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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

One Lie, a Snake Stick, and the Wet Cloth Effect

Already, I look like a liar. I claimed that I would update this site more or less CONSTANTLY, and then . . . silence.

Why? Well, two things.

Reason One: I had a book due. Writing books is a little like having massive homework assignments all the time. They're good assignments-you want to do them-but they are long and you panic at the end and it always winds up as a teeth-grinding mess to the deadline. And the very moment I accomplished this, along came . . .

Reason Two: I went to England.

I've gotten a lot of noise about this lack of updating, and I deserve it. These are terrible excuses, and excuses are terrible to begin with. I was the queen of excuses when I was a little kid. Let's flash back to show and tell . . .

Show and tell. Kindergarten. The opportunity to pull out your very coolest stuff, bring it in to school, and make everyone look at it. And people had some cool stuff. A guitar. KISS dolls. The occasional pet. One kid in my class was Sioux, and he brought in his DAD-who put on his headdress and showed us a Sioux dance, and then showed us all how to prepare a traditional Native American dish. Which was very, very cool. (I think this was the same kid with the KISS dolls. He really had his act together.)

Me? Not so much. Some of my earliest memories are of getting to school and having that sinking realization: It's show and tell day? GULP.

The first time this happened, I had time enough to grab a small, gnarled stick from under one of the trees in front of the school. I then went in and with a straight face told my entire class that this was a SNAKE STICK. "What's a snake stick?" you ask. Well, a snake stick, according to me, age five, was a stick around which baby snakes learned to crawl-that's why it was so bent and twisted.

I thought I really pulled one over on my teacher with that one.

Things deteriorated slightly when I didn't realize it was show and tell day until show and tell itself. When I was caught out without even a stick to show, I had to stoop to showing my arm. I explained all of its uses, and I walked around the room and displayed it to everyone.

So, this isn't exactly new behavior . . . but I had really good reasons and I REALLY, HONESTLY AND TRULY AM GOING TO UPDATE NOW. SERIOUSLY. I MEAN IT. HERE. LOOK AT THIS SNAKE STICK.

Um . . .

In the yawning silence, people have been writing to me! I've received several lovely e-mails detailing the locations of perfect cups of coffee. Please keep this coming! I am making the Coffee Map of the U.S.A. Also, I am going through the fantastic travel tips that have been submitted. I love getting things! Please e-mail me with anything you like!

And since it was my pathetic excuse, I might as well talk about England a little. It's an interesting place. I've been there lots of times, and every time I go, I think I understand it a little less, which is exciting.

I was talking to a friend, who is English and who I will call Oscar Gingersnort, even though he is quite social and would probably enjoy seeing his name in virtual print. He explained England to me very well by comparing it to the United States and Australia.

In the United States, we get big events-big thunderstorms, big snowstorms, extreme high and low temperatures. California is prone to earthquakes. The wilds of Alaska can swallow you up. The deserts of the Southwest can frizzle you to a crisp. The mild Midwest is home to the tornado. And, as we've seen, the coastal regions can suffer devastating hurricanes and flooding.

Some of the world's deadliest creatures are found in Australia. Awesomely poisonous snakes and spiders. Fish with teeth. Crocodiles. Even the common housecat looks at you with a menacing glare there. (Not really-it just sounded good. May I also note that the Blooming Onion is not a real Australian food? Outback Steakhouse is just making things up. However . . . my hero, Steve Irwin the Crocodile Hunter, is really Australian.)

This is all very alarming to the English. (Not the part about the Blooming Onion. Or Steve Irwin.)

England never really gets too hot or too cold. Hurricanes are rare. Sometimes, there is a light snow. The sun is never very strong; the cold is rarely icy and bitter. English weather is, as Oscar says, "like being hit in the face with a wet cloth-unpleasant, but it won't kill you." On any given day, it's probably going to rain, is probably a little overcast.

"It's a bit dreary," Oscar added. "Sometimes a bit grim. But fortunately, I happen to like it."

English animals are not very scary either. There's no rabies there. They have one poisonous snake, the adder, which is not even that poisonous. They don't have raccoons going through their trash (though they do have foxes), and there are no skunks to startle and spray you with their stinky skunk-smell. They do have the badger, which is a somewhat angry animal that will go after you and attach its teeth to your leg if you make it mad-but it's no crocodile.

So, for your enlightenment, I have listed the three biggest dangers to Americans traveling in England:

1. looking the wrong way when crossing the street and getting knocked over by a Mini or a SmartCar, which probably wouldn't do that much damage

2. wandering into a group of deranged soccer fans

3. eating Marmite

None of these things happened to me. I really have no excuse. I'll be updating again soon. Really.

No, really.