Thursday, June 29, 2006

A very brief update

I have returned (temporarily) from my road trip with updates! Not much really happened, unless you count meeting lots of interesting people and seeing Mount Rushmore, herds of buffalo in Custer State Park, Wall Drug, the Corn Palace (I know, I know), the Black Hills, Bear Country USA (again, touristy much?), drive-through liquor stores in Wyoming, and the following national parks: Badlands, Arches, Canyonlands, Bryce Canyon, and Zion, where I alternately perspired, eavesdropped on foreign tourists, and took numerous photos that will never do their scenic subjects justice.

We ate at the Rachel Ray-endorsed Corn Exchange in Rapid City and also got to have lunch with awesome blogger Caryn, who is absolutely charming in person. Dozens of inside jokes were birthed and many goofy events transpired. And what road trip would be complete without your best friend's car breaking down in the relative isolation of southwestern Utah? Near a town named Beaver, as a matter of fact. Cindy and I spent five hours in a Dairy Queen attached to a Chevron station waiting for the car to be fixed. In Beaver, Utah. And then? My flight home was cancelled. My rescheduled flight was overbooked, and if not for two kindly strangers who opted to accept $400 vouchers in exchange for their seats, I may still be in the Denver airport right now, curled in a fetal position.

If you're looking for great audiobooks to pass the time on long drives, I recommend The Kite Runner and anything by David Sedaris. Oh! And we stumbled upon Groovefest in Cedar City, Utah, which appears to be an annual event. Let me tell you. If you're into awesome bluegrass (Trampled by Turtles--check 'em out) and don't mind barefoot hippies jumping around inches in front of you and people handing you anarchist primers, you have to catch Groovefest some year. But heads-up: there are no beer tents. So if you can't dance unless you're drunk, you may need to make other pre-festivity arrangements. And now, a small selection of photos from the trip.

Two of roughly a dozen cute lil' bears frolicking at Bear Country, USA. I keep telling myself that their antics were worth every penny of the $13 admission.

The vista through an arch at Canyonlands National Park, Utah. Despite being trapped in a car with me for almost a week at this point, Cindy didn't even push me over the cliff when I leaned in to take this photo!

Red rocks in Utah. We wanted to catch the sunset here later as it was on our way back to the motel, but why break our streak of accidentally missing every sunset because we're in a gas station bathroom or eating at a Chinese restaurant?

Poor Lily Tomlin--I mean Cindy. But it certainly was thoughtful of the Beaver Chevron to place this whimsical oversized rocking chair near their mechanics' bays to distract frustrated travelers from their defunct alternators or blown transmissions. Vomit-colored (and scented) smoke billowing from your radiator? Who cares when you can pose for pictures in a giant rocking chair! Am I right?

I got in last night, but I have barely time to catch my breath because tomorrow morning I'm off again for a family reunion in western Minnesota. Next week I'm not driving anywhere. I am sitting in front of my computer catching up on your blogs until my eyes become raisins, and I will love every second of it. 'Til then, have a splendid weekend!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Last post for awhile; I'll miss you!

Let's see. Updates. I leave tomorrow morning for the Riding with Larry roadtrip with my best friend. The highlights:

Day one: Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Supposedly the safest city in the nation as far as traffic fatalities go. But we are taking a car with 200,000 miles behind it, so all bets are off when it comes to auto mishaps and break-downs.

Day two: Rapid City, South Dakota. One day to cram in Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse monument that never changes, Custer State Park, Wind Cave, the Badlands, the Black Hills, Wall Drug, and Devil's Tower. Think we can do it?

Day three: Boulder, Colorado. One of my favorite cities of all time. It's the Madison of the Rockies, baby.

Day four: Moab, Utah. Where I get to meet Caryn!

Days five and six: Cedar City, Utah. Southern Utah national parks and heatstroke, here we come!

Day seven: Boulder again, and then I fly home. Cindy gets to hang out in Colorado for a month longer, lucky girl.

To get myself in the mood for the drive I recently watched Transamerica (I give it a thumbs way up), National Lampoon's Vacation, and Sideways, which of course I loved the first time I saw it. I didn't watch Easy Rider or Thelma & Louise, though. I guess I wanted to focus on roadtrip movies in which the protaganists, you know, LIVE.

I'll be away from the blog for a week, but I'll post updates and photos upon my return on the 28th. Or 29th. I may need a day to come out of a roadtrip-induced stupor.

In other news, on Saturday I met the Oshkosh writers' group (thanks for inviting me, Oshkosh writers!) Then on Sunday we headed to my parents' place for Father's Day. While there, my mother said a sentence I've never heard uttered by any other human being: "Oh," she said, tossing her head in the direction of a cat sashaying across the porch, "that cat HATES Fuckface!"

And then, of course, a new catchphrase was born. See, Fuckface is a cat with a strange, mottled coloration on his face. Hence the name. His previous owners dropped him off in the field near my parents' house when they got tired of him, but fortunately he's adapted well to life on the farm with the bevy of semi-brain damaged cats that call my parents' place home. But there is one cat that hates him, apparently. I really hope they can work things out.

I'll miss you all and hope to stop by for one more visit at your sites before I leave. While I'm gone, I know someone can come up with a fantastic caption for the second picture. I just know it.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Countdown to New Siding and My Trip.

I may have mentioned that J and I are siding the house this summer. (After we excavate and pour a concrete driveway, build a garage, install brick-like skirting around the base of the house, and eliminate malaria in sub-Saharan Africa.) I'm excited about this because Yaaay! No more hovel-like exterior! Then in the future, when I go on a flower planting binge, I won't feel like I'm sprinkling sugar on a turd. The big question now, the one I'm posing in this public forum, is this: what colors should we go with? Our house is all white right now, and it's kind of working an old cottagey / colonial saltbox vibe. We're torn between dark gray with white trim, a sunny yellow with dark green and white trim, a strange sage tint that is not in the sample book and as such would have to be special-ordered (but that J has become quite an advocate for anyway) with white trim? maybe beige? and an adobe clay color that would be convenient but perhaps better suited for new construction. Many homes in our neighborhood are white, tan, gray, light blue, and two the pukey pinky peach color Crayola dubbed "flesh." Because in the seventies, the Binney & Smith execs believed that only white people colored.

I know, it's a real life and death issue. The bigger matter is, we have new neighbors. And based on the near-constant nagging/shouting from their deck, they have a son named Noah! And a tribe of teenagers with ample free time! And two dogs and a cat! And everyone hangs out on the deck all day, despite the delivery of 136 storage pods that surely await unpacking! And I can't wait to plant some privacy shrubs!

Also, I've booked my ticket home from the roadtrip. Denver to Wisconsin, but a layover in Atlanta. It reminds me of the bit from the old SNL sketch featuring Yul Brynner's similarly bald sister as a travel agent saying in a heavily accented voice to someone on the phone, "No. You cannot get there directly. You have to CHANGE in ATLANTA." Does anyone other than my brother and me remember this bit? Anyone?

Finally, did anyone other than me and a bunch of middle-aged women watch AFI's "100 Years, 100 Cheers" most inspiring films countdown on CBS the other night?* Well guess which film was selected as the coveted Most Inspiring Film of All Time. That's right. It's a Wonderful M*th%erf*^%#ing Life. Only my favoritest movie ever. ("She's about to close up the library!") Suck on that, Driving Miss Daisy. I kid. I actually try really, really hard to find something to like in almost every movie I watch. Even if the only thing I find is that the film has an ending.

*Please, no cracks about how I could very possibly be middle-aged already. I'm not. Also, I'm only kidding about my neighbors. I'm sure they're very nice people.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A week of dull adventures

Wow, so much has been happening! First, I have finally begun tackling my revisions. Bit of advice for anyone out there in the same boat: do not read a novel by an author you admire before you attempt revising your own work. Because by comparison, your own work will now look like the kind of rash you might get on both of your legs after a month in the Amazon Basin. If you still have any legs left after falling off the sightseeing boat into piranha- and flesh-eating virus-infested waters.

Actually, no, I take that back. I'm trying to be POSITIVE. So maybe if I read Haven Kimmel before I pull up in front of the computer, it will INSPIRE me rather than give me hives on my brain. Special hives that suck the will to create from my frontal lobe.

Imagine, if you will, a decent segue here. Okay. That should suffice, no?

The other day I was driving to our local nursery yet again because unbeknownst to me, I had planted in my shade garden a horrifically poisonous, dripping-with-fungal-diseases plant that could not only wipe out the rest of my garden but also, um, ME, if I ate so much as a single leaf in my salad. This happy little plant is called monkshood, and some Canadian actor DIED last year after mistaking it for parsley in his dinner. How embarrassing, right? Anyway, I needed to get some replacement plants. While waiting for traffic at a red light I heard a lilting, jubilant song coming from ... well, I didn't have a clue as to its origination. It seemed to be coming from all around me.

And immediately I wanted to break something in close proximity to my fists because I knew, I just KNEW it was the ice cream truck, trundling somewhere behind me, taunting me. I've written of the ice cream truck before, and let me tell you. It is slowly destroying my will to live. If they don't change the song and/or route soon, there may be another police standoff in my neighborhood. Bomb pop, anyone?

As I drove on, the song followed me. Good Christ on a Flaming Scooter, the ice cream truck was everywhere I went!!! I looked in my rearview mirror. No ice cream truck. I began to worry I was losing my mind. Perhaps the ice cream song had actually embedded itself into my brain and I'd never get it out. No horror could be greater. If ever there was an excuse for stabbing forks in one's ears in order to self-inflict some immediate brain damage, this was it.

The happy jingle eventually drifted off and I arrived at the nursery, parked my car, and ... there it was again! Coming from ... my purse.

Remember how I told you I just got a new cell phone? Well, that buoyant tune was nothing more than the sound of ... my "unknown call" ring tone. It was a wrong number.

I wish blogger had sound effects, because that would have been a great spot for a vaudevillian / Benny Hill / Laugh-In punchline tune. BA-DA-BAH-buh-duh-buh! "And that ain't AAAAAALLLLL!"

Last week I also saw the Gufs in concert. Nothing exciting or funny happened there, except for my best friend and I acting like twelve year-olds when faced with the actual opportunity to chat with the cute bassist. "I'll buy a CD if you talk to him." "No, YOU talk to him! It's your idea!" "No, I'm only going up there if YOU talk to him. You're the outgoing one!"

We totally chickened out and scrammed.

This Saturday I'll be speaking to the Oshkosh Writers' Group at the Oshkosh Public Library at 11, if you're in town. And then next Tuesday I leave for the Riding with Larry Resnick road trip. For a whole, blessed week. See, the idea is to follow the path my characters do on THEIR road trip out west. I'll post another update before I leave. I may get to meet this lovely and talented writer during one of our stops. Which would be a very cool thing indeed.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Garden Shots. Also, Let Me Introduce You to the Cowsucker.

Okay, I'm finally ready to emerge from my gardening-induced stupor. So, hi again! I'm afraid my new bad habit of intermittent / once or twice weekly blogging is here to stay for a few weeks...unless anyone wants to work on my novel revisions for me. Anyone? Please? Anyway, my already-limited creative cesspool will be feeding the book overhaul, so unless I witness a parade of naked celebrities marching down my street while a brass band plays 76 Trombones or a loved one confesses to being anally probed by aliens between now and August first, this blog may suck harder than it does now.

Alternately, I may blog even more because I'll be looking for new, non-gardening ways to procrastinate. So you never know.

And here are the garden photos. When I look at them in pixelated form I think, "Huh. Doesn't look like too much work." But people, believe me. I have the mosquito bites (and probably West Nile virus) and unsightly sock tan to prove it was indeed an assload of hard work.

So let's start with some close-ups. Below is the "butterfly" section of the garden. Just a few plants are blooming now, but I'll post updates if anything exciting happens. Like me not killing anything.

And here are two close-ups of the "shady" part of the garden, where the mosquitos nearly drained me. Note the garden markers identifying individual plants. J wants me to remove them, but don't you think it's just plain good manners to leave some sort of advance commemoration for when the plants are eventually eaten by slugs? I like to think of them as plant headstones.

Above, Echinacea, or purple coneflower. In case I want a cold remedy that may or may not work. Below, a "panoramic" shot of the entire bastard. The cars in the background add a real classy touch. Oh, and that skeletal-looking bush in the second shot? It was once a rangy, overgrown, 15-foot wide, smothering-everything-in-its-path, man-eating bridal wreath bush. We chopped the shit out of it. It'll grow back, but in the meantime, it looks alot like Charlie Brown's Christmas tree before the Peanuts gang did the wavy-thing over it with their hands. See all those flowers around it? Before the foliar surgery, that space was nothing but hard dirt, sticks, rock, and dandelions. I also found an ancient, crusty three-tined fork in the soil. In case anyone from the Victorian era wanted to go eat worms all day, maybe.

The shadows are being cast by my fleet of bird feeders. I TOLD you I was an octogenarian trapped in the body of a Gen X refugee.

Below, another view of the "shady woodland" garden. Again, too soon for much to bloom. Note the gnarly Lord of the Rings tree on the left. I will tell our future children that fairies live in it, but they turn into trolls if children misbehave.

I saved the best for last. Look closely at what's circling the top of the green birdfeeder. It looks like a halo, right? Well, it IS! It's the "Magic Sparrow Halo!" Because sparrows are greedy jerks and playground bullies. They are the Wal-Mart of birds. I also bought this contraption because I'm a sucker for anything gimmicky. Oh, and because I'm a huge geek, I actually tied on the dangly wire things, too. And let me tell you. This fucker works. I haven't seen a single sparrow touch that feeder since I put up the halo. Which, I'm sure, was sent directly from angels.

Here's where I tell you about the cowsucker. This was a term my Dad would use to refer to any jerry-rigged, half-assed, goofy as hell "invention" I'd make as a kid. I don't know where the word came from, but it stuck. A fishing pole fashioned from a stick, a piece of twine, a paper clip, and a plastic spoon? Cowsucker. Anything put on the market by Ronco? Cowsuckers all. Including, but not limited to, the "Inside-the-Egg-Scrambler." I'd bet my next paycheck that my Dad would call the Magic Sparrow Halo a cowsucker. But you can't argue with results. Plus, this birdfeeder gets the best TV reception in eastern Wisconsin.

Friday, June 02, 2006

How Does Your Garden Grow? Pretty Sh*tty, At the Moment

Lately I’ve been in a planty-kind of mood. So I stopped by our neighborhood nursery to buy some perennials that I’ll eventually kill from neglect and general mismanagement. To start out, I bought a purple coneflower and butterfly bush. After I paid for the vegetative booty and began to head for the car the cashier called out after me: “Ma’am?” She extended another receipt towards me. “Your bush is guaranteed for two years. Keep this in case it dies and we’ll replace it for free.”

Some days it’s like blogging manna just falls from the sky.

Anyway, two plants are never enough when you’re in the grip of gardening fever and your yard suddenly seems to be trying to spite you with its overall ugliness. So yesterday I returned to the nursery (actually nurseries…I admit, I went to TWO) and loaded up on more plants that will probably hate my back yard. Then today I got up early and began to plant.

And dig. And plant. And dig. And plant.

And let me tell you. Tomorrow? I will not be able to bend at the knees. I am sunburned, my legs and back ache, and I’m kind of tipsy, because I’m trying this new alcoholic beverage called “Peels,” which is “all natural” and made from real blueberry and pomegranate juice. So I may be drunk, but at least I’ll be a healthy drunk. I think it’s a rule that you have to drink something alcoholic after a full day of yardwork.

Tomorrow we’re going back to the nursery to load up on more plants. I’m getting J into the act, too. Summon the digging gods my darling, because you’ll need them tomorrow. Heh-heh. (That was supposed to be an evil laugh.) Because dudes, I discovered the neatest little tool at Better Homes & Gardens online. You can design your own garden plan. It's like the Sims meets Rollercoaster Tycoon but personalized. It's also way better than Bejeweled, which was like crack to me for a few weeks in February.

Also, last night we saw the X-Men movie. Some girls behind us actually laughed at the Mountain Dew commercial that aired before the previews. Then I started to worry; if I laughed at the same parts these girls laughed at later, would this mean I am in a persistent vegetative state and J is one step closer to a singles cruise paid for with my life insurance?

Wow. I guess I do have vegetables on the brain.

Have a great weekend everyone. I hope I can lift my hands to the keyboard again on Monday to type a new entry. I’ll post pictures of our green thumbery if things go okay.

PS: There may be an ugly scene in the neighborhood if the ice cream truck doesn't stop playing The Entertainer while driving around and around our block. I'm just saying.