Friday, June 22, 2007

We Have Arrived

We're official downeasters now, although I'm hoping I won't pick up the local accent, which startles me every time I hear it. People have been friendly and helpful so far, which just goes to show you that there are hospitable people who aren't in the South or Midwest. Chris met some of our neighbors, and I met their grey cat which lay on my foot, and our landlady brought us a bottle of sparkling wine to welcome us. I got lost jogging in an enormous cemetery yesterday (it was a beautiful cemetery and I wasn't attacked by any zombies, which is a good thing, since I've not yet finalized my Zombie Contingency Plan to which I'm often referring).

Our worldly possessions are slowly moving across the country (they should be in Kansas City today). Hopefully we'll get them on Monday so that we can get out of our sleeping bags and into a real bed!

We were shocked at how easy the drive was; we never became particularly exhausted or irritable and seemed to be spending the right amount of time on the road each day. We arrived here Wednesday around dinnertime, so that's earlier than expected! Greta has taken to hiding in the oven drawer (she can squeeze in through the back, so we'll have to find a way to prevent that soon). She disappeared for a long time before we finally thought to look in there. Insane cat. Typical.

Hopefully we'll have internet access in a few more days (we packed our modem). Right now I'm at the local library branch. Getting our library cards was one of our first priorities, as was dinner at The Great Lost Bear last night.

Now that The Great Cross Country Move is over, I can revert back to book discussions instead of using this space so heavily for "sundry." I think I'll go search the library and decide what to read next. Any suggestions for summer reading?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Not Eerie At All

We drove through some very dull country today (Illinois, Indiana, Ohio), so no good pics, although Pennsylvania is quite nice. It's green and damp and cool, and it's pleasant to see tall trees again after all desert and plains. We're at the Country Inn & Suites in Erie, PA, tonight, and Orbitz finally delivered on this one. It's a tremendous improvement and about the same price as the other places where we: 1. settled for a chintzy desert motel, 2. were plagued by vulgar youth at 2am, and 3. destroyed a poorly constructed desk chair by accident.

In Erie, we're right across the street from an indoor water park with all these alluring, colorful plastic tubes snaking in and out of the building. For some reason Ickie insisted all the slides were actually attached to the Holiday Inn, even though I told him about a thousand times it was the oft-alluded-to indoor water park. After exclaiming "Good grief, look at that Holiday Inn!" several times, he incredulously inquired, "It's an INDOOR water park?" Yes, the exactly phrased I'd repeated for the past 30 miles finally penetrated his consciousness. No doubt his brain is so full of high-fallutin' doctoral philosophy voodoo that he has no room for the word "indoor."

Monday, June 18, 2007

Hot Fudge in My Shake and a Perfunctory Salad

(I am aware, incidentally, that the phrase "hot fudge in my shake" could be open to multiple interpretations. Let's not think too much about that one.)

Hooray for Steak & Shake.

Boo humidity.

Hooray for the Antique Gasoline Sign & Emu Farm.

Boo expensive Oklahoma toll roads.

Sort-of hooray to Super 8 in Effingham, IL, for gym membership and Ruby Tuesdays discount.

Boo to Ruby Tuesdays for not shredding your own cheese fresh for my dinner salad. (Yes, I recognize the pre-shredded Kraft-bag cheddar when I see it. I know you're trying to improve your image, but you'll have to work harder.)

Ha-ha boys at gym who tried to outrun me on the treadmill and failed miserably. You had too many bratwurst und schnitzel today, you corn-fed man-boys who jog in jeans!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Thrilling Oklahoma City

We're in Ok City today, and it's OK. I got in a quick swim in the tiny pool when we arrived, so my sorry muscles won't completely atrophy and my immobile spine won't fuse into one painful, immobile, calcified mass of wretchedness. Instead, I'm feeling quite relaxed tonight. During today's 620-mile ride, we finished listening to The Areas of My Expertise by John Hodgman (he plays the PC in those Mac/PC Apple commercials, and his audiobook is extremely random and funny, a highlight being his personal troubadour who played whimsical musical accompaniments to his reading).

Highlights today included New Mexico: The Land of Enchantment (which was pretty enchanting, minus the rowdy teens that awoke us with their bone-headed antics at the Travelodge at 2am), the Largest Cross in North America (which was poorly situated next to a mud pond and didn't live up to its promise of being a spiritual experience never to be forgot), and a capsized tractor trailer truck in Oklahoma, billowing fresh smoke as we drove past (the driver was escaping out the shattered windshield and no other vehicles were involved). Also, I went into a Stuckey's, but purchased neither banana chips nor jerky (I purchased dry roasted peanuts).

Tomorrow we get to relive the commute through St. Louis! Blurg.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Update from Grants, New Mexico

Yesterday we loaded up, said goodbye to our belongings (hopefully not for good), and squeezed into the Hyundai for the first leg through LA rush hour traffic to Barstow on the edge of the Mojave Desert. All day today we drove through desert wilderness, past dramatic red rocks and painted cliffs. I contracted zombie syndrome in the car and spent six out of eight transit hours in a comatose stupor. We also passed up offers for petrified wood slabs, discount Indian blankets, an unseemly sounding place called "Knife City," and ostrich feedings.

Below, Greta expresses her feelings about being trapped in the car for six days:

Thursday, June 14, 2007

They're Moving in an Easterly Direction

There'll be no posts for quite a while as we'll be crossing the whole darn North American continent by car starting tomorrow (hopefully). Adventure! On the way from California to Maine, we'll be listening to the Aubrey/Maturin books by Patrick O'Brian (Blak Buzzard was kind enough to provide us with most of the audiobooks in the series) and possibly a children's fantasy titled Fly by Night that I copied from the library. I've also got the 6th Harry Potter book in case we decide to read it out loud to each other in anticipation of the final release this summer--I'll be at Mugglefest in Portland in July!

Right now I'm reading two books of stories: Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link and The Faun and the Woodcutter's Daughter by B.L. Picard. The first is more gothic fantasy in bizarro land from Kelly Link. Some of the stories have been very good, others fair. The book by Picard is a classic book of children's fairy tales. It's a wonderful, musty old library volume that Jackamo sent me (it was her favorite book when she was about 12, I think), but it's out of print, so I'm very lucky to have it. It's fun switching back and forth between the polar opposites of fairy literature. Or, sorry, Faerie literature. Or perhaps Faery. You know what I mean. Geez, those faeries are going to be mad. I'd better watch my back when we're driving through the wilderness.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

The Huntington

As part of our final fun blowout before exiting California, we went to The Huntington in Pasadena last weekend. It features a rare manuscripts museum, an art museum, and extensive gardens. They also have a tearoom in their Rose Garden, which was already booked when we called for reservations (but I peeked in the back door and saw that it was a bit overcrowded and did not sufficiently meet my uppity standards for a proper tearoom, so I was pacified).

The gardens were exquisite, especially the dramatic, hilly Japanese garden, but the rare manuscripts in the library impressed me the most. They have the Ellesmere Chaucer there! I never would have guessed it. It seems wrong to have it in balmy Pasadena (it would be more at home in Canterbury or somewhere misty in England), but I got to see it with my own eyes, so I can't complain.

Click on Thumbnails below to see a few photos from The Huntington.


I basically read The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznik within 28 hours, and that was not because I was having one of my Harry-Potteresque blindness-inducing marathons. It's 550 pages, but many of those are only pictures, and some pages have very little text on them. The artwork is spectacular. Selznik has filled the book with his dusky pen and ink drawings as well as old photographs and still shots from early silent films. Much of the action is conveyed wordlessly via his drawings. It's a fairly simple but affecting story about a boy, Hugo, who lives in the Paris train station and secretly takes care of the clocks there. He is something of a mechanical genius and is trying to reconstruct an automaton that his father (a clockmaker) discovered before he died.

Selznik includes some historic characters in his novel, and I was fascinated to read in his afterword more about magicians, filmmakers, and machines from the early 20th century. Selznik actually found an old automaton in a Philadelphia museum that could write multiple messages and draw a number of pictures, as well as sign its creator's name to them, so you'll be surprised how much of this seemingly fantastical tale is true to life. This story is great for children but adults will appreciate it equally.