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» Friday, March 19, 2021Where Did They Hide the Olives? (Atomicon, Day 2)
I don’t think there’s one vacation we’ve been on that we’ve actually slept well. You’re supposed to rest on vacation, so I understand, but we both feel it hard to get comfortable in a strange bed–and there’s always something that keeps us awake. If it isn’t the light between the curtains (which is why we now carry clips to keep them closed) or a light in the bathroom, it’s the mattress or the pillows (hotels use foam pillows, which give me headaches), or noise outside, or the air conditioner making funny noises (and we have had the A/C on in November to keep the air moving in the room). The one time we had the perfect mattress and perfect pillows–2013 in a cabin sixteen miles north of Gatlinburg–we both had headcolds and couldn’t sleep for not being able to breathe (we knew every drugstore on the strip in Pigeon Forge that year), which is typical of life, as February Callendar would say.
So it wasn’t surprising we didn’t sleep well last night. For some bizarre reason, instead of having nice standard-size pillows, Radisson hotels have these square things the size of sofa pillows. Two are too little, three are too much. At least the hotel has gotten rid of what I called “the 200 pound duvet” (it was like having a dead body covering you up) and gone for a lighter one. But we had a restless night, especially because the air conditioner sounded like a 18-wheeler truck cab starting up under our window, and then James had forgotten something. So we were quite yawny when we crawled out of the room for breakfast. Sadly, with the demise of the bar, the only “non-carb” item are packaged sausage biscuits, which James consumed along with juice and cereal. We collected some tea for him, but he ended up never drinking it. I had a bowl of Frosted Flakes and a double packet of oatmeal, and lots of milk, saving a glass for lunch. We ate our meal in the common room with a small group (the other crowd went to Kami’s Place, formerly Wendell’s, a few miles down the road–coronavirus dealt badly with Wendell’s, and then Wendell himself, in his 80s, got sick and couldn’t carry on). In a bit we ambled back to our room, got dressed, and went out for a morning walk.
There’s a back pathway from the hotel to “downtown” Helen where all the shops are, and we were walking/rolling on it presently. It was still chilly at this point and we had jackets on over flannel shirts over short sleeves. We went past the bar next to the hotel, then some rental “betsitter” type condos being built, and some other existing small rental condos decorated, of course, in the German/Bavarian theme of Helen, and then Bodensee, the German restaurant, before getting to the cross street and walking up to Helen’s main street. Our main mission this morning was to go to the Alpine Olive Tree, the olive oil and vinegar shop, to get another bottle of their honey ginger balsamic vinegar. James was quite taken by the flavor for use in cooking (tastes great with chicken and pork) and he wanted to get a larger bottle this time. The store is located in a building called “the Castle Inn” (the hotel is upstairs) on the opposite bank of the Chattahoochee River.
Or it was: when we got inside it said they had moved to Chattahoochee Street “next to the coffee shop.” Okay, so out we came (since the Christmas store wasn’t open yet) and continued down the street. Except for the life of us, we couldn’t find it. We went all the way down Chattahoochee Street to the back street that the locals use instead of taking Main Street, and no store. We wandered around the stores and the Cowboys and Angels restaurant set behind the Main Street stores, then came back to Main Street and walked a little further on to the park with the waterfall and then turned back. Where was the store? Finally, confused, we crossed the street, surveyed the shops there, and crossed over under the bridge along the river and walked back to Edelweiss Street (the back street just mentioned) and trudged back to the hotel. We will just need to phone them to see where they are!
What a difference from last year, though. Even before noon there were already a lot of people out, and as the day went by the traffic on Main Street started to back up all the way to our hotel. Life had come back to the city: there was a trout tournament scheduled for the next weekend, and also another gathering: an art exhibition.
Back at the hotel we loaded up the chair and drove to Cleveland, GA, to get the item James needed at the local Walmart. This was the strangest-laid-out Wallyworld I’ve ever seen. Instead of the pharmacy being against one of the front walls of the building like in every other Walmart I’ve seen, this one had the pharmacy in the middle of the store, with all the toiletries and medicines lined up in aisles leading to it. We picked up a plastic water bottle for James to mix up his medicine inside in the morning (he takes it as a slushee at home, but no blender here!) and also a bottle of cranberry juice to help wash it down.
On the way back we stopped at the Mt. Yonah bookstore. The proprietor there is so nice! She always remembers what weekend we come down and gives us a discount. James bought a history book about the M1 carbine and also a beautiful knob-topped wooden walking stick she was selling for the artist in her store. It’s big and heavy and we dubbed it “the shillelagh.” I bought a copy of the memoirs of a Maine country doctor that is equal parts medical, spiritual, and life story. Daisy the tortoiseshell-and-white cat (she of the vivid green eyes) rubbed against my leg, and we met Ronnie, the cat from the record shop next door.
On the way back we called the olive store-we couldn't find them because they had one more inspection late this afternoon until they could open and the storefront windows were still covered in kraft paper! If they pass the inspection they will be open tomorrow.
So we were a bit late in getting to our lunch, the leftover pad thai and beef noodle soup which we had with cookies and mandarin oranges (and me with a nice glass of milk saved from breakfast). Spent the rest of the afternoon talking while goofing off on the computer, until dinner time rolled around again. This time Bigg Daddy’s was the dinner choice du jour, eaten with the Lawsons and the Allens. There was quite a big crowd, and, sadly, we had something to watch part of the time during our wait: there is a motel across the alley from the restaurant and just as we arrived, an older lady had tripped and fallen walking toward the back entrance. She was not moving and everyone was anxiously watching until the ambulance arrived–it took a while because I think it had to come from Demorest, where James ended up in the emergency room two years ago.
Finally we got seated–and wouldn’t you know our seat was right next to the live performer for the night? He wasn’t a bad singer, but they had him amped up so loud that you could hear him clearly out in the parking lot, and he was singing a lot of loud country and rock. If I wanted to talk to Jerry next to me, I had to get within six inches of his face and bawl at the top of my lungs! WTF, people? I go to dinner to talk to my friends, not be deafened. It’s tiresome, not relaxing. The only time we could actually talk is when the singer took a break.
It took a while to be seated, but the service was fairly quick once we got our orders in. Since I’d had wings on Wednesday night, I had a personal pizza instead. (Disappointing–not a patch on Uncle Maddio’s!) James ordered some steak tacos, and, being hungry, also ordered what he thought would be a cup of chili. It was a huge soup bowl instead! So he took home chili for lunch tomorrow and I packed up half a pizza.
Then once again we went back to the hotel for more chat (and it was again almost nine o’clock!). We saw photos of Jessie and John’s new house. The present owner is a woodworker and is leaving behind a gorgeous workshop on the lower level. Jessie is going to use that for her printing room (she has a 3D printer). There’s also a big yard for their two big dogs. We found out Juanita not only had a heart ablation, but also another procedure that we had not known about. The latter was happily successful and she says she feels more relaxed than she has in years.
A few folks did play some games: the younger set (they’re in their 20s) were playing some type of survival game, and Oreta and John and Melinda attempted one of those escape-room games. But yet again we wandered to bed about midnight, and hoped we’d get some sleep!