This is Saturday' post. Which makes me think of The Saturday Evening Post, which made me wonder if it is still in existence?
I am writing in a hair salon on Broadway at 105th Street, where a certain Charlotte Meffe is getting her haircut--but only because I insisted. Charlotte wants her hair long and straight, or as she told me on the way here, "Basically, I don't want to have to do anything to it." which includes blow drying. Washing her hair , letting it air dry and then (maybe) brushing it is her idea of styling. By the way, for those of you not in New York, the cost is $45 for her haircut, which includes a wash but no drying. "NO STYLING!" The guy told me, like it was a threat. $45 for a haircut and leaving with wet hair is "Highway Robbery" as my father would say, but it seems about right in Manhattan pricing (which is different that normal pricing.) As my father pointed out the last time he was in New
York, "They charge tolls on every road here, and the roads are in terrible shape! In Cincinnati I drive around for free on beautiful roads! This is highway robbery!" I enjoy this example because it is both literal and figurative. Most excellent. Expect this on your final exam.
Terrorism update: I can report that there are checks in place all over Manhattan and at every point of entry. Apparently there are also checks in the subway (this news comes from Charlotte, I have not been on the subway today) and there is a lot of security around midtown. I'm keeping the kids north of 100 street--not because of a terrorist threat--but because that is the area we are in today. Sunday is a different story, we are supposed to be in midtown at church, and going through the tunnel twice on a car trip. I will--as I always have--just go with my gut about safety as the weekend progresses. Rob is more of a "Screw the threat" kind of guy, while I am more cautious. Venus and Mars, I suppose.
So let's get back to our story, because as you have figured out by now, we have arrived at September 11, 2001. We're dealing two primary locations, Nairobi, Kenya and Atlanta Georgia (although all the real action was happening in New York, D.C. and Pennsylvania), and keep in mind that Nairobi is 8 hours ahead of Eastern Standard time.
Let's get our malaria shot and head over to the wild kingdom first, shall we?
Mom and Dad flew via Brussels and landed in Nairobi on Sunday night. They had a day of hanging around the famous Stanley Hotel while waiting to meet up with the rest of the group to leave on the scheduled safari stops. Mom likes to talk about the dinner they ate that night, which was at a restaurant called Carnivore and the waiters, called "Carvers" walked around with grilled meat on sticks. "Elk and zebra legs--the whole leg!" She says. "That's the night I became a vegetarian."
The next morning--Tuesday (still Monday night, EST)--they met up with their small group, which was a group of six Americans from the west coast. Mom and dad had their own tour guide, Abraham, who was assigned to them for the entire trip. He was in charge of their schedule and well being, which was about to become a much bigger job than originally anticipated.
They traveled 2-3 hours by car to Sweetwaters Tented Camp, which is a private conservancy that has it's own wildlife collection roaming the grounds. As you'd expect, they live in tents, but these are not of the L.L. Bean variety, they are....a little fancier. But as we look at that picture and think, geez, that's so cushy, I feel compelled to remind you that they are about a half a football field away from this neighbor:
The big event at Sweetwaters is the night safari, which is basically where you climb into a Land Rover with big flashlights and say, "Here kitty, kitty, kitty" while looking for wildlife. I like to picture the night scenes in the movie Jurassic Park.
Before heading out, they were all gathering for dinner. Mom and Dad arrived at the main building, which housed the front desk/business office and restaurant, and immediately noticed that no one was to be seen. They looked around and discovered everyone crowded into a small bar/tv room, watching the TV. They walked in and went through the confusion of--"What's happening...what movie are you watching--hey are those the Twin Towers?--a plane???" that we all went through that day.
My mother, who has a memory like a steel trap immediately remembered that Rob and Charlotte were scheduled to fly to New York that morning and freaked out. Remember that there were no details about what was going on in any capacity--CNN International didn't know where the planes had come from, who was on them or if there were more. They sat and watched, waiting for details to emerge from the one English channel available.
My mother, worried and no longer wanting to be anywhere exotic, looked at my father and said, "We're going home."
Back on Peachtree Street, we were just waking up, and by "we" I mean me and Rob. Charlotte, even at three, could sleep like a champion, but we'd have to wake her soon. They had a flight around 11:30am to get Rob back in plenty of time to get Charlotte set up with the sitter so he could play Les Miserables on Broadway. Charlotte hadn't spent a lot time in a hotel and I remember thinking it would be so fun to wake her up with room service, because the Georgian Terrace Hotel still did the old fashioned rolling table with white linens delivery. I distinctly remember two things. One: that room service was so outrageously expensive that Rob and I had a small disagreement about it (I won...because...) Two: I was already weepy that they were leaving.
We ordered pancakes and coffee and flipped on the TV quietly to check the weather report that comes on the Today show at 8:55am. We never got to the weather. Matt Lauer and Katie Couric were on TV with pictures of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, although the 1993 footage usually had snow in it, and this footage seemed bright and sunny, and why was the building smoking in the middle? And then, the second plane hit and all of our lives turned upside down.
And Charlotte was waking up.
And there were plane tickets on the bed.