“Everyone has talent. What is rare is the courage to follow the talent to the dark places where it leads.”
Erica Jong

author: Nicole J. LeBoeuf

actually writing blog

Bonus: Check out that iron street lamp off the right. I did not notice it at the time of the photo.
six hours of wyoming is the best excuse
Fri 2014-07-18 22:37:36 (single post)

The latter half of today was spent entirely on the road, driving to the town of Gillette, Wyoming; the earlier half was spent preparing for the drive. And now we have arrived. John and I are currently at the Old Chicago next door to our hotel, anticipating late night pasta, and tomorrow I will be skating with my Bombshells against the Powder River Rousta Bout It Betties in our single away bout of the season.

That's my excuse for getting no writing done, and I think it's a damn good one. So there.

Driving north across Wyoming was interesting. Visible features of the Colorado/Wyoming border at I-25 include 1) a wind farm, and 2) a camel ranch. After that come the rolling hills forever and ever amen.

"That's the problem with Wyoming," said John. "It's boring. I mean, look! Nothing but boring as far as the eye can see!"

Then about an hour later, somewhere north of Cheyenne, we found ourselves in the Roger Dean dimension of fantastic rock formations. I kept waiting for the dragon-thing from that Asia album to come swimming up out of the Glendo Reservoir.

We very briefly visited Chugwater. Because where else do you refill your water bottles, right? I mean, it's named for good hydration! While we where there, we had ice cream shakes at Wyoming's oldest soda fountain, and I had a cup of the town's famous chili. I can't say whether it is good enough to deserve the hype, but it was exactly what I wanted right at that moment.

By the way. Chugwater? Most awesome-fun-absurd place name to say since that time we passed the I-5 interchange for Chuckanut Drive. Just say it. It's right up there with "Huggbees!" and "It's Spaghetti Time!" for turning your frown upside down.

And with that thought I leave you, as I wander, full of lovely carbs and proteins, back to the hotel and thence to sleep. Wish us luck tomorrow!

not dead, just acting like it for a bit
Wed 2014-07-16 22:48:56 (single post)

I do not know why I continue to think that I'm capable of working a full productive day on the day I get back from a trip. I really should know better.

Oh, I know the rationale behind the thought. It goes something like this: "I'll have had a full night's sleep in an actual bed by the time the train gets in, which will be before 8 AM if it's on time. There's no reason I can't just go home and get right to doing things!" What I don't know is why I persist in thinking that despite my experience of every homecoming on a westbound California Zephyr ever, whether the darn thing is on time or late (and today it was about three hours late), which involves getting home, seeing the bed, and crashing hard in the bed. All day long.

For that reason, nothing of use got done before roller derby practice. And nothing of use is getting done after practice for the usual reason, which is that I'm painfully tired.

So this blog post will be just a "hello, here I am, not dead, just going to go imitate dead for awhile." Other and more interesting things will occur tomorrow, or at least that's my hope.

further rail misadventures and their companion silver linings
Tue 2014-07-15 12:31:45 (single post)

Got on the City of New Orleans train yesterday afternoon, and it's coming into Chicago today. It was scheduled to get in at 9 this morning, but someone driving an 18-wheeler near Independence, Louisiana decided they were in just too much of a hurry to wait for those seven or eight cars of our southbound opposite number to go by. The ensuing collision disabled the engine of train, leaving them immobile on the tracks while they waited for a replacement locomotive to come get them. So we sat around in Hammond for a few hours, and are now running 4 hours late.

Once again, instead of a five-hour layover, it looks like I'll have just 15 minutes before it's time to board my connecting train.

My sympathies go out to anyone who was hurt, or worse, in the collision. All I know is what they told our crew, which is that the crew on train 59 were all fine, and that the load the 18-wheeler was carrying swung around and knocked a hole in the wall of the first car behind the engine. At the very least, that had to have seriously startled some people. As for the driver of the truck, I don't know. I do know that when we finally passed the site of the accident, it looked like the cab was unharmed but its load had been reduced to scrap, and that scrap was being loaded into a dumpster.

Update: Reading the link above, it looks like all passengers were unharmed, but the driver of the semi was ejected from the vehicle and is now in the hospital in stable condition.

What is it about the area between Hammond and McComb that tempts people to race the train? Don't ever, ever try to race the train, y'all. Not for anything. Not even if lives depend on your on-time arrival. Because you will not arrive on time. You will lose that race, and you will lose it messily.

Despite indirect misadventures, I've had a pleasant trip. I'm returning via sleeper car, enjoying the chance to decompress in solitude after an extremely social vacation. The meals have been tasty, and oddly peaceful; I've been fortunate to not have to sit with that aggressively gregarious sort--sometimes a man, sometimes a woman, always older than me and conscious of it--who interrogate other travelers for every single personal detail in the name of making conversation. I think they especially do it because they see I'm traveling alone and don't want me to feel left out, bless their hearts. But they leave me feeling invaded, without socially acceptable recourse to say, "Those are uncomfortably personal questions for a woman traveling alone, and I choose not to answer."

I mean, I've said almost those exact words before, but before I say them I have to be willing for the rest of the meal to be chilly and awkward. Society exacts a price when a woman patrols her boundaries, and it's shitty. But I've blogged about that before and I won't bore you with it now.

Anyway, I was ready for that sort of person, should I have encountered them; I had determined, at the least provocation, to talk their ears off about roller derby. But the family I sat with last night and the couple this morning were mostly content to talk quietly among themselves, asking me nothing more than, "What are you knitting?" For the most part, whole-table conversation tended to be low-pressure, and centered on shared present experience: speculation about the collision, observations of the world outside the train, guesses about how far we'd come and what town we were passing through.

Speaking of which, somewhere in southern Illinois there is an A-J Bank. I think it stands for Ann-Jones; at least, that's what I thought I read on another building. Maybe that was the name of the town. When I have a little internet time and no errands to run, I'll look it up. But at first I thought I was seeing a different letter, and I thought, "Oh, the Wyverary has a bank!"

I can tell you who I'm glad I didn't sit with at dinner last night. I had to overhear him all through the meal. [TRIGGER WARNING FOR EFFIN' RAPE CULTURE, Y'ALL. THERE IS A MONSTER AT THE END OF THIS PARAGRAPH.] He was one of those jolly married gentlemen who, seeing the opportunity to "entertain" another couple across the table, makes a belittling joke out of every single thing his wife says. Every single word out of her mouth, he pounced on it to show how stupid he thought it was, how silly, how easy to serve it up for common ridicule. Oh, the condescension. Oh, the mocking. It was awful. But then he capped it off at the end of the meal by saying, presumably to the other man at the table, "I don't have to get her drunk; she's my wife!" Because when casual misogyny is already a fun social party game for you, why not make jokes about how sex with the person you supposedly love never actually involves getting her consent?

I was so relieved that he left the diner before my table received our entrees, and that he was only just going to breakfast this morning when I was returning from my meal. I suppose the lady in the next room who woke me up at 5:45 AM (seriously, y'all, these compartments aren't soundproof, so please refrain from shouting) is in fact to be thanked; she's the reason I went to breakfast pretty much the moment they opened at 6.

So, anyway, it's been a good trip. All my direct encounters have been pleasant, I'm about halfway through my writing day already, and I'm looking forward to a solid afternoon of short story revision on the Californial Zephyr. That is, as long as I don't miss my connection. And I don't think I'm going to. As I type, it's 12:57 and we're waiting on the signal that we can enter the station. I suppose it's possible we could sit here until 2 PM, but I'm going to be optimistic about that.

(Update: Made it into the station with minutes to spare, and another few minutes to upload this. Yay!)

what i learned on my summer vacation
Mon 2014-07-14 10:57:52 (single post)

That while a skating distance of 2.1 miles looks unremarkable on paper, and indeed is not so difficult on a bike path in the Vail Valley, it's somewhat more grueling in high heat, high humidity, and over streets that are in dire need of repaving.

That when skating from the warehouse district to the Irish Channel on a beer pilgrimage, it's very important to check the tap room's hours of operation so that one need not wait another 45 minutes to get a cold glass of water out of the sun.

That a 10oz pour of NOLA Brewery's "Girl Stout Cookie" is always worth it.

These were only some of the things I learned during the 2014 edition of the San Fermín en Nueva Orleans celebration. And here is one more:

That if you skate some 8 miles in a day, in crowds, up and down curbs, over treacherous terrain, and you fall just once, it will not be somewhere discreet, like under an oak tree on the ridiculously wrecked sidewalk on Washington Avenue. No. It will be at high noon on the corner of Canal and N. Peters in front of God and the street cars and everybody.

However, I did only fall just the once that day. So there's a thing.

as the unicorn said to the harpy
Wed 2014-07-09 17:58:58 (single post)
  • 6,468 wds. long

As it turns out, I was right--I got to Chicago barely 15 minutes prior to boarding time on my connecting train. There was no time for anything except the ridiculous walk down the long boarding platform, into the station, then clockwise around via the main concourse and the central ticketing/passenger services hub to finally arrive in the South Terminal and wait in line to go right back out onto the main concourse and thence to the boarding platform once more.

I was oddly jealous of the passengers connecting with Train 30 who were told, "Your train is on the tracks opposite ours. When you get off this train, just cross the platform and get right on Train 30." None of this walking-the-long-way-around-to-get-back-where-you-started business for them! And "all" it cost them was the stress of a will-we-won't-we nick-of-time arrival in Chicago. Yes, I'm joking. But only sort of.

Anyway, I did manage to get online while the California Zephyr was stopped at the station in Galesburg, Illinois. O fortuitous Galesburg and your free city wifi! I was able to run all my internet errands there: Upload yesterday's blog post, check off all my tasks on HabitRPG, disable the Dailies that I can't do whilst out of town (sorry, plants, but I cannot water you from all the way over here!), attempt to download my email and the latest posts on my roller derby league's online forum. I say "attempt" because the email did not, in fact, download. And while I could retrieve the Activity Stream on the league's VBulletin forum, I couldn't pull up any actual posts. "Response denied by WatchGuard HTTP proxy. Don't think you should be going there?" Apparently the city's wi-fi gateway disapproves of VBulletin cookies. They are too long and full of suspicious characters.

Speaking of HabitRPG, I seem to have turned on my Train 6 seatmate to its joys and wonders. Huzzah! More lives gamified! Let us go smite Shadow Dragons with such fearsome weapons as Taking Out The Trash and Returning Books To Library!

In story news, I am working my way from beginning to NEW AND IMPROVED ENDING GOES HERE slowly, smoothing out the lumps as I go. My hope is to have some idea how NEW AND IMPROVED ENDING goes by the time I get there.

Meanwhile, as part of my campaign to Be An Informed Hugo Voter, I've just finished reading Campbell Award candidate A Stranger In Olondria by Sofia Samatar. (I'm pretty sure I misspelled the title in a recent Tweet. Forgive me!) It is a gorgeous piece of work, written in a lush poetic language that transforms my very thought process as I look out the window of the train and watch towns to which I am myself a stranger roll by. I even dreamt in the book's cadences the other night after reading myself to sleep. Samatar might have my vote for that alone. But then she uses such language to create a rich world complete with competing cultures and vibrant mythologies and their own canonical works of literature. And then on top of it all, the story it tells belongs to that category most near and dear to my heart: In Praise Of Books.

It belongs to other categories, too: Coming of Age Story. Like Father, Like/Unlike Son. Feet of Clay. Unrequited Love. Changing The Course of Empire. Laying the Ghost. But for me, the most important thing is the main character's falling head over heels in love with reading, and how that love frames every other passion in the story.

Once, when I was perhaps eight, on one of the many nights when I stayed up long past my bedtime with a book I couldn't put down, I heard my mother coming up the stairs. Quickly I doused the light and hid my book under my pillow. Moments later, when Mom opened the door, I was pretending to be asleep. She was not fooled. What she said next will live in my brain forever, in shades of both pride and rue: "God help me, I have one child who won't read and another who won't stop!"

Which is why passages like the following speak so keenly to me:

The silence. End of all poetry, all romances. Earlier, frightened, you began to have some intimation of it: so many pages had been turned, the book was so heavy in one hand, so light in the other, thinning toward the end. Still, you consoled yourself. You were not quite at the end of the story, at that terrible flyleaf, blank like a shuttered window: there were still a few pages under your thumb, still to be sought and treasured. Oh, was it possible to read more slowly?—No. The end approached, inexorable, at the same measured pace. The last page, the last of the shining words! And there—the end of the book. The hard cover which, when you turn it, gives you only this leather stamped with old roses and shields.

Then the silence comes, like the absence of sound at the end of the world. You look up. It’s a room in an old house. Or perhaps it’s a seat in a garden, or even a square; perhaps you’ve been reading outside and you suddenly see the carriages going by. Life comes back, the shadows of leaves. Someone comes to ask what you will have for dinner, or two small boys run past you, wildly shouting; or else it’s merely a breeze blowing a curtain, the white unfurling into a room, brushing the papers on a desk. It is the sound of the world. But to you, the reader, it is only a silence, untenanted and desolate.

It doesn't hurt that this passage is saying something else at the same time, about other griefs, other abandonment. But even if it were "only" talking about how reaching the end of a book, even one with a happy ending, is always in some sense a tragedy, it would still give me the chills.

It put me in mind of a similar passage in Michael Ende's The Neverending Story, to which Olondria felt in many ways like a tribute:

If you have never spent whole afternoons with burning ears and rumpled hair, forgetting the world around you over a book, forgetting cold and hunger--

If you have never read secretly under the bedclothes with a flashlight, because your father or mother or some other well-meaning person has switched off the lamp on the plausible ground that it was time to sleep because you had to get up so early--

If you have never wept bitter tears because a wonderful story has come to an end and you must take your leave of the characters with whom you have shared so many adventures, whom you have loved and admired, for whom you have hoped and feared, and without whose company life seems empty and meaningless--

If such things have not been part of your own experience, you probably won't understand what Bastian did next.

What did Bastian do next? Why, he stole the copper-bound volume from the bookshop while Cornelius's back was turned, thus unknowingly committing himself to saving Fantastica. (And no, Cornelius didn't set Bastian up. That knowing nod and smile is entirely a fabrication of the movie. In the book, Cornelius actually lost all memory of ever having had the book at all.)

There's a shock at finding oneself recognized so closely by an author; this, by the way, is why Dorothea Brande warns us that the non-writer may regard us as witches. "Nothing but witchcraft, [the layperson] seems to believe, could have made another human being so wise in the ways of his kind." But after the shock of recognition comes the warm relief of having been recognized. It takes one to know one, as they say. Being understood means not being alone. "Oh, you are like me!" as the unicorn said to the harpy.

Another point in Samatar's favor is that she made me cry in plain sight in an Amtrak sightseer lounge car. Dammit. Talk about your awkward moments.

As I finish this up, the train is sitting somewhere south of Jackson, Mississippi, waiting for the freight traffic ahead to clear. We've been precisely on time up until now. Outside is a swampish waterway lined with trees I ought to be able to name. A constant drizzle polka-dots the surface of the green-brown water. White crestless wading birds with long necks and yellow beaks stand on one black leg, single-knee-deep in the water or perch warily in small trees. The only sign of human encroachment is the very railroad track that brought us here and the small square wooden sign beside it bearing some code unintelligible to layfolk.

No one is in any hurry at all. It's glorious.

I'll upload this post from my parents' house, my old house, in Metairie. But that's several hours off yet. Between now and then, I hope to make some real progress on the story. So, here's to good news on that front tomorrow.

from the slim and hypothetical wedge of wifi between trains
Tue 2014-07-08 14:21:24 (single post)
  • 6,344 wds. long

If I get this posted, it'll be from Chicago, but I'm not certain I'll be able to upload it at all.

I had been planning to spend my layover time in the library, uploading work, downloading more work, recording my Wednesday show for AINC. I'd been planning to skate to the library, in fact, having taken a few minutes while still on the train to put my outdoor wheels on my skates.

But the train's almost four hours behind schedule. It only left Ottumwa, Iowa just before 1 PM. At this rate, we might not arrive in Chicago before 7:00. I'll probably still manage to board the City of New Orleans for 8 PM as planned, but the likelihood for pratical internet time between trains is decreasing by the hour.

Still, here's a blog post. I remain optimistic.

It's been so many weeks since I left off revising "The Impact of Snowflakes" that I couldn't remember where I'd left off. So I spent a few minutes rereading the version in progress. It's rough, y'all. It's lumpy and awkward and overwritten and wordy. I suppose it addresses the problems unearthed by the last round of critique, but there's new text-level problems like woah.

Which is OK, I guess. Once I get to the end of the version in progress, I can print it out and fill its margin with performative scribbles that will hopefully restore it to a state of approximate gracefulness.

But first I have to get to the end of the version in progress. And that's going to be a trick, considering that I left off right around where I'd placed a mental marker saying NEW AND IMPROVED ENDING BEGINS HERE.

New and improved ending. Right. OK. This is a thing that's going to happen.

Any minute now.

Here we go.

just another muddy monday
Mon 2014-07-07 16:37:22 (single post)
  • 3,400 wds. long

Most weekday mornings, my Mom gets together with her friend for an hour or so of either 1) swimming laps and other aquatic exercises at Mom's place, or 2) tending garden at her friend's place. Now, I'm not certain of all the details involved in 2). When I'm in town, I don't go with them to the garden. I just visit with them at Mom's place when they've finished swimming and I've finished stumbling out of bed. But I hear them laughing about "Muddy Mondays" and "Weeding Wednesdays," so I can guess.

Back here in Colorado, it was a very Muddy Monday at the farm, and a 100% Weeding Weekday. It was muddy enough that everyone else pretty much gave up on their boots and went barefoot. And the weeding went on at every level: speeding through and between the peppers with the hula hoe, or carefully picking and pulling by hand the jungle of weeds that were drowning the delicate parsnip sprouts.

It's depressingly easy to accidentally uproot a delicate young parsnip sprout when you're pulling up a three-foot-tall lamb's-quarter. The key is to pull the weed sideways, then stick your hand in the mud between its roots and the tender crop you're trying to save. And even then a few experimental tugs may only demonstrate that it's time to just cut the weed's stem rather than risk such a soil disruption.

I'm sure there is a very clever writing metaphor here, but it probably won't occur to me until I am actually writing.

Usually we end up taking a break for an early farm-cooked lunch around 10:30 or 10:45. After lunch, there's usually time for me to put in another hour or so before taking my leave at 1:00 PM. But today I left pretty much at lunchtime in order to do something about my pre-travel stress. I'm getting on a train tonight, heading down for San Fermín en Nueva Orleans. All weekend I've been stressing out about getting myself ready to go along with taking care of some other very necessary housework. I figured if I gave myself a couple hours extra after the farm today, I'd be in better shape.

And so I am. I got packed up, I did the household accounting, I took out the compost and cleaned the fridge a little, I watered the plants, and I did not at all hurry through the very necessary time spent soaking in the tub after getting home from the farm.

And I made you a blog post, 'cause I love y'all.

Tomorrow's blog post will come to you from somewhere in downtown Chicago, though it will likely be drafted on the train because I aim to be virtuous. Virtuous! With discipline and a work ethic! In the key of Ragnarok!

Speaking of virtue, here is where I offer my sincere apologies to certain Chicago-area friends that I plan on keeping my layover all to myself rather than spending it on visiting with y'all. Maybe we can catch up on my back? But tomorrow I'll need to go nose down in various obligations and not come up until they are done.

In half an hour I head out the door. In about an hour I'll be at the station. In about two hours from now, barring unexpected delays, I'll have boarded the train. And that is when I will get to relax, because once I'm on the train, ain't nowhere else I have to be until the train gets where it's going.

But for now, pre-travel stress continues for just a little while longer. At a lower level than it might have, though. And also with less mud than earlier.

It's kind of ridiculous how happy this sign makes me.
moving to the south side
Thu 2014-05-29 14:38:30 (single post)

As I have mentioned, I am a vehement introvert with a distressing inability to tune irritations out. Thus the photo included here is probably the happiest thing I have seen all day.

Which is actually saying quite a lot. Today, John and I are spending our work day at Impact Hub: Boulder, and we've seen a lot to be happy about. We'd been meaning to drop in for some time now, as part of our long-term quest to try all the different co-working environments in the Boulder area. Today turned out to be that day.

Things I am enjoying about the space include: Unlimited free access to tea, coffee and espresso. Loose-leaf tea infusers. A faucet dispensing near-boiling water. Plenty of electrical outlets within reach of any desk, table, or countertop. No standing on chairs required. Lots of natural light despite being below ground level. A handful of "phone booths" where one can take phone calls or Skype sessions. (John's in there attending a tele-meeting for work as I write this.) And just about everything on the South Side, including the fact that it exists. The sign in the included photo says,

This space is for individuals who want to work in a quiet environment.

We encourage conversations and collaborative work to be held on our North Side to respect those who are working quietly in this space.

Much as I love the community at Fuse, I am always conscious there of the absence of any space designated "quiet," any etiquette resembling "respect those who are working quietly." There is a sense that, by virtue of my choosing to work there, I am signaling my willingness to be saturated in community interactions all day long. Part of it is pragmatic: there is currently too little open working space at the Riverside to be divided into a collaboration zone and a quiet zone. But part of it is simply the clear preference of the community for a working space that's always in Mode: Social OK, Go Go Go!

It's not that there are signs at Fuse saying "Now entering EXTROVERT ZONE! You have been warned!" The problem is, there's no particular etiquette governing the shared working space at all. There is no deliberate attempt to set the tone. Thus the tone winds up being set by the loudest voices. The people who are the most accommodating find themselves obliged to accommodate those who fail to accommodate others. And if one person asks another person to modify their behavior in any way, the asker may well be seen as having violated the community standard for not holding each other to community standards... which standard is clearly expressed by the deliberate lack of explicit community standards.

That's what's so refreshing about Impact Hub (and Boulder Digital Arts, come to think of it). There is a social expectation concerning noise versus quiet, and where each goes, and that expectation is spelled out in no uncertain terms. A community member asking another for quiet--"Oh, hey, maybe we should take this conversation around to the North Side"--isn't being some thin-skinned special snowflake trying to impose their expectations on others; they're just reminding each other of the rules of engagement that we've all agreed to.

Well, that's the theory, anyway.

I know that my yardstick for evaluating a co-working space is somewhat skewed from that of others. I'm not primarily here for networking, collaboration, or community events. I'm here mainly so I can spend my work day in an office environment that's quiet but not entirely isolated. I came to drink tea and to write. And while it's nice to be able to raise my head, look around, and connect with others, I want to do that on my own terms. I want to decide when to engage and, more criticically, when to disengage. It's a relief to find a co-working environment that appears likely to enable that.

I'll probably purchase a "Connect" membership for June. That's $25/month in order to get half-off the per-day drop-in rate. Meanwhile, we'll keep dropping in at Fuse now and again as well, mostly on those days when we can afford to be pleasantly distracted from our work. Figuring out which days those are requires my becoming more consciously aware of where I am on my personal "Extrovert-Introvert-Total Misanthrope" scale on a day-to-day basis. Which seems like something I generally need to do anyway, so, OK.

initial call for boarding
Mon 2014-04-07 09:07:43 (single post)

Usually the order is "first, actually write; then blog about actually writing." Hence the name of the blog. However, in just a few hours I'll be getting on the train departing New Orleans, and I won't have any internet until tomorrow morning in Chicago. So today the order is "first, do the stuff requiring internet; then do the stuff requiring no internet." Thus, an early blog post.

It has been a good trip. I've spent it in full-on vacation mode: eating ridiculous amounts of good food, playing truly silly amounts of Puzzle Pirates, spending time with family, reconnecting with old friends. I had very little schedule to adhere to, most of it taken up with Saturday's Alumni Weekend and Class of '94 20th Reunion activities. The rest of my time I filled by saying "yes" to whatever suggestions came my way (which is how I ended up drinking beer and playing boo-ray with Dad's family the other night) and/or wandering around my old neighborhood on either two wheels or eight (the family bike now has a new seat that isn't falling apart, by the way -- you're welcome).

Saturday night's class reunion was well-attended. I want to say that somewhere between a third to a half of everyone showed up, which with a class of about 60 people means around 25 attendees maybe. Our hosts threw an excellent party in their gorgeous big uptown home, and there was food and drink and a collection of high school year books and unexpectedly excellent weather. In the "why didn't I think of that?" category, there were spike-your-own snowballs. ("These are magic snowballs," sez she. "What kind of magic?" sez me. "Booze magic," sez she. "I'll have mine with almond cream and Amaretto," sez me.)

I discovered that I really need to have snappy elevator pitch answers to "haven't seen you in forever" type questions. By the end of the evening, most of my answers had simmered down to their bare essentials. A detailed description of recent and forthcoming publications, which had the potential to cause eyes to glaze over and certainly wasn't going to be remembered in the morning, eventually became, "Yes, I'm still writing. I have a couple short stories coming out later this year."

I also discovered that some of my old classmates are still in New Orleans, having moved back or having never left, and there's no good reason I don't look them up when I'm town.

Last night I spent hanging out with a beer and my laptop at the Metairie establishment where my brother tends bar. I try to do that once every visit. It's generally quiet on Sundays, so we end up having a long rambling conversation in brief, unhurried segments between his serving other customers or my doing things on the computer. And there's a big difference between seeing him over lunch at our parents' house, surrounded by all those reminders of being kids together, and seeing him in a bar where he works, surrounded by proof that we're both grown-ups now. I got to visit with him in both environments yesterday. It's been a very good trip.

And now I've reached my last morning waking up in my childhood bed in my childhood room, drinking the coffee Dad left for me when he went to work, contemplating packing everything up for travel. And it's Monday. I'll be easing out of vacation mode and into work day mode while the train takes me north to Chicago. I still have a short story to revise. The market I originally wanted to submit it to has extended its deadline, so I might yet make it after all.

Arrival upon the train they call the City of New Orleans
Wed 2014-04-02 21:54:01 (single post)

I arrived in New Orleans today. Dad picked me up at the train station and drove me back to Metairie, where Mom and a goodly handful of neighbors waited to say hello. Thus, this blog post comes to you from the very comfy location of my childhood bed in my childhood home. Other than a lingering familiar paranoia reawakened by finding a two-inch long cockroach scrabbling noisily in the kitchen sink when I went down for a late night cup of tea, which has me fighting down a case of the screaming heebie-jeebies every time I go to open a cupboard, retrieve stuff from the pantry, or, y'know, set feet to floor, I'm feeling fairly happy.

(This is not an indication of any lack of cleanliness in my parents' household, by the way. This is simply an indication that their house is in the Gulf South. Two-inch long cockroaches are simply a fact of life, which I must face if I ever want to live here full time again. Or even part time.)

The train ride was two nights long, and I managed to just about keep to my five-hour-a-day writing schedule throughout. That's because there's really nothing else on the train to do. Well, other than listen to podcasts, read ebooks and digitally published short stories (downloaded ahead of time because there is no onboard wifi on the California Zephyr), play video games, knit, darn socks, talk to strangers, and space out watching the scenery go by. So! It was easy. Kinda sorta.

I brought my skate bag along, reasoning that since I was going to miss three roller derby practices I might as well get some outside skating time. In Chicago, between trains, I skated from the station over to Sushi Pink for food, sake, and the wifi necessary to get yesterday's blog post up and do various online errands. A man on a street corner saw me coming and shouted, "Hey, what's up, roller derby?" which made me grin. A little girl on another street corner told her mom, "I want to roller skate!" which made me grin even harder.

Today, after greeting practically everyone in the neighborhood and then helping Dad eat all the cold boiled blue crabs he had remaining in the refrigerator, I went for a skate/walk with Mom (me skating, she walking) up the levee and over to the Bonnabel boat launch. Levee access is all open now, and the bike/pedestrian path is smooth as silk. I showed Mom some of the stuff I'm practicing, which I think she appreciated. She hears about roller derby all the time, but she doesn't much get to see it, so I think that, despite the one time she got to watch me scrimmage, she mostly just has this vague idea that "Niki gets to learn how to do new things in skates, which makes her happy, which in turn makes me happy."

So I'm getting skate time in, and I'll try to make it a daily thing. Weather permitting, that is. I'm also going to try to keep to my writing schedule, though I'm not letting HabitRPG hold me to the full five hours until I'm back in Boulder.

And that is all for tonight.

email