Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Miss Christian goes to Birmingham

Kat got to come to Birmingham for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday (which in Alabama, apparently, is also commemorated as "Robert E. Lee's Birthday" -- yeah, these people are really outragoues), and we had a great time while she was here.

PORK, TOMATOES, & DECAF: OH MY

Kat got here on Friday afternoon, just in time for dinner. After showing her around the revised edition of the apartment (revision: less some of the Lieutenant's furniture, plus some of the things Mike and I purchased), we headed down to the Five Points neighborhood of Birmingham for dinner.

After driving around a bit (evidently, I hadn't shown Kat this part of Birmingham, and she was actually very impressed by it), we decided on Five Points' Bar & Grill for our evening repast.

I had a very excellent pork roast, with some potatoes and fried green tomatoes (done in gourmet style, of course), and Kat had an awesome burger, that I will order when I go back to The Grill (which is how the restaurant is known among Five Points' regulars).

After dinner, and some wonderful conversation, we crossed the square to the Five Points Starbucks where Kat enjoyed some decaf coffee (still don't know why people drink that, Kat included), and I had some hot chocolate (which I usually get at Starbucks).

We shared some more good conversation, and then journeyed back across Red Mountain (passing Vulcan) to head to bed (since it was already midnight).

FROM THE DESERT TO THE PACIFIC

The next morning we woke up rather late, since both of us were tired from a long first-week-back at school, and got ready for lunch. After lunch, we went to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, which turned out to be a great place for a romantic, afternoon date.

We had time to enjoy the Conservatory, with its desert, tropical, and camellia rooms, and the Japanese Formal Garden, much of which was donated by Birmingham's sister city of Hitachi, Japan.

Kat and I especially enjoyed the Japanese garden, though I did get a little caught up in the experience.

With those two emphases, we only saw about one-third of the gardens. We've already made plans to go back when it's a bit warmer, and more of the plants are in bloom (maybe March or April). It should be beautiful.

WILD FOREST(S)

That night, I invited a few people over to Mike's and my apartment to meet Katharyn and generally hang out. There was a good turn out, and we had a lot of fun, with people staying well toward the early hours of the morning.

It was a lot of fun.

On Sunday, Kat joined me in worshipping God at First Baptist Church of Birmingham, and afterward, we had lunch at Panera in Vestavia Hills.

We went back home and changed clothes to get ready for our second date of the weekend, the Birmingham Zoo.

Let me tell you: for a city in Birmingham's position, their zoo was amazing. The variety of animals, the cleanliness and layout of the Park, and the helpfulness and sophistication of the staff were all incredible.

In addition, the Birmingham Zoo had some truly unique attractions to boast: one of the park's gorillas, Babec, was suffering from heart disease (similar to human heart disease). In late 2003, Babec's heart disease was said to have advanced beyond veterinary medicine's ability to heal him.

The zoo sent out a press release, which The Birmingham News published. Soon after that, the zoo received a letter from a physician at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), who informed zoo officials that he believed Babec could qualify for a heart "pacemaker" to treat the gorilla's heart disease.

After consulting with UAB's human heart specialists and Auburn University's veterinary medicine specialists, a team from both Universities and from UAB Medical Center volunteered their time and expertise to attempt the first-ever implantation of a pacemaker in a gorilla.

The surgery took place in late 2004, and all of Alabama held its breath as Babec went under the knife.

When he regained consciousness the next day, back in his habitat at the zoo, he showed signs of strong recovery, and his heart health had increased by almost 35%!

The operation was deemed a huge success, and zoo keepers expect Babec, who was 24 at the time of his surgery, to live another 25 years, to a normal gorilla life-span of about 50 years.

In addition to the heart-warming tale of Babec, there were other fun exhibits at the zoo, including the flamingoes. Yes, I made Kat pose for the picture, and no, she wasn't all too thrilled about it. But folks, how cute is that picture.

We had other up-close encounters at the zoo, including our visit with the Indoasian Tiger in the Predators' section. This male tiger was a beautiful, stunning creature. His eyes gleamed with intelligence, and his body rippled with hidden, yet potent strength. He was truly an amazing animal to behold, and he earned both mine and Katharyn's respect.

Indeed, the tiger's ferocity earned a certain unease in all who watched him, despite several inches of bullet-proof glass between him and us. Despite the glass, we all watched him with some wariness as he paced about his habitat.

DINNER AND DEPARTURE

After the zoo, dinner with some friends at Chili's led to our last night together and Kat's return to Gainesville.

It was a great weekend, and I am thankful that God allowed us to share such an amazing time together. The more time I spend with Kat, the more I realize what a blessing God has made her in my life.

Now, my mini-vacation is over, and it's back to the grind: and, wouldn't you know it, Birmingham decided to rain on me this morning as I went back to class. But oh well, it's another day, and tomorrow (as Scarlett O'Hara famously said), will be one, too.

FEELING: Blessed and happy
LISTENING TO: Whispers and the tapping of computer keyboards in the library

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