Saturday, March 29, 2008

i know i stole your can have this song i wrote

Tonight I went to a retirement party for one of the sheriff's deputies. I don't know him all that well, although I do know his wife, who is the editor for the local paper, and so used to work with my mother. However, this is the deputy who came into the convenience store when I was working one night back in high school, and asked me if I checked IDs when I sold cigarettes. I said that I did (mostly true - but I knew a lot of the people buying and so stopped checking the ones whom I knew were 18+), and he told me to make sure that I kept checking them. Twenty minutes later, I saw his car waiting in the parking lot when a kid I had never seen came in and asked for a pack of cigarettes. I ID'd him, saw that he was underage, and said I couldn't sell to him. Then the deputy came back in later and said I'd done a great job. And my employers thanked me the next day. So, even though sheriff's deputies are not always popular with everyone in a small town, I must say that I always liked this guy.

Anyway, the retirement party included barbecue pork sandwiches and baked beans, so I was pretty happy. Laura/Ziv would be happy to know that there was an abundance of plaid, as well as a couple of people wearing overalls - but we also had ample furniture, which I'm sure they would find shocking.

The rest of my day was uneventful. I made the mistake of staying up until 4:30am reading last night, so I didn't wake up until noon. It looked nice outside, so I decided to go for a walk - you know you live in the middle of nowhere when you go for a 45-minute walk and only see two cars. Granted, I spent half of the walk on an unmaintained dirt road, but still. One of the two cars was our postman, whom I've known forever, and he stopped to say hi. And happily, I didn't see any of the mountain lions (aka cougars - but of the feline variety, not of the 'older women preying on younger men' variety) that are supposedly invading southern Iowa, so I came back with all of my limbs intact.

Now, even though it's relatively early for me, I am going to bed. I didn't write today, which means I need to write more tomorrow to make up for it. Goodnight!

Friday, March 28, 2008

i've just crossed the line from fashion to crime (but it's such a perfect fit when i am wearing it)

I'm feeling slightly feverish again - and Ziv/Laura, no, our thermometers are not made out of corn. I'm quietly rooting for malaria - it's possible to contract it several months after exposure, and I've been to India several times without taking my pills. We'll see, though - it's more likely that it's a pesky flu, or good old hypochondria.

Today was another excellent day - I woke up relatively early, but then hung out at home until my mother finished making egg salad for lunch. After I ate with my parents, I left for Des Moines later than I intended. I planned to stop at Sephora for a few minutes, but I made the mistake of going into the mall through Dillard's - where I discovered that they were having a fantastic sale. So, true to form, less than twenty-four hours after I told Vidya that I didn't qualify as a compulsive hoarder because I don't buy multiple identical items of clothing in different colors, I bought multiple identical items of clothing in different colors. In my defense, the shirts I bought in multiples were only five dollars each, which was a steal. In fact, I ended up getting ten shirts and two pairs of pants for less than I spent at Sephora. I will leave it up to you, gentle reader, to judge whether that means I got a fabulous deal at Dillard's or was shockingly extravagant at Sephora.

I then proceeded to Borders, where I was a good girl and refrained from buying any more books. Instead, I sat in the cafe and knocked out 4026 words on my romance novel - some of it was stolen from the first draft, but the majority of it was fresh prose. Between today, yesterday, and what I wrote on Monday, I'm actually slightly over the goal for the week. Yay!

I got home around 9:30, and I only had to avoid a herd of deer and one skunk to make the ninety-mile drive safely. I had leftover steak for dinner, watched a bit of basketball (I will ignore the fact that Katie, a fraudulent University of Texas alum, tried to gloat about the Longhorns' victory over Stanford), and am now considering going to bed. But I'll likely stay up way too late and read part of one of the books that arrived from Amazon today - I got volumes two and three of the vampire/werewolf/valkyrie series I mentioned earlier in the week, so you can guess what I'll be doing this weekend. If I don't end up in the hospital with malaria, that is. Goodnight!

i'm almost ready - yeah, it's almost true - for almost anyone but you

Except for the fever I felt coming on after dinner, and the fact that I drove two hours (half of it in sleet) for a sandwich, today was a fantastic day!

I meant to leave home earlier than I did, but instead I reread part of that paranormal romance novel I was so giddy about last night. It reminded me of another tangent I meant to take last night -- while paranormals are dying, this may signal the medieval subgenre's return to popularity. Paranormals are really medievals, only the lords are vampires/werewolves, and everyone's got cooler gadgets. They still have to obey a complex set of social rules and adhere to strange, binding types of honor; many still live in castles and manors that have been magically hidden from prying humans; and they all inexplicably prefer bows, axes, and swords over guns and grenades. Since the ultra-alpha male always remains popular, even when the leading subgenre is switching from pirates to Scottish lairds to firefighters to Navy SEALs to vampires/werewolves, I have a feeling that medievals could make a comeback. I'm ready -- they were last popular about ten years ago, and I've missed them.

Anyway, I went to Indianola and had a fantastic sandwich - it's been almost a month since I've had a sandwich with sprouts, guacamole, mustard, and non-white bread, so I was v. excited. I spent a couple of hours there working on my novel, but broke off early when I was stunned to get a call from none other than Walter Talbott, the famed Talbotross. Those of you who met me in the past couple of years have likely only heard whispered legends of Walter's greatness. Those of you who know Walter will be glad to hear that he is well, or at least alive, and he sounded quite chipper on the phone.

When I got home, I received the second unexpected call of the day, this one from Arod, who told me all about what she's been up to in the past couple of weeks. I worked on the book some more, ate dinner, and then finished the chapter I was working on. That puts today's word count at 3389, which is more than double the goal (yay!). I need to pick up where I left off tomorrow, since today went remarkably well.

I finished off my night by painting my fingernails and talking to Vidius Chandicus for quite awhile. We talked about a wide variety of issues, focusing significant attention on how awful the frozen pizzas from Whole Foods are. We also talked about the Oprah episode that I saw a bit of yesterday - it was about compulsive hoarding, and featured a woman who had crammed enough stuff to fit in a 10,000 sqft warehouse into a 3,000 sqft house, never realizing that underneath the piles of stuff were mice nests and rampant black mold growths. Ugh. But Vidya was dismayed to learn that the hoarding she has accused me of (mainly in regards to my excessive kitchen supplies, furniture, books, clothes...the necessities, really) is probably genetic on my part, given that several of the people on my dad's side of the family are compulsive hoarders. That makes me a helpless, genetically predisposed victim, which makes me less fun to tease, I suppose.

In my defense, though, I do use the stuff I have (even if it's rarely, like my deviled egg plate) - and unlike my grandfather, I didn't keep stacks of rocks all over my property. So I feel there is hope for me.

That's all for now; it's time for bed!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

just waiting for the daylight to come crawling in on me

I am perhaps the last one to the party in the paranormal romance genre (scouts report that the genre is flaring out, since readers are glutted by a couple of years of vampires and werewolves and witches and other fantastic beings engaging in preternaturally amazing sex while trying to save the world from a dark and horrid fate). However, I have arrived - on a whim, I ordered a paranormal romance from Amazon (along with an external hard drive and a copy of 'Roberts' Guide for Butlers and Other Household Staff', published in 1827). I only meant to read the first chapter; several hours (and a break for a secret society meeting) later, I finished the whole thing, and ordered the next two in the series from Amazon.

For the curious, the book is 'A Hunger Like No Other' by Kresley Cole. And I'm only mildly embarrassed that it tells the story of a werewolf king who falls in love with a half-vampire, half-Valkyrie girl who cries bloody tears and has pointy ears. The writing is really, really good. And, there was one moment in which the heroine seemed to do something unbelievably stupid (known as 'TSTL' in the romance genre - acronym for 'too stupid to live', applied to heroines who only get into trouble because of their own tremendous stupidity), and she actually acknowledged that she seemed 'too stupid to live', but quickly explained her way out of why it was a stupid move. That's when I completely fell for the book - the moment may have been just a bit contrived, but it didn't feel unnatural or forced.

Okay, now that I've turned off half my readership (including Katie, who never forgave me for being so unbelievably dorky as to be caught reading a Robert Heinlein novel featuring a cover photo of floating Martian flatcats in high school), I should really go to bed. The rest of my day was either not worth mentioning, or not mentionable (secret society meeting - my mother is president and could excommunicate me if I divulge secrets). But I really need to write tomorrow, especially since the next two books in the series should be here on Friday. Goodnight!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

we were entertained by dampness and ricketts

The title is of course from Craig Ferguson's monologue, this time in regards to his childhood in Scotland. He also made a joke about Sean Connery playing 'Sam I Am' from the Dr. Seuss book, but I'm sure it has lost something in written form.

I preordered the new Counting Crows cd from iTunes - but now that I'm trying to download it, it tells me that I'm now forced to upgrade to the most recent iTunes release. Bah. I'm downloading the new version now, but since I want to go to bed, that means I'll have to wait until tomorrow to get my virtual hands on the music.

I scored a major victory today when I found a great cafe only an hour away from my house - they have sandwiches with *sprouts*! and *guacamole*!! The cafe is on the Indianola town square, which will mean nothing to those of you who don't live in Iowa. Indianola is home to the National Hot Air Balloon Museum and Simpson College, and is the nearest real 'civilization' (where 'civilization' is defined by the presence of McDonalds, Quiznos, and a significant number of stoplights). This means I can stop off in Indianola when I'm desperate for a mocha, rather than continuing the extra half-hour to the west edge of Des Moines. Yippee.

By the time I got there, I only had an hour and a half, since it closes at five. I managed to write 1035 words, which is 465 below my goal - but what I wrote ties into another 600-word segment, so that may technically mean that I 'wrote' 1600 words today. It's iffy, though, so I need to make up for it tomorrow. I should have written more when I got home tonight, but instead I watched Britney Spears's appearance on 'How I Met Your Mother', as well as the rest of CBS's fine evening programming.

I spent far too much time tonight putting together my page for my Stanford reunion class book - I can't believe my five-year reunion is this fall. I tried my best to be appropriately clever without seeming arrogant, which is a v. difficult task. Craig was playing in the background, which helped, and I also chatted briefly with Vidius Chandicus and Claudia. Now I'm going to go to bed so that I can get up and write tomorrow, because that's what writers do! I may also drink cheap whiskey and find a wife to beat up, but we'll see how the day goes.

Monday, March 24, 2008

with an ironclad fist, i wake up and french kiss the morning

I love nonsensical lyrics, and the line from Bon Jovi's 'Bed of Roses' serving as this post's title is one of my all-time favorites. What can it possibly mean?!

Today was a delightful Easter. We had Easter dinner (that means lunch to you coastal heathens) at Uncle Mark and Aunt Kathy's, approximately two hours north of here. Dinner was delicious; I'm always a fan of ham, and they had it in abundance. Following dinner, Aunt Becky forced the 'kids' to hunt Easter eggs, which is something of a tradition - but given that the kids in question are me (age 26), my brother (age 22), my cousin Drew (age 14), and Drew's cousin Bobby (age ~21), you would think that the tradition would have died by now. Of course, Aunt B likes to say that she's 29, so to keep that illusion up, it helps her to maintain the aura that we are younger and smaller than we are.

This year, Aunt Becky apparently felt that she needed to up the ante. I hadn't been to Easter dinner in several years; the last time I hunted eggs, they contained mostly candy and quarters, and were strewn all over the yard. This year, it had snowed this morning, so Aunt Becky constrained her hiding efforts - and the eggs contained various denominations of money, as well as opportunities to win 'fabulous prizes'. At the end of the hunt, I only had four eggs (of the available 21) - but I came away with a two-dollar bill, four dollar coins, and a 'gigantic origami gift set' that will teach me how to make a variety of origami products with the ridiculous quantity of enclosed decorative paper. Obviously the origami set wasn't in an egg - I had a chance to pick a wrapped mystery prize, and that's what I came away with.

I'm also happy to report that communism has finally died out in our Easter egg tradition - the benefit of being older is that we don't have to pool our eggs at the end and split them evenly. I may have came away with fewer goods (Andrew had more money, Michael got more prizes), but I feel that democracy won an important victory today. Yay!

After the Easter egg hunt, we played Guitar Hero for quite some time before heading home. I spent the rest of the evening hanging out with my parents and reading a book. Tomorrow, though, I need to get cracking on my book in earnest. I have now been home for three weeks. I'd like to finish the first draft by the first of May, which means I need to write ~1500 words/day between now and then. We'll see how it goes, but clearly I need to go to bed if I'm going to get up and write tomorrow. Goodnight!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

there are no cinderellas

Stanford won, Duke lost, and my parents celebrated twenty-eight years of wedded bliss (and 26.5 years of making inappropriate innuendos that, for the past fifteen years or so, have completely grossed me out). All in all, it was a great day!

When I woke up this morning, my sister and her family were here, but I only saw them for ~30mins. I spent the rest of the afternoon playing on the internet (boo) and watching basketball (yay). My parents and I had dinner in town at the tavern in the back of the American Legion hall - it was the perfect (?) place to go, since it was where they had their wedding reception. There were ~20 people in there tonight, and my parents knew all of them - one of the couples was even at their reception way back in the day. In California, it would be rare to run into someone I knew while out for dinner; here, it's rare to run into someone you don't know. But, not as rare as the steak I had - it was barely warm, and was that purple-red color that indicates you could have gotten the same level of doneness by cutting into a live cow on a really warm summer day. Mmm.

Now, I should really go to bed - we have to go to my uncle's for Easter dinner tomorrow, which means I need to get up around eight. Goodnight!

back on track again

For those of you who read - I found out via my subscription to Publisher's Marketplace that the guy who writes those posts just sold a book. The announcement reads: "Blogger Christian Lander's STUFF WHITE PEOPLE LIKE, satirically exposing a culture that prides itself on individuality and diversity, yet manages to express these beliefs in exactly the same way, to Jane von Mehren at Random House". I love that this guy is going to make a ton of money off of pointing out to people how retarded their culture is.

In other news, I did not watch Drake's heartbreaking last-second loss in the NCAA tournament today - although since it was a buzzer-beater in overtime, with a No. 12 seed knocking off a No. 5, the shot will likely be replayed daily throughout the tournament, so I'll get the chance to see it again. Instead, I talked to Gyre in honor of his birthday - the conversation may not go down in history as well as this year's Drake team will, but it was good to catch up nonetheless.

I spent the rest of the day attempting to work on my romance novel. However, I spend waaaay too much time online. I think it qualifies as an internet addiction. For some reason I don't sign on to chat in the mistaken belief that it will distract me - but then I can spend hours reading about a myriad of topics on wikipedia, or read the blogs of all sorts of published authors (who are published because they actually write their damn books, rather than reading other people's blogs), or check the half-dozen websites that I frequent.

Dad made fabulous pizza for dinner, and I spent the rest of the evening reading part of a romance novel while keeping an eye on the games. I will say that reading other romance novels is good for me - it definitely helps me to see what techniques I like and which ones I wish to avoid. I'm thoroughly annoyed by the one I'm currently reading - it's way too dialogue-heavy, and the plot is extremely thin. In fact, I think this is a perfect book for me to finish, even though I'm not interested, because my book could run the risk of being dialogue-heavy and plot-thin. It's easy to get wrapped up in the 'show, don't tell' maxim of good writing, and end up using far too much character interaction as a substitution for some well-written exposition. And, just like in this book, my characters are only really kept apart by their own competing desires - there aren't any villains or evil family members to throw conflict their way. So, I'm going to finish reading it, take copious notes, and hope to avoid this author's mistakes. However, since she's hit the New York Times bestseller list, I don't want to avoid all of her steps - just the ones that made this particular manuscript vapid and annoying.

Tomorrow's my parents' wedding anniversary, and they're stuck with having both me and my brother in the house - and my sister may come for a visit. Please send them the appropriate condolences; they deserve better at this stage in their lives.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

come let me make up for the things you lack

I killed a possum today! I was driving home from Des Moines, switching CDs because I wanted to listen to 'SexyBack', and I hit a possum while going sixty miles per hour in my rav4. It made a thud against my left front tire, I looked in the rearview mirror and saw it lying in the road, and then the vision was obscured by darkness. Not nearly as glamorous as shooting it, trying to decapitate it with an ice scraper, dropping a rock on it, stabbing it with a pitchfork, or any of the other variety of methods I've heard of for disposing of possums, but I guess I'm doing my part to keep the Iowan marsupial population under control. Unless, of course, it was playing dead - tricky bastard!

The big excitement of the day was that I went to Des Moines. Due to my overwhelming urge to stay in bed, I didn't leave until one p.m., thus arriving in West Des Moines a little before three o'clock (after a quick stop at Quiznos, where I had a turkey bacon guacamole sandwich, and steadfastly refused to take the small blisters that formed inside my mouth as a sign that I'm allergic to avocados). I went to Half Price Books, where I picked up a dozen books - mostly romance novels, but a couple of 'research' books, including one on the tartans of the Scottish clans. Then I went to Borders, where I wrote almost five pages in the cafe while drinking a delicious mocha. I also did some book shopping at Borders, coming away with another five books, before driving home in time for dinner (tuna noodle casserole! yay midwest!)

I spent a couple of hours tonight reading one of my new purchases - 'The Art of Seduction' by Robert Greene. It's ostensibly research for my romance novel, since it discusses the archetypal seducers - I thought it would be interesting to pinpoint whether my characters have any of these seductive traits, and make sure they aren't displaying anti-seductive traits (unless they want to). However, the book is quite fascinating in its own right - he's making the basic argument that seduction arose as a woman's weapon to regain some power in a world dominated by the aggressive, force-backed power struggles of men, but that as society has morphed, aggression is no longer rewarded to the extent that it was. So, over the past couple of centuries, seduction has increasingly become a tool for both sexes, and is a vital skill in *all* relationships, not just sexual ones. I would recommend it to you, but I want to keep its secrets to myself!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

burn out the day, burn out the night

I was a complete slacker today. I set my alarm for nine a.m., but shut it off after hitting snooze a few times. I did drag myself out of bed before noon, catch up on Google Reader (addiction/bane of my existence), and then have a quick sandwich with my parents. My dad and I went to finalize my new phone, which now places me back into the realm of people who are able to establish real human contact. Of course, whether talking on the phone constitutes real human contact is up for debate. But anyway, I got a phone that actually works in southern Iowa, and I spent the evening playing with it. I intend to go to Des Moines tomorrow to work on my book, buy some romance novels, and drink some espresso-based beverages, and while I'm there I'll turn on call-forwarding on my blackberry so that I can be reached with my old number. Yay.

Nothing else of particular interest happened; I watched 'Big Brother' and 'Jericho' (funny to get intrigued by a show that will likely be cancelled after next week's episode), watched Craig (of course!), and generally did nothing of real importance.

But what was perhaps the biggest time-waster of my leave of absence so far was that I read the *entire* divorce judgment between Paul McCartney and Heather Mills. You too can read all fifty-eight pages, if you want. It was quite interesting - the judge really didn't pull any punches with Heather Mills. My favorite quote from the judgment was, "If, as [Heather Mills] has done, a litigant flagrantly over-eggs the pudding and thus deprives the court of any sensible assistance, then he or she is likely to find that the court takes a robust view and drastically prunes the proposed budget."

I had no idea that phrases like 'over-eggs the pudding' were allowable in divorce judgments! I really should move to the UK. But, it sounds like Heather Mills deserves it - the woman poured her water glass on the head of Paul McCartney's divorce lawyer, which doesn't exactly make her look like an aggrieved party.

Okay, that's enough for tonight - I need to actually accomplish something of substance tomorrow, so I think it's time for bed.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

"there are some things i keep middle name. who i sleep with. and what kind of hand moisturizer i use."

The Olympics are coming up (triple yay), and I should be reading up on the summer stars - but this article on Johnny Weir and Evan Lysacek in the New York Times caught my eye. I have been completely remiss in keeping up with figure skating the past couple of years, so I've missed out on their rivalry, but this article made me super-psyched for Vancouver in 2010. It boils down to a skater whose weight is described as 'avian' (he's 125 pounds!) facing off against a guy who doesn't shave before competitions and would like to see figure skating in the X Games on a half-pipe. It's like 'Blades of Glory', but real! Now if only Apolo Anton Ohno could beat those South Koreans in every short track speed skating event in 2010, I would be a happy camper - but I'm not stupid enough to bet on it, even though I love that guy.

I'll quickly recap the last two days, since I'm sure you're dying of curiosity. Yesterday started on an inauspicious note when Aunt Becky woke me up by coming in and jumping on me. Thankfully I'm pretty immune to such torment, so I went back to sleep for a couple of hours - but my family's behavior indicates that I will probably never grow up. Then, we went into town for a church dinner - that's lunch to you non-midwesterners. The food was only okay - the women who have typically done the cooking are now at least 10-15 years past their solid cooking abilities, and so everything seemed a little less tasty than in years past.

I also had a fifteen minute conversation with someone from my high school class. It was good to see that she seems happy, even if she was the one who wrote the 'senior prophecy' page in our final yearbook. All of the other prophecies were moderately nice - but mine claimed that ten years past graduation I would have 'dropped out of Stanford, moved to Mexico, married a goat farmer, and raised four kids while living barefoot in our barn'. Rather bitchy thing to write, but I guess I'm over it. Since my ten-year reunion is a year away, I'd better get busy!

I spent the rest of last night and all of this morning/afternoon editing and rewriting the first chapter of my romance novel. I wanted to submit it to a contest sponsored by the San Diego chapter of Romance Writers of America - by submitting the first 25 pages, I could get feedback from the contest judges. And, if I miraculously happen to final, it would be judged by an editor at one of the main publishing houses. I mostly entered in order to get some feedback from people who don't know me at all, and so that I can see how I stack up when compared to other unpublished manuscripts out there. I mailed it today with fifteen minutes to spare - then came home to an email saying that the conference deadline had been extended by a week. Damn.

Nothing else has really happened; Craig did a great skit about Bono and the Edge in honor of St. Patrick's Day, but since I gush about everything he says, that's not really noteworthy. I read a romance novel tonight in the name of 'research', and I was surprisingly annoyed by it. Maybe I'm analyzing plots too much because I'm struggling with my own, but I thought that this plot was completely unbelievable. The heroine is kidnapped twice in three days (and gets married between the kidnappings), the hero is tormented by every stereotypical demon in the romance world (petty/spoiled mother causing a hatred of all wealthy/titled aristocrats, suicidal father, strong need for revenge due to someone's massive embezzlement leading to his family's financial ruin, extreme fear of dark enclosed spaces due to a bad experience in a massacre at the prisoner-of-war camp he was incarcerated in during the War of 1812). Add to this that they had only ever seen each other three times before the girl's first kidnapping, and he immediately decides that he's willing to go off and rescue her while marrying her to save her from ruin. And, they'd only been married a week before they decide they're in love, at which point the book essentially ends. Ugh. I thought my storyline was too rushed, but this is ridiculous.

So, I think I might go to Des Moines either tomorrow or Wednesday to renew my supply of romance novels. They say you can't be a writer unless you are a reader too, which is all the excuse I need :)

Saturday, March 15, 2008


So, I woke up at 6:45am - four hours of sleep definitely isn't enough when one is used to getting ten. I debated whether or not to go to Des Moines, since it snowed last night and I didn't know what the road conditions would be. However, I finally dragged myself out of bed, threw on a sweater, skirt, boots, and makeup, and drove up to Des Moines with the intention of going to a chapter meeting of the local romance writing group.

Since I said 'intention' in the last paragraph, you can probably guess that I didn't go. I was running late anyway, and would have just barely made it. But I decided that I would rather spend the time drinking an espresso-based drink (since I've had waaay too many of those convenience store 'cappuccinos' that contain more high fructose corn syrup than any actual coffee or milk) and working on my romance novel, instead of sitting through a meeting on 'getting know your characters' - I currently feel like the only thing I do know is my characters, so I didn't think that would be particularly helpful.

I should go work in the cafe at Borders more often - I wrote seven pages in two hours. I decided to take a break and look for some romance novels to buy, but then my parents called and asked if I wanted to have lunch. They had come to Des Moines for something else, and I ended up meeting them and Aunt Becky for Long John Silvers (mmm midwestern fish). We had a delightful time destroying our arteries, and then Aunt Becky and I hung out for a couple of hours. It was great to spend some quality time with her, since the last time I had seen her was in the family circusmobile at my great-uncle's funeral. We checked out some property that she and her fiance intend to build upon someday, went to Bed Bath and Beyond, and all was good. Then I drove home, watched some tv with my parents, and am now turning in at the relatively early hour of 12:30am. No Craig tonight, so that makes it easier.

Maybe tomorrow I'll discuss the secret meaning of my name, but I'm too tired to go into details tonight. However, I will leave you with this - I'm salivating over Cross' spring pen/notebook collection. Every season they put out a new limited-edition set of three different ballpoint pens with three different notebooks; I ended up buying last season's 'quasar' pen in a rosy color, and multiple notebooks because these are the best notebooks I've ever used. The lines are just right (I like v. narrow college-rule), and the covers are durable and snazzy (or, if I were on 'Project Runway', fierce!) at the same time. This season's collection is 'kalahari', and I'm in love - I want the orange pen, I think, and I want to continue stockpiling notebooks against the inevitable day when Cross discontinues the line (or the Mayan calendar ends and we're thrown back into the stone age, so that I can recount our tragic decline and fall for later posterity). But, I'm going to hold off a week or two and see if the impulse dies down - any bets on where I'll land on this issue?

i could swear i let you know...i tried one day to let you go

I had intended to keep going with what I was writing last night. However, the internet is my nemesis (perhaps proof that it was, after all, invented by Al Gore?)...I ended up reading stuff on Google Reader for far too long this afternoon, after waking up at 12:30pm. I then showered, ate lunch, and ran into town to get gas and wash my car. Washing the car was relatively pointless, since it got dirty again as soon as I left the pavement and took the gravel roads home, but at least I got the salt off from my forays into the snowy wastelands of the Great American West.

On the way home, I drove through Allerton (the smaller town that we're technically affiliated with, since it's only two miles from us instead of four). Driving through town is utterly depressing. It doesn't help that it's March, the spring thaw has led to a lot of mud, there is no green to be found anywhere, and it's been too messy all winter to pick up from the aftermath of a catastrophic ice storm they had a few months ago (remind me to post pictures of the trees in our front yard - it's a disaster zone).

But even if I were driving through town in the most glorious summer ever (and yes, summers in Iowa are glorious - possibly the best anywhere), it would still be depressing. On the main block alone, several buildings have completely collapsed, destroyed by decades of neglect. One of my favorite places in town was Milford's store - he had an old-fashioned soda fountain, and you could get shakes, malts, cherry, lemon, or chocolate Cokes, phosphates, ice cream with v. stale cones, etc., as well as whatever stuff he happened to have in stock, most of it well past the expiration date. He passed away awhile ago, they came in and auctioned off all of the stuff, and now the entire southern wall of the building is collapsing onto the sidewalk.

It's a v. strange thing to watch a town decay before your eyes. I spent a lot of time there when I was younger, because my grandparents had a store in town - but they sold the building years ago, and I noticed the other day that one corner of the giant mural panels on the north wall had fallen off. Even though the post office, bank, civic center, bar, and legion hall are still occupied, it's only a matter of a few years before the entire main street falls into complete ruin.

I've been worried about the economy, considering that I've forsaken six months of salary - but my current, self-selected 'poverty' is likely just a blip on my long-term earnings curve. Regardless of what happens with the economy in general, though, it's too late for Allerton - the damage was done decades ago, the seeds planted well before I was born. When I went to the town play last weekend, they said that in the early 1900s, when Allerton was a railway hub and hosted various chautauquas and other events, there were 192 businesses active and advertising in Allerton alone. This year, the play had managed to solicit advertising/sponsorships from ~100 businesses in the entire county this year - and since those solicitations were a way to raise money for the play, some of the businesses (like my grandmother's - she paid for an ad for a store that has been out of business for ten years) aren't exactly viable.

On top of all of this, one of my high school classmates died this week. I wasn't friends with him (in fact, was petrified of him, since he wasn't particularly kind me or my friends), but it's still a complete shame. I should probably be writing something other than a romance novel - the combination of grinding poverty, drug abuse, and structural collapse would be better suited for fiction or horror than for romance. Or, perhaps I should make up a memoir in which I'm a drug-addicted seventeen year old with three kids who pulls herself out of an impossible situation by a combination of prostitution and knitting - I could probably sell it, unless my brother or sister rats me out to the New York Times.

It's not all bad, though - the majority are v. nice people, many of whom I've known my entire life. And it's v. nice to have some significant solitude - I was sick of living in a 'city', even in Palo Alto is considered a boring suburb. It's time to stop brooding and go to bed, though. I have to wake up early tomorrow morning so that I can get to Des Moines by 9am for a meeting with a local chapter of romance writers. If I get really ambitious, maybe I'll use this as a way to force myself to start getting up earlier every day - but don't hold your breath.

Friday, March 14, 2008

finnegan begin again

I need to learn how to write during the day. I basically sat around all day, ate dinner (porkchops and baked potatoes), and watched 'Survivor', 'CSI', and 'Without a Trace' (all fine CBS programming) - none of which was particularly productive, even if my mother's cooking is delicious and the CBS programs were entertaining.

However, I then proceeded to write from ten p.m. until now, with an hour-long break to watch Craig. Craig was great, as usual; tonight was a rerun of when he was sworn in as an American citizen, and it was nice to see him so earnest and excited about becoming an American. I was surprised that the oath of citizenship includes swearing to bear arms for the US, but I suppose it makes sense. At the end of the show, some Scottish band called the Wicked Tinkers performed - and he joined in as a drummer. I should get one of their CDs as inspirational music, I think, even if they weren't quite as attractive in their kilts as I intend for the hero of my romance novel to be.

Anyway, I'm heavily revising the opening chapter - I think that I was struggling because the voice at the beginning is so different from what it is later on, and I want to ensure that there's continuity and strength throughout, but it really has to start with a bang on the very first page. If I can clean up the first couple of chapters, I can skip back to fixing the remaining portion of the book, since I'm actually pretty satisfied with most of what I have. However, unless I want to go fully nocturnal, I should really go to bed - sunrise is in less than three hours, alas.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

monkeys so naughty, they pretend to be donkeys

If you've never lived in a small town (or rather, outside of a small town), you're really missing out. Spending time at home is reawakening all of the old familiar struggles - part of me wants to 'escape' again and go off in pursuit of fabulous amounts of money, while another part of me wants to take up the ancient and dying arts of quilting, canning, preserve-making, etc. while living in a farmhouse and appreciating the simpler pleasures in life. Call it 'Dior vs. dimestore', perhaps. Thus far, Dior has been winning out (as evidenced by my perfume), but small town living does have its charms.

Then again, 'charms' are in the eye of the beholder. Personally, I had a lovely time at lunch - my parents took me to the tavern in the back of the American Legion hall, where the walls are covered in fake wood paneling, the stuffing is coming out of the decades-old chairs, and everyone in the restaurant talks to everyone else. Case in point - we were joined at our table by the local undertaker, and ended up having a lovely conversation about killing possums. You can tell that possums are a complete scourge in these parts, and people seem to take delight in figuring out ways to kill them with whatever happens to be on hand - just as possums seem to delight in playing dead and then walking away after you've stabbed them with a pitchfork or smashed them with a rock.

At least the funeral home director was talking about possums and not people; and the cheeseburger was delicious, regardless of the nature of the conversation. After lunch, I spent the afternoon researching Regency-period weddings, which increased my desire to spend a couple of weeks in England/Scotland this spring. If I'm going, I need to start making arrangements, but I should really be focused on the book right now. Sigh.

Tonight, I went to a meeting of my secret society - my mother and grandmother are members, and I've known many of the other members all of my life, so it was nice to catch up with some of them. I was initiated when I was a freshman in college, but haven't attended regular meetings because I've been in California - so as long as I'm home, I think I'll go. I can't tell you what happened at the meeting (it's a secret society!), but it was a good time, even if I missed 'Big Brother' because of it.

That's all you're getting out of me tonight - let's see how much writing I get done tomorrow. Goodnight!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

fix yourself a breakfast with great american eggs

I finally wrote something! Not that it's time to break out the champagne, but after dinner tonight, I actually wrote ~1000 words (the equivalent of four pages). Granted, if I maintained that pace, it would take one hundred days to write a whole book, and I would prefer to be done in 30-45, so I need to step it up. But, getting started was the hardest part, I think - although stopping to watch Craig Ferguson was v. v. easy. He was great, as usual - my favorite part of tonight's episode was when he talked about how there's no one who's prouder to be an American than he is, but he really doesn't like that 'Proud to Be and American' song - it just makes him want to lease a truck, or buy some eggs.

Anyway, I'm starting back at the beginning in an effort to fix up the seventy pages that I wrote three years ago as part of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Once I've got that done, I can do a quick continuity edit of the next 130 pages, before writing the last half of the book. I do think this can be done in a month, but I can't afford to sit around much more. Then, I can be done with a first draft by the first of May, send it out to some friends/critique people for review, and plot the second one while waiting for comments. Sounds like a plan, eh?

Here's what I did with the rest of my day:

1) I didn't get out of bed until almost noon because I am lazy. In fact, I would guess that of the seven deadly sins, sloth is the one which I most frequently commit (as evidenced by the fact that it has its own label on my blog).

2) I chatted online with Vidius Chandicus twice, which merits her a label on this post. We discussed Danielle Steel's fabulous house (chalk one up for envy), which I will never inhabit if I don't get over my sloth.

3) I had lunch with my mother - I rarely eat bologna in California, but it's one of my favorite things here. Isn't it odd that bologna and steak are my two most frequent sources of protein? Although I guess calling bologna 'protein' is perhaps stretching it.

4) I went to the library. I was going to do some writing there, but they've turned the heat way down to conserve fuel, and even though it was almost sixty degrees today, it will take awhile for the building to recover. So I checked out a few books and came home.

5) I talked to my uncle, who suggested a ridiculous penname - but not as ridiculous as what Vidya and I came up with - Fraulein Swampinathan. It would target both the German and the Indian demographics, which are huge!

6) I had dinner (chili, no steak) with my parents, and my dad brought me a bunch of pink rosebuds. He brought my mother red rosebuds. Isn't he a gentleman?

7) I actually wrote today, which makes it the best day since I've come home. Let's see if I can keep this up!

must not cry...tears will ruin pantsuit

I was rather unproductive today. I intended to start writing, but instead spent too much time researching how long it would take for a post-chaise to go from London to the Highlands in 1815 (answer: post-chaises could probably go 8-10 miles/hour, and it's ~470 miles from London to the area of the Highlands where my book is set - granted, that's on today's road system, I need a map of the old post roads - so I expect that's around 5-7 days, depending on how many hours per day they traveled and how long they stopped for lunch, horse changes, etc.)

The only real highlights of the day:

1) Daylight Saving Time - awesome!

2) Mom made a steak and potatoes variant tonight - minute steak, mashed potatoes, and gravy. Mmm. That brings the official steak and potatoes count up to four!

3) I attempted to write at the kitchen counter tonight, but my father came out and we talked for awhile, which means I can blame him for my procrastination. The conversation was good, though - we hit up several major topics, including the Great Wall of China, Russian politics, and what coyotes eat (his answer: mice, birds, rabbits, and occasionally one of our cats).

4) Craig Ferguson. I love that guy. The title of this post is in reference to his robotic impersonation of Hillary Clinton. Tonight was one of his better episodes - someone pretended to be him while he pretended to be Prince Charles, which I thought was a lovely interlude. He also made an extended joke about Winston Churchill - I think one of my favorite things about Craig is that he makes jokes about events that happened decades ago, and expects his audience to either get it or play along. No dumbing down of the monologue just because he's now an American citizen!

It's bedtime - tomorrow I shall actually accomplish something! I've been home a week, so I need to get cracking.

Monday, March 10, 2008

i want to be with you, will you come with me?

Today was another great day in the heartland. My grandma came over for brunch, and then stayed to watch basketball. I spent some time coming up with a pseudonym for my book (premature, I know, since I have yet to finish it, but I got a gmail account for the name that I think I'll use), and then signed up for all of the Romance Writers of America mailing lists so that I can start getting more info on the business. I also saw a movie with Katie, came home and watched the news with my mother, and then spent the past couple of hours surfing the web.

Highlights of the day:

1) Hearing my sweet, septuagenarian grandmother tell how she beat a possum to death the other day with an ice scraper and a rock. This proves that if we got rid of guns, people would still find a way to kill things.

2) Eating brunch at home - my father's fried potatoes are what started my love affair with all brunch-related activities.

3) Watching Drake University (based in Des Moines) win the Missouri Valley Conference tournament, earning an NCAA playoff berth for the first time in 35+ years.

4) Hanging out with Katie - even if we did end up watching 'The Bucket List'. It was the only movie playing at the theatre in town - and of course it made me cry, even though I wasn't a huge fan (too much depiction of the suckiness of cancer/aging). We saw many of the same people who had gone to the play last night, including several of the actors. We also ran into another high school classmate and ended up watching it with her, which was fun. We then cruised around the square for a few minutes before going our separate ways - I'll have to visit her in Dallas while I'm on sabbatical. Alternatively, I can befriend her dad, although that might be a little weird.

5) Spending FAR too much time using Google Reader. I've subscribed to a whole bunch of blogs by agents, publishers, authors, and readers of romance novels, all in the name of research. And I think it's worthwhile too - but perhaps worthwhile as something to spend half an hour or an hour on, not 2-3 hours or more every day. The beauty of Google Reader is that all of the blogs I like are collected in one place, with an easy way of telling whether they've been updated since I last read them, and so I can stay organized and not mindlessly surf. The dark underbelly of Google Reader is that all of the blogs I like are collected in one place, and I can waste HOURS on it.

Perhaps I'll learn self-control while I'm on sabbatical - or perhaps I'll continue to procrastinate. I also signed up for a subscription to Publishers' Marketplace so that I can see the types of deals that are being made in the industry right now - and which authors are represented by which agents. Clearly I'm interested in the business side of all of this - now I just need to finish a manuscript (or two) so that I don't go back to my regularly-scheduled life as a complete failure. Now, though, I'm going to bed - but first, happy birthday Tammy!

Saturday, March 08, 2008

we'll be doin' the hula in bamboola

Katie is, to my delight, in town this weekend - she got a job (yay!) and decided to come up here and get sworn into the Iowa bar before her job starts on Wednesday. In an effort to find something to do, we decided to go to the town play, which just happened to be tonight.

Every year, my hometown puts on a play - the first one was in 1981, and my parents were in it (while my mother was pregnant with me), although they haven't been in it again. The plays tend to alternate between Western musical comedies and pirate/seafaring musical comedies - this year was pirates, which I always find to be preferable. It's held on the stage of the Centennial building - a multipurpose community center housing the library, fire station, city clerk's office, and a large room with a stage, kitchen, etc. that works well for gatherings of ~200 people - plays, Christmas pageants, church suppers, auctions, etc. The yearly plays tend to feature a fairly stable cast, and are always directed by the same three women (whom Katie and I aspire to be someday).

The first fifteen or twenty minutes, while we waited for the play to start, were so-so - I ate a $1 hotdog and $1 nachos, Katie had popcorn, and we both kind of wondered whether we should have bothered. However, it turned out to be pretty funny - there was a character who did some wildly-inappropriate things while wearing a beret and a gold cape, another character carrying a fake yorkshire terrier named Rasputin, and a third character who was completely over the top, wearing a Rastafarian wig and leading a band of preteen pirates. The casting in these plays is always amusing given the dearth of qualified participants (and an occasional excess of not-so-qualified participants) - the use of adolescents to play the pirates was particularly inspired, even if they couldn't sing very well.

So, I'm glad we went to see the play; my town may be dying economically and physically, but there is still enough community spirit to put on a play, which is nice to see. Afterwards, Katie and I cruised around for awhile, stopping at the convenience store where we used to work, and lamenting the fact that we're still not cool enough to know where the parties are. We have plans to see each other tomorrow too, so I'm pretty happy.

The rest of my day was uneventful - I spent a couple of hours working on the plotting of my book, and I'm feeling pretty good about it. I think I have the ending mostly figured out, finally - yes, romance novels are always happily-ever-after, but getting there is a challenge. I'm going to have to start back at the beginning and rewrite as necessary to make sure that things are tight and clean before progressing to the end. Yay! And I must say that if I can't write my book here, there's no point in deluding myself about making a career as a writer in the future - there really are few to no distractions outside of the house, provided that I can stop wasting hours of the day online. Someday soon I'll take pictures for a virtual tour of my town, but right now it's time for bed.

take that, modern anorexic skanks!

Ah, Craig Ferguson. I love that guy. Tonight's post title is in reference to a comment he made after showing a picture of one of the famous Raquel Welch posters from 'One Million Years B.C.'. One of the best things about being in the midwest is that Craig is on at 11:35pm, rather than 12:35am, which means that I can watch him in realtime rather than messing around with Tivo!

Today was another great day in the heartland. I went to Des Moines with my parents, where I doubtlessly looked like I was seventeen - not many twenty-six-year-olds are wandering around Des Moines on a Friday afternoon, with their parents, wearing a fuschia hoodie and sneakers. I also had to top the fuschia hoodie with my pink fur-trimmed down-filled bomber jacket, since it was about 17 degrees outside - it's waaaay too cold for March.

The main purpose of the trip, at least for me, was to buy a papasan for my room - this is the third papasan I've bought in my lifetime, and it's hard to tell whether it will be my last. The first one was in my room junior and part of senior year, until it was destroyed on a fateful Thanksgiving - after partaking of copious quantities of alcohol, four of my freshmen tried dancing in it, and it promptly collapsed. One of them stepped in a freshly baked lemon cake that was on the floor nearby, and in my hangover-induced hunger/poor judgment the next morning, I ended up eating the cake around the footprint. Yum. The second papasan survived until last year, when I gave it to Julie (who had been involved in the demise of the original papasan) - that papasan met a similar fate less than 24 hours later. However, this papasan should last for the long haul, and I anticipate many fun book-plotting sessions while relaxing in it over the next few months.

The rest of the day was pretty uneventful; we had barbecue for lunch and hamburgers for dinner, so the steak count remains flat for the week. However, I did get to have Starbucks at a SuperTarget in West Des Moines, so that was exciting. Also, Katie called and is in town for the weekend, which means we're going to hang out tomorrow. I also talked to Vidya online (which I suppose means she gets a label), and exchanged text messages with Oniel during the brief time that my phone actually worked while I was in the city. And, I spent a couple of hours tonight working on my novel - still no writing, but I'm feeling much much better about the ending, so that's great. Now, though, it's time for bed!

One last thing - since San Francisco was labeled 'city of sin', I need a new label to denote Des Moines. Any ideas?

Friday, March 07, 2008

if you've never stared off into the distance, then your life is a shame

While I still haven't started actually *writing* anything (boo), I did spend a substantial portion of the day *thinking* about it. I have my official membership credentials to Romance Writers of America, which means I have access to all of their online archives...which means that I have a lot of industry-related articles and e-books that I can read in the name of 'education', which is a stellar guilt-free type of procrastination. Some of it was quite interesting, although the economy makes me nervous since any serious downturn could affect book sales.

However, I'm going to try to ignore the business side of the book for awhile and focus on finishing it first. Happily, I had a breakthrough tonight with my hero - I was having trouble figuring out why he wouldn't want to be married, and I didn't really want to do the whole 'former love jilted him, turning him off of marriage' thing because it seems so forced and cliched. I think I've figured out what his deal is, and while it may still be absurd, at least it's character-driven rather than just a convenient plot twist.

The downside is that, in order to make this work, I really need to rewrite the first hundred pages or so. That's actually fine, since the first half of what I currently have is weaker than the second half and could benefit from some change. So I think I'm going to work on rewriting the beginning before I move on to finishing the middle and the end, since I think that will lead to a more cohesive manuscript and make it easier for me to finish the damn thing.

In other news, we had some shrimp teriyaki stirfry tonight, breaking the steak streak. Never fear, loyal readers - I'm sure there is steak in the v. near future. Perhaps not tomorrow - but I'm going to Des Moines tomorrow to do some shopping, which should be fun. Now, though, I'm going to go to bed - my father says I have to be ready to go by 10:30 tomorrow morning, and since I haven't gotten out of bed before 10:30 since getting home, that could be a challenge. I love being unemployed!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

we expect her gone for some time...i wish her safe from harm

Tonight I was sitting at the kitchen counter, eating a steak-and-potato variant for the third straight supper (Jen C - I'll put up a counter in the next few days!), when the topic of my romance novel came up. Here's a snippet of the conversation:

Me: My characters fight all the time.
Dad: So he doesn't 'slip into her wetness'?
Me: [pause] Well, yeah, he does, but not yet.
Dad: Well they're surely not fighting then, are they?

For those of you who wondered if it would be awkward to write a romance novel in my parents' house - it's more likely that they will make me feel uncomfortable (and get a laugh out of it) than that they will feel awkward about it at all.

The rest of the day was pretty uneventful - I've unpacked most of my stuff, except for my books and some clothes, but I'm waiting on shelves for the rest of it. I guess that means that tomorrow, I have no choice but to start writing, and not stop until I'm finished. Scary, eh?

I'm also realizing that I'm going to have to come up with some new labels for my blog posts, since the old ones (such as 'city of sin', 'family time', 'slogging', and 'vidya') are becoming less applicable day-to-day. Watch for new ones to roll out as I think of them, but I think that 'parental antics' is going to become a more common one in the coming months.

Finally, I'm going to post my favorite music video ever - only John will think this is worthy of posting, but the rest of you will just have to deal. Gavin Rossdale and his ridiculous, widow's-peak-accentuating haircut are gorgeous, as are the special effects of the electrical current and the smashing spheres. 'The People That We Love' may not be one of their most famous songs, but it holds a special place in my heart, and makes me sad that Bush broke up. Yes, I'm still living in the 90s. But, coming home will do that to you - and as Katie discovered, my musical taste hasn't changed all that much in the past eight years, so it's not like I can go 'back' to listening to Bush, the Goo Goo Dolls, Counting Crows, etc. - I'm already there!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

'cause it's so perfect, i'm so perfect, you're so're not here

Okay, I will stop with the quotes from 'Open Road Song' after tonight, since I'm most definitely not on the open road--the closest I got to the open road today was turning my car around in the driveway so that it was easier to unload all of my stuff into the garage. Still, everything would be pretty much perfect if everyone I'm friends with were here, or if my parents lived a couple of hours from the bay area, or if I had limitless funds and houses in both places. I'll just have to settle for being completely relaxed and ready to focus on my novel.

I must confess that I was pretty lazy today, even though I was awoken early when the sun seared my retinas. So, the biggest project for the day (after unloading the car to prevent anything from being damaged by long-term exposure to below-freezing conditions) was rearranging my room so that I could find some moderate escape from the evil sun. I love the light in the room later in the day, but I ended up wedging my bed into the corner so that even though it will still be light in the morning, the sun won't be attempting to blind me directly.

I also assembled the ikea desk that I brought home with me - I think it's a worthy goal to want to be rich enough in the future that I am never tempted to buy Ikea furniture again. I don't particularly like Scandinavian design, nor do I like the relative difficulty with which some of these pieces are assembled. Then again, I could just not buy their furniture, regardless of my future income - but I'm quite afraid that if I pursue the life of a fulltime writer, more Ikea is in my future. More ramen would probably also be in my future, but I'm ignoring that possibility for now.

The only other major task I accomplished was organizing my makeup and toiletries. With my monitor, keyboard, desk, makeup, and bathing products assembled, I could get started writing tomorrow (and even be clean while doing it!)...but my mother will kill me if I don't put away all of the other stuff that is now cluttering her house, so I'll probably spend some more time organizing. And, who am I kidding - procrastination is one of my favorite things, and unpacking my stuff is a mildly good excuse!

Finally, thanks to Alaska Matt for the shout-outs on his blog - I'm pleased to know that he's still willing to be friends even if I become a bright ray of sunshine due to the intense pleasure I'm deriving from my leave of absence, given that he usually knew me as more of a raincloud kind of person. And with that terrible metaphor that proves I will never make it as a writer, I'm going to bed.

Monday, March 03, 2008

for a moment i love everything that i see and think and feel...i love my broken side-view mirror

I made it home just before sunset today, after a practically nonstop drive from North Platte, Nebraska to my hometown. I stopped twice for gas, once for lunch (which I ate in the car), and once for 30 seconds to throw away the remnants of my lunch because the smell of grease and ketchup was overwhelming me. Luckily, the last few miles weren't as treacherous as I thought they would be, since the temperature dropped precipitously last night and froze the roads enough that I didn't get sucked into the mud.

Upon my arrival, my mother made a delicious supper of steak, baked potatoes, salad, and cottage cheese - she didn't make the cottage cheese, but it's from AE Dairy, which makes the best cottage cheese in the entire world. I'm quite serious about this - I've never tasted cottage cheese anywhere else that comes even close to matching AE's, and I ended up having some before supper was even ready. And yes, I've reverted to saying 'supper' instead of 'dinner' - you can expect more colloquialisms where that came from!

Anyway, it's great to be home, although I can't let myself relax too much - I need to unpack my car tomorrow and get some stuff set up, and then start writing in earnest on Wednesday. Yay! I'll write more tomorrow, but right now I think I should go to bed.

Back in the Midwest!

I'm definitely back in the Midwest...I just stopped to grab lunch at
the Long John Silvers in Kearney, Nebraska (which is a craving I can't
explain and can only indulge in the Midwest)...and the clientele was
almost entirely white, over 65, and eyeing my shiny sunglasses,
magenta sweatshirt, and uggs with suspicion. Yay! Only a few more
hours and I'll be home!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

i don't need a girl, don't need a friend, 'cause my friend lonesome's unconditional...we're flying forever bored

I am in North Platte, Nebraska, which is 491 miles from my house. This means I should make it there before sunset tomorrow night, assuming that I can leave reasonably early tomorrow morning - and it's key to make it home before dark, because apparently the roads around my house have all turned into pure mud, and so the last 2-4 miles of my journey will probably be the most treacherous. My family will not appreciate hearing this, but most road fatalities occur within ten miles of home, so I'll have to be extra careful!

I've had a great trip so far. As you know, I made it to Salt Lake City yesterday, which meant that I drove across all of Nevada and most of Utah. I stopped for lunch yesterday in Lovelock, Nevada (town motto: 'Lock Your Love' - what does that even mean?). I decided that I should patronize local businesses rather than just going to McDonald's, so I went to a barbecue place instead. I had this lovely barbecue tri-tip sandwich:

which was delicious. However, ninety minutes later, I stopped at this rest stop:

suffering from some mild intestinal discomfort, which I'm assuming was brought on by my foolish decision to veer from the beaten path. Pioneers crossing the same lands 150 years ago probably knew all too well that risking an unadvised move could lead to disaster, and while my five minutes of distress were not on par with the travails of the Donner Party, for example, I've decided to stick to 'safe' foods for the rest of my trip. Whether the corn nuts and convenience store cappuccino I had for dinner tonight counts as 'safe' is up for debate, but at least I don't feel ill.

Today didn't start off on such an auspicious note either - I decided to wear the prescription sunglasses that I'd gotten shortly before my departure (blowing my pre-tax medical flex spending money on Kate Spade sunglasses seemed like a good idea at the time, since I'm going to lose the money at the end of this month anyway). However, while I'd tried them on, I hadn't actually driven with them - and it was only after I was driving that I discovered that the lenses are incorrectly centered about .25" below where they should be for optimum performance. I switched to contacts, but the snow in Utah was blinding me - apparently all of my gorgeous sunglasses aren't actually designed for any sort of real sun conditions. Luckily, I was passing through Park City at the time, which I knew meant that there had to be a Sunglass Hut somewhere nearby - and sure enough, it was no time at all before I was speeding away with a new pair of sunglasses. The good news is that they have polarized lenses, and the difference it made in driving today was amazing. The bad news (or better news, depending on where you fall out on the 'practical-fashionable' scale) is that they're Dolce&Gabbana, which was completely unnecessary, and yet oh-so-stylish.

After that, the rest of the day was pretty much the same as yesterday, although with more mountains and fewer areas that were reminiscent of the Dead Marshes. I drove straight through Wyoming, with a brief stop in Rawlins for lunch, and made it almost 200 miles into Nebraska before stopping. Tomorrow, it's mostly a straight shot through the most boring, lackluster 300 miles in the US (eastern Nebraska is not a fun place), then 191 miles through the promised land before I'm home. Now, it's time for bed!

Saturday, March 01, 2008

tonight i feel ambitious and so does my foot as it sinks on the pedal...i press it to the floor

I successfully made it to Salt Lake City, where I am dishonoring the memory of Brigham Young by having a glass of wine with my dinner. Alternatively, perhaps I'm dishonoring myself, since the wine isn't particularly good - the problem with ordering a glass of wine in a place that probably doesn't sell much wine is that there's a decent chance that it will be terrible. Sigh.

Anyway, I made it out of my apartment yesterday approximately four hours after I had hoped to; my rav4 is packed so tightly that nothing is shifting during my accelerations and decelerations, which is nice. I still managed some significant socializing yesterday - I went to work for one last lunch with Gyre (and of course ran into one VP and two directors), talked to Subz on the phone briefly, and then met up with Oniel in Union City for an extended coffee break while I was on my way to Tahoe. I think Oniel was quite pleased that my last substantive interaction in the Bay Area happened in the east bay, which I have professed to hate even more than the evil city. However, I hadn't had a chance to hang out with Oniel, and so I'm glad that we were able to spend a couple of hours catching up, even if I had to do it in the freaking east bay. It didn't quite become 'east bay fun day' - John, Oniel and I had hoped to hang out in the afternoon, but since I didn't leave my apartment until 5pm, it didn't materialize. But Oniel was great, as always, and I felt that by seeing him, my goodbyes were fulfilled.

Miraculously, even though John and I were leaving from separate areas of the east bay, we managed to end up within 5-10mins of each other on the road to Tahoe, so I met up with John and Jess for one last In-and-Out experience somewhere along I-80. We then proceeded to John's parents' house in Tahoe, where I spent one final night in California. It was nice to stop off there, since I got to have breakfast with all of them this morning (including John's two-year-old nephew, Cullen, who was vastly entertaining) before leaving around 10am to begin the long drive east.

In some ways, leaving may have been easier if I hadn't spent the last three weeks dedicated to some hardcore hanging out - my job had pretty much divorced me from my friends for the past few months, and so I was used to not seeing them very often. Now, though, I have tons of great memories from the last few weeks, and then had to say goodbye to people, which was difficult. As you all know, I have terrible taste in music, and so it was particularly awkward and sad when that stupid 'California' song from 'The O.C.' came on my ipod as I was driving away from Tahoe this morning - even though it's one of the worst songs ever, I almost cried. Then I got over it, of course, but there was a five-minute span that was pretty rough.

Oh well, this is only a leave of absence, and I haven't made any decisions about where I will end up afterwards, so I'm just going to focus on the book for now. And, I'll see several of my friends at Chris's wedding in July, which will be completely awesome.

Despite the sadness of leaving, I'm insanely excited about finishing my book - I've been starting to get antsy about working on it, and I am really looking forward to focusing on it almost exclusively for the next few months. Also, I get to tell myself that I’m 'living the dream' whenever I feel like it, which is completely nonsensical, but should make up for the fact that I will be completely broke. It's just too bad that living the dream requires an 1800-mile drive - but I'm 1/3 of the way there! Yay!