“It took me fifteen years to discover that I had no talent for writing, but I couldn't give it up because by that time I was too famous.”
Robert Benchley

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Cover art incorporates and modifies public domain image sourced from Max Pixel
but the universe nevertheless reminds you are loved, and that you have work to do
Tue 2018-09-25 17:13:33 (single post)
  • 1,310 wds. long

Oh hi there. So. Life has been a lot lately; hence the radio silence. Roller derby has been a lot of that lot. There was the North America West Continental Cup, as you know. Then there was our annual B-52 B-team tournament, officially branded this year as part of #ThinAirThrowdown and co-hosted with Denver Roller Derby. And then, when there should have been a week of rest and healing, roller derby suddenly became a painful place full of emotional turmoil. Things are not yet resolved, but I know that this too shall pass. In any case, I'm going to my first practice of the off-season tonight. Life's too short not to do what I love, and I love skating. And I love the people I get to skate with--that is unlikely to change.

But, all in all, roller derby has made it hard to buckle down to the writing day. So I have got a lot of writing to catch up on.

I am so very much behind on the Friday Fictionettes project. I only just pushed the September 14th offering last night ("The Poisoned Chalice," ebook, audiobook). And still I'm as much behind on the Fictionette Artifacts as I ever was. So. This week I have set myself the 100% Unreasonable Goal of releasing the fictionettes for September 21 and 28, pushing the August Fictionette Freebie to Wattpad and 4theWords, and getting caught up on the Artifacts, all by the end of the month.

My More Or Less Realistic Goal is exactly the same, just minus the Artifacts.

It's not so bad. I'm off to a good start already. This morning I went from blank page to full-length first draft on the fictionette for September 21. I might manage to get it out the door tomorrow. Then, if I can just do that two-day process all over again Thursday and Friday, the September 28 fictionette will go out on time. Follow it up with a weekend full of typing to see all overdue Artifacts in the mail Monday morning. It can be done!

If nothing else, a good percentage of it will get done, and I'll start October in a better place.

Back on the subject of roller derby... like I said, last week was rough. But on Sunday I got a couple reminders that, in the wider world, there is community and support and goodwill, and that there's still room for joy in the part of my brain where the skates are kept.

One of those reminders came as a more or less expected part of our afternoon plans. John and I took our laptops over to Vapor Distillery for a few hours of cocktails and writing (he's got his own heap of overdue writing project to contend with), and that's always a good time. Vapor Distillery makes very fine liquor. They mix an exceedingly tasty cocktail. And they're one of BCB's sponsors, so they are very generous to league members. Their generosity doesn't come in the form of a particular percentage discount. It's more sort of down to whatever the bartender feels like that day. Sometimes it's a couple bucks off the tab, or one of the afternoon's drinks free, or "hey, want to try our specialty shot? I'll do you one on the house, see how you like it." Sometimes it's more. On one memorable occasion, it was "put that back in your wallet, we've got you tonight. Yes, all of it. We're your sponsor and we love you and we're heartbroken that your practice space burned down."

Sunday's session, if I may be vague, fell somewhere in between the extremes. We were there some five hours and we drank rather a lot. We ordered Chinese food delivery so we could stay and work and drink some more. Meanwhile, the staff kibitzed with us about the football games they were watching and invited us to share their chips and dip. It was cozy. It felt like a form of self-care.

The other positive derby-related thing was completely out of the blue. That morning we went out to brunch, me and John and a friend. When the food arrived, the server said, "Your bill is taken care of, by the way, compliments of a fan of Fleur de Beast." My jaw dropped. "Seriously? Um... do I get to meet this fan and tell them thank you? Or are they a secret fan?" The server said he'd find out. As it happened, the mystery fan was shy and declined closer interaction, but they reiterated their compliments. I could only ask the server to pass along my gratitude.

And that was the occurrence that inspired this tweet, in case you saw it and were wondering.

Cover art incorporates and modifies “Haunted Tent City” (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Caitlin O’Neil-McKeown)
what i did after i came home from my summer not-so-vacation
Sat 2018-09-01 01:46:48 (single post)

It's been almost a week since I've said hi. Hi, blog! Stuff has been happening.

I came home from Omaha on Monday! I got sick! Now I'm getting better! I had a massage and a day off from practice on Tuesday, then I had classic sinusy crap on Wednesday, and then by Thursday I was feeling better enough to go to scrimmage.

That may not have been smart. I got more worn out and beat up than at either of our Continental Cup games! It being my first time back on the track in the Mile High area after spending a weekend playing derby at an elevation of only 1,090 feet might be a factor. Being sick, yeah, that was a factor too. Also relevant: we only had five skaters per bench. We played four-on-four so that everyone could get a chance to sit one jam in five, and everyone was in the jammer rotation. (You know what's fun? And by "fun" I mean "hell"? TWO-MINUTE JAMS. It is not always good news when the other jammer gets a penalty. Sometimes it just means now NOBODY has lead jammer status, and life for the next minute and a half will suuuuuuuuuck.) Then, at halftime, someone on one team had to leave. One of our skaters who had NSO'd the first half geared up to replace them. For reasons that were never entirely explained, the replacement skater was assigned to the other bench, so the second period of play featured a team of four versus a team of six. GUESS WHICH TEAM I WAS ON. Deathmarch scrim FTW! Did I mention that everybody jammed? And now nobody gets to sit out any? Woo. We got extra-long line-up time between jams, probably 45 seconds or a minute instead of the usual 30 seconds; it was just enough time for me to get just enough wind back to be able to swallow a small sip of water and then rush back out to the track.

In other derby news, archival footage is up from our games in Omaha! Here's Friday's game; here's Saturday. Archives are always free to watch. Have fun!

In still more derby news, my season would appear not to be over! I will be skating with the Bombshells in the B-team tournament bracket at the Thin Air Throwdown, which we are co-hosting at the Boulder County Fairgrounds on September 14-16. Tickets are available, and I recommend you get right on that, because in addition to the B-team tournament, there will be a round-robin exhibition of three of the highest ranked teams in the world. How often do you get to see Rose versus VRDL without leaving the state, let alone the county? So. MAKE PLANS.

Also I wrote! And finished stuff! And submitted stuff too! It's been a good week.

On Wedensday, I finally put up the Friday Fictionette for August 24. It's called "Change'll Do You Good." What kind of change? Any kind you like. Change of scenery. Change of career. Change in your social circle. Shape-changing, too, let's not forget that one. Anyway, it's about 1300 words long and available to subscribers in ebook and audio formats on Patreon.

Then I had to hurry up (as much as I could while subsisting on pseudoephedrine, Mucinex, and tea) and revise some older fictionettes for reprint submission for a deadline of TODAY. (I mean "today" as in August 31. I am aware it is has not been August 31 for a couple hours now. Shh.) I put them into the email about two hours ago and am feeling very proud of myself now. I'm actually quite pleased with how they turned out. Should they come home from today's excursions with rejections, I think they're worth the "til Hell won't have 'em" treatment. (When I finished my week at Viable Paradise in 2006, I swore the VP Graduate's Oath, which is to write, to finish what I write, to submit what I write, to paying markets, until Hell won't have 'em.) There aren't that many places that I know of that A. take reprints B. at flash length, and C. don't mind if their only previous appearance was on Patreon or by other self-publishing means, but I intend to find them all.

What with the traveling and the sick and the playing catch-up and the other, more implacable deadlines, I have not yet released the Fictionette Freebie for August. I intend to do that this weekend. I haven't selected one yet, but it probably won't be "Change'll Do You Good." Because it's only been out a few days, that's why. It would feel silly to have published it only Wednesday and then suddenly revisit it to change its "Who Can See This Post" option. Might as well have just pushed it up full public in the first place.

Look, I don't claim to make logical sense here. I'm not sure I even claim to make sense, period. But this is the sense of it I've got and I'm sticking with it until further notice.

Also scheduled for this weekend: More anti-moth activities. Yay? I finished putting the portion of the office I'd last cleaned back together last week Wednesday--which involved, you might remember, vacuuming every single book and vinegar-rinsing every single item that wasn't made out of paper--just in time to leave for Omaha. My next step will be the brick-and-board bookshelf in the bedroom, which I am now 98% sure houses its own infestation. We've been keeping doors closed so the moths don't migrate, and the bedroom's almost the only place I've seen moths all week. ALMOST. One crossed my path in the office the other day and I just about wept. I'm hoping it stumbled in after taking a tour of the house during a time when the bedroom door was left open. BUT WE'LL SEE.

Wow, that was a long post. Maybe my posts wouldn't be so stupidly long if I blogged more than once a week. More research on the subject is needed.

all's well that ends with a bang
Sat 2018-08-25 22:12:57 (single post)

Hey hey! We won today! Boulder County: 260; Pikes Peak: 167. Our goal was 1. to win, and 2. by a bigger margin than last time we played them, and, hot damn, that's what we did. Good job, BCB! Live Bold, Bleed Gold!

I'm told we looked a lot more together, cohesive, calm, and strong today, but I suspect a lot of that has to do with the difference between playing a team ranked above you and playing a team ranked below. I know I've seen footage of future opponents getting crushed by highly ranked teams and thought, "Oh, look at those weaknesses we can exploit," only to discover those weaknesses not to be in evidence when we met those opponents on the track. Or, rather, our team was less able to create and exploit weaknesses in those opponents than were the teams in the footage. Similarly, this weekend I feel as though we were pretty much the same team yesterday as today, fought just as hard and brought the same solid strategies and skills, but were more successful doing so during today's more favorable match-up.

Happy Valley, by the way, went on to lose to the number 1 seed, Rocky Mountain Rollergirls, by only 100 points. There's another metric by which they were simply a stronger team than us right now. Having just now watched RMRG win their way through Calgary to tomorrow's championship game, I don't think we'd have done nearly as well against them as Happy Valley did.

And that would have been us playing RMRG if we'd won yesterday. And we would have lost. And then we would have most likely lost tomorrow to E-Ville. And that wouldn't have been as emotionally satisfying as today's win followed by our private afterparty at the hotel celebrating a veteran jammer who is retiring at the end of the season. After more than seven years with BCB and still more years than that in derby, she played her last game with us today. ALL THE FEELS were present in a big way. Also all the alcohol.

Omaha Rollergirls have been an amazing host league. Everything has gone swimmingly. Each day has gone according to schedule, and it has been clear at every moment where we needed to be. Each team was assigned a wrangler, and I can only hope the other teams had as amazing a wrangler as we did. Our wrangler was nothing less than an MVP. She took care of us in every way. She got our locker room set up, got our coaches and captains to their meetings on time, made sure we knew when our on-skates warm up was, found our bags when we lost them, high-fived us on our way out to the track, joined in with us for our silly pre-bout team bonding games and our off-skates warmup, asked us to teach her our cheers and then got led us in chanting them through the tunnels on our way to the track for today's game. She even made sure, by request, that the DJ played "Rock Lobster" for us during our on-skates warm-up. Then she boogied down on the side of the track with pompoms and red silicone lobster claws. Basically she was 100% on team BCB all weekend long. She went above and beyond to make our tournament experience not only positive but joyous. We felt so loved!

And so ends the All Stars' season, on a higher note than we could have dreamed. We've come a long way since that terrible Sunday night in June.

Tomorrow we get an unlooked-for rest day in which to relax in the stands and enjoy watching the final games of the tournament. You can watch too! (You can also listen to the live audio broadcast for free.) Then, after a little well-deserved time off, (how little will vary by the skater), the All Stars move into support mode for our Bombshells, who are preparing for our annual B-Team tournament in September--which this year is being presented as part of Denver Roller Derby's "Thin Air Throwdown," which showcases some of the very highest-level derby in the world. We'll be helping to host the three-day event, and before that, we'll be on the track at practice and scrimmage helping the Bombshells get the most out of their final month of training before playing their part in that season finale.

And after that the whole league segues into our off-season, with a lower-key combined practice schedule for all our skaters, lesser attendance requirements, and a chance to work on our skills outside of the pressure-cooker environment of the regular season when the next bout had been always just around the corner.

And next week, once I'm back in Boulder, I'm going to finally have a little time before the end of August for short story revisions and submissions. Yay!

couldn't have happened to a nicer team
Fri 2018-08-24 23:09:12 (single post)

Alas, we lost our Day 1 game. It was a decisive loss, too. Happy Valley 199, Boulder County 123. And there really wasn't much more we could have done about it. Sometimes you go in, you do all the things you've been practicing, but it's just not enough because the other team brought a better game. Some things you see going wrong, you can fix them over the course of a few jams if you're smart and you can adapt, and some of those things were in play. And we were smart, and we did adapt. But in the end I think this game was simply an accurate comparison of two teams' relative levels at this point in time. Kind of a bummer to come out on the losing end of that sort of contest, but also, in a weird way, kind of satisfying. When I know we more or less brought our best game, I can feel at peace with the results, if not precisely happy. I can skate away from it proud of how we represented ourselves to the derby world.

Our leaguemates back in Boulder were watching the livestream and cheering us on. The skater who was hosting a watch party and reporting the play-by-play to the league's Facebook chat group had a small joyous meltdown during the last jam of Period 1, when our relief jammer took the starting line for her first jam of the game and she made 18 points to the other jammer's 9. It was a great way to exit the half.

Also, I came back to the locker room at the half to find one of my friends from Steel City had tweeted this:

It’s always easy to spot @nicolejleboeuf on the track for @BCBDerby with her power braid and her power blocking.

Power braid. You heard it here. Also: *blush*

The sad outcome of the loss, though, is we don't get to play a game on Sunday. We just play tomorrow at 2 PM Central and that's it. Dang it, I came to play! I came to play three games! I want my Sunday game back! *Sigh*

But the silver lining is, it's a team we've already played this year (at the Mayhem tournament in May), and that was a game we won. So we're heading into tomorrow's game feeling it to be a familiar task which we can approach with confidence. Not overconfidence, mind. That way lies carelessness and disappointment. But confidence, certainly.

Tomorrow: Boulder County Bombers vs. Pikes Peak Derby Dames (Colorado Springs), 2 PM Central. Watch it live here.


derby to eat my weekend live in HD
Thu 2018-08-23 22:34:22 (single post)

Hi, y'all. I'm in Omaha (well, actually, Ralston), Nebraska at the Holiday Inn that shares a parking lot with the Ralston Arena (see?), and tomorrow is Day 1 of the North America West Continental Cup. Basically, it's Division 2 Playoffs only under a new regional structure. And the Boulder County Bombers are playing.

Here's the page with the livestream.

According to the bracket/schedule that's on the same page, we play tomorrow at 2:00 PM Central Time. Our opponents will be the Happy Valley Derby Darlins, out of Utah County. After that, our next game will be Saturday: at 10 AM if we win our Friday game, or at 2 PM if we lose it. (Obviously we hope to win it.)

I'll try to post updates as the tournament progresses.

If you watch, what I tell everyone is, look for the short blocker with the long braid skating under the number 504--that's me. Alternately, look for the skater with the long, colorful hand-knit stockings. "Aren't you hot in those socks?" "Of course. I look hot in all my socks."

If you can't watch live, you'll be able to watch it in reruns. Soon after the end of the tournament, probably by the middle of next week, all NAW Cup games will be available to watch free of charge in the WFTDA.tv archives. But of course by then it may be difficult to avoid spoilers.

That's about all I've got right now. Driving from Boulder to Omaha pretty much wiped us out. Right now I'm just lying here in bed, exhausted and pleasantly full of terrible insta-meals from the hotel pantry, listening to the derby sounds emanating from Papa Whiskey's computer while he does some last-minute "know your enemy" footage review. I should be watching it too, but I'm not sure I can make it all the way to the other side of the bed at this time. That would require energy and volition and stuff.

So for now I will give in to the sleepies, the better to wake up bright and early. Hotel breakfast starts at 6:30, and the tournament track will be available for testing our wheels on from 8:00 to 9:00. I do not consider either event optional.

the saga continues: skating happens, much venison is eaten
Fri 2018-07-20 10:31:52 (single post)

Have just arrived at Chicago Union Station. Will be boarding the train for Denver in just under four hours. Going by my experience on the outbound journey, there won't be a wifi hotspot on the California Zephyr (or if there is one, it won't get much reliable signal after the first couple hours), so if I'm going to upload a blog post today, I'd better compose it now-ish.

The Friday Fictionette for July 20 will also be late; I'm going to have to finish it on the train, but I won't be able to upload it before Denver Union Station. Still, it'll be a sight closer to on time than last week's "sometime this weekend, I mean Tuesday" release (see below).

Anyway, to continue the travel journal...


Tuesday, July 17, 2018: Mini family reunion over venison backstrap

Was deliberately antisocial when I woke up so I could get caught up on some writing tasks. Among other things, got the much-delayed Friday Fictionette for nominally July 13 recorded, packaged, and uploaded.

Breakfast: Made myself a little omelette-on-toast. Had an unexpected boiled egg on the side (I expected it would be a raw egg when I cracked it open BUT IT WAS NOT) which I chopped up and mingled with some kimchi. The kimchi turned out just fine, though if I had to do it with yellow squash again (and I might--the Diaz Farm back in Boulder is starting to harvest their squash and zucchini), I'd slice it into rounds and include it with the traditional cabbage kimchi. It didn't benefit as much from the stuffed cucumber treatment as I'd hoped.

So. Got those things done. Then Dad pokes his head in the door and says, "Let's go find some oysters for lunch." Which is how we ended up at Seither's devouring a dozen oysters on the half shell each. NO COMPLAINTS. NONE.

After that it was time to run some errands. I had postcards to write and mail and also I needed fountain pen ink. (Forgot to refill my pens before leaving Boulder.) Plus I figured while I was out I could finish illustrating the April Fictionette artifacts (still running a bit behind on them) and get them ready to mail out, too. So I headed over to the 17th Street end of Lakeside Mall where all three errands could be conveniently accomplished within a two-block radius.

OR SO I THOUGHT. I mean, well, they could, but not the way I'd imagined. I'd imagined visiting Scriptura for fountain pen ink, then walking across the street to Morning Call for coffee and beignets and postcard writing and artifact illustration, then dropping off all mailables in the blue drive-up boxes at the post office. In fact the coffee and stationery enjoyment phase happened at Puccino's because MORNING CALL IS GONE FOREVER AND I AM BEREFT. Oh, they've still got a location in City Park, sure. But is that within an easy biking or skating distance of Dad's house? No. Is that where I got taken to all through childhood for beignets and chocolate milk? No. Is that where I faithfully wrote every morning around 6:00 AM during my visits home from college and struck up a brief correspondence with a waiter who was also a writer? No. No, it is not. The location of so many formative memories is GONE. Some sort of smoke shop appears to be going in, but not a smoke-and-news shop of the sort that used to be next door to the Morning Call and where I often used to pick up copies of OMNI and F&SF for market research. Just a smoke shop, going by the sign. And it's not even open yet. There's a big blue garbage roll-off in front of the shop because apparently they are ripping out all the marble counters and mirrors and little round tables and crappy chairs and I AM GOING TO CRY FOREVER.

So, yeah. Postcards and watercolors at Puccino's. Dammit. And a latte. And a sad little slice of cranberry poundcake.

Meanwhile Dad's getting ready for dinner, because the time between meals should always be spent prepping for the next meal. (Food is important in New Orleans. You may have heard.) He's working on a particular Dad special, which is venison backstrap seared to medium-rare on the grill and served with a homemade béarnaise sauce. Also rosemary potatoes slow-roasted in a heavy, lidded pan on the stove. Also a package of frozen broccoli florets.

The occasion--not that it needs an occasion, really--was my brother coming over for a bit of a visit. Usually I visit him when he's tending bar at Hurricane's, but most of the nights I was in town he had off. He works the bar fewer nights now that he works full time during regular hours at an Uptown emergency vet clinic. So instead of us having a long, disjointed conversation over several hours of beer at the bar, we had a long continuous conversation over delicious food and red wine and a live DVD of Three Dog Night. It was a superior experience. I could actually hear what Ricky said on the first try, no one was smoking anywhere near me, and there were 100% fewer drunks demanding I get off my laptop and "have fun," or putting their arms over my shoulders and arguing with me over my right to tell them HANDS OFF. Yay for non-bar family reunions!


Wednesday, July 18, 2018: Mini high school reunion, mini derby meet-n-greet

Wednesday got off to a similar start: Anti-social productive beginnings to make room for socializing the rest of the day.

Social activity #1: Lunch with a high school friend at Giorlando's. This is something I try to make time for in all my visits home. In addition to giving us a chance to catch up on things since last time, it's a bit of an oasis politically. After tip-toeing around the news Dad always seems to have playing on the TV and biting my tongue so I don't yell back at the news anchors giving only half the story or the Republican senators on live cameras saying things like "Sure ICE operatives have raised performative cruelty and homicidal neglect to a fine art, but how do you think liberals pushing to have them shut down makes them feel?"... it's really, really nice to sit down to someone who's on the same page with me about, oh, human rights and fact-based education and diverse representation in media, those sorts of REALLY IMPORTANT THINGS.

Social activity #2: Public skate session at Skater's Paradise, the rink in Slidell. The whole afternoon after lunch I was fighting a case of the sleepies--well, not so much fighting it as not fighting it but hoping I'd be able to stop napping and get out of bed on time. I was starting to worry this was a pattern. When I was in town last October, I really wanted to go skating around the French Quarter on Halloween night; unfortunately, having already skated from Covington to Abita Springs that day, I had used up allotment of oomph, and so instead I stayed in bed and binged Stranger Things 2. I hadn't been quite so extravagant today, so thankfully I did manage to get up not only in time to make the skate session but also to enjoy another damn fine Dad dinner before I went. It was venison sauce piquante over pasta shells. Also some more kimchi.

(I told him that some time later I'd probably be picking his brain for the recipe over the phone; I had the recipe from Talk About Good! but I suspected his recipe was better. He said, "If it doesn't involve two cans of beer, forget about it." Which, fair.)

Anyway, Skater's Paradise is a pretty nice rink! Very smooth floor, polished concrete I guess but no trouble on my 88s. Good sound system, decent music selection given the audience, although the DJ did have a tendency to suddenly change songs midway through. And I got to meet and hang out with some of the skaters from Northshore Roller Derby. And also make up a little for missing a week's worth of my usual derby practice, alway an issue while on vacation.

So I got to skate and it was awesome. Then I drove home, set my alarm for stupid early, and went to bed. The end.


Food Talley for Tuesday and Wednesday, also something I forgot from Monday:

  • 2018-07-16, 18:30 - Venison hot tamales! I knew the tomatoes were an appetizer for something, I just couldn't remember what. (Home: venison from Dad's hunting trips, tamales made by one of Dad's friends)
  • 2018-07-17, 08:30 - Scallion omette on toast, yellow squash kimchi (home, made by me)
  • 2018-07-17, 11:30 - Oysters on the half shell (Seither's)
  • 2018-07-17, 13:00 - Sad little slice of cranberry poundcake (Puccino's)
  • 2018-07-17, 20:00 - Venison backstrap with béarnaise sauce, rosemary potatoes, and broccoli. Also more squid-dressed tomatoes. (Home, thank you Dad)
  • 2018-07-18, 12;00 - Crawfish fettucini (Giorlando's)
  • 2018-07-18, 18:00 - Venison sauce piquante, Korean radish kimchi (home, thank you again Dad)

That sure is a lot of venison. Dad and his friends maintain a hunting camp in Alabama, so, no surprises there. ALSO NO COMPLAINTS. NONE. I will complain, however, about the lack of beignets on this trip. (ALL THE SADS FOR MORNING CALL.) I guess I'll have to make some when I get back to Boulder.

in which real derby hits happen and kimchi gets assembled
Thu 2018-07-19 14:16:49 (single post)

Departure day dawns. It has been a morning of laundry and leftovers and last-minute printing out of things. My right hand is dyed orange from having packed up a sampling of Monday's kimchi to take home (insert "caught red-handed" jokes HERE). I've gotten my exercise walking from the Hertz rental office along Andrew Higgins Boulevard/Howard Avenue to the train station, and I've had a fantastic lunch thanks to one more visit to Cochon Butcher.

And now I'm relaxing aboard the train that'll leave New Orleans in about 20 minutes. Guess it's as good a time as any to continue the travel journal.


Sunday, July 15, 2018: When we tire of hitting pedestrians with fat-bats, we hit each other for reals

Woke up, as planned, at stupid o'clock. Got all the stuffs packed and ready. Walked out the door in search of the nearest Blue Bike hub, which I found without any trouble at St. Claude and Elysian Fields. Checked out a bike by means of the computerized interface in back, and off I went.

I hope that I will never not get that surge of delight as I pedal up the street of "WHEEEEEEE I'M BIKING! YAY!" Skates are my wings, but bikes mean freedom. They open up all of the immediate environs the way a car, with its bigness and its need for gas and to follow one-way signs and find parking, does not. On a bike, I feel like I could go anywhere.

Where I went was Daisy Dukes, a 24-hour diner on Chartres just off Canal. I had the fried oyster half-size po-boy with a cup of the gumbo. Also a coffee and an orange juice. They were hopping-busy, but they quickly found me a high-top for one right in the back.

Once I was fed and rested, I re-rented the bike and pedaled over to Hertz for my rental car. It was a black Chevy Sonic and it did what it was supposed to. It got me back to the airBnB to pick up my stuff and then it got me down into to New Orleans East and the Big Easy Rollergirls warehouse in time for the post-ROTB Hangover Mashup.

It was a good game. The score stayed fairly close right up through to halftime, after which the gap began to widen as patterns established in the first half replicated themselves in the second. Far as I could tell, a good time was had by all, and I hope I'm not just saying that because my team, the Matadors, won.

Last time I got to participate in a post-ROTB Mashup, three years ago, I was decidedly a beginner. An advanced beginner, sure, and if you saw me playing with BCB's Bombshells you might even call me an intermediate-level skater; but in a group of people I'd never skated with before, all of them from other leagues and many of them outranking me in years and skill, I was a bit of a mess. I hoped to acquit myself somewhat better this year, and I think I did. I had some good hits and some great stops, I called a lot of plays, I braced when the wall rotated, and, in the second half, I performed some decently effective dedicated offense for my jammers right off the line that I do believe helped widen our score differential.

I love feeling like I know what I'm doing. It's still kind of a new feeling for me.

To be clear, the skill level across both rosters seemed to skew high. Even the gals who said things like, "I'm sorry, I don't really know what I'm doing" right before the whistle, they did just fine. Everything felt friendly; I'm told that some years you get a certain amount of revenge hits between people from rival leagues, but there was none of that going on that I could see.

Dad came to watch, and I was super proud that he got to see how far I've come. He came to my last post-ROTB Mashup three years ago, and his main comment was an amused "You sure took a beating!" This year he sounded a little more taken aback: "There were some vicious hits out there!" I was all like, "I know. I gave some of 'em!"

(HAY HAY BCB YOU GUYZ I DID THE FOREWARD-FACING HIT THING IT WAS AWESOME. I missed a crossstep check though. My timing on that one's still kinda iffy.)

Dad's other comment was, "I don't know how you can do all that in this heat." He had a point--it was very hot in that warehouse. No surprise; it was very hot in New Orleans my whole trip. As I knelt by Dad's lawn chair to talk to him at halftime, sweat rolled down my face and torso in free-flowing rivulets. I went through a can and a half of coconut water, a couple cans of La Croix, and a whole lot of water from the Igloo cooler kindly situated between the two team benches. By the time we were done, we were all ready to throw ourselves in the pool.

The pool was at Pontchartrain Landing, the traditional site of the post-ROTB Mashup afterparty. Pontchartrain Landing is a marina and RV campground with a restaurant and bar. The pool is for residents only, but they have a running agreement with the Mashup hosts to let us use it. So we did.

For lunch, I had a "frozen alligator" daiquiri (mint and kahlua and chocolate chips) and the Salty Pig (pulled pork and fried oysters on top of toasted french bread rounds).

Eventually I got sun-dried enough to change clothes (I hadn't realized I'd need my own towel) and head home--home home, this time, the house in Metairie where I'd grown up. I let myself in and collapsed on the sofa. Dad vee-jayed his favorite live concert DVDs for us. That was about all I had enough energy left to do: be an appreciative audience. Also to eat. Dad had made chicken and andouille gumbo ("it has never come out so good!") and a neighbor brought us a bunch of boiled blue crabs (so, yes, I did get my boiled crabs fix after all).

It was a great start to my half-week at home.


Monday, July 16, 2018: The kimchi is now a tradition

My Mom lives at The Atrium, in the memory care unit. Every Monday and Wednesday, Dad picks her up and takes her for a ride in the truck. It doesn't much matter where. Just being in an automobile is enough to make her giggle. And that's about all she does anymore. She giggles, she taps her forehead slowly against the armrest, she repeats "One, two, three, four, five" (all she can remember or at least access of the rhyme that continues "Once I caught a fish alive") in a gruff and teeth-clenched voice, and she giggles some more. That was about 99.9% of her activity that I witnessed when I went along for the ride today.

I've done my mourning already. This is what is, and I'm resigned to it. But every time I visit, I'm a little shaken by how much farther the dementia has progressed. At least last visit she was able to respond to direct questions and would spontaneously say things to Dad like "I just want to be with you" and "You're so good to me."

It's strange and backwards and sad when the daughter moves into the role of comforting her father. Parents are mythically big and invulnerable and all-powerful. Even when we're all grown up, some of us sometimes still seek out their approval and appreciation. It's always a shock to see them helpless with illness or grief. It was a shock when I was eleven and newly diagnosed with leukemia and the two of them broke down crying in front of me, and it's a shock now to see Dad having to bear this burden of care and grief. Mostly he doesn't let it show. Sometimes, though, cracks appear.

Sometimes all I can do is just give him a big hug. At least I was there to give it.

On a lighter note, while we were out driving Mom around, we stopped at the Korean grocery on Transcontinental at Vets Blvd, and I went in for kimchi ingredients. I am simply not going to get away without making kimchi during a visit home. It's inevitable. It has become tradition. I'm not fighting it anymore. And I admit it's a kind of fun role reversal to be the one directing kitchen traffic and giving Dad food prep instructions.

We did this kimchi recipe (minus the oysters, which we did not have on hand) and also that one (but with yellow squash in addition to the cucumbers). We also had some sliced, seasoned squid that I'd picked up on a whim; it was a salty, spicy treat on fresh sliced tomatoes.

Every time I make kimchi with Dad, I am surprised all over again at how easy it is, and why don't I make some more the moment I get back to Boulder? And then I never do. It probably has to do with how far I have to drive to be sure of finding Asian chives. Like that's even necessary! They have a great flavor, but so do scallions and even leeks. So! No excuses this time.

Oh and hey--lunch was at Mr. Ed's. Not the one on Live Oak I used to bike to for muffulettas back in high school. They have multiple locations these days. This was their fish house and oyster bar on 21st Street, couple blocks over from Andrea's (which I did not have occasion to visit, more's the pity). They still serve that amazing turtle soup, but I didn't order it this time. I was distracted by oysters and other delicious things. That's kind of how most of this trip went, really: "Something blah-blah yadda-yadda OH HEY OYSTERS!"


Food Talley for Sunday and Monday:

  • 2018-07-15, 07:15 - fried oyster half po-boy, gumbo (Daisy Dukes French Quarter)
  • 2018-07-15, 14:00 - Salty Pig: fried oyster and pulled pork on french bread (Pontchartrain Landing)
  • 2018-07-15, 17:30 - chicken and andouille sausage gumbo with boiled blue crab appetizer (home: Dad's gumbo, a neighbor's seafood acquisition)
  • 2018-07-16, 12:15 - oysters rockefeller and bienville, softshell crab almondine with Meunière sauce (Mr. Ed's Oyster Bar & Fish House)
  • 2018-07-16, 18:00 - fresh sliced tomatoes dressed with Korean seasoned squid (home: tomatoes from Dad's friend's garden, squid from Oriental Market)

What? No. The kimchi has not been eaten yet at this time. We're letting it ferment overnight. And the squash and cucumber are busy mingling with the seasonings in the fridge. Don't worry, we'll be tasting it tomorrow.

after a small interruption we continue with our tale
Wed 2018-07-18 22:54:28 (single post)
  • 3,843 wds. long

Had a late night last night and didn't have the oomph left over to continue the travel journal. Late night tonight, too, but enough is enough. Skip two days, you wind up skipping three, then a whole week, then nothing gets blogged at all. So! Picking up where I left off the other night...


Friday, July 13, 2018: The train arrives in New Orleans

Well, not until 3:30 PM. Slept well, felt a lot better, got a significant amount of work done on the short story before the train arrived. Spotted wildlife from the train: wild turkeys just outside a town in Mississippi (can't recall exactly where) and a ton of egrets at Port Manchac. (Sometimes you get pelicans. Sometimes you get cormorants. Today it was mostly egrets.) Had a perfectly terrible excuse for a muffuletta for lunch. I'd forgive the substitution of the hoagie roll--I allow a lot in an out-of-town muffuletta, just so long as they get the innards right--but the microwave did horrible things to that hoagie roll, and the result was just sad.

No, wait, I misremember, the awful not-muffuletta was last night over dinner, because we were with that nice couple who got off the train in Memphis. But then I have no memory of what I had for breakfast or lunch on the train Friday. Clearly these were not memorable meals.

Had a phone conversation with Dad during which he tried very hard to get me to accept his offer of ferrying me around downtown once I got in. I don't think Dad's ever gotten comfortable with the idea of me being downtown by myself, not even after all these years. He also wanted to know why I thought I needed a rental car when he has no plans and is happy to drive me around. Which was very sweet of him and all, but, I don't know, y'all, I did not expect to still be defending bids for independence to my father at my age.

So the train arrived. I'd planned on having my luggage held at the station while I skated up to the Sugar Mill for my ROTB packet, then retrieving it and taking the streetcar to my lodgings for the night. When I found out how much that would cost me, I rearranged my plans. I would instead take the streetcar to my lodgings immediately, then skate all the way back to the Sugar Mill, then skate all the way back to the airBnB. Fine. I like skating. Let's do this.

The streetcar system is more confusing than it ought to be. The line I boarded was the 49, but you couldn't tell it from the car. The car said 03. It also said Uptown/Loyola, which, correct me if I'm wrong, has absolutely nothing to do with where it actually went, which was St. Claude and Elysian Fields. I dunno. I think I have a decent handle on navigating New Orleans, but I've never taken the streetcar with intent before. (Taking it mainly for the experience of WHEE I'M ON THE STREETCAR doesn't count.) There may be some subtleties I'm missing.

It's OK, you don't have to @ me about it. I'll figure it out as and when needed.

So that worked. Got to the house. Let myself in. Sat down in the blissful air conditioning (four blocks of New Orleans in July is a lot). Eventually got into my leggings and cut-offs. Packed my bookbag to be more lightweight for skate travel, leaving in only the things I imagined I'd want that evening.

Went out on the porch to put on my skates AND WAS IMMEDIATELY SURROUNDED BY KITTENS.

(eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee)

They were black and tabby and muted calico and tortie and gray. There were at least seven of them. They were half-grown and half-feral. Their favorite game seemed to be Who Can Get The Closest To The Human Without Getting Pet. They arranged themselves around the chair I was in, some where I could see them and some not. When I finally tore my eyes away and toe-stepped down the stoop to start my evening's journey, they scattered, then rearranged themselves proprietorially on the porch where I had been.

It was a long trip. It took me about half an hour, maybe forty minutes. Followed a pedicab most of the way down Decatur and North Peters. "You make a nice safe lane," I told the bicyclist. He suggested I hold onto the back and let him tow me; I declined, citing a need to see potentially hazardous bits of street before I rolled over them. It was a kind offer, though.

Stopped on the way at the terribly convenient Hertz on Convention Center Boulevard to reserve a rental for Sunday AM pick-up (and, incidentally, put to bed any future arguments about whether I needed a rental car; it was already rented, too bad).

After I'd done my required pre-ROTB business at the Sugar Mill, I headed the couple blocks down Andrew Higgins Boulevard toward Tchoupitoulas and Cochon Butcher. And there I not only worked some more on my short story, but I also had the muffuletta to make up for Amtrak's utter disgrace of an alleged muffuletta.

Got back to the airBnB eventually and met the neighbor lady who feeds the kittens. Sat on the porch and talked awhile. Finally went inside, geared down, changed into regular street clothes, walked to the nearby grocery for skater fuel--protein/energy bars, coconut water, fruit, that sort of thing. Came back. Started laundry. FINISHED THE SHORT STORY AND SUBMITTED IT. Promptly keeled over. The end.


Friday, July 14, 2018: Rollerbull o'clock

Woke up at 5:30 with plans to leave the house at 6:00 so as to be at the Sugar Mill for 6:30. That is frickin' early. What's more depressing is how hot out it already was when I started skating back toward the Sugar Mill. When a block later I encountered another rollerbull waiting for an Uber, I gratefully accepted her invitation to share the ride.

6:30 was indeed early--too early, really, to be there, despite that this was what the welcome packet told us to do. Not much to do, and no one to talk to if you don't know anyone and are sort of awkward at getting to know people. Was saved by some skaters from Big Easy Rollergirls who recognized me and also a crew from Steel City who'd been chatting with me on Twitter the afternoon before. So now I had some people to "bull around" with, and it was fantastic.

Dad was out there waiting to get a sweaty hug from his derby daughter and watch the fun and take pictures. (He was already beside himself with amusement/shock that several of the bulls were going topless except for pasties. I imagine he will wind up telling this detail to his hunting buddies, bar pals, and other friends and family about three billion times over the remainder of the year.)

So we received the blessing of San Fermín and were released to chase down the runners and swat their butts with our toy bats. Yay. I mean, honestly, I'm there for the skating, not so much for the butt-swatting. I am not thrilled by 1. dudes who say things along the lines of "ooh, yeah baby, hit me harder" (ew) 2. mostly dudes but some women too who holler after you that you "hit like a girl" or "got nothing" or other stupid challenges to my imagined machismo (this is not where my machismo lives, sorry, thanks for playing, try me again when I'm parallel parking or considering spicy food) 3. runners of all genders who insist that their friend "needs a beating" (bull does not take request, bull hits request-er instead). Or, in the case of the dude accosting me after the run while I was trying to talk to my Dad, dudes who come and put their hands/arms around my shoulders or on my back or other places without my consent and I have to extricate myself firmly but, alas, without breaking their gropey-ass appendages because violence is frowned upon by event organizers.

Basically I'm in it for the excuse to skate multiple laps around the course and then skate-dance to whatever the band is playing at the afterparty.

Eventually I peeled off, texted my goodbyes to the Steel City gals, and made my way into the Quarter. Greeted runners doing the same with "Great run this morning! Did y'all have fun too?" Stood for a selfie request with a couple tourists who said they'd had a blast.

Discovered that it's harder than I'd imagined to find a bar open before 11:00 AM on a Saturday. Found my way to Johnny White's for a beer and a photo uploading session. A party of runners descended on the place while I was thus occupied and took over the jukebox. When I finally got up to leave, I said hi and great run and all that, and one of them said, "We had a running bet whether you were deaf and maybe blind, that you were able to just keep working on your computer with us there." OK, I guess.

Now it was past 11:00 and all sorts of lunch options opened up. Too many options. I was too tired for decisions. So I fell back on my usual, which is the French Market Restaurant--you know, that place on Decatur Street with the green-and-white awnings and the constant tantalizing smell of boiled seafood wafting out the door. What I really wanted was boiled blue crab--I'd been assured they were in season--but they didn't have them. So I had a pasta dish instead. It was amazing. It involved spaghetti in a generous crawfish cream sauce topped by a central tower consisting of two slabs of fried eggplant and one damn fine crab cake. So that was fantastic.

I just want to point out that I have never yet been told anywhere in the New Orleans area, "You can't come in here with those skates on." Every single place I've been, restaurant or bar or hotel or Hertz rental office, they've been all, "Roll on in! Just be careful, OK?" The French Market Restaurant is no exception, but its restrooms are up a flight of stairs. Not a problem. Derby teaches the proper use of toe stops. So I'm toe-stopping my way up the stairs, and someone on her way down is all, "You are so talented," and I'm all, "Not talent, just good training." I mean, it beats the exchange several years ago on a post-ROTB bar crawl when the whole way up the stairs at Saints & Sinners someone kept repeating "Girl, you are gonna fall and break your leg." Like, why? Why would you say that? Having said it, why would you say it again?

Made it to the house. Tired. Full stomach. Clothes can't come off fast enough. Brief shower. Crawled into bed. Out like a light and stayed that way for about five hours.

Ventured out on the street again after dark--in shoes this time, thank you--looking for dinner and maybe if I was lucky a little wifi. The problem with Frenchmen Street is, mostly what you'll find are rockin' clubs with awesome shows and a one or two drink minimum and huge crowds. Would have been great if that was what I was in the mood for. If I'm in the mood, it's a treat just walking down the street and hearing the music coming out every door. But I just didn't have the energy for it.

Found my way instead into a courtyard and up some stairs and onto a rooftop patio with a pop-up called Rogue Cafe. They made me some tasty nachos. Thus for food. Then I remembered Envie at Barracks and Decatur, and settled in for coffee and an omelet and a bit of internet errand-running. This included making myself a Blue Bikes account. I'd noticed the rental hub on Frenchman Street at Washington Square and liked the idea of biking rather than skating to the Hertz office the next morning.

Stayed up a little late to get my Sunday morning AINC reading done--I'd already missed the Saturday shows, so I didn't want to miss Sunday too. Set my alarm for 6:15 and went to bed.


Food Tally for Friday and Saturday

It occurs to me I should be keeping track of what-got-et-when. I mean, we're now in the ACTUALLY IN NEW ORLEANS part of the travel journal. Food is going to be important. Thus:

The pasta takes the prize in that list with the muffuletta coming in a close second.

hey guess where i'm calling from
Thu 2018-07-12 20:19:10 (single post)

So I'm on a train. Hi. There's a wifi hotspot in the sleeper car that my laptop has succeeded at connecting to, so, I'm on the internet while on a train. It's kind of mind-blowing.

I'm on my way to New Orleans for San Fermín weekend. I'm gonna be a rollerbull Saturday morning, and then Sunday I'm going to be skating in the traditional Hangover Mash-up on, it turns out, Team Matador. In the white jerseys. You can come watch! There will also be some random skating around the French Quarter on Saturday. It's going to be a lot of fun.

But getting ready to get on that train meant that the entire week got kicked into in High-Stress Pre-Travel Triage Mode, right up until I got to Denver Union Station. So today was really the first time this week I got any serious writing done.

And I've got a Patreon offering due tomorrow, and I have a short story that needs to be submitted by midnight on the 14th. AND I'M NOT SURE WHICH MIDNIGHT. I mean, the midnight at the end of the 14th, or the midnight that kicks off the 14th? Eek?

So. Er.

Hooray for the mobile writing retreat that is a TRAIN!

(Now if only I'd managed to sleep last night and hadn't been battling a headache all day today and could have gotten more work done. But nevermind all that...)

you fall small, you fall alone, you get up as soon as it's safe or at the very least by 8:00 am
Thu 2018-07-05 23:46:45 (single post)

I'm going to keep this short because I jammed my finger pretty bad during the last jam at scrimmage tonight. I took ibuprofen almost immediately, and I clutched an ice pack the whole way home, and that helped, but nevertheless typing is a little bit of a trial right now.

(It was very stupid. I have been skating roller derby for more than six years now. I know how to fall safely. I have taught other skaters how to fall safely. "Let your wrist guards protect you," we say. "Let the hard part of your wrist guards take the impact," we say. So what do I do tonight? I fall on my face and, instead of letting my wrist guards take the impact, I land on a tripod of finger tips like I'm playing the piano or something. Go forth and do not likewise.)

So anyway.

To continue the topic of dailiness: Not so consistent this week, but then yesterday was a holiday, so I'm letting myself off the hook. Today I managed to hit every one of the writing-related items on my list, so I'm happy.

What worked today that didn't work Tuesday? Getting to work on time. Really. It's amazing how many hours are at your disposal when you hit your first task at ten instead of twelve thirty. There was still a bit of slippage, but there always is. I can absorb it if I start my day on time like a responsible working adult.

Not much of an epiphany, I admit. "There is more room in a day that starts before noon." Pretty darn obvious. But that's about the only observation of interest I have for the blog today. That's how it goes. Some days you're a genius, and some days you smack yourself on the forehead and say "I could have had a V8!"

(And sometimes you make references to pop culture moments that really date you, but you figure if you can link the appropriate video you can at least show the youngsters what the hell you're talking about, and there is a really specific thing you're thinking of, only it turns out neither YouTube nor Google have heard of that stand-up comedy bit where the guy does an impression of what it would look like if David Bryne of the Talking Heads did a V8 commercial. Look, it was right around the time that "Once In A Lifetime" was big on MTV, OK? It happened! I am not making this up! ...So you give up and just link an example of the TV advertisement itself, which is less funny but does the job.)

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