inasmuch as it concerns Mapping Territories:
Writing from the road. Writing about roads. Writing in the middle of the road. Squish. Just like grape.
adventures are what happens when you're busy making other plans that you subsequently get distracted from
Broke my New Year's streak of flawless workdays yesterday. Had to happen sometime. Had things on the schedule after which I felt tired and headachy and sick and good for nothing. So I wound up just doing my freewriting last night and not much else. (Of course I did my freewriting. I am not breaking my 4thewords streak if I can help it.)
The morning was taken up with a visit from an EnergySmart assessor who came to help us determine how energy-efficient our home was. Turns out, not very! Some of it we'll be able to improve, some we will not, at least not without cooperation from the Condominium Association Board. It will all be in a nicely itemized list with explanations and instructions when the assessment report comes in next week.
I mention this mostly in order to explain why I got none of my work done in the morning, and why I was counting on a productive afternoon. Which I didn't get. Well. Not in the way I had expected, anyway.
I spent the afternoon in Longmont. I had an afternoon appointment at Cafe of Life, so I drove on up with the Volt around lunchtime to give it time to charge at Village at the Peaks. This is fairly routine for a Cafe day. What generally happens is, after I start the car charging, I walk over to wherever I'm going to have lunch, then after lunch I have a long writing session at Ozo Coffee. Then, depending on whether the car's done charging, I either walk or drive to my Cafe appointment. There's usually also groceries at Whole Foods and beer and soda at Wyatt's, sandwiched into the afternoon agenda wherever it most makes sense.
Only yesterday, after lunch at China Buffet, I didn't walk back over to Ozo. I got distracted. Or, more accurately put, I got curious. I wanted to see how far I'd have to walk east along the ditch between the Hobby Lobby and the Sam's Club before I found another place to cross over. Why? There doesn't gotta be a reason. I just wanted to see.
Turns out, the closest spot to cross over is the little spur of Sunset Way over between Valley Subaru and Sunset Acadamy. It was a middling long walk over grass lots, gravel, sand, and ditch-side boulders. I saw intriguing graffiti on the dam where the ditch leaves the mall area. I saw ducks where the water escaped the most recent freeze. A V of geese flew low enough overhead that I heard their wings creaking rhythmically. Across the ditch, behind The Suites apartments, I saw people out exercising their dogs. The dogs crossed the ditch wherever they wanted to; they clearly didn't mind getting their feet wet. I did, so I didn't.
I saw myself when I was a young teenager, getting on my bike and hitting the path for a long ride just to see where I'd be when I stopped. (That was almost thirty years ago, which seems impossible.) I don't do enough of that these days. I mean, I do some. There was that one time I headed out barefoot to get a paper and, when the box I visited turned up empty, I just kept walking all the way down to Bluff Street. (Reading a book as I went.) And I'll go rambling through Mountain View Memorial Park once in a while, since it's right there and all. But I don't make a habit of it the way I did when I was thirteen or so. Mostly I just Go For Walks, which involves set routes, known locations, and a predictable amount of time. It's not the same.
It felt so nice to channeling my inner pre-teen and go on a walking adventure that I kept walking. I made one big loop via Sunset to Nelson to Ken Pratt, checking out all the retail storefronts I can never quite identify from Diagonal Highway. I tried to go to the City Cafe whose sign I'd seen before but never investigated; turns out that, since November, the sign is all that's left of City Cafe. The sign, and a bunch of chairs stacked on tables. I wound up instead at the Bavarian Bakery (Google tells me it's actually called Michael's, but the sign out front says Bavarian Bakery) doing a late Morning Pages session over coffee and piece of baklava.
Walking adventures are fun and all, but they are tiring. My back was getting very angry at me over the size of my bookbag and the length of time I'd required it be carried. My feet were starting to hurt. I had a headache. And I still had to make groceries and go to my Cafe of Life appointment. Which I did. (Not complaining; I ran into an old friend while I was resting at a table in the Whole Foods. Rather, she ran across me and got my attention. I'm so glad she did. HEY SELKIE IF YOU'RE READING THIS DO PLEASE STAY IN TOUCH I'VE MISSED YOU CALL OR TEXT SOMETIME.)
So, anyway, when I got home, I was tired. I didn't do hardly nothing.
Today was much better. I slept in to chase away the last of the sore-tired-headachy blues, but other than that everything went to schedule.
And for today's freewriting session, I let yesterday's walking adventure inspire me. I wrote the germ of a short story involving two warring factions of Faerie, separated by that same ditch that I'd walked along yesterday, having negotiated a truce requiring each to stay to their side. Each faction developed its own culture based on the nature of their microterritory. The graffiti on the dam, which said (it really did!) MIRROR MIRROR ON THE WALL WHO WILL BE THE QUEEN OF THEM ALL, was, when I got through with it, a souvenir from the last annual ball that the Northside Fae had held. They elect something like a Prom Queen every year. They lead a hectic and frivolous life, throwing parties, playing tricks, and vowing not to be like the ants that lived in the grass lot they'd made their home. The Southside Fae, a more serious bunch, have adopted The Suites. They keep watch over pets and children at play; if they like you exceptionally well they might come help out around your apartment, too. And then there's a Thing that lives in the ditch that will steal fairy children away if they got to close. Human children, too. But for some reason it absolutely dotes upon on dogs, especially Labradors and golden retrievers. It will need to be dealt with. And of course the heroes of the story would be two children, one from each side of the boundary, finding common ground in the need to defeat the Thing. Working title: Creekside Story.
Anyway, it just goes to show, experience is never wasted. It just sometimes isn't the experience you'd planned on having, is all.
"So, uh, who wants some cake?"
- Feeding The Beast
- Friday Fictionettes
- Mapping Territories
- Mirabile Dictu
- Political Maunderings
- Selling My Soul
- The Beast That Rolls
- Yahoo! Yeehah! Woopie!
I had happy news of my own to share tonight, and I still do, but the news out of Alabama right now takes, um, all 40 cakes. I mean. I just. I--
(be right back.)
*Running footsteps diminishing in volume*
*Inarticulate screaming from several rooms away*
*Running footsteps getting louder until--*
OK. OK, thanks. Sorry. I'm back. I just--aaaaugh! Look. I didn't want to be glued to the hour-by-hour election results today. (For one thing, I had a cake of my own to bake.) Thanks to roller derby practice, I couldn't glue myself to the screen. So I went to practice and derby, as per usual, ate all my extraneous brain-power. (It also gave me what feel like lovely shoulder bruises which I will be very disappointed in if they don't color up by tomorrow.)
And then I came home, and I looked at my phone, and there was a text, and the text said, "Thank. Whatever Gods. That be." Or something like that.
I wrote back, "Are you telling me the good guys won?"
And the response was "YES." Just that. Just one word, and I started hyperventilating.
Y'all. Y'all! It happened. All the combined efforts of every allied organization to get out the vote--they got out the Gods damned vote! Postcards to Voters volunteers mailed a handwritten postcard to every registered Democrat household in Alabama. (I wrote 55 of them!). And what the NAACP did was huge. (Seriously. Read this twitter thread detailing their efforts. The opposition shooting themselves in their feet at every opportunity didn't hurt, but that's not a thing you can count on. GOTV! IT WORKS!
OK. OK! So. Much shadowed by this, and that's a fine thing, but: I do have happy news of my own. I have been given the go-ahead to announce that one of my September 2014 Friday Fictionettes, "What Dreams May Hatch," will appear at the podcast Toasted Cake in April of 2018. All the happy dance! This will be my second time getting to hear Tina read one of my works (here's the first). She does a beautiful job. I'm very much looking forward to it, and so, I think, should you.
friday is the new friday
Sound the trumpets and ring the bells! This week's Friday Fictionette is out on Friday. Shock! Surprise! We are stunned! And also I've already made a solid start on next week's fictionette because--y'all are gonna get sick of hearing me say this--4thewords is 4theWIN.
And but so anyway. "The Rutabagas Remember" is about equal opportunity basketball. Kind of. It's also about making memories that matter. It's 1042 words long. It's available to $1/month Patrons as an ebook; to $3/month Patrons it's additionally available as an audiobook. The usual drill, in other words.
My original plan for cover art was to find public domain or Creative Commons images of a rutabaga and a basketball and kinda fade one onto the other. It looked really cool in my head. It also was going to be a pain in the butt. But that was my plan.
I'd just logged my morning NaNoWriMo session. I was about to have my lunch. First, though, I went for a walk around the neighborhood to figure out what I'd write during the evening session. Meantime I intended to start right in on fictionette publishing procedures soon as I got back and had a bite to eat.
While I was out, I stumbled across two things:
- A community garden left to winter over, just behind the nearby church.
- A basketball abandoned and left to rot on the shore of one of the little private lakes nearby.
Well. I'm not one to ignore the Universe when it is so very clearly talking to me. I grabbed the basketball, I grabbed my camera, I headed back over to the garden, and lo, a photo was born. It probably could have been a better photo. But it's mine, I took it, I made a cover design out of it, I'm sticking with it.
I mean, a basketball. Just lying there being thematically relevant.
Today went as planned in other ways. I logged two NaNoWriMo sessions which together netted me 3,385 words. It wasn't the 3,500 I was hoping for, but it was in excess of the 3,334-word double-day mark, and that's the important thing. If I can pull double days from here on out, I will win the prize.
And there is a prize. There's going to be a coupon code for 4thewords in the NaNoWriMo winner package; it'll be worth 50% off a core crystal purchase and it'll pop some exclusive NaNoWriMo-themed gear in your inventory. Details about this and more in the NaNoWriMo Forum on the designated 4thewords thread.
That Nano-winner gear will be mine.
(Also I have now defeated a whole bunch more monsters and I've completed the torch quest and a bunch of Nano-related word-count quests and some quests involving a checklist of marionette varieties to defeat and and and and I finally SUBSCRIBED, ok, I bought the big bulk package, I am IN THIS EVERY DAY for YEARS TO COME)
look at that forecast little orphan annie LIED to us
So I'm back in Boulder and I actually do want to upload blog posts for the week that I was in New Orleans because I have THOUGHTS and this is how I share them. There will be backfill. Maybe tomorrow. Tonight I am tired, because today I did all sorts of doctorish things, including having seven vials of blood drawn because apparently there is only so much you can condense all the annual wellness checks and I seem to have more annual wellness checks than I used to. Forty is a magic number! And I was very good and did my twice-weekly half-hour core workout, yay. Also I did quite a bit of the writerly things but not enough of them (I promise I am doing NaNoWriMo! I am!) because there is NEVER ENOUGH TIME.
Well. Tomorrow is a new day. Isn't it always?
I got back home around 9:30 yesterday morning. The train got in around 6:45, which was early, but the first bus for Boulder didn't leave until almost 8:00, and then the bus from the station to my neighborhood left around 9:00, and then I had to walk a few blocks with my luggage rolling along. Uphill. Through a construction zone. So. Technically I was early enough to make it to the back half of Sunday practice and then watch WFTDA Championships with everyone else, but I was kind of done in by the time I got home and it was easier to just keep being a New Orleanian for a bit.
Which is why I got on my bike and headed to the neighborhood bar to watch the Saints game instead.
The Saints won. And the sun came out. It was a pretty OK day.
Also I wrote postcards! I wrote ten postcards. Remember those postcards I picked up at Scriptura and that lovely green fountain pen ink? (Sure you do. I wrote about them in Friday's post. I haven't yet written that post, but once I do I will go back in time to plant it oh-so-casually in the blogstream. Backfill is coming.) I made use of those postcards and that ink in the cause of Postcard to Voters Campaign #32, getting out the vote for Alabama's Doug Jones for U.S. Senate. (His opponent is Roy Moore, if that helps give an idea of the urgency of the race.) This the very first statewide Postcard to Voters campaign ever, and in order to reach every address on their list in time for the December 12 special election, they need a whole bunch more volunteers. This is me, doing my part. If you feel so moved, you can email "join" at "tonythedemocrat" dot "org" to get started.
And that's me for tonight. Like I said, not as much as I hoped to report, but they tell me the sun'll come out tomorrow. OK, well, maybe it won't, maybe it will snow, but the planet will darn well rotate, causing the sun to darn well rise and tomorrow to darn well happen. Which I intend to take full advantage of.
ending on the right note
Rabbit stew was indeed on the menu yesterday. And for lunch today, we had boiled blue crabs. Then it was time to go to the train station.
But first, I had an errand to run at the post office. (Not unrelated: Fictionette Artifacts for August 2017 are in the mail!) And as long as I was biking over to Seventeenth Street and Severn, I might as well enact the ritual of beignets and cafe au lait.
This used to be a pilgrimage every time I came to town. I had to have at least one early morning bike ride to the Morning Call and attempt once more the feat of writing while simultaneously eating beignets covered in powdered sugar. (Once upon a time I was pen pals with a Morning Call waiter who, also being a writer, noticed my frequent scribbling visits and said hello. We exchanged short manuscripts by post over several years before losing touch somewhere in the late '90s.)
Somewhere along the way I fell out of the habit. But today--why not? I'd be in the neighborhood anyway. OK, well, I'd already had breakfast, but since when is "I already ate" a good reason not to indulge in good food? I mean, it's just three beignets. And I'm biking! When you really get right down to it, it's negative calories. (Look, I'll pedal really really hard, OK?)
So that happened. And as long as I was going to be snacking and errands-running along the north face of Lakeside Mall, I might as well also go shopping at Scriptura, right? And buy some gorgeous "moss green" Graf von Faber-Castell fountain pen ink? And a handful of New Orleans postcards for my next batch of Postcards to Voters? Oh, and surely there'll be something I want to buy at the Lakeside Plaza Fleurty Girl...
So I went shopping and ate too much. Which is the proper New Orleans experience, come to think of it.
now i'm tired
So tonight I did derby. And then I made kimchi. "Now I'm tired."
I went to the Big Easy Rollergirls Rec'ing Krewe practice tonight--that's primarily their "fresh meat" class, similar I think to our Phase 1--which is why I am now exhausted and sore. One thing I've learned as a veteran skater is that circumnavigating the holes in your skating abilities is as much a skill as all the other skills. The more advanced you are, the more advanced your coping strategies. They can get so advanced that you don't even know you don't actually have plow-stops mastered, or that your cross-overs aren't as efficient as they could be, until a coach laser-focuses on the skill in question and makes you do them right. So. We did all the things and now I am sore in all the parts.
Also I did 29.5 laps in 5 minutes, which is reassuring.
Their practice space is in New Orleans East, in an area off the I-25 Louisa Street exit that my Dad identified as "the seedy part of town. One of the seediest. I'm not real happy about you driving there." In vain did I protest that BERG practices there multiple times a week without sustaining any Tragedies Due To Bad Neighborhood. He was not going to let me borrow the truck. He was instead going to drive me there, which meant I had to pin him down to a schedule and then, when we got to the neighborhood, deal with his particular style of responding to lack of street signs, which is to just keep driving until he's satisfied we've gone too far. (I would have turned around and gone back to the street that I suspected of being the right one rather than turn right on the big street that obviously wasn't it and driving down it for a mile.)
I asked Dad, before I left Boulder, about the car situation. Just the one, he said. Sure, I could borrow it. No, I didn't need to rent a car. Honestly, I don't know why I bothered--there always seems to be some reason why he'd rather drive me than just let me borrow the truck. I mean, it's nice that this means we're spending more time together, I won't deny that. And it was damn near saintly of him to be willing to drive me to the French Quarter for Halloween, despite really not liking the idea. But turning me-plans into us-plans increases the difficulty of making plans. I came in thinking I was going to be in charge of my own movements around the Greater New Orleans area, and I'm really not, and it's been kind of exhausting to have to renegotiate my itinerary.
And but so anyway, Dad made himself a martini, drove us to the BERG warehouse, and sipped his drink while watching us practice. He admits he napped a little. He was also very kind and fetched me extra water bottles from the truck when it became clear two would not suffice.
Then we went home, and Dad ordered us a pizza (sausage and pepperoni and anchovies, heaven), and I made kimchi.
So, back around Christmas 2015, I created a monster. One of Dad's friends had just outright given him a 40-pound sack of oysters, so we spent a bunch of Christmas Eve shucking oysters. And I said, "With all these oysters, I should make kimchi." Dad was unfamiliar but intrigued. He ventured that one of his hunting buddies was notorious for his taste in spicy foods, and it would be interesting to see how some homemade kimchi went over with him. So. Dad drove me out to the Asian grocery store that's on Transcontinental, we bought napa cabbage and Korean radish and Asian chives and hot pepper flakes and fish sauce and so on, and I damn well made kimchi.
And Dad shared it around with his hunting buddies--not just the guy notorious for eating ghost peppers and Carolina reapers, but everyone--and next thing you know, this becomes something they request I do every time I roll into town.
So before today's roller derby outing, we went shopping and I set the vegetables up to get salty. After today's roller derby outing, I made kimchi. I made the napa cabbage and Korean radish kimchi featured in the recipe linked above (here it is again!) and the stuffed cucumber kimchi. It was a lot more work than I am accustomed to doing in the post-derby portion of the evening. The pizza helped. Also the prospect of knowing we'll have cucumber kimchi alongside breakfast tomorrow morning.
I may complain about Dad's overprotectiveness (and also his reactionary politics but let's not go there), but I will never complain about his taste in food. He's a Cajun. He eats all the things. Kimchi at breakfast? Not a problem. Complements the venison sausage nicely. And rabbit stew is on the menu tomorrow.
tfw you wake up in tennessee and go to bed in
- 1,244 wds. long
- 713 wds. long
- 914 wds. long
Hello from Metairie, Louisiana. After two very pleasant days on trains, I have arrived. Have not done anything particularly exciting beyond biking some postcards to the post office on 17th street and piecing together a this-n-that dinner from Dad's leftovers (although that can be very exciting, because Dad's leftovers include venison sausage, crawfish boudin, and seasoned trout in wine sauce with green onions). But that's OK. The week is young yet.
I made very good use of my time in the sleeper cars. I finished up last week's Fictionette (ebook, audiobook, excerpt) in time to send it live from a pub in Chicago (Haymarket, which brews, among other beers, a robust porter and a magnificent lemon saison). I made progress on this week's Fictionette so that hopefully it will go live on time. I got a reprint flash fiction submission package together and ready to email tonight to a very nice editor. I also played a lot of Two Dots/Dots & Co. and solved today's jigsaw sudoku.
And now I am inexplicably exhausted. Aside from today's bike ride and yesterday's street-skating between Chicago Union Station and Haymarket, I have done very little since Saturday afternoon that didn't involve sitting on my butt. I guess being shuttled across the country, however passively, takes its toll. And it will be nice to sleep in a bed that isn't rocking back and forth all night long.
Big day tomorrow. Lots of driving, visiting, and skating planned. Also it'll be Halloween. I'll be out late, so tomorrow's post will come early or, more likely, not at all. You have been warned.
just a minite ago it was last week where did the time go
- 2,990 wds. long
I saw this great tweet this morning about how A NEW EVIL ARISES but it is MONDAY so EVIL HAS A HARD TIME GETTING OUT OF BED. It was funnier in the original, but the paraphrase will do. This goes double for the first Monday back from a week of productive and mildly adventurous out-of-town introverting.
The challenge is always to continue in ordinary life the good work practices I found room to practice during my getaway. There is less room in ordinary life for good work practices. Ordinary life has household bills and cleaning and other chores and also a 4:45 appointment and my shift on the monthly roller derby training calendar at 6:30. But I am happy to say I rose to the challenge. If I did not get to revisions on "White Noise" before having to leave the house at 4:20 PM, that's probably because I took the time to mildly polish up "The Blackbird Is Involved in What I Know" before sending it out to a pro-paying literary magazine. Can't complain.
The remainder of my mountain adventures were quiet but rewarding, and they were as follows:
Saturday morning I set my alarm so I could be at Taquería No Se Hagan Bolas right at menudo o'clock. Word is they make the best menudo for miles around, but you have to be there early, because once they run out, it's gone. So I got there shortly after they opened and, yea, I acquired menudo.
There's this one Yelp reviewer who docked them a star (thus giving them only 4 out of a possible 5) precisely because they run out of menudo by noon "while customers continue to request it all afternoon. How about making a 2nd pot?" I wondered whether this reviewer also docks stars off great donut shops because they, too, run out of product by noon. My friend, this meal is not something you just whip up another pot of if you're running low. To give y'all an idea--and this will sound delicious to fans of bone stock, and gross to everyone else--after my leftovers had cooled in the fridge (maybe 10 ounces left of the initial huge portion; a good menudo is too rich for me to finish in one sitting), they were no longer liquid but rather gelatinous, indicating thorough integration of the collagen from the bones used to make the stock. That takes hours to achieve--this article suggests overnight.
Anyway, it was delicious and I got to eat it two mornings in a row and I am docking that reviewer a star for unreasonable expectations.
Saturday afternoon I took a trip into Edwards to visit the Bookworm on the Riverwalk. After that, I went back across the river to spend some quality beer-and-Puzzle-Pirates time at Crazy Mountain Brewery. Pictured above is my favorite of the beers I tried there--and I tried the whole flight, even the IPAs and ESBs I knew I wouldn't care for. The winner is a stout. I know it doesn't look like one. They warn you it doesn't look like one. But, hell, if you can have black IPAs (when the P stands for "pale"), why not a golden stout? It was delicious.
Sunday morning I checked out of the resort. My original plan was to hang around to watch the Saints game at Bob's Place. Then I thought, I'm going to have an ice chest with things inside that should stay cold, I should just get that stuff home and put it in the fridge. Also I expect the traffic heading east on I-70 on a Sunday afternoon is worse after 2:30 than it is before 10:00. So instead I set my alarm a little earlier and got out of town by 9:00, got home by 11:30, unpacked the car, refrigerated the ice chest's contents, and headed over to the 28th Street Tavern.
This turned out to be the right choice. The bar wasn't too crowded, I had a great view of the game and a place to plug in my laptop, and John, whom I hadn't seen all week and whom I missed dearly, was able to join me midway through the third quarter about the time that things got really entertaining.
The Saints won. I'm not really sure what else to say. It was a very weird game.
So that was the rest of my Avon weekend and the beginning of my reintegration into ordinary life. Hi.
the writer should get adequate exercise daily; one small mountain should be sufficient
First off, I'd like to correct any misunderstandings from yesterday's blog post. I was not, and am not, particularly displeased with the way yesterday turned out. In some ways, it turned out better than today. I did find time to spin, for instance. (I did not get to the spinning wheel today.) I did type up an entire Fictionette Artifact all in one go. (I only managed one page today.) And I visited a roller derby league to join them for practice, which is completely optional while I am on vacation. (I did not put on skates today. But I did exercise. A lot. Read on.)
Yesterday wasn't bad by any means or definition. It was disappointing from only a single point of view, that which asks, "Did I spend time revising short stories and brainstorming the novel, as is my Goal For My Week in Avon?" If the answer is "No, because I did other awesome things with my first day in Avon," then, realistically, the disappointment quotient is limited.
I still haven't gotten to short-and-long-fiction today, either, but after this post I plan to put in a couple minutes on each. Just open up the respective Scrivener files and reread a bit, give my subconscious mind a chance to play in those spaces during dreamtime tonight. It won't be much, but it's something.
Remember: If you can't do a lot, do a little.
Meanwhile, this feeling keeps encroaching on my contentedness, this sort of guilt/shame/regret feeling, this sense that I have to justify being up here in the mountains this week. Like, OK, I typically spend the week holing up in my room to write, venturing forth only to acquire library books or to visit a favorite restaurant (or, occasionally, try out a new one). Perhaps I might take my writing session to the library or a coffee shop, but--aren't those all things I could have done back in Boulder? What extravagance, to drive all the way up here and spend the week in a fancy vacation resort just to do things I could have done at home! Guilt. Unease. Shame!
I have to beat that feeling down with a stick. Whack! "It's about the solitude, dummy!" Wham! "I can't realistically hermit back home, you know!" Thwack! "It's about escaping responsibilities, the sort I can't just pretend don't exist when I'm at home!" Bap! Bop! Boffo! "They surround me when I am at home! I'm available to them when I am at home!" Whap! "I'm on serious me-time this week and you don't get to ruin it!"
Kablammie! Boom! Thud!
Nevertheless, when, via a casual search for charging stations on PlugShare.com, I discovered the existence of the Walking Mountains Science Center, I thought it would be a pity not to check it out this week. So I made time for it today.
I got there around 4:00, an hour before closing. I wanted to get there earlier, but I mistook the turnoff for being just the medical center parking lot and wound up driving pretty much the whole of Buck Creek Road from Nottingham to Metcalf, passing all the big beautiful residences with intimidatingly gated private drives as I went. (EV report: I left the garage with a 30-mile range estimated on the battery. At the highest point of my drive that got down to 19. After coming all the way downhill again to the Northside Kitchen parking lot to grab some internet and check my directions, the car was estimating a 30-mile range again. Mountain driving. I'm telling you.)
(The Walking Mountains Science Center does, by the way, have EV charging stations. They seemed to be working as advertised, contrary to Johnny V's recent comments on PlugShare.com. At least, both were in use by staff vehicles, and I'm sure the center's staff wouldn't let them get into a state of disrepair if they mean to use them for their vehicles. I can't tell you for sure; I didn't get to use them myself. But that's cool. I have discovered two additional parking spots in my hotel's garage with access to a wall plug on the support column between them. I am all but assured a convenient source of charge now regardless of what the driver of the black sporty not-electric-at-all car does.)
Anyway, with only an hour until the center closed and only some two hours and a bit until sunset, I thought it would be best to save the indoor science exhibits for another time and instead hit the nature trails.
The nature trails were fantastic, full of fabulous playspaces and outdoor "classrooms" that must really excite the kids around here. The kid inside me was sure delighted. But the real adventure began when I headed up the steep and alarmingly slippery switchbacks that took me up to the very top of the mountain, at an elevation of 8,050 feet according to the little trail map they gave me in the center. (HikingProject.com says the switchbacks belonged to the Saddle Ridge trail while the trail running the top of the ridge was the Overlook Trail.) The views from up there were stunning. The trail deposited me at the feet of three burly towers whose support cables and, I think, power lines were chittering in the wind. To the north, the ridge-top trail followed a couple saddlebacks to another peak, which I investigated, and beyond that a steep downhill trek into the valley, which I didn't. South of the towers was what the map called a "picnic area," leading me to expect some tables and benches strategically positioned to overlook the town of Avon. In fact, it bottomed out in a wide plateau covered in sagebrush and other flora: taller bushes with coin-shaped leaves gone red, shorter bushes with thorns and the serrated oval leaves of the rose family. The only furniture was a long-abandoned camp chair folded up in the grass, its canvas rotting away. (I stood it upright and took a picture.)
The headland ended at a steep drop-off above I-70. I found a great big boulder to sit on, and I baited my acrophobia by dangling my legs over the drop and forcing myself to identify the buildings below--Sheraton Mountain Vista, Four Seasons, Lodge at Avon, Comfort Inn, post office, Walgreens, Vin 48 and Blue Plate, the rec center--like sort of telling rosary beads or creating my own non-Dune-related litany against fear. Baiting acrophobia from a more-or-less safe spot can be kind of a thrill. I imagine it's the sort of thrill bungee jumpers and sky divers get, only way down the intensity scale and a lot quieter.
So that was about an hour and a half of intense walking and climbing. I felt that was an admirable amount of exercise for the day, for me. It is important for writers to get adequate exercise daily, to compensate for the sedentary nature of our work. Chuck Wendig says, on Day 13 of 30 Days in the Word Mines, that you should "[g]et up and move from time to time. Again: usher that sluggy blood around your floppy, galumphing human frame." I would say I unslugged my blood and unflopped my frame quite well today.
(Don't worry, Papa Whiskey; I still did my half hour core workout tonight!)
Certainly I felt it was enough exercise to justify dinner at the Northside Kitchen when I got back down the hill. I had only been to the Northside once before, a year or two ago, for a late breakfast, so I was expecting the same high-quality greasy spoon experience I had back then. Turns out, though, they fancify at night. They put out tableclothes and candles. They distribute wine lists with the sorts of wine on them that are $19 a glass at a discount. Their menu includes giant sea scallop, halibut, filet mignon. I said "what the hell" and indulged in their current special, a 3-course meal for $29.95 ($5 upcharge if you choose lobster ravioli for your entree, which I did). I also had iced tea. (I did not have the discounted $19-per-glass wine, but I was tempted.) Everything I had was wonderful. Only, everything the next table over ordered looked wonderful, too, and they ordered all different things than what I ordered. I wanted to come back and do it again with what they ordered. But, really, one $50 meal per week is plenty and possibly too much.
To be fair, I have been doing a lot of eating in house, at least two meals in for every one meal out. That is pretty darn good for being on vacation! I'm staying in the non-deluxe half of the resort's lock-off, which means I don't have a stove-top. The resort does, however, provide electric hot plates of the two-burner type, one large and one small, on request. I asked for one. They brought it right up.
Then I tried to cook with it.
It was going to be a potato-squash-greens-egg hash, like the sort I make at home all the time. No grater was available, but whatever, I am capable of slicing root vegetables and gourds thin. Problem was, after the veg was in the pan on HIGH for about five minutes, no sizzling nor indeed any cooking at all was in evidence. I took the pan away and place my hand palm-down on the cooking surface. It was... warm? Like a hot bath, or the sides of my mug after the tea has cooled down just enough to drink.
I made potato-squash-egg casserole in the microwave/convection oven instead and called down for a replacement.
Today I tried out the replacement. It represented a fifty percent improvement in that one of the cooking surfaces was functional! The small one, but still. It was enough that I was able to cook dal with baby kale and a poached egg for lunch today, albeit somewhat slowly.
Would you like to cook dal with baby kale and a poached egg? I just bet you would. You will no doubt have your own favorite recipes, but just in case you want to compare notes, here's my process. (You will note it differs somewhat from the classic/traditional process. To that I say, Oh well.)
Sautee about half an onion, chopped how you like, with two or three cloves garlic, minced, in cooking oil. I prefer about one tbl canola oil and one tbl mustard oil, but you do you.
While the alliums sautee, add whatever greens you have on hand. Thanks to my CSA membership, that's most often kale or chard for me. Destem the kale, even if it's baby kale. Destem baby beet greens, too. I mean, unless you like tough little strings in what ought to be a very tender meal. This is a good time, by the way, to add like a half tsp of salt; it helps the veg wilt and release its juices, and besides I find the whole dish benefits from a generous application of salt. Black pepper, too.
When the greens are wilted and the onions soft and yellowish, add about a tsp each tumeric and whole cumin seed, maybe make it 2 tsp cumin seed. Also a tsp or so hot chili flakes, to taste. Let spices heat up about a minute. The fragrance will get quite strong.
Add like half a cup of dry red lentils. Maybe three-fourths a cup. Stir 'em around. I don't know why I do this. Maybe because I used to cook Rice-a-Roni and the box instructions had you heat up the dry rice and 'roni in the sautee before adding the water? Maybe I have acquired a useless habit? Anyway, when you're ready, add the water. About twice as much as your lentils plus a few tbl more. Maybe this is an altitude thing, or a low humidity thing, but I find I have to use more water than I did in Seattle or New Orleans. More water seems to boil off in Colorado.
Let it come to a boil, then simmer, covered, for some 20 minutes or so, whatever it takes until the beans aren't chewy anymore. It took more like half an hour on the fifty-percent-functional hot plate.
Once the beans are tender, crack an egg into the middle of that hot mess. Push the beans up around the sides of the egg. Tuck that egg into bed. Replace the cover, allow to simmer for 5 minutes more or until the egg is whatever level of cooked you like.
Ladle it into your bowl, let it cool as long as you can bear to wait, then hopefully don't burn your mouth when you scarf it all down.
Now my whole hotel room smells wonderful.
some things still hold true, even with extra altitude
Tonight is my second night in Avon, Colorado. I arrived yesterday around 5:30 or 6:00 PM or so. Hi.
The drive was pleasant, if more tiring than I expected (though I should have expected it; I'd been up since 7:00 AM and had attended a full 3-hour roller derby practice from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM already). Traffic was light, the weather was good, and I enjoyed watching the Chevy Volt recharge itself as I came downhill after the Eisenhower Tunnel and later after Vail Pass.
I got a great view of the aspens going golden all down I-70. Well, having gone golden. In some cases, having gone bare, or sometimes only mostly bare and retaining a yellow-gold match-head up top. The maples were bright red and the ash trees were purple and the pine trees were, of course, still green. Also other trees I didn't know to name were contributing to the overall kaleidoscope. Basically, Colorado's classic leaf-turning season isn't so far past its peak that you'd feel you missed out. Get up here and check it out quick, is what I'm saying.
I felt a strong upwelling of relief just coming around the traffic circles and turning right on West Beaver Creek, just seeing the familiar lodging and retail locations that have been there every year--the Christie Lodge, Vin 48, and the Blue Plate on the left, the bank and the Walgreens and the Lodge at Avon on the right. I've been coming here once a year for more than a decade now, and the place is heavily associated with a much-needed break from stress and extraneous responsibility. I don't think I realized the extent of that association, though, not until I got off the highway, caught sight of the building housing the Blue Plate and Vin 48, and just sighed. I don't even like the Blue Plate much, to tell you the truth. It always struck me as unjustifiably pricey. Haven eaten there once last year has not shaken me of that impression. And I've never been inside Vin 48 to know if it's worth the price or not. It doesn't matter. What matters is, seeing that wedge-shaped building on East Beaver Creek means I'm here now.
So. The following is a non-exhaustive list of things I have done since getting here:
Fully charged the Chevy Volt off a 120 volt wall socket overnight for the first time. It was my first opportunity to do so; we don't at this time have access to a wall socket in our parking spot at home.
Ate at Nozawa Sushi for the first time. Wondered why I'd never done it before. They have a daily half-off discount on their sushi rolls and dinner entrees for the entire off-season, "from when the mountain closes until the first of December" as the server told me. I told her she'd see me again.
(Realized this discount had really only brought their specialty rolls down to a reasonable price. Thing being overpriced at restaurants around here is a theme.)
Went grocery shopping to prepare for Monday's snowpocalypse.
Went to bed early and slept very late. "I should get up," I told myself; "I have all sorts of Writing Goals to accomplish today." But then I told myself, "You have nowhere to be today. You can start your working day late. It's cool."
Was very considerate and moved the Volt out of the only parking spot with access to a wall socket, seeing as how the battery was now fully charged. (I won't deny this considerate gesture was more than partially motivated by wanting to have the adapter cord safely locked inside the car once more. Because someone's going to randomly steal a J1227-to-120-volt adapter cord and, I dunno, resell it on eBay I guess? But I get paranoid about that.)
Got a reply to my message to 10th Mountain Roller Dolls saying of course I was welcome to drop in with them, and in fact there was a practice tonight, 15 minutes away from me, at 6:15. Thought ruefully back upon my rationale for sleeping late. Accepted my fate.
Realized it wasn't all that snowpocalypse after all. Decided to go walk some errands.
Went to the post office. The post office was closed. Today is a national holiday.
Went to the library. The library was closed. Today is a national holiday and I am, apparently, slow on the uptake. But the walk was nice. The sun was back out again. After the brief flirtation with winter this morning, the region had returned to the comforts of fall.
Typed up one whole Fictionette Artifact, the whole thing, all in one go while dinner was cooking. I hope people passing by in the hotel hallway heard the typewriter and were amused. I'd be amused if I randomly heard a typewriter in use.
Discovered the best way to boil water for tea in the microwave. It involves having a microwave with a BOIL/SIMMER setting. I put the teapot full of water into the microwave for five minutes on that setting; it comes to a boil around minute three and holds temp at a simmer until I come back and hit CANCEL. The tea steeps up strong. I am pleased.
Spun, on my spinning wheel, a good handful more yardage of laceweight ply from the half-fleece of black lamb I've been working on forever. Or, in fact, not working on, which has been the whole problem. I worked on it tonight, I did.
Went to the 10th Mountain practice. Rediscovered that living and practicing at a bit over a mile above sea level is of dubious preparative value when you drop in on a practice at 7,861 feet. It's amazing how much of a difference that extra 2,400 feet or so make. And everything this team does at practice, they do with endurance in mind. Thank you for kicking my butt tonight, 10th Mountain!
Mildly cussed out whoever had parked that sporty black not-even-a-little-bit-electric car in the only parking spot with access to a wall plug while I was at practice. Dude, you're not even using it! You're wasting it! Grumble grumble grumble
Things I didn't do since arriving in Avon, Colorado: Anything at all beyond the same bare minimum I managed all last week. Sigh. Well, I mean, yes, the Fictionette Artifact in addition to the usual daily cluster of morning pages/freewriting/this week's fictionette. But no short story revision. No novel brainstorming. Damn. Certainly no work after derby practice (this blog post excepted). Damn damn.
Tomorrow will be better. Tomorrow I really don't have anywhere to be in the evening. Still... just to be safe... better not sleep late.