NY Times columnist Nicholas Kristoff is running his third contest to take a student to Africa to see just what it's like there and report first hand what is experienced. Here are the rules of the contest: http://www.nytimes.com/marketing/winatrip/contestrules.html
The other day, I wrote in a different forum, about why I like to commute by bike. I'm not sure if I was being tested by the bike gods, or I just needed to be reminded about the role of irony in life, but Friday's bike commute was anything but what is a typically enjoyable and worthwhile experience. Though weather is not usually much of a factor in my rides to work, because I have all sorts of gear for just about any weather sort, including waterproof socks and insulated shoe covers (plus silk socks to go inside the waterproof socks, balaclavas, skull caps, gloves of varying wind and cold blocking capability, and glasses or goggles, plus jackets for wind and rain. In short, weather is generally nothing more than something to anticipate and deal with.
I finally mounted studs on my bike this afternoon, after finishing digging out from December's 61.5 inches of snowfall. This was a one-month record for Spokane, and it all started when we had a 24-hour record snowfall of 19.5 inches. Maybe not much by some standards, but since our annual average is 48 inches of snow.
We spent our Christmas holiday in Ireland. This was my first time driving on the wrong side of the road. Rachel didn't want to drive, so I did all of it. There's a lot to driving on the left of the road when all your life you've been driving on the right. The first thing to know about the Irish is they are good at building with stone. One our trip, not only did we see castles and ruins, but ring forts built hundreds of years ago without the use of mortar. They are simply stacked rocks. This was on the Kerry Peninsula. On the Dingle Peninsula we saw "beehive" structures, also made of stacked stone. These forts and structures of stacked rock have been standing for centuries. When driving, it's not these structures that matter.
As anyone could tell, if they read this blog, I didn't get very far in my novel this fall. In fact, having not even touched it for nearly the last three weeks, I'd have to consider it an abject failure. As I noted earlier I was/am planning on shifting the focus to my thoughts as a bicycle commuter. We'll see how that goes. I feel like I'm floundering with this thing and may just have to hang it up for awhile.
It's day 10 and I'm at 9,116 words, about as far behind schedule as I've ever been. I've got 20 days to get nearly 41,000 words, which is just over 2,000 a day. Maybe I can do it. Who knows. I'll keep slogging on, rather than giving up.
“Olivette,” Sally said, taking a pull on her cigarette, partially inhaling, exhaling and then inhaling it through her nose before exhaling in a long, deep breath that she blew toward the floor, away from Olivette. Their eyes met as Olivette put both hands to the top of the chairback and pulled it from the table so she could take a seat.
“Good afternoon Sally. I always love coming here, and sitting here,” she said with a hint of nervousness. “I love the warmth of the fire and listening to the crackle of it as well.” She pulled off her coat and handed it to the maitre ‘d who was standing behind her. It was one of her many furs, fox I think, maybe ermine. One could never tell. Sally didn’t have the furs that Olivette did and Olivette used that to her advantage when they would meet in public, and this was no exception. She watched as Sally’s smoke was pulled into the draft of the fireplace, disappearing up the chimney with the wood smoke. Thank you for agreeing to meet me.”
I'm slogging on, about 7680 words total, a little more than 2000 words behind schedule already. So it goes. Tobias wants me to read to him and I'm tired so I guess that means it's time to stop writing for today, hoping to catch up a bit over the weekend.
They ended up meeting at the Peacock Room in the Davenport Hotel. About the only place that could have been less private was the dining room at the Spokane Club. I guess, as women, they figured meeting in public would make it seem like nothing was happening, but that’s how I learned about their meeting, from the staff at the Hotel I make it my business to be on good terms with. All I have to do is tip well and speak poorly of Sally in front of them, though not to them, and they tell me what I need to know without my even having to ask. Olivette had lunch with her. It was a cool spring day and they sat near the fireplace, taking in the heat of the flaming logs, probably hoping the crack and pop of the burning wood would obscure what they had to say to one another. They would keep it civil, otherwise people would really know, even though they already did. It wasn’t like I tried to keep it a secret from anyone, except maybe I was discreet around Olivette, that Sally and I were spending time together around town, drinking, dancing, clubbing, just enjoying ourselves. Being open about it gave me less to worry about. Besides, both of them told me about their meeting, having lunch, so I heard it from each of them, the waiter, the bus boys, the maitre d’, the bell boys, you name it.
This is what I've been able to do yesterday and today. 6605 words total so far, behind by about a day's worth of writing. Yesterday I was distracted watching election returns, trying to write at the same time. That didn't work well. Today, I just don't/didn't have the time to write. More important, here is a link to the obituary for Dr. James McLaren Lansche, of Pocatello, Idaho. He'll be sorry missed in this family and beyond.
That’s the thing that makes me so mad about this election. I’m sitting here in my hospital room and bed, the boy and his children has left for home and left me alone to sit and watch all the liberal talking heads on the television talk about what a historic night this is, that no matter who wins, whether it’s John McCain or Barak Obama, that we’ll have either a black man or a woman in the White House, or damn near it in the case of Sarah Palin. Talk about not having a real choice, a black man or a woman. If that darky wins every one of them will be running wild in the streets, getting back at us white folks for all the wrong they think we’ve done them. No one will be safe from those rampaging idiots, no one. If I were younger, of if I weren’t hold up in this hospital, I’d be sure to have my guns out and ready to shoot any darky that tries to do me any harm. If they so much as tried to throw a rock through my window, I’d let them have it with both barrels. Those people can’t run their own lives so how do they think they can run the country, the best country on God’s green earth? Maybe it is the end times after all.
Late last night my brother-in-laws father died. His name was James MacLaren Lansche. He was a neurosurgeon in Pocatello, Idaho. The most direct thing he ever did for me was provide me a brother-in-law, thanks to my sister I guess, along with a friend and cycling partner when we're able. Less directly, they provided me a sense of family while I was in graduate school at Idaho State for a couple of years in the later 1980s. They fed me, housed me on occasion, brought me up to their Island Park cabin on the Henry's Fork and Jim and his wife Joan were also the first members of the extended to meet Tobias after his birth. It's quite a loss and considerably greater for my sister, brother-in-law and their kids. For what it's worth, this attempt at a novel is dedicated to the memory of James MacLaren Lansche, a wonderful man.
Back to the story:
If that neighbor, Bob, hadn’t gotten the city on me, I wouldn’t be here in the hospital nursing this broken hip, and I wouldn’t be looking forward to convalescing at Junior’s house, where I’d rather not have to spend any more time than necessary. Sure, the house is showing its age. No one disputes that, but I just don’t have the money to keep it up like I used to. When I was younger I could do the work myself, maybe get Junior to help out when I needed him, but in the last few years, it’s been tough. Like I said, I was kinda happy to see the new roof on the place. It took a little more time than it should have, but it’s an old house and stuff can go wrong. First they had to pull off all those tarps that were keeping out the rain. We put those up pretty good, good enough that they lasted for years, more years than I can remember. A little bit of moss was growing beneath, and beside those tarps, but that helped keep the rain out as well.
Word count through today is 3542, just above the minimum I need for each day. I was already feeling like I didn't want to spend the time writing today but I sat down and did it. Who knows what tomorrow will bring, but this is what today wrought:
All of this laying around in the hospital brings mother’s and father’s death to mind. Mother went first. I can’t remember exactly how old I was when she went. What I do remember is visiting her in the hospital, watching her waste away and die. She’d had a stroke and they got her to the hospital about as fast as anyone could get to a hospital, but it was too late to do anything for her. It became a deathwatch after that. My father, he’s also a Hank, which is why I’m a junior, and the boy I call Junior is actually the third. But that doesn’t much matter at this point. It’s my mother I’m talking about. They put her in a convalescent center, some call it a nursing home, but it was just a place to lay and die. We visited her every day, at least someone from the family did. She just lay there, occasionally squeezing a hand if we took hers in ours. But that was about all she could do as she lay there, waiting for the end.
This is the start of my third attempt at national novel writing month, where I try to crank out 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days. That's an average of 1666.66 or something words a day for the next 30 days. After that, the month of November that is, I'm going to switch the focus of the blog to my bike commuting. I just can't write about life at school, not without burning every bridge and pissing off every colleague and then some. Maybe if I was anonymous, like Bitch Ph.D. or something, or Confessions of a Community College Dean. I'm assuming both are anonymous, but who knows. And just so you know, I'm not the person who is at the center of this novel, real or imagined. Anyway, here's the first installment of the novel:
If this bed was more comfortable, I probably wouldn’t mind being laid up in the hospital, but the bed isn’t comfortable, so I mind it. Plus, the nurses, especially the darky, they keep prodding and poking me. I don’t like it when that darky touches me, pinches my skin to stick in a needle, grabs my arm to wrap the blood pressure cuff around it.. The other nurses are okay, at least the registered nurses, but their helpers, NACs they call them, seem like a bunch of daft idiots. That’s what the darky is, a NAC. Guess she’s not smart enough to be a real nurse. Figures.