Vacation, Audiobooks, Kidlit Economies

Sanguinity on a grassy hillside overlooking Prineville Reservoir

Red and yellow hillsides at Painted Hills, Oregon

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.

Trip Report: Albany, Oregon

When we saw that our friend Pat was starring as Granny Weatherwax in an adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s The Wyrd Sisters, Sanguinity and I knew we had to be sure to catch the show. Sang’s a Pratchett fan and likes the witch series especially. We’re both fans of Pat, who invited us to stay overnight with her and drive home the next morning (Albany’s about 90 minutes by freeway from Portland).

Leboyfriend dog-sat Louie overnight. I feel so much better knowing Louie’s with his favorite guy while I’m gone, especially since Louie’s not a “hold it for twelve hours” dog anymore now that he’s an old man dog. (In fact, other than two trips I’ve agreed to with my in-laws, I’m srsly thinking of not traveling until the post-Louie era. We’ll see if that holds.) Leboyfriend has been battling a major bug for the better part of three weeks now, but still came over. He’s so good to us.

Sang and I hit the road around two in the afternoon. It was sunny and I’d been running around all day with no coat, just a hoodie. Freedom! We crossed the 45th parallel. We neglected to do the spedometer test. Does anyone pull out their stopwatch and do that? Are they planned on purpose for boring stretches of road? Do certain people who fix up old cars or whatever use them over and over?

We mostly know Pat from the internet, though we’ve met up a few times. But hanging out with her still includes seeing the stars of her blog posts, sort of like seeing characters in a book come to life. It’s the VW Bug! It’s the wisteria over the porch! And the kitties Mojito and Margarita, who are just as pretty as their photos! (The first time I went to a play Pat worked on, she introduced me to a man named Don Taco who builds sets, repairs stuff, and solves problems. I’d been thinking Don Taco was an internet pseudonym, so I blurted out “You’re DON TACO?” with a look on my face that clearly said some mix of you’re real?! and wow, a celebrity. Mr. Taco gave Pat a sidelong look, wondering what was going on.)

And most notably, we got to meet Pat’s boyfriend J, who turned up as a surprise for the weekend! I know he wasn’t exactly as I’d imagined from the internet– I remember thinking his voice was different– but close enough that now I can’t call up my original made-up version of him.

We had really good food (and alcohol, lemon drop, whee!) at a place that started serving dinner before five p.m., which is good because Pat had to do her makeup and get to the theater. And because we were hungry. Everything was within walking distance; Albany is a very appealing small town with lots of Victorian houses and old buildings. I did a little sock-knitting and chatting and then the rest of us wandered to the theater too. The ticket reservation system for out-of-towners involves calling the jewelry store down the street and requesting seats, and the nice lady really did right by us– fifth row center. The theater is small and cozy and festive.

And the play was fun! They whipped smoothly through a rather astounding number of scene changes, juggling a plot of witches and princes and Shakespeare. I’m definitely going to read the novel, though I might start with Equal Rites, in which I understand Granny Weatherwax is introduced. When I get to the letter P in alphabet reading, if not before. Pat ruled the stage in a wimple and Fluevogs.

Hanging out, a big and wonderful breakfast (featuring, for me, potatoes with sausage gravy), and a drive home talking about Pratchett. Turns out it was almost exactly a 24-hour trip, and precisely what a weekend jaunt should be.