Tuesday, March 27, 2012

kirk and suzy's excellent adventure continues

Welcome to Schweitzer
One thing I'm really working on with my writing is the whole upping the tension thing. You know what I'm talking about, right? Where you keep flinging your hero into ever-escalating mayhem? I prefer, however, to keep that paradigm on the page. In real life, I'm not a fan of snake pits and the edges of cliffs.

That's why I was thrilled when our windshield wiper debacle concluded this morning thanks to my husband's mad auto mechanic skills. Ye olde auto parts store and a ten buck relay was all it took, and we were back in business ready for a day on the hill above Sandpoint.

That thing on Kirk's head? Worth every penny.
Our own hill tends towards ice, rain and slime this time of year, so the powder that greeted us on Schweitzer was worthy of five star smiles all around. Exploring new pistes and taking in spectacular vistas -- all good. Right before lunch, we decided to pop up the Lakeview Triple lift. That's where our hero, Kirk Soule, fixer of all minor car malfunctions, mistimed his leap from the lift and sent his dear wife ass over teakettle before getting slammed in the noggin by the next chair bar. It was poiseless and embarrassing, but, thank God, not fatal -- though it took longer than it should for the stoner lift attendent to stop the presses so Kirk could get untangled from the lift stile.

Take away of the day? Helmets. Always. No exception.

Tune in tomorrow when Kirk, Carson and Suzy return for day two of their excellent Idaho adventure.

road trip

 It's spring break and here we are in Sandpoint, Idaho visiting my husband's brother Michael and getting ready to ski. Hopefully. So far it's been a little bit Chevy Chase-ish. Halfway through our road trip we took a wrong turn and ended up meandering through the Palouse amid the hundreds of ghostly wind turbines and their sleek arms churning the air to pieces.

At one point, caught behind an bulldozer-carting oversized truck and its "long load" bodyguards, we peeled off the road to touch one of these beasts behind its barbed wire enclosure.  If we were in a movie, this is where some alien or posse of meth dealers or flock of mad scientists would seize our trespassing selves and take us down to a secret tunnel under the dry land wheat fields and waterboard us.

That didn't happen, and we were free to make our way north and east to our destination.

Then, the rain started. A cold, wet downpour pelted our minivan windshield as we wound up the highway toward our destination, and, all of the sudden, our wipers froze.

By this time it was night, and we were still 20 or so miles shy of target. We had that long bridge into Sandpoint still to cross. I don't care what anyone says, driving post a couple of martinis would have been far easier. It was like seeing the world from inside a van Gogh, this mottled version of the landscape. The rain continued to fall on my head, which was hanging out the passenger window guiding my husband's journey with such specific instructions as, "You're veering a wee bit too close to the guardrail." And, "Okay, looks like we're about to lose our lane."

Somehow we made it, and met Michael in town, then followed his lead car to his house in the hills. Now I know what it's like to be the driver of an oversized vehicle everyone curses when they get stuck behind.

We slept. We got up, and Kirk's now out in Sandpoint looking for a mechanic who might fix the wiper debacle, but we're told the sun will be out all morning. So that's good.  I'm thinking we should harness the power of one of those massive turbines -- maybe even invent a tiny wind-generated set of windshield wipers -- for the trip home later this week? It's always sobering to realize how at the mercy of civilization's milestones we really are.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Rocking the Elliptical

It's been raining here a lot lately. Okay, it's the Pacific Northwest, and it's March, so, duh! But I'm not talking the gentle, constant mist punctuated with the occasional showery downpour. No. it's been gale-force knocking-power-out winds, sheets of deluge, cold to the point of ice pellets. It's so soggy outside my chickens are screaming for little umbrellas. The cat has given me the middle claw repeatedly when I've suggested she pop outside and kill a sparrow or two, just to get her out of her funk.

And, as you all know, I'm a soccer mom, so that means hypothermic toes and fingers on the sidelines.

It also means that my quest for balance, healthy exercise, the eating of salads and so forth? In the toilet. Except for that heart rate-boosting 45 minutes a day at the gym where I don my ridiculously over sized purple Plattan headphones, and take my Spotify-fueled iPhone to the Elliptical. (Okay, I just realized that there are four words in that last sentence that didn't exist 10 years ago. Scary.)

Here's the problem though. I listen to the same damn music all the time and I'm getting really bored. I'm reaching out, guys. I need a new playlist! Can y'all give me your top workout songs? Extra credit if you have like max heart rate ones AND mellow cool down ones. I know, I'm asking a lot...

Monday, March 05, 2012

AWP Redux

My last visit to the Association of Writers & Writing Programs Conference was in 2007. Nobody was talking about YA. Blogs were an outlier. Facebook was for college kids. Twitter didn't exist. Don't even get me started on the absence of the "word" ebook. Amazon? Nobody was threatened by them then; Barnes & Noble were still referred to as Big & Nasty by the Indies.

Seems a fantastic futuristic pitch back then would have been a Sci/Fi set in 2012.

Of course, some of the same old, same old seminars were prevalent. Truth in memoir, POV, building a strong writing program, the connection between creative nonfiction and poetry, etcetera. The book fair was a vast and curious place that had to be experienced in increments lest participants (particularly middle aged female participants) fell prey to lethal hot flashes.

Chicago was its windy, flat early March self, ranging from 50 degree tolerable to flurries and bone chill. The Palmer House's Sistine Chapelesque lobby turned out to be my favorite place to hang out and visit with writing chums.

I finally met a group of women I've been buddies with online this last year--which was, I think, worth the price of admission. I also ran into old friends from grad school, and a woman I met back in 19fucking95 at the Prague Summer Writers' Workshop. Which really brought home the sense that the conference was replete with teenagers. Smart teenagers, but teenagers never-the-less.

The thing about this huge event that I both love and loathe, is the finding the gem in the chaos of an untended treasure chest syndrome. Seriously, my jewelry dish, with its knot of baubles, is an apt metaphor for my particular experience. Where are my favorite earrings? What ever happened to my strand of pearls? It was as though I were moving through my bling with fingerless hands--I felt slow, behind, quick-sanded. I felt anxious after settling onto a patch of floor behind a pillar once I finally decided on a particular seminar--wondering what I was missing in the Hilton down the street. Ill-prepared note-taking-wise, I ended up scribbling upon scraps of paper I'd found in my room, and on the backs of handouts from the yoga teacher in the hotel gym. It didn't help, I guess, that I sort of had this virusy, fluish thing going on the whole time.

Overall, it was like my trip last year to Disneyworld. I had four days and too many options. I was torn between trying to fill every minute with adventure and experience, and selecting a few peak options, and percolating my way through them. In the end, I did it both ways.

How about you folks? Do you like big, ambitious metropolitan conferences, or are you more of a cabin-in-the-woods with a book type?