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That was the weekend that was

So it's Wednesday morning. I kind of can't believe it's Wednesday morning, but because the weekend didn't actually end until Monday night, more or less, I suppose that makes sense. See, I went to Portland to visit calendula_witch and markjferrari for the weekend, with JB--left Seattle Friday morning; returned Monday afternoon. It mostly went the way it was supposed to, except for the end there--but I'm getting ahead of myself.

So, I left Seattle Friday morning on the Amtrak Coast Starlight, their long-haul sleeper train, mainly because its departure time meant that I wouldn't have to get to King Street Station at oh-God-thirty in the morning. It's a lovely train, with spacious seats, a nice dining car and the option to book a room and bed if you're going state-to-state. My plan, seeing as how state-to-state in this case was only a four-hour trip, was that I'd work on the train. Except that when I got on, I discovered that there was no wifi service. After spending about an hour trying to troubleshoot and discovering there was just no way for me to connect to the office, I settled down to do background reading on one particular project. I got into the Rose City at about 2ish and got settled in with my gracious hosts for the afternoon. JB didn't join us until late, his doctors appointments in town keeping him longer than originally planned.

Much of the weekend, as is often the case with Jews and Italians, was centered upon food and talk, and my goodness, our hosts spoiled us! There was the vigorous and theatrical production of delicious homemade ravioli on Friday night, and tasty savory and sweet crepes on Saturday morning. I fed us dinner on Saturday night--the family brisket, which was a hit. (Personal criticisms of my work: I still can't seem to get the gravy just right; and I forgot the bay leaves again. But I tried adding sun-dried tomatoes, which added a hit of sweetness that I liked so much that I may continue to include it.)

Friday and Saturday nights both involved playing games. I introduced everyone to Mexican Train and gifted our hosts with a Fluxx deck, which everyone seemed to enjoy.

Sunday morning, the four of us trooped over to davidlevine and kateyule's place with a bagel brunch in hand (a dozen bagels, two kinds of cheese, smoked salmon, hummus, berries and fruits, cold cuts, coffee and tea). Brenda Cooper was there to round out the group to seven people, and we had a delightful morning noshing and catching up.

At that point, calendula_witch went home to get some work done, and markjferrari, JB and I headed out to the Chocolate Festival. We spent a couple of hours tasting wine and chocolate of all sorts. I spent part of the afternoon a little tipsy as a result of all the wine tasting. We didn't find any wine that was especially fine, though it was all good, but we did each bring home some lovely chocolate treats. From there, we went to Powell's for the ritual pilgrimmage. I came home with copies of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (at seemingly everyone's urging this weekend) and The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (whose novel The Shadow of the Wind I so adored). I also bought a poster that will eventually be framed and hung somewhere here in the house (still have no idea where; I need a TARDIS to properly display all the art I have, all the art I want, and all the art I create).

We spent Sunday evening working on a special project for Mark, and then Monday, after a scrumptious eggy-sausagey scramble breakfast, we were off on our separate ways. The original plan was that JB was going to drive me back to Seattle and stay a couple of days. Because he unexpectedly needed to stay in Portland for a couple more days, I ended up taking the train back to Seattle--and there was wifi, though it was spotty at best. The current plan is that JB will be up here sometime this weekend.

So, yes, it was a long, lovely weekend weekend, and I couldn't have been happier with it. I am blessed with such marvelous people in my life, and I'm grateful to have had such (tasty) quality time with so many of them.

A northern California adventure, Part 2

Sunday morning we rose to meet davidlevine, kateyule, Amanda and her husband Brad for breakfast at David's. It was a clearly a local joint, the place everyone goes to for brekkies, the wait staff familiar and friendly to the patrons. Breakfast was basic and hearty--eggs, more eggs, pancakes, and eggs. For me, it was exactly the way to start the day, in good company with the kind of breakfast I really enjoy when I travel.

We parted company at that point, with David, Kate, Amanda and Brad hitting the road back to parts north. Jeremy and I met Elizabeth at the place where she was having brunch with the bridal party. We saw Shannon and Mark there and arranged for dinner that evening. Then three of us hit the road for some sightseeing.

Our first stop was Mendocino Chocolate Company in Fort Bragg. We each purchased some treats, used the nearby cash machine and then continued on.

We headed south to Mendocino proper, which turned out to be this adorable little tourist town perched on a bluff overlooking the sea. Our main goal there was to get some knitting needles for Elizabeth, but we ended up poking around the shops. Predictably, she came away with not just needles but yarn as well. At the same shop, I bought some buttons for a button bracelet project I'd like to do. The gardens around the shops were beautiful, with all sorts of native plants that bloomed with flowers we'd never seen before. We stopped at a jewelry shop called Silver & Stone, where E purchased a very chic pendant, a trio of what I think were glass ovals each progressively smaller than the one above, really lovely. As an early holiday gift to me, she chipped in for a gorgeous pair of earrings featuring carved abalone which I wore for the rest of the weekend.

We strolled about town a bit more, admiring the view of the rocky shore and the crashing waves, the eccentric sculpture above the bank called "Time and the Maiden," and the sweetness of the small shops and cottages along the streets.

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We headed back toward Fort Bragg and made two stops along the way. The first was at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens. Jeremy was inspired by the gardens we saw in town and is plotting his gardening at his new place, so we poked around the nursery on the grounds for ideas. Lovely plants, and I would have purchased one or two if there hadn't been a flight between there and home. Our second stop was the Sea Glass Museum, where we learned about the different kinds of sea glass and its source. The pictures on the web site make the place look much bigger than it is; it's really a tiny house split up into three or four rooms of exhibits with a lot of samples and some history, as well as a gift and book shop. There, we acquired a map of the glass beaches around town and planned for some beach combing.

As it turned out, beach combing required our navigating a path around some construction, and then scrambling down some pretty steep bluffs to get to the shoreline. Jeremy was the only one really dressed for any kind of scrambling or climbing, so he took a totebag, scrambled down the bluff, and retrieved a bag full of treasures that we picked through for souvenirs. There will be art and jewelry making this weekend if I can help it.

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It rapidly became clear to my companions--because apparently it's rarely clear to me--that I was sugar crashing. We found a restaurant with a coastal view and stopped for wine and a salad. Afterwards, more beachcombing, this time at the mouth of the Noyo River, resulted in Elizabeth finding a three-pound hunk of beach jade nearly the size of a brick. Veiny and gorgeous and richly green, it's a real treasure.

We went back to the hotel so I could change for dinner and so that Jeremy could stretch out for a bit, and then we headed out to meet Mark and Shannon. We were also joined by Mark's mother and his friend Mike who had acted as DJ for the party. Dinner was sushi of all kinds, and it was a delight to be able to sit with a small group including the bride and groom and just catch up a bit. Mike was pleasant and engaging, Mark's mother very lovely. At the end of the meal, Jeremy arranged for a knife and plates so that he could meticulously carve up each of eight truffles that he, Elizabeth and I had collectively purchased, and share them among the group. It was a mini-chocolate tasting and a great ending to the meal.

The day ended with another soak in the hotel's hot tub, and then it was to bed in preparation for the trip back to Oakland.

For the drive back the next day, we took a slightly different route which took us along more windy, twisty-turny roads, but this time through farm land and redwood forest. We listened to compilations of mash-ups, sang and talked, and got me to the airport with plenty of time to spare before my flight. I met Elizabeth only about 5 minutes after arrival. We sat in one of the airport restaurants and caught up, and ended up being able to sit together on the flight home.

I don't think I could have asked for a better trip, all in all. It was wonderful to see Mark and Shannon married after all this time, and great to be able the share the adventure in such good company. I've been home now a day and a half and my head's still not really back in the game of daily life yet. I suspect it won't be for a day or two more. The cold and the rain are working hard to ground me back in Seattle, but the sunshine and the emotional journey this weekend keep pulling me back to northern California. My head may stay there for a while yet.

A northern California adventure, Part 1

And so, last Friday morning, I was off to Mendocino county for a wedding, specifically to see my friends calendula_witch and markjferrari get married. What a fabulous weekend!

The drive north
I was met at Oakland Airport by my companion for the weekend, Jeremy B. He grabbed me at noon and, before really starting the road trip, we stopped for lunch at Taki Japanese Restaurant in Novato, California, just south of Petaluma, off route 101. It was a delicious lunch (we each had a roll and miso soup). When we exited the restaurant, across the shopping plaza, we saw a space suit just standing in front of a storefront. Turns out that, in a delightful turn of events, we had discovered The Space Station Museum, a two-store-front establishment only large enough to show 10 percent of their holdings, which included a lot of Russian artifacts from or related to the International Space Station (consoles and control panels, pressure suits, and more), and full-size replicas of a lunar lander and a lunar rover, among other things. We poked around the exhibits and had a long conversation with a volunteer who had worked building space craft. Serendipity!

Once we were on the road, we took 101 north, but eventually scooted westward to highway 1 for the drive to Fort Bragg. And what a beautiful drive it was! The landscape in this part of California is just breathtaking: rugged, rocky coastline, ocean that changes color with the light from dark blue-gray to an unearthly blue-green, waves crashing on the rocks, birds with gigantic wingspans reeling overhead.

Northern California coastline
Click to embiggen. Really, it's gorgeous up there.

The further north we went, the twistier the road became, and I told Jeremy that I had driving envy because it looked like it was so much fun to take the road the way he was. His SUV is a stick shift; I could never have taken a turn at the wheel but, oh, how I wanted to! Still, not driving meant that I could fully enjoy the scenery as well as the music we listened to along the way. We talked and sang together, and breathed in that marvelous air. We shared a delicious bar of dark chocolate with blueberries--rich, pungent stuff. We stopped at a couple of scenic viewpoints to just admire the general splendor. We noted interesting names along the way like Gualala State Park and Russian Gulch Park ("Nostrovia, pardner!).

Finally, nearly 6 hours later, we arrived at Cleone Gardens Inn where we'd spend the weekend. davidlevine and kateyule were already there and preparing to head out for dinner. We got checked in and then together the four of us went to a nearby Mexican restaurant. The food was hearty and plentiful. I had a chicken quesadilla; I never did get the name of the place. Back at the hotel, the four of us played a couple of games of Anomia--great fun--and then Jeremy and I got settled in our room. The only thing left to do for the evening was go soak in the hot tub, which we did--the two of us--and talked for quite some time.

Wedding!
On Saturday morning, we got started a little later than planned, but early enough to have a quick bite in the room and get ready for the wedding. We took the shuttle bus that Mark and Shannon had arranged for, along with several members of the wedding party, up to Simcha Ranch, a horse ranch at the top of a hill overlooking the Pacific. It was breezy and beautiful up there. The celebration area was set up with chairs, a podium, and red-and-white banners all set out for a ceremony under the sun. The barn had been transformed into a party space, hung with more red-and-white banners, and organized with long trestle tables set with red table clothes and white and gold trim, and little stones of red and clear glass.

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And then? It was time to party! We gathered a group to sit together: me, Jeremy, David and Kate, Amanda C and her husband Brad, and -- oh, I know I'm forgetting some names. But we had a congenial group to enjoy food and wine together. (We may have had the largest concentration of Jews in one place that Fort Bragg has ever seen.) Predictably, this being Shannon and Mark, the wine was delicious (and I need to get the wine list from her when she's settled), and all the food was delectable. All the rituals were observed: first dance, cake cutting, toasts -- a lot of happiness and good feeling all around. When at last the food was done, the music started. From my perspective, it took a little time for the real dance music to start, but once it did, Jeremy and I danced -- almost a half hour without break -- until I was so dizzy I couldn't see straight, and smiling so broadly my cheeks hurt.

We took the 8 PM shuttle back to the hotel, and then it was off to the hot tub for another soak, this time under a sparkling sky so clear that you could see the Milky Way. I saw a shooting star. A great way to end a great day.

More about our sightseeing and the drive back anon....

The weekend behind, the week ahead

It was a remarkably productive weekend in a number of ways. The fact that the weather was absolutely summer-like certainly helped. (Really, yesterday I could have gone to Golden Gardens and laid on the beach without a second thought. I did get some color when I took my walk yesterday.) I took a slew of books to the used bookstores for credit trade-in (instrumental to holiday gift planning). I got some writing done. I napped quite a bit. I got some walking in. I did a little decluttering.

I also saw Enter the Dragon for the first time, and on the big screen. It was shown as part of the film festival celebrating the reopening of Seattle's beloved Egyptian Theater by SIFF, as well as part of Bruce Lee Day, thrown by the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience in honor of its new exhibit about Lee. oldmangrumpus treated me, astonished that I'd never seen the movie and determined to fill this hole in my cinematic education. I enjoyed it well enough and, having seen it, understand why it's such a landmark in a particular genre of film. It is by no means the greatest movie I've ever seen, but I understand a little more about Bruce Lee's legacy and appeal. And, of course, it was a good time spent with friends, so all in all it was a worthwhile evening.

The week ahead includes a davidlevine/kateyule level of mad travel, between a trip to Portland for a corporate off-site event and a trip to Northern California for a wedding both in the space of eight days. I depart for the first tomorrow morning. I keep looking around the house and wondering what I need to do to prepare for it all, and realizing that, beyond a certain point, there's little to do besides prepping the cats, packing, and actually going. Neither of my cat sitters cares particularly about the level of clutter in the house. I'm the only one who cares whether or not I do things like take out the garbage or make my bed. It's part of my process, apparently, to make myself a little crazy about things that don't matter before departure. ::sigh::

So I suppose I ought to get to it. It's going to be a big week. I need to make sure to get more sleep. I'm going to need it.

Tags:

Powwow!

I promised myself at the beginning of the summer that I was going to do at least three things I've never done before. Well, as it turned out, I spent most of the summer doing something I've done any number of times before--editing a book. But yesterday I finally did one thing I've never done before. Over the last year or two, I've gotten back in touch with someone I used to work with at Wizards of the Coast (JM), and I met his charming wife (DM) who, as it turns out, is Native American. When I mentioned that I'd never been to a powwow, she got all excited and found one for us to attend.

I did some reading beforehand to get a sense of what the event might be like and, because I knew that it was a spiritual event as much as a social one, I wanted to be sure that I didn't do anything inappropriate, like take pictures. Wikipedia's entry on powwows was actually pretty faithful to my experience, but it's one thing to read about something and another to experience it.

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I enjoyed the day a great deal. This step into a different cultural experience was tasty both literally and emotionally. I'm certain that there were layers of meaning and relevance of which I was completely unaware, but I'm grateful to have had the opportunity at least to peek inside. It was a good day indeed.

California Sunday: Friends and Wedding

I'm nearly a week behind recording my trip notes, but I don't want to stint on my trip reporting mainly because there's so much I want to remember.

Breakfast
Sunday I got up early. My friend AC picked me up at the hotel for breakfast at the Egg Plantation, home of 101 omelets. The place is hugely popular locally, and though they don't take reservations, A managed our arrival so that we were seated minutes after we arrived. As it happens, I didn't choose one of those many omelettes; I had the quiche with fruit, which was absolutely delicious. Visiting with A was a delight. She's a friend that I met through penny-smashing, and I haven't seen her in more than a decade. She's the reason, in fact, that I got into Disney pin collecting. I had forgotten how much we have in common, between our collecting and our crafting, and we chattered like girls through the whole meal.

Museum
When we concluded our meal, we realized that I had time before I needed to be back at the hotel to prepare to attend my cousin's wedding, so we headed over to the William S. Hart Ranch and Museum to poke around. Neither of us realized how much silent film history and Western film history the place would cover. Our timing was such that while we could walk the grounds and do the self-guided tour of the bunk house (which featured some interesting architectural detail, some cool memorabilia, and beautiful tack) we couldn't take the mansion tour. We did see some of the resident bison herd, but they were pretty far off from the overlook point. Had we been within easy reach of A's truck, we might have gone back and driven down to the corral to see them up close. As it is, I've made a mental note to return on a future trip when there's more time.

Wedding
I was back at the hotel by 1 PM, napped, showered, did my hair and make-up, and got into my party duds. My brother, sister-in-law and I drove over the venue--the clubhouse at the development where my cousins will be living moving forward. It's a beautiful facility, with a spacious foyer, a courtyard, a vaulted-ceiling great room, and a sprawling porch overlooking a lake in the heart of the development.

The evening started with cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. Soon enough, we were herded into the great room for the ceremony. The place was festooned with flowers in jewel tones, and the bouquets all featured silk butterflies (a lifelong interest of my cousin P's). Every chair was wrapped with a burgundy swag tied with a bow and a rose. A string quartet played while we waited for the wedding party to line up. The processional included my cousin P's god daughters, his fiance's grandchildren, and then P and then his fiance accompanied by her sons. The bride wore a form-fitting, dark gray gown with a neckline that was somewhere between a boatneck and an off-the-shoulder affair, with a paler gray ruffle that trailed down her back. It was quite elegant, very lovely. Given everything that each of them has been through, there wasn't a dry eye in the house by the end of the ceremony. I was delighted to see P so happy, and S so clearly devoted to him.

After the ceremony, we vacated the room so that the caterers could switch it over for dinner and dancing. The switch happened quickly while we were all offering hugs and congratulations. Once the tables were set up and the band stand was erected, we were invited back in for a kiddush with an epic-sized challah (seriously, the thing must have been 10 feet long). Dinner was a choice of beef or salmon, with some vegetarian option in there that I completely missed. And then we danced until the party broke up at about 9ish (we started at 4 PM).

My bro, sis-in-law, and I spent the rest of the evening hanging out in my room and talking about all sorts of things. We had a long, deep conversation of a kind we haven't really had in a long while. When we all finally did get sleepy, we brkoe up the party. I was probably asleep within 20 minutes--a fine, satisfying day.

This weekend is two journeys

This weekend is an emotional journey and a day-to-day journey. I'm going to talk about the day-to-day journey in this entry. While I'll talk a little about the emotional journey, well, I won't write about it too deeply right now; I still have a lot to assimilate and consider. I may write about it at some point, but probably in a locked post and probably not this morning. Some things I don't need to share with the Entire World of the Internets.

Mani-pedis and family bonding
Friday morning, my cousin PL's fiance SS picked up my sister-in-law and myself at the hotel, and we all headed off to get mani/pedis. This was a plan that I had proposed because I wanted an opportunity to get to know SS a little better, and because I know that sis-in-law would have done this before she left Long Island anyway. Seemed like a nice way to bond with the girls a bit. I was pleased when SS jumped at the chance; I knew that sis-in-law would be into it. I still feel like I have new skin, two days later. My original thought was to get a French manicure on my fingers and some color on my toes. I ended up getting a sort of pale yellow/gold on both because it was close to my skin tone. As I've spent time in the unrelenting sun here in southern CA, the contrast between my nails and my skin has intensified. So much for a neutral color treatment! Having never gotten a pedicure before, I felt completely pampered and almost embarrassed by all the attention. My sister-in-law was entertained by my reactions to the whole thing.

We followed that up with having lunch at the restaurant that's catering the wedding on Sunday. The food was fresh and light and delicious. We got to know my sister-in-law much better over lunch. She was admirably frank about her personal history, a harrowing and in some respects horrifying odyssey (not mine to share). The fact that she's so together and so remarkably level-headed and, in fact, so vivacious and charming in the wake of all that left a profound impression on me. She clearly adores my cousin (I am biased in the opinion that he deserves such adoration), and I think they are very good for each other.

Tchaikovsky!
Friday evening, my cousin treated 19 of us who had come in from out of town to a dinner and concert at the Hollywood Bowl. The program was Tchaikovsky featuring violin soloist Alexandra Soumm (a positively pyrotechnic performance!), and the evening closed out with the 1812 Overture featuring the USC Marching Band (apparently a big deal around here) and fireworks. The evening was nearly perfect, with the exception of an unsettling encounter with another cousin with whom, well, things were tense, to put it mildly. Two sleeps later, the encounter has dwindled in my perception, but it cast a pall.

Hiking and personal history
Saturday morning, my brother, sister-in-law and I were up early. My cousin PL picked us up and we headed over to Vasquez Rocks for a hike. My brother didn't know where we were going--PL and I deliberately kept it a secret--so when we got there, I was treated to his delight at hiking around the rock formations that featured so prominently in several episodes of Star Trek. My cousin is a docent at another nature center locally, so as we hiked, we were treated to his insights about the local flora and fauna. We are all so clearly related, snapping pictures, examining the littlest things, just sort of soaking up the experience. It was such a great excursion. Unfortunately, the heat took its toll on my sister-in-law, who suffered quite a bit from nausea as a result. By the time we got to a restaurant for lunch afterwards, she was wilting pretty badly. The food helped revive her a little.

After lunch, PL took us over to his house. The place--a 4,000 square-foot mansion which he shared with his first wife--is up for sale. He's staying there until the wedding. This was the first time I'd ever visited the place, and it's beautiful, with skylights and stretches of windows that overlook the entire valley. I've been to large homes before, and the thing that impressed me about this place was that though it's very large, the rooms were of a scale so as not to make it feel overwhelming. Furnished in the pastels that his late wife preferred (the shade dusty rose was a big thing for her; not to my taste but she made it work), it was tranquil even in the lavishness of its furnishings.

As a result of his impending move, PL is downsizing his possessions pretty significantly. At one point, PL said to me, "I have something for you." What he had was a needlepoint that his mother, my much-beloved Aunt Shirley, had made, of a girl reading a book. I've always loved that piece and it will find an honored place on the walls of my home. He also gifted me with one of his late wife's several cameos. I'll be wearing it to the wedding. He gifted my brother with his grandfather's pocketwatch, and my sister-in-law with a beautiful pair of sapphire earrings, again, that belonged to his late wife. I have spent the whole weekend overwhelmed by his love and generosity.

In the wake of all this, I found myself crashing both physically and emotionally. G-d bless varina8 for her love and support when I called her to talk. She is smart and wise and knows me very, very well. I was grateful for the time we spent on the phone together.

Barbecue and chillin' out
Saturday evening, a small group of us went over to SS's home for a little barbecue. It was a fairly small crowd and, as I think about it now, a pretty intimate one in that it was mainly immediate family and very close friends. I was honored to be part of this gathering. I spent a little time talking to PL's goddaughters--lovely girls--whom I've never met before, and chatting with SS's closest friends. The day remained warm but breezes cooled things off to a comfortable temperature. The food was basic barbecue fare: burgers, salad, fruit, topped off with a raspberry lemon bundt cake. A nice relaxing way to close the day.

My bro, sis-in-law, and I spent the rest of the evening hanging out together in my room at the hotel, planning for our Monday excursion and catching up a bit.

Notes
I have spent most of my life pretty estranged from what little family I have. As I experienced last year with my cousin M's funeral, the reconnection with the family has been a pretty emotional journey for me. While I won't get into specifics, it has provoked a lot of reflection. I received an email from my cousin PL this morning expressing his gratitude for my presence this weekend and promising regular visits to Seattle. I . . . don't know how to express my reaction to such a confession and promise. It feels remarkable to me. I have a lot to process.

Scarlettina in transit

It's been a really interesting 36 hours.

In the space of that time I have done the following things:

I finished editing and delivered the latest Kobold Guide. Oh, did I mention? Yes, there's another Kobold Guide coming, specifically the Kobold Guide to Combat, scheduled for a Christmas release. Delighted with the line-up. Despite some challenges in the production (about which I plan to post another time; I have a lot of thinking and processing to do about that), I think we've got a great book, a terrific cover (which you can see at the link--perfect for the market and the subject), and am generally really pleased.

I nailed down the details for a panel discussion/reading/book signing at University Bookstore for said book for Wednesday, November 5 at 7 PM. Nervous and excited about that. My first real book signing. As the book's editor, mostly I'll be there to moderate whatever discussion we have. More details on that as we get closer to the event.

I packed my bags and got on a plane. I'm in Valencia, CA at this moment, here to attend my cousin's wedding and what has turned out to be something of a family reunion. Got in midday yesterday. Cousin and his fiance picked me up at Bob Hope Airport (Burbank) and was surprised by the size (tiny!) and intimacy of the place. It was actually far more pleasant than flying into LAX--and much closer to my ultimate destination.

I met my cousin's fiance. Here's what you need to know about why this is kind of remarkable. My cousin is 66 and this is his second go-round on the nuptial carousel. They were actually kind of adorable together and she seems completely lovely. She and my sister-in-law and I are going out this morning to get mani-pedis together. I wanted a little more private time to get to know her, and she jumped at the chance, which pleased me. It bodes well for the future, I think.

I dealt with a migraine. About halfway through my flight from San Francisco to Burbank, I began to get a headache that escalated into a full-blown migraine by the time I was done with lunch. My cousin got me back to the hotel in reasonable time, and I spent the afternoon medicating and resting/sleeping. By dinner time, I was in much better shape, and ready for my dinner engagement.

For dinner, I met a group of friends--Amy, Dan, David and Jeremy--for a late dinner at Lucille's Smokehouse Barbeque. I haven't seen Amy in 16 years, but it was like picking up a conversation we had left off just yesterday. Turned out--and I didn't know this--that David and Jeremy knew each other; was delighted and pleased by that. Dan looked terrific and had book covers to show off. Mostly, we laughed a lot. The ebb and flow of the conversation was just wonderful, and I came away wanting to come back soon to spend more time with these people.

Jeremy and I took some time after dinner to have drinks and catch up a bit. We ended up at a place called The Tilted Kilt which was loud. We sat on the patio in the hopes of avoiding the live music (which really needed avoiding) and ended up instead being treated to the loud and occasionally profane chatter of a bunch of college boys who insisted on standing just the other side of the barrier between the restaurant patio and the street. We mostly ignored them when it was possible to do so (though it was an exercise in self-restraint for me not to ask them to move along; it had the potential, though, to escalate into something that would have ruined the evening), and had a really fine conversation later into the evening.

So with the exception of the unfortunate headache--intense but, thankfully, brief--the trip has started off really well. I've been a little nervous about it; all this goodness has taken the edge off of that anxiety. My brother and sister-in-law arrive today; can't wait to see them. I'm looking forward to another really good day.

FIve Things for a Pre-dawn Monday

1) Books: Having enjoyed Gail Carriger's Parasol Protectorate series, I picked up Etiquette & Espionage, the first book in her Finishing School series. I understand that its target audience is YA, but I've read some excellent YA titles. This? I'm halfway through and I'm just finding it a little tiresome. It's the second book I've put down unfinished recently (the first having been Murder in Belleville by Cara Black; I just didn't care) which, for me, is rather remarkable. Moving on to Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson, which I'm finding entertaining, though the rambling sentences and extended parentheticals may drive me to distraction. We'll see.

2) Sports: After yesterday's championship qualifier at CLink Stadium, it looks like the Seahawks are going to the Super Bowl. I've never in my life cared about football, but the spirit of the 12th Man* is so strong in Seattle, I find it rubbing off on me a bit. The anticipation around town this week was very strong and after last night's win, spirits are very high. Toward the end of the game yesterday, I saw a firework through my living room window explode over Lake Union. People are excited. I may actually watch the Super Bowl this year for more than just the commercials.

3) State of me: I was very low yesterday morning, getting almost no writing done at our Sunday morning meet-up and hating everything I've written recently. I was aggravated with myself and impatient with everything. I think some of this is hormonal and some of it seasonal. I also think it has to do with the amount of sugar I ingested yesterday morning. I must be far more careful with what I put into my body. I must get far better with my self-care. I'm sure I'll be writing more about this another time. This morning? Not so much.

4) Travel: I'm going to be in New York City for a few days in March and have been trying to find lodging for myself and my travel partner. I've been contacting places to stay through VRBO.com, with which I've had excellent luck before, but so far, bupkiss. Not that I haven't found anything. I've found several lovely apartments listed as available, but one declined our reservation, and the other two haven't responded--just radio silence. I'll be following up on the second and third today, and if I can't get anything nailed down, then I'll be pursuing a fallback position that will be perfectly adequate but not what we thought would be optimal. I really want to get this lodging issue nailed down so I can focus on other elements of the trip, and this chasing about for lodging is very frustrating.

5) Cats: Zeke is beginning to mellow. He's about a year and a half now, and he's getting a little more chill. He still has his asshole moments, knocking things off of shelves for attention, walking around the house whining because he's not getting what he wants--I guess that doesn't make him an asshole so much as a teenager. But he's handsome and he's becoming a bit of a cuddlebug, about which I cannot complain. Sophie is her usual sweet and affectionate self. She has taken to a fur mouse I purchased for her, tossing it about, carrying it around in her mouth and so on. I am purely delighted with her, as always.

Bonus! 6) Watched Downton Abbey and the season premiere of Sherlock last night. I want to care more about Downton than I'm finding that I do this season. I may watch the episode via the Masterpiece web site again later this week to figure out why I'm not as engaged. The Sherlock episode was terrific. I'm wildly curious about who targeted Watson in with the rest of it. I may need to watch that episode again, too. Cumberbatch and Freeman have such great chemistry together; they're a delight.


* 12th Man: This term refers to Seahawks fandom, which is practically a tangible force inside the stadium and throughout the region. It's a big deal in these parts. There are "12" flags all over town.

Disney World trip, part 2

I am determined to finish my trip report, even though there's lots to write about, because it was a wonderful trip and there are things I don't want to forget.

Tuesday was our second day at Disney World, and that day we focused on the Magic Kingdom. We started the day doing rides I wouldn't have ordinarily done, except that my traveling companions wanted to do them. Ultimately I'm glad I did, because the novelty of the newness--and the retroness of it--was delightful.

We started the day with Peter Pan's Flight, a journey through the Peter Pan story on suspended carriages. We were the first on the ride for the day. The animatronics of the ride were charmingly retro, and it was a slow, sweet trip swooping through a familiar fairy land.

We rode the teacups, which was an absolute requirement, and if time had allowed, I think we would have done them twice--I'm kind of sorry we didn't. The ride isn't very long, but it's always fun, and we all laughed our fool heads off the whole time.

We'd scheduled the Tomorrowland Speedway next, but skipped it in favor of Space Mountain. I don't know what made me think I'd enjoy it anymore than I have in the past, but we did it--mainly, I think because davidlevine is a roller coaster junkie on a level I'd never fully understood before. As the week went on, I'd learn exactly how crazy he is, but I get ahead of myself. Anyway, we didn't want him to go on alone, and I know he enjoyed it. Some part of me enjoyed it, but another part of me was uncomfortable and didn't. Given the things I did later in the week, this seems peculiar, but there we are.

Our next stops were Buzz Lightyear (basically a ride-through video game that I enjoyed well enough--and the picture below tells the story), the Little Mermaid (like the Peter Pan ride, a trip through the movie), Mickey's PhilharMagic (a 3D movie experience with orchestral elements) and my favorite: the Haunted Mansion--on which more in a moment, but first, a picture:
Buzz Lightyear

The Haunted Mansion was a requirement because, no matter how far technology takes us in amusement park experiences, it was the first, best, most mysterious attraction ever. I love the holography used. I love the fun creepiness of it. It's a classic. I think we did it twice, enjoying both the familiarity and the newness of things we didn't notice before. It's a must for me on every Disney trip. It never gets old.

Our itinerary says that we had hours and hours of free time before we went to do Pirates of the Caribbean, but I will be honest and say I don't remember what all we did during that time. I know that there as shopping (because, well, Disney and shopping). I know that there was penny smashing (because, well, Disney and smashed pennies). I know that there was lunch, too, but for the life of me I can't remember where or what we ate.

ETA: During a chat with David, he reminded me that we took the monorail over to the Contemporary and had lunch there. I remember he and Kate really wanting to see it, so I went along. It was refreshing to get out of the park for a bit, to see the holiday decorations (gorgeous, gingerbread Christmas tree!), to try a different menu (which was excellent, by the way), and to learn the bits of Disney trivia there. For example, among their beautiful mosaic murals is a portrait of a goat with five legs, because the artist believed that no hand-made thing should ever be perfect. At some point during the trip, I believe that Kate picked up a pin that portrayed the five-legged goat. (end edit)

Later in the day, we did do Pirates of the Caribbean, which gets weirder to me the older I get. It's also weird to me that they've inserted Jack Sparrow as seen in the movies. The first time I saw it--at the California park--I was kind of delighted, but this time for some reason, it was too much, too odd. Nevertheless, I was kind of delighted by floating through the sea battle.

The Enchanted Tiki Room is always fun (though part of me wonders about the political correctness of it) and the Jungle Cruise was goofy as hell.

We ended the day with an excursion to Downtown Disney, where we had dinner at Wolfgang Puck Express. For an ostensibly fast food joint, the food was excellent. I had the butternut squash soup and a salad and couldn't have been more pleased.

We turned in early because we had scheduled Animal Kingdom for Wednesday, and we knew t was going to be a Big Day.

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Angel
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Good girls go to heaven.
Bad girls go everywhere.
--Mae West

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