At the end of last month, Sanguinity and I went on vacation. It’s kind of a new thing to me as an adult, Going On Vacation when it’s not a race or dog-sitting or helping someone move or visiting relatives. It feels strange to optimize purely for enjoying ourselves and doing or seeing something memorable.
Our first plan, a fire lookout reservation, fell through when I realized it required a 4WD. Then Sanguinity suggested we go east, and I reserved a state-park cabin by the Prineville Reservoir. The desert!
We heard coyotes every night (Sanguinity has trouble waking me up usually, but I woke up for coyotes, every night). Quail and little lizards ran around, and the black-tailed jackrabbits stood on all fours with their back legs unfolded, so they looked like tiny deer with big ears. And there were magpies, a bird I miss from my Colorado days. The water was so hard it tasted salty. And man, the stars.
On our way home we visited two of the three parts of John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, skipping the one with the visitor center. We are wimpy drivers and everything is an hour or more from everything else in Eastern Oregon, on beautiful but winding roads. But every “okay, let’s do it” call turned out to be the right one.
We also happened to drive through Antelope, Oregon on the way back to the Gorge. I hadn’t realized how tiny it was– old buildings, some abandoned, plus some mobile homes. I can only imagine what the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh days must have been like for longtime residents. I mean, the gossip value alone! o_O
When we got back to Portland, the season had changed and October rains were here. I was ready.
Somehow I requested Jacqueline Woodson’s newest book, Another Brooklyn, in both audio and print versions from the library. The audio version came in first. Robin Miles is a wonderful reader and I’m going to seek out her other work– she’s recorded books by N.K. Jemison and Nnedi Okorafor too. It wasn’t the technical show of “doing all the voices” or characters at different ages, although she was fine at that. Her voice took its time and matched the poetic rhythm of the text, without ever becoming “poetry voice.”
Even so, listening was frustrating sometimes, because there were so many moments that I would have looked up and paused for awhile if I were reading in print. But maybe that’s why, when I finished in the middle of a long run at the track, it was so easy to go back to the first track and start all over again.
The one thing I wasn’t thrilled about in Another Brooklyn is the grown narrator’s career as an anthropologist who studies death rituals. It felt like a literary-fiction device, choosing such a thematic career and then every now and then mentioning that the x people do y with their dead. Ah well, every genre has its tics and tropes, lit-fic no less than the rest.
I quit my next audiobook, The Mother-Daughter Book Club, because I don’t have time in my life for a character arc that starts with making fun of kids’ lack of money and unstylish clothes. Even if Little Women is involved, apparently! Sigh. Maybe I’ll try it in print if I run across it.
Now I’m listening to Jo Baker’s Longbourn, and loving it so far because there’s LOTS OF CLEANING. I can’t explain why this is so surefire for me.
I’ve been enjoying The Billfold’s “What Children’s Literature Teaches Us About Money” series– the essays on Harriet the Spy and Bridge to Terebithia are good examples. I especially like the chance to re-evaluate adult characters. Yeah, Mr. Waldenstein does sound suspiciously no-one-understood-my-deepness. And there was always a slight whiff of the ridiculous in Leslie’s parents, but it’s much darker when you zoom out and consider why they’re in Jess’ town in the first place.
Does any adult lend himself more to re-evaluation than Pa Charles Ingalls? It’s probably a lifeling project for me, raised as I was in thrall to the books, the TV show, and my own little slate and calico bonnet. It was always, always so much easier to dislike Ma than Pa as a child reader. Parenting by the Books: On the Banks of Plum Creek takes a look at that.
1. When we moved into our house 20 years ago, sanguinity and I ripped up the incredibly gross carpet in one room, and with friends’ help we resanded the softwood floor underneath. It was pretty worn, but we got one more sanding out of it. Sang convinced me to finish with old-school shellac, and it worked out fine. (No wet shoes or muddy pets allowed in that room.)
We mostly cleared the room last month to make space for workers restoring the window, so it seemed like a good opportunity for another couple of coats. The hardware store employees were incredulous that shellac could be a floor covering, and I had to be adamant to get them to order me a quart of it. (It was weird, they’re not usually like that.) Sang wielded the brush and had to go lie down and giggle afterwards because of the alcohol fumes. But look, pretty!
2. After Vass mentioned a game called Alphabear, I put it on my phone and tried it out. I may get hooked enough to have to delete it soon, although so far it’s strenuous enough that my brain’s tired of it after a round or two. It’s just as well I left my phone at home today.
3. This art car has been for sale down by the Reed campus for a couple of weeks.
Thing is, the front panel spells out in beads that it’s dedicated to the memory of someone. It would be a considerable and maybe odd responsibility to take over an art car memorial for someone you didn’t know.
We had an art car plan, never executed, for my old Camry– the paint on the hood was worn and scratched, and Sang suggsted we could paint on a knitting-stitch pattern, with cables or whatever, and then maybe put a big ball of yarn and needles on the roof. But in reality, I’m so averse to attracting attention that even a bumper sticker is pushing it. Also the reason I’ll probably never have a recumbent bike, unless someday they’re no longer conversation magnets.
4. Tomorrow evening I’m volunteering at the Portland World Naked Bike Ride. They’re taking off from the park nearest my house, and it seemed a shame not to go see such an iconic event, but I didn’t want to un-cobweb my bike or be a creepy rubbernecker. So I’ll help with the first pass of cleanup after the ride leaves. (Another crew comes through at 8 a.m. to get whatever we miss in the dark.)
5. 1970s rereading jag, including most of the Al books by Constance C. Greene. Books set in apartment buildings were strange and fascinating to me as a kid– friends living down the hall, taking the laundry to the basement, and people called “supers” who also lived in the basement? The Al books are such a comedy act in their dialogue and timing and repetition that I’m a little surprised that they felt like real novels to me then. I didn’t even notice for years that we never learn the narrator’s name. Now I’m on to Beat the Turtle Drum and it’s very weird to hear echoes of that same voice in Kate and Joss, but slower and more serious.
This week I started two new projects with Sanguinity!
We both joined the LiveJournal community Sherlock Holmes: 60 for 60. Each week I’ll be reading one of the original 60 Arthur Conan Doyle stories (or a fraction of a novel– the whole cycle will take 71 weeks total) and posting a related ficlet of exactly 60 words. We started with A Study in Scarlet, so my first contribution was of course about the “bull pup” Watson claims to keep but never mentions again.
I was sorry to leave the hotel: Sophie was my biscuit friend, and waited for me to finish the crumbs before sweeping. At the new house the tall man has a noisy howling-box but I must be quiet. The old dog won’t play, but I go out early with the tall man to sniff. Then run home for another breakfast!
New members are welcome to join in anytime, in case this appeals to you. This is round five, so chances are you’ll have another chance at any stories you missed.
I also bought the latest edition of my favorite hiking book, William Sullivan’s 100 Hikes in NW Oregon and SW Washington, so that Sanguinity and I can do them all and mark them off. There are so many that are wonderful but I had a “we did that” mindset, which is ridiculous. So today we checked off #8, Oaks Bottom. It wasn’t much more fuss than our usual neighborhood walks, and we heard red-winged blackbirds and saw woodpeckers working. There are multiple options for many hikes plus a bunch more at the back, so some recordkeeping details are unclear… for now I’m just writing dates and notes in the book. No set time frame.
Twenty years after we told the insurance guy we would take care of it soon, our house is no longer covered in battered gray asphalt shingles. Instead it’s this color:
which is called “smoky salmon” and looks a lot more orange and less pink, on the house. Maybe. It changes. The trim is “restoration ivory” and has a touch of spring green in it. All in all, a huge change for our formerly quite scary-looking house. I keep thinking the porch light is on, but it’s just the glowy light-colored paint.
Considering that I did not do the actual work, it’s amazing how stressful I found the re-siding (and painting and rebuilding some of the porch where it was sagging) process. Multiple people right there at the house all the time, and way too many decisions. Sanguinity managed the bulk of it while I hid at the office, and I am very grateful.
To show my appreciation on one of those days, I made her a ridiculous dish from the side of a Triscuit box!
Cranberry & Sage Candied Sweet Potato is made with Cranberry & Sage Triscuits (review), which I bought because they were clearly a leftover holiday item and might never come back. They’re weirdly sweet but tasty. And turns out, when you mash them into crumbs and dump them on top of a baked sweet potato with butter and brown sugar, that is also weirdly sweet but tasty!
I’m trying to streamline the spiral-notebook-to-blog process for images, via my phone and Google Drive and the WordPress interface. Not sure how much progress I’ve made, but it means you get to see my Three on the Third comics, which I haven’t done in I don’t know HOW long. Dedicated to J with admiration for how she’s (singlehandedly?) kept it going!
[Sad Little Kitty Noises: A Lesson. “meow..arowr…” What I thought would happen: purrrr, purrrrrr, purrrrz. What really happened: scratch scratch, lick lick lick lick, “wet foooood!”]
[Critter Control. 8:00 a.m.: “Hello, we have a catch in our roof trap. I think it’s a squirrel. Okay thanks bye! (Good, it was voicemail.)” 1:30 p.m.: “If the squirrel’s not gone when we get back, should I call? I mean, it gets dark at four something.” Later: “It’s the ‘service completed’ email. It was a rat. That’s…four rats? One more rat and rats are free.”]
[Nutella: The Big Jar. One person on sofa: nomnomnom. Both people on sofa: nomnomnom. “Wha…oops, I went to put this away. Do you want it back?” “No, here’s the lid.” “I guess technically it was a joint present.” “Yeah.” “Heh.” “Heh.” “It’s better to just think of it as yours.”]
I spent quite a lot of this weekend rereading Ellen Emerson White’s The President’s Daughter, the updated 2008 edition that has email and cell phones that are curiously underused. (The original, which I’ve never seen, was published in 1984. Hmm, liberal-fantasy presidency 15 years before West Wing?)
I took it with me to get the car’s oil changed. I read it on the porch with many glasses of ice water. (I read it in the bathroom.) I finished it tonight in the back yard, while Sang worked on a story and hummingbirds navigated the lilac boughs overhead. (I speculated that the small-even-for-a-hummingbird male might be this year’s nestling. “Is that why we keep having to duck?” Sang said. “Do they need a tiny DRIVER IN TRAINING plaque?”)
Oh, thorny teenage girls named Meg! Oh, large number of commas, and pets who get patted instead of petted. I love how friends and family play in this book: deadpan verbal jousting, with one taking up the other’s lead.
I first read this in 2009. (My note then: “Nice to read a book about a rich girl that’s not all glitz and shopping.”) But it’s this time around that so much of it reminds me of President Obama’s inauguration. Meg and her family spend a lot of time deciding what to wear–remember how it was a big deal that Malia and Sasha wore J Crew coats to the inauguration? And the first time Meg and her brothers tour the White House reminded me of the Obama girls talking about the Bush twins showing them around, and how nice they were.
But the Vaughns don’t get a new puppy.
It does make me wonder how this book would read to me if we’d had a Hillary Clinton presidency instead. More echoes? Maybe not, though, as Chelsea wasn’t a kid anymore in 2008.
I hadn’t really planned on reading the whole series again, necessarily, but now I know I’m going to.
I am taking calculus this term. There is hours and hours of homework: at our last KFC meeting, I paged through my notebook and it was all algebra and trig and f(x)s. “This is what I’m doing instead of writing now,” I said pathetically, although there were plenty of KFC meetings before I started taking calculus at which I showed up with no writing.
But calculus is going well, partly thanks to Sanguinity, in whom I have an eager live-in tutor. Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I catch the early-early bus and eat a Luna bar and get downtown in time for a 7:45 start in our basement classroom. I finish off my travel mug of blessed blessed coffee and watch our instructor, who is a peppy grad student named George, do stuff on the whiteboard. It’s like TV. It’s a pretty quiet class, but on Friday we had this conversation:
student across the room: *makes a joke I didn’t quite catch*
student: Oh, it was just a Jane Austen reference.
George: I don’t know what that is.
everyone: *stares at George*
George: Is it a comic?
student: No, she’s an eighteenth-century romance author…Pride and Prejudice? Emma?
another student: It’s a girl thing.
male student in front of me: yeah, those are good books.
George: Okay, well. *back to mathy talk*
So today I was tickled to come across Jane Austen Goes to War, showing the editions of Austen novels sent along with soldiers to World Wars I and II, with a link to Kipling’s WWI story “The Janeites.”
I meant to say Rabbit Rabbit when I woke up, I’d thought about it before I fell asleep the night before, but I went upstairs and said, “Good morning, Mom,” before I remembered. But that’s a good thing to be able to say, too.
My mom has started wearing a scarf with her bathrobe in the morning. When sanguinity and I put our bags in the rental car and got out the long-handled scraper that Hertz included, my mom came out on the sidewalk with her camera to capture Sang of the Northwest scraping the windows.
We volunteered to be bumped to another flight, and they gave our tickets away but then “found” us seats on the same flight, in First Class. Unexpected luxuries: