Kelly and I are on an Alaska cruise with my mother’s family. I am barely online, except when I’m checking in on my students, but I thought I’d shoot you all a quick update.
All told, we are five couples and one teenaged boy. Everyone but us being from the U.S., it made sense to converge on and embark from Seattle. We therefore spent Monday catching up with a friend who flew out from Waterloo to housesit for us, a lovely, brilliant, seriously-I-am-so-in-awe-of-her! brain on very shapely legs, who had a hand in designing the university’s Knowledge Integration degree. We then slept for two hours, got up before dawn, breakfasted, finished packing and caught a 6:00 a.m. train to Seattle.
If you have limited funds for a vacation and are just looking to get out of town, there are worse thing to do than take Amtrak to Seattle for a day. It was inexpensive and easy. The train’s route runs along the coast, offering better viewing than many an Amtrak route. The salt flats were dotted with herons and other shorebirds, and we caught a blurry glimpse of a river otter and its two babies, humping their way up onto the shore and into the brush. I dozed a little, rewatched the Doctor Who Runaway Bride special on my iPod, gaped at the scenery and whee! Four painless hours later we were in King Station at the heart of Seattle, down in the part of town which evokes fond memories of Clarion West.
We cabbed off to the terminal and got onto the ship with minimal fuss. We lunched, walked the sundecks, marvelled at how high up we were, scoped out the hot tubs and the good book-reading spots. Then we had dinner with the family and headed off to a naturalist’s lecture, all on two hours sleep.
The dregs of the evening were taken up in trying to find a couple of healthy snacks before bed. (We have taken to keeping a hoard of fruit in our stateroom; it’s not always out where you can get at it. Overall, this cruising thing seems more oriented to people who eat three huge meals than to people who eat small and snack between.)
Anyway, we slept like the dead, had brekkie the next morning, went back to the room and slept some more. There has been a stunning amount of reading and napping.
I had imagined sitting out in a hot tub with the ocean view all around, but I had told myself not to get my hopes up. There are 1998 other passengers, after all. But that first afternoon, that’s exactly what happened: me, Kelly, and a cousin had the hot tub on the stern of the ship all to ourselves for well over an hour. We only got out because I figured we were at risk of burning. (We both found a few barely rosy patches of skin, as a matter of fact; my timing was excellent!)
Wednesday was billed as a “Fun Day at Sea!” as we chugged north. Thursday we sailed into Tracy’s Arm Fjord and goggled at an amazing glacier, a sheer river of ice colored the most fantastic and improbable blues I’ve ever seen, ringed by coastal mountains and iceberg-studded waters. We had many whale sightings at a distance, and have had some good food and some bad food. Also stunning—in the hammer meets cranium way–is the décor, which is Disneylandish in its intensity. The elevator shaft (this is, after all, a twelve-storey building) has some open lifts and the mouldings and lights on the thing are beyond glittery. I have pictures; you’ll be stunned. There’s a Versailles lounge, a glittering, sarcophagus-encrusted Pharaoh’s Palace, a Tiki-themed Jungle, a mini-golf course, and multiple bar/dance floors. Also a casino, which is no-go territory because it’s a smoking area.
Our chosen reading area is next to one of the lounges; there are facing sets of comfy chairs by the windows on the 2nd floor, with screens separating each. The screens have Gaugin prints on them, so one is surrounded by artistic nudity. I’ve finished reading Quarrel with the King there, and have started rereading Tana French’s In the Woods. It’s all very weird and decadent, and I am enjoying the downtime, the multiple naps, and the family time very much indeed.
Except for the icebergs and my genetic relations, I haven’t found many things to shoot so far. But today we get to get off the ship—we will be in Skagway! I expect to come back to our cabin with many exciting shots.
As I write this it’s Wednesday afternoon, three-ish, and the living room thermometer claims it’s about 85 degrees indoors. I am alternating bursts of work with little forays into emptying out our fridge and packing away the perishables in temporary cool storage. All this because Kelly and I bought a new fridge about a month ago; between one thing and another, it is only just arriving today… sometime between four in the afternoon and bedtime.
I am thus trying to find the perfect balance between having to empty an entire fridge if the guys arrive early with taking the food out and then having to wait so long that, even in coolers, it melts. All while keeping enough of the kitchen clean to accomplish dinner.
The new fridge is black, energy-efficient, and a hair bigger than its predecessor, a lowend GE model with no Energy star rating whatever, chipped paint, two decades of accumulated grime, busted crisper drawers and assorted condensation/mildew issues. Since I’m allergic to mold, I’m thrilled to be rid of the thing on that count alone!
I am pretty sure I have never cohabited with a fridge that wasn’t on the old and wheezy side. The Moldebeast is the only fridge I’ve even owned.
The landlords of my youth, not surprisingly, favored disastrously cheap appliances. I can remember a weeks-long battle to convince our first BC landlord that food was rotting in our fridge overnight. He’d have kept fake-fixing that one forever while we fought food poisoning, if I hadn’t taken advantage of its single working feature–beautiful, well-oiled casters. I slammed it into the wall repeatedly one afternoon, until the various non-working bits were too busted up to sustain the game of pretend. The guy then got us a reconditioned fridge which was large and flesh colored and heroic and functional; we named it Cyrano.
Shortly after that we moved on to Chez Frank, whose freezer was supposed to be self-defrosting. It wasn’t, and so we had Frank up every six months or so to pull it out from the wall and power-thaw the bits we couldn’t reach. Since Frank sincerely cared and kept it working, we lived with it.
The first fridge I remember was in the house in Bonnyville. These rocks lived on it–they are rocks my grandmother Maudie picked up in the Nevada desert. She then cut, polished and glued them to tragically weak magnets. I am sentimental about them; I think the three-toned one looks like a lake with ice on it, and I cannot tell you how many hours I spent watching them all lose the war with gravity, sliding down to the floor.
That fridge handle, in Bonnyville, had a wicked sharp edge; just a little rasp of metal that would reach out to snag clothes or your arm. One of those dumb things, a pain, but not worth doing anything about. We all scraped ourselves on it at one time or another.
Anyway, cruising toward a point, I swear: as a tween, I had the job of clearing the dishes after dinner, and one night I was multitasking, by which I mean putting away food and, simultaneously, scrapping with my sister. I have no idea what we were arguing about or what was said, but soon enough she was lunging at me. This I remember as M coming at me in a classic X-menWolverine lunge: body canted, head low (and of course she didn’t have claws like that).
I was opening the fridge door anyway, but I gave it a bit more arm. Malice aforethought: it’s embasassing to admit to premeditation, all these years later. I figured she’d hit the flat part and bounce. Haha, argument over.
Or… not! Instead of bouncing like a wacky cartoon animal, poor Sib cracked her bean open on the sharp bit of the fridge door. Chaos ensued. The magnets probably all hit the floor, but between the spray of blood, the screaming, and the sudden mustering of a Trip to ER, I don’t remember that. Three stitches later, the wound was sufficient to leave a small vertical scar right in the center of her forehead. Did I mention that my father nigh faints at the sight of blood? Yeah, it was a fun night.
So. Not one of my shining childish moments of humanity. However, I am a better person now and as proof I will point out that I did not name this post, despite strong temptation, “Fridge over troubled daughters.” (And if you read this, M–Oh! Still damned sorry about that! I cringe when I think of it!)
Ahem. Grandma’s fridge was green and had its own collection of fridge-rocks. Plus it was magic! You could find Hostess Ding Dongs and kid-sized cans of sarsaparilla soda in it.
Kelly and I made a little change to our pre-work walk this morning, taking 8th Avenue past the new community garden where some friends of ours have a plot. I’ve been able to see the installation happening as I’ve gone to and fro–between one thing and another, I pass the Broadway/Commercial intersection four to six times a day–but hadn’t gotten a good look. What’s there is attractive and thoughtfully laid out. The central area holds raised garden beds made of cedar, already pre-planted with veggies and herbs. Ground-level flower and berry gardens encircle these beds, and the backdrop is the Grandview Cut. The plants were donated by a local nursery, all the cedar chips are new and fragrant, and the whole thing radiates a newness and warmth that’s very pleasing. We are thinking we’ll do the walk past a lot in the next little while.
Afterward, I made my way to Cafe Calabria and had a bash at the current fiction project, that slice of a novel I mentioned before, for the grant application. I was searching for one more scene to add into it, looking for something that had a bit of literary grit and referred back to the stuff I’ve put in the proposal, which is about shifting landscapes of privilege and the labeling, within large families, of different individuals as insiders and outsiders. On Wednesday I was sitting in the cafe scraping after that scene, whatever it was. I didn’t really expect to find the right answer, because I hadn’t slept the night before. But the idea came, to my surprise, and I scribbled some notes on it without getting started–trying to write on no sleep is never a good idea for me. Yesterday I drafted the first half, and today I wrapped it up. I have a piece I’m happy with now, and I have until fall to polish it until it shines.
I am delighted to have reached this point. If I’m not swamped by other commitments (some of which I’m chasing very actively), I will write a draft of the whole book in November, just as I did WINTERGIRLS and DAUGHTERS OF ZEUS.
Here’s a snippet from earlier the draft:
Sarah Varney’s address was a residential hotel, one that, from the look of it, was home to a good chunk of the city’s addict population. Its windows were black with grime, its awning greasy and tattered, with loose aluminium ribs inhabited by motheaten, feebly peeping pigeons. The sidewalk leading to the reinforced revolving door was glazed in bird droppings; it was impossible not to track them in.
The door spun them out into a lobby that smelled of Lysol and urine. A diminutive Asian crone eyeballed them through a cage of greasy bulletproof glass.
This feels very much as if it’s at a finished-for-now point, and given that we’re headed to Seattle for the LOCUS Awards tomorrow, I will probably skip actual fiction-writing for the whole of the weekend. By Monday, I’ll need to have decided what to work on next. I have another proposal I’d be delighted to work on, but I’m waiting on some notes; I have a drafted squid story that could use some attention, and a horror novel, SEE HOW THEY RUN, that I want to revise at some point in the near. I have a pile of books I need to read for various research stuff, and one I want to review.
Non-fic stuff on the go includes three last lectures for Novel Writing II and assorted admin stuff, two guest blog posts to write, a review, some things I want to talk and post about in this space, critiques for a couple of my one on one students, fine-tuning of a website I’m developing for my choir, and more work on the alyxdellamonica.com page.
On a more recreational note, I need to review everything I learned in last year’s Italian class before my next one begins in about ten days time and one of my Jonathan Coulton albums has vanished from my iPod.
Twitter has moments when it rocks my world. After we’d checked with some usual suspects I’d posted a note saying we wanted someone to stay with the cats this August when we’re cruising to Alaska with my mother’s family. I got a whole bunch of nibbles right away, some good referrals, and in the end what’s happened is an artist friend from Ontario’s going to come stay with the kids. We get cat-care, she gets a cheap vacation, and as a bonus we get to see her for the first time in a fair stretch of years. It’s really win-win-win!
I didn’t sleep much Tuesday evening, so yesterday I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how much work I have upcoming in July. The answer seemed to be a lot; now that I have slept, it turns out that’s entirely true. By three I was circling the office, looking at the pile and knowing I had no brains to tackle it, and then circling around again.
Instead of continuing to freak out, I bundled my butt off to a 5K walk arranged by Weight Watchers and The Running Room. I’d thought of bailing, because of the no-sleep thing, but somehow my addled brain served up the memory that one of the few things I’m good for in that state is exercise, and off I went.
It helped. It helped a lot. I ended up walking with someone I’d only met once, and it turned out we had plenty to talk about, nothing astounding, just that thing that happens when you meet someone who’s in the same stage of life. She had her very tall eight-year-old daughter with her, and the kid motored along, keeping our pace–which was challenging. Toward the end she was stumbling. I remember that happening to me as a kid: getting tired, still pushing on through will alone, but failing to lift my feet high enough to clear minor obstructions like the cracks in the sidewalk.
I came home tired, sweaty, and in a much better mood and after I’d showered and suppered Kelly and I broke out the DARIA DVDs. Not only are we enjoying re-viewing episodes we watched over and over and endlessly over at the end of the Nineties, but it looks as though we missed most of an entire season in the middle of the run. So in the past couple of days we’ve seen six or seven shiny new episodes, one of which, “Pierced,” gets my vote for funniest Daria ever. Yes, I am a Daria/Trent shipper. (Would that amalgamate into Drent? And what are Gleeks calling an imaginary Finn/Puck pairings? Because the word that comes to mind isn’t Pinn, if you know what I mean.)
Speaking of Television and GLEE, a note to the lovely elves who will be hanging with the kittehs and watching while we’re away this weekend–there’s a musical episode called “Daria!” I’ll try to figure out which disc it’s on if you’re interested.
Away, yes. We will be at the LOCUS Awards this weekend, hobnobbing with Kelly’s Taos instructors, Connie Willis and Walter Jon Williams, along with lovely folk like Nicola Griffith and Kelley Eskridge and so many others it would be silly to try to name them.
Lately most of my posted photos have been of ducks or other birds, so here’s an invertebrate for you all, a glowy sunlit butterfly. This one, like so many of my recent shots, came from Burnaby Lake… it almost makes the world look summery, despite the fact that our weather has been ambivalent for months, waffling to and fro betwixt warmth and deluge.
I have been tip-tapping at the computer since I got home from my weekly Wednesday breakfast date with Kelly: teaching, answering e-mails, and fiddling with my web site. I am working on two sites at once right now, and contemplating diving into a third. Soon, though, I will head out to the cafe and go back to wrestling with the current work in progress, a thirty-page sample of a book I’ve tentatively titled FILTERING FOR RAIN, or perhaps THE RAIN GARDEN. (For the couple of you who’ve seen THE WINTERGIRLS in MS, this would be the Dill book.)
The sample would be for a grant application, and the readers are looking for literary merit. What I have so far feels like two nicely literary scenes sandwiching a bit of plotty filling. I want another nice, image-laden, freighted-with-import something to pull it all together. I haven’t quite figured out what that is, though, and since I slept quite poorly last night I don’t know how successful I’ll be when I attempt it after lunch. But I’m a big believer in plugging away, even if it might not be overly comfortable. The head against wall bash-bash-bash seems to usually get me somewhere, sooner or later.
I am also supposed to go on a 5K walk this evening with a bunch of people from the mentoring gig. Unless a nap happens after the fiction-writing, I’m thinking that’s coming off the agenda. I could do the walk itself half-asleep, but coherent conversation would be beyond me.