Monday, December 28, 2009

The Bone-Breaking Leavenworth Trip of 2009 Part II

The next morning, we decided to loiter in Wenatchee for a while. We hit up a most excellent Old-tyme soda fountain, went on a goose chase for a giant pig that ended up being a sad coyote, then headed up the mountains to Leavenworth.

In the daylight, not surrounded by tourists, the town is a wonder. Cute, goofy, quaint and stylish, the entire town proper is stylized and designed with a bavarian theme, everything from the Kris Kringle store to the Mcdonalds. I totally dig it.

There's a slight feel of the artificial, but enough fun to go along with it that it feels more like a Disney theme city with added brats and beer. We didin't have a lot of time to visit the first day, the wedding was the next afternoon, and we needed to get the logistics figured out, so we caught up with Rob and Brooke and Rob's brother, Derek, who had driven up with his wife in a two wheel-drive sports car, taking the Pendleton pass route rather than heading through Missoula, as I'd suggested. As a result, he was a bit tired and frazzled from the drive.

We snagged some brats and headed to the Big Bear Lodge, where Brooke's family was staying, with the goal of returning in time for the lighting ceremony that evening.

The rehearsal went well; Brooke's family is very laid back and friendly, and it was a pleasure meeting them and running through the wedding quickly.

The lighting ceremony was a lot of fun, characters in costumes, hot wassail, (Though we were bummed to see that the roasted chestnut guys didn't come that week), they have a charming little parade and lighting ceremony and everyone oohs and ahhs as the village is lit in a rainbow of colors.

After the ceremony, we retreated to the Bear Lodge and ate some dinner and relaxed, playing with some wedding prep stuff, decorating, combing my Santa beard, the usual. Then us boys (and Lindsay, who was heading to bed) left to our lodge for the bachelor party. We'd rented a place called the Icicle Meadow Lodge, and though we didn't know it at the time, it was just down the driveway and across the street from the Bear Mountain Lodge; perfect!

We spent the evening goofing off, generally, nothing too wild. We played pool, drank some frosty beverages, lit a fire, played some Scrabble, wore plague masks, played the accordion, the usual stuff.

Finally, around 3am, we headed to bed, with plans to get up the next morning and grab a few things in town and eat some waffles at Sandy's.

Ahh, the best laid plans.....

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Bone-Breaking Leavenworth Trip of 2009 Part I

It all started out so well.

December Eleventh, around 9:30, my brother Ben, our friend Devon, my wife Lindsay and I left Pocatello, ID and set out for Leavenworth, WA. My friends Rob and Brooke were getting married there on the Fourteenth and we planned to spend a few days getting up there, I was to perform the ceremony in full Santa Claus regalia, we'd spend a few days enjoying the Bavarian style village there, then work our way back home.

Like I said, it started out really well. We piled into Strontium, loading him full of clothes, bedding and tuxes and hit the road. We all get along quite well, and it was a great trip up. we stopped at graveyards, posed with giant stone animals, visited breweries, laughed a lot and made pretty good time. We found ourselves enchanted with Ellensburg, a small town with a great brewery, excellent pasta place and we managed to breeze into their downtown just in time to catch a free showing of the Muppet Christmas Carol! I really have no idea how you could hope to beat that, frankly.

I'll keep it pretty short here, typing is really difficult and I do want to get caught up with my blog, but suffice to say, it was a really fun road trip. I'd traveled with Devon before, we took a greyhound bus to California together for Muppet Fest, and between him and my brother, entertainment was in copious supply.

We arrived in Leavenworth late, after dark. Every weekend around Christmas, the town does a big lighting ceremony and we caught the tail end of that. We were shocked at the sheer number of vehichles pouring from that little village. We'd kind of assumed that the place was just a goofy, little tourist town, mostly unnoticed by people at large. Instead we were surrounded by cars, trucks, tour busses, any type of mototrized you could imagine.

We quickly retreated to the nearby town of Wenatchee for the night and spent the evening wandering around downtown in the cold winter air. The next day we'd meet with Rob and Brooke and her family, and spend some time in Leavenworth.

Friday, December 18, 2009


For those that follow this but dont know, i spent the last week in Washington, at a wedding where I was to ahve been the officiant. it was for my dear friends and we were looking forward to it a lot.

Things did not go as planned. On the morning of the wedding, the groom and I were t-boned by a white pickup, leaving him with fractured ribs and a black eye and me with fractured ribs and my right humerus broken in 5 places.

I'll elaborate more later, once I'm less drugged and in pain, but I wanted to let my readers and friends know where I'd vanished to.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Lights On The Ground

The other day, my friend Allison posted a comment on Facebook about how the cold weather and the snow made her feel like getting a thermos of coffee and driving around town, looking at Christmas lights.  I think that is a splendid idea!

 Back when I was a kid, that was a yearly experience, something that had to happen before it was officially Christmas. It seems to me that we typically did it on Christmas eve, though that could be a fuzzy memory. We went with a lot of different people through the years, I dimly recall my mom, brother and I clambering into my grandpa's old green car with him driving and my grandma bundled up next to him, cruising around town pulling myself up to see the lights over the edge of the car door, my breath making the window fog and the lights become ghostly and indistinct.

In later years, it was usually just me and my brother, sitting in the backseat of my mom's yellow Volkswagen Bug. We'd always head for the Christmas light mecca in town, the highland area. Named for the hill it sat upon and the school upon it, Highland was where all of the rich folks live; a lot of them still do, in fact. That's where you'd find the biggest houses and the best displays of Christmas lights, in the highest concentration.

Down in the city you could find the sporadic pockets of light, there was always a house by the DMV that was made up to look like a lit up gingerbread house and the city used to do a pretty impressive display of lights on some of the park's trees. But up Highland, now that was the place to go. Fairway Street specifically. Circling in a meandering, cul de sac kind of way, Fairway looked like the entire Griswold clan had set up shop there and decided to one up each other. Houses decked out with decorated pine trees and lighted mangers, porches covered in nothing but blue or red lights. (This was in the days before color exclusive sets, mind you - most of those die-hards sat down and switched out the bulbs by hand.)
It was like I pictured Santa's elves' houses to look like. People built giant Christmas packages from wood and wire, lighting them from inside so they glowed, they erected metal frameworks and meticulously poured water over it throughout the winter, coating the wire and lights in sheets of glimmering ice.

I don't have a lot of specific memories of the trips, just flickers of thoughts - Eating a thick peppermint stick, sharpening it with my mouth till it was a sword, fighting my brother - Using the Christmas lights to read by, just to prove it could be done - Hot cocoa from a big metal thermos.

One particular memory that stands out was a year that my brother and I went with our cousin Deby Kay, rather than our mom. We rode in my aunt's big white pickup that always smelled like old books and plants. I remember that she played her favorite music while we drove around, instead of the typical Christmas tapes. My brother didn't like the song, some weird one about walking on the moon by a guy called Sting.

Nowadays, Fairway isn't as impressive. A lot of the old-timers have moved or passed on, and the new people are too busy with their lives to put out any wondrous displays. I can't say anything, I don't either, just a couple of sad strings along the porch, but it's sad to think that in a way, the holiday is lessened by it. And I think there's far too much of those silly inflatable figures. They don't have the charm of the old fashioned creations people made, none of the creativity and too much of that annoying fan humming.

However, pockets of wonder still light up the sky in December, and I vow to find something make my eyes sparkle like they used to this year! You bring the coffee and I'll supply the cookies! And maybe a little something stronger to take the chill off ....

We leave tomorrow for Washington, where I'll be performing the ceremony at my friend's wedding. Apart from the drive, we're looking forward to it! I don't know how reliable the internet will be for most of the trip, Leavenworth is reportedly hard to get internet or a cell signal in, so we'll see if I have a chance to update things here!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Rock & Roll Lifestyle

Now Playing -
Merry Christmas Baby, by Pepe, the King Prawn

Life - 
December Sixth was my wife's twenty-fifth birthday. We celebrated it in rare style, getting off work, heading home, feeding the pets, falling asleep on the couch. I made breakfast burritos for well... brunch, really. Then we fell asleep on the couch again. When we awoke, we gathered a few things together and went to bed. When the alarm sounded at around 9:45, we stumbled awake and went back to work.

Clearly, getting old takes a toll on your body; you can't rock and roll all night anymore! Especially when you work all night.


These are the work in progress pieces for the wedding that I'm helping plan. They'll be combined into a kind of old-timey Christmas card. I like the way they turned out, though I'm vaguely annoyed at how obvious the number movement is and I wish I'd altered the colors to mesh a little better. The cover artwork is by the groom, who has an excellent, hyper-detailed art style reminiscent of Bernie Wrightson and early Corben work, I really like it, though it was a challenge to color without losing any of the details. It was also one of the first times I've attempted to color with the computer to emulate watercolors. I think that for the most part I was successful.

We leave for their wedding (In which I'm also officiating as Santa Claus) on the eleventh of December.

Book Reviews

Five Thoughts About...

by Tim Dorsey
2009, 307 pages

Yet more adventures of the ever-crazy Serge Storms and Coleman through the towns and backroads of Florida.

At it's very basic heart it's an old-school crime/revenge story, though you're hard pressed to see that while reading.

Tim Dorsey increasingly seems to spend his day accumulating one liners, florida trivia and facts, facts about the truly insane residents of the state, then smashes all of them into a book with only the barest of plotlines holding it all together.

Sometimes his style works and it results in an enetertaining roller coaster of a story, but other times, Serge wears thin and the jokes lose their cohesion. It's possible that Serge may have overstayed his welcome.

I long for Dorsey's earlier books where plot took precedence over pithy insight and jokes. Like the one with the winning lottery ticket. (Or was that Hiassen? All of the wacky Floridian books have a tendency to blend.)



by Richard Stark
1998, 292 pages

A lean, classic crime caper, Backflash was a joy to read with shady characters, a tight plot and a few nice surprises.

This book marks the second book in a series featuring the return of Stark's Parker character, who featured in a series back in the sixties and seventies.

Nicely designed book. A little stubby and strange shaped, but easy to hold, with a clean cover that looks appealing.

Richard Stark is the "real name" of Donald Westlake, who is one of the seminal crime authors of the genre.

Highly recommended for anyone looking for a good read with characters all different shades of gray. The only Black and White here is the type, and even that seems kind of shady...


Writing - 

Sigh. I might as well just take this heading off until I have something to report, but then it wouldn't be staring at me, making me feel guilty.....

Sunday, December 6, 2009


Now Playing -
Work Song by Dan Reeder

Life - 

For the last seven years or so, I've had a lot of difficulty really getting into the Christmas season. I've tried, but there's something about working the holidays in retail that manages to suck all of the enjoyment out of it for me. It's weird. I know a lot of people that work all Christmas and love it, like being surrounded by the retail wonderland fuels their heart where all I see is greed and disgruntled people, buying things they don't need, or gifts for people they don't really like.
I used to love the season. I'd wear a felt elf hat and deliver Secret Santa cookies to people, I even went caroling and on a hay ride once. Now, instead, I wrap my blackened heart up in gay tinsel and try to act peppy for the few holiday shoppers I get that do truly love the season. I want to be bitter, act like a horrible Grinch, but I hate to think that I'm that guy that crushed their Christmas Spirit. So instead, I smile nicely and say all of the things I say every year, things that used to mean something but now are merely little platitudes, a Merry Christmas Mantra said to those true believers in the hopes that they don't see through the charade and attempt to recruit me.

'Cause there's nothing worse than a Happy Holiday Who attempting to cheer up someone who is genuinely miserable. All it does is piss 'em off, trust me.  On the bright side, it does make it easy to get along with almost all of my customers. I break out the fake happy for the Hermies and the Bah Humbugs for the Bumbles.

This year though, I wanted things to be different. I want my heart to swell to whatever size that one guy in that one cartoon's heart did. Unfortunately, the fates have not been kind to us in 2009. Last year we wrote about our exciting future in our Christmas letter, how we were close to signing with a motel, how we were packing the house up for the move. Then things went sour and it's gotten rough. The motel dream was placed on the back burner, money has gotten tighter than it's ever been, my mom and brother are living in the basement of the house that we couldn't sell, it looks like my transfer is never going to happen. Just a lot of things that find themselves piled onto our backs all at once.

Through all of the doom and gloom though, there have been a few truly bright spots in the year, our writing is progressing well and both of us have gotten a bit of attention from professionals. No sales or agents yet, but we're loving the process, and that's important. We're all in good health and the kids (Our pets)  are a source of constant amusement. Despite the fears, we should still manage to make ends meet and neither of us have lost our jobs, so there are still reasons to be hopeful.

So I've continued to try. We've made Christmas decorations, gotten a tree, wrapped what gifts we could buy. And it's helping. We may not be out of the dumps, but there's enough to look forward to that we keep digging. We're going in to talk to the bank about our School Loans and debts, we've started making plans for our future if the transfer never progresses, we're planning a tentative vacation even.

Most importantly, we're doing the little things this time of year that help us find the spirit and joy. Burning holiday candles, the simple joys of making Clove Oranges and cookies. Watching holiday classics like The Muppet Christmas Carol. The light snow we got yesterday helped tremendously too, it seems like the white stuff always makes it seem more like Christmas to me. As an added bonus, it looks like I might actually get the entire day of Christmas off this year, which would be the first time since I started with Walgreens. As long as that doesn't fall through, that could make the biggest difference of all. I really like the idea of being able to spend more than an hour or two with each of my families.

I can't promise a changed man this year, I'll probably still be grumpy, but I'm trying to find the happiness that I used to have.

What things do you do for the holidays that help you get in the mood?

Writing - 

Not a lot here again, just a few pages revised. I think I'll likely start in on my query letter sometime this month with an eye towards sending it around in January!

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Bookman Cometh!

Now Playing -
Dog Eared Page by The Matches

Life - 
Pretty generic night at work, considering it was a full moon. I think the fridgid cold kept most of the nuts at home, cuddled up with their mescalin and strawberry cheesecake tyrannosauruses. Although my cashier's constant, almost manic, good moods are starting to drive me crazy.

What are twelve good reasons to join the Hard Case Crime Book Club?

These twelve books, after shipping, only twenty bills, baby. It's like finding a suitcase full of money behind a dumpster without all of the gangsters chasing you. Nothing like hot crime on a cold night in the middle of Idaho.

Book Reviews

Catching up here, I've been lax on my reviews!


by Paul Levine
1994, 368 pages

Yet another Miami-based novel about a PI and the ever present problems with Cuba and people that love both places.

Readable, but a bit self-important and preachy.

Nice characters, though the wind surfing seemed completely superfluous.

A major character seems to be introduced through a completely implausible coincidence.

Missing artwork heist book!


by John Bellairs and Brad Strickland
1999, 176 pages

Yet another Bellairs book, if you can't tell, I may be addicted to nostalgia.

Extremely outlandish plot, even for this genre.

Fun and quick moving, especially when Fergie is around.

Once again, Strickland does a stellar job of sounding like Bellairs yet adding his own touches.

My least favorite of the Gorey covers, done just before he died, I believe.


by Walter Mosley
1997, 244 pages

A throwback to Easy Rawlin's early days in the 1930's.

Great dialogue, characters and situations.

The atmosphere is so compelling and vividly written that you can't help but see it clearly, feel the wet heat on your skin.

Recommended whether you've read any of the Easy Rawlins novels or not, can stand on it's own.

Surprisingly brief, with large print and margins, almost like a book typeset for younger people.


by Trenton Lee Stewart
2008, 512 pages

What I had hoped the Lemony Snickett books would be like, full of intrigue and secrets.

Great cast of characters, creative and memorable.

Fun, twisty, subversive villain and a plot to rule the world!

The artist is a graduate of the University of Montana, my wife's alma mater. Go Griz!

Thick book, but it reads smoothly, the story drawing you along on it's clever twists and turns.


by Douglas Preston
2008, 416 pages

A typically fun novel from the co-author of The Relic.

Skirts around religion, creation and man's views on each, coming away with a truly unique take on it.

As unique as it is, it somehow still felt like we'd seen it before.

I never really felt any strong connection to the characters.

A not so sly dig at Scientology?


by Stephen Cannell
1998, 448 pages

Fast paced novel about a family of con men and an attorney caught in their latest scheme.

Talks the talk, but never really walks the walk.

A great, slow burning con that fizzles out, never giving you the twist you expect throughout.

Still satisfying though, Beano, King Con himself, is a lot of fun.

Cannell is a regular cameo on the television program "Castle" where he plays poker with the writer main character.


by Greg and Evan Spiridellis
2007, 32 pages

Cute, energetic artwork.

Creative, modern rhymes and storyline.

I saw this book and couldn't resist it - the perfect combination of story, art and subject matter

The plot does strike a little close to home for me!

"Six Trillion Dollars!"


Writing - 
Nothing, again. In fact, I didn't even manage to get any revising done last night.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Ahh Work.

SO last night an unusual gentleman entered the place of my work around 3am. He was rotund, a little squirrelly looking, had a limp and was wearing two coats. He had that look; like someone that was full of self-loathing, but acted confident around people, though it was clearly an act? The kind of guy that immediately grates on you because he looks shady and fake.

Also, 3am is my goofing off and doing nothing time, so that's one strike right there, buddy!

He wanders the aisles for a while, poking this, fondling that, never carrying anything with him, not really looking lost so much as appearing to be waiting for the right moment. Finally, I cornered him in the appliance aisle and asked him if he needed any help.

He asked me if the store carried plastic plunger handles. Now, we've got a little bit of everything, and lord knows people need some queer things in the wee hours of the night, so I politely showed him our plungers we did carry, a wooden handled generic model and something called the Ultimate Plunger, which looked like a G.I. Joe bludgeon of some sort. He shook his head sadly and said that they wouldn't work and continued on his browsing way.

About twenty minutes later I was called to the pharmacy to help with a coupon problem, only to see the gentleman at the counter there. Seems that one of the items he was buying was supposed to be on sale. As I approached, Mr. Wizard, my pharmacist found the coupon but I was curious what the fellow had decided to buy.

A coloring book, a waterproof personal massager, a vibrating ring condom and three, count 'em, three different bottles of lube.

I can only pray that he also had a broken plunger at home that needed a handle and that the items were unrelated. And that I can sell a book eventually and stop working graves.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

It's Beginning To Look Like A Lot.

Now Playing -
A strange little ditty, exclusive to my head.

Life - 
It's amazing how live just screams past sometimes. It seems like just a day or two ago it was November starting up, now it's December, and that's one month that always goes by fatser than you can imagine.

We've spent the last few days getting the house ready for Christmas; decorating, making Clove Oranges, cooking a turkey, picking out a tree. We also went through the gifts we have so far and made a list of what was left. We started out being pretty good about buying in advance this season, but there's always a few we miss. Keeping with the tradition of the last few years, (The tradition of being poor) we didn't buy buy anything for each other, and we're trying to go light on gifts for others this year. Somehow, things just keep piling up and come January, our student loan payments double for a few of them. Sometimes I'm amazed at how some people manage to keep afloat, let alone get ahead.

Our house is starting to look pretty cozy, at least as cozy as an entire house crammed into one room can look, anyway. We re-arranged the front room and cordoned off a kind of office area so that if I ever have time, I have a place to write.

I've also been involved in my friend's wedding planning in the last few days. We're all traveling out to Leavenworth, WA for the wedding, and naturally, there are a few snags. Two of the people that were supposed to be coming, one of whom was in the line even, has dropped out, which means everyone that pitched in on the house we've rented suddenly has to carry part of their load of an already expensive trip.

The happy couple is also a bit akimbo on their planning work, so I've been helping with that as well, we spent most of the last two nights corralling odds and ends and designing their invite. The invite is turning out really great, it's designed to look like an old fashioned Christmas card, and so far things are coming along nicely.

We start work back up today, and the month doesn't stop after that. We have one day off after our rotation before we leave for Leavenworth and when we get back, we start work immediately again. After that rotation, it's the 23rd. Hello, Christmas!

I have no idea how I'm going to get everything done!

Writing - 

Ha! You're joking, right? Writing? I barely have time to do laundry!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Thanks Has Been Given.

Now Playing -
Green  Christmas - by - The Barenaked Ladies

Life - 
Salt Lake City, Utah is a horrid place. I've decided that after two days of driving about and being generally lost or annoyed or generally perturbed by the residents and streets of the town and area. I'm also increasingly shocked and dismayed by the way the city is growing and becoming slummier and slummier as time passes.

We were in SLC for Thanksgiving, being held at my Brother-In-Law, Dylan's new house in one of the suburbs of SLC.  Apart from the traffic and my inability to navigate in towns with more than 70,000 people, however, it was  a great trip.

We brought teh boys with us, their first long car trip since we've gotten them, and the performed admirably! They didn't whine or complain, for the most part they just looked out the window or slept. Pooka did get a bit antsy a couple of times, but he quickly settled down.

Dylan and Cami have a nice house in a 'burbs style home, a split level walk up on a quiet street. It's very cozy and comfortable, and it was great fun spending more time with them, they're the part of the family that I've seen the least and it was nice to catch up.

The food was grand. We made a Pomegranate sipping punch and the stuffing, and each of the family made something else. Dylan cooked the turkey in a Dutch Oven designed for poultry and it turned out shockingly moist, almost melt in your mouth.  Apart from four separate trips to the grocery store, everything went off without a hitch. Our boys behaved themselves and were a hit with the people, who aren't accustomed to big dogs.

We had a chance to sleep in their camp trailer too, which was really good for us, we had our own space and we've been thinking about getting one some day, so it worked out perfect. We loved it, but in order to buy one, we would need to buy a pickup, which seems like an unneccesary expense. We'll probably end up sticking to a teardrop trailer or something the Element can pull.

All in all, it was a nice Thanksgiving. We had to leave around six that night so that I could work, and again, the boys were well-behaved on the ride home.

As I predicted, Walgreens had a terrible Black Friday. Between the mix of items and the lack of a finite hours of sale, when I left at 9am on Friday, we were already down $3,000 from the year before. Thanksgiving itself was slower than usual too. From what I saw, it looked like most people were only shopping for big ticket items, and were picking up a lot less impulse stuff than usual. I haven't been into the store since then, but I'd imagine a pretty poor showing.

It was kind of a pain working one graves shift in the middle of my days off, and Friday, was mostly a bust as far as getting anything done after work was concerned. We did head out to Home Depot with my mom to grab a Black Friday special, a dryer for $280, to replace the one that her mysterious destructive static field obliterated. Naturally, they only received nine of the dryers and were long out by the time we got there around three, but they were very cool about it. They have a deal where you can pay for it then and when it comes in, they'll deliver it for free to your house. The salesman was very friendly and competent and despite the busy store, took the time to find us the accessories that we would need too. Then they let us buy them at the same time. I was pretty damned impressed. I fell asleep in my chair reading around 7, and drifted in and out of consciousness after that. Beautiful weather that day too.

Writing - 
Not really anything here, and unfortunately, looking ahead at the coming weeks, something tells me that The Whispering Ferns is going to have to wait until January if I want to get anything done on it.

Thursday, November 26, 2009


Last night at work, I started prepping for our big Black Friday sales at Walgreens. I'm tempted to put quotation marks around "BIG" (There, I just did.) because Walgreens has a very iffy idea of what it means to have a Black Friday sale. Typically, you go to places like Sears and buy things like $100 pool tables and save $300 on a miter saw. Big, premier stuff that you can't usually afford. Either that, or you hit up places like Wal-Mart for ridiculously cheap prices on a few items and middlin deals on the rest. Like $50 for an off-brand flat screen TV, but they only have... Thirty-Three of them. Clearly, those will sell out in sixteen minutes, so they hope you'll bite on some of the slightly less outrageous deals like Care Bears or memory cards. AT any rate, Black Friday is all about ludicrous prices on pretty decent products, with a small amount on hand. That's why people line up outside of the stores at 5am, hoping to get one of those elusive few. There's all sorts of websites, with driving plans and buying strategies, even the best way to load your cart with the stuff as you race through the store. Crazy, says I.

Back when I ran a Chevron, I used to like opening on Black Friday, chatting with the shoppers as the girded their loins for the assault or helping them lick their wounds with a doughnut afterwards. Now that I work for a major retailer, things a re a bit different, but I still like working that morning. With a few notable exceptions, most of the shoppers are in a pretty good mod and fun to work with. Of course, like I said, my job has a different idea about what Black Friday is. Unlike the big box stores, Walgreens advertises a bizarre mix of no-brand toys, Christmas Decor and everyday essentials. It's evolved over the years too, going from outright deals for a limited time, to mail in rebates, with the products changing a lot over the years too.

This year, they're changing things a bit again, instead of having a three hour sale, they're running little specials on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, and running them all day instead of a few hours. For the day itself, I have to confess, it seems like a silly mix of sale items - Fake Potted Trees, some Webkins, LED lights, frozen pizza....It doesn't seem like anything worth getting out of bed on a cold morning to me. Luckily for me, I'll already be up and out of bed. I work Thursday night from Midnight to 9am.
This means my wife and I will jet down to Salt Lake City Wednesday morning, spend the night at her brother's new home for Thanksgiving the next day, take a quick nap and drive back to Idaho in time for work that night. Sounds like a hassle, and it kind of is, but I really don't mind working Black Friday, and though it's in the middle of my "Off Days" the knowledge that I wont have to work Christmas because of the shift makes everything a bit sweeter.

Having Thanksgiving in a different city and with the Graves' should be interesting. My immediate family never really got into Thanksgiving too much. My mom makes the best stuffing around and my extended family always has a big shindig, but for some reason my brother and I never really got into the spirit. Frankly, I think it's kind of a silly holiday. I don't think we need an official holiday to celebrate what we're thankful for, we should do that year-round and as for celebrating family, well, there's other BS holidays for that too. I'm not really sure where my Meh-ness for Turkey-Day (A phrase that drives me nuts, by the way) came from, but even as a young kid, in the midst of two dozen family members, you'd typically find me in the corner with a book, ignoring people.

As we got older, my mom and brother and I started doing our own thing, going to a movie, eating a turkey, decorating the tree, more than anything, reveling in the vacant city that reveals itself during holidays.

So Thanksgiving should be a change, a smaller family group in a different town, football on the TV. In a way, it may be more of a traditional holiday than I've ever really had.

I almost didn't make it to the holiday, Some damned fool at work thought it would be clever to stack the trees we're selling at work as high as possible, going so far as to stand a ladder in top of  the top bay in the stockroom, and stack it as high as they could from there. When I went to get them down in preparation of the sale, I quickly realized how precarious the stack really was.

I pulled out one box and the entire stack went down, like a huge game of Jenga. Boxes buffeted me in the face and back, pushing me back and away from the stack, my feet stumbling along the bay, 20 feet above the cement stockroom floor. I felt my feet teeter on the edge and lost track of where I was standing. My glasses were knocked away and everything went fuzzy. Then, there was nothing but air beneath me and I fell.

Luckily, I had stumbled around like Mr. Magoo long enough that by the time I lost my balance, the trees had beat me down to the ground and I only fell around four feet, onto the stack of banged up and bedraggled artificial trees.

Almost had to change my pants that night, I can tell you that!

Anyway, Happy Thanksgiving everyone, from someone who's just happy to be here without any broken bones!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Re-Railed, for a night, at least.

Well, happily, a desperate move paid off last night, if only possibly temporarily...

We stripped my new writing room to the walls, emptying the closet and piling all of my computer stuff into the increasingly messy front room, which has become a kind of slush pile for our crap so far.

This left us a bit ghetto but serviceable big ol' dog kennel. After loading it up with kongs, treats, toys, stuffed beasties and rawhide, both pig and cow, we loaded both dogs in before work last night.

So far it seems to be a success! Now, granted, one night does not a celebration beg, but they were pretty good, according to the report from me mum in the basement. They wrestled a bit and Pooka whined, but there was no 8-hour marathon barking/drooling/hyperventilating session like the nights before. Huzzah and Vohnkar!

Of course, now the heating element in our dryer seems to have gone kaputski....


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Disaster rides a fluffy white dog named after a horse...

Now Playing -
Running Down a Dream by Tom Petty

Life - 

It was all going so (Semi) well.... My mom and brother moved into the basement, our schedules were mostly meshing and we'd even started introducing the dogs to each other without teeth and hair flying.

Then Lindsay and I had to go back to work. We put Ludo and Pooka in their kennels like usual and left. Apparently, Pooka took it upon himself to bark the entire time we were gone, only stopping to drool horribly and bark some more. Great Pyrenees are herding dogs and when we are home, he likes to make the rounds, checking on everyone. I think being locked in his kennel was usually a good thing, he could rest secure in the knowledge that all of the inhabitants were locked up safely. Now that we have people in the basement though, it freaks him out.

We've tried everything. Moving the kennel, insulating it and the room with blankets, lots of toys... nothing doing. So then we moved on to bark collars. All the citronella one did was make his fur lemony fresh and it only rarely heard his bark. Last night, we tried the sonic collar, and from what we can tell, last night was the worst one yet. Pooka barked non-stop and I think the collar freaked him out even more. When we let him out of his kennel, he looked like he'd been doused with a hose and left in a sauna. He was even weak on his feet, desperate for water from all of the barking.

All we have left is the shock collar. If my brother's dog was nice, all we'd really have to do is have the boys sleep downstairs with my mom at nights. It might make him a bit more restless during the days when we sleep, but all would be well. Instead, we'll either have to hope the shock collar works or try and finagle some way of having my momo sleep upstairs with our boys when we're on shift, locking Scout in the basement. It's not super fair to Scout, though she is the reason Pooka has to be locked up when we're gone and someone else is home.

I don't know, I'm kind of at a loss, my wit's end.  Also, my Sony DVD player that I've had without a hitch for over 8 years suddenly decided to stop working yesterday. So much for this move helping my damn karma. Unless karma wants me to get so pissed off and frustrated that I murder a nun.

It's also pretty negative on the transferring front. Both districts would take me, but they can't, thanks to the company's ridiculous Shift Leader Initiative, which will require any store I want to transfer to to lose two assistants rather than one - one to be replaced the useless and horrible shift leader position and then one so that I could come over. The best laid plans........

Writing - 

Trucking along on this, I've made a good revision pass on the first six chapters. I'll likely want to do a second before sending it out, but I'm liking the added scenes so far.

The Last Sentence - 

He didn't want to lose the key, so he carefully threaded it onto the chain around his neck beside the key to his apartment in New York.

From - "The Whispering Ferns" (WIP)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Cleaning Up and "Twilight" Innovations!

Life - 

Been ever so busy, and need to jet pretty quickly, but a couple of brief points for ya today.

The two worst things to clean up when you work Graves at a Drug Store - 

Snow Globes
When they break, you get glass, massive amounts of glitter, an odd water-esque substance and little pieces of Disney Princesses everywhere. How do you clean this up? A mop gets glass in it and a broom gets too wet to function properly. And glitter gets everywhere, promptly drying permanently to whatever it touches.

Massive, horrible explosions of poo all over the bathroom toilet, floor, stall, toilet dispenser and walls.
This happens far more often than you could ever possibly conceive. And cleaning it up is even worse. That's when you decide to ignore it and if someone questions you, claim that it must have happened after your shift. I don't know how this happens or how the culprit could possibly escape unscathed, but there'd better be a special place in Hell for them.

My breakthrough Innovation in products for the Twilight series of books and movies - 

Twilight Toothpaste!

This is clearly a must have. Blood red, so that it looks like you're feasting chastely on the fluid of your beloved and just like the studly and (with the exception of his hair) well groomed star of Twilight, Edward Cullen, it makes you SPARKLE!

I'll expect my royalty check any day now.

Monday, November 16, 2009

My cold little writing room

Now Playing -
Soon by My Bloody Valentine

Life - 
Not a lot going on in the last couple of days. Moved a fridge, which required the removal of three doors and almost the door of the fridge itslef, but it was mostly uneventful. We've also started introducing our boys to Scout (My brother's overly protective, nippy DevilDog) After a slightly heartstopping moment earler when she came upstairs and confronted Pooka, who acted shocked that all dogs did in fact not want to be his friend and be drooled on, we installed a baby gate on the stairs and have been slowly letting the dogs meet each other through the gate outside. This will no doubt be a very long process.

We have been watching and enjoying LEVERAGE on DVD. It stars Timothy Hutton, who has begun looking like Gary Oldman as he ages and is a different con or heist each episode. The cast is excellent, with perfect chemistry. Check it out!

Made McClanahan's Creamy Shepherd's Pie yesterday for lunch and quickly won over a skeptical mother and brother. There's something about the name Shepherd's Pie that puts people off. For lunch today, it was slow roasted Gumbo, which meant I was up at 7am to get it prepped so that it would be ready for lunch. Good stuff. We've decided to try using Okra in other dishes. It may become my secret ingredient. (Not that it would be a secret once someone has looked at a dish, Okra's pretty obvious.) Tonight, my brother's grilling mysterious root vegetables and pork on the grill... Will keep you updated on that.

Back to work tomorrow. Bah. I feel like very little Day Offage has been accomplished this week and the following sets of days off will just get more packed as Christmas approaches.

Writing - 
I'm really happy where I'm sitting with the rewrites on The Whispering Ferns, so far I'm around 2500 words in, and it's sounding a lot smoother and getting to the action faster. Better and faster, always a good thing!

Unfortunately, my new writing room, AKA the closet is quite chilly. Maybe I'll write more when the feeling returns to my fingers.

The Last Sentence - 

"Some Folks say you can't see the forest for the trees, it's the other way around out here."

From - "The Whispering Ferns" (WIP)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

My House, Half Full, Half Over-Full

Now Playing -
Windfall by Dead Can Dance

Life - 
I spent all day yesterday moving my mom and brother into the basement of our house. It has begun.

The move itself went pretty smoothly, especially considering everything was done with my Element and thanks to my mother's Gallbladder operation and my brother's twin kidney infection and bonus mystery infection, I had to do all of the moving myself. My family isn't really the packing type either. Lindsay and I have a tendency to over-pack, loading boxes months before we even have a glimmer of a place in mind, labeling boxes, planning for needs, etc etc. Most folks I've helped move have been more along the lines of "Let me move these clothes off of this couch so that we can get it upstairs. I'll throw the rest of this in a trash bag and we can pack that. But all in all, it's not been bad.

I do have a lot of pets in the house now, 3 cats - our two, Sassafras and Clover and my mom's cat, Savannah. 4 dogs, our boys, Ludo and Pooka, my mom's Cocker Spaniel, Bella and my brother's cute but super-neurotic and overly protective Border Collie/Shepherd mix, Scout. Bella and our kids get along really well, and my dogs love Savannah - Ludo almost adopted her when we had her here before giving her to my mom for Christmas last year, but Scout is a wild card. They haven't met yet, but she has a history of being pretty snippy and we're worried that there could be some sparks bebtween her and my dogs. We'll see. My main concern is that my dogs won't take it well and attack back. I don't really think Scout could hurt them much, as long as we keep an eye on things, but if one of my dogs got angry, he could be hard to control, regardless of how unlikely it would be.

Other than that and only having one bathroom upstairs, it's going well. Thank goodness.

It snowed here last night, leaving the city pretty and white, it really feels like the holidays are getting close now. It makes me want to sit in my chair with some wassail and read a book.

Writing - 
I re-wrote the first page of The Whispering Ferns last night and I'm finally happy with where it starts. Unfortunately, my eyes started to droop very quickly and that's all I got done. I'm looking forward to some progress in the next few days.

The Last Sentence - 
"Young James!"

From - "The Whispering Ferns" (WIP)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Dear Writer...

Now Playing -
Putting On The Ritz by Taco

Life -  

Hey, I got an email from Jonny Porkpie, thanking me for my review of his book, The Corpse Wore Pasties! He even has it posted on his website.  (I'm on the right side, below a description of the book) Rock and roll, baby!

Sadly, that was the highlight of the day yesterday, I got a pretty good chunk of friendly but discouraging emails from the stores I hope to transfer to. The essential situation is that my company is in the middle of cutting a manager in each store, adding instead a half-powered position of shift leader. That means that for me to get an opening and transfer to a new store, they have to lose one manager, promote this shift leader, then lose a second manager in order to accommodate me. That's not out of the question, but it does make things much harder than it would have seven months ago.

All this makes it even more important that I achieve some measure of success with my...

Writing - 

Just before bed yesterday afternoon, the mail arrived, within the pile of mildly junk related mail, I found an envelope addressed to myself, written in my own handwriting. Odd, I thought. I don't recall writing myself a letter... Then I noticed the postmark, New York City. Blast, and to think, fifteen seconds ago, I was quite sleepy and ready for bed, not wide awake and filled with anticipation and dread!

Now, to be quite frank and straightforward, as I've promised myself and my three readers I would, I never expected anything but a rejection letter. In fact, it's reached the point that a  rejection letter would actually be best for Smith and Moonstone Bay. I've designed it as a series, with adventures digging for treasure, hunting monsters and tracking Sasquatch. A contest with a generic publishing contract and no agent involvement would probably mean the end of those adventures, or the possibility of them being continued in a different form. I was willing to take the chance though, because I needed the deadline to prompt me to write the book and if, by some rare chance I won, it would be a springboard into other books.

Dear Writer, the letter read, followed by a brief little paragraph that included words like We are sorry and we wish you every success. Then they stated that my manuscript was returned herewith, most regretfully. Now, that could have been the problem, all that was in the envelope beside the letter was an invite to enter in the 2010 contest and the cover sheet to my novel.... Man, I hope that isn't all I sent!  I can only assume, judging by the existence of a clause in the rules stating that MS would NOT be returned, that this form letter is just an old format. Silly Delacorte!

Anyway, to make a long story short (Too late!) I did not win the eighteenth annual Delacorte Yearling Contest. I did receive my first official rejection letter though, and that makes me feel like an Official Aspiring Author (TM)

Last night, when I staggered from bed and headed off to work, I think I discovered the right place to start The Whispering Ferns. It still needs some work, but I'm really very excited about the idea of finishing my new edits and starting to query for agents!  Wish me luck people! And time to get the writing done in the first place. The holidays, work, having my mom and brother move in, trying to transfer and life in general is not very conducive to effective writing habits.

The Last Sentence - 

The man was almost as wide as he was tall, like a great Kodiak bear, escaped from the circus and running free in the Seattle Airport.

From - "The Whispering Ferns" (WIP)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Packing the Fall. Again.

Now Playing -
Life Gets Better by Booth and the Bad Angel

Life - 
Well, it was right around a year ago that we started packing in earnest for what we thought was to be our triumphant trip to Washington to run a Motel. This year, we are once again packing, and again, in anticipation of a potential move West. Of course, the main reason we're doing it right now is so that my mom and brother can come and move in with us, living in the basement.... Urgh. We want to do this right though, not just shove everything in boxes, in the hopes that they'll then be loaded onto a moving truck when I get a transfer. So far the library is packed and mostly moved and the dog's kennels, where they stay when we're at work have been moved upstairs. Still a lot of work ahead of us, to say nothing of the integration afterwards!

Book Reviews - 

I read two great books this time around, two very different books too. One was about a girl in love with a boy that becomes a wolf when he gets cold, and the other was about a dog that becomes a detective when a girl goes cold. Lots of fun!

by Maggie Stiefvater
2009, 392 pages

Beneath the gorgeous cover and design of the book lurks an even more magnificent beast, lyrical and poetic.

Virtually drips with a forbidden and incomprehensible love that leaves you longing for that first taste again.

Shiver has a unique take on Werewolves that is pure fairy tale, yet seems more realistic than many stories.

Should be more popular than Twilight, or any other book of that ilk.

For some reason, the subtle blue ink and the simple chapter/temperature headings really rock my socks. It's amazing the difference little touches like that make.


(Maggie is also a talented artist and musician, I strongly suggest that everyone visit her website, watch the teaser for Shiver and fall in love with it the way I did!)

by Jonny Porkpie
2009, 225 pages
(Advance Reader Copy Review, the book is released on November 24, 2009!)

Not your grandpappy's crime novel, though you can bet he wishes he had something so titillating and funny to hide in the basement.

Written by the self-appointed "Burlesque Mayor of New York City," Porkpie comes off so appealing and hilarious that the reader wants to quit their day job and start a career as one of his steamer trunk members. (I assume he has a steamer trunk instead of a cabinet...)

Full of colorful and naughty characters, many so good that they have to be true.

The official Go-To book for underwear metaphors!

This is crime for the Rockabilly Geekcore set, for anyone with tats, piercings, comic books and an Apple computer. For anyone that ever put on a trenchcoat and had to decide between Marlowe and Gibson when it comes time to accessorize. Highly Recommended!


(For more info on the Hard Case Crime series of books, check out their website. They also offer a mail order book club that is very, very cool.)

Writing - 

Progress at long last! I finally found my new beginning for The Whispering Ferns. After deciding months ago that it needed to have a snappier opening, I cut the first three chapters (roughly) starting the book as Smith is on the plane on the way out to Washington state to live with his aunt and uncle. The problem was where to start it. I'd considered starting it with one of his dreams, but it's cliche. The last thing I want to do is scare someone off for starting a book with a dream. Finally, I found a place that I like. I need to re-jigger it a bit, but it should let me get a bit of backstory in easily and sound pretty strong.

Now if I can find time to really dive into it....

The Last Sentence - 

"My dad's a famous explorer, you know. Well, kind of famous anyway."

From - "The Whispering Ferns" (WIP)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Reviews Of Unusual Size!

I'm still trying to find a format I really like for my reviews... let me know if you have any suggestions or ideas, fair readers!

by Ed McBain
 1958, 157 pages

A twisty, hardboiled delight!

Dialogue that goes on for pages and you wish would never end

Not a huge fan of the title 

The characters in this are a treat, colorful and awesome. Especially the character's names.

 Fairly predictable but satisfactory ending


by Stuart Woods
 2008, 392 pages

An author I'd never read before, he writes fast paced, fairly light hearted thrillers.

Great sense of humor running through the book.

A few scenes seemed tacked in for length and tittilation, not something I generally poo-poo, but they felt out of place.

A pretty great villain that wasn't given much to do.

In retrospect, no one really did much in the entire book.


by Patricia Cornwell
 2006, 289 pages

A somewhat hackneyed thriller about a murder, a new crime detection method and a governmental race.

I often found myself bored and distracted while reading.

All of the main characters were too full of themselves and their little quirks.

It felt at times like the author was pretty pretentious too, though that may have been influenced by her goofy photo on the back cover

I got this book at a rest area just over the Idaho border, part of the truly excellent BookCrossing program, a voluntary read and release phenomenon - check 'em out! What a fun idea! Too bad the book was a letdown, but it just inspires me to get ones out there that I do like and admire.


by James Patterson & Howard Roughan
2005, 406 pages

Goofy, obvious plot about a scheming, money-hungry black widow and a detective investigating her.

The cover and for that matter, the title really have nothing to do with the story.

Though eye-rollingly bad at times, the book was still a page-turner, moving quickly and enjoyably.

These books always make me wonder what percentage each author actually writes.

It warns you not to give away the ending. Too bad the book does halfway through...


by Ruby Jean Jenson
1995, 397 pages

A chilling idea for the plot, only executed well about 3/4 of the time.

There were a surprising number of typos in the book, and a lot of phrases that were worded almost the same as previous ones, distracting my mind from the story.

80% of the story is told from the POV of children. I assume this was intended to increase the tension, but it usually just made me annoyed at the way she wrote children.

The villains were scary and I found myself wishing that I got to learn more about their backstory rather than yet another sentence describing their half-smile of perfect features.

There's something about horror novels written in the 80's and 90's that all seem to have the same feel to their writing, it's something intangible. I can only describe it as "awkward sentences designed to evoke suspense that usually don't" This book had a lot of them.


by Jonathan Barnes
2007, 353 pages

A wry, witty and macabre detective novel, set in Victorian England.

Characters so inspired and original that you could read an entire book about them drinking tea and wandering around town and it would stay compelling.

Gorgeous narration, both clever and sneaky, poetic and evocative.

Drags a bit at the end, yet feels rushed and too pat at the same time.

I can't wait to track down Barnes' next novel!


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Events of a potentially large magnitude

Our debatably brilliant and insane plans for the near future.

Big, sweeping changes are afoot in the ROUS household! Starting next week, my wife and I are getting a few new additions to the house, changing the dynamic of our lives in a very dramatic way, hopefully for the better.

Ever since we decided that we would transfer out West, rather than waiting and trying to buy a motel while living in Pocatello, we have tried to decide what to do with our house here. Thought about selling it, but the market is pretty rough now, though no where near as bad in this town and the area where we live. Either way though, we'd end up selling it for less than it's worth and it could take quite a while to unload it. We considered renting it, but that's never fun, inviting and trusting someone to live in and take care of a house while you live a thousand miles away is often an invitation to disaster. It's a possibility still, if it came down to it, but we'd like to avoid it.

Instead of those, we came up with an alternative that, if we're lucky, will work even better and give us some peace of mind if and when we can move. However, in order for it to happen, we have to start the wheels moving a few months before we leave town.

My mom and brother currently live in my Grandma and Grandpa's old house. Technically, it belongs to the state or some agency like that, something to do with her rest home and money distribution. I don't know any details, but I do know that if my grandmother died, the house would revert to a governmental agency of some sort. It's also a huge pit of insanity! There are only a couple of working outlets, the water heater is one I wrestled down into the crawlspace with half an element, the walls have mold and in cold weather, mice. There is a spot on the roof where the tiles have disintegrated into powder that is now being protected from the elements by a tarp and some rocks. The oven can't be turned on, lest all of the other fuses blow.... the list could literally continue for longer.

I don't know how they've stayed there as long as they have, frankly. So as of next week sometime, Lindsay and I will have two new basement roommates. Five if you count their dogs and cat. They'll live with us until I can get a transfer, staying in the two basement bedrooms and after we move out, they'll take over the payments on the house. This is mostly a good thing. It means giving up a lot of our privacy and private space, but it means we'll be forced to start packing and we'll save money on bills until we leave in addition to getting rid of a lot of the uncertainties about the house when I transfer.

I'm sure there'll be issues. We only have one bathroom, and it's off of our bedroom. She sleeps at night, works in the mornings and is up in the evenings, we work at night, sleep in the evenings and my brother works at night and sleeps... the rest of the time, so at any given time, there'll be someone asleep in the house. My major concern is my brother's dog. She's really not well trained and can be downright violent, something my dogs are not in the least. I have concerns about their compatibilities, but if worse comes to worse, we can keep his dog in the basement at all times or something.

Hopefully, this will only be for around 70 days. Oh dear lord I hope it's only for that long....

I figure if nothing else, this should score us some MAJOR karma points, right? When I get a moment, I'll have to post a photo of Lindsay's new writing room. Her old one was the library. Her new one is the hall closet...

As of yesterday, we have started querying Lindsay's book and I sent off a few transfer requests, so wish us luck and patience!

Monday, November 2, 2009


Life - 
Man, This year Halloween really snuck up on us! We'd planned to be totally prepped and ready for the Sixth Annual Brain Eaters party by the thirtieth so that we could take the day of off and just kind of goof off. Watch movies, carve pumpkins, what have you. Instead, we found ourselves scrambling up to the last minute, rushing against the clock to finish before guests arrived, dealing with a few dozen trick-or-treaters in the midst.

What is the Brain Eaters? some of you may ask. That is our annual shindig, a party most excellent, most wild, most wicked. It started a few years ago with my roommate Rob and I and we've continued it since, each year getting a bit more elaborate, and sometimes a bit more efficient. We typically get around 20-50 people, this year was no exception, clocking somewhere around forty guests (I'll have to wait until the photos are developed to get a truly accurate count... things have gotten a bit muddled!) It starts around 9 usually, but we actually had guests an hour early, while I was still wandering around in my jeans and bed-head, trying to get things assembled.

A lot of fun again, and as we try to keep it, no drama and with the exception of a close call between my windpipe and some brains, there were no fatalities! Every year we have the same basics; Jello-Vodka brains, Jungle Juice, Lime Punch, Bean Dip, a kitchen for chatting, the front room filled with fog and black light for dancing, a porch for the smokers or people that need a break from the crush of folks, a halloween movie playing in the basement (Though that got no action this year..) Wassail, lots of disposable cameras and me, who has been drinking since noon-ish.

Added this year were a good chunk of glow in the dark webs, courtesy of my new web gun (Speaking of which, if you buy one, buy the UV webs, not the glow in the dark ones, they arent very effective at all) we covered the furniture and the floor of the dance room with white sheets and we blocked in the porch a bit to give some shelter form the cold Idaho wind. 

To be honest, we were pretty sure this year would be the smallest yet, despite attempting to make it our grand finale. There were a lot of sick people, many of our regulars have moved on to families or different towns, my in-laws bailed on us, in fact, up until the day before, we'd considered canceling. Instead, we got slammed with people and actually ended up running out of nearly everything by 1:30 in the morning, the earliest we've ever ended. In fact, we usally have a few liters of juice left and all that remained this year were the dregs. I was pretty surprised. 

I actually felt bad about running out of everything, even the wassail and the punch, the non-alcoholic stuff was gone, and we had a few stragglers show up, but in a way it was kind of nice that the evening was over. Maybe I'm getting too old for this kind of party, or maybe it was the choking fit I'd had at the very beginning of the night, but I'd had a headache a lot of the night and I was looking forward to eating a bit and heading to bed.

All in all, I'd say it was a pretty successful party. I overheard one girl talking on her phone to a friend, with both ends shouting so I could hear the other side too, and when her friend called house parties lame, my guest responded "Then you've never been to this house party!"

This will (Hopefully) be our last Brain Eaters party, and it was good to see it go well. I'll make it a point of posting pics once I get them developed so everyone can get in on the debauchery.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Autumn In The Northwest - Day Four and Five

It took me longer to get this posted than I'd planned, so I decided to lump the last two and a half days of our vacation into one post. It appears that I took virtually zero pictures of the last day in Oregon...


Sunday morning dawned gray, drizzly and gloomy, just the way we like it. We got up and out of the hotel pretty quickly, hitting the road just before 7:30. Our plan for the day was to head up to Astoria, spend a bit of time there admiring the quirky buildings there, possibly eating lunch, before heading along the coast.
We stuck pretty close to that, Though we were in Astoria pretty darned early, so we left quickly, just stopping to get lost amongst the rambling three story houses that are everywhere in that town. If we ever made enough money and could be convinced to forgo the beach, Astoria would quickly rise to the top of the list of places we would want to live.

After Astoria, we cut along the coast with a brief detour when I took the wrong road and got lost in the forest for a bit until we reached Rockaway Beach. Just out of curiosity, we drove around the coastal homes there for a while, scoping out prices of the houses for sale, of which there were a lot. It was a truly mixed bag in that crazy town. We found a 17,000 square foot place with three bedrooms and views of the ocean from the second and third floors for over two hundred thousand dollars less than a house less than a block away and twenty feet closer to the surf with unobstructed views that had less than 500 square feet.

The beach was great that day, and we wandered for the better part of an hour, prodding jellyfish and other mysterious things in the sand with my shoe and watching the seagulls play. The surf was especially dramatic, with high, beautiful waves and lots of different colors. If we could have, we would have set up shop right there and never left. Apart from the crappy food in Rockaway, that is... We talked on the phone to my sister in law, Marissa for a bit, sent her a phone picture of the ocean, then left for inland central Oregon, an area mysterious to us.

From Tillamook, we cut south and east, through the Suislaw National forest and towards a small town below Portland called McMinnville. Which, as we discovered is notable only for it's vaguely hard to navigate streets, another Walgreens, an extremely unremarkable and unsatisfying Mexican place and a very picturesque little college campus.

Once I figured out how to get out of town, we dropped further south, towards the towns of Dallas and Salem, Oregon, first stopping in the very charming little town of Amity. From it's very outskirts we liked Amity. The streets were quiet and clean, the air was crisp and smelled like autumn should smell. Cool and dry, slightly musty and fruity, like walking through a field of leaves. We stopped at a farmer's market there and marveled at the dozens fall colors displayed, buying a bag of homemade Hazelnut Brittle, which was made by a local with nuts from her own tree. It was great - buttery and sweet, with just enough heft to be crunchy but not impossible to bite.

Beyond Amity, we rolled through broad fields that seemed to alternate between groves of nut trees and rows of grapevines. It's obvious that a lot of the farmers there have decided that it's easier and swankier to open their own little winery rather than their old farms, but we thought that both had their charms. There was a nice balance between the posh wine cellars and traditional farmhouses and even the wine places have a spunky, young upstart feel to 'em.

We had high hopes for Dallas, Oregon. It's situated just far enough away from Salem to be realistic for me to commute and is large enough that Lindsay could possibly find a job locally and not have to commute. They also have a lot of pretty reasonably priced housing and a few good restaurants. If anything, the town managed to exceed our expectations, being closer to Salem than I'd thought, only around ten minutes, and having much more of a quaint rural village feel than anything that close to Salem has any right to have. We saw a lot of gorgeous old houses, many with three or more stories and a few that were for sale and in need of some love, maybe a few big dogs too. The biggest surprise of the evening however, were the kids.

They were everywhere! In the parks, on the basketball courts, walking along the street, sitting on park benches... and this was around three on a Sunday afternoon. I know what you're thinking and no, they didn't bring their tvs out to the park with them or have wireless game controllers with good ranges, these kids were actually playing outside. Some were even talking and laughing with each other. Clearly something has taken over the youth of Dallas. Pod-People perhaps, trained to act human based off of 1950's footage. This is a mystery I will have to investigate further if we move there.

Before hitting up Salem, we took a detour to a town called Falls City, which ended up being out too far to be realistic and not nearly as cheap as we'd hoped. Cutting back through Dallas, we headed to Salem itself, a city of around 175,000 with six Walgreens. I'm always leery of larger cities. I'm a good driver, but I have a tendency to get lost or distracted easily and big cities bring out the worst in me. (That and country roads, for that matter...)

I'm happy to say that Salem is not only easy to navigate, but it never once felt as large as it is. I suppose a large part of it is that a good chunk of the population commutes to Portland for work every day, but even on a Sunday evening, the streets moved well and people were considerate drivers. The city is laid out well, we were able to get around using a tiny map on the back of our Oregon map for the most part. We stopped at a good chunk of the Walgreens stores in Salem over the two days we were there, some were nice and new, some were nice and old and one was old, trashy and across the street from a couple of adult shops. With my luck, that'll be the one I get a transfer to.

After driving long enough that we felt we had a pretty decent handle on Salem, we decided to find a hotel for the night. We checked into a couple of Best Westerns in town, hoping to use Lindsay's negligible employee discount, but all of them, even the one that was technically a Motel and looked trashy and empty wanted more than twenty dollars more than the one in Dallas. So once again, we drove the ten minutes and stayed in a tiny, set-back Best Western, manned by an extremely bored but very friendly desk clerk who was also named Lindsay.
She had moved from Portland to Dallas to help out her mom and found herself staying. She said the town was pretty safe and clean, but boring. That's pretty much what we were hoping for, frankly. She directed us to Murphy's Grill for dinner, a small chain-esque restaurant that was kind of an Applebees with fishing decor. We split a Mushroom Cheeseburger and headed to bed.

Our last day of vacation, like most of our trips was more an exercise in endurance than a vacation. We woke up at seven that morning and in less than 22 hours, we'd be back in Pocatello. Most people, when travelling between Salem and Idaho, head up to Portland, then take the interstate along the Columbia River Gorge, before cutting along it to Pendleton and the Idaho border. We've driven that route a lot. Something like 13 times in the last year or so, so we decided to take an alternate route, over the Cascades and through mid-eastern Oregon, and area that neither of us had ever seen.

The drive started promisingly, cruising through lush fields of grapes and spotted with farmhouses. Eventually agriculture gave way to thick autumn forests as the road got curvier and the elevation rose. The road over the Cascades is a gorgeous one, and I highly recommend that everyone take it at least once, but I can say this; It's much, much longer and not a good idea to burn through if you're in a hurry.

I stopped a lot, just to stand on the side of the car and admire the natural beauty of the area, though the obviously invected, bright yellow pine trees were an unusual curiosity. They're obviously sufferring from a blight of some sort, something that turns their needles fall colors before shrivelling and blackening. Eventually, after the road turned to dirt and back to pavement, after some rugged signs of humanity started trickling in, we left the Cascade region behind, first stopping at a funky little service station where we bought a bottle of barbecue sauce from a hippy couple named Something (I forget his name right now..) and Sue.

A shoe tree. Located somewhere in the middle of Oregon...

Beyond that, there isn't a lot to Oregon, likely one reason that no one really considers half of the state when thinking about it - Most of the state is desert. Covered in sagebrush, scrubby pines and jagged rocks, the desert region of Oregon still has more appeal that a lot of Idaho, but after the beauty of the last few days, it was a bit of a downer to drive.

We stopped in Sisters for lunch, eating at a small deli that served up fresh, large sandwiches and excellent homemade soups and rolls. Leaving town, we noticed a shabby clabboard sign on a corner with big red letters spelling out "JERKY" and an arrow pointing to the left. We are not the kind of people that will ever pass up the chance to buy possibly questionable slabs of dried meat in a strange town, so we followed that sign. It led us to a dead end street in the middle of a vaguely industrial area. Thinking we'd been led astray somehow, we circled back and tried again, finding nothing. Finally, I stopped and asked directions at a car detailing place. Turns out, the simple red arrow failed to elaborate that you then wanted to turn left, head two blocks, turn right, then left, and it would be right in front of you. Naturally.

Totally worth it though. You know it's a good jerky place when they're loading half of an unidentified, skinned animal from the back of a truck by giant metal hooks. Meat is so much sexier when it's not connected to other meat, forming a vaguely identifiable shape. Anyway, the jerky was great. We bought some teryaki, brown sugar, original and a tiny piece of their sweet jalapeno. Then, fortified with provisions in case of a treacherous pass, we left again, a straight out burn to Pocatello.

Not much to say after that. We stopped in Durkee again around 8pm and shared a Bo's Burger, which had two patties, ham, bacon, couple of cheeses, veggies, a greasy grilled bun and a side of fries, followed up with a slice of coconut creme pie.

Just over the border of Idaho, we made the bed and slept for a few hours, waking around 12:30am. I stopped in a gas station just outside of Boise to buy a Rockstar, in the hopes of  staving off sleep for another few hours, where the clerk did something strange and vaguely annoying. My change came to $2.83 and when he handed it to me, he handed me the $2.80 first, then dug out the pennies. Instead of handing them to me, he hovered them about a half inch over the "need a penny take a penny" container, and said "You don't need these, do ya?" then he dropped them in the pile.

I didn't need them, frankly, I had probably four dollars in pennies in various pockets and containers in my car, but the way he did it stuck in my craw. I can't help but assume that he turns that penny jar into a tidy little supplemental tip over the course of an evening, there was well over a dollar in pennies already, peppered with some silver too. Bah to you, Shady Graveyard Shift Chevron Guy!

We got home around 5am Tuesday morning, sixteen hours before we had to be at work again to a couple of extremely giddy dogs and some slightly interested in saying hi cats.

All said, it was a pretty great trip. We saw some beautiful areas, many new to us and it was the first time we'd ever been to either state in the Autumn. We decided that there were enough possibilites for transfers that we don't have to be as picky as we'd feared. We drove over 2,100 miles in just over five days, averaged 22mpg, and saw desert, prairie, farmlands, the Pacific Ocean, forests and towns in every shape and size. Pretty cool.

Now we just have to find a way to get out there permanently, sell our books, open a motel, become successful and go on to live our dreams. Easy enough, right?