James, Pat, Alex, and Melinda. You are archaeologists trying to find four artifacts on an island that is starting to sink. Cooperating with each other, you have to get the artifacts off by helicopter before you are swamped with water and drown. Well, we made it down to the last step and then were drowned. It bothered Oreta because we had done everything right and still hadn't won. It wasn't until we were packing the game away that I noticed the side of the box: the game is for one to four players and we'd had two players too many, so I guess we did really well (and I did okay only because everyone strategized wayyyyyyyy better than I did).

Tonight we did a little better sleeping. I downloaded the app "Relax and Sleep" again (I'd deleted it from my phone because I never used it) and I set it to make the noise of an air conditioner running and also some crickets chirping in the rain. This was low enough for both James and I to hear it, but not so loud to keep us awake. And it actually did help, especially after I set out the little fan that stays in the suitcase.

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