Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Bats

As evening comes on, you can stand under the northern end of Congress Bridge and hear the bats chittering in a continual, eager chorus, their tiny voices calling out, responding, calling out from the dark cracks in the structure above. The air is heavy with their rich odor, and the effect is somewhat unsettling; it feels as though you are about to witness something forbidden. Other people seem to notice this feeling too, and only a few come under the bridge as they gather to watch the nightly flight.

As the sky darkens, people begin to line up on the bridge top, to cluster on the riverbank, some paddle slowly in canoes and rowboats. It is a congenial atmosphere, quiet and relaxed. Soft conversation drifts along the water, families lounge on the bank, children idly pluck at the grass blades.

Then, just as the sun disappears and the sky darkens from periwinkle to grey, the bats erupt. They spiral out from their cracks in sudden clouds, each a turbulent mass of erratic flight with all the grace and direction of paper caught in a sudden wind. They whirl and dive after insects, chaotically undulate in the breeze, their thousands of wings producing only a surprisingly soft flutter. A chorus of flashbulbs greets them from above as the bats churn along the outer edge of the bridge.

The clouds are gathering at the center, and a great billow suddenly stretches east and upward, a finger of flapping black smoke uncurling into the sky. A moment later and it is a river snaking toward the horizon, bats farther than your eyes can make out in the dimming light, and they are still streaming from under the bridge in a thick, muddled mass.

And we are watching. On the bank, people are standing and pointing, children flapping their hands and calling out. The river has somehow produced open-decked tour barges filled with passengers holding newspapers over their heads to protect them from the sudden storm of bat-feces raining down on them.

On the bridge, it is now a circus. The crowd has lined up en masse along the edge of the bridge, three or four deep. It is loud up there, shouting, laughing and even, at the first dramatic burst of bats, applause. Vendors of glow-in-the-dark bracelets push their way along the side walk, pre-teen girls loudly assert their boredom, a haggard man in a Grizzly Adams beard and a bikini (!) trots through the crowd, collecting double takes and shocked steps backward. A white suburban drives slowly along the bridge, U-turns when he comes to the far side and then drives back, over and over, all the while playing some sort of amplified cat-miaow at top volume, his intentions unknown.

When it becomes too dark to see, the crowd quickly breaks up. The ones on the bridge go first, as it's hard to see dark bats against dark water in dimming light. The watchers on the bank linger the longest over their dramatic view, the bat-swarm still visible against the last shreds of lighted sky.

We leave later than the rest, walking over the now quiet bridge. Looking down, we see the soft tumble of bat flight, more emerging from their cracks to join the hundreds of thousands already winging through the night air


More about the bats.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Austin

Austin is...

Hot.

Sadly, spoiled as I am by the arid conditions of New Mexico (and to a lesser extent the temperate spring of Prague), this is my main impression of what is no doubt a beautiful city.

A beautiful, hot city.

We open the door and step out of our apartment, a tangible wave of heat pushes us back in. Outside for fifteen minutes, neural synapses begin mis-firing. We cook in the car, simmer in the sun, broil every minute outside.

We have an apartment, not the greatest part of town, but the space is roomy, and it has skylights and a fireplace. Not that the latter will come in handy in this blistering weather, but well, there’s just something classy about having a fireplace. Even if it is God’s cruel joke.

I am jobless still, Courtney has a few weeks until school starts, we spend the days scratching imaginary fleas and howling at Saturn’s moons. We really need an outlet.


So, obviously this journal is back in action. There will be changes, of course, but probably not any time soon. Perhaps the most dramatic will be an eventual change of venue, there are too many things I don’t like about Blogger. But I’ll probably have to shell out for any other web site, and maybe even learn some (yeek!) html before that happens, so a couple more months at blogspot at least. Other changes? Heh, get ready for this one:

shorter, more frequent updates.

Maybe I’m just telling stories, maybe it’ll really happen. Check back to find out!

I know I will!