May 2006 Archives

the adventures of quentin durward

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May 31 movie: The Adventures of Quentin Durward. This was a fun swashbuckler starring Robert Taylor. Although Robert Morley threatens to steal the movie as the conniving King Louis XI of France. The buckle is well swashed (including an amazing fight scene involving church bells and a flaming pit -- we thought we were watching Iron Monkey set in 15th century France), but the movie also uses humor to keep things fun. I could have lived without the running jokes about how the gypsies are immoral and the scots are cheap, but otherwise I really enjoyed the light tone of the movie. There was also the unintentional humor of the title character's name: most of the actors put on these vaguely British accents, and every time anyone said "Durward" I heard Endora from Bewitched sneering "Durwood."

the joy of clothes

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Erin at Dress a Day has a very nice post about dressing to avoid pain vs. dressing to experience pleasure. I don't agree with her 100%; for one thing, I don't think it's an either/or situation. It's entirely possible to dress both for enjoyment and to avoid pain. And I don't agree with her premise that avoiding discomfort always boils down to fear. I can easily think of circumstances where it's just common sense to consider social discomfort when choosing your clothing: dressing for a professional setting, for instance. And I feel a combination of pity and contempt for people who pay no attention to physical discomfort when buying shoes.

Despite my disagreements, I liked the post a lot. She had one turn of phrase that was so apt I had to stop reading and tell Georg about it immediately: "Something you really, truly love, something that gives you so much joy you don't even care if blind people cross the street to tell you it's ugly...." I would never have put it that way, but that perfectly describes how I feel about my favorite clothes. I love them so much that if Tim Gunn himself descended in a cloud of tulle and told me my outfit sucked, I'd tell him to get bent.

It's not just the flashy clothes like the polka dot dress or the Ethel dress. I also have T-shirts and pajamas that make me feel like the cat's meow. I wish I loved all my clothes that much, that I could get rid of everything that wasn't sheer joy. But then again, I guess I have to have ordinary clothes too, for yard work and so forth.

eyelet potato sack

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I just finished the first sample dress. The pattern for the loose, more mod dress. It was a bit of a disappointment. Rather unflattering. In fact, it looked like a potato sack. An eyelet potato sack.

I'm bummed for several reasons: first, I thought (and still think) that of my two choices, this pattern is better suited to my lace. But there's no way I'm going to say my vows in front of God and Elvis wearing a lace potato sack.

Second, I was so sure this pattern would be the one that this morning I bought just enough dupoini silk to make the underdress of this pattern, but not enough for the other. Still, that may work out: with careful placement (and a short skirt on the underdress) I may be able to get the other pattern out of the silk.

Third, I made the sample dress out of an eyelet that I really liked, and don't want to go to waste. I may be able to salvage it by making a wide belt (like 3-4 inches wide) out of the leftover green linen from the underdress, and putting some darts into the eyelet. As it is, if I try to put a belt on it (as in view 5 in the picture) it gets all bunchy. But with some alterations I may end up with a usable dress out of this.

Looking on the bright side, this is why I made a sample dress. Now I know why I always avoided tent dresses before: because who wants to wear a tent?

happy summer, time for planting

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Summer is finally here! We went to the farmer's market this morning, early enough to beat the heat. It was so crowded! I didn't even go into the produce area but Georg said it was mobbed.

Soon it will be too hot for planting so we're doing as much as we can now. We bought lots this morning, almost all perennials. For the butterfly garden we got a pink gaura, a perennial verbena and a dwarf mexican petunia. I've heard Mexican petunia can be invasive, which scares people off, but for us it would be a good thing because we have so much planting space to fill. We also bought a bright red perennial lantana for the red and orange bed, a pretty coreopsis for down by the road, and four succulents called "ice plant" for the blue and purple bed. They look really good with the blue sedum my folks gave me last year. Also I was inspired to plant a stevia, after seeing it in Lisa's herb garden. I'm going to try steeping it in iced tea. And a cute little Mexican cigar plant, which we had last year and have been trying to find all spring. Now if I can only find a bat face I'll be totally happy. And the last thing we bought was a hardy amaryllis. I can't wait to see what the flowers look like! Probably not as impressive as the tender amayllis they sell as houseplants, but still, I bet it will be beautiful.

After we got home Georg went to the station to do the world music show, and I planted all our new purchases. All except the amaryllis, which needs more bed preparation work. The other plants all go in the sun where we have nice beds all ready, but the amaryllis needs shade, and we've hardly done anything in the shady areas yet. I've been saving those parts of the yard for when it gets too hot to work in the sun.

The garden is starting to look nice, if I do say so. The bank along the driveway has some nice flowers and things are just starting to bloom. It will be years before we get to the "solid mass of color" level of planting, but it's fun to pick out new perennials and figure out where they should go. The cutting garden doesn't have too many flowers in it yet, the zinnias and sunflowers are still too small, but they're healthy and growing, and the freesias just started blooming! They have an incredible scent. Not something I'd want in a perfume -- it would be really heavy -- but lovely in a flower. Most of them are yellow so far, with a couple of red ones and one white. They aren't as big as the ones at the florist, which is a good thing because these are just the right size for our bud vase. The bigger ones would have to go into a big vase, and then we'd need tons of stems to fill the vase.

Speaking of coming into bloom, the hydrangeas are blooming! We planted them two autumns ago, and they didn't bloom last year, so I'm very excited to see flowers on almost all of them. All except the one we had to replace last fall. The flowers are still clusters of buds, just starting to open up, so they're all still greenish white. Although one of them is starting to show tinges of red at the edges of the petals. I can hardly wait until they open up and show their colors!

The vegetable garden is looking good too. They seem to really like those raised beds. As Georg commented, the small plants like chard and beets are starting to look like tiny versions of themselves, not just seedlings. And the tomatos and zucchini are doing great. We have flowers on the Super Sweet 100, Arkansas Traveler and Early Girl, and this morning I even saw a tiny fruit on the Early Girl! Yay!

The only disappointment so far in the vegetable garden is the peppers. They haven't done a thing; the seedlings are the same size as when I planted them, what, a month ago? I don't understand it. Last year we planted peppers from seed and they did great. Whatever the reason, I bought some poblanos and sweet peppers from Home Depot to replace my stunted seedlings.

After planting, my next job was to repair the whole house fan. It really needed to be done now that we're having summery weather. For the past year or so the fan hasn't been drawing well. On high it works ok, but on low, the setting we normally use, the slats barely open.

The furnace repairman who came last winter looked at it and identified the problem as a damaged belt. It was torn halfway through, in fact. He said that the tear had made the belt longer so it was slipping, that's why the motor wasn't as effective anymore. If the belt had torn all the way, I wonder if it would have damaged the motor? Probably not; it wasn't inside any kind of casing so probably would have just come loose. Depending on how fast it was maving, I guess it might have hit the inside of the roof. It's a good thing that guy told us about it before that happened.

Anyway, Georg found a replacement belt online, but we never got around to installing it until today. It was easier to do than I had expected. It was really obvious where it went, and I figured out how to unscrew the clamp around the motor so I could shift the motor and get the belt around it. The only problem is, it didn't fix the problem! It works better on high, but on low the slats still barely open. So I guess the motor must have some other problem. Or maybe I didn't install the belt properly. It seemed like there was only one way to put it on, but what do I know. Anyway, the fan may not work perfectly, but at least it works. We prop the slats open with a rolled-up magazine and then we get decent airflow in the house.

By the time I was done with the planting and the fan, it was almost 2 pm and I was filthy and hungry. I took a quick shower and had nice leftovers for lunch (pork loin sauteed with vegetables, tomatillos and adobo seasoning, with some good queso fresco Georg got from that big Latino supermarket). Then I tried to take a nap, which attempt mostly failed because the phone kept ringing. Next time, earplugs. Since then I've been watching a "Whose Wedding Is It Anyway" marathon and working on the wedding dress. More on that in another post.

hate headaches

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Yesterday's to-do list was thwarted by a headache. It was a bad one, bad enough that driving home was kind of scary. Note to self: now that these headaches are happening more frequently I need to carry a bottle of painkillers in my purse. At least I had the sense to stop at Wendy's and get an iced tea. Caffeine helps by dilating the blood vessels in the head. I guess it dilates blood vessels everywhere, not just in the head, but it's the ones in the head that help with a headache.

Jane did the sweetest thing when I got home: normally she rushes outside as soon as I open the door, and stays out there pretty much all day. But yesterday she stayed with me, laying at the foot of the bed the whole time. It wasn't until hours later when I got up and started moving around that she went outside. Aww.

Eventually I fell asleep and when I woke up my headache was mostly gone. It usually happens that way. I thought it was just the passage of time but the doctor told me that sleep can stop headaches. Maybe it derails the pain response or something, I don't know. Anyway, by that time I was pretty well exhausted so I puttered around for awhile and then went to sleep.

So today is even worse because I've got all of yesterday's work to do on top of everything else. And yet, I can't feel cranky or stressed out when there's a wood thrush singing outside the window.

more on the dress

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I have the wedding dress narrowed down to two new patterns. I already have a dress in the pattern I was thinking of before. I wear it to art car trips, and in Houston I discovered it's a bit big now, and with the high waist and loose fit it looked dismayingly like a maternity dress. Next!

gardening update

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This past weekend felt like the first time in a month I had done any gardening. It probably wasn't that bad, but the art car trip did take up my time for the past several weeks. It felt so good to get back into the garden.

I didn't get as much done as Lisa but I did some good gardening. On Saturday I weeded along the driveway. Just in the nick of time, too: the weeds were still easy to scrape out with the hoe, but just about the reach the size where they wouldn't have been. So I'm really glad I got to it. Meanwhile Georg installed little edging things to help prevent the topsoil from spilling out onto the driveway. We were both surprised by how much erosion had already occurred: he scooped up 3 buckets of soil from the pavement. Also I dug out a small bed for the bay leaf I was planning to buy on Sunday.

Sunday morning we went to the farmer's market and bought lots of plants. Then we went home and I planted them all! It's so much easier to plant in nice prepared beds. Not like a year ago, when I had to hack planting holes out of solid clay. Let's see, what did we buy? A butterfly plant called hyssop something, which looks kind of like a salvia and grows 3 feet tall. A teeny tiny little bay leaf, which I planted near the water heater exhaust vent in hope that the warm exhaust will keep it alive through the winter. (It's also possible that the exhaust fumes will kill it, which is why we got a tiny one.) Also an unusual hot pink echinacea called Razzmatazz, and a little silvery plant that's supposed to have white flowers and spread readily. And a 4 foot tall purple mullein, and a pink and yellow lantana, and another purple flower called Kobold, and some dianthus, and something else. I forget. A pretty good haul! I could have bought tons more. I have a big wish list for next week.

passage to marseille

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May 1 movie: Passage to Marseille. With Humphrey Bogart, Claude Rains, Sidney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre among others, this movie should have been better than it was. It's about a bunch of escapees from Devil's Island who enlist to fight for France.

May ? movie: Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. This wasn't the best movie ever, but I did enjoy it very much as an exercise in retro, a tribute to films from the "Golden Age" of Hollywood. It kind of reminded me of Raiders of the Lost Ark in that sense. Gwyneth Paltrow and Jude Law do have great chemistry and are good at playing characters in a 40's movie. I loved the giant robots that attack Manhattan, and the memorable last line of the movie.

it's love i'm after

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May 11 movie: It's Love I'm After. This was a delightful little Bette Davis movie. Also stars Leslie Howard as a pompous actor, Olivia de Havilland as his star-struck fan, and the marvelous Eric Blore, wearing an abominable toupee. I didn't even know they were doing Bette Davis this month on TCM until I stumbled across this on my first morning in Houston. I missed three weeks of it! Bummer.

the harvey girls

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May 14 movie: The Harvey Girls. I don't know why, but this is my favorite Judy Garland movie. Maybe it's Angela Lansbury as the sassy saloon girl/villain. Maybe it's the song "The Acheson, Topeka and the Santa Fe." Maybe it's Ray Bolger's dancing. Or maybe it's just those cute aprons the Harvey girls wear. Whatever the reason, I love this movie.

wayne's world 2

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May 15 movie: Wayne's World 2. I only watched this because it was the last night of my trip and I was tired of my book and there was nothing else on. It had a few funny moments but was mostly a waste of time. The hotel room sucked, too. There was an air vent in the bathroom making this insanely loud noise. I couldn't stand it unless I shut the bathroom door. Also there were cigarette burns in the bedspread, and the closet door was broken, and there was no desk or table to put my computer on. Whine, whine, whine.

new product request

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I'm back in Durham! The two days of travel were fine, the hotel in GA was not, the Greenville Whole Foods is still impressive. But first, a new product idea I had on the way home.

I really enjoyed my audio books. So much that last night, instead of watching lame TV I plugged my iPod into my computer and kept listening. Which was really cool because the iPod kept my place.

The only problem was that I couldn't exactly match travel time to audio book time. I got home with about 5 hours left in Post Captain. Unfortunately my daily life doesn't much accommodate audio books. I don't have a long commute and I don't think I could concentrate on an audio book while working.

What I'd like to see is a combination audio book/e-book. You could listen on your iPod, then plug into your computer and start reading from the last bit you heard. Then mark your place in the e-book, and go back to audio starting from where you stopped reading.

Wouldn't that be cool?

monday afternoon

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I ended up taking a nap and then walking around the Garden District. It was one of those days where no one particular amazing thing happens; everything is just so extremely pleasant that you end up feeling like it was the best day ever.

The guides say that the best way to get there is to take a bus down St. Charles. I didn't know where to get the bus, so I figured I'd start walking down St. Charles until I found it. Well I never did see the bus, but I got to the Garden District in about 45 minutes which isn't so bad. And it was nice to walk through an area that looked like a normal city, to be reminded that there's more to New Orleans than just the French Quarter.

I was walking through the commercial district when I saw a bunch of TV people standing around. Right when I got to them, they suddenly started acting more alert. I saw a man walking towards them and realized that it was the mayor of New Orleans! I grabbed a quick shot of him with my my phone cam, but then he started talking and I wasn't interested in actually listening to his speech, plus I was in the way of the reporters, so I moved on.

When I got out of the commercial district I had to cross under a highway. I stopped at a mini-mart to buy a bottle of water, and when I got to the register the clerk told me to take 2 because they were buy one get one free.

Finally I got to the Garden District. I was hoping to get gardening ideas, but it's really more about architecture. All the gardens I saw were too formal, or too tropical, or both, to give me much inspiration. I did see a lot of nice houses though. It's kind of weird to be a tourist of private homes that people actually live in. I was embarrassed a couple of times to be standing there staring at a house when someone walked out of it. But I guess they're used to it by now. I saw the oldest home in New Orleans, and also Anne Rice's house. (It's lavish, sprawling and pretentious. Insert joke about her books.)

I walked down to Magazine Street and looked in the windows of a bunch of cool stores, and stopped for an ice cream cone on the way back. Then when I got to the French Quarter, I walked past a bar band playing decent jazz instead of the usual horrible rock cover band. And I got back to the room just as the Colbert Report was starting. What a nice afternoon. I ended up walking for about 3 1/2 hours and got back just before it got dark. The weather was relatively cool and breezy, perfect for walking.

I just got my last few photos finally posted, so now I can relax for the rest of the evening. Too bad the hotel cable doesn't have Soapnet. Oh hey, The Harvey Girls is on! I love this movie.

Tomorrow morning I'm going to stop at Whole Foods for supplies on my way out of town. I think I'm going to manage my goal of not once eating fast food or in a chain restaurant. Not bad for an 11 day trip. Today I spent less than $15 on food the whole day: beignets, the ginornimous muffuletta for lunch and dinner, and the ice cream cone. I'm aiming to get on the road by 10, which will get me to Atlanta by 6 (7 hours of driving plus time zone change).

laissez les bon temps roulez

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My second stay at the Prince Conti and I have one complaint: the noise. Not just the bar bands on Bourbon Street, which they have no control over, but the walls are pretty thin too. (Fortunately the only noise I can hear from the next room is talking. So it's just annoying, not icky.) Still, the hotel is cheap, charming, convenient and has net access. So I'm still happy with the experience. Good thing I have earplugs!

The drive to New Orleans yesterday was kind of a pain -- bad traffic a couple of times, including one place where the signs said I-10 was closed and we were going to have to detour up I-45 N, but by the time we got to I-45 (20 minutes later) the traffic had cleared. I guess they hadn't had a chance to turn off the sign. I never did see what had happened; by the time we got to Whiskey Bay, where the road was supposed to be closed, everything looked totally normal.

Anyway, after all that traffic I took it easy last night, and plan to do the same today. Found a place last night called Coop's that has rabbit jambalaya and free wireless. My kind of place! I would have stayed all night but it's not a large place and I didn't want to monopolize the table. I might go back tonight though.

Today I learned that muffuletta is pronounced moof-a-lot-a. I learned this while ordering a muff-a-let-a from Verti Mart. So much for my grand plan to pass as a local. At least I'm not wearing a fanny pack. The Verti Mart muffuletta, by the way, was not as good as the one last week from Central Grocery. The bottom piece of bread was completely saturated with olive oil. I mean wet through and sitting in a puddle of oil. I thought it was because they made it in advance, but the Central Grocery muffuletta sat in my cooler all day and never got like that. I still have 2/3 of the sandwich left, here's hoping it seems more appetizing this evening.

I thought the way I'd been eating the past few days, I'd have gained a little weight. But this morning I discovered that I can put my favorite jeans on without unbuttoning them. I like my jeans a little loose in the seat, but this is a bit much. I think I need more beignets!

The plan is to explore the garden district this afternoon, but that may turn out to be too much walking for my lazy self. We'll see how it goes!

illuminated cruise

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So we ended up going back to Goode Company for dinner again on Saturday night. This time I had the brisket sandwich, instead of a whole dinner, so I'd have room for pecan pie. Which lived up to its reputation. Oh man it was good. Good enough that I didn't even mind sitting next to an annoying group who included a guy nervously bouncing his leg and making the whole table shake. I think there should be an etiquette rule: no nervous bouncing or kicking while sitting at a communal table. I thought he was going to make me seasick, but then I moved across the table to sit next to Georg, and on the other side of the table I couldn't feel the bouncing anymore.

We had directions from the restaurant to the art car museum, but we somehow ended up going the opposite direction from what we should have at every turn, so a 15 minute trip took almost an hour. Luckily the illuminated cruise was on art car time, so instead of being really late we arrived in plenty of time. Besides, now at least I've seen the Astrodome.

The illuminated cruise was well organized, things seemed to go really smoothly. It was huge too. Way more cars than two years ago. A lot of the cars didn't have lights, but the ones with gas jets more than made up for it. They had us drive around downtown, and the people on the streets seemed to really dig it. We were party poopers and took off at the first stop. What can I say, it was already after 10 pm and we had to get up early the next morning for travel. Plus we knew how to get back to our hotel from that location, which is definitely something to take advantage of. It's too bad because the illuminated cruise is the "just for us" event. And the nighttime weather was beautiful and cool after such a hot day. But we stayed with the cruise for a couple of hours, that was enough to enjoy the experience and still get a decent night's sleep.

parade day

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I forgot to mention that there was an event last night -- the "Shop Talk" seminar -- which we didn't go to. We heard that the main speech was a debate between Brian Taylor of HACK (Houston Art Car Klub) and Harrod Blank, director of Wild Wheels, about whether people should make money off their art cars. I like both of them, they're both interesting people, but I cannot imagine any discussion related to art cars that would be less interesting to me. Some folks at the welcome dinner summed it up perfectly: "If you want to make money and you can figure out how, do. If you don't, don't. Debate over; let's have a beer!"

So we skipped the seminar. There was also a speech by the Big Horn guy -- he's in Harrod's upcoming movie, a rough cut of which we saw two years ago -- which I was a little disappointed to miss. But honestly, I enjoyed a nice brisket dinner and turning in early more than I would have enjoyed that speech.

So this morning was the main event. Our line-up number was 41 and we were supposed to arrive between 9 and 10. I think we got there at 9:30, and we were not at all surprised to be among the first arrivals. A very pleasant surprise was when we were lined up waiting to get to the staging area, and discovered our friend Marilyn in the car behind us! We met Marilyn at Artscape a few years ago, and we saw her again here in '04. She told me today that I'm responsible for costing her money, at least my blog is, by getting her hooked on BPAL. I'm always happy to be an enabler! She said that her favorite is the limited edition Red Lantern, which she had to get off Ebay. The conversation reminded me that I have a bottle of Monster Bait: Underpants waiting for me at home. So sad that I can't try it until I get home on Wednesday!

The bad news this morning was that we were number 41, and number 42 was the amazing Draka: a dragon over 100 feet long, made of several buses and flatbeds hitched together. As soon as we saw that, we knew no one would be looking at us. Oh well, we lucked out in previous years and weren't too close to anything spectacular. I guess this wasn't our year. Besides, as Tim Klein said, at least we know we're in a lot of photos. At least, the back end of our car is.

The parade wasn't until 1 pm. Which was good because it gave us plenty of time to walk up and down the line and take photos. But on the downside, it meant we had been walking around in the sun and heat for 3.5 hours before the parade even started. Luckily there was a shady spot not too far from UMJ, where Georg and I could sit and keep an eye on the car.

Every year I'm amazed by the size of this event. It's 10 times the size of any other parade we go to. Looking down the line at dozens of incredible, beautiful, weird art cars is a feeling, a sense of community, that's hard to describe. I don't feel isolated or ostracized because of my art car; on the contrary, people seem to really like it. But still, art cars in Durham are such a rarity that I can't help but feel like something of an oddball. Even when Durham people love the car, they don't -- can't -- get it in the way that a fellow art car driver does. It's such a great feeling to be surrounded by people who share this crazy cool thing with me.

The spectators this year were really cool for the most part. Only a couple of things happened that irritated me. First, during the parade, a woman jumped up in front of me and motioned me to move forward. I thought she was a volunteer telling me to pick up the pace, so I complied. Then I realized that she was just a spectator who wanted me to get out of the way so she could take a photo of Draka! Excuse me, this isn't a Draka photo session. It's a parade and I'm in it too, bitch! I didn't mind people being so much more excited about Draka than they were about us. After all, Draka is way more impressive than UMJ; that's just a fact. But that really cheesed me off.

The second thing was really the most rude. Near the end of the parade, we passed by a boy who yelled "Die, Barbie, die!" and threw a firecracker at UMJ! That was the one time that I had to restrain myself from yelling out language that was not appropriate for a family event. Georg told me later that if there weren't volunteers all over the place, he would have jumped out of the car and confronted the parents. I think the gist was to ask them if they were wolves, because their son had clearly been raised by wolves. The parents, need I add, were standing right there and made no effort to correct their child.

Okay, but enough complaining. For the most part everyone was really nice, and I had many pleasant interactions that didn't involve firecrackers or people telling me to get out of the way of the more interesting cars. I think one of the best interactions was early on, when I talked to a Chinese man who was there with his grandchildren. He saw the mah jongg tiles and got all excited. He pronounced it "mah jiang" so I guess that must be the Chinese name for mah jongg. I asked him if he played mah jongg and he smiled self-deprecatingly and said "Very long time ago." Which probably means that he's a champion player who won tons of money playing mah jongg in his youth. Then he asked me if I played, and I said "yes, but very badly." Unfortunately I wasn't being modest in a Chinese way, I was being honest in an American way about my lack of skill at mah jongg. Not like it matters, he didn't challenge me to a game or anything. I would never play mah jongg against a Chinese person because first of all, I know Japanese rules; and secondly, I don't like to gamble and mah jongg is a gambling game in Asia. I gather that it's like poker is to us; they don't see the point of playing if you don't gamble.

After the parade there was an after party somewhere in downtown. We tried to find it, but the people we were following got lost and so did we. We spent some time trying in vain to follow the directions, until we finally realized that after 5 hours in the sun and heat, we didn't really want to go to an after party which would involve more standing around in the sun and heat.

So we went back to the hotel and rested for a few hours. Luckily we still had sandwich fixings from my drive out here, and cold water in the fridge. Having a fridge in the hotel room is the most wonderful thing.

non art car afternoon

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Yesterday after leaving the Main Street Drag we did some non-art-car things. Here's a quick rundown:

First, lunch at Lankford Grocery. Great place. I read on Roadfood.com that decades ago it was a grocery with a lunch counter. Eventually the grocery disappeared but the lunch counter remained. The burgers were a bit messy, but excellent. Definitely worth the trip.

After lunch we decided to be safe drivers and go to Discount Tire, as recommended by Russ. He was right, too: the tire guy said that 3 of my tires were bad enough to need immediate replacement, and the 4th was iffy. Separation had begun on one tire, and the return trip would not have been safe. He asked me if I had noticed any shaking, and what do you know, I sure had! One hour later and $300 lighter, and I have four spanking new tires on my car. They sold me a tire warranty, and considerately checked the computer to make sure there were stores in Durham. Actually there aren't, but they have 2 stores scheduled to open within the next couple of months. So I figured the warranty was worth it. I have to say I was pleased with Discount Tire. It was a lot faster than Merchant's even though we walked in with no appointment.

Speaking of tires, I have to say something positive about driving in Houston. (possibly the only time this will ever happen!) The roads are psychotic, but the drivers seem pretty cool. When leaving the tire place, I had to get on the highway and immediately cross five lanes of bumper-to-bumper traffic at rush hour, to make a left exit. And I did it without any problem because people were so nice about letting me in. I don't know if it was because they dug the art car, or because they saw that I was from out of state and took pity on me, or if they're just all cool about that kind of thing because they're all in the same boat.

For dinner yesterday we went to the famous Goode Company for famous brisket. Dang, that was some fine brisket. The smoky smell hit us as soon as we got out of our car. The place is tiny and crowded, but the tables turn over fairly quickly so we didn't have trouble finding a place to sit. Excellent iced tea, too. I must say, I understand better now how much the Q Shack is based on Texas barbecue places. My only disappointment with Goode Company is that we didn't get a slice of pecan pie. Roadfood had mentioned it as a highlight of the restaurant, but we were too full after all that brisket. Then today we saw a show on Food Network about America's best pies that mentioned Goode Company's pecan pie! I think we may go back tonight for a crack at that pie. And more brisket, of course.

Soon we'll head out for dinner and the illuminated cruise, and then tonight I'll post today's photos and write up the parade.

main street drag

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When I last left off, we had struggled free of the Art Car Ball and made it back to the hotel around 11pm last night. During art car events I make every effort to get all my photos posted the same day I take them. Last night I was so tired that to heck with the photos, I could have fallen into bed and gone right to sleep. But the photos would not be ignored, if for no other reason than I had filled up both my photo cards and needed to clear them out to take more photos this morning at the Main Street Drag.

By the time I got the big card emptied and all those photos posted, it was 1 am. So you can imagine that I wasn't exactly fresh and alert when we headed out at 7:45. In fact, I felt pretty much miserable. Things quickly got worse when we followed our directions that I had printed in advance, and arrived at their conclusion, with our destination (the Houston Zoo) nowhere in sight. We pulled out the map and discovered that the directions had led us to North MacGregor St., but we needed to be at South MacGregor St.

One of these days I will get to the Main Street Drag on time, but not this time. A breakneck trip followed, trying to follow the very confusing map, both of us fearing that we weren't going to get there in time and would be left behind. We ended up arriving after all the drivers were supposed to have checked in and be in their cars, but luckily we were on Route 4 and they leave in order. So we had just enough time to grab a couple of bagels from the remnants of the breakfast.

Our route had 2 other people we knew: Chris of the Heaven and Hell car, and the Sashimi Tabernacle Choir guys. They asked Georg if we had our wireless network running, which made me sad because we didn't, but on the other hand pleased that they remembered that about us. They've added new music and choreography to the choir, making it fun to watch even if you've seen it at previous events like we have.

Our first stop, Grady Middle School, was really nice. They had lots of kids who were really enthusiastic about the cars, and had been given an assignment to ask us questions from questionnaires. Which meant that the kids actually engaged us in conversation which always makes it more fun. Best of all, the school had benches in the shade so we could get out of the sun for a few minutes. Georg and I thought that no one would even notice our car with the Sashimi Tabernacle Choir on our route. But we got our share of attention from the kids once we turned the bubble machine on. I saw several kids trying to catch the bubbles in their mouths! What's up with that?

The second stop was where things started to go wrong. First of all, we got lost on the way. At the first stop I saw the group leader and one of the police escort debating where we were supposed to go next, and not seeming to come to a definitive agreement. But I was still surprised when we suddenly did a u-turn and doubled back, then met up with another cop in a car who was clearly giving directions to our motorcycle cops. Our group leader said later that the printed route she had been given in advance was wrong. After the struggles we've had to follow directions, I have no trouble believing that.

A few minutes after we doubled back, Chris (Heaven and Hell Car) pulled out of the route and waved us to continue on without him. We don't know what happened to him; maybe he decided that the Main Street Drag wasn't his thing after all. Or maybe he had enjoyed the party last night a little too much and just wasn't up for it. Just after that, the whole group came to a stop, and the Sashimi Tabernacle Choir guys pushed their car out of the line-up! I had noticed a loud knocking noise coming from their vicinity as we drove, and when they opened the hood white smoke came billowing out. Not a good sign at all. I hope they got it repaired today so they won't miss the parade tomorrow. Georg and I joked that our route was cursed, but in a way it wasn't a joke.

Just after we left Sashimi Tabernacle Choir and started moving again, I looked in my rearview and saw a new art car following us! We found out later that they had accidently joined the wrong route, but had the cell number of our group leader, so were able to join up with us in progress. But at the time it was very disorienting. It was like, "okay we're lost, now where's Chris going? Oh no, Sashimi broke down! Hey, who are those people?" all in the space of ten minutes. Very strange.

As I mentioned I had felt fairly miserable when I got up this morning. I chalked it up to lack of sleep and figured I'd feel better when I got going. But while all this chaos was happening in our group, I was feeling more and more sick. For awhile now I've noticed that if I don't eat breakfast first thing in the morning, my stomach hurts. Up high, right below my ribcage, I get an empty painful feeling. Usually if this happens, it goes away shortly after I eat. But I've been trying not to go too long between meals, and always eat at least something first thing in the morning.

I guess it was the combination of skipping dinner so that my stomach was really empty, and the lack of sleep, and being too rushed and wound up to eat before we left the hotel room, and the stress on the drive over, and then standing in the sun at the schools. But even though I ate a bagel around 8:45, the pain in my stomach not only didn't go away, but got worse as if I hadn't eaten. By the time we got to our second stop, St. Theresa's Catholic School, I was having a hard time functioning. It wasn't so bad while we were driving, because that gave me something else to focus on. But when we got to the school there was nothing to do but stand there in the glaring sun and feel the pain in my stomach. To get out of the sun I sat on the curb in the shade of a monster SUV. Unfortunately that meant my head was practically inside the wheel well, and the smell of the tire made me feel like I was going to throw up.

I've been joking that I must have an ulcer, but this morning made me think that maybe I really do. I'm going to make a doctor's appointment as soon as I get back. Anyway, in the meantime I was not enjoying the Main Street Drag at all. Georg and I agreed that at the next stop we would leave the group and ask for help finding our way back to our hotel.

The third stop was the Lighthouse Center for the Blind. Which turned out to be on the same street as our hotel, about a mile down the road. Which made our decision to leave the group much easier: no need to ask for directions. Another bonus, our car ended up in almost full shade when we pulled into the lot. Being out of the sun made the standing around a lot easier.

Plus the people at Lighthouse Center were much more interested in talking about the cars than kids typically are. So I had many interesting conversations, explaining the car to people, which gave me something else to think about. One guy was giving a Spanish lesson to the girls who walked around with him. He kept touching the fish on my car and saying Pescado! over and over. Another guy liked the car so much he climbed right in! He didn't seem to be hurting anything, just playing with the steering wheel, so I didn't try to stop him. The staff made him get out when they saw him though. I teased him a little, telling him that he couldn't have my car because I needed it to get home.

I was worried a bit about the bubbles. It's such a visual thing that I didn't think it would offer much enjoyment to blind people. Instead I thought it might be a nuisance to them, being pelted with sticky stuff. But to my surprise they seemed to like the bubbles. The staff would tell them when the bubbles were blowing in their direction, and they would hold out their hands to feel them. It helped that the bubble machine was nearly empty, so it wasn't the massive flood of bubbles we get when we first start it up. Even I don't like standing in that.

I was really sad that Sashimi Tabernacle Choir didn't make it to the Lighthouse Center. I think the folks there would have really liked it, with all the music and movement. Still, they seemed to dig UMJ because it has so many different textures and things to touch. It was really fun to walk around the car with someone, describing the elements to them as they ran their hands along it.

One thing that surprised me was that several of the people used idioms that relate to sight. For instance someone might call to a friend, "come here, look at this!" I've been following a discussion in Suzette Haden Elgin's journal about "sight-dominance" in language, and the importance of adapting one's speech for people who aren't sight-dominant. (For example, not saying "See here" when you mean "Pay attention.") So I was surprised to hear a blind person invite another blind person to look at something.

As Georg and I had agreed, we dropped out of the group after the Lighthouse Center and went back to our hotel. Which absolutely was the right thing to do. We missed the last two stops and the free lunch, but we were able to get out of the sun, rest and eat right away, which made a world of difference for my stomach.

One last thing: I have to give credit to the police escort for our group. The route this time seemed like it was much more challenging for them -- driving on freeways and busy main roads -- but there were no problems with traffic interference for the 2+ hours we were with the group. I had planned to thank them at the final stop, but of course I didn't make it to the final stop. So, to the 2 motorcycle cops who escorted Group 4, you'll probably never read this, but thank you for doing such a great job of keeping us all together and keeping random traffic out of our caravan.

The rest of the day was devoted to non-art car stuff, so I will write it up in another post.

art car ball

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Where do I start. Okay, well the first thing is a note to myself, to remember that everything takes way longer than I think it will during an art car weekend. Picked Georg up from the airport without incident, except for it taking about an hour longer than expected. His plane landed at 1:30 but we didn't arrive at Lankford Grocery until 3, just as they were closing. Luckily, Lee and Russ knew of a nice Greek place called Niko Niko's which had excellent iced tea.

I had a great time chatting with them and catching up, and then Lee took us to a Penzey's field trip. Yay! Penzey's! I've been ordering from their catalog for years, but this is the first time I've been in a city that had one of their stores. It was a little overwhelming, I have to say. They have sample jars of all the spices so you can find out what they smell like. It worked too; we bought a jar of Sunny Paris spice blend based on the sniff test. It was the shallot that hooked me. We also bought bay leaves, which we were almost out of; szechuan peppercorn, our stash of which had gotten stale and musty (I bought a huge bag when the FDA took them off the market years and years ago); and smoked paprika just because it smelled so good.

Our conversation with Russ and Lee had turned to car repair at one point, and I mentioned that shaking my car has been doing at high speed. Russ took a look at my tires and declared them to be very worn, possibly in the early stage of tread separation, and overall not safe for the return trip. You know, I had my mechanic check out my car before the trip, and he said everything was fine. It never occcurred to me that the mechanic wouldn't check the tires because he doesn't do tires. Anyway, Russ recommended Discount Tires as a fast place to get new tires.

We had no time for the tires yesterday, since our lunch and Penzey's trip had taken up the entire afternoon. We had just enough time to get back to our hotel, drop off Georg's luggage, and change our clothes before the Art Car Ball. They had told us beforehand that no cars would be admitted after 6. We took them seriously, but I guess we should have realized that was in art car time. There were cars arriving until about 7 and no one seemed to give them a hard time.

As always, the Art Car Ball was a crazy scene. The costumes seemed more elaborate than I remembered from previous years, but maybe I just didn't notice last time. I'm bummed about not getting photos of a few, like the man with an actual flame jet on his head, and the guy wearing a spacesuit (or maybe undersea diving suit) with live plants in the airpack on his back. But I did get photos of some of the good costumes, including Russ's ferry outfit.

Most of the party was outside, including the bands. There was a B-52s cover band that I quite enjoyed, especially since they played obscure songs as well as hits. (I wish they had played my favorite B-52s song, "Cake," but since I wasn't dancing I didn't have the nerve to request it.) There was also an "angry white boy" band (Georg calls this "big pants music") fronted by a guy making ice sculpture with chain saws. Two chain saws at once, at one point. I did not care for the music at all, but the ice sculptor was quite the showman. They also had a chill-out space indoors, with a bar lit by black light and a room with another band, and later on "urban bellydancers." Which I gather is bellydancers performing to Western music.

There was also a giant puppet there as part of the entertainment. At one point the puppet was dancing with somebody, and I went over to take his photo, and he moved towards me with his arms out like he was going to grab me. It really creeped me out, this puppet looming over me with his arms outstretched, so I screamed a little and ran away. And damn if that puppet didn't chase me all over the parking lot! Jeez, dude, crowd interaction is all well and good but learn how to recognize whether someone is playing along or is trying to get the hell away from you. I finally escaped him by ducking around a car, spotting two people I had already met, and saying to them "Help! That puppet is chasing me!" They distracted the puppet while I got away.

What with all the stress, and not eating lunch until 3:30, Georg and I didn't eat dinner at all. Which meant that by 10 we had crashed hard, and really wanted to go. That was when they said we could leave, but unfortunately we were parked in behind several rows of cars. We walked around awhile feeling tired and grumpy and sorry for ourselves, then we went back up to the bar and lay on a couch while I amused myself taking photos of my polka dot dress under blacklight. (Georg got an excellent photo of the black light effect earlier in the evening, which I hope he posts soon.)

Eventually the nearby cigar smoker drove us away, so we went back outside and had the brilliant idea of asking the people at the gate if there was any way we could get out. To my surprise they told me that one of the cars in front of us also wanted to leave. So they had already identified the one car they could move to open the logjam, and were trying to find that driver to let us out. I must say, my hat's off to those guys. It cannot be easy for them to deal with the art car weekend logistics, but they manage it well.

I chatted for awhile with the other woman who was trying to leave (she's from Beaumont TX and had a 90 minute drive ahead of her!) and by 10:45 they had located the missing driver, moved the car, and we had a way out. We had to drive off a really steep curb, but I took it slowly, at as much of an angle as I could manage, and didn't bump the undercarriage of my car at all.

The drive back to the hotel was surprisingly easy. Generally Houston driving goes like this: "Where the hell are we? Dammit! That street is one way the wrong way! Look at the map, is this street even on the map? Christ, we're on a highway now! How did that happen? Fuck! I hate driving in this goddamned city!" That's how the conversation goes every time we get in the car here. But last night wasn't like that at all. Even though I had forgotten to get reverse directions, last night it went more like "Wait, I think I know where we are! If we turn left here, we'll end up exactly where we need to be! Hey, there's our hotel!" Believe me, I savored the moment. I don't expect it to be repeated.

damned time zones, part 2

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This morning I slept until 6. I might have gotten back to sleep until I thought to myself that it was 7 back home, and therefore time to get up. Then it was all over. Stupid brain.

Seeing as this morning is one of the few blocks of downtime I get all weekend, of course I spent the last hour .. debugging my blog templates. Yes, I'm a total geek. Like you're even surprised.

Today I have to pick Georg up at the airport at 1:30. Then we're meeting Lee and her husband Russ for lunch. Over the phone last night Russ gave me some wonderfully helpful advice about the airport -- on what road to enter it, and also the fact that they have a "cell phone lot" where I can wait for Georg to call me when he has his luggage, rather than parking and trying to meet him inside baggage claim.

Then tonight, the Art Car Ball! This year the logistics are a little different. In previous years you just showed up whenever. We were late due to getting lost, but they didn't care when we arrived. There were still artists arriving when we left, and my recollection was that the party was just getting started. This time the instructions say we have to be there between 4 and 6, no late entries. After that we can leave but our car can't until 10, and the party is over at midnight.

I'm not sure yet what we're going to do about dinner tonight. What with eating lunch around 2 we're certainly not going to have dinner before 6. I guess we'll have to get some takeout food and take it with us. I wish I had known how well those muffulettas from Central Grocery keep.

travel day 3

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I'm in Houston! Arrived around 5:30. It took longer than I was hoping, but I guess I couldn't expect every day to be easy peasy. I am so glad to be done with that drive. At least for a few days.

The day wasn't all bad though. This morning I had a lovely breakfast at Croissant D'Or, which turns out to be a great little bakery/coffee shop where most of the customers seemed to be locals. Always a good sign. The person in front of me in line knew the waitress' name and introduced his companion to her! After breakfast I walked around the French Quarter awhile. I saw the building my friend David painted in this picture. At 9 Central Grocery opened and I bought a muffuletta, which I took with me and had for lunch and dinner. (It was a big sandwich!) Saving the sandwich only made it better, as the olive oil had more time to soak into the bread. My only complaint about the muffuletta was that I'm not fond of green olive. But I'm well aware that green olive is a key ingredient of a muffuletta, so this is a matter of personal preference, not a problem with the sandwich. At least the olives came in big, easy-to-pick-out chunks.

Also, according to at least one witness (scroll down for the comment) I drive like a maniac. And here I thought I was driving cautiously! I made a point of not driving faster than the flow of traffic, and often slower. When the speed limit is 55, I drive 65. When it's 65, I drive 70. And when it's 70, I drive ... 70. My car has been shaking, kind of a shimmy, if I get much over 70, so I was trying not to. I think that's why I went so much faster than the Yahoo estimate on Monday, then yesterday it was about on target, then today I was slower than the estimate. Because the speed limits go up as you head west, so the estimate is based on a higher speed.

The hotel is more expensive than last time, but it looks like they renovated. The room is big and nice inside. It has a fridge and a microwave! Good thing too, because I have a cooler full of food.

This evening I went to the welcome dinner for out-of-towners. I only recognized a couple of people, but I hung out with a great bunch of folks from the west coast. Including the Bra Ball lady! Also Joanne from Seattle, and their respective husbands, and also a nice woman whose name I forget, who said she was thinking about moving from Seattle to North Carolina. Speaking of North Carolina, the big news is there's an artcar here from Asheville! It's an awesome old ambulance covered with neat paintings. The driver seems like a fun guy too. He said he had just come from an event in Florida, which I heard was really good. I wish I could have gone but I didn't think I could manage it right before Houston. I hope we see him at Mt. Dora later in the summer.

Well I could write tons more but I'm exhausted. I left the event early and now I'm going to go to sleep. Tomorrow I don't have to do anything until after noon! Yay!

damned time zones

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Due to the damned time change, I've been awake since 4:30. It was actually kind of nice to lie in bed and read Dan Savage and not feel any pressure to be Doing Something like packing, or checking directions, or whatever. So why am I up posting in my blog? Well, it's almost 6, which in my internal clock is almost 7, which is when I would be getting up anyway. So here I am.

I think I'm going to make this morning more leisurely than the past two mornings. Yahoo predicts a 6 hour drive ahead of me, and it's been right so far (also I remember the last leg of the trip being the shortest). I could leave here at 10 and still have time to get lost check into the hotel before the welcome out-of-towners party.

Speaking of leisurely mornings, I'm going to get back in bed and read some more. The Prince Conti has comfy beds. Also big enough for me to spread out the maps and then go to sleep without putting them away. Maybe that was a mistake: maybe I would have slept longer if I wasn't sharing the bed with the object of my stress.

easy mark

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I wonder, do street barkers zero in on me because a woman alone looks like an easy mark, or because my outfit was so damned cute? Probably the former, but I'm going to presume the latter. Because my outfit was cute, if I do say so myself. The desk clerk at the hotel said I looked like a Barbie doll. I'd have to be a lot skinnier and a lot bustier to look like a Barbie doll, but I still appreciate the compliment.

I don't have the New Yorker ability to blow past someone who's talking to me without acknowledging their existance. Even if I know the only reason they're talking to me is to try and cajole me into spending money at their place of employment. More natural for me is to turn, smile, and make eye contact without slowing down. I did stop to chat with one barker who asked about my tattoo, but when he asked my name I realized it was time to move on. Tell a barker your name and you're going to end up sitting in his bar listening to a horrible cover band. It's a point of no return, like letting a vacuum cleaner salesman inside the door.

Anyway, aside from the barkers I had a lovely evening. First I walked down to the river and sat awhile reading my book, The Committment by Dan Savage. Then strolled over to Cafe Adelaide, which had been recommended by a resident foodie. By the time I got there, I realized that the beignets had left me way too full to enjoy a formal sit-down dinner. So I stopped in at Mother's, just a block away, for a po-boy.

Mother's looks like the kind of place that would be featured at Roadfood.com: decades-old, totally without pretention, and serves large quantities of simple, good food. I had no idea what a po-boy was before I went in there. Apparently a po-boy is a big, messy, meaty sandwich. Did I mention big? I ordered a small but I think I got a large. (If that was really the small, then I'm scared of the large.) I made a valiant attempt to eat the whole thing but only got about 2/3 through it. A small would have been perfect, though at least I managed to stop eating before I felt overfull and sick. I ordered the, um, I forget what it's called but it was the house special, with ham, sliced roast beef and shredded roast beef. It was really good. In fact that may be the best ham I've ever eaten.

The weather was so beautiful after dinner that I wanted to keep walking around the French Quarter. But I was getting tired so I figured I should head back to the hotel. The driving has been easier than I expected but I should still make an effort to get lots of rest every night. Tomorrow I have to deal with driving in Houston, which I'm a bit nervous about. Okay, a lot nervous. We always get lost in Houston, and that's with Georg there to navigate. I get flustered driving in strange cities under the best of circumstances. Hell, I get flustered driving in Raleigh. Tomorrow I've got to find the hotel on my own, and the Google directions make no sense at all. But things have gone so well so far, maybe this will turn out OK too.

travel day 2

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I'm in New Orleans! The drive was equally uneventful as yesterday's. The only blip on the day was my failed attempt to stop somewhere and get cleaning supplies for the car. All I need is a plastic basin, a sponge and some kind of soap. Every time I saw a Wal-mart, Bed Bath & Beyond or supermarket, I was in the far left lane and there was too much traffic for me to get over to the off-ramp in time. Oh well, tomorrow I'll stop in Beaufort TX.

It took about 7 hours to get here. I left GA at 8 am, but due to the magic of time zones I arrived just after 2! Unfortunately I had to change rooms because they had put me at the farthest end of the farthest hall, and I was just out of range of the wireless internet. If I took my computer into the hall I could get it, but as I walked into the room it disappeared. They were very nice about moving me, let me take my computer into other empty rooms and make sure I had a signal before they switched me in the computer. The new room is more charming and has a street view, but I think the street view may turn out to be a negative considering we're only half a block from Bourbon St. I can hear the horrible country rock blaring from the bar on the corner. Note to self: pick up earplugs at Walgreens this evening.

I spent the afternoon first and most importantly, wolfing down beignets at Cafe du Monde. I don't care if it's a tourist cliche, I love those beignets. I meant to take a picture but I forgot all about it until I was licking my fingers and staring at an empty plate. I did end up taking pictures of the people at two other tables (at their request and using their cameras).

After finishing my critically important carbo-loading, I walked around the French Quarter checking out the hours and locations of restaurants I had made note of. I'm really glad I did that because a couple of places I want to try -- a breakfast place called Croissant D'Or and Central Grocery, which supposedly has good muffalettas -- will both be closed when I come through again on the way back home. I didn't take my big camera with me because I didn't want to lug it around. So of course I saw about two dozen things I wanted to take pictures of, for which the phone cam would just not do. Like a couple sharing a single-person bicycle, loaded down with packages, riding down a picturesque little alley. Oh well, I'm not a very good photographer so the photo probably wouldn't have lived up to the reality anyway. This way I can remember it as the perfect "one that got away."

On a less cheerful note, I have to say that I was shocked by the state of post-Katrina renovations. I made a decision beforehand that I was not going to do any "disaster tourism," not going to take any photos of the damage or rebuilding efforts. I'm not a journalist, I'm a tourist, and it would seem really ugly to get my voyeuristic thrills from other people's misery.

That said, I got an eyeful just driving into the city on I-10. It looks like a hurricane hit three weeks ago rather than eight months ago. Whole neighborhoods without a single intact roof. Row after row of houses that look like empty shells. A few with trailers out front but mostly abandoned. The one thing that really upset me was an apartment building with a partially collapsed roof and the message "HELP" written on the roof in six foot high letters. With the people long since rescued (I hope!) now the message seeems to apply to the building itself.

Granted, the neighborhoods right off an interstate are often not the best. It's possible that things are going much better in other parts of the city. I don't know. But what I did see was frankly sobering. I'd like to think that in America we would have our shit together enough, and rebuilding a major city would be important enough, to have made more progress than what I saw.

travel day 1

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The drive down was super easy. Took almost exactly 7 hours to get to Newnan, GA, just south of Atlanta. If I had known it would go so fast, I would have planned to stop further along the route. I could have easily driven for another hour or two. But I already had a hotel reservation here.

Just before leaving this morning, I tried out the Twilight Alchemy Lab oil Road Opener. Twilight Alchemy Lab oils are supposed to be worn not for their smell, but to help you focus your intent. This one promises it "brings you new opportunities, shows you alternate paths, and breaks down barriers." I must say, while I was packing this morning I was feeling kind of stressed out about the trip and anxious about doing it alone, and also about leaving the dogs. (With Thirteen's advanced age and poor health, leaving her alone for more than a day or two gets harder all the time.) When I applied Road Opener, I did feel a sort of sudden letting go of the anxiety, and instead letting myself feel excitement about the trip. The skeptic in me has to point out that I must have put it on when I was ready to stop worrying and look forward, rather than the oil having any power to change my mental state. Like I said, it's about focusing intent. In any case, the smell was pleasant too, so it's good all around.

Along the way I listened to Master and Commander (highly entertaining) and This American Life (likewise). I had never listened to an audio book before, and I'm kind of amused by the actor doing the voices of the different characters. I had seen the movie of Master and Commander before but the book (of course) goes into so much more detail. I listened to about 3 hours and the ship hasn't even left the harbor yet!

I did forget a few things, but so far only small things that Georg can bring along when he flies in. (Like the extension cord to my computer.) I almost drove away without the four gallons of bubble juice, but remembered as I was literally pulling out of the driveway. Just in time to back up and get them into the trunk. That wouldn't have been a total disaster -- I could get more at a Wal-mart or Toys-R-Us -- but it's better not to have to worry about it.

I also forgot the nice frozen dinner I had gotten at Whole Foods to have for dinner tonight. I was feeling kind of bummed about that, because I hate the frozen dinners they sell in regular supermarkets, and thinking I'd have to eat dinner at a chain restaurant after all. I was mulling this over when I looked up and saw a billboard that said "Whole Foods: Next Exit." I didn't know there was a Whole Foods in Greenville SC, and I never heard of Whole Foods putting up billboards before, but I'm sure glad they did. The store was huge. Georg said it was twice the size of the Raleigh store. They had some nifty features like a hot barbecue bar where you could get brisket, pulled pork or smoked sausage; and a circular pizza bar with the pizza oven in the middle. I wanted to walk around and look at the whole store but I had to get back on the road. So I just grabbed some Mexican food off the hot bar (wonderful tortilla, tasted like they had made it fresh in the store).

Tomorrow is the longest driving day, and I'm going to try to get an early start. I went ahead and did my hair tonight; this style is so heavily set that I can sleep on it and then just shape it back into place in the morning. The bonnet hairdryer does the job, but it is hot. Hot enough to burn if the hose is too close to my forehead. It's also difficult to get it on without displacing the rollers, but I guess I'll get better with practice.

bright eyed and bushy tailed

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Insomnia is a rare problem for me, but I do predictably suffer from lack of sleep right before an important event. It's the "kid on Christmas eve" phenomenon, where I'm just too wired and thinky to sleep. Running through to do lists in my head, looking forward to seeing my art car friends again, and so forth.

This is bad for obvious reasons, the main one being I'm about to do a solo 1200 mile drive, and I kind of ought to be well-rested. But on the bright side, I've already sat around web surfing all morning and it's not even 8:30. Time to get a jump on the day!

The only errand I have to run today is buying food. I don't want to spend the whole trip eating at chain restaurants or fast food. So I'm going to try the tip I learned from Chris of the Heaven and Hell car: take a cooler full of fruit, cut vegetables, and sandwich fixings. Use hotel ice machines to refill the cooler every night. Voila! Portable mini fridge.

Other than that it will be a day of odds and ends: print out the pet sitter instructions, get the new camera bag set up, write the car insurance check, alter that cute sundress that's gotten too big in the bust, and oh yeah, pack.

trip preparation

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I'm finally starting to feel like I'm ready for this trip. This morning we did laundry first. Then went to the vet and refilled Thirteen's prescription. She already has a nearly full bottle but I want to be sure she doesn't run out while I'm gone. Then we went to AAA and got maps, then to Sally for setting lotion and a bonnet attachment for my hairdryer. I skipped the setting tape because I can use a giant curler to flatten out my bangs instead.

Next we met Alicia for lunch and audio files! She kindly provided me with Master and Commander on CD from the Chapel Hill library, plus a ton of episodes of This American Life. Alicia is moving in a couple of weeks so it was really nice to see her before she goes, and to hear about her job, cute house and the puppy who will soon be occupying it. I couldn't figure out how to network our computers, so we had to use my little keychain drive to copy the files. The drive is only 256 Mb but it didn't take that long. Only 4 or 5 transfers did it.

In the afternoon we did decoration repair on the car. Georg did more than I did because I had a phone meeting, but between the two of us we got a lot done. We got just about all of the nasty sticky sun damaged toys replaced. That was especially important since our Main Street Drag route includes the center for the blind. I would hate for a blind person to accidently touch gooey melted plastic on my car because I didn't take the time to clean up the decorations beforehand.

I didn't think this day would be so tiring, but as it turns out we were both exhausted. I guess it was the running around all morning plus working in the sun in the afternoon. This evening I printed off all the maps and driving directions I'll need -- not just the road trip but directions from the hotels to all the places we need and want to go. It's a relief to have that taken care of.

My hotel in New Orleans dropped its rates to an amazing $49 a night, so I went ahead and added a day to my stay. I'll be in New Orleans on the evening of the 14th and all day on the 15th. I asked them if they would reduce the rate on my existing reservation but they said I have to call back during regular business hours. I'll call them tomorrow, and if they say no then I guess I'll cancel my reservation and then immediately make a new reservation. Heck, $30 a night is a big difference.

Now I'm copying Master and Commander onto the iPod. With 11 CDs and 25 tracks on each CD, this is going to take awhile. It's still better than lugging all those CDs halfway across the country.

how to be sure

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When your boyfriend spends the morning running errands with you, including going into Sally Beauty Supply without complaint. Then spends the afternoon repairing decorations on your art car without you even having to ask. And then buys you a lovely dinner. That's how you know you're marrying the right guy.

please don't eat the daisies

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Something is eating our gerbera daisies. I blame the rabbits. Rabbits are the only rodent who a) are known to live in our yard, b) eat plants, and c) could reach high enough to get at the flowers.

It's kind of a bummer to have all our daisies get chomped, but I can't really be upset about it because I'm still too thrilled that they survived the winter. (The daisies, not the rabbits. Well, the rabbits too.) I thought gerbera daisies were killed by any frost, but apparently they can survive down to 20° F. Which is slightly colder than it ever got last winter. All but two of them came back this year. If I had known they even had a chance of survival, I would have protected them with straw.

Another flower I was surprised to see again this spring was the snapdragons. I always thought they were annuals, but the ones I planted last year came up again and are about to start blooming. I wonder if there's some reason plant stores sell them as annuals. Do they not look as nice in subsequent years? I guess I'll find out soon enough. Seeing as I'm a total cheapskate, they'd have to look pretty bad before I'd rip them out and plant new ones every year.

hey ho

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On my way home yesterday I heard what sounded like someone yelling in a nearby car. Turned down my car radio to discover it wasn't an argument, but the intro of "Blitzkrieg Bop." I checked my radio but it wasn't on WXDU or WXYC. It must have been the guy's own CD. I inched up nearer his car so I could hear it better. Managed to stay close to him through two stoplights, long enough to hear almost the whole song.

I love driving in spring with the windows down. Hey, ho, let's go!

helmet head

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As part of my trip preparation I got a haircut. First time in over a year. I liked my previous stylist a lot, he was very talented. But I couldn't get him to understand that I didn't want a modern haircut with a kicky retro vibe; I wanted the real deal, a forty-year-old hairstyle. He gave me great haircuts, just not the cuts I wanted.

I wasn't actually sure how this new stylist was going to turn out -- the shop, The Garden in downtown Durham, was recommended to me because of the previous owner Erin. When I called I found out that Erin had sold the shop and I ended up going to the new owner, also named Erin, based on our phone conversation. To make sure she understood what I wanted, I took pictures I had found online and in my old pattern collection. I even dressed up in my polka dot dress so she could see the look I was going for.

Erin seemed to get it. We spent a fair amount of time talking about the style before she started, comparing the photos and so forth. I had originally planned to ask her for a classic mid-60s bubble flip, but then when I looked at pictures I decided that an edgier, shorter cut was more in line with my style. (Besides, the flip would be a lot more work.) Erin did talk me into going a bit longer, since the wedding is coming up so soon. I think she's right, the chin-length haircut she gave me will look better with my wedding outfit.

She also spent a lot of time helping me with setting instructions. When I used to do the big hair on my own, I would back-comb the hair at the crown of the head up into a huge rat's nest, then smooth the rest of my hair back over it. There were a couple of problems with that approach: first, an inordinate amount of product was required to prevent the top layer of hair from slipping and revealing the rat's nest. So much product that the style remained intact for two days. I practically had to shellac my head. Second, that much teasing is really bad for your hair. I didn't like to do my hair up very often because I lost so much hair every time I did it.

Well Erin showed me how to do it with huge hair rollers instead. I have rollers that aren't quite as big as hers, but still big enough. Instead of getting the height by making a big rat's nest on top of my head, she showed me how to use the rollers to get the height, and then back-comb just a little to keep it standing up. Now I need to get one of those old-style blowdryers with a cap. I just do not have the patience to dry hair in rollers with a regular hairdryer.

Another thing I liked about Erin was that she didn't push the expensive product too much. I need four products to do this hairstyle, and she recommended I get two of them from the salon line, Bummble and Bummble. I already had one so I bought a small bottle of the other. The other two products -- setting lotion and hair spray -- she said I could get any old brand. With as much product as I have to use, I really appreciate that she didn't try to make me buy everything from the expensive boutique line.

(I forgot that I also need to getting setting tape. So make that five products. But no boutique line is going to carry that, so it doesn't really count. I'm not even sure I'll be able to find it at Sally's.)

So anyway, I really like the new hairstyle and I recommend the Garden salon. I just hope I can recreate the style on my own! I'm going to have to practice before the art car event.

Speaking of the art car event, I did get a mileage reimbursement after all! And it's going to be enough to pay for gas, even with prices as high as they are. Yay!

how did they guess

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At my voting place this morning there were a bunch of Republicans standing out front. Funny thing though, they descended on the person before me, but none of them bothered to talk to me at all as I walked in. Maybe they decided that no one driving a car like mine would vote Republican.

Since none of them talked to me I don't know who they were promoting, except they were holding signs for Robert "Naughty" Nauseef. And I have to say, finding out that "Naughty" is endorsed by the GOP makes me feel even more comfortable in my decision not to vote for him. Who in the heck would vote for "Judge Naughty"? I want my judges to be serious and thoughtful.

After I finished voting and came back out the Republicans talked to me, but only about my car. They wanted to know what kind of glue I use. One of these days I'm going to print up little cards with frequently asked questions about the car. Most of the time I don't mind talking to people, and I make an effort to be pleasant even if I've already heard it a thousand times. But sometimes I'm in a hurry to get to work, or the person talking to me is a street bum or a Republican, and I really want to move on. At times like that it would be helpful to have a card.

Speaking of which I had a hilarious conversation with a street bum at a stoplight the other day. He walked up to my car and said "I don't care what everyone says, I love your car!" I laughed out loud and asked him, "What does everyone say?" I was very amused by the idea that this guy had actually discussed my car with someone, much less with everyone. Alas, I think it was just an expression. He was very confused by my question, and just repeated that he loved my car. I gave him a dollar and immediately regretted it, when he stepped away from the car and I realized by the way he walked -- staggered would be more accurate -- how very drunk he was. I probably should have known by the way he talked, but I don't hang out with drunk people that often. I thought he was just nuts.

johnny mnemonic

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April 11 movie: Johnny Mnemonic. This movie was a mess, but it was a stylish mess. Technology has unfortunately advanced fast enough to make the plot seem silly, but you can see the kernel of a good story in there, struggling to get out. Keanu Reeves is great, as long as he isn't talking, and the supporting cast includes just about everybody: Udo Keir, Henry Rollins, Ice T, even Takeshi Kitano! That was the bonus surprise of the movie for me, because I didn't know who he was the first time I saw it. Unfortunately he doesn't get to do much. But still, Takeshi Kitano!

serenity

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April 14 movie: Serenity. Dang, Joss Whedon gives good commentary. He maybe spends a little too much time talking about what lens he used in this or that scene. But he does a really good job of avoiding the two main types of bad commentary: 1. praising every actor without every saying anything substantive: "He's a great guy, she's beautiful, he's so funny, etc"; 2. describing the scene as if they were doing closed captioning rather than commentary: "now he's going into the room, he's about to confront his mother, they're arguing about the job, etc."

hero

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April 20 movie: Hero. Another boo to IFC for showing a wonderful Chinese movie in a terrible format. The dubbing wasn't that bad I suppose, but if you know the actors' voices then it becomes more intrusive that they aren't speaking with their own voices. And the pan and scan is a serious problem with a visual movie like this. And yet, I still watched it. I'm a sucker for Maggie Cheung.

paycheck

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April 24: Paycheck. Note to self: Just because a movie was based on a Phil Dick story doesn't mean it will be a good movie. In fact, odds are not good for movies made from PK Dick stories. I think the problem is that Dick stories start out with a weird, interesting idea, and then get weirder from there. But the movies take the weird interesting idea, and use it as a hook on which to hang a generic action picture. With the exception of Blade Runner of course. And also Minority Report which I thought was pretty good. At least it made some attempt to stay true to the spirit of the story. But Paycheck doesn't even try. And don't get me started on the ending, which totally invalidates what little point they do try to make with the movie. It just makes me feel sad about the lost possibilities.

A big part of the problem with Paycheck is Ben Affleck. Who is a stunningly bad actor. It would have been a much better movie if Paul Giamatti, who played the schlumphy best friend, had been the lead instead. I would have found Giamatti much more convincing as a computer nerd in a Dick story. But then again, it would have been a very different movie if it had starred Paul Giamatti.

shaolin soccer

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April 24: Shaolin Soccer. Yay to IFC for showing this movie, but a major boo! to them for showing it not only dubbed, but panned and scanned. Very very lame of them. It makes me less annoyed at the cable company for moving the channel to premium so we can't watch it anymore. On the bright side, it sounded like Stephen Chow did his own dubbing, so at least his character sounded fairly natural.

On IMDB I got some info on the all-female soccer team with moustaches. According to the IMDB forum, the actresses playing the two main female soccer players are huge Chinese pop stars and close friends of Chow. So it's just a random gag to have them on a soccer team. The female team was called "Team Double Handsome Dragon" so also possibly a joke about pretty boy soccer players.

red-headed woman

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April 26 movie: Red Headed Woman. This was more what I think of as a typical pre-code Harlow movie. Harlow plays a social climber who gets what she wants by seducing rich men. Chester Morris plays her first victim, who spends a lot of time glowering and saying ugly things to Harlow, and also beats her up at one point. Una Merkel is great as the sassy best friend, a role she did many many times. Charles Boyer also has a small part as the chauffeur with whom Harlow gets some on the side. This movie sort of tries to have it both ways: Harlow gets her comeuppance, gets humiliated and tossed out on her ear by both rich guys, but then runs off to France and ends up happy, richer than either of them, and still has her chauffeur on the side. If it had been made a couple of years later they would have had to make her die of a wasting disease in a poorhouse to punish her for her sexual aggression.

deep rising

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April 26 movie: Deep Rising. Good lord this was bad. It was basically Alien with giant squid. Who are huge because they evolved at 40,000 feet below sea level, but are also tiny enough to swim through plumbing pipes when they need to. Also they roar like lions, and have big mouths on the ends of their tentacles, and can survive indefinitely out of water. And they're smart enough to learn how to shut hatches and "herd" the cast from one part of the ship to another. The movie seemed like an enjoyably stupid romp until the very end, which was so very very stupid that it made the whole thing seem a waste of my time in retrospect. That's valuable time I could have been web surfing! Oh wait, I was web surfing while I watched. Never mind then.

resurrecting the movie list

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Okay, so I've been a slack ass about the movie list. I fell so far behind that I just couldn't deal with writing up movies I'd seen months before, which made me fall even more behind, and it was just one of those vicious things.

I hardly even watched any movies in the past couple of months -- only 9 in March and 10 in April -- but I never stopped keeping track. I'm going to try writing up the movies I've just seen, and work my way backward. If I never get all the way caught up, but I get back to posting the current movies, that will be okay.

And without further ado...

April 30: The Girl from Missouri. A Jean Harlow movie with a happy ending, whee! Harlow plays a girl from the wrong side of the tracks who wants to make good with her life, falls in love with a rich guy (Franchot Tone), outwits Tone's suspicious father (Frank Morgan) and ends up with everything she wanted. It warmed my heart. The best line in the movie, said by Harlow, was "He's a vulgar vulgarian!"

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