Even More Apocalypse

Once again I returned to the Yuba River, and this time I brought my bicycle and a camera.

Snow (Orhan Pamuk) - Part 2

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."

Snow (Orhan Pamuk)

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.

Sugar Loaf Mountain

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.

XKCD Rally

I'm trying to decide whether this XKCD is a reference to RoboRally:


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.

On the Subject of Good News

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.

Good News

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!

White Apples (Jonathan Carroll)

Patience never wants Wonder to enter the house; because Wonder is a wretched guest.

Maybe instead of first lines, I should be recording titular lines. This is one where the sentence that contains the title really jumped out, but it comes fairly late in the book.

Submission Rejected

Related to this blog post.

Good news: Rejection means I'm writing and submitting.


After the parade, I came home and made a quiche.

I don't have any witty comments. Click on the first image to see the gallery of photographic progress.

Mardi Gras 2013

I walked down my street this afternoon.

More Apocalypse

I returned to the Yuba River with a real camera.

The sun still refused to cooperate for a good shot of the structure's steps, but I liked this one of the lead-in to what I figure was a flood-gate.

I walked farther downstream this time. This devastation goes on for miles and mile; it seems there's no easy way to capture it.

The Yankee From Tennessee (Noel B. Gerson)

A shooting star, brilliant and white, soared high in the sky, hung in space for an instant, and then vanished in the night.

This is a 1960 novelization of the life of Andrew Johnson, one of three Tennessee presidents. Fun fact: Not one of them was actually born in Tennessee. Andrew Johnson might be the only one of the three not mentioned in a song. Can you identify songs for the other two?

I picked this up in a used book store/bar in West Virginia while waiting to celebrate my father's birthday at the Charles Town racetrack. Yes, it really was a combined bar and used book store, and I wish we had one of those here. Of course, I also wish the North Ridge served real alcohol. But if wishes were ponies, I'd have to live somewhere else because the herd would not be able to graze in my little backyard.

It was too early in the day and I was not walking distance from the hotel, so I did not get a drink, but I enjoyed looking around at the books and chatting with the woman running the shop. I don't generally talk to strangers, but I go through seasons where people start talking to me. The other day, a clerk at Safeway asked me if I knew why chicken coops have two doors. When I told her I did not know, she responded, "Because if they had four doors, they'd be called chicken sedans!"

I think I go through phases where I clean up well or something and I look like someone everybody thinks they know. I walked into a couple of restaurants in Oklahoma last month where the hostesses said, "Welcome back!" I thought maybe this was a regional assumptional greeting or something, but the second one asked if I wanted my usual. It helps that my accent, I think, isn't terribly easy to place. I picked up the book, after all, because I thought its title could describe me.

My sister got in on the recognition act while I was at the birthday gathering. She said her family didn't really need to see me all that often because they can just watch Chuck Todd on television. She's living in the past. I haven't looked like Chris Todd for many years, though I definitely agree that he used to look like me. I've been gray for a while now, the goatee is gone and so is a lot of the hair. Lately, if I'm told I look like anyone, it's Donald Sutherland. But when I look at his pictures on the internet, I see a lot more hair there, too. People think they are being nice, I suspect.

When I started writing this, I didn't expect to get all the way out to Donald Sutherland, but Andrew Johnson didn't really expect to be President, either, I guess.

I Say Banana, You Say Banana

I knew January was going to be a little travel-heavy, so I put off starting my new gardening project until today. I think February is mostly at-home. I'm sure the folks at the North Ridge will appreciate that.

I bought some red German garlic back in December and most of it got moldy, but I salvaged a few cloves and shoved them into the ground outside today.

More interestingly, I received this for Christmas:

Hooray for bananas in the mountains. I am wondering if fresh bananas are better than store bought. I haven't had good banana pudding since I was a young'un.

The first step was to ignore the instructions provided on the carton. Usually, I'd do that just because I'm ornery, but in this case, the contents didn't match the box. It came with a separate set of instructions inside because instead of dirt, they provided me with a disk of peat. After watering the peat and mixing it up, it sort of looks like brownies.

It does not taste like brownies.

The best thing is that it comes with a convenient little anti-deer device. The clear plastic dome even has a door molded into it to fancy it up.

The instructions say to put it an an Eastern window. I've never heard of that before. Usually, they want me to clutter up the Southern windows. (I don't know why we're capitalizing the directions. Kind of implies the window has to actually be from the East, doesn't it?) I don't know where my windows came from, but the ones on the east side of the house are either in my bedroom or in the garage. I thought it best to put it on the north side so I can see it in the kitchen every day.

They make these instructions just so they have something to point to when it doesn't grow properly. "Oh, you didn't place it in a window manufactured in China? Null and void, dude."

Life of Pi (Yann Martel)

My suffering left me sad and gloomy.

That's the first line of Chapter 1. It's possible, I think, to read the Author's Note as fiction, so perhaps its first line should be presented instead? Shoot, this is my project, so I'll do both!

This book was born as I was hungry.

First read this in 2005 (here's the book tale) and I have to say I'm even less impressed than I was back then. This time around, it actually made me angry.

Charles Town

The Wee Toaty Explorers have finally made it to West Virginia.

This time around, there's a whole troop of them.

Is it starting to become clear what's going on?

Perhaps zooming out a little bit will help.

It's very windy here, so I had to glue some of them to coins to weigh them down.

There's always time for a friendly game of miniature golf.

(They're cheating: the windmill's vanes have been glued down.)

This rock had three conveniently drilled holes. Ready for golfing.

It really is wicked cool out there, so these are probably the closest to the hotel I've ever placed.

Not all the stones have holes.

This is another in the continuing series of wee toaty explorers, a project to keep me busy while I'm on the road. A nice summary is here. The whole set is available if you click on Wee Toaty Explorers.