Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Birthday, Horoscopes, and Misc.

Pointy Bday Party
Originally uploaded by suzipaw.
Happy Birthday, Rebecca!

And the best part--we all were able to enjoy excellent chocolate desserts together. I adore my Pointy Sisters.


I've uploaded more camping photos.


I'm sensing a trend in my horoscope. Here's last week's:

Philosopher George Gurdjieff declared that most of us are essentially asleep, even as we walk around in broad daylight. He said that in order to wake up and stay awake we need regular shocks. Some of these are uncomfortable, forcing us to face our own stupidity. But other shocks are delightful. I believe that in the coming weeks you'll be offered a steady supply of the latter.

And tonight's:

Be inspired by researchers who want to carefully explore the therapeutic benefits of altering consciousness, Virgo. What taboo is it high time for you to break in a discerning way? What inhibition no longer serves you, even though at one time it might have kept you safe and sane? What conventional wisdom based on fear has infected you, preventing you from experimenting with exciting possibilities?

Good questions, those. We Virgos need to loosen up wisely regularly, but I often forget. I'm looking forward to my shocking taboos, though this week's horoscope requires thought, if not downright action, and I'm feeling so distracted. Work has once again been conspiring to crush my creativity since I got back from vacation, but I'm thinking the Labor Day weekend will be the time to reconnect with the muse. Three days to work on prying out embedded taboos.


Final thoughts before book and bed:

My renewed passport arrived in the mail last weekend, yay! I was worried that it wouldn't come in time for my trip, and I really had no plan B for that one.

M has interviewed and will hopefully be starting a new job before the month is out. It's back to sales, but not car sales, thank goodness, and no working on weekends, praise the FSM!

Speaking of FSM, His Noodly Gospel has been published!

This just in from my boss: The Infinite Cat Project.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Mirrors Are the Bane of Civilization

Steve & Ryan apres fish
Originally uploaded by suzipaw.
Have I really not blogged since the 13th? Oy. Well, I've been away from electricity recently as well as consciously trying to stay away from the laptop during this, my vacation week, a difficult feat if you live with the blog-obsessed being I do. But it's helped me thing of other things besides my job, which I desperately needed to do. I nearly checked my work email today, and decided against it, that's how badly I needed a break. So as my vacation comes to a close, let me recount to you my late summer story of late:

Camping at Iron Canyon was once again wonderful. The trip up was uneventful and the scenery eerily unchanged despite our two-year absence. In Big Bend, which must refer to the Pit River rather than the town since there are just a few buildings and a couple hundred inhabitants, Cecil Turner's stage was still set (more about Cecil later), the trio of men were still gathered under the oak tree on the way out of town surrounded by piles of debris, and the horrifically trashed and crumbling homes just beyond were in even worse shape if such a thing could be possible. Cows still grazed contended and handsome in the irrigated pasture overlooked by the rustic mansion at the turn-off to Iron Canyon reservoir, and we passed several logged areas, which always makes me sad. The road had been improved, which made us a bit nervous--would there be more people at "our" campground now?

We pulled in late Friday afternoon just after my mom and stepdad arrived and despite several other groups already there, were able to secure our favorite sites. We were a little worried about so many other campers, particularly the ones with the quads and penchant for firing paintball pellets, but everyone was actually reasonably quiet. Plenty of other dogs off-leash so Rex's reversion to wilderness mutt went smoothly. After Monday, all the other campers cleared out, and we had the place to ourselves for nearly two days. Just doesn't get any better.

The one unfortunate thing (and there always has to be at least one)--the lake temperature this year was too cold for swimming. It's always been cold, but this time it was downright uncomfortable, even though the air temperature was a little hotter than usual, which would normally make swimming an even greater imperative. But I couldn't handle it, though dreaming of floating for hours on an air mattress in the middle of a sugar pine forest had sustained me back at the cubicle for months.

And hence my title for this blog. Without a daily dip to remove at least the top layer of dust and camping grime, and without regular interaction with human who bathed, I could feel my appearance priorities changing. We needed ice after the second day, so M and I went into Big Bend for supplies, and I actually was seen in public (well, just by the cashier, but still) sans makeup, bra, special facial moisturizer, or deodorant, and with dust-crusted feet and fingernails. I hadn't brushed my hair since leaving Santa Rosa. I think I was wearing a hat at least. According to "Deadwood," everyone leads a dirt-filled life out in the wilderness--I guess after a while you just get used to it, but I was surprised how quickly I adjusted. I didn't have access to a mirror, so why care? It was my companions' problem if they were horrified by my appearance. What was life like before there were mirrors in every bathroom, cities with reflective panes of glass everywhere, compacts, rearview mirrors? What would life be like if you could only see yourself through the eyes and reactions of those around you? What would that do to your self esteem?

It was such a relief to ponder that and not be preoccupied by work.

It was funny that so many little things kept me so busy during our camping trip that I didn't have time for the knitting or reading I brought (I'm deep into "Julie and Julia" now, however, and have to force myself to stop reading every night so that I don't finish it off in one fell swoop). There was lots of sitting by the lake or wandering along the shore to be done, and morning camp chores like breakfast and clean-up and discussion of the evening meal and then the actual cooking of said meal. We eat like kings when we camp, that's for sure, as does Rex, who not once touched his kibble, to the delight of the squirrels. M and I picked blackberries one morning for the Dutch oven cake that never quite got baked. My brother and his son were with us for the first two days, and my stepbrother and his gal came up one night for dinner and fishing, so we had visiting to do. There was water and ice to fetch. And the one miserable attempt to swim.

Mom and I had a nice ritual of taking our chairs and glasses of wine to the lakeside every evening to watch the sun go down and the reflection of the trees on the darkening water grow more intense, waiting for the men to return from their fishing forays. On our last evening, we saw not one but two bald eagles flying across the reservoir. We saw an osprey one morning too, and deer running along the opposite bank. No bears or other carnivores were sighted, thank goodness.

One of the afternoons, M and I took a field trip to Burney Falls, something I'd wanted to do for a while. I'd been there before, but read that the "nose" might pop off at any time. It's a beautiful falls, and so cool at the base.
Rex Takes in Burney Falls
The trip out was a good reminder that civilization was still spinning around us, but we still had a little time to hide out. We listened to NPR for about 20 minutes on the way back, just enough to get pissed off, and then turned it off to better focus on the forest we were traveling through.

On our way to Burney Falls, we stopped off at the hot springs in the area. It's a beautiful spot on the Pit River, with a series of rock and concrete "tubs" of varying temperatures built into the bank, overhung with trees for blessed shade. Hot tubbing in the heat was a little odd, but without swimming prospects, I was determined. When we arrived, we were the only ones there, but our delight at a bit of privacy was short lived--a family arrived before we'd even taken our first dip, and another couple arrived soon after that. It felt so good to be surrounded by water! I actually had the courage to submerge myself in the river flowing by the hot pools.
Hot tubs on the Pit River
My last full day there was spoiled a bit by a stomach bug that never got to the vomiting stage, but nevertheless made it hard to be active. And maybe it was just fine that all I could do was swing in the hammock with my arm over my eyes for a few hours that afternoon. It was a hot day, which didn't help, but M rigged up a shower in the afternoon, and those five minutes with hot clean water and a little soap went a long way towards healing my bug.

On the last morning, I was the first one up, and while it was still cool, Rex and I took one of the kayaks out for a little paddle around. Rex enjoyed it quite a bit, and it was nice having him for a companion. Except for the part where he scrambled onto the top hull of the kayak while we were still mid-lake. I was so worried that he'd lose his footing on the slippery hull and take a tumble into the chilly water which would mean part of the journey back with a cold, soaked dog, at best--what if I somehow capsized the boat while trying to pull him in? Anyway, that didn't happen--I paddled as smoothly and quickly as I could to the nearest shore, which is exactly what he wanted. He hopped off and we wandered around for a bit, though I think we both were a little spooked by the strange rustling in the bushes, made by a creature who didn't care about being heard. Hadn't my brother seen a bear here a few years ago? We hightailed it back to the kayak

On our way out of town, dirtier than ever after packing up, we finally stopped to say hello to Cecil Turner. Cecil has one of the loveliest houses in Big Bend, and in the front yard is a covered stage filled with sound equipment and flanked with large painted posters of him, one of him at a fairly advanced age on a skateboard, and another with his "singing strings." I've wanted to stop ever since we first started going to Iron Canyon, but never took the time. Til now. I approached the stage with my camera, and he came out from behind an enormous speaker to greet me. M pulled in and got out too and we chatted a bit. Cecil seemed to be on the far side of 80. He told us a little bit about his life, how he was an engineer and helped to build the dams in the area as well as highways in Southern California. He had fifty acres and didn't have a car or utilities--he apparently was able to generate his own power. We also were treated to a little proselytizing, which I wasn't too keen on. When we told him how we'd wanted to stop for years but never were able to find the time, he did mention one bible story that I was unfamiliar with (there are many, however)--that busy people were like the stampede of hogs running over the brink, suspended in space, falling for eternity. Or until Judgment Day, I suppose. He veered off into how the scriptures were coming true, inferring that the end was nigh. We listened politely for a while longer, then took our leave, hogs over the precipice.
Singin' with Cecil

But the dirt experience of camping was not left behind upon our return to civilization, oh no. M had suggested that we have the carpets cleaned while we had a few days off together, and I agreed. And while we were at it, we should pull out the appliances, clean and reorganize the closets. And god help me, I agreed.

One thing I've noticed about getting older--I just don't have the stamina I used to. The first day went pretty well, yanking everything out of our house and wiping down the walls and vacuuming frantically before the carpet cleaning technician arrived. The neighborhood construction on two fronts has really driven in the dust--I'm considering only opening the windows on weekends from now on! I'm not sure whether to be glad or sad that all of our earthly possessions can easily fit onto our back deck. The carpet guy was two hours late, so by the time he was done, it was dinner time, and since the carpets had to dry, we caught a late movie ("Talladega Nights"--no bad if you like Will Ferrell). Back home by midnight, we moved in the bed, left clothing, laptop, firearms and the like out in the fresh night air and fell asleep.

The putting-back of our crap has taken twice as long, partly because we're really trying to clean it (when was the last time you cleaned *under* your furniture? Exactly!) and partly because we're judging it. Is it worthy to be in our clean new home? The area rug I purchased five years ago is not making the cut. It's pleasant enough a pattern given how cheap it was. But, as M put it, it has a lot of cat barf embedded in it--not to mention dust, pet hair, etc. We've also resolved to join the 21st century, getting rid of the videotape machine that doesn't really work and the blank video tapes. We have a few recorded ones that we'll keep but not many. Likewise I had resolved to ditch my audio cassettes, but I was just looking at them and now I'm wavering. All those mix tapes from my college days, song titles written in the hands of my friends…they have a history. And it irks me that if I want the music I'll have to re-buy digital copies. Well, I'll have to sleep on it. In my lovely, nearly dust-free home.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Naturally Occuring Smoke Plume?

Or message from above?

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Camping Countdown

The camping equipment is being liberated from its Sterlite sarcophagi. It's been two years, and smells it. Most of the battery-operated lamps are still throwing off a bit of a glow. After watching "Deadwood" these last few weeks, I'm more grateful than ever for the advent of plastics, from garbage bags to air mattresses to woven rugs. And to the prospect of hot showers after a grimy five days on the lake. But most of all I'm looking forward to the lack of laptop. I want to be able to resist checking my work email after camping is done. I hope that I can. Nine days without being in touch with work…what an amazing concept. I haven't seen the ocean in months--maybe that should be another vacation activity for when I return. Though we have high hopes to have the carpets cleaned…

Summer is winding down, I can tell. It's almost dark now at 8:30 p.m. The wedges of geese continue to strafe the back deck with their honking. I can hear M in the garage, reciting his notes for finals next week, and an owl behind him, and the crickets above all. The naked ladies have emerged along the back fence, their pink periscopes opening in slow succession to four petaled eyes. I ate four Gold Pearl tomatoes today. And hostessed Rebecca and Julia--they came chez moi for a writing date and stayed for many happy hours. I worked on a work assignment rather than a creative one, but it might help me sleep better tonight.

And speaking of that, time to make preparations for the day ahead.

Good night.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Viva Flamenco

My stepmom is making the rounds of the blogosphere! She was recently featured with her daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter-in-law on the DC Flamenco blog. I bet that was a fun evening. I've only had one sangria-soaked night of flamenco in my life, years ago in NY, and it was fabulous. During my trip to Portland, my cousin's wife had just started taking flamenco dance lessons, and described the complicated relationship between the singer, dancer, and guitarist. I have much to learn.


Getting ready for camping. M and I embarked on some serious comparison shopping and bought a new cooler chest over the weekend. Thinking about menus, which is always a challenge for my family. We keep trying to one-up each other with the meals while professing simplicity. "Oh sure, rotating the Dutch oven every twenty minutes one way while rotating the lid the other way every ten minutes is so convenient! And mmm, isn't this cake with the blackened bottom soooo good? Must be the fresh air!"

My cousin loaned me Julie and Julia. I'm saving it for the hammock under the trees by the lake with the view of my dust-crusted feet. About as appetizing as the recipe for calves brain that I know will surely come, but relaxing nonetheless.


I was invited to a tea party last Saturday. In addition to the delightful food that was promised, there was also an activity: decorating hats. I lived in fear for several days that the hats would be red (um, no, I will not go gently into that good night, sorry!) but they were not. Though they were apparently for decoration only--the crowns were so small that they didn't actually fit a human head--but can I say how thrilled I was that I was even invited?


What else?

M is studying for finals.

I'm still behind on my correspondence and returning phone calls. And Flying Spaghetti Monster help me, I didn't get a birthday gift to one of my nephews on time. I can't even keep up with being the distant auntie! I constantly remind myself that asking for help is not the same as complaining, though discerning friends and colleagues indulge me.

The county fair ends tomorrow, not a moment too soon. Yes, I support and enjoy it, despite the dust and noise and traffic jams coming home, but being awakened Sunday morning at 6:30 by some sort of announcement over the stable loudspeaker was just the last straw.

Did I mention a friend got us tix for Tom Petty at the Greek? Yes, I am An American Girl!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


I just felt one, a gentle shaking. A rush of adrenaline and I was out the door. But it was over quickly, just my neighbors chattering, "Did you feel that?" as the only aftershock. So far, anyway.

The original title of this post was "So Far Behind." To pick up from when I was so rudely interrupted by the earth goddess:

I've gotten so much sympathy from my last blog entry, I might as well continue the theme: I've never been so far behind in my life. Never. At work or at home. I'm trying to remember back to the final days of my last NYU job, the one where I wandered through life looking as though I'd been socked in kisser the bags under my eyes were so dark. I was so stressed I could barely sleep, though I suspect my boss suspected I was a reefer addict. I can sleep now, for the most part. But I feel completely out of control of the rest of my life. I will write you back and thank you for your kindness and wish you a happy birthday, I promise. Soon. Really.

OK, enough of that boo-hooty. Life recap:

Doubletree, Portland, July 2006
Originally uploaded by suzipaw.
Conference: successful.

Exhausting. Did manage to muster the energy to have dinner with my cousin and his wife one night. Definitely the introvert's dream to get to know people at the rate of two hours per year. Returned home Friday night, not a moment too soon. Laundry and recovery on Saturday. Sunday I hustled over to the county fair briefly to witness the glory that is the Budweiser Clydesdales. Man those beasts of burden are beautiful.
Getting hitched
Going to the fair reminds me of the Sonoma County of my youth. Farmers in their shit-kicking best, wearing cowboy hats, suspenders *and* belts, snap-fastened Western shirts. The young girls aren't ashamed to don their slant heeled boots and enormous ornate glinting belt buckles. When I encountered these kinds of girls in high school, I felt so superior, as if they were some ancient, obsolete race. Now I still feel alien, but I see them more as an endangered species that I want to nurture. And I want to nurture the domestic animals too--the lovely dove gray cows and fluffy angora rabbits and sheep wearing their odd KKK-like suits to, I assume, keep their coats from becoming soiled--the ones we celebrate two weeks out of the year, then slaughter. But it's out of our income range, by far, to buy enough land here to even keep chickens, much less a cow. Maybe I shouldn't be so pessimistic. I just wanted every animal to be as well cared for as those brushed, bored, Budweiser horses.

Then, still Sunday, off to an afternoon gathering at a friend's place. I promise, I will entertain more, I will, I promise.
More feet
Monday night was writers group, thank goodness for that sanity in my life. I actually squeezed out a poem. At work. But I had been thinking about it for some time, so it just sort of flowed out. And last night M and I watched Paths of Glory, directed by Stanley Kubrick. War is a sad state of affairs, to say the least. I should have been blogging, I know, or something more productive than staring at the TV, but there you have it.


Seasons: They are a-changin'. On my lunchtime walk with my work friend on Tuesday, I saw my first naked ladies getting ready to bloom. I almost crashed into the car in front of me on the way home tonight (OK, I'm exaggerating--a lot--but I was mesmerized) by my first wedge of geese honking south this evening flying low over the highway. The wild grasses are a particular shade of blackened gold and blackberries are ready for picking. As if I have time…


One thing I forgot to mention about my visit with my aunt and uncle. We watched a video that my uncle had shot in 1992, touring the hometown where he and my dad and grandparents grew up, and the farms where they lived. I enjoyed the scenery, but it was most poignant and made me a little sad to see my grandpa again, moving and speaking. It was a bit hard, seeing him trudging through the cemetery, crossing the very ground where he'd be buried a few years later. But I'm glad my uncle thought to do this.