Back home after a relatively quick trip for a family Christmas (and my little sister's 42nd birthday) in Atlanta. It was a lovely visit, good to spend time with family. The presents I gave seemed to be well-received, which makes me happy. And we ate very, very well -- always important! :)
The day after Christmas we went to the Georgia Aquarium, which was absolutely mobbed -- an aquarium staffer told me they'd sold 17,000 advance tickets for that day, plus walk-ins! -- but was very enjoyable nonetheless. They have two whale sharks (named Ralph and Norton), which are enormous enough to be impressive but at 16-17 feet are only about half the size they will be at maturity. The tank that houses them along with a few hundred other fish holds 6 million gallons of water, and has lots of viewing windows, including one the size of a big movie screen. Had it not been so very crowded, I would have loved to just sit there for a couple of hours with my notebook, watching fish and writing. They also have five beluga whales, one of whom has invented the game of blowing bubble rings: he surfaces, takes a mouthful of air, then dives and blows a ring-shaped bubble, which he then plays with. Sometimes he makes a bubble ring big enough to put his face through. It's hysterical to watch, and apparently two of the other whales have learned this behavior from him. They also have a giant Pacific octopus, which I was able to see briefly, but there was a really bad crowd at that spot because it was a popular exhibit with a very small viewing window. And otters! And piranhas! And a coral reef, and lots of other really cool stuff.
The next day we wandered around and shopped in Little Five Points, which has a lot of neat shops although I started feeling extremely middle-aged and uncool there. The best was Charis Books, a feminist bookstore with a pretty good poetry section. I love feminist bookstores (used to volunteer at the one here in Bloomington before it closed down shortly after Borders and Barnes & Noble came to town, go figure) and this was a nice one. My mom had given me one of those Visa gift cards for Christmas and Charis got a pretty good chunk of it. :)
We ate at a couple of good restaurants, both highly recommended if you're ever in Atlanta. After the aquarium we went to Six Feet Under, so named because a) it's a seafood place and b) it's across the street from a humongous cemetery. I had the blackened shrimp tacos, which were wonderful. The place looks like a dive from the outside, but the service was fabulous and the food was very Southern and very very good. For my sister's birthday dinner, we went to Watershed, a casual-but-nice place in Decatur which is co-owned by Emily Saliers of the Indigo Girls. Since it was Tuesday, it was fried chicken night -- a very big deal at Watershed; they often sell out of the fried chicken early in the evening, so we went early, 5:30. Their fried chicken is pretty famous, and takes 48 hours to prepare (soaked in brine & buttermilk, among other exacting preparations) and fully lives up to its billing. You get a heaping plate of it (I think there were 4 pieces), along with a big glob of very good mashed potatoes, two excellent flakey biscuits, and these wonderful garlic green beans. So, so good.
I don't have to go back to work until the 3rd (taking a little vacation time). I hope to use some of this much-awaited downtime for some reading and writing. I want to revise "Breach" (my chapbook ms.) and start sending it out again, revise some poems, and maybe even start writing some new ones. Also, get my grant application started.
I am still catching up on blog-reading and email -- I'll catch up eventually! I hope everyone's holidays have been peaceful. And onward we roll into 2006. Wow, that's a big number. Yikes...