Sunday, February 06, 2005

One Day in Tibet

Saturday my wife and I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary.

Being as how it’s our 5th Anniversary, I’ve wanted to do something special for it for a while now, but hadn’t been real proactive toward actually planning anything until last week. Oh, sure, I’d been pestering the wife for weeks as to what she wanted to do for it, but she seemed very non-committal, which told me that the ball was firmly in my court and it was my turn to plan something good.

A couple of years back, I’d hatched a plan to spend our 5th anniversary in the cabin we rented in Gatlinburg for our honeymoon. However, I’ve somehow failed to become spectacularly wealthy in the intervening time since then, so that was out for this year. I knew we would at least go out to dinner and I would at least get her a dozen roses and a card, but it seemed like there needed to be something extra on there too. Something special. Something unique. After all, I was celebrating having spent five of the best years of my life with a woman who has come up with some very nice and well thought-out anniversary presents for me in the past. 

While lamenting about this topic at the library last week, I happened to say, "Well, I guess we could just drive to BIGGER CITY and eat Indian food, if nothing else."

"Oh, if you're coming to BIGGER CITY, you should come see the Tibetan Monks too," Mrs. B said.

"Do what?"

Mrs. B explained that a group of Tibetan Monks were going to be appearing at her daughter’s college in BIGGER CITY. In fact, her daughter had been in charge of booking the monks' appearance and was terrified that no one was going to come see them. Mrs. B and her family were going to go over to help fill seats. This struck me as something that the wife might really want to see. After all, if you’ve got Tibetan Monks on site, there’s gonna be some tri-tonal throat-singing going on too and that stuff is just amazing.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, tri-tonal throat singing is a process many Tibetan Monks have mastered whereby they are able to sing in a very low vocal range and have such control over their vocal muscles that they can actually sing in three separate tones at once. (Janice Joplin only managed two!) They can thereby sing in musical chords all by themselves. You get a bunch of monks chanting in tri-tones in unison and it can be mighty impressive.

Now, I know that Going to See Tibetan Monks probably doesn’t sound like anything cool or romantic to you guys, and perhaps it’s not. But I knew it would certainly be memorable, unique and pretty much on theme for us. I also knew the wife would enjoy it. That decided, I alerted her to the fact that I had something in the works for Saturday evening, though I would not be telling her ANYTHING about it so she wouldn’t have any chance of guessing it ahead of time and spoiling the surprise, as in accordance with tradition. Of course, she pestered me until I told her that my plan involved a drive to BIGGER CITY, which was just enough to get her imagination really going.

The wife had asked off for half a day from her Saturday family practice rotation in Town-R, so it looked like we'd be right on schedule to leave. My master plan was to leave the house at 2 p.m., pick her up some roses and a card at the local flower shop, hide those in the trunk, meet her at Wal-Mart by 3 p.m., hit the road for the 2 hour drive to BIGGER CITY, eat massive amounts of Indian food at our favorite Indian food restaurant where I would also surprise her with the roses and the card, then pop on over to the university for some Tibetan Monk throat-singing action.

So confident was I in my plan that I spent most of the morning messing around with this stupid blog, and not out buying flowers, and thus I was completely caught unawares when she phoned me at 12:30 to say she was on her way home early.

Town-R is 40 minutes away from our house in Town-C. Assuming she was calling from Town-R and not at the bottom of the hill in Town-C, that meant I now only had maybe half an hour, forty minutes at the most, to go get flowers and a card and get back to the house before she did. The local flower shop in Town-A was too far away to risk it, so I would have to get them closer to home. I slapped on some clothes and hauled ass for Town-B's Kroger.

The deep red roses in Kroger's floral department left much to be desired in terms of everything but price. You could choose to buy them at either $3.99 a piece or 12 for $19.99. Unfortunately, they were kinda ratty-looking roses whose petals had started to blacken, so I really didn't want them even at that price. They did, however, have some bright pink roses that looked and smelled nice so I went with those. Miracle upon miracles, I was also able to find a great card that said exactly what I felt in under 5 minutes. That only left braving the checkout lines, which at that time on a Saturday, were packed. The express lane was especially lengthy, so I tried one of the others before realizing I was just about to break in line in front of a lady with a brimming cart and hot-pink hair that nearly matched my roses.

"Whoever she is, she'll love them," the pink-haired lady said.

"I hope so," I said, stepping into another line.

Kroger took a lot longer than I'd planned, but I managed to get back home a full eight minutes before the wife did. I had just enough time to get the roses in a vase, prepare the card and place it all for maximum presentation when she walked through the door. And, indeed, she loved them.

We hit the road shortly after 2 and made the drive to BIGGER CITY. It's a gorgeous drive to make on any day, but with the sun shining for the first time in weeks, and it being my anniversary and all, it was especially lovely.

Of course, the whole way to BIGGER CITY I was under constant interrogation from the wife as to what our plans were for the evening. She sussed out the Indian food right away, but she pretty much knew that was in the cards. Since leaving all our favorite Indian restaurants behind when we left Charlotte nearly 4 years ago, we've sought out any and all such establishments in the region and always make it a point to stop by our favorite in downtown BIGGER CITY whenever we're in the area. Beyond that, I did give her a few hints. I wanted her to know up front that it was NOT something that the average Joe on the street would consider particularly romantic or worthy of a 5th Anniversary celebration, but that it would be a similar unique foreign cultural horizon-widening musical experience as she gave me two years back when she got us tickets to Ladysmith Black Mambazo and refused to tell me who we were going to go see. 

"Is it African?"



"Not directly, but there is a link there."

"Nora Jones?"

"No. That would be cool, but it's not Nora Jones."

"Is it dancing?"

"I don't know. Dancing might be involved."

"Is it colorful?"

"Yes. Yes it will be colorful. Kind of a yellowish orange color."

"Is it a tiger?"


"What country is involved."

"I can't tell you that. It would give it away immediately."

"You left to go get flowers just after I called, didn't you?"


"Well, yeah," I said. "What am I supposed to do when you call and throw my master plan higgledy piggledy?"

This sort of questioning went on for quite a while, punctuated by attempts on my part to change the subject. She kept pestering me for more and better hints. She eventually began a laundry list of foreign countries in an attempt to lure me into confirming or denying each.

"I'm not gonna do that," I said. "However, I will say that it is another country in Asia."

And this is what tipped it.

"Hmm. Asian country... Yellowish orange... Not a tiger..." she mused. "Ah! I got it. Tibet!  We're going to see Tibtan monks?"

"Yep," I said. I wasn't even angry about it. Ever since our birthday present guessing game last October, I've decided that if it gives my wife greater joy to guess what her present is when I'm trying to keep it a secret--and it always does--then that's okay by me.

"Are they going to throat sing?" she asked.

"That's the plan," I said.

She seemed suitably pleased at this.

Having left far earlier than I'd planned, we arrived in BIGGER CITY far earlier than I'd planned and had to figure out stuff to do for a while until it was time for dinner. We contented ourselves with finding the theatre building on the campus where we would be seeing the monks later, then drove around town looking for Honda dealerships where we might test-drive a Honda Element, her current choice for new car when we get to a place that we might think about buying a new car. We were unsuccessful in finding any Honda dealerships, but we did find one ratty assed comic book store that gave us both the screaming willies and soon after passed by a different one that looked much better. I figured she had probably had enough of comics for one day, though, so we didn't stop.

Around 5, we headed for INDIAN RESTAURANT in downtown BIGGER CITY, our current favorite Indian restaurant. Our meal there was fantastic and everything we could have hoped for. We each got a full order of samosas for an appetizer, (I, frankly, would have been content with just ordering a fat plate of about 10 of those bad boys and calling it an evening, I love them so much), and then ordered our meal. I had the Chicken Korma, which was spectacular and full of crunchy little almondy bits, while the wife had a different chicken dish that I can't recall the name of but which was a good deal hotter than she would have preferred. (It's her own fault, as she's the one who told `em to make it hot.) We shared our dishes with each other, as well as a heaping basket of assorted nan, another favorite of mine.

After dinner, we walked around downtown BIGGER CITY for a half hour or so, seeing the sights. It's is a really nice area full of trendy little restaurants, all of which look wonderful except we're never going to eat at any of them because we'll never not go to the Indian place right there. But we stopped for a bit and watched a sushi chef prepare sushi in the window of one of these little trendy eateries. The wife tried to attract his attention to tell her what a particular odd looking fishy/crustaceany bit was, but he was steadfastly ignoring her. The evening was cool, though not cold, so we had a nice walk before heading over to the college theatre.

I'm glad we got to the college early, cause if we'd arrived at 7:45 like I'd originally planned we might not have gotten a seat. Mrs. B's daughter had been terrified that no one would come to see the Tibetan Monks, but the place was packed. I'd say the crowd was filled with 1/4 students from the college, whose religion professors had probably forced them to attend, 1/4 interested outside parties such as us, and about 2/4's hippies. Not dirty hippies, mind you, as they all seemed pretty clean and well-dressed, but there were certainly a wide variety of granola types present and accounted for. We eavesdropped on the conversations of several, who complained bitterly about how much the local area magazines were charging them for advertising for their New Age crap shops.

At 8, the show got underway.

The monks were represented by a spokesman who came up to a podium to explain to us the various parts of Tibetan monk culture which we would be seeing throughout the evening.

The first demonstration the monks did was to play traditional Tibetan instruments and sing. It was kinda neat and all, but not really what I was there for. Then, for the second demonstration, they brought all the monks out again for some throat singing and things got really good.

While I believe most of the monks throat sang during the demonstration, there was one guy who was obviously the standout throat-singer of the bunch. He had a deep resonant tri-tone that just reached out and grabbed you by the spine and held you pinned in your chair. It didn't sound so much like a voice as it did some sort of big honkin' deep woodwind.

My other favorite bit of the evening was when two monks came out in a two-person snow-leopard costume and gallivanted around the stage like a big clumsy dog. That was crazy funny. There's just something about a big old white and green snow-leopard shaking his head and pretending to sleep and winking at the audience and wiggling his ears that just hits my funny bone.

I won't go into a play by play of the rest of the Tibetan demonstrations, but they were definitely interesting.

All in all, it was a wonderful evening. My only real regret is that we didn't find a hotel room for the night instead of driving all the way back. We were both pretty tuckered by the end of it.

Five years of marriage has passed by pretty quickly. We've had our ups and downs, of course, but mostly it's been ups. I can't really express how amazing I think she is. Sure, she's mean as a snake when she wants to be, and has occasional flashes of a dark sense of humor, which is part of the reason I was attracted to her in the first place, but she's still one of the best human beings I've ever known. I'm eternally grateful that we met seven years ago and that I had the good sense to see how amazing she was even then, and that I got off my ass to tell her how I felt.

That's a nice story for another time, though.

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