Saturday, September 29, 2007

Darkness and the World of Writing

It's just now 7:20 p.m., and it's already dark outside. Oh how I dread the upcoming changing of the clocks! It's already dark much too early now. I can't bear to think of what it will be like by the time we change them in early November, over a month from now. I hate the darkness.

But on a lighter note (hehe), it was a glorious day today. Beautiful sunshine and warm temperatures. I took advantage and went down to the National Book Festival on the Mall. I first listened to an interview with Edward P. Jones, author of The Known World and multiple collections of short stories. He's also the winner of a MacArthur Genius Award (I want one of those!). And though I admired his novel, I must say that I found him to be rather boring in person. The Genius thing didn't really come through.

The second speaker, Joyce Carol Oates, more than made up for it though. I'm a big fan of her work and have read many of her novels (though not nearly all considering she is superhumanly prolific). I think We Were the Mulvaneys is my favorite, although her most recent novel, The Gravedigger's Daughter, is quite good too (except for the first 12 or so pages which I found to be s-l-o-w). Anyhow, if you've read any of her work, you'd know that she tends to be a bit fatalistic, with a somewhat tragic view of the world, so I found it quite refreshing to be witness to a fantastic sense of humor. Really, she was very funny. Even Jeff, not nearly the bibliophile that I am, was laughing out loud.

Interestingly both authors offered similar advice when asked what they'd say to an aspiring writer. Instead of the usual "Dream big" offered by most people in advice-giving positions, they both said "Expect nothing." In the writing world, rejection is such a common-place occurrence that it often destroys people unaccustomed to failure, causing them to quit before they really even get started. Both suggested that if you expect nothing, you won't be torn apart by the disappointment and will be able to continue to churn out works and send them away. And then, rather than being disappointed by all the rejections, you'll be pleasantly surprised when someone, somewhere does want something you've written. Makes sense. But I'm not sure a big banner over my desk that says "Expect nothing" would be all that inspiring.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Brookside Gardens

Yesterday was a beautiful day, warm and sunny but not humid and sticky, so I decided to make the most of it with a trip to Brookside Gardens where I played around with the camera. I thought I'd share some of my favorites.

Saturday, September 22, 2007


My friend Megan tagged me, which means that I'm supposed to share on my blog eight random things about myself that you might not know. I doubt that any one of you will find all eight of these surprising considering I think the people who read my blog know me pretty darn well, but, hey maybe there's a surprise tucked in here for someone.

1. Growing up there were three things I wanted to be: President, an astronaut, and a novelist. I kept the President dream up through 8th grade when I was student body president. Shortly after that I realized that a) I'm not good at schmoozing or selling myself, b) I am a very private person, and c) Politics is dirty. I kept the astronaut dream alive through my first year of college. I studied astronomy at GSP and went to Rice intending to study engineering and hoping to do some kind of work with nearby NASA. My inability to grasp physics effectively killed that dream. The novelist dream began early when I won my first Young Authors contest in first grade and has never really died, although it's been repressed at times primarily because it seemed like such an abstract thing and I've always been much too rational and responsible to just say screw it all I'm going to try to write a book. But, lately I've realized that a) I'm not going to starve and b) it's still the one thing I really want to do, so in a year or two I'm going to go ahead and say screw it, I'm writing a book.

2. I'm afraid of dogs. There's no reason for this--I've never been bitten or had a bad experience. I'm just highly uncomfortable around them. (Although Jeff is convinced that I secretly like them.)

3. I am terrible at relaxing. I can't sit on the couch and watch TV without feeling like I should be doing something more productive. I can't lay on the beach or at the pool for more than 15 minutes without getting restless. A resort vacation would be my worst nightmare. I always need to be doing something, seeing something, learning something. Reading is the closest thing I can do to relaxing guiltlessly.

4. I'm a book junkie. I read everything I can get my hands on. And if you talk to me when I'm reading, I won't answer you. I'm not being rude, I just get so absorbed in reading that I literally do not hear you talking to me. When I was a kid I loved books so much that when my family went to the lake, I'd bring a book and read while everyone else fished or swam or whatever.

5. I'm actually very silly, but only around people I am very close to. Around others, I come across as very reserved and serious.

6. I have never in my life eaten a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I like peanut butter sandwiches and I've been known to eat jelly bread for breakfast, but the idea of combining the two makes my stomach churn.

7. I'm almost always cold (or chilly as I like to say). Unless it's over 90 degrees and I'm in direct sunlight, I'm probably cold.

8. When I was little, I had a Madonna tape (from my cousin Lisa I think) with the song Like a Virgin on it. My next door neighbor and I used to dance to this song while wearing halos or wings and acting like angels. This is because I thought virgin meant angel thanks to the Church always referring to Mary as the Virgin Mary. It seemed like a logical leap to me...Who would have thought they'd reference someone's level of sexual experience so often in a religious place?

Now it's my turn to tag eight people...except I don't think I know eight people who have blogs, so um, if I know you and you have a blog and haven't been tagged before, consider yourself it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Farewell to Summer

Though it's still over a week until its official arrival, fall has begun to sneak in. The sun isn't as intense, the air carries a slight chill, there's dew on the ground, and the hours of daylight keep shrinking. I like fall...I really do...but I love summer. So it is with sadness that I bid it adieu.

I will miss...
*perfectly ripe peaches dripping juice down my face
*the smell of garden fresh tomatoes and cucumbers
*sweet crisp yellow corn on the cob
*pints of multi-color cherry tomatoes
*bundles of brightly-colored zinnias
*waking up to sunshine
*twilight until late in the night
*hanging out at the pool
*flip flops and bare legs

And you? What will you miss?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

New York City: The Last of the Vacation Narratives

From Boston, Jeff and I headed down to NYC, but stopped outside of the city in Norwalk, CT, where we were able to visit with my friend Despina and her husband Taso. They'd literally just gotten back from Greece, where they were married, so it was very generous of them to have us stay, but we were so happy to get to spend the evening hanging out with them. Especially since they introduced us to this amazing place called Chocopologie, where we went for dessert. Between the four of us we ordered some truffles (the dark chocolate truffle with burnt caramel and sea salt was phenomenal...we weren't convinced when the waitress suggested it, but we were sold after the first taste), chocolate beignets, and a sampler that included ice cream, mousse with ganache, a molten cake, and some kind of weird chocolate "butter." It was a delicious night!

The next morning we said goodbye and took the train into NYC, where we had a $19 hotel reservation and tickets to the Yankees. The hotel was a serious steal. It was a few blocks from Grand Central station, within easy walking distance to many sites, and the room was fantastic. Comfy bed, spacious bathroom, quiet, well-decorated, and with a cool lighting system that gave you control over every light in the room from one panel by the bed (one on each side actually). What more could you ask for? Lucky us.

Oddly enough the worst weather of the trip was in NYC, where it was kind of chilly and where it started to rain after the game ended. You'd think we might have been cool further up north, but instead the further back south we came, the more we pulled out our jeans and long sleeve shirts. Anyhow, we weren't going to let a little rain ruin our trip, so we put our rain jackets to use and set out. We first went to Chinatown, where I added three pashminas to my collection, and where we had dinner. The lo mein was great. I wasn't as big a fan of the beef dish--weird texture, I thought--but Jeff liked it. Oh well, now I know not to order that dish in the future.

The rain wasn't letting up, but we kept up with our walking, heading to the Brooklyn Bridge, which we walked halfway across for the view. I actually think it might have been a better view because of the rain. Kind of romantic if you will.

We then paid our tributes at Ground Zero, which is hard to fathom, especially since it now seems to be one huge construction zone. But there's definitely a hole in the horizon. And then we wrapped up our rainy New York evening with a stroll through Times Square, bathing in its neon glory, before cozying up in our nice, warm, $19 bed.

The next morning we had a few hours before we had to head out of town, so we first headed up to Central Park, where we wandered past the Children's Zoo, the Bethesda Fountain & Terrace, one of the ponds, and Strawberry Fields.

The Bethesda Fountain & Terrace was my favorite part of the park. It has a very Eastern feel to it, which was heightened by a man playing a lute, its haunting melody floating across the park.

On our way back to the hotel to pick up our belongings, we enjoyed a few slices of New York pizza and took in Radio City and Rockefeller Center.

Hardly enough time for NYC I know--what about the Met, the MOMA, SoHo, the Village, Fifth Avenue--but I'm certain will be back. There's just way too much to see. and the city is nothing if not intoxicating. I first saw NYC when I was 14, and at that time I said that I thought it would be an amazing place to live for one year. When I told Jeff this (before our trip), he kind of scoffed. He'd only seen NYC briefly as a child while waiting for a passport or something, and he was convinced he wouldn't like it. He assumed it would be too fast, the people too rude, money too important. But we weren't there long before he was saying that I might be on to something. NYC isn't somewhere I could imagine as home, but it's somewhere I would be interested in adopting for a year. There's just nowhere else in the world like it. The center of finance, the center of the arts, the center of literature, the center of everything. You can just feel the pulse of the world running through it. I'd love to have a year to just live that, experience that. Now I just have to figure out how to make that happen.

Is it just me or do you too wish that you had multiple lives to live? There's just way too much I want to do.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Let Us Now Praise Neosporin

Wonder drug! Magic in a tube! Miracle worker! Who knew the marvel that Neosporin is? Long live the trusty over the counter topical antibiotic that requires no doctor's visit, that demands no prescription, that asks no questions. I am forever a devotee!

What inspires this love song to Neosporin you ask. Well, if you recall, a week ago, my face looked like this.

Now, a mere one week from the accident, my face looks like this.
What was horrible red and oozy abrasions across my face has healed to pink patches of new skin. I can pass you on the street and you won't recoil in horror. In fact, you might not even notice unless you're staring directly at me, and even then it's nothing much to look at. Heck, you might think it nothing but the effects of a bad sunburn. And what do I have to thank for this rapid recovery? Nothing more than ice for the first 24 hours, a few infrequent applications of heat, and a whole heck of a lot of Neosporin. And while the Neosporin does give my face a nice shine and is good and sticky, I have no complaints. I think in another week or so there won't even be a trace mark to serve as reminder of my encounter with the tow rope. So three cheers for Neosporin. Hip hip hooray! Hip hip hooray! Hip hip hooray!

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Boston Section of the Trip

As we made our way down the Maine coast, we bypassed the interstate and stayed on U.S. 1 for the view. Farm stands and antique shops were in abundance. We stopped at one stand to buy a pint of wild Maine blueberries, which I ate by the handful. Mmm. There were many small towns that looked inviting, but I think both of us were a little bit tired and so we mainly just drove and enjoyed the view from our window until we reached that night's destination, Portland.

Oh, oops, I forgot. We did make one stop to check out the LL Bean Factory Store in Freeport. It was big, but I wasn't all that impressed. I guess in our world of everything being jumbo-sized and open 24/7, the novelty of such a place isn't as great as it once was. And Freeport was a little freaky. Way too many outlet stores made it seem like a gigantic outdoor mall and not much of a town at all.

Really, I don't have much to say about Portland, and I don't even have any pictures. We didn't get there until the evening and not long after we ate dinner--a great selection of sushi at a waterfront restaurant called Sapporo--a thunderstorm rolled in and sent us back to our hotel. We needed the rest though, so we weren't all that disappointed. The downtown area of Portland is kind of funky, with most of the buildings red brick and warehouse-like. It was a Thursday evening and the town was bustling...I don't know what schools are there or what their schedules are, but it seemed as if a lot of college kids were out and about.

So on to Boston, our next stop. Friday's primary goal was to see the Red Sox play at Fenway, which we did, and which I detailed in a previous post.

But we got to Boston a little earlier than we thought we would on Friday, so we were able to squeeze in a few other sites, starting with the Public Gardens, which has a strong water fowl theme.

Witness Number One: The "Make Way for Duckling" statue

Witness Number Two: The Swan Boats

Witness Number Three: This Duck

We then continued on to Trinity Church and Hancock Tower, before hitting up the farmer's market in Copley Square. It was a really fabulous market, and we picked our lunch from the offerings--a mozzarella-tomato sandwich, peaches, and chocolate chip cookies.

By the time we finished eating, we just had a few minutes before we had to take the T over to Cambridge to pick up the baseball tickets, but I managed to take a quick peek into the Boston Public Library. I wish I'd had more time as it's so much more than a library. There's a huge mural by John Singer Sargent that I could have spent more time gazing at, and a number of exhibits that I had to bypass although I did get to snag a glance at the WWII poster exhibit. Oh well, I guess you have to have some things on the "to see next time" list.

Besides picking up tickets in Cambridge, we did a little exploring, taking time to see the famed Harvard Yard. Looked like any collage quad to me, except for the hordes of wanna-be Harvard students on tours, some of whom looked like they were a good 10 years away from applying. Before going to the game, we also managed to squeeze in a quick dinner of clam chowder from one of the vendors in Quincy Market (behind Fanueil Hall, which is pictured below).

Our hotel in Boston was a good find. The John Jacobs House was not only a great deal for Boston, it was also well located, situated right at the bottom of the ritzy Beacon Hill and within easy walking distance of most sights. We set out from there in the morning to walk the Freedom Trail, which I must say isn't all that interesting in itself but does provide a good route for seeing a lot of the city by foot. Among the sights on the trail are lots of graveyards, lots of churches, houses of historical merit, Beacon Hill, etc. We stopped at some and wandered right past others, but we did make a point to stop and pay tribute to Sam Adams, the maker of our favorite summer ale.

And that, my friends, is Boston in a nutshell. There's so much more to it, but that's all we had time for in the two half-days we were there. I'll definitely be returning. I need more time in the library, I want to go to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and the Boston Fine Arts Museum, I can always go for my Italian food from the North End... Luckily I have a good friend who just moved there. I can come visit any time I want, right, Kate?

(I'm sorry the pictures for this section aren't as numerous or as exciting. One thing I learned about us on this trip is that we definitely enjoy photographing natural landscapes much more than cityscapes. In the future I think we'll have to make a conscious effort to find city shots of interest because it is not our natural inclination.)

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Acadia National Park

Along with Vermont, Maine was one of our favorite stops, particularly Acadia National Park and the surrounding area of Bar Harbor. I must say, however, that I was taken aback by the sheer numbers of people visiting Acadia. At first it seemed more like an amusement park than a national park, with lines of people on the trails and overflowing parking lots. Clearly August was peak season, and we soon figured out that middle of the day was peak time for all the day trippers. So instead of trying to enjoy a trail with a million other people, we decided to just first get a feel for the park by driving the loop and stopping to check out some of the sites, such as this beach. It's a very beautiful strip of sand with lovely turquoise water sheltered in a rocky cove but as I'm so clearly demonstrating in this photo, it's not all that's just a bit too cold that far north for swimming.

In this picture of Jeff, you can see the beach in the background, and way across the way you can kind of make out a bunch of birch trees. Along with pine, Acadia is home to many birches, which I find to be particularly beautiful with their tall, thin, white trunks. We took some pictures of the birches but none really do them justice, so you'll just have to go see for yourself.

After completing our loop, we headed into Bar Harbor for lunch and to spend the afternoon wandering around. We found a couple of good places to eat, including Lompoc Cafe, which is very casual and cool with paper mache animal sculptures and a bocci court, Gringo's, which does a variety of burritos, and Morning Glory Cafe, where it was nearly impossible to choose a dessert although we were able to decide on a chocolate peanut butter bar, a chocolate chip cookie, and blueberry pie on our multiple visits. Mmmm.

Like Acadia, Bar Harbor was busy, but it was a pleasant town to walk around.

Camping was the name of the game again, so we set up our tent before heading down to the less explored section to Acadia, the western peninsula of Mt. Desert Island. We first stopped in Somesville to check out this bridge, which reminds me of one Monet might have painted.

We then headed down to Wonderland beach to check out the tide pools since it was low tide. There were many pools, but not much in them besides zillions of snails. I was hoping to find a starfish or other such sea creature but no luck. We did find lots of neat rocks though.

From Wonderland (great name, huh?) it was on to Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse right at sunset. The lighthouse itself wasn't that impressive, but the sunset was a cotton candy pink and purple, and we spotted two porpoises and two seals right off shore (despite the park ranger at our campsite saying there was very little chance of seeing any large sea life unless we went out in a boat).

Before bed (and a campfire for smores) we did see a little more sealife...on our plates. What's a trip to Maine without some lobster? Neither Jeff nor I had ever had a whole lobster before so we went for it. Can't say I'll be going for it again. The claw meat and the tail meat was good (but not all that fabulous in my opinion), but we made the mistake of taking the mallet to the center of the shell and looking at the insides where the green gunk from the excretory system made both of us immediately lose our appetites. I'm still shuddering thinking of it.

On day two, we woke up early (is it possible to sleep in while camping?) and had what seemed like the entire park to ourselves. It was glorious. Absolute serenity. So we took advantage and hiked the popular BeeHive Trail, which involves climbing up steel rungs on exposed cliffs. Pretty awesome.

The view from the top, which was ours alone, wasn't bad either. In many ways, the scenery reminded both Jeff and I of the San Juan Islands.

Turning the hike into a longer one that filled our entire morning, we connected to two other trails, which were also deserted, before summiting (via car) the overly popular Mt. Cadillac and then leaving Acadia behind as we proceeded down the Maine coast.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

So now that you've all seen my battered face, I'm going to return to pictures a bit nicer to look at with the continuation of our vacation recap.

From Vermont, we scooted on into New Hampshire, which I expected to be quite similar to Vermont. After all, they're both tiny little states located in the same area. I was, however, disappointed in New Hampshire. It simply wasn't as scenic as Vermont and also had a kitschy air to it. What's up with the mini golf courses and strip malls that looked like they belong at the beach? And how in the heck does New Hampshire get away with charging $10 to take a hike (which is what was being charged to walk along the boardwalk to some water feature in the park where the Old Man in the Mountain resided before his face crumbled right off the cliff)? Isn't that such a Republican thing to do? (In case you didn't know, NH is pretty much the only red state in New England.)

But not to be completely unfair, New Hampshire did have a few cool things. For one, it's the only state where we saw a moose.

Unfortunately, it wasn't real.

Also cool were the many waterfalls along the side of the Kancamagus Highway. We stopped at three locations to enjoy them. Our first stop was Sabbaday Falls, which has two large waterfalls and one small one all in a series.

Our next stop was at Rocky Gorge, where a copy of a very, very old Reader's Digest article about a girl trapped under the falls was posted as a warning to take the "No Swimming" signs seriously. However, as you can see in the photo, the tale didn't hold much sway with the minions. It probably didn't help that the girl survived and ended up just fine. I mean, if you're trying to scare people, telling them that in the end everything turns out okay isn't really the way to do it.

Our final water feature stop was at Lower Falls, where there's not really much of a falls, but there is a cool natural waterslide similar to one we visited in Arizona last year with our friends Megan and Bryan. I was all game to try it until I stuck my toe in and it promptly fell off from frost bite. So okay, I didn't lose a toe, but I might have had I kept it in any longer. This was glacial water, and I'm pretty sure there were chunks of ice floating in it. Jeff has thicker skin than I do, so he braved it and had a good time chuting the slide.

And the final thing that was noteworthy about New Hampshire was this covered bridge. We obviously didn't seek them out, but it's the only one we saw in all of New England. I thought they'd be more prominently featured.

Before crossing into Maine, we made one last stop at Mount Washington, which is the tallest mountain in the eastern United States. I'm not, however, going to post a picture, as it's really not much more than a glorified least that's how it appears in pictures. None of the purple mountains majesty you've got going on out west. Although I would be remiss not to note that Mount Washington's summit has some of the craziest weather in the world. I can't report on that first hand, however, as we didn't want to pay simply to drive to the summit (like you could just drive up a real mountain anyhow...think I'll go drive McKinley...see you in an hour) and we didn't have the time to make the hike. Maybe another time? Or maybe not...NH isn't really on my must-return-to list.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

An Interesting Day at the Lake

Over the weekend, we were in Louisville for my friend Joyce's wedding, so we decided to hang around and celebrate Jeff's 26th birthday by going to the lake on Tuesday. Going to the lake has always been one of my favorite family activities, and Jeff has come to enjoy it just as much. So we headed up to Patoka with my mom and dad for a day of fishing, swimming, and tubing.

We started out fishing and though the fish weren't flying into the boat as they often do, we still caught a fair number and had fun. (Although it wasn't so cool when one fish pooped on me. Eww. Gross.).

It was a really hot day--high 90s despite an original forecast that had it in the low 80s--so we had to go for a swim to cool off. I don't know if it's accurate to describe what we did as swimming, however, since it mainly consisted of jumping from the boat into the water over and over.

As we were swimming, a weird thing happened in that a flock of eight ducks flew down and landed right near us. They weren't at all intimidated for us and were clearly looking for a handout of food. We didn't oblige but that didn't keep them from hanging around for quite some time.

To end the day, we pulled out the tube for a spin around the lake. Jeff was up first and had a good time flying around the lake before getting thrown off and skimming right across the surface. We picked him up (none the worse for the wear) and I hopped onto the tube.

The ride was fun. I was coasting along, for the most part just flying over the water, nothing too rough.

Then, I'm not quite sure what happened but I hit a rough patch and flew off in the most awkward way possible, somehow ending up on the rope as it ripped across the water (and my face). My face was stinging but I didn't think it was much. I did reach up and notice my lip was bleeding, but I thought I'd just bit it as I flew off. As I got to the boat, however, everyone in it gasped and got very concerned about my eye. The rope had really done a number on my face. Luckily my eye itself was okay, but half my face was good and torn up and bruised. This is what I looked like when we got back to the dock...awesome boat hair included.
Looks a bit like I'm wearing war paint doesn't it?

I'm pretty sure this a birthday shot we'll always treasure.

Over the course of the evening and night it swelled more and bruised more and this is what my face looks like now, a day later. Isn't it pretty?
Luckily, it's more uncomfortable than painful. And luckily the swelling has gone done a bit since this morning, when I couldn't really open my left eye at all. And luckily, we're all done with weddings for another month. Hopefully by then you won't even be able to tell it ever happened.