inasmuch as it concerns Mapping Territories:
Writing from the road. Writing about roads. Writing in the middle of the road. Squish. Just like grape.
in which real derby hits happen and kimchi gets assembled
Departure day dawns. It has been a morning of laundry and leftovers and last-minute printing out of things. My right hand is dyed orange from having packed up a sampling of Monday's kimchi to take home (insert "caught red-handed" jokes HERE). I've gotten my exercise walking from the Hertz rental office along Andrew Higgins Boulevard/Howard Avenue to the train station, and I've had a fantastic lunch thanks to one more visit to Cochon Butcher.
And now I'm relaxing aboard the train that'll leave New Orleans in about 20 minutes. Guess it's as good a time as any to continue the travel journal.
Sunday, July 15, 2018: When we tire of hitting pedestrians with fat-bats, we hit each other for reals
Woke up, as planned, at stupid o'clock. Got all the stuffs packed and ready. Walked out the door in search of the nearest Blue Bike hub, which I found without any trouble at St. Claude and Elysian Fields. Checked out a bike by means of the computerized interface in back, and off I went.
I hope that I will never not get that surge of delight as I pedal up the street of "WHEEEEEEE I'M BIKING! YAY!" Skates are my wings, but bikes mean freedom. They open up all of the immediate environs the way a car, with its bigness and its need for gas and to follow one-way signs and find parking, does not. On a bike, I feel like I could go anywhere.
Where I went was Daisy Dukes, a 24-hour diner on Chartres just off Canal. I had the fried oyster half-size po-boy with a cup of the gumbo. Also a coffee and an orange juice. They were hopping-busy, but they quickly found me a high-top for one right in the back.
Once I was fed and rested, I re-rented the bike and pedaled over to Hertz for my rental car. It was a black Chevy Sonic and it did what it was supposed to. It got me back to the airBnB to pick up my stuff and then it got me down into to New Orleans East and the Big Easy Rollergirls warehouse in time for the post-ROTB Hangover Mashup.
It was a good game. The score stayed fairly close right up through to halftime, after which the gap began to widen as patterns established in the first half replicated themselves in the second. Far as I could tell, a good time was had by all, and I hope I'm not just saying that because my team, the Matadors, won.
Last time I got to participate in a post-ROTB Mashup, three years ago, I was decidedly a beginner. An advanced beginner, sure, and if you saw me playing with BCB's Bombshells you might even call me an intermediate-level skater; but in a group of people I'd never skated with before, all of them from other leagues and many of them outranking me in years and skill, I was a bit of a mess. I hoped to acquit myself somewhat better this year, and I think I did. I had some good hits and some great stops, I called a lot of plays, I braced when the wall rotated, and, in the second half, I performed some decently effective dedicated offense for my jammers right off the line that I do believe helped widen our score differential.
I love feeling like I know what I'm doing. It's still kind of a new feeling for me.
To be clear, the skill level across both rosters seemed to skew high. Even the gals who said things like, "I'm sorry, I don't really know what I'm doing" right before the whistle, they did just fine. Everything felt friendly; I'm told that some years you get a certain amount of revenge hits between people from rival leagues, but there was none of that going on that I could see.
Dad came to watch, and I was super proud that he got to see how far I've come. He came to my last post-ROTB Mashup three years ago, and his main comment was an amused "You sure took a beating!" This year he sounded a little more taken aback: "There were some vicious hits out there!" I was all like, "I know. I gave some of 'em!"
(HAY HAY BCB YOU GUYZ I DID THE FOREWARD-FACING HIT THING IT WAS AWESOME. I missed a crossstep check though. My timing on that one's still kinda iffy.)
Dad's other comment was, "I don't know how you can do all that in this heat." He had a point--it was very hot in that warehouse. No surprise; it was very hot in New Orleans my whole trip. As I knelt by Dad's lawn chair to talk to him at halftime, sweat rolled down my face and torso in free-flowing rivulets. I went through a can and a half of coconut water, a couple cans of La Croix, and a whole lot of water from the Igloo cooler kindly situated between the two team benches. By the time we were done, we were all ready to throw ourselves in the pool.
The pool was at Pontchartrain Landing, the traditional site of the post-ROTB Mashup afterparty. Pontchartrain Landing is a marina and RV campground with a restaurant and bar. The pool is for residents only, but they have a running agreement with the Mashup hosts to let us use it. So we did.
For lunch, I had a "frozen alligator" daiquiri (mint and kahlua and chocolate chips) and the Salty Pig (pulled pork and fried oysters on top of toasted french bread rounds).
Eventually I got sun-dried enough to change clothes (I hadn't realized I'd need my own towel) and head home--home home, this time, the house in Metairie where I'd grown up. I let myself in and collapsed on the sofa. Dad vee-jayed his favorite live concert DVDs for us. That was about all I had enough energy left to do: be an appreciative audience. Also to eat. Dad had made chicken and andouille gumbo ("it has never come out so good!") and a neighbor brought us a bunch of boiled blue crabs (so, yes, I did get my boiled crabs fix after all).
It was a great start to my half-week at home.
Monday, July 16, 2018: The kimchi is now a tradition
My Mom lives at The Atrium, in the memory care unit. Every Monday and Wednesday, Dad picks her up and takes her for a ride in the truck. It doesn't much matter where. Just being in an automobile is enough to make her giggle. And that's about all she does anymore. She giggles, she taps her forehead slowly against the armrest, she repeats "One, two, three, four, five" (all she can remember or at least access of the rhyme that continues "Once I caught a fish alive") in a gruff and teeth-clenched voice, and she giggles some more. That was about 99.9% of her activity that I witnessed when I went along for the ride today.
I've done my mourning already. This is what is, and I'm resigned to it. But every time I visit, I'm a little shaken by how much farther the dementia has progressed. At least last visit she was able to respond to direct questions and would spontaneously say things to Dad like "I just want to be with you" and "You're so good to me."
It's strange and backwards and sad when the daughter moves into the role of comforting her father. Parents are mythically big and invulnerable and all-powerful. Even when we're all grown up, some of us sometimes still seek out their approval and appreciation. It's always a shock to see them helpless with illness or grief. It was a shock when I was eleven and newly diagnosed with leukemia and the two of them broke down crying in front of me, and it's a shock now to see Dad having to bear this burden of care and grief. Mostly he doesn't let it show. Sometimes, though, cracks appear.
Sometimes all I can do is just give him a big hug. At least I was there to give it.
On a lighter note, while we were out driving Mom around, we stopped at the Korean grocery on Transcontinental at Vets Blvd, and I went in for kimchi ingredients. I am simply not going to get away without making kimchi during a visit home. It's inevitable. It has become tradition. I'm not fighting it anymore. And I admit it's a kind of fun role reversal to be the one directing kitchen traffic and giving Dad food prep instructions.
We did this kimchi recipe (minus the oysters, which we did not have on hand) and also that one (but with yellow squash in addition to the cucumbers). We also had some sliced, seasoned squid that I'd picked up on a whim; it was a salty, spicy treat on fresh sliced tomatoes.
Every time I make kimchi with Dad, I am surprised all over again at how easy it is, and why don't I make some more the moment I get back to Boulder? And then I never do. It probably has to do with how far I have to drive to be sure of finding Asian chives. Like that's even necessary! They have a great flavor, but so do scallions and even leeks. So! No excuses this time.
Oh and hey--lunch was at Mr. Ed's. Not the one on Live Oak I used to bike to for muffulettas back in high school. They have multiple locations these days. This was their fish house and oyster bar on 21st Street, couple blocks over from Andrea's (which I did not have occasion to visit, more's the pity). They still serve that amazing turtle soup, but I didn't order it this time. I was distracted by oysters and other delicious things. That's kind of how most of this trip went, really: "Something blah-blah yadda-yadda OH HEY OYSTERS!"
Food Talley for Sunday and Monday:
- 2018-07-15, 07:15 - fried oyster half po-boy, gumbo (Daisy Dukes French Quarter)
- 2018-07-15, 14:00 - Salty Pig: fried oyster and pulled pork on french bread (Pontchartrain Landing)
- 2018-07-15, 17:30 - chicken and andouille sausage gumbo with boiled blue crab appetizer (home: Dad's gumbo, a neighbor's seafood acquisition)
- 2018-07-16, 12:15 - oysters rockefeller and bienville, softshell crab almondine with Meunière sauce (Mr. Ed's Oyster Bar & Fish House)
- 2018-07-16, 18:00 - fresh sliced tomatoes dressed with Korean seasoned squid (home: tomatoes from Dad's friend's garden, squid from Oriental Market)
What? No. The kimchi has not been eaten yet at this time. We're letting it ferment overnight. And the squash and cucumber are busy mingling with the seasonings in the fridge. Don't worry, we'll be tasting it tomorrow.
after a small interruption we continue with our tale
Had a late night last night and didn't have the oomph left over to continue the travel journal. Late night tonight, too, but enough is enough. Skip two days, you wind up skipping three, then a whole week, then nothing gets blogged at all. So! Picking up where I left off the other night...
Friday, July 13, 2018: The train arrives in New Orleans
Well, not until 3:30 PM. Slept well, felt a lot better, got a significant amount of work done on the short story before the train arrived. Spotted wildlife from the train: wild turkeys just outside a town in Mississippi (can't recall exactly where) and a ton of egrets at Port Manchac. (Sometimes you get pelicans. Sometimes you get cormorants. Today it was mostly egrets.) Had a perfectly terrible excuse for a muffuletta for lunch. I'd forgive the substitution of the hoagie roll--I allow a lot in an out-of-town muffuletta, just so long as they get the innards right--but the microwave did horrible things to that hoagie roll, and the result was just sad.
No, wait, I misremember, the awful not-muffuletta was last night over dinner, because we were with that nice couple who got off the train in Memphis. But then I have no memory of what I had for breakfast or lunch on the train Friday. Clearly these were not memorable meals.
Had a phone conversation with Dad during which he tried very hard to get me to accept his offer of ferrying me around downtown once I got in. I don't think Dad's ever gotten comfortable with the idea of me being downtown by myself, not even after all these years. He also wanted to know why I thought I needed a rental car when he has no plans and is happy to drive me around. Which was very sweet of him and all, but, I don't know, y'all, I did not expect to still be defending bids for independence to my father at my age.
So the train arrived. I'd planned on having my luggage held at the station while I skated up to the Sugar Mill for my ROTB packet, then retrieving it and taking the streetcar to my lodgings for the night. When I found out how much that would cost me, I rearranged my plans. I would instead take the streetcar to my lodgings immediately, then skate all the way back to the Sugar Mill, then skate all the way back to the airBnB. Fine. I like skating. Let's do this.
The streetcar system is more confusing than it ought to be. The line I boarded was the 49, but you couldn't tell it from the car. The car said 03. It also said Uptown/Loyola, which, correct me if I'm wrong, has absolutely nothing to do with where it actually went, which was St. Claude and Elysian Fields. I dunno. I think I have a decent handle on navigating New Orleans, but I've never taken the streetcar with intent before. (Taking it mainly for the experience of WHEE I'M ON THE STREETCAR doesn't count.) There may be some subtleties I'm missing.
It's OK, you don't have to @ me about it. I'll figure it out as and when needed.
So that worked. Got to the house. Let myself in. Sat down in the blissful air conditioning (four blocks of New Orleans in July is a lot). Eventually got into my leggings and cut-offs. Packed my bookbag to be more lightweight for skate travel, leaving in only the things I imagined I'd want that evening.
Went out on the porch to put on my skates AND WAS IMMEDIATELY SURROUNDED BY KITTENS.
They were black and tabby and muted calico and tortie and gray. There were at least seven of them. They were half-grown and half-feral. Their favorite game seemed to be Who Can Get The Closest To The Human Without Getting Pet. They arranged themselves around the chair I was in, some where I could see them and some not. When I finally tore my eyes away and toe-stepped down the stoop to start my evening's journey, they scattered, then rearranged themselves proprietorially on the porch where I had been.
It was a long trip. It took me about half an hour, maybe forty minutes. Followed a pedicab most of the way down Decatur and North Peters. "You make a nice safe lane," I told the bicyclist. He suggested I hold onto the back and let him tow me; I declined, citing a need to see potentially hazardous bits of street before I rolled over them. It was a kind offer, though.
Stopped on the way at the terribly convenient Hertz on Convention Center Boulevard to reserve a rental for Sunday AM pick-up (and, incidentally, put to bed any future arguments about whether I needed a rental car; it was already rented, too bad).
After I'd done my required pre-ROTB business at the Sugar Mill, I headed the couple blocks down Andrew Higgins Boulevard toward Tchoupitoulas and Cochon Butcher. And there I not only worked some more on my short story, but I also had the muffuletta to make up for Amtrak's utter disgrace of an alleged muffuletta.
Got back to the airBnB eventually and met the neighbor lady who feeds the kittens. Sat on the porch and talked awhile. Finally went inside, geared down, changed into regular street clothes, walked to the nearby grocery for skater fuel--protein/energy bars, coconut water, fruit, that sort of thing. Came back. Started laundry. FINISHED THE SHORT STORY AND SUBMITTED IT. Promptly keeled over. The end.
Friday, July 14, 2018: Rollerbull o'clock
Woke up at 5:30 with plans to leave the house at 6:00 so as to be at the Sugar Mill for 6:30. That is frickin' early. What's more depressing is how hot out it already was when I started skating back toward the Sugar Mill. When a block later I encountered another rollerbull waiting for an Uber, I gratefully accepted her invitation to share the ride.
6:30 was indeed early--too early, really, to be there, despite that this was what the welcome packet told us to do. Not much to do, and no one to talk to if you don't know anyone and are sort of awkward at getting to know people. Was saved by some skaters from Big Easy Rollergirls who recognized me and also a crew from Steel City who'd been chatting with me on Twitter the afternoon before. So now I had some people to "bull around" with, and it was fantastic.
Dad was out there waiting to get a sweaty hug from his derby daughter and watch the fun and take pictures. (He was already beside himself with amusement/shock that several of the bulls were going topless except for pasties. I imagine he will wind up telling this detail to his hunting buddies, bar pals, and other friends and family about three billion times over the remainder of the year.)
So we received the blessing of San Fermín and were released to chase down the runners and swat their butts with our toy bats. Yay. I mean, honestly, I'm there for the skating, not so much for the butt-swatting. I am not thrilled by 1. dudes who say things along the lines of "ooh, yeah baby, hit me harder" (ew) 2. mostly dudes but some women too who holler after you that you "hit like a girl" or "got nothing" or other stupid challenges to my imagined machismo (this is not where my machismo lives, sorry, thanks for playing, try me again when I'm parallel parking or considering spicy food) 3. runners of all genders who insist that their friend "needs a beating" (bull does not take request, bull hits request-er instead). Or, in the case of the dude accosting me after the run while I was trying to talk to my Dad, dudes who come and put their hands/arms around my shoulders or on my back or other places without my consent and I have to extricate myself firmly but, alas, without breaking their gropey-ass appendages because violence is frowned upon by event organizers.
Basically I'm in it for the excuse to skate multiple laps around the course and then skate-dance to whatever the band is playing at the afterparty.
Eventually I peeled off, texted my goodbyes to the Steel City gals, and made my way into the Quarter. Greeted runners doing the same with "Great run this morning! Did y'all have fun too?" Stood for a selfie request with a couple tourists who said they'd had a blast.
Discovered that it's harder than I'd imagined to find a bar open before 11:00 AM on a Saturday. Found my way to Johnny White's for a beer and a photo uploading session. A party of runners descended on the place while I was thus occupied and took over the jukebox. When I finally got up to leave, I said hi and great run and all that, and one of them said, "We had a running bet whether you were deaf and maybe blind, that you were able to just keep working on your computer with us there." OK, I guess.
Now it was past 11:00 and all sorts of lunch options opened up. Too many options. I was too tired for decisions. So I fell back on my usual, which is the French Market Restaurant--you know, that place on Decatur Street with the green-and-white awnings and the constant tantalizing smell of boiled seafood wafting out the door. What I really wanted was boiled blue crab--I'd been assured they were in season--but they didn't have them. So I had a pasta dish instead. It was amazing. It involved spaghetti in a generous crawfish cream sauce topped by a central tower consisting of two slabs of fried eggplant and one damn fine crab cake. So that was fantastic.
I just want to point out that I have never yet been told anywhere in the New Orleans area, "You can't come in here with those skates on." Every single place I've been, restaurant or bar or hotel or Hertz rental office, they've been all, "Roll on in! Just be careful, OK?" The French Market Restaurant is no exception, but its restrooms are up a flight of stairs. Not a problem. Derby teaches the proper use of toe stops. So I'm toe-stopping my way up the stairs, and someone on her way down is all, "You are so talented," and I'm all, "Not talent, just good training." I mean, it beats the exchange several years ago on a post-ROTB bar crawl when the whole way up the stairs at Saints & Sinners someone kept repeating "Girl, you are gonna fall and break your leg." Like, why? Why would you say that? Having said it, why would you say it again?
Made it to the house. Tired. Full stomach. Clothes can't come off fast enough. Brief shower. Crawled into bed. Out like a light and stayed that way for about five hours.
Ventured out on the street again after dark--in shoes this time, thank you--looking for dinner and maybe if I was lucky a little wifi. The problem with Frenchmen Street is, mostly what you'll find are rockin' clubs with awesome shows and a one or two drink minimum and huge crowds. Would have been great if that was what I was in the mood for. If I'm in the mood, it's a treat just walking down the street and hearing the music coming out every door. But I just didn't have the energy for it.
Found my way instead into a courtyard and up some stairs and onto a rooftop patio with a pop-up called Rogue Cafe. They made me some tasty nachos. Thus for food. Then I remembered Envie at Barracks and Decatur, and settled in for coffee and an omelet and a bit of internet errand-running. This included making myself a Blue Bikes account. I'd noticed the rental hub on Frenchman Street at Washington Square and liked the idea of biking rather than skating to the Hertz office the next morning.
Stayed up a little late to get my Sunday morning AINC reading done--I'd already missed the Saturday shows, so I didn't want to miss Sunday too. Set my alarm for 6:15 and went to bed.
Food Tally for Friday and Saturday
It occurs to me I should be keeping track of what-got-et-when. I mean, we're now in the ACTUALLY IN NEW ORLEANS part of the travel journal. Food is going to be important. Thus:
- 2018-07-13, 18:30 - muffuletta (Cochon Butcher)
- 2018-07-14, 11:15 - eggplant & crab pasta (French Market Restaurant)
- 2018-07-14, 19:15 - Nachos Sophia(?) (Rogue Cafe)
- 2018-07-14, 20:30 - ham & cheddar omelet (Envie 1241 Decatur)
The pasta takes the prize in that list with the muffuletta coming in a close second.
my trip to new orleans: things done and seen thus far, by nicole j. leboeuf, age 42 & 1/4 - part 1 of i think maybe 5
So I'm doing the travelogue blogging thing, but the traveling began five days ago, so I'm already in catch-up mode. LIKE I ALWAYS AM. I figure, if I blog about two days on every one day, I'll get caught up by the time I leave New Orleans. Sound good? Good. So:
Wednesday, July 11, 2018
Arrived at Denver Union Station around 3:30 PM. Thanks to a Rockies game going on that afternoon, it was crowded.
In recent years it has been converted from a big sad empty echoing space with bad acoustics into something part shopping mall, part hotel lobby. It is a big fancy gathering space furnished with communal study tables with charging hubs, communal dining/drinking tables like picnic benches, lots of comfy seating with low coffee tables, and a raised area in the middle with I kid you not a couple shuffleboard tables. Along the three interior walls are a bar, a deli, a coffee shop, a surprisingly well stocked Tattered Cover bookstore outlet, several restaurants (including the fantastic Stoic & Genuine with their amazing seafood and happy hour oysters), and a few more retailish things. Also the Crawford Hotel, which I once briefly considered staying at for New Year's Eve only to decide I had better things to do with nine hundred dollars.
So when I say it was crowded, I don't mean like the way your airport terminal might be crowded ahead of an overbooked flight. I mean it was like a shopping mall food court on Christmas Eve, only with alcohol.
Got my daily freewriting done, just in case there'd be no wifi on the train for me to log my 444 to 4thewords. When that was done, I probably should have worked on my other writing tasks. I'd been in OH SHIT I GET ON A TRAIN ON WEDNESDAY mode all week, ruthlessly prioritizing those tasks which enabled my departure, and I'd barely gotten any writing done despite having a Fictionette to release on Friday and also that short story I wanted very badly to submit to Shimmer before they closed their doors for the very last time. But, again, I'd been in OH SHIT mode all week and I needed to relax. So I played a little Spiral Knights instead.
Train arrived an hour and a half late. No big deal. My scheduled layover in Chicago would be long enough to soak it.
There was no wifi hotspot set up; too many dead zones on the California Zephyr to be worth it. No big deal. Internet not necessary for the work I had brought to do.
Went to dinner. My tablemates immediately attempted to interrogate me in the name of making conversation ("Where are you from? Where are you going? Are you all by yourself? Which car/room are you in?") and successfully fended it off ("I'm declining personal questions this evening"). This conversation would repeat itself several times over the next two days.
(I only exaggerate a little bit about the creepy stalkerish ARE YOU ALONE AND IF SO WHERE CAN I BEST CORNER YOU questions. Point is, I am a woman traveling alone. If you need a refresher on why it's a bad idea to grill me for my itinerary, please see Matt Braunger's bit about being a lightning rod for awkwardness and really listen to him excoriate himself for asking a woman he just met "Where do you live?"
Went back to my room, thinking I'd get a little work done on that week's Friday Fictionette and also on the story I wanted to submit to Shimmer. The headache and painfully stiff neck I'd been fighting all day said NOPE.
Attempted to sleep. Body and brain decided to be assholes and also said NOPE.
It was a long night.
Thursday, July 12, 2018
Got up at 6:15 AM Central Time, which was entirely unnecessary. Headache somewhat receded. Neck somewhat looser. Did the morning things and went to breakfast. This included coffee, which helped matters.
After breakfast, made a good faith start on my working day. But as the day went on, it became clear that a night with very little sleep was going to mean a day with a very slow rate of production. I just about managed Morning Pages and a draft of the week's Friday Fictionette, and not much more than that. I think most of the intervening time was eaten up by napping, and reading, and napping while reading. I was not in good shape.
We got to Chicago about three and a half hours late. Still not late enough to jeopardize my connection, thankfully, but late enough to really eat into layover downtime. I uploaded my work so far to 4thewords for the sake of keeping up my streak, answered email, and caught up on the news. Then it was time to board the train.
My neighbor in the transition sleeper car on the City of New Orleans was a woman who hadn't been on a long-distance train before; she asked me all sorts of questions about how stuff worked, so we wound up talking a lot over dinner, together and with the couple across the table. And not just about the train experience, but also about New Orleans. Restaurant recommendations, sightseeing, stuff like that. (This was a conversation where I did not begrudge the incidental personal detail questions. Because the whole point was sharing personal experiences with someone who was looking for recommendations and advice, that's why.) I mentioned the festivities surrounding San Fermín en Nueva Orleans, which led to a lot of questions about roller derby.
Again, went to bed after dinner without significant work done. Please ignore any promises I may have made to the contrary in my blog post of July 12.
To Be Continued
thud and minor blunders
I have done it. I have submitted "Survival, After" to Shimmer for my very last submission to their very final issue.
Operation NO REGRETS has been successful.
I'm still not sure that the pacing is right. I spent so much time this week (meaning, mostly, today) trying to get the new material for the first half written that I can't help but feel the second half is slight by comparison. Like, maybe the first half should only be the first third, and there should be more scenes about the protagonist's journey after the protagonist resigns themselves to having to make that journey. I don't know. I can't be sure until I've let enough time go by that neither half feels fresher than the other.
And, well, I didn't have that kind of time left. I barely had another hour left before the deadline--always assuming that "midnight, July 14" means exactly and technically that, 00:00 2018-07-14, and not 23:59 2018-07-14 as I'd halfway hoped. Always better to assume the earlier deadline than the later one. ZERO REGRETS IS THE ONLY ACCEPTABLE OUTCOME. So. It's in, just under, presumably, the wire.
Tomorrow morning I wake up at 5:15, at which point I get dressed, affix my horns to my helmet, prepare my bookbag for the morning, and get geared up in time to skate out the door at 6:00, thus to be at the Sugar Mill for 6:30, thus to be staged for Bull Release o'Clock which is 8:00 AM. That's an early dang morning. It follows a long and effortful Friday in which not only did I write and revise and line-edit and submit a brand new story but I also skated between a round-trip between the Sugar Mill and the far end of the Marigny. And now it's midnight.
So... the volunteer reading due on AINC's servers on Saturday at 11:00 AM isn't getting done. I'm sorry. My bad.
And (you guessed it) the Friday Fictionette for July 13th will not go up until later on this weekend. More apologies.
But I submitted that damn story, I did. And whatever happens with that submission, I got a brand new story ready for submission. My story stable is that much deeper and I am feeling like a successful writer tonight.
With that happy thought, I now go *thud.*
hey guess where i'm calling from
So I'm on a train. Hi. There's a wifi hotspot in the sleeper car that my laptop has succeeded at connecting to, so, I'm on the internet while on a train. It's kind of mind-blowing.
I'm on my way to New Orleans for San Fermín weekend. I'm gonna be a rollerbull Saturday morning, and then Sunday I'm going to be skating in the traditional Hangover Mash-up on, it turns out, Team Matador. In the white jerseys. You can come watch! There will also be some random skating around the French Quarter on Saturday. It's going to be a lot of fun.
But getting ready to get on that train meant that the entire week got kicked into in High-Stress Pre-Travel Triage Mode, right up until I got to Denver Union Station. So today was really the first time this week I got any serious writing done.
And I've got a Patreon offering due tomorrow, and I have a short story that needs to be submitted by midnight on the 14th. AND I'M NOT SURE WHICH MIDNIGHT. I mean, the midnight at the end of the 14th, or the midnight that kicks off the 14th? Eek?
Hooray for the mobile writing retreat that is a TRAIN!
(Now if only I'd managed to sleep last night and hadn't been battling a headache all day today and could have gotten more work done. But nevermind all that...)
ok so here's the story of last week, ready set go
Last week was weird and sad and traumatic and horrible and uplifting and heartwarming and I'm going to try to tell the story of it now. I told it piece by piece in a private forum where I felt a little freer to just blurt as shit happened, but I didn't have the wherewithal to do A Real Blog Post about it until now. Honestly, I'm not sure I really have that wherewithal tonight, but now's better than later because everything gets harder with procrastination.
So. A story.
Sunday June 10th began like any other Sunday in the life of a Boulder County Bombers Travel Team member. We had practice from 10 AM to 1 PM. It was a long, slow, exhausting practice because we were in the tail end of a heat wave and the barn we practice in has no air conditioning beyond the two industrial-sized box fans at either end of the track. The coaches gave us long breaks, urged us to drink water, and passed around ice packs to hug to our chests or smack on our foreheads. But even though we took it slow, we worked hard. It was our last Sunday practice before a big away game scheduled for Saturday the 16th in Pittsburgh, a sanctioned bout that would make or break our hopes for a berth at the North America West Continental Cup. The main topic was "second pass defense." The opposing team's jammer just got out of the pack with Lead Jammer status; how do you keep them scoring as few points as possible? Answer: You get them off the track and you run them back. Repeatedly. Here's how you're gonna do it...
I went home after practice and napped hard for most of the rest of the daylight hours. So did John. Eventually we both got up. He left for the night. I found enough energy to scrounge a bite to eat and settle into a session of Spiral Knights. The Shroud of Apocrea event was on, and I wanted to farm enough Apocrean Sigils to eventually craft all three special weapons. I was this close to being able to turn my Silent Nightblade into an Obsidian Edge!
Around about 10:00 or 10:30 PM, I was in the middle of meticulously clearing the Grasping Plateau when John texted me. "Have you seen the news on Facebook about the barn?"
The first thought, the very first thought that jumped into my head was, "Oh, shit, did it burn down?"
So on the Grasping Plateau you get stalked by a big unkillable beastie known as the Apocrean Harvester. When it catches you with its many hands, it zaps you 'til you're dead. You avoid it by using the "dash" action, which makes it lose track of you for a short while. I started hitting the keyboard shortcut for "dash" a lot so I could check Facebook without getting dead.
I found the Facebook post. I saw the pictures of flames pouring out both the barn aisle and the track area. I thought about the sportcourt we'd just bought. I realized I'd left all my gear at the barn, including my skates with the Bont boots that had come in only the month before. No one could say yet how much league or individual property was damaged, not even after the fire was put out and the building was shown to be still standing.
Eventually I gave up and shut down Spiral Knights because I couldn't even. I shut it down and curled up on the sofa and cried for a little while.
Then I put all my Habitica damage on hold, used a stempo so that my 4thewords streak wouldn't be broken, and began a dedicated reread of all the Diana Wynne Jones novels in the house just to give my brain somewhere else to live other than in the horrible, horrible world I was suddenly inhabiting in which the only certainty was that my derby world just went up in flames and all that was left was to find out how extensive the damage was.
I kept waking up through the night wondering why there was pain lodged in my mind, then remembering why, then having to read some more to in order to forget again sufficiently to fall back asleep.
The next morning--Oh, good Gods, I had to get the Volt to its regular check-up appointment and I had to do something about the Saturn completely failing to start yesterday and now there was the barn. OK. One thing at a time. The Volt went to its appointment. John and I and Avedan had breakfast. Avedan helped distract us with pictures from her trip to Iceland, paying special attention to the baby sheep. The distractions helped, but there was only so much distraction that was possible when John's cell phone screen caught my eye and, without meaning to, I read the text he'd just received from a teammate: "Everything's been destroyed." I put my head down on the table next to my biscuits and gravy and tried not to scream.
As soon as we'd reclaimed the Volt from the garage, we went up to the barn to see for ourselves.
Thanks to our teammates who'd already been there that morning, the first thing we saw was a neat line of the burnt and melted remains of skates. I could barely look. I've been told since then that one of those pairs was probably mine, and I could probably salvage the plates; a couple of my teammates did and skated on them in Pittsburgh. I wish I'd looked more closely; we haven't been allowed back since. But at the time it was too much.
Inside, everything was black with soot. Where gear had been packed away or set out to dry Sunday afternoon, there were heaps of... gunk. You could kind of make out a toe-stop here, a wheel there. Where my own gear had been, I found the remains of one boot and its insole melted to the floor. I poked around looking for my tools--they were metal, they should have survived--but nothing else recognizable was there.
The team benches, repurposed pews discarded by the church group next door back when we practiced on Weaver Park Road, were still standing. Their upholstery was destroyed, but the wood was still solid. So were the penalty benches that our head NSO, Spectre, had lovingly crafted for us. He'd also made a big rolling box to store a bunch of officials' supplies neatly in drawers and on shelves, and it still existed too. Someone had pulled it outside into the clean air. Its contents would turn out later to have sustained smoke damage, but the laptop and projector stored inside, nestled in foam, would boot up just fine as though nothing had happened.
During that walk-through, I became fascinated with what the fire had claimed and what it had left untouched. It had utterly destroyed the sportcourt we'd just bought, yet underneath the subfloor we'd all sweated and labored over at the end of 2016 looked untouched. (There is some question as to how much damage the plywood floor took from being doused with fire hoses. We have yet to really determine how viable it actually is. I remain cautiously optimistic simply because the subfloor is of a "floating" design; the plywood wouldn't have been sitting in the water for any length of time, and between the fire and the heat wave it probably dried quickly. But we will see.) The paper lanterns decorating the rafters were lying on the floor like globes of magma, their paper darkened to a rust color and yet still paper. How does paper not just go up in a flash in those conditions? The laundry basket full of helmet covers for pivots and jammers, as well as mesh pinnies for creating black-and-white team color distinctions in a hurry, was a weird egg-shape in the center of the track where the basket had melted around its contents. We cracked the egg open to find a surprising amount of undamaged helmet covers inside: enough for each of our home teams to skate in come the round robin tournament on June 23rd, and certainly enough black and gold to bring to Pittsburgh. They were singed and melted in places, but we wore them in Pittsburgh.
The back end of the barn, where the fire hadn't reached, was just as blackened, the sportcourt just as crisped and curling, but more items there were intact. Everyone was "overjoyed" to know that our plyo boxes--the wooden crates we did box jumps and depth jumps on as part of our off-skates conditioning--had survived the flyer with just a coating of soot. (I did a depth jump off one of them, just to stick my finger in Fate's eye.) The rolling whiteboard that John considered the bane of his existence--it had always managed to be in his way when he went looking for drill supplies--survived the fire too. John considered that a personal offense. He rolled it into the center of the floor and took a picture of it, to cuss it out more effectively on Facebook.
Possibly the greatest source of hope after the apparent survival of the subfloor was the seemingly untouched state of our old sportcourt, or "Old Blue" as we'd taken to calling it. When we bought the new one, we tried to sell the old one off. No one nibbled. We wound up storing it in stacks on pallets at the back of the barn aisle. Again, because the fire had been mostly at the front of the building, Old Blue, seemed to have escaped completely unscathed. We hope, with a cautious hope, to skate on it again.
There was this ball of duct tape we'd been growing since the 2016 season. Every time a skater had to use duct tape to keep their gear fastened--it happens a lot as the velcro fastenings weaken--they'd take the tape off after practice and add it to the ball. The thing had gotten to about two feet in diameter at least. Someone took a picture of it after the fire, looking like a two-foot-wide cinder, and posted it on Facebook with the caption RIP DUCT TAPE BALL. Several league members commented along the lines of, "Just put some duct tape on it, it'll be fine."
Anyway, I could go on, much in the same way I could have wandered around the burned-out barn for hours oscillating between despair and scientific fascination, but that would serve no good purpose. Let's move on to the happy stuff.
The happy stuff starts here:
And then it continues:
Impromptu Fire Damage Fundraiser for Boulder County Bombers hosted by 300 Suns Brewing
And continues, and continues, and continues. The retweets/reposts/reblogs of the fundraisers across the worldwide derby community. The neighbor leagues starting impromptu fundraisers of their own. The deep discounts on replacement gear from local sponsors. The outright donations of gear by people known to us and not so known. Neighbor leagues inviting us to their practices, discounting their drop-in fees for us.
I was able to replace all my gear in time to skate Saturday in Pittsburgh. We won both our games, and the sanctioned game between the BCB All Stars and Steel City's "Steel Hurtin'" was very very close. It was the best kind of smart, strategic chess-on-wheels you could hope for. I said to John later that it was like a wizard's duel: "I'll be a mouse and hide from you." "I'll be a hawk and stoop on you." "I'll be a Boeing 747 and suck you into my jets." "I'll be a ground-to-air missile and blow you out of the sky." It was a game of each team adapting to the other's strategy as the other's strategy changed to adapt to theirs.
Steel City and their fans were absolute sweethearts in every way. The announcers repeated the story of our barn burning all night long, sending oodles of people to our merchandise table to buy shirts and drop cash in the donation jar. They sold $1 "shout-outs" as an additional fundraiser. (The skate shop that had a table set up at the bout donated a bunch of wheels!) And that's on top of just being a fantastic host league in the usual way, showing us all the hospitality and love that is the best of derby community on the track and off.
Even deeper than the need to win a game, was the simple need to play a game. To know at a gut level that despite losing our practice space (temporarily or permanently remains to be seen), we're still going to play. As our captains said during the pre-bout team meeting, "We lost a building, but we didn't lose our home. Whenever we're strong, smart, and together on the track, we are home." So we made our home in the Pittsburgh Indoor Sports Arena for the night. We made derby happen. We're gonna make derby happen, no matter what.
Or, to put it another way, the real winner Saturday night was Team Derby.
And here we are now. This is back-to-normal week. Last week was full of mourning, post-crisis logistics, and pre-travel preparations, all of them affecting each other--I mean, when you suddenly have to replace all your gear, even if you're fortunate as I was to be able to do so without financial hardship, it's pretty much your whole day; and then there's everything else the week brought me, like late library books to return and hardware to pick up at McGuckin and no second car to do it with because of no time or energy to deal with the non-starting Saturn. Well, today I got some writing done. I also got a much-needed post-bout massage and I distributed flyers to ten different locations in support of the home team round robin tournament. And I got this blog post done.
And I installed a new battery in the Saturn all by myself, and the car started up again, first try.
One way or another, things are going to be OK.
i left all my adrenaline in topeka
Well, I'm back from Kansas. The Capital City Crushers took the wins in both of our roller derby bouts Saturday night. Both were exceedingly tight games with very close scores, and both leagues have a lot to be proud of. An additional joy was the unexpected honor of being the Crushers' choice for MVP Blocker in the Bombshells game. We all hit hard and played our hearts out. For some of our crew, it was their very first bout. Congratulations to them!
The drive there and back was pretty straightforward. I had it easy; I wasn't the driver. All I had to do was sit there and be a good passenger. Nevertheless, sitting in a car for eight hours on a hot, sunny day can be pretty tiring all by itself, so I'm moving kind of slowly today. Which is precisely why I started another Suulan battle on 4thewords. When you have to reach 3,500 words by 2:00 PM, there's only so slowly you can afford to move. Thus far today, I have...
- written down this morning's dream (another weird and stressy dream about roller derby)
- done a freewriting session using a Magic Realism Bot tweet as a prompt
- posted the Monday Muse for this week's Friday Fictionette
- and also composed its Author's Note.
And I'm in the middle of writing this blog post, as you can see.
I made some good use out of the return drive yesterday, drafting this week's Friday Fictionette right there in the car. It's a fun bit of fluff involving goblins, elves, and other mythical beings. It needs a bit more shaping and refining, of course, but it's more or less the same story it was when I first came up with it last month in response to one of Chuck Wendig's Flash Fiction Challenge writing prompt blog posts. Which only goes to show, final drafts are easier when first drafts are actually drafts and not just babble.
(This just in: I have defeated the Suulan / that I was battling / and that required another 250 words with 10 seconds to go. / Forgive me, / the cost to fight was too high, / copy-pasting too easy, / the battle rewards too sweet to let go to waste. )
I may or may not get to the short story revision today. There's time, but I am allowing myself to consider today a recovery day, at least in part. Plus I have some household chores to catch up on after being away for the weekend.
Tomorrow will be more rigorous, I promise!
YPP Weekend Blockades, June 2-3: "Cross blades with everyone in your path!"
Ahoy, here's yer Saturday YPP blockade round-up post with extra sports content! Obviously by "sports" I mean roller derby. I'm compiling this information from a hotel lounge in Topeka, Kansas, where the two of the Boulder County Bombers teams, the Bombshells and the Screamin' Mimis, are preparing to bout against the Capital City Crushers (again, the roller derby league, not the basketball team) in a double-header at the Sk8away roller rink. In the area? Want to come watch? More details here!
And I should probably recap the rest of the Mayday Mayhem tournament from last weekend. As you may remember, the BCB All Stars won their bout 205-145 against Pikes Peak (Colorado Springs, CO) on Friday. We went on to suffer a tight loss, 195-203, in our Saturday game versus Crossroads (Las Cruces, NM). That sent us into the 3rd/4th place game on Sunday, which we won 279-224 against Quebec.
Meanwhile, Crossroads went on to play in the championship game against Perth, and their fate was much the same as every other team whose paths crossed with Perth. Flattrackstats.com tells the story and takes care of all your number-crunching needs. Having witnessed the swath Perth had cut through the tournament participants thus far, not to mention the trail of bodies they were leaving in their wake, we were not as heart-broken as you might imagine to lose in these particular circumstances to our rivals from New Mexico.
So there's your sports update. How about them Puzzle Pirates?
We got a client update last month! But the Ringers are having technical troubles updating the changelog, so you get a forum post from Cronus instead. Includes tweaks to the new Limited Edition Quest Galleon and some bug fixes.
Blockade news! In a valiant attempt to resurrect the Jade Ocean, the flag appropriately named Reviviendo a Jade is poking the hornets' nest of Sortilegio (en inglés, Jinx) on Sunday morning. Jade is sorely in need of some action, as noted in this pirate's plaintive forum post. And Wampuscat reassures the Cerulean Ocean that, yes, Blackstar will be defending Fintan at noon tomorrow. "Hopefully it will be a gallant time for all."
And in non-blockade events, in my forum wanderings I stumbled across the Obsidian Swordfighting League, announced here. I'm not quite sure what to make of it myself--it's pinging my TL/DR buttons--so I am passing it along to you. Enjoy!
Standard reminders: Schedule is given in Pirate Time, or U.S. Pacific. Player flags link to Yoweb information pages; Brigand King Flags link to Yppedia Brigand King pages. BK amassed power given in parenthetical numbers, like so: (14). For more info about jobbing contacts, jobber pay, and Event Blockade battle board configuration, check the Blockade tab of your ocean's Notice Board. To get hired, apply under the Voyages tab.
Doubloon Ocean Blockades
*** Saturday, June 2 ***
*** Sunday, June 3 ***
Subscription Ocean Blockades
*** Sunday, June 3 ***
this fictionette has discovered its own private twitter
- 1,210 wds. long
Success! Multiple successes! Success the first: I am now ensconced on a couch in a hotel room in Topeka, Kansas. We got here intact and in the appropriate amount of pieces, having utterly failed to attract the attention of any Kansas police officers. (Colorado license plates are a cop magnet in Kansas. It's the marijuana thing. It's tiresome.) And, success the second, I have launched this week's Friday Fictionette! On time! Yes! Got most of that sucker written Tuesday, finished it up and recorded the MP3 yesterday, assembled the downloadables while en route via I-70 East, and pushed the offerings LIVE just now this second.
I'm so unreasonably excited about this, I can hardly tell you. On time! Squee! What's even more awesome is, this weekend is just one bout. So I wake up in the hotel tomorrow with nothing on my schedule until go-time. Which means plenty of room in the day to get ahead on next week's fictionette. Which means maybe I'll get to work on the short story rewrite every day next week! *wibble*
A small disappointment: Apparently Patreon just introduced a "public teaser text" feature. I thought, great! If I put the excerpt in that field on the ebook page, I can condense two posts into one! Then I discovered that the field is limited to 140 characters. So it's more like a public teaser tweet. Oh well.
So here are the usual three Patreon posts for the Friday Fictionette for June 1, 2018, "Encore": the ebook and the audiobook for Patrons pledging from $1 and $3 per month, respectively, and the teaser excerpt for everyone regardless of pledge status. "Encore" was a lot of fun to write, though it didn't come together quite until I'd turned it back-to-front and chosen a different viewpoint character. It's very understated, and not by design. There's a lot I wanted to put in there about why Mister Omega retired, how his great-aunt Madame Zee shaped his career, what exactly's up with the ring, and what happened at Mister Omega's final show. Alas, word count limitations bit me in the butt. Hopefully the hints that remain will still make sense.
I had other conversation topics floating around in my head, but they seem to have melted away in the on-time excitement and the post-roadtrip fatigue. If they occur to me later, you'll probably hear about it on Monday. (Ooh! Or tomorrow! I might get to the MMORG blogging tomorrow! Wouldn't that be fun?)
with a hot bath and a huge RPG monster all things are possible
- 1,432 wds. long
Actually Writing Trivia! DID YOU KNOW? Niki composes some 80% of her blog posts in the bathtub after derby. It's getting to where some nights I can't make myself get started at all unless I'm sitting in hot water. Especially those nights when I have derby practice. And I had quite the derby practice. Hard on the heels of the Mayday Mayhem tournament, I'm heading to Topeka this Saturday as a last minute substitute into the Bombshells roster. And we did a weird new thing with how we field blockers! It was hard on my brain. Then it was hard on my body. Then we did ten minutes of interval sprints and ten minutes of plyometrics. And all that came after my post-tournament massage, which was like an extra workout in which someone else makes your muscles do the hard stuff for you.
So, yes, the bath. The bath and the beer and the recovery dinner. The beer is Lazy Magnolia's Southern Pecan. The dinner was Dal-style Lentils & Greens with Poached Egg. (The greens were radish sprouts chopped fine. I know, I know. Cooking is a crime against microgreens. I can live with that.)
But back to the writing!
Even considering Mayday Mayhem, everything was late. Later. It took me the better part of four hours yesterday to get the Friday Fictionette polished and ready to read into an MP3. No, I didn't manage to nibble at it over the weekend. I got as far as my freewriting Friday and Saturday, and not even that much on Sunday. So I didn't actually push the release until this morning. Tuesday. Tuesday is apparently the new Friday. I don't like it any more than you do.
But it's up now! The Friday Fictionette for May 25, 2018 is, belatedly, "Payback" (ebook and audiobook for Patrons, teaser excerpt for everybody). It's... well, I don't entirely like it. The protagonist is a whiny, entitled twenty-something in his backstory and an angry, resentful, stalled-out 40-something/60-something in the main story. I don't think he deserves a second chance, honestly, although if pressed I'd admit that no one deserves to have twenty years of their youth siphoned off without their consent. I dunno. This is another one I'm not selling very well. I guess it's not that bad. It's just, I've committed Mainstream Literary Anti-hero under a thin veneer of Life-shattering Fae Interference, and it makes me feel dirty.
Welp, it's what we've got. Have at it.
After the delayed release, I buckled down and made a solid start on the June 1 fictionette. I put up the Monday Muse (late, obvs), wrote the first draft of the author's note, and wrote most of the first draft of the fictionette itself. Which is huge for a Tuesday. My motivation, on top of needing to get the June 1 fictionette out early (Friday's probably going to be all road trip all the time and Saturday's the bout), was having begun a battle with a Suulan. A Suulan is worth 3,500 words which you must produce in four hours. My attack and defense stats mitigate that somewhat, but it's still a lot of work with very little room for futzing around. So there was nothing for it but to keep babbling rough draft until I'd hit my target. Yay! 4thewords for the win!
Between being in full-on Friday Fictionette catch-up mode up 'til this morning and moving into preemptive catch-up mode today, I haven't made it back to the short story revisions and am not likely to get there this week. Alas. And I have three bout weekends in June, so crunch time will continue right through the fourth weekend of the month. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and that light is JUNE HAS A FIFTH FRIDAY, HUZZAH! I look forward to doing absolutely nothing on that day.