“...and I didn't know how it was going to end until I got there, which is the best and the worst kind of writing.”
Neil Gaiman

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

i mean if you can fit every kind of weather in just one day
Wed 2015-03-25 23:44:38 (single post)

Today we got every kind of weather. We got hail and rain and snow and blissfully warm sunshine too. To fit all that into a single day takes a strict timetable, I imagine. "Hurry up," said the weather coach. "We have a lot to do today. And no chit-chatting between drills! Move it, move it, move it--"

Or maybe Colorado was presenting its meteorological portfolio to a prospective employer. At the job interview, when the Rocky Mountain Front Range was asked "What's your greatest weakness?" it probably answered, "Inconsistency." Or perhaps, "I have a tendency to try to do everything at once. But I make up for it by being a great multitasker!"

I had foolishly, optimistically thought that we needn't turn the heat on ever again this spring--in fact, ever again at this address, as we're moving in about two weeks. (Two weeks! Shit-bird, that's scary-soon. I should be making check-lists and writing an inventory of stuff-still-to-be-packed!) But it got cold while the snow was driving at 45-degree angles this afternoon, and it got cold on the drive home from roller derby practice this evening too.

Tomorrow is supposed to be warm and sunny, just like yesterday (and the day before, and the day before that) but more-so. Tomorrow, Colorado will wake up with a hangover and declare that it doesn't remember and has absolutely no desire to be told what it got up to on Wednesday the 25th. It's just too embarrassing.

Speaking of roller derby (as I always am), Bombshells team practice failed to kill me. It didn't try all that hard, mind; it only lasted two hours instead of three, but more to the point, it's the environment in which I've been practicing for almost three years. I'm comfortable there. Which is not to say it goes easy on me either, but it's the level of practice I've grown used to. I'm more accustomed to its demands. Whereas yesterday's All Stars practice was a shock to my system. Everything was faster! stronger! harder! longer! and done by people who are so much better at this stuff than me. It's intimidating.

But yesterday's the only taste I'm going get of it, just a dip of the toe in the pool, until next week Thursday. The All Stars are going to the Dust Devil Tournament this weekend in Tucson, Arizona. I was added to the team far too late to go with them, which is just fine. Frankly, I need another week of Bombshells practice just to remind my body, after its enforced two-month "vacation" from skating, what regularly practicing is like.

And it's not just practice I need. I need to adjust my entire lifestyle. Well, that's a bit strong. I mean, I need to get into better self-care routines so that my body is able to handle not just a higher intensity of physical activity when it comes time to skate, but also my unreasonable demand that I do more with my days than just skate.

Just look at all the different kinds of weather that can fit in a single day. If Colorado can do that, I should be able to cram all my writing projects into a day that contains roller derby, right?

But the body is a machine that needs regular maintenance. I haven't been taking very good care of mine. I've been up until all hours and staying in bed late with headaches and exhaustion because of it. Which then leads to a failure to eat right or hydrate sufficiently.

This has been less than ideal for my ambitions to productivity. It probably also has something to do with the way this past weekend laid me out flat.

Preliminary steps to fix this include getting up at 8:00 AM--no excuses!--regularly feeding myself breakfast and a good multivitamin, drinking a glass of water for every cup of hot caffeinated tea, having no caffeine past five in the afternoon, and getting to bed no later than midnight.

I have not been very good at that last thing. Days aren't long enough to start with. I can't get nearly as much done in one as I'd like. Naturally I'm reluctant to let one come to an end.

But this one is coming to an end now, because new good habits have to start sometime.

Goodnight, everybody!

Original photo: 'A long and narrow bridge' by Miika Silfverberg (CC BY-SA 2.0)
fake it til you can at least make it roll it down the hill
Mon 2015-03-02 23:54:33 (single post)
  • 1,472 wds. long

OK, this is as late as I ever want to get with a Friday Fictionette. Just posted the one for February 27 a moment ago--"A Bridge Just Far Enough"--and have plans to release the February Fictionette Freebie tomorrow morning. I honestly can't decide which one of the four to release. I'll stand a better chance making up my mind in the morning.

The edition for Week One of March will not be late. It's fluffy and fun and I've already gotten halfway through cleaning it up and rounding it off. Also, it will not be interfered with by the week from House Buying/Selling Hell.

I shouldn't complain. That week from Hell ended very nicely--with us accepting an offer for our condo unit that's significantly above list price and almost 150% what we paid for it in 2000, from a buyer who isn't much fussed about things like inspections and appraisals. They're like, "Whatever, it looks nice, shut up and gimme," and we're like, "Awesome, yes please, thank you" and the seller of the place we're trying to move into is no doubt, "Yay, contingency met, I can get out of here." I mean, I haven't talked to any of them personally, but that's probably the gist of it.

But it did take us through the week and into the weekend to slow down to a reasonable pace, where we weren't constantly cleaning the house, getting out of the house, inspecting the new house, and talking about the house on the phone. The timeline from here on out is much more relaxed, and hopefully will be until that frenetic period of time between April 7 and April 12 when we will scramble to move all our stuff from Place 1 to Place 2.

Which means this week I actually get to complete the story revision. I am phrasing it that way in order to jump start my looking-forward-to-things engine. Because what I'm actually feeling is, "Er. No more excuses. That means I have to do it this week. OR ELSE I'M A TOTAL FAILURE." That is not a healthy way to think about one's vocation. So I'm telling myself "Yay! I get to play with my story!" and I'm saying it a lot and I'm smiling. Which is that thing we call fake it 'til you make it.

Roll on, the week of faking it effectively!

wait let my check my notes
Wed 2015-02-25 20:18:40 (single post)
  • 5,389 wds. long

Last week I declared this week to be the week of Finishing The Short Story Rewrite, Dammit. Let's see how that's going, shall we?

Monday we spent frantically cleaning the house and putting things in storage, because...

Tuesday was the day the realtor took pictures of our home so it could be listed. There was a lot of frantic cleaning that morning before the photo appointment. But that didn't mean our job was over. We also had to review and sign a bunch of documents, and do some more cleaning and tidying, which continued into...

Wednesday (today). We pretty much have to do everything we didn't get done in time for photos. This includes a not insignificant amount of grout-cleaning and re-caulking. Also a bunch of errand-running with the intent to Get Stuff Out Of the House. Stuff went to storage, stuff to do with stain/varnish/paint-thinner/mineral spirits went to the Hazardous waste facility, stuff to be donated went into the mail, and our old single-band wi-fi gateway got returned to Comcast because it had been replaced by a dual-band wif-fi gateway. (The Comcast stop was actually the simplest of the bunch.)

By the way, you know why today's mini-snowpocalypse hit at precisely the time it did? That was precisely 5 minutes after I headed out on those errands in a T-shirt and jeans. No jacket, no scarf, no hat. Because today I "checked the weather" by looking out the window and saying, "Eh, looks decent enough," rather than actually checking the weather forecast. And the sky demons have a wicked sense of humor.

Today has also involved a lot of time on the phone with our mortgage lender, where she explained things to us very slowly and in words of one syllable because that's what it takes to get some of this scary loan stuff through our heads. We don't know the jargon, we don't know the theory, we just want the experts to hold our hands and make it all happen and just tell us what to do so it gets done right.

Anyway, the reason for continuing the frantic clean-up and errands-running is to get the place ready for...

Thursday when there will be something like eight or ten potential buyers walking through and examining the place. The earliest showing will be at 8:00 and the latest will end at 5:45. Pretty much we have to get out of Dodge for the day. Not that we can just settle down and do our work somewhere; we're spending the morning at the place we're under a contingency contract to buy, getting the visual inspection done.

By the way, that's the one-story, ground floor unit about a half mile to the north of us that's 250 square feet larger than our current home. The two-story one with the postage-stamp backyard (really a front patio) really did feel significantly smaller than our current one, and we didn't like the condition the bedrooms were in. Nor were we excited about the South Boulder neighborhood, once we got down there. It didn't really feel close to anything or anyone we wanted to be close to. So we went back to Plan A, which was to enter a contingency agreement to buy the place I enthused about previously.

And assuming that all goes well,

Friday we will be getting together with the realtor to review any offers made. (One has already been made. Sight unseen, pending tomorrow's walk-through. At a few thousand above the listing price. Wow.) And with any luck by the end of Friday we'll have accepted an offer, and all the quantum waveforms will collapse into certainty, and we can relax.

Which makes this week the week of Selling The House and Buying A New One, For Reals.

Maybe next week can be the week of Finishing the Short Story Rewrite, Dammit.

Anyway. Back to the grout-cleaning with me...

various lights sighted at the end of various tunnels
Fri 2015-02-20 23:16:59 (single post)
  • 5,389 wds. long

Alas, this week's Friday Fictionette will arrive on Saturday. Today has just been one of those days, full of unforeseen things hijacking my plans. And now it is almost eleven o' clock, and the idea of doing a rush job on the PDF is simply painful.

Also, my brain just coughed up the best possibility for an ending, such as these things have endings. I want to let it percolate overnight to see what kind of prose it turns into.

Meanwhile...

  • A bit of hopping has been added to my physical therapy routine--you know the one where they have you lunge, but your back foot is on a raised block, and then you hop on your forward foot? Right. My next appointment is on March 5, at which point I will very possibly, hopefully, if all goes well, be cleared to skate. Setting my sights on a Phase One practice that Saturday!
  • The potential buyer from Thursday won't, but that was only the first showing, so, oh well and onward. Tomorrow we head to a south Boulder condo unit that's smaller but has a two-story layout separating bedrooms upstairs from common areas downstairs, no one living above or below, and a backyard. A postage stamp of a backyard, I'm sure, but still. The property we looked at Wednesday remains an option, too. There are so many options. Wheels continue turning and I am seriously visualizing myself Not At This Address Anymore.
  • The very last closet door panel is fully stained and will get finished with three coats of polycrylic per side over the weekend. I am so glad to be finally done with this project. Then there will be a flurry of house cleaning and moving things to storage so that the realtor can take pictures on Mondays for listing the place.
  • And next week will be the week of Finishing The Short Story Rewrite, Dammit. Yes, small goals, I know, but--this is ridiculous. I'm tired of it not being done. So, small goals, yes, but one small goal every few hours rather than every few days, yes?

February. The month of Getting Things Done Finally Dammit.

Cover art includes images from OpenClipArt.org
this fictionette visited the invisible cities and afterward kept walking
Fri 2015-01-02 23:13:33 (single post)

Your Friday Fictionette for the first week of January is "Moon Island: A Traveler's Guide." For the first time in weeks I've uploaded/posted/published everything on time--the excerpt here on the actually writing blog, the excerpt at Wattpad, the accompanying public posts in my Patreon Activity Feed, everything. I'm feeling rather industrious right now. (I'm also trying not to think about how long everything took me.)

There's something of the tone of "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas" in this one, more obviously if you read the whole thing than if you just read the excerpt (insert blatant but brief plug for subscriptions here), but it's less to do with Le Guin's ethical thought experiment and more to do with the sense of wonder you get from the very last paragraph of her story. I was very much taken with the ethical premise and question when I first read the tale, but now what really sticks with me is the contrast between Omelas and the destination of those who walk away.

Throughout the story, the narrator coaxes you into imagining Omelas. She tries to make it easier for you wherever difficulties arise. She invites you to collaborate with her in outright inventing the place: "If an orgy would help, don't hesitate." Even the horror of the sacrificial child has a role in this task: she offers this detail as one last aid to making feasible the task of imagining happy Omelas. But what of the place toward which people who walk away from Omelas go? There the narrator simply gives up. She's in the same boat as the reader. "The place they go towards is a place even less imaginable to most of us than the city of happiness. I cannot describe it at all. It is possible that it does not exist."

Of course there's an assertion on the level of the ethical thought experiment: that humans may well be incapable of imagining a true utopia, but that won't stop us from "walking ahead into the darkness" to try to find it. But as a storyteller myself I'm fascinated with this meta-treatise on the limits of the imagination, and with the strategies we use to imagine the unimaginable. If we cannot describe it, perhaps we can describe something else, and position the indescribable in relation to it.

There's also a touch of Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities in "Moon Island." It's been years since I read the book, but the flavor of it sticks with me: fantastical, fictional places that only begin to exist when the storyteller creates them in the listener's mind. But the city in Marco Polo's mind can't be the same as the city in Kubla Khan's mind. Even if they spoke the same language, which they do not, there would be translation issues. All current forms of speech are lossy data transmission systems. And yet a city comes into being within Kubla Khan's mind. This happens regardless of whether the city physically exists in the Khan's empire or was invented out of whole cloth by his explorer correspondent. That's the magic of storytelling. It's an act of creation. And what has been created can never be wholly lost.

So Moon Island now exists in my head, and that's a happy thing but also a sad thing, because now I want to visit it, and I know I can't. At least, not outside of imagination and dreams.

Drat.

a stitch in time to cheer up my inner child
Thu 2015-01-01 23:36:02 (single post)

Waking up on the train Wednesday morning the 31st, I had that dream again, the one where I go home and discover a pet that I'd totally forgotten about and been neglecting for years. As you might imagine, it's a dream full of guilt and self-recrimination. But because the pet is always alive and healthy, or at least mostly healthy, it's not too late to do something about the situation. So there's guilt, but there's also relief, a sense of undeserved reprieve, while I scramble to make things right.

Great timing, brain. If you're going to give me a kick in the subconscious about childhood aspirations and responsibilities, why not deliver it on my way to New Orleans, so I can maybe do something about it while I'm there? (Do what? I don't know. Go through my boxes in the attic. Go visit teenage haunts. Something.) But no, you had to drop it on me as the train arrived in Denver. Great.

Sometimes the dream invents a pet for the sake of giving me guilt over it. Once, I dreamed that a miniature horse was waiting for me in my old closet in my childhood bedroom. I opened the door, and there it was, just standing there, patiently waiting for me to feed it.

Most often, though, the dream is about a real pet I took care of throughout my childhood, an albino parakeet whom I had from ages eight to fifteen or so, and whom I had unimaginatively named White Wing. That's who the dream was about yesterday morning:

A too-small birdcage, maybe two feet by one foot by eight inches tall, crowded with quiet parakeets of all colors. One of them is White Wing. I had forgotten about them, hadn't fed them in ages, and this isn't the first time I forgot about them too. I hurry to give them food. I don't have the proper food I used to give them, just this bag of small sunflower seeds that my parents picked up. It's labeled for budgies, but the dark blue one with black accents is mildly sick soon after eating. I resolve to get the proper food as soon as I can.

White Wing is an especially appropriate focus for the dream because there was a period of time when I did neglect her. It was totally understandable: I had just been diagnosed with leukemia and whisked away to the hospital. I wasn't at home to take care of my budgie. But I wasn't even thinking about it until I came home and she wasn't in my room. Apparently someone told my parents that there was a chance I could catch something from her, or from the mites she might be carrying, while my immune system was suppressed, so they moved her to another room and cleaned mine very thoroughly. I had no idea they were doing that; I was busy being bored at the hospital, wondering when they'd let me go home.

(Note to self: There's probably something here in the dream about gratitude owed to my parents. In certain ways this visit home was fairly trying, which made it difficult to remember gratitude and appreciation.)

Having White Wing in the next room over, where I couldn't hear or see her without consciously going to her, rather than in my room where her activity was a constant part of my life, made it easy for her daily care to slip my mind from time to time. I'd remember late in the day with a sudden oh shit! And yes, I'd feel guilty about spending less time with her than I should.

So she's permanently etched in that part of my subconscious symbols lexicon. There are other associations that this visit would have reawakened, but I don't have the energy to go into them right now. They are not happy associations, and I don't want to deal with them at the moment. Besides, this post is getting long enough as it is. So let's stick with the "neglected responsibilities from childhood" theme for now.

(By the way, did y'all know I have a website all about dreams and dream interpretation? I have been neglecting it for far too long, too. The public dream journal is probably chock full of link spam by now. I need to clean out the database and give the whole site an overhaul.)

Anyway, every time I have this dream, I think about what I valued during my childhood that might have fallen off my radar. Am I making good strides toward the writing career I always envisioned having? I was fascinated by lucid dreams and out-of-body travels back then; when's the last time I tried to have a lucid dream? What about my religious/spiritual identity, practices, observances? Discovering Wicca meant so much to me around that time, but this year, being at my parents' house and also exhausted (or lazy), we didn't even observe the Winter Solstice.

Things like that.

Sometimes, even if I don't have good answers, I can honor this dream in a symbolic way. I can't necessarily reclaim a sense of spiritual urgency or suddenly get a book published overnight, but I can participate in some other activity I enjoyed during the White Wing years. For instance, I used to cross-stitch a lot when I was in and out of the hospital. It was something to do with the long, boring hours lying in bed. I worked any pattern or kit Mom brought me: teddy bear bookmarks, fleur-de-lis, streetcars, all manner of Christmas ornaments.

I did much less cross-stitch through high school and college, though I still found patterns from time to time to work as gifts: Witches Stitches' "Star Maiden" for my sister-in-law, an illustrated Prayer of St. Francis for Mom. But when I picked up knitting about fifteen years ago, it usurped cross-stitch entirely.

Well. Today, I started a new pattern: "Hurricane Tracking Map: Cajun Style!" by Leslie Wristers. I bought it at The Quarter Stitch during a visit home some eight to ten years ago--probably ten or more, come to think of it, as Katrina hadn't happened yet. But I never touched it until very recently, in early November, and even then all I did was go to the store and buy cloth and thread for it.

But I made the first few stitches on it tonight.

Look, younger me! I am cross-stitching again! And it's a New Orleans-themed pattern, too! I haven't forgotten you, I promise.

this must be that 'negging' thing that's all the rage these days
Tue 2014-12-30 22:00:05 (single post)

And of course our train trip would not be complete without some unfortunate interpersonal incident to inspire a full-bore feminist rant. It has become clear, in my brain, that a single tweet has done nothing to relieve my feelings on this issue, so you get a blog post about it. You're welcome.

A distressing subset of the population seems to think that, to paraphrase Jane Austen, a woman in possession of a book must be in want of a conversation partner. And it is overwhelmingly the case that it's a woman who's trying to read on a bus, train, or airplane, and a man who's interrupting her. Whole multi-volume encyclopedias, indeed, whole libraries, could be filled with examples of this... well, I'd call it a faux pas, but most of the time it seems far too deliberate a disregard of social signals. Like the soft "no," the non-verbal "leave me alone" cue (e.g. reading a book, listening to music on headphones, working on a computer) is demonstrably detectable in other circumstances (i.e. when it's another man who's reading or wearing headphones) by men who pretend not to "get it" when the person sending out the signal is a woman to whose attention they feel entitled.

If you're tempted to argue with me about this, don't bother. I've been subjected to it too many times, and I've read too many testimonies by other women who've endured it. Invariably interspersed among such testimonies will be That Guy, protesting either honestly or disingenuously, about how men have to be allowed to interrupt women reading in public, or else potential missed connections, and yes in most cases it would be rude but there's that one personal anecdote that totally invalidates every woman's experiences, feelings, and needs. "So you're saying men aren't allowed to talk to women in public transportation ever? Is that what you're saying? Is that what you want?" In your case? Yes. You in particular should not ever approach a woman on public transportation. Or in public, actually. Ever.

But I digress. My point is, today I experienced... well, not actually the rudest example of this ever. It certainly doesn't top Captain Awkward's story of the guy who waved his hand in her face while shouting "HELLO? HELLO?", or any number of women's experiences of having their headphones/earbuds physically yanked off their heads or out of their ears by importunate men. But it was probably the rudest and most clueless incident that I've personally experienced, and I've experienced quite a few. It goes like this.

I'm slouched back in my coach seat with Steven Brust's The Book of Jhereg, which is the first three Vlad Taltos novels (in terms of publication order) in omnibus form. I've got about 20 pages to go. And suddenly this hand comes out of the sky, reaching for my book. Reaching, specifically, for those last 20 pages. I flinch away instinctively, moving the book out of the looming man's reach, or at least deeper into my Personal Space Zone on the theory that he won't actually grab something that's pressed up against my boobs-such-as-they-are.

And while this almost-but-not-quite-tug-of-war is going on, he is speaking thusly:

"Oh my goodness that is such a big book! Did you really read that whole book by yourself so that there's only this much left?!"

Those are the actual words that came out of his actual mouth. To me, a grown-ass and arguably middle-aged woman.

(I'm suddenly reminded of a distant, elderly relative at the family Christmas dinner who said to me, "When you get a little older, you'll find...." Honey, in less than 6 months I'll be 39. My gut started complaining about coffee about ten years ago, my back started complaining about long hours at the computer fifteen years ago, and my knees started complaining about being knees some twenty years ago. Do you seriously think I've had no experiences thus far of getting a little older?)

Age is beside the point. Maybe, given my posture and my short stature and his top-down view, he mistook me for a young child. I don't care. That was an inappropriate thing to say to a reader of any age. Maybe if you're the child's teacher or parent and you've watched them struggle to master chapter books, maybe then you get to say, "Congratulations! I know how hard it was for you." But if you've never seen her before in your life? I don't care how young she is, your first words to her should not communicate, "I'm astounded by your ability to read! I had of course assumed you were illiterate." Few women or girls of any age will find that charming.

Besides, "Did you really read that whole book?" is kind of a stupid thing to say to someone whose eyeballs are intently glued to the 20th-to-last page. It's like saying "Did you really eat that whole thing?" to someone who is happily sopping up the last traces of garlic butter. No, sweetie, I dumped that steak in the trash, just to fool you. No, I didn't read the whole thing (by myself); I was just sitting here, posing, holding an impressively thick book open to the last chapter, breathlessly waiting for you to come by and compliment me.

Anyway, when I looked up to deliver a scathing response ("What an incredibly condescending and rude thing to say," sez I; "Huh?" sez he), I couldn't help but notice his uniform and name-tag.

That Guy was totally an Amtrak train attendant.

One: I'm pretty sure Amtrak would not be pleased to have its staff casually insulting passengers.

Two: He can't possibly have been surprised to see a long-distance passenger reading a book. Despite the prevalence of laptops, tablets, and smartphones, this is still a relatively common pastime on the California Zephyr.

So that's my rant. Boggle, ye optimistic, and despair.

the tail end of the vacation is not safe from pre-travel freak-outs
Mon 2014-12-29 20:15:13 (single post)

Hello! I am posting this from Memphis. I am on the train, and the train is arriving in Memphis. And I have almost completely recovered from my latest bout of pre-travel freak-outs!

Because pre-travel freak-out mode happens at the end of a vacation, too. I've got a train to catch, I've got to be ready to leave by 12:30, I've got stuff needs doing before then. Thus: Panic!

But it's inevitably going to be less freaky than the freak-out at the start of a vacation. It's the return journey, so the potential for freak-out is limited. I'm no longer planning what to pack; I mostly just have to make sure that everything I brought, plus the few things I've acquired, all make it into my luggage. And I don't have to clean the fridge or make sure all the leftovers are eaten or frozen, since the house we're leaving is inhabited. It's inhabited by people who might end up throwing out those leftovers in a week's time (sorry, Dad), but there is at least a non-zero chance that they will eat them.

So aside from packing, here's what was on my to-do list:

  • A last load of laundry, while I had access to free laundry facilities. Well, free in terms of quarters, anyway. Using it adds a few cents to my parents' water and energy bills, of course. And then there's the user cost of babysitting the washing process so that the laundry room doesn't flood. I let the laundry room flood, once, and I may never live it down. But I did learn how to operate a Shop Vac on that occasion, so something useful came out of it.
  • A trip to the grocery to fill my snack bag against a two-day coach-class journey. You go sleeper, you get free meals, so you only have to worry about developing an appetite on schedule. You go coach, you bring your own unless you want to be entirely dependent on the inevitably overpriced snack car.
  • A visit to Phil's Grill of Metairie, next door to the grocery, to bring us back lunch. A friend tipped me off that they did veggie burgers. John proclaimed it delicious, even more so than the veggie patty at Cowbell. (He preferred Cowbell's fries, however). Meanwhile, I had a medium-well Lagniappe patty (a mixture of angus steak and andouille sausage) with havarti cheese, red onions, sauteed mushrooms, and dijon mustard. Which I proclaimed delicious. (The sweet potato fries were only so-so, alas. But who cares about fries when the burger's this good?)
  • Transforming a jar of hot pickled quail's eggs into egg salad sandwiches for the train. The pickled eggs were one of a number of wares produced by a local canning outfit (whose name I have shamefully already forgot, though a quick Google suggests it may have been Joseph's Fine Foods) and sold at Rouses. I bought them on a whim. They are indeed hot, and vinegary like woah. I chopped them coarsely and mixed them together with mayonnaise, salt, pepper, Cajun Land seasoning, dried dill weed, and--here's where I'm a genius--muffuletta olive spread. Which is tasty but I must admit doesn't mitigate the vinegar any. So maybe I'm only sort of a genius.

All of which I got done between the time I got up at 9:30 AM and the time my brother picked us up at 12:45 PM. So you can see it wasn't nearly as much to freak out over as the pre-vacation pre-travel freak-out list was. And after an afternoon of riding the rails and playing on my computer, I've recovered quite well.

Tomorrow we shall be in Chicago for a bit before catching the train to Denver. And that is all for now.

From the number of smartphones waving around taking video, I expect you'll be able to find tonight's show on youtube any minute now.
who's behind the door
Thu 2014-12-25 23:22:48 (single post)

Can't stop too busy rockin'--

Randy Jackson is playing Hurricane's in Metairie. Yes, that Randy Jackson. Frontman for Zebra, New Orleans's own contribution to the mid-70s-to-present-day progressive rock scene. As in, solo project China Rain. Apparently he plays Hurricane's when he's in town. Lots of Led Zeppelin and Beatles covers in addition to stuff from his own ongoing career, a few other random covers thrown in--pretty much the definition of rockin' out.

I have never actually seen the place this packed. I'm used to coming in on a Sunday evening when nothing's coming on and I'm literally the only non-staff person sitting at the bar. It's smoky and loud and there are a couple people who need to cool off, please (and consider that other people's bodies belong to other people, dammit--I was this close to warning my brother he might have to bail me out of jail because a particular egotistical hair fetishist might benefit from a broken nose and/or kneecap), but over all it's a great crowd. Lots of old school Zebra fans who are guaranteed to go nuts when Randy starts in on "Tell Me What You Want" or "Bears" did, indeed, go nuts in a fun and musical way.

Every once in a while Randy reminds us that there are "T-shirts by the toilet" for our T-shirt buying pleasure. That just happens to be where the swag table is, on the way to the restrooms, but I kind of want him to describe them as "freshly flushed" or something. That would be funny.

We're in between sets right now. Fans are shaking hands with Randy and posing for pictures with him. And I'm typing this up because I don't think I'm going to get another chance to before 1:00 AM, which is when I try to get these things done. Actually, I try to get these things done by midnight, but what the hell, it's Christmas and I'm in the Central Time Zone. I'm due a little slack.

That, by the way, might have something to do with the lack of writing content all week. I haven't been an entire slacker, mind, and there will be a Friday Fictionette tomorrow, but do give me a break. I'm on vacation.

Gotta go! Show's about to (re-)start.

small pizza with oysters and lemon, side of pink floyd, hold the xmas tunes
Tue 2014-12-23 23:12:31 (single post)

Today we will praise pizza, and the very best of pizzas. Sing, O Muse, of pizza! Pizza created by the Mellow Mushroom in many great cities across these wide United States--including that of Metairie, Louisiana--and in as many varied ways! Pizza with four cheeses! Pizza with charbroiled oysters and lemon juice and parmesan cheese! Pizza preceded by great portabella caps stuffed to their gills with roasted artichoke hearts, covered with a thick crust of cheese, and resting upon field greens dressed with balsamic vinaigrette! Ah, pizza. Let us sing.

Boulder used to have a Mellow Mushroom, back when we first moved into town. It was in the retail plaza set back from the southwest corner of 18th and Pearl. It was there until I think 2001 when Gondolier moved in. (Said retail plaza is no more--the corner's under construction and everything in it except Frasca has been torn down. Gondolier is now in the Meadows plaza at Baseline and Foothills.). But I remember walking into the dimly lit, lofty space and seeing a gigantic scary buffalo head leering down from the corner above the kitchen. Not a real buffalo head, not a hunting trophy--just a huge plushy with goggly stoner eyes and probably a bunch of University of Colorado sports memorabilia caught up in its shaggy mane.

Surely someone once upon a time took a picture and uploaded it to the internet? My Google-Fu is failing me. The only record I can seem to find of that location's existence is on this page.

The Metairie location is upstairs in the Forum building at Vet's and Causeway. It's decorated with fleur-de-lis everywhere. Even the restaurant's name sign, which you'd think would be the same at every location in order to satisfy branding requirements, incorporates a fleur-de-lis which itself incorporates a mushroom. (I didn't think to take a picture at the time, and I think most of John's pictures have gone straight to SnapChat and thence to oblivion.) The decor inside celebrates jazz musicians. A monstrosity made of fake instruments piled in an inverted pyramid occupies the central place of honor as a color-shifting lighting fixture. They've done their damnedest to make this chain's New Orleans-area location feel like a New Orleans-area restaurant. Might I call your attention once more to the charbroiled oyster pizza? They also have the "Bayou Bleu," which features grilled shrimp and andouille sausage in a spicey bleu cheese base. How I wish I liked bleu cheese.

The selection of local draft beers is respectable. I tasted 40 Arpent Red Bean Ale (a red ale, of course) and Parish Canebrake (a wheat). If neither had appealed, I was ready to order a pint of Lazy Magnolia's Southern Pecan.

Every booth has a small flat-screen TV installed on the wall. One family utilized this to keep their kids entertained with cartoons on Nickelodeon. The diners eating next-booth-over had their TV tuned to football. We, of course, just used the AC outlet it was plugged into to keep our laptops running. (The in-house wi-fi worked great for me. John inexplicably had DNS trouble getting past their log-in/terms&conditions screen.)

My only real complaint about today's experience is that they took away the classic rock mix I was digging in order to play non-stop Christmas songs. This time of year, any restaurant that doesn't play non-stop Christmas songs gets my aggressively repeat business and vocal thanks (yay Dot's Diner yesterday!). The light rock and oldies stations are playing them on the radio. The mall is playing them. The TV is full of them. I think I can safely remain innocent of Grinch accusations if I say that not every single public place needs to board the Christmas train, right?

Or at least have the frickin' imagination to include some Hanukkah songs in the mix, yeah? (Shock! No single religion has a monopoly on holiday songs!) And if all you can think of is "Dreidl Dreidl Dreidl" or "Hanukkah O Hanukkah," do a little research. There are quite a few good tunes out there. The kids at Metairie Park Country Day sing a decent sample every year during their Caroling in the Atrium event. And tossing in "The Christians and the Pagans" wouldn't kill anyone, you know?

And for God's sake--any God you like--cut "All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth" out of your set list WITH EXTREME PREJUDICE. Especially any version sung by an adult attempting to imitate a lisping child. Ideally, the song should be sung to an upbeat tempo and by no one older than 12. All sustained attempts to whistle should be rejected out of hand. And any version sung in double-slow time should be banned by the Geneva Convention. Seriously, y'all, I only want one beer at lunch. I do not want to be forced to drink a second and a third to dull the pain.

Mellow Mushroom of Metairie! Looking forward to returning on my next trip home, when the holiday season is safely behind us!

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