Archive for November, 2010

On the back roads of yesteryear

November 24, 2010

I should be writing. Writing things other than this blog. Really, really should. I can’t tell you how far I am in the hole, word-debt-wise. But hey, that’s why this blog started, right? This is what I write when I’m not Writing.

Yesterday, while I was not Writing, I found myself uploading all of my photos from my roadtrip. Luckily it wasn’t that huge a job; back in 2004, the images on the disc they gave you would barely be considered web-worthy nowadays, resolution-wise.

I can’t tell you how sad I am that I didn’t document it more thoroughly. I was so sure I would remember everything. I took photos and blogged, certain that whatever I left out of the public eye, my own memory would fill in on later perusals.

Lesson learned. My memory sucks. Document everything, make it all public (cuz otherwise you’ll lose it, and hey, a life lived in public is a life without shame) (mostly).

For example. Somehow it seems that I never blogged about the Troll Tree (not that I can find, anyway).

tree in minneapolis with a little door at its base

The Minneapolis Troll Tree

Before leaving home, and at every possible point along the way, I asked friends and strangers what sights and sites they loved in America. Not the ones in the guidebooks, not the awe-inspiring places or the Parks full of Natural Wonder. The little spots. The bits and pieces that are mostly overlooked, but that hold a bit of wonder, for at least one person.

Some people looked at me in confusion, and said, “Well, you have to see Yellowstone.” Phlbbt. Others gave me some great tips, and some led me to places that even had me wondering what on earth they saw in them.

One friend, Carrie, knew exactly what I meant. “The Troll Tree!” she immediately burst out with. “You have to visit the Troll Tree!”

She had grown up in Minneapolis, running field and track, and she often ran around one of the darling lakes they have in the city there. (I’m sorry; this is where my lost notes let me down. There’s more than one lake. This was by one of them. Maybe not knowing which one makes the search even more fun!)

She had a favorite spot on her route, a tree by a little bridge, with a knot hole at the bottom that someone had fashioned a door to cover. Over the years, kids (and a few wacky adults) had started to leave treats for the troll outside its door, along with a little note, sometimes of thanks, sometimes begging the troll to grant a wish.

It’s tiny. It’s not much to see. Most people run right by it. But it was probably one of the most magical places I visited, on a late fall afternoon, leaving my honorarium of Bertie Bott’s Every-Flavor Jelly Beans and my note.

The here and now is looking a bit bleak. I’m one of the people running by the little treasures, and it’s starting to get to me. Work is crazy, with 12-hour days common, and 16-hour days not unheard of. I commute with my eyes on the tailpipe ahead of my, plugged into my news podcast.

I need a reboot. I need a roadtrip. I know these little wonders are not just in someone else’s city, they are all around me, but I’m just not seeing them. It’s time to consciously break out and open my eyes again, ’cause I miss being the person that sees those things.

Next week. Okay, maybe after Christmas. Oooo, Ireland in March! My goal is to reboot before then, so I can completely enjoy myself on my very first European visit.

Georgia Peach

November 20, 2010
decrepit restaurant in georgia

Stripes, my traveling companion

This is not the restaurant I spoke of. But it’s in the general area. I was bummed to find that large blocks are missing from my digital files; either I relied on C to take pics (which she did, and which I must beg her for copies of) or I used my Camera, not my camera, and the gorgeous black-and-white images are languishing in photo albums. I shall have to rectify that.

For now, to NaNo-ing! I have not added a single word to my count in three days. But my massive mailing is finished, and I have time to myself again. 3,000 words before I get a bubble bath. That should do the trick.

On a lonely back road

November 14, 2010

Oh, dear. Composing a blog post on a lonely Sunday night, 2 martinis closer to the work week, is never a good idea. And yet, here I go.

My twitter profile popped up earlier. “I like curvy roads.” It’s true, yet a little too simple for me at the moment. I ended up switching it to… something I don’t remember right now (2 martinis in, remember? They were big martinis), but I do recall a strong desire to better express my love of back roads.

I’m not talking blue highways here. Least Heat-Moon had the right idea, I’ll happily admit that. He just didn’t go far enough. Blue Highways, if I remember his book right, are the designated Scenic Detours. I am, completely, a fan of Scenic Detours.

However. The best Scenic Detour is one that has not yet been labeled such. It’s the back road that actually runs through the back of beyond, off the map. Too small to even be a blue highway, it is instead the squiggly unnamed line.

A moment from my cross-country roadtrip: My sister C and I were traversing the southern states. We had flown into Atlanta, and were on our way south (okay, time is a little muddled in my head right now, I’ll just say this happened at some point during our road trip). We were SO excited about “Southern Food.” We visited Mary Mac’s in Atlanta, near our hostel, and it was pretty good. Touristy, clearly capital-S Southern, but pretty good.

But then. Then we got lost on a back road. We found ourselves in a tiny town in Georgia, on a Sunday afternoon. The banners for “Boar Days!” were still hanging over Main Street, although the days advertised were one week prior to our own arrival.

A restaurant appeared, just as our lunch pangs were starting. We debated. Small town… Kinda sketchy… Totally worth it, we finally decided.

And god, were we right. The interior was decorated to look like an outdoor picnic, with wood tables, red check tablecloths, and faux aluminum siding overhangs. It was adorable.

The food was spectacular. Thanks to the recent Boar Days, they still had barbecued Wild Pig on the menu. We marked our selections on the paper with the stub of the pencil they handed us (collard greens, sweet potatoes, and banana pudding), and within moments they had delivered the first jam jar of our Sweet Tea.

That meal will go down in my own personal history. Not only because of the food. Just after we placed our order, the town’s church let out, and the main room flooded with families in their Sunday best. C and I eavesdropped voraciously. I don’t remember what was said, but I remember a warm, blissful, Southern capital-S feeling.

Then there was the food. I’m not even going to go into it. Except to say that it was multitudinous and splendid. The pudding afterwords especially stands out in my mind. It was simple box pudding, except that they had added real banana slices and ‘nilla wafers. So simple. So perfect.

Ooo! That’s what I changed it too. “I’m always falling off the map.” That was one of the days I fell off the map, with my sister this time. And it was lovely. A moment of location-specific bliss. That is, quite possibly, one of my favorite things in the universe.

In the tub, part deux

November 10, 2010

I’ve decided to change the subtitle of this blog. “Bethany’s Ramblings Part II” does not really fit anymore; while I started as a travel bloggess, I’ve done precious little traveling since then. Instead, I find myself procrastinating in new and interesting ways. I avoid writing by making little odd things; I avoid craft by wandering away and writing. That actually loops well, since I enjoy both of those things.

I should mention a moment when those things did not loop well. My last post was all about plotting in the tub. Well, I’ve tried crafting in the tub as well. For an ex-roommate’s birthday, I created a truly genius home-improvement project for the bathtub. (Actually, the genius bit is overdoing it, for a number of reasons, one of them being that said roommate was prone to overheating and thus did not really take baths. I’m not sure if I was really so selfish as to give her a gift that was made for me, or if I really believed that she just didn’t take baths ’cause it wasn’t pretty enough in there. The latter is what I remember, but it seems kinda implausible.)

The vision was a tiled wall, covered with randomly spaced flickering tealights. Sounds pretty, right? I fashioned gold wire into tealight holders, attached sucker cups, and voila! Pretty, pretty death.

Death, you say? Surely you exaggerate. Mmm… not really. Maybe just a tad. You see, there’s a few things that my only-slightly-past-high-school brain did not take into account.

1) Gold wire, while prettily holding light things up, does not encompass everything.

2) Tea lights, when left burning too long, sometimes allow the flame to overcome the structural integrity of the wee tin container they are held in. This, combined with 1), equates to flaming drops of wax running down the wall, and sometimes directly into the tub.

3) Mr. Bubble is flammable.

I feel I would have done fine if just 1) and 2) existed, but the second 3) came into play it was all over. I had decided to “test out” the present (really, at this point I think I really did intend it to be her gift, not mine), and was taking a flickering bubble bath with a glass of wine. It was exactly what I had envisioned; beautiful, flamey, goodness.

My roommates were out in the front room watching a movie. What they recall was an odd combination of sounds; a “fwoosh!” followed quickly by an “AAIGH!”

What I recall was a flaming bit of wax, not much to be worried about as I easily moved my leg in time. It became worrisome when the entire surface of the bath became engulfed in flame. Seriously. We’re talking True Lies, shoulda been swimming under the surface, fireball.

I guess it makes sense. Oil lying on top of water will ignite, and I’m sure bubble bath has a fair amount of oil, and I hadn’t skimped on the bubbles. But Mr. Bubble! Ya think there’d be a warning label! Why haven’t I heard of parents flambeing their kids this way? Okay, I guess most mothers don’t light candles to give their toddlers a bath, but still. Was I really the first to light my bath on fire?

Quite possibly. Luckily, I wasn’t harmed. The flames extinguished themselves fairly quickly, and I was up and out of that tub in mere fractions of a second. There may have been some naked running down the hall, screaming, but that was just the shock, not actual burning flesh.

My bathtub nowadays is rather plain, with nary a candle in sight. And it will stay that way. That is one intersection that God did not intend woman to discover. I’ll keep my crafts in the main room, and my plotting in the tub, and ne’er shall the two cross again.

In the tub

November 8, 2010

bad showerYou may have noticed, dear reader, that I enjoy baths. In fact, I adore them. I wouldn’t call them a necessity; I have lived in at least three locations with shower-only bathrooms, and while I cannot for the life of me understand why they even make such a thing, I can easily live through the experience, with only slight suffering.

During November, baths become even more essential. Normally, the bathtub is where I take a glass of port and a good book, but when NaNoWriMo comes around, I leave the book out and turn out the light. Mostly because the light is connected to the obnoxiously loud fan, and I’ve found it’s almost impossible to plot with that noise going.

Pretty much every NaNo plot of mine has either been born, refined, or fixed in the tub. An hour in hot water and no lights allows your mind to truly bring a story to life. At least, it does for my mind. The only failure I had was when I tried to write a convoluted mystery. I really should have relied on paper and pen and post-its for that one. My hero got a bit lost getting from A to B. In fact, he went through the rest of the alphabet before he got to B, and even so, he got there far too fast and then had to move on to wingdings and numerics.

You may have guessed, dear reader, that I am in a pleasant, post-tub-plotting state of mind. I have fixed my nano. I have discovered the block, and the means to removing said block. It does mean I have to go back to the beginning and add a few chapters of backstory on the heroine, but c’est la vie. They are all simply words, and words shall not master me.

Sorry. It’s a Regency set partly in France, and I think I’m getting a bit too flowery. In everything. I promise to tone it down.

In the place for writing

November 6, 2010

Well, it’s officially no longer Halloween. The decorations came down yesterday, so I guess I should knock the blog post down a spot or two. I’m just so reluctant to see it go!

Largely because I know that as soon as Halloween is over, NaNoWriMo begins. I know, yay. It’s something I always look forward to, that I end up loving, and that has the absolute best community surrounding it. So, yay.

But oh, the tears! The frustration at starting out two days behind (I always start out two days behind, for some reason. May have something to do with extended Halloween hangovers). The waffling over my plot and characters; one day I hate them, the next they are so fabulous my head wants to explode. Then I go back to hating them. The avoidance; I’ve played some bizarre, stumbled-upon online games recently. The complete, absolute knowledge that everything I have just written is garbage.

All of this is nothing, in the end. With a little distance, in NaNoEdMo (I’m not sure if National Novel Editing Month is real, but it is for all the nanoers I know) your garbage writing transforms into decent, editable prose. The frustration of being behind is overcome by the triumph of winning. The online games do, in the end, let go their death grip and your obsessive procrastination fades.

Even blog posts are procrastination. Can I count these words? No? Then what the heck am I doing here?