Saturday, April 18, 2009

Richie and I went to interview another witness to a UFO sighting today. He wanted us to meet him at a Vietnamese restaurant. Our witness, whom I will call Mr. G, was eating when we arrived, but we just wanted drinks for now. I ordered water and coffee.

"Iced coffee or hot?" The server asked. Iced coffee? I thought. Gross. Wasn't it obvious I was a sophisticated coffee drinker who didn't need to mask the flavor by turning it into a milk shake, for heaven's sake?

"Hot." I said politely.

We made some small talk with Mr. G, discussing music and other interests, before getting down to business. In the meantime, the server returned with my coffee. She set before me a tall glass with what appeared to be an inch of cream at the bottom. There was also a spoon and a straw, and on the very top of the class perched an espresso-sized silver pot with a spout. Very dark coffee was slowly dripping from the bottom of the pot into my glass, mixing with the cream at the bottom. I watched it for a moment in uncertainty, then tentatively lifted the lid of the pot and peered in. It was still half full of coffee.

Mr. G, who was watching me, began laughing. I looked up self-consciously. "I'm not sure what to do." I said. I replaced the lid, assuming I should wait for the coffee to finish dripping into my glass.

However, it was taking a very long time, and even had I let it completely empty into my glass, it would have been only the most miniscule amount of coffee. I became increasingly confused when I noticed that the server had also placed a tall, lidded, plastic travel mug next to the glass of cream. I picked it up. It was hot. What was in here, I wondered. Maybe the server hadn't left it after all; maybe it had been left by a customer. I inspected the edge for signs of lipstick, then, with difficulty, tried to pry the lid off. Mr. G. began laughing again. At last the lid gave, and I discovered the travel mug contained hot water.

Now I looked from the mug of hot water to the glass of cream with coffee slowly dripping from the silver pot. I was bewildered and couldn't wait any longer. I signaled the server. "What do I do?" I asked, pointing to the glass and mug.

She regarded the glass with a slight smile. "You mix the coffee with the cream, and then you put ice in it. It's better with ice."

Better with ice? What was with this woman and iced coffee? Fine, I gave up and agreed to the ice, which she brought with delight. That still didn't answer the question of what to do with the mug of water, but I wasn't going to ask yet a second question in this ridiculously complicated ordeal. I let the coffee drip a little longer, then removed the siliver pot, and set it on top of the mug of water so it would drip the remaining coffee into there without making a mess. Then I mixed the coffee in my glass into the cream at the bottom, and found the cream was extremly thick, like sweetened condensed milk. It made a luscious looking rich brown color, and I sipped some through the straw. Oh wow. It was sweet, but it was delicious. I had Richie taste some. Mr. G. was watching all this go down, I have no doubt, with almost as much interest as he had watched the UFO last week.

Before pouring the ice in, I realized I would need water to fill the glass up, and that is when the tall travel mug made sense. So I removed the dripping silver pot from the travel mug long enough to pour in some water (which now contained some coffee), then I added ice. It made a wonderful, sweet cool drink.

And that was my first experience with Vietnamese iced coffee. Apparently, Mr. G. goes there all the time and likes the coffee. I can't imagine why he didn't offer to help me out...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

House Guests

These two birds have chosen the rafter of our porch to sleep on every night. I don't know what kind of birds they are, or why they don't have a nest somewhere, but it is the most wonderful feeling to contribute to the shelter of this precious couple.

[update] I'm pretty sure these birds are Cave Swallows.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sphinx Moth

A little bit ago I spotted this intriguing little creature that I mistook at first for a humming bird. It flew like a humming bird, but upon closer examination, it appeared to be an insect. I did an online search and found it is a sphinx moth. I have never seen one before, to my recollection. My pics aren't that great, but when I went out to get more, the moth was gone. The most interesting thing I read about it is that its metamorphosis from a caterpillar occurs underground and it must dig its way to to the surface!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

First Ghost Hunt

Richie and I got a group together last night to investigate a famously haunted bridge about 30 miles away. It's called the Maxdale Bridge -- on a small road now closed to traffic -- and just beyond it is an allegedly haunted cemetery.

We took five friends -- Christopher and Carrie, Chris and Jessica, and my cousin Matthew. We also took a thermos of coffee, a video camera, and a voice recorder to pick up any EVPs (Electronic Voice Phenomenon -- basically ghost voices below audible hearing). Chris, who is a fire-fighter tried to borrow a thermal imaging camera from the fire dept. but they just laughed at him.

We arrived just as the sun was setting, and apparently angered the resident of the only house in the area, because he started shooting off his shotgun randomly. We have heard that the people in the area are tired of ghost seekers coming to the bridge, particularly those juvenile delinquents who like to deface the headstones of those residents' ancestors. Of course, we would never do such a thing. We wouldn't even enter the cemetery because it is posted that nobody is allowed after sunset and will be fined 500 dollars. We discussed sending one person in at a time so that if anyone got caught we could split the fine among us, but we never followed through.

The shot-gun guy finally gave up and went inside. We wondered if he welcomed everyone like that. Two other cars were there when we arrived, and two more would come and go. Apparently, we had chosen a popular night to investigate, as it was a full moon.

Just as the sun set, and right before we were going to actually start our walk across the bridge with our voice recorder and cameras, a cop showed up and told us to leave. Fortunately, the father of Chris and Carrie (brother and sister) is a cop too, and Chris casually mentioned his dad's name to this cop. After that, the cop gave us permission to at least walk across the bridge, then he left as we began doing so -- which we took as permission to stay.

We made several walks across the bridge as we held out the voice recorder. Carrie, easily the life of any party, was brimming with excitement. If we were not going to see anything, she still just wanted to let out a blood curdling scream once, she said, because it would just be funny. I hoped she would not.

On one of these fairly uneventful walks across the bridge, I did feel something hit my leg that was too heavy to be a bug, but so tiny it could have been the tip of a pencil. I never did know what the source was, so it remains unexplained. Christopher tripped over a non-existent something or other that he felt right at his ankle. There was nothing there that it could have been. So that remains unexplained as well. At one point, I saw Carrie stop to peer at something on the bridge, and I walked up to see what she was looking at. Just as I started to bend down and look with her, she stood up and saw me right in front of her. When she had bent over, I had been a ways off, and as she hadn't heard me approach, she shrieked and went into an amusing dance of jitters. Other than that, no excitement.

However, on one of our last walks - this one with just Carrie, her brother Chris, his wife Jessica, and myself - Chris and Carrie suddenly stopped and pointed out some white thing in the distance. They were seeing something far out in the river bank right where the river bend began. According to them, this thing was "pacing" back and forth next to a large pale rock. I could see the large pale rock, but not the white thing moving near it. We stood there for a long time, and both of them would say, almost in unison, "There it is again!" They would ask if Jessica and I saw it. They would identify its exact position: "It's moving toward the rock! Ok, now it's moving away! Do you see it?" Alas, we didn't see it. I tried so hard to see it that my eyes would blur over until I couldn't see anything. Chris and Carrie would re-position us somewhere alongside the bridge and then point to try to get us to see it. I couldn't. I was so disappointed. I took comfort only in the fact that Jessica couldn't see it either. This thing moved so obviously, then would disappear, and their descriptions of it only frustrated us more.

Then Carrie took the opportunity to let out the meaningless, bloodcurdling scream that she had been suppressing all evening, and I immediately took off running across the bridge. I realized almost instantly her scream had been a joke, but loud noises always make me run. I ran until my fear subsided, then I turned back around. Carrie was almost rolling with laughter. Jessica and I were not amused.

Finally, we called the rest of the party over, and they all saw the white thing as well. They didn't see it with the frequency Chris and Carrie did, but they saw it a couple times. And then, to my dismay, Jessica saw it too, at least once. "I still don't see it, and I have nobody left who hasn't seen it." I said sadly. Nobody saw the thing as clearly as Chris and Carrie, but everyone (but me) saw something at some point, and they always agreed on where it was at the moment and in which direction it was moving. At one point, Richie took out a powerful flashlight that reached just far enough to slightly illuminate the playground of the white thing, and then Carrie said, "There it is! Where the light is!" And I STILL couldn't see it. They finally gave up and we moved on. My only comfort is that I am not susceptible to hallucinations based on suggestion.

Before we left, we decided to shine our headlights on the bridge for 10 seconds, then turn them out. The legend goes that if you do this, you will see the apparition of a man that hung himself. I personally didn't want to see such a sorrowful apparition. I would rather see a happy cowboy riding leisurely on a horse across the bridge, or fishing down by the river. But anyway, we tried the headlight trick several times, to no avail. As the group stood watching the tree and commenting on how they saw nothing, I sarcastically said, "Well, I see it!" This drew much laughter, which was the most I could hope for, on this very uneventful investigation.

After that, we drove to the cemetery where we stood respectfully by the fence and saw nothing there also. On my way up the incline to the cemetery fence, I almost fell in a ditch. Chris did fall in. We made sure to laugh hard about everything, by that point; otherwise, it would have been a complete nonevent. A few minutes later, we saw the approach of two cars, which sent some of us into a panic, even though we weren't technically doing anything wrong. Chris took off running to hide somewhere, and I hurried after him, planning to hide as well. But there was nowhere to hide, and we ended up running in aimless zigzags until we finally just stopped.

The only other amusing thing was that we came up with a name for our paranormal investigation group. Modeled after "The Atlantic Paranormal Society, better known as TAPS, Richie said we were the Texas Paranormal Society, which we realized is TPS. To pronounce that properly, you cannot use your vocal chords, and it sounds ridiculous. So we enjoyed using it as often as we could throughout the evening. While this was amusing enough to us, it is made less amusing by the fact that there really is a TPS, as well as a CTPS (Central Texas Paranormal Society) and a few others, which isn't surprising, but... well, it was fun last night.

After our investigation, we decided to go to the soccer field in Harker Heights, allegedly haunted by a Camanche Indian. But we didn't know where the field was, so we went home.

We still have some video to watch and a couple hours of voice recorder to listen to. Carrie said there will probably be an EVP saying, "Naomi can't see meeee." But that won't matter because I probably won't be able to hear it.