The Great Midwest Trip: Hippos and Tornados
This is part five of The Great Midwest Trip, a series of advice and notes from my week-long journey.
Hippos are super graceful underwater.
They are! The St. Louis Zoo Hippos are enclosed in a tank with glass walls so you can see them gliding cheerfully past you with barely any movement from their limbs. You really wouldn’t think that an animal that’s… uh…voluptuous, full-figured… ok, FAT (*beep* This is an accurate observation and in no way, meant as a derogatory slur against the creature. Please do not send the gator lawyers.*beep*) could be so elegant under the surface. Suddenly, this Fantasia segment makes SO MUCH more sense now.
There’s a lesson here somewhere. How you look doesn’t matter because it is always what you do that counts. As a society we get stuck on superficial notions of beauty or even normalcy, we make snap judgments about other people based on their appearances. But maybe if you took a chance on someone, get to know their story and watch them in their element (pursuing a passion, for example) you just might be surprised.
Always look up the weather.
This was just gross negligence on our part. When we left Indiana for St. Louis, we forgot to check the weather. That day, N and I were both somehow dressed up in dark-colored clothes. So when we got out of our car to stroll around the zoo under a merciless sun that afternoon, we looked like masochistic goths next to the screaming kids and their parents clad in bright tops and shorts. I quit 20 minutes in because I knew I was going to get a heat stroke. No amount of sunblock was going to keep me excited about manta rays and gorillas. It’s definitely a good thing the zoo was free.
Although, knowing what the weather was going to be like didn’t actually help us earlier in Columbus, Ohio. We inquired at the hotel’s reception desk and the staff warned us of a thunderstorm later that night. We looked out the window and swear to the gods, it looked like sunny California. We brought this up with the the locals who laughed at us and said not to carry this flawed impression of their town. Sure enough, that night as we made our way to Ruby Tuesdays‘ for a reading, heaven burst a seam and it just started pouring like crazy. It felt like this exact moment in Jurassic Park because we started hearing this creepy howling noise in the distance. The paranoid in me immediately freaked out about tornados (because let’s face it, a T-rex does not howl) and the one thing I did know about the Midwest was that it was tornado country.
N and I got out of the car with my industrial golf umbrella which did keep our heads dry but not much else. The gutters were totally flooded with rushing water flowing down the street so we couldn’t get on the sidewalk. After passing three parked cars, we found a corner with a semi-jumpable distance. N made the leap but I just braved it with my ankle-length boots. Some dude watching us for amusement from his porch shouted I totally copped out. Whatever! I wasn’t about to break my ankle on top of getting flown to Oz.
When we finally got into the bar, N made a joke on my expense about about my tornado theory and turns out, the joke was on him. Our friend said it was a real tornado warning. They usually have regular drills so locals have gotten used to the eerie sound and but they rarely actually get the real deal. Tonight was 100% authentic.
Are you kidding me? The one night we’re in town? We must have sounded like idiots inquiring about the basement but how else do you protect yourself against a tornado? In comparison, California’s unpredictable earthquakes must seem scarier because you have no idea when they’ll hit and how strong they’ll be. I know the Big One is coming and is due sometime this decade. (Oh, yes. Citing this fact, N had always told me he preferred tornados because you actually got a warning. He has since changed his opinion.) But I don’t know, man. A giant house-sucking funnel from the sky looks more terrifying.
The rest of my trip was made up of awesome meals and not-so-awesome fast food on the road. The highlights definitely included amazing teachers and directors we spoke with and just the sheer fun of exploring new places. Articulating the vibe of different cities was a neat exercise and I look forward to exploring other countries in the same fashion in the future.