Little River

I am in a cabin in Little River, CA. This has nothing to do with the Little River Band, who is apparently from Australia. (I had to go look this up.)

Not sure why exactly I’m here. I wanted to bug out of town for a few days, and didn’t want to end up back in Vegas. Didn’t want to go somewhere that involved flying, partly so I could use my own car instead of renting one, and partly because I assumed the second I bought plane tickets, some work disaster would require me to cancel.

I’ve never been to this part of the state before. I guess I’ve driven on I-80 to Reno, and that’s technically further north than this. But this is the other side of the state, on the water.  California is huge, and I’ve never spent any time outside of SF/LA/SD, so here I am.

My original thought was that I would drive up to Astoria, Oregon. I visited there in 1997, and I liked it a lot. But it’s a long drive, maybe 12 or 14 hours. And there’s the issue of ghosts, and I don’t know that I want to deal with that. I don’t mean the paranormal. I mean, I visited there with someone, and I’d probably spend the whole trip thinking about twenty years ago, which isn’t good.

The cabin is weird. There are maybe a half-dozen buildings from the late 40s, divided in half. They are all themed with various retro themes. Mine is “read” and it is filled with books and pictures of libraries. There’s also a tiny kitchenette, which I’ve been using extensively, and a woodburning stove, which I will not touch. I’d either burn down the cabin, or release a lethal storm of allergens into my room.

The drive up here was easy, maybe three hours. Take the 580 over the bridge, past Uncle Charlie’s old place at San Quentin, then the 101 north for a while. I guess I have been to Santa Rosa — there’s a big air museum there. After Cloverdale, you get on 128 and cut west across the state, all the way to the 1 on the shore. That drive on the 128 is pretty crazy — lots of twists and switchbacks and steep drops and rises and dips in elevation. There’s also an insane amount of redwoods there, thick forests of them, completely blocking the light. You can drive for an hour with no cell reception whatsoever, something strange in this day.

This place reminds me of visiting what was left of the Catskills in 1988. In the mountains, there were these little private resorts, campgrounds of cabins for single families, almost like a deconstructed motel, with every couple rooms in its own building. We stayed in one somewhere between Cairo and Freehold, a setup similar to this one. It’s probably a McMansion now. When the pre-Holiday Inn generation died off, stopped summering in the mountains, the land became too valuable. I’m not sure why that hasn’t happened here. The lack of cell phone coverage, and the remoteness to any other city may be the issue.

I’m a few miles from Mendocino, which is about 900 people. It’s mostly galleries, shops, cafes. There’s a grocery where I was able to stock up when I got here yesterday. Lots of incredible views of the Pacific. Lots of buildings from the 19th century, and all of them have these wooden water towers behind them. Something about the architecture — or maybe it’s the nautical feel, or the open space by the water — makes it feel like New England. It reminds me of some random Rhode Island village, where it’s all lighthouses and whale watching.

I think it’s about twenty minutes to Fort Bragg, which is maybe six hundred people. It has more of a downtown, although it’s only a few blocks of it. I saw the smallest Sears store I’ve ever seen, and a still-functional Radio Shack, although it was just part of a hardware store that was also a True Value. Fort Bragg is unrelated to the Army base in North Carolina – that’s probably a hundred times bigger.

So, it’s weird here. I mean, it’s really quiet. The weather is mild, cold at night, not terribly warm or sunny all day. The ocean is beautiful, but it’s rough, choppy. Beautiful colors of blue mixed with the white foam of the waves, but it’s under a canopy of gray that doesn’t want to burn off all morning.

Also, it’s odd vacationing with my car. I’m used to renting a different car, driving an anonymous white Hyundai with rental car stickers all over the interior. Strange to have my daily driver here, to see it in unfamiliar surroundings. I pulled over at a Cove, the top of a windy s-curve road with a vantage point overlooking the beach below. Took a bunch of pictures with the real camera, my dirty Toyota at the edge of the road. It reminds me of when I took my last car from Denver to LA, and stopped in the mountains of some random part of Utah, took pictures in the snow at a rest area of the mud-streaked Yaris, parked next to big rigs of interstate truckers.

I’m supposed to be writing. I’m not. I’m picking at something, but I think the grand scheme was that I’d lock myself in this cabin with a week of TV dinners and a few cases of Coke and come up with some completely new idea. And that didn’t happen. So I’m picking away at this big thing, wondering how I can deal with it, package it, finish it. Or not. I don’t know.

Was sitting on my deck and saw a deer a few hours ago. It wandered past, eating grass, maybe ten yards away. Scared the shit out of me — I’m not used to being around nature. Anyway. I’ll probably go into town tomorrow and buy a bunch of stuff I don’t need at the local bookstore. Here until Monday, so maybe I’ll get to the writing thing.

 

 

Share

Various Vegas thoughts

I planned on blogging more from KonCon in Las Vegas last week, but I didn’t, because I am lazy. I probably should write a synopsis of the trip, but the TL;DR is that it was way too fucking hot – usually at or above 110 each day, and even hours after the sun set, it was still above 100. So that’s why it’s so cheap to go in July.

Someone asked me for some advice on Vegas while I was gone. I have not spent much time there in years, and everything I mentioned in my book about Vegas is largely gone. But my response to this question in an email is an interesting companion to the trip itself and my thoughts during it, so I’ll just leave this here for your amusement.

  • I waste a lot of time on this site when I am planning: http://www.lvrevealed.com/deathwatch/ – their casino reviews are decent, but I am sort of obsessed with who is rumored to get imploded in the near future.
  • If you look at a map of the strip, most of the mid-strip properties are what I’d consider first tier (Bellagio, Paris, Harrah’s, Caesars, etc), and the Wynn is north strip, but I’d group it in with those mid-strip properties. Same with Aria/City Center, which is technically south strip. It’s the newest; I’ve never stayed there, but from eating/shopping there, it’s pretty high end.
  • The south strip was the big deal maybe 10-15 years ago, and that stuff is now dated, but can be tolerable to stay there. It can be cheap, and the location is decent. So Mandalay Bay, MGM, NYNY, Luxor, Excalibur in that order. (Most of those are owned/run by the same monopoly, so they’re similar.) Tropicana got bought by Hilton and redone, so the rooms are nice, but there’s not a lot in there.An example: the Luxor is not that trendy of a property – I think it was so-so when I stayed there in like 99, and now it’s really lost its focus. It used to be Egyptian-themed, and they decided that maybe flyover rednecks aren’t into that, so they started de-theming it and ripping out the king tut stuff, but it’s still got these random stone pyramid walls in places.  But, the rooms are now ridiculously cheap, and it’s a really good location, and connected to the big mall by Mandalay Bay. So if you don’t plan on spending a lot of time in your room, it could be an option.
  • Everything north strip is shit. Everything downtown is total shit. Everything that’s not on the strip is mostly shit, unless you stumble on some deal to stay in a timeshare at Trump or something weird like that.
  • Absolutely do not stay at Hooters like I did.  I won’t go into the horror stories, but I’ve stayed at hotels in rural Mexico that were much nicer.
  • I used to never rent a car and cab it from the airport and around town. But the last few times, I’ve found an okay deal on a rental car bundled with the hotel (I think I used Expedia this time) and if you drive at least once a day, it’s usually a better deal. You can generally park at any hotel for free, or valet for almost nothing.
  • If you are driving, don’t actually drive on the strip to get north/south. Either go west to I-15, or go east to Paradise, Maryland, or Eastern.
  • Think of whatever amount of water a person would drink in a day that would be entirely excessive, and double that.
  • You can drive off the strip and buy a case of water for four bucks or whatever, or you can buy two bottles of water at a hotel for seven bucks. The problem is almost none of the hotels have a fridge. You can buy a crappy foam cooler at the grocery store and then commit to filling it with ice every other hour, but that’s a huge pain in the ass.
  • Opentable is a good way to get reservations for dinner.  There’s a surprisingly large number of high-end restaurants with decent food.
  • Every buffet is a ripoff. Wynn is almost tolerable, if you pace yourself and don’t eat all day and go in with the plan of fucking them by eating five pounds of lobster. But I made the mistake of going to the MGM buffet, and paid $35 for about $10 of Sizzler-grade food.
  • If you’re into steak, Tom Colicchio’s Craftsteak at the MGM has a fairly insane three-course beef selection that is not cheap but is awesome. Or in the opposite direction, there’s the Golden Steer, which looks a little dodgy because it’s ancient and has never been remodeled, but it’s cool because it’s ancient and has never been remodeled – it’s one of those old-school places where the brat pack used to hang out.
  • Everyone associates the Grand Canyon with Vegas, but really it’s like a 4-5 hour drive each way, and easy to kill an entire day to spend a few minutes there.
  • If you are actually interested in going to Area 51/Rachel I could fill up another post with details on that.
  • If you are there and hit the wall and need to bug out and go somewhere quiet to get work done or whatever, go to UNLV. You can hide in their library and use wifi without any hassle.
  • There’s a huge Fry’s Electronics south of the strip, at a big outdoor mall right before 215. There’s a Target at Flamingo and Maryland. There’s a few Vons grocery stores (Safeway-owned, I think) on Tropicana and Flamingo.
  • Pinball Hall of Fame on Tropicana is worth checking out. The atomic testing museum on Flamingo is neat, but their Area 51 exhibit is pretty cheesy.
  • If you want to tour the neon graveyard, book it early.  They have limited tours and they always fill up.
  • Don’t stay at Hooters.

Thoughts?  Leave ’em in the comments.

Share

Sanjay Gupta and Jack Kevorkian went to the same medical school

  • I hate end-of-year lists. I didn’t even know it was 2014 for half of the year, and I can’t remember what I wrote, read, bought, or otherwise did. I published two books, and worked on two others, but you probably already know that.
  • I fell down a brief Jack Kevorkian k-hole the other day, probably because I spent too much time at the airport. I really want a copy of his jazz album. It always fascinates me when someone famous for one thing has a side-passion in something completely different.
  • This isn’t a good example, but I always found it interesting how prior to his career in blowing shit up, Ted Kazczynski was a math prodigy, and published several academic papers, mostly about boundary functions.
  • Both Kevorkian and Kazczynski went to University of Michigan.  (Not at the same time.)
  • I went to the same school as Jim Jones, Meg Cabot, and Joe Buck. (Jones was obviously before my time. Cabot lived in my dorm, I think, but I never knew her. I refuse to discuss Joe Buck.)
  • I went to Wisconsin for the holiday. I got sick. It did not snow. I’m still sick.
  • I guess a new year’s resolution, even though I hate them, is to not get sick anymore. This would probably involve jogging or something, and maybe not eating at Taco Bell four times a week.
  • A k-hole I plan to fall down, when I get off the DayQuil/NyQuil roller coaster, is Oulipo, and Raymond Queneau’s movement on constrained writing. He did this thing called A Hundred Thousand Billion Poems, which is like a paper version of those random headline generators, but from 1961. I don’t know any French, and I have no idea what I’m talking about, but it’s a good rabbit hole to fall down, maybe.
  • I have some fascination with constrained writing only because I wrote a ton of stuff just like Atmospheres, and then after the audio book and having to re-read it a dozen times, got really sick of that kind of writing, and thought I needed to write another book where the prose was much more simple. I don’t know what rules I would follow, other than to make it less manic, and maybe stop drinking Red Bull.
  • I was futzing with this app called Hemingway, which calculates the grade level of your writing and points out passive voice and stuff that’s hard to read. Most of the stuff I wrote in Atmospheres is way above the 12th grade level. I think I should just write books of lists at the 3rd grade level.
  • Not to be confused with The Hemingwrite, which is a hipster digital typewriter for about $400, and a kickstarter, which means you probably won’t get it until 2027.
  • I am about 4 for 17 on kickstarters, and just got in the mail this stupid pet camera I must have ordered in like 2011. It showed up right after we got back from vacation, so it’s sort of useless.
  • In 13 minutes, I get to take another dose of DayQuil. I’m pretty happy about that.
  • Other vague resolutions that aren’t are the usual: write more, ignore the news, lose weight, hail satan, etc. You?
Share

Nuremberg

Good to be back here.  I have walked a lot and ate too much and just bought a hundred pounds of art books.

OK, a bulleted list summary:

  • The flight out was brutal. Couldn’t sleep on the plane, other than little half-hour naps here and there. Left SFO at about 8:30 PM after a mechanical problem, got to Frankfurt at 4:00 PM the next day (but a nine-hour jump in there) and then had to wait for a 9:30.
  • I wandered the concourse, found a place to shower for 6 €. You got a little booth with a lock, a sink and counter in one half to put your stuff, and then a shower.  It’s Germany, so it’s all sterile and looks like an Ikea showroom.  I brought a change of clothes in my carry-on, and it was the best shower ever.
  • Screwed up meals royally – ate dinner at 4:00 the night before, skipped the meal on the plane, and then the “breakfast” we got was a dinner roll and a packet of jelly. Got off the plane and promptly ate an entire McDonald’s.
  • Handed over $200 at the airport exchange and got a handful of coins.  The Euro is doing much better than the buck.
  • I wandered around the airport and it was absolutely abandoned, then realized I was on the wrong level, and had to clear customs and go down one more level to the actual departures area.  Sat around and spent about a hundred bucks on hot dogs and tiny bottles of Coke.
  • Got to Nuremberg, got to the hotel, slept like a baby for eight hours.
  • Sarah had to go to her trade show on Saturday – she’s been at it all week.  So I loaded up what I still call the walkman (iPhone now, I guess) and walked about 2.5 miles west to an absolutely incredible little guitar store.  They had a ton of Fender basses.  I played some of the Custom Shop heavy relic Jazz basses and they were absolutely incredible.  Also played a Rickenbacker, which looked cool, but I found I am not a Ric guy.
  • Walked around Nuremberg for a long while, taking pics.  There was some kind of vegetarian festival going on, which was interesting.
  • Walked to the big train station, ate, dumped more dollars, bought some NyQuil, walked back to the hotel.
  • Went out for dinner with Sarah’s work people and spouses and ate a tremendous amount of Nurnburger (sp?) sausages, white asparagus, and hard pretzels.  Ended up getting sick from all of this shit.
  • Walked over ten miles for the day, and got a 20,000-step badge on the fitbit, which was a first.
  • Today, we woke up and found a triathlon was going on, and all of the streets were blocked off in a giant loop for the racing bikes.  It was too cold to swim though, so they made them run twice.
  • We went to a railway museum, not because I am Sheldon Cooper, but because it was attached to this communication museum, and it was a two-for-one.  The railway museum was all in German, so we made up descriptions for all of the exhibits.  (“Very few people knew Harland Sanders was a Colonel in the German Army prior to World War I, but was secretly a Jew and fled the country for Kentucky” etc.)
  • The communication museum was also mostly German and confusing, but they had a bunch of old telephones and crypto machines.
  • Ate lunch at the German National museum, but did not go in, since I’ve seen a lifetime of Gutenberg bibles and suits of armor.
  • Went to the New Museum and there was a Laurie Simmons exhibit there.  Who is… wait for it… Lena Dunham’s mom.
  • Bought a ton of books at the book store, including this giant Chuck Close book that was marked down to 7€ and a Damien Hirst book big enough to kill someone.
  • Walked not as much today but still a lot.  Everything was closed on Sunday, which was weird.  Even Dunkin Donuts was closed.
  • Leave for Frankfurt tomorrow.
Share

The City of Lights and Massages

Your blackjack losses subsidize this art.

I got in the cab after no line at all in front of McCarran airport, a first, even when I came out to Vegas a few weeks after 9/11, when people in rural Arkansas thought the Taliban would probably fly an Airbus into their grain silo Any Day Now.  The roller bag and new camera backpack went in the back of the minivan, and we headed off to the Planet Ho.

“Long flight?” the cabbie asked me.  He was one of those guys that was all belly and no neck, probably transplanted out to Nevada to avoid an alimony lawsuit.

“No, a couple hours, but they really cram you in there.”

“What you need is a good rub and tug,” he said.  “I know just the place.”

Ah, Las Vegas.  A city of subtleties.  How can I go a whole year in the land of fruits and nuts without time in a city where the number one occupation is handing out flyers for prostitutes?

So I turned 40.  I spent the morning fucking around with a radio-controlled helicopter whose battery would not hold a charge, then went to Denny’s for the annual cholesterol boost, got an allergy shot (not at Denny’s), and drove out to the former Oakland Naval Air Station, now known for cheap Southwest flights to all sorts of mid-sized towns across the country (provided you weigh less than Kevin Smith.)  Not a single TSA problem happened to me, although I did see them putting a beat-down on an Asian tourist who did not understand the complexities of “liquids in a ziplock bag, you motherfucker”.  (I realize it is difficult for some people to remember if shampoo is a liquid, solid, or gas.  Certainly a valid reason for every single media outlet in the United States to spend roughly twenty trillion dollars of TV time lamenting over those jackboot thugs that won’t let you bring a machete in your carry-on luggage anymore.)  Did you know Amelia Earhart’s first attempt at her final flight took off from Oakland airport?  Also, did you know that Purdue paid for that plane?  And did you know her plane was taken by aliens and will re-appear in the middle of the shitty remake of Close Encounters that will probably come out in the next few years?  Actually, I don’t know that they’re remaking it, but they’re remaking everything else, so expect Will Smith to be building a giant Devil’s Tower in his living room any time now.

I used to know a bit about Vegas.  It was my default vacation, and I even wrote a book about it. But since I published that thing in 2004, damn near every thing I mentioned there has been imploded and replaced by a chrome and glass tower.  A big chunk of the strip used to be crappy t-shirt shops and places you could rent a high-test sports car from an Armenian illegal for cash on the barrelhead; now the whole stretch looks like some kind of futuristic spaceport in a Tom Cruise summer blockbuster.  Back in the day, I used to write these trip reports, bulleted lists of all the neato things I paid money to see.  Now I’m not into reports as much; I prefer manifestos, scathing diatribes on the cold burn of a multinational real estate project for the rich masquerading as an entertainment option by selling a $16 cocktail, especially the ones that won’t let me post a million to one bet on an earthquake or tsunami during the upcoming superbowl. Fuck all of them and their stupid corporate house rules – I want some real action, the kind I need to drive to some beaten whore casino and hardware store in the middle of the desert, the kind of place that sells dollar hot dogs and not at a loss, because the meat is from Costco.

I got to the Planet Ho (aka the Planet Hollywood, which used to be the Aladdin, which went under a rename after they realized a giant arab with a sword between his teeth isn’t the best mascot for a casino when you need to pull in red-staters to make the nut) and Bill already checked in a dozen hours earlier, the victim of a horrible plane schedule that only left a crack-of-dawn flight or a near-redeye his only options for the long haul out from Indiana.  I usually bunk with him on these trips, partly to save us both money, and partly because when I stay by myself, I tend to do things like drink Singapore Slings with mezcal on the side until I black out and kick in a toilet in the middle of the night.  (You didn’t read the book, did you?)  We both turned 40 at the same time, or rather him about an hour before me, which is probably why he’s a foot taller than me.

Everyone asks me what the hell I do on these trips, and the simple answer is that instead of gambling, soliciting the service of whores, or drinking my body weight in grain alcohol, I usually eat.  And now that I have lost a ton of weight and spend all day and night obsessing over the stupid Weight Watchers online app, my only desire in a place like Vegas is to run train on thousands of calories of Oprah-sized portions of grub.  And there’s no shortage of it; every ten yards is yet another opportunity to get large vats of deep-fried everything to go with your huge tub of whatever drink you’re downing.  The best way to raise house advantage in any game of chance is by diabetic coma.  Ask anyone waddling down the strip, and they’ll tell you all about their fifth or sixth meal that day.

We did other stuff, too.  Marc came into town from Seattle a bit later that night, carrying a deck of loyalty cards, with complex arbitrage plans that I think involved somehow getting rated at casino play from dental work paid for at high altitude with a Costco Amex card and then refinanced through a platinum MasterCard and turned into airline miles then exchanged for mortgage-backed securities.  (I may have missed part of that procedure.  I barely manage to remember to use my Safeway Club Card four out of ten times.)  Tom also arrived much later from Chicago.  I ate an entire fish and chips at one Irish pub, swapping out the chips for beer-battered onion rings, and then we ended up at another Irish pub, where I ate a dozen different appetizers while Bill and Tom found a little game where if you drank a pint of beer in under seven seconds, you got the drink for free.  Now, I’ve seen Bill drink an entire yard of Guinness in under seven seconds after eating a five-gallon bucket full of shepherd’s pie, so it was no surprise they could easily do the limit of two beers each, each day we were in town.

Andrew got into town the next day.  We split a townhouse out at Colonial Crest back in 93-94, but I hadn’t seen him since.  Within twelve hours, we had him on a mechanical bull in an imitation rock bar, while Bill entered some kind of redneck regression and started drinking Bud Lite.  But before that, there was a many-hundred dollar brunch where I ate a progression of Kobe beef sliders and wedge salad, and I took a bunch of pictures of lions at the MGM, which is pretty boring, but it beats losing $300 at blackjack in fifteen minutes flat, which is what Bill managed to do.

That night, we all went to La Reve, which is hard to explain except it’s one of those freaky acrobat musical numbers, where people are contorting in weird ways and flying through the air on wires.  This particular one, up at the Wynn, involved a huge theater in the round, with the stage actually consisting of a deep swimming pool and a series of raising and lowering rings and platforms.  There was once a time when I worked at heights, hanging stage lights from catwalks dozens of feet in the air, taking long naps behind followspots while waiting for my cue to launch a few thousand watts and lumens at a performer.  Now, I sit through shows like this wondering what they used to generate snow these days, and how they always hit their marks on these flips and dives and swoops and twists, especially when we could never get three rehearsals and two performances of a school musical run without some idiot tripping on a cable and knocking over ten thousand 1980s dollars of lights.

Of course there was a Mexican dinner before the show, and another dinner after, along with another round of “let’s drink all of the beers at this pub for free”, of which I did not participate, but it’s always fun to watch the disbelief involved.

The waiter said “don’t worry, it’s all SlimFast food.”

On Saturday, we all went to the main event, calorie-wise: a giant dinner at Craftsteak.  I did this once before, but this time we got to meet up with Jeremy, who I also hadn’t seen for decades, since the UCS days of telling people that you spelled ezmail with a z, and god damn it, stop trying to telnet to easymail.  They sat us all down at a giant round table and brought out seven courses of Kobe steak, plus seven appetizers, and then finished it with nine different desserts.  Each of the 23 things I put on my plate (plus rolls) was easily a day’s worth of WW points.  Oh, and a diet Coke.

A last-second addition: we got tickets to Drew Carey’s improv thing, which was the cast of Who’s Line Is It Anyway, doing all of the usual improv exercises.  Our seats were pretty far back, plus they were taping the thing for TV, which involved these long camera booms randomly swooping across the line of sight, but it was a good comedy geek moment to see the now-obviously-does-not-eat-at-Craftsteak Carey leading the rest of the group.

I didn’t gamble much.  I blew about a hundred bucks on a Casino War table in the Pleasure Pit, which is Planet Ho’s evil little trick which involves distracting gamblers with  300cc bags of saline or silicone strategically placed at eye level.  The best gambling advice I can give you is not to count cards or look at what your neighbors are playing, but to be a homosexual, or at least find an ugly dealer, which you won’t on a Friday or Saturday night.  That was the worst hundred dollar glass of ice and diet Coke you could possibly find, but at least I didn’t do as much damage as my colleagues.

Cap it all off with a run at the breakfast buffet: giant vats of bacon, pancakes, french toast, waffles, and 197 different desserts.  I got back on the plane as fast as I arrived, and bailed out the Toyota on a sunny Oakland Sunday afternoon that required no jacket.  We did not steal any of Mike Tyson’s tigers, and nobody got tazered, but it was still a pretty okay weekend. And by some god damned miracle, I ended up down a half pound at this week’s weigh-in.  A birthday miracle!

Share

Vegas, Again

Okay, I have been back a week, but it has been a crazy week.  First off, here are the pictures from Vegas:

IMG_0242.JPG

These are the first pictures with my new DSLR.  I took roughly 500 shots over the trip, but I still have no idea what I’m doing, so this is the best 20% of that.  I do love taking pictures with the new camera, but there is a certain amount of overhead, mostly in the amount of stuff I have to haul around.  I’m convinced there is a better bag than Canon’s stock one, though.  And also, I could use a better lens, maybe something with a bit more length and speed.  There were a few shots where I simply didn’t have the right lens, and couldn’t get it to work.  It’s also possible that I had to set any of the 17,583 settings on the camera differently.

And yes, I am switching back to flickr.  I think.  My frustrations with online photo hosting is the topic of another post.

Anyway, the trip to Vegas was good, but short.  We stayed at the Flamingo, saw Kathleen Madigan at the South Point casino, hung out at the Venetian quite a bit, and hit a bunch of touristy stuff (pinball hall of fame, atomic testing museum, the reef aquarium at Mandalay Bay.)  I also saw quite a bit of the ‘new’ strip, which I have mixed feelings about.  The new City Center is pretty phenomenal, even though it looks a lot more like an airport in a European country than a casino.   I’m not saying the stylings of the old Boardwalk were much better, but I do miss our old cheapo place to stay on the strip.

Anyway, good trip.  It was, of course, too short, and I feel like I didn’t spend enough money or gamble enough, but I guess those are both good…

Share

Cash for gold city

I mentioned before that my great Midwestern tour this holiday season was a two-parter.  We spent a week in Wisconsin with Sarah’s family, which I’ve done every year for I think five years now.  But this time we also took a few more days and drove out to Indiana to see my family.  I haven’t been back there since August of 2007, when I brought Sarah back to meet my family and show her that I wasn’t exaggerating about the place.

I don’t get back to Indiana much anymore.  For a long time, I made an annual trip, and I started by going at Christmas, back in 1995.  And that year, it seemed like such a pointless exercise; pretty much all of my family and friends were out of town or busy with work or having surgery or in jail or otherwise preoccupied, and I basically ended up taking a week of unpaid vacation to sit at home and watch Saved by the Bell reruns for hours at a time, or tag along on a late-night Wal-Mart run (the center of culture in Elkhart) and having the most fun I had all break, which was reformatting the hard drives on all of their Packard Bell PCs on display.  After I wised up and realized that taking this annual trek during the worst months of winter was probably not a great idea, I started doing these preemptive visits in October, which is probably my favorite time of year in Indiana.  But then I realized that it cost me the same amount of money or less to fly from New York to Vegas and stay there, and the whole annual visit thing fell apart.

I never had great overwhelming nostalgia for Elkhart.  I used to have crushing sentimentality surrounding Bloomington (see also my first book) and I would go down there every chance I got.  When I would cruise around Elkhart though, I would get a certain sense of remembrance, seeing the bits and pieces of the city that shaped me so much back in the day, but I would never call it a homesickness, and I would never wake up in the middle of the night and say “dammit, I need to leave Seattle/New York/whatever and go back to the City With a Heart!”  I’d make my annual trip, mostly as a way to feel grateful for wherever I currently lived, and to get enough of a dose of the place that I wouldn’t want to come back for the next 365 days.

I’ve been thinking about Elkhart a lot lately, because I was writing a book that chronicles the last couple years of my high school experience in the late eighties.  I can spend too much time trying to make things like this period accurate: digging up old music, wasting time on wikipedia looking up failed fast food chains and defunct department stores; I scour my archives looking for old receipts and bad photos and little pieces that remind me of this previous life.  This has been way harder for this new book than it was for Summer Rain; for the latter, I still had a lot of old emails and I started writing a book about 1992 in 1994 and 1995.  I had cassette tapes of my old radio show, CDs still in my collection, a huge cache of old zines, and the entire paper trail that a year at a university can provide.  But now, what little I still have from 1988 and 1989 is locked away in a storage unit, and I didn’t save as much stuff back then.  So aside from visiting family, one of my motives for this brief trip was to plug back into the general feel of this old life of mine, to drive the streets of northern Indiana and try to remember what it was like as a kid in the region.

And this trip was so hurried and we had to see so many people, I had little time for this.  In fact, I didn’t even stay in Elkhart for this journey, and I only ventured into the city twice.  We actually stayed in South Bend, just north of the Notre Dame campus on what’s now called 933.  (They renamed all of the old US highways and put a 9 in front of them.  I don’t know why; maybe they lost some federal funding because they felt a need to put the ten commandments on every god damned thing in the state.)  But that did remind me of the times I spent in South Bend and Mishawaka back in the day.

I tried to explain this in a previous post, and it’s hard to really describe it.  But when I grew up in Elkhart, I quickly tired of everything there.  For example, there were two “real” record stores, neither of them very good, plus the chain places like Musicland.  And the only places to buy books were the Waldens in the mall, a religious bookstore in Pierre Moran mall, and this used book place called the Book Nook that was downtown.  I wasn’t a serious bibliophile back then, but by definition, you pretty much had to go to South Bend to even look at a book that wasn’t published by Stephen King or Danielle Steele.  That meant when I got a car and got to spend my days off school driving west to this sister city that was roughly twice as big, it had a certain slight magic to it.  Yeah, it had no skyline, and aside from the grid of streets downtown and the mess of strip mall suburbia jutting out from the university campus and the Scottsdale Mall area, it was just a big bunch of nothing like Elkhart.  But it was my first glimpse of something, and it had this appeal that later made me seek out a new start outside of Elkhart, and eventually out of Indiana.

And now, twenty years later, I was cruising through whiteout snow conditions in a rented Chevy “this is why we needed a bailout” Cobalt, driving down Main and up Michigan and past the Century Center and beyond Coveleski Stadium and down Grape Road, remembering all of those trips across Elkhart and into St. Joe county, taking Cleveland Road over to the University Park Mall, and visiting Orbit Records in the Town and Country strip mall.

Elkhart has had some rough times in the last year or two.  That’s no secret; the President has been making all of these trips through the city, using it as an example of a city that’s hit rock bottom.  This is news to some, but it’s always had this boom/bust cycle.  I remember right before Desert Storm, when gas prices were going up, nobody was buying RVs, and pretty much every corner had a “will work for food” sign on it.  You could buy pretty much any car by taking over payments for someone, and the housing market plummeted.  You saw laid-off fifty year old dudes working the register at McDonald’s, and every other factory warehouse was shuttered.  Fast forward to six months later, and everyone’s working mandatory overtime, the RVs are flying off the lots, and everyone is pricing out Harleys and swimming pools and additions to their houses and boats.  People never remember the hard times, and when the next slump happens, everyone has three mortgages and four car payments and not a lick of savings.

Sarah said this best when she said that Indiana had this desperation to it, like a smoker with emphysema.  There’s no culture to it, and especially in the winter, all people do is buy stuff at the local big box store, haul it home in their long-bed extended-cab truck and sit in front of their 70″ TV and get fat.  Other than the bars, the entire culture is built around this hoarding of material goods, this need to have every piece of junk made in China that’s stamped with Dale Jr’s number.  There are always these token attempts at it, a ballet or a symphony that a hundred people might find out about, a token museum with a couple of paintings in it, but people’s main cultural investment is in their retreat from the day labor and into their nothingness of eating bacon-wrapped everything while watching electrons flicker by on their DLP screen.

There were so many memories fallen in my drives through the old territories, so many old stores boarded up, killed off by the Wal-Marts and Best Buys and lack of interest.  And every other vacant storefront was transformed into a “We will pay top dollar for your gold!” place.  It’s no surprise Glenn Beck takes a close second behind Jesus in these parts, and Glenn loves to tell everyone that gold is the best thing to stockpile for the end times.  So pretty much everyone with a failing VCR repair business or minimart is now buying up gold from losers who bought gold-plated everything during the salad years and are now trying to find a way to pay off their $3000 heating bill this January.  It’s one of the infallible businesses in Elkhart: car parts places, check cashing stands, liquor stores, and pawn shops.  If you want a recession-proof business, start one of those.

I unfortunately took no pictures on this trip.  It was too damn cold to be enterprising about walking around with a camera, and I’ve been gone long enough that I now send out the “you ain’t from around here” vibe and set off the hillbilly paranoia security alerts when I try to get all investigative about this.  Maybe next time.

Share

Vegas has been fundamentally broken

Hello from Las Vegas! I am on the 8th floor of the Prince tower (I think) of Caesar’s Palace, eating a bowl of all-bran. We got a mini-fridge and went to Von’s (the NV/CA Safeway contingent) and stocked up. If they give you shit about the mini-fridge, tell them you need it for medication. Because my doctor told me to drink more water, and that’s sort of medicine, right?

I am glad to be here, but I think in the last five years, Vegas has been fundamentally broken. Everything is gone. The Denny’s I used to go to for all of my birthdays is gone! Never mind that I couldn’t eat a single thing on the Denny’s menu, but that pisses me off. Stardust – gone. Frontier – gone. Boardwalk – gone. The strip mall where I used to use internet is now some Hawaiian bastard child. Aside from the old versus new, there’s something missing I can’t explain. I remember this short story by Joseph Heller, a memoir, about how as a kid, they used to swim in Coney Island, out to the first buoy, where you can’t even see the land anymore. Before that, there are lots of places you can stop, the first safety net and floating things that divide off the beach from the ocean, and if you want to stop, you can grab on and rest. But after the last one, there’s this long stretch where turning back will take as much energy as continuing on, and if you need to stop, you’re essentially fucked, unless your friends are there to help drag you to the buoy. And there’s a certain panic in reaching out into that unknown. It’s like flying a plane to Hawaii, when you reach that magic point in the Pacific where you need to keep going, because there is no alternate place to land if your engine goes out. And to me, Vegas had a lot of those metaphorical points, little stores or lounges or museums or t-shirt places or whatever else that broke up the stretch of nothing but places to drop lots of money or go deep into your vices. Now there are a lot of places from Tropicana to Sahara where you can get bled, and not many places anymore where you can’t. I don’t know if that makes sense, but that’s my best explanation of how the dynamic has changed.

I went to the Bodies show yesterday at the Trop. It was interesting, although I don’t know if it was $34 interesting. This is the thing with cadavers that have been plasticized and posed in various ways, with parts trimmed and dissected away. I wanted to go because see also my previous rants and descriptions of the sliced-up-in-glass cross-sections of people in the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. This was a lot different and maybe less intriguing because everything was there. And the plasticising made it look a lot more fake. There were some interesting things, like removed organs, hearts and brains and cross-sections of stroke victims and of course the smoker’s lungs, along with a plastic box where you could dispose of your cigarettes. (And at current prices, I wonder how many people really do, or if this is just a prop.)

I think the most fucked up thing for me (aside from the conjoined twin fetuses) was all of the parts and pieces I’ve broken personally in the last few years. I could rattle off every muscle and ligament in the knee in under five seconds after all of the x-rays and MRIs in the last few years. (Check it!) And to see those same muscles I’ve sprained and bones I’ve broken, cut apart and laid out for display, that was a bit weird. There was also the cirrhotic (sp?) liver on display, which brought back the memory of my friend Chuck who died last year when he drank his way through his liver. (And oddly enough, I just this second remembered a conversation with Chuck back in 1994-ish at the support center, where we were talking about how Kerouac drank his way through his liver. Weird.) Anyway, looking at other stuff, it made me wonder if in a few years, I’d be thinking back about what a kidney really looked like as I dealt with a bunch of doctors telling me that mine were going out. Or heart, or stomach, or whatever. A lifetime of fast food and psych drugs gives you a few choices there.

So yeah, I am still on my health kick, even in the city of high calories. I don’t think I have mentioned this yet, but I have lost of all of my weight in the last six weeks by going to Weight Watchers and using their new online resources for men. There’s no way I could do a “eat only blue food on tuesday” diet, because they are all a crock. Eat less, exercise more, is the basic thing, but there’s a lot of re-learning how to eat. I eat way too many carbs and fat, not enough protein. I eat way too many high-energy-density foods and not enough fiber or vegetables. I am addicted to Coke. Getting around all of these is the challenge. Being held accountable to what I eat every day helps. Doing that in Vegas – harder than I thought. I figure I can eat breakfast in the room, eat lunch every day at Subway, and then eat something sane for dinner. The hard part is that I normally would be drinking Cokes or stopping for fries or nachos or whatever all over the strip. Late nights = fourth meal. The easy part is that walking from Caesar’s to the Trop and back in 103 degree heat as fast as you can burns like an entire meals’ worth of calories. (It also gives you a mild case of heat stroke, btw.)

Gotta shower and then walk more. I’d like to swim, but I am sure the pool is horror central today. I have a minor league baseball game at 7, and I have a car, so maybe I will find some other trouble after lunch.

Share

Vegas Birthday #9

So I went to Vegas for my birthday this year. (I have pictures, but most of them are stupid, and I have been apathetic about posting pictures. I’m vaguely thinking about writing a Rails app to handle my photos, but I’m sure the migration path will be a nightmare.) I went to Sarah’s family reunion last year, on Superbowl weekend, but didn’t hit the usual 1/20 weekend. This year, we switched off, and I went solo for the birthdays, and she’s in Vegas with her family now.

Bill Perry (the other birthday boy) initially got us a room at Bally’s, which was a new spot for me. The rest of the cast of characters was new to this celebration, and also people I hadn’t seen in a long time. First, there was the team of Marc VH and Tom, both old pals from the days of the sparcstation cluster in the basement of Lindley Hall. Bill recruited Marc to Seattle right before he got me there in ’95, so I saw a lot of him at Spry (his office was next to mine for a while), and because he and Bill went on to the same company, we all ran in the same circles. Tom was an AI in the CS department, and finished a PhD there. He also just finished a law degree and passed the bar in Illinois. He used to work for Lucent in every odd place in the world, and last time I saw him was before he went on a long stint in Saudi Arabia. Now he lives in Chicago and does patent stuff for a huge law firm there.

Marc is always interesting to talk to, because he is one of the most dark, sarcastic, and cynical people ever, and couple that with his intelligence, and you have a lot of strange conversation. And Tom’s great to talk to, because he’s the sort of investigative person who will ask many questions to hear about your experience or opinion. And he’s got the uncanny ability of being able to go back to a forgotten but unfinished conversation from earlier on. It’s like he’s one of those stack-based computers, where things get cleared and the next-oldest thing comes back up for action.

And the kicker is that my old pal and housemate Simms showed up, too! Simms met a lady out in LV and has gone head over heels, so he made his second trip of that month to see her. But he also hung with us, and it’s always interesting to add a new thing to the mix. Like, it’s weird that Bill and Simms just met, but they probably live less than a mile from each other in Bloomington.

So yeah, the trip. Sarah was in LA for a couple of days, and she got back on Friday morning, but I had all of my gear packed in the car and had to fly out Friday afternoon, so we just crossed paths, sort of. I parked in the underground garage, even though it costs like $30 a day, because I have this unnatural fear of parking in the $6 lot that’s about 80 miles away, and having a freak snowstorm bury my car, so I would have to dig it out with my shoe, or maybe a copy of The Onion from the airport concourse. My foot was also bothering me again (rapid climate change) and I didn’t want to walk two hours to get to the gate.

My plane was late. I talked to a music schoolteacher who was flying to play golf. I, up to this point, was on a crazy “stop fucking around” diet since 1/1, and had gone off of caffeine, sugar, fried things, and much more. But I was tired as hell, so that all went out the window. I had a crazy russian cab driver (aren’t they all?) at LAS who started talking to me about subprime mortgages and how he was flipping properties, but now it’s all fucked. (We had a lot of weird cab drivers that weekend. One was this Large Marge type who kept bitching about how everything from new condos to global warming was specifically designed to fuck over cabbies. I.e. “these fuckers at CES don’t even want to go to the strip clubs anymore!” We also had this guy going to the airport who was a dried-out punk rock oldster who told this insanely long story about how he lived in the mountains, and the city fucked up the zoning drawings and he had to hire one of those diviner guys to find his septic tank.)

Bally’s isn’t bad. It’s a place to sleep. Tom and Marc stayed there; Simms was out at the Tropicana. Tom and Marc have a collective IQ of about 780 and therefore spent an insane amount of time playing poker. Marc, at any given time, could tell you exactly what casinos were having poker tournaments at what time. (He has this human wikipedia quality, and could probably tell you the volume of concrete being used for each construction project on the strip, off the top of his head.) While they played poker, me and Bill did other stuff, or and of course Simms was off doing his own sort of stuff.

We went to Kraftsteak for dinner on Saturday. For $200 a person, they bring out a metric fuckload of food, including a million apps, and about a dozen cuts of kobe beef. I wasn’t 100% with the food for whatever reason, but the desserts were pretty incredible. They just brought out a bunch of plates of different cakes and ice cream and whatnot. Good stuff, but like I said, not $200 good. The In-N-Out I had with Simms was much better.

The trip in general was nice, but way too short. I got there on Friday night and flew back on Monday. I did get to see everyone, got the variety pack thing at the Coke store, saw Penn and Teller again, and saw comedian Bobby Slayton, and didn’t lose too much gambling. But I felt like I had a low-grade cold or flu the whole time, and wanted nothing but sleep. To counteract that, I fell off the caffeine wagon something fierce. Also, because my ankle was fucked up, I took a dose of Prednisone to try to knock it back in line. Normally, that would make me have an unstoppable appetite and extreme insomnia, both of which are good for a land of unlimited buffets and 24-hour gambling, but it never really took.

My biggest impression was that Vegas is really changing fast. The Stardust is gone; the Frontier and Boardwalk are levelled. The entire area from the Monte Carlo to the Bellagio are one giant construction site. The Aladdin has been redone to be a giant Planet Hollywood. Every little t-shirt shop or fast food joint with frontage on the strip has been sold and levelled. I guess a lot of my favorites are still there, but at some point in the near future, the Bellagio, recently the most posh place on the strip, will be bulldozed for something newer. And I’m not talking about in 50 years; it wouldn’t surprise me if they closed in 2010.

And the strange thing is that I will be in, or maybe through Vegas at least two more times this year, as I move west. Both times will probably be a single-night break in driving, and not a gambling orgy. But maybe I will get more pictures.

Share

Back from the Midwest

After two weeks on the road, my bed feels like magic. I wanted to spend all day in my shower, using non-trial size shampoo and non-hotel bars of soap. It’s good to have my stereo, my keyboard, my view of the parking lot (which looks like it’s finished, construction-wise), and mostly, it’s good to be back in today, after spending so much time talking about yesterday.

My big SUV got a slow flat while I was in Indiana, and I talked to 17 different people at Alamo, who gave me 17 different answers, ranging from “bring it back to O’Hare” to “drive on the baby spare for 10 days” to “buy a $650 tire and spend $100 and a day getting it mounted, and save the receipt and fill out a TPS report and send it in and wait 4-62 weeks and we might or might not pay you back some or all or none of it”. I drove to the South Bend Municipal cow pasture and barnstormer air strip and the Alamo there had like three cars and they were allegedly all gone, and there was some inter-location transfer bullshit that made them really iffy about giving me a car anyway.

So I topped up the tire, added just enough fuel to make it west, and hit the toll road. When I got to O’Hare, I expected a huge clusterfuck of trouble, and the inside of the rental building looked like Saigon 1975. A woman in front of me was trying to rent a car with no ID and no credit card other than a Target card, and went round and round with the clerk, to the point where I wanted to grab her and start shaking her while yelling “WHAT BIZARRO UNIVERSE LETS YOU RENT A CAR WITH NO DRIVER’S LICENSE OR CREDIT CARD?” Finally, after being asked “picking up or returning?” and answering “well both, and neither”, a guy told me to go pick any car off the lot, re-printed my contract, and gave me a free tank of fuel out of the deal. I got a new Rav-4 and hit the road.

I had something like 5 hours to kill until Sarah’s flight arrived that night, so I gave John Sheppard a surprise call and drove up to see his new place. 294 was a parking lot, so I took surface roads, and got a nice little tour of the northern Chicagoland burbs. It’s always good to see John and Helen, even in such a hurried visit, and I got to see the new homestead and four-legged members of the household. We went out for pizza at a place with plenty of dead animal on the wall and a tradition of eating peanuts and throwing shells on the floor. There were many talks of gloom and the remainder of the Cubs season, and then I had a freakout when I thought I had 20 minutes to get back to O’Hare, when really I had an hour and twenty, and a watch that was on Indiana time.

It’s almost impossible to pick someone up at O’Hare, even if you know their airline. Maybe if I was there more than once every 20 years, I would remember, but there are hordes of identical-looking parking lots sprouting from each terminal, and even with two cell phones and lots of “I’m looking at a sign that says Elevator bank 4 and has a picture of a wolverine on it” conversation, it took us a while to figure that out. Then, another trip back to Indiana.

Driving with Illinois plates at 7 MPH over the limit, you can guess what happened next. I got pulled over by an Indiana cop for the first time since, what, 1994? 1995? I handed over the Colorado license and the Illinois registration, and they came back with a warning. I’m guessing it’s too hard for them to write a ticket for out-of-staters. Or maybe they were just looking for drunks, suspended licenses, or whatever else. And get this, a night or two later, I got pulled over AGAIN, on old US-33, just before it gets to 19. This was a little more suspect, because it was a Goshen city cop, patrolling out on the area between Elkhart and Osceola. After he gave me the warning, I almost asked him “what the fuck are you doing out here?” He probably thought I’d never set foot in the Midwest before, when truthfully, I got my Indiana license around the time this dipshit was born. Anyway, don’t drive in Indiana with out-of-town plates and no Jesus sticker on the back window.

The rest of the Indiana stay was meeting after meeting. Different relatives, the same questions, reciting the same answers. It’s good to see people, it’s just tiring to answer the same questions over and over, until your conversations turn into morphing tape loops, and you can’t remember who you told what. It was refreshing to spend time with my nephews and diverge into Guitar Hero or Spongebob conversations, just for a change of pace. Two parents, two sisters, three uncles, two aunts, a bunch of spouses and step-kids and whatever else, and we managed to pull together about three free minutes to drive to my old house and see that the new people have a very fucked-up yard. There was also supposed to be a minor-league baseball game in there, but it rained so much, it didn’t happen.

Another drive, to Wisconsin this time. We spent a lot of time with Sarah’s family, and it poured rain most of the time. I got a couple of good home-cooked meals (no more chain food) and an excellent meal at Pandl’s Whitefish Bay Inn, which is this little restaurant that time forgot. And we got some not-so-fast food from Culver’s, which is an amazing little chain of hamburger joints gone wild.

We also made the pilgrimage to Lambeau Field in Green Bay to see the Packers play a pre-season game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, my first NFL game ever. Me and Sarah went with her dad and Dan, her sister’s boyfriend. I spent the trip up talking MLB and all things Brewers with Dan, who is a walking encyclopedia about that stuff. When we got there, we parked in the back of some restaurant strip mall for $20 and hiked in. This gave us a good survey of the tailgate situation, huge dudes with big mullets cooking brats and downing MGD and Jager while blasting unrecognizable Pantera-like metal from the backs of their trucks. Whory bleach-blond chicks in shorter than short cutoffs yelling WHOOOOO at every passing car. There was green and gold everywhere. EVERYWHERE. There were more Favre #4 jerseys than there are jerseys period at any Rockies game. And I loved it. The NPR totebag, Free Tibet bumpersticker crowd would denounce this as a lack of culture, but it IS culture. It’s the most perfectly cut slice of Wisconsin you could find. And that’s why I dug it.

Okay, so you go into this huge, newly-remodeled stadium, with a giant atrium, and more Miller Beer signs than a Miller brewery. When we went into the tunnel and out to our seats, it was weird. The field looked small to me, compared to TV games. 100 yards on a high school field or a college stadium is the same 100 yards in the NFL, although everything surrounding that rectangle of green was bigger and better and brighter. But when I looked down at that, I thought “shit, I could throw a 30 yard pass down there!” I had the same reaction at my first MLB game, where you’re so close, and the view of the whole thing makes it look small. On TV, it’s a giant video game, but when you’re yards from the dudes on the field, you see they are people.

We got the national anthem, and two F-18s flew over. It was some Catholic charity game, and there was a bishop on the field blessing the Packers or something. Dan wanted to know why he wasn’t damning the other team, too. As the game started, I saw the overwhelming number of commercials versus baseball; they show video and audio commercials on the big board whenever possible between plays. They played “Hell’s Bells” and I wondered if the bishop enjoyed that.

I followed the game, but I didn’t. I guess baseball is much easier to watch in that respect – less people out there, more contained game action, whatever. The one thing I noticed was that we had good seats – 50 yard line, 21st row – but they had metal bleachers, and had like 12″ of ass-space per seat, and you know the average ass width in rural Wisconsin is nowhere near 12″. Sitting shoulder-to-shoulder and trying to eat was a challenge. They did have excellent bratwurst, though.

A huge storm front rolled in, and it started to rain. We bought ponchos and jackets just for this weather, so I put on the poncho, and the rain stopped. I took it off, it started. I put it on, it stopped. This cycle repeated, and then it didn’t rain again for the rest of the evening.

The Packers lost, although the newspaper the next day praised only the good stuff that happened, and you’d think they had won. We drove back and Sarah hit an owl, which sounded like Randy Johnson throwing a fastball into the windshield, but amazingly, the glass did not break.

We finally got out on Saturday morning, me with a giant suitcase filled with 48 pounds of dirty laundry. On the way down to the airport, in Kenosha, we stopped at a real A&W with the drive-in and everything. The girl was trying to put the tray on my oddly-shaped, not-rectangular window, and as I messed with the controls (which are backwards from our Subaru) I managed to auto-quickie-open the window and dump the whole fucking tray onto the pavement. But the food was good. We got to O’Hare, ditched the car, flew back home, got the Subaru, and here I am.

I managed to not go to a mall the whole time I was in Indiana, and I managed to not eat any cheese curds the whole time I was in Wisconsin. (But we have a whole big box of stuff on the way from Mar’s Cheese castle that gets shippped out today.)

[I had a link to my pictures here, but the photo sharing service died years ago, so use your imagination.]

OK, now I need to start some work on this damn book.

Share