“A person who sees nothing of the numinous in the everyday has no business writing.”
Kit Whitfield

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

being the tragic comedy and comic tragedy of the death and resurrection of the 1997 Saturn SW2
Tue 2016-07-12 23:29:25 (single post)

Oh, my goodness, it's been a normal day at last. A normal day, with normal workday expectations, with the normal workday rituals, and with the normal battle between me and the short story currently under revision. (There are things I want said in the first scene, and there seems to be no good way to say them.) A normal Tuesday also with its normally scheduled roller derby beat-down because what doesn't kill us makes us strong. A normal day. Bliss.

So. Now that things have returned to normal, I will very briefly (Ha!) recount for you the tale of woe known as The Death and Resurrection of the 1997 Saturn SW2.

Here's the thing about a 20-year-old car: We knew quite well it needed replacing. We'd been talking about it all year. The problem is, we hadn't managed to find time to go car shopping, or even to think about what we might want in a new car. "After Boise," we kept saying to each other, referring to the last roller derby bout in a series of bouts each placed uncomfortably soon after the previous. "We'll have a little room to breathe after Boise."

We also knew quite well that, the car being 20 years old, it should get a check-up before we entrusted it with our trip to Salt Lake City. So on Thursday morning, June 23, I took it to the shop. The shop recommended some work be done. We did that work. The car was then proclaimed fit for the drive.

I am telling you this so that you will know that we did our due diligence.

On June 24, six hours into the eight-hour drive, 90 miles short of our destination, our transmission went out. Just died. By flooring the gas pedal, we managed to limp into the Pilot Travel Center in Evanston, Wyoming, exit 6 on I-80 west, at about 25 miles per hour and with our hazard lights blinking. We pulled into a parking space in a cloud of steam and a waterfall of bubbling-over coolant fluid. Things looked grim.

Thanks to the magic of Triple A Plus and the miracle of having made it just close enough, we were towed at no charge the whole rest of the way to our hotel. So at least we were there, more or less on time, and ready to participate in the Wasatch Roller Derby Great Salt Skate as planned. We'd be relying on our teammates' good graces and the remaining empty spaces in their cars to ferry us between the hotel and the venue, but our ability to skate or coach (depending on who you're talking about) at the event remained unimpaired.

The next day, the mechanic around the corner from the hotel (recommended to us glowingly by the Triple A agent) gave us the bad news. Why did the transmission go out? Because all the transmission fluid had leaked away. Why was there a leak in the transmission? Because the transmission was one of the few things remaining in that car that was actually still 20 years and 285,000 miles old. (The chassis is one of the few other things. The engine is not.) There was no sign of impact. It wasn't an accident. It was simple wear and tear--and nothing we could have expected our usual mechanic to have discovered, because it hadn't developed that leak until midway through our drive. It was just rotten luck and terrible, terrible timing. And our transmission, due no doubt to having been driven without fluid, fried its little self to a crisp. The only way that Saturn was riding again was with a new transmission--which the mechanic wasn't 100% certain he could source, it being for a car that not only was 20 years old but also whose manufacturer was no longer around to make parts for a Saturn SW2.

I got this news during half time of our first bout of the weekend. Imagine me geared up, phone at ear, rolling back and forth behind the short bank of spectator bleachers. Pacing. On roller skates. "Fleur? Is your head in the game?" Yes. Well. It will be.

John, that is to say Papa Whiskey, was in full-on coach mode, having just given the half-time pep talk when I got off the phone and told him what I'd learned. He put his arm around me and he said, "Whatever happens, we will figure this out, and we will handle it together." It was just what I needed to hear, and, weirdly, just the way I needed to hear it. A reminder that I wasn't alone. And that we weren't there alone. It wasn't just the Niki-and-John team, which is a pretty valiant team in its own right. The two of us had the rest of the BCB All Stars team with us, and we were part of that team, and just knowing that, I think, made both of us feel more capable. Indomitable. Up to whatever challenge life threw at us. Strong, Smart, Together. You hate for crisis to hit, but if it must, let it hit while you've got your roller derby team surrounding you.

We pause while the author composes herself. *ahem.*

So we had several decisions to make, some more urgent than others. The big one was, if the mechanic can source a replacement transmission, do we have them put it in? Into--I repeat--a 20-year-old car? The urgent decision was, how are we getting back to Boulder so that people can go to work on Monday? The answers transpiring on Saturday the 25th were "Maybe? Depending on the price?" and "Probably Niki will stay in SLC with her friend, and the rest of the carpool will find room in other carpools. We hope? And then maybe Niki will wish she had just gone home if it turns out the mechanic can't source a new transmission and/or we decide to abandon the vehicle? But at least she'll get a nice visit with her friend out of it?"

Then on Sunday morning we remembered that rental cars existed. The original carpool could go home Sunday afternoon/evening as planned, just in a 2016 Dodge rather than in a 1997 Saturn. Don't think we didn't notice the difference in the ride. (We were, in the course of things, reminded how expensive one-way out-of-state rentals can be, especially if you pick the car up at an airport but do not return it to an airport. What price peace of mind, right?) And I'd return to SLC alone if need be. So. We finished out the tournament, checked out of the hotel, and drove back to Boulder without incident.

That's Part 1 of the story.

Now, before I get to Part 2, I need to tell you this: I've retold this story several times, and very, very often, well-meaning friends will hear the bit about the transmission being fried and reflexively burst out, "No! A new transmission? No way. And it would cost how much? No. Not worth it. Get a new car. Stupid to put that kind of money into such an old car." And then they hear Part 2, and realize that they pretty much just called us, their friends, stupid. So it goes. Friends do that. They say unfortunate things to each other, they forgive each other, they move on. But, see, I really want to say this:

Everyone's got a right to make the best decision for themselves regarding the use of their particular resources, and, well, respect that, yeah?

Also, unfortunately, I kinda have Daddy Issues in this department. My Dad has many good qualities, don't get me wrong, but no parent is perfect, and, well, he authored a few of my most notable neuroses. Right now what I'm thinking of is the approach he took to Teaching Good Judgment. It goes like this: Any time young Niki had a decision to make, it was a test. Will Niki excercise good judgment? It was an easy test to evaluate. Either young Niki made exactly the decision her Dad would have made, in which case she had exercised good judgment, or she would make ANY OTHER DECISION which was by definition WRONG and STUPID and proof that she did not have good judgment and could not be trusted with responsibilities or privileges.

(Friends who know me well may also see the seeds of my own tendency to just assume that any plan I come up with is Obviously THE Most Logical Way to Do Things. I'm working on it. Sorry, friends.)

So you can see where I struggled with the decision. I knew very well what The Right Decision was. The Right Decision was to abandon the car and redirect the money that would have gone into the new transmission into the down payment on a new car. To do anything else would be WRONG and STUPID and proof that Niki Cannot Be Trusted With Money Or A Car.

The problem was... abandoning the car would leave John and I with no car. We can get by with no car, but not comfortably, and not for long. (For instance: During the week we had no car, there was a day I could not secure a ride to roller derby practice, so I biked it. It's possible! It also takes 45 minutes to an hour each way, there is no street lighting for almost the entire way, and a bike ride of that length requires an expenditure of physical energy that I'd rather save for roller derby practice.) And, remember, we had made no start on new-car-shopping yet, and new-car-decisions need to be made by people who can walk away from the table, not by people who are under the We Have No Car We Need A Car We Must Buy A Car NOW pressure. So we were really deciding between two different "wastes of money"--prolonging the life of the existing car so we could have time to make the right decision for ourselves on a new car later in the year (and enjoy having two cars for a little while), or pressuring ourselves into making a quite possibly poor decision on a replacement car NEXT WEEK.

(That's the logical stuff. There was emotional stuff at play, too, like I'm not ready to let it goooooooo! I'd be lying if I said there wasn't. But it was the logical stuff that won the day.)

The mechanic in Salt Lake called Monday and quoted us a price on a remanufactured transmission with a 100,000-mile/3-year warranty attached. We discussed it, determined that we could afford it, and--after much more discussion, because this was the hard part--decided that it was worth it to us. We told the mechanic to go ahead. Then I reserved train fare for the following weekend.

(I dithered over whether I should ever admit to Dad that this is, in fact, happened. We'd been talking about the car situation on and off for some time; besides, it was roller derby adjacent, and I tell him all my best roller derby stories. In the end, I did tell him the whole Salt Lake City saga. It was like pulling off a Band-Aid. And, as it turned out, he did not say anything about poor judgment. I guess he really has adapted to the idea that his little girl is a grown-up now. Like I said, my Dad has many good qualities.)

Intermission over. We now proceed to Part 2. Part 2 is me returning to SLC to recover the car.

That, by the way, is my first attempt to Storify something. It doesn't tell the whole story, but it gives a good outline. You can see, by the way, why it took me so long to find time to blog about it. I'm not even sure I really had time tonight. But we all make the decisions that seem the best for us with the resources that we do have, and I'm blogging it tonight anyway.

So from the Storify you've got the basics: Sunday, July 3rd, at 5:00 AM, I biked down to Boulder Downtown Station to get on the 6:00 AM bus to Denver Union Station, arriving at 7:00 AM or so. I boarded the Amtrak train to Salt Lake City at 7:45 and began that 15-hour journey at 8:05. Amtrak, you see, was much cheaper than another car rental, since I have a goodly stash of Amtrak Guest Reward points stashed away for just such occasions. Well, mainly I have them stashed away to spend on single-zone one-way sleeper accommodations, but they are also useful for this sort of situation. Amtrak was much cheaper in terms of stress, too; I'd already have to make one 8-hour drive alone, so why make two if I could help it?

It was a super relaxing ride. It was gorgeous. The whole drive up to Salt Lake the first time--well, as far as John and I were driving--I kept exclaiming about the geology, the erosion-sculpted rocks, the colors of the strata, the way the mesas looked like giant children's play-dough sculptures plopped atop a table draped in a flowing tablecloth with crumbs spilling down the folds. "Fleur, you missed your calling," my teammate joked. Don't we all have multiple alternate lives we could have lived, and maybe are living now in some alternate universe somewhere? Anyway, I got to really feast my eyes on it this time through. I also was able to get some writing done, and some reading too. And playing, of course. Computer full of little clicky games, why not?

AND I GOT TO CATCH UP ON SLEEP. If you've been reading along, you know how important that was.

July 4 was a small respite from all the comings and goings. Not only did I get to skate around downtown Salt Lake City for a bit and then relax in my hotel room like someone with nothing better to do (bliss! having nothing better to do!), but there was time also for a long, unhurried evening having dinner with my very dear friend and her family. Even if I didn't already have Sound Logical Reasons for going to all this expense and effort to get our car back, even if those Reasons weren't in and of themselves perfectly sufficient, there was knowing also that if I went back to Salt Lake City, I'd get to see my friend again, and with any luck for more than that very hurried hour in the hotel lobby that was all we got during the first trip. It was worth that whole second trip, Monday the 4th was.

OK, wow, I've been at this blog post for two hours. Two hours after roller derby practice. And this post has exceeded 2,000 words, sez Scrivener. So, um... more later? There will be more later. The Storify has the short version, but I'm not really good at non-verbose. You may have noticed.

you only get one back but also only 24 hours in a day
Wed 2016-06-22 23:56:25 (single post)

The linden tree out front opened its blossoms today sometime between 9:00 AM and noon. I'm guessing, anyway. It only makes sense. I didn't notice smelling it on my way out to the car this morning, but when I got back around lunch time the scent hit me like a ton of bricks dropped out of Paradise.

(Something else smelling paradisiacal, or at least not terrible, is my derby gear. I washed it today, every piece of it. In the washing machine on the delicates/handwash and small load settings, then a little tea tree oil in the rinse, and finally out in the sun to dry, at least until the afternoon's rain storm. I'm still not over the miracle of owning our own washer and dryer. If we'd been still on the Remington Post coin-ops, I'd have had to hand-wash the suckers in the bathtub.)

I had the car so I could get to Longmont where my chiropractic appointment was. Actually, I'd arranged with John to have the car, by dint of dropping him off at work (hence the morning out, the writing session at a cafe near his office, and the return home for noon), so I could make that appointment and Bombshells practice--but I was talked out of going to practice by pretty much everyone I mentioned my foot pains to. "We need you in top form this weekend," pretty much everyone said. "Don't injure your foot!" (That should be capitalized. Pretty Much Everyone is a recurring character in my lightly fictionalized biography.) So I restricted myself and my foot to just the chiro appointment.

I have never gone to chiro before. I mean, discounting the time I went with a "free initial evaluation" coupon to some place in north Boulder that no longer exists, which is just as well. "How are you," I greeted the practitioner, like you do. "Oh, I'm just blessed!" he replied. And I realized the waiting room music was Gospel Lite. Later, after the practitioner noticed me wearing a pentacle, he sort of speed-talked through his speech about "our God-given spine" like he wanted to get it over with as quickly as I did. Anyway, that was years ago, and I've been under no impression that it represented the entire chiropractic field.

But I was never entirely certain I believed in chiro, kind of like I'm not sure I believe in acupuncture. In the case of acupuncture, I don't have to believe or not believe; I intensely dislike being stuck with needles (not many derby skaters have exactly zero piercings and tattoos, but here I am), and my one attempt at putting up with it involved pain and tears and will not be repeated. ("What do you mean you can't stand needles? You play derby! You obviously have a high pain tolerance," says Pretty Much Everyone. I can only reply that blunt force trauma is very different from piercing trauma. I have a high tolerance for the former; for the latter, I have exactly as much tolerance as it takes to receive a flu shot at the pharmacy or a gumfull of anesthetic at the dentist's office without giving in to the urge to flee, screaming, for the nearest bunker, or library, or better still a bunker furnished with a library and also squishy plush animal toys for hugging very fiercely.)

(...Where was I? Right.)

In the case of chiro, well, something needs to be done about my back, and our roller derby league gets a generous discount from a Longmont office that sponsors us. So. I went.

I went. I got interviewed and evaluated. I got x-rayed (turns out cancer survivors must, by law, because cancer and its treatments don't necessarily play nice with long-term health of the skeletal system). I got massaged. A lot. (Her: "Tell me if we go past 'hurts so good' to you wanting to hit me." Me: "Not even close." As long as there are no needles...) My foot even got massaged. I mean the foot with the twinges that are why I'm resting from derby tonight. Then once I was judged loosened up enough for it, I got adjusted. It was surprisingly gentle. The drop tables they use are genius and make things much more comfortable than just getting squished at the track-side table that sometimes appears at roller derby bouts. Also, unlike with the track-side tables, there's an understanding that the patient will be back for repeated treatments over time, so there's no pressure to try to fix everything today.

(Nevertheless, it is remarkably creepy to get a neck adjustment. I know, intellectually, that they're not in the habit of killing their patients, but it's hard to shake the instinctual certainty that I'm about to get my neck snapped. I guess that's why they do that tap-tap-tapping on the other side of your neck and say, "Focus here," so your attention is elsewhere long enough that you're not tensed up with dread about the time they make your neck go crickle-crackle so suddenly.)

I'm to go back in tomorrow for a full body massage to get me loose and limber before the weekend's bouts. Which is fantastic and surprisingly affordable but also this was not in my previous plans for the day before we drive out of town. My plans were a full day of writing, a whole bunch of recorded reading (for AINC and for the weekly Audiofictionette), all my weekend packing, grocery shopping for road trip snacks, and a thorough cleaning of my skate wheels and bearings. All that before going downtown to meet some friends for trivia at Conor O'Neill's. Only John suggested it would be best to bring the car in for a check-up before doing eight hours in upper-80s/low-90s weather, so OK, I'm bringing him to work again and then bringing the car to the shop. And now I also need to be in Longmont at eleven, which means that instead of getting many of those other tasks done at home while waiting for the car, I'll be walking from the shop to the nearest BOLT stop and busing up to Longmont. And back. (Maybe I can get some writing done on the bus?) And it turns out--surprise!--that getting work done on my back makes me exhausted for the rest of the day.

Which sounds like I'm complaining about getting a massage. I'm not! I'm quite looking forward to the actual massage bit. Really, what I'm complaining about is that damn stupid arrow of time and its tendency to keep flying into the future so relentlessly. Isn't that what all the complaints come down to in the end?

All in all, I'm glad I took the time to wash the derby gear today, because I sure wouldn't have time tomorrow. Oh well. Here's to a better back and better sleep going forward, anyway.

anniversary number what the heck my how time flies
Mon 2016-06-20 23:52:29 (single post)

Today was the summer solstice and also our wedding anniversary, John's and mine. The two do not always coincide, what with the solstice's wandering each year between the 20th and the 22nd, but it fell on the 20th back in 1998 when we chose to hold our handfasting on that spoke in the wheel of the year, and it fell on the 20th this year too.

It also happens to be my parents' anniversary. My mom, bless her, no longer remembers the words for a lot of things, and she's lost an appalling amount of names and faces and memories, but she remembers the significance of June 20th. "We've been married 47 years," she said to me on the phone yesterday. "That's fantastic," I said. "We've been married 18. It's not as impressive as 47, but we think it's a good start."

Some years we reserve a table somewhere fancy or fun, like the Melting Pot in Louisville or, when it was still around, John's Restaurant (no relation) on Pearl Street. This year we opted to stay in. He hit the grocery on the way home, I biked to the farm for our CSA pick-up, and together we made home style mac 'n cheese, a big salad, and some garlic bread.

I will share with you the garlic bread recipe, because it's the first time I got it right. Previous times, I melted butter, stirred in minced garlic, then spread it on bread which I cooked under the broiler. It was good, but it was weirdly one-note. The butter flavor was "thin," if that makes sense. Even sprinkling grated Parmesan cheese on top only did so much. But today I went looking around online, found this recipe, and realized that the key was using garlic powder rather than minced garlic. Garlic powder mixes the flavor through the butter much better. It also seems to thicken the spread somewhat.

  1. Hack the end of last week's Artisan Sourdough Bread into thick slices.
  2. Melt 1/4 C butter in the microwave.
  3. Add to the butter 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1 tbl minced fresh parsley, about 1/4 C shredded or grated parmesan. (Recipe calls for salt and pepper. I forgot to add it.) Stir, stir, stir.
  4. Spread butter mixture on each slice of bread.
  5. Stack bread and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Store in the refrigerator until dinner time.
  6. While the macaroni water is trying to boil, preheat oven to 350 F. When oven goes ding, put bread in for about 8 or 10 minutes. Then turn oven up to broil and let it go another couple minutes until edges are as crispy as you like. (Do not overdo this unless you like your crust to be as hard as a rock.)

John proclaimed the crunchy crispy garlic bread to be the perfect textural contrast to the soft mac 'n cheese, and his sweet tea to be the perfect taste contrast to the tart pomegranate-chocolate vinaigrette on the salad. (It's our last bottle of Ravenous Chocolate. I have no idea if the company is still around. They used to come sell their salad dressings at the Boulder Farmer's Market.)

After dinner, we settled into the couch for the reading of Chapter 19 of Ancillary Sword. Just that one chapter, mind you, however much we want to devour the rest of the book in a sitting. We hope to finish up before we leave town Friday morning; then we will only need to bring one book with us (Ancillary Mercy, of course) rather than two. ("Are there really only three books?" John asked mournfully the day we read Chapter 17. "Well, so far, yes. And a handful of short stories." He thought that was Sad.)

Eighteen years. Nowhere near done yet. But definitely a good start. Let's keep it up.

Watercolors and wine. Job done.
starting to look like a solid trend
Wed 2016-05-04 23:45:10 (single post)

Two good days in a row! Progress on all the things. Prepared one of the Fictionette Artifacts to be mailed on Friday (with very clever illustrations on page 2, if I do say so myself) and did another solid revision session on "Stand By for Your Assignment."

Here's the thing about a good day: It takes doing. There are things I have to do to make sure they happen. Thing is, between John and myself, it's pretty much understood that I've got some form of mild (undiagnosed) depression weaseling around in my brain, whence comes (among other things) the occasional inability to get out of bed until external forces intervene. So I've got certain self-care strategies to deal with that:

  • John gets to poke and prod and harass me until I am up, feet on the floor, and productively puttering about the house. (External forces!)
  • By the time he leaves for work, that 20 minutes or so of upright-and-puttering helps ensure I'm fully awake and not tempted to go back to bed.
  • I may not feel like writing. But I know that doing that first task will make me feel accomplished and proud, which emotional lift will carry me into the rest of the morning shift. So get to that first writing task!
  • After my first task, I take a walk or otherwise small bit of exercise outside. Exercise and sunlight are known things that help ward off the funks.

But the problem with that last bullet point is, too much exercise in the sun leaves me feeling like I got walloped in the can-do. So today almost bottomed out when my bike ride up to The Diaz Farm for eggs and tasty sourdough took out all my get-up-and-go. But! I've got the evening off from roller derby--the Bombshells got a much-needed rest after all our efforts at the tournament--so enough time remained to restart the day in the afternoon and damn well get stuff done.

OK, yes, in order to convince myself to work on the short story revision, I had to do the hot-bath-and-glass-of-wine trick. But hey! I got work done on the revision, and I got a relaxing soak in the tub with a glass of wine. Win-win!

Tomorrow:A good, full writing day and Thursday scrimmage! Can it be done? YES IT CAN, my friends. Yes, it can.

but the desk has to stay against the wall
Wed 2016-03-30 00:45:45 (single post)

I had really good plans for today, but I managed to scuttle them via the usual reasons, i.e. sleeping late and not starting the morning shift until afternoon shift time. And here's the thing I found out: Even if I have the mental capacity to work four hours straight through--and today I might well have!--I nevertheless cannot because there are other things besides writing that I have to do with my day. Like, making several trips down to the storage closet. Catching up on the 2016 accounting (now that the 2015 taxes are out of the way). Getting up to date with league communications. Clearing out the dishes backlog in the kitchen, for heaven's sake. And etc.

This is probably related to Stephen King's anecdote, told in On Writing, about the huge oak desk in the center of the office. There's an adequate retelling of it here, but really you should read On Writing because it's just that good. Part memoir, part writer's how-to, it's earned a permanent slot in my reference library within easy reach of my own not-so-huge oak desk that's pushed up against the wall of the office that sometimes doubles as a guest room. But this is the money quote: "Life isn't a support system for art. It's the other way around."

Now that I revisit the story, actually, I find it resonates with me even more. The bit where he replaces the monster desk in the middle of the room with a smaller desk against the wall, and this makes room for his kids to come in and share the space with him--it made me think of last night. I was up late in the evening getting some things done at my desk. Or the desk, because I want it to be available to both John and me, except really I'm the only one who uses it except when he needs to print out a bunch of stuff. Really, for the most part, "the" office is for all practical purposes my office. But last night John came in and snuggled under the blankets on the futon-couch with his laptop and some programming work, and suddenly it was our office again, and that felt unexpectedly good.

But to put this in context of today: If I've only left myself some 5 hours of the day to work with, and I owe myself 5 hours of writing, I will still not get 5 hours of writing done, because writing is only one of my responsibilities.

However, the two hours of writing I did get done today were very good. I'm not all that displeased.

But I did put off starting this blog post. The blog post is the last writing task of the night. I have this sense that once I do my blog post, the writing day is over, and my failure to log all five hours has been cemented. Which is silly, because if I had started on it as soon as practice was over tonight, I might have had time for a little short story revision afterward. But I didn't, so I don't. So once this goes up I'm pretty much going to bed.

As always, tomorrow is a new day--another chance to get it right. Hopefully, despite its being a Wednesday, I'll manage it. If not, well, Thursday is a new day too.

notes toward next visit
Wed 2015-12-30 22:33:35 (single post)

Today's report from My Christmas Vacation will be brief and numerical.

1. The Crab Cake Pontchartrain is delicious. It is even more delicious enjoyed in exceedingly good company.

2. I should visit downtown Covington more often. (Afternoon tea!)

3. Also Abita Springs. (Birthplace of Abita Beer!)

5. Driving alone across the Causeway Bridge is a wonderful opportunity for audiobooks.

4. I should also visit my Aunt June more often.

5. Aunt June may well be the Boulder County Bombers' newest superfan.

outdoor activity, the automotive edition
Tue 2015-12-29 23:19:15 (single post)

Today, the last day of fine weather I'll enjoy during my visit home, I succeeding in getting outside via driving across the lake and back. Since that's a 24-mile one-way trip just from shore to shore, nevermind the remainder of the journey to my relatives' house, I think this counts as significant time outdoors.

There was very little wind and very little traffic, and the bird-watching from the bridge was fantastic. Pelicans soared close over the bridge and right along the rail, probably taking advantage of the updraft off the warm cement and hot car engines. Mallards and cormorants stuck closer to the water's surface, flying low or just resting in duck-at-aquatic-repose position.

Every one of them Mom spotted, she said, "Look, there's another one, isn't that wonderful." I'm afraid she's lost the distinction between pelican and seagull and duck these days; they're all just "birds" to her now. She still remembers the rhyme about the queer old bird that's the pelican, and her own version of the rhyme that celebrates New Orleans's basketball team, but she no longer can pick out a pelican from a lineup.

The whole way across the bridge, too, she reads the tenth-mile markers aloud. 14.8, 14.9, 15. Exercising her grasp of numbers. Practicing, maybe, or maybe just reassuring herself that she can still do numbers even if she can't entirely do words or faces anymore.

We were visiting my cousin and her family. Turns out her 18-month-old son was fighting off a cold and not up for all-day adventures in New Orleans. We wound up just visiting at the house and ordering lunch from the Covington location of New Orleans Food & Spirits. I had the grilled stuffed catfish, which was delicious and so very filling that instead of going for one last skate along Linear Park when I got home, I put myself to bed for a nap with a couple of new-to-me Bunnicula books.

Now I'm doing my daily writing tasks--the ones I'm actually holding myself to, being on vacation and all--from one of my parents' comfy armchairs, having watched LSU handily win their bowl game against Texas Tech. I don't usually watch college football, but it's bowl game after bowl game during the holiday season, the best of the best playing on TV nearly constantly every day, so I might as well watch my Dad's alma mater show off their current roster's stuff. And their stuff was seriously amazing, I gotta say. Some of those catches were unbelievable.

Tomorrow sees some more visiting on both sides of the lake, and maybe a trip to the post office to get some fruitcake in the mail. The tradition continues!

This fictionette's cover art is brought to you by NASA! And also some clip-art from Wikimedia Commons.
this fictionette is going to town
Tue 2015-12-29 00:05:34 (single post)
  • 1,101 wds. long

Again, apologies for the belated Christmas Fictionette. Well, it's not really anything to do with Christmas. It's set more in the fall, I think, round about harvest time, though I've just realized there's a tiny, insignificant, yet unsightly plot hole concerning this detail. There is an impending birth, and I suppose it's technically a virgin birth, but that's just a coincidence of species. In any case, no midwinter festivals were harmed in the making of this fictionette, which is called "Premature Labor."

This brings my first full year of Friday Fictionettes to a close. New Year's Day will be the first Friday in 2016, and I intend to begin another full year of 'em at that time. (That fictionette probably won't have anything intentional to do with its holiday, either.) It's not that I find the sheer number of Patrons a compelling case for continuing the Patreon campaign. But I do continue to find value in the weekly routine. It's good for my work ethic. It's good exercise for my writing muscles. And it's just plain good fun. So! Roll on 2016, with another 52 fictionettes in store.

The visit home continues at a leisurely, unpressured pace. I thought I might head into the city over the weekend, but in fact I never quite crossed the parish line until today, when I took my freewriting and my fictionette work over to Rue de la Course. This was followed by lunch at Pho Bistreaux (shrimp spring rolls and Vinh's special) and a little window-shopping up and down Oak Street.

That doesn't mean I didn't get out of the house all weekend. Did some biking Saturday (and had the Pasta Carmella at Bistro Orleans). Skated over to Bucktown on Sunday (and wound up watching part of that very enjoyable Saints game at Melius Bar over a couple of Abitas and a chili cheese hot-dog).

Tomorrow all depends. If my cousin and her family wind up doing fun things in town, I may wind up tagging along. If not, I'll probably end up combining the skating thing with the writing at a public establishment thing, as it's the last day of my trip that's forecast to be at all dry and sunny, or at least dry and overcast. In any case, it would be a shame to waste it indoors.

service to resume on the morrow
Fri 2015-12-25 23:25:45 (single post)

I have had a mixed-blessing sort of day. Well, I've had a mixed-blessing sort of visit thus far, though I don't do a lot of the complaining here that I do in more private spaces because, well, family is family. But today being Christmas, everything got turned up to eleven. As a result I've been kind of nonfunctional since returning home this afternoon.

Which is why the Friday Fictionette will be a weekend thing again, which is why I am bothering telling you so.

I did go for a brief outdoor skate at dusk between the Bonnabel Canal and the Suburban Canal. That was nice. Skates make everything better. They don't fix everything, but while they're on my feet, they make the things they can't fix feel much more distant.

I'm having a little bowl of yesterday's kimchi with a boiled egg. Comfort food is comforting. I'm not sure when kimchi became one of my comfort foods--goodness knows I didn't grow up eating it. But it indubitably has. How I know is, when I opened the container, the smell of it reached down into my chest and kind of loosened things up a little and made me smile.

Good night, everyone. See you tomorrow.

Dad shows us how it's done.
oysters and kimchi on christmas eve
Thu 2015-12-24 23:07:37 (single post)

We shucked the rest of the oysters today. Dad estimates there were 80 pounds of them, total. He borrowed this device that was basically a steel tooth on a hinge with a lot of leverage, with which he popped the oysters open. Then all we had to do was scrape 'em out with oyster knives and put 'em in a container in the fridge.

Well, all except the ones we ate during the process. Privilege of doing the shucking.

At some point during the oyster-shucking session, I remembered that Maangchi's kimchi recipe calls for oysters, and wouldn't it be cool to make kimchi with fresh-shucked oysters instead of frozen? And, hey, there's a Korean grocery store just a few blocks away from the friend who loaned us the oyster-popping device, which we gotta bring back to him anyway. Might as well stop in. And they had everything I needed, up to and including the Korean radish and Asian chives.

("Those don't look like chives," Dad said. "Totally different allium," I admitted, "but it is an allium. Unless I screwed up and bought lemongrass." We both tasted some. It was not lemongrass.)

So now my hands smell like garlic and hot peppers, and fresh kimchi is fermenting in big rectangular bins over by the laundry room. At some point I will have to figure out what to do with it all, because I'm unlikely to be able to eat or give away all of it by New Year's Eve. I suppose maybe package it in dry ice in the fruitcake bin to get it home in checked luggage? And put what's left of the fruitcake in something much smaller? But I don't have to worry about that for a week.

And now I'm rewarding myself with a trip to Hurricane's to hang out with my brother and listen to live music and drink Abita and give my computer a wifi connection it hasn't had a spat with. Seriously.

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