Wednesday, March 31, 2010

It Begins

The next day, we got up bright and early, if slightly disoriented from being back in Idaho. After a bit of packing a re-arranging, we hit the bank for our loan and swung by Lindsay's parent's house to drop off their car (Which my mom borrowed for the trip to Salt Lake while hers was in the shop)

Our new car was in Idaho Falls, about 40 minutes to the north, in a town that gets all the good stores. So we stopped in at the Barnes and Noble so that I could try out my nook in the store. Nothing too thrilling, but I did get a free copy of Alice's Adventures In Wonderland and chatted with an employee who had some great hints for searching the nook store. For instance, you can type in "0.00 history" to bring up a list of all of the history related free books for download. This is a cool thing.

I also discussed the cracked button issue with him, and he said most of the store's nooks, as well as the employee's personal ones have cracked as well. He actually likes his cracked, it makes the button pushing easier, and he was pretty sure that the next one would crack too. That is probably very true, but man, it sandpapers my chicken that it's something I'll just have to accept. Maybe I'll have to get a silicone sleeve for it that will hide the button from view. But then I wouldn't be able to fit the nook in my back pocket!

Smith Honda had a shiny new Citrus Fire Metallic Element parked out front waiting for me. Very cool. I was iffy about the color at first, I'm used to cooler colors like greens, but the paint is interesting, kind of an autumny blood orange that changes colors in the light. I liked it.

Naturally, thanks to the Honda dealer in Poky, I didn't have the paperwork filled out here, so we hit a nearby fish and chicken place for lunch while the salesman finished my papers. Then, a few signatures later and Lindsay and I pulled out of the lot in our new car. Easy, fun and no shadiness.

This is our third element, we bought it in the third month and when we got in, the trip meter was at 33.3 miles. Third time had better be the charm!

I christened this vessel Captain Stormalong, after a New England Tall Tale about a giant ship captain (Kind of a Paul Bunyan of the Atlantic) and in honor of it, the first song we played in him was "Old Cape Cod" a remake of it by a group called the Puppini Sisters, three lovely young ladies who sing in an olde timey way with a suicide girls twist. Coincidentally, Old Cape Cod also happened to be the third track on the CD... Spooky!

The rest of the day was spent getting ready to leave. Our plans for the E consisted of removing the back seats and installing a sleeping/storage platform that Rich (My father in law) had built for us based loosely on some plans from the internet. It turned out really great, though we did have to make a few simple changes. Essentially, what we did was create a platform out of wood and pipes that allows us to stash all of our stuff under it and have a mattress and sleeping stuff above it. When we are driving, the mattress folds under to the shorter length and is nice and kooshy for the pets to ride on and at night, we slide the seats forward and lay the seat backs flat, flush against the platform. Once we unroll the mattress the rest of the way, this creates a full size bed in the back, with enough sleeping room at the front by the steering area for the dogs to sleep.

Then my wife went to work, cramming a shocking amount of stuff into that little 4x4x1' storage hold. I was shocked, frankly.

We spent the remainder of the evening with family, eating dinner with both sides of parents and stopping in to visit a few friends. That night, we added a few touches to the car and headed to bed.

The first day of the trip started out pretty decent. We left town at 11:11am, fully loaded. Cats on harnesses and leashes, dogs getting used to the new back platform... and we headed East! Well... North really.

The pets adjusted to the first day of driving pretty well. Ludo, of course, just settled right in, chewing on rawhide and looking out the window at the back of the car. He loved how the raised platform allowed him to lie down and look out the windows. Pooka was a bit fidgety, whining a little and shifting around a lot. We had some pills that would make him drowsy and help with nausea that we were probably going to have to use eventually. The cats... Were very good. They crawled around a bit, exploring things, getting tangled up, wanting to sit on my lap, getting stepped on by Pooka... But other than that, they were great! They looked out the window a bit and eventually decided they liked riding on the floor under Lindsay's feet.

That night, we grabbed some fast food at a Taco Johns, eating it in the car next to a school while we watched TV on Lindsay's laptop. (With the sound piped through the a/v jack in Stormalong, which made the theme song to Big Bang Theory pretty impressive!)

The conversion to sleeping mode took a bit of work, it was the first time we'd tried it and doing it in the dark at a truck stop just outside of Billings Montana was tricky, but once we settled in, everyone slept quite well.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

1 Element, 2 Dogs, 2 Cats, 3000 Miles, Ugh.

I knew this was gonna be a pain in the rear, but man... That was a long trip. I have a lot to say about it, and this blog will probably only cover the basics. Then I'll make little separate observations about the details of the trip later, thus avoiding the dreaded Serial Effect that most of my trips have, but still allowing me to ramble and rant like I usually do. That said, this will still have to be a couple of installments... ha!

Unlike most of our road trips, this trip was not that fun for the most part. Last week, my wife and I left Maine, where we have been slowly building our new lives, and returned to Idaho to pick up something was missing from it, our pets. We have 4; a black cat named Clover, a Siamese named Sassafras and two dogs, a Great Pyrenees named Pooka and Ludo, a Newfoundland/Retriever.

We love these guys and it's been hard being away from them for so long, so it would be good to have them here with us. Getting them here though would prove to be a challenge.

First off, we had to buy a car, and not just any, my third Element. We started talking with a friend that worked for the local Honda dealer in Pocatello. He's a great guy and I love him and his wife, but we've had problems with the dealer before, so we were wary. We needed to get this purchase taken care of before we arrived - We only had about 36 hours in town before we had to leave for Maine again, and we didn't have time for silly Car Dealer crap or delays.

It went smoothly for a while, but then things derailed. They got the car but could never give me an official, final price, so I had to get the loan without a total. They did tell me that a certain price would be sufficient, so that's what I asked for and received from my bank. Two days later, the paperwork arrived in the mail, with a price of $3,000 more than my loan, and a down payment.

Needless to say, we were not amused. I spent the next days trying to get an answer for what was going on and they kept coming back with different excuses. The papers were wrong, don't worry - Oh, well, just hold on and we'll fix it.... Hmm, seems there was a mistake, but your loan still isn't enough... We don't need a down, let me see what I can do...

Finally, I got ahold of the finance guy, Brett. Who, incidentally, was the reason we walked on an Element a few years ago. He admitted that they hadn't been up front about the pricing and they should have gotten the total finalized a long time ago, but that it wasn't his fault. I should have known better than to buy a car like that. Then, he said that he would not apologize for the confusion. He admitted they were wrong, but would not apologize. Grr. The money wasn't that big of a deal, I could adjust my loan, but this pissed me off. A simple sorry and I would have kept up with them.

Instead, I told Brett to shove it and walked. I felt bad because they'd shipped in the car from Montana, and I truly don't feel that it was our salesman's fault, but I wouldn't stand for that. We called a dealer in nearby Idaho Falls, and they happily sold us a new Element for $2000 less than the local dealer said was the lowest they could go.

Of course, afterwards, I got all sorts of calls from other people in the Pocatello Honda asking us to come back. Bah to them.

Anyway, that figured out, we headed to the airport. I was kind of looking forward to this flight. Previously, I've always had tons of luggage and this time I was flying light, just my coat and nook. Well, apparently, I also looked like I was carrying something else, because not only did I get frisked at the security point, I also got frisked a second time at the gate, as did Lindsay... I must look shady.

The flights were long and boring and full up, so we didn't get to pick our seats, though I sat next to a cool musician out of LA the first leg, a chatty Scottsman the second and my wife the third. I read the most part of two books on the flight and had to demonstrate the nook to a few folks that seemed fascinated by it. Lindsay, meanwhile, sat next to some grumpy old men and a excessively friendly flight attendant. In Salt Lake, when we finally landed, we met my mom and brother for dinner at the charming and delicious Old Spaghetti Factory in downtown Trolley Square in SLC. I've always loved this place. I don't even like pasta, but their food is pretty reasonable and the decor is fabulous there. We met Lindsay's sisters and brother there and had a very nice meal.

Then the highlight of the trip, seeing our pets for the first time in two months. They were ecstatic to see us and by the time we went to bed, it was well after 1am Mountain time, which was a LONG time from the 6am Eastern when we got up....

The next day was going to be busy!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


I apologize for the lack of updates, between work, work related dinners, working on my book revisions and being too lazy to type, I've been gone for too long. I'll try and get a proper update written before we leave for Idaho at the very least.

If nothing else, I have updates on the fiasco that trying to buy a car from 3000 miles away has turned out to be.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Good Day.

Life - 
This was a nice day. We woke up late, no alarm, a little laziness after we were awake, the perfect way to start a morning off. After a while, we drove down to town and ate breakfast at the Fairground Cafe, I had Corned Beef Hash, home fries and a blueberry pancake, all of which were very good. (Though, naturally, it wasn't as good as The Stone Dog Cafe's Corned Beef..)

After breakfast, we decided to head south and find ourselves the ocean and maybe a lighthouse. I made a quick stop in at my office to fax a form (I'm hoping to get my finances figured out for the new Element ASAP) and the we headed towards Fort Williams State Park, which my boss had recommended as a good place to walk.

Was it! Full of gently looping hills and trails, littered with crumbling fort outposts and batterys, we decided that Fort Williams was just about perfect. It was a bit cold out, with a biting wind blowing in from the Atlantic, but even so, there plenty of folks about, walking dogs and admiring the buildings.

The centerpiece, of course, is the Portland Head Light. Built in 1791, and a gorgeous 72 feet high, the Light is very majestic and very much like what you would picture when you think of a lighthouse, complete with quaint keeper's house. The museum was closed, as was the gift shoppe, but it was still very pleasant to wander around the grounds.

Afterward, we drove to a separate beach and walked there for a while, until our cheeks were rosy and we were ready for lunch.

For which, we finally found a mostly decent and authentic Mexican restaurant! Located on a busy street in Brunswick, in a festive building lurks the Hacienda Pancho Villa. Which, lo and behold, was answered by a spanish speaking fellow, and not a white, hoity-toity hippie lady! (El Camino and your cheesy decor and holier than thou attitute, I'm looking at you!)

The food was a bit off, and clearly spendier than buying it from a bus, but it was pretty good! The salsa had some heat, the chicken was marinated and moist. It wasn't the Taco Wagon, but it should tide us over while we are out here.
After that, Wal-mart and Lowes awaited, where we picked up some super-cheap corned beef for the freezer and a couple of bird feeders for the back deck.

Writing - 
Now, our travels for the day past, I plan to dive into The Whispering Ferns with a thorough revision. I hope to have a query letter ready by April.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Have You Ever Really Thought About...

How utterly, completely and totally awesome the name Millennium Falcon is?

I mean, it sounds so cool, yet really, it could just as easily be called the Century Eagle, which just sounds like a school mascot. But the Millennium Falcon, that is a name that screams Bad-Ass. You even feel smoother saying the name out loud. Even the people calling you a dork for saying it aloud think you suddenly look more dashing and charismatic. They might say they don't, but they do.

The Millennium Falcon could just as easily be a jet, or a rocket or some sort of expensive sports car, and just whispering the name makes your smile lopsided and rakish and somewhere out there an attractive member of the opposite sex is thinking to themselves about you. They are thinking "So-and-so is scruffy looking, but I like it."

Think about it. And then, regardless of where you are, say it. Say it loudly. Even if you're in a laundromat or a classroom. Especially if you are in the hospital. It will make sick people well. Probably. Do it!


Saturday, March 6, 2010

Books On My Nook!

Reviews Of Unusual Size - 

Man, I've read five books since William Lashner's book review on the 25th. I've gotta get out of this office position before I run out of books!

Books - 

by Stuart Woods
1999, 368 pages

1 - A departure for Woods, Under The Lake is a supernatural thriller, complete with ghosts, murder, sex and hillbillys!

2 - The main character, while a decent enough fellow never really grabbed me.

3 - Great idea for a setting, on the edge of an artificial lake with secrets deep under the waters.

4 - Like most of Woods' books, the women in them are either sexpots or old biddys.

5 - I had a hard time with the sheriff in this. I kept seeing him as much older and fatter than he was supposed to be. I'm not sure why.


by Stuart Woods
2009, 400 pages

1 - A promising start to Woods' Stone Barrington character, a man saddled between detective, lawyer, scumbag and avenger.

2 - The full title of the book is mentioned at least twice in full. Once I can get, the second time it kind of bothered me.

3 - A typical book by Stuart Woods. That isn't to say it's a bad thing!

4 -The men are manly and the women are womanly and find it hard to resist the manliness of the men.

5 - For some reason, when this and Under The Lake formatted on the nook, it replaced all quotation marks and apostrophes with question marks, leaving the book looking confusing and the characters confused, with lots of sentences like - ?She?s gone?? He snorted. ?She?s New York Dead.? 


by F. Paul Wilson
1998, 448 Pages

1 - An unusual mix of hardboiled crime avenger and supernatural thriller. At first I had a hard time getting into it, but it grew on me.

2 - I think Wilson did a great job portraying the small child in this. She never came off too excessively precocious or mature.

3 - The first (?) in what appears to be a pretty convoluted series by Wilson, including three or four series and possibly the end of the world... Or something.

4 -Repairman Jack is a great creation, and I'll have to track down some of the other dozen or so books featuring him.

5 - A good mix of adventure and the supernatural with mayhem, creepy beasties and crazy history. Like Clive Cussler meets Lawrence Block meets Preston & Child


Heart-Shaped Box
by Joe Hill
2009, 400 pages

1 - The first novel by Joe Hill, who, by now, everyone knows is Stephen King's son. He even looks a lot like him!

2 - If you didn't know, you might have guessed from the story, which has a lot of the same personality and subjects that King has in his books.

3 - The ghost in this, especially at the beginning is really creepy and effective. I thought it lost a lot of the punch once the main characters hit the road and the ghost became more physical and... crazy trucker.

4 - Hooray for the dogs! Boo for the names though. I get that the main character is a rock and roller, but seriously, Michael Bolton would have given his guard dogs better names.

5 - I've heard good things about Hill's other stuff, his comic book work especially. I'll have to track it down.


by Steve Berry
2007, 544 pages

1 - Part one of a series featuring a man named "Cotton" Malone. They never explain his first name. My guess is that he wears cotton briefs.

2 -A pleasantly twisty tale that mixes history, both real and imagined and tantalizing hints to create a treasure hunt complete with assassins, traps, and globe-trotting.

3 - One of the characters, Cotton's boss was very grating and bitchy to me. I started reading the book picturing Kathy Bates in the role but by the end of the book, Mrs. Doubtfire had stepped in.

4 - There were a few too many convenient "AHA!" moments mixed in throughout the action. I can handle a little piece of the treasure map showing up in an outlandishly predictable spot, but the ones concerning the characters were too Soap-Opera-y. I kept expecting an evil dwarf twin to pop up. Sadly, it never did.

5 -Undoubtedly compared to the Davinci Code when released. Most likely inspired by the success of the Davinci Code when written.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Our House

Now Playing -
867-5309 by Tommy Tutone

Life - 
Sometime in the next few days I'll have to elaborate exactly how mature and intelligent our previous landlord, the owner of The Northeastern Motel, in Windham, ME was, but for now, lets suffice it to say it involved the police and lots of unintelligible shouting on his part. We didn't get our deposit back, any of it and while we could likely take some legal action, we probably wont. Besides, the way I see it, I can cost the place a lot more than $300 by telling my story often and for free on the internet. The power of free speech, the modern technology at my fingertips and mankind's love of a good snarky story should be plenty! HAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Luckily, our new landlords, John and Renee are great folks. They're friendly and nice. The mobile home we're living in used to be their father's and while it's an older place, it is well kept and in good shape, all of its funny plastic fixtures intact. It's on a gorgeous plot of land, 1.4 acres and all of it hills and trees, butting against a protected wilderness area. I can't wait to get our dogs up here so that we can walk them in the forest.

The place is currently listed for sale, which is a bit of a concern, but it's been on the market for almost a year and, while it is a gorgeous piece of land, the house is pretty old and a little rough, and the property wouldn't be easy to build something else on.

A couple of little details - It has a gas stove, which I've never cooked on. People say I'll like it though.

The property hosts multiple lilac bushes, some other flowering plants, has a garden that collared greens grow in every year, a garage, complete with old wood stove, creepy attic and swimsuit pin-up poster.

The driveway is pretty steep and could be a little rough in the winter. At the same time, I love being so far from the road.

There is a cemetery about a half mile in both directions from the house.

It's heated with oil, another new experience.

It has well water, which I like.

To dispose of our trash, we take it to the dump, rather than having a weekly pickup... not sure how this will work out. I'll likely find it inconvenient.

Despite being a mobile home, the building is on a solid foundation and feels far sturdier than most mobile homes I've been in.

It used to have a mouse problem. It looks like they're from last winter rather than recent, but there's some clean-up that needs done. Nothing someone from Idaho hasn't dealt with before though.
The View from our bedroom window
The landlords have donated a table and chair, toaster oven, microwave and two twin beds to our cause. Did I mention that our landlords rock?

A very cute back porch. Perfect for barbecuing, once I get a barbecue.

The Internet! We have access to the World Wide Web again. This is a very good thing. That's how we watch all of our tv, communicate with our family and friends, keep up to date on news and buy most everything. It's like the friendly Comcast guy reattached a limb.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Goodbye Slumlord, Hello Awesomepants!

We have a new home!

Pictures and story about the previous Shantytown McCrappiness Adventure later, but We now live in a very cozy 2 bedroom, 2 bath place on 1.4 acres of wooded land. And more importantly, the owners are nice, intelligent human beings and in less than a week, our reliable, functional internet should be installed.

Good times. (although the driveway is a bit daunting for BlueBelle. She's kind of a wus when it comes to snow and mud, which is all Maine is right now...)