Subtitled: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking
Montgomery, Alabama. December 1, 1955. Early evening. A public bus pulls to a stop and a sensibly dressed woman in her forties gets on.
This book made me angry. I need to process a bit before I can say exactly why.
Thunderstorms were common in Sarantium on midsummer nights, sufficiently so to make plausible the oft-repeated-tale that the Emperor Apius passed to the god in the midst of a towering storm, with lightning flashing and rolls of thunder besieging the Holy City.
This is the first of a series. It has mild fantasy elements to it, but I think it would appeal to those who liked The Pillars of the Earth. It felt very similar to me. This book isn't as outright amazing as Under Heaven, but I'll be getting the next one.
There are multiple titular lines in this one. They jumped out a bit because I was watching the '70s series I, Claudius, during the same period in which I was reading this book. A character in that show noted that "Sailing to Rome" had become a euphemism for having an appointment with death.
Well, it seems that both my banana plant and my bristlecone pine tree have been growing failures.
So the obvious thing to do is try to grow something else. This was a gift for Christmas:
It says it's "Fun for Kids!" so I might not enjoy this. There's a bag of dirt and spores (I assume).
I've initiated the first step: soak the bag for 12 hours.
Wish me luck, Pappa Smurf!
You might remember that I tried to get to Lake Baltimore last November and got stuck in the snow.
It was near 80°F yesterday in Nevada City, so I thought it would be a good time to try again.
I was wrong. It's all very well to have a four-wheel-drive vehicle, but it doesn't do you much good without clearance. I jammed the car up there so good that one of the tires wasn't even touching the ground. I spent an hour or so trying to dig out with a stick.
Digging with a stick is kinda useless, too. Then I had a bright idea. If the problem was that the snow was too high in the middle...
Yes, I know this was a stupid idea and I could have gotten hurt. But I spent another two hours jacking the car up and putting big stones under the tires.
It was not enough. So, after three hours of trying to do this on my own, I had to throw in the towel. The mosquitoes were bad. That was frustrating! I'm stuck having to dig through the snow with my bare hands, you'd think I wouldn't have to also battle mosquitoes.
This road is Lake Meadows Road. It's a gravel road in the middle of the Tahoe National Forest in Sierra County. There is no mobile reception. So my next bright idea was to walk back to the paved road and then toward State Route 89. I wouldn't be able to walk the 13 miles to 89, but I would surely come upon some cell coverage?
Nope. I learned later that there isn't cell coverage until almost all the way back to Truckee. But luckily, about three miles down the road, I came upon a house (the Tahoe National Forest is interesting, because it isn't one continuous forest; it's a checkerboard of one mile squares alternating public & private lands). They didn't have a phone, but they were willing to get their Jeep out and winch my car off the snow bank, which was very kind. Thanks Track Man and Mike!
You'd think I didn't grow up in the mountains and know better.
For future tracking. Submitted to The First Line.
I almost feel as if Tom Bodett has let me down somehow. I went down to San Jose, but planning was so late that my hotel choices were a) a $400 hotel, b) a Hampton Inn 22 miles away, or c) a Motel 6.
Now, the customer was paying, but I definitely didn't want to do that drive every day and the difference between $400 and $65 was hard for me to justify. Would the other hotel have been six times better than the Motel 6?
Yes. It would have. The Motel 6 shower head came out at my chin, the room was dirty, and there was no shampoo. But at least the police visited the parking lot every hour or so.
Sometimes, you just feel stuck.
Two twists of smoke at a time of year too warm for cottage fires surprise us at first light, or they at least surprise those of us who've not been up to mischief in the dark.
The world is growing small. I've been to Chesapeake before. I'm pretty sure I stayed in the same hotel many years ago. Am I running out of places I've not worked? Perhaps I'm just growing weary.
Still, this is the first Wee Toaty Explorer to visit Virginia.
All I can really say about this one is: squirrels like nuts.
He was lost. He wasn't used to being lost.
It has been said that a slow child is an inconvenience to its parents; a slow and ill-countenanced child, and unhappy burden; and a slow, ill-countenanced, and fractious child a veritable curse.
I think I mentioned before that I like abandoned structures. Seattle has gone and turned some into a park. A couple pics after the jump.
I hate not knowing terminology. I have this wooden wall holding up a bit of ground near the side of my house.
Is this called a retaining wall?
I'm thinking that these bits bowing out are not a GOOD THING. What sort of craftsperson do I call to estimate fixing this? Is it a general contractor or a landscape person? Do you have any recommendations for Nevada County locals?
The comments section is open.
This is a book about the most admirable of human virtues - courage.
If you were going to guess the first line based on the title alone, you could probably come pretty close to this one.
This was delicious. I stole the base recipe from RL Crabb's site, added a few things and turned it into a casserole.
Full picture parade after the jump.
The desert was empty, as though a great drain had sucked the world underground.
This one was a long, strange ride.
Once again I returned to the Yuba River, and this time I brought my bicycle and a camera.
I took Leadbelly (my imaginary great uncle on my sister's side) over to Tofanelli's for a bite to eat. He seemed a little twitchy, sure, but he always seems a little odd. So I tried to ignore him.
We were fine until the waitress tried to tell us the specials.
"Our ravioli today is -- "
"Spoiler Alert!" Great Uncle Leadbelly shouted.
"Shush!" I said. The waitress stared at me. I forget that other people can't see my imaginary relatives. "I mean, sorry, I saw the specials written on the board, thanks."
The waitress did that thing where she draws out the long "a" in OK, then she went over to the bar to get me a soda. I watched her until she was out of earshot.
"What was that?" I hissed at Great Uncle Leadbelly.
"She was actually going to tell us!" He shook his head. "What happened to the thrill of discovery?"
I tried to ignore the Journey song that suddenly tried to become an earworm in my head. "What's up with you?"
"Everybody's spoiling things, I don't like it."
"Well, look, I never told you about Matthew. Why is everyone so upset about that and not about Sybil, anyway?"
"I don't know what you're prattling about. I'm talking about that book you made us read."
"Made you read? I don't make you read anything."
"You know you do. We all had to read that Snow book. It felt like snow, all quiet and muffled."
"I think that's why he called it that."
"Except that he spends the whole novel spoiling it. We know pretty early on that the guy's going to get shot, but not in Turkey. We're told that the women aren't going to die. I don't know why the author did this. It sucked all the suspense out of the book."
"I think it was definitely on purpose."
"Because one of the characters even does it. It's like Ferris Bueller's Day Off; the actor almost looks right at the camera and says, 'I'm going to die and here's how.' I think there might be a strand of pessimistic pre-destination going on, too, as if the ending was inevitable, so why hide it?"
"I don't like it."
"You don't have to like it," I said. Then, to get his goat, I tried: "You do know that the whole time Bruce Willis was a sled, right?"
Great Uncle Leadbelly stood and my heart jumped. Maybe for once I'd get to eat by myself like normal people.
"Where are you going, dear Great Uncle?"
"Don't worry. I'm just going to see a man about a dog. That means I'm going to the restroom. I'll be back."
"Spoilers," I grumbled at him as he walked off. "Spoilers."
The silence of the snow, thought the man sitting just behind the bus driver. If this were the beginning of a poem, he would have called the thing he felt inside him the silence of the snow.
This was an appropriate book to finally finish yesterday.
Have you been to the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain, yet? On the way back from the North Ridge, I walked all the way up to the top, which has a nice flat park.
The view is spectacular. You can see all of Nevada City and down into the Rood Center. I could also glimpse snow-covered peaks off to the north, though I can't say what they were. Sadly, landscape photography is not my strength, especially with an iPhone.
So you'll have to trust me that it's worth the walk. I wasn't terribly sure where it was when I started because so many trails around here seem to start in someone's back yard. There was a sign on the gate near Coyote, though, and then this sign about halfway along the path:
The driveway where it starts is almost at the intersection with North Bloomfield Road and across the street from a stone with a plaque telling about the Emigrant Trail. (This one hasn't been stolen, yet.) It's fun to see the little spiral on my walk-tracking-map that RunKeeper made for me.
And I like the satellite view, too.
The oldest living thing in the world lives in California, but despite all appearances, it is not me. Of course, I'm talking about the bristlecone pine, some of which have been alive for almost 5,000 years. One reason that the trees have lived so long is that they do their best to stay out of fights and just go off and live away from everybody else. Maybe they're like me, after all.
Today, I planted the youngest known bristlecone pine, following the instructions in this handy kit I bought last year at the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest:
The kit comes with cartoon instructions, the planting demonstrated by Sequoia ("our pet tree wolf"). Sequoia puts dirt in the container, gives it bottled water and then makes this wonderful face while trying to open the seed packet:
I suppose the face is supposed to be "concentration," but I prefer to think of it as, "I'm already bored with this whole planting thing, Mom. Can't we just make trees on Sim City? It'll be faster."
The kit even comes with rocks. You can't beat that with a stick. At least not for a year, if you're waiting for this tree to produce a stick. This is my little greenhouse:
It's not going up on the shelf next to the banana plant, because bristlecone pines have to be "tricked." It's going to live in the refrigerator for the next 20 days. The random action of the refrigerator light is going to really play havoc with its circadian rhythms.
I was thinking about "good news" and "bad news" yesterday. I know this isn't any kind of shocking revelation, but, boy, we are a society that concentrates on the bad news. I've been in a lot of conversations that go something like this: "Wow, Nevada County is in trouble. All these restaurants are closing. Cirino's, Trolley Junction, and Villa Venezia are all gone or going soon. Things haven't been this bad before."
Now, I mourn the loss of my favorite Monte Cristo as much as the next person, and I have enjoyed a nice dinner or two at Villa Venezia.
I head rumors that Obamacare led to the demise of Cirino's. It was going to make it too hard to maintain a business. But last night, we tried to go down to the new Lefty's at the bottom of the hill. It's got to be twice as big as the old Lefty's and it was still too crowded for us to get in without a reservation. We walked up the hill and snagged the very last available booth at Las Katarinas, and there was a crowd standing around hoping for a table when we left. These restaurants seem to be doing OK, if only from one anecdotal experience.
You know, Crazy Horse is back and I hear they're selling food. The hot dog stand went away, but now there's a crepe stand (that replaced the crepe stand). And for the future, there's already work happening where the new restaurant is going to take the old Lefty's spot. It's not all gloom and doom, folks. I mean, sure, I miss Toki's as much as anyone, but I hear Humpty's is coming back soon. The Grey Goose went away before I got here, but I'm hoping to get down to Fias soon.
You know, when I moved here only 3.5 years ago, that Bonanza place was a pit. I'm not saying it's somewhere I'd take tourists now -- it's just a convenience store, after all -- but back then they were selling spoiled milk and half the coolers didn't work and it was just generally gross. As convenience stores go, it's pretty nice.
Speaking of convenience stores, although there was a business there in the interim, when I moved here, there was nothing where the new branch of the Harmony Ridge Market has just gone in. And now, there's a lovely case of Guinness brownies. Tell me that's not an improvement.
I'm not trying to be Pollyanna-ish, and I know this isn't my home town. I realize Citronee and Posh Nosh never got replaced. On its very last day, I went to the Indian restaurant that used to be out on Rough & Ready Highway. I know we're not living in a golden age and we definitely need to do something about the demographics and industry in this county. All I'm asking for is a little more balance, folks. Just a bit.
Update: I just wandered over to RL Crabb's blog and wanted to state for the record that this was not meant as a response to his State of the Union analysis. I really was just responding to face-to-face conversations I had been included in. I was just being grumpy about being grumpy.
Something good happened on the tax front: As I fill out my Federal tax return, I've realized I paid $212 less in property tax to Nevada County last year than in the previous year.
Granted, that's because my house went down in value, but it isn't true that taxes always go up!