Monday, October 30, 2006
Cloudy and cold
Did you miss me? ;)
There’s a Halloween Celebration over on Circadian Poems.
A short piece on Samhain over on Kemmyrk.
Sometimes, you just need to take a few days off to tend to the personal life and do some re-evaluation. So that’s what I did. I traveled up to Vermont and Montreal. A little recreation, a little romance, a lot of trying to figure things out.
I’ll post a few pictures every day – I took a lot, and it would be tedious if they were all in one continuous swoop.
We stopped in Saratoga Springs on the way up, to have a quick snack at Mrs. London’s. They have some of the best pastries ever, and the atmosphere is lovely. Saratoga Springs, off-season, is much more relaxed. The tension caused by spoiled rich brats treating townies like crap during racing season isn’t there, because they aren’t there. A much better atmosphere, all around.
We continued up past Glens Falls, then headed over into Vermont, where we took Rt. 7 up to Shelburne. That was supposed to be just a simple overnight – but we ended up spending far more time in Shelburne than we planned, having fallen for the town. It ended up being base camp, and we radiated out from there.
If you ever get a chance, go to Shelburne to visit the Shelburne Museum. I’d never heard of it before, and now that I’ve been there, I’m thinking I don’t know much about museums! I expected it to be little and cute. Instead, it’s on 49 acres of land. 35 buildings from the 18th and 19th century house a myriad of exhibits – many of which have been moved to the location, including the Colchester lighthouse, a covered bridge – and the steamship Ticonderoga, which used to transport up to 1100 passengers at a pop on Lake Champlain. Yes, you’ve got a major steamship dry-docked in a field. It was amazing.
Of course, being partial to steamships, I crawled all over the darned thing and took photo after photo.
There are exhibits of quilting and weaving and printing and weathervanes. One of the galleries had a Georgia O’Keefe exhibit. There was a display of early Quebecois furniture. A Greek revival styled house holds the actual furniture from the founder’s Park Avenue apartment. The detail in the fireplaces and the moldings around the doors and windows is exquisite. And the doorways are nearly two feet deep. The portrait of the founder herself was painted, along with her mother, by Mary Cassat, and the painting hangs in the front hallway of the house.
There is a magnificent collection of carriages, phaetons, and sleighs. The Kaleidoscope quilts are astonishing, and I’ve never seen such a collection of bandboxes in my life. There’s an entire small two-story house filled with duck and fish decoys.
We only saw about a third of everything that’s there – it’s not nicknamed “New England’s Smithsonian” for nothing.
It is, hands down, one of the most fascinating and unique museums I’ve ever seen.
We visited the National Museum of the Morgan Horse. I may write about thoroughbreds a lot, and I love them, but I’ve always had a special place in my heart for Morgans. I love their attitude and their intelligence. If they like you, they’ll forgive you. If they don’t – the rider doesn’t stand a chance. I didn’t know that the breed was a unique American one, nor did I know that it originated in Vermont.
Where else did we go in Shelburne? The Vermont Teddy Bear Company (of course). And I bought a teddy bear. Of course. A plain one. I don’t need to put doll clothes on my bears. Never really been into that.
We tried to go to a local orchard, planning to make a major purchase. All the info we saw on the orchard said the store was open every day, year round, except for holidays. Well, first of all, the road is poorly marked. Secondly, it’s so badly rutted (it’s not even paved), I was sure I’d break an axle. Third, the damned place was closed. They didn’t even have the courtesy to have a sign up saying they were closed – just stacked apple boxes across the driveway. I was pissed off, let me tell you. There’s no reason it can’t be correct in all the info being distributed all over the damn place. And I’m sure as hell not going back there in the summer, either. There are plenty of other orchards in Vermont, and THEY will be the ones to get my business. Especially if they’re on paved roads.
I’m tired of small businesses complaining about how hard it is to survive when they don’t observe basic communication and courtesy. I go out of my way to support small businesses. But I’m not going to drive a half hour, find out it’s closed, and then come back some other time. Communicate!
I had two favorite places in town. One was Village Wine and Coffee – I could have moved in there, and, believe me, I could write several novels in their café section without blinking. The coffee’s fabulous – and so are the prices – café au lait for $1.50 and an enormous peanut butter chocolate chip cookie for 99 cents. I’m in! Plus, they have a great selection of wines. I grabbed a couple of bottles, and a lovely textured bag in which to carry them. Both the staff and the local clientele are very nice – and over half the tables had people working on writing whatever it was they wrote. My kind of place. I’d take a detour just to go back there.
My other favorite place was the independent bookstore, Flying Pig Bookstore, which is housed in the old Shelburne Inn. It’s lovely and light, with a terrific selection of both adult and children’s books, and a completely delightful staff. Again, if I was ever within an hour’s drive, I’d make the detour. Definitely worth it.
On the way to Montreal, the car’s front tire was unhappy (do you blame it, with the likes of Orchard Road to beat up on it?) and I pulled in to the Heritage Ford dealer in So. Burlington to look for help. All I really needed was some air in the tires – but, according to the three gas stations at which I stopped, gas stations in Vermont don’t have tire pressure facilities. Huh? I do it all the time down here. So I had to go to the car dealer. Everyone was very nice, and they fixed us right up within minutes. And wouldn’t take any money for it.
We cut back across Lake Champlain across Swanton back into Rousses Point, NY and then on up towards Montreal. It took longer than we thought, and the weather was terrible. The road lies close to the surface of the lake, and it’s kind of brackeny-marshy. Really good horror movie stuff. Of course, that’s when HG from last week decided to call – he’d waited so I wouldn’t feel stalked – and it’s a little awkward due to my traveling companion -- and here he is ,wanting to know where I am, and here I am saying, “Oh, I’m driving across some swampy thing in Lake Champlain in the pouring rain.” He takes a beat and then says, “You need to be airlifted out?” “No, I’m good. I’m just waiting for the dead to rise out of the swamp.” I had to ring off because I really needed to have two hands on the wheel for this kind of maneuvering and it was hard enough to drive through this without ending up in the lake AND try to take pictures without adding cell phone conversation in to it. I’d be very surprised if he ever called again. I think he’s used to more, um, normal, women.
It seemed to take forever to get to Montreal – the roads between the border and the city are just dreadful. AND all the infotourisme places are shut down for the winter, which is annoying.
Montreal is a beautiful, fascinating city, and I want to spend more time in it. It is, however, very expensive. Books, in particular, are priced much higher than in the States, so if it’s something I can get down here, I do. Rather than racing around trying to do everything and getting tired and frustrated, we focused mostly on downtown and old town. I mean, I HAD to make a pilgrimage to the Bell Centre. Unfortunately, the Habs were down in Boston, so no hockey game for me. But I wandered around the rink a bit, cursing myself for not having the foresight to call ahead to the office. But a bunch of stuff was unlocked, and I sort of wandered at leisure and unbothered, and my wandering didn’t seem to bother anyone else. You know, an empty hockey arena is a little bit creepy.
Old Town is truly beautiful. There’s a lot of development down there – it seems more positive than negative, and I hope people weren’t unhomed in order to make way for development. And it’s also a great deal of restoration, not just tearing it down to put up glass boxes. There’s a lot of fascinating art and architecture, a lively Chinatown right beside Old Town, and plenty to do. I could have spent a week just in Old Town.
My one extravagance was a bowl by a potter name Ronald Pothier. I saw his work in one of the galleries and absolutely fell in love with it. It reminds me of the cave paintings in France. It was one of those unique things I felt I’d never come across again, so I bought a piece and the gallery gave me his card. I’m going to explore his site and hopefully purchase more pieces over the years. Sometimes a piece of art or pottery or whatever just enchants, and that’s what it was for me.
What drove me nuts about Montreal was how bad the maps are. Now, I have no natural sense of direction. But give me a map, and I can get around like a local. However, the maps in Montreal only name a few streets. The rest of the streets are left nameless. So, if you haven’t noted various street names in your wanderings to find a landmark, you’re out of luck.
Basically, whatever street I was on was sure NOT to be named on whatever map I had in my hand. And, in the course of my time there, I picked up a damn lot of maps.
I had way too much fun on the Metro. The shape of the car makes much more sense – and there’s no gap to fall down. And the metro is fast, clean, and lots of fun.
Everyone we came across was very nice. I could understand everything said to me, but it was difficult to find the speech quickly enough to respond. As long as I made the effort, they were kind enough to switch to English without fussing. By the time I got comfortable again with the French, we had to leave.
We came back down through Vermont – a much easier way, but also desolate and some of the worst roads I’d ever seen. Not quite as bad as the road to the orchard (can you tell I’m still REALLY bitter about that) – hey, this one was paved. But still in bad shape. And we passed two fatal accidents driving back, in Canada, which is always sobering.
It was a relief to be back in Shelburne, and be greeted by locals saying, “If you move to Shelburne . . .”
Vermont’s small enough so you can get from Burlington and Shelburne to Rutland and Middlebury and Bennington without too much grief.
When we finally did head back, we took back roads down through Vermont (stopping at Dakin Farms and the Maple Museum –where I bought a stuffed moose to keep the teddy bear company). There’s a town called Brandon where every lamp post and tree in the town center is decorated with an individual scarecrow – some in little old lady nightgowns, some in fancy dresses – it was so much fun. And every firehouse in Vermont seems to be sponsoring a haunted house event for Halloween.
We stopped in Bennington for lunch – and so I could hit the bookstore, the great secondhand bookstore, and the chocolate shop. The chocolate shop has an enormous chocolate moose (giving a whole new meaning to chocolate mousse) standing on the center table. I photographed it, so it’ll be posted. Hilarious. And what’s more fun than spending time in a store full of chocolate? When you’ve just spent time in a bookstore and are on your way to another bookstore?
We kept meandering down through the Berkshires – if there was time, we’d have stopped in Williamstown and gone across to the museum in North Adams – but we were running out of time. When we hit the Mass Turnpike, we went west, and then took the Taconic back down.
Tired, but it was a good trip.
Worst Dining Experience:
La Villa in Shelburne, VT – There’s only one other couple in the restaurant. It’s the middle of the day. The other couple’s almost done. We order a pizza. Nearly 30 minutes later, the waitress comes over and tells us that the chef burned the pizza and has to make us another one. Now, I saw the “chef” chatting instead of paying attention to her work, so I know why the damn pizza burned. This is a pizzeria, people. You’re supposed to know how to cook a pizza! Had this been a classy joint, they would have offered us some sort of beverage or appetizer while we waited. But this isn’t such a place. 20 minutes later, I stood up to walk out and they brought it over. And it was mediocre. So skip La Villa in Shelburne, because it’s not worth it.
Best Dining Experiences:
Village Coffee and Wine Bar – Shelburne, VT. Great sense of community. Great coffee, food, wine, and price.
Sauce – Shelburne, VT. Terrific food, great atmosphere. Okay, so I ordered the duck and they gave me the hanger steak, but it was so good I didn’t send it back. TC had the burger and was in heaven – it was enormous. I could have used it to feed a dinner party. The food is beautifully served and well prepared. The price is very reasonable for the quality.
Papillion – Montreal, Quebec – the stuffed pork was one of the most tender, well-prepared, and well-seasoned dishes I ever ate. Their Greek salad is a joy, and their pepper soup was delicious. The house wine is better than most expensive wines in upscale restaurants. The service was perfect and friendly. Price is reasonable.
Alldays & Onions – Bennington, VT – bright, friendly, and great food. The fries are perfect – hot, crisp, salty. The curried chicken was terrific – just the right heat. TC took the option of building a custom sandwich and was a happy camper. Prices are good, too.
Among the things I liked and appreciated most in Vermont was the sense of education, intelligence, personal and political responsibility, and a general sense of appreciation for life. Perhaps because Vermont is such a small state, every political act is very personal. And no one seems to vote simply for or against a party or “that’s the way my husband votes”. They can give solid reasons for their votes.
It made coming back to suburbia with the bitchy, spoiled brats swanning around with misplaced senses of entitlement all the more nauseating.
Then, there was all the catch up. Dealing with hundreds of emails. Sorting out the rejections. Getting a request for a revision for a novella – and trying to figure out where I can fit it in. Acupuncture – because, between the theatre work and the writing and the driving, I’m a mess. Getting everything organized for my mother’s birthday. Dealing with the upcoming Tenants’ Organization meeting.
Trying NOT to get caught up in bad habits.
What is my priority?
What gets in the way?
Me being unfocused, not holding my boundaries firmly enough, not balancing enough between working and playing. I need more playtime. I need to cut back on internet time, but I want to do that without giving my cyber friends (and other friends) short shrift. I never want to become one of those people I loathe, who claim they have “no time” to read their friends and colleagues’ books, articles, blogs, websites, et al, and keep up. You got no time for me, buddy? Guess what? I got no time for you, either. I’m going to spend my time with people who cherish me the way I cherish them – whether they can do anything for my career or not.
Bluntly, most of the people who claim they have “no time” to keep up with the work of their colleagues aren’t turning out work good enough for me to miss if I don’t read it.
In writing, as in theatre or most professions, those at the top of their game also tend to be the kindest and most generous.
The others – you know what? We can cut them away, and they won’t be missed.
I’m NOT, however, going to waste my time with people who make excuses and drain the writing blood out of me.
And I don’t want to get caught up in the businessy-marketing crap so much that the writing suffers.
Got to write it and make it perfect before you can sell it.
It has to be balanced.
What do I want to write?
Whatever interests me at the moment.
Yes, he who pays most and has the earliest deadline will get the bulk of my attention. However, I am NOT going to write with only an eye to market if I’m not interested in the subject/character/whatever. Because the quality won’t be worth money. There won’t BE any quality. It’s the same thing with theatre – most people I know in tech will work any job for which they’re hired. I HAVE to believe in the show – even when I acknowledge its flaws – or I can’t work it.
I’ve said it for years – if it’s not worth doing with passion, it’s not worth doing.
There are also things I need to study, in order to broaden my horizons. So that has to be factored in, too.
I have to figure out how to get the relocation back on track, while still recovering from the trauma of the past year. I really don’t want to move during the holiday season. I’d rather sit tight for a few more months and then – well, hell yeah, I’d be moving in the middle of a blizzard probably, but I’ll deal. A friend of mine who’s a shrink says I’m one of the scariest cases of post-traumatic stress disorder she’s seen because I’m capable of functioning fairly well for long periods of time – until I’m not. Events piling up – 9/11, Katrina, the Situation – have all created this enormous trauma that will take years to deal with. So, you just do one day at a time, learn the warning signs, and don’t hesitate to cut toxic people out.
I got home before the big storm hit this weekend, and used the time to catch up, get some writing done, and do some fun stuff for my Nano Adoptees. I want to create some fun motivators and “rewards” for hitting particular points in the process.
I will be without a printer for god-knows-how-long. Typical Mercury Retrograde. I tried supposedly compatible Staples brand ink in the printer and it mucked up the printer heads. Canon Tech Support and I tried everything we could – my only option is to take it to a service place in Yonkers. I’m very, very nervous to be without a printer – I might beg a friend to go down every few days and print out my work.
Can I just say I am so over everything Staples I’m in search of a new office supply place? I’m done. The last six weeks of dealing with them has been a pain in the ----.
If Canon still made baby bubble printers, I’d get one of those, just to tie me over. But they don’t. And I need to deal with photos and scanning and . . .but I want my multipass – which finally worked perfectly – not a new one.
I worked on some Christmas present stuff, and also did more prep work on my Nano, Assumption of Right.
I’m frustrated with the Nano calendar, because, again, nothing in the city is scheduled on a day where I’ll be in, or, if it is, it’s at the opposite time of when I’m free. Again, it’s all for 9-5ers. This was something discussed at length last year, but shrugged off, and obviously, that’s happened again this year. Hopefully, some of the Westchester stuff will happen during the day – several people seem open to it, and maybe I can meet some people outside of the calendar.
Picked up Janet Evanovich’s How I Write. Very fast read, culled from the Q&A of her website. Again, material for the essay. The 12th Plum arrived from Strand (thank you, everyone there, for always going the extra mile for me), so I’m going to reread 11, read 12, read two romantic/comedic pieces she’s written, and that, along with HIW, is, I think, everything I need to attack the essay. I have a feeling I’ll do a lot of aimless writing in the beginning and then focus, focus, focus until I say what I want to say in the most direct way possible.
My mother’s birthday was fun – she had her marbled cheesecake as her birthday cake. A friend sent her a cooler of steaks – filet mignon and strip sirloin. So I made strip sirloin brushed with aioli and baked potatoes. Served on the good Limoges china, with candles. And the marbled cheesecake and Italian coffee served on the hand painted dessert china. Jazz on the CD player. Scented candles. A good wine. All in all, a good birthday dinner.
Tonight, I’m stuffing Cornish Hens with herbed apple/raisin/celery stuffing, mashing some potatoes, and making my delicious parsnip/carrot sauté. Yum.
I’m reading The Thirteenth Tale. It’s beautifully written. The second chapter, in particular, is a must for anyone who loves books. But there’s also a great deal of cruelty in the book, and if the cruel do not get their karmic return, I will be dissatisfied, no matter how well-written. I’m tired of the celebration of cruelty, in all mediums. I think we’re training future generations that cruelty is cool and acceptable, when it isn’t.
I am panicked at the thought of being without a printer.
I’ve dropped into the world of Tokens and Affections without much effort. But I have a strong suspicion it will go past 15K. Once I hit the 15K mark, I’ll re-evaluate. The publisher will accept a lot more than 15K for this piece – I just figured I could “knock it out” quickly. Famous last words.
Somehow, I have to figure out how to schedule everything in addition to Nano. I think, rather than spreading myself out over 2 pages per project over a half a dozen projects, I’ll focus on one non-Nano at a time.
Again, famous last words.
You know what else is cool about Flying Pig Bookstore? One of the partners is in Nano, and we crossed paths when I talked about how great her shop is! All together now, “It’s a small world after all . . .” Oh, dear! Now that darned song will be rolling around in my head all day. Quick! Put on the death metal! Before it’s too late . . .
GDRs for 2007 coming soon. Stay tuned.
Oh, yeah, and HG called. I was pretty surprised. And I wasn’t driving through a swamp this time. We’ll probably go out for a meal next week, if we can align our schedules. It being Mercury Retrograde, I’m not holding my breath.
Token and Affections – 11,875 words out of est. 15,000
11 / 15