Friday 5: Up and away

sunset on lanai and the pizza we had for dinner shortly after. good pizza! october 2019.

From here.

  1. What most recently made you feel elated?
    Thankgiving afternoon, jumping into the cool water and having the ocean mostly to myself. It was one of the best feelings I’ve had in this entire lockdown.
  2. Where is the slowest elevator in the universe?
    When I was in grad school at Hawaii Pacific University, I was in an elevator in one of the downtown buildings. HPU sooooorta has a proper campus now, but before it bought the Aloha Tower property, it was spread out in buildings all over downtown Honolulu. I was in the verrrrry slow elevator in the building where the library was, and as I and my fellow passenger arrived at the library floor, I said, “This is the slowest elevator in the world.” She said, “No, it’s not. Have you been to the Hawaii Loa Campus?” Yes, of course. Most of my classes were at that campus, in fact, and I knew exactly what she was talking about. “You’re right,” I said. “That one is even slower than this one, by far.” We smiled and went in different directions.
  3. When were you most recently in an airplane?
    October last year. Two coworkers and I flew to Lanai to work on a project. The other two stayed overnight; I flew back late the same evening. It was a good trip, and the thing we worked on is still being considered.
  4. With what have you had it up to here?
    I’ve been neglecting my car since I spend so little time behind the wheel and all my trips are very short. Now certain things remind me every time I get in the car that I haven’t been taking good care of it, and I hate myself. So this weekend I’m doing a bunch of car maintenance stuff, as much as I can do myself, and then I’m taking time off next week to have done the stuff I can’t take care of, like the stupid airbag recall. I saw a headline a couple of months ago that read something like, “Nissan says it sent man sixteen letters about defective airbag before he was killed by his in an accident.” Yeah, that man is going to be me if I don’t do this. Except I’ve only received six or seven letters.
  5. What’s a good song whose title contains the word “sky?”
    “Blue Skies” by the Choir. My easy number one. Others I love are “Bullet the Blue Sky” by U2 and “Crack the Skye” by Mastodon. Also, shout-out to a band I really like whose name has the word: Harakiri for the Sky.

Hey Siri? Play anything in my library.

Start 1:53 PM Friday.

  1. Blackfoot: “Teenage Idol” (southern rock, 1983)
  2. * The Neal Morse Band: “A Momentary Change” (progressive rock, 2019)
  3. Thoughts Factory: “The Burden” (progressive metal, 2020)
  4. The Neal Morse Band: “Beyond the Borders” (progressive rock, 2019)
  5. Bob Dylan: “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go” (folk rock, 1974)
  6. * Lost Dogs: “Bad Indigestion” (Americana, 1993)
  7. Lost Dogs: “Whispering Memories” (Americana, 2006)
  8. Lost Dogs: “Get Me Ready” (blues rock, 2006)
  9. Lost Dogs: “Rocky Mountain Mines (rough mix)” (folk, 2019 this release, 1993 original)
  10. The Neal Morse Band: “Long Ago” (progressive rock, 2019)
  11. Cake: “Short Skirt/Long Jacket” (alternative, 2001)
  12. Bush: “The Chemicals Between Us” (alternative, 1999)
  13. Lost Dogs: “Pray Where You Are (live)” (folk, 2019 this release, 1993 original)
  14. Billy Joel: “Say Goodbye to Hollywood” (rock, 1976)
  15. Bruce Springsteen: “Hungry Heart” (rock, 1980)
  16. Lost Dogs: “Eleanor, It’s Raining Now” (Americana, 1993)
  17. Bon Jovi: “Runaway” (pop metal, 1984)
  18. Lost Dogs: “No Ship Coming In (brow beat mix)” (folk, 2019 this release, 1993 original)
  19. The Brothers Cazimero: “Kawika” (Hawaiian, 1991)
  20. The Neal Morse Band: “Child of Wonder” (progressive rock, 2019)
  21. Lost Dogs: “One More Day” (country, 2006)
  22. The Neal Morse Band: “To the River” (progressive rock, 2019)
  23. Angelique Kidjo: “Djin Djin” (Afropop, 2007)
  24. The Neal Morse Band: “Vanity Fair” (progressive rock, 2019)
  25. Angra: “Acid Rain” (power metal, 2001)
  26. Lost Dogs: “Swirling Besties” (inter-track studio conversation, 2019)
  27. Thoughts Factory: “Elements” (progressive metal, 2020)
  28. Black Sabbath: “The Mob Rules” (metal, 1981)
  29. Lost Dogs: “Precious Memories” (folk, 1993)
  30. The Neal Morse Band: “The Dream Continues” (progressive rock, 2019)
  31. The Alan Parsons Project: “Games People Play” (rock, 1983)
  32. Bonnie McKee: “American Girl” (pop, 2013)
  33. The Avett Brothers: “Live and Die” (folk, 2012)
  34. Blondie: “(I’m Always Touched by Your) Presence, Dear” (new wave, 1977)
  35. The Neal Morse Band: “The Great Despair” (progressive rock, 2019)
  36. Lost Dogs: “Riding on the Devil E. Lee” (inter-track studio ad-libbing, 2019)
  37. The Neal Morse Band: “I Got to Run” (progressive rock, 2019)
  38. The Neal Morse Band: “A Love that Never Dies” (progressive rock, 2019)
  39. Lost Dogs: “Red, White & Blue (live)” (country rock, 2019)
  40. Lost Dogs: “Raul Ries Vs Senor Gomez” (inter-track studio chatter, 2019)
  41. Lost Dogs: “Rocky Mountain Mines” (folk, 1993)

Stop: 4:4-something PM Friday.

* Christian artist

It looks like Apple’s Music app favors songs stored on your phone, which makes sense. The Neal Morse is a double album, and it’s not on Spotify, my streamer of choice, so I ripped it from the CDs and synched it to my phone. The Lost Dogs 1993 album, Little Red Riding Hood is a re-release, funded on Kickstarter, and it came with a bonus disc of outtakes and alternate versions, so that’s two CDs’ worth of stuff I also synched to my phone because I got the stuff before it was on the streamers. I also added another Lost Dogs albums, one of only a tiny few I didn’t already have.

The Thoughts Factory album: same story. Wasn’t available on Spotify yet so I synched it to my phone. The rest of the tracks are songs I purchased on iTunes but are not on my phone, so they streamed.

I wanted to see what Siri would do in response to this command. It was a good afternoon of music, even if it skewed toward two specific artists. I love the Lost Dogs material so it wasn’t an issue there. I don’t think this is Neal Morse’s best work, so it was an issue there.

HUGE disadvantage, though: I listened to 41 songs and none of them scrobbled to Last.FM, so they won’t contribute to my 2020 year-end listening summary. Super annoying. It’s why I have the Last.FM scrobbler app on my phone. It has access to your iTunes library and it scrobbles. This is also one reason I haven’t moved off of Spotify: it has built-in scrobbling if you turn it on in your settings, something Amazon music and the other services don’t have.

I may try this again in the near future with the Last.FM scrobbler and see if it does a better job of mixing artists.

Ohhhh you know what I could do? Spend a few minutes adding these 41 songs to my queue in Spotify and just play it through there, maybe while I’m watching TV or in bed, so I won’t actually have to listen to them again while adding them to my scrobbles.

“If you listen to fools, the MOB RULES!”

Lockdown: Sticky situations

In Friday’s issue of Thursday’s mundania:

  • Waking up
  • Dragging myself to the desk
  • Staring at static words on a field of white
  • Breakfast and lunch (the turkey’s bad)
  • A Zoom meeting and some editing — tiptoeing
  • Stickers!
  • Dinner: Everyone needs a can to hold onto
  • December writing project one: rougher seas
  • Opening a vein
  • Too much snacking
  • “I like to give joy away for free”
  • Do ya think I’m texty?
  • I wanna text you up

Not the worst sleep in the world Wednesday night but neither the best. I think I got five good, solid, uninterrupted hours, and was shocked to discover it when I awoke. There are mornings when I wake up and I just know I slept so soundly that a succubus could have visited me in my chamber and had its way with me and I wouldn’t have stirred one bit. Well maybe ONE bit, but that bit, as we all know, is completely disconnected from my brain.

In the world of writing for a nonprofit: nothing meaningful happened for several hours. Words sat there on the page, stubbornly refusing to budge. Whiteness surrounding them refused to be sullied further with my clumsy attempts at poetric prose or anything resembling meaningful exposition.

The solution to my illoquacious, half-hearted attempts was of course to take a break for breakfast and lunch. I used up the last of my turkey broth, some fresh hapa rice, rosemary, garlic powder, salt, vinegar, and a couple of eggs some delicious turkey jook. I had a few pieces of turkey left for this last Thanksgiving memory, but they had turned, so I threw them in the trash, tearfully.

Still a great bowl of soup. I don’t know why I thought Tuesday that a great bowl of soup would be made better with bean sprouts.

We had a good weekly Zoom meeting with the department, during which I shared my struggles with sleep and productivity, not to mention my difficulty getting to the beach for some fresh air and salt water. Others shared similarly, ‘though on the whole, nobody was especially talkative. I think my boss was disappointed. I know she likes spending the time with us.

I got some stickers in the mail from a vendor on Etsy. I really just wanted the dart sticker, but what the heck. She does good work and I had $20, so I got these. One favorite quote from the series I have yet to see on any third-party merch is, “I like to give away joy for free.” My phone case is transparent, so the dart sticker went right in there after I snapped this.

I was sorely tempted to get takeout from somewhere. Or anywhere. I just couldn’t get interested enough in anything to make the effort. And I still had a bunch of fresh rice. So I opened a can of whoop-ass on a can of chili. It was lovely. I added ketchup and extra-sharp cheddar and read the news.

When it was time to write (that is, 8:30 or 9:00), I had a short list of stuff I wanted to get done. I wrote the week’s Friday 5 questions, my journal entry for Wednesday, and a quick review of Haunt’s Mind Freeze. Only it wasn’t very quick.

I’m trying to prepopulate my metal blog with content before I unleash it upon the foolish and the damned, but geez. I couldn’t settle on an approach or a voice, and it was frustrating. I want the writing to be sharp and clear, and I do want to inject my personality, as honestly as I can, because you know how it is when you write about certain areas: you want to establish some cred, and maybe you want people to know you’ve been listening to this music since you were fourteen, and that was a miiiiiiiiiillion years ago.

Except that the “honestly” part involves admitting what I don’t know and what I haven’t listened to. Yeah, I can name metalcore bands but I honestly don’t know what separates them from certain other -core bands, and post-metalcore is still a mystery to me. Yeah, I really enjoyed the Winterfylleth album this year, but black metal, as it grows on me, is still a little bit of a mystery to me. I don’t know yet what I like and why I like it.

This is the stuff I want to communicate because I’m not writing it for an audience. I’m writing it as an exploration of a music I love, and if the writing isn’t candidly reflective enough, it doesn’t serve its primary purpose.

I didn’t figure out until I was brushing my teeth before bed that I have to write a bunch of these before I find the voice I want. This may involve going back later and re-writing some of these early reviews, but that’s cool. I revise for living anyway. Onward. Let’s write a bunch of bad, schizophrenic reviews in order to learn to do this well enough for my intentions.

I saved the most pressing for last, one of the two stories for work I’m late with. I didn’t begin with the most urgent because I knew I’d take as long as I had. I finished at about 1:45 in the morning. If I had begun with it at 9:00, I’d still have finished it at 1:45 in the morning and wouldn’t have finished the other stuff. It sucked to be working so late, but I was determined, and moonlight is very slimming on my prepositional phrases. I opened a vein and bled myself onto the page, stopping periodically to lick the tip of the quill so as to save a few drops for my vampiric self.

When I’m in the middle of a ton of writing I’m not especially enjoying, I eat like a maniac. I’m a hundred percent sure it’s the sensory stimulation I want, something that doesn’t distract me from my work but makes me feel something besides the strain of squeezing transitions out of an already wrung-out brain. During my evening writing, I had a small bag of chips, three clementines, a large bottle of hard cider, and a Diet Pepsi. I caught myself several times wandering to the fridge just to open it up and see what might ignite one of my senses without taking me off my task. I very nearly made a tofu-kimchi salad, and I considered making a small pot of penne with a drizzle of olive oil and some grated cheese. Ugh. It was frustrating, but I’m glad I didn’t go too far overboard.

Writing is unhealthy, I tell you.

Then instead of going to bed, I re-watched a few of my favorite Ted Lasso moments from the “Diamond Dogs” episode. The darts scene. The “I like to give away joy for free” scene, and its subsequent “You, with the effing eyes” scene. I think I watched them three or four times each.

There was some silliness in the Cindy-Suzanne-Julie group text, which I stayed out of. I sent Ali this photo of my Ted Lasso stickers, which led to a short conversation. Crush Girl and I talked a little about one of my favorite coworkers who’s leaving next week. A real bummer, and she’s being mysterious about what she has lined up. She mentioned some things she’s lining up for the holidays. Good conversation, if a bit brief.

Here they come. The holidays. Are you ready? Are you connected? Are you drifting with the flotsam, hoping to be left by the receding tide with the rest of the jetsam? Don’t float alone. Leave me a comment if, like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, you could use a little tethering.

Lockdown: The way we wash our clothes

Got up Wednesday at 2:30 after a 2:15 alarm. Filled the water jugs, went through the McD’s drive-through, and had the laundry all to myself until I was just about done.

I hadn’t had enough sleep, but I still felt okay to head for the beach when my wash was washed. I was really tempted. I just had this feeling, though, that I should get home. So I picked up a few things at Safeway (including eggs so I wouldn’t have to make jook without them anymore) and got home and back to bed for a couple of good hours.

I was super unproductive at work. Tried to finish the two late stories but ugh. I just couldn’t make things connect. The big pieces are on the page. I just couldn’t knit them together into stories. Didn’t complete anything.

After work, I mostly just listened to music. I’m going through all the 2020 albums I spun in order to make my year-end best-of list. It was kind of fun. Haunt, Sons of Apollo, Odious Mortem, Mark Morton, and Ryte, new albums in January this year, the days of innocence. Before the fall of man. I was mostly surprised by how much more I liked the Odious Mortem album than I did eleven months ago. Listened to it twice through, in fact.

Met with the NaNoers in the Skype. Nobody was in the mood to write, but I was committed, so I wrote an album review while chatting with the others. I know one of the others was writing, the one who Skypes from South Korea, but you know. It’s so soon after one month of wringing a novel out of our brains, I don’t blame anyone for wanting more time off.

I kinda hoped to go to bed early, then wake up early and finish those two stories. I soooooorta did the first part but not the second. “Early” is relative, and I was in bed by midnight. Baby steps, I guess.

Breakfast was a Big Mac combo in the laundry. The fries were a little disappointing. The sandwich was very good. The two large Diet Cokes with extra ice were kind of amazing. I only really like Diet Coke when it’s from McD’s with extra ice.

Lunch was a bowl of jook, this time with a couple of eggs. Good but not great. I added a splash of vinegar and some bean sprouts. The bean sprouts did not make it better. I was annoyed with myself.

For dinner, I got takeout from Liliha Bakery. You know, considering how close I live to Liliha Street, it’s kind of weird that I don’t go there more often, although I remember a period about a year and a half ago when I stopped there two or three times a week on my way home from work just to get a doughnut. I don’t drive home on the freeway, so I kind of go right through Liliha twice a day when I’m working in the office.

The good old days.

I got the meatloaf plate. Used to be a once-a-week special but it’s on the regular menu now and it’s the second-best thing on the menu. The pancakes are the best.

Meatloaf is one of my favorite things my mom used to make. I’ve seen some decent recipes for IP meatloaf. Maybe I’ll make one. I’ve made a few over the years but haven’t really gotten it right. In fact, I bought a silicone loaf pan specifically for meatloaf, but I’ve only used it for that once.

After all that writing, I ate the glazed doughnut I also brought home, for dessert.

I sent Sharon a link to this great Match.com commercial where Satan and the year 2020 hook up through the dating service. It’s hilarious. It led to a short talk about dating apps. She’s encouraging me to try one. She’s the second female friend in a month to suggest it.

Crush Girl texted me to talk about a power outage, and how she opted for a different store (not Target) and it was quiet. Safer. I also had a long text conversation with Ali about stuff I can’t really record here. It started with some talk about some people at work, and how she misses working with us.

Wednesday was kind of a blah day. And this week feels like it’s speeding by even though it has no reason to feel this way. I’m stuck in slow motion on seemingly everything, but pages on the calendar keep turning.

Leave a comment if you need more connectivity than you’re getting. These are dark days for us all, as I wrote in a comment on a friend’s blog. If you need a little bit of bonding, let’s do it.

Lockdown: Do you love me (now that I can dance)?

Uggggggh. Crawled out of bed at 9:45 and punched in (figurative) at ten. Immediately put in for a half day’s vacation so I could catch up on a few things left unfinished over this last weekend of NaNoWriMo. Not enough sleep by far, but I did get more than five hours uninterrupted with Darth Vader, so it was the best sleep I’ve had in weeks.

I took a little while to get warmed up but worked steadily on the website thing they asked me to put up. This one was a little interesting because I worked closely with two DOs on the proposal, then they did their thing with it, and we raised the targeted amount (more than a million dollars). My boss wrote the press release, and I posted it on our website. Circle of fundraising life.

This shouldn’t have taken my entire half day of work, but I worked too slowly, and then there were late corrections, one of which took me a lot longer to figure out than it should have. Yeah, my brain is a long way from mossy these days.

I didn’t check out as early as planned because of it, but it was enough time to take care of my laundry night prep, and I had time to make dinner and watch The Bachelorette which continues to be stupid but I can’t take my eyes off the star. She’s beautiful.

I do believe in the possibility of love at first sight. A colleague once expressed his believe in it such that I could see it happening while I doubted I could ever experience it myself. I mean, not love. It’s one reason I think this show and others of its ilk are ridiculous, because even if you could fall in love in this setting, which I doubted, would you want to?

My feelings are evolving on this as I have now watched three episodes. These people are all physically attractive, and most of them are personally attractive too, although competition certainly doesn’t bring out the best in some. As we all know.

Here’s the thing, though. The bachelorette and her wooers get pretty handsy, and there’s some intimate kissing going on, the likes of which I’ve never done before knowing a person for years. Yeah, I know I’m not typical, but I think I’m naive, too. Is this the kind of making out people do on first dates when they’re into each other? It’s pretty steamy to these innocent eyes.

If you put me in this setting, where I exist solely to gain the favor of an incredibly beautiful woman, I think I present as my best self, or at least my best self away from a classroom. Which means I’m present, confident, focused on others, sensitive, and that thing I have where I know the right thing to say at the right time (whose flipside is knowing the most hurtful thing to say at the wrong time as well). This version of me kissing a woman like that in this way has a pretty darned good shot at believing he’s in love, and I don’t know. Maybe believing you’re in love is a step.

My experience believing the ineffable would indicate that you could slide right into true love, although I doubt you could be certain of it. Still, not being certain doesn’t mean it’s not real.

Anyway I can’t wait for this program to be over so this bachelorette can leave and I can be free.

I slept but not well. Kinda dropped off before closing any loops. Left my dinner dishes on my desk, unwashed and just about every light in the house on, so I forced myself up at about midnight to put stuff away and brush my teeth, then of course it took me a while to get back to sleep. I was going to go to the beach Wednesday morning, another reason for my taking that half day off, so I could reset my sleep schedule, but it’s not going to happen now. I’m at the laundry typing this now and I think it would be irresponsible to show up for work on the bad sleep I got.

For breakfast I made a small pot of turkey jook with hapa rice, lots of rosemary, and a little bit of garlic powder. It was yummy, but I didn’t have eggs, and I love to put an egg in my poultry soup. It was filling enough to cover lunch, too, so I skipped that and had a bag of chips for a snack. Dinner was a bowl of pasta with jarred sauce. I made the sauce with garlic flakes, tequila, brown sugar, and red pepper flakes, then topped the dish with extra-sharp white cheddar. It was quite good, although tequila’s not as good as vodka in red sauce.

Got a text from Crush Girl. We talked a little about Wednesday’s surf forecast and whether or not this evening was a good time to try Target. JB texted to talk about some spiritual stuff. Good conversation. Jennifer sent me another photo of some of her recently framed movie art. It’s nice. I questioned whether she had enough wall space for it all. Tiger sent me and those classmates in the Zoom call more info about her MLM.

A few of the NaNo Skypers did chat for a while Tuesday evening, but I stayed out of it. Laundry nights are going to be my no-writing nights this month. I think that’s going to be only a couple of times, though, because I think every other week is going to work well for me, especially during these holidays.

Someone left a Bible here in the laundry. I’m going to flip through it to see if there are interesting notes in margins.

Don’t go through pandemic days in a pandemic haze. Minutes hours and days run together in these times, and if you’re not doing what I’m doing — journaling the meaningless trivialities of daily existence — you can get lost. If you need someone to connect with, please leave a comment and I’ll send you some contact info. Especially if you’re watching The Bachelorette.

Lockdown: NaNoWriMo ends; let sleep begin

tried this brand. couldn’t really taste a difference.

Sunday night. It’s such a mood. I stayed up far too late for no good reason other than dreading the weekend’s end. I was up until past five in the morning. Yeah, I’m a doofus.

So I got up at about 9:20 to check in at work at 9:30. I had stories I was behind on and website content to put up, but I wasn’t looking forward to any of it. Then a development officer needed help formatting a proposal. She’d done all the writing; just had some trouble with pictures and text and alignment and stuff.

It’s not her fault. I have the same problems with Word and layouts. It’s just not built for that kind of thing. I must prefer InDesign, as anyone doing this kind of work prefers it, but then the DOs I work with can’t do their own editing, which means lots of back and forth as they tweak it and I follow directions. When I get a little more juice around here, I’m going to urge very strongly that we get MS Publisher for the DOs who more actively build their own proposals.

While I had it, of course I gave it a little bit of an edit.

The rest of the day was pretty much working similarly with this DO on similar proposals, three in all. It was good work, good problem-solving without having to cut open my own vein for creative thinking. Late in the day another DO sent me copy for a case statement and asked me to do my thing.

I like editing. And the people I work with seem to appreciate it. And I got to procrastinate longer on those stories I’m behind on.

After work, I rewatched some of my favorite Ted Lasso moments and did some personal writing. In the middle of it, I got an email from Reid inviting me to a Zoom call, which I normally would completely ignore but a few of my other classmates were in the same email, so I figured I’d drop in and say hi.

It was nice to see the classmate, including Reid. But the call was just an hour, which was about all I could take. We talked sports, and then I encouraged my classmate Tiger to give one of her MLM pitches. Muahaha. I figure if I don’t spend money with her maybe someone else will. I’m trying to honor everyone who’s got a side hustle.

By the time the NaNo Skype got going, everyone who was going to get across the finish line had already crossed it. A couple of us weren’t going to make it, but we gave it a token effort. Mostly we just chatted about writing. It was a good way to end it.

We also talked about continuing the sessions. Not nightly, but at least weekly. This a good indicator that we had a good month.

I wrote 383 words, not exactly pulling in at the gate, but definitely landing the plane and taxiing a good distance.

It was trash night, so I took an hour for a little bit of decluttering, mostly throwing out stuff that’s been waiting a really long time to be thrown. I did not fill the bin, but the bin was very heavy as I rolled it to the street. Decent progress for the last week of NaNo, a holiday weekend, and a sleep-deprived few days.

It was around 1:00 in the morning when I was finished cleaning up. I don’t know what I did for the next four hours but it wasn’t going to bed.

Ugh.

I got a short text from Sharon about her BF meeting my friend Jeff for his job interview. That seems to have gone well. Also texts from the panicking DO about one of the proposals. I put that fire out quickly. Sylvia sent me photo of her dual monitor setup at home. Pretty nice. Also a photo of her dinner from JitB. She hates that place and swears she’s not going back. I stuck up for it. Ha.

Julie sent me a Christmas card even though I told her not to. I texted the Julie-Suzanne-Cindy group text a thank you, then Cindy sent a photo of the card next to her cat. That doofus Julie. She didn’t send the usual family photo of everyone in red jammies. She sent a selfie of her missing a front tooth. Kind of brilliant. I opened my card and declared her the victor.

Crush Girl texted to ask if I bought anything on Cyber Monday. This led to some nice conversation about stuff she had her eye on and stuff she bought. I said I was pretty much done with my Christmas shopping except for a few things I was getting in local stores, but I dropped a ridiculous sum on Prime Day this past summer so it was okay.

Breakfast was a fresh pot of hapa rice with some canned mackerel. Very good. Lunch might have been a slice of custard pie and small bag of chips. I definitely ate those and nothing else but I’m hesitant to call it lunch because what does that make me? Dinner was a bowl of canned chili with hapa rice.

I’m pretty sure there was another slice of custard pie for dessert.

You need more connection? Leave a comment. Pandemic sucks. Don’t be alone.

Lockdown: Even over rough ground

The virus is wreaking havoc upon the National Football League, which means it’s wreaking havoc upon fantasy football. Despite my dropping off to sleep very late Saturday night — it was Sunday morning not far from dawn — I was up ahead of my 7:30 alarm, set at that ridiculous hour so I could check last-minute NFL COVID news and set my lineups accordingly. In this case, “accordingly” meant “in a mad panic.”

Got back to sleep and didn’t wake up until 10:30 or so. I hadn’t made my mind up about going to the office, but as the morning went on I kept thinking of things that would be better done there. I took my time about it, and headed down at about 1:00. Picked up a phone-ahead order at Zippy’s. A custard pie and a Surf Pac. They bring it to your car.

I got out at about 6:00 after a decent amount of work. Came home, did a few chores, watched a little football and a little of A Simple Favor with the Paul Fieg commentary, took a short nap, and got to writing with the NaNoWriMo Skype people. Several of us have gone over the finish line, so there was a lot of congratulations and cheering the others on.

Since I finally worked through the horribly flawed climax, I got to write the resolution, which is much more fun. With one day left I have a conclusion and some loose ends to attend to, and then I’m putting it all aside until January so I can work on other personal writing projects.

I’ve written for at least a couple of hours every night for a month. Might as well ride that wave and take care of some long-neglected things on my to-write list.

This is the last of the NaNoWriMo pep talks I read that one night. Sue Grafton in 2009. This one makes me a little sad because she died last year.

Believe me, getting from beginning to middle to end is an incredible accomplishment in itself! Literary quality is in the eye of the beholder and who’s to say your novel won’t be right up there among the greats? All you have to do is work. All you have to do is push. Focus on the job at hand. Ignore the urge to second-guess yourself. This is not the time for introspection; it’s a time for charging on. Believe in yourself. Be determined to keep the promises you made when you first began. Your commitment to do this will see you through, even over rough ground.

So. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and write. You said you would do this so nod your head and say, “I will do this. I will do this. I will do this.” And then do this.

She wrote twenty-five novels about the same character, most of them good, a few of them outstanding, and a few of them terrible. I’d take that success rate.

I kind of skipped breakfast. Lunch and dinner were the Surf Pac, and dessert was a slice of the custard pie. Yes, I’ve been getting takeout a lot lately. Not sure what’s come over me, but I’m going to ride it for now. I did make that lovely two quarts of turkey broth, and that counts as cooking. I just haven’t actually dined on it yet.

Sunday texts included Jennifer, who sent me a photo of some beautiful box-office-sized movie poster art she framed. Harry Potter films. Yeah I have cool friends. I sent Sharon a text to tell her where Jeff’s business is so her boy could find it Monday for his job application.

Ali finished watching Ted Lasso so we spent a little bit of time chatting about that. Crush Girl and I texted a very little about her Thanksgiving.

I’m grateful the end of the month draweth nigh. Lately a month ends and I can’t believe it — where is all the time going and what have I to show for it? But this month I believe the month is over and although I’m not exactly looking forward to December, which I imagine is going to be a bit of a downer, I’m glad to be done with another NaNoWriMo.

Don’t go through the holidays disconnected. Leave a comment and I’ll send you contact deets. You can tether yourself to me as we fling through the deep space of pandemic holidays. Yikes.

Lockdown: A pirate looks at 50 (thousand words)

I intended not to stay in bed all Saturday morning, scheduling myself for an afternoon nap if I needed one. So I got up around eleven, I think, to read the news and do some puzzles. I think there was a nap but I honestly don’t remember. The day passed idly, quietly, and quickly.

I watched my Blu-Ray of A Simple Favor, that Paul Feig film with Anna Kendrick, Blake Lively, and Henry Golding. I reviewed it here. I had it in my Amazon cart for months and one day it came down in price to about a third the box office price, so I pulled the trigger a month or so ago.

I only saw the film a couple of years ago but Saturday almost felt like it was the first time. I remembered a couple of details and a couple of surprises, but the general arc of the story felt new. I appreciated that, and look forward to a few more screenings. This disc has a ton of extras, including three commentary tracks. I’m about a third of the way into the Paul Feig commentary, but of course the one I really want to get to is the Kendrick-Lively commentary.

I had a few chores to take care of, easy ones but time-consuming, including straining my turkey broth and putting it in storage containers. I don’t have a freezer for the broth, so I’m going to have to use it this week. Turkey stuff doesn’t last as long in the fridge as you’d think.

Did some personal writing as I watched the evening news, then met with the NaNoWriMo Skype to try and close the loop of my story. It was difficult. I don’t know how to wite the climax of a mystery, and I was kind of a wimp. I finally declared a word war, just to try and power my way through, and although it’s messy as heck and will need major, major revision, the story does break through the climax, so Sunday night and Monday night I just have to wrap it up. I’m expecting the resolution to be much easier than the climax.

My problem is that a climax in a mystery like this needs to have some action, and action is really my weakest thing. I’m a lot like Kevin Smith: I’d much rather write about people hanging out and conversing. It’s too bad it just doesn’t work at the apex of the narrative mystery arc.

Another problem: My character is a forty-something-year-old teacher, a small geeky woman who plays video games and listens to heavy metal. I absolutely do not want the climax to involve someone else coming to her rescue, but she’s no Kinsey Milhone. Kinsey is a former cop, so she was trained in hand-to-hand, and of course she carries a gun. Her series is hard-boiled. Cozy mysteries are soft-boiled (I didn’t make this terminology up; that’s what they call them), so there isn’t supposed to be much shooting for violence. Violenct acts occur away from the narrative.

If I’m going to write a female heroine in this story, as I am determined to do, I have to make her the agent of her success, but if I want to make it believable, she has to use her brains and somehow overcome the person threatening her life.

I’m not smart enough to think of a way for her to do it.

But I wrote something involving a pair of scissors and not too much personal injury. Terribly, I then had her running away to escape while the police move in. This doesn’t satisfy me. I need her to actually have the situation mostly under control by the time the police arrive.

In Pitch Perfect 3, Fat Amy is trained in hand-to-hand combat, but in addition to out-fighting her opponent, she also throws a handful of wasabi powder in his face. I need something like that. And then maybe a hit on the head with a heavy object.

Too cliche? Maybe.

I actually have another idea involving some bonsai wire, and I thought I was going to write that, but in the frenzy of getting words on the page, the bad guy forces himself on the heroine and she plays along, making out with him before she uses the scissors. I couldn’t think of a way for her to get the bonsai wire around his throat while they’re in the kissing position. I’ll work it out. I think the bonsai wire is really my best bet here, and not as cliche in this genre.

Oh, you know what might make more sense? Those super flexible saws on wires. I just Google “finger saw” and it took me to what I wanted: wire saw. That would totally be appropriate for the setting.

See? Journaling helps with all kinds of different thought activities.

Now I kind of can’t wait to do a revision. In January.

This is from Piers Anthony’s 2008 NaNoWriMo pep talk:

Here’s a secret: fictive text doesn’t necessary flow easily. Most of the time it’s more like cutting a highway through a mountain. You just have to keep working with your pick, chipping away at the rock, making slow progress. It may not be pretty at first. Prettiness doesn’t come until later, at the polishing stage, which is outside your month. You just have to get it done by brute force if necessary. So maybe your ongoing story isn’t very original. That’s okay, for this. Just get it done. Originality can be more in the eye of the reader than in any objective assessment.

You can make it from a standing start, even from a foolish daydream when you should have been paying attention to the Pep Talk. You will want to try for a bit more quality, of course, and maybe a spot of realism. Garner an Idea, assemble some Characters, find a suitable place to start, and turn them loose in your imagination. Now go home and start your engines!

His pep talk is actually not nearly as inspiring as the others I looked at that night, but for a time in the 80s he had to be the most prolific writer of speculative ficion in the world, publishing three novels a year, almost all best-sellers. He always had one novel in the first-drafting phase, one in revision, and one in proofs, so every four months, a new Piers Anthony novel.

Yes, of course he sacrificed quality for quantity, as almost any of his fans will tell you, and the beginnings of his series were always great, with subsequent novels in every series not as good as the ones before. But his good stuff is great, and I would happily publish four bad novels if it meant two very good ones as well.

He uses the same metaphor Katherine Paterson uses in her pep talk. The slab of stone. Let these words on this date be a reminder to me that when NaNoWriMo organizers ask me, the esteemed and favorite novelist of teens and middle-aged female math teachers alike, to write a pep talk, I will use the Great Pacific Garbage Patch metaphor.

Breakfast was cold pizza. A very late lunch was turkey sliders. A very late dinner was the last of the cold pizza. In between I had a few clementines, a small square of lemongrass chocolate, an impromptu cocktail with Maker’s Mark, vanilla extract, simple syrup, and bitters with lots of ice, and a few sips of turkey broth, which came out wondefully.

I texted Ali to remind her to check out Ted Lasso, which led to a long conversation about why and how, but she watched the first episode for free and then binged the rest. I’m happy I’ve gotten at least one person hooked on it.

I also texted Penny a reminder and haven’t heard back. I got one text from Crush Girl responding to something I said a few days before. She’s bee a little quiet this weekend. I’m hoping it means she’s having a blast.

I’m having a good weekend but I may take a few days of vacation leading up to Christmas. Just don’t really feel like working my butt off as this crappy year ends.

Leave a comment if you need more connection in the crappy days of this crappy pandemic. Don’t be alone.

Lockdown: Be curious, not judgmental

I woke up a few times Friday morning after putting myself to bed at just before sunrise. Still managed to get some decent sleep. I guess you can when you don’t sweat getting up at a certain time. I think I crawled out of bed at half past noon.

Did a little bit of writing. Ate cold pizza for breakfast-lunch. Watched a bunch of Ted Lasso episodes again. Laughed some more. Cried some more. Go watch it, will you?

Thursday night I put my half of the turkey carcass in the IP and used it as a slow cooker for the first time. Ran it for twelve hours, then let it rest, then ran it for eight more on Friday night. The letting it rest isn’t part of the process. I should have just let it go all that time. One cooking blogger I looked at said she leaves the carcass in the slow cooker on low for two days.

I’ve got my own method, of course, but it was my first time using the IP for turkey broth, and I wanted to see if there were any cautions. There weren’t, as far as I could tell.

I took it about as easy Friday as I ever take it, spending most the day lounging in bed or watching Ted Lasso. I did finally take Pitch Perfect 3 out of my DVD player, but didn’t put anything else in. I figured I’ll find something later. I just wanted to get out of my Pitch Perfect rut.

Readers of this space who are keeping close track will notice I didn’t go to the laundry this week. With the stress of Thanksgiving and work, plus NaNoWriMo, I figured this would be a good time to skip a week. I did have to get drinking water, so around eight in the evening I drove to the gas station convenience store on the corner, across the street from Rainbow’s, and filled four gallon jugs. I may go back and fill a few more before my next laundry night.

The NaNoWriMo Skype was low-key, but the others wrote well. I took really long getting started and I worked slowly. I was at the climax of my story and I don’t know how to write the climax of a mystery. We did a few word wars and I made my characters keep going and at about 11:00, I went over the 50,000 word mark. Another NaNo project completed.

Not completed by a mile, though. Still, it feels good.

For dinner I had my entire half of the Chinese chicken salad from the Thanksgiving meal. It wasn’t going to last another day, so I just focused on that. It’s a dish I don’t have very often. I can’t even remember when I last had it, but it was really good. I love that dressing, whatever it is, and think I would like to adapt it for my next tofu salad. Thankfully, there are at least two or three recipes in the HBA cookbook.

Ali and I texted quite a bit in between my short naps. She wanted some advice on some photos she was about to share. That was a fun conversation. Sharon’s BF is going to apply for a job with one of my friends, so I was the intermediary, getting info from the friend and sending it to Sharon. I told Sharon to make sure the BF mentions Cheap Trick during the interview. Jeff’s favorite band.

I finally called it a night (sort of) at about three in the morning, then re-watched the final two episodes of Ted Lasso and dropped off to sleep around six in the morning. The timing there is weird because that’s not even two hours of video, but I’m pretty sure that’s how it went down.

An unremarkable day, aside from completing another NaNoWriMo project. I’ll take it.

Leave a comment if you want someone to connect with in these cold gray days of doing nothing. I may not be as useful to you as I was to Ali and Sharon, but I can try.

Lockdown: A taste of brine and the presence of the rocking, slopping bluegraygreen

A little behind again. I’m writing about Thanksgiving Day on early Saturday morning. It’s three minutes to eleven, practically the break of dawn.

I’m also listening to Mother Love Bone’s Apple LP (1990), maybe my favorite album from the 90s Seattle scene. If you were once into the Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam , Nirvana thing and haven’t checked it out, I recommend it highly. All these bands had great frontmen — Chris Cornell, Layne Staley, Eddie Vedder, and Kurt Cobain — but Mother Love Bone’s Andrew Wood might have been the best. He died a few days before Apple, the band’s debut album, was scheduled for release, and that was the end before the beginning. Terrible stuff.

Yeah, this means of the five bands I just named, four lead singers are dead.

I slept in on Thursday, as everyone should. Forced myself up at 10:30 because I had a noon pickup for the Thanksgiving dinner I ordered from Jolene’s Market. It took me all that time and then some to get ready. I really didn’t want to be out and about. I wanted to be sprawled in my bed with the football games on in the next room while I drifted into and out of consciousness.

I got to Jolene’s at quarter to one (sign-ups were spaced an hour apart, so I thought I’d let the eager twelve o’clockers get there first, then get my stuff ahead of the one o’clockers. None of it really mattered because they were backed up like crazy, causing a bit of a jam on Beretania just past Mauna Kea. I parked at the curb in a no-parking zone (with several others) and slithered my way past far too many people inside the restaurant to be informed that it would be a while. They were waiting on my mashed potatoes.

It was about a forty-five minute wait, which didn’t bug me. Being in a rush on Thanksgiving Day ruins the day, you know? I didn’t feel comfortable at all waiting inside, though, so I was out in the very warm sun. Could have been raining, though, so whatever. They gave us pagers to let us know when we could pick up our stuff, and now that I think of it, I would much have preferred they text me on my phone. You’re tethered to a short radius with those pagers. I could have wandered Chinatown Cultural Plaza, or Chinatown, or just up and down River Street if not for the pager. I’m definitely going to suggest this to them for next year when I email them to let them know what a great meal it was.

It was a nineteen-pound roast turkey with a ridiculous amount of food for sides. Mashed potatoes, Chinese chicken salad, rolls, gravy, chow mein, stuffing, and a whole custard pie. I took the whole thing to my parents’ so we could split it up. I would much rather have split it at my place then taken them half, but I didn’t want them to feel they were getting my leftovers. So we unrapped it all on their dining table and split the food up, all wearing masks, and chatted for a while. I was there too long, but I was also there so they felt like we had something like a Thanksgiving, so I think maybe it was worth it. It won’t have been if one of them gets sick, though.

I took everything home except the pie. I’ve been eating way too much pie lately, so I left them the whole thing.

On my way to my folks’, I was struck by how few cars there were on the roads. This made me think maybe the beach was sparsely populated, so I changed quickly and zoomed off to Ala Moana. Parking seemed a bit scant, but holy cow. I must have had great timing because the best parking spot, the one I seldom get even when I get there at five in the morning, was wide open.

I shuddered at the sight of volleyball players playing on the sand courts, but slithered (again) my way through people on the beach and dove into the water, which I had practically to myself at four o’clock in the afternoon and it was beautiful and glorious and refreshing and well with my soul.

I could feel the lack of exercise in every part of my body, so I went about half my accustomed distance, but I alternately took it very slowly and moderately quickly, then floated for a bit and dove for a bit and mostly just really enjoyed being salty and wet. Geez. By the time I got out of the water, people were leaving, so I considered hanging out for a while and then diving back in for one last soak, but I was a little worried about the turkey I left on my table. I put it in my cooler to keep it away from critters, but I was still concerned ants would find a way in.

Stopped at a local liquor store for a 24-ounce Corona and a bottle of Maker’s Mark, which I’d never had. Let me tell you, the stuff is very popular, and it smells totally delicious, but it has a pretty gross finish lingering for days. I’m going to try it in mixed drinks but I have a feeling I’ll just be passing the bottle to someone else. I just took another whiff and mmmm. I’m hoping it mixes better than it goes down neat or straight (yeah, I tried it both ways).

My half turkey was totally fine, so I made myself a ridiculous plate of food, went to town until I was stuffed while I read the news, and took a short nap.

The NaNoWriMo Skype was attended by only three or four of us, but we wrote. I struggled at first, then right before midnight something clicked and I finished with 2500+ words. Decent words.

Collapsed into bed at about half past five in the morning.

I got a Happy Thanksgiving greeting from Crush Girl when I came out of the ocean. That was nice. I also got Thanksgiving greetings from Jennifer and Vicky, then sent one to my sister. My uncle and I traded a couple of DMs in IG.

I had cold pizza for breakfast. It didn’t sit well at all, and I had some bad acid reflux. It’s one reason I didn’t dive into my Thanksgiving dinner until after the beach. I just wasn’t in the mood to chase that with anything. Dinner was all that. I didn’t even go for a late-night plate of seconds, just had a couple of clementines for a late dessert.

It was a good day, and I’m glad I was forced to get out of bed and over to my parents’ house. This is just how it’s like for me, most of the time, no matter who I’m supposed to see. I have to make myself go, and then I have a nice time. You’d think that would make it easier the next time, but it never does.

I’m going to throw a few things into a glass with ice and some Maker’s, and toast to the well-being of us all in these waning days of this crappy year. I’m thankful for my family’s continued good health and for digital connectedness with friends and crushes. If you need some of that, leave a comment and I’ll give you my contact details. Don’t drift untethered through a pandemic daze.