Thursday, April 28, 2011

On Teenage Dogs and Thunderstorms

I have been very quiet on here, mainly because I have actually been busy, both with work and packing.  In just over two weeks, I'll be moving back to VA.  My brain hasn't really figured out how I feel about that yet.  I'll let you know.  In the meantime, would you like a quick Vista story?

So it's nearly been a year since Vista scuttled awkwardly into my life and settled herself in as its neurotic little heart.  As much as having her has changed the day-to-day of me, I've had a chance to watch her change, as well.  The most recent change is that she has basically become a snotty little teenager.  As 1 year, 9 months (or so) puts her squarely in the pre-teen age range, I suppose it makes sense.  And if you don't believe that a dog can display teenage person-like tendencies, then you have not heard one of her patented exaggerated sighs.  I swear she even rolls her eyes.

Last night, we had hours of thunderstorms.  Vista's bed is just beneath the window, so she was getting the worst of the light and noise.  At one point, there was a crash of thunder so loud that it woke me up (which is nearly impossible to do without, say, a baseball bat) and I immediately leaned over to check on Vista.  Well, I may sometimes forget that she spent the first chunk of her life living outside, but she certainly hasn't.  Apparently thunder is nothing to her.  In the dark, I couldn't really tell how she was, so I said "Baby, are you okay?" thinking that if she wasn't, she'd likely take the cue and jump into bed with me.  At that moment, lightening lit up the room, and Vista sat up to give me a look that I can only describe as "Woman, I am sleeping here.  What is your problem?"

Uppity little brat.

My mom is fond of saying of Vista, "This is going to be a great dog in about five years."  I can only hope that she's right.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Galapagos Lists

I just spent a week in the Galapagos Islands.  My aunt was in charge of photos after my camera died, so I don't have any to share just yet, but until I do here are some lists.

Things I Already Miss About the Galapagos
(this list is, as always, in no particular order)

1. the vast, vast Pacific Ocean
2. looking out the window to see Galapagos Sharks swimming around the ship
3. catching sight of a ray leaping in the distance
4. the Frigatebirds circling above
5. the way the ship rocked gently at night
6. plantain chips (yum)
7. swimming with Sea Lions and Green Sea Turtles
8. the scent and taste of the sea air
9. the way everyday brought a new excitement or discovery, even for the people who lived there

The Animals I Saw There (Off The Top Of My Head)

1. Galapagos Sea Lions (lots--many while snorkeling)
2. Fur Sea Lions (2)
3. Blue-Footed Boobies (lots)
4. Red-Footed Boobies (lots)
5. Nazca Boobies (also called Masked Boobies) (lots)
6. Land Iguanas (9)
7. Marine Iguanas (lots)
8. Waved Albatross (1)
9. Galapagos Dove (these are the prettiest) (a few)
10. Swallow-Tail Gull (lots)
11. Short Eared Owl (6)
12. Galapagos Hawk (1)
13. Smooth-Billed Ani (1)
14. Flamingoes (3)
15. Great Blue Herons (5 or so)
16. Black-winged Stilts (a few)
17. Green Sea Turtles (5--2 while snorkeling)
18. Golden Rays (4)
19. Sting Rays (2--both while snorkeling)
20. Spotted Eagle Ray (1--while snorkeling)
21. Galapagos Penguins (18--1 while snorkeling)
22. Hammerhead Sharks (10--all while snorkeling)
21. White-tipped Reef Shark (1--while snorkeling)
22. Black-tipped Reef Sharks (3)
23. Galapagos Sharks (a few)
24. Giant Tortoises (lots)
25. Lava Lizards (lots)
26. Great Frigatebirds (lots)
27. Wild Goat (1) (this was randomly very exciting)
28. Sea Cucumbers (lots)
29. Moorish Idols (a few)
30. Porcupinefish (1)
31. Pufferfish (2)
32. Parrotfish (lots)
33. King Angelfish (lots)
34. Yellow-tailed Sturgeonfish (lots)
35. Brown Pelicans (tons)
36. Sally Lightfoot Crabs (a gazillion)

I've run out of animals, but not out of love.  I have so much love for that place, though.  I would go back in a second (the honeymooning couple on our boat put ideas in my head), but next time I think I'd do this trip and check out Peru, as well.  And I would do during the Albatross mating season so I could see their ridiculous mating dance.

Ha ha ha, listen to me talking like I have money and can afford to travel!

(Thank you, Anne, you are the very best aunt a poor, travel-addicted could EVER HAVE.)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Shots From Around Town

When I first moved to Marlinton, I took my huge secondhand Canon DSLR out and walked around the town snapping photos.  Today, since it's beautiful, I have a new secondhand camera I'm trying out, and my dog is a canine perpetual motion machine, I decided to recreate that walk.  Here are the shots I got, as well as two from another walk yesterday.  They're far from professional-looking since my trial-and-error method of figuring out cameras is often more error than trial, but I'm getting there.

The camera is a Polaroid Colorpack II, which was produced from 1969-1972, so mine dates from sometime in there.  It originally came with a detachable flash, which mine lacks.  I'm using Fujifilm FP-100c film.
This is Michelle, the Pocahontas County Convention & Visitor's Bureau VISTA who is often dragged along on my pretty day treks.

Friday, March 11, 2011

A Open Letter To UPS

Girl Mailing a Letter
Dear United Parcel Service,

My best friend works in publishing.  In fact, she works in my very favourite genre, young adult. I read a lot of books, but I am also very poor.  So, when her department decided to purge the unnecessary ARCs, or Advanced Readers Copies, of books they had lying around the place (and because she's a kickass best friend), she naturally thought of me.  After some back-and-forth e-mailing on preferred authors and themes, she packed up TWO lovely boxes of books and sent them my way, courtesy of you generally reliable shipping service.

This was last week.  This morning, she called to inform me that according to her tracking information, the books would be arriving on my porch at some point today.  Seeing as how it's Friday, I have no life and am something of a recluse to boot, my weekend plan immediately became "BOOKS!"  I spent the day happily bouncing in my seat, watching it snow, and chanting "Books, books, books, books, books."  It was cold, windy, snowing, and my dog was being a giant butt, but nothing was going to bother me because there were FREE BOOKS headed my way.

The day dragged on into night, and the books never arrived.  "Alright," I thought sadly, "that's okay, Laura must have misread the tracking information."  It was depressing, but just one of those things.  Laura's a busy girl, she was having a stressful day.  It happens.

Then you called me.  The driver, you said, had not been able to find my house, could I provide some directions?  The packages would arrive Monday, you said.

Here's the thing.  My address is a 1/2.  I live at 905 1/2.  What that means is that there are two residences at the same address, and mine is one of them.  All you have to do is find 905, and you've found me.  It's not complicated, I swear to God.  It's as easy as locating a single suite or apartment in a building, only instead of a floor, I have a separate house.  To make it easier, I live on a highway.  It's one of only two numbered highways in town.  And we're right on it.  If you stand in the middle of it and throw a rock in our direction, you will probably hit my house.  You don't even have to have a very strong arm to pull it off.

I know that most maps get us wrong.  Google Maps thinks I live on the other side of town, on 3rd street, even though the only thing my road and 3rd street have in common are a "3."  It's frustrating, but ultimately not a big deal because my town is this big.  It's tiny.  If you end up on 3rd, you could park there and walk to me without straining yourself too hard.  Not that you would, because in the past lost UPS and FedEx drivers have simply parked somewhere central and called me to get directions.  I don't know what made this instance different, why this driver decided to take the packages all the way back to the distribution center in Elkins, a good 2 hours away.  My guess is that his GPS couldn't find me, and rather than call me or stop and ask someone in town, the driver decided to call it a day.  It was a Friday, he was probably tired.  Maybe he had plans or a super hot date.

My only point is that, while the GPS and other devices like it have made life so much simpler in so many ways, they've also put us at a disadvantage.  It doesn't occur to us to stop and ask for directions as quickly as it did only a few years ago.  And in a small town like this one, asking the locals is an invaluable habit to hold on to.  Doing so would have taken only a few minutes, and while the local in question may not have known where the house was precisely, they sure as heck would have known which street it was, seeing as how it's MAIN STREET.

I'm not mad at you, UPS.  I'm not even mad at your driver.  This is a silly letter you will never see, and a thoroughly first world complaint.  But maybe the next time your GPS takes you to a vacant lot or unmarked road, you'll stop and ask a human for help.  We're not as infallible as computers, but we're not obsolete yet.  That's the point I wanted to make, I guess.

Oh, and the 1/2 address thing.  That's important, too.



Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Creek

This wasn't up when the earlier post when live, but here's a little video showing what the weekend's rains did to our little creek.  And also a little bit like what it's like to live over one.  These days, it's like living on a bridge over a rushing river.  In short, I can never tell by ear if it's raining or not.

Musings on Sun and Slush

Some snapshots from the past week.  Last week, we decided to walk in the other direction than usual on the Greenbrier River Trail, which took us by this old tower which provided water to the engines on the steam locomotives, back when the trail was a railroad.  I love that the sluice is still in place.
Then, over the weekend, it rained.  And rained.  And rained.  Then, for good measure, it snowed, too.  To say that Knapps Creek swelled a bit would be something of an understatement.  This photo was snapped of the exact same spot as this one.  Goodbye, little island.
We met the town's wandering pup (who I call Gypsy because I am mad creative) along the trail.  I adore this guy.  To pieces.  He's got an owner somewhere, though I don't know who it is, but if I thought I could get away with it, I'd scoop him up and abscond in a second.  Vista loves him, so no complaint there.
We held part one of a two part youth class last evening.  Mikey's daughter attended, and felt that Vista should be wearing her heart on her collar.  When that didn't work, she settled for her chest.
Mikey and Elizabeth jamming on the band saw.

So that's been the week.  My body can't seem to decide if it wants to be sick or not, and I've been sleeping badly, dreaming weirdly, and waking up feeling like someone beat me with a 2 x 4.  Added to that, it's been slushing all day.  Like, slush is literally raining from the skies.  That's about the definition of unpleasant right there.

In conclusion, today's personal struggle:
I'm stronger than the cookies.  I am.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

In Which Spring Is Creeping In

If spring isn't actually here, then winter is doing it's very best spring impression because MAN it is gorgeous out!  Vista and I have decided that daily walks on the trail are the thing, just the best thing, and we aren't letting the fact that I forgot somebody's leash in Virginia stop us, no sir.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Outsiders' Thoughts On Snow

A few months back, after we got our first big snow, Roxy (who you may recall is a VISTA working on the Writer's Project) sent out an e-mail asking us VISTAs for a little written reaction to the snow.  She's since created a wiki for the project, and included all the stories on one page: right here.  I contributed, of course, but the entries are anonymous.  If you decide to read through them (and you should, they're lovely) and you see one that you think MUST be mine, be sure to leave me a comment!  I will tell you this much.  I wrote about a specific incident rather than general observations.

Photo by Go Marlinton!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Walk In The Rain

Once upon a time, I would have balked at taking my dogs for a walk in the rain.  And then I got a job walkin dogs and realized that there are many worse conditions in which to walk dogs.  Rain is actually pretty refreshing!
So I took Vista and Summer a little ways along the Greenbrier River Trail, which we had all to ourselves.
I love the bridge over Knapp's Creek.  I really, really do.  During the walk, we discovered that Vista had absolutely no traction on it in the rain!  It was like canine bumper cars!
This was actually taken the day before on another walk.  All that's left of the thick ice that covered the creek.

When we got home, I realized how spoiled I'd gotten owning a water dog.  Vista is a no-hassle, drip-dry model.  Summer is a sponge.  A sponge who jumped out of the car and immediately stuck her face in the mud.  After I attacked her with a towel, she looked like she'd just had her hair done by a punk rocker.
She looks contemplative, doesn't she?  She isn't.

Later on, I left them to run some errands (I usually cart them with me, but one drying experience was enough for me), and returned to discover that Vista had removed four pairs of my pajama pants, which live in a cloth basket on a bottom shelf, and placed them randomly around the room.  Two pairs were still folded.  Thank you, Vista?

And so ends today's edition of Life With Beasts.  Two of them are going back home this weekend, but it's been fun!  Everything smells like dog and if I died tonight my autopsy would show massive amounts of black fur in my lungs.  But other than that, fun!

Monday, February 14, 2011

I Love You More Than Applesauce

Happy Valentine's Day!  Ironically, it is happy for everyone except Summer (pictured above, in VDay deelybobbers she later consumed), who is spending her day at the vet getting her teeth cleaned.  Vista seems vaguely concerned that I might decide to drive her into Virginia and leave her there, too.  Worry not, Vista.  Your teeth are ridiculously clean.

Anyway, on the subject of things which rot your teeth, here is my very favourite poem, from a book of Valentine's Day poetry by Jack Prelutsky that my mom gave me when I was little.  This was always my favourite one, because I enjoy both love and sugar.  It's also formed the basis on which I base my declarations of love.  If I tell you "I love you more than applesauce," take it in the context of someone who both really, really loves applesauce and this poem.

I Love You More Than Applesauce
I love you more than applesauce,
Than peaches and a plum,
Than chocolate hearts,
And cherry tarts,
And berry bubble-gum.

I love you more than lemonade,
And seven-layer cake,
Than lollipops,
And candy drops,
And thick vanilla shake.

I love you more than marzipan,
Than marmalade on toast;
For I love pies
Of any size,
But I love you the most.

Print it in Moleskine MSK format

Sunday, February 13, 2011

In Which We Remember To Press Rewind

There are a few movies I only have on VHS--and, of course, I don't have a VCR.  Jamie has a VCR but no tv.  Clearly, it's a match made in heaven.  We had to cannibalize the DVD player for cords, but it was worth it.  When I discovered that Jamie hadn't seen the entirety of either Singin' in the Rain OR Dead Poets Society, we dove in with those.  Discoveries: it is impossible to watch Singin' in the Rain without singing along, and DPS still makes me cry, even when I close my eyes and cover my ears.

Maybe you don't have a VCR or either movie on VHS, but here are my favourite scenes from each, for your consideration.
"Moses Supposes."  This was accompanied by this actual conversation:

Jamie: What are those shoes called?
Me: Saddle shoes.*
Jamie: Oh, right.  I want to go as them for Halloween.
Me: As...saddle shoes?
Jamie: What?  No.
Me:  Oh.  Um.  Oh, you mean dressed like them?
Jamie: (laughs) Yes.

*I was wrong, James, they're spectator shoes.  Also, here's this handy girl's guide to dressing as Don Lockwood!

After we got our dose of musical, we put in Dead Poets Society, which I fervently adored about 10 years ago, but hadn't seen since.
Skip to 2:38 for the best part.  O Captain, My Captain.

I find it odd and a little enchanting that the more advanced our technology gets, the more thrilling the older stuff is.  Who knew getting a VCR could be such a treat!  Of course, I started reminiscing about my family's old BetaMax, and no one knew what that was (plus I got the distinct impression they thought I was making it up).  And I just felt old.  Or crazy.

Monday, February 7, 2011

In Which A Turtle Is Constructed

I love snow.  Adore it.  Some people look forward to the Spring melt, and I'll get there, eventually, but in my world extreme weather (blizzards, strong winds, thunderstorms--especially thunderstorms) trump pretty sunny days.  I like my weather exciting. 

A couple weeks ago, we had some snow on the ground, which I've come to realize is a surprisingly rare thing here.  I guess it's how we're situated, surrounded by mountains, but we're almost always passed over when snow comes through.  Anyways, we had some snow, the roommates were out of town, and I had a house full of beasts, so I thought we'd take advantage of the conditions and build a snowman.  As it turned out, there wasn't enough snow for a proper human, so we made a snow turtle.
Can you see it?  Don't worry, you will.

We had (and still do have, come to think of it) about a million different varieties of carrots in the house for some reason, so they were used as decor.
Still can't see the turtle?  Here, how's this?
Summer was hiding from Vista between my legs the entire time I worked on this, and quickly realized that the decor was edible.
So its days were short-lived.  By the end of the next day, all the snow in the yard was melted, anyways.  Now we have acres of mud.  Yeck.
Oh, Sam was there, too.

(In related news, I'm writing this at my kitchen table across from Emily, who has just started quoting Oliver Twist at the weather report of snow--"Please sir, I want some more!")

Thursday, January 27, 2011

In Which My Life Resembles a Sitcom

Have you ever stopped to think about sitcoms?  No, no, hear me out.  I don't watch very many, but it occurs to me that the reason they're hilarious is that many present situations which would be excruciatingly awful in real life.  I know this, because my life has become one.  I am living in a sitcom.

The scene is this: the bedroom is small; cluttered and dark in the pre-dawn hours.  Nothing can be seen on the bed beneath the many comforters.  All of a sudden--chaos.  The cat has decided it's time to get up, and rouses the rest of the bed's occupants by alternately meowing loudly or leaping on them.  The single human occupant wakes suddenly, struggling to free herself beneath the heavy mass of blankets and dogs which have pinned her legs.  Her plan is to stagger to the bedroom door--as she does every morning--to open it just enough for the cat to slip out.  The cat is fully capable of opening the goddamn door himself, but for some reason known only to him, he requires the human to do it for him.  On this morning, somewhere between the bed and the door, the larger of the two dogs decides to join the fun.  The human, blind in the dark, does not notice the large black mass, trips over it, and fall face-first into the narrow wall next to the door.

The cat continues to meow insistently, so she struggles to regain her feet, swearing incoherently at the dog to get back in her goshdarn bed, and accomplishes her goal: the door is open.  The cat slips out.  Human and dog return to bed, where the human, an insomniac who considers any night where she manages to fall asleep at all a damn good one, is wide awake.  She lies in the dark, doing crossword puzzels on her ipod and plotting the death of her beloved cat, until she finally falls back to sleep.  At 4:45 AM.

I have never had so much empathy for Simon (see the video below).

I have so many updates on my current, multi-pet life.  If any of us survive until tomorrow, perhaps I'll write about them.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

To Brooklyn and Back

This past weekend's trip to Brooklyn has been months in the making.  Laura dragged herself all the way out to Marlinton in July; returning the favor was the least I could do.  Plus, I like Brooklyn!
 When Laura fretted over not having planned anything to entertain me, I told her that I needed only three things: art, photobooths, and her.  Which pretty much sums up our weekend.

I took the Bolt Bus (which I love) up from DC.  It's easy, cheap, and stops not too far from where Laura works in Manhattan.  On Saturday, we brunched at Bubby's in Dumbo, which is a pie shop.  It also has a photobooth.  As far as I'm concerned, pies/brunch/photobooth is the trifecta of awesome.  Brunch was AMAZING (I had an omelet with apples, bacon, and aged cheddar cheese), and then we gleefully monopolized the photobooth.  I haven't scanned the strips yet, but they're coming.
Dumbo is an area of Brooklyn where both the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges end, (Bubby's is almost underneath the Manhattan Bridge--the above photo was taken just outside of it) so after brunch we decided to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan, which Laura had never done.
It was a beautiful, clear, cold day and the walk was lovely.  We could easily make out the Statue of Liberty, which I'd never seen in person before.  I didn't think it would mean anything to see it and was surprised to find myself rather moved.  Well done, Lady Liberty.

In Manhattan, we decided to head to the Neue Galerie, which I had heard about but never visited.  I was thrilled with their collection of decorative arts works (mainly pieces by Josef Hoffman and Koloman Moser--they're the museum of German and Austrian art), and especially impressed with the decision to use a Moser-designed jewelry display piece to actually display jewelry.  I love it when museums use decorative arts for their designated purpose.  We also caught the tail end of their "Postcards of the Wiener Werkst├Ątte" show, which I loved.

We tried to go from there to the Cooper-Hewitt Museum (the only Smithsonian branch in NY), but found it was closed until February.  Saturday night was a movie night.  We caught The Green Hornet, which, I'm sad to say, was just okay.  And made Laura very angry.
On Sunday morning(ish), we decided to face the crowds and headed to Tom's.  Tom's has been open since 1936 (and even had a song written about it), and is extremely popular.  Like, line-around-the-block popular.  However, at Tom's, the line is part of the experience.  We waited something like an hour to be seated (most of that outside in the cold), but were fed cookies, oranges, sausage, and toast with honey while we shivered.  The food is just a step or two above your basic hearty diner food, but includes some unique options, including throwbacks to its seltzer-era founding.  I had a Cherry Lime Rickey, and learned what a Rickey is.

We decided to spend the afternoon lounging and reading, in the best Kelly-and-Laura fashion, grabbed dinner at a nearby Mexican joint, and then settled it to cast snarky comments at the Golden Globes.  All in all, a good day.

Laura had Monday off, so we went exploring in Park Slope.  The Brooklyn Museum was sadly and shockingly closed (Laura lives so close to it that visiting is practically tradition), so we strolled and munched on goodies from Sweet Melissa (Laura had a truffle, I had a madeleine).  On our way home, we grabbed burgers at Dutch Boy's (medium, with bleu cheese and fries for both of us--SO good), packed me up, and sent me home!

All in all, every visit to Brooklyn makes me love it more (though I can hardly afford to).  Seeing Laura in her natural habitat is always a treat, and as she works in publishing, I was sent home with almost more books than I could carry.

Now I am home, from NY and VA both, and for the next month (or so) will be sitting for the dog and cat which usually live with my parents.  It's been an odd sort of experience for all of us so far, but hopefully we'll settle in.  Vista is (of course) loving it.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Christmas in Virginia

Extremely late holiday post, ahoy!  I apologize for the belatedness of it, I do.  My only excuse is that the holidays ended on a serious down note, so I've been living vicariously through other people (which has shown up on this other blog), rather than dwelling on my own life.  Case in point: all of my clothes from the holiday trip home are still packed.  I've been back in WV since the 4th.  I leave this afternoon for a trip to NY.  Serious avoidance issues over here.

Anyway: Holidays!  Much was accomplished.
 Vista destroyed her crate once and for all, so we are now operating as a kennel-free state.  So far, it's going pretty well.  Se chills in my room when I'm gone, and only makes a few horrendous, godawful noises.
 I smacked the lid shut on my not-so-short story (it came in at just over 40,000 words) and began another.  Sam helped, sort of.
 Vista got toys.
 So many toys.
 My Chinese family educated me in the ways of Rock Band.  Here are my sisters, totally schooling me.  Seeing this troupe (all 5 siblings) all together for the first time in forever was so amazingly great.  The gaming was totally the icing.
 My lovely mother insisted my hair be cut, and friend Sam (non-feline Sam) gave me the glasses that went with his Halloween costume (which I discovered back in October).  My love of plaid shirts and sweater vests knows no bounds.
At the beginning of the holidays, there were 4 dogs and one cat in the house, and man, was that cat unhappy.  By the new year, we were down to two dogs, and the cat decided the interloper wasn't so bad.  Which is great, since he'll be living here with us for a little while.  Here is the video that goes with the photo, taken the night before we drove back to WV.  Warning: it's epically adorable.  Hold onto your hats.
Overall, the holidays were fun.  I saw six, count'em, SIX movies, hung out with basically every single person I love (notably absent was my little bro, who was trapped out west this Christmas), and it even snowed on Christmas (before going back to being 60 degrees a few days later).  The downer at the end was the sudden death of my Great-Aunt Dinny.  She was 96 years old, so it wasn't exactly a shocker, but  a week before her death, she was in excellent health for a 96-year-old, so yes, it was sudden.

Vista and I drove down to Winston-Salem, NC for the burial before turning around and heading back to Marlinton.  It was a long, emotional day.  Dinny was the last of my grandmother's sisters (my grandmother passed away 4 years ago), and it felt like the end of an era.  I was left with the haunting knowledge of all of the things I never asked them, all of the stories which will go untold.  They were some amazing ladies, the Maslin girls were.  The world was better for them, and poorer for their absence.

So far, 2011 has been pretty disappointing, but I'm holding out hope.  It can only go up from here, right?