Having survived the gastronomic assault that was New Orleans and theatrical (yet genuine) agony of severing from my best friend, I knew the road to recovery would be a long one. I would have to brave the South with just my tower of canned sardines and flimsy little tent in order to make it to my next true destination: Ithaca. Don’t get me wrong, I have some love for the South. My brother and I spent many a school break in “Hot-lanta,” GA when our mom and step-dad lived there and ye old UNH Rowing team would make our way down to Tennessee and Georgia for spring training. This time it would be just me, myself, and my still simmering fear of camping solo. Well, solo + neighbored by small tribes of male campers who violate social contracts with their prolonged gazes.
It was hot. It was muggy. It was beautiful. I stayed in both Georgia (Morganton Point Recreation Area) and in western Virginia. The first night was the roughest but the second was far easier. I spent nights cuddling with my knife and tazer and mornings trying to wait out the rain in my beloved tent, trying to study for the RD exam. Almost paradise.
Several days of proverbial swimming through the humidity in my little car, I began to see signs that I had returned to my dear sweet New England: hunks of granite, forests so dense you could hardly see into them, and truly asinine motorists.
One of the many great gifts of Ashland arrived in the form of a casual night out with Lisa, playing Catan at our favorite game-spot/bar, Oberons. Two dudes who were playing some old school Nintendo nearby noted that we could use a few more players and we all squeezed into the game corner. These dinguses were also recent Northeastern transplants – both from Ithaca, bomb musicians, and terrible Catan players. Also, they were excellent humans. Tom, Shikhar, and I became dear friends during my time in Ashland and found ourselves in more than one absolutely emotionally exhausting and highly rewarding ordeal. This included the night I took a killer fall while bouldering and they scooped me up and skipped on over to the ER. That might have been my favorite predicament, right after that time our car died in the snowy moonlight national forest half-way to Bend. When I’m up the creek without a paddle, I usually hope if not expect these two to be there. Sadly, Tom is now in Colorado living the yoga life, likely still being an all around cowboy and fine doggy-daddy. Thus, I would enjoy my time with Shak and look forward to crossing paths with Tom another time.
Shikhar showed me around his bucolic town from the fields and watering holes near his house in Danby to the square and best street food and music shops in Ithaca proper. We did some abbreviated guitar lessons in between studying and trying to convince his aunt and mom to bottle and sell their heavenly Nepalese pickles. We were unsuccessful, despite the concept art I made for their label.
Ithaca was darling, but let’s be honest: I was there for the food. On my final night Shak and the fam hatched a plan to have a mini-momo party. Momos. Tiny, chewy packages of Nepalese brilliance. Shak’s mom and aunty prepped the filling, we all rolled up the little gifts, and steamed them until glistening. The dumplings were accompanied by a healthy dose of his aunty’s immaculate hot mustard veggie pickles. Considering my religion revolves around all things aromatic and edible – with special piety reserved for ginger, garlic, and mustard – it was a spiritual experience.
Family beckoned me home, thus I had to hit the road a day earlier than expected and blaze back to New Hampshire where the step-fam was gathered for my oldest nephew’s graduation. Shak download a little bit of final guitar savvy into my fingerbrains and his perfect aunty and mom gifted me some of there firey pickles and spare momos (bless thier hearts) before I had to tear out of there. Thank you, Bajrachayra clan, for your intensely delicious food and all-around hospitality. Thank you, Shak, for being a damn fine guitar sensei and even better buddy. Armed with my study tapes and plenty of podcasts, I bid adieu to the Ithacan royal family. Hours of Jean Inman and Radiolab later, I was swimming in kiddos, chicken fingers, and my very own mother. Of the many, this is one of my favorite homes.