Tuesday, April 22, 2014

R is for Rubescent

For the letter R in the A to Z Blogging Challenge, I'm going with rubescent, which is another word I just learned. I was going to go with the word red, but I came across rubescent, and it means the same thing I was going to talk about, anyway, but is both more fancy and schmancy.

Rubescent means 'growing red/blushing'. That described me as a kid. Well, it still describes me, I suppose, but when I was a kid, it bugged the hell out of me. I'd turn red at the drop of a hat. Not that we wore a lot of hats, but...

And kids got to where they'd say, "Turn red, Joel" and I would. On command. Or they'd say, "Joel's blushing," and then the blushing would grow more intense. Intense rubescence, I s'pose. Some kids thought it was fun to press the skin of my cheek when I was rubescent, and marvel at the white spot that would appear and sustain itself for a while before blending back into the general redness.

Don't get me wrong. I never felt like I was being bullied. The kids who did this weren't being mean, necessarily. Just...well, just annoying, I guess. But it did have an effect on me. I was very self-conscious of my blushing, and tried to avoid any attention whatsoever for a long, long time. That shaped who I was - who I am - to a point. I'm not nearly as self-conscious as I was, but perhaps that was one of the appeals of becoming a writer.

So anyway...rubescent.
And for your enjoyment, the Beatles' "Yes It Is" which talks about the color red, and it was going through my head while writing this blog entry:

Monday, April 21, 2014

Q is for Quilt

Today I'm tackling the letter Q for the A to Z Blogging Challenge, 2014. And for Q I'm going with Quilt. Specifically the quilt my wife, Melissa, made for me a couple years back.

About twice a year she goes on a scrap-booking retreat with friends and aunts and cousins. Usually she works on scrap-booking, but in 2011 she took it upon herself to surprise me by making a quilt at one of these shindigs. Since she knows I'm a Yellowstone fanatic, she found some quilt squares of old Yellowstone postcards and used those for the quilt.

Here's what it looks like:

Instead of making the backing with typical quilt material, she used an extra soft material. It's the perfect snuggling quilt.

Here's some of the detail:

This was the first quilt she'd ever made, and I couldn't have asked for anything better.

I may be biased, but I would have to say BEST QUILT EVER!

Thanks for stopping by!

P is for Party at Anne Rice's House!

For today's A to Z Blogging Challenge, the letter is P. So I'd like to tell you about a Party I went to in 1991 in New Orleans when I was 3 days away from my 23rd birthday. The party was part of the New Orleans Writers' Conference, and was hosted by Anne Rice at her amazing mansion. It was a black tie affair, so I rented a tux for the evening.

Page 1 of the party's program
One of the cool things about this was that it was shortly after the release of her novel The Witching Hour, which I had read a few months earlier. I enjoyed the novel quite a bit. Anne Rice based the mansion's setting in the novel on her own home, plus in the novel, there were a number of black tie parties (if I remember correctly) so while at the party, it sort of felt like you were part of the novel.

Page 2 of the program
Another neat thing was that Anne had opened her house up completely. You were basically free to roam through her (and husband Stan's) house. It was fun to look through her collection of VCR tapes and check out her writing office. Also, there were Stan's paintings hanging all about, and they were really cool - very vibrant colors, with a very New Orleans' feel.

Page 3 of the program, listing all the caterers and others.
So aside from the main house, there was also an expansive yard, complete with pool and guest house. To give you an idea of how big the whole place was, all those caterers listed above were scattered throughout her yard, serving up free food and drinks. Also, near the pool was a band (The Snapbeans!) while at the same time a piano player played in her house, and a sax player played on one of her balconies.

The food was amazing. I was served turtle soup by Paul Prudhomme. I also had baked Alaska for the first time, and other delicious items. Jimmy Buffet and his daughter were at the party. So were Wendy Wasserstein and Roy Blount, Jr.

As I was leaving to catch the bus back to the conference hotel, Anne and Stan were there to wish us farewell, and as I thanked her for the wonderful evening, she shook my hand and said, "Be careful." I guess I'd had more to drink than I'd thought.

Back of the program
It was a fantastic, memorable evening.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

O is for Old Faithful Geyser

For the letter O on the A to Z Blogger Challenge, I'm picking the Old Faithful Geyser.

Here's a photo I took of it from the roof of the Old Faithful Inn:

Since I worked out there for a number of years, I saw it erupt many times. You almost get immune to it. Almost. But it still was always impressive.

The pic above was taken in May, when there are still not many tourists in Yellowstone. At the peak of the season, in June, July and August, that boardwalk is packed. For two of my seasons out there, I worked in the building visible in the background of the picture. While people waited for the geyser to blow, it would be slow inside the building, but after it erupted, there would be the inevitable "geyser rush" and we'd be swamped.

If you want to see the geyser live via webcam, go here.

There are bigger, more impressive geysers out there, but you often have to walk a bit farther, or wait longer - sometimes a LOT longer. Despite the geyser's name, it's not totally faithful. Lots of the tourists assumed it went off every hour on the hour, or something like that, which ain't the case. (Tourists have a lot of strange misconceptions about many things in the park. Some of them provide fun fodder for the employees.) If you do get out that way to see it, it's cool to go out and watch for it to erupt after dark. You hear it more than see it, and what you do see is this ghostly mist rising silver against the stars. Very cool!

N is for Native American Scenic Byway

This entry is for the letter N - part of the A to Z Blogger Challenge. For N, I chose the Native American Scenic Byway, which I traveled with my family for a magazine assignment from American Road Magazine. 

It was a great trip, one of my favorites. Lots of beautiful scenery and interesting places. We got to visit a popcorn factory on the Lower Brule Sioux Reservation, step into an authentic Arikara earth lodge, go on a jeep ride through an elk herd (we did it slowly and quietly - not like we were ram-rodding through them or anything like that!) and visit lots of museums and meet a lot of great people. The byway goes through four different Lakota reservations. Most of the byway is in South Dakota, and part of it continues on into North Dakota. I highly recommend this trip to anyone. 

On one part of the trip, as we were driving over beautiful rolling hills, we almost ran out of gas. We saw on a map that there was a town coming up, so thought it would be no problem to fill up there. However, when we arrived, the gas station was just a husk of a station - it had been closed down for some time. We started thinking that we might have to hoof it a ways, or stand on the side of the road to flag down passing motorists. Luckily, we saw some folks out on a ranch, and we pulled in there, barely on fumes. They happened to be branding cattle. Normally, they'd only have diesel fuel on the premises, but they needed regular gas to power their branding equipment and had an extra gallon to spare. It was enough to get to the next town. Whew!

Here's a page from the article I wrote. The photo is one my wife actually took from inside the earth lodge - she just happened to catch the hawk flying over it:

A great trip, and I hope you get a chance to go!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

M is for Metis Sash

For the A to Z Blogger Challenge, the letter M is brought to you by the Métis sash. It was an integral part of Métis life on the Red River trails back in the mid 1800s. Originally called a L'Assumption sash (named for the town in Quebec in which it was first created) it;s made of wool and typically 3 meters long (about 10 feet) and as you can see in the picture below, quite beautiful. I learned about these while doing research for my YA historical novel Ox Cart Angel.

Métis sash - my folks bought this for me in Winnipeg 

It looks simple, like a long scarf, yet it had many uses. Here are ten of them.

1 - Belt. It was often worn around the waist to hold a Métis coat - known as a capote - closed. A capote, by the way, was usually made from a Hudson Bay blanket.

A capote coat. See the sash in the middle?

2 - Oven mitt. Of course, there weren't necessarily ovens on the ox cart trails, but if they needed to pull a hot pan or pot of coffee off of the fire, they could use their sash like we use an oven mitt today.

3 - Sewing repair. See the threads dangling on the end of the sash in the picture below? They were more than mere decoration. If a thread was needed for mending something, one of them could be pulled off and used for stitching.

4 - Key, knife, fire-kit holder. Those threads could also be used to attach items like keys. When wrapped around the waist, it often also held a knife on one side and a bag with fire-starting equipment on the other side.

5 - Buffalo marker. While on a buffalo hunt, the Métis sash could be used to mark a buffalo. Each sash had its unique qualities, and a Métis hunter could identify his from other sashes. If he killed a buffalo, he could place his sash on it, so that other hunters would know it was his.

6 - A tumpline. Tumplines were used by voyageurs and the Métis to carry heavy loads over portages or uneven terrain. They would place the middle of the sash over the top of their head and use the two free ends to tie a pack to their back.

7 - Bridle or saddle blanket. 

8 - Tourniquet. In a life-threatening emergency where heavy bleeding was involved, a Métis sash could be used as a tourniquet. It would be tied above an injury to stop or slow the flow of blood, turned tight by a stick or other baton-shaped object.

9 - A rope. 

10 - A scarf. A Métis sash does make a nice scarf!

Here's a closeup of the Métis sash so that you can see the detail:

The colors have meaning. The red and white represent the mixing of the American Indian and European nations. The blue represents sky and water. Green represents fertility and growth. Yellows represents the sun.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

L is for Lethonomia

For the A to Z Challenge's letter L, I'm going with lethonomia, which I will admit I had never heard of until a few minutes ago. But it is something I certainly suffer from. Lethonomia is the tendency to forget names. I am embarrassingly bad at remembering names. There have been so many times when I'm introduced to someone, and then like that, poof - it's gone...

I know there are tricks to remembering names, like how you keep saying their name when you talk to them. But maybe it's because as a writer, when writing dialog, that comes across as so phony, so I mentally block myself from doing it.

"Jim, how is the meth lab coming today?" Bob asked.
"Why would I tell you, Bob?" Jim countered.
"Because I'm holding your hamster, Henry, hostage, Jim," Bob counter-countered.
"Henry? My hamster? Hostage? You bastard, Bob!" Jim jammered.
"When you're done spilling your guts about the meth lab, Jim, then maybe I can help you with your alliteration problem," Bob offered.
"Brilliant, Bob - you're the best!" Jim alliterated. "Bob?"

So what was I talking about? Oh yeah - lethonomia. I need to make more of an effort to remember people's names.