Saturday, June 18, 2005

One of the best things about being a writer... when your writing touches other people's lives and changes them or their situation.

Since I have mostly settled into my new apartment, I resumed working on the writing biography of Andre Norton. My ad in Gila Queen Guide to the Markets came out last week and people are bellying up to the virtual bar to share their stories and their correspondence with Andre. Reading such glowing tributes from writers who have gone on to publish their own books and stories, writers who owe their success and the belief in their writing to Andre is a wonderful way to spend any day. I knew her personally. Many of these people never met her in person, but she was the strong stalwart support standing behind them with her hand on their shoulders, someone who was as real to them as she was to me.

If there is any epitaph I would like to leave, that would be it: She made a difference.

Blame it on Wang...

...because it is his fault.

In reading through my F-list he mentioned seeing The Phantom of the Opera on DVD last night. I recommended he get the book a certain friend loaned to me: Phantom by Susan Kay. So I check out for a link and found out that my friend's pristine paperback book is worth more than 10x what he paid for it. The book has become a collector's item. No wonder. The story is riveting and the writing flawless, which is saying a lot coming from a hard-nosed and not easily tempted book reviewer.

Wang, what does it say about me that every time I thought I had it in my bag to give it back to him it wasn't there when I gave him back the rest of his books? I found it when I packed up my books and things to move to the Springs. From a psychological standpoint, of course.

It's just past 8:30 and cars are cruising the blocks looking for a parking spot while brightly summer clad people carrying canvas and shopping bags with fanny packs about their waists are headed south to the Farmer's Market. Some of the eye-searing colors are even brighter on this clear, cloudness Rocky Mountain morning and the trees are shifting restlessly in the light breeze. The dogs next door keep up a constant tirade at the Market-minded pedestrians behind the high palisade fence on the east side of the house. This morning is bright and beautiful and cool, just waiting to be enjoyed after a night of tossing and turning and sweating even with all the windows open. It's on a morning like this I truly wonder if George Malley in Phenomenon was right and the trees really do talk to each other in rustling leaves and swaying limbs.

My friend, by the way, got a clean as a whistle bill of health from his lizard with the long lighted tongue. He was, however, having trouble formulating coherent thought after the narcotic cocktail that kept him quiescent and relaxed while they delved the back forty, but he is otherwise his usual punny self. That is a very good thing.

Another friend tagged me while I was playing endless games of Mah Jong on Yahoo yesterday, surprising me. I haven't heard anything from him since he started his post Army retirement job as a tech writer. He had some ulterior motives evidently. told me I need to move to New Mexico and ply my technial writing skills because companies there are going begging. I might consider it but only for a heartbeat. I told him there was no way I'd leave my paradise to move to the desert heat. Nice try, but no cigar.

So then he suggested taking a closer look at Manitou Springs and see if I could find all the springs that give Manitou its last name. According to him, there are/were seven springs. Makes me curious for sure and that will be a trip to take with my visitors from KCMO next week who are bringing KCMO BBQ sauces and rubs with them. I smell BBQ wafting on the summer breeze already and I can hardly wait. Six days and counting.

The visit also brings with it a first time meeting with LJ friends. That is also a first because I have not met any of my LJ friends to date. I'm looking forward to it and to them. They have this strange habit of looking up Buena Vista in any state they visit to see if they are alike in any way to the first Buena Vista they visited among the Blue Ridge Mountains back east. Virginia, I think it was. Since I am acquainted with two transplanted residents, I'd say the chances are good, but now I want to see for myself, and to visit Winslow Pass which is said to have a spectacular view of the Collegiate Peaks. I have seen the view from a much different perspective, atop Ute Lookout in the Collegiates, and I can well imagine how beautiful the view will be. I might even take them over to Hartsell Springs and see if I can finagle a peek at the huge roaming herd of buffalo in that area.

A couple of years ago, on my birthday no less, when I was still working for the TV show that brought me here, I spent a few days at Hartsell Springs Ranch and drove a Ford 250 4x4 up and down the muddy slopes and valleys into the midst of a huge herd of buffalo. I then proceeded to get out of the metal behemoth where I was safe and walk right smack dab into the middle of the milling herd. You cannot imagine how big full grown buffalo bull and cows (not to mention the yearling bulls and cows) really are until you're standing nose to horns with them. It was thrilling and exciting for me, but less so for the people cringing and hiding in the back seat of the truck. The only thing I missed was the buffalo chase and hunt (that never happened) the next day. I was heartbroken until I heard how the rogue buffalo bulls played the erstwhile hunters armed with bow, black powder rifle and state of the art hunting rifles of staggering firepower. Anyone who is opposed to hunting because it pits superior man against Bambi, should see and hear how a real hunt progresses. You'd finally see that the animals are much smarter than people think and it's the people who need the protection, not the animals.

Buffaloes are especially wily. The Native American tribes knew that, which is why they would get together and drive entire herds off cliffs and pick them off at the bottom, leaving whatever they couldn't dress and carry for the carrion eaters. They knew buffaloes learn at a staggering rate and wouldn't be caught twice by the same trick. The tribes didn't know how to change their hunting tactics, so instead they left no survivors.

Buffalo look stupid, but they are far from it. Never underestimate the wily buffalo -- the even wilier roadrunner. Wile E. Coyote figured that one out. Mother Nature didn't raise no stupid children -- except for maybe humans -- mostly the males.

That is all. Disperse.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Sick call

A friend sent me this email this morning:

SUBJECT: Off to see the lizard...

...and have him stick his long tongue somewhere dark and deep. The
drano went fine yesterday - no vomiting or issues. Updates later.

I didn't expect an update this morning, but I'm glad he sent it. He took the day off to have a group of people light up the inside of his bum and videotape it. Fun, fun, as he would say.

And then last night...

The landlady called me (it's the easiest way to reach me when I'm working and plugged into the headphones) and asked if I'd like some polenta and marinara sauce. I said yes. Then she suggested I come down for dinner and I said yes again -- with a big smile on my face. I had been smelling the herbed polenta and marinara for a while and it was making me hungry for more than whole wheat crackers and fresh avocado. So we had dinner together and talked about my friend's pending procedure this morning. She came up with lighting up his a**hole, which I thought was funny, but not for prime time viewing. In some ways it makes me think of methane and lighters and the funny look on someone's face when it singes the hair off their rear exit like some of the boys in high school did to another hairy high school boy just before they were suspended. Horrible thing to have happen to the popular athletic elite. Broke a lot of cheerleading hearts that day who then went to protest in Mr. Huckaba's office. Didn't work. Their hero boyfriends still got two weeks free unpaid and unsung vacation at home.

Back to dinner.

The landlady surprised me with an addition to the sauce -- SHRIMP! Herbed polenta with cheese melted through it and a lovely thick and rich marinara sauce with shrimp. Now that's eating.

After dinner we drifted outside to the deck after Pastor stood still for me to pet and hug him. He's such an attention hog. (I love it) Out on the deck wailing saxes and smoky brass played low and dirty serenaded us. Birds dipped and swirled on rising warm air currents and squirrels played tag and hump in the trees, slender branches dipping and flailing as they leapt from perch to perch. As the music ended we went inside because landlady had something she wanted to show -- and give -- me: art. She dug into the heavy Spanish blanket chest muttering about getting rid of it because it's so heavy (me, me, me!) and pulled out three simly framed drawings of plants: cattails, tulips and some kind of blue daisy. The drawings were done in ink and colored, the heavily accented and shaded lines brightened by primary colors on a yellow-brown sketch pad sheet. She said she has had them for over 40 years. The framer's label is in German and it didn't take me long to figure out buchbinderei is book binder.

So, with a Gladware container of polenta, sauce and shrimp, several packets of flower seeds so I have an excuse to dig in the dirt today and the three prints, I said good night, thanked her for the lovely dinner and the conversation AND the food and prints (she really worries because I have so few things in the apartment or on the walls) and walked upstairs.

Every single day I live here, whether I see the landlady or not, is pure joy. Listening to the music on the deck last night made me feel (and say) it was like living in a movie about simpler times. I'm a character in the universe's movie about simpler times with live music accompaniment. Who says life isn't like that has never spent any time in my neck of the woods. They're missing a lot: generous and friendly landladies, dogs who bask in attention, soft rich earth to plant and weed, music in the air, and friends with weird and wonderful senses of humor about proctological examinations involving metal poles with lights. It doesn't get much better than this.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

AWOL no more

Okay, so I've only posted a couple of memes over the past few days and I haven't updated anything about my date Monday night or the picnic on Tuesday, but I figured no one really wants to know about my boring days and nights.

Then again...

I really shouldn't call Monday night a date. I had given a close friend a ticket for the Michael Johnson concert for his birthday last month and Monday night was the night. I also got a ticket for me because I missed him in March due to the nasty flu that nearly turned into going through death's door, but I finally got to see and hear the man.

Well, my friend came over after work, tired and worn out, and went directly into my bedroom where I'm still sleeping on a feather bed on the floor. (A bed really isn't high on my priority list and it is his fault since he said I should get used to sleeping on the ground for when we go hiking overnight.) So he sat down on the love seat in the front room, my other piece of furniture, leaned back and snoozed a little while I finished getting ready. When I was ready we talked for a while and then left since we didn't want to have to stand in a long line. Instead we just stood at the head of the line for a while. (what is the difference again?) Jimbo's is an intimate little setting with the front of a real house as the backdrop for the stage. Normally there are couches and lots of antiques and a few tables and chairs, but Monday night there were nothing but a few small round tables (outdoor cafe sort of tables)and chairs in front of the small stage.

While we waited outside, we heard Michael Johnson tuning and warming up his vocal cords. I must say it was really good.

Back inside, an older woman (very pretty) and her daughter (a roofing contractor) asked us if we were from Ohio. We told them we were. They were from Ohio, too, and from the west side of Columbus where we are both from and where we grew up. The daughter went to Hilltonia and Franklin Heights and West High. My friend went to Hilltonia and West and I went to Westmoor Jr. High and West. It was like old home week. We talked a little longer about things back in cowtown, Ohio and then Jimbo got on stage and warmed up the crowd with some rockin' blues and a few silly tunes thrown in. Then the big moment...

Michael Johnson took the stage, talked a little about how people sometimes confuse him with the other Michael who sings and jumped right into the music. He played one of my favorites, Bristlecone Pine. I have to admit his rendition isn't as good as Hugh Prestwood, but it was good Monday night. He played a lot of my friend's and my favorite songs and a few we had never heard, like Emilio, which is a new song for MJ. The crowd was friendly and attentive and the venue intimate, but nothing could match MJ's artistry on the guitar. He plays guitar with a Spanish classical rhythm and fingering and it is beyond good.

Like I silly fan (something I have never been accused of in my life up to this point), I asked MJ to autograph a couple of my CD inserts -- the ones my friend has given me. I have interviewed and spoken with presidents, governors, politicians, criminals, movie stars and foreign dignitaries, but meeting MJ for the first time made me feel shy all of a sudden. And he's a lot shorter than I figured. I'm about an inch or so taller than he is.

Anyway, MJ took a break, we talked with the mother and daughter from Cowtown (Mother is 77 and her BF is 49 and she's known him since he was 13 and her daughter is married to a man 12 years younger -- it runs in the family). The mother is very pretty and could well pass for much younger -- not so the daughter, although they were both very charming.

After the break, more music and amazing guitar playing, an encore and it was time to go home. Unfortunately, Jimbo's is closing their door at the end of the month, so if you like live jazz and blues in an intimate and small club atmosphere, check them out before they close their doors.

My friend drove me home and we talked about the concert. He came up for a couple minutes to pick up something and I walked him back downstairs. Neither of us wanted the evening to end, but we both had to be up early for work. Besides, we had a picnic in the park planned come rain or come shine. When it rains and thunders and lightning forks through the sky we get fireworks with our picnic.

He IM-ed me the next morning and said he was in the mood for Cobb Salad for lunch, so I picked up the ingredients, came home, made the salad, cut up some fresh watermelon, tossed it all in a canvas bag with some bowls and plastic utensils and met him at the park for our picnic. He was there ahead of me. I think he was hungry.

Spending time together is difficult and wonderful -- wonderful because the time flies by and difficult because the time just flies by.

Anyway, after he ate some of the watermelon he tells me he is allergic. Just a little allergic he says. I wanted to smack him, but those dimples, that sparkle in his green eyes and the laughter kept me from hitting him. Besides, he buys and eats watermelon, too. It's a summer tradition. Some things are definitely worth risking a little swelling in the throat.

There is more, but I'll save it for later.

I'll shut up now.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

No Farmer's Market for me

the first day of the summer Farmer's Market in Old Colorado City but I was in my car and on the road headed for Monument, Colorado for my first experience as a Volunteer Examiner (VE) for a hamfest (Ham Radio Amateur Swap Meet). I remember the first time (who never updates his journal) told me he was going to a hamfest near me and wanted to come to the cabin to visit. "Hamfest?" I asked. "At 8:00 in the morning? I thought actors didn't get up until after noon." He laughed and explained it was for amateur radio -- hams. Okay, I get it, but the only other thing that came to mind before he explained was a celebration of pigs. I know differently now.

A hamfest is a gathering of geeks, nerds and technophiles devoted to buying, selling, trading and talking about radios, computers and everything that goes with it. It was interesting and fun.

We wandered around together and separately, caught in the tides and eddies and whirlpools of people and equipment and talk until we both needed to sit down and just talk to each other for a while. When it was nearly time to get set up for the examinees, we made our way back into the building and to the room to set it up for testing. The rest of the morning and the first part of the afternoon were a blur of activity, explanations, instructions and people as we handed out, took back, graded and informed people of their scores. The whole examination process is fairly simple, but the grading, checking, rechecking and formalizing of the paperwork is a bit of work, work that I thoroughly enjoyed. He called it my baptism by fire and said I did very well for my first exam. I caught a few mistakes (his) and clarified some rules and regulations and it was a lot of fun. I enjoyed myself thoroughly.

We had a long walk back to our cars and the rest of the afternoon was taken up with lunch at Bear Creek (where they have the most decadent and scrumptious raspberry cheesecake and Reubens and an okay, but limp, Caesar salad) and the dollar movie theater where Sahara with Matthew McConnaughey, Penelope Cruz, William H. Macy and Steve Zahn was playing. The movie is based on Clive Cussler's Sahara, which is the only one of Cussler's books I was ever able to get all the way through, and it is a funny, adventurous and wry tale that is a whopping good tale. However, at the end the playful romance between Dirk and Eva is contrived and heavily staged and Ms. Cruz is definitely not up to the task. She was a lot more convincing as a dedicated WHO doctor than as a woman who has fallen in lust/like with Dirk Pitt. It didn't play well at all. The movie is still a good time for a Saturday afternoon or any evening when you need to laugh and sit on the edge of your seat.

After the movie it was home for me where my pale moss green sweater was folded neatly atop the newel post at the top of the landing outside my door. The landlady found it between the wall and the dryer where it had fallen and was invisibly camouflaged with the bags.

Once inside, I unpacked my bags, kicked off my shoes, made a bowl of granola and milk and settled in with Dorothy Parker until I dozed off on the love seat in the living room. All in all, it was a really good day.

This morning I'm a little sore and my left heel cord is tight, but I'm happy and looking forward to finally getting a call through to the friend whose call I missed by one ring and whose phone was busy for quite some time afterward. I did go to bed early with Stephen King and a bottle of Colorado Spring's finest water to the sound of a long soaking rain storm that sang me to sleep with its gentle lullaby.


Yesterday is the first time in weeks I have seen and spent lots of time with John. It was wonderful. I was a little worried that he might bring his daughter, but I needn't have worried. He was alone...with the midst of hundreds of other ham radio operators and geek toys and frills. It was a good day.

When he saw me standing beside the line his eyes lit up and he smiled like a kid who just got what he wanted for Xmas. He waved and came over to me. I told him he needed to get into the shorter line to pay and he came back with his raffle ticket and ubiquitous canvas bag. I took the bag while he filled out the raffle ticket and we chatted. He kept smiling down at me and clenching the handle of his bag when I handed it back, clenching it like he needed to keep his hands occupied because they wanted to do something else, something they can't do in public, especially around people who have known him for so many years and know he's married -- and not to me. Soon the line started moving and we moved with it down the hall, through the door and into the gymnasium, doubling as an exhibit hall. We circled and talked, looked and touched, asked and answered questions, riding the tides of people along the aisles, separated at times and close together at others. We saw some people we know and he introduced me to some people he knows and we drifted and floated with the tides until both of us had seen all there was to see and we needed to find sunlight and a place to sit.

Outside we bumped into more people we and he knew and he introduced me again. Footsore, I wandered over to the shade and sat on a bench while he chatted with his friends. Then he came up to me and asked if I'd like to sit in the sunshine, so we did. I sat and he stood until I told him he could sit next to me. He did. We sat on the edge of the cement pylon, close but not touching, keeping a careful distance between us, chatting and talking and teasing each other with smiles and laughter. Then an older woman came and sat down across from us. She talked about her husband and his call sign (ending with UOH which she turned into Ugly Old Ham) and their travels as missionaries. She kept looking at us and smiling as we jibed and teased each other as we talked with her. Just before she left she said something unimportant, but her last words were to us as a couple. I suddenly understood her looks and smiles. They were the same smiles a person who is part of a happy couple, a couple who is comfortable with themselves and each other, gives another happy couple.

Before the missionary came to sit by us there had been a white-haired old guy who leaned heavily on his cane sitting beside us and caught part of our conversation on antennas. He jumped in with suggestions of what antennas to use and we talked about antennas for a while before he smiled at us and said he'd leave us to enjoy the sunshine together.


Even though most of the people in John's radio amateur club know he's married, there is the sense of them looking at us and treating us as a couple. Maybe they think I'm his wife. They haven't ever seen her. She never comes to the ham functions. Some of them know I'm an old friend, but I still get the impression that they see and think of us as a couple because that is how they treat us.

Such was the case with Mike Anderson.

Mike even asked us if we were married when we were teasing each other sitting in the testing room before the examinees got there. John looked at me and smiled but then he said that we were just old friends. I said we had known each other since sixth grade and John amended that we had a big gap in our friendship of 30 years. Mike said the gap didn't show.

More and more I notice that people do treat and see us as a couple, a harmonious pair who have rubbed along happily together for years. In some ways we have but in another sense we are just getting to know each other's history and lives, getting to know who we are as opposed to who we were as children and teens. Still, there is a sense of easy familiarity that strangers and friends see and recognize even though we tell them we are not married.

It is only a matter of time before what people recognize in us becomes reality for us. We live for that day. But for now what we have and what we share is acceptance of us as a couple.