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!