“If this is not what you expected, please alter your expectations.”
Mark Morford

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

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!

Dear Chicago: Why was there not a convenient make-up shop to take a picture in, on our way to dinner tonight?
i saw a fictionette shopping for make-up in the mall
Fri 2014-12-19 23:56:57 (single post)
  • 1,368 wds. long

So here's the thing about smartphone-powered wi-fi hotspots: They only work if your smartphone is getting signal. For large stretches of track, it won't get signal. So if you've put off working on your Friday assignment until the City of New Orleans leaves Chicago Union Station at 8:05 PM, and you don't get it done until somewhere after Effingham (say, midnight Central time), then you're just going to have to wait until the train gets to Centralia and that's all there is to it.

In other words, this blog post and the accompanying Friday Fictionette will be coming to you a touch late. Mea culpa. It's half past midnight now; I mean to stay up until both critters are uploaded. If that means I have to be awake when we hit Carbondale, so be it.

I hate coming up with titles. "Stealing the Crown Jewels" is at least marginally clever and refers to at least two things in the story. But it doesn't quite make me go yeah, that's the ticket. And I get this weird superstitious feeling that, by coming up with a title for a Fictionette four times a month, I'm using up my title ju-ju. Really weird, right? Do something often and you'd think you'd get better at it, right? But no, lizard brain is all YOU ARE CONSUMING A NON-RENEWABLE RESOURCE, STOP NOW BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE--

Lizard brain needs a good night's sleep, and also a hug.

This used to be the ticket counter, y'all. Everything is weird and wonderful.
like night to a supernova is union station then to now
Thu 2014-12-18 19:28:25 (single post)

OMG you guys. Union Station is beautiful.

Last time I was here, I think it was July, the Train Hall was still under construction. If you were waiting to board an Amtrak train, you sat in a tiny walled-off corner of the Hall on the seats they'd toted over from the temporary station, which were crammed so close together that you'd find yourself literally knocking knees with other people. People you didn't know, I mean. You entered through a sort of hobbit door after dodging through construction cones on Wynkoop Street. Last time I was here, it was drizzling rain, but passengers were electing to wait outside in the wet where there was room to breathe.

Comparing my arrival then to our arrival today, it was like night to day. No--it was like night to supernova. First off, the door into the Train Hall now says "Crawford Hotel," which made us hesitate a bit before going in. But it was the only door waiting for us at the top of the escalator, so, we went in.

Do you remember the sort of hollow, high-ceilinged, echoing, pew-furnished purgatory that Denver Union Station used to be? No more. All those alcoves that looked sadly like they used to be something but were now abandoned? They're something now. They're AMCE Burger & Brat Corp.. They're Pigtrain Coffee Co. and Milkbox Ice Creamery. They're Snooze for brunch, the Mercantile for upscale delicatessen grocery shopping (and dining in), and even a little miniature Tattered Cover bookstore with darn good selection for its size. Where the forlorn ticketing counter used to be is now the Terminal Bar, with "patio" seating and live music.

Down the hall, past where the brand new, modern ticketing counter and baggage check office are now, you'll find the seafood bar Stoic & Genuine and the aforementioned The Kitchen [Next Door] Community Pub. The latter is where I spent the last hour and some, eating small plates and drinking beer.

Meanwhile, the Train Hall doubles as the Crawford Hotel's lounge--hence the insignia on the door when we came in. The huge penitent pews are gone, and, historic though they were, I am surprised to find that I don't miss them. There are smaller pews, all in a row by the exit to the train tracks, but mostly there's comfortable seating in leather and upholstery. There are charging stations that are actually comfortable to sit at, and well lit. There are shuffleboard tables, dear Gods in alphabetical order. There is a bluegrass band playing everything, including a gorgeous cover of Bruce Springsteen's "I'm On Fire." Followed by Paul Simon's "Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes." I'm kind of overwhelmed. And happy. And, it must be admitted, a little drunk.

The train, unaccountably, is early. And I'm not nearly ready to leave!

Well. I'll be posting this from the train thanks to John's smartphone wifi uplink. But you can bet I'll be coming back down to Union Station even when I'm not traveling by train. Because this will be a fantastic place to work, once I've got enough home improvement out of the way to take my writing out of the house for once. I mean, for once when I'm not on vacation.

the inevitability of pre-travel freak-outs
Wed 2014-12-17 23:33:09 (single post)

So I'm currently in pre-travel freak-out mode. I know you can't tell from where you're sitting--I'm very good at hiding it!--but it's true. I'm in the last 24 hours before departure, and inside my head where nobody can see, I'm freaking out.

This is a thing that I do. Last-minute deadline stress isn't just for writing deadlines, y'all.

Tomorrow, John and I get on a train bound for New Orleans. Which is to say, we get on the train to Chicago, and in Chicago we will catch the train for New Orleans. This is the most direct route, and will be until such time as Amtrak becomes convinced it'll be feasible to create or reinstate other routes through Denver. (Cross your fingers with me. I want to see this happen in my lifetime.) Should the train be on time (as so far it's said to be), it will depart at 7:10 PM, so theoretically we don't need to get our happy luggage-toting butts down to Denver Union Station until about 6:30 or so. However, I've also got this fun but completely unnecessary idea that we should eat dinner there before we go. Which means we need to get out the house and onto a bus no later than 3:00.

Here are all the things I have to do before that time:

  • Pack all the things. Clothes, computer, headphones, knitting, cross-stitch, fruitcake, skates, etc.
  • Re-booze the fruitcake before packing it.
  • Give freshly-washed derby gear a chance to dry before packing.
  • Clean the fridge - freeze or throw out what'll go bad before our return.
  • Read the AINC programming that's due Saturday, since I can't very well do it on the train.
  • Maybe go to the dentist if they have time to look at the bit of today's filling that feels like a popcorn shell stuck between my teeth.
  • Whatever else I'm forgetting. There's probably something.

(I wanted to get the current closet bi-fold finished by now, but, alas, that didn't happen. I have given myself permission not to worry about it. It's a bold move but I think, in this particular circumstance, it'll work.)

The up-side of all this stress is, it vanishes the moment I board the train. I mean completely. At that point, everything is done, or almost everything; and anything that isn't done can no longer be done, so it's not my responsibility anymore. My responsibility at that point becomes "Enjoy the ride. And maybe get some work done, too." I can't begin to describe how very much I'm looking forward to that point.

It's now nearly a quarter 'til midnight. I suppose I'd better start cleaning that fridge. Best place to begin, I think, is by eating some of what's in it. I haven't had dinner yet and I'm starting to feel it. Good night, all; when next I write, it'll be from Union Station.

free booze, saints on top, and a twitter road trip
Mon 2014-12-15 22:28:12 (single post)

Tonight was a good night for Monday Night Football and free alcohol. First Harpo's sent a server around with free pudding shots (consisting of, I think, banana pudding and Fireball whiskey). This led almost directly to another diner offering me the rest of her wine bottle. "I have to drive home, and then the pudding shots happened, so I figured I had to stop drinking for the night--but it was a $13 bottle and I hate to waste it, and I saw you sitting all alone over here..."

If this was a variety of the "woman! alone in bar! must be lonely" impulse, well, I can't exactly complain. Not, I think, that it looked like I needed company. I was yelling at the TV like I usually do when football's happening. Yelling, and laughing, and occasionally screaming, because that's how I react when surprised by a good play. It was at least a five-scream game. The Saints won, improving their record to 6-8 and taking the lead of the NFC South.

I did manage to finish off that wine. And the pudding shot. And my beer. Don't worry--I was on my bike tonight.

Speaking of the need for company, Havi Brooks has requested some on twitter tonight during her seven-hour-and-forty-minute drive through the tumbleweed-infested wilds of eastern Washington state. Bring some music.

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