Friday, February 23, 2007

One Day Mini-Vacation

I took a day of vacation from work today just because I wanted to enjoy the nice weather before the blizzard that every weathercaster is predicting arrives. My first impulse was to do something unusual, to make it a real vacation. So I decided to go to a museum I’ve never been to, and I chose the Great Plains Black History Museum. A web guide to Omaha attractions listed their hours as Monday through Friday, 10 am to 2 pm. So I went at about 10:40 am. The sign posted by their door said their hours were 8 am to 5 pm--even better--however, the door was closed and locked, and no one responded to my knocking.

So, with my plans blown away, I just went to the zoo. Not exactly rare or unusual fare for me, but that’s fine. I avoided most of the buildings, because I wanted to enjoy the pleasant, chilly weather. Unfortunately, a great many of the animals were off exhibit, so I didn’t see much. However, it was all made worthwhile by the African hunting dogs, which are apparently new, being in the same enclosure where the maned wolf used to be.

I looked down into the pen and saw what I at first though were two half-grown puppies snuggled up against their mother. When one of them stretched and yawned, I saw another head underneath, and I realized that it was actually a jumbled heap of four puppies. Mother was curled up in a ball sleeping by herself a few feet away.

These are beautiful dogs with large, round ears. Their widely varied markings of black, white, and brown formed spots, stripes, speckles, and flowing, blooming, irregular shapes I don’t have names for. The patterns reminded me a bit of Mexican lace agate, and each animal’s markings were unique.

One of the pups grew restless and moved out of the pile. The other three snuggled up together again, like magnets snapping together. The odd pup out sat near his siblings for a while, then decided he wanted back in. So he stood on top of the others until they shifted to his satisfaction, then nestled himself into the hole that opened. So adorable! And me without my camera!

The joy of watching the puppies cuddle with one another was tempered by some of the other animals’ neuroses, which were displayed full force today. The black-footed cat is one of my favorites, but she seems to have developed an obsessive-compulsive streak. She paced in a very regular triangular pattern. After a couple of circuits, I noticed that she she seemed to always walk in exactly the same places. To check, I picked a spot and watched her footfalls carefully, counting the steps, and discovered that she was always stepping up to the ledge in exactly the same spot and taking the exact same six steps before turning left. That was kind of sad. It got sadder at the main cat complex, where the black jaguar sat chewing the fur off the tip of his tail.

Feeling a bit melancholy, I left the zoo. It was past lunch time, so I was hungry. I thought about going to one of my usual places, since I didn’t feel like coming home and cooking, then I decided to revert to my original plan of going somewhere out of my Habitrail. I remembered over fifteen years ago noticing a place in South Omaha called “Burger Lust.” I never went in, but the name always stayed with me. Since I was in the neighborhood (it’s not far from the zoo), I decided to take a chance.

The full name turns out to be Louie M’s Burger Lust. And it is a bona fide vintage diner. I’ve gotten so used to eating at places like Red Robin that I’d forgotten what a diner was like--not shiny and new, but old and worn down, oozing with character. Green linoleum counter, toadstool seats, faded signs, and mounted fish on the wall--this was small-town Americana in the heart of the old part of Omaha. So I ordered the only truly appropriate meal--burger, fries, and chocolate malt. The fries were nothing special, but the burger was enormous and flavorful, and its uneven edges were a testament to its handmade glory. And the malt was more dessert than beverage, being as thick as soft-serve ice cream (although I know it was normal hard ice cream to start with, because I watched her scoop it out of the tub) and topped with a huge ball of whipped cream and drizzled chocolate syrup. Next time, I’ll skip the fries, but the burger and malt are definitely worth going back for!

I’m still so very full from that gigantic burger that I think my next course of action will be to stretch out on the couch and relax for a while.

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