Monday, October 30, 2006

Look What I Finally Got

This made me crazy happy today. I have photos of the ocean, of trees, of my two gorgeous poet roommates from the conference, but no, I post a photo of a latte.

I made it to Denver. Now I'm sitting in a hotel room, eating almonds and wasabi peas and drinking Kool-Aid at 2AM. I know, it's an odd meal, but that was all I had left in the car and somehow it never did occur to me to get any dinner tonight. In between getting lost on the way to SFO and then again in Denver and all. What the hell happened to my sense of direction?

Tomorrow is a big day, so I'm not going to write a lot now. A few days ago, I dropped my phone (again) and the flippy screen thing finally broke all the way off, so I need to get a new phone, go to the bank, and do my grocery shopping for the next 37 days. Oh, and there may be some yarn in there somewhere. My big regret is that the Denver Art Museum won't be open.

Then it's the long drive back to Creede, which I'm looking forward to. I never did get to tell you how gorgeous it was on the way out. Gorgeous. Poetry gorgeous.

I'm also looking forward to getting mail when I get back to my little town, and to the dogs running up the driveway, and to settling down to some real writing.

Pam had an article in the Sunday NY Times. Check it out here for a little more about Creede.
Glad a Vermont weekend was FINALLY relaxing!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The View from Here... or Rather, There

Fall foliage in effect on our way back from New Hampshire

So this weekend in Vermont was actually... prepare yourself for it... relaxing!

We drove up Friday night and got in at a very respectable time, drank some mint tea and went to bed.

It rained all day Saturday so we visited neighbors, drove to New Hampshire, did laundry, cooked and watched the X-men III movie. And spent a lot of time staring at the ceiling, praying our new roof wouldn't leak.

And it didn't!

Today, I did yoga, Euge helped a neighbor install a new heating system, we both watched a movie and drove home. Dialing our way through all the talk radio that I could find on the AM bandwidth.

Why oh why is there not more talk radio on FM? And why does NPR have to go to global music every time I am driving home? Couldn't I have Car Talk or This American Life or The Glorious Table?

Anyways, I am sure we did some other stuff today, but really there was just a lot of relaxing going on.

Oh, right, I did more laundry. See how much you and I, and our rural lifestyles, have in common?

So, pretty much all I have to share are some photos of foliage and the assessment that, as a former employee of Marvel comics, and former girlfriend of an X-men writer, and former X-men addict, and current fan of Hugh Jackman (yum!), the X-men III movie sucked royally.

Not that I thought you were going to watch it anyways. I just thought you might like to know.

Anyways, here's yet another photo of the house only, this time, from the other side of the pond. See if you can see it up on the hill with its shiny new roof!

This is actually taken from our property on the other side of the pond. And we own all of the pond in the middle. Yup, we own lots of pond.

My New Do

Me and Donna - who cut more of her hair off than I did

So, I know you won't be there when we get to Seattle, so I don't want you to get all panicked when Mom or Dad calls and says something about how I cut all of my fabulous bushy hair off.

sidenote: why do people always describe my hair as bushy as though that were a complement?

I have not cut all of my hair off. Only a lot of it.

I am not revisiting the late nineties mullet-esque Vidal Sassoon catastrophe and I am certainly not back into the very short phase of my early teens. No no no!

I have merely reduced the volume somewhat and taken off about half a foot. It's light and kind of feathery - sometimes if I work hard enough it even kinda looks like Madonna's current do.

Not that it is a precurser to my adoption of a small child either.

It's just a haircut. Just a haircut that takes ten minutes less to dry and doesn't look like it's been chewed on by rabid dogs. That's all.

Just a new do.

Thought you might like to know. Since you're in heaven and everything.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Thank You Pam Houston, I Have Died and Gone To Writer's Heaven

I almost wrote "Thank You God... etc" as the title of this post, but then I realized I should really thank the one who is directly responsible for the heaven I now find myself in. Maybe God has something to do with it, maybe not. But we know Pam does.

Holy Shit, this conference is good. Good. Good food, beautiful beautiful setting. That's the least of it. Look up the writers who are here, every one of them is amazing. That's as articulate as I can get about it now. I have to go do my work for tomorrow.

This photo is from the night we got lost on the way from the airport to the conference with the poet Dorianne Laux and took 6 hours to do a drive that should have taken an hour and a half. It was one of the most fun nights I've ever had. In. My. Life. And she is a damn good poet. Check out Vacation Sex.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Oh, the Many Bags of Swag

Goodies! gimmeeee!!!!

One of the best benefits of living in New York are all of the events you can get yourself invited to and all the bags of swag that come with said events.

Last night Euge and I had this event. Many worthy kids, benefactors and charities were honored. Russell Simmons spoke, but his speech was nowhere near as eloquent as that of the eleven-year-old girl from Figure Skating in Harlem, who was, coincidentally, seated at our table.

But all that nobility and eloquence aside, at the end of the evening - after the cocktails, sunset overlooking the Hudson, fabulous hors d' euvres, filet mignon, and delectable desert - at the end of the evening, there was the bag of swag with MAC and Cover Girl cosmetics, a tape measure, wax for our car and a pass to a movie.

I'm not sure what, exactly the message behind this particular selection of gifts was but I will take it!

Also, I bid on some VIP tickets to Emeril and and a couple of nights at Le Parker Meridien, but I think I didn't win - I will keep you updated. The other show option was Raechel Rae - however you spell her dumb name - so nobody had bid on the package towards the end of the evening. I put in the lowest possible bid, so it's conceivable that somebody said 'eh, I can drop fittie cents on this!' and beat me.

Just kidding, my bid was higher than that, but not by much.

Then, tonight, I was invited to an event at Vera Wang and, as tired as I am of all things bridal, even I cannot resist an event at Vera. The invitations practically come with an engraved guarantee of good food and swag.

And there are purty dresses too!

As expected, Vera put on a good show with mini cheeseburgers, spicy tuna tartar with black sesame seeds, potato fromage puree, baby quiches, and spinach and portabella napoleons.

I got to try on some of her fancy jewels and be all smug that I got my tiara and your bridesmaids dresses at her sample sale. Yup, I am still smug about that. My smug, cheap, bridal sample-sale self.

Any hoo, at the end of the evening we were presented with our bags of swag and, bless that Vera, she came through!

What Vera ponied up:

- In Style Weddings - egh
- New York Weddings - egh
- A book of bridal postcards - egh
- Vera Wang stationery - V. classy, you'll see when you get a letter written on it!
- Vera Wang Parfum (for women) Now I can smell real good!
- Vera Wang for Men - now Euge can smell real good too!
- Godiva chocolates - the expensive Diva kind. Yum.
- Vosges Haut Chocolates - really anything from this place it to die for. Yum too.
- Kimara Ahnert lipstick - in a color I would actually wear!

Also, it all came in a fancy shopping bag with a leather handle.

That's the swag report for now. I will keep you updated, as I have several more events coming up that could provide a veritable bounty o'swag.

Miss you already!

ps. I just want to mention that I was v. virtuous and went to a Pilates class before going to the Vera event tonight. I know you are proud. Right? I am such a frikkin yuppie.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

One Last Thing Before I Go

I made a little slideshow with about 20 ranch photos, to send to folks at work who don't have blog permission. You can check it out here. If you've been reading here, you've already seen some of them, but thought I would post anyway.


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Things You Can't Take a Picture Of

The feel of a 65 degree day after a cold cold night
MaryEllen's cute tapping at the window to let you know she's ready to come in now
The predominance of bright orange in town this week
My gratitude for the US Postal Service
The way almost everyone who you pass on the road lifts a few fingers off their steering wheel to greet you
All the dirty manly serious pick-up trucks around here (okay, you can take a photo of them, but I'm a little afraid to)
The way Mo handles on a dirt road
The quiet
The stars
My sunrise drive to Denver tomorrow morning

I'm away until next Monday. Will probably have email and maybe a chance to blog at some point, but certainly not to the extent that I have been.

See you all soon.

Jen, myself and Holly at Kim & Eric's wedding - photo compliments of Jen!

I want to blog. I will blog!

Only lately it seems like all we do is work on roofs and go to weddings. I, for one, am tired of roofs and weddings! I don't want to write about them, as great as they both are.

Tonight we have an event for a philanthropical organization (try saying that three times fast) that I do design work for. That should be interesting - Russell Simmons is one of the presenters.

Maybe I should ask him if he remembers EK? Yikes!

It's a great event with lots of inspirational kids talking about the benefits of the groups that work with them, which in turn benefit from the group that I do work for. There will also be the witty Simon Doonan speaking and I heart him. He does the windows at Barneys and wrote 'Confessions of a Window Dresser.'

Anyhoo, we had a lovely weekend and wedding season is over. It ended with my friend Dana's 'I'm Getting Un-hitched' cocktail party... now the holidays are right around the corner. It seems like once it's time for Halloween, it's just a slippery slope downhill to New Years.

Also, I have a new book project starting shortly, which will either fill me with inspiration or... well lets not consider the alternative at this point. That would be pessimistic.

In any case, I will write more soon. Perhaps I will write about my new hair cut - but first I need a picture, which means I need to charge my batteries.

Oh, and I have to go to work now.

Have a nice day at the ranch! That laundry does seem a bit out of control.

Monday, October 23, 2006

What Passes for Funny at the Ranch

Here's what it looks like when you forget to bring the laundry in off the line and have to do it in the dark. From the looks of this blog, you'd think laundry was the only thing I do here, wouldn't you?

Ranch Report - Day 23

Breakfast is tea with milk and honey, so hot I can only sip it, toast with butter, a boiled egg. One nice pear.

Read Steal Away, read Kinds of Water read Notes Toward a History of Scaffolding.

The laundry on the line is bright this time. Striped pajamas, shirts with leaves, with antlers, with owls.

Of a pair, only one sock washed.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Ranch Report - Day 22

I've been gone 3 weeks now. Hard to believe that's all, it feels like a lot longer. In a nice way.

My little CO adventure has these 5 distinct sections to it - first the road trip with Susan, then the first three weeks here, next Tomales Bay, and then what feels like the real ranch time, from November 1st through December 6th, then the road trip home. Reaching the end of this section means tidying up the house for the people who will be here while I'm gone and packing myself up for Tomales.

I have a confession to make. I packed the most ridiculous clothes for this adventure. I know, you're not surprised. I am the girl who always took a pair of clogs on our spring break camping trips to Canyonlands. But really, I look at what I brought and just wonder what I was thinking exactly. I know, though, I was thinking about yarn. One track mind. I brought lots of cotton long-sleeve shirts, three sets of silk or capilene long underwear and really no sweaters. No sweaters. I thought about yarn, but didn't bring sweaters.

That just means that I'm living in the two sweatery things I did bring. My favorite is the grey cashmere waffle-knit hoody (are you starting to wonder why you are reading this about now?) with the little moth hole in one sleeve, but the black fleece pullover is good too. Oh, right, did I mention all the black and how well that works with the big hairy sand-colored hounds?

You do know that this isn't a REAL concern of mine, right? I have lots of good socks, and that's what really counts.

And that's about as long as I can reasonably procrastinate. Time to go hand wet towels on the line. It's cold out there!

Ali - come back. Please, bring funny back!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Self-timer Photo of the Day

It's 4:11 here in Colorado and the light is already low, so by the time I finish this post, I will have missed most of the daylight hours.

I just got out of bed. I was soo tired when I woke up at 1:00. I ate some yogurt, read two essays from the Next American Essay and then fell asleep again. Until now.

It's time to wake my leaden limbs, so I'm drinking a strong cup of tea (I'm so much better at making tea than coffee) and using the idea of taking more photos to motivate me to get dressed. This is what's getting me up in the morning - not writing, taking pictures. I know there are people who don't want to hear that, but it's true.

Okay, off to fill the water troughs for the horses.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

You Know You Want To

Road trip photo album can be found here. I didn't realize until I was all done that you'll have to log in to view photos, sorry, I know that's a pain. I'll use a different photo site for the ranch slide show that I'm going to put together before I take off to Tomales Bay next Wednesday. I have way way more photos than I've posted on the blog.

Oh, and when you view the photos, you will want to do it in some way that allows you to read the captions, otherwise you might be asking yourself "Why am I looking at this photo?". You might ask yourself that anyway - it's surprising the things that will seem funny to you after only talking to dogs for almost two weeks.

Self-timer Photo of the Day

I got up this morning, had some tea, ate some breakfast, then went for a walk with the dogs. Guess what? It's beautiful here today. I hope you're not getting tired of that. I'm not.

After the walk I sat outside and read for a while.
Here's a peek at what I was reading. Steal Away by C.D. Wright. For the Flynn workshop, of course.

So Hawt. I Can't Think of a Title.

Dude, it's haaawwwt and humid in New York right now. Egh, we must have brought it back with us from Austin.

Sadly, no-one has sent me any pictures yet, so you'll have to settle for a random photo selection, or rather a photo I should have posted a while ago... our finished roof!

Look at our happy happy home with its snug roof - only six months after we started! Just kidding, it was only four months. And we were gone for at least two or three weekends.

Any hoo, I really should give Euge props for doing virtually the entire thing himself.

Props to Eugene!

It was back breaking labor and I know that it stopped being fun about two or three weeks into the project, but he stuck with it. In fact, I think he's kind of sad that it's done.

However, I am very happy that it is done because, theoretically, it means I get my husband back on the weekends. I've spent the last four months of weekends cooking and cleaning for a sweaty creature that only descends from the roof after dusk and falls asleep shortly thereafter.

I'm also glad that it's done because it's time for some snow, dammit! Stop hogging all the snow out there in Colorado! And since we were away last weekend and have another wedding this weekend (they never end!), it's comforting to know that there shouldn't be any huge leaks or anything.

Knock on wood.

Oh! Look! It's Eugene and Chris!

The reason I post this is that I was thinking of Halloween. It's almost time for all the big Halloween parties and I am stuck on ideas for costumes. Once again, you may ask - what does that have to do with posting a picture of Eugene with Chris????

At the Mean Eyed Cat they are having a big Halloween party and I thought I would ask - what would you wear to a Halloween party at the Mean Eyed Cat and what do you think Eugene and I should wear?

To our parties in New York, I mean.

And if you can think of something that would utilize my Mean Eyed Cat tube top, that would be great.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Random Beauty

One thing I've totally failed to capture here so far is the sunsets. This photo doesn't do it either, but it was still a photo taken as the light was changing, so it will have to do for now.

So far, the sunsets haven't been those dramatic color changes that I used to enjoy in New Mexico. They are much more subtle, but the sky is so big that you just feel the changes in the light sweeping over you, even if you are in the house, getting the dogs their dinner, as I was tonight.

Productive day here. They all feel productive, no matter what I'm doing. I know some of you are anxious to make sure I'm writing (I am) or getting out on some hikes (not so much yet, but tomorrow, since the little hunting season window for the hunters closes tonight) and I get that, but I've also been thinking a lot about how great it is to just feel so happy doing whatever I'm doing. Today after breakfast and a little writing, I mopped the kitchen and dining room floor, did some dishes, took out the trash, made sure everyone had water, went into town for the mail, then sat in the coffee shop with my latte (again I declined the whipped cream) and read an article in the New Yorker. All equally pleasing things to do.

Hope you had a good day.


My Favorite Accessory These Days

That's right, not a pair of shoes, or a purse, but a pair of gloves. And not the fancy going to tea gloves, or black opera length gloves that I used to wear when I was in New York in my twenties. Work gloves. I love them every bit as much as those other things.

The first day I was here, when Pam and Gary and I went into town to get some things at the hardware store (thank god there's a hardware store in every town, no matter how small) and I got these. I stood at the glove rack for a long time, and debated whether I should just get the cheapy canvas ones, you know, the sort-of grey blue ones that have what looks like mattress ticking, or these, or something with a rubber grip. Of course, these were the expensive ones (it's all relative) but I knew I would love them, so I got them. They're padded and warm, but you can still feel through them, you can pet a big dog, or press the self-timer button on your camera, or carry firewood. Of course they're already showing wear, since I use them every day for something.

Today's a day to get some work done.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Snowy Day

Here's what our day looks like today. Earlier there was thunder and lightning, while it was snowing. Does that ever happen in Seattle?

It snows so rarely in Seattle that all my associations with snow are of Christmas and days we didn't have to go to school or work, good adventures and fun. When I was in high school (okay, and here's where having your mom read your blog is a problem, but oh well) it snowed one day and Kirstin and I went back to my house, got some pink lemonade mix and vodka and put it in yogurt containers and wandered around in the snow. Sorry, but it was fun. If you're in high school, do not do this! Very bad.

Snow also reminds me of ending up in strange places with people you wouldn't ordinarily hang out with. When I lived in New York, snow wasn't as uncommon, but it still always felt special. There was a time when it snowed so much that I got to leave work, even though work was only about a mile walk from my apartment. The guy I liked then had a best friend, Lou, and for some reason (probably the reason was that Lou always liked you, Ali) Lou got in touch with me that day and showed up at my work. We wandered away from my office and played hooky in the East Village all day, and I especially remember sitting in a bar on 1st Avenue, drinking hot chocolate with Jamesons (because that's what Darren and Lou drank, Irish Whiskey) and looking out the window while Lou told me how much Darren liked me. I haven't seen Lou in years but I still get text messages from Darren and I still love him to pieces, for a lot of little reasons, including the fact that one night when my mom was visiting and she was scurrying around my apartment trying to help, he told her "Now Breta, I have a job for you. Your job is to sit there and keep that chair from hitting the ceiling." or some such silly thing, and if I'm remembering it wrong, don't correct me, Mom, because I like that story.

Anyway, the snow always makes me think of nice things, so it's pleasant to hang out inside today and watch the storm swirl around this little house. The house feels very cabin-y today, and I like that.

Hope it's nice in one way or another wherever you are.


Ranch Report - Day 16

Yesterday was such a lazy day - I never changed out of my pajamas and spent the whole day knitting and reading Sweet Hearts by Melanie Rae Thon for my writing group book chat. Pretty grim book, so staying in pajamas seemed like the right thing to do.

Today I managed to get out of bed by noon, but just barely. Pam, in her infinite wisdom, put a deep clawfoot tub and speakers in her bathroom here, so I spent what was left of the morning soaking in the tub, listening to Boots of Spanish Leather and looking at magazines.

View from the bathtub

Goes without saying, it was lovely. After the bath, I went into town for my latte and the mail. Later, I wrote letters to people who don't have internet. Those people do still exist - in my family, they're called Grandmothers. Look, here's town:

Sometimes at the end of the day here, I'm left wondering exactly what I did. Here's today's list: photographed some sock starts, turned the heel on Andy's sock, fiddled around with the self-timer, checked on the horses water and took photos of a dirty old window in the barn and the dried-up lizard that Pam fished out of the water trough, washed some dishes, read a little more.

That's all I'm going to tell you today. Ali - show us some more Austin photos when you get a chance! I love the Mean-Eyed Cat web site.


Monday, October 16, 2006

Self-timer photo of the day

More later.

The Best Host in Texas

Me and Chris waiting on our Gospel Brunch.
I think my spirit has been healed through the power of barbecue.

We're back! Did you miss me?

We did not have a minute to peruse the Internets or the blog while we were in Austin and I blame the handsome man in the photo above.

I sincerely hope that if you ever go to Austin, you can have Chris to show you a good time. He was far more generous with his time, his love for his chosen home town and his affection for barbeque than any person, in particular me, has a right to expect or even hope for.

And then there is his bar.

I really should start by talking about his excellent bar.

He has made an establishment of such superlative quality that I can only barely come up with words adequate to describe it. But I will try.

The best compliment I could think of, while I was actually there, was to say that I think it would be Asa's dream bar. And to me that really means something.

It's not large, in fact it's kind of small. But it's the kind of small where the bartender will always be with you injustalittleminute.

It's the kind of small where the proportion of the room with the pool table is just right. You never seem to need the short stick.

It's the kind of small where everywhere you look there is some detail to notice, a picture that he has hung, a quote or a lyric - totally perfect for it's spray-painted location. A welded sculpture or an artifact that someone has known he would be just the right owner for.

And did you remember that it is a Johnny Cash theme bar?

Actually, I should say it a Johnny Cash tribute bar, or a loving altar to the Man in Black, since it is in no way as common as a theme bar.

From the murals painted on the back of the building to the Johnny Cash emblem branded into the bar, it is a place that feels substantive and real. And, best of all, welcoming.

In that way, I think it reflects not just Chris's love for Johnny but rather himself as an artist and a person. Substantive, genuine, and welcoming. I think it takes an artist to make a place that feels so finely wrought and it takes that artist's personality to bring the place to life.

Chris not only welcomed us into his very fine bar, he also showed us aspects and parts of the city he loves which we never would have seen otherwise. Even better, though, was having the opportunity to get to know him better.

I will write more about our adventures with Chris, and the fantastic wedding we attended, but first I need some sleep. And I need some photos to be e-mailed to me so that I can fully illustrate the hijinx.

Sadly I am a bad photo blogger and either my memory card was full or my battery was dead for virtually the entire trip. So I am dependent on the generosity of others.

I just wanted to express how thankful we were to have Chris to show us the ropes.

Thank you! We hope to see you soon! You should come on up and visit our hill country!

And I swear I am going to find an opportunity to rock that Mean Eyed Cat tube top. Even if it's only when I'm barbequeing in Vermont.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

And Now We Return to Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

The original title of this post, which I was tinkering with... well, really, trying to find the point of, when the power went out last night, was "Goodbye to All That", which is the title of an autobiography by Robert Graves, but also, appropriately for me, an essay by Joan Didion, about being being young in NYC. I like Joan Didion for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that she seems to always include a description of what she was wearing. I don't mean that in jest, since that seems to me a way for a writer to try (probably in a futile way) to describe her own skin, to try and ground you in the self she was at that moment. But back to the post...

Today's gratuitous ranch shot

You can see what kind of day we are having here from the photo above. It's the first day of hunting season, so the dogs are inside and the horses have been let into the front yard to graze around the house. It's also Gary's last day here, so I put So Far in the CD player in my car and made a trek in to town to give him a little time along here, and to get a few groceries and a latte.

I ended up sitting at the coffee shop with my latte and a magazine that featured a couple pieces about Gondry's new film - the Science of Sleep (which I was sorry I didn't get to see before I left
town). I was the only customer in the place, most of the time, and the two guys working there alternated between sitting down the bar from me and puttering around. Eventually a group of 3 girls, about 7 or 8 years old, came in and tramped upstairs and sat on stools overlooking the coffee shop, chattering away like little birds.

While I was there, they had a satellite radio station playing, and I heard an announcement that the station was going to broadcast the "historic final show at the legendary club CBGBs". Richard and the Dictators are playing, of course. I can't say that I'm going to miss CBs, since even if I lived in NY, I probably wouldn't spend a lot of time there. Still, when Kirstin and I first moved to NY, it was sort of this planet that our lives revolved around for a while. We rarely went in to the actual club. Instead we spent a lot of time at the CBs annex next door, playing pool on their crooked table and putting on whatever grungey stuff was in the jukebox back then. I was 20, and I bet there was some Alice In Chains in there somewhere.

The first bartender we made friends with was the guy who took us into Elizabeth NJ to get tattoos, but you'll hear about that later, no doubt.

The second and third bartenders we... I'm not going to say "made friends with" here, that would be an overstatement... instead I'll say, heckled regularly, turned out to be our first NY boyfriends.

Kent gets a mention here because he was also the person who inadvertently got me my bartending gig in New York. He made me a regular at a little bar around the corner from CBs, where he would sometimes go with the other CBs folks after their shifts ended.

Photo by Cat Sparks

For years I've struggled to write about this place. When I looked on the web for photos, I found descriptions like this: "If Satan were a whore of a bar, that bar would appear in the form of [this] bar." and "Go ahead, drink yourself to death! Everyone else here appears to be." The phrase "Daycare for Drunks" used to be painted underneath the name of the bar on the outside.

Still, we
had the best jukebox there. I would go in at the start of my shift and put on "Helplessly Hoping", Patti Smith - "Kimberly", Jimi Hendrix - "Three Little Bears", Rolling Stones - "You've Got the Silver" and the song that, in my mind, was the anthem of that bar, Blind Faith's "Can't Find My Way Home".

It was a tiny place, only one bartender at the bar, with a bar back who sat and looked out the window and drank coffee, keeping an eye out in a way that only a regular would be aware of. My regulars were some of the most broken but also the sweetest people I have ever come across, which was good for a barely-21-year-old who thought she was messed up. It was impossible not to see how I looked to them - shiny and young and only passing through.

There was almost always someone who insisted on walking me home after my shift ended. The guys would take turns - when it was down to just a couple of them, they would check with each other to see who would stay until the end. We'd link arms and walk up the street together, but it was sometimes hard to tell who was walking who, given how challenging it is for someone who has spent the night parked in front of a tumbler of Jack Daniels to put one foot in front of another. Most of the drinks I poured were straight shots of Jack, in a quantity that any other bar would have called a triple. The second most common was vodka cranberry, but the cranberry was really just a splash. Most of the rest of the drinks were Budweisers, from the bottle, no tap.

I loved it there. When I left, everyone signed the little journal I used to write in when there wasn't a drink to pour. The regular I mentioned in a post back in August used to send me long rambling letters, unsigned, for years after I left. I still walk by when I'm in New York, just to see it, but that's definitely a time in my life that's gone, so I never go in.

The place has stuck with me though, and it's what I was thinking about today, when I thought about CBs closing, and things that are gone, and things that we turn into legends for ourselves. Mars is one of mine.

Big Excitement at the Ranch Last Night!

The power went out! All I can say is, don't sign me up for Pioneer House any time soon. Knitting and reading by candlelight was sort-of nice, but you do not want to see my pathetic attempts to start a fire in the wood store. Luckily it turns out that the answer to the question "how many writers does it take to start a fire?" is only one, if that one is Gary.

Lights are on now, so the theme for today is gratitude for electricity.

Friday, October 13, 2006

The Crazy Rambling Truth Comes Out

I came home from my road trip to Durango with so many thoughts about blog posts.

For example, there’s the one about the actual time spent in Durango. Its title is “Turns Out Groceries Aren’t a Staple After All” and this photo accompanies it.

That post is about how I found the yarn store in Durango (surprise!) and how much I love to visit yarn stores when I travel, because you always end up talking to people there. The woman who I believe owned the Durango yarn store (called, wait for it... Yarn!) told me about someone she met in Seattle in a yarn store, and how that woman told her that she lived in Durango in the 70s, in a tee-pee. "Yup, that's about right for Durango in the 70s!" said the Yarn owner.

Then that post would go on to tell you about how I went and wandered down Main Street, because of course Durango is the kind of town that has a Main Street that really is the main street. I found egg cups, so they will live at the ranch now and everyone will be able to enjoy soft-boiled eggs here. Found the book store and bought "Home Ground", the new book that Barry Lopez edited. (Oh, I just picked it up to look at, and got sucked in! I can't wait to read more) It's a kind of glossary of terms for the American Landscape, written by various authors who have ties to the places and terms they write about. I think Amber recommended it to me, and it's perfect for my life right now.

Then the post starts to get a little hazy, because I want to write about my acquisitive nature, how I think it's funny that I got so excited about "stocking up" on things I have plenty of already, and how I meant to get to the grocery store and ran out of time because I was looking at the bubble bath too long.

But then I also want to write about the other thoughts that were starting to happen in my head around the time I stepped foot in the bookstore. How I asked the man at the counter where he thought the best coffee was, how he said "Well, ask three different people, you'll probably get three different opinions. Some people like Magpies, some people think Durango Coffee Company is the best. I always go to the Bean, cause it's right across the street, and I know the owner, and I think they're just as good as the others." and how I looked around this big bookstore, which I thought resembled Elliott Bay Books, with all that rough wood, and good displays, tables and tables of pretty hard-cover books, and thought "I could live in Durango".

Whew, that's a lot of reading - here, you need a photo.

Or maybe a photo from the yarn store wasn't what you were hoping for...

So I'm thinking that, but also some other things are coming up when I hit my next stop, the CD store (no surprise there). The guy at the counter, who has a beard and maybe some piercings, or at least gives the impression of being the sort of 20-something who has piercings, says "Hey." and kinda seems like in spite of looking all tough, he couldn't exaclty get up the courage to look at me, and oh by the way he's got that judgemental CD-store-guy aura going too, and I say "Hey, how are you." and then without meaning to, sort-of turn away so that it's obvious I don't really want to know, but I really would be curious to know, so then I feel like a jerk. Just a little.

Which, of course, gets me thinking about interacting with people. Mostly about how much I like it. And I think about that as I walk through the CD store, and again when the guy doesn't really do much better looking at me when I go up to the counter to buy my CDs, and then he gets into an animated thing with a wiry grey-haired woman in Tevas who is looking for something she heard about on NPR, and I just really like that, I like hearing what they say to each other.

So I'm thinking all that, about little interactions, and how I'm always noticing the temperature between people, and how interesting that is to me, when I go across the street to "the Bean", which is really named "The Steaming Bean". There are a few people milling around the counter the way people do at coffee shops, so you can't really tell if they've ordered, or haven't, or what they are doing, but behind the counter is this young girl, and she has this teenage way of looking at you with her chin tilted down, out from underneath these bangs that her mom probably wishes she would cut, and she looks at me and asks what I'd like, so I order.

And I truly apologize that I don't have a photo for you here.

The Bean is my last stop in Durango and I'm leaving a little later than I meant to be, since I don't want to do Wolf Creek Pass in the dark, but still I get sucked in to this teeny girl who's making the coffee. She's got to be a good 3 inches shorter than me, and her hair is this really fine blond hair that she has dyed black underneath, and she's got the whole black-and-white-striped shirt/hoody/grommeted belt look going and then this guy walks up, and you can see that they know each other, he's a tall kid, like, Andy and Bobby tall, and he's wearing one of those shirts that young guys wear when they are going out to Red Door, you know, the button-up kind, untucked, with some kind of pattern on it that makes you think of sheets, stripes or something, and the shirt is a little rumpled, like the hair.

So the barista girl, with her little glances and her quiet voice, says something to him that he doesn't really hear, and so then the interaction goes like this, with tall kid starting:

What did you say?
I said How are you doing?
Oh! I thought you said something else. I'm Grrreat!

And then tall kid slams his hand down on the books he has set on the glass countertop, so that the girl jumps and drops something, and he startles himself even, and pulls his hand back towards his chest and says “Oh shit, did I do that?” and she goes to pick whatever it is up and mumbles "No, it's okay." and you know for sure that he likes her, and that he probably picked those books out as carefully as he picked the shirt, and you're not sure, but somehow, somehow you think she probably likes him too. Maybe it's the way she gave him a little shy embarrassed smile when she had to repeat herself, or the fact that she sort-of tugged at her shirt a little more while he was standing there.

But you are probably thinking at this point, "And Heather is telling me about this, Why?"

Which means you need another photo.

Such pretty pretty trees

But there is a reason, and it's this: I loved them. I loved these two, doing their awkward teenage love dance. And I loved the guy in the CD store, and the yarn store women, and I loved the guy who told me to go to the Bean and the teenager who sold me bubble bath.

But as much as I love them, there are people I love EVEN MORE in the world, and the striped shirt and the tall kid and the big bubbles in my latte made me think of Andy and Bobby (duh) and the girl behind the counter made me think of Josie, and Josie being 16 when I first met her, and that made me think of Kristin, and so did the quote that was painted on the wall in the bathroom at the coffee shop, cause where else did we go that had quotes on the wall? I don't know, it seemed a little like Rimsky's in Portland, which also makes me think of Amber, who I was already thinking of because of that book I bought, and the bubble bath made me think of Susan, and the CSNY CD I bought made me think of all my old regulars at the bar where I worked in NY, and there was some yarn that I thought might make something good for my mom, and really it goes on and on...

... so that's what is happening in my head as I get in my car. I love thinking about all these people. And there are so many more people I love thinking about. I'm also thinking about my sister and her husband, since I just wrote that post about him, then I'm thinking "I hope Shack doesn't read the Shack post and hate it". And I feel compelled here, dear reader, to give you a picture, because I know this is an awful lot of words to read and I can't believe you are still here reading them...

So so beautiful, but not as beautiful as all the people I love so so much.

Anyway,I hit the road and the CD that's on is Jets to Brazil, "Four Cornered Night" which makes me think of Rob, that cute bartender who came to karaoke with us the night of my sister's rehearsal dinner, and how he called me from NY for months after that any time he had a bad day, and what all of this adds up to is really how much I love people. To what an absolutely insanely ridiculous degree I love them.

Maybe that's an obvious statement. Maybe that's something that no one who reads this blog is really going to be surprised by. And yet, it surprised me. Like, fully-clothed body thrown into cold ocean Surprised me.

I don't know that I can capture this, exactly, but some of it had to do with realizing that someone else in my position, they would get their energy from the trees, from the gorgeous sweeping views, from Nature. For lots of people, those things are very restorative. And I've always felt a little, just a little, bad that I'm not more of an outdoorsy girl, being from the Pacific NW and all. I like the outdoors, don't get me wrong. But we all know I am not going to be the one to pack up the tent and make sure we get out there. I get what it's all about, it's just not what drives me.

Even the pretty river view, not what drives me.

Duh, the people thing, that's what drives me. They are like trees to me (this is what I'm thinking as I drive through the kind of scenery that makes you ooh and aah and stop the car to try and take photos of what a photo will never capture), every person is as beautiful as a tree, and then that's a silly thing to think, so I think "Good post title - 'Why People Are Like Trees'" because it's just so dumb.

Then the Jets to Brazil song "All Things Good and Nice" comes on and it's over the TOP how perfect that song is, because it's totally funny and just balls-out sappy. I hate to use that phrase, but it belongs here. The first line is "I love my mother". Seriously.

Anyway, this all has me so so very happy, pleased with the world in this insanely profound way, like I know what it's all about for me, even though yes, it is totally obvious and maybe doesn't sound that profound unless you've driven more than 200 miles all by yourself that day... SO when Kristin sends me this email this morning that just happens to talk about everything I've been thinking about the last 24 hours, including: “it's funny to watch how you are handling isolation- so far, and even before you left, as if in anticipation, you've written these blogs about people, where you seem to be trying to conjure them up with so many words.”, I laugh. Of course. Of course that's what I do. That's what my whole LIFE does.

And when I tell Pam about Kristin's comment on the phone, she laughs too, but she's laughing because actually I have only had one night here at the ranch when there wasn't someone else here. "You probably feel lke you haven't had a moment's peace!" she says.

So, I know I sound like a nut, and if you are still reading, really, please, you have to tell me that you read this because I will just love you so much more forever and ever because it truly is too much to ask, for you to get through all this rambling, just to hear me say:


...and dogs are people too.

Oh, it's so awful, such an awful thing to say you are, it just sounds like a floral jumper or something. It reminds me of how when I was a teenager and used to panhandle downtown, I really wanted to look all tough, and I pierced my ears myself a bunch of times and wore all the black eyeliner, but people, I had chubby cheeks. I did not look tough. I looked like a chipmunk. Eventually, I had to let the tough thing go (but I am tough, yo!) and accept that if anything, I was cute. Not intimidating or mysterious or exotic or whatever. Cute. Like now, I have to accept that I am a people person. This is why I crave art and music, why I am fascinated by strangers and can do more phone interviews in a week than almost anyone you know, and why no one will ever take me up on the bet where I say "What will you give me if I go talk to that guy over there?". And in fact, it's even why I sometimes have those days, and some of you have gotten this phone call (Kirsten, Erin!), where I say "I hate EVERYONE!".

Which makes it a good time for a photo break.

The road back to the ranch

Please understand, none of this means that I don't like being here by myself, or that I am not looking forward to the next few months. I do really like being alone (it means I have more uninterrupted time to think about people and how much I love them, right?).

So. There you go, that's what I've realized the first week on the ranch, when I was really not so very isolated or by myself.

And if I haven't said it recently, I especially love you. You, who actually read this far, I do. Or you wouldn't have my blog address. Or I wouldn't want to write this insanely long post that only you will read.


P.S. I hope you went out tonight and then came home and just for kicks looked at the blog because it seems like this post would be a lot better if you were a little tipsy. Most of you. With one exception. You know who you are.

Self-timer photo of the day

Going to check the water troughs

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Day 12 Facts and Statistics

Looks fake, doesn't it? It's not!

Miles driven today: 270.5

Number of days I've actually stayed at the ranch without going anywhere: 2

High temperature: 70, Durango

Low temperature: 40, Wolf Creek Pass

CDs listened to in the car:

  • Lynyrd Skynyrd - Skynyrds Innyrds
  • Scud Mountain Boys - Massachusetts
  • Neko Case - Blacklisted
  • Bobby Bare Jr - From the End of Your Leash
  • My Morning Jacket - It Still Moves
  • Jets to Brazil - Four Cornered Night (thank you Lansky's Rob)

Beaver Creek, Cat Creek, Deep Creek, Lime Creek, Wolf Creek, Middle Creek

Pagosa Springs, Aspen Springs, Turkey Springs

Cost of latte in Durango: $2.80, but what does it mean when the bubbles in the foam on top are big, instead of all silky and plush? Oh, well. It still tasted better than gas station coffee.

At the end of my adventure, I got to come home to this sight, plus three good dogs, who ran up the driveway to meet me.

Hope you all had a day just as beautiful.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

So Many Happy Birthdays

Heather, Eugene & Allison at E&A's wedding

Meet my brother-in-law, Eugene. You may have seen his photo on this blog before. For those of you who haven't had the good fortune to meet him in person, let's see what I can do to give you a mental picture of this man.

Ahem. Allison, brace yourself. No, I'm kidding. Here's the thing. People in Seattle, they tend to be pretty polite. Polite to the point of being uptight sometimes, polite to the point where it sometimes inhibits real connection.

Eugene doesn't have that problem. Eugene is out there. All the crudeness, all the potty humor, with the uncanny ability that you typically only find in young children, to ask those types of questions that are obvious, but that everyone else might choose to avoid. Like, asking a woman "Are you cold?", when certain, shall we say, anatomical evidence presents itself. This question might be followed by the comment "Damn girl! Turn those headlights down!". It's true. This could happen to you. Don't go for the soft-cup bra around Eugene.

And here's the truth that mom may not want to acknowledge about her baby daughter. Ali? She can be pretty crude too. For real. The fact is, Eugene cracks Ali up. Even when he's being gross. I can hear her laughing at him right now, that kind of laugh where she has a hard time getting her breath, and her brow wrinkles up a little like she's going to cry. Maybe she doesn't go for the headlight comment, but she will tell you about her food baby.

But Eugene's sweetness is also out there too. He's totally a softie. A foul-mouthed, sometimes smelly, Queens-accented sweetheart. He's a tender brute, and some of you might know that it's my firmly held belief that what every woman really wants is a tender brute. Eugene's tenderness is very obvious with my sister, who has never had a sweeter boyfriend. She did marry the right one. She knows it, he knows it, and no one has to pretend any different.

To me, it seems like a rare thing, two people loving each other equally. Usually all of us know that there's some imbalance in a relationship. I wouldn't claim that Allison and Eugene were always perfectly in balance, but they are now. They both wear the pants in the family, and neither of them pretend to be anything other than what they are. I've seen them argue in that loud, uncomfortable way that makes you wonder if you've suddenly become part of the furniture, and then be holding hands and grinning two minutes later. I like to think of them as a bomb-proof kind of couple. I hope the years will prove me right.

Their wedding... oh, you should have been at their wedding. We made a lot of jokes about Allison being Bridezilla, because you would not believe the level of detail that went into the planning of that event. It seemed like there was no possible way that Allison was going to be the serene bride, because there were so many things that could have gone wrong. Amazingly, she was. Look at the photo above, you can see it in her smile. She was a happy, happy bride.

But the great thing about the wedding was that while it was just as elegant as it looks in the classy photo above, it was also as ridiculos as it looks in the photo below. Someone is dropping F-bombs on the shuttle while he sits next to someone's mom, Glenn's probably getting left behind because he's making out with someone in the bushes, and you can see me on the left with the ever-present Polaroid. We got some good Polaroids that night. It was, hands-down, the most fun wedding I have ever been to. Oh, how I misbehaved. That's always a sign that I'm having a good time. Benevolent misbehavior. But that's another entry...

Back to Eugene. He gets credit for making my sister so happy that nothing could go wrong for her on her wedding day. He also get credit for being level-headed, no-nonsense and loyal as they come. Over the past few years, I've come to think of Eugene as one of the many benefits of being part of my family. There will be no boring holidays with Eugene in town. Furthermore, things will get done. Lightbulbs changed, etc. Hey Euge, maybe you could hang some pictures at my place when you're there for Thanksgiving?

Eugene, if I haven't said it before, I love you like a brother. We're lucky to have you as a part of the family, and my sister is lucky to have you as a husband. I can think of few better couples. As I said at your wedding, you two are the same kind of nerd.

And if anyone doubts that at all, just check out that pic of them in the Star Trek get-ups.

Happy Birthday, Eugene. Looking forward to having you around for many more.

Mittens All Done!

Ranch Report

Going out to get the laundry off the line

Breakfast: Medium-boiled egg with toast made under the broiler, kiwi fruit from Denver Whole Foods, tea

Listening to Gillian Welch "Revival", because one of my characters is sort-of an orphan girl, and I am sitting down to spend some time with her now.

Have a good day in the Big City, Ali. What a nice camel you had.

My Belinda

You are there in Colorado with the horses and the dogs and that's great and all, but I want to introduce you to my special animal.

Her name is Belinda.

Isn't she noble and beautiful of brow? She was my camel in India and we shared one magical sunrise safari together. She has the most beautiful eyelashes in all of the deserts of the world.

When I first saw her, I thought 'what is this chicken-headed creature?'

How wrong and cruel those thoughts were!

Soon, I was entranced by her loping loveliness and struggling to get a shot - any shot - of her feathery elegant head.

I tried to get in pictures with her, but she was coy and would quickly turn her head when the snap of the shutter was imminent. I felt like paparazzi, taunted by a beautiful star who knows just when to pull her bikini top up.

She had a handler, like any wily starlet. I think he whispered in her ear and told her when to turn away.

But I don't speak hindi or camel, so I couldn't be sure.

Mostly he sang stange children's songs in english.

He promised to take a picture of me with her, but he took this picture of himself instead. I think he was stoned.

I could see her talking to the other camels. Maybe she was gettting their opinion of me. Maybe she wanted to know if I had straight teeth and beautiful eyelashes too. After all, I was on her back - she had no idea what sort of troll she was encumbered with.

The word must have been good, because she started to nip at Eugene to get him to take a picture of us together.

Oh how glorious those times... I mean that time... were. I mean was.

And then we had to say goodbye.

She wept a bit. Then got angry and spit at me.

But in the end she loped off with her dignity intact. Her flower on her head bobbing in the early morning light of the desert.

I shall always cherish the time we had. I miss her terribly and cry bitter tears.

Do you think a camel would thrive in Vermont?