Sunday, January 31, 2010

Maine Part II - Laving On A Jet Plane

And for once, I truly do not know when I'll be back again! That's a cool and im,immensely scary feeling, the idea that I may not get back to familiar territory in quite a while...

Of course, the idea of a jet ride was also a bit nerve wracking because I'd just watched a few episodes of LOST, so maybe I was just projecting. Luckily, I was fairly certain the plane would not crash, at least not on a mysterious island, none of my fellow passengers were quirky and pretty enough.

The Salt Lake City airport is a pretty impersonal affair with big, blocky, generic signs everywhere and utilitarian design, but their help are all hoots, as the excited elderly say. Most were upbeat and funny, friendly and competent. Our bags barely squeaked under the weight limit and were promptly whisked away, hopefully to the same jet that we were headed to, and we hit the first real gauntlet of the trip... The security gates.

I have trouble with these things when I'm not packing a bag, swaddled in layers and encased in a splint and sling. After taking off my shoes, the size 14s filling a tray of their own, removing my laptop - its own tray, removing my coat and cell phone- own trays again, my gloves, hat, scarf, keys, rings watch.... Tray, tray, tray.... My assorted collection of trays made me feel like I was getting lunch for the entire cell block. Then they saw my cast and immediately summoned me to the clear plastic box of humility.

I got wanded, wiped, felt up, had to move a certain way, say the secret code (The rolling rock gathers daisies when no one is looking) and allow them to retain one inch of gauze, a tooth and three fingernail clippings.

Then we were through! The remainder of the ride to JFK was pretty uneventful. We rode JetBlue, which is a pretty cool joint. They give you unlimited snacks, have in seat TVs which thankfully, you can turn off, and the seats were pretty comfy. We sat next to a gentleman who was clearly going home from Sundance and may have been someone worth noting, but he was asleep a good chunk of the time, swaddled in $300 Bose headphones or watching 70's era David Bowie music videos. He did have a nice leather satchel and a simple rolling carry-on and moved about easily, as opposed to my 40lb messenger bag and bad wing.

I sat with my broken arm against the window and it worked pretty well, just some jarring, though I kept dropping things down the side and not being able to retrieve them. The nice asian lady behind us found some gum, a book light, a pen and my scarf on top of her carry-on when we landed.

I was interesting to ride a red-eye flight, most of the people slept and seemed quite content to. I tried, but being a non-sleeper anyway, found myself looking out the window at the sparkling towns below and reading quite a lot of the time.

JFK was a better airport. Clean, artsy, full of swank restaurants and stores, apart from the ungodly weight of my bag, we actually enjoyed our layover there, the only time I've been in New York. We had a goofy little omlet at a crowded restaurant and sat and read until our flight left.

The second jet was smaller, but the seats were actually more comfortable. The ride was a bit choppy and we were serviced by a young lady in a short skirt that seemed utterly sick and miserable and a handsome black man in glasses that was pretty hilarious.

I discovered here that I am utterly crap at photos with my SLR and a busted arm, taking a few shots of our first view of Portland Maine as we landed. It was a relatively painless process to rent the car, though I thought it odd that they didn't blink at the idea of renting it to a one-armed man, and we piled into our compact dark red Kia to explore our new home for the first time!

..... To Be Continued!

Scenes from a Macaroni Grill in Portland, Maine

Have you ever been to a grandparent's birthday party where everyone ignores the lady of honor entirely, instead chatting with everyone else there, acting as though the old lady in the corner doesn't exist? Apart from a few brief sentences of greeting and farewell, she sits there, knitting quietly, alone in a crowd. At least, until check time rolls around, when suddenly everyone else seems a bit short and can't pay for their rum cake, let alone their lasagna and salads.

It's amazing how some people can get blinders on and not notice things like that sometimes.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Maine Or Bust!

It was time to take off. Maine was calling us, begging us to leave brown, dreary, land-locked Idaho and come sample their snowy, ocean swept lands for a time.

It's been a rough few weeks prepping for the move but finally, Thursday morning, we gathered the last of the luggage and gave our pets, our kids, really, a last, heartfelt goodbye and left for Salt Lake City, where we would leave on a red eye for New York's JFK and then, Maine. Portland, to be more precise.

For some strange reason, as we loaded our hefty bags into the in-laws car and drove to Utah, it never really clicked that we were MOVING, not just taking a vacation. It was strange to think that such a momentous thing was happening, yet it felt more... exciting than scary. I can't help but think this is a good thing, that it means we're confident about the future and that it's right for us, not that we are making some sort of horrible mistake. We're pretty cautious folks and think things through pretty thoroughly. A lot of people are acting like we may be a bit simple or our heads are in the clouds, but the timing seems right to us.

We have someone to live in the house (HI mom and Ben!) we have no human children, we are young and energetic - what's to keep us from trying a new adventure, one that may prove to be the place of our dreams?

So we went for it. Broken arm and all, we said yes to my transfer and took off, with fifty pounds of life in black bags each (Plus a carry-on, of course!) to start a life three thousand miles away.

No car, no home, one of two jobs... We've got some days ahead that should be pretty interesting!

The first day was.... Less  heartwarming and loving farewell than we thought it would be.

We planned to spend it in Salt Lake with Lindsay's brother, sister in law, their son, her sister and her parents. We managed some of that. Her sis in law, Cami was amazing! She took the day off, took James, her son out of school, all to spend the day with us, and it was a blast! We went shopping, inadvertently spent a while at the thrilling and well designed Children's Museum without paying for the privilege, looked at wallpaper so that Sue could re-do her dining room, bought craft supplies, all with a good amount of giggling and enjoyment.

I do have to say that it was a combination of bad planning and a generally crappy city, bit some of the thrill was sapped by the long drives between the stops, often seemingly circling the entire city and driving past previous stops to get to the next destination, but overall, the first part of the day was really nice.

The dinner was delicious, though bittersweet. There were a few things that kind of annoyed me, but nothing worth noting, not here. Afterwards, Marissa and her BFF, Ron left. He had to work the next day and she declined to stay with us. So we headed over to the Barnes and Novble where I hoped to fondle a nook, my new item that I covet openly, gently poking at it in public, eyes tearing up with joy.

There was a pretty amusing moment in the book store when a wide eyed manic librarian type tried to convince me that I MUSTMUSTMUST read Percy Jackson and the Olympians, and that my son (James, who looks nothing even remotely like me) and I would adore it! She even shouted at us from across the store at one point, agreeing with a whispered conversation we were having together. Those library types have ears like bats!

Anyway, we tussled with a haunted trash bin and eventually met up with Dylan and Rich and we headed to D's house. We were a bit worried about our luggage. We could each only bring one carry on and one checked bag. The Carry-on had to be a certain size and the checked had to be under fifty pounds.  When you are bringing everything you'll need for at least 3 months in two bags, it's incredibly hard to limit yourself like that, especially when you read as much as I am wont to do.

Luckily, according to extremely unscientific method of crookedly setting a bag on the bathroom scale, each weighed in at just under the limit. Which was good cause otherwise, I was gonna have to line my pants with Hard Case Crime books and shove a couple of William Lashner novels into my underpants.

They don't really leave you a lot of room for tearful goodbyes in airports any more. In SLC, you have around a hundred feet that common folk can be before you enter the exclusive realm of the ticket holder. Rich and Dylan dropped us off and lingered as we loaded our (Barely) under fifty pound bags, then we were on our own, ready to fly to a different part of the world. Yeah, same country, but no one can tell me it's the same part of the world. I mean, their ocean starts with an "A" and no one knows what fry sauce is!

And that's all ya get for now!  I'll try and write more later, but we're off to dinner now!

Hahahhahahah Serialized cliff-hangery! I love it!

(Well, that and the fact that typing still hurts my arm and I have a LOT of ground to cover....)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


It's getting there, the farewell party is done, the furniture and boxes have been moved, bags are (mostly) packed.

Tomorrow, we head to SLC to spend a bit of time with Lindsay's family and then, that night, leave for Maine!

I'm hoping to get a more up to date blog written, more elaborate and full of pithy insight and beautiful sentiments, I'm sure, but for now, this is what ya get.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Get To De CHOPPAH!!!

I have a confession to make.

It isn't about me, so I don't feel that bad revealing this, but maybe I should.

Today, someone dear to me, someone educated, fairly movie savvy and politically minded, let slip a misunderstanding that had apprently never come up before.

He, or she, since they were a kid, and until a few hours ago, had fully assumed that Arnold Schwarzenegger was Australian.

Rolling in laughter ensued. Tears, shortness of breath, images of the Governator wrestling crocs and boxing kangaroos. The word "G'Day" as spoken with an Austrian accent...

This was possibly the highlight of my week, hell, month!

Apart from that, not a lot to report. My arm is slowly getting some flexibility back, and with it an intense amount of pain as ill-used muscles start to get used again (OIL CAN!) and tonight is my last night of working the graveyard shift at the Pocatello Walgreens.

After that, it's Maine time, baby!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Grind, Grind, Grind.

Life - 

I spent the last few moments of spare time I've had doing some monotonous packing related things, going through magazines, making some lists, trying to use up the last of our kitchen crap.

We're having a little going away party on Sunday, have a couple of days after that, then we fly off for Maine! Which means we're doing pretty good on the packing front, but still have a good chunk to do. We're hoping to convince our friends to move a few things on Sunday. I'm not much good with just my left arm...

We cooked Beignets for breakfast today. Yum!

I watched the Others last night, the first time since I bought the DVD, I believe, and even knowing the ending, maybe because I knew it, the film still seemed really powerful. Eerie and full of gothic dread. I forgot how much I liked it!

Writing - 
I actually sat down and re-read my revised first half of the Whispering Ferns the other day, I'm quite pleased with how decent I think it sounds. It needs some polishing, and I still have another 20,000 words to revise, but I'm starting to get excited about the idea of sending it out to agents!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Freedom, Of A Very Limited Type

We spent yesterday in nearby Idaho Falls, primarily attempting to sell some DVDs, CDs and books that we'd deemed superfluous. We were hoping to get some extra cash for the trip and have a few less boxes laying around.

First off, I have to make one thing abundantly clear. I despise Idaho Falls. Now, keep in mind, what I'm about to say is a generalization and naturally does not apply to everyone and everything there.

Everyone in Idaho Falls is rude, uptight, snobby, grumpy and generally incompetent. They're either middle aged and drive spendy SUVs and Pickups or they're punk teenagers tooling around in sporty foreign jobs that their parents bought. No one shops at the local stores and restaurants and everyone there seems just happy as can be with the whole situation. It's like they prefer pissy, incompetent service and poor selection of local treats.

The town is also laid out horribly, with rambling, nonsense streets that suddenly curve and take you to no man's land and no attempt at a grid system at all. I've been driving or riding around IF my entire life and have still never gotten a grasp on the streets. Bah.

So why do people go to Idaho Falls? Because, inexplicably, they have all of the chain stores that you can imagine, while Pocatello has virtually none. The cities are about the same size, but IF is certainly a more affluent town, or at least feels that way. They have a Michaels, Hot Topic, Old Navy, Barnes and Noble, Chili's, Outback Steakhouse, Target, Best Buy, Hastings.. the list goes on, all stores that Pocatello does not have.

We went to sell our books at a large used book store there called Book City, and to sell any of the media Budget here in town passed on at CD World and Hastings. Also, I went to fondle the demo Nook at the B and N, as I can't order one until we have a stable address in Maine.

For the most part, our quest was pretty unsuccessful, Hastings, despite calling ahead, said they didn't have time to look at them and in typical crappy service fashion proceeded to treat us like poo. CD World was pretty good, Linz spent a bit of time flirting with the clerk and when we returned he bought about a third of the two boxes we brought, for around a hundred bucks.

Book City was our great hope. We had three boxes of decent paperbacks, pretty good titles, like Patterson, Kleypas, Anthony, Crais. Stuff that we had doubles of or were less impressive than we'd thought they'd be. The night before I went through them all and removed any stickers and mess, discarding any in poor shape. When we dropped them off, the clerks were very friendly, looking eagerly at the boxes we dropped, though they did seem a bit put out when we told them we wanted back any books they passed on. They wanted us to donate them to the store. That was a bit odd.

Now, as a breakdown, in most stores that sell used books, they have a pretty tidy system. You buy a used paperback at half cover price. You can trade it back to the store for a quarter cover price. If you want cash, they'll usually give you a buck or so less, more like an eighth cover. This works out pretty nice, you get a decent chunk of what you paid back, especially if you bought it used, and the store manages to make around a fifty gross on their sales, an enviable margin for most businesses!

Yeah, not at Book City. They selected about a third of the titles we brought in, still a pile of books. We were pretty excited to see that, it was still  around 40 books, so roughly $40 trade, we figured. HA, YOU FOOL! No, at Book City, they prefer to rape the suckers that sell and shop there, and only offer a quarter to twenty cents on a book. That's right, they pay you a shiny quarter and then turn around and sell the books for half cover price, around four bucks. They pull down roughly 85% profit on their books.

I've worked in a lot of different retail fields and I would have been crapping my pants at the idea of making that kind of profit. Needless to say, we laughed in their faces and took back our books. We'll just save them and sell them at a yard sale for a greater profit than they're offering! Freaking money-grubbers. I'm amazed that anyone sells to them, but they actually have a huge inventory, which just goes to serve my theory about people in Idaho Falls being a bit cracked and not nearly the penny pinchers that Pocatellans are.

Apart from that, we shopped a bit, bought some frilly underthings at Victoria's Secret, then made the kid at the  game store blush when we told him he could put Lindsay's video game screen protectors down in the same bag. We also ate at an excellent locally owned diner, Cedric's. They had hand battered fish and chips, all fresh and awesome and the next morning we went back for huge omelette's and perfect hashbrowns, supplemented with fresh scones with honey butter and perfect cups of coffee. When we walked out, perfectly sated and happy, we saw how full the crappy chain restaurant was just down the street, while Cedric's was maybe a sixth full. A Damn shame, says I.

People, stop eating at chains! Their food is crappier, their portions are smaller, the servers have no sense of pride or joy.... It drives me crazy when people chose to eat the same unremarkable meal at a Perkins that they can get at every other Perkins in the US rather than trying a local restaurant. Sure it's safe, if safe=Identical and Unimpressive. Take a chance, guys!

Uhh, rant aside, check out my blogging skillz! I'm currently typing sans splint, after giving my right arm the first dose of badly needed water and soap it's had since my accident a month ago. Not to be too gross, but the feeling of the dead skin sloughing off my arm was both wonderful and horrifying. This was the first shower I've taken with the cast off, rather than wrapped in a plastic sheath, and the hot water pounding directly on my dessicated arm and stiff shoulder muscles was a godsend. Now it's back into the sling for safety, but today gave me a feeling of success that has lifted my spirits far more than any lousy shower should do.

I also slept in the bed in the hotel room we got in Idaho Falls yesterday for a few hours. Hooray, I'm on the mend!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

It Was The One-Armed Man!

Life - 
So... packing to live in a different state, in a bit of a hurry, possibly a wee overwhelemed. What could make that rougher? Trying to do it with just your left arm. Ugh. I I've never been more frustrated and annoyed in my life than I am now, watching my small wife try and move boxes, straining to budge something that would normally have been pretty simple for me to lug around. I can't even really pack things, it's amazing what little things you do with two hands that you kind of just assume in the back of your head are one-handed things.

And it still takes me forever to put on a pair of socks.

However, we are making pretty good progress, the house is gradually becoming echoey and barren, moreso than any time in the recent packing binges we went on, and it's comforting.

I've spent a lot of time this month trying to be excited about the move and not really pulling it off, theres just been too many other stresses. It's starting to sink in though, things are getting real, and I'm getting more excited about our adventure.

I had another appointment the other day for my arm. It's healing very well, in fact, they almost decided to take me out of the splint. They actually said that they'd hoped this plan would work, but were pretty sure it wouldn't and they'd have to operate. Hooray, I guess! I have some excercises I have to do now, mostly stretching and flexibility. My muscles have atrophied to the point that it's almost frightening. I've never felt the bones under my shoulder before, bones that now are clearly very close to the skin. I have a long road ahead to build my arm back up.

Reviews Of Unusual Size

Books -

by William Lashner
2004, 576 pages

by William Lashner
 1996, 608 pages

by William Lashner
2005, 576 pages

by James Rollins
2009, 416 pages

by Stephen Hunter
1993, 592 pages

Once again, I'm a little too pressed for time to give these books a proper evaluation, but I thought I'd get them listed all the same. I found a new author this month, William Lashner, who writes legal thrillers based in Philadelphia. I started with PAST DUE, which I found in a thrift store and loved his eye for dialogue and characterization enough to run out and buy three of his others. I really like his stuff, his characters are a little rougher around the edges, sarcastic and grey-souled, a really pleasant change from the usual heroes of legal thrillers. I also discovered from his website that he was the author of a different book I'd read last year, KOCKROACH, which he wrote under a pseudonym. I dug that book and it was kind of amusing to realize that I'd read a book by the author I'd "Discovered" already.

Writing - 
I actually wrote a bit the other night, mostly just trying to find a comfortable position. I wrote a new intro to the Whispering Ferns, something I like, but probably wont use.

The Last Sentence - 

As Smith grew, his fascination with the old museum and it's secrets grew with him.

From - "The Whispering Ferns" (WIP)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The next step, Portland!

SO last year, right around now, Linz and I were in serious discussions to take over a small motel in Seaview, WA. The place had a lot of charm and was in a great spot, but it was pretty run down, owned by a fellow that no longer cared about the business. All was looking well, and we had extremely high hopes for the year to come.

Well, turns out that the owner did have a love of something related to the motel, the almighty buck. Once he started asking for more than we'd agreed on, more than we could have afforded comfortably to give, things fell apart. In retrospect, this was a good thing, it would have been a lease to own deal and frankly, we would have been miserable trying to run it while he still had his fingers anywhere near the property in any way.

Since then, as a slightly vindictive side note, the motel has gotten some very unfavorable reviews and is still for sale, now for quite a few years.

After the motel deal fell through, we had a pretty rough year, a few setbacks, though looking back, it wasn't as bad as it seemed at the time, and we also managed to start new goals for our future; writing!

We have both written books, as well as started on multiple others each. Lindsay is in the process of finding an agent and has had a few favorable responses so far. I submitted my book, The Whispering Ferns, a kids ghost story/mystery to the Delacorte Press New Writers Contest. I lost and amusingly, after the contest ended with no winner announced, they ended the contest for the future, after 18 years. My book is apparently that bad, ladies and gentlemen! Ha!

So 2009 seemed rough, but was filled with some nice milestones all the same. I'm pretty sure that my busted arm in December helped make it out to be bleaker than it was; December and January just aren't the best of months for us!

Towards the end of the year, Lindsay and I decided to try and transfer with my job to the Oregon/Washington area. We really love it out there, We're enchanted with the ocean and the lush forests, I love the rich culture of myth and irreverent history of the area too.

So we took a trip out there and checked out a few areas, applying for transfers when we got back. Unfortunately, we have bad timing with this kind of thing, just a few months earlier, Walgreens, my job, instituted yet another ill-conceived money-saving plan with the structure of their stores. In every store, as Assistant Managers left or were fired, rather than promoting, transferring or hiring new managers, the stores were ordered to create a new position in the stores, something called a Shift Leader. This position is essentially a manager with all of the responsibility and expectations, but none of the support, ability and pay.

This also means that for me to get a transfer into any established store, that store would have to lose two managers and not have any immediate local replacement or be willing to choose me instead. It didn't seem hopeful, but we tried anyway, contacting every store in the area, throwing the net far and wide.

Then, on a whim, we threw the net a bit wider and we pulled something fascinating in from the depths of the ocean, an offer. And not just an offer, but an offer from a district manager that is personable, friendly and funny, who seems excited about the idea of working with me, in an area that could mean a lot of opportunity for me if I choose to progress with Walgreens.

It's a pretty short deadline though, he needs me out there asap to aid in building and setting up stores where once there were none, so we've been scrambling to pack and prepare.

Our plane leaves on the 27th of January. Our plan is to fly there, stay in am monthly rental motel for a bit while we look for a place to live with our pets. Once that's secured, we'll fly back to Poky, buy a new Element and drive the kids and a few additional essentials out to our new home.

Where's that you ask? Well, if you read the title of the post, it should be somewhat clear, It's Portland! What isn't completely clear though, is that on January 27th, we're flying to live in Portland, Maine! 

Yeesh, this is going to be one exciting new year! more as it comes, but wish us luck, and stick with us as we document the trials and tribulations of moving 3,000 miles away from any family and friends and attempting to become published authors, debt-free, and eventually, owning our own motel! 

And yes, I am aware that we are unabashed dreamers, but we figure someone's dreams have to come true every now and then, why not ours?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Quarterly Reading Update - 4th Quarter, 2009

In the last quarter of 2009, I read 27 books, for a total of 9,077 pages. That averages out to around a hundred pages a day. I read a lot more adult novels this time, only six YA/MG books, mostly due to the fact that I read a lot of books from thrift stores this quarter and there isn't often decent kids books there.

Here's the list for this quarter -

IGRAINE THE BRAVE by Cornelia Funke

DIE TRYING by Lee Child

JUDGE & JURY by James Patterson and Andrew Goss


THE JURY  by Steve Martini


TERMINAL FREEZE by Lincoln Child

HOLLYWOOD TOUGH by Stephen J. Cannell


BACKFLASH by Richard Stark

FALSE DAWN by Paul Levine

THE WRATH OF THE GRINNING GHOST by John Bellairs and Brad Strickland

GONE FISHIN' by Walter Mosley


BLASPHEMY by Douglas Preston

KING CON by Stephen Cannell

THE LONGEST CHRISTMAS LIST EVER by Greg and Evan Spiridellis

SHIVER by Maggie Stiefvater



SHOOT HIM IF HE RUNS by Stuart Woods

AT RISK by Patricia Cornwell

HONEYMOON by James Patterson & Howard Roughan

NIGHT THUNDER by Ruby Jean Jenson

THE SOMNAMBULIST by Jonathan Barnes

THE STRAIN by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan

THE HUNTED by Wayne Barcomb

Favorite book this quarter - The Strain, almost definitely, though I really enjoyed Shiver and Chasing Darkness too.


1st quarter
20 books, 7772 pages

2nd quarter
37 books, 12202 pages

3rd quarter
35 books, 10941 pages

4th quarter
27 books, 9077 pages

That gives me a total of 119 books, 39,992 pages,
109.6 pages a day or roughly 1 book every three days

A lot of great stuff this year, I expanded my reading to include a lot of Mid-Grade, noir, legal thrillers and bestseller books that I've never really read before. Obviously, the Mid-Grade comes from wanting to read what I'm writing, but I'm not sure why the bestseller style of books have been so appealing to me lately. I think a good portion is that they're brainless fun, something I needed this year, some escapism.  My favorite book, without looking at my individual reviews was probably Flipping Out, by Marshall Karp, a hilarious and smart writer that more readers need to discover. I also really enjoyed The Strain, Cabinet Of Wonders, The Corpse Wore Pasties and Shiver, all for very different reasons.

Tomorrow, I will be announcing a dramatic and exciting change in our lives, and it could radically affect the books I read and how I read 'em, but I feel pretty confident in hoping to hit a hundred books again in 2010. This was the first time I've tracked that kind of thing, and it was great fun. I know I've read more books than this in years past, but 119 is still an incredibly respectable number.

Now it's time to dive into 2010!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Christmas Holiday 2009

Life - 

Life carried on when we returned to Poky. I wouldn't say it got back to normal, but things weren't too bad. The main thing was my arm. I started getting extremely claustrophobic at times, I'd get shaky and nervous, sick to my stomach. I also noticed the cold a lot more, getting hot and cold flashes seemingly at random, with the cold always starting in my right arm. I suppose that it will alway sbe more sensitive, I can be one of those old sailor types that talks about feeling things in their bones.

It was, if anything, harder to get back into the spirit of Christmas after the accident. Money was extremely tight, I had regular doctor's visits, despite my injury and utter uselessness, I was working still, we still found ourselves surrounded by the chaos wrought by having my mom and brother move in, it was a trying time.

The worst was my feeling of complete worthlessness. It took me 27 minutes to wrap a single Christmas gift. I could barely dress myself or use the bathroom and any of those things took forever to do. Typing was out of the question, it hurt too much and was nearly impossible. I couldn't sleep in the bed, I got too claustrophobic and felt like I was trapped, so since coming home, I've slept in the chair in the front room. (In an area that my wife has deemed my "wallowing hole")

I did not have high hopes for the holiday itself.

Turns out, I was incredibly, happily wrong on all counts! Christmas was an absolute joy. It was the first year I've had off since I ran the Chevron, seven years ago, and just that was great.

We woke up early, or at least I did, I always have been one of those kids that rushes down the hall to wake my mom at 5am on Christmas morning, but to my credit, I resisted waking anyone until 7am this year.

We spent the morning with my mom and brother, opening gifts and eating a breakfast casserole. I may not be a kid anymore, but I have to admit, the gifts I get from my side of the family always make me feel like one. I got a Kermit the frog beanie cap, an Indiana Jones Lego set (Something that was devilishly hard to put together left handed, by the way) A Lawrence Watt-Evans book, just a lot of really great, fun stuff. The crown jewel was easily my brother's gift, a Muppet Whatnot, from FAO Schwarz! Love these things, and have always wanted one. He initially designed one to look vaguely like me, but in the end he looks more like Roy Orbison, so I've named him Orbie. Now I just have to get better so that I can work him and find my Muppet voice for him!

After a while, we headed over to Rich and Sue's to spend Christmas with them. My brother and sister-in law would be arriving later on, driving up from Salt Lake City, and it was kind of nice to spend the morning alone with Rich and Sue. We opened gifts, I dozed a bit, nice and relaxing.

I always get more adult gifts from Lindsay's family, and it's fun having it both ways. They gave us a good chunk of clothing, especially socks, something that I was in dire need of. We also received some really nice cooking supplies, a book on Idaho Outlaws, Linz got some new shoes, once again, a really generous haul!

We were also fortunate enough to be given a gift from an anonymous Christmas Angel, something to help us with the difficult month we'd had and were having and I want to take a moment to sincerely thank that person, whoever it was. Your gift meant a tremendous amount to us, and will make a big difference.

Eventually, Marissa, Dylan and Cami arrived and the Christmas party fell into full swing, with wrapping paper flying, people wrasslin' family photos, goofing off. Pretty fun stuff for a buch of adults!

Later that evening I started feeling groggy and sore so we went home, relaxed for a while and topped off the night with a round of board games with my mom and brother. Really, a great Christmas, one of the best in recent memory.

Book Reviews

This isn't really much of a review, more of an update. I just have too many books that I've read to properly review them, even in my abbreviated "five things" format.  wanted to post them though, so that in the next few days I can post my official End Of Year reading totals. I haven't kept a very close eye on numbers yet this year, so it should be fun to see what I ended up reading!

Anyway, here are the books I've read since my last update on December 8th:

by Cornelia Funke
2007, 224 pages

by Lee Child
2006, 576 pages

 by James Patterson and Andrew Goss
2007, 434 pages

by John Bellairs
1985, 176 pages

by Steve Martini
2002, 336 pages

by Robert Crais
2008, 391 pages

by Lincoln Child
2009, 448 pages

by Stephen J. Cannell
2003, 376 pages

Considering my arm and the pain meds made it ridiculously hard to read a lot of the time, eight books in the last 23 days of 2009 isn't too bad!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Bone-Breaking Leavenworth Trip of 2009 Part IV


Take a look at that picture up there. Sheesh.  My second Honda Element, totalled. My second accident I walked away from with only minor injuries (though granted, my injuries are less minor this time) Both times, things could have been much worse. Much, much.

Instead, I woke up and got to deal with what comes after a wreck like this, trying to sort crap out and deal with the inevitable aches and pains.

Here's what we have on the morning of December 15th, 2009. No car, ipso facto, no transportation home. Some strong pain pills but not strong enough to prevent the pain, not really. An insurance company that takes things easy around the holiday. No coverage for rentals but thats okay, there are none for a hundred miles and will be none for at least three days, not unless we want to drive to Seattle. I have no coat, and only one glove. Despondant  or just plain pissy members of the party be ready to mutiny. My best friends still need wed. We don't really have a place to sleep tonight.

Did I mention that we were utterly and completely stranded 700 miles from home? Four people, my wife forgot her ID, low on funds and with my busted arm, comfort and fear of blood clots are very real concerns.

Bah. First thing's first, essentials out of my battered vehicle, then a coat that doesn't look like like a child's cape on my shoulder like the borrowed one I'm packing.

The guy at the wreckers was a doof. Let us in, let us take crap and leave without ever having us sign a few very important papers, I mentioned this to him, but he seemed okay with things. Strontium, poor Strontium was a wreck, his front tire and part of the axle in the back seat, everything cracked and shattered.

But you should see the other guy.... right here!

Dude knows how to bounce off us and hit a tree, I'll give him that!

Apart from the wrecker, who, lets face it are generally a scummy bunch, everyone in Leavenworth was incredibly, ridiculously, over the top nice. All of them. Nice, sweet, caring, friendly.

The ladies at the Aussie shop there especially, they took me under their wing, so to speak and made it thier mission to find me a coat. They had a few there, but mostly out of my range, so they sent us around town looking for cheaper/free coats. No luck, but the town was PRETTY. Snowy and gorgeous.

After our search we hit the Australian store again and The Ridiculously Nice Clerks From Heaven/Australia sold me a pretty nice coat that was on clearance.  After that, we headed back to the house and tried to hash out how the crap we were gonna get home.

Lindsay couldn't fly or bus or train, no ID. No rentals available. Finally, we decided that Devon and Lindsay would cram themselves and most of our luggage into the back seat of Derek's sports car and ride back with him the next morning. Ben and I would mail whatever we couldn't fit or take with us, and we would ride the Amtrac to Whitefish, MT.

Derek would drop Lindsay off in Missoula that day and we would meet her the next morning, after getting a ride from my awesome aunt Jo from Whitefish to Missoula. From there, Rich, my father in law, drove up and would fetch us in Missoula and finally, bring us home.

That settled, we dove into the far more pleasurable task of marrying my friends. No Santa suit, but aside from that and some grogginess on the part of the groom and I, everything went beautifully. All things considered, it was a nice wedding, though I was in and out of consciousness for a good chunk of it.

Lindsay and Devon left the next morning. We spent the day in Leavenworth, wandering around and mailing our excess baggage (Again, ridiculously nice folks...) and left on the train that night.

I'd never ridden on a train before and it was a LOT of fun. Roomy, novel, comfy, if it had been light outside so that I could see the world beyond the glass, it would have been immensely enjoyable! Hooray for Amtrac!

The rest of the trip home was uneventful, though I became increasingly uncomfortable as  the agony in my arm asserted itself. Over the following week, I started suffering from claustrophobia and weird pains, as well as the unsettling feeling of bones shifting around in my flesh. It's healing well now, and they hope to avoid surgery.

While our inaugural trip out was not the best intro to the city, I did really enjoy Leavenworth. It's touristy and crowded but never feels like it, it somehow keeps the quaint Bavarian village feel throughout. I have to give huge thank yous to the ladies at the Australian Store, Corey and Lisa and the rest of Brooke's family, the conductor n the train that sorted our rates out, Aunt Jo and Rich for getting us home, and the lovely women in my life, my wife and Brooke, who managed to not lose it when their men got banged up. Love you guys.

Speaking of which, here's my initial xray from the accident!

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Bone-Breaking Leavenworth Trip of 2009 Part III

The next morning was a nice one, slightly overcast but calm, everyone staggered to life and began showering and prepping for the wedding, which was planned for around one that afternoon.

Rob and I had a shopping list of things we needed to get in town, so we decided to all go in and eat breakfast at Sandy's Waffle haus and get it done bright and early. Rob had come over the night before wearing just his pajama pants, so he and I decided to dash across the road and grab his jeans while our brothers finished getting ready.

As we pulled out of the driveway, I looked both ways. There was a truck coming, but it was quite a ways down the road. I said something inconsequential to Rob and started across the road.

After that, I only remember impressions, little flashes for a while. Seeing the truck, far closer than before and moving fast. There was no horn, no squealing brakes. Being shaken in the car, rattled like dice. The airbags deploying in an instant, buffeting us. Strontium punched by the pickup, just ahead of my driver's side door, pushing us sideways and forward, the bumper wrapping itself around a pine tree 50 feet from where we were hit.

Rob was out of the car almost immediately, staggering around. I remember trying to move my right arm away from my side, reach for him. The muscle moved and I could feel something grinding in my upper arm but my forearm stayed perfectly still. I couldn't see anything, my glasses were up on the dash and everywhere else was obscured by the deflated airbags. Everything felt okay, but I felt shaken up, disoriented and dizzy. Someone, the man driving the truck popped his head in to check on us, running around frantically. Turns out he was an emt, local. I later learned that he'd bounced off of us, wrapping his truck violently around a different tree, but he was fine. Rob was still wandering outside, passerbys attempting to help him. I heard Lindsay's voice, full of fear and dread. I tried to call for her, but could only scratch any noise.

A legit EMT arrived, joined me in the passenger seat, talked to me as things started to coalesce. I asked him for my glasses and he slid them carefully onto my face, the plastic frames miraculously un-scratched. I still couldn't move my arm and like a flood, pain started up, running up and down my arm, seeping into my shoulder and back. I tried not to scream, grunting in agony. The EMT carefully lifted my arm, I could feel the bones in my upper arm sag, scraping and grinding. I explained to him where it hurt, but I was either unclear or he misunderstood me, carefully splinting the forearm instead. I grabbed the splinted arm and pulled it close, straightening the upper arm, alleviating some of the pain. Lindsay was outside the front window, her eyes tearing up. I smiled at her and stuck my tongue out at her, let her know I was okay. They sliced off my leather jacket and glove, the cold air shocking against my skin.

They took Rob away in an ambulance, the sirens sounding muffled in the car. I was trapped, the driver's side door too smashed to even attempt to open, so they summoned the jaws of life. They covered me in a blanket, protecting me from any glass as the machine angerly tore pieces of my car apart. Things went blurry again as they moved me, an odd sort of shaky unreality as the trees rattled overhead as the poor EMTs carried me to the ambulance.

The whole time, I held my arm, my hand slick with sweat trying desperately not to lose my grip, striving to keep my shattered and unsplinted arm from falling to my side. They drugged me, things faded in and out and I caught snippets of conversation, they were taking me to Wenatchee because Leavenworth couldn't handle me, the EMT talking reassuringly to me and Lindsay, that odd, motion camera feeling of being rolled through a hospital, not able to see anything but lights, faces and equipment occasionally looming overhead.

After that, things got a bit clearer. A lot of time was spent in the ER, dozing, answering a few questions, trying to explain to the nurse why they'd cast my lower arm and not the bone that was broken, I was x-rayed, cat-scanned, poked and prodded. Everyone there was extremely friendly, professional and smart. I had my arm splinted, a very, very painful thing, after a while, the nurse and I walked the halls, I was painfully aware of my bare love handles peeking from below the splint, then I was glad that my bare love handles were the greatest of my problems, it could have been much worse.

In the end, I'd badly bruised or fractured a few ribs, I had a passel of random bruises and my right Humerus bone was shattered, broken cleanly in at least five places. (The nature of my injury and the way I was strapped to board made it hard to be certain) Other than that, I was stiff and still pretty freaked out, but alive.

We called someone to come get us from Wenatchee, stopping in at a Walgreens there, where we dealt with an extremely rude RX Tech, picking up some pills and some random food, then headed back to Leavenworth. We stopped in at the hospital to see Rob, who had a gnarly black eye and 3 broken ribs. The accident had also aggravated some arthritis on his spine from a previous injury. He was pretty out of it, expressing the hope that I felt better than him, which I'm fairly certain I did not, but I was at least more cogent than he was. We all headed back to the lodge after that, where I sat carefully and let the percoset do it's thing.

My brother grilled ribs for dinner, a sly dig at our broken bodies and finally, I drifted to sleep in the bed, the disastrous day over, but the trip/ordeal far from finished...