Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Saturday Night's Alright

We cleaned the apartment Saturday morning, finally washing away the accumulated ash and dust that had blown in during the week. The blackness washed away from the bathtubs, the kitchen counters returned to their natural white shininess, the collection tub on our Dyson filled almost to the brim with a mixture of cat hair and ash, the duster turned grey and ugly after sweeping it over furniture tables walls and shelves. We opened the windows a fraction to allow the cool breeze to push the bleach and Pine-Sol odors from the apartment, and it felt good to relax on the sofa breathing in the fresh air.

One hour and two showers later, CM and I pulled up to the house of our friends M&L so we could get our "twin fix". We arrived just after feeding time and had only a few minutes to spend with them before naptime. Both babies seemed to be doing well: Riley was all chubby-cheeked smiles and fidgety happiness; Jackie grumped and cried her blue eyes out to be allowed to rest. Typical for the two of them, according to M. "Jackie hates eating. L sometimes waits until she asleep, and her little lips start puckering like shes feeding, then he slips the bottle in and she downs the whole thing in a few minutes." Once the kids were asleep, we managed to chat with M&L for almost an hour, talking about the joys and frustrations of raising twins, the lack of sleep and other unforseen pressures weighing down the two of them. The wonders of parenthood....

After a quick change we headed for Los Angeles to meet with Atlanta blogger Jef, visiting our neck of the country for a screenwriting conference. As we sped along the 710, Jef called to make sure we were still coming and to remind us that he was staying at hte Marriott. "Near LAX, right?" He confirmed and said to call once we were almost there. Twenty minutes later we're exiting the 105 by the airport, and I spotted the Marriott Courtyard immediately, phoned Jef, and pulled into the entrance by the fountains. A few minutes passed with no Jef. I called as we circled around the building on the off chance that he waited at a different entrance. And he was waiting at a different entrance -- to the Marriott two blocks away. I kept him on the phone as CM and I finally negotiated the streets to the correct hotel to find him walking along the sidewalk trying to spot our car. He hopped in the back seat, went through some very quick introductions and off we headed to West Hollywood for dinner at the French Market.

Unfortuantely, we exited the freeway too early so decided the scenic route through Los Angeles would make a good substitute for the endless trail of red taillights. This provided the perfect opportunity to talk about books, writing, life in Atlanta and in Long Beach, the fires, what kind of household cleaners we are most like, etc., and this line of conversation continued into the restaurant and throughout dinner. I will admit to being nervous at first, meeting someone whom I've only known through his blog for the past few years. Would I say something stupid? Did he think I didn't live up to my posts? But he quickly set my mind at ease, and the talk and laughs kept us both at ease.

We decided to drive through the main section of West Hollywood, maybe check out a bar or "A Different Light" bookstore, but too many people and too few places to park quickly put an end to that. Instead, we hopped on the 101 freeway and tried our luck at Oil Can Harry's which turned out to have a $12 cover charge. As we stood on the steps out front, debating if we wanted to spend that much money for perhaps 30 minutes inside the bar, two friends of ours whom we hadn't seen in months walked out the door almost as surprised as we were to see them. (Hi, Ike!) We chatted for a moment, then after they left opted for dessert at Jerry's Deli. I wandered from my diet once again with a gigantic butterscotch sundae; CM ate a large slice of fudge cake; and Jef chose the strawberry shortcake (with what we believe was a pickled strawberry on top). By the time we dropped Jef back at his hotel, the clock in CM's Honda glared 1:30am. And poor Jef had another day's worth of workshops before he could head back to Atlanta!!

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Early Bird

"...three...four..."

The many flowers turned the fountain into an island surrounded by a sea of white and pink petals. Chris stepped from the last stone onto the thin cement path encircling the fountain, setting his lunchbag and book on the fountain's edge while he brushed dirt and dust from a small stone bench. He still couldn't believe that no one else knew of this little spot, not too secluded because he could see a few office windows through the breaks in the wisteria and hear the faint rush of cars and people passing on the other side of the wall, but just enough that he'd yet to see another person enjoying the quiet in the three weeks since he first noticed it.

Chris sat down and opened the paper bag, popping open a can of soda then carefully unwrapping a bologna and cheese sandwich. He opened the book to his worn leather bookmark and held it in his left hand while gripping biting the sandwich in his right. The gurgling from the fountain slowly relaxed him, and he casually stretched his legs, crossing them at the ankles and settling them on the closest steppingstone.

A subtle movement caught his attention. He glanced up and saw an earthworm on the steppingstone farthest from him, writhing in a ray of sunlight. Chris watched for a few moments, about to return to his book and bologna, when small bird landed on the stone. Its head tilted quickly to both sides then darted down grasping one end of the worm in its beak. The bird started to fly away but was yanked back, hitting the ground hard enough for the worm to drop from its beak. The bird snapped once twice, caught the worm again and hopped back as another worm popped out of the ground. Chris stared as two more worms sprang from the ground, one wrapping itself around the bird's legs while another coiled around its neck pulling it to the ground. The worm in its beak forced itself into the mouth, holding the head down while still more worms appeared, swarming over the bird covering it in squirming brown mass as the soil beneath them churned and shifted pulling the bird down a whirlpool of earth. Within moments, the mass disappeared leaving no trace of the worms or the bird.

Chris stared, his sandwich and book forgotten.

Then, something brushed against his ankle.

a work of fiction, © G.A. Carter 2007

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Doubt

With the glut of fire coverage on TV, the internet, radio, newspapers, CS, RG and I decided that we needed a break to take our minds off what was happening not too far from us. So we met after work on Tuesday at the Claim Jumper. Still trying to stick to my diet, I ordered their Veggie Burger which is actually a Boca Burger (soy) served with gouda and carmelized onions. But I slipped a bit and devoured a red velvet cupcake for dessert. (It was a moment of weakness, and I will make up for it tonight at the gym. I promise.)

Afterwards, we crossed a footbridge connecting South Coast Plaza with the arts area across the street, following the concrete path as it wound through gigantic boulders (supposedly sculptures in disguise), birch and pine trees, and surprisingly thick green grass all with a light covering of ash. A quick left turn and the path opened to the South Coast Repertory, where we had discounted tickets for a preview showing of Doubt by John Patrick Shanley.
Once inside the theater, we debated about where our seats would be. The ticket discounters don't tell you the exact seats only a general area so when we followed the ticket stubs to Row E directly on the aisle, we were excited. RG sat down to read the program while CS and I wandered to the stage, trying to figure out how the set was going to be used. A principal's office took up almost the entire stage, yet through the windows at the back, we could see a rose garden with small stone benches and a full-sized statue of the Virgin Mary, blocked from the right side of the audience by the office set. Some action from the play must take place in that garden, and as we returned to our seats, we wondered how the set designers would allow everything to be seen.

The lights dimmed as a few stragglers took their seats.

Doubt tells the story of Sister Aloysius, the very hard-nosed and strict principal of St. Nicholas in the Bronx during 1964. She coaxes the novice Sister James into being her eyes and ears in the classroom, and when she learns from her the Father Flynn has taken an interest in Donal Muller, the newest student in school who also is the only black child at St. Nicholas, she is convinced that the friendship is unhealthy and determines to force Father Flynn to confess. Even though she has no proof nor any witnesses, only her faith that she knows how to read and to understand people. Tensions flare between Sister Aloysius and Father Flynn, but the story takes a more interesting turn when Sister Aloysius confront Donald's mother with her suspicions.

An amazing play that, by the end, left us all doubting who was telling the truth, doubting what actually happened between Father Flynn and Donald. The top-notch performances by each of the actors -- Linda Gehringer as Sister Aloysius, James Joseph O'Neil as Father Flynn, Kimberly Scott as Mrs. Muller and Rebecca Mozo as Sister James -- enhanced the tension of the story and had us gasping at each little twist of the tale. As for the set, when the action moved to the rose garden, the entire piece rotated, bringing the garden to the front of the stage so we looked through the windows into the principal's office. A nice piece of work, that. We left the theater talking non-stop about the story and the actors, even being joined by a woman who had seen the show in New York, telling us tidbits about how that production.

Still wound up and with the clock reading a mere 9pm, the three of us drove to The Tin Lizzie Saloon for a few drinks before heading home. Just what we needed to take our minds off real life, if only for a few hours.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Bookwhore Chronicles: Scottish Ghost Stories
From a pack of seals with skeletal faces haunting a loch in the Scottish highlands to a car that drives itself to a mysterious knocking coming from within a chimney, these supernatural tales will send a cold chill up and down your spine. Giles Gordon has amassed a fine collection of tales from 12 popular Scottish writers, including Elspeth Davie, Fred Urquhart, Forbes Bramble and Dorothy K. Haynes, each showing their unique view of the ghostly world mingling with the regular world. Some of the best tales are "A Holiday" about a family stopping their caravan for the night near a loch only to have the locals warn them of the mysterious seals; "Someone's Been Sitting in My Car" about a haunted mini-cooper; "Proud Lady in a Cage" about a modern young woman re-living an ancient witch trial. And then, the tale "Randal" about two elderly women and their unseen brother; by the end, I felt as though I had read a companion piece to Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily". A great collection to read on a spooky October night with the candles burning low.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

"Now Autumn's fire burns slowly along the woods and day by day the dead leaves fall and melt." ~ William Allingham

Trees bending westward in the heavy winds. Leaves, plastic bags, dirt and ash flowing across the freeway, colliding with the passing cars then either flying over or under to reach the opposite side. A heavy brown-grey cloud looming ahead as I made my way South along the 405 to work in Irvine.

The phone only rang sporadically with clients telling us they were closing for the day, employees either with severe breathing problems or taking time away to help family and friends clear away from the fire danger. A co-worker received a call from her roommate that the Irvine Spectrum, maybe two miles from our office, was being evacuated. I called my folks in Laguna -- south of the fire -- to make sure they were okay; my Area Manager called her mother who was gathering her things to stay with family in Orange. We somehow managed to get our work done, all the while watching the ash spew across the windows like sleet in the heavy gusts or sneaking a few minutes to read news reports online.

Until 2PM when the power quit. Phone lines and computers down, traffic lights dark, even the airport just across the street crippled for the half hour the outage lasted. Luckily for us, that's the worst we dealt with; our co-workers in San Diego closed the office early to evacuate their homes.

The office has been quiet today. We heard from one employee that he watched the fire turn away from his neighborhood last night, saving many homes. Thankfully some good news. Only a light breeze blows, but the air outside feels like an oven -- not due to the fires, though. Ash still falls, and the thick brown cloud lingers in the air turning the sunlight a spectral orange-yellow. What a relief when this will all be over!

Monday, October 22, 2007

"...and all the wave was in a flame." ~ Alfred, Lord Tennyson "The Holy Grail"

...waking Sunday morning, I turned on the TV and watched the stories unfolding: fire in Malibu, Kashan Castle burned, Santa Ana winds with gusts of more than 70mph, power lines snapped. We tried to do other things that morning -- I read a few more pages of my book while CM clicked the other channels to see what was on -- but the fires drew us back. And we sat as the helicopters hovered far above the large water-dropping copters as they showered the burning areas, reporters on scene attempted to report through the heavy winds, one man described how he and his son drove through the flames hoping to get through only to have the car stall but managed to reverse out of the flames and run from the car. Every channel from the major players to the smaller locals devoted all their time to the flames....

...driving to Polly's Pies for breakfast, I pointed toward Signal Hill. The light blue sky stopped suddenly into a wall of beige-grey that obscured Cherry St. and the buildings surrounding it. We entered that wall, the light changing to a preternatural dusk, the bursts of wind throwing dirt leaves trash and ash at the car. I briefly turned on the air conditioner to clear the charred smell and hopefully to make breathing a bit easier....

...CM read the paper while I concentrated on the funnies and the crossword puzzle. But the images of smoke and flames continued to draw us in. Malibu fire caused by power lines snapped by the wind. Flames and embers jumping streets and causing more damage. We watched only up to a point -- when a reporter stepped into a dry fountain and began displaying many of the items pulled from Kashan Castle, paintings photographs family documents, without any tact. CM turned off the TV, and out the door we headed....

...dirt smoke ash flew into our eyes as we walked to The Center Long Beach for a few hours of bingo. I constanly blinked, rubbed my eyes, coughed until we stepped inside the Center. We each paid our entry fee and sat down at a back table with our daubers poised. Three hours and thirteen games later, we'd met a few new people and enjoyed a nice break (though I spent quite a while later vainly scrubbing at the ink on my hands). From the Center we strolled to The Pizza Place for an early dinner. Peope passed us shielding faces from the flying debris; I kept my head down for the same reason but still had to force tears to clear my eyes....

...before going to bed, the news told of a new fire threating homes in Irvine. The bright orange-yellow fireline shone against the blackness of the hills, merely feet from tract homes. Arson was suspected, this time. Zero percent under control....

...I toweled down the shower this morning, cleaning away the ash that filtered through the tiny bathroom window and screen. The apartment smelled of smoke, as though the heart of the fire had rushed through Long Beach while we slept. A thick layer of dirt mixed with ash covered my car. I ran the wipers three four times without the cleaning spray to clear the windshield. Driving down 7th St. toward the freeway, the loose dirt and ash quickly blew away, and I saw the dark orange-brown cloud hovering toward Orange County. I merged into a lane on the freeway and sped to work.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Kung Pao with the Happy Couple



We hadn't seen my Brother and his Wife since the wedding back in August. Not exactly atypical for my Brother and me; I rarely saw them during the three years I lived not more than 200 feet from them. And since the wedding the time's been crammed with the honeymoon, my Brother's training for a marathon next month on Santa Catalina Island, my living in Long Beach, my being sick, excuse after excuse after excuse being tossed atop the pile.



According to my Dad, my Brother had promised to call close to my birthday so we could figure out a time and place to get together. The day came and went, followed by a week, so I finally called him, and we arranged to meet for dinner last night at Chen's, just a few blocks from our apartment. Neither of them had eaten there before so I hoped they would find it to be a treat. We order dinner combinations with varying entrées of Kung Pao vegetables, cashew chicken, sweet & sour pork and string beans with chicken then chatted away until the meals came. They filled us in on their honeymoon cruise to Cabo San Lucas, how they spent an interesting lunch at Cabo Wabo's during which my Brother -- under the influence of a large amount of alcohol -- apparently hung upside down next to a gigantic marlin and had his picture taken (I'll believe it when I see the picture), taking the small boats from the docks back to the ship across choppy waters thanks to Hurricane Dean, standing on deck at 4PM watching the remaining tourists who didn't make it back to the ship yelling and screaming on the dock as the cruise ship departed.

After dinner, we each filled a styrofoam box with leftovers and walked back to our apartment to show them the place.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

I Confess

So Trevor at Buffalo Void tagged me with The Confession Meme, and I thought, why not? Here goes:

Taken a picture completely naked? No.

Made out with a friend on your MySpace/Facebook page? I don't even have a MySpace or Facebook page.

Danced in front of your mirror naked? Danced...no.

Told a lie? Yes.

Had feelings for someone who didn’t have them back? Yes, many moons ago.

Been arrested? No. (Just call me Mr. Goody-Two-Shoes.)

Made out with someone of the same sex? Yes.

Seen someone die? No, thank goodness.

Slept in until 5pm? Only once, when I caught bronchial pneumonia back in the second grade.

Had sex at work? No.

Fallen asleep at work/school? Yes to the school.

Held a snake? Yes.

Ran a red light? Yes.

Been suspended from school? No. Mr. Goody-Two-Shoes, remember?

Totaled your car in an accident? Yes. Very recently, as a matter of fact.

Pole danced? Smoked? Pole dance - that would be no. Smoked: cigarettes/cigars - no.

Been fired from a job? Nope. But I have been laid off.

Sang karaoke? Yes, and thank goodness it was early enough no one was around to hear it at the bar.

Done something you told yourself you wouldn’t? Yes: karaoke. And a few other things.

Laughed until a drink came out your nose?Yes.

Caught a snowflake on your tongue? Yes.

Kissed in the rain? I've been kissed while it was raining.

Sang in the shower? Yes.

Given your private parts a nickname? No.

Ever gone out without underwear? No.

Sat on a roof top? Yes.

Played chicken? No.

Been pushed into a pool with all your clothes on? No.

Broken a bone? Popped one? No.

Mooned/flashed someone? Yes. My college marching band was on a road trip to UC Davis so we cut through San Francisco. Halfway across the Golden Gate Bridge, a number of us dropped trou at the passing cars.

Shaved your head? No.

Slept naked? No.

Played a prank on someone? Yes.

Had a gym membership? Yes, since 1997.

Felt like killing someone? Yes.

Made your girlfriend/boyfriend cry? An ex boyfriend, yes.

Cried over someone you were in love with? Yes.

Had sex more than 10 times in one day? No.

Had Mexican jumping beans for pets? No.

Been in a band? Does a marching band count?

Subscribed to Maxim? No.

Taken more than 10 shots of alcohol? No.

Shot a gun? Only in an arcade.

Had sex today? No.

Played strip poker? No.

Tripped on mushrooms? No.

Donated Blood? Yes, back in college before I came out.

Video taped yourself having sex? No.

Eaten alligator meat? Frog legs? No on both counts, but I have tried ostrich.

Ever jump out of an airplane? No.

Have you been to more than 10 countries? No.

Ever wanted to have sex with a platonic friend? No.

I know that I'm supposed to tag five people, but I'll let anyone who wants to participate do so at his/her discretion.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A Dream That Lingers

Maybe I have the cough syrup to thank for the bizarre dreams of the past few nights. Everything from bizarre amusement parks with illogical roller coasters to pushing a wheelchair through a farmer's crop of cactus turning into miniature palm trees. But the one that seems to linger most is from two nights (mornings?) ago -- and only the tail end of what happened....

A tall man with short-cut dark hair is walking beside me around a two-story house. He's mumbling something, but I'm paying more attention to the eerie feel of the place: darkened and broken windows, the foundation set upon stilts above thick green water. I walk through the front door tugging a cat on a leash who immediately jumps into a beaten chair with stuffing pouring through rips. The yellowed wallpaper is peeling, the stairs seem almost makeshift. Other people beginning running through the door, and the dark-haired man pleads with me to run upstairs. I grab the cat, head for the stairs just as the house shakes breaks off into the water slowly sinking. Another step and the house capsizes, rushing me and two others out the door. One of the men grabs onto a wooden gate similar to the entrance to a fort while I toss the cat onto the dock and scrabble up a few boards to the dock. Something brushes against my feet just as I yank myself from the water, and a mixed wave of fear and relief rushes through me. The bottom of the house sinks out of sight as it passes through the wooden gate.

Maybe I shouln't read Stephen King before going to bed....

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Bookwhore Chronicles: Daisy Miller
Mr. Winterbourne, a young American vacationing in Vevey, Switzerland, meets the intriguing Daisy Miller while reading in the lobby of the tourist hotel. At once finding her nonchalance and disaffectedness "flirtatious," he strikes up a conversation about the Swiss countryside and decides to invite her to visit the Château de Chillon located on a small island in Lake Geneva, something she wanted to see but was prevented from doing so by her Mother and young brother. His puzzlement and infatuation with her grows even more after speaking with his aunt about the proposed trip. She believes her to be beneath his station and simply not the right sort of person in general, trying to persuade him not to take her to the château. He takes her, anyway, and comes back even more enthralled and confused at her indifference.

Soon, Winterbourne is off to Rome, and knowing that Daisy will be there within the month, eagerly awaits her arrival. When he finally meets with her, she's in the company of an Italian named Giovanelli which causes quite a scandal among the wealthy, Victorian women. A young American girl, cavorting about Rome unchaperoned is not something they can abide so they shun her at parties hoping to convince her to change her ways. But to no avail as Winterbourne discovers that her indifference has turned into a form of rebellion, continuing to see Giovanelli in public and after hours, which ultimately brings about her downfall.

When this novel first appeared, it created quite a sensation and made a name for Henry James. I just don't get it. Daisy is a very unlikable character, and I found myself wondering why Winterbourne would be affected by her lack of interest in him as much as he was. I would have pushed any thoughts of her aside when she showed a lack of interest. To me she was the ultimate tacky American tourist, expecting foreign lands to be exactly like home -- for her, like Schenectady, NY. She paid no attention to the customs of the country, and even less attention to how others viewed her. Sometimes, that can be a good trait, but with such a character as Daisy, it lessened any kind of empathy I should have felt for her. And by the end of the tale, I felt no remorse for her character, rather I heaved a sigh of relief that it was over.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Across the Universe

Across the Universe happens to be one of the movies I've wanted to see this year, ever since the previews ran more than 4-5 months ago. Part because I'm a fan of Julie Taymor and her movies; part because I wanted to know how she would use only The Beatles' music to tell a story from beginning to end.
>The movie tells the story of Jude, a young Liverpudlian dockworker who travels to the States in search of his father, a U.S. soldier who left his mother during WWII, and of Lucy a clean-cut teenager who sweetly dreams of life with her high school sweetheart who's recently left to fight in Vietnam. Their paths cross when Jude befriends Lucy's brother Max while at Princeton and is smitten by her. Soon they find themselves surviving with other young folks in New York during the heydey of the hippies, the radicalsim of the anti-war movement and the drug culture of the 1960s. And all of this told view stunning visuals and the soundtrack of The Beatles' music.

First of all, everyone sings. No fill-in voices à la Marni Nixon who stepped in for Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady. What's better, they all have decent voices: Jim Sturgess (Jude), Evan Rachel Wood (Lucy), T.V. Carpio (Prudence), Joe Anderson (Max), Dana Fuchs (a Janis Joplinesque Sadie) and Martin Luther McCoy (a Jimi Hendrix-type JoJo). And hearing some of the songs re-worked gives whole new understandings to them, such as Prudence singing a much-slowed-down version of I Want To Hold Your Hand turning it into a plea for unrequited love -- you see, she's a lesbian who's also a high school cheerleader in love with a fellow cheerleader -- and Let It Be beginning as a plea to end the violence during the Detroit riots and turning into a funereal gospel hymn. As the times changed so did the Beatle's music to fit the mindset of the generation faced with going to war. Second, Julie Taymor offers a visually entrancing world, filled with colors and sounds and her trademark masks and choreography. She effectively shows the line between the good and the bad, especially in the I Want You (She's So Heavy) sequence when Max reluctantly shows before the draft board. The Uncle Sam posters come to life trying to grab him while he flees into a conveyor-belted chamber lined with G.I. Joe-types striping him and sending him to the examination room. Third, the cameos: Joe Cocker (wowing the audience with Come Together), Bono, Eddie Izzard as Mr. Kite and Salma Hayek.

I enjoyed the film immensely. A very non-traditional musical format, but it worked well and gave a good impression of that particular era, the sentiments regarding the war in Vietnam, and the reactions of people and music to it. And yes, I already bought the soundtrack and have overplayed it.

A Random Long Beach Moment happened, too, while walking down the stairs from the restrooms. Three older women, probably in their 60s, were climbing the steps chatting about how they loved the movie. The tallest of the three even said this was the second time she had seen it, to the surprise of the other two. "I love the music and acting. And that Jude...what a hottie!"

Friday, October 12, 2007

Tx Updates

Diesel: Much, much better after that last visit with the vet. No more antibiotics. No more Gerbers. He seems to have recovered quickly, waking us up at 5am for his early morning snack by either standing on one of our chests looking directly into the face and meowing nonstop or by pawing at the covers until one of turns over causing him to tumble from the bed. I awoke this morning with him atop my pillow sniffing my forehead.

Dad: He's about one-third through the radiation treatments and remains in good spirits. No complaints of the "radiation sunburn" and just a mere hint at being tired. And the machine stopped working only once so far which is a very minor setback. If everything else goes well, he should be finished by the time Thanksgiving rolls around so keep your fingers crossed!

Me: My ears still feel a bit plugged, like a balloon on its last draughts of helium before finally floating to the ground. My voice has lost its Barry White quality though I still sound a little stuffed. Thankfully, this doesn't seem to have worked its way into my chest so anything and everything comes from the sinuses. I don't know if any snot's left in my head after the trashcansfull of Kleenex yesterday -- very pleasant for the office, I must admit. I'm also considering buying stock in Purell; my hands are almost raw from emptying the bottle on my desk.

And yes, I do feel guilty for not going to the gym this week, but I didn't want to risk making myself worse (he says poking at the newly-formed fat around his waist and watching it wiggle from side to side like a mini-tsunami.)

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Bookwhore Chronicles: All the Pretty Horses
His grandfather dies, giving his father the chance to sell the ranch. His mother leaves to become an actress. For 16-year-old John Grady Cole, this gives him impetus to travel with his best friend Lacey Rawlins to Mexico for a life change. They set out from San Angelo on horseback, traveling the rough stark rugged country that creates the broder between the U.S. and Mexico, sleeping at night in the tall grasses trekking through arroyos and crossing streams. Before reaching the border, a young sharpshooter named Jimmy Blevins catches up with them and joins them for a short while as they venture into Mexico. Until during a storm, Blevins loses his horse and sets out to find him. John and Rawlins continue on, eventually finding work at a hacienda rounding up and breaking in wild horses. John also finds himself attracted to the hacendado's daughter Alejandra. And the attraction seems to be mutual.

But this new easy life is not as idyllic as John would hope, once the police come looking for him and Rawlins. The boy Blevins found his horse and killed a few people along the way and implicated John and Rawlins as well. The hacendado gives them up to the police, and they soon learn hard lessons about life and justice in a Mexican prison.

I only recently began to enjoy McCarthy's works, with my reading of The Road last year. Very easy-going with his style which hearkens to Faulkner -- only much more readable. Dialogue and scenic descriptions flow very naturally in a very vivid manner, and I found myself getting caught up with this young cowboy trying his luck in a new country. I felt along with him as he discovered his love for Alejandra his pain during the fight in the prison and his guilt at killing someone, all the while remaining true to himself and to his beliefs. And though the story is set in the 1940's-1950's, it reads as though it were a traditional Western set in the late 1800's with very few mentions of cars or electrical lights or other modern conveniences.

A quiet but powerful novel about coming of age and a great introduction to McCarthy's Border Trilogy.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Bookwhore Chronicles: Armchair Traveler Challenge

Yikes! I haven't kept up with my bookwhorishness in my postings lately. That doesn't mean I haven't been reading, because I have. A lot. In order to get myself back into the groove of my book-related posts, I'm joining the Armchair Traveler Challenge from A Life in Books. Albeit a bit late in the game. My selection of books to read for this challenge:

All the Pretty Horses (United States/Mexico)
Scottish Ghost Stories (Scotland)
Allah Is Not Obliged (The Ivory Coast/Liberia/Sierra Leone)
Daisy Miller (Switzerland/Italy)
Rhadopis of Nubia (Egypt)
The Stone Raft (Portugal/Spain)

But not necessarily in that order. Plus, I have to keep up with my gay/lesbian reading as well as my mini-book group. And, because it's October, I need to throw in a few horror tales.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Birthday Remix: part 2

We missed out on attending the Unofficial Gay Days yesterday thanks to this late Summer/early Winter cold of mine. My throat became scratchy and rough on Friday but crept into my chest on Saturday morning, and neither of us wanted to make things worse by running around a theme park for hours.

But that didn't stop me from taking Wednesday -- my actual birthday -- off to enjoy the parks.


I arrived around 9:30am, grabbed a pumpkin and raisin muffin in California Adventure, and rode almost everything in the park by 11:30. So I wandered over to Disneyland, rode the Haunted Mansion, ate lunch, rode more rides and wandered around the shops. With so few people, I went back and forth between the two parks for most of the day, riding quite a few attractions more than once, being given special pins for the "Year of a Million Dreams" event, and taking time to try the things I usually avoid. Which turned out to be interesting when I discovered the Toy Story zoetrope in the Animation building. Hypnotic....

I returned home around 5pm, and CM and I were joined by RG for dinner at Lasher's.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Birthday Remix: Part 1
CM and I stopped by the Ahmanson on Sunday to take in a showing of Avenue Q. When I start to tell people about the show, that it's an adult version of Sesame Street, they automatically think of the puppets and wonder why anyone who's older than three would want to see a show with puppets. I even know a few people who won't see it strictly because of the puppets. I try to explain what they're missing: Princeton and Kate Monster having some of the wildest dirtiest raunchiest sex on any stage; the hilarious songs like Everyone's a Little Bit Racist and It Sucks To Be Me; the imaginative choreography; the amazing actors who sing and dance while toting those foam things all across the stage; Gary Coleman is a character in the show....GARY COLEMAN!!! And I tangle my words because I remember how much fun the show was, how my face hurt from laughing so much.

The songs are smart and funny, taking a stab at the politically correct world in which we live. Incredible acting and singing, and I found myself watching the puppets more than the people, as if they sang and dance on their own. Very imaginative staging and choreography. And just that little extra touch to make it feel like watching an episode of a (very adult) children's educational program. Good to know other people can overlook the whole puppet situation, too, because the theater was packed as we could plainly see from our seats flush against the back wall of the orchestra. We enjoyed one of the funniest shows and left the theater singing laughing quoting lines from our favorite characters - the Bad Idea Bears (pictured): "Take her home, she's wasted!!" "Play a drinking game. That's a recipe for fun!!" "You could always hang yourself!" "It's just a Long Island Iced Tea. They're so sweet and delicious!!" -- all in a sickeningly sweet, Snuggle-Bear babytalk.

What a fantastic show!!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Diesel Update

Thank you to everyone for your comments about Diesel. He seems to be back to his old self, meowing like crazy and demanding food the minute one of us returns home. For the moment, we are withholding the hard food as requested by the vet, instead spooning baby food onto his plate -- again, per the vet's request -- which he seems to enjoy eating. Almost too much. He licks the plate clean in order to get that last bit of Gerber's. A good sign that the ulcer on his tongue is healing.

We take him back to the vet on Saturday morning, and Rey, we'll try your suggesting of wrapping him in the towel first before bringing out the pet carrier.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Bleeding Pussy...Cat

Last night, we had to take Diesel to the pet hospital.

We both arrived home about the same time and usually, once we open the door, Diesel meows loudly, rubbing against the coffee table or our legs until one of us fetches a small dish and a tin of soft cat food from the fridge. Last night, we opened the door, and he just stared at us from beneath a chair. No chorus of meows. No rubbing back and forth. We immediately thought he may have coughed up a hairball so while I checked the hallway and bedroom, CM proceeded to the kitchen for cat food. I didn't notice anything unusual in the hall, entered the dark bedroom, flipped on the light by the bed corner, and stared at the sheets. It took me a few moments to call CM to the room, and we both fixated on the left corner of the bed. The comforter and sheets beneath showed patches of blood -- from a few spots to what looked like paw-sized prints. We checked the rest of the bed, the carpet, underneath the bed, any place we could think of that Diesel likes to rest, but found no other spots of blood.

We both hoped it was just a single event and decided to keep an eye on the cat, just in case. CM set his plate of food by his water dish, and he greedily ate the food. At least he had a healty appetite and no problems swallowing. But CM noticed that Diesel started to paw at his face, semi-hacking as if trying to dislodge something from his throat. CM tried to take a closer look, but Diesel ran to the guest bedroom and hid beneath the bed. We debated calling a vet to see if we should take him in, finally calling and being told to watch him, to bring him in if the bleeding started again. Diesel eventually joined us in the living room where we were eating a late dinner, and I noticed him favoring his left front paw. I also thought it had a bit of blood near the nails so we called the vet again, and she recommended a pet hospital. I changed clothes while CM retrieved the cat carrier from the garage.

Cats DO NOT like pet carriers. Diesel howled clawed struggled and fought against that tiny plastic door. CM set the carrier on one end and managed to lower him in, locking the door as he clawed against it. All the way down the back stairs to the car, Diesel howled as if being taken to the slaughter -- perhaps flashbacks to his last vet visit which involved an enema dashed through his mind -- but we finally placed the carrier in the backseat on zoomed to the pet hospital.

The doctor checked his racing heart, lungs and claws without finding anything amiss. However, his mouth was bleeding and his teeth covered in tartar which he said might be the root of the bleeding. Diesel struggled against having his mouth forcibly opened so the doctor didn't get too good of a look inside. He recommened a good teeth cleaning as soon as possible to take care of any gum disease poor Diesel may have then injected an antibiotic into him.

Fast forward to this morning, CM scheduled an appointment at the regular vet for this afternoon. He called a short while ago to say that Diesel in fact had a bleeding ulcer on his tongue, probably cut open at some point yesterday afternoon. Not much that the vet could do besides prescribe an antibiotic and wait for it to heal on its own.

We take him back for a checkup on Saturday morning.

Poor kitty.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Random Long Beach Moments

Driving through the parking structure at The Pike, we turned onto one aisle, slowing to a stop behind a large black Expedition trying to carefully maneuver a corner. The driver seemed uncomfortable behind the wheel, possibly her first time driving such a behemoth of a vehicle. She eventually managed the turn, and with all the aisles being One Way only, we had to follow her in order to reach the other parking spaces and levels. Soon we again slowed to a stop while she inched her way around a tighter corner. We both recognized the frustrated look on her face but were surprised when she leaned out the window saying to us, "Stop following me!"