Monday, May 25, 2015

"The Magician's Land" by Lev Grossman


This is the final installment of a series that took the fantasy genre for a joy ride.

Or so I'm told.

I have yet to sit down with any high fantasy novel, but I get the idea that Lev Grossman's trilogy's goal wasn't to be high fantasy, but to deconstruct it by using the familiar trope of Narnia.

We all know Narnia, right? Ordinary kids are special because they are whisked away to a fantasy land that is held together by the lion Aslan. Different kids. Different adventures. Always the same cryptic lion. Lots of religious allusion.

Grossman uses the Narnia idea, removes the religion, and asks the question "Why isn't this land perfect?"

Even a fantasy land has it's demons. And those demons can haunt.

All three of these books are character driven told mainly through the point of view of Quentin Coldwater, a 30-year-old magician by the time we enter book three. The story finds our anti-hero kicked out of Fillory (the Narnia of this book) and looking for a place to belong. Compared to the other novels where he is restless, listless and whiny, he is finally getting comfortable with his lot in life.

And even though he's not quite sure what that is yet, he's not crying about it.

After all the things have happened to him, all the negative, and mostly, self-induced pain, he has grown up and instead of being the most unlikeable character (like he was in the first and second books), he starts to walk through his life with a wisdom he so lacked.

And the reader actually enjoys being in his head, for once. It's like, "You're finally getting it, Quentin. Thank you."

He returns to Brakebills (the college of magic where he started his journey) to begin teaching. He finds out that his true magic ability is to repair things, which seems super lackluster (until the very end of the series when it is the perfect ability). He teaches. He studies a page out of a book he has from the Neitherlands. He isn't too mopey, and he decides he's quite happy at the school, regardless of how slow it seems.

He doesn't consider himself the most powerful magician, but throughout the book, he's still pretty impressive. Maybe not the best, but pretty close.

Then we meet Plum, a girl who is related to the Chatwins (the last name belongs to the kids that went to Fillory). She has run from the story of Fillory all her life because she sees how it has destroyed her lineage. She doesn't realize that one of her teachers, Mr. Coldwater, has actually been there. Their paths finally become intertwined one night when Quentin has to save her from a magical prank gone awry. Both of them are kicked out of Brakebills, both come face-to-face with Quentin's dead girlfriend, Alice, who is a so-called niffin (or magical-being-demon-type-thing, which you should know about if you read the first book, so please don't ask me to clarify), and both were contracted to be a part of a journey to reclaim some magical items.

During the first half of the book, the characters are hired by a magic bird to search out a suitcase that belonged to Rupert Chatwin, one of the kids who journeyed through Fillory. The search goes awry, but the suitcase is found. As well as a journal with a testament written by Rupert, explaining secrets about Fillory that become helpful later in the book. Plum realizes she can't run away from her past anymore and completely embraces this place called Fillory, and with a new plan, she and Quentin set out to work some very serious magic.

Parts to why the title "The Magician's Land" as a title makes sense.

In the meantime, told through other chapters, we find out through Janet and Eliot, the High Queen and High King, that Fillory is dying. And they mean to save it.

Some of the best chapters are with Janet and Eliot, two hipster, jaded characters that love their magic, love their Fillory, but don't talk like characters all stilted from a George R. R. Martin book. They make jokes, show off, speak in modern lingo, all while riding hippogryphs and winged horses and the like. And they throw zingers at each other that are hysterical -- and weirdly out of place, while they talk to a giant snapping turtle, fly in the air, produce axes out of thin-air, etc.

Meanwhile, Quentin and Plum, using a spell from Rupert's journal, study and prepare to create their own land -- and when they do, only to realize it's a sad mirror of the house they are staying in, Quentin also realizes he has somehow brought Alice, the blue, scary niffin with.

Why isn't she killing Quentin? We soon find out.

Quentin, Eliot, Janet and the lives of everyone from the first two books intersect in a grand finale that showcases the growth of all the characters, the completed journey, and an ending that is actually quite happy -- something you really want the characters to have because their train ride through the series was absolute hell.

Grossman's prose is accessible, making it a good series to tiptoe into the fantasy genre. On a deeper level, though, you can see Grossman picking apart the genre, and if you want to be more cerebral about it, there are such discussions to be had.

I get where he is coming from, stylistically, but I also enjoyed the story, the writing, and the fleshed-out characters.

We live in a day-and-age when finales are shoved under microscopes. An author or creator has to get it just right, or he will be crucified by his audience.

This time, I think the author succeeded.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

"The Ten Commandments" Live Blog-Post-a-Thon Event! Part Three


My favorite parts of the movie are when they're at the Palace. I think this is because I like stories about rich people with problems, and these rich people have problems!

A whole plague of them.

Moses Gets a Makeover
I missed why Moses was compelled to climb the mountain. The doorbell rang and the Girls went crazy. Then, my phone wasn't ringing, and I wasn't getting text messages! It was complete chaos!

But everything has settled, which brings me to a pivotal plot point: Moses' Makeover.

The voice of James Earl Jones is telling Moses that he's been chosen, that he gets the final rose. Really, the Burning Bush in this movie is my favorite. I think because it's 1950's special effects. What movie wizards can do now can look more believable, but the runty bush with light glowing from it wins, hands down.

I think it's the subtlety.

Wait, is that Joshua? I can't remember if he walked the desert to look for Moses. He probably did. I mean, they're best friends. That, and when you do the Big Reveal in "What Not to Wear," you want to make sure all the most important people are there to witness it, right?

Oh! It's the Big Reveal. How will everyone respond to Moses new look?

"Moses, your hair," Lily Munster says, running her hands through it.

He must've used a whole can of Biblical Hairspray.

He went up the mountain with barely a beard and regular hair, and he walks back down with a fro streaked in white. Something the Bride of Frankenstein would envy.

It is time to move this plot forward! Moses takes his staff and begins to walk.

Intermission!
You mean, I actually have to get up and change the DVD? Can't DVDs hold more than this? I mean, seriously.

I hope the second act is shorter. That's usually the case when it comes to things like this. The first half is so much longer than the second half.

Moses Pays Ramses a Surprise Visit
Blah, blah, blah, everyone is paying Ramses (now the Pharaoh) a visit, but who's that in the back? He doesn't look like he's rich.

Oh. My. Gosh.

It's Moses!

"Let my people go," Moses quoteths.

Ramses does not listen. Instead, he makes life harder for the Hebrew slaves.

"Good, one, Moses. Thanks a lot," they shout at him.

Then, he goes and visits Moses' Girlfriend, even though she's married and has a child (with the same weave as Ramses). She professes her love for him, still.

"That Moses is dead," he says.

Just walk out, Moses. Don't listen to her! Now, she's threatening him. "If you don't come to me, you're people will never leave!"

Whatever.

"You've got no power over me," he says. "Be gone before someone drops a house on you."

Let the Plagues, Begin!
I'm surprised Ramses allows Moses to just hang around.

Uh, hello? Ramses? Moses is a threat, right?

Even the great epics have plot holes, I suppose.

Who knows how many days Moses has been around Ramses, trying to let his people go, but Ramses is having none of it.

Now we're at the Nile. We all know what's about to happen next and Ramses just stands there, with his fists on his hips, all smug.

Then, Moses goes and turns the Nile to blood.

"For seven days," Moses pronounces. Ramses tries to undo it, but, nope!

Moses: 1, Ramses: 0.

Then there's another scene where Moses just walks around the Palace freely. Does he go and help himself to food? He knows where the kitchen is, since he used to live there.

Ramses still doesn't believe in God, so Moses goes to the balcony and speaks of hail that catches on fire.

"Pish, posh," Ramses says.

Then there's that creepy breeze, you know the one, right before a storm comes? On a humid day, when you know a storm is afoot, the darkest clouds push over the land and a cool breeze casts away the heat. Yeah, that happens.

Then, Ramses patio is doused with hail that catches on fire.

Moses: 2, Ramses: 0.

That, and it's dark for three days, totally wigging people out.

Moses: 3, Ramses: 0

"C'mon Ramses, just let the people go, dude!" one of Ramses men says.

Ramses is just so gosh darn stubborn.

In the meantime, Moses' hair continues to grow in wild disarray, but Ramses is not going to falter. He's not threatened by Moses' hair -- or the next plague.

"It's on your head, not mine," Moses says.

"Just go away," Ramses says. "Why did I even let you come back?"

Then the worst plague comes -- the death to the first born, if there is no lambs blood on the door.

Moses: 4, Ramses: 0

(In all reality, it's Moses: 10, Ramses: 0, but the movie would've been about 10 hours longer if Cecil decided to put frogs, locusts and boils in the movie, too.)

Ramses finally gives in.

Let My People Go!
The entire cast of "The Ten Commandments" begins their mass exodus away from the Egyptians. This took an entire month to shoot.

And there was no catering. Cecil wanted the cast members to know what it must've been like to leave Egypt.

For a movie made in the 50's, the cinematography really is pretty spectacular!

But not before Ramses changes his mind!

Chariot-scene!

Why didn't the rest of this movie move this fast? Five minutes after everyone left, Ramses was dressed in his battle gear, ready to go. They approach with break-neck speed, kicking up dust in all directions.

Moses becomes Traffic Director, and tells everyone to go to the sea.

"Watch this!"

But before Moses parts the Red Sea, all the people feel jipped! Boy do they feel bad after they see what happens, next.

"We were just kidding, Moses!" they shout at him when the see the fire tornado stop Ramses' men and the storm clouds come to push the sea to two sides. "Ha, ha. Just. Kidding."

The special effects are pretty cool. I'm sure there's a documentary out there somewhere that spills all the secrets, but I doubt it was done by green screen.

Woo! It looks breezy down there as they walk through the parted sea.

Uh-oh, the fire tornado is gone. Ramses charges ahead!

People who saw this movie in the theater, if they weren't asleep by now, were probably grinding their teeth and chewing their nails from the suspense.

Then, boom! The Egyptians are washed away.

Ramses loses.

You know the rest. Everyone dances around the Golden Calf for a few minutes when Moses comes down from the mountain with the Ten Commandments, scolding them.

So let it be written, so let it be done, indeed.



"The Ten Commandments" Live Blog-Post-a-Thon Event! Part Two


Moses Has Left the Palace:
Ew, Vincent Price the Master Builder is being all smarmy, hitting on one of the female slaves, and not just any female slave: Joshua's girlfriend, Lilia! He just decided that she will be his. Then, he's carried away. Lilia is totally depressed, slouching on the ground.

She wanted Joshua to ask her to the dance, not the Master Builder, regardless of how popular he is.

Then, more royalty pulls up. This area must have a lot of traffic.

Moses' Girlfriend catches Moses working in the mud, and demands that he comes with her. She dances around him, as he's covered in dried mud. She yearns for him. She misses him!

"Moses, Moses...you wanna help your people? Come back to the Palace!"

"Woman! I will not!"

Then she's all: "Moses, Moses, think of me as Ramses wife. I will use jealousy to win you back to the Palace."

They kiss, what might be their final kiss, and he struts away, "You will never have me."

Meet-Cute with Lilia and Joshua
Cut to: Smarmy Vincent Price the Master Builder. He's dressing up his latest catch, Lilia, but Joshua storms into the premises. No one touches his girl! She hates the color gold!

Joshua is a total hero.

Cecil B. DeMille has allowed for Vincent Price to have too much screen time. This Master Builder has nothing to do with the main plot of the movie. He's about to whip Joshua for trying to save Lilia, but wait!

Enter Moses!

Vincent Price was a mere plot device to help Moses meet Joshua and Lilia.

Moses strangles Smarmy Vincent Price the Master Builder to save Lilia and Joshua while calling him "The Master Butcher."

Touche.

Moses Chooses His Path
Pharaoh and Ramses ramble on about Moses. He's been caught for killing Smarmy Vincent Price the Master Butcher.

"Bring him in!"

Moses' Girlfriend is shocked to see him in chains. They each have something in common now: They have both killed.

Ramses is a proud peacock in his Egyptian clothes, speaking down to Moses. He's really enjoying this. The truth has been showcased to Egyptian royalty -- Moses is not blood, he is a Hebrew slave.

Ramses wins!

But wait, Pharaoh is showing Moses some grace, but Moses tells Pharaoh that he is, indeed, a Hebrew slave. So Pharaoh hands Ramses Moses' Girlfriend and pronounces him future-Pharaoh.

The rest of this is scene is just Pharaoh getting all British, walking around the set like Hamlet.

Cut to: Moses shackled in a cell. Ramses and Moses' Girlfriend are now there.

"I win," Ramses just said, speaking in Over-Dramatic.

Moses' Girlfriend kisses Moses one. Last. Time.

Cut to: Ramses shines bright like a diamond in his Egyptian garb as he stands out in the desert with Moses, ready to cast him out. Ramses has decided to let the desert kill Moses so he doesn't have to.

Bad, choice, Ramses. You'll be regretting that decision in a few hours.

Now, Moses must walk through the desert as he gets sand blasted. All he has is his walking stick, his robe  all blowing around like he's in a music video, dancing to the dirge of the British narrator.

He takes long, stumbling strides, bored to tears by the narration.

He has no clue what the narrator is saying. He collapses in boredom, confused by all the metaphor, dragging himself to...what?

A goat!

Woman Shepherds Swooning at the Well, Moses Chooses a Wife
A bunch of woman are going on about men and how they can't stop thinking about them. Lily Munster wades through a bunch of ferns, and then proclaims how she's found: A Man!

Then, some bullies come over and try to take water from the well -- but with the toot of a horn, Moses stomps out and kicks their butts.

Lily Munster silently swoons: "The stranger is strong."

There is so much bosom clutching in this movie.

Now, the women and Moses are flirting. They're wiping him down with their drool.

Moses presents himself to Jethro, the Father of Many Bumbling Giggling Girls. They chill out and eat pita. Jethro invites Moses to chill with his posse.

"I am a stranger in a strange land!" Moses proclaims.

"Pish posh," Jethro says. "My daughters will teach you how to be a shepherd."

Cut to: Moses is a shepherd now!

He gazes upon Mount Sinai, and Lily Munster tells Moses that God is up there.

Moses is still so super-dirty, but Lily Munster looks like she just bathed. She's even got gold earrings on. What's that about? Did she just bring him water from their charcoal filtration system?

They have a Kierig in the tent.

Cut to: The tent where the daughters are fighting over Moses.

"I wish everyday was a shearing festival!" one of them calls out.

Girlfriend, I do to.

Lily Munster hands out hand cymbals to her sisters. They scoff that she's not going to dance with them, but she's all, "I am not going to shake my booty at Moses. I'm going to tend the sheep."

The daughters/sisters come out and dance, but Moses' heart sinks. Where's Lily Munster?

All the men are cat-calling, and telling Moses that he can only have one of them.

This is naughty. Cecil B. DeMille even got a G-rating for this movie.

Now that the dance is over, Moses must choose his wife.

Who will he give a rose to?

Cut to: Lily Munster and Moses have a secret date in the cave.

"Which of my sisters did you give a rose to?" she asks.

"None of them."

"You're heart was scarred by some bimbo in Egypt, wasn't it?"

Moses looks off into the cave. He doesn't want to remember Moses' Girlfriend, who is now married to Ramses. "Yes."

Now Lily Munster is spewing poetry at Moses. He's fidgeting around in his robe, looking for the rose. He can't find it. Instead, he places his hand on Lily Munster. He ties a string around her wrist, choosing her to be his lawfully wedded wife.


"The Ten Commandments" Live Blog-Post-a-Thon Event! Part One


My favorite part about Easter isn't the ham, or the candy, or the Easter egg hunts. I'm happy the weather starts to shape up, and some Easters are warm, while others are down-right frigid, but that's not my favorite part either.

It's the annual airing of Cecil B. DeMille's "The Ten Commandments."

Today, I will spend 3-hours (maybe, we'll see how long I can last) to live blog this movie -- I can't wait until Sunday night with commercial breaks. I actually own the movie. So, I'll do it now:

"So let it be written, so let it be done."

Overture:
No wonder this movie is over 3-hours long. There are even curtains about to open. Oh, a man just came out. He just told us that the Bible leaves out 30 years of Moses' life. That, and they turned to historians to look for Moses' early life.

No wonder this movie is searingly realistic.

English Majors, alert: The man just told us the theme of the piece.

Did early Hollywood leave us nothing?!

3 hours and 39 minutes to unfold, and there will be an intermission.

Oh, Cecil. Why didn't you just turn this thing into a musical?

The Movie has started:
We have put baby Moses into the basket, and we are now wading through the water. Moses mother looks eerily familiar to Lily Munster, the matriarch on "The Monsters," but we know that's not true because Yvonne de Carlo will show up later and steal Moses' heart. Moses' Adopted Mom hands the Hebrew cloth to Memnet, her servant, but Memnet doesn't toss it into the Nile.

Instead, she will use it when the time is right!

Cut to the future: Yule Brenner, Ramses, is helping dress his father, the Pharaoh, right now. He's the only one that actually looks like he could actually be from Egypt. Everyone else is British and white, strutting around the set like it's Shakespeare.

Moses has just returned from Ethiopia.

Moses' adopted mother is a bit obsessed with him, throwing flower petals and practically swooning. She says his name like she's not his mother, but...wait. Maybe that's the girlfriend. No wonder she was mumbling over-dramatically and staring off into space. Every year, I get those two confused.

Now that Moses is back, Ramses is all-kinds of jealous. Too bad there isn't a cat-fight between these two later on in the movie. Moses could go after Ramses' ponytail. Yank that weave right off his head.

Scenes from outside the Palace:
Now, we turn to the Hebrew slaves building the city. Joshua and Lilia are a bit too spry to be slaves -- shouldn't they be more haggard? Joshua jumps down from the top of the statue he's working on, much like an excited Tarzan, just to get some water from Lilia. They shouldn't be breathlessly in love, but breathlessly exhausted, right? The quick scene is just to remind us that they are still waiting for the Prophecy of the Deliverer to come.

Cut to: Ramses talking about the Deliverer.

I wonder if the Deliverer is their acting coach. Someone to help them not speak. With. Pauses. Like. William Shatner.

Cut to: Oh no! An old lady's belt is stuck under the giant statue that's being pushed. It's going to get her! The suspense! Moses! Where are you? The lady, she's fallen and she can't get up!

Life Alert!

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's Joshua! He's leapt from the basket up high to save the lady who was too weak to rip the fabric of her robe to escape from impending doom!

No, I lie. He just stopped the guards. It is Moses, Moses that frees her from the stone, and then confronts none other than Vincent Price, the Master Builder!

"Are you a master builder or a master butcher?" Moses has just asked.

ZING!

"If we stop moving stones for every grease woman that falls, the city would never rise."

Delivered by Vincent Price with his coined, casual coldness.

This scene between Charlton Heston and Vincent Price was brought to you by Edgar Allen Poe.

But Moses isn't finished, yet! He has led the slaves to the grain silos to unleash and bury them all with food.

That is gross. Their dirty, sweaty bodies are engulfed. What will that bread taste like?

"Mmm, dirty skin bread!"

Back to the Palace:
Important scene alert! Important scene alert!

Ramses just kissed Moses' Girlfriend. He was all, "You'll be my wife, regardless of what you think."

And she looked at him defiantly and was like, "Psshh. That kiss wasn't telling you what you'll have, but what you'll never have." She then stuck her palm up to his face.

But Ramses one-upped her and was all, "I don't care if you like me. I like you and if you don't like me, that's your business." Then, he threw a shawl over his shoulder and, literally, struts away.

Moses' Girlfriend wipes her mouth off and stares off, over the right shoulder of the cameraman, and starts to tremble in doom to make sure the audience knows this is foreshadowing.

Cut to: The Pharaoh is so proud of the city Moses is building he slaps him on his back and says, "Our names will be carved next to each other. Ramses' name will be nowhere."

BURN!

After the Pharaoh and Moses hold hands and skip away, Ramses doesn't falter. Instead, he sticks his chest out and proclaims with blind ego: "The city Moses builds will bear my name. The woman Moses loves will bear my child. So it is written, so it shall be done."

Cut to: Moses' Girlfriend is gazing at her navel in the mirror when the Evil Memnet shows up, holding Moses Herbrew baby blanket, showing his true identity.

Moses' Girlfriend is having none of that. Instead, she pushes Memnet off the side of the building, and then throws herself at Moses. She's so in love with Moses that she will kill!

Run, Moses! She's got crazy eyes!

But, no! Moses finds the Hebrew cloth. Moses' Girlfriend tells him the truth, clutches Moses and sobs, "You are the son of Hebrew slaves."

Then, before he goes and asks his adopted mother his true identity, he sings his first solo in the Palace hallways.

"Who am I? 24601!"

Oh, wait. That's "Les Miserables."

Plot Twist!
Remember that old lady that was caught up and about to get squished under the stone that Moses saved? That's Moses' mother!

Now that he's met her, his world has been cast into confusion. Is he a slave? Is he royalty?

Stay tuned!



Friday, April 03, 2015

Pioneers, O Pioneers

There are times when I wish poetry was my thing. There's something so visceral about it. One of my favorites became a favorite because of the recording, the hit of the drum, and the modern Americana video that was attached to it. It is a wordsmith's music video, sans music. 

Whitman was a soothsayer as he wrote these words. They are immortal. They are just as important now as they were in the 1800's. 

For a world to become better, words like these must be written, sung, spoken in order to light the fire under a generation. This fire helps to promote a change in thinking, a change in action. 





Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Make sure you own a cast iron skillet


Whether the chimney, the wood stove or the open fire outside, make sure you have a cast iron pot before the end of the world.

While you're at it, have a few cast iron pots, maybe a skillet, a pan, and anything else Cracker Barrell has in their store. Get those now.

I'll wait.

Are you back?

You're not taking me seriously, are you?

Dish soap won't be an easy necessity to get anymore, and we're going to need to cook over the open fire, but even the simplest of utensils and items will be difficult to use after the world ends.

No wonder pioneers used these.

We can load the dishwasher, but they'll just mold-up. And as we continue to fight about electricity, and the water hasn't run for a while, it's time to rethink how we prepare our meals. If we can't wash dishes with ease, we'll need to cook with something that doesn't need to be washed with soap.

Cast iron is it.

Scrape that food gook off, flick it into the compost pile, and rinse it off. Let it dry, and it'll be ready for the next meal.




Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Nigra's Hierarchy of Needs


Each night, we must go through Nigra's list of needs. It's sort of like Maslow's list. You know that whole hierarchy thing? But Maslow isn't sitting in my face whining at me. 

Nigra's vehement whining only happens when Steph and I are home together. If it's only one of us, Nigra acts like she is content.. She lays quietly on her pillow. 

Our powers combined must bring out the Captain Whine. 

Steph will spend her Fridays and Mondays at home with the Girls. She has no issues all day, but the minute I walk through the door, Nigra approaches me, after I have relaxed onto the couch from standing all day,  looks up and begins to whine a la Oliver Twist. 

"Please, sir, can I have some more?"

To understand Nigra, you have to know that this girlfriend has intense eye contact. It's powerful. She will stare you down until she gets her way. She cocks her head and bores into your soul with her little brown eyes. She is determined. She is unrelenting, and she will not give up until her bidding has been done. 

I told Steph that she must imagine me wearing an apron and says Nigra's on it. I'm the one that must always do her bidding. She will sometimes whine at Steph, but really, it's me she always wants. 

After a few whines, she will, then, back up. The minute she backs up a little, and whines, you know it is so important. The whine is important enough, but when she backs that thang up: game over.

After about 50 different whines, we realize it's time to go through the list to make sure our Nigra is satisfied. 

Yes. There is a list. 

In order to make sure Nigra is happy with life, we double-check the list -- it needs to be made into a print-out, really, because we're always forgetting something. 

If it's 5:00 p.m., then she must be hungry. If we haven't fed her yet, then that is it. For a couple minutes, after she dines, she is satisfied. 

Then, right after dinner, she must have Number One. This is her first treat for the night. This is the first of three. At about 7 p.m., Nigra will whine for Number Two, and at about 8 o'clock, she'll ask for Number Three. 

You see, there weren't always three goodies each night. This is something Nigra has decided. Nigra knows how to change the rules, and she uses her whine to do so. 

Every once in a while, she'll try to eek Number Four out of us, but we're on to her games.So, with some of those whines, we need to make sure she has had all of her treats. 

If it's nice out, she wants to be with her squirrels so she can commune with them until nightfall. If it's too cold, then she will perch on the sofa and gaze out the window, watching and guarding. The minute someone walks in her peripheral vision, she woofs. She's content for a bit...

Whine.

After that, she just continues to whine at me all night long. The next item on the list: I have to make sure she's got water in her bowl. We used to give her ice cubes in that water, too, but Maeve bobs them all out, so now we put the metal bowls in the freezer with some water at the bottom. 

If the bowl if full, then I check to see if Nigra has to potty. Maybe those goodies just went right through her. We can never be sure. I let her out for a little while, and she is right back at my side, gazing lovingly at me as I am smothered in her whines.

"Pretty please, Daddy, with cherries on top?" Her eyes say.

"Pretty please, whaaaaaaaat? What do you waaaaaaaant?"

She's eaten dinner. She has a full bowl of water. She's had all three of her treats. We're both home. After going through the hierarchy, at this point, usually it's time to take her out to play. 

I will take Yertle the Turtle outside with us (yes, that is Dr. Seuss' Yertle I speak of) and go crazy. Nigra runs around the yard, chases after me with my stuffed turtle and plays catch. She growls violently, and playfully wags her tail. She'll pounce and jump and soar and bark. She'll sprint and spin and dance and sing. For about 10 minutes (or depending on the temperature), I do my best to wear her down. The goal is to make her over-pant, to get her so crazy-tired that she will come inside, get a long drink and then collapse on her pillow in pure bliss that her Daddy played with her. 

If she persists after that, I am at a loss, and slowly descend into madness.



Monday, March 30, 2015

Driving on the 501



"Let's drive overnight to Myrtle Beach," we said.
"Let's leave at 11 p.m. and drive through the mountains in the dark," we said.
As an adult, I've never traveled overnight.
"I'll take the first shift!" I cried, and for the next four hours or so, I had coffee in my hands, my 80-song playlist on my iPod, and the world at my feet!
But after fog and road construction that had us at a stand-still for at least 45 minutes, we drove through the mountains as the sun rose to a gloomy, mist-filled Sunday morning. If I hadn't stapled my eyes opened, it would've been beautiful.
We still had five or so hours more of driving left. We felt defeated. We battled out the overnight drive, and the overnight drive won.
After losing all concept of time, space and physical place (as well as feeling nauseous), I just wanted to get to our destination.
At this point, we had entered and been driving across South Carolina (the entire diameter of the state, mind you) and we had switched positions for the last time, making me the co-complainer -- I mean pilot.
We were finally on the last stretch of highway that took us to our destination. As we drove down 501, we passed run-down town after run-down town, filled with flea markets, small shops and wave after wave of bright yellow Myrtle Beach visitors centers clamoring how they had Starbucks coffee, “so please, please visit us!”
One building practically called out: “Pay no attention to the corpse over there! Look over here! We’re a bright, yellow building! Wee!”
These visitor centers threw me off course because they didn’t belong. They were Cape Cod estates surrounded by slums. They also threw me off because it made it seem like the beach was much closer than it actually was.
I said aloud, “I don’t want to stay here” as we passed a million more ram-shackle areas. Tumbleweeds rolled across the road. The sun started to become eclipsed by the moon. I started to see red eyes glow in the trees over there.
Big, black birds hunched over, vulture-like, reading the obituaries.
I thought to myself, “If the car breaks down, there is no where to run to.”
We could’ve run there – to the bog that festered with human remains of the last tourists that suffered a similar fate, or we could go over there – where the bird just squatted and pooped.
Yes, if the car broke down, we would never go back home to our puppies, and we would be prisoners of an ill-fate: harvesting pig organs in the back barn behind the beautiful yellow visitors’ center.
Then my phone rang, and I screamed.
“Are you there yet?”
It was my dad.
“We’re driving on 501,” I gasped.
“The long stretch before you get there?”
The longest stretch? The one where a future season of "American Horror Story" will take place?
"Yes."
And since we were not close, I was not in a good mood, and there was still the threat of breaking down,and becoming slaves to a legless, goat farmer.
To think we had to do this all over again, in one-fell-swoop, made the pit of my stomach push up fresh bile, and I urped up nervous gasses and swallowed heartburn, fearing the trip back.
When we did get to our condo, safe from the legless goat farmer, we grabbed our beach chairs and ran to the ocean.
The trip back, not driving overnight, but still driving 15-hours straight, terrified me.
My dad called again to see if we were finally there, and I started to cry. "I can't do it," I said. "I can't go back in one trip. The goat farmer!"
With that, he graciously allowed us to use his Holiday Inn points to grab a hotel and split our trip back into two days.
After that conversation, it finally felt like a vacation.
After a great week, we got to spend the final day at the beach hours before we left for home, and we got to stay in a hotel six hours into part one of our trip home.
Sun-kissed, with the visions of a hotel bed in our future, the drive back through 501 was completely different. I didn’t have my sunglasses tinted with desperation and exhaustion, and the area looked poor, but it wasn’t merely as scary as it looked when I was the exhausted co-pilot. The legless goat farmer was merely the top-half of a mannequin. The red eyes in the woods were blooms on southern trees. There weren't 15 visitor centers all begging us to stop in for coffee so they could kill us.
There were only two.



Saturday, March 28, 2015

Day in Obscure Photography: Take 2


I enjoyed my other round of random photos about my day, I figured I'd do another. There is nothing fancy about the day, except I ate at McDonalds again. It seems to be a theme that when I decide to perform "A Day in Obscure Photography," I eat at McDonald's. Please don't judge.

I think the best part of the day was spending it on the porch drawing up pictures of the Girls. I had an idea, I had my Crayolas laid out around me and I got to work. I enjoy drawing, I just don't do it very often because I don't have a plan. I can't just sit down and draw. It's not that the blank page is intimidating, I just need an idea of what I want, and I have to know that I can draw it.



















Friday, March 27, 2015

To eat or not to eat at the calabash


At first, I wanted to try a restaurant in Myrtle Beach where tourists weren’t going to be.  I didn’t want to be obvious. I wanted to fit in. I went ahead and researched fine dining, but found no luck, except chain restaurants.
But, if you've ever visited that part of South Caroline,  you'll realize that all the people there are only tourists.
I'm not quite sure where the Aborigines Myrtle Beach live.
Trying to not be a tourist was a theme years ago when I went to Germany -- not me, though. Like, at 17, how does one not be a tourist in a foreign country?
One afternoon, while walking the brick  streets of Nuremberg, a friend was getting fed up with all the Americans we were with (a.k.a, fellow teens from our high school). They were all acting like tourists, and it was obvious. She didn’t want to be seen with them anymore.
She was above that, as she walked around in her Hofbrauhaus sweatshirt from Munich, the very sweatshirt no other German was wearing.  
I told her we were tourists. Instead of getting bogged down with her attitude, I set myself free and became the tourist I was.
And it felt ah-mazing.
I got out my camera and took picture after picture (only later realizing I wasn’t loading my camera right, and all eight rolls of my film came back with nothing on them).
Back in Myrtle Beach, the condo we stayed in didn’t have any wireless available, and I couldn’t leech off of some unsuspecting retiree, so we had to visit the McDonald’s where the wi-fi cost less than $2 to research an interesting place to eat out for our one big splurge.
Before we left, we asked the ladies that worked at the front desk at our condo unit if they knew any place that was unique. They were nice to give us a few options, but at this point in our lives, we weren't really able to splurge. What if we went into the place and it was crazy expensive?  
We've done that We-Can’t-Afford-It dance once before.
Last summer, Steph and I went up to Michigan City for our anniversary, walked into a “burger” restaurant, got our glasses of water, opened the menus and saw the cheapest menu item started at $15 for burgers. We looked awkwardly around as we got up and left.
"Don't look at us," we screamed. "We're not leaving!"
When we talked about going out to dinner, the one place I was adamant about not going to was a seafood buffet.
They were everywhere.
They were decorated with all the tchotckes from the high seas. Pirates danced outside, flipping signs that said "eat here and get crabs!" Bright-neon talking starfishes and lighthouses reaching into the stratosphere beckoned like the Bat Signal.
After debating between a couple of places, we decided that one of the Original Benjamin’s Awesome Amazing Calabashes would actually be the best bet. I put away any pretentiousness I had about being a tourist. It's not like we were going to a show at the Dixie Stampede.
My motto that night became “go big or go home.” When we got there, I took the Mardi Gras beads they handed me, posed with the pirate and grabbed a plate and piled on the crab legs. We decided it would be well worth our money to hit up a buffet and eat its worth, instead of a super-nice restaurant where the serving sizes filled a thimble.
To gorge is cost effective.
The thing about buffets (and the only ones we normally eat at are Chinese food ones) is how you could very well eat only main courses and skip out on the sides. I almost did. But to make myself more rounded, I had some mashed potatoes with my salmon, crab, shrimp and more crab.
And more crab.
After I ate the crab, I had a side of crab, next to the crab, layered with crab.
The restaurant was as expansive as the set for "The Game of Thrones." While walking to go to the bathroom, the scary thought of getting lost got my eye twitching.
With 170-plus items, workers wearing sailor shirts, and long wood-paneled hallways, all the halls looked the same. I pictured us trying  to leave, and as a sailor would say, “just down this hall,” I would turn down the hall and be surrounded by more food, more sailor shirts.
The Joseph's Amazing Technicolored Calabash would become a labyrinth of bored workers and pirate ship wood work, and I could never leave.
After returning from the bathroom, I pulled myself out of the nightmare and dipped all the crab in the drawn butter.
We have been to that calabash quite a few times, now. It's the only one we'll ever go to.
Being a tourist shouldn't be looked down on. Now, I won’t walk around with a Hawaiian shirt on, white socks under my Velcro-brown sandals and a safari hat. Being a tourist and being obvious are two very different things.
But, sometimes, you’ve got to do what every other non-local does, because if you didn't, it wouldn't be a vacation.

It'd just be another regular day.