Sunday, April 24, 2011

I didn't give anything up for Lent

Jesus sign

I didn't give anything up for Lent this year.

Some of my older friends are probably surprised that I give up anything for Lent, ever, because I'm kind of not a very good Catholic most of the time. I'm pro-abortion (actually, I feel like I shouldn't have a say in it at all, because it's not a choice I'll ever have to make, but I support the right of women to make that choice for themselves), I'm gay, I believe in evolution, I've been known to wear a rosary as a fashion accessory, and I only go to church if someone is getting married, buried, or I want to take pictures of the inside. When I was little, my mom called the people who only went to church on Christmas and Easter "C&E Catholics", but I don't even make it that far, since those people actually got dressed up and went to church twice a year. I do pray every night, though, and I skip eating meat on Fridays during Lent, so I'm doing something.

Last year, I gave up Pop Tarts for Lent, because I was inspired by my many friends who give things up for Lent and wanted to support them. People in the office give up things like soda, bread, cable TV, and eating out, and that requires a tremendous amount of dedication. My friend Bryan went to church every week, and he carefully followed all the Catholic rules, and he gave up a tremendous amount of stuff for Lent every year, like eating meat and watching TV and going to the movies all at the same time.

And then he died, and this year I didn't feel like giving up anything for Lent.

You might think I'm just angry at God, but I'm not. I already had that phase a really long time ago, when I was in my twenties, but it started in my teens. For a while, I prayed every night that I would miraculously turn cute, like cheekbones and abs cute. It never happened, but I kept praying. Then at the end of my teens, there was a lot of praying that I would miraculously turn straight. A lot of praying. I really, really didn't want to be gay, but you are what you are and that's what I turned out to be. Then when I was resigned to that, there was a lot more praying that the guy I thought I was in love with more than anything would love me the same way, and he didn't. After years and years of praying, all I had was depression, frustration, and tremendous disappoint, and I figured that if that was all I was going to get from God then I didn't want any of it.

Jesus, in my opinion, could shove it.

It wasn't until many years later that I read that God answers all prayers. It's just that sometimes the answer is "no".

Even though that's not very comforting, it's better than nothing, right? It certainly sounds at least a little bit better than, "God has a plan. The Lord works in mysterious ways," because, really, when has that ever made anyone feel better? It's not very comforting to hear about a plan when you don't know what the plan is or even if it's one that you'll like. When Bryan was in the hospital last fall, lots and lots of people were praying that he would get better, and when he didn't someone tried to comfort me after his memorial with, "God has a plan for everybody." I know they meant well, but what good is a plan that doesn't seem to benefit anyone and makes everyone sad?

You could argue that the plan is just so long range that maybe, sometimes, you can't see it, and you just need to be patient. For example, last fall I was sitting my evening shift in the Resource Center when a student came in to look around and talk. This semester, Pizza Night happens during my shift, so there are lots of people there, but last semester there was no Pizza Night and I had what we will charitably call "low traffic" on the Thursday night shift, but this night I had a visitor so I put my book away and chatted for a while. After a half hour or so the student had to go to a meeting, so I let him know about some of the upcoming programs and asked him to be sure to stop by the center again, and I figured that was it and went to mark him on my visitor tally sheet for the night. After a minute or two, though, he popped back into the doorway and thanked me for being there and keeping the center open.

"You're the only out, you know, adult male I've ever met, and I just wanted to, you know, say thanks. For being here."

I told him he was welcome, and advised him again to stop by more often, because he could meet a lot of out gay people that way, and then he popped out of the doorway again and was gone. Now, I wasn't doing anything special. The center has a lot of volunteers, and he just happened to come by during my shift when all I was doing was sitting there, but it could have been any of us. It wasn't anything special for me, but it seemed to be for him, and it wouldn't have happened if I got what I prayed for back when I was twenty. If God miraculously turned me straight, like I wanted, then I might have still been sitting at the center (I like to think I'd still be an ally, even if I did like girls) but I wouldn't have been an adult out gay male.

Do I think God had a plan all along, and I can draw a magical dotted line from twenty year old me in 1996 praying as hard as he could that he'd turn straight to older me in 2010 who's gay and fine with it?

No. I'm not ready to say that. I may never be.

But is it possible?

Well... maybe.

And in thinking about that, we come back to my friend Bryan, and how we prayed that he'd be ok, and instead he died. Does God have a plan that includes that? Are any of us going to look back someday and think that it makes more sense, and seems maybe not so bad? I don't know. Most of me doesn't think so. But is it possible? Maybe, I guess. Maybe God does have a purpose, and a plan, for everything. Maybe not. The truth is that I can't say, but what I can say is that if there is a plan, I don't always like it.

So when Lent rolled around, and God wanted me to sacrifice something, I didn't feel like it. God took my friend away, and I could have just walked away again, and washed my hands of God. I've done it before, although it doesn't seem to take, so I could probably do it again, but I chose not to. I guess, instead, I have a little bit of faith, or maybe just of hope, that this happened for a reason and someday I'll understand it.

I gave up my friend, apparently for God's plan, and that seemed like enough sacrifice for one year, so I didn't give anything up for Lent.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

"If young love is just a game then I must have missed the kickoff."

I mentioned the other day that I had kind of a dating disaster this weekend with that guy I used to like, and my friend Jackie asked one of two logical questions: "How did you get from 'I need toilet paper REAL BAD' to dinner with the guy?"

The answer to that one is pretty easy: I've run into him a few more times since February, mostly in passing, and we managed to set up a casual dinner last weekend under the guise of, "Hey, you wanna hang out? Maybe get some dinner or something?"

The other logical question, of course, would be: What the hell happened at dinner? Before I answer that, I'm going to go ahead and say right now that I am a difficult person to date, and therefore not without blame, flaws, or dealbreakers. In no particular order:

1) I like to be alone, and guard my personal space to an almost pathological degree. Not counting the maintenace workers at my apartment complex, fewer than ten people have been inside my apartment, ever, in the time that I have lived here. At my old place, my friend Jen knew me for five and a half years before she got inside my apartment, and that was the night I moved out. I'm fine in other people's space, more or less, but having people in mine leaves my nerves completely fried and I become a little bit tense the longer the visit goes on. Just ask my friend Dan, who stayed on my couch once and moved some things on my shelves.

In 1999.

And has never been invited to stay over again.

2) Direct quote from a former boyfriend: "95% of everything you say is a line from a movie or a reference to television." That's totally untrue. I also reference books and comic books, which has also lead to the following complaint: "I asked one question. I didn't need a ten minute lecture on the twenty different colors of kryptonite and what they do."

"There are only 17 different kinds, not twenty."



"I'm sorry you feel that way, but you were wrong."

"That's the tone! Right there!"

"I'm sorry."

"And there's the martyr tone."

I actually do try not to have either of those tones, but I'm usually unsuccessful. Sometimes I even feel bad about it, but most of the time I'm not even conscious of it until someone points it out.

4) This complaint has come from friends and loved ones both: The shelves in my apartment are full of creepy staring action figures with their creepy staring beady little eyes, watching you from every corner:

Midnighter and Apollo

Wiccan and Hulkling


I like my figures. Looking at them makes me happy. I'm not apologizing for that. (Side note: All of the figures pictured are of comic characters that are gay. It seemed thematically fitting.)

I'm not apologizing for any of these flaws, actually, or the others that I'm sure I have but don't feel like mentioning or can't think of at the moment. (This is not an invitation for any of my friends to point them out.) I'm just pointing out that I have a lot of quirks that I'm sure other people would consider dealbreakers.

And in that spirit, I'd like to give a few dealbreaker highlights and breakup moments of my own. Again, in no particular order:

1) "I don't mean for this to sound racist or anything, but I really hate working with black people."

Years later, I still have no idea how he intended for that to come out somehow sounding other than racist. This was a blind date that a friend set me up on, with her brother. She looked as mortified as I felt when I explained why he and I would not be dating again.

2) "I think it's so cute how you never outgrew comic books."

Don't patronize me. You don't have to like the things that I like, but you should respect the fact that there are reasons why I like them, and that they mean something to me.

3) This next one happened on a "friends" date, rather than a romantic date, but I had kind of a little bit started thinking of my friend as maybe a possibility and this totally killed it. We were watching the first Harry Potter movie, and Oliver Wood (played by Sean Biggerstaff) came onscreen.

"Wow, he's hot!"

"He's twelve."

"Yeah, but a hot twelve."

There is no hot twelve. That's gross, especially if you're in your twenties. It's as creepy as those "Twilight Moms" lusting after seventeen year old werewolves.

These stories are fun and all, but they still don't answer the question no one asked, which was "What the hell happened at dinner?"

In short, that guy I liked was only likeable when I talked to him for less than a minute at a time. As I mentioned, he considers blogging and all other forms of social media to be a complete waste of time that keeps people from reaching their full potential by "distracting them with meaningless trash, just like TV!"

"You... don't watch TV? Like, any TV at all?"

"I don't even have a TV. I read books and better myself."


You are officially a better person than me, I guess. Like Veronica Sawyer tells country-club Courtney in "Heathers", in her bitchiest and most sarcastic tone, "You're beautiful."

Monday, April 18, 2011

Hey, I actually can run after all

Sunday, the morning after I won the Murder Game, I had kind of a busy day. I walked around downtown and took some photos (somewhat satisfying), saw "Scream 4" (disappointing, and this is coming from someone with low standards who owns the boxed set of the original trilogy), had a casual dinner date with that guy I like (also disappointing, as we turned out to be kind of incompatible; he'll never know I said this because he considers blogging, as well as social media of all types, a complete waste of time that keeps people from reaching their potential as fully realized human beings), and ended the day getting chased by a dog.

I'll qualify the dog chase as somewhat satisfying, in that I got away without getting mauled.

On my post-movie, pre-dinner walk, I went to the Dogwood Arts Festival:

kids with chalk

and was saddened to learn that the Market Square Kitchen:

1 Market Square

where they make a mean fried bologna sandwich and where my parents and I had lunch during their visit, is closing at the end of the month. The letter on their website says that the new owners of the building have chosen not to renew their lease, which I think is sad.

I also took a photo of the courthouse, which I can't decide if I like better in color:

garage, courthouse (1)

or black and white:

garage, courthouse (2)

and for the most part I just walked.

big orange cleaners


fire alley

down union avenue

Then, after my casual dinner of casual disaster, I stopped on the way home for this picture:

Unity Church

I parked a few houses down from the church, at a park, and when I walked down to it to take the picture there was no problem. When I was walking back, on the public sidewalk, I heard this dog barking, and looked up.

He's on a chain, I thought, And I'm over here on the sidewalk. I'm totally safe. And, oh shit, he has a really long chain.

I mean "long chain" as in "long enough to reach the sidewalk".

Fortunately there were no cars coming when I had to jump into the street to save my delicious legs from being mauled.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

I Won the Murder Game

Jeannie's birthday was a month ago, but we celebrated it last night at her apartment, with food, drink, and... MURDER!

Hawaiian murder.

As Jeannie explained in her blog a few weeks ago, her family has a history of playing murder mystery dinner party games. I've played two of these before, and the rest of the party hadn't played any, but Jeannie has played about fifty, and could probably do this in her sleep. This was her request for her birthday, though, so we agreed.

Jeannie transformed her dining room into Hawaii for the event:

scene of the crime (1)

scene of the crime (2)

scene of the crime (4)

or, you know, kind of a Brady Bunch idea of what Hawaii looks like.

As party guests, we transformed ourselves into characters:

brian and elizabeth (1)

Brian, on the left, is a local tribal chieftan who had a mysterious falling out with the victim, and Elizabeth is a local hula dancer, with a mysterious missing fiancee, who treated the victim to a very angry hula dance shortly before his death by poisoned mai tai. Ben played the victim's surf bum business partner, underpaid but mysteriously wealthy:


and Kristin played Nadia, famous swimsuit model on vacation who hooked up with the victim at a local nightclub and has a long, tabloidy history of jealous rage and famous boyfriends:

Kristin as Nadia (1)

Kristin stopped at Fresh Market on her way to the party, and bought food in that outfit, without pants in 50 degree weather. If they had a "People of Fresh Market" website, like they do for People of Wal Mart, Kristin would be all over it today. In her defense, I think she said she didn't wear the hat, but the hat makes the outfit.

Jeannie, playing a wealthy socialite with a much older husband, somehow didn't make it into the pictures, and all of the pictures of me, dressed as a vacationing clueless tourist overly concerned with his missing luggage, are blurry. You'll just have to use your imagination, but be sure to imagine that we look fabulous. You should also imagine that I have a full head of thick, lustrous hair because, you know, you already fired up your imagination, so you might as well go full tilt.

Anyway, Jeannie gave us each a place setting:

scene of the crime (3)

with our name, our script, and a strategic clue to be deployed (usually against another player) at various points in the game. Once we had food and drinks, we took our places and got to accusing:

Kristin as Nadia (2)

Brian and Elizabeth (2)

and to breaking character and almost choking when we ad-libbed a little too far from the original script:

Kristin as Nadia (3)

That's either right after Kristin set Brad Pitt's car on fire and stabbed Johnny Depp in the arm with a fork in a jealous rage or right after I revealed that the real reason I was running away to Australia was that gay marriage is legal there and I learned the love that dare not speak its name while in prison. (Same sex marriage is actually not legalized in Australia, but the game didn't provide any real motivation for why my character was going there so I had to make something up on the fly.)

In the end, Jeannie abstained from voting because she had played this game before. One person voted for Elizabeth's angry hula dancer, especially after she confessed that her fiancee was missing because she sort of accidentally pushed him off a cliff while they were arguing, but she totally didn't think it would kill him. (She was unclear on what she thought it would do instead. Break all his bones? Maim him a little?) Three people voted for Kristin's batshit crazy maneating supermodel, who had gone to high school with the victim several plastic surgeries ago and then come to Hawaii to purchase two adjoining burial plots, telling the salesman that she was going to use one and that her and her true love would finally be together, but I recognized this as the obvious red herring that it was intended to be, and I accused Ben... OF MURDER!

It was clear to me that Ben was the actual blackmailer and that the murder victim was about to reveal his crime, so Ben took advantage of the suddenly wide pool of suspects and poisoned Chase Diamond's mai tai while casting suspicion on Nadia, and I was the only one who saw through his deception.

I won the murder game.

And then we had cake:

pineapple upside down cake

Delicious pineapple upside down cake that I made, which was super easy. If you want to make it, you'll need:

1 box pineapple cake mix
3 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 and 1/3 cup pineapple juice
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
2/3 cup of butter
1 and 2/3 cups loosely packed brown sugar (I used dark)
maraschino cherries
1 20 oz can of pineapple rings

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2) Melt the butter in the microwave (watch it so that it doesn't explode) and then pour it into a 9 by 13 inch baking pan. Slowly tilt the pan back and forth so that the entire bottom is buttered.
3) Sprinkle the brown sugar over the butter.
4) Arrange the pineapple rings on top of the brown sugar (no overlapping) and put a cherry in the middle of each one. If there are leftover rings, eat them, because you're probably not getting enough fruit.
5) Add all of the other ingredients together in a mixing bowl, and mix them. Pour the batter into the pan, put the pan in the oven for 45 minutes, and then take it out if a toothpick in the middle comes out clean.
6) Let it cool in the pan for about five minutes, and then turn it over onto something to serve it on. We didn't have a serving platter, so we turned it over onto a cookie sheet.

Important note: You have to do the turnover while the pan is still warm, because the brown sugar will still be liquid and the cake will fall out. If you let it cool too much, it will stick in the pan and mess up the cake.

I like to think that victory made the cake extra delicious.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Lost Bears of Knoxville

When I moved to Knoxville in 2006 I spent a lot of time walking around downtown to go to the Farmer's Market:

basket of peppers

and find the parks:

empty rental

and landmarks:

sunsphere sunset

and theaters:

tennessee theater

and to look at the graffiti at construction sites:

starry night

and somewhere along the way I became kind of enamored of the Knoxville Art Bears.

The Art Bears were fiberglass sculptures painted by local artists and auctioned off as part of the 2001 Dogwood Arts Festival. Many of them were purchased by downtown merchants, and every once in a while when you were walking downtown you would stumble across one. The fun of it was that no one seemed to have an exact map of bear locations, to know how many of the original 30 were left on display, or how many had been added since then. They adorned sidewalks, walls, and a few lobbies, and it always made me smile when I saw one I hadn't encountered before.

Then the 9/11 bear came:

9/11 art bear

and people started protesting. The city decided to form a Public Art task force, and even though they initially said that no art already in place would be affected, the order eventually went out that the bears had to go. They're not the only thing that went; the city also lost a large treble clef and a huge Frederick Remington reproduction on Gay Street:

remington sculpture

but it's the bears I miss. Sure, some of them were a little tacky, but some of them had a sense of whimsy that's lacking in a plain sidewalk. They added a sense of charm to an area where the city wants to attract tourists, but then they were suddenly gone.

Some of the bears, though, escaped extinction. This weekend, at the Rossini Festival, I spotted the Italian bear on the corner of the opera stage:

Italian art bear

and it's not the only one that survived. The bear at the zoo escaped, hidden in the bushes above the black bear enclosure:

zoo art bear

and the one at the crew team boathouse survived the purge:

art bear!

I know there still was one inside the visitor center downtown after the culling, but those are the only survivors I've encountered. The 9/11 bear, the stained glass bear:

stained glass bear

the City of Knoxville bear:

state bear

the Bumblebear:


and a pink bear that I saw once but didn't take a picture of because I didn't have my camera with me are all gone.

I still get excited when I see one, since there are so few of them left, but it's a sad kind of excitement. We lost something unique to the city in favor of empty sidewalks and bare walls in a part of town that is slowly tranforming into industrial, identical, featureless lofts and condos. While it may have made foot traffic flow a little more smoothly downtown and it keeps a few people from having to see something that wasn't to their personal taste, I don't agree that what we gained was worth what we lost.

I miss the bears.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

From Russia, With Love

In between sightseeing, doing laundry, and going to work for an Open House, I also did some cooking this weekend. As is typical, I met with mixed success, but this time I have no one to blame but myself for the failed recipe. For the successful one, I blame myself and Russia.

I decided to skip ahead in the gigantic slow cooker cookbook that my parents bought me for Christmas two years ago, because I spend most of my time reading the chicken section. I like chicken, and I could just keep cooking out of that part, but there's a whole other book waiting and I've been wanting to figure out how to make myself like pork. I don't hate pork, but other than pulled pork I don't really ever prepare it or know how to, so I decided to flip through the pork section and see if anything jumped out at me, and that's how I stumbled across the recipe for Verenike Casserole.

According to the book, this was an updated take on the traditional Russian Mennonite dish.

"I've never heard of the traditional Russian Mennonite dish," I mused. "But it looks like I'll like it, and the Russian Mennonites and I have a lot in common, like... um... well..."

I realized that I don't know anything about Russian Mennonites or their traditional dishes. The bulk of my knowledge of Russia comes from television and movies, so I thought I would ask some Russians for a quick rundown of things that the Russian Mennonites and I might have in common. Fortunately for me the Black Widow, former ballerina turned KGB superspy, and Colossus, the steel-plated Soviet strongman with the heart of an artist, were nearby and willing to help:


As they say in Russia, "Spasiba, Piotr and Natasha!"

Confident that I wasn't preparing anything to which I was idealogically opposed, I prepared the cheese mixture that comprises the bulk of the recipe:

cheese mixture

That's cottage cheese, sour cream, evaporated milk, salt, pepper, three eggs, and two cups of diced ham. I poured half of it into the slow cooker, and then was supposed to make a layer of dried lasagna noodles on top of it, but I ran into some trouble:

adding noodles

The noodles kept sinking, so I couldn't tell if I had fully covered the lower layer or not. I eventually gave up, poured the rest over the top, and set it on low for five hours. When I came back, it was all puffed up like a souffle:

verenike casserole (1)

I scooped some out and let it cool a bit:

verenike casserole (2)

I don't know what real verenike is like, but this is cheesy, salty, and good. The only drawback, which I guess could be solved by serving it with a slotted spoon, is that there's a lot of liquid in the cooker. Just looking at that plate, you can see a little pool around the bottom of the noodles. I guess you could let it cook with the lid off for a while, but it might dry out. I find it odd that the recipe didn't mention how wet it would be, but either way it was still good.

I can't say the same for the beets, a favorite of the Russian people, that I made yesterday. They taste fine, but there's a texture issue, which I'll illustrate in a minute. The recipe for Cranberry Orange Beets was also in the slow cooker cookbook, and I was excited because I actually like beets. Usually I just make them from a can, like mom always did, but I'm not afraid of raw beets:

organic beets

I was a little afraid of the price, and kept circling the produce department in Kroger to see if there were other, cheaper beets. Organic is great and all, but for a dollar less per pound I'd be totally ok with ingesting a little pesticide. I mean, I'm already drinking diet soda, so what's a little more unnatural chemistry?

There were no other beets, though, so I took my organic beets home and peeled and quartered them. The aftermath in my kitchen looked like something out of a horror movie:

after the peeling and quartering (1)

Not used to working with raw beets (the only other time I've done so was for this beet and goat cheese salad, and golden beets don't seem to stain like red ones do), I didn't realize that you probably should wear rubber gloves unless you want to scrub your fingers until they are almost raw in order to get the color off of them.

The peeled, quartered raw beets were gorgeous, though:

after the peeling and quartering (2)

All of the colors and shading and rings made them look like a bowl of jewels, or fancy polished sedimentary stones. I dumped them into the slow cooker, dusted them with nutmeg, dotted them with butter, zested an orange over them, and then poured in a couple of cups of cranberry juice and left them alone for the afternoon. When I got back from Rugby I measured out the sugar and the cornstarch, and prepared to stir it into some of the cooking liquid:


Right there is where things went horribly awry.

I mixed in the cornstarch and sugar, stirred it all back into the crockpot, and left it alone for a half hour. When I went back and opened the lid, I saw beautiful beets in a glistening red sauce. Readying a plate, I reached for a serving spoon, plunged it into the pot...

...and nothing moved.

The sauce was completely solid, and my beets were frozen in it.

I gave it a couple of experimental pokes, then plunged the spoon in and finally scooped some up. It was like a jello mold with beets inside:

cranberry orange beets

I started eating it, and it tasted good, but the texture of the firm warm beets and the incredibly slimy rubbery sauce was disgusting. Not only that, but it looked like an autopsy. Wondering why any cookbook would ruin perfectly good beets like this, I went back to the recipe and saw my error:

The recipe calls for 4 TEASPOONS of corn starch, to thicken the sauce.

I used four TABLESPOONS, which is three times the proper amount.

I figure that it happened because the sugar was listed right above the corn starch, and the sugar was measured in tablespoons, so when I went back to measure the corn starch I just accidentally skipped to the line above, but still, I ruined perfectly good beets.

The only excuse I have is that Colossus distracted me. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Rugby, TN

I spent my teenaged and young adult years in New York State, so I'm familiar with failed utopian communities. I've been to the Oneida Community and Shaker villages and places like that, but I had no idea that we had one in Tennessee until I read an article a few weeks ago about the town of Rugby.

It seems that way back in the 1880's, there was a problem in England. All the noble families had their firstborn heir, and then they had the spare, in case the first one died. The problem was that not enough heirs were dying, so there were all these extra young men sitting around being idle with their wealthy allowances but no lands to inherit and nothing to do. Thomas Hughes, a famous English author, decided that he should create a colony for them, and for some reason picked the mountains of Tennessee.

I imagine that the conversation went something like this:

"Crikey! We've got a spot of bother!"

"What seems to be the trouble, my good man?"

"We've got all these idle layabouts, and nothing to do with them."

"What a sticky wicket! By Jove, I've got it! Let's send them to Tennessee!"


"Yes! They can build a colony, and they'll only be a few hours from Dollywood!"

"I beg your pardon, good sir, but there's no such place as Dollywood."

"Oh, there will be. There will be."

It probably took them many weeks to arrive from England, but it only took me an hour and a half to arrive from Knoxville. Kristin was supposed to go with me, but she bailed, so I went alone. This ended up working out well, though, because they do tours every hour and I was the only one who showed up at my hour, which meant I got a personal tour with my own tourguide.

There's not a lot to see. This mural of the colony as it looked in 1880 is still pretty accurate:

Rugby, TN in 1880

Like much of East Tennessee, it ended up looking a lot like Northern New York, but it was a nice sunny day in the mid-50's, so my guide and I had a nice walk and I got some nice, clear pictures.

We started at Kingstone Lisle, the house that Thomas Hughes had built for when he moved to the colony:

Kingstone Lisle

He never actually did move, but his elderly mother did, and lived in the house until she died:

hughes tombstone

It was hard to take any good photos in the house because there's no flash photography and heavy drapes, but I tried:

toward the kitchen

I had better luck outside:

rocking chairs

Percy Cottage

and at the church:

Christ Church Episcopal (1)

christ church episcopal (2)

which was lovely inside, if a little small:

church altar

altar window

The one-room library was also nice:

inside the library (1)

The shelves are actually made of the packing crates that the books were shipped in, stained and given a faux bois finish to mimic wood grain. The windows in the doors:

inside the library (2)

painted window

still have the original paint from the day the library opened.

Overall, the Historic Rugby trust has done a really good job of maintaining what's left of the colony, and even has a small museum in the schoolhouse:

rugby schoolhouse

complete with a creepy mannequin that looks oddly like Counselor Troi:


from "Time's Arrow".

On the advice of my tour guide I also visited the Laurel Dale Cemetary:


and then took a half-mile hike from the cemetary down to the Gentleman's Swimming Hole:

trail to swimming hole (2)

The trail was pretty:

trail to swimming hole (3)

and the swimming hole was nice, with a little sandy beach:

the gentlemen's swimming hole

freshwater clam

but I didn't realize how steep it was until I had to walk back up it:

trail to swimming hole (5)

and discovered that the arrow on the parking lot sign was literal:

trail to swimming hole (4)

The parking lot was pretty much directly above me at that point, but there was still a lot of hiking left before I got there. Maybe the tour guide recommended I go on the hike so that I'd have more of the authentic colonial experience, slogging up a hill in the woods instead of strolling idly down a nice, flat sidewalk.

At least she didn't also give me typhoid, like the colonists caught.