darkemeralds: Naked woman on a bike, caption "I don't care, I'm still free" (Bike Freedom)
The only real downside of non-car-ownership (for me) is that one's orbit contracts significantly: every now and then an urge to get out of the city strikes, and it's not easy to satisfy.

So when my good pal [personal profile] roseambr invited me to go with her to Montana at the end of September, I said yes, yes, and yes-indeedy. She's taking a four-day art glass course in the small and apparently picturesque town of Hamilton, and I'm going to go along and treat it as a writing retreat.

Since our lodging is seven miles outside of the town itself, and since I've actually let my driver's license lapse (whoops) and so can't use [personal profile] roseambr's car during the day, I'm going to rent a Brompton to take along. Hamilton being a ski-resort-y kind of place with at least one bike shop of its own, I'm hoping that a gray haired lady on a folding bike won't raise too many eyebrows.

Hamilton is a nine-hour drive from Portland, and from what I hear, late September is an excellent time to visit: pre-snow, post-summer-heat. I'm more of a Left Coaster than an American West-er, so the farthest I've ever been into the interior is western Idaho; Montana is a vast, Big Sky mystery to me.

Should be fun.

Miscellany

Jul. 3rd, 2013 08:45 pm
darkemeralds: Baby picture of DarkEm with title 'Interstellar Losers Club' and caption 'Proud Member' (Geekery)
1. Coffitivity, the app I mentioned the other day that provides café sounds, is turning out to be something of a small miracle for me. On low volume, through earphones, it's like prosthetic concentration. I've been able to read! Really focus without skipping around, something I thought had been lost to me forever.

I sense that my mind is mildly but actively tuning out the pleasant babble and somehow kind of sequestering itself in a narrower space, where focused work can take place. Not only have I been able to get through boring work materials, but I'm seven chapters into Mike Carey's The Devil You Know--the actual written version. I'm very pleased about this.

2. Six days off work started this evening. A couple of them will be spent down at Lincoln City on the coast with my good pal [personal profile] roseambr. We always have fun at the beach.

3. An editing job has come my way. No pay--it's a swap: my time and talent in exchange for credit and referrals as I try to launch a side business. The manuscript is a health program based on some very interesting dietary restrictions. It's passionately presented by the healthcare professional who has designed it, but she's not a writer. I can see a future for myself in ghostwriting, frankly.

4. Is this pingback function on LJ new? For the first time today, I got an email notification that someone had mentioned me in a LiveJournal post. I like it! I hope DW is considering something of the same kind.

I'm testing it again right now: [livejournal.com profile] emeraldsedai
darkemeralds: Photo of a microphone with caption Read Me a Story. (Podfic)
My week's vacation has been filled with good things: long bike rides in bright, cold sunshine, lots of knitting, a visit to my good friend [personal profile] roseambr (who is housebound following some foot surgery), a session with a spiritual healer, and some really good reading.

I knit Stephen King into my new fisherman sweater. )

I made significant progress on my current knitting project, a pale-gray Aran-style cardigan, while listening to 11-22-63 (that is a really hard title to hold in the mind!), and now Jake Epping/George Amberson, the Yellow Card Man, and the tail-fins of 1950s American gas-guzzlers are entwined in the moss-stitch and cables of the left sleeve.

It's cold and sunny again today and I'm going out in a few minutes to treat myself to a pedicure.

Then I'm gonna start on Death Comes to Pemberley. I'll get back to non-fiction next week.
darkemeralds: Naked woman on a bike, caption "I don't care, I'm still free" (Bike Freedom)
I practice-packed my suitcase last night and carried it up the street to my sister's house to find out how heavy it really is.

Pretty heavy.

A three week trip divided between London, Glasgow, the English countryside, and a windswept island not all that far south of the Arctic Circle--and involving trains, ferries, and planes both large and puddle-jumper--presents some packing challenges, and I just can't figure out how to do it with an overnight bag.

So, much though I wanted to prove my one-bag travel mettle and be all breeze-in and breeze-out, it seems I'll have to check a suitcase, and wait for it at baggage claim--several times.

On the plus side, it will be kind of nice not to have the contents of my suitcase scrutinized in a crowded security line, banging against my shins as I shuffle up and down the packed aisles of airliners, and weighing me down through the miles of airport that invariably separate where you land from where you get ground transportation.

Anyway, it's only three days till I leave on the first real trip I've taken in five years, and mostly all I care about is that my passport and debit card are in working order. Which (*checks*) they are.
darkemeralds: Dame Judi Dench looking appalled (Judi Dench)
*biting nails*

I just requested vacation time* for my proposed trip to the UK. Waiting nervously now for my boss to do his usual waffling, "gee, I don't know if we can really commit to letting you be gone for three weeks" song and dance. I always suspect that he's waiting to see if a more legitimate person** in the office has a more legitimate need*** for vacation at the time I'm requesting.

Everyone think good thoughts, 'kay?

*August 18 through September 6
**Which is to say male and/or married
***Involving children
darkemeralds: Photo of espresso with caption "Straight Up" (Coffee)
NEWS FLASH: Going back to work after almost three full and glorious weeks of relaxing vacation is...underwhelming, to say the least.

I'm rested, I'll say that much. Just before I left, I learned that I'm to be the last domino in a domino effect of task reassignments that will result in my taking over "Norm"'s job, while passing nothing on to anyone else, so yesterday, when my boss shifted one of my little projects off my plate, I was kind of relieved. Even though it was the project I was most interested in.

So now "Norm" is all gung-ho to get me trained. I have a funny feeling there will be some more Norm posts in my future.

Meanwhile, we have the glory days of early fall to enjoy here in Stumptown: Days (like today) of glorious cool sunshine and wild, cloud-sculpture skies, interspersed with monsoon rains, the threat of which keeps a lot of fair-weather bike commuters out of my way, ha-ha! And your little dog, too.
darkemeralds: Poster image of farm-fresh food (Eat Food)
Grilled sharp cheddar cheese, avocado and apricot fruit paste on Udi's gluten-free bread.

Yum.

I'm winding up my last day of vacation by saying nanny-nanny-boo-boo to my coworkers in my mind relaxing at home, doing prep work on my Podbang 2010 entry (which is either going to be epic or a complete bust because far be it from me to do something simple), banging away (as it were, yuk-yuk) on Chapter 39, and looking out at the rain--which will probably be here for a while (like, till July 2011).

It's been a wholly memorable, productive, fun, wonderful vacation--restorative and uplifting and completely divorced from the job. I haven't done that in years.

Now I just need to crank my internal clock back around to office hours before Monday morning.
darkemeralds: Photo of fingers on a computer keyboard. (Writing)
I knew I'd need some down time once the fun and excitement of [personal profile] kis and Mr Kis's visit was over, so I booked an extra week of vacation--five completely blank days on my calendar.

After a couple of nights of super-excessive sleeping and a couple of days of restorative do-nothing puttering-about-the-house, a strange thing happened: I started writing and couldn't stop.

People who write fast and fluently will probably not think much of this: to my writingest friends, a free day equals a day of actual writing, as far as I can tell--I can't think how else they get so much written. To me it usually equals a day of hair-pulling. I start, I stop, I check my email, I struggle over a sentence or a plot point till I can't struggle no more, then I take a break, and repeat the process, and that's why Restraint will be two years old in October.

But yesterday! Wow. I sat down at 11:00 a.m. and basically stood up at 11:00 p.m., and the only thing I can remember doing all day is writing. I finished chapter 38 and sent it off to my still-traveling beta, and without a pause, I opened a new document and started chapter 39.

I wish I could bottle whatever it was that made that happen.
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
I went back to work today, and I was actually almost ready to go back to work! I think the timing was just about perfect. One more day off and I'd've started to be kind of mentally blobby. One day fewer, and I'd have been sad.

Today, I was a little sad and not too mentally blobby, so it wasn't bad. And I didn't get rained on riding in! Which was almost a disappointment because I was wearing my new rainboots.

boot

Mind you, I had to take a sleeping draught last night to force myself back into that "Yes, I sleep at night and work during the day" normal-human schedule that eludes me hour by hour over any quiet vacation period. Ah, the joys and trials of living alone!

During my vacation I rode my bike quite a bit, conquered a really thorny timeline-and-plot problem on the novel, made some overdue improvements to my wardrobe (viz Rainboots!, above), blogged a lot, and spent just the right amount of quality time with friends and family.

Now I'm back and rarin' ta go. On vacation again. Maybe in a couple of weeks.
darkemeralds: Photo of Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach, Oregon, USA (Haystack)
[livejournal.com profile] lamentables just posted her five reasons to be cheerful, and it cheered me up no end, so I thought I'd do the same.

Five reasons I'm feeling pretty cheerful today )
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
Think of the Hallelujah Chorus, but instead of singing "Hallelujah!" sing "Santa Barbara!" Or you could sing, "The rain may never fall till after sundown..." and that would cover it too.

We arrived to a perfect 75-degree afternoon. Gentle breeze, palms swaying therein, smell of ocean, little dolphin fountain at our hotel. Beds! Real ones, many inches across. We're so tired we're crosseyed.

My brother, who lives here, came and took us for Thai food (Food! Real food, made in a kitchen from scratch) and drove us around the old neighborhood, which I haven't seen since I escaped from here in 1974. So, kind of a long time.

I was expecting to feel something upon seeing the house we lived in, but to my surprise, what tweaked the memory-flood was the parking lot attendant at the train station. I remembered, all at once, that I worked in one of those municipal parking lots here when I was 18 or 19. All of a sudden, I was back there. I could see my coworkers, see the sparkles that a crystal bracelet I used to wear cast on the inside of the booth on a sunny day. I could hear the music that played ("This Masquerade" by George Benson was the song that summer).

Not really a lot of memories here, and it's been long enough that I can appreciate the town's attractions without any of my high-school resentments.
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
High in the Siskiyous as night falls, evergreen forest rising high up steep hills that block the fading sky on either side, thick, wild, untouched. My ears pop when I yawn.

[livejournal.com profile] roseambr, in a red sweater, is reading by a bright little lamp set into the seat back behind her. My computer is plugged in behind me. Our little compartment--just room enough for us to put our feet up on the edge of each other's seat--is like two facing armchairs in a glass-sided box, rolling and swaying quietly up into the mountains.

We shared a dinner table with a brother and sister heading home to San Bernardino County. They had steaks, I had salmon, [livejournal.com profile] roseambr had lasagna. Nobody had the game hen.

Dinner was pretty much cooked freight. Good company, though. Striking up dinner conversation with strangers on a train is pretty easy--you can spend an hour just agreeing that train travel is better than air travel, and we did.

We just came through a tunnel into a high vista at the top of the pass. Pitch-black trees against a dark-gray sky, and not a light out there anywhere. Not a highway, not a power line, not a billboard, not a road sign, not a headlight.

It was incredibly peaceful, and then Andrew our Sleeper Car Attendant came over the PA system:

"I have some not very good news. Low vacuum due to our high altitude has made it so that the toilets in car 1130 won't flush. Passengers in car 1130 will have to use the toilets in one of the other cars until we get down out of the mountains, around 1:00 in the morning."

Did I mention that [livejournal.com profile] roseambr and I are in car 1130?

*caps water bottle*
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
On the Coast Starlight, about 25 miles south of Portland, rolling along, sample train dialog:

Sleeping Car Attendant [note: he is actually awake...]: Would you like to make dinner reservations?

Me: Sure! What's for dinner?

SCA: Well, tonight we have steak, salmon, or vegetable lasagna. Oh, and gay men.

Me: ...

[livejournal.com profile] roseambr: Could we have six o'clock?

SCA: I have two slots left at that time. *makes a note and leaves.*

[livejournal.com profile] roseambr: Game hen. That sounds good.

Me: Ha ha ha ha! Game hen.
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
Union Station, Portland:

I keep catching myself humming "Ridin' that train, high on cocaine" as I wander around Union Station. I should probably find another train song.

Sample train station dialog:

Me: Where do I wait for the southbound train?"

Railroad person: Where ya goin'?

Me: Santa Barbara.

RP: Oh, nice!

Me: I know, huh?

RP: Coach or sleeper?

Me: Sleeper!

RP: Well then, you get to wait in the Metropolitan Lounge.

Me: Really? Cool. Do I need to show my ticket? Because my friend who's getting on in Vancouver has my ticket.

RP: No, Robert can look you up on the computer. Just tell him your name.

We walk into the Metropolitan Lounge: carpet, old-fashioned windows looking out at the platform, chairs with padding, flower arrangements, our own restrooms, a mini-bar, smell of coffee, a TV playing a football game.

RP: Here we have some nice complimentary juice and bottled water, and there's some fresh coffee for you.

Me: Wow.
darkemeralds: Dark Emeralds in red glasses (Default)
I need a Jump for Joy icon, 'cause I'm going on vacation. Tomorrow, [livejournal.com profile] roseambr and I are taking the Coast Starlight to Santa Barbara.

Now, I may be the only person in the world who dislikes Santa Barbara, but that's because my family moved there in the middle of my senior year of high school, and no town, however gorgeous, can honestly be expected to recover from that. But my brother still lives there, and he's having an art show, and I desperately need to get away from the World's Tallest Basement for a few days, and foreign travel is completely out of the question.

So tomorrow around lunchtime, I'm hauling my overworked self, my computer, my camera, a couple of bottles of wine, and a toothbrush down to Union Station, and--in a complete absence of TSA agents, X-rays, metal detectors, body-searches, zip-lock bags, shoe-removal, or the surrendering of liquids--walking onto Superliner Car 1130.

And then? Twenty-nine hours of Pacific coast scenery, leisurely conversation with my best friend, club car visiting, wine-sipping, reading, writing, and snoozing in the private roomette, followed by two days of art and architecture in Santa Barbara, which I am determined to make up with.

I'm sure there'll be at least a couple of photos.

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