inasmuch as it concerns Mapping Territories:
Writing from the road. Writing about roads. Writing in the middle of the road. Squish. Just like grape.
notes toward next visit
Today's report from My Christmas Vacation will be brief and numerical.
1. The Crab Cake Pontchartrain is delicious. It is even more delicious enjoyed in exceedingly good company.
2. I should visit downtown Covington more often. (Afternoon tea!)
3. Also Abita Springs. (Birthplace of Abita Beer!)
5. Driving alone across the Causeway Bridge is a wonderful opportunity for audiobooks.
4. I should also visit my Aunt June more often.
5. Aunt June may well be the Boulder County Bombers' newest superfan.
outdoor activity, the automotive edition
Today, the last day of fine weather I'll enjoy during my visit home, I succeeding in getting outside via driving across the lake and back. Since that's a 24-mile one-way trip just from shore to shore, nevermind the remainder of the journey to my relatives' house, I think this counts as significant time outdoors.
There was very little wind and very little traffic, and the bird-watching from the bridge was fantastic. Pelicans soared close over the bridge and right along the rail, probably taking advantage of the updraft off the warm cement and hot car engines. Mallards and cormorants stuck closer to the water's surface, flying low or just resting in duck-at-aquatic-repose position.
Every one of them Mom spotted, she said, "Look, there's another one, isn't that wonderful." I'm afraid she's lost the distinction between pelican and seagull and duck these days; they're all just "birds" to her now. She still remembers the rhyme about the queer old bird that's the pelican, and her own version of the rhyme that celebrates New Orleans's basketball team, but she no longer can pick out a pelican from a lineup.
The whole way across the bridge, too, she reads the tenth-mile markers aloud. 14.8, 14.9, 15. Exercising her grasp of numbers. Practicing, maybe, or maybe just reassuring herself that she can still do numbers even if she can't entirely do words or faces anymore.
We were visiting my cousin and her family. Turns out her 18-month-old son was fighting off a cold and not up for all-day adventures in New Orleans. We wound up just visiting at the house and ordering lunch from the Covington location of New Orleans Food & Spirits. I had the grilled stuffed catfish, which was delicious and so very filling that instead of going for one last skate along Linear Park when I got home, I put myself to bed for a nap with a couple of new-to-me Bunnicula books.
Now I'm doing my daily writing tasks--the ones I'm actually holding myself to, being on vacation and all--from one of my parents' comfy armchairs, having watched LSU handily win their bowl game against Texas Tech. I don't usually watch college football, but it's bowl game after bowl game during the holiday season, the best of the best playing on TV nearly constantly every day, so I might as well watch my Dad's alma mater show off their current roster's stuff. And their stuff was seriously amazing, I gotta say. Some of those catches were unbelievable.
Tomorrow sees some more visiting on both sides of the lake, and maybe a trip to the post office to get some fruitcake in the mail. The tradition continues!
this fictionette is going to town
- 1,101 wds. long
Again, apologies for the belated Christmas Fictionette. Well, it's not really anything to do with Christmas. It's set more in the fall, I think, round about harvest time, though I've just realized there's a tiny, insignificant, yet unsightly plot hole concerning this detail. There is an impending birth, and I suppose it's technically a virgin birth, but that's just a coincidence of species. In any case, no midwinter festivals were harmed in the making of this fictionette, which is called "Premature Labor."
This brings my first full year of Friday Fictionettes to a close. New Year's Day will be the first Friday in 2016, and I intend to begin another full year of 'em at that time. (That fictionette probably won't have anything intentional to do with its holiday, either.) It's not that I find the sheer number of Patrons a compelling case for continuing the Patreon campaign. But I do continue to find value in the weekly routine. It's good for my work ethic. It's good exercise for my writing muscles. And it's just plain good fun. So! Roll on 2016, with another 52 fictionettes in store.
The visit home continues at a leisurely, unpressured pace. I thought I might head into the city over the weekend, but in fact I never quite crossed the parish line until today, when I took my freewriting and my fictionette work over to Rue de la Course. This was followed by lunch at Pho Bistreaux (shrimp spring rolls and Vinh's special) and a little window-shopping up and down Oak Street.
That doesn't mean I didn't get out of the house all weekend. Did some biking Saturday (and had the Pasta Carmella at Bistro Orleans). Skated over to Bucktown on Sunday (and wound up watching part of that very enjoyable Saints game at Melius Bar over a couple of Abitas and a chili cheese hot-dog).
Tomorrow all depends. If my cousin and her family wind up doing fun things in town, I may wind up tagging along. If not, I'll probably end up combining the skating thing with the writing at a public establishment thing, as it's the last day of my trip that's forecast to be at all dry and sunny, or at least dry and overcast. In any case, it would be a shame to waste it indoors.
oysters and kimchi on christmas eve
We shucked the rest of the oysters today. Dad estimates there were 80 pounds of them, total. He borrowed this device that was basically a steel tooth on a hinge with a lot of leverage, with which he popped the oysters open. Then all we had to do was scrape 'em out with oyster knives and put 'em in a container in the fridge.
Well, all except the ones we ate during the process. Privilege of doing the shucking.
At some point during the oyster-shucking session, I remembered that Maangchi's kimchi recipe calls for oysters, and wouldn't it be cool to make kimchi with fresh-shucked oysters instead of frozen? And, hey, there's a Korean grocery store just a few blocks away from the friend who loaned us the oyster-popping device, which we gotta bring back to him anyway. Might as well stop in. And they had everything I needed, up to and including the Korean radish and Asian chives.
("Those don't look like chives," Dad said. "Totally different allium," I admitted, "but it is an allium. Unless I screwed up and bought lemongrass." We both tasted some. It was not lemongrass.)
So now my hands smell like garlic and hot peppers, and fresh kimchi is fermenting in big rectangular bins over by the laundry room. At some point I will have to figure out what to do with it all, because I'm unlikely to be able to eat or give away all of it by New Year's Eve. I suppose maybe package it in dry ice in the fruitcake bin to get it home in checked luggage? And put what's left of the fruitcake in something much smaller? But I don't have to worry about that for a week.
And now I'm rewarding myself with a trip to Hurricane's to hang out with my brother and listen to live music and drink Abita and give my computer a wifi connection it hasn't had a spat with. Seriously.
well stuff my face and take a picture
So I made it into the New Orleans area Monday night. My flight was pleasant, comfortable, and uneventful. Even my pre-trip packing and last-minute chores parade wasn't so bad. Got everything done early and had time for dinner (and the first half of the Saints game) at the airport Rock Bottom in terminal C.
Turns out that Riedell's bottom-loading "gear pack" does indeed function as carry-on luggage. Fits right into the overhead bin. However, once you get your gear in there, forget about all those enticing home-office style pockets that make it look like you can pack your laptop and accessories and pens and pencils and stuff too. I mean, I did manage to get that in there, because that's me--determined, like--but it was a tight squeeze. Getting any single thing out again was a bit of a process.
The helmet does not fit in the gear pack. The helmet went clipped to an outside loop. I was prepared to offer to put the helmet on my head if they gave me any trouble taking it onto the plane. But they didn't, so I just unclipped it and shoved it under the seat in front of me.
That I had my roller derby gear as carry-on luggage made it very, very tempting to put my skates on at my arrival gate--it was a bit of a walk from there to baggage claim, and the aisle was uncarpeted and linoleumish the whole way. But I didn't. I didn't want to alarm any airport security, and, more to the point, I didn't want to go to the trouble of actually sitting down and changing my footwear when I could just keep walking.
I shoulda done, though. It's not like I've been able to skate at all since I've been here. STOP RAINING ALREADY JEEZ.
My first few days in town have been laid back. They have been divided up into vaguely scheduled chunks governed by "do I have access to Mom's car or not" and "am I hungry and what wonderful tasty thing will I put into my mouth." For example, Monday night/Tuesday morning (we got home from the airport around midnight) was all about Question 2 and the venison stew Dad had been cooking all day in the crock pot. Tuesday afternoon was all about Question 1 and driving myself to a coffee shop for a few hours of writing far away from my parents' Fox News habit. (Also for a bowl of the coffee house's corn-and-crab bisque.) Today the answer to Question 1 was "yes, but I want to take the bike to the shop" and the answer to Question 2 was "Mandarin House with Mom for lunch, then beignets at Morning Call while I wait for the bike shop to call." Also there have been random raw oysters, because Dad's friend picked up a sack and brought them over. And crawfish sushi because I was at the grocery Tuesday and it looked good. And more of the venison stew, and also the corn and sausage soup, and random Popeye's leftovers, because they were in the fridge and I was feeling snacky at late-o-clock at night.
I've begun assembling a photo album over on Facebook - I think it's totally public and you don't have to be logged in to see it - because I have this new camera, as you may remember. Here's a close-up of one of the photos. Apparently they have yellow caution signs for everything.
sometimes all you can say is The Dog Ate My Homework
Oh, goodness. Today. Today got sabotaged. Weren't nobody's fault but mine, neither. OK, sure, I could say the cat shredded my homework, but I'd have to admit that the only cat here was me. Let me tell you all about it.
So, firstly, remember Late Night With Fruitcake? (This is what I should have called yesterday's blog post.) I was up even later than that. Turns out, after the fruitcake bakes for three and a quarter hours, then it wants to be removed from its tube pan half an hour after being removed from the oven. So I was actually up until three.
Which meant I didn't get up this morning until almost 10:30, and still didn't feel like I'd gotten enough sleep. So not only was I up late, but I was moving slow. My morning shift didn't happen, is what I'm saying.
Secondly, I had a few tasks to complete for my roller derby league. I'm part of the committee that makes home bouts happen, and my role within that committee is pretty much everything to do with tickets. And the thing about tickets is, nothing to do with them is a surprise. I had all the info I needed to get things done over the weekend. But did I? No. I procrastinated until suddenly everything had to be done today.
And there went my afternoon shift.
Most of the writing I got done today, I got done after we left for tonight's derby practice. John needed to be there super early, so I dropped him off and then ran away to a cafe in Gunbarrel for an hour. Then he had to be there super late, so I picked at this week's Friday Fictionette from one of the trackside spectator couches. "Write wherever you are" is a rule I usually have the luxury of ignoring, but today I really paid heed.
On the plus side, you can now buy tickets to our upcoming New Year Roll Out mix-up tournament! You can just come to watch, or you can register to skate in it. If that's your thing, I mean. I know a lot of people whose thing this definitely is. It's certainly my sort of thing. I will probably be skating in it.
In other news, it turns out I will not be spending Solstice Night on a train somewhere between Fort Morgan and Omaha. Amtrak coach fare was ridiculously expensive. Seems I waited too long and all the "saver" seats were sold out. As much as I love traveling by train, there is a limit to how much I'm willing to pay for the privilege; $450-ish each way is well beyond that limit. My next strategy would be to send my accumulated Amtrak Guest Reward points, but that was already a non-starter because of blackout dates.
So, feh. I'll be flying home on the 21st instead. If I have the energy, I'll even stay up all night and keep a fire burning through the longest night of the year; they do have a fireplace. It's out by the hot tub. It'll be a lonely Solstice vigil, but a comfy one.
I'll be flying back on the evening of the 31st. Which is neat, because I hear that Southwest give out a little free champagne on New Year's Eve. (Or is that only for overnight flights? Do they only do that at the stroke of midnight?) Also they have wifi on board for a nominal charge. So there's the possibility of a champagne toast and Puzzle Pirates at cruising altitude.
But that's not until the end of the month. Here's my plan for tomorrow: A lot fewer excuses and a lot more productive writing time. You can go ahead and hold me to it, too. For one thing, I'm going to bed on time tonight. For another, I already got my bout ticket duties done today. NOTHING WILL STAND IN MY WAY.
preparing for a traveling winter solstice
I'm going to be up pretty darn late tonight. I put the annual fruitcake into the oven at about 11:00 PM, and that thing needs to bake for three hours and fifteen minutes.
Speaking of fruitcake and all things Winter Solstice: I don't think I'll be hosting our traditional Winter Solstice Yule Log All Night Open House this year. If it were to happen, it should be on the actual Longest Night of the Year, the night before the dawn when Drumming Up the Sun happens. But I think I'm actually going to be on a train that night. According to my trusty online almanac, Winter Solstice will be December 21 at 9:49 PM Mountain Standard Time, and I'll be getting on board the California Zephyr that evening at around 7:00 PM MST.
Which means instead of unveiling the fruitcake here in Boulder on Solstice Night, I'll be taking it home to share with my family for Christmas (reserving, of course, sufficient slices to mail to certain long-distance friends). But perhaps I'll have a little slice on the train first, just to commemorate the longest night of the year.
I have already listed the fruitcake ingredients, but you may mentally add to the list dried pineapple, which I got today to remedy the 6.25 oz shortfall I discovered when I weighed everything out yesterday. Apparently I wasn't careful and undershopped. Didn't have quite a full 8 oz almonds, either, so had to pick up a few more of those.
I may have mentioned this before, but--dried strawberries are really, really annoying to slice up. I have a small blister at the base of my right index finger from slicing up dried strawberries. If I didn't love them so much, they'd go the way of the dried pineapple rings that I used once and never again. (Dried pineapple went back on the possibles list once I discovered I could buy it diced.)
The booze this year is Makers's Mark bourbon, because what else are we going to do with a bottle of Maker's Mark? Besides add it to the homemade eggnog, should I make some.
Meanwhile, if I'm actually going to get on the train, I'd better run off to another browser window and actually reserve my seat. And then there's all that other stuff I put off until last minute tonight. I guess it's a good thing I'll be up past 2:00 AM.
Talk to y'all tomorrow!
they live just down the ice floe from us
The weather's getting a head start on tomorrow. It's been overcast all day, and now it's misting down a light sort of rain/sleet mix that's turning everything cement and asphalt into a death trap. I nearly injured myself just walking next door (well, two apartment complexes down) for the late-night cat-sitting visit. There were places where I couldn't walk at all, just "skate"--which is to say, hunker down into good derby position and just slide my sneakers forward very, very carefully.
Speaking of skating, there were plans bubbling through the league to have a Thanksgiving morning "fun skate" at our usual practice location--but with tomorrow's winter weather advisory and the ice only getting worse and the temperatures not predicted to climb above freezing tomorrow, I expect it ain't happening. Well, it might happen, but it'll most likely happen without me. Brrr.
So... a good day to catch up on NaNoWriMo, right? I have a bit of catching up to do. According to the "At this rate you will finish on..." metric, I'm 10 days behind. But according to the "Words per day to finish on time" metric, I only need to increase my daily session from the original 3,125 plan up to about 3,500 or so. This is entirely doable. I've introduced a new plot twist that should be good for at least another 5,000 words, and with any luck it will spawn further plot twists and maybe even a plot resolution.
And speaking of NaNoWriMo: Look look look! I have a title now.
In other writing news, "...Not with a Bang, But a Snicker" (the one about the snow-glue apocalypse) came home from its previous outing this weekend, and it's gone right back out tonight. #WriterDoingWriterThings
recovery day is slow but productive
Hi Boulder! I'm back.
It was a very long drive back, even longer than the drive down. This was because I stopped for dinner as well as lunch, and also because I missed the State Highway 219 component of my route and went some miles out of my way. This was how I discovered the Santa Rosa Triangle. It is less famous than the Bermuda Triangle, but much more relevant to the interests of a driver on US Highway 84 North who suddenly finds, after passing under I-40, that she's in fact on US Highway 84 South without any recollection of how this change was accomplished.
I got home last night around 11:45, babbled a little at my very patient husband, then collapsed in the bed. And I stayed there until well nigh ten this morning. The rest of the day was spent moving at about that speed, which is what recovery looks like.
So the big question is this: Was a four-hour roller derby clinic in Las Cruces really worth the 20-hour round-trip drive from Boulder? The answer, of course (of course!) is HELLS YEAH. The clinic was led by skaters from Victorian Roller Derby (Melbourne, Australia), the league that took third place in WFTDA's 2015 international championships. The four hours were tightly packed with solo blocking, two-person blocking, evasive jamming, and aggressive jamming skills. I took lots of notes which I will hopefully be able to read when it is time to transcribe and organize them for my league's benefit. It was an amazing opportunity and I'm glad I was able to take advantage of it.
Moving slow or not, I still managed to add 3,133 words to my NaNoWriMo novel. It's been a good recovery day.
all of the driving and none of the signs
It's as I suspected: This week's Friday Fictionette will show up on Saturday. While I suppose I could have gotten it done and published if I'd gotten right to work after checking into my motel at 9:30 PM, the reality is... Ten-hour drive, y'all. Ten. Hour. Drive. Solo. It just seemed a better use of my time to take a walk, find some dinner, and relax.
I'm staying in the vicinity of University and I-10, which is having a strange effect on my nostalgia circuits. On a lizard-brain gut instinct level, I'm absolutely certain I'm back in at the University of Washington and simultaneously about 15 minutes away from my parents' New Orleans-area home via the interstate. In any case, a ten-minute walk along University brought me within hearing range of electric guitars and a country-rock beat, which reeled me into a sports bar called The Game. I had a beer, ate far too much, and enjoyed the band's original tunes extravagantly.
The drive from Boulder to Las Cruces went fairly well. I did the three and a half hours to Raton easily, stopped for lunch at Pappa's Sweet Shop & Restaurant, then proceeded to drive the remaining six or so hours straight through. I'm not sure how that was possible, but I'm happy to attribute it to the coffee at Pappa's.
The only real shenanigans occurred just west of the little New Mexico town of Vaughn. That's where I missed my turn to remain on US Hwy 54 West/South and instead continued some five miles on along 285 North. Only I didn't know it, because for that stretch of highway, there were absolutely no signs whatsoever indicating what highway I was on. There weren't even speed limit signs. There was nothing but the back-sides of the ridiculously frequent WRONG WAY signs.
Then I got to the next little town and continued to have no clue whatsoever, because the main drag was merely labeled US HIGHWAY. Just that. No number, nothing. Thankfully, once I got just past that little town, there was a cluster of signs indicating I was on 285 and 60 (but not 54), so I got suspicious and turned around.
Encino, New Mexico! Where being lost isn't a bug; it's a feature!
Anyway, that was the only hitch. Otherwise, it was an easy drive and a gorgeous one, sunny and surprisingly warm for mid-November-- a huge contrast from the looming snow clouds I left behind in Colorado. And now I am likely to fall over, so please excuse me while I make sure the falling happens over something soft. Like a motel bed.